Kula Blog

This week, our site gets a new tab, and our group of homeschool friends gets a new social network! 

A frustration of many homeschooling parents is with allowing their children to participate with online social activities while keeping their kids safe and protected. It's often with heavy hearts we reluctantly allow their first facebook profile or interaction with other sites like it. A great solution to this is running your own private network. Nothing online is truly secure, but at least this way the basic troubles are kept out. No companies mining your kids information, tracking them, or low-tech creepy people trying to stalk them. With a private social network, the only remaining unsavory possibility is with some wannabe hacker, but trust me, most who would/could compromise your private, kids social network probably have better things to do. 

That said, I'm thrilled my kids have a place online to socialize and grow with their friends. It is also great that we parents also can scheme and share amongst each other more freely. Good times will be had by all! 

To my homeschool friends not here with us on Maui, if you'd like to set up something similar, please feel free to ask me about it. I'd be happy to help. Lots of smaller organizations are beginning to do this now, and I'm sure they benefit greatly from it. 


Yay! Our Facebook comments are up and live! How exciting! This blog is coming along… 

And now, to fill up space, an image from the Galaxy Zoo. Have you classified a galaxy today? ;)

Not everyone knows that on the average, there is no contest here. The scores and statistics speak loudly and proudly in favor of homeschooling. I haven't seen how it stands up to various private schools, but I have read articles about how private schools are not always better than public schools and at the end of the day, the results are very similar on the average. 

Back to public schools, here in Hawaii, the highest ranked public school based on performance in Maui County is a homeschool public charter school in Kihei. They far outrank other local public schools and many statewide in both grade school (23rd of 188 in the state) and middle school (7th of 70 in the state). I'm not sure how many people here are aware of that. Some of us are not as surprised as others.

Homeschoolers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but one thing that unites most I've met is knowing how much better than we can do than the public school system, and even some private institutions. Here is an interesting online poster I found on another blog this week about homeschool vs public school statistics: 

I found it pretty compelling, having done similar research on my own in the past. One of my most compelling moments was on the phone with a Stanford University Admissions Counselor. I wanted to know how homeschoolers are received and what the process is like for them getting in to a good college. The counselor told me that they have been accepting increasing numbers of homeschoolers as the homeschool population has increased. The person I spoke to said that homeschoolers tend to be favored over other students because many of them have extensive extracurricular experience that other students do not have, and they tend to offer excellent diversity to the student body. The person also intimated that with many homeschooled kids, the passion for learning is still very palpable and not only carries them through graduation with a higher rate of success, but that this fervor seemed to uplift other non-homeschoolers in their circles as well. 

Apparently, universities are as excited about homeschoolers as the applicants are about college. Which is an excellent combination if you ask me. 

Personally, I'd like to see ongoing statistics as to how homeschoolers do beyond college, in both their careers and even personal lives. The older homeschoolers I've met seem extremely mature, balanced, and well-adjusted. I'd like to see if this is a trend that carries on throughout their adult lives as I imagine it would. 

Please feel free to share the poster! It's a good one!

Kauhale Kula is officially in session and I'm loving it! 

It feels really good to get back into K12's OnLine School (OLS). We've gone without it for about a year, and that was fine, but it's so nice to have all the support, structure and organization to use as a platform to leap into our day. It's like a breath of fresh air!

We began our first day back to school with fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls, and our "Morning Circle" time candle. Morning Circle is about a 10-20 minute daily tradition before school. We might talk, sing songs, or practice poetry. It's mainly to unite the family and get in the mental zone of having a good school day. Normally, I pre-plan Morning Circle, but this year, I'm going to let it grow organically and shape around what the kids want to get from their day. 

Morning circle came to an end with all the kids going for a quick run in the yard, and then coming back. The toddler blew out the candle, the 2nd grader got to practicing 10 minutes of handwriting, while the 6th grader cleaned up the morning breakfast dishes. Then we began the school day!

My 6th grader has worked mostly independantly, again, with excellent online support from K12's program. I had to check in a couple times during her Algebra & Geometry math hour, but mostly things went smoothly. She got through one and a half lessons today!

My toddler and second grader hung out with me. We also did math. The toddler played with the thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones place math blocks, and practiced counting while my second grader reviewed his counting to 500 and some number line skills. My toddler did get a timeout for invading the second grader's "Learning Space" after being warned, but other than that, it was really fun and productive. 

Math hour is a pretty big block of the day, it's great to have it out of the way early. Now the kids are outside in the yard, snacking on strawberries before we get on to the next project block.

Today is a good day! 

Cleaning up. Getting serious. Setting the family up for an exciting and productive homeschool year! Wait a minute… is my homeschool year toddler-proof? I doubt it. Even we experienced homeschoolers sometimes need help from the pros. And with toddlers, one can never have too much help. 

Part of my 2012-2013 homeschool readiness is taking in any new advice, or being reminded of things that work wonderfully. Recently, I listened to one of K12's pre-recorded digital conference sessions with Barbara Lynch , 21 year veteran homeschooler and mother to ELEVEN wonderful children. This woman always has a toddler at home, and now that she has enter the world of grandparenting, I doubt it will ever change. I chatted with her on the phone once and asked her how she manages eleven kids. She said the first 3 or 4 are the hardest and after that they start helping to raise each other "like a pack of wolves," she joked. 

Back to the subject at hand, I wanted to share some of her recommendations, and a few of my own, in a simple list form. For the original full hour long discussion, I recommend signing up with K12. You won't regret it. For now, here's the quick rundown of how to homeschool with a toddler!

Get Creative! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of scheduling cure.

  • School During Nap Time - While the little ones are snoozing, take the opportunity to give your older kid(s) particularly needed one on one time.
  • Work Evenings - If Daddy is home and can play with the little one, or maybe after (s)he is in bed for the night, there will also be more time to put toward clearing up any more challenging work of the day.
  • Combining Subjects - A quick look ahead at language, reading or writing goals and you may find the same goals can be applied to other subjects like history or science. Hitting two birds with one stone can help time management while the toddler is occupied. 
  • Plan Small Blocks - Planning 45 minute blocks of work to be used opportunistically might work better than a strictly scheduled block of 3 or 4 hours. Flexibility is the key when it comes to working around the little ones.
  • A Working Lunch - Reading material from any necessary subject during lunch can turn munch time into a family learning or story hour, including casual conversation to deepen the topic. It could be the source of plenty of pleasant family conversation as well!

Occupy the Little Muffin! Keep bags or boxes of the following to pull out at various times of day.

  • Leap Frog Learning DVD's - Pop them in and let the magic happen!
  • Blocks, Kid K'nex, and Duplos - Building fun always has good odds of holding little attention spans.
  • Color Wonder Paints & Finger Paints - I don't recommend regular paint, but color wonder is a no mess solution for little artists.
  • Coloring Books, "School Books", & Drawing Tablets - An arsenal of coloring, drawing, and "reading" material for toddlers is great to have on stand-by. My toddler loves "doing school" with the big kids in his own "school books."
  • The Toy of Choice - A simple favorite toy (or few to cycle through on different days) is great and easy. The key is, this toy is JUST for school time, giving them something to look forward to during these particular hours.
  • Bigger Toddler Fun - Obviously as they get older too and do not try to eat everything in sight, they can string beads, play with play doh, do puzzles, and sort and string buttons.

And always remember:


Their learning is very important. Mimicking older kids, trying things out, developing their listening skills, attention span, and motor skills. Let them cut, color, read, and sing along! Find creative ways to involve them, and you can't go wrong!

I think I must have flipped templates 10 times today! During a big rebuild like this, it's hard to settle for anything being good enough for your baby. It's also really fun seeing how it lays out and what looks nicest. 

And then of course, there are the fonts and colors. I need to remind myself to get some sleep and not stay up all night configuring this thingy over and over.

I've created a brand new Kauhale Kula Twitter account and scoped out a bunch of awesome people to seed my new homeschool beginnings there. I do have other accounts, but I've found Twitter works well when strong interest themes are a bit more compartmentalized. For example, I also discuss and keep up on information security, mixed martial arts, yoga, and raw food. I suppose the yoga and raw food don't quite need their own account, but security and MMA both appeal to very particular crowds. Although, information security SHOULD appeal to all, as technology is such a huge part of our lives and knowing how to be safe is the new "street smarts" of this era. BUT that is a whole different conversation for another time. Or now, if you follow @LLANA on Twitter. :)

As homeschoolers, our experience goes through many cycles and ups and downs. In our recent history, our year was challenged by a big move from California to Hawaii and we've been scrambling ever since. This is not the first time we've been off our game, and I'm sure it won't be the last. But, as a seasoned (going on 7 year) homeschooler, I know that these things happen. 

My big cure? Go back to the method that worked best last. Since our environment and schedule includes a new home, new pets, and a toddler, we'll be scaling back to more structure.

In recent years, I'd let go of a lot of the homeschooling structure I began with. Mainly because we really didn't need it. We had our flow, and adding in some freedom actually gave us even more momentum. Now that we're not in "the zone" we will be going back to our roots of stricter schedules, predictable blocks of time, and observing the guidance of our curriculum. 

I purchased our K12.com classes for this year, complete with OnLine School (OLS) support today. I'm very excited to get started in the next couple weeks. 

In the meantime, I'm preparing by listening to some of K12's "how-to" talks and videos. Today it was something like "How To Homeschool A Small Army" and "Schooling With A Toddler." 

Yup! Even after all these years, we still need some outside words of encouragement and fresh ideas!

I'm also very excited about doing this site over again. You can find the old site and blog HERE

© Llana Grossman 2013