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The true bias in “Waiting for Superman”

Have you seen “Waiting for Superman“?  It’s on Netflix right now, so I watched it last night.  The film has been criticized as being biased against teacher unions and accused of pushing a charter school agenda.

In case you are new to Teaching My Baby to Read, let me tell you my ten second bio: I’m a Stanford graduate and former charter school teacher.  I am on record as being strongly in favor of charter schools.  But that doesn’t mean I’m joining the chorus saying that “Waiting for Superman” is the best educational documentary ever.  In fact, I have a huge problem with it.

I feel that “Waiting for Superman” ignores the key role parents play in educating their children.

I’m not talking about Homeschooling; I’m talking about Afterschooling.

The closing scenes of the documentary show parents in tears when their children do not get chosen for charter school lotteries.  It is implied that their children are doomed to crummy public schools and low quality education.

It’s all the teachers’ fault.  It’s all the school districts’ fault.  It’s all the union’s fault.  It’s everyone’s responsibility but the parents!

I’ve taught at a low performing school and a high performing school.  The low performing school could have been the poster child for “Waiting for Superman”.  So I really get what the filmakers were trying to say.  I just wish they had chosen to spend fifteen minutes giving parents direction about what they could do at home to help encourage their children’s educations.

Massive parental involvement could be the key to solving all of our problems with public education in America.

Education begets education.  But you don’t have to have a fancy college degrees to make a difference.  All you need is a library card, and little direction.  

A really great place for parents to start, would be to read Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers.

(Here’s the link to Amazon, but this book is most likely available at your local library.)

What’s important about Outliers is it shows how highly educated parents really “get in their kids’ business”.  There’s constant dialogue.  There’s constant attention and feedback.  There’s relatively little unsupervised play.  (Okay, maybe that part is bad.)   

Upper-middle class kids are groomed for college almost every day of their lives.  That’s happening at home, as well as at school.

Let’s teach all parents how to do that too.

If we can empower parents, we can change schools.  I really believe that!

Afterschooling with Geoboards

I finally broke down an ordered a 7 x 7 geoboard. It was only $6 and now I’m thinking “Why didn’t I buy one of these sooner?” There are soooooo many cool things you can do with geoboards, that I thought I might create a new Pinterest board, all about them.

It’s really hard for classroom teachers to use math manipulatives “enough”.

Even when teachers have training in using things like geoboards, they might not have enough materials for all 30 students in their room. Then, even if they do have 30 geoboards, they are under enormous pressure by the state to makes sure kids learn computation skills like adding, subtracting, multiplication and division. Sometimes math manipulatives like geoboards sit on the shelf of a classroom, unused.

The sad thing is that geoboards can actually make learning easy.

They are kick-butt awesome at teaching geometry, fractions, division, multiplication, and logic. But to be fair to teachers (I was one of them so I know), managing geoboards, little boys and rubber bands, is really hard. The rubber band part especially!

That’s why using geoboards one-0ne-one with your child at home “for fun” is a great Afterschooling idea.

This month I’m going to be looking at some cool things you can do with geoboards at home:

  1. Area of squares and rectangles
  2. Area of triangles
  3. More area of triangles
  4. How many rectangles?
  5. Square numbers
  6. Symmetry
  7. Congruence
  8. Fractions
  9. Area of circles
  10. Challenge

P.S. If you have never bought a geoboard before, be warned that there are two different types out there, 7 x 7 and 11 x 11. We happen to own both. But the 7 x 7 frame is what I’ll be using for these activities.

Carnival of Afterschooling, October 2012

Welcome to the October 19, 2012 edition of Carnival of Afterschooling!

Liz E presents Books and Resources.

Courtney Sperlazza presents Well Wise Happy | Homeschool Books for Kindergarten saying, “Kindergarten curriculum books list we use. This list can stand alone as a homeschool kindergarten curriculum, or any combination of books can be used to supplement a kindergarten student’s education at home.”

Gratitude presents May 26, Discover and Develop True Talent of your Child posted at Gratitude’s Personal Development Blog.

I’ve never organized a blog carnival before, but it was pretty easy.  The only problem was that a lot of the submissions were from SPAMers.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to use my blog to advertise for your nanny business!

If you have an actual Afterschooling link you would like me to include next time, you can  submit your article to the next edition of Carnival of Afterschooling using the carnival submission form.

I would camp out to vote!

I wouldn’t line up for an iPhone, but I would camp out to vote!

A few generations back ordinary moms like me were willing to risk it all, just for the chance of voting. They went to jail. They went on hunger strikes. They took to the streets, just so that I could have a voice.

I take my right to vote very seriously and exercise it at every election. I’m not going to forget how hard those women fought for me.

I want my children to have that same passion.

That’s why I’m jazzing them up about voting, through books. Our Afterschooling reading list for October is all about the right to vote.

Books about the electoral process can be hard to find in your local library. Hopefully your local branch has a bigger selection than mine!

Here are my favorites that I purchased from Amazon:

  • Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Election Day (Ready to Read Level 1), by Margaret McNamara
  • If you Lived When Women Won Their Rights, by Anne Kamma
  • I Could Do That! Ester Morris Gets Women the Vote, by Linda Arms White
  • Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women’s Rights, by Deborah Hopkinson
  • If I Ran for President, by Catherine Stier
  • Vote, by Eileen Christelow
  • Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio

Not to go all Mary Poppins on you, but I would totally sing “Well done! Sister Suffragette!” if anyone ever asked.

Afterschooling Plans for Second Grade

If my son wants to watch “Johnny Test” on the weekend, I’m going to make him earn it!

This is how we prioritize:

  1. School
  2. Homework
  3. Playtime/Free time/Outside time
  4. Limited extras like soccer or piano lessons
  5. Afterschooling
  6. Screen time

Here are our Afterschooling Plans for 2nd Grade:

Language Arts and Social Studies

We are doing a yearlong look at diversity in America, including an appreciation of our political system. This will be accomplished through carefully planned read alouds at bedtime. Hyperlinks coming soon! Here’s what’s on board:



Do you want to read about my failed attempt to teach Bruce Spanish in the past? Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment; maybe I’m just crazy. But Ann Cameron told me about this great Spanish program created right here in Seattle by All Bilingual Press.

Bruce and I are slowly working our way through the Espanol para chicos y grandes Level 1 textbook, and Jenna is following along too. It’s amazing how quickly Bruce is remembering vocabulary that he learned three years ago. There could be hope for him yet!


What are your Afterschooling plans? Feel free to leave a link or your comments below.

African American Literature for Children

One of the primary ways I Afterschool Bruce(7) is through carefully selected read-alouds at bedtime. Sometimes we just randomly pick books to read from the shelves, but normally there is a master plan in the works.

Here are 3 Classical Reading Lists to get you started:

  1. The Ancients
  2. The Middle Ages
  3. The Modern Era

Now we are moving on to a yearlong look at diversity.

We live in a neighborhood that (insert awkward cough) lacks in diversity. I’m going to make up for this with books. Our first list will be about the African American experience. Our second list with be about Asian Americans, and our third with be  Chicano literature for children.

I’m including the Amazon Affiliate links below, but hopefully most of these titles will be available at the library. I will keep you posted on our progress.

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales

Dear Benjamin Banneker

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Jane Addams Honor Book (Awards))

Just the Two of Us (Scholastic Bookshelf)

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963

Peeny Butter Fudge

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Gifted Children and Afterschooling

When School Isn’t Enough; Fanning the Flames of Learning Afterschool

Quick question: What do handwriting legibility and mathematical ability have in common? If you think like me, your answer would be “Nothing at all.” That’s why it can be especially frustrating for parents of gifted children to see their son or daughter’s academic progress held back because of poor penmanship.

Yes, an eight-year-old boy could try harder in cursive. Yes, being able to write about your mathematical thinking is important occasionally. But in my mind as a former public school teacher, handwriting and expository writing should have nothing to do with a child’s grade in mathematics nor should they impede his learning progress. For gifted children, this is like throwing a wet blanket on a crackling fire.

Unfortunately, in teacher credentialing school I received almost not training in dealing with gifted children. So it is probably a safe assumption that the regular education teachers you encounter in your own child’s public school experience will have a similar lack of training in gifted education. They will most likely care very deeply about your child, but they might not fully understand how to best meet your gifted child’s needs.

This is why gifted education programs in public education are so critical. I myself and a testament to their effectiveness, having grown up in the San Diego Seminar Program. Now my own son is thriving in a similar program for gifted children in our school district. Sadly, not every gifted child in  America is as lucky.

When I taught school in Northern California the prevailing belief seemed to be that “All children are gifted in some way.” There was also the opinion out there that “If Johnny is so smart, then why can’t he behave and make friends?” Or back to the math example, “If Katie is so smart at math, why can’t she write about her explanation, and why can’t I read her handwriting?”

Even now almost ten years later, I am extremely frustrated to think about how regular education failed two of my former students who I am sure were gifted. I advocated for those children and accommodated their needs as best as I could, but in a regular education program I could only do so much.  Homogeneous grouping would have allowed them to feel normal, but I couldn’t give them that peace.

So if you are the parent of a gifted child in a school district that does not offer gifted education services, what can you do? The first thing is know that homeschooling can be a viable option. Check out Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well Trained Mind for a virtual how-to manual for giving your child a rigorous, quality education at home. But homeschooling is certainly not for everyone. It is not a choice that would work out well in my own household for example. A better choice for us is Afterschooling.

In simplest terms, Afterschooling is when your children attend a brick and mortar school, but you augment their education at home in a structured and meaningful way. For gifted children, Afterschooling can be a sanity saver. While public school might be unintentionally stamping out your  child’s natural fire for learning, you can fan those flames at home with appropriately paced instruction and keep their spark burning.

When my son was five he was in a regular-ed AlternateDay Kindergarten program which was created due to the school district’s severe budgetary constraints. My son benefited from all of the social interaction school provided, and loved his teacher, his friends, PE, library time, and music. However, the Kindergarten curriculum itself was extremely simple for him, so in our off hours I worked with him on math, reading, and science concepts that were at his appropriate level, and which he was enthusiastic about learning.

Many parents of gifted children are already doing this intuitively but are unfamiliar with the term “Afterschooling”. Mistakenly, they might mention to their friends that “Little Suzie goes to school but I am homeschooling her in the off hours.” But if you said this to an actual homeschooling parent, they might be very offended. Homeschoolers have to deal with an entirely different set of legal challenges than an Afterschooling family. Homeschooling and Afterschooling are similar but not the same thing, so be careful to not accidentally put your foot in your mouth!

If you are new to the concept of Aftesrchooling, where should you start? Well, maybe it’s easier to explain where you should not start. Do not go to Costco and buy a workbook. Ditto with Barnes and Noble. What your child does not need is more of the same thing he or she might be getting at school, and chances are, your accelerated child has already spent a lot of time in the corner of her classroom doing advanced worksheets.

A better way to go would be to start with your child’s interests. Does he like science? Check out the free science ideas at Science Without A Net. Does she like math? Sign her up for Dreambox Learning or consider purchasing the abacus kit from Right Start Math. Is he interested in engineering? Buy a Snap Circuits kit for Christmas. Does your whole family enjoy history? Try listening to Story of the World, History for the Classical Child in the car.  Let’s not forget to add Royal Fireworks Press to your radar, where Michael Clay Thomspon has created a novel curriculum designed specifically for gifted children.

For those fortunate enough to live in well performing school districts, or a school with a gifted education program, Afterschooling might be something you would choose to do over summer, in a light-handed way during the school year, in the car, or through carefully chosen read alouds at bedtime. If you live in a low performing or struggling school district, the role of Afterschooling becomes more critical.  (For more ideas on where to start with Afterschooling, click here).

You the parent are ultimately in charge of your child’s education. Make sure his or her fire for learning doesn’t flicker out.

Modern Day Castrati

When I was a freshman at Stanford in the late ’90s I was enrolled in SLE, taking 20 units, working a part-time job, and feverishly following a tight budget. (This was before Stanford rolled out their extensive financial aid packages of today that would have helped me afford taking the full four years to graduate instead of three.) But back to my frosh year… the one class I took “for fun” was Opera 101, because I have always been fascinated by opera.

One of my all-time favorite college memories was coming to class one morning a bit early, and being blessed to hear Professor Stephen Hinton and his TA Keith, play an impromptu piano and violin duet at 8:45 in the morning. It was a musical treat that to this day still inspires me. I remember thinking at that moment while I was sitting in the lecture hall listening to music “I love learning and the pain of accomplishing all of this is worth it.”

My freshman roommate, let’s call her Mary, has some different memories from that year. She was an only child to parents who had emigrated from Asia. In retrospect, I realize she was also the product of a “Tiger Mom” upbringing reminiscent of Amy Chua.

Brilliant, creative, and also a gifted pianist, Mary got to college and had a lot of big problems. Her parents tried to pick out her classes. Her parents tried to pick out her major. Her mother would call at 1 AM in the morning (4AM East coast time) to see if Mary was in her room studying. Mary didn’t have to work a part time job and stick to an exhausting academic  schedule in the hopes of graduating a year early due to cost like I did, but she did have to deal with her parents.

By Winter quarter, Mary had shaved her head and people in our dorm started getting concerned. By Spring, she was hearing voices, lost, found by the police, put under lock and key at Stanford’s mental hospital, sedated, and taken home to the East Coast.

When her dad came to help me pack up Mary’s belongings and close down her side of the room, we realized that she had lofted her bunk bed without tightening the screws. It had been a miracle that Mary hadn’t been hurt because she literally had screws loose. In spite of all of her academic knowledge, Mary didn’t understand “righty-tightly, lefty-loosely”.

This brings me back to Opera 101. In that class I learned about the horrible history of “Castrati”. These were young boys whose parents had castrated them in the hopes of becoming famous opera singers one day. There are actual parts in opera that today need to be sung by women, since castrati no longer exist. In many ways, parents of castrati were the “Tiger Moms” of their day, and vice versa.

Some people might look at my Afterschooling page and think “Tiger Mom Alert!”, but that’s a very flawed comparison. If you actually read Amy Chua’s book, you will see that The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a journey. The beginning of Chua’s parenting journey is reminiscent of my roommate Mary’s experience. Where Chua ends on this journey, is probably very similar to my own parenting philosophy:

Do your utmost to give your children an academically advantaged home. Don’t let them rot their brains in front of the screen. If they do play computer games, make them educational. Teach kids to be resilient. Encourage your children to do what they love.  Give children freedom to make their own choices and decisions.

After my freshman year I ran into Mary many times on campus, but we were never very close. I think Mary alone knew (and perhaps felt awkward about) how much added stress her own experience had put on me. I was the one who cleaned up after her. I made sure she wasn’t locked out when she lost her keys for the 50th time. I was the one who sometimes turned her SLE papers in for her. I was the one who held her hand when she was delirious and the police took her away to the hospital.

I began this post with one of my favorite college memories. Well that last story, of watching Mary drive away to the mental hospital was one of the worst. I love Stanford, but to this day I think that the University failed both Mary and me that quarter.

Mary should have received help and been sent home earlier. Somebody from the University, anybody, should have acknowledged the unfair burden that was placed on me taking care of her. Cleaning up the mess a Tiger Mom can make is not fun, especially for a 19-year-old.  There are some prices that are too high to pay for beautiful music.

Staying Sane Over Summer Break

Summer vacation is finally upon us and I’m ready with a plan. First off, our priorities:

  1. Play outside
  2. Play inside
  3. Go places
  4. Read
  5. Rest
  6. Afterschooling
  7. Screen Time

There are 24 hours in the day, so having my 7 year old do about an hour of school work a day is not a big deal to me. Formally, we are going to do my A STEM Summer plans. Informally, I have this nifty system worked out where my son has to jump through hoops and cluck like a chicken if he wants to play Lego Nijago on the computer. Okay, so I’m joking about the chicken part!  But I’m not kidding about jumping through hoops:

All of the supplies are in Bruce’s blue basket, lined with clothespins for each activity. This is a modified version of a really cool idea I gleaned from Morning Hugs and Goodnight Kisses.

After Bruce completes each activity, he can drop the corresponding clothespin in the Fourth of July Jar.

Then, when computer times starts at 7 pm in our house, he has time “in the bank” to play.

No arguments over the computer + extra learning = Afteschooling actually making my life easier!

A STEM Summer Week #1

Some of my regular readers might be wondering  “Whatever happened with Jenny’s A STEM Summer plans?” Well the thing is, Bruce doesn’t get out of school until tomorrow, June 25th, because we had so many make-up snow days. Don’t feel too badly for his class though, because this past week they have gone swimming, to the Woodland Park Zoo, cleaned out their desks, and had an all-school movie day.

I’m going to roll-out our own fun starting the first week of July. Here are my plans for Week 1 of A STEM Summer:

Weekly Theme: Oceans

Monday/ART: Mix it Up, pp. 6-7 in I Can Paint! by Irene Luxbacher

Tuesday/SCIENCE: Desalination Experiment

Wednesday/TECHNOLOGY: Visit the Ballard Locks and learn how to use the GPS to get there.

Thursday/ENGINEERING: Build a toy sailboat

Friday/MATH: Fun with the Math Balance (Jenna), Hands on Equations(Bruce)

Materials Needed:

Art: blue, red and yellow paint, art paper

Science: iodized salt, bottled water, Saran wrap

Engineering: nails, wooden dowel, tools, a bit of cloth and string, glue, and a wooden boat hull that looks like this:

Special Notes:

Okay, I’m really lame because I have no idea how you are supposed to acquire a wooden boat hull like that if you don’t happen to be married to a wood carver (I’m not).

Bruce(7) did this activity last week at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island, and it was really fun. I took pictures and can describe how to do the whole project except for finding the boat hull itself. I bet some of my readers have some fabulous ideas on how to solve that problem, but of course, the comments aren’t working on my blog at the moment. Argh!

* Update: I just heard from Blog.com and found out how to (hopefully) fix the comments problem.  So fingers crossed, things are working again!

A STEM Summer

Here’s a sneak peak at something I am working on that I’m calling “A STEM Summer”. (Click on the picture and it will become bigger, or see if this link will work.)

A STEM Summer is designed to take between 30 minutes to an hour each day, not counting field trips on Wednesdays. I wanted to design something that was easy, free, thematic, and fun to do this summer in a multiage setting. When I’m finished planning, I will upload my hyperlinked chart so that you can join in on the fun.

Hopefully, A STEM Summer will be a jumping-off board for other families who would like to do something academic over the summer to keep their children’s brains busy, but who agree with Michael Clay Thompson that workbooks are “the neutron bombs of education”.

There are many ways that you could pick and choose from these plans, to meet the needs of your own kids. Maybe you just want to do one week of A STEM Summer. Maybe you just want to use the weekly themes to help you plan which books to put on hold from the library. Maybe you just want to do science experiments every Tuesday, all summer. Or, maybe you want to follow along with us every step of the way and send in your pictures and comments.

Here’s how the eight weeks of A STEM Summer will work:

  • Mondays: ART
  • Tuesdays: SCIENCE
  • Wednesdays: TECHNOLOGY
  • Thursdays: ENGINEERING
  • Fridays: MATH

The weekly themes are based upon a great art book I found at the library called 123 I Can Paint! by Irene Luxbacher. It’ not very expensive, so I am going to purchase it. Here are the weekly themes:

  • Week 1: OCEANS
  • Week 2: FARMS
  • Week 3: HOT/COLD
  • Week 4: CITIES
  • Week 5: SPACE
  • Week 7: BUILDINGS
  • Week 8: OLYMPICS

Each week I’ll check out a bunch of thematic books from the library for my kids to read. Some of the science ideas are from I Capture the Rowhouse’s Science Without a Net program, which is fabulous. Most of the science and engineering experiments I’ve selected use ordinary household objects. I’m hoping that my total expenditures will be under $100, but there are a few things I plan to purchase/already own:

A Note About Art/Mondays: 123 I Can Paint! is a directions-based art book. It could be open ended if you wanted it to be, but it does show step-by-step instructions for how to create each piece. Since I am not an artist myself, I felt like I needed help in this way. Here’s a sample:

A Note about Technology/Wednesdays: We are going to try to go on themed field trips each Wednesday. While out and about, I’m going to teach Bruce(7) and Jenna(3) how to use our camera and video camera. Then later at home, I’ll continue teaching Bruce how to use Windows Movie Maker so that he can create his own summer movie.

A Note about Literacy and Language Arts: There are lots of ways you could use A STEM summer to help improve your child’s reading, writing, and language arts skills over the summer. One way would be to create homemade science books , another way would be keep a science notebook or journal, and a third would be to incorporate writing about math into your Friday activities. Younger children will benefit from a daily Morning Message, where you can write things like “Today is Thursday. We are making a solar oven. It will be so hot!”. Hopefully the experiments and projects will be so fun, that your kid will want to write all about them. You could even send me a jpg and I’ll post their work on my blog if you would like.

When I am finished planning, this will be the home of A STEM Summer. I’m very much open for suggestions and ideas. Please don’t be shy to tell me what you think needs improving!

Picasso, That’s Who!

I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary copy of Hope Harris’s new CD Picasso, That’s Who! in exchange for my honest opinion and review–which is I love it! It fits in perfectly with everything our family tries to do with Carschooling. The music is catchy, and Hope works in a lot of factual information as well. Who would have ever thought to write a song for children about Paul Klee? Hope Harris, that’s who!

Here are the artists she sings about:

  • Jackson Pollock
  • Pablo Picasso
  • David Hockney
  • Grandma Moses
  • Alexander Calder
  • Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Paul Klee
  • Romare Bearden
  • Henri Matisse
  • Claude Monet

The Henri Matisse link will take you to a great project  from Exploring More.  The Jackson Pollock link will take you to Teaching Stars where Kristen has used this CD as a springboard for some very cool art activities with her girls. If I can ever find a free weekend to breathe, I’m going to try to work up something fun for Monet.   We have already been reading books from the library about him. Stay tuned!

I do have one major suggestion for parents who are using Picasso, That’s Who! on the road. You really need to have two adults in the car, plus an art history book. The first time we listened to this CD we were driving to my folks’ house. I kept wanting to show pictures to Bruce and Jenna of the art that was being sung about, but didn’t have any materials with me. So at Grandma and Grandpa’s, I “liberated” my old AP Art History Text H.W. Janson’s History of Art. Then on the way home my husband drove and I could flip through Janson and find the right picture.

And now a plea to my blog readers, especially those of you who are homeschoolers. I’d like spend Mondays this summer doing structured, directed art lesson with both Bruce(7) and Jenna(2). I have no artistic training myself, so I need something “teacher proof” (although I hate that term!) These are some of the books and programs I am considering:

Any suggestions? Hope Harris has really gotten us inspired to learn more about art!

Square Numbers With Crackers

Do you want to feel like a math hero? Try teaching your kids about square numbers in a way that actually makes sense to them. All you need is a box of square crackers.

It turns out that this is easier said than done in our household. Yesterday I purchased a special box just for this activity, but my husband almost polished off the whole box last night watching Nova. Argh!

The way this works is that you use the crackers to build numbers. Ask your kids if they notice anything special about the numbers 1 and 4. They are square!

Is 5 a square? No!

Is 6 a square? No, it’s a rectangle.

7 isn’t a square either.

Neither is 8.

But look! 9 makes a square. It’s a square number.

If we were to keep building (which would require a complete box of crackers) then we would see something like this. The next square number is going to be 16.

Children who are learning about multiplication can also learn the corresponding equations that go with each square number. 1 x 1 = 1, 2 x 2 = 4, 3 x 3 = 9, 4 x 4 = 16 As the teacher, you can make this activity as advanced or as simple as the needs of your child requires. Just be sure to hide the box of crackers from your husband. 🙂

Afterschooling Plan for Grades 1-4

If I had a dream for my blog it would be to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement could be the magic bullet towards solving our educational woes in America. Spending extra time with your child afterschool teaching him or her new concepts does not mean you are a “Tiger Mom”; it means that you know your child deserves one-on-one instruction, and you are going to make sure that he or she gets it. Just to be clear, I’m talking about more than just checking your child’s homework. I’m talking about meaningful, planned instruction. I’m talking about Afterschooling.

By my calculations, if your child logs in 120 Afterschooling hours a year, then your son or daughter is on target for accomplishing an extra two years of school by the end of high school. That might mean your child will be capable of taking AP, IB, community college, or university courses in high school, and have the option of graduating from college early. I myself entered college with 90 completed quarter units already, and graduated in three years. I really wish I could have stayed for the fourth year because college was so much fun, but I’m glad I don’t have the $30,000 worth of student loans it would have meant being burdened with.

I don’t believe in forcing children to learn anything. I strongly believe that kids need time to goof off!!! But if my son wants to play Lego Nijago on the computer, then I am going to make him work for it. 🙂

This is how we prioritize:

  1. School
  2. Homework
  3. Playtime/Free time/Outside time
  4. Limited extras like soccer or piano lessons
  5. Afterschooling
  6. Screen time

So are you interested in a plan for Afterschooling your 1st-4th grader? Feel free to leach off of me! Here is what Bruce(7) did this past year. Our Afterschooling calendar begins in summer and is ending right about now (May). We’ll take a brake until summer vacation starts again.


Don’t think you have time to Afterschool? Sneak in some learning while you are on the road. Most of these titles are available at your local library.

First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind

The Story of the World Volume 1

The Story of the World Volume 2

The Story of the World Volume 3

Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Mr. Bach Comes to Call

Mozart’s Magic Fantasy

Greek Myths

Sherlock Holmes for Children

Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America

Fairytale Favorites in Story and Song

Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! Vamanos! Let’s Go!

Kindermusik CDs

Yellow is the Sun

Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery

Spelling and Phonics

All About Spelling Level 1

All About Spelling Level 2

All About Spelling Level 3

Liberal Arts

SLE Inspired Reading List Part 1

SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2

Michael Clay Thomspon (Grammar Island and Building Language)



Dreambox Math

Right Start (1/3 of Level D)

Singapore (1/2 of 4A)

Hands on Equations (1/3)

Life of Fred

Math Without Worksheets

Hands on Fractions

Timez Attack

Science and Technology

Science Without a Net

Snap Circuits



Stack the States

Stack the Countries

10 Days in Europe

All of those extra little bits of learning really add up. For Bruce, that total time spent Afterschooling this year equals at least 200 hours, not counting all of the times we listed to the same Carschooling CD over and over and over again. That’s like an extra two months of school! These hours were mainly put in over the summer, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and as a way of earning screen time.

I invite you to share your own plans for Afterschooling in the comments section below. Let’s get this national conversation started!