Monday, May 30, 2011


I so often hear homeschooling parents who are deeply concerned about "standards", especially from those who are new. While I realize that in some states, parents are required to submit to standardized testing and regulation of curriculum, the vast majority of states do not require these kinds of restrictions. So why do so many of us who don't have to be concerned with standardized testing and regulated curriculum care so much about "meeting the standards"?

Perhaps it is because we obsess with "grade level" questions. There are many places this happens. Some curriculum is based on "grade level" therefore making us constantly question what "grade" our child is in. Yet, even in those sources, what is "on grade level" isn't universal so it's a rather useless measure.

Then there are the questions that keep a homeschooling parent up at night.

"Is Timmy able to go back into school with the same class of kids he left?" It's a legitimate enough concern if you're only planning to homeschool for the short run, but long term, it's really not a sufficient concern. "Is he learning enough?" Most likely, yes. Children who are homeschooled repeatedly outperform their public school peers. And so on they rattle in the brain on sleepless nights.

I could go on about this for hours but the bottom line is that nationally developed standards don't even work. Each state is in charge of it's own education so the standards already vary from state to state. The new "national standards" are attempting to remedy that problem, however schools are consistently struggling with implementation and getting their already behind students to get caught up.

Children in public schools often appear to be running a race with an award at the end - a high school diploma. We continue to hold it slightly out of reach while forcing them to run faster and harder. It's almost like watching a cartoon of dogs racing with the "bait" dangling from the stick - ever elusive, ever just out of reach.

When are children are nearing that goal during their high school years, we begin to dangle another bait - college. Students who choose not to attend college are immediately looked down upon by their peers as the entire school is abuzz with who was accepted where and what they will be doing with their bright futures. Yet studies show far less students will ever reach this second bit of dangling bait with a diploma and those who do haven't always found it to be worth the cost of having a piece of paper.

I challenge you to try letting go of standards.

At first, the process is frustrating. Leaving public school established grade levels behind can be infuriating. Instead of constantly looking for "his grade" you'll have to start doing some homework. What, exactly is in the curriculum? What is covered? Dig into that table of contents and question ANY publisher who does not make their scope and sequence available to you as a consumer. "It's meant for __ grade" is not an answer, it's an excuse.

Consider stepping further outside of the box. You know what your children know. Allow them to become secure in their newfound knowledge. Perhaps it's time to let them pursue some interests that don't appear to be on the learning spectrum. In our home we're currently rebuilding a 1950's Willy's Wagon in school. You'd be amazed how much science and math it's taken...and it sure beats a textbook in the schoolroom. Practical experience beats textbooks every single time.

I'm often asked for a glimpse into our curriculum. I respond with the typical answer of publishers, books, and such that we are currently using in our home education program. To be frank, I believe I need to expand that. Our NEW curriculum is:

Math U See - Beta
Investigate the Possibilities - Elementary Physics
All About Spelling - 2
Catholic Heritage Handwriting - Level A
Homemade unit studies of the American Revolution

Building a 1951 Willy's Wagon Jeep
Putting in a new Garden
Building planter boxes for veggies, herbs and flowers
Planting apple trees
Researching and placing a windbreaker of shrubbery
Finding and researching insects we find
Watching Mythbusters
Watching Only In American w. Larry the Cable Guy
Church school
Taking care of our pets
Cooking classes

This could go on for pages - but I'll stop here...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Handmade Kindle Cover

Supplies needed:

2 Fat Quarters in complimenting fabrics - 3 if you want to get fancy...make sure 2 match
Cardboard (to create your pattern and your "fake Kindle" for checking fit, etc.)
1 piece of template material (for making quilt templates)
Low pile batting (if you want it soft and squishy - this will require the 3rd fat quarter)
2 pieces of thin (1/8") elastic
1 button

1. Trace your Kindle on the cardboard. Cut out 1 pattern of your Kindle. Label it A.

2. Take cardboard Kindle and place on cardboard. Measure out 1 1/2 full inches in every direction. Cut the "larger Kindle". Label it B.

3. Trace the "larger Kindle" side by side with itself, like an open book. Draw a straight line across the "dips" in the middle (or leave them for a more stylized look - but it's more difficult to sew). Cut out the 3rd pattern. Label it C.

4. Place A on top of B. Measure diagonally across the corners for a triangular piece of fabric which will hold the Kindle in place. When you measure it, meaasure 1/2 inch beyond where you want it to sit on the Kindle. This will be a seam allowance for later. Cut the triangular piece out of cardboard. Label it D.

5. Out of the material that you want to make the outer cover, cut 1 C pattern. Out of the material you want to be the primary inner pattern, cut 1 C pattern. Out of a contrasting material to the inner material, cut 4 D patterns.

6. Cut 2 B patterns out of the template plastic. You may make these about 1/2 inch down total OR trim as needed toward the end. I recommend trimming at the end if you don't mind losing a small bit of template fabric.

7. (if desired) Cut 1 C pattern out of the batting reducing the pattern by 1/2 inch in each direction to allow for seam allowances. You will need an additional C pattern as well in any coordinating fabric.

8. Measure elastic across B pattern and cut two taught pieces across the cover (stretched to help hold Kindle in place).

9. Cut 1 small piece of contrasting fabric to make the closure. This can be made as a strap to button or as a loop. Designer's choice! :)

10. Cut the inner C pattern in half so it "matches" the B pattern.

11. Hem the 4 D patterns across the long portion of the triangle with a minimum of a 1/4" seam allowance.

12. To the right half of the halved inner C pattern, sew the two piece of elastic on - one for the bottom and one for the top. Sew them to the front side of the fabric. Sew only on the left side. Measure to your A pattern to check for distance.

13. Sew the two left triangles onto the inner C pattern right side sewing the outer corners and leaving the inner corner "free" with the elastic coming out from the inside.

14. Hem, sew, or otherwise create the strap or loop for the closure of the cover.

15. Attach the strap or loop to close the Kindle to the right side of the inner C pattern on the right side.

16. Hem the left side of the right half of the C pattern using a 1/4" seam allowance.


17. Take the extra C pattern and lay the "inside" of the Kindle using the halves of the C pattern you just sewed. Check the positioning as this will be the "inside" of your Kindle cover.

18. Pin these pieces in place. Cover with the outer C pattern facing downward so the part you will see is sandwiched in the middle. Pin in place.

19. Sew outer edge around project leaving one of the short sides open for turning, stuffing, and hand stitching.


17. Lay your outer C pattern right side UP.

18. Place your two inner C patterns you cut in half on top and pin in place leaving a small gap in the center. Make sure they are facing down so you are seeing the "wrong" side of the fabric.

19. Sew outer edge around project leaving one of the short sides open for turning and hand stitching.


20. Turn right side out. Stuff with batting if desired. Sew remaining area with blind stitches.

21. Opening the cover, slide the two B template pieces inside. These may require trimming as previously mentioned.

22. Place the Kindle inside and a notebook on the opposite side if desired. Stretch your loop/strap closure around to the front and pin where you will need to place the button.

23. Remove inner items and attach button.

24. Restuff and enjoy!!!