homeschool · slice of life · technology

The Fruits of Your Labor

On Friday afternoon, I asked Isabelle if she had any work to complete over the weekend. She paused. I could tell she was thinking through what (or how much) to tell me. “We’ll, I have to finish my AR Project for STEM, but that’s it.”

“When is it due?” I asked.

“Tuesday,” she replied.

“Okay,” I replied.

And then, amazing even myself, I spoke nothing of the STEM Project to Isabelle all weekend.

This afternoon, I picked Isabelle up from school early since she needed her (maintenance dose of!) allergy shots.

“Did you get the STEM project done over the weekend or during REM this morning?”

“I’m going to work on it after I get my horrible, terrible, boring-old allergy shots — when we are waiting around.”

Enough adjectives for you, I wondered.

“Okay,” I replied. “I know you’ll get it done. Self-managing your assignments is something you got really good at last year when you were homeschooled.“

Isabelle nodded knowingly.

“Did you notice I didn’t ask you about it all weekend?”

“Yeah. Why didn’t you?” Isabelle inquired.

“Because I knew you’d get it done and submitted by the time it is due.”

After Isabelle’s shots, she emerged from the shot room, grabbed her iPad, opened it up to Tinkercad, and began working. I gave her work the fish-eye a couple of times, but said nothing as she put the finishing touches on the project.

Eventually, she asked to read me the paragraph she wrote. If I’m being generous, it was a poorly written overview of what I saw in front of me.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Um, I think you could’ve combined the first three sentences into one sentence. Are you being graded on your writing?”

Isabelle shook her head.

“Are you sure? Because if you are, then the writing needs some work.”

“I’m not being graded on the writing, but I had to write something — to describe what I created.”

“Do you know what you are being graded for?”

Isabelle nodded.

“Okay, then you can go ahead and submit it early,” I replied.

I watched as Isabelle typed something up on Schoology and submitted her assignment to her teacher.

“It’s in,” she said after a few minutes of hunting and pecking.

“Go ahead and enjoy some free time on the iPad. You’ve earned it.”

homeschool · slice of life · writing

Nurturing a New Slicer

I didn’t think I could talk her into it.

But I nudged her.

Let’s be honest, I strongly encouraged her to give it a try.

So, she thought of a theme (i.e., writing about her life with her little brother). We compromised on the time frame (weekdays in April rather than all 30 days of the month.)

This week, we’ve talked about drafting in Co:Writer. We discussed the importance of her being the first reader of her writing before asking for an edit. We chatted having someone edit for her before going public with her writing. We talked about using Waterlogue instead of posting actual photos. We discussed that I would be the administrator of her blog so that I could work with her to keep her safe online.

As of today, Isabelle has written six blog posts on A Big Sister’s Tales. She is READY to begin the 10th Annual Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge, which begins tomorrow.

I have no idea if this experience will be a transformative month for Isabelle. It’s my hope that she becomes a stronger writer, has a greater desire to publish her writing, and connects with other kids from around the world. And if she gets or receives some comments (Hint, hint!) from some of my adult Slicer friends, well, then that’s a wonderful bonus!

Head over to on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.
homeschool · medical · slice of life

Mom. Teacher. Principal. Curriculum Director. Superintendent.

“Would you like a printout of your visit summary?” the medical office assistant (MOA) asked me in mid-September.

“No, thank you.”

“Do you need a school note?”

“No, she’s homeschooled this year. I’m mom, teacher, and principal. So no note is needed,” I smiled beneath my mask.

“Okay. Have a great day!”

Isabelle attended a Jewish day school through second grade. I pulled her out of school anytime she had a medical appointment, vision therapy, speech therapy, OT, etc. I never needed to get a note from the medical provider. Isabelle’s school knew that if she was missing school, then she was missing school for an important reason.

We moved to Lancaster and began sending Isabelle to public school in third grade. That’s when I became acquainted with the joy of school notes. Every time she missed part of a school day — even if it was just ten minutes of remote instruction last year — I needed to obtain a medical note or else she’d receive an unexcused tardy or an unexcused absence.

I try not to curse on this blog, but I’m going to break that rule for a second. It was such a royal pain in the ass to get a medical excuse note for every appointment. (You saw how many specific things I linked to two paragraphs prior to this one right? There have been many medical appointments needed through the years!) Often times, I’d forget to request the notes because, well, ya know… I was focused on the medical aspect of the visit, not the paperwork. Then, I’d get home and have to call into the office to have them fax it over to the elementary school. In fact, I forgot to get to get the notes so often — since I wasn’t in the habit of doing it do it for the first three years of Isabelle’s formal schooling — that I put Isabelle in charge of reminding me to get the medical excuse notes.

I understand why medical notes are a necessity. I realize truancy is an issue in many places. I also realize that kids do best when they’re in class. However, when a child has a standing appointment, it’s nice when the school is willing to work with caregivers so that a paper trail doesn’t need to be created every single time. (For instance, when I had to pick Isabelle up 20 minutes early from school twice a week for Dyslexia tutoring in third grade, I was able to submit one letter that stated all of the dates/times of tutoring so that I didn’t have to submit an excuse note twice a week. THAT was a relief!)

Last spring, Isabelle’s seasonal allergies flared to the point that she asked to start allergy shots, I jumped at the chance to start her off this year knowing that I would be able to work our school days around her weekly (Thankfully, bi-weekly now!) appointments. Imagine how happy I was every time they asked me if I needed a school note. Nowadays, the conversation is more like this:

“Do you need a school note today?” the MOA asked.

“Not today,” I said smiling beneath my mask.

NOTE: Thank goodness most MOAs ask if a school note is needed nowadays. Maybe there are many other caregivers like me who call in after the fact to get the notes.

This morning, Ari had a medical appointment. Isabelle completed a vocabulary assessment in the car on the way there. While she was in the waiting room, she finished a quick publish assessment. On the ride home, she completed her math workbook. In reality, having a day that’s disrupted with a medical appointment isn’t a big deal since. She doesn’t miss a single class because her teacher (ME!) is alongside her.

Isabelle brought her iPad along to finish up a Quick Publish Assessment of a literary essay while I did some of my own writing.
Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
homeschool · slice of life

Making It Work

Earlier today, I received a comment from Shaista on yesterday’s slice of life story:


Managing is the answer. It isn’t easy, but somehow, we’ve completed 734 of the 900 hours required by Pennsylvania Homeschool Law — and I still like my kids! (I think we’re due for a vacation SOON!)

Some days are easier than others. Some days we accomplish more than others. Some days everyone completes their assignments with a happy heart. Some days I think I could keep homeschooling.


This is not a long-term, sustainable thing. As a literacy consultant, I look forward to getting back into schools and presenting at conferences. (While I have set aside the afternoons as my work time, homeschool things are always popping up. I’m not accomplishing anywhere near what I would be if my kids were in school.) As an educator, I want my kids to be back in school for greater socialization opportunities. As a mom, I know I don’t want to teach two grades simultaneously. While I know some homeschoolers use computer programs to help manage multiple grade levels, this isn’t something I’ve tried. I teach my children the way I taught when I was in the classroom. There is some tech time, but it’s a tiny part of the day.

Click here for a peek into math time this morning!

It isn’t easy to teach about compound units (e.g., kilograms and grams) to a fifth-grader while trying to keep my preschooler (who is now into a Kindergarten math book since we zoomed through the PreK curriculum) engaged with his work. But somehow, we do it. Day after day after day.

Finally, I write whenever I can squeeze in some time. For instance, Isabelle is engaged in an activity now, so I’m sitting in a reading room with my laptop. Once this post is done, it’s my hope to get some writing done. However, the door is open to the hallway so that plan might get thwarted. But that’s okay. A little socialization never hurt anyone!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

homeschool · siblings · slice of life

When One Kid Is Up First

It’s 6:55 a.m. and Marc has told Ari he may not wake Isabelle up until 7:00 a.m. (That’s right. My always-early-to-rise kiddo has been affected by the time change.) Knowing that Isabelle still being asleep means that it’ll be challenging to start our homeschool day precisely at 8:00 a.m., I give Ari the green light to wake her at 6:59 a.m. as Marc heads off to work.

7:00 a.m.: Turn on “Up First” and do makeup.
7:01 a.m.: Listen to the first story about Ukraine.
7:02 a.m.: Keep listening and applying makeup.
7:05 a.m.: Overhear rumblings of tension down the hall.
7:06 a.m.: Listen to yelling — and it isn’t coming from the podcast’s audio feed. Keep putting on makeup since this is something I typically do after I eat breakfast.
7:07 a.m.: Speed up the pace of makeup application when I hear Isabelle yell, “Stop pulling my quilt!”
7:08 a.m.: Rise from the makeup table after Isabelle yells, “Could somebody help me down here!?” I am the only parent home so it’s up to me to break up the conflict.
7:09 a.m.: Turn off “Up First” while marching down the hall to see what the commotion was about.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Ari was trying to pull my quilt off of the bed!”

“Why were you doing that?”

“She wasn’t getting up,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“You could’ve come to get me,” I said.

Ari made a soft uh-huh sound. (That’s what he does when he realizes he is wrong, but doesn’t want to admit it.)

“What could you have done instead?” I ask Ari.

That’s when he climbs up into Isabelle’s bed and lays down where the sheet is exposed from him pulling the quilt off. He closes his eyes and pretends to sleep.

And that’s when I think THAT IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE! And then I think, is it really only Tuesday?!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
homeschool · reading · slice of life

Make It a Snap Word

I learned about orthographically mapping irregular words when I attended the TCRWP Dyselxia Institute. They provided us with a routine for mapping irregular words. A few days ago, I tried it out with Ari. So far, we’ve mapped three sight words that he’s found tricky: here, said, and is.

The shutter is about to click!

This morning, during lowercase handwriting practice, I noticed Ari putting his hands up to his temples after he wrote the word here.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m taking a picture so I remember how to write this word,” he replied.

“Didn’t you already take a picture of it last week?” I pondered.

“I did. I’m taking another picture of it so I can really remember,” Ari said.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

COVID-19 · homeschool · slice of life

The 10-Pane Glass Door

We handed the builder the blueprints to our first home and asked him to make a few tweaks when we decided to build a new house an hour east of our first house, Much of the house is exactly the same so it often feels like I’ve been living in the same house for over 12 years when it’s really been 29 months in the new place!

Ari and Fluffy enter my office by way of the glass door. (BTW: The walls are sage green, which is my favorite color, not yellow. Waterlogue made my walls look like mustard!)

In our former house, the door had been 15 panes of glass on it. The kids were constantly stopping by to peer inside when I was trying to work. They’d wave, slide things under, and make silly faces. It was adorable, but I knew I needed a solid office door. After all, it’s hard to write a book when you have distractions in your peripheral vision. So, even though my office was going to be exactly the same, from the flooring to the angles of the walls near my office door, I knew I should change the door even if a glass door looked prettier.

We sat down with our home builder to pick out things like roof color, siding color, door handle shapes, etc. Eventually, we got to door style. I chocked. In that moment, I couldn’t part with the idea of seeing into the foyer of our house. I knew I’d miss out on seeing what was happening beyond my office. So, in what felt like me going back on something I insisted I would change, I opted for a 10-pane glass door. I hoped I made the right choice.

I never expected we’d be living at home — day in and day out for two years — with one another when I made the decision to go with the glass door. But who would’ve predicted a global pandemic when picking out their office door?

Do I regret the glass door? At first, I did. But not anymore. Over time, Isabelle and Ari have learned to wait for a “come in” after they knock. I alert them to Zoom meetings in advance so they don’t interrupt. Isabelle has become especially good at waiting until I look up if she sees me wearing my reading glasses while typing.

If I didn’t have the glass door, then I’d miss many sweet knocks from Ari and his stuffies who like to visit me in the afternoons when I’m working. This afternoon, I had one solid hour to do work before leaving for an appointment. In that time, I received two quick visits from Ari and Fluffy. And while I probably would’ve been more productive if I hadn’t received those visits, I’m thankful my children and I have learned how to balance me working from home while they’re at home.

Next year, when we return to a more “normal” (What is normal anymore!?) life, I have a feeling I will look back on these days — when we were all at home because of Covid — and will miss the smiles, waves, and treasures they share with me through the glass door. But that’s about five months off. Until then, I’ll look gazes from the other side of the door.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
food · homeschool · slice of life

You’ve Gotta Bake If You Want a Loaded Shake!

My children have been into “Kids Baking Championship” for the past couple of years. It’s a show we enjoy watching together. So when Ari asked, “Can we make those?” after seeing loaded shakes on the recent “Shake, Shake, Shake” Episode, I said yes. At the time, I didn’t really think through all that was involved in my affirmative response.

Originally, I thought we’d bring out the ice cream maker and make our own ice cream from scratch. Once I realized I’d have to make both of the items to load on top from scratch (Because that’s the joy of being gluten-free… you have to make nearly everything yourself.) and a chocolate ganache from scratch, I decided to scratch the homemade ice cream. (Another gallon of Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream has made its way into our house for the occasion.)

Ari and I decided on chocolate peanut butter shakes. After a lot of thought, we decided our toppings should be chocolate doughnuts (NOTE: I’ve never made doughnuts in my life.) and peanut butter cookies. So, after we made challah for Shabbat this morning, we got to work on the doughnuts and cookies. (I offered to give Isabelle credit for part of her homeschooling day if she helped us with the recipes. It’s totally legit since one of the math objectives on her approved homeschool plan is “Apply mathematical concepts (e.g., geometry, measurement) in cooking and art activities, as well as in real-world situations.” Seeing as we’re finishing fractions and moving into measurement next week, this felt like an ideal time to work on that objective.)

By noon, we had the following items baked:

Chocolate Glazed Donuts, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Challah

Soon, I’ll need to make dinner and chocolate ganache. Then, we’ll get the kids showered. The shakes will be an after-dinner treat tonight while we watch the season finale of this season’s “Kids’ Baking Championship,” which has been on our DVR for several days. If I don’t pass out from exhaustion by the end of the day, then I’ll update this post with photos of the loaded shakes tonight!


Sweet Success!
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homeschool · slice of life

Wordles & Spellies

Back in January, Leah Mermelstein told me that she and her daughter were doing Wordle together. Since I was already hooked on playing the daily word game, I decided to introduce it to Isabelle. From the start, she was hooked! In fact, I began to use Wordle as part of her phonics and spelling instruction.

Every morning, sometime between read-aloud and vocabulary instruction, we do Wordle. First, Isabelle and I solve the official puzzle of the day. While that happens, Ari — who wants in on everything — observes. He likes to remind us of what we should remember based on the colors each guess generates. Once we solve the Wordle of the day, I provide Ari with Custom Wordles, which I design to correlate with words from his Dolch Sight Word List. Isabelle moves onto Spellie, which has different levels of difficulty. (The easy and medium puzzles provide hints if one is stumped.)

One can go down the rabbit hole of Wordle! The Washington Post published a list of Wordle alternatives for people who were worried it would go behind the NYT paywall. Educators, like Dee Beattie, have published useful OG-Wordle Tips to help kids with Dyslexia. There have been multiple articles, including one by Nell Duke on ASCD’s blog, about Wordle’s value as a teaching tool.

It works! Somehow, this game that I used to play while sipping my morning coffee has become a beloved part of our homeschool day.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.