About Stefani

Stefani believes that beyond "I love you," one of the most valuable things she can tell her three young sons (and herself) is "take your time." Homeschooling has afforded her the awesome privilege to say it often and with conviction. Stefani writes about her journey to mindful parenting and her learning adventures alongside her boys at her blog, Blue Yonder Ranch.

Learning Is Better Together: Fostering Strong Sibling Relationships

A note from Jamie: I’ve been thinking about this post lately while riding the waves of sibling rivalry. Can you relate? For many of us, the hope of close sibling relationships is one of our reasons for homeschooling. These words from Stefani remind us why. This post originally published on May 5, 2010.

One for all and all for one!

That was the solemn promise of the Three Musketeers.

It’s the unofficial motto of Switzerland.

It is also one of the driving ideals behind many homeschooling families’ decision to learn at home.

Homeschooling is a promise that we, as a family, are in this thing together–all of us championing each individual, and each individual giving his best for the family.

Each day of living and working alongside each other in a home learning environment, our children are learning to empathize, to celebrate the achievements of others, to respectfully disagree, to encourage, sacrifice, and lead. Beyond academics–they are also learning how to be parents, spouses, professionals and citizens.

Let’s face it though, when we are educating children of different ages, personalities, needs and goals, we often find ourselves running in six directions at once–a far cry from the unity-building that we dreamed of.

So how can we honor the individuality of our children and at the same time foster family togetherness?
[Read more…]

The Case for Memorization

As a young girl I was a devoted fan of Anne of Green Gables. I found Anne’s imagination enchanting, of course, but I also admired how she could recite poetry and quote stories at her whim. It seemed that whatever she played at – fairies in the woods or the Lady of Shallot upon the river – she could recall the perfect, enduring words to make her play all the sweeter.

I wanted to be like Anne – to hold within me delicious, impassioned words.

Unfortunately, by the time I reached school age it had fallen out of fashion to require, or even encourage, children to memorize anything beyond letter sounds, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the multiplication tables.

I think this is a shame really, and a glaring hole in my education. Sure, I could have taken it upon myself to commit great works to memory, but without someone to guide and inspire such a pursuit, memorizing can seem a daunting task to a child.

I hope to be that guide for my boys – that when they step out into the world they will have a host of powerful, meaningful words at their disposal.

If you have not yet made memorization a part of your homeschool experience, here are six good reasons to consider joining us. [Read more…]

Remodeling: When Homeschooling Plans Go Awry

Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Stefani Austin of Blue Yonder Ranch

It was a good plan. It was a simple, doable, good plan.

Step 1:  Clean, organize and paint the boys’ bedrooms while they were away at camp.

Step 2: Finish outlining our homeschooling plans for the year.

Step 3: On July 5th, walk together, hand in hand, into a new year of learning.

Right.

“Everyone has plans… until they get hit.”

-Mike Tyson

Around the time the ink was drying on my freshly made plans, my husband, dear man, picked up a hammer and smashed them to pieces.

See, he grew up in our house. He loves it deeply. So when I brought out the paint samples something inside him cracked. He began festering over all that our home could be and promptly lost his mind.

Painting became moving everything out of the boys’ rooms and ripping up the carpet. That led to taking out the carpet in the hallway, which led to pulling it out of our bedroom, which, in the end, led to moving everything we own into the garage and removing every square inch of flooring in our home.

And that was only the beginning. [Read more…]

Simple Tools For Scientific Discovery

Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Stefani Austin of Blue Yonder

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.” I would argue that the seed of science got its start not in men, but rather in curious little boys and girls.

Children are the purest, truest form of scientist. They are fascinated by rocks. They thrill to taking apart and recreating all over again.  They are not afraid to get messy, to ask a question, or to postulate a wild and unexpected theory.

Science–that place where curiosity, diligence and imagination meet–is the natural home of a child’s mind.

Imparting the great ideas and discoveries of science to our students can, however, seem such a daunting task. In fact one of the questions that most worries new homeschoolers is something akin to, “How will we recreate a high school chemistry lab at home?”

Take heart, and take a good look at the humble beginnings of many great discoveries. For Newton it began with an ordinary apple. Archimedes made one of his greatest discoveries in the bathtub. Benjamin Franklin changed the world with a kite.

Our children need little more than a few modest tools and bit of training in the ways of observation and record keeping to gain a powerful understanding of science.

Here are a few simple tools for meaningful scientific discovery: [Read more…]

A Beach Blanket Education

Maybe it’s because the beach is such a completely different landscape from the one we call home. Maybe it’s the legendary lure of the sea. Whatever the reason, some of our greatest learning adventures have happened with sand in between our toes and salty wind in our hair.

For those of you looking forward to some oceanside days this summer, we’d like to share our favorite ways to make your beach blanket the best classroom ever. [Read more…]