When is a homeschooler not a homeschooler?

I live in Massachusetts which, in homeschooling terms, is an “approval state”. This means that the calendar year your child turns six, you must send a “Letter of Intent to Homeschool” to your local school department. I then send my Lesson Plan for the year to the school district and, at the end of the year, send a Progress Report.

We now have a “new” way of doing things which has some people shook up a bit, while others are breathing a sigh of relief. It is a “Virtual Public School” and the first one just started up in this state this school year.

By joining this Virtual School, I would sign my kids up with the Greenfield (MA) School District which is actually more than two hours away on the other side of the state. My town would send this school a check for the amount in taxes they would use if he/she was in the town’s school system (I’ve read it’s about $3,000 per child, but don’t quote me).

In exchange, I would receive a computer (don’t get too excited; I’ve heard they are a bit old and creaky) and a complete curriculum from K-12. Oh and a teacher would be assigned to my child, and I would no longer call myself teacher but “Learning Coach” (oy, schoolspeak).

The other biggie is that my kids would be required to take the MCAS which is our mandatory standardized achievement tests.

Even with the evil MCAS, I have to admit my interest has been piqued. We now pay $20 a month for one of my children to do two subjects online. I have spent countless dollars on curriculum, some of it which I never use because I don’t understand it, don’t make time for it, or forget I have it (seriously).

But the initial reports I heard about the virtual public school were full of alarming details: Teachers will check your work daily! You can never miss a day! No flexibility! Six hours of busy work a day!!!!! (subtext: Your children will hate you, you will become a frumpy nervous mess and your house will start to smell!)

So, I’ve been asking around, reading the message boards, looking at the website. It’s not like Massachusetts is doing something totally new: My very good friend does a virtual school in California and one of my fave online homeschoolers does it in Canada.

And what I’m hearing right now is pretty interesting. There seems to be some flexibility in curriculum if the school agrees that what you are using meets their standards. You can tweak your schedule around a bit so that you can take a field trip one day, or just have a needed “sanity day”. The teachers are available but not hovering and checking every last thing.

The one thing that irks me is that there seems to be some quibbling over what to call these new Virtual School students. Are they homeschoolers? Public Schoolers? Traitors to the cause?

Really? Give me a break. I don’t care if you teach your kid math by counting the chicken eggs they collect in the morning, or if they run off every Friday night to a paid Russian Math class for two hours, or if they are enrolled in a public school curriculum two hours away: A kid who does most of their work at home, is a homeschooler.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to discuss, but if you get nasty in the comments, I’m coming after you with my metal ruler. I am still the teacher after all.

Let’s go shopping!

(check out the giveaway at the end!)

I usually avoid taking the kids clothes shopping like the plague: Isn’t that why online shopping exists?

But Thursday, I brought the three kids to check out the new OshKosh B’gosh store opening not too far from where I live.

Why? To see these people:


I also went because my oldest has been lamenting she has nooooooo clothes. And when I switched her bureau from “warm-weather clothes” to “cold-weather clothes”, I found out that she wasn’t kidding. One shirt. No pajamas.

We call this “restocking”

I didn’t forget my other bambinos. They got stuff too. Though they were too busy making faces in the fun-house mirror next to the changing room.


OK, so I did too:


Fun-house mirrors add 10 pounds to your hips. And to the top of your head.

Admittedly, I had no idea what OshKosh clothing looks like. . . it just hasn’t been on my radar screen. I’d now described it as easy-going, every-dear wearable clothes for kids that are somewhere between affordable and “Oh-My-This-Is-Only-How-Much?Give-Me-Two.”

And check out this little guy! If only my six year old wasn’t past the age of letting his mother dress him in cartoon reindeer. Sigh.


Holy Overalls! Too cute for those little half-pints out there.

In the end, we left with four shirts, three sets of pajamas, a button-down shirt and a pair of gray boys’ pants for about $120; OshKosh kindly gave us bloggers $50 gift cards* when we entered the store, surprise!, so my total was even lower.

The prices are great, just make sure you pay attention to the many signs that list what the discounts are (percentage off vs buy-one-get-one; if I had paid attention, my shopping bag could have included an additional set of pajamas for the same price). Most of the discounts I saw on the signs were upwards of 40% off, so get ready to do some calculating!

I was also given a $25 gift card to give away to one of you. It can be used at any OshKosh B’gosh store, or online, so no need to live in my area. I’ll select one reader randomly to get the gift card—just leave a comment below and let me know the one thing you saw on the OshKosh B’Gosh website that you’d love to get for your child. (CONTEST IS CLOSED: Congratulations to Commenter #4, Mami2jcn, for winning the gift card!)

*OshKosh B’gosh gave all invited guests a $50 gift card for spending and a $25 gift card to give away, as a thank you for coming to the store. No post was promised, nor did I even know we were getting a gift card before we agreed to attend.


Greater Boston area peeps, listen up! Visit the new OshKosh B’Gosh store opening event in Braintree’s South Shore Plaza tomorrow, Saturday, October 9th between 11am – 2pm. Bring a pair of your child’s outgrown, gently-worn jeans or overalls and get a new pair for only $7! This Denim Drive benefits Cradles to Crayons. And your wallet.

Window Shopping

This post originally ran on New England Mamas. I’m going to be pulling some of my favorite posts over here to keep them all under one “roof”. Hope you don’t mind the repeat if you’ve seen this before.


Would you ever consider moving?

Fairly Odd Father (otherwise known as my husband) asked the question casually, having just returned from a week-long conference in North Carolina (
really nice weather!, the people are so friendly!).

I paused before answering in the most passive-aggressive manner possible, saying: Only if it is for a year, and we don’t have to sell the house.

In other words, nononononononononono!

I love this little corner of the world we have carved out for ourselves. Our house is neither grand, nor brand new, nor all that unique (colonials being a dime a dozen in New England). But we are surrounded by trees and have the kind of neighbors that make you banish the thought of a fence.

But, even more than our home or neighbors, I feel at home in New England. As autumn starts dipping its toe into our state, I get that familiar feeling of anticipation over the show of colors that will soon be everywhere. Leaves will fall so we can crunch them under our shoes. Apples will ripen so that we can eat them right off the tree. The nights will get cooler so that we can sleep with an extra blanket on the bed.

And, then, with any luck, we’ll get snow. I’m not sure why I get so excited about snow, but school cancellations are thrilling to me. I hop on the computer to check the cancellation list like a 15-year-old; this practice is made more peculiar when you realize that I am neither 15, nor in school; in fact, we homeschool so are not affected by the weather.

Fairly Odd Father pointed out that North Carolina has four seasons. . .sort of. Well, no snow, he admitted. To which I said, and that is good because ? ? ?

(I’m fickle, though. By February, I’m done with the snow; by May, I’m done with rain; by August, I’m done with humidity; and by November, I’m done with all those leaves in our yard).

Name a place and I can tell you why I wouldn’t want to leave here for there.

Friends new to Southern California gushed: We’re finding that it’s as nice here as everyone says it is! But, the lack of rain (less than an inch in the first half of the year) unnerves me, and there is that lack of snow to liven things up.

Other friends are in Kansas, and I have spent many fun days in Chicago; both may be lovely places to live, but I would need to be flown out to an ocean every few months. Plus, I once lived in the tornado belt and heard that siren enough for a lifetime.

After visiting Portland, Oregon, I thought it came pretty close to an ideal place to live, but it is r-e-a-l-l-y far from my mom and my sister’s family, and it seems to rain an awful lot. Love snow, don’t love rain.

I’ve also visited Austin, Seattle, Colorado ski country, San Diego, Washington DC, various parts of Florida and Arizona, New Orleans, New York City, the Jersey Shore, parts of Pennsylvania, Costa Rica, the coasts of Canada, and a bit of Europe. In every place, I see something that helps me to understand why someone would want to live there—either it is lovely weather, great culture, fun people or beautiful scenery (or any combination of these).

But, I keep coming back to my home in Eastern Massachusetts, a place with its own version of lovely weather, plenty of culture and history, people I love, and scenery that can stop me in my tracks.

We have agreed, though, that we would consider moving to a new state if the opportunity arose.

What could get me to leave my town, my state?

Why, it could only be the land of Ben & Jerry’s, maple syrup, Burlington, snow and rolling hills: Vermont.

For Vermont, I’d risk it all.