May 282014


As I set my goals this year,  I started by thinking about some of what I had been struggling with during the previous year.

I was frazzled.

I felt pulled in all directions.

I lacked focus.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to any of my children during “school time”.

I was exhausted.

I determined that there were a couple of things contributing to these problems. One was biological.

Electronic Distraction

I have this amazing device that sits open a good portion of my day. Its home is right at the end of the dining room table.

It’s my Macbook Pro.

Macbook Glow

And while I was “teaching” it sat there open.

I heard my e-mail notifications.

I heard my Facebook notifications.

So I would stop by and “just check my e-mail really quickly.” Frequently.

Unfortunately the “really quickly” was rarely quick. Usually I saw something to respond to, a link to check, or I thought of something clever to post on Facebook. And the next thing I knew, 30 minutes had passed, and I had several kids waiting on me to help them with something. (Sometimes they were physically waiting, more often, they just quit doing their school work and disappeared.)

I was frustrated when I was interrupted, but I was almost always doing something where my children would have to interrupt.

Removing Distraction

Finally, I realized what I had to do.

I needed clear and defined times when my laptop (and my Kindle Fire) were off-limits. Completely. No exceptions.

So I did it.

I made 8-11 am a “NO computer time”. The laptop was closed and put away.  We also set 6-8 pm as off-limits for both my husband and me.


I have to confess it has been HARD.

At first, I had to be extremely legalistic about the hours. I would find myself nearly desperate to open the laptop. Really. It was pathetic.

Addicted to Distraction

Once I got used to my new off computer hours, I felt like I had mastered my addiction, so I let the hours be a little more flexible. And I would occasionally pick up my Kindle Fire at 9:30 or so, just to see if there was anything important.

Then I realized that I was slowly sliding right back into the same pattern of distraction during our morning school hours. I realized, that like a recovering alcoholic should avoid bars, I needed the strict rules. Legalistic or not.

So even though there are definitely times when I don’t need to be working with any of my children in the morning I do NOT allow myself any computer time during those hours.

Productive Pursuits

What have I been doing instead?


Folding the laundry




Reading magazines

These are all things that I either enjoy or need to do that were getting pushed aside because of the amount of time I was wasting on the computer.

I have a long way to go. And with summer coming, I may not keep the same off-limits hours. But then again, it may be best to keep on with my routine.


How about you? Have you been able to successfully decrease your computer usage permanently? How do you do it?


May 102014

Whew. Did you hear that big sigh of relief?

Outside Classes

We finished up the last of our outside classes on April 30. It was a great experience for David (10th) and Anna (8th), but it did make for hectic Mondays. A level of hectic that I’m not used to since we’ve always homeschooled.

I’m glad they’re over for this year, but I am a firm believer in giving older homeschooled students a chance to be involved in a classroom setting – especially if they’re college bound. I thought it was important before I signed my kids up, and now I have seen the benefits.

Benefits of Outside Classes

1. Accountability

I’ve had trouble motivating David in subjects that he’s not that interested in. It’s been a constant battle. This year, I enrolled him in a literature class, and the difference was amazing. No, he didn’t love the class, but since he’s competitive (and a perfectionist), he worked hard. There is no way that I could have gotten him to do the amount of work at home reading books that he doesn’t like. That class was such a success, he’s taking American Literature next year with the same teacher.

2. Deadlines

This is related to accountability, but as homeschoolers we often have trouble finishing things. Sure we can set deadlines, but we all know that they’re arbitrary. With outside classes, David and Anna dealt with meeting deadlines. They learned a lot about time management in the process. Meeting deadlines is a real world skill. It’s not just something needed to do well in school. (Though it is also an essential skill for success in school.)

3. Different Perspective

Most everything that my children have studied up to this point has been from my perspective. I’ve chosen the curriculum, I’ve guided them through it. I’ve answered their questions. I’ve chosen the activities that I’ve thought were important. And that’s one of the great things about homeschooling. I do get to pick out what I think are the best resources for my children. However, sometimes the best resource is someone else. Hearing someone else’s interpretation of a work of fiction, doing the writing assignments she thinks is important, and watching someone else work math problems all provide a more well-rounded education. Some things might not be the very best way that my student learns, but when you have a job, you don’t always get to only do things in the way that fits you best. Sometimes you have to do things just because they have to be done. The pre-calculus curriculum was NOT the one I would have chosen for David. But having a teacher who checked his assignments and taught the material made up for the curriculum choice.

4. Socializing

Notice I didn’t say socialization. Socializing is really what most people mean when they ask the dreaded “What about socialization?” question. One of the benefits of outside classes is the opportunity to meet other homeschoolers (or students if the class is not specifically for homeschoolers). Class time itself is not for socializing, but kids meet new people in their classes and that can provide the opportunity to build friendships. We do other activities like cross country and church where my kids can meet other people, but this was another opportunity to meet more people with common interests.

What about you? Have your students taken outside classes? What benefits have you seen?

Homeschooling the Middle & High School YearsThis post is linked to the Let’s Homeschool High School Blog Hop and Finishing Strong.