Homeschool Porn

For those who are unintiated in the world of homeschooling, this is the time of year when all the catalogs come in the mail. I love them all. I have a stack of them on my bedside table, which I peruse nightly.

The hefty catalogs are my porn. I sit down with the catalogs, various colored highlighters, those sticky post it notes, and my fanatsies. Oh and what fanatsies they are. When the enormous Rainbow Resource catalog comes in the mail, all life as we know it in my house stops for several days while I drool over each and every one of it’s 1200+ pages.

“Ooooooh, I’d love this,” I say. I imagine my children and I making an authentic mummy out of a roaster chicken, various spices, and some salt. What a great learning experience that would be, I muse. And I am sure I can find a place to store that in my house for a few months. NOT.

“Oooooooh, look at this,” I say. I imagine constructing the entire war of 1812 out of paper mache, dryer lint, and pipe cleaners. Who would NOT want to do that? Uh, me.

Luckily I am not crazy enough to have lost all rational thought and reasoning. Usually I can pass these types of things over. Not that these types of projects are inherently bad things to do, if you enjoy them and more importantly your children do.

It’s the smaller types of things now that I have trouble with. They promise great things and I have trouble not falling for their insidious promises. The things that promise to help your child “see math in a new exciting way” or promise to make your child love studying grammar, without them even knowing they are studying it. Or the huge magnetic wall chart where we can track our daily weather for the year and feed the budding meteorologist in us all. When really, how many ways are there to make memorizing your multiplication tables exciting? And a notebook, pen, wall thermometer and eyes are all you really need to track the weather daily.

At this point though, seven years into my homeschooling journey, I realize where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I realize that everything that sounds cool and educational to me, might very well not be to the children. And that lots of these so called educational projects are a huge pain in the ass and time suck.

People ask me all the time, “How do you make your kids do _____?” (fill in the blank) The thing is I don’t make my children do anything. I don’t think you can. Their education is very much theirs, not mine. There are things that I want them to accomplish, obviously, but I consider it my job to make it interesting enough that they do not balk at doing it. If there is a concept or a subject that my children are bored with, the onus is on me to change that. It means that I am not doing my job properly and need to approach the topic in a new way.

That doesn’t mean I do not embark on projects that I really should know better than attempting by now.

cough building an egyptian pyramid out of sugar cubes cough

It’s just that now I can usually distinguish between the things that would be beneficial for my children, and those things that are better left to my bedroom, my highlighter, and my active imagination.

28 Responses to “Homeschool Porn”

  1. Colleen Says:

    Very timely post!!! I spent 3 hours yesterday morning looking at homeschool curriculums on the web. Since this is only my second year and last year it was a “let’s wing it” kind of year, I wanted to try something a little more organized this year. Although last year didn’t go too bad. He still managed to learn a lot. And read alot.

    Anyway, what do you do? Is it a mish mosh or do you stick with a curriculum? If you can respond here or e-mail me, I’d appreciate any advice I can get.

  2. Novaks8 Says:

    I am so glad that you started this blog.
    I always wanted to hear more about your homeschooling.

    I had planned to set aside a time each day this summer to teach my 5 year old pre-reading/reading.
    It hasn’t happened yet.

    Then last night I came across the little paper books that Jordan used in Kindergarten and we snuggled in bed with them and she was reading them!

    In one night she learned to sight read the words too, we, she, it, and, the, ….etc.
    I was amazed.

  3. Laundry Woman Says:

    I do love RR’s catalog. I went to a homeschool conference last month, first time in YEARS. I was refreshed, but also annoyed and overstimulated at the 1000’s of products to purchase and not enough time to critically pilfer…

    There are some freebies on the web that I really enjoy. Montessorimakers in Yahoo groups is great. Lots of free printables and self-educating support. I pretty much (even when they’re in public school) don’t preach anymore, but lead by example. I have to do homework, so they know they have to do thiers. Bravo for having the energy left to blog about it…

  4. Heather Says:

    I almost handed my RR to a freind today (she is one the fence) but she got that deer in the headlights look AND I WAS GLAD! I mean I WOULD have lent it to her - but I would have missed it terriblly! Between that and the seed catalogs that come in Febuary! I have lots of reading/ imagining/drooling magazines!

  5. Jennifer Says:

    Very timely indeed! I tend to double (or triple) up on everything our of fear that the kids might miss something. I am trying to minimize that this year. I can’t even look at the Rainbow Resource catalog.

  6. InterstellarLass Says:

    OOOH! Mummy chickens! I might have to check that out. That owuld be waaaay cool. Running and Hiking catalogs are my porn.

  7. jeans5kids Says:

    Hey what a great post and I am so glad that you are shareing with us your thoughts on homeschooling. I have read your other blog for awhile now and have always wondered what your whole philosiphy was about it. And rainbow resource is just to overwhelming for me I like to look at the educational games mags that come in Aug. Board games about math that you can get my kids to sit and do. HA! but I always dream


  8. Jen Says:

    I’m glad to hear about your homeschool too! I looooove shopping for curriculum. I keep a running cart on Sonlight, Abeka and Amazon. Buy what I can afford, but its so hard to choose which will make it’s way to my doorstep first!

  9. randomstuff Says:

    How did you decide to home school, and where did you start?

  10. Amy Says:

    I’m like you. This will be my 6 year homeschooling 3 of my 5 children. I love when the Veritas Press catalog comes and have so many things highlighted. I have learned I can’t do everything I want to so I at least get the basics down well and then add the extra fun stuff in as I can. It’s a joy and burden to homeschool but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  11. Shellbie Says:

    YAY!!! I am not the only one with the homeschool porn! I too have a HUGE stack that I drool over with a highlighter in hand. The big trick is to practice rejoining reality…..and the budget.
    We used to have a “schoolroom” early in this adventure, now we “school” everywhere. Yesterday my 5 year old did his Math on the kitchen floor while I cooked dinner and his older brother was upside down in the livingroom recliner reading Robinson Crusoe. Things have certainly changed since our first day.

  12. Debbie Says:

    Yeah - the ideas we have and the reality are sometimes painfully in different universes. Oh how I imagined things differently when I started out homeschooling. How I was mezmerised by the catalogues. I salvitate even thinking about them.

    Truth is you need very little in terms of the fancy marketing stuff that teachers need to entertain 30 bored school children in case they throw chairs and/or tables at their heads. Keeping it interesting by knowing your child and knowing what they love is the essential ingredient.

    Going know to lick the Learning Resources catalogue….

  13. Katie Says:

    [i]It’s just that now I can usually distinguish between the things that would be beneficial for my children, and those things that are better left to my bedroom, my highlighter, and my active imagination. [/i]

    Beautifully put, Chris. I’m still working on this. I’m homeschooling my preschoolers and am still amazed when they aren’t nearly as psyched as I am about making corn-cob dolls and trips to see the ruts from the Oregon Trail.

  14. Damselfly Says:

    Funny … somehow I got on a homeschool catalog list and now get one every year about this time, too, even though I am just now expecting my first baby.

    I looked at the Rainbow site you pointed to and noticed the cat-a-pult product on the home page. And like the chicken mummy thing, I wonder how launching a cat (apparently not a real one) through the air is educational. Do you have to figure out the degree of the angle at which the cat is tossed? Determine the velocity? Hmm….

    Have fun picking out curricula!

  15. Spunky Says:

    Found you through google. I wrote a similar post to this last year. It’s not just the catalogs but the magazines too. I call it “air brushed” homeschooling. The perfect family perched on the perfect porch.

  16. vanessa Says:

    Chris, whenver you use the word porn, I love you more.
    Seriously I have been reading advice from the trenches for ages…definitely since it was the big yellow house!
    i am a freelance childcare provider,and a few of “my” 2 year olds are not going to preschool, either at all this year or until january.
    i am looking for some books/etc with fun and educational-ish activities for us to do together. do you have any suggestions? i would really appreciate any leads…we are going to have FUN this year if it kills us!
    (we are not, however, making chicken mummies. thats just gross?
    thanks! my email is


  17. Kathleen Marie Says:

    I homeschooled for many years and I still receive many of the catalogs and I still “drool” over them. I am a book junkie, full fledged and there is no reform, medication, withdrawal program that will ever help me, I am very happy to say ;)

    Enjoy you blog btw

  18. Amy Says:

    This just cracked me up—I am beginning my first year of “official” homeschooling soon, and I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve poured over catalogs!! It’s so much fun to choose what your kids learn!

  19. Lydia Says:

    Durn. I don’t get all the homeschooling catalogs because… I’ve never ordered curriculum? Maybe? But I like the Hannah Anderssen catalogs too. And they send me multiple copies. One for each eye.

  20. carrien Says:

    A question I have that I’m hoping you will answer with a post. I have always planned to homeschool, even before I had children. My oldest is now four and I am just starting to drool over the mags, esp the get your preschooler to read in one hundred easy lessons type of banners, but that’s not my question.

    I have the hardest time reading to him. I know this sounds weird, but he loves the little science type of fact books that are illustrated; planets, spiders, bats, etc. He loves it when I read them to him, he wants to hear them again, and again, and again. Which is great, he’s a self motivated learner at this point, here’s the problem, I fall asleep reading these books aloud. (Actually, Richard Scarry books do that to me too, the ones with a story.) Seriously I find myself nodding off at the end of pages and wake up to “Read mom”, and this is in the morning when I’m supposed to be fresh. This is really ironic since I’m in the middle of a post about my reading addiction, but it’s the truth. I dread reading them to him, I can only handle one or two a day, or I’d spend the rest of it taking a nap. I feel guilty that I’m not better meeting his desire to learn, but I really don’t know what to do.
    Any suggestions?

  21. Groovecatmom Says:

    What do you mean, you aren’t going to make the mummified chicken? I am really looking forward to that this year! Just kidding. I find that, when I get a new catalogue, I panic, because I second guess myself and what I’ve already chosen. This year, I am going to try the “less is more” approach. And I agree with you, how many ways can you teach math? I enjoy your blogs, BTW.

  22. Kari Says:

    I LOVE looking at Office supply catalogs - that is my porn. I just imagine my desk being this super organized machine that practically sorts the mail, files and pays the bills for you. That perfect desk setup that has a place for everything and where all the pens match (not all the freebies that you get from hotels and banks and stuff like I have now) and there is no clutter…. Dang - I am getting all hot and bothered here…

  23. Morgan Says:

    I have a question for you: I have a 21 month old & 3 month old and want to have more babies in the future. I also want to homeschool. What do you do with the little ones while homeschooling the older kids? :)

  24. Elizabeth Says:

    Hmm, I was a Calvert homeschooler (grade in a box) - I’m trying to think of an analogy for your porn selections, since I never got the stacks but I did enjoy going through the picture of the box I was getting. I guess that’s like being happily married - limited selection, but enjoying it.

    My daughter did the mummy chicken and the sugar cube pyramid, but in a summer program and not at my house. She thought she would faint when they had to reach in the chicken and pull out the guts, and was very pleased that they were in fact a paper pouch of giblets. The sugar-cube pyramid, as I recall, went on two matching shoeboxes so you could pull it apart to see the inside. I also remember that ants came pouring into the classroom by the end of the week and were dubbed grave robbers (they ate the pyramids, not the chickens) and cursed. They also made clay scarabs that week. Oh, man, I was just thinking about this all and I think it was 10 years ago! She is going off to college in a few weeks and I think she still has the mummified chicken in her room. Also, after being so squeamish about chicken guts, she has a real kitten in formaldehyde in her room that she acquired after doing a class involving dissection of a pregnant cat. Now THERE’S one you probably don’t want to do at home.

    I wonder if I ever had a point to this post other than to say hi and blather.

  25. kathy Says:

    I’m going to give you two more. Well, they’re the only two I’ve entertained and I don’t know anything more than their websites as their sample dvd’s are in the US awaiting our return. anyway, peruse away (and make sure you get the sample dvd’s)

    Lively Lessons

    We unschool (you know, the schooling where you ignore your kids :)) so other than sonlight (cause I just LOVE their books - even though too many are full of God) we don’t have anything. and really, the Sonlight stuff I have is a huge number of books I got off ebay.

  26. cheeriobutt Says:

    Thank you for the more realistic view of what schooling is about. I can breathe again. I will be homeschooling this fall and I am excited. You are one of those encouragements.

  27. Prism75 Says:

    I was just wondering if you got my e-mail question about homeschooling and such. I tend to have my own porn, too, with pottery magazines being one and parenting stuff being another (even though I throw most of the parenting stuff away in anger since I end up not agreeing with it, but that’s besides the point.)

    Anyway, just hoping you didn’t think my e-mail was spam!


  28. min Says:

    I’m interesting in homeschooling. How do you get started? I love reading your posts by the way! What you are doing with your children is amazing!