Celebrating Cruelty

Blackberry Cell phone

My son is 14. If he had remained in public school, he would be entering 9th grade in the fall. That means, for all intents and purposes, he’s a high-schooler. Even though he’s 5′ 3″ and barely 100 lbs. He started kindergarten a year early, and it shows.

Recently, our tiny hicktown in the Northernest portion of New York State made national news because high school and middle school students were beating the tar out of each other, recording the beatings on their cell phones, and posting the videos on YouTube. It all came out when a victim brought a jack knife to school and was brought up on weapons charges. He was 13.

It’s no surprise to anyone who was a teenager that teens are capable of intense cruelty. This is not to say they are all cruel, not at all. I am well acquainted with a number of teenagers whom I am proud to count as my friends. But I also was the victim of bullying in public school, and peer cruelty lead my son to attempt suicide at the age of ten.

Why are some children so cruel? I suspect it is, in part, human nature. We are born selfish creatures. But we have the capacity for awesome goodness. What makes the difference?

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

I believe the main contributor to a child’s tendency towards good or evil is the parent. A child who is raised tightly, with a parent or parents who are involved in his or her life, with consequences enforced for actions, is much less likely to record themselves assaulting a fellow student and posting it proudly on the internet than one for whom consequences are rare or variable, or who has no one to turn to when in need.

This is especially true in our current “viral video”, 30-seconds-of-fame culture. Those videos were posted to make the perpetrators appear “cool”…and it was successful. They were considered “famous”, for a short time, in the school. Famous, for beating up a classmate. Cool, for hurting an innocent person.

Just as we drank up our Madonna-esque 1980s culture of MTV and Air Jordans, our kids are drinking up the new culture. But this culture is malleable and made up of the users. The users who create the material are the same people who choose what is “viral”. When that media is accessible all hours of the day or night, from the phone in your pocket or the iPad in your pack, the horror of beating a classmate recedes through familiarity. It is no longer a bad thing…it’s desirable. It will get your video shared.

True worth – as opposed to the false fame of a “viral video” – does not come from outside. It comes from within, from the knowledge of who you are a God’s child. To keep that in the front of one’s mind can be difficult with so much pressure to conform. “The World” wants to suck us in, use us up, and spit us out.

To help your teens understand the fleeting gratification of “The World”‘s approval, teach them their true worth. Demonstrate it in your behavior towards them. If they feel they are valued in your eyes, in the eyes of your extended family and your church family, and in the eyes of the Lord, the desire to be valued in the eyes of strangers on the internet will be lessened. You can also reduce the pull of those internet strangers by monitoring and limiting your children’s access to social media. That is not a society that should have a strong pull on children.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:2)


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Gluten Free Porcupine Eggs


My grandmother, before becoming senile, often told us the story of the first time she made porcupine eggs for my grandfather. Newly married and on their own, she wanted to impress him with her culinary skills. She followed the recipe carefully and served the meal to him with a smile.

He complimented the great smell and how beautiful the meal looked. Taking a mouthful, he bit down…and cracked a tooth. My grandmother had missed the step in the recipe that called for cooking the rice before adding it to the meatballs.

Porcupine eggs, aka porcupine meatballs or stuffed peppers, are a great naturally gluten free meal. It is also one of my favorites, as my grandmother used to make it for us a lot (and she almost always remembered to cook the rice first!)

1 C cooked rice
1 lb ground meat (I use turkey or chicken, but beef is okay)
1 egg
3/4 C feta cheese (or another strongly flavored cheese) – optional
chopped garlic, paprika, diced rosemary, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers (the skins on green peppers tend to be too thick)
a bottle of your favorite marinara sauce (or if you make your own, about 3 C)
1 lb cooked gluten free pasta (for serving)
A crockpot

Remove the tops, seeds, and the white fibers from the peppers, keeping them whole. You can use mini peppers as I did, or you can use regular size ones. I like the minis because they’re cute. Rinse them inside and out, dry, and set aside.

Mix together the meat, rice, egg, and seasoning. Mix this very very well…smush the meat up very good. Once the meat, rice, egg, and seasonings are all mixed together well, fold in the feta. (you may have to adjust the amount of cheese depending on the kind you use. Some good alternatives: pepper jack, mozzarella, Parmesan – not that powdery stuff, real Parmesan- or blue cheese.)

Make sure the cheese is distributed through but try not to beat it up too much so when you get a piece of it, you know it. At this point I wear gloves, because I have long nails and I don’t want raw meat in there. Fill the peppers with the meat mixture. Press it in there as firmly as you can without breaking the peppers. It is harder to do with the mini peppers. A good tip is to hold the pepper firmly in one hand while filling it with the other.

You will probably have left over meat mixture. You can just form those into meatballs.

Once the peppers are filled and the meatballs are made, add the bottle of sauce to the crockpot. I use crockpot liners because I dislike having to scrub the bejeebers out of it! Place the filled peppers and meatballs into the sauce. If you used big peppers, they’ll stand up well in the sauce, but the mini peppers you’ll have to lie down.

Cook on low heat for 4 hours, then increase to high heat for another 1-2 hours until the meat is cooked through and the peppers are falling apart. Serve over the pasta.

Everyone in my family claims they dislike peppers, but everyone ate the porcupine eggs with gusto so…yeah, they’re pretty darn good!

Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

PE is More Than Just Gym Class

PE is More Than Just Gym Class


PE is just as important for homeschooled kids as it is for any other students (and adults, for that matter).  But, the flexible schedule of homeschoolers allows for much more interesting activities.  My kids both ride horses (my in laws have two, and my sister in law teaches them) and we take advantage of various classes that come up.


One of the other homeschooling moms offered a 6 week archery course that my kids jumped at!  My family has a long history of archery…allegedly going all the way back to William Tell!  My grandparents ran a mail order archery supply company and I have many fond memories of shooting targets in their backyard.

Both Curly and Mouthy are loving it, and are surprisingly good for having never done it before. Mouthy said, “I finally found a sport I can do without hurting myself!”

Bow hunting is very popular in our area so the mom offering the course plans to continue with more classes in bow hunting, target shooting, and competition.

(My high school gym class program included line dancing. I kid you not.  I’m from Northern New York, so line dancing might as well have been Greek to this group of non-Southern red necks.)

If you have a skill in a certain area, or even just enjoy it, think about offering it for the other homeschoolers in your community. The flexibility of homeschooling schedules (or as my friend Julie calls it, “car schooling”, since we are all always on the go!) can allow your kids a greater range of experiences than line dancing in a room full of sweaty, bored teenagers!

If you need some ideas, here’s some that will get you started:

  • Tennis
  • Bowling
  • Badmintion Tournaments
  • Croquet
  • Fencing
  • Knife Throwing (with care of course)
  • Hunting
  • Volleyball/Walleyball (some local gyms have Walleyball on lunch break or in the evenings)
  • Relay Races
  • Kickball
  • Karate
  • Flag Football
  • Playground Play
  • 5k/10k
  • Biking (as a family is always good)
  • Hiking

What else?  I know there’s plenty that I’ve missed.  If you were going to host a PE gathering for your homeschool group, what would YOU do?  Share it here so that it may help the other readers!


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Stocking Up – Make Your Own Stock

Did you know most store bought broth (chicken, veggie, etc…) contains gluten? A few brands don’t, but rather than taking the chance – and spending the money – I just make my own stock. The flavor is much better and richer, and it is so easy!


How to Make Your Own Stock


Any critter with bones can be used to make stock, but I use whatever we’ve eaten recently. We froze the ham bone from Easter and I’ve used that for this batch.

It is so easy! The hardest part is that you have to be home all day, which for most of us homeschoolers is rare! (One of my friends calls it “car schooling” because we spend so much time running the roads!)

I have a pretty small stockpot. I want to get a much bigger one, but any deep pot will work. As you can see in the picture, mine has a drop in strainer. I don’t always use this, but it makes it easier to strain out the bones once they’ve given up all their goodness. I also have a metal tea bag in which I put the larger herbage – in this case, two bay leaves and half a cinnamon stick. When I am using a turkey or chicken carcass, I use sage and bay. You can use whatever spices and herbs you prefer…the only caveat being to be careful with salt. You are reducing this down and if you add salt in the beginning, it will be too salty at the end when the water has evaporated.

Add as much water as you can fit in the pot. Cover with a lid that has a steam hole or leave an opening for steam to escape – you want this to reduce. Simmer – don’t boil! – for 6-8 hours. The longer it simmers, the richer and thicker your stock will be.

When you’re done, cut the heat and let it come to room temperature. I usually start my stock first thing in the morning and cut if off at dinner time. Once it is room temperature, or at least cool enough to work with safely, strain it. I use a rice washing strainer that has tiny little holes to catch all of the pieces and chunks that bits of spices. I typically strain it at least twice. Running it through a cheesecloth covered colander also works well.

When you have the liquid strained, you then have to remove the excess fat from the liquid. Fat congeals and rises to the top when the liquid is cooled, so we can let plastic wrap do this job for us. Cover the stock with plastic wrap, laying the wrap touching on top of the stock. Then put another layer over to cover the pot. In the morning, when the stock is completely cooled, the fat will be stuck to the first layer of plastic wrap.

*Chicken fat is called “smaltz”, and is prized by chefs for its flavor. It can be used anywhere you would use butter or bacon fat. I throw it away because honestly, I’ve got enough fat of my own.*

The stock, when cold, should be jiggly like Jello. This is the gelatin from the bones that you simmered out all day before, and this is what gives stock that wonderful, rich, umame feeling in your mouth.

I store my stock in the freezer in two cup baggies. I fill the zip top bag with two cups of stock, squeeze out the air, and lay it flat in a baking pan. I typically get 6 bags out of a batch of stock (12 cups). Once the baggies are frozen, they are easy to stack and store because they are flat rectangles. I use a lot of stock so I don’t bother to date them, but if you don’t use it often you’ll want to put the type of stock it is and the date you froze it on the bag. It will last up to a year frozen.

You can also freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then store the frozen cubes in baggies for when you only need a tiny bit, like to loosen up a thick sauce.

 Cost of home made stock = a couple pieces of plastic wrap and some zip top bags.

Cost of store bought chicken broth = up to $4/box (a box is about 2 cups).

 You can use any type of animals or vegetables to make stock. I put in whatever I have. If I have half an onion sitting around, or some celery or carrots, I’ll add those. You can make stock from fish or shellfish by using the bones or exoskeleton, but they don’t have to simmer as long.

What can you use your stock for? Anywhere you’d use water, basically. I like to use it for cooking rice, adding to a casserole to loosen up the sauce, and of course, soup.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make your own stock rather than spending money on an inferior – and possibly allergen contaminated – product from the supermarket. It might be a little work to strain it all out, but the result is definitely worth it!


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Medication is Nothing to be Ashamed Of

Medication is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of


“He’s taking Ritalin,” she whispered to me behind a cupped hand. “It’s really helping, but I don’t want people to know.”

I didn’t ask her why not, because I know. I have gotten the sideways glances, the long winded speeches on addition and conspiracy, the explanations of standardized testing being the cause of the “ADHD epidemic”.

My children both have ADHD. They are, in fact, 2E, meaning twice-exceptional: gifted but challenged. My daughter is really 4E; she is highly gifted, with an IQ in the 140s, but she’s dyslexic, ADHD, and has Oppositional Defiant Disorder. My son’s IQ is about 5 points lower than his sisters (5 points she knows all too well!) and he has ADHD and an anxiety disorder.  This is largely why we homeschool. The public school simply wasn’t capable of teaching my kids. They weren’t equipped to deal with a 1st grader who couldn’t identify the letters of the alphabet but could name every part of a horse, including the internal organs, and their functions. Nor could they handle the boy who read better than the teacher but could not hold a conversation with a peer.

We thought homeschooling would solve the problems. Instead, it exacerbated them. My daughter’s ODD, which had formerly evinced in refusals to shower or go to bed or do math home work, became a minute-by-minute battle over every step of every task. Pick up your pencil. No. Please, hold your pencil. Pencil thrown across the room. Go get your pencil. No. Book thrown. You get the idea.

A psychologist, not a general practitioner, diagnosed the children. Our GP suspected ADHD, but we agreed a psychologist was better equipped to make the diagnosis. Medication and behavior therapy has helped immensely. The ODD has resolved for the most part. Both kids are happier and better able to concentrate. Both have coping skills learned through the behavior therapy to use instead of temper tantrums or screaming. Both are excelling in their academics and in their interpersonal relationships.

There is an epidemic of misdiagnosis with ADD and ADHD. There are most certainly children being medicated who should not be, and there are many reasons contributing to this…not the least of which are unrealistic expectations placed on very young children to sit still and get perfect scores on standardized tests!

However, an epidemic of misdiagnosis does not mean no one has ADHD. ADHD is a real disorder that stems from delayed growth in the frontal lobes of the brain. Medication can, in many instances, encourage the frontal lobes to grow so the patient no longer has ADHD symptoms in adulthood.

ADHD is not a five year old who cannot sit still for five hours straight and fill bubbles on a test sheet. ADHD is more like a five year old who throws her crayons at the teacher during circle time and stomps on another student’s hand because she’s annoyed. ADHD is more like a ten year old boy who sees nothing wrong with using a pencil sharpener while the teacher is speaking to the class because “my pencil is dull”, and does not understand why this upsets the teacher.

To be ashamed of utilizing medication for your child’s disorder is to show your child they are shameful. It says to your child, “There is something wrong with you, and it is so awful that people won’t like us if they find out.”

ADHD is no more “shameful” a disorder than diabetes, but it falls under the stigma of mental illness. Organic mental disorders have been stigmatized since time immemorial…many of the common insults are terms of mental illness: crazy, loco, nutcase, “ain’t right”, mental. But our kids are none of these things. ADHD is as simple, and as complicated, as something just not connecting the same way as other people’s. (In this way, it is no different than dyslexia).

I don’t want my kids to be ashamed of having ADHD any more than my daughter should be ashamed of dyslexia or my son of anxiety.  Or than I should be of my spinal cord injury. These are things their bodies do beyond their control. Medication helps me to walk, it helps my mother control her blood sugar, and it helps my kids control their racing thoughts. I am not ashamed of this. I am grateful.


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Saving Money Homeschooling

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Saving Money Homeschooling


I have a spinal cord injury and receive SSDI. In case you’re wondering, even counting  what Social Security pays my kids, this amounts to less than 40 percent of what I earned when I worked. My injury is a blessing because it allows us to homeschool, but it is not a financial blessing! Saving money homeschooling is critical if we are going to succeed.

My husband works full time, and adds as much overtime as possible, but altogether we earn just enough to live comfortably…until you consider homeschooling and two kids with orthodontia.

There’s not too much I can do about the orthodontia, other than an FSA and payment plan, but the homeschooling expenses I can work with. In fact, a significant portion of my time is spent finding the least expensive ways to provide my children the education they need. Here are some ways I find to save money on homeschooling:

  1. Free educational adventures. We live in a very rural area, so visits to farms are educational outings that cost little to nothing but provide entertainment and learning. My in laws own two horses, and both of my kids ride with them. My grandmother in law teaches oil painting and has taught the children how to paint. My husband’s uncle lives on a lake and teaches my kids to fish, gut, and process their catches.  Any one you know has something they can teach your kids, and most people will do it for free because it is fun. You also have skills you can teach your children. For instance, I’m a blogger…I teach them to write. My husband teaches them basic home maintenance and “shop class”.
  2. Shop around for materials. I do not purchase “boxed curriculum” for several reasons, not the least of which being the cost. (The second reason being it is unusual for a child to be on the same “level” in every subject.) Once I have determined what level my child is in a subject (using free placement tests that most curriculum providers have on their websites) and what materials I want to use, I compare prices on Currclick.com Amazon.com, Half.com, Abebooks.com, and Ebay. It is rare that I do not find the curriculum I want on at least one of these sources, and usually quite a bit cheaper than purchasing from the manufacturer.
  3. Watching for sales. Just yesterday, I received an email from one of my favorite lapbook creators offering all of their materials for only $.10! I bought what I can use right now, but also what I know I will need in the future. I have five more years of homeschooling with my son and seven with my daughter. There is plenty I will still need to teach them, and I buy what I will need when it is at a good price. (Planning ahead is key for using this method of buying materials. I use The Well Planned Day system from HEDUA.com so I can quickly see what I will be teaching next year or in two years, so I don’t miss a good sale and so I don’t buy materials we don’t end up using.)
  4. I watch for freebies. Many curriculum providers have freebies. Sometimes these are only partial curricula, but with supplemental materials these can be thorough. On Currclick.com, one of my favorite resources, there are pages and pages of freebies. You can sign up to receive newsletters from your favorite curriculum providers to give you a heads up when they are offering sales. I share sales and discounts on my blog (simplyhomeschoolliving.net) and on my facebook page (facebook.com/simplyhsliving). Most homeschool bloggers do the same.
  5. Sell your used curricula. If you’re like most homeschoolers I know, you have shelves or boxes (or both) of curricula your kids are done with. That’s money. You can sell used materials (not just books, but manipulatives, movies, DVDs, and CDs) on Amazon.com (they also take trade ins), Half.com, eBay, Abebooks.com, and Craigslist. Your local homeschool community may also have a curricula trade or sale board (mine just set one up on Facebook, and we also have a trade during the end of year co-op Knowledge Fair).
  6. Sell your time or skills. Everyone is good at something. I write, so I have a homeschool blog where I have affiliate links. Those links bring the reader to companies I like. When the reader buys something from that company, I get a tiny portion of the sale. It doesn’t add up to much, but every little bit helps. I also do nail art. Friends “hire” me for birthday parties or before big events to do their nails. Again, it is not a lot of money, but it is a little, and it is also fun. If you sew, knit, crochet, make jewelry, or do any kind of craft, you can set up a store on StoreEnvy or Etsy or Ebay and supplement your income that way. Some homeschooling families start businesses where each member of the family works, such as Great Products (they have the BEST homeschool tee shirts and toys ever!)
  7. Make what you need, or find it free. The internet abounds with free resources for homeschoolers. EasyPeasy All in One Homeschool provides an entire homeschool education for free. You can find word search or crossword generators, coloring pages to print, and literature reviews everywhere. An entire math education from addition to theoretical physics can be found on Khan Academy. A course in American Literature doesn’t need to come from a set textbook…just go to the library and check out the classics! After your child has read it, have him or her write a book report, put on a play, make a video, or just tell you about it.  Foreign language can be learned with free online resources like DuoLingo.com.
  8. Use your library and museums. Our library has resources for schools including huge Rubbermades full of materials on different topics (such as weather or “life in a log”). They also have free or cheap activities for all ages. We have several museums in the area that all offer educational activities, from the art museum that has free Drop In Wednesdays (each week focuses on a different work in the library and then the kids try to recreate the style) to the World Children’s Museum that offers activities based on different world cultures (right now is Chinese New Year).
  9. Find a co-op. Large, organized co-ops aren’t cheap…for this last year, we paid over $200 altogether for the children’s courses, not counting the cost of texts. However, it is much less expensive than my teaching those courses myself! I don’t have the materials or skill to teach anatomy, music, Crime Scene Investigation, etc… You have to balance how much it would cost you to buy everything you’d need to teach a course verses how much it costs to do it at co-op. And please factor in your desire (or lack thereof) to teach the course in question. I mean…I am not teaching blood splatters. Period. If there isn’t an organized co-op in your area or they don’t offer what you need, consider coordinating with some other families to exchange skills. I’m particularly good at math, so next year at co-op I am teaching Business Math. Another mother is the music ministry coordinator at her church, so she teaches music. I would be willing to guess that, within your group of friends, you will find a wide variety of skills and abilities.
  10. Just say no. If a course or subject is not necessary for your child to learn, and it is too expensive or difficult for you to manage for them, just say no. Many, many families stretch their wallets to the breaking point to fulfill every interest of their children. This is especially true with “extracurriculars” (which aren’t really so for homeschoolers, but I hope you get what I mean!) You just can’t do everything, and your child’s education will not suffer if they don’t study pottery, Ancient Roman architecture, or four different foreign languages. Or, find another way to do it – have them do an independent study instead of taking a course, or for older kids, have them earn the money for the lessons they want.

Homeschooling is not easy and it is not cheap. It is a lifestyle and more than a full time…but one you have to pay to do! Just like in every other area of life, however, there are ways to save money while still achieving a high quality result.

Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Teaching Multiplication with Dyslexia

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Teaching Multiplication with Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be really cool, but when it comes to math…not so much. Multiplication, which requires memorization of many numbers in which order is important, is especially tricky.

My daughter Camille is dyslexic, and while she has learned to read quickly, multiplication has stumped her. She is nearly 11 and does 5th grade work. Because of her challenge with multiplication, she is behind where her clever mind would have otherwise brought her. Without multiplication, everything from division to fractions to geometry is impossible.

When I taught in a private school we used Saxon math. My kids had also used this in public school, so I continued with Saxon when we began homeschooling. However, after the first year together we found Saxon wasn’t the best fit for Camille. Multiplication was explained as rapid addition. While this is true, that doesn’t help with memorizing the facts. The curriculum moved rapidly from single to double digit multiplication, and she was left behind.

Through the past two years of working with her, we’ve found multiple products to help Camille learn multiplication facts. As a dyslexic, I wish these products had been around when I was in elementary school! I believe they can help any dyslexic child learn multiplication.

  • Times Tales: For many dyslexics, it is easier to remember a picture than numbers or letters. Times Tales is a set of silly scenarios that give the child a mental picture relating to the fact. For instance 6×4=24 is 6 year olds playing musical chairs for 24 hours. Camille and I used Times Tales 8 months ago and she can still recall each of the facts without fail.
  • CardDroid app: This is one of the best math apps I’ve found. You can set the operation(s), the number of questions, and the number range used (between 0 and 20). Unlike most apps, you can change the smallest number and the greatest number, so if you want to specify “multiplication and division with 6s,7s, and 8s” you can do that. There’s a cute selection of color schemes and sounds (including “castle” with harps and “electric guitar” with riffs) that keep the child motivated.
  • Tables: Repetition is key, and it is helpful for the dyslexic child to fill in multiplication tables. I use graph paper to create a table for Camille to fill in. When she does this, it helps her create a mental image of the table that she can recall to “see” the facts.
  • Math Mammoth: We’ve tried many math curricula, and I find Math Mammoth to be the best dyslexia. The material is presented clearly and in small steps. These small steps build up to more complex problems. Also, visual aids are used that my daughter finds more clear for her way of learning. For instance, multiplication problems are broken down into place value. 61 x 5 is shown as 60×5 + 1×5, which is less intimidating and easier to compute. Using this method, Camille can multiply three digit numbers in her head, where she couldn’t multiply simple facts before.
  • Estimating: Teaching your child to estimate the answer to a problem (mentally) before multiplying can help them recognize if they’ve made an error.
  • Multiplication Tricks: For some people (myself included), no amount of repetition will get the facts straight in my brain. I use tricks such as: 4s are double-doubles; 5s count by five; 6s are times 5 + (the number); 7s are double-double-doubles less (the number); 8s are double-double-doubles; 9s are (the number) x10 – (the number); 10s stick a zero on it’s rear! Whatever method your child uses, these tricks can help them compute the answer when they can’t recall the fact.

Dyslexia brings a lot of gifts but also brings challenges, particularly remembering numbers in order. (Phone numbers defy me!) Fitting the method to the child’s gifts and needs is the beauty of homeschool!


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Integrating Technology Into Classical Education

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Integrating Technology into Classical Education


A classical education, such as I have written about in the past on Simply Homeschool Living, is a good ideal but I have found it is not practical for my family. My children are fascinated with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and electronics. Mouthy now spends half of each day programming! So I had to revamp my idea of what our homeschool was. The goal is to teach each child what s/he needs to know, in the way s/he learns best. Although at times scarily similar (finishing each other’s sentences!) Mouthy and Curly learn very differently. Often, the most effective method involves technology. Many homeschool books and blogs I’ve read discourage electronics, forbidding television and allowing limited computer use. I question this outlook. Our children will be set loose into a wired society. Although I agree media should be screened and limited in some respect, I can only encourage computer use in education. This is the way our kids will be working and living. They have to be prepared. At the same time, I believe a classical education is a necessity. Critical thinking skills, the ability to express one’s self clearly in writing, and an understanding of interconnections between history and today are highly valued in the market.

Here are some of the ways we integrate computing and technology into our classical education:

  • Minecraft: For the co-op Knowledge Fair, my daughter elected to create a “Digestion Themepark”. She is creating it in MineCraft, integrating computing and programming with anatomy.
  • DuoLingo: My daughter and I use the free DuoLingo app for language (she is learning French, I am practicing Spanish). My son watches Latin DVDs to hear pronunciation and conjugations.
  • KhanAcademy and YouTube: Some subjects are easier to understand with pictures. Khan covers math, science, and technology. YouTube has far too much available to let kids go on their own, but I can often find history and Bible movies. (Prescreen!)
  • Amazon Prime: In addition to a huge selection of lectures and videos, Amazon offers eBooks at little or no cost. There are over 10,000 free classical tomes for instant download.
  • Coding: Mouthy (my 13 year old son) loves coding. He has a Java programming course from homeschoolprogramming.com, and he also uses a free platform called GameMaker Studios. I feel too many people do not understand how the electronic devices we depend on work!
  • MS Office: For my dyslexic daughter especially, typing allows her to process her thoughts quickly. (Dragon Naturally Speaking helps both of us, her with spelling and me with my hands).  We use PowerPoint presentations for book reports and other projects.
  • Television: We use a DVR to record programs that will aid in our homeschool. Our favorites are Big History, Through the Wormhole, and specials on History and H2. Some programs provide teacher’s or study guides, such as Lifetime’s The Gabby Douglas Story.

Although we want to be apart from the “world” (Colossians 3:1), that doesn’t mean we have to reject the things of the world out of hand. Through planning and monitoring, we can create a new classical education that encompasses the best of what the world has to offer.


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Homeschooling Dyslexia

Homeschooling Dyslexia


Although dyslexia was discovered over 140 years ago, obtaining treatment in public schools can be difficult. For instance, the state of Tennessee refuses to recognize dyslexia’s existence. Dyslexia doesn’t care if Tennessee recognizes it or not,  it is going to continue bringing its unique mix of gifts and troubles to children.

I am dyslexic.

I didn’t find out until I was in my late 20s, in an MBA program. When I was diagnosed, I commented to my mother how odd it was that no one had seen it before. She told me they had tried to get me tested when I was a child, but my school had refused on the basis that the test was too expensive. This was in the 1980s in upstate New York. I was shocked that a school would do such a thing.

I almost didn’t graduate high school. By the time I reached eighth grade, I had given up. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I never got the grades that made my parents or teachers happy. Everyone told me I was smart, and told me I wasn’t living up to my potential. But I was working so hard. It seemed that either I was stupid, or just not capable of doing what everyone else could do. The diagnosis of dyslexia shed light on all of those struggles. How very unfair that the cost of the test prohibited me from achieving in school.

My Daughter Started Struggling in School

Not long after my diagnosis, my daughter started struggling in school. She’s very bright, outgoing, and imaginative. But, at the end of first grade, she was unable to write her own name. In second grade we insisted on her being tested for dyslexia. Her teacher said, “She’s not dyslexic, she’s just stubborn.” I agree she stubborn. So am I. But we knew something was wrong. And when the school decided to pass her from second to third grade without her being able to identify all of the letters of the alphabet, we knew public school was not for her.

We decided to homeschool. We worked on her strengths: music, math, science. I researched dyslexia training. Having been a math teacher, I knew that there were products out there for people with weaknesses in different areas. I found All About Learning. This program is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, which uses touch, sight, and hearing to teach each of the phonems of the English language.

Dyslexia represents in three different ways

Where a child without dyslexia picks up the variations of the English language by following text while listening to a reader, dyslexia prevents the child from making the connection between sight and sound. Dyslexia represents in three different ways: auditory processing, visual processing, and memory. Children can have weaknesses in any of these, or all of these areas. My daughter struggles with auditory and visual processing.

This means her brain does not connect what she sees with what she hears. All About Spelling, a product from All About Learning, exposes the child to the auditory and visual aspects of each sound in our language and reinforces them throughout the length of the program.

It is not possible for a school with hundreds of children to provide the individualized instruction required for every child. No one learns exactly the same way as everyone else. Even without learning disabilities like dyslexia, we are all individuals. Homeschooling provides a way for a child’s strengths and weaknesses to be addressed in a nurturing and supportive environment. Homeschooling has allowed my daughter to grow.

For Christmas, she received a series of books. Two years ago, this would’ve made her cry. This year, she ran to her diary and wrote excitedly about the books she had gotten. And that, my friends, made me cry!

The first sentence my daughter wrote independently.

The first sentence my daughter wrote independently.



Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.