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How to Plan a Fun Afternoon With Your Child November 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Hamilton @ 1:56 pm

Directions for a nice afternoon with your child:

1. Find out about a free event through Facebook.
2. Notice it’s out of town, but neglect to check exactly where the location is because you’re distracted.
3. Ask child if he wants to go.
4. Upon an excited acceptance by child, sign him/her up for the event.
5. The day of the event, double check the location in case you need directions.
6. Notice it’s in South Shore Plaza at 4:00PM, just in time for Boston rush hour traffic to hit hard. (It’s already an hour away from us in good driving conditions.)
7. Bite the bullet, move your departure time to 2:00, and get in the car hoping for the best.
8. Arrive with your happy child who can’t wait to check in and get started.
9. When he’s done, hear him tell you he wants to do it all over again next month.
9. Get in car and enjoy more rush hour traffic on the way home.
10. Stop for a fast food dinner on the way because the traffic has made you insane and there will be no cooking upon arrival home.
11. Arrive home and think it may have all been worth it because your kid had such a good time.

Meghan Schaffer Hamilton's photo.

How do I meet requirements for homeschooling hours? October 30, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 3:01 pm
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Watching bears at the zoo

Watching bears at the zoo

In Massachusetts, homeschoolers agree to instruct their children for 180 days and 900 or 990 hours (depending upon grade level) over the course of those days. Most states have a similar policy. For my 2nd grader, that comes out to five hours of instruction per day. That looks very daunting at first. How do I make him sit and do math and reading for FIVE HOURS? Well, I don’t. Chances are, your local public school teacher doesn’t either. We started Alex in public school. At the Open House, his 1st grade teacher gave a copy of the schedule she followed most days. There were two hours of math and reading scheduled per day. Two hours. Even high school students have down time and wait on the next part of their day. How much of the class time is the teacher answering questions that maybe your student already knows the answer to? How much time would your student have to wait to have a question answered while the teacher answers other questions? Homeschooling is generally more efficient because the student to teacher ratio is much lower. So if we don’t get in five formal hours, I’m not going to worry about it.

My son asks a lot of questions over the course of the day. So even after our formal book work is done (Usually around 2 hours for my 7 year old), we are looking up information on other topics. Little things, like asking questions about pricing in grocery stores, add up to a lot of time. Doing routine things, like taking/sending kids to places like the post office, can count. How many schools teach about the post office but can’t take their students? Taking your kids to the bank can count if you are involving them in what you are doing (how to fill out a deposit slip or a check, etc…) Do your kids cook? There is an activity that counts for school hours.

Today, we aren’t cracking open a single text book unless Alex wants to. But it’s still a school day. How? We have a four day book work week and use the fifth for field trips or educational videos. As I didn’t plan any field trips for today, I chose several educational videos for him to watch. One was about a Tuareg boy who lives in the Sahara Desert, tying into our current science unit. One was the Electric Company, tying into language arts. Then he watched several episodes of Wild Kratts, because fun! How many times have your kids voluntarily watched an educational program? Some days Alex watches these things because he just wants to. One of his favorite DVDs is about trains in Colorado. From that he’s learned about Pike’s Peak, the Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande River, and other aspects of the state. Those shows can be counted towards your hours.

How much time do they spend on artwork on their own? Just because you aren’t sitting with them, or assigning it to them, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of their learning. Many kids like to read for pleasure, so even though they are choosing their reading material, they are still doing educational things outside of what you have planned that you can figure into that 900/990 hours.

Additionally, when you look at a schedule from a public school, much of the day is spent moving between classes/activities. For young children, play is counted as educational, thus recess figures into the school day. How much time does your elementary school aged student spend at play? For jr high/high school students, they have study halls.

As for myself, I also look at things that we do on weekends. If we spend two or more hours at an event that is teaching my son something on a Saturday or Sunday, I check that off as one of our 180 days of school. (I like record keeping…) For example, my mother in law took him to a multi-cultural event and he learned quite a bit about other countries. So, it was a school day. I took him to a wild animal event at our local Audobon Society, so I counted it as a school day.

When it comes to high school and tracking “credit hours” for putting together transcripts for college, many parents will consider completing a text book designed to be used for an entire school year as a completed credit. Even if their student completes it in six months as opposed to ten months. They don’t see the need to fill in those other four months with extra activities to count the credit. Think about it. There are a number of high schoolers in the public schools and certainly in accredited private schools that graduate early because they were allowed to work ahead of their peers. They still get full credit and a diploma even if they didn’t spend the same number of actual hours on a subject as most of their peers. That is why it’s called a credit hour and not just an hour. 

Yes, I love record keeping, but I don’t track every minute of the day to make sure I’m getting in the five hours. I am looking at our lifestyle. Much of what we do with Alex is educational in nature. So I am not worried about it. As evidence mounts that homeschooled students get an equal if not better education than their public school counterparts, I know I can relax about minute counting and just make sure that we have reasonable goals for what we want to complete each school year.


Be nice! October 12, 2015

Filed under: Opinions No One Asked For — Meghan Hamilton @ 6:00 am
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If you are on social media, you’ve probably seen the memes poking fun at people in different ways. Mostly what shows up in my feeds are comments on appearance, usually clothing related. Sometimes I still catch myself laughing at them. I used to share them freely. Then one day, a friend pointed out that we should be building one another up, not tearing one another down. It made me think. A lot of other things made me think as well. But there was a turning point for me.

Remember the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This applies to much of life. When we laugh at and pass around pictures in order to make fun of people, what are we saying? It is certainly nothing nice. Does it directly hurt the people in the photos? Sometimes it does. Even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t make it right.

What does this teach our children? When my kid is mean to another kid, I tell him to stop. I try to teach him how to be nice. So how then can I turn around and poke fun at someone in the same vein?

This has other implications as well. As I stated above, there are a lot of photos out there of people who aren’t dressed the way we have decided is attractive. Take this one for example: 887513_1692438084320710_1795201232666483244_o

It is none of my business how these women wish to dress. I highly doubt that they thought, “Gosh, I sure hope Meghan approves of my clothing choices today.” They are not on Earth for my viewing pleasure, or yours. It is not their job to please your delicate fashion sensibilities any more than your job is to please them. If someone wants my opinion about their clothing, they can ask. Until such time, I will keep my opinion to myself. Even then, I don’t really care what you pick. It’s your body. Dress it how you want to.

Lastly, given how these photos were taken from the back, I’m guessing none of the subjects were aware of the photo being taken. That’s just creepy. If you want to be nice, then mind your own business.

Be nice.

Don’t be a creep.


Curriculum Review: The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor by Susan Wise Bauer October 5, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 6:00 am
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When it comes to homeschooling curricula, I’ve found a number of books that can be used at a variety of ages and grade levels. “The Story of the World” is one of those. We are about three quarters of the way through volume 1. My son and I have enjoyed it and plan to move on to volume 2 when we finish.

In addition to my plans to complete the series, I also want to repeat the books we cover at this early age. He is seven and working at a 2nd grade level for most of our subjects. At this age, I’m treating this as an introduction to history. The activity book that accompanies the main text has lists of questions, maps to fill in, pictures to color, writing assignments, craft activities, worksheets, and suggested additional reading. (I probably missed something, but you get the idea, there is a lot going on there.) We’ve managed to answer the basic questions orally so I can check that he understood the story and was paying attention. But he’s not so into crafts and isn’t ready to do a lot of writing. Right now that is enough. But by the end of this year, I expect him to be doing some of the writing and we may delve into extra reading when it touches on a subject that grabs his attention. By 4th and 5th grade, I can see this as a great resource to tie into learning how to write essays and do a basic research paper using the additional resources suggested. If you have more than one child in elementary school, this would allow you to do one history lesson for everyone, then each student can do as much responsive work as fits their learning level and style. As an audio-visual learner, my son doesn’t need crafts to learn what a fasces looked like. A visit to our favorite search engine produced an image that he remembers. But a kinesthetic learner may want to make the fasces as suggested by the activity book.

The text is written in an engaging narrative. The language is simple enough to be understood by early elementary students, but it doesn’t come across as watered down and over-simplified, making it accessible to older elementary students. I would recommend a more complex history book if you are teaching Jr. High or High School students. There is a CD that you can buy to have the text read to your child(ren). I didn’t purchase it. I am glad I didn’t, because this way I am forced to read the text myself. You’ll see why this is important to me when I explain the drawbacks to this book. But if your schedule is crazy or you have difficulty reading one more thing aloud to your children, this would be a nice thing to get so that they can have that portion done independently. By the time they are in 4th grade, the students should be able to read this on their own.

As to the drawbacks, there isn’t a lot to say. I don’t believe anyone can be unbiased in writing. As much as the author tries to stick to the facts, she paints a picture with her choice of adjectives and with her choice of which facts to include and which to leave out. This is the sort of history that most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans will learn and find in their school text books. As my own horizons have expanded, I’ve become rather critical of the approach of some of my past teachers and of this author. Overall I have to say that there is very little I disagree with in her portrayal of ancient times, but there have been instances where I’ve pointed attitudes out to my son. I’ve offered him different views of the same events and people. There was nothing so big that I can even remember specific examples. But I tend to read things with a critical eye. I don’t avoid difficult subjects with my child. I use them as opportunities for discussion. If you aren’t reading the text yourself and are relying on the CD or your child to read it himself, you may miss out on some of those opportunities.

In conclusion, if you have an elementary school student, this is a great text book. The workbook is well worth the additional expense as lessons are planned out and easy to do. If you are a crafty family, the crafts use materials that are easy to obtain if you don’t already have them on hand. The optional CD would be great if you need your non-readers or early readers to listen to the story independently of you.


Stop the Maybes October 1, 2015

Filed under: Opinions No One Asked For,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 5:06 pm
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Yes. I am on another rant. I am coming to have strong feelings about the word “maybe.” The more maybes I encounter, the less I use that word myself. People like to hid behind it as a way of avoiding hurting or disappointing others. They use it as an excuse to avoid confrontation. How do I know? I’ve been guilty of it myself.

As I look back on my life, I realize that I’ve come to more disappointment by way of someone giving me a “maybe” as opposed to a “no.” When you tell me maybe, I have my hopes up that you will tell me yes. But more often than not, you simply don’t show up or follow through. If you had just said no in the first place, I would have gotten over my disappointment quickly and moved on. But you strung me along with your maybe.

This bothers me more than ever because you are often hurting my son’s feelings in the process. As a homeschooling mom to a seven year old, a lot of things I invite people to are for him. When four people tell me maybe they’ll be at the playground, I feel obligated to show up because I am the one who suggested it. At this point, Alex isn’t interested in playing there by himself. Neither is he particularly interested in playing with the preschoolers that are normally there. So, when you don’t turn your maybe into a concrete answer, we’re left with a fruitless trip and a disappointed kid. If you’d said no in the first place, I’d have found something else for us to do that would have been more fun than wondering if anyone was coming. Being left hanging is a far worse feeling than being told “no.”

Given that I can’t count on changing you, I think that I will change my attitude and reaction when receiving “Maybe” as an answer to an invitation.

  1. I will continue working on being a good example and stop using it as an answer. I want to give a concrete answer that means something.
  2. I will not be afraid to ask for a concrete answer. Don’t be surprised if I ask, “Does that mean yes or no? I don’t really want to be left hanging.”
  3. If I can’t get a concrete answer, I will assume you mean no. I am done showing up to things that need other people to make work and being the only one to show up. Don’t worry, I’ll probably let you know ahead that I won’t be there after all.

What about you? Does this word irritate you? How do you deal with “Maybe” as an answer?


I’m declining your invitation. September 28, 2015

Filed under: Personal Growth — Meghan Hamilton @ 8:00 am
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She can’t afford that berry, but she’s buying it anyway.

Periodically I receive invitations to sales parties. In my area, Pampered Chef, 31, and (until recently) Lia Sophia have a substantial presence. If these don’t ring a bell, perhaps you’ve heard of Tupperware, Silpata, or Party Lite. A local sales rep ropes you into convinces you to host a party for them. You beg ask all of your friends, family, neighbors, random people from the street and coworkers to come. A few people show up. The rep tells you how awesome the products are. You feel guilty and order a few items on the spot. For every dollar a guest spends, the hostess receives a discount on her own order and the rep gets a commission. The rep also strongarms insists you host your own party because it will be fun and you get a discount on the order at your party. If she’s really good, she gets you to sign up to be a rep also.

As much as I am poking fun at the business model, I will say that most of these companies do sell quality products. I would love to have more Pampered Chef items in my kitchen or 31 bags to fill with junk. I also enjoy the social aspect of these parties.

I do not enjoy my lack of self control when it comes to shopping. Long ago I became aware of my inner magpie. I WANT ALL OF THE SHINY THINGS!!!!! My rational mind shuts down and I just want to have the cool thing that is in front of my face. At a gathering where you know your friends are buying things, where you know that the friend who invited you is hoping this whole thing is worth her while, you feel a tremendous pressure to buy something. So I start down that slippery slope of justification.

I can’t buy nothing. I’ll stick to my budget of $20.00. Is there even anything in this catalog for that price? Ok. Maybe this $25.00 item. But that’s it! Oh. Well, I can also get this other thing. $50.00 isn’t bad. I see Martha over there spending over $100.00. I’m only spending a little bit.

And so it goes. Then a week or so later, that check hits my bank account. I don’t have $50.00 in it. I only have $25.00. So my bank charges me $36.00 for being too silly to turn down another pizza stone. Now my $50.00 check has turned into an $85.00 check and I won’t have any money to deposit for another week. So now bring on the fees for the account being overdrawn each day. You get the picture.

So what’s a magpie with limited monetary resources to do? She is going to decline your invitation to your party an stay in her own nest where there are plenty of shiny things that she has already collected.


Why I Chose to Homeschool September 21, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 5:44 pm

Learning about 19th century schooling at Old Sturbridge Village in MA.

Many people have many different reasons for homeschooling. Some people aren’t impressed with their local public school but can’t afford private schools in their area. Some people want to bring more of their religious faith into the school day. Others find that their children don’t thrive in the public school environment and just need a quiet space to learn the material. There is a growing movement of unschoolers who eschew traditional curricula and guide their children in making their own path on their educational journey. Living near a military base, I meet families who have chosen homeschooling as a way to keep their kids’ educations consistent as there can be very different programs from school to school. For these families, choosing a home with school quality in mind is simply out of the question.

My primary reason for homeschooling is that I can tailor my son’s education to his needs and incorporate more of the things he likes into learning. For example, he excels at math, so he doesn’t need to wait for the rest of a class of 20 or more kids to learn a concept before he moves on. As to reading, he is at the slow end of average and he absolutely hates to read books. At home, we can move quickly through math, take our time with reading, and choose books or other reading material that will be more interesting to him than when a teacher has to choose books that will be acceptable across the broad range of interests in a full class. Choice of curriculum is great too. As daunting as it is to choose a starting point, it’s been great having the freedom to change when something doesn’t work. The 1st grade science book I got was not his style. He hated it. I wasn’t stuck with it though. I have a different book this year that he loves. Both publications teach the same material, but they have vastly different approaches to accommodate different learning styles.

Additionally, we have more time for fun. When you don’t have 20 or 30 kids to line up and keep track of to move from room to room, you move more efficiently. We can be done with our school work in a couple of hours and he can have lots of free time to play. We can go on more field trips because our schedule is our own. Logistically, a family can get out on the road more easily than 100 kids from a grade.

On the social end of things, my son is spending time with people of all ages as opposed to kids who are just his age. I’m also more available to advise him when he runs into arguments with his friends. He started in public school and the teachers/staff were unconcerned about helping kids through social difficulties. They had an anti-bullying assembly and left it at that. People aren’t born with good communication and problem solving skills. They need to be taught.

It’s not always easy. He argues a lot because what he loves to do more than anything in the world is to switch back and forth between YouTube videos about Minecraft and actually playing Minecraft. As the adult, I need to make sure he’s learning about other things as well. But since he can get his school work done pretty quickly most days, he has more time to do the things he loves than he would if he spent most of his day at a public school then still had to come home and do homework.

Do you homeschool? What was your motivation? Do you send your children to a traditional school? Why? I’d love to hear from you. Different education models work for different people, so I thank you for keeping your comments polite when comparing your choices to other options available.



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