The Decision to Homeschool

We have a busy, hectic home. It is loud and there is a lot of unsolicited nudity.  At a time when many parents look forward to sending their children to school, we are keeping ours home. We may be crazy, but we have thought it out.

It is a real blessing to have so many options available to us to educate all of our children. Having so many options also creates a lot to consider. We’ve found many reasons that make us want to homeschool. There are practical concerns as well as educational ones.

156599We are dissatisfied with the structure of a child’s day in the classroom. I understand many parents are – this is nothing profound. The expectations of a child to sit still and focus for extended periods of time is unkind. The limited time now given to recess and unstructured-play is unacceptable. Young children don’t have long attention spans, their day should be spent mostly in free-play pandering to their imaginations. This is the time when their senses are filled with all the things that will later fill their minds.

The simple fact of classroom management makes field trips and projects much more difficult. Lesson plans are rigorously planned and can’t be changed without consequences. Ryan already works long hours teaching at a local high school. If the children also spent the majority of their day in school, used the evenings for homework and weekends for projects our family life would take a huge hit.

In these regards homeschooling has so many advantages. Lessons can be tailored to our child and their attention span. Lessons can be scrapped or switched easily to fit a child’s interest or simply because of environmental factors (i.e. it’s storming, let’s talk about how lightning works).  At home, we can spend most of the sunlight hours outside at parks or visiting family rather than spending hours at a time indoors in structure and control.

These classroom and scheduling problems are also major complaints of many parents and parents work very hard to combat this. Homeschooling is a viable option for us, however, to avoid this common struggle.

Schools are full of educated and caring teachers, people who’s profession it is to impart learning to students. Well-meaning as I may be, I am not professionally trained. But, unlike teachers in the classroom, I do not need to know how to simultaneously teach 25 children to read; I just need to teach my child at home, in their most comfortable environment. The student to teacher ratio alone gives us an advantage. There is a wealth of knowledge and support as well to homeschooling parents to fill in the gaps of our own education and help us become better capable of teaching our children.


We have looked at a few different homeschooling programs, I even tried my hand at putting together a curriculum myself. We really want to use a classical method and we’ve settled on The Angelicum Academy for this fall. The classical method uses the syllabus and structure based on the Medieval model of education. A child’s education is divided into three phases roughly coordinating with their natural development: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

A child first learns, essentially, everything they can, both in their bodies and in their environment. Gymnastic play and dance are important elements to introduce the child to the abilities of their own body. They experience as many different environments and are encouraged in unstructured play to interact  with as much of the world around.  Taking advantage of their natural curiosity and sponge-like minds, they are taught to memorize as many lists, facts and poems as their mind can absorb.

From this stage, the child moves into the Logic phase. This is roughly around the ages of 10-12 when the child can begin to use reason. Now they start to apply the knowledge the have learned and begin describing the world. The goal of this stage is to understand and comfortably use formal logic. Their reading becomes more advanced as they seek to expand on their elementary knowledge of various subjects. They begin to explore all sides of things, taking advantage of their natural argumentativeness.

ta-logoThe final stage, Rhetoric, corresponds roughly to the mid-teen years. The student understands much of the world, as well as how to discuss and explain it. They are now ready to delve into philosophy and speak of truths and un-truths. They understand language and the ways in which it is used to impart truth as well as misconceptions. They understand also the theoretical knowledge of those subjects they have chosen to study more closely. They can now express themselves clearly and logically. They can put forth arguments and dissect fallacies. This ability can be applied to any area of study.

The ultimate goal of classical education is to produce a well-rounded, educated adult capable of complex thought. A successful classical education builds a firm foundation for future learning.

This is what we want for our children and we hope homeschooling will help us achieve just that. This fall will be our first real step into teaching. If you think of us during the day, say a prayer for us, will you? We are jumping into the deep end teaching Evangeline with three smaller siblings at home. Below is a list of books we’ve read that have helped us to understand and choose both homeschooling and Classical education.

Farewell Fair-Feathered Friends

It was a soggy, fourth-trimester day in July when the chickens came into our lives. That was just over two years ago. And now, gentle reader, it is time that I share some news that may sadden of you. The chickens who have brought you so much entertainment over the years will be moving on later this week.

And by on I mean the big stew pot in the sky.

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Here to peck our ways into your heart

They have educated us in so many ways. They have provided unique conversation starters, encroached on our territory and covered our driveway in crap. They have terrified us and they have cultured our children in ways we can’t undo

What they have failed to do, is keep laying eggs.

I see you have clean clothes there. It’d be a shame if someone….shit on them.

We’ve had a surprisingly long run with these chickens. This has been our first real step into homesteading and overall, it’s been a success. We like the addition of chickens to our lifestyle — we eat eggs from them, they eat scraps from us, it works. The kids think the chickens are just the coolest and we like them growing up with this small insight into farm life. We hope  in the future, maybe as early as next spring, to start again with new chickens and a more sturdy coop.

I want to take a moment to scratch out a small space on the internet to honor the time the chickens have been a part of our lives.

Thanks for the memories, chickens.




Chicken Run
(I know insurrection is spelled wrong)
I am the one who knocks

For further reading about the chickens, check out these posts:

The Chicken — A Ghost Chicken Poem

The Birds…In Your Mind and In Your Backyard — Psychological toils of having chickens

With a Cluck Cluck Here — Welcome chickens



Children’s Entertainment That Isn’t Obnoxious

At Evangeline’s first Christmas, she received a 2 disc Nursery Rhyme and Lullaby CD set. We had a lot of traveling to do so we turned on the CD’s in the car. After 3 songs, we rolled down the window, pitched the CD out screaming “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!” The speed and pitch were all sped up. It wasn’t even cute like The Chipmunks; It was just one awful, frantic, shrill song after another. The baby was not calmed at all.

It was then, after having been parents for a mere 3 months, that we decided.  Our kids would never have obnoxious entertainment.

At first we were afraid our kids would be doomed to a sheltered life of Prairie Home Companion and they would grow up to be withered old souls who never had fun. Surprisingly though, we’ve found a wealth of un-obnoxious entertainment for our kids. We’ve only been at it for 5 years, but here’s what we’ve found that entertain the kids without annoying parents!

PBS Kids


photoEvery time I take the kids to the doctor and have to sit in the waiting room watching The Disney Channel, I make a donation to The Corporation of Public Broadcasting. PBS Kids is a favorite in our house. Sure Peg + Cat has random freaking out screams, the Daniel Tiger re-mix songs make you roll your eyes and seriously Martin Short, The Cat in the Hat doesn’t have to be *that* excited about everything. But still, the shows on PBS Kids are overall mellow, fun and educational in a non-banal kind of way. We like Curious George and Dinosaur Train; Evangeline has announced she has out-grown Daniel Tiger, but she likes Arthur and Odd Squad.


Real Music

Our kids like to dance; the girls especially like to play balleranias. Come to find out, most music is kid-appropriate without having to be marketed to kids. We listen to classical music, ballets and operas, folk music, 1920’s Jass, Musicals and Irish ballads. The kids love them. We don’t have to listen to Kidz Bop 254 we listen to Alison Krauss. We don’t need Angelina Ballerina, we have straight-up Tchaikovsky. Our kids are not only being entertained, but they’re also being exposed to a variety of *real* music. No, they don’t know who wrote the concertio they’re listening to, what a concertio is or why Etta James is such a big deal, but they’re hearing it all. And they’re enjoying it. And so are we. This has also been a great way to introduce them to bits of our culture and where we come from — Swamp Pop, Irish ballads, the crooners and Bluegrass.


Wee Sing Songs

Least you think we don’t allow any kid-specific music, we’ve come to enjoy Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies. It was recommended in a homeschooling curriculum we were looking through. We were both reticent to buy another nursery rhymes CD. I still get headaches thinking about that first CD. But we’ve been delightfully surprised. The songs are a part of a greater narrative which adds a level of entertainment. They are sung mostly by children, but it’s like human children singing songs that were meat to be sung by real people. The kids enjoy the story and even “head on down the coast road” when they’re playing at home. We mostly listen to this in the car and it’s perfect.


Peter and The Wolf

Along that same line, we all like listening to Peter and the Wolf (narrated by Patrick Stewart). I was given a copy of it when I  started playing the oboe in junior high. It’s wonderful. Patrick Stewart tells the story of Peter and the Wolf. Each character is given a little fanfare played by a different instrument of the orchestra. The bird is an airy flute, the hunters are the kettle drums etc. Patrick Stewart will tell a line of the story and then it is acted out by the orchestra. He will say “One day Peter went walking in the woods” and then you hear a little fanfare from the strings. When the bird and the duck (oboe) argue, there’s a duet between the two. You get the idea. It’s a great way to introduce the kids to the idea of storytelling through music and to Patrick Stewart!


Hayao Miyazaki

We are particular about movies. First we want to ensure that the overall message is a good one (sorry Disney’s The Little Mermaid). We also want the film to be beautiful. This led us, of course, to Hayao Miyazaki. We began watching his movies while we were in college and thoroughly enjoyed them. Now the kids do too. There are some elements that the kids aren’t used to (like spirits) but it allows for conversations about what we’re watching. Our favorites are Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.



The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea

mv5bmjezmjezntizof5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtg2mjaymw-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_mv5bmtq2mdmwnjewnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwotkxmzi0mze-_v1_uy268_cr10182268_al_Cartoon Saloon is another animation production company we’ve come to enjoy. They are based in Ireland and set out to tell real Irish folk tales with real Irish art styles. We watched The Secret of Kells before having kids and thought it was wonderful. Both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea are beautiful. The acting is very well done (Brendan Gleeson anyone?) Like Miyazaki, there are elements of fairies and the supernatural. That is in part what makes them so great. It is great fodder for he imagination and at the same time gives the kids visually different styles of culture.


Kiwi Crate

kiwi_crate_logo_2xHave you ever noticed how stupid some toys are. It’s hard not to. And a lot of craft style toys and kits have sooooooooo many very teeny-tiny-choke-your-baby-stab-your-foot-pieces. Enter Kiwi Crates! I’ve posted about them before, but we still love them. It’s a monthly subscription box that comes with materials to make 2-3 themed crafts. They’re educational and fun! Evie doesn’t know they are educational, but she does know they are fun. They now have different boxes for older children. There are other subscription boxes that we haven’t tried, but are interested in, like the Little Passport boxes.


What we are finding is that you don’t really need to keep re-inventing the wheel. There are of course movies and music that aren’t child appropriate, but a great majority are. If you like it, you’re kids probably will to. And even if your kids like something, doesn’t mean the whole family has to be subjected to it.

Are you choosey about what your kids play with or watch? What are you favorite child’s entertainment that’s not obnoxious?


Mandie and the Secret Tunnel; Kelli and the Exciting Read

156171Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is the first “real” book I remember reading. Of course I read picture books a la Eric Carle and Dr. Suess. I am enjoying reading them again with my children. But Mandie was different. There were chapters and there was suspense.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the plot of this book and I’m nearly positive I never read any of the others in the series. But the experience stays with me — staying up late to read, waiting for the next break in class to find out what happens next. It was the first time I remember being truly engaged in a story, taken over by someone’s words and brought into another world.

To me, that is the truest joy of reading — the excitement.

As an adult my interests have drawn me in many directions. But no matter what I read, be it Medieval history, a whodunnit or calligraphy instructions, it is the excitement of Mandie I am looking for. A book that makes me ask “what happens next?” and “what more is there to learn?” A book that keeps me reading.

There are a few other early books I remember feeling this way about, Molly’s Surprise by Valerie Tripp and Number the Stars by Lois Lowery come to mind. For different reasons these books introduced me to different lives and different times. I remember every word of these books. When I was older and learning the full history of World War II, it was Molly’s father I pictured as the returning soldier and Ellen Rosen was with every group of Jews seeking safe passage to Sweden.


As simple as these stories may be, they have had a powerful impact on me. Because of them I am a better reader. What is the first book you remember reading? What book had an early influence on you?

The Chicken

for emily, whom i’ve always loved

The Chicken comes by day, she’s hungry.

From your street she left, empty beaked.

The Chicken comes by night, she’s hunting.

The Chicken’s claw discriminates not.

The Chicken’s heart is cold, unyielding.

The Chicken’s beak cares not what it pecks.

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Your urban plot has tamed her roost;

You penned her coup but not her heart.

Your fields were once all hers alone;

Your flowers ate she stem to bloom.

Away it went with one lap of your plow —

Earth to grey mulch, hard pellets that never sprout.

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Her perch left empty these years past.

Forgotten, you thought away she would stay.

Yet hear her caw, her bwak comes nigh.

You’ll rue the day you tamed her roost!

The Chicken comes by day, she’s hungry.

The Chicken comes by night, she’s hunting —


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Being a Blogger, Take 7

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s been a long time. I think I’ve blogged this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I haven’t. But it’s the summer. It’s hot. I only have 5 other things I should be doing at any given time. I want to write.


I enjoy writing. I’ve heard writers describe their craft as spiritual, therapeutic, energizing. Bully for them. I just like connecting complete thoughts and having other people read them. And so I blog.

As I am reminded every year at Lent, the most successful changes happen when one makes specific goals. So rather than saying I just want to keep up the blog better, I want to make some tangible steps to achieve just that.


Most of the recent posts I’ve published have been about books. Reading is an enduring passion of mine that I feel will continue. As I take to the keyboard again and attempt to resuscitate this blog, I can assure you that literature and my armchair analysis will remain. You’re welcome.

I want to continue writing about what it actually looks like Being the Carruths. We have four little ones, two advanced degrees, a chicken coup and weekly grocery trips. I want you to know about all of it! Plus we have homeschooling plans on the horizon, so I know you’ll want to stay tuned for those updates.

Finally, I’d like to stretch myself a little and include more posts on topics not related to myself. Since having the babies, I’ve felt my brain become a bit dusty. I’d like to put some brain power to something other than recipes and potty time-tables. We’ll see how well that comes about. I’ve been catching up on my podcasts 😉

So stick around, if nothing else, just to see if I actually stick to this for 30 days or not. I made a schedule and used high lighters so you know I mean business.

Here is a recent cute picture of the kids