Evolving Theory of Homeschooling

I’ve been homeschooling since Ben was 4 years old. We started out doing what we can generously call school at home. Ben did worksheets, lots of worksheets. But as we’ve progressed in homeschooling, I’m finding that I’m not satisfied with school at home and I’m not comfortable working on the “conveyer belt.” I’ve been doing a lot of reading in Charlotte Mason and Thomas Jefferson Education. Both of these are gentler forms of education and put less pressure on the kids and allow them to develop a more natural love of learning.

Of course, Ben is suspicious of anything new or that even smells like pushing himself. It takes time and patience to get him to try new things. What I’m learning from all of my reading is that he needs to see me doing things, hard things, and pushing myself to encourage him to push himself. I also know that I need to work along side him and help him learn how to do things himself.

I think about this stuff in terms of Ben because Katie’s love of learning is natural whereas Ben’s has been a struggle to bring to life. He did love learning when he was little, but I think I pushed to hard on the wrong things and didn’t give him a good chance to get a foundation underneath him.

He’s having successes in classes and that is huge for him and I’m seeing him express more interest in learning than he ever has before, but I know I can’ t push and that I have to take my time in order to get him where he needs to go. Fortunately, time is something that we have.


Ben has had a series of breakthroughs in the last few weeks that are nothing short of remarkable. I think some of my readers know that Ben is a dancer. He doesn’t just take dance; he’s a dancer (big difference, at least in this mom’s opinion). He started ballet in October and it has been a serious struggle. He didn’t like it. He was frustrated because he just couldn’t seem to keep up and get his body to do what it was supposed to do. He’s a natural tapper. You can explain a step to him, he’ll fool around with it for a few minutes and then he’s ON IT. But ballet is not coming as easily and he was frustrated. Then literally the Tuesday after Sam died, his ballet teacher changed. This was a decision that was in the making for a while, but the suddenness of it was a bit of a shock. Fortunately, he knew the new teacher (she was Katie’s teacher last year), and he adjusted to her pretty quickly. The thing is he’s about a year behind the girls in his class, and he knows it. About three weeks ago, he asked me if I thought he could take some private lessons. I told him that if he wanted to do that, he needed to ask his teacher and work with her on a schedule. And he did it. The funny part is that everyone was shocked that he wanted private lessons for ballet. But he has a goal, and improving his ballet technique is part of reaching that goal. He has his homework for the next couple of weeks and he’s pretty committed to doing it.

We started back with All About Spelling recently because he doesn’t like the way spelling is taught in Learning Language Arts through Literature. He loves everything else about the program, but not the spelling, so we agreed to go back to All About Spelling. He’s discovered he can spell a lot more and a lot better than he thought he could. Yesterday, we tried an experiment and discovered that he can type a response if he’s dictated to, so we have dictated phrases and sentences in the last two days and he has done them all right. He is so proud of himself, and he’s now understanding what the purpose of learning how to type actually was. Hoping that means he will actually start working on that again.

He’s also finally getting a grip on how to harness his imagination and powers for good. I can’t wait to see who he becomes. We’re on an amazing ride with this kid.

Long Time, No Post

When I put the blog on hiatus back in April, I honestly thought I would be back in a matter of a month of two. My dog was dying, my son had a scary diagnosis to deal with, and I was struggling in a lot of areas. Well, it turns out that the dog is still dying, my son is still trying to navigate his diagnosis (not life-threatening, just life-altering), and I’ve adjusted my balances and realized that balance may just not be achievable. I never had the intent to make this blog about any one thing. I have no illusions that I’m going to suddenly be a guru that people turn to or amazing like a lot of the bloggers I admire. But I miss my little piece of the world and want to get back to being me. 

Part of being me is writing about what is going on around me and what we’re doing as a homeschool family and about my girls (the dogs, for those not familiar or meeting me for the first time). One of the things that we’ve been working on is eating more healthy snacks and foods that are less processed (within reason given my on-going gluten-free status). Anyway, I’m not promising regular posts or a regular schedule, but I miss blogging and I miss being part of a community so back I come to try this again from a somewhat different, somewhat less confident place.

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 3/16/13

Another week of illness in the house and anticipation while we waited for Friday and Saturday.

  • In my life this week… The biggest event, beyond any other, was Sam turning fifteen on Friday. P and I went to the Kenny Chesney 2013 tour opening at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. It was AWESOME!!!! We’ve been working on Ben and motivation. It’s not easy, but we’re making progress getting him to do the things he needs to do.

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  • In our homeschool this week… we read some and we worked on art and we learned about magnets. Specifically, Ben worked on developing his ideas more for his art projects related to animals at the zoo. We also watched a The Science of Disney Imagineering: Magnetism that Ben really enjoyed.
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… take your time and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. I struggle with this, but I’m realizing that Ben is going to learn on Ben’s path and we’re going to have to let him lead.
  • I am inspired by… people who work hard and pursue their dreams. One example is Katie’s godmother.
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Well, obviously, we saw Kenny Chesney and the Eli Young Band and Eric Church. We went with Katie’s godparents and actually tailgated at the concert. It was awesome. The kids had an overnight for the first time together and it appears to have gone well. I’m pleased.
  • My favorite thing this week was… Hearing Kenny Chesney sing. Although, I developed a new appreciation for Eric Church, too.
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  • What’s working/not working for us… Working: Taking our time with school and working on things that interest Ben. Taking our time means that we don’t rush through the material. He loves watching to learn and working on things to some degree on his own, but he needs more relationship time with me. Not Working: figuring out how to give him relationship time that he needs while also giving Katie time. She is much less demanding for that time, but needs it to. Ben is like a sponge. He will take every ounce I have and I need a little left for me. I have to figure this out before it kills me.
  • Questions/thoughts I have…Anything worth doing takes time. I need to be working on things that I want to do and need to do in order to feel successful.
  • Things I’m working on… with that in mind, I have to think hard about what I want to work on. I’ve managed to carve out time each day to work on a Lenten Devotional. I need to find time for the things that matter to me.
  • I’m readingMinimalist Parenting and The Power of Zip in a Heavenly Light
  • I’m cookingSpinach Cheddar Chive Scones, but I’m using the Artisanal Gluten Free Cookingscones recipe (halved) as the base so that I can eat them, too.
  • I’m grateful for…Centering prayer and Project Life.
  • I’m praying for… sleep that is restful and allows me to feel good rather than always being tired.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share

The birthday girl:
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This is part of the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog hop at iHomeschookNetwork. If you’d like to learn what other homeschoolers did in the last week go here.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 3/8/13

Everyone is sick, including P, so it’s been a really light week. I’m a bit overwhelmed by work and by how far behind we got with some stuff in homeschool. Next week marks a return to some more school like activities.

  • In my life this week… I retrieved the Mighty Mac from the Apple store and it now works again. The plan is to clean it off and give it to P. That will be done soon.
  • In our homeschool this week… Ben has been planning his art project for the art show at the Zoo School. He needs to use three different animals and two different art techniques in his project. He has decided on his animals, but is still working on his planned art techniques. Katie has been doing a lot of iPad school. She is an independent learner and doesn’t want a lot of assistance, so this is working for her for now.
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Good apps are worth their weight in gold. Katie adores Smarty Pants School and Teach Me: Kindergarten and something with monkeys, but I don’t remember what it is. Also, Reading Raven and Letter School.
  • I am inspired by… my students. They are working so hard and putting in a lot of effort on their assignments. I’m really pleased with their work.
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… this was zoo school week. Ben learned about Florida strangers. Non-native animals, in particular, that are destroying native wildlife. I think he really enjoyed this lesson. We also went to dance and Wednesday night at church. Today, we’ll be going to see Dr. W — the kids’ eye doctor. Ben is not expecting a good report, but we’re hopeful that Katie will get one.
  • My favorite thing this week was… watching Katie write her alphabet today. I am amazed, honestly, given that she has not practiced this skill at all.
  • What’s working/not working for usWorking: project time. Ben is devoting his project time this month to his art project for the art show. He’s still interested in graphic novels and took one of the blank comic books that I have to work on that project as well. I keep a stash of blank books from:  www.barebooks.com available for the kids — this is one supply that they do have to ask for, but their requests are rarely turned down. Not working: too much unstructured time. Ben needs more specific guidance and activities, but finding ones that he’s willing to do is challenging. I’m not sure how to work with him or what he might want to do.
  • Questions/thoughts I have… Our biggest challenge is that he wants to be able to do school the way that Katie does, but there aren’t great apps for his age group like there are for hers. It’s a consistent struggle.
  • Things I’m working on… I’m working on catching up project life (I’m a couple of weeks behind), and fixing the pages that I did because I discovered that I didn’t fully understand how the templates work. I’m trying to get some cross-stich time in and I need to work on making a nine shirt for my sister’s niece. I’m hoping to get it done in time for my parents to take it up at Easter :).
  • I’m readingThe Art of Forgiving, The Power of Zip in a Heavenly Light and Minimalist Parenting.
  • I’m cooking… cheese quesadillas on corn tortillas. I love them very much. Especially on Fridays.
  • I’m grateful for…Good friends. Rediscovering the Pomodoro technique thanks to Ann Voskamp’s 25 For Sanity Manifesto (please be aware that she has auto-music on her site. You can turn it off on the page — lower left hand side of the page.
  • I’m praying for… all of the people and institutions on the parish prayer chain. And for all the kids and parents on spring break in the coming week. Also, Katie’s friend who is having surgery on Tuesday. It’s not a big deal, but it’s surgery.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Katie writing her letters:

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This is part of the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog hop. To see what other folks have been doing this week go here.
Please be aware that there are affiliate links in this post.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 3/1/13

We are still in science fair recovery mode, so it’s been pretty low-key this week.

    • In my life this week… it’s felt hectic and out of sorts. The school I adjunct for feels busy for some reason and I feel like I have so much to do and I can’t keep up. Another friend lost a beloved labby boy and I keep looking at my elderly and increasingly fragile girl and asking how she keeps moving. I’m grateful beyond measure that she does, but I am at a loss to explain how she’s doing it.
    • In our homeschool this week… we have added a new friend. My laptop gave up the proverbial ghost last week and our desktop will be twelve years old this summer. It seemed time to get a replacement that the kids can actually use. Meet Mega Mac:

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  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… It’s okay to take your time. I keep wanting to be done with  things and I have to keep reminding myself that we’re not on anyone’s schedule but our own.
  • I am inspired by… Sam. She just keeps going and going and going. And it’s not like she’s in pain or complaining or desperate to be out of here. The worst fits we get from her are when I spend too long in the office (most people call it a dining room, but it has four desks in it and no table, so office it is) after being gone most of the day. She does not like a lot of separation from me and pitches gigantic fits until I spend time with her. Mind you, as soon as I am with her she settles down and goes to sleep, but I guess my presence is soothing (or I’m boring, either way, it works).
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… MOSI class this week. Just when I think it’s time to cut MOSI loose, they have a class neither kid has done before and that both were fascinated with. Light and Shadows went over HUGE with these two.
  • My favorite thing this week was… we have to ask? the Mega Mac takes the prize.
  • What’s working/not working for us… Working: art. The kids are essentially allowed in the art cabinet to take and work with what they want. Today it was clay. The two days before paper crafting. They’re having fun and learning what works and what doesn’t. Not working: not having a schedule for the week. I need to take the time to make a schedule for us so that we have some idea what we’re trying to accomplish. The all science fair all the time thing is no longer working (since science fair is over).
  • Questions/thoughts I have…How would you go about convincing your pediatrician that the child who seems entirely normal when he’s in the ped’s office may not be entirely normal?
  • Things I’m working on… The first day of Minimalist Parenting Camp. This is a pre-release thing for the book Minimalist Parenting. We’re getting assignments that are in some way related to the book and so far, it’s cool and thought provoking.  photo 32159_10200675261470363_1876680524_n_zpsd81b373c.jpg
  • I’m reading
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Creative Thursdays by Marisa at Creative Thursday. Both are challenging me and we’ll see what comes of it.

  • I’m cooking
  • I made gluten-free granola this week. Of course, I have no yogurt to eat it in, but hey, I made the granola at least.

  • I’m grateful for… the ability to replace a laptop on very short notice. for the impressive speed of this new machine and the fact that it makes it SO much easier to work in photoshop.
  • I’m praying for… my friends who have lost their canine friends this last week and a half. Too many gone, too soon. My heart hurts for all of you. Also for the family affected by the sinkhole here in my neck of the woods this morning. Nothing like a reminder that, for all intents and purposes, the ground could swallow us wholesale at any time.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share
  • Katie with her shadow puppet:
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This is part of the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog hop. To see what other folks have been doing this week go here.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 2/22/13

Last week was just too much for me to do much with. Between funerals, anniversaries of deaths, and the science fair project, I didn’t stand a chance. Add in a particularly hostile work student and end of term and you have a perfect storm for not keeping up with what we’ve been doing.

  • In my life this week… It was all science fair, all the time. I think we’re starting to recover and I hope that next year will be somewhat less stressful. I went to centering prayer on Monday, which is one of the highlights of my week. I find it hard to center at home (I can’t imagine why), but that hour really sustains me. We started a Lenten series for the Gathering at church based on Same Kind of Different As Me. The book is different from the study series, but it’s an interesting contrast.
  • In our homeschool this week… We spent A LOT of time working on the science fair. Making the graphs was nearly the death of Ben, but he managed to draw all three and he was pretty pleased with himself for doing it. As mentioned in my previous post, he is planning to do something with rocket science for next year’s fair. This should be interesting.
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Science fairs are a lot of fun but a lot of work. What I think was most valuable about this experience for Ben was learning how to organize information and draw conclusions from it.
  • I am inspired by… my assistant rector.
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Dance and science fair. Isn’t that enough for one week?
  • My favorite thing this week was…Discovering that Ben’s project was more than just awesome in my eyes. That second place finish really gave him some affirmation from outside that helped him way more than I imagined it would. But hearing him say, repeatedly, that it didn’t matter if he won or lost, just that he’d worked hard and learned something that made me happiest.
  • What’s working/not working for us… Right now we’re having a lot of behavior issues. I am doing a metric ton of research on how to handle this and I’m trying to get better at it. We also discovered during the course of this project that Ben has some challenges that we were previously not aware of. We are now assessing options to get him the assistance that he needs.
  • Questions/thoughts I have…Trying to figure out how to work the we homeschool but we use an umbrella school issue.
  • Things I’m working on… Grading. I’m behind and need to get myself back together.
  • I’m readingParenting the QBQ Way, Creative Thursdays
  • I’m cooking… absolutely nothing.
  • I’m praying for… more direction than “brave” and “step out in faith”.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share… We are in so much trouble. That is her brother’s bike 🙂
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This post is part of the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog hop sponsored by iHomeschool Network. To find out what other families have done this week, go here.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

First Completed Project

I may have mentioned a time or twelve that I have been heavily influenced this year by Lori Pickert’s Project-Based Homeschooling. This coincided with the homeschool science class at Lowry Park Zoo that Ben attends deciding that they were going to host their first ever science fair. Ben and I stayed and listened to the presentation on the science fair and he decided he was interested in producing a project for it. So, we were off and running.

Well, not really, first he had to decide what he was interested in. We found (with a little help) the websites Science Buddies and we looked at age appropriate subjects that he could work on. What I did not do was let him read ANY of the material on the website. So, while he took inspiration from the project that we read the discussion of and he developed it on his own from there. It took him a while to figure out which variable he was really interested in (time to crystal or types of crystals developed, etc), but he did figure it out and he did an admirable job of putting it all together.

We spent roughly three months on this project. He didn’t work on it every day. But it was mulled over, discussed, and produced in an approximately three month time frame. We did discover something about Ben during this project that we’re going to be taking to our pediatrician and see about having him evaluated. We know some things are not quite connecting, but we’re not sure how or why, so it needs to be looked into.

I include three things with this post. First, I interviewed Ben this morning about his experiences with his science fair project:

Mom: what was the best part of the science fair?

Ben: my favorite part was getting my medal and working hard to make the project.

Mom: how was presenting your project to the judges?

Ben: I was happy and scared.

Mom: what did you learn from doing this project?

Ben: I learned that it takes a lot of hard work and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose.

Mom: what do you think your next project is going to be?

Ben: I’m interested in rocket science for the science fair.

Mom: what do you think you want to work on for your next project learning project.

Ben: I think I’m going to write a graphic novel about a little rocket who tries to blast into space and bigger rockets who tease him.

Mom: where did you learn about graphic novels?

Ben: from the story Arthur.

A photo of his roughed out board (before we started gluing):

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And a photo of Ben explaining his project to an adult who walked by:

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You can see that the board is a bit more complete and visually interesting, but he was very determined not to distract from his crystals with too much art. All I can say is let the research into graphic novels begin. And apparently, we’ll be spending the next year researching rocket science.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 2/9/13


  • In my life this week… It’s been tough. My Uncle Brother died Wednesday night. We were at church attending Wednesday gathering and I got a Facebook message from one of his sons. I raced out of the hall to make sure someone had called my mother (her brother). One of my friends stumbled across me in the breezeway crying. And then our closing song was Sidewalk Prophets’ “Live Like That. I would suggest listening to it except that I can barely do it without sobbing hysterically, so take that advice as you will. Katie had a devastatingly bad swimming lesson and we came home to discover that Peyton was lame. Our vet suggested taking her to the back up for the initial check because of the traffic, so she is being vetted by committee. We then got bad news about another friends’ dog and yet another dear friend had to make that final decision for her beloved cat. A friend said to me that I really need a calendar that doesn’t have February in it. I’m beginning to agree.
  • In our homeschool this week… it was all science fair all the time. And some math thrown in for diversity. We are a little over a week out and we are not ready. The experiment is done but the write up is going dreadfully. His science teacher has suggested that we might want to get him tested because he’s exhibiting a LOT of the signs of dysgraphia, and after a week where we barely have a sentence of the background paper written, I am inclined to agree. He’s dictated the whole thing to me with sources and everything, but even with the transcript in front of him he can’t write the words. He freezes.
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… When you have the evidence in front of your eyes that something isn’t right, it’s time to take on the pediatrician and convince him that testing is necessary.
  • I am inspired by… Peyton. Even hopping along as she is, she is still ready to mix it up and get into anything she can.
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Katie made her first appearance in Sunday school since Dr. T said she could go. I think it went well, and she is looking forward to going back tomorrow. This week was zoo school. Ben learned about the colors of the rainforest. I knew we were in trouble when she wanted him to color a picture. He prefers to draw his own pictures now. This is a huge leap for him. I’ve been to Body Flow twice and man did I hurt after the second class. Katie went to a swimming lesson that was about as much of a disaster as it is possible for something to be.
  • My favorite thing this week was… Having Ben say, “no Mom, see it’s right here on this page in this book” when I was questioning something he wanted to put in his background paper.
  • What’s working/not working for us… Working: the iPad apps for Katie’s preK3 stuff. Not working: trying to wrap up this project. Ben loves the action but not the concluding. He’s going to be amazing if he can just relax and not freak out.
  • Questions/thoughts I have… One thing I learned during the last few days — shoeboxes are not acceptable storage for photos. I spent HOURS searching through them for a picture of my Uncle Brother with his sisters that I KNEW I had. I knew it.

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  • Things I’m working on… Still trying to figure out how to find time to cross-stitch the frames for the project I am working on I have the February stitch pattern, and I’m not done with the frames. I’m not panicking (yes, I am).
  • I’m readingHelp, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
  • I’m cooking… Nothing. The Stevens in me is apparently taking a holiday. Maybe I’ll feel more like it tomorrow.
  • I’m grateful for… having known Uncle Brother for the first 43 years of my life. He left a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. Peyton is not seriously injured. My mind went to horrible things when I saw her hop out of her kennel.
  • I’m praying for my family as we gather to say goodbye to one of the elders of the family. My friends who are losing beloved animal companions. …
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share
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This is part of the Homeschool Mother’s Journal blog hop. Go here if you want to see how others’ weeks went.

*As a caveat, the links are Amazon associate links. I finally figured out how to get into my Amazon associate account again.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal — 1/25/13

Rough week in this house. Just saying.

  • In my life this week… I had another uncomfortable end of life conversation with our vet, but emerged victorious with pain meds. I also had a lovely chat with the woman who runs the crematorium we’re going to use for her. Ben’s issues are back in full force and that pretty much threw everything else out the window.
  • In our homeschool this week… We read about the Phoenicians in Story of the World. Ben worked on the final review in Life of Fred: Farming. He still has five problems to go, so his break from math is going to be shorter than expected. We have all the necessary pieces for his science fair project, but now have to figure out how to convince him to write it up and make it what it is supposed to be. We watched the Inauguration. Ben was particularly interested in the oath after we did the the lesson on being truthful in Telling God’s Story. There’s a section in there about taking oaths, so that the president takes an oath took on new significance for him.
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Keep reminding yourself that at seven, no one is expecting cold fusion or a complete mastery of ancient history. Does he know anything at all? I think that’s the question.
  • I am inspired byHeather
  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We went to Orlando on Saturday and saw a good friend we haven’t seen since we picked up Peyton. This was her first time meeting the kids. The kids convinced P to ride the elevator which turned out to be a super-express. Ben likened it to riding Cheetah Hunt (P hates roller coasters). I think the kids were okay. Otherwise, we went to dance. This was a stick close to home week due to the issues Ben is having.
  • My favorite thing this week was… the new devotional I found. It’s called Day by Day Devotions by Karyn Henley. This was our first week using it and the theme was “Now and Always” — verse: I will never leave you Hebrews 13:5
  • What’s working/not working for us… Right now we’re blessed that we’re relaxed homeschoolers. I made a schedule, but Ben’s issues blew that right off the map this week. We’ll get it together and be a tad further behind on writing than I’d like. We’ll survive. I’m so grateful for the iPad app Hay Day — we’re able to use that as an incentive to help him focus and that’s been working wonders.
  • Questions/thoughts I have… One of the things I really have to work on is not stressing out when things get crazy. I get so overwhelmed and I need to be more focused and calmer. I have some plans to work on that. I’m also reading and absorbing Lori Pickert’s posts on project learning for adults.
  • Things I’m working on… I’m doing a lot of grading. My adjunct work has kicked in and I’m busier than I was for the last ten weeks or so.
  • I’m reading… Your Seven Year Old and Your Four Year Old by Louise Ames.
  • I’m cooking… not much. But I’m sure bookmarking recipes at Weelicious.
  • I’m grateful for… I am so very, very grateful for good friends who have served as good counsel during this crisis with Ben. My church.
  • I’m praying for… healing for Ben and a great report from Dr. T on Tuesday for Katie. Extra, extra doses of patience for me wouldn’t hurt either.
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share…This is Ben working on his math problems. Yes, he counts on his fingers, but he doesn’t need to. He’s just not quite confident enough yet.
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If you want to see what’s happening at other homeschool’s this week, head over to iHomeschoolNetwork to check them out.