By Heather Thomas

Expenses often make flying to vacation destinations prohibitive or all together not possible especially for a family living on one income. Instead of ditching the idea of vacation we fall back to an American institution – the road trip. Anyone can travel and occupy their children with today’s modern technology. Movies, cell phones and gaming systems have taken over our lives to the point where we feel naked without them. I propose there is a better way. A way where our family relationships can be strengthened and our road trip becomes part of our vacation instead of just a means to an end.

Take a trip while you take a trip. Explore someplace you’ve never been. Do something you’ve never done. Read a book. Yes, I know as homeschooling families we may have a tendency to consider reading a book too school-like. So don’t just READ the book, make it a family affair. Bring a story that excites and intrigues, maybe one that is above your children’s reading level and one that dad can enjoy as well. Discuss the story, ask questions such as, “Why do you think they made that decision?” or “What would you have done instead?” I find these simple questions engage the listener and can help us to create a story of our own. If you happen to be one of the unlucky few that cannot read in a moving vehicle, you can enlist one of your older children to do the reading or as a last resort, many books are now offered in audio form.
Plan Interesting Stops
Everyone knows that traveling with a family requires more frequent stops; I suggest we use these to our advantage. If you do a little research before your trip you can find free historical sites not too far off your main route. Enlist the help of your children; they will have something to look forward to. Learn about our country’s pioneers, the Indians who traveled the Trail of Tears or Military forts or landmarks. We live in a historically rich nation and there is always something nearby if we just take the time to look for it.
Culture Through Food
Use your trip as an opportunity to learn of other cultures and experience the food they eat. We have chosen to expose our children to many different cuisines since they were toddlers and they have a broader palate than many adults we know. Our country is a melting pot of ethnicity, of people who fought against the odds, made great sacrifice and immigrated to our country legally. These many cultures make our country great. Some of the many cuisines you may want to try are: Asian, Greek, Indian, German and Mexican. There is fare available to appease even the pickiest of taste.
Story Game
Option #1 – Employ the use of story starters or story prompts. Choose a prompt to start the story and go around the vehicle as each person adds to the story. We have laughed so hard using this method because the story never ends up going where you think it will. If you want, you can also record your story and when you get home edit it and submit it in a writing contest.

Option #2 – Each person can tell a story and the rest of the passengers have to guess if it is fact or fiction.
Learn or Practice a New Skill
There are certainly times on a trip where quiet is desired or necessary, driving through St. Louis during rush hour comes to mind. During these times it may be best to work on a new skill. Some quiet skills that are road worthy might be:

Sign Language
Travel Chess
Crossword Puzzles
Word Search
Bring an Atlas
As homeschoolers our children are familiar with using an atlas but nothing is better than learning about the state of Nebraska as you drive through miles of corn, observing the oil rigs in Wyoming or driving past the arch in St. Louis. We have the opportunity to learn of commerce, agriculture, natural resources and the people of each state we drive through and enrich our children’s outlook of the great nation we call home. Take the time to point out the cotton fields in the south, the cornfields in the mid-west, and the herds of Black Angus that dot the fields beside the road. Discuss the goods these things produce and how we benefit from the labor of others.

To some a road trip may seem like necessary torture to get to a desired destination. I suggest that a road trip can be a time of enrichment and fun if only we take the time to plan a little in advance.
Heather Thomas is a freelance writer and eclectic homeschooler.  She resides in North Georgia with her husband of twenty-one years and two homeschooled children.

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Shadow of Doubt

A moment of self-doubt...
Photo: stock.xchng
When Robin first asked me to write a guest post I was honored.  Then as I sat down to write, a new emotion crept in.  Not fear,  I am used to writing.  It was a moment of self doubt.  What makes me qualified to write about homeschooling?  Well, that question is easy; I have been home educating my girls for 13 years now, therefore I have plenty of stories to tell, antidotes to share, and bits for knowledge I have picked up along the way.  Plus I have written dozens of articles on homeschooling in the past.

The doubt came from burn out, and I was embarrassed to admit it.  It seems that the homeschool parents I know are alway smiling and actively engaged with their well mannered children.  But not me, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I was tired of homeschooling, tired of the snow, tired of  wanting time for myself, and just plain tired. For the first time in my life I had a brief moment of understanding as to why someone would put their kids in school.  But that was it, just a moment, then I remembered all the reasons I homeschool.  So we  plugged along, and I got more tired and even bit grumpy.  To add to it, I am an immigrant in a culture where people don't complain, they suck it up.  And my family, well both of the girl's Grandmother's are former public school teachers.

Take time to recharge...
Now don't get me wrong, my girls are delightful.  Smart, happy, funny, talented and generally growing up to be the kinds of people I am really proud of.  So, why the burn out? I asked a lot of myself.  In Dec 1996 I was traveling in central America, single (although dating my husband), had a great job and was active in both sailing a dance clubs.   By Dec 1997 I was married with my first child and by 2000, I had two wonderful girls.   I was a stay-at-home mom by choice. Homeschool was a natural extension to our lifestyle.  My husband is a good guy, but busy too.  And we had somewhat traditional roles, so the kids were always with me.

So, how could I sit down and write about how great homeschooling is, when I wasn't feeling it?  So, I decided to ask my friends how they do it year after year maintaining a picture perfect family life - turns out they go on holiday.  No kidding; One went up north for a week, one to Hawaii and the third to Central America.  No husband, no kids - just a complete break. And they all recommend it.

Rhonda's girls
Now I realize we can't all do that, and many of us (myself included) wouldn't want to, but we can take time for ourselves.  And that is the number one lesson I have learned from this process.  Maybe a walk, a bath, or just to sit and watch a sunset or the waves crashing on the shore, whatever it is, I need some time everyday for me.  Lately I spend mine on-line. I use my creativity on Zazzle and write on Squidoo. Most recently I have started a slightly twisted humor blog, Laugh Quotes and Comedy Shirts so I can laugh everyday.  And, like everything else there are few surprise bonuses from taking time for me -   I am happier, our time together is more productive, I am a more attentive tutor, I have more patience,  my kids have become a bit more independent in a good way, and overall, I think I am a better mom.  And, the girls are spending more time with their dad and learning about his interests too.  My husband says, everyone is happy when mom is happy. 

Rhonda Albom, writes under the pen name of Pukeko. She sees beauty in everything and lives on the lighter side of life. She is a comedy writer, graphic artist and travel photographer. Her fun creations are featured on Zazzle, and on her blog, Laugh Quotes and Comedy Shirts. On Squidoo she is a "Giant Squid"  "Rocketmom" and "Squidoo Angel." Rhonda is an American expat living in New Zealand. She homeschools her children, races yachts, searches for summer and avoids wearing skis.



Heart of the Matter Online Conference

Cindy West
Carol Barnier
Helen Lee
Amanda Bennett
Heather Laurie

The HOTM Online Conference is Feb. 21-23, 2011. You can register here at the price of $14. 95 per ticket.

Go over to the Conference page to see details about the speakers.  Click on each speaker’s name to see specifics about the seminars offered.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me at least one session you would be interested in.  I will use a random number generator to pick the 3 winners on Tuesday, Jan. 25th.

Thanks for reading. Please, keep telling me what you like!

Comments? Click here.

CurrClick Giveaway Winners!

Thank you all, very much, for entering my first bloggy giveaway! I really enjoyed reading your kind comments.  I especially liked hearing what you thought about Stone Soup. Please keep in mind---I always want to know what you think, and also what you need.

If you did not win: Don't be discouraged, I will be posting another giveaway  tomorrow! Heart of the Matter Online has generously set aside three free tickets to their upcoming Homeschooling Conference just for Stone Soup readers!

There were 37 comments, in total (excluding mine, of course!)  A random number generator was used to determine the winning entrants.  Winners will be contacted this week via email with links to collect their prizes. Thanks again for participating!

The winners of the CurrClick Giveaway are:


Leslie won "Math Minutes"


Don't forget the DISCOUNTS!
Remember, in addition to donating the curriculum for this giveaway, CurrClick gave us some pretty sweet discount codes!

50% off any product by Sather Homeschool
Code: ccblogsather

10% off any product by Creative Teaching Press
Code: ccblogctp2


CurrClick Giveaway for Stone Soup!

CurrClick-Curriculum in a click!
CurrClick is a provider of homeschool downloads, ebooks, lapbooks, live online classes for homeschoolers, unit studies, affordable curriculum and novel studies. 

CurrClick has graciously provided me with some wonderful products especially for Stone Soup readers! FOUR fortunate people will win one of these fabulous freebies!

In addition, CurrClick has also offered discounts especially for you!

Stone Soup readers will win one of these:


How to Study the World
by 4 Little Penguins

Math Minutes (Grade level of your choice.)
by Creative Teaching Press



50% off any product by Sather Homeschool
Code: ccblogsather

10% off any product by Creative Teaching Press
Code: ccblogctp2

To use the special discount codes:

During the checkout process, select your payment method and enter the code into the section titled "Enter Coupon/Gift Certificate Code". Please note that the codes are case sensitive and are valid until April 9, 2011.

To Win:

Mandatory Entry for Giveaway

Visit the above CurrClick links to view the products, then come back here and leave a comment on this post (Not on Facebook or on Twitter) letting me know which prize you’d like to win! (If you win, I’ll do my best to match the right prize to your needs.)

Additional Optional Entries
(Of course, you can enter if you already follow or subscribe.)

Giveaway Information
  • The giveaway will be open until midnight MST, Saturday, January 22, 2011. Winner will be announced by Monday, January 24, 2011.
  • Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry; The winner will be chosen at random.
  • Please leave a way for me to contact you in your entry otherwise another winner will be chosen. (There is a space provided for your email under the space where you enter your name. Emails are NOT published, unless you type them into the comment box.)
  • NOTE: This giveaway is downloadable so it’s offered Worldwide!

I was not provided with anything free for this giveaway, products were provided for Stone Soup readers by Currclick. The opinions posted here are my own, and were not influenced by CurrClick.

Comments? Click here...

Homeschooling: Can I Really Do This?

Am I capable?  I'm not a certified teacher.

Can I do this?
I know this idea flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but You have always been your children's teacher.  You are the first and best teacher for your children, because you know their strengths and weaknesses intimately. If you are not strong in particular subject, you will find a way for your kids to learn what they need to.  I will touch more on this later, but I have learned a great deal right along with my kids.  They like it when mom learns with them. 

Will there be "holes" in their education?

Many new homeschoolers get caught up in thinking, "Will there be holes in their education?" The answer is, "Yes and no."  The fact is, there is no perfect education.  The most effective tools you can give your children are:
1) How to find information.
2) How to use information to accomplish their goals.
3) How to communicate information to others. 
If you accomplish this, you will have prepared them well for college, and for life. Furthermore, if  your children  enjoy learning, they will be lifelong learners. What a wonderful gift to give your kids!

But, I don't have money for curriculum.

I am amazed by what is available now for homeschooling families.  There is A LOT on the internet, specifically---Much of it free.  I have included some recommendations, later in this post, for free, complete curriculum you can find online.  Are you near a library?  We use the library a lot, not only for personal reading, but also for reference books.  I have really appreciated the reference books available to me from the library, because they are expensive!  Another resource I have enjoyed from the library is educational videos.  I have tried to use as many methods I can think of when feeding my children information---and they enjoy the visual element offered by videos.

Where should I start?

It is not imperative that you have it all worked out before you begin.  Following are three sites that are perfect for homeschoolers starting out, because all the prep work is done for you---and they are totally free!   A totally complete, totally free curriculum you can look at is Head of the Class.  Head of the class provides lesson plans, printable worksheets and activities by grade level.  Another one, but it will probably require a little more work on your part (in preparation time) though it is all spelled out for you,  is Lesson Pathways.  Lesson Pathways uses resources and sites all over the internet, all free.  A third site you might look into is Ambleside Online.  Ambleside provides a completely free curriculum and complete lesson plans, but it is in the "Charlotte Mason" method, which is wonderful, but a little different from your typical "school" method.  The Charlotte Mason method uses a combination of nature study through exploration, classical literature and narration.  I have moved more toward this method in my own teaching, because it seems very natural to me.  It's yours to decide what will best work for you.  When I first started, I didn't know what that was, so if that's how you feel, starting with the simplest is best. You can "tweak" things later, as you discover how your children best learn. 

Am I all alone?

Oh heavens, no!  There are many homeschoolers out there, now.  Some, like you, are just starting out.  Some, like me, have been homeschooling for decades. No matter where you are in your homeschooling journey, finding support is really important.  Having a support group to turn to when you have questions, or when you have a bad day is essential.  These are the folks who will lift you up when you feel like you can't go on, and will rejoice with you when you experience a victory.  Remember that subject I mentioned, the one you might not be very strong in?  This is also the place to go with those kinds of things.  Perhaps math isn't your strongest subject, but you can teach writing without breaking a sweat.  There will be someone else out there whose needs compliment yours.  We must lean on the homeschooling community, not only to glean the strength and encouragement we need, but to provide that to others as well. 

If you live in an area without a support group nearby, I have provided some resources where you can find online support.  Simply click the button below.  You will be redirected to my post on finding a support groups.  There are lots of links there.  Below that is my "Comments" button.  I would love to hear from you!
Click here!
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