How to help your children who are feeling a little anxious about COVID-19

Are you feeling a little anxious about being in home quarantine? I bet your children are, too. Or maybe they are more anxious about being away from their friends and school.

Some children are able to talk about their anxiety. They might describe it as fear, worry, or nervousness.  Many children, however, don’t have the insight or the language to describe their anxiety.  Instead, they experience stomachaches, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness or other pain. Or they may not be aware of it, but you notice it in their behavior, with crying, bedwetting, difficulty sleeping, fidgeting, pacing or shaking. As anxiety progresses, it may also bring on depressive symptoms which include fatigue, loss of appetite (or increased appetite), weight loss or gain, sadness, or avoiding activities a person normally enjoys.

So what do we do about COVID-19-related anxiety in our children (and ourselves?)

First, limit how much news they and we are taking in. Do we really need to keep the COVID-19 case tally website open on the computer? (Asking for a friend.) Reducing our exposure to worrying news might mean limiting phone/computer access to certain hours or sites/apps. Talk with your teen/tween about why you think this is a good idea. When we take lots of bad news we can’t do anything about, the powerlessness we experience can lead to anxiety or depression. Stick to reliable news sources, and avoid sites that spread rumor and speculation (I’m looking at you, reddit and facebook.) Once you have set some limits, then follow them together.

Second, hear them out. Your children might be experiencing some really big emotions right now. Create space for them to share these with you, whether it’s in the dark at bedtime, in a drawing, or just over a cup of tea together in the kitchen. When we sit down with them and give them our full attention, it sends a message that we are all in this together. You don’t have to have the answers. Some good open-ended questions or prompts, (“Tell me more…” or “How are you feeling?”) go a long way.

Younger kids especially benefit from our giving names to emotions. When they act out, it can help for us to name the emotion we’re seeing. Saying, “I feel angry, too,” or “I wish you could be at school, too,” can help normalize their feeling and make their anger/fear/worry seem less scary to them.

Answer their questions. Think of this like sex ed: your job is to answer their questions, and if you don’t know, then find out. If no one knows the answer, then be honest about that. But you don’t need to add in fifty further details about your own fears, or your own speculation about it, or answer the next question that seems extremely obvious to you, but that hasn’t occurred to them yet.

Look for ways to act. Feeling powerless is really difficult (remember when you went to buy TP and there wasn’t any?) Maybe your faith community has a prayer ministry you can participate in together, or suggestions of other ways you can support your community. Maybe you could run to the store or cook a meal for a neighbor who is at high risk of infection.

Physical activity is an antidote for stress. So is being outside. We can model these behaviors for our kids and invite them to participate with us. Practicing a stress-relieving technique together (yoga, mindfulness, breathing exercises) can benefit us all. If you don’t know how to do this yet, now is a perfect time to learn. I’ve linked to a few below.

It’s important to remember that our goal is not to help our children avoid every stressful situation (and right now, obviously we can’t.)  Our message to them is that we will get through this together. We want to show them we have (or can learn) the skills we need to help us feel better, and that they’re not alone.

If your child’s (or your) anxiety is interfering with their (or your) ability to function, please get help. Your family doctor or pediatrician is a great place to start. Your local children’s hospital will have a phone number you can call to make an appointment. On the back of your insurance card, there should be a phone number to access mental health services. If you are uninsured, your local Community Health Center (you can find it here) will have behavioral health resources for you and your children.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how you can use the routines you already have at home to optimize learning at home and reduce anxiety.

Seven Quick Takes: May Madness

May Madness: it’s like March Madness, without a bracket.

One: Last year I made mental notes (and paper ones) about how crazy May was, so that we would never do it like that again. And now it’s May, and it’s just like last year, only worse.

May is when my head is full of “finishing well” and what that looks like, and instead of executing what’s in my imagination, I am usually swept away by the avalanche of recitals, school dances/concerts/plays, and award ceremonies.

Blurry photo of Annie, Jr., featuring Phoebe as the diminutive tycoon, Oliver Warbucks
Piano recital
Spoiler alert: they played beautifully

Two: We haven’t quite recovered from April yet. Between robotics tournaments (including an amazing week with a trip to NASA), illness, swim meets, and piano recitals, we came into May pretty depleted.

I think the trip to Houston was worth it for the trip to NASA alone.

Three: So we’re focusing on good nutrition (read: Easter candy from the clearance aisle) and exercise.

These are the disgusting jelly beans left over after my children picked out all the good ones. They weren’t quite as bad as Berty Botts Every Flavour Beans… but they were close. (Not that that stopped me from eating them.)

Four: Okay, we could do better on the nutrition. But exercise, yes.

I’ve been running and doing yoga. I bribed the children to ride bikes for ice cream. We’ve been playing Kinect Sports in the basement. (I’m filing virtual bowling under the heading of Something Is Better Than Nothing.)

Best part of bowling at home: bowling in bathrobes.

Five: Now we’re just trying to focus on finishing well. This year (as opposed to last year), that includes embracing the art and music and time outside that I so easily leave behind in the push to finish all.the.things.

Denver Art Museum (yet again) for the win: the printmaking studio open right now is so cool. (The DAM is kind of like Duke or UConn: almost always makes the Final Four.)

Six: Finishing well (for us) means saying Yes to Giant Jenga and ice cream.

Seven: Finishing well means leaving time for reflection in the midst of all the doing.

What does finishing well mean for you?

Be sure to check out This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

One down, three to go

I can hardly believe it, but he graduated.


Of course, I believe it, but…

Wasn’t he just a baby?


I expected to be really emotional about it all, but there was so much going I didn’t have time.  Nor do I have anything deep to say about it other than I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to spend 18 years with this amazing person that is my son.


Daybook: late October


Outside my window: Still dark. But once the sun comes up, there will be leaves to rake and a crisp morning. I’m hoping to make it out for a run today.


This autumn has felt especially colorful and precious to me, and I think it’s because I missed much of autumn last year because of my injury. I couldn’t run, or even really walk around the neighborhood, because my foot hurt so badly. Now I am so grateful to be outside.

In the kitchen: my mental energy is elsewhere right now, so it’s going to be easy staples this week: simple soups (butternut squash, potato-dill, Jerusalem lentil) and eggs of various kinds. And maybe some pumpkin ribbon bread.


In the school room: Phoebe had a breakthrough last week, seeing some progress in areas that have been challenging for her. I think it’s very hard to be the youngest- she spends a lot of time thinking she’s behind, when really, she’s just younger.


Meanwhile, Jonah is working hard on college and scholarship applications. This process has shown me where lie some gaping holes in my educational plans. It’s hard to be the oldest- he’s the guinea pig for all my theories.

Today is the end of our first quarter. We need to get to the library for new books (and return all ones that are overdue…)  I think it’s time to schedule a reading day.


We collected a bunch of leaves two weeks ago before the snow, and last week I got around to ironing them in waxed paper.  The kids couldn’t remember the word for ironing board and were very puzzled as to why I had it out. We certainly never use it for ironing clothes.


Grateful for: second (and third and fourth) chances. The medical miracle I witnessed last week. Friends.


While Jonah and I look at colleges this weekend, Owen’s going to visit his godparents. I am so grateful for our children’s godparents and their investment in our kids.

Sam and I had a chance to get away this weekend. It was a trip we’d scheduled and then had to cancel last year. We slept in, read books, ran long, and ate delicious meals we didn’t have to prepare or clean up afterwards. So many gifts.


Praying for: New life, both literal and metaphorical. Mandy. Luke. Upcoming college visits. Discipline. Our group of four young confirmands at church as they prepare for confirmation.


First week of school: a summary

I am very grateful for our neighbors’ sweet dog, who likes walks as much as Moriah does.

We went into our first week of school tired. I was definitely not at my best, but we managed to have a good, quirky, imperfect first week.  Here are a few snapshots:

Favorite moment: reading The Penderwicks on Gardam Street at our picnic

Most inspirational resource: Spare Parts, the movie

Biggest honor: playing piano at my friend’s mother’s memorial service

Biggest fail: tomato bisque (inspired by this clip, which my children inexplicably love)

Number of games played on the new coffee table: 18

Number of times the children asked “What’s for dinner?”: 835 (each)

Biggest milestone:  teaching Jonah to drive.  (Where is the parents’ manual for driver’s ed?!!)

Most untrue thing said: “I’m terrible at math!!”

Weirdest thing I said: “Solo puede haber uno!!” I haven’t actually let my children watch Highlander (even in Spanish)…  and not just because it’s the weirdest movie I like.  (Fargo being the other movie I have an odd affection for.)  But I feel it’s coming.

What is the weirdest thing you said this week?

9th Grade Literature & Composition Course: 1st Semester

I wrote this English curriculum for my 9th grader this year.  You are welcome to use and adapt it to suit your own home school.  Please suggest any books you would add in the comments!  I’ll have the Spring Semester in a later post.


Fall Semester: What Makes a Hero?

Choose any books from this list to read at a pace appropriate to your student. I would recommend reading at least one book from ach time period.


  • The Illiad or The Odyssey (Homer- I like the translations by Robert Fagles)
  • Antigone (Sophocles)
  • Daniel
  • Plutarch’s Lives (these volumes are full of entertaining character studies of ancient Greeks and Romans- they would be good for those who need shorter works)

Middle Ages

  • Beowulf (I like Seamus Heaney’s translation)
  • Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan)
  • Robinson Crusoe (Defoe)

17th-19th Centuries

  • Kidnapped (Stevenson)
  • Jane Eyre (Bronte)
  • The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare)
  • Amazing Grace (Metaxas)- this is a biography of William Wilberforce, who lived from 1759-1833)
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man (Yates)- again, a biography of an amazing man who lived from c. 1710-1801

20th Century-present

Questions for discussion or papers:

  • Who is the Hero of this story?  What makes him or her heroic?
  • James Geary wrote, “Heroism often results as a response to extreme events.”  Does this mean any person can be a hero in a time of extreme events, or does becoming a hero require life preparation in advance of a person’s becoming a hero?
  • How were the actions of the hero extraordinary?  Does heroism require extraordinary times, or can a person be a hero in ordinary life?
  • Robert Green Ingersoll wrote, “When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death- that is heroism.”  Was this true in the book you just read?
  • What is the price of heroism in this character’s life?
  • We looked at each grouping of books by time period to examine how the qualities of a hero differed by time.  How did historical events and understanding influence the portrayal of a hero over time?  For example, the ancient heroes were often physically beautiful or powerful and relied on the gods for their success, while later heroes relied on their own wits and were not necessarily favored by birth.
  • Our final paper answered this question through the lens of our readings: How did the characteristics of a hero change over time?

We All Make Choices

This is a cholesterol molecule.  At some point in my medical school biochemistry class, we were assigned to memorize the four-stage process by which cholesterol is synthesized in the cells.

I had already memorized the Krebs cycle, mitochondrial ATP synthesis, the 206 bones in the adult body (and the 270 bones in the newborn that fuse down to the 206 in the adult), and the fascinating [ahem] pathway that sodium travels in the kidney.  I had two days before the exam, and it wasn’t going to happen.  I decided not to memorize the cholesterol production pathway and prepared to take my hit on the exam. I still got an A on the test.

But guess what my first pediatric rotation was?  Pediatric Endocrinology.  And guess what all our hormones are made out of? You got it: cholesterol.  We students rotated with a different professor each day, and every single one of them quizzed us on the cholesterol pathway.  The pathway showed up on my board exam.  Twice.  However, I have never used the four steps of cholesterol synthesis in my eighteen years of clinical practice, and I stand by my decision not to memorize it.

Educating my children, I find the what-to-learn decisions fraught with peril.  This or that?  Every Yes is a No to something else. We can’t possibly learn it all.  There is just no way.  And I believe in the adage that we learn what we use. My littles all have to learn their addition facts and how to read.  We all have to be able to write a good paragraph.  But as time goes on, our interests develop and change.  I can see what the boys are excited about by what they reserve at the library, and the girls show me with what they build, crochet and draw. I am trying to make space in their assignments to dig deeper into those ideas and interests.

Most of what they chose to learn isn’t going to show up on any standardized test, but it’s going to shape their future.  So I say Yes to Norse mythology and Java and knitting and bears. (And I say No to cholesterol synthesis.)

What are you saying Yes to these days?

Read-Alouds with High Schoolers: Now What?

When my kids were all little, we did everything together. It was a good day if I could go to the bathroom alone. We traveled as a pack. We had family movie night. We played family games. We did all of our school reading together, for hours.

Now I have a high school freshman, two middle schoolers, and a first grader. There are movies appropriate for my oldest for which my youngest is in no way ready. My youngest still needs Winnie the Pooh and Ferdinand the Bull and play dough.

It has been a difficult transition for me. I watch friends and acquaintances struggle to transition into this phase of home schooling, and they all struggle with it. I don’t want to give up now, just because it’s hard. I want my freshman to be able to read a hard book on genocide without exposing my seven year-old to the details. I want to be able to enjoy Beatrix Potter with my youngest without the oldest one(s) rolling their eyes and saying, “’Two Bad Mice’ again?” (To be fair, reading Beatrix Potter brings my older children out of the woodwork. Everyone loves Samuel Whiskers around here.)

I don’t have a fool-proof method, but here are the baby steps we are taking to make it work at our house.

I teach my children to be able to work alone. It takes work on my part to teach them to be a little more independent, but I believe there’s a payoff. Right now, working alone might mean 10 minutes of math for my first grader, or an hour for my sixth grader. They know where I am in the house, but they know I expect them to try it on their own first. While they work alone, I have time to make a phone call or go over another child’s writing assignment with him one-on-one. All four of them are able to read for stretches of time alone, the youngest perhaps using her CD player for an audio book. But everyone is able to do some of their work on their own.
the result of a recent independent cooking project…

As my kids get bigger, I ask them to do more work on their own. I begin by assigning them novels, to read a chapter or two at a time, and I require brief narrations to make sure the books are at the right level. Little by little, I increase the levels of the books, moving from novels to biographies. I throw in non-fiction for information. All along, the kids do oral or written narrations (though not daily) so I can see where they are and what interests them the most. When Jonah (14) sees his brother (12) reading a book he read a few years back, he gets excited, and I overhear them talking about it. It’s like a booster shot, only with a book.

Because we study history through literature, the books we read for history are critical to our curriculum.  I spend a lot of time pouring over book lists for age-appropriate books on history.  I often look for a book my high schooler can read alone, one my middle schoolers can read independently, and then a picture book I read to everyone. Often the picture book is just the right appetizer for the longer books my other kids read.  Sometimes there just isn’t a picture book on a subject (The Illustrated Guide to the Armenian Genocide, anyone?) and my youngest will listen in as I read the chapter book aloud.

I still read aloud to my high schooler. My ninth-grader loves a read-aloud as much as the next person. Reading a book together as a family is different from reading it alone. For one thing, when we hear a story together, we laugh at the same jokes at the same time. A good story rattles around in our heads and we talk about it together at dinner or in the car. Letting my ninth-grader off the hook for all of that would really make him miss out. So every school day, he is present for our Bible reading and our current read-aloud novel and a brief discussion/narration time. When we do picture study or composer study or a nature walk, he is expected to come along and experience the same material at his own level. Then he is excused to work on physics or pre-calculus or Latin on his own.

Every time I think I’ve figured this parenting thing out, my children grow out of the phase we’re in and hit me with something entirely new. I want to make the most of the time we have, and that means continuing to build a family lexicon of shared stories. It doesn’t make up all of our reading diet. Everyone has their own favorites, but what we read together is the main course.

A Day in the Life: October 2014

5:45       I overslept this morning.  I crawl out of bed, creep to the kitchen to make tea, read 1 Corinthians and write. I hear Sam in the shower.  I put oatmeal on the stove.

5:56       Sam is out, making his lunch and breakfast. He doesn’t have time to wait for the oatmeal.

6:30       He kisses me and is off to work. I make a second cup of tea and continue writing.

6:30       Aimee, our guest, is awake and wants to run, despite the darkness.  I coax her into eating a banana and waiting until the sun comes up. I try to keep writing, but conversation beckons.

6:47       I finish my word goal (500 words), close my laptop and change into running clothes.  Yesterday Aimee and I ran a hill loop.  She called it an “easy three mile trail run.”  I called it “Speed Work with a 17 year-old.”  My butt still hurts from it.  I let her mom, who is awake in the guest room, know we’re leaving.

7:02       Aimee and I sync our watches. She’s going to run hill repeats, while I loop around the park slowly for 30 minutes.

7:21       I really have to pee, but the bathroom is in the wrong direction. I head for the bathroom anyway.

7:24       I don’t have time to make it to the bathroom. Kegels to the rescue.  I turn around again and head back toward the car.

7:38       I’m late.  I see Aimee sprinting up the hill again.
Aimee, the 17 year-old rocket

7:40       We drive home.  In the bathroom, I realize I forgot to turn off my running app.  It logs my run with a 7:16 pace.

7:55       My running partner calls me and asks if Shalane Flanagan stole my phone. I’m pretty sure Shalane would have thrown her phone in horror if she ran a 7:16 pace.  The children are all awake, rattling around in the kitchen.

7:57       Now I’m really glad I made oatmeal.

8:33       Sue and Aimee head out to look at yet another college nearby.  We begin school.  Phoebe starts with copywork and Explode the Code.  Moriah begins with Duolingo (Spanish). The boys had already started: Rosetta Stone for Owen, Pre-Calc for Jonah.  While they’re all occupied, I shower.

8:46       Phoebe asks for help with math.  Singapore 1B is introducing multiplication in its casual way.  I love this curriculum.

9:02       Moriah practices “half” her piano.  I throw the laundry in.  Phoebe and I read library books: John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith; Lauren Child’s I Want a Pet and Maude, the Not-so-Noticeable Simpleton.

9:24       Owen comes out with a math question: how to do negative fractions. I tell him to skip that one for now.  Jonah starts Spanish, Moriah starts her math, Phoebe does her piano.  No one needs me, so I hang out in the kitchen, available.  Doing dishes.

9:47       The girls ask to paint.  No.  Instead, I pull out the clay.  I tell them we’ll be starting our family reading in the living room at 10.

9:58       I make another cup of tea and move the laundry to the drier and start load #2.

10:04    Close enough.  We are reading in Acts this fall, and then I read them To Fly: the Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old.  Some conversation about aerodynamics.  Phoebe has made a “shot” and a band-aid out of Sculpey for her doctor.  She plans to give these to him later this week when she gets her physical (and flu shot).  The shot looks like a pink dagger.  Tell me how you really feel.

10:31    I excuse Jonah to do his science.  I pull out the science I’m doing with the younger three.  We’re on the periodic table.  I love the periodic table.  After ten minutes, I realize that Owen has not caught the joy of the periodic table.  Phoebe isn’t even sure why I keep using the word “table” to describe it.  Moriah is starting to get it.

10:48    It is clear I cannot explain the period table, which is frustrating to me.  It’s like when I tried to teach Jonah piano in the early days: when the topic is something I really love, I am not a good teacher. But I eventually figured out how to teach piano and reading… so maybe we just need to put it away for now.

11:03    The girls again ask to paint.  No.

11:04    I read the news.  It’s all bad. More tea.

11:21    Moriah sets the table, and I pull out the leftovers.  Owen asks why we’re always having leftovers for lunch.  I say that we don’t like to waste food, so while we have leftovers, that’s what we’re going to eat.  Moriah grumbles that I never make anything she likes to eat, and that’s why we have leftovers in the first place.

11:32    Lunch.  I have already eaten two pieces of meatloaf standing at the counter before the kids even started.

11:53    Sue and Aimee are back.  We pack their luggage into the car, and I take them to the airport.  The kids are supposed to clean up the kitchen while I’m gone and begin their rest time.

12:41    I’m back.  The kitchen is fairly clean.  Not bad.  Put load #2 of laundry in the drier and put load #1 on my bed to fold.

12:55    I sit down with the book I’m reading, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  I have very little left, but I know it’s not going to end well.  I read it for hours at the swim meet and could hardly put it down, but now I can hardly pick it up.  McBride is an amazing writer.

1:20       The boys appear.  “Can I program?” Owen asks.  I say I want to go over what he’s done so far.  He explodes, telling me how much he hates the book I assigned him for reading.  I knew this last week, but I was going with the “once we start, it’s good to finish” theory.  When he tells me this book is like Peter Pan—which in his world means full of arcane language and inaccessible to him—I tell him we’ll switch.  Good thing I have a basket full of biographies from the library.

1:49       Knowing that prolonged silence is often a danger sign, I go upstairs to check on the girls.  Moriah is reading, and Phoebe has just cleaned her room. All by herself.  (Normally, she finds this task overwhelming. Her room has gotten so bad lately that I am overwhelmed, too.)  She tells me how she did it: “First I put my dirty clothes away, then the clean clothes, then the books, then the ponies…” And she really did.  I am truly amazed.  High fives all around.

2:01       I send Owen, Moriah and Phoebe to clean the bathrooms. Jonah’s assignment is the chicken coop.  I get the paints out.

2:15       Inspired by Phoebe’s diligence, I fold our laundry.  This sound like something easy, but somehow it is the task I never get to.  At the end of the day, I may have done five loads of laundry, but it’s all still sitting in wrinkled mass on our bed.

2:42       The girls are still painting.  Jonah and Owen have an argument over who should get to practice piano.  They both come to me with their superior claim to practice now.  I reflect back to both of them how it’s not about superior claims.  They work it out.  Owen practices now, while Jonah studies for his physics test.


3:00       I realize the dinner hour is approaching.  I can’t find my journal (where I’d written my meal plan for the week) anywhere. Decide on Quiche for tonight, and I’ll pick up salad when I go to the store.

3:20       The quiches are in the oven (a plain cheddar one for the kids; leek and artichoke for us.)  I remind the younger three to come eat a snack before we go to swimming.  The girls finish painting.  I can’t face cleaning up the mess of paints and brushes.  Ugh.

3:29       I check my email.  This turns into a computer-based rabbit trail of looking for the summer swim times.  Owen’s times have really improved. I call him over to show him how much time he’s dropped, and he says, “Am I in trouble?”

3:38       Still can’t find my journal.  Remembering that I had planned beef stew for one day, I pull the meat out of the freezer and make a grocery list, blind.

4:14       We head to swimming.  The girls are picking at each other in the car.  I yell at them to stop. Not a highly effective strategy.

4:27       Owen & Moriah sprint into the pool.  Phoebe wants me to go with her.  She changes in the locker room and needs help with her swim cap and goggles, but then she kisses me good-bye and goes into the pool without me.  Across the locker room is a harried mom with her two toddlers.  “She’s very independent,” the young mother says wistfully.  We share a smile. Just yesterday, it seems, mine we all littles, too, who couldn’t do anything for themselves.

4:33       I go through my coupons before heading to the store.  Most of them have expired. I cross my fingers and hope that Jonah remembered to take the quiches out.

4:41       It’s a novel thing to go to the grocery store by myself.  I am able to compare prices and nutrition labels without children bickering at my side.  No one has to go to the bathroom.  I know it’s supposed to be a “great learning experience” for them, and “you can teach them so much math!” at the grocery store, but frankly I find taking children to the store exhausting (and not just because someone invariably says, “Are they all yours?” and “You have your hands full!”)

5:43       Check out, drive back to pick up the children.  They are all in good post-swimming moods. And are very hungry.

6:02       I unload the groceries from the car.  Jonah helps.  The girls are fighting over my shower.  (They have their own, but for some reason, mine is the favored one.)  Sam has started making a salad.

6:20       Owen, starving, refuses to eat the Quiche, but he is silent at his place, refraining from complaint.  When I offer him hardboiled eggs and an apple, he jumps at them.  The artichoke Quiche is a bust, but the spinach salad is good.

6:44       I send the girls to clean up the basement, where they find my journal. Hooray!  Jonah puts the chickens away for the night, while Sam and Owen clean up the kitchen.  I do fifteen minutes of yoga.  My body is very grateful.

7:03       The girls are still putting toys away, but happily.  Owen and I play double solitaire; Jonah and Sam play Scrabble.  There is an intense discussion of whether or not Jonah can use the word “EW”.  The Oxford New American Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both say no.  In the end, he found an N to connect it to.

8:01       I go upstairs, where the girls are ready for bed.  We read LaRue Across America (Mark Teague), The Little Red Hen Makes Pizza (Philemon Sturges and Amy Walrod), and Say Cheese (Lauren Child).  Kisses all round.

8:34       A hot bath for me. I never got to Owen’s negative fractions or to the dirty brushes and paints in the kitchen.  I read another few pages of The Good Lord Bird, but I don’t want it to end and switch to Runner’s World instead.

9:17       Sam comes in to brush his teeth and finds me dozing.  “Go to bed,” he says.  Very grateful that the bed isn’t covered with clean laundry, I do.

School Plans, 2014-5

Several of you have reminded me that I never posted this year’s lesson plans.  Sorry to be tardy.

But hey– this is no pinterest page. Don’t start thinking we’re actually going to get all this done.  At the end of the year, I will share where we ended up isn’t what I planned.

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” –J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister

Here goes:

Daily Subjects


  • Jonah (9th grade) Teaching Textbooks Pre-Calculus
  • Owen (6th grade) Singapore New Elementary Math, Book 1
  • Moriah (5th grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 5B, 6A
  • Phoebe (1st grade) Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B, 2A


  • Owen/Moriah: Writing Prompts 1x/week, Simply Grammar 1x/week, Copywork 1x, Dictation x1 (this will flow more than this list suggests)
  • Phoebe: Copywork x3, and beginning later in the year Dictation x 1
  • Jonah’s writing will include journaling, essays for his English class (see below), and poetry

Foreign Language     

  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah will do Rosetta Stone Spanish 3-4 days/week and Grammar x 1/week (though I still haven’t found what I want for a grammar supplement)
  • Jonah will continue in Henle Latin and will take the National Latin Exam (year 2) this winter
  • Phoebe will read books in Spanish with me and continue to learn random vocabulary I throw at her
  • I keep saying we’re going to have a weekly Spanish immersion meal, but [because I’m lazy] it never happens. Maybe this year…


  • Owen Game programming 1x/week, scratch 1x/week


  • Moriah Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 1-2x/ week

Learning to Read

  • Phoebe Study Dog (level 2) 1-2x/week, Explode the Code levels 1 1/2 and 2, and daily reading (a page at a time of easy readers)



  • Jonah, Owen & Moriah all will be reading from our history list (late 19th and 20th centuries) and from a selection of other good books I’ve chosen.  I’m shooting for 30 to 90 min/day, depending on the child
  • The older three each read independently in the Bible as well, and Phoebe and I read as many picture books as we can fit in the day (which is fewer than I’d like but more than zero)
  • Read alouds planned include selections from our history list as well as The Mysterious Benedict Society (2 & 3), The Penderwicks (2-4), How to Train Your Dragon (we have a few road trips planned, and the books on CD are so good!), Flora and Ulysses (di Camillo), Number the Stars (Lowry), The Trumpet of the Swan (White), By the Shores of Silver Lake and Little Town on the Prairie (Wilder),

Weekly Subjects


  • Jonah chose Apologia Chemistry (at home) and Physics (at his enrichment school)
  • Owen, Moriah and Phoebe are doing Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics (Young Explorer Series)


  • I have both a selection of high school books and elementary school books (both picture books and chapter books) spanning the 20th century
  • We’ll begin with a review of the 19th century (making timeline figures) and then add to the timeline as we read.  We haven’t done a timeline before, and I’m hoping it helps with retention
  • We will do regular narration to help us with pulling together the threads of history and how they interlock.

High School English

  • Fall: What Makes a Hero?  Jonah will read at his own pace through a selection of books (I don’t in any way expect him to read them all) including The Odyssey (Homer), Jane Eyre (C. Bronte), Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Lansing), Code Name Verity (Wein), The Doomsday Book (Willis), Antigone (Sophocles), Beowulf, To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), Unbroken (Hillenbrand), Blackout and All Clear (Willis), Amazing Grace (Metaxas).
  • Spring: Revenge v. Mercy Our book list for Spring will include The Tempest (Shakespeare), Les Miserables (Hugo), The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas), Wuthering Heights (E. Bronte), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (A. Bronte), The Iliad (Homer), The Hunger Games (Collins), Cry, the Beloved Country (Paton), Baking Cakes in Kigali (Parkin), and A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens).
  • Most of our “class time” will be in the form of one-on-one discussions (hopefully involving tea) with Sam or me to discuss questions such as [in the fall]  Is a hero born or made?, What about “fatal flaws”?, and How do a hero’s circumstances affect his or her legacy? or What made someone choose Mercy (or revenge)? What were the consequences?  How do we become people who choose mercy? How do we form a society where mercy plays a great role than revenge?  What about justice? 
  • My hope is that we can pull his other readings from history into our discussions.


Picture Study

  • I have all the prints I made last year and didn’t get to because of time, and because other exhibits at the Denver Art Museum guided the limited study we did.
  • Hopefully we’ll get to some of these, as well as jumping in with the DAM’s exhibits.

Nature Study

  • My goals here are few: to get outside every day and to pay attention.
  • If we put anything in our nature journals, it’s a plus.


  • Everyone takes piano lessons.
  • We listen to music.


  • The kids want to do Chopped at home, but they have very few cooking skills
  • So I’ve designed a cooking “class” based on our favorites, in which I teach them knife and stove safety, basic kitchen skills, and two of our favorite breakfasts and dinners.  Once they’ve mastered those, we can talk about Chopped.


  • The younger three joined swim team.  The girls take weekly dance classes. Jonah is riding his bike and beginning to run a little.
  • I’m teaching them Frisbee.  We play soccer and volleyball.  Please say that’s enough.

It’s a lot.  Right now I’m having trouble keeping up with my end of the reading, but Sam’s engagement totally helps.

If you’re looking for more on school planning, here are my thoughts on high school at home and keeping track of lesson plans, how to get school done with toddlers around, and what your preschooler can be doing while your older child is having math tantrums.  Also, our lessons plans year-by-year are always available in the the pages at the top (by year), and these plans will be logged there eventually, too.