Sunday, July 7, 2013

A product review!

Hello friends! How are you? We are trying not to float away here- we've had about a week solid of rain!

Today, I'm doing a review of a bumper magnetic maker company. This is perfect for any of your sign needs. Do you have a blog you'd like to promote? Etsy store? Want to create a magnet for any reason at all? If you'd rather a banner for a reunion or special message, their banner maker is fast and easy and reasonably priced as well. Additionally, if you need a sign maker for a yard sale, for sale by owner, party or homeschool event, check out BuildASign

We selected magnets that promote our local business. I found the site very easy to use and they shipped/arrived very quickly. The magnets hold tight and strong. I can happily recommend them!

Warmest Wishes,
Bella & Sugar

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!


Today I, Bella, am wishing Sugar a wonderful Father's Day! He is an amazing daddy and so very good to our peeps. He's patient and funny, honest and sincere. Loving and gentle, silly and smart. He's never afraid to let the kids see the "real" him. He apologizes for mistakes, gives hugs and redirects behavior when needed. Most of all, he loves their mother, and is there a better thing that a father can do for his children? Thank you, Sugar...we love you so.

Today, we, Bella&Sugar, wish all the Father's a very special day! May it be as wonderful as you are!

Warmest Wishes,

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Welcome! How are you today?

Today is questions about you! How do you handle summer? Do you "break"? Do you follow a district calendar? Do you travel? What does your summer look like?

For us, as unschoolers, we believe that learning is always occurring. We don't follow a school schedule or the district calendar. Every day, the kids read and work on Math-U-See and Italian. They generally do that early in the day. After that, they follow their interests. That might include: gardening, "breaking" apart an old lamp, cooking, shows on the History channel or Discovery, pet care, random internet searches, studying a found frog or snake- the possibilities are limitless. That said, if we have an appointment, or company, or someone feels under the weather, we may do nothing that looks like "school".

The funny thing is, even on these "off" days, the kids will tell us things that they are learning. It might be that they watched the elevator repair man at the library or read some bizarre facts on kidney functions, or discovered that washing oil from their hands is easier if they apply soap before water. Learning is all around, even in the summer!

Warmest Wishes,

Friday, June 14, 2013

Labels, labels, labels...

Good morning! I hope you are doing well! It's full swing summertime here in Florida. That translates into hot, muggy, hot, buggy, hot...oh, and did I mention, hot? :)

A comment from this post on our education journey got me thinking. The comment was about content area and being "better" at one thing versus another. Hmmmmm.....sound familiar to anyone? Were you in the "fast" reading group or the "slow" math group? (Can you tell that these were my labels?!)

In our house, we have/had "slow" readers, "advanced" at math, "talkers", "movers", "daydreamers", "shy", "social" kids. Do you remember those types labels from your school days? As in, "Jane does well in reading group, but doesn't apply her full potential in math. If she spent less time talking with her friends, she'd learn more." Or something along those lines.

I think back as an adult to how teacher's perceptions of me influenced my education during my school years. I was "good" at reading and language arts. Not so much in math. I recall with crystal clarity the day that I stopped trying at math. My fourth grade teacher, seeing that I was upset over a long division problem, attempted to console me. Her words: "It's ok. Girls don't have to be good at math or science." Me, in my head: "Ahhhh!!! Perfect, because I hate this stuff!" Now, this wasn't THAT long ago, the mid-80's, She wasn't THAT old, either, perhaps mid 30's- but it was a time of stereotypical teaching (guess what? It hasn't changed much). She definitely should've known better than to say that to an 8 year old child!

Now, jump to the present. When one of our "bad" math students complains about how math is worse than death itself, or at least as bad as unloading the dishwasher, we tell them, "yes, math can be hard for some of us. Want me show you some tricks that have worked for us?" We encourage them to find answers, to work at it. We also let them know that different people have different abilities and that's ok!!! They don't have to be the best at math (or what have you), but, they do have to give it their best.

In our house, in our "school", we celebrate the individual and respect strengths and weaknesses. We recognize that we are each uniquely and wonderfully made. That is to be celebrated. Who knows which path a child will take...sculptor? Computer programmer? Photographer? Teacher? Farmer? Who can say? It's our job to guide them, encourage them, teach them HOW to learn (as opposed to WHAT to learn). No labels necessary!

Warmest Wishes,
~Bella & Sugar

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How we got here


How are you? Today I thought I'd tell you about how our "school" journey has been. I was schooled in a very traditional way- public schools/parochial schools followed by community college and then finished up at a major University. Yawwwnnnn....but, I most certainly thought that was pretty much the way everyone did it. Homeschooling had never entered my mind. Ironically, my mother first mentioned it to me in relation to my baby sister's education (we are 16 years apart). I remember thinking- "What??? But what about kindergarten? Prom? Buying school supplies?!" I was, quite frankly, appalled that my mother would consider inflicting such a horrible thing on my precious baby sister...never for my future kids, I thought. Oh! How we plan and God laughs!

Just a few years later, I would find myself the proud mother of a wicked smart little girl. I would, oddly enough, also be pursuing a degree in education. It was being out in the schools that convinced me that my child would never be in a school setting. Note, I'm not saying that all schools are bad, simply that it wasn't the place for us.

We started out as a more "typical" homeschooling sort. We followed curriculums. Worried about state standards. Slowly, I began to see that the curriculum frustrated her. There was no time to explore what really interested her. The curriculum didn't allow for further study of topics that she (or I) enjoyed.

Some sections moved too fast. Others too slow. I was irritated and so was she. School became something she didn't want to do, and honestly, neither did I. The struggle, the sullen face, the dragging of feet just weren't worth it. And those were  just my reactions! She became restless during "lessons", spent time staring out the window, lost from me. What was I doing? Why was I recreating the very environment that I didn't want her to be in?

A funny thing began to happen in my own head as well. See, I'd always thought that I had "liked" school, because, by and large, it was easy to be the "good" kid and coast on by. Luckily, I learn in the ways that most schools teach, and so good or good enough grades were very easy to come by. But, when I sat with my precious child and "taught" her, I began to remember.

The mind-numbing worksheets. The random rules that are necessary for smooth classrooms but death to a child's exuberant spirit. The bullying by children and adults alike. The false rewards of a star or good grade, often given for work that I knew I hadn't really tried at all on. The monotony of watching the same clock circle round and round every day, just waiting on the time to go home....for 13 years. Being treated as less than simply for being a child. Waiting, waiting for "real" life to begin. Sigh...I had repressed an awful lot of bad memories and feelings. I did not want the same for my child.

One day, we just stopped. That's it. Simple as that. Stopped. Stopped workbooks. Stopped saying, we will get to that topic later this year. Stopped the Hooked on Phonics that drove her nuts. Stuck with the Math-U-See that we both liked well enough (for math! We're not math people! This is the only math that has made sense to me, and I wouldn't use another program). Stuck with libraries, museums, and parks. Dropped what we "should" be learning at such age or grade. Stuck with books on tape/cd, reading aloud, getting messy with experiments. I got my child loud, active, precocious, hilarious girl.

I learned to trust that she would learn what she needed when she was ready for it. Prime example, reading. She loved books, books on tape/cd, books laying around, looking at books, listening to books. But reading was a huge struggle. She knew the sounds of the letters, knew how to blend, but it just wasn't clicking. She could "read", but it was most certainly not an enjoyable experience.

As an avid and early reader, I had a huge love affair with books. I didn't want her to grow to hate them. One day, I found Dr. Raymond Moore's Better Late Than Early and I stopped worrying about when she would "really" read. She was 8. At 11, she suddenly went from being able to read easy " I-can-read" type of books (think, Henry and Mudge) to reading Romeo and Juliet. It was as if it all at once made sense. She is almost never without a book now. I'm so very glad that I was able to trust her internal clock.

Poor kid, she's been my educational guinea pig! I've applied all I've learned from watching her learn to her siblings. Some have had no problem with reading. Others have struggled and then "got" it. Some are better at math than I ever will be. Some hate history, love science. Others are just the opposite. We simply supply all sorts of "cool" stuff from microscopes to magazines, and let them go with it. We teach them HOW and WHERE to get information, but we don't determine WHICH information is important. They do. We share what WE find interesting and follow what THEY enjoy as well. So far, it's been a remarkable journey!

What has your path looked like?

Warmest Wishes!
Bella & Sugar

First day of summer break! Or, as we call it, Thursday!


Today is the first day of summer break for our school district. Eh. It doesn't mean much around here. We unschool, which basically means that we believe that learning occurs all the time, not simply at arbitrarily set times.

Today the peeps have: finished the movie Free Willy and talked about orcas and the ethics of zoos/aquariums. Worked on Italian flash cards. Worked in the garden. Taken care of their pets. Read for fun. Worked online on math drills (this is one curriculum that we use. Generally, we follow whatever our passions are. That said, math has never been my strong suit. I found Math-U-See when our oldest was about 7, and I LOVE it. It's easy peasy to use, and I actually understand things that I never "got" before. I highly recommend this program!). Watched part of Harry Potter and discussed books vs movie versions of the book. Talked about fermentation and how the half-sour pickles we made worked out. Worked on blog projects including product review. Went swimming and discussed why rain made the pool cold. Talked about the tropical storm that caused the rain. Did their chores. Played dress up. Babysat. And the day is still young!

What did you all do today?

Warmest wishes,
Bella and Sugar

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

View of a Typical (Home) Day

Today's all about a "typical" day at home. I use the term "typical" loosely!

All the kids wake up and eat breakfast on their own schedule. The near teen and teen generally wake the latest (as is the biological norm). After they eat, they get dressed and pick up their rooms some. They have weekly chores and those get done as well. Everyone uses the laptop or Ipad to work on: math drills and or games, reading drills, and Italian flash cards.

After those basics are done, they follow what they want for the day. Today's projects have included: making birthday cheese cake for the oldest peep, making birthday cards, knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living room room (the kids helped with nail removal, drywall removal, cleanup, learned about moving electrical outlets and structural support), received a package from a home school cultural exchange that we are participating in, wrote letters to the other family, researched how to make maple candy (the package came from a family in Vermont), talked about why we don't have maple syrup (it's too hot in Florida), counted and sorted fishing lures, discussed punctuation and why it's important, helped oldest child with her Ebay account, took care of our animals (chickens, dogs, cats, turtle and bird), watched History channel, played outside, watered the garden, enjoyed dinner together, drew pictures, read for pleasure and cleaned up.

That's a pretty typical "at home" day for us!

What do your days look like?

Warmest Wishes,
~Bella & Sugar

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How We Roll!

How we roll!
Homeschooling comes in as many varieties as the family's that chose this educational path. Our family has found what works best for us is more closely in line with unschooling or life hacking. Theses paths tend to be child/interest led.

Each child has different comfort levels. One child enjoys workbooks, so from time to time, we use them for her. Another child is approaching adulthood and learning life skills and following her passions into career fields. We've learned to adapt to each child's unique learning style and skills.

This path isn't for everyone. It takes a lot of self-control not to push our personal learning styles on the kids. It was, initially, difficult to not worry about outside opinions on what and when the kids should be learning things. Sitting back and watching the kids learn, seeing what they recall and following their questions gave us the confidence to continue down this road.

Up next, what a "typical" (at home) day looks like!

Warmest Wishes,
~Bella & Sugar

Monday, May 20, 2013


Welcome to BellaSugar: Learning and Growing with the Peeps! We are happy to have you here! You can follow our educational journey as well as find hints and tips for your own learning.
We have been learning at home since our oldest was born, 17 years ago. We believe that learning is an ongoing, all inclusive, life long event. We encourage exploration, curiosity and following personal bliss.
Stay and learn more with us!

Warmest Wishes,
~Bella & Sugar