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Summertime 2014

If all summers have a theme, then this summer’s theme is probably ‘All Work and No Play’. Sure, we’ve managed to have some fun, but we’ve been even more busy than usual, and it’s been taking a toll. So July is pretty much our ‘sit back and relax’ month. We’re taking a break from all things ‘school-ish’ to focus on connectivity and communication.

That may seem like an odd thing to focus on, but I have found that as my children get older, there have been a few times where things have gotten imbalanced and we’ve had to bring things back to center. Right now, it’s a matter of some martyr-mothering, pre-teen angst and hormones, and a lack of structure.

I started working with our local produce co-op a few months ago, which cuts significantly into our work-week. Between that, our normal summertime endeavors and distractions, and the other things I involve myself in, I’ve allowed our school schedule to slip onto the back burner. So I am giving us a few weeks to sort of relax, then we’ll start back on a daily schedule in a few weeks. I actually planned for us to take a break this summer, which I haven’t done in the past, but we were slacking a bit before our scheduled break, so we’re still ‘off’.

I know, I know… there’s no such thing as ‘off’ in homeschooling. Progress is still being made, even if it’s not quantifiable and all that jazz – but there’s still part of me that has a schedule and it bugs me to get off of it. Not enough to complain about it more than this, but there you have it.

I thought I’d share some of what we’ve been up to lately. The kids are getting so big, and our homeschooling world has changed a lot since those first few months. They were so young when we started, and now they’re both in middle school! August is ‘not back to school’ month, so I am planning on linking up with iHomeschool Network’s NBTS Blog Hop and updating with their calendar again – we’ll have picture week, curriculum week, school space week and ‘day in the life’.

I last posted in April, so it’s definitely been a while. Our state fair falls in April now, thanks to hurricane season – it used to fall in October, which was nice because the weather (sometimes) was slightly cooler, but April isn’t so bad. The boys ran their first 5K; our first as a family, at the Mud Run (hence, the matching tee shirts). My time this year was 90:51:00 (or 1:30:51). Last year it was 1:19:56; but that’s okay because Loverly Husband and I hung back with LBB (who was more interested in it being a stroll through the mud than ‘racing’). In any case, I am super proud of my boys for doing it! The Mud Run fell between my birthday and my sister’s, so we’ve run for the last 2 years as kind of a birthday thing. One of the kids’ friends shares my birthday, so we had an all-out birthday bash team. It was fun!

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One of the trips our homeschool takes each year is through Neches Riverboat Adventures, which is an outdoor lab that studies the water. The drinking water in our city comes from the Neches River, so the students get to work with other departments (Coastal & Marine, TX Parks & Wildlife, Fish & Game, and others) to do experiments on the boat.

 

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We had the opportunity to work with the Texas General Land Office for Adopt-A-Beach again this year. We went to the same location we’ve been to in years past and it’s great to see the progress they’re making on bringing the park back to where it was before the hurricanes took their toll. People think that Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike were so long ago, and they were, but there are so many places in our area that still haven’t fully recovered from the damage they wrought. Sea Rim State Park was completely destroyed. It used to have boardwalks through the marshland, a 3-story visitor’s center with showers and an observation deck, and a lovely pier across the marsh from the center to the beach. They have restored (rebuilt) the main pier, and have poured some concrete for the parking areas, but there’s still a long way to go.

Even though the park is a shadow of the grandeur it once held, it’s still a hot-spot for visitors, and the state of the beach proved that. In addition to what visitors left behind, there was a ton of trash and debris washed up on the shores. We cleaned over a mile of beachfront with our team!

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The mysterious, deeply embedded rope. No one was able to pull it out!

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The boys with their dad, fencing with the pick-up sticks.

Another really cool field trip that we got to go on was to the Ocean Star Offshore Platform Museum in Galveston. It’s a retired ‘jack-up’ platform oil rig that’s been converted into a teaching facility. They have a really in-depth look at the oil industry, and of the different types of careers that are associated with it. There were a ton of model ships and oil rig platforms of all kinds for the kids to get up close to see. The actual drill and drill tower are still in tact on the deck, and we got to go right up to them to see how truly massive the pipes and bits are. It was really interesting! Of course, listening to a couple of hours of touting the amazingness of the oil industry got a little bit old, and prompted many discussions over the next few weeks about laternative energy sources and clean energy, but to truly make changes, you have to know what’s in place. Also, we live in Southeast Texas. Our economy is based on the oil industry, so if my kids follow their chosen career tracks, chances are they will end up working in it anyway.

CAM00411We go to Moody Gardens every year with our homeschool group, and this year’s trip was no exception to the fun! We spent our day in Palm Beach, which is the water park at MG.

This picture was on the upper deck of the ferry back across the bay. It was dark, and the only light around us was coming from the ferry lights. It was pretty creepy, so PeaGreen and I were telling scary/creepy stories to each other on the way back. There was a clown in costume on the ferry with us (which was really not funny), so that featured into

My favorite was about a group of people who boarded the ferry and got underway, but the trip just kept going and going, never getting any closer to land. It was pretty spooky; I was really glad when we got into position to drive off!

It was fun listening to the things my kiddo came up with.

 

Our community service partner this year is The Giving Field, which is a charity garden in our community. It is all organic, and sends all its produce to 2 soup kitchens in our area. So far this year, they’ve sent over 9,000lbs of produce to feed the hungry. It has been a lot of fun working with them. The kids are learning a lot about how to garden, and harvest. It’s been really nice seeing the beds that we’ve worked in flourish. We go every month, and it’s been a good thing.

Last month, our city held it’s first ever PRIDE event, and it was amazing! Beaumont PRIDE was such a great coming together of our community – we were there to support our friends and fellow homeschooling families! In addition to the festivities,  $1,650.00 was raised and donated to the Southeast Texas Food Bank. After spending the morning at Pride, we went back to our friend’s house for grilled outdoor goodness and a surprise engagement. It was a lovely and amazing day!
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Last but not least… some crafting has been going on around here – I wanted a TARDIS suitcase, and since I couldn’t find one I liked anywhere, I made one. It’s painted on all four sides, and the front is topped with blue glitter paint (to give it some sparkle). I’m quite happy with it:

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I also got to attend a WFTDA Officiating Clinic with a couple of my fellow officials from SRG. We learned a lot, and got to make some great connections in the derby world.

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I also had the privilege of speaking at a local homeschool conference put on by HomeBased Learning. I talked about the ‘typical’ homeschooling day, and about socialization. I will probably make another post with more on that; there were some awesome things that some of the other speakers presented that I want to explore. It was a fun experience, and I look forward to doing something similar in the future.

Hope your summer is going well!

Warmly,
~h


When Life Gets in the Way

It must be a rule that homeschooling bloggers do fine for a while, but inevitably, they seem to get wrapped up in living life and blogging falls to the wayside. That’s certainly true in my case; whereas I used to update regularly, over the last year or so, updates have become sporadic. I’ve made numerous resolutions to myself to get back into the habit of blogging regularly – even have a reminder on my calendar on my phone – and still, somehow time slips past and another day, week, month has gone by without me updating.

But, rather than spend a lot of time making excuses, I’d rather tell you about what we’ve been up to! I last updated in January, and since then, things have really exploded around here! Not literally, thank goodness – actual explosions would be a little bit hard to handle. But schedule-wise, we’ve never been more busy than we have been over the last few months.

One of the biggest changes to our homeschooling life has been the addition of a co-op class to our homeschool group. Some of the group members and I have been talking about it for a year or so; the idea of a co-op has always appealed to me, but we just never had the right dynamic. But about a month ago, we finally got it started! Our co-op meets weekly, and has 3 groups of students: A group (ages 10-13); B group (ages 7-9) and C group (ages 4-6). We also have a nursery group. We have 16 students and 2 babes-in-arms, with 7 families participating.

We’re just wrapping up our first round of classes – Science Lab (in prep for our group Science Fair), French, Art, PE, and ‘Life School’ which is a practical math class. Our second round of classes will include Geography (landforms & maps), Science Lab (experiments) and continue with French, Art and PE.

Here are a couple of pics form our art class:

 

 

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We’ve been hiking in the Big Thicket – we went on a post-burn hike to check out the forest after a prescribed burn. The burn was only in certain sections of the trail so it was really cool to see the difference between the burned sections and the non-nursed sections. There were scorches on the trees higher than we were tall, which was both interesting and kinda scary – I can’t imagine being in the woods during a fire!
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And started a new community service project this year, with a local charity garden, The Giving Field. On our first trip out, we helped harvest a total of 17.5 lbs of various salad greens – kale, lettuce, and spinach. We’ll be working with them throughout this year, which will give the kids a chance to see the garden through the entire year, from preparation, to planting, to growth and harvest, to nurturing the soil and planning for next year’s planting.DSCF0138

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We also visited the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship TEXAS with our homeschool group recently:

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participated in our first college tour:
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PeaGreen is yet to be convinced, but I think LBB would go tomorrow if I let him. He seemed quite take with the idea of dorm living.
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as well as a host of other field trips that I haven’t been diligent in photographing. Thankfully, a new camera has recently found its way into my possession (after the sad demise of my last camera – fully loaded with pictures, mind you – in the watery grave of Village Creek last year), so perhaps I’ll be more motivated to update. No promises though ;)

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Rest assured that we’re still around – LBB is wrapping up his first year of middle school (MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!!) and PeaGreen will start in the fall. It’s so odd how much more self-directed they are becoming as they get older. We do still harp on the basics, but they’re actually interested in pursuing their own studies as well. I’m continually amazed!

It’s spring time, which means that we’ll be getting our garden started soon. Then, summertime is right around the corner. Time flies…

Keep in touch!

Warmly,
~h


Teach Them to do for Themselves

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts in the homeschool community about not measuring up. There was a time when homeschooling was fairly synonymous with genius-level intelligence. Even though that stereotype still gets lip-service, as homeschooling becomes more and more popular, it’s just us normal folks, with normal kids schooling in the kitchen these days (or maybe that shows my own perceptions…).

Not only that, but as my kids get older, we’re coming up on the point in time where we’re moving past the basics and into more future career and interest driven learning – meaning that the boys will have more say in what they learn about.*

One of the mantras that I use is ‘Education isn’t about teaching them everything. It’s about exposing them to as much as possible, and teaching them HOW to find the things they need to know, when they need to know it’.

It’s about teaching them to read directions. I didn’t teach my kids how to cook; I taught them how to read, what measurements are and how to properly read/decipher fractions, fire/heat safety and where the dishes go. Nowadays, they can cook anything they have a recipe for (and clean up the kitchen afterwards, too).

That’s kind of how I approach their education. My main goal is to expose them to as much as possible. We do all of the regular subjects – reading, writing, math, science, history, etc.; and I also cover the arts, health, physical education, and other ‘normal’ things that you’d find in any school. But I also glaze over things that may not hold their attention as well as other things. For example: when we covered Vikings, the kids were crazy into it, so we lingered there. Did a lapbook, build a forge in the backyard so the kids could play at being blacksmiths, read a couple of Viking-centered stories, watched How to Train Your Dragon 3 times, and other fun Viking-related stuff. But now, we’re in 1600′s England, with Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and King James and the kids are all ‘ Ho-hum… can get skip this and get to the Black Death already??’ In a word, yes. Glazing… it can be a wonderful thing!

Even though this is one of my personal favorite times in history (reformation of the church, splitting off of the Puritans, the reign of Elizabeth I and the powerhouse that was England… so exciting!), the kids aren’t feeling it right now. But, the beauty of history is that it repeats, so in a few years, we can cover this again, and maybe they’ll be more interested in the same parts I am. And, their lack of interest doesn’t keep me from re-reading the things that I enjoy.

Back to how this applies to homeschooling, though… education is meant to be the foundation upon which your life is built. Helping ensure that my kids have a solid knowledge of the basics means that from there, they have the keys to unlock everything set before them. They can then learn about any subject or field that they choose to; their options are limited only by what they believe they can do.

To sum up, I don’t have to be a perfect, rigorous, every-day-8a-3p, scheduled homeschooling mom in order to be successful, and have successful kids, and neither do you. We just have to teach them the basics, and empower them to do for themselves. Because they can. And they will.

Warmly,
~h

*We are eclectic homeschoolers. I like traditional/classical education for the younger years, moving more towards interest/career path learning as they get older.

 


Fight for Kids, Not Against Them

I came across this article the other day that was about fighting for your boys instead of against them. The post was Christian-based, but made some really valid ideas… up to a certain point.

Some of the first things on the page were amazing observations; that as our sons grow, feeling that we (parents and children) weren’t on the same team anymore; that it’s normal for our children to challenge parental authority as a natural part of breaking from the family unit to seek/establish their own identity; and that emotions can creep in and do their best to persuade Mom that the child is the problem, rather than the situation/behaviour.

I’m totally with her up to that point. I was expecting similarly ‘aware’ progression and advice/solutions to help a parent and a child work through this stage in a positive and productive manner, but what I got was an utter break in rational thought. To be fair, I didn’t realize that this was a Christian-based article; had I known that, I would have been prepared for the abrupt shift from ‘awareness and reason’ to the ‘slam-the-shutters-down’ glaze of reason in favor of the party-line of Christian-based ignorance.

Rather than offer practical solutions, the author completely ignores the *actual* issues like communication, understanding and the like, she introduces unnecessary confusion into the equation by excusing the child’s behaviour completely by blaming ‘Satan’ as the one who’s destroying your relationship with your child and “Jesus/God” and prayer being the solution. Rather than actually DOING anything, she advocates what boils down to making a series of wishes, crossing your fingers and hoping that things will get better while absolving yourself of any further responsibility. After all, it’s not our fault that these issues escalate; it’s ‘Satan’.

I’ve never understood this  mindset – that parents bear no responsibility. Putting the onus on parents to ‘pray harder’ or ‘do more’ (which usually means getting more involved at church, which ends up taking the parents even further away from their kids) makes parents feel even more helpless, and that things are even further removed from their hands to ‘fix’ things. Perpetuating the idea that parents can’t be wrong under the guise of being ‘godly’ only further alienates children from their parents, because the solutions aren’t family-based. All the kids end up seeing is a parent traveling a road that the child isn’t on, doesn’t understand, or isn’t interested in. More effective, I believe, if for parents to be open to the idea that they may have things ALL WRONG. Examine their methods and look for flaws. Admitting to their mistakes, acknowledging their humanity and propensity to make mistakes levels the playing field and puts you all firmly on the same side. How much easier is it for a child to admit to his mistakes when a parent first admits their own?

I believe in helping my children understand that they control their own actions, just as I do. We all make decisions each and every step of our lives, and they aren’t always the right ones. But even a misstep can be re-directed. It’s not some invisible evil that tempts and lures us; it’s decision-making on our part. Sure, we can be led astray, or get lost for a time, but having a family structure that allows for mistakes and is supportive about correcting them can help set things right again. Cultivating an environment within the family of being honest with ourselves about how we feel, what we need, asking for help when we need it, and a host of other issues that both begin and end with the parents. I don’t believe that there is an invisible force that will magically fix things, or in excusing my children’s undesirable behaviours (due to immaturity, lack of experience or hormonally-driven out of control emotions) because of ‘Satan’. Poking your head in the sand never solved anything. Perpetuating a culture of helplessness by shirking the monumental task of raising children to be responsible, self-aware adults who contribute positively to society is detrimental to our future on this planet. It’s even more difficult when the parents are re-working their own childhood trauma to make better decisions for their own families.

The practical solution to this issue begins when they are small. Children understand language long before they have the ability to speak. If even a 6 month old dog can understand basic commands, think how much more intelligent our children are. If we give our children the vocabulary to describe their feelings, help them focus on how they feel as a basis for asking for what they need, imagine how much more concise their communication will be when they’re older. Sometimes, for myself especially, this means learning to do that for yourself is the first step – and it’s a hard one. While this is my ideal, it’s certainly not always attainable; I’m human and fallible, not a robot that can be programmed without deviation to a previous operating system. I’ve also failed in numerous ways to override my first impulse and implement the new ways of communication that I’ve striven to learn. Thankfully, my kids are both understanding and forgiving, and we continue to learn together.

I’m not an expert of child-rearing, but I do know that ‘prayer’, at least when applied to this type of situation, isn’t a solution. It may be part of a solution, but it’s not going to work without the active involvement of the parents and cooperative action from the children. Kids need active parenting – proActive parenting, even. Especially as pre-teens and teens, when they’re going through the agonizing process of separating themselves from their identity as an almost-adult instead of ‘X’s child’. I would so much rather have my children know that they can come to me with mist-steps along the way and know that they will find a hearing (and understanding) ear rather than a disappointed tut-tut and reference to the Nation of Israel, or some other biblical anecdote that vaguely mirrors the situation they’ve come to me with (I always HATED that as a kid).

I don’t ‘like’ organized religion as a whole; that’s no secret. But if you’re religious, that’s fine – pray, pray for your kids, pray with them. But please don’t make the mistake of praying and thinking that you’re done. Offspring are long-term projects; ones that take YEARS to fully develop, and they need you every step of the way.

Warmly,
~h


NYR’s 2014 – Better Late than Never!

New Year’s resolutions tend to be a joke among the general population. Not that I don’t get a good laugh at all the unrealistic, radical lifestyle changes that people plan to put into action like flipping a switch, but I find it somewhat insulting that the plan to make changes has become so cliche’. Most of my friends make resolutions, and actually do work towards them. Either their resolutions are more realistic, or they’re more motivated than the average Joe; but I’m lucky to be around people who are inspiring me to continue working towards my goals well into the month.
I’ve flip-flopped back and forth about whether to do resolutions this year, and about how to do them. There’s a trend right now about choosing a single word or phrase that sums up your goals and making that your theme for the year. I like that idea, but don’t know exactly if it will work for me… but who knows. Once I getall of this out of my head and onto the screen, I may find a theme when proofreading!

So, I am going to do my traditional 9, and update my last year’s resoloutions as well (as usual). Here’s last year’s post; I’m late this year – it’s Jan. 14th already.

2014 NYRs:

1.) Food – Join the local produce co-op; cook with more fresh (and unusual) foods. Be more open to trying new recipes, including gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and other diverse styles. We’ve been in a rut food-wise and I am ready to get out of it! Also – freezer meals. I’m feeling freezer meals in 2014.

2.) Home Improvement – this is an on-going thing. We’re planning for a new roof in the spring, and hopefully the kids’ rooms will be finished this year (again).

3.) Health & Fitness – Rather than put pressure on myself again for a specific belt goal, I am going to plan on karate 2x per week, and biking or walking/running 2 miles per week. I also want to do two 5k’s this year. More would be great, but at least those two. I said one last year, and didn’t do it, so TWO this year! (Maybe even 3!)

4.) Kids – They’re really growing up now! I’d love for a family vacation to be on the menu this year (even if it’s a camping trip or weekend in Houston, Galveston or San Antonio). I really want to start bigger art projects with them. They’re always interested in my art, so I want to get them set up in collaborative projects with me, and with others.

5.) Husband – Date Nights are always in the plan! I’d like to put into use some of the things I’ve Pinned on my board for dates or sweet things to do for him. Mini-break would be just heavenly!!

6.) Myself – Art Classes; Journalistas, Mom’s Night Outs… all of this and more on a regular basis! Writing workshop – if I can find one, go to it! Write, write, WRITE. Also, wanting to get back into painting this year. Even if it’s Painting with a Twist ;)

7.) Extended Family – Visit my parents more, continue working on family history/genealogy research. Maybe plan a big family reunion.

8.) Community – We’re Spiral Scouting this year, in addition to our regular community service work that we do thought school. That will lend the kids even more opportunities to help out on a larger basis. We’re already signed up for a river clean-up and plan to pitch in on a creek clean up as well.

9.) Work – Finish my BFUSA cert., start looking into pre-req.s for school (for me!).

So there…. those are my plans for this year. Maybe my theme could be ‘Onward and Upward’…

2013 recap:

  1. Complete ‘Wreck this Journal’, and keep up with the Art Journalistas group on Facebook. (It’s a secret group; one for my IRL friends and I to post pictures and progress and meet up to browse each others’ books. We’re starting in January.) 2014: DONE!! I’m working on my second journal in this series as we speak (or as I type). 
  2. repaint living room & kids’ rooms (also includes new beds in their rooms, decor and the like) 2014: FAIL (klaxon) I painted about 2/5 of the living room and hate the color. Haven’t even started on the kids rooms. Why is this is HARD to accomplish??
  3. spend more time with Grandmama & Mom & Dad (My mom had a stroke this past year, and it really pointed out how little time we spend together. Plus, my grandmother’s sister died a few weeks ago – her younger sister – which really brought home how much time she may have left. Making more time to visit with my family needs to be a priority this year.) 2014: DONE (and continue to do. I could spend MORE time with them, but who can’t say that? Keeping them in my plans for this year as well.
  4. Harry Potter Marathon. I’ve talked about it many times… now is the time. ALL of the movies – one weekend. 2014: Meh… The kids and I have started working through the HP series as part of their literature and reading assignments. They’re enjoying the book, so when we finish a book, the plan is to watch the movie, then do a comparison diagram.
  5. Karate: keep on keepin’ on. I’d like to be a green belt (or maybe even blue!) by the end of the year… though I am  not the one who has the final say in whether or not I get to test; still, I plan on working hard, and I think that green is doable over the next 12 months. I also want to learn the Dojo Kun in Japanese. Also included in this res is going to be general health/fitness goals. More HAES, less sighing over a flat stomach. 2014: I took a break form karate from July-December. 3x a week was stressing me out with all the other stuff that’s always on my plate. I just burnt out of it. So I’ve started again this year, and am only committing myself to 2x per week (Tues & Thurs) so my weekend is free. Other health/fitness goals have suffered for the last 5 months or so, but I am back on track.
  6. Submit at least one writing project for publication (AnnA – gonna need your help on this). I also want to work on establishing and maintaining a regular writing schedule this year, and collaborate more with AnnA (my amazing writing partner – click her name above and read her blog!). Also, check out the local writer’s guild group again. I tried it a while back and it wasn’t my cuppa; it’s been a while though, so maybe fresh meat? 2014: FAIL  on everything but collab. with AnnA. She’s back in town though, so I foresee more collabs in the future.
  7. Date Night with Loverly Husband at least 1x each month. we did really well on this a while back, but have gotten away from it and it shows, so back onto the list it goes. Up this week: Django Unchained. At some point this coming year, I also want to take a mini-break, just the two of us. San Antonio or Dallas, maybe. 2014: Once a month was maybe pushing it – we resolve, but we have a life. The good thing about it is that even if we don’t get to go out alone together, we still enjoy one another’s company when hanging out at home, or with the kids. But a mini-break does sound heavenly.
  8. Family Vacation – we so very much need to do this. We’re in better financial shape that ever before, so maybe this is doable this year. 2014: Back on the list for this year!
  9. Run a 5K… or walk a 5K. I really want to do a Color Run and/or a Tough Mudder…. or aZombie Walk… or a Flash Mob. Something along those lines. We have friends who are into 5Ks as a family and it looks like fun. I’d love to get the kids involved in something like that. 2014: FAIL – but I’m not giving up! The color run is coming up, and we have a Zombie Response Team in the area now, so maybe a Zombie Walk is forthcoming ;)

So… that’s that. I’m not updating the past years’ goals like I have in the past. Some of that is irrelevant; much of it is still on the list.

I thought that while I was on the subject of goals, I’d make a few homeschool goals for this year as well:

1.) Stick to our schedule a bit better. We did well through October, but November and December were difficult to keep on-track. January has been barely holding on; we need to do better.

2.) Math manipulatives – get better use out of them! We have a ton, and they just sit in the cabinet for the most part.

3.) Make use of Pinterest in a more productive manner. There are so many cool things there – that’s why I pinned them!! Now, the trick is to use them!

 

In any case, I think I will stick with Upward and Onward as my theme for this year. How about you – themes for the year, or traditional resolutions? Share yours!

Warmly,
~h


Embarking on Year 5 of Homeschooling

Wow – I can’t believe that we’re about to start our 5th year of homeschooling. It’s mind-blowing! It definitely doesn’t seem like that long, but neither I, nor the kids are planning to stop or go back to more traditional school anytime soon. Homeschooling has really become more than ‘something we do’; more than ever, it’s how we live.

I was looking back over some of the first blog posts I made, and it surprises me how much we’ve changed over the years – and what remains the same. Some of the traditions we started observing way back then are still part of our routine today. Tea time stands out as a big one (though admittedly, tea happens more than once during the day now, but we still gather in the kitchen for a cuppa). Field trips are still on Tuesdays, and we still mostly have school in our jammies.

Other things have changed. We have dramatically increased the amount of work assigned over the years. Back when we first started, I only focused on math, reading, handwriting and grammar. We did a bit of history (mostly pre-history – dinos and hunter-gatherer societies) and some literature (which Mommy read). But as we finished our first year, I added more – spelling, history (formally; Story of the World I) and science, along with lapbooking and notebooking, to what was already on our plate. By the next year (year 3), I added even more – research projects, science fair, public speaking, community service,  individualized science, and geography. This past year (year 4) brought journaling (notebooking’s larger, more intimidating cousin), pre-algebra and even more critical thinking work into the mix. I bring this up because I see some of my friends and other newbies playing the comparison game. I get called ‘rigorous’ all the time, but I’m not, really – just really focused with the kids on college. They’re comparing where they are (just beginning to homeschool – some not even a full 6 months in) to where we are, four years past that. It’s not a fair comparison! If you’re one of those people, I say to you, “Don’t be so hard on yourselves, newbies!! Chillax for a minute. There’s plenty of time yet.”

LBB is in middle school now. In the fall, both of my boys will be in jr. high. I’m shocked at how very grown up my babies are now. They’re coming out with full-on developed concepts now; theories about *things* that they’ve learned about independently. It’s lovely to see, and to hear that their thinking process is balanced with a healthy dose of freethinking and skepticism, along with wise-eyed wonder, creativity and pure child-like fantasy. 

We have big plans for this year, including LBB’s introduction to the Civil Air Patrol. We looked into it a few years ago, bt you have to be 12 to participate, and with LBB’s recent birthday, he’s finally old enough. Loverly Husband expressed interest in joining their adult program, so maybe this will be something they can do together. We’ve kinda slacked off on karate. I keep dabbling with the thought of getting back into it, but the motivation remains to be seen. LBB expressed interest in taking tennis lessons (continued interest from this past summer), so we may be looking into that instead. PeaGreen is still taking karate lessons, but only occasionally.

Curric-wise, much of what we’re using will remain the same as when we started ‘seat work’ back in August.

  • Math – Everyday Math 5 & 6 plus workbooks & journaling
  • Spelling – Dr. Spello, word bank, workbook lessons
  • Grammar – DOL/ HM English & Thoughtful Journals
  • History – Story of the World III & Activity Guide & Lapbook; composer/artist study
  • Science – Journaling/Nature Study/ text for 5th & 6th grade / gardening
  • Current Events – Morning Board/ CNN student news / community service
  • Weekly research project
  • Writing – creative writing/narrative/non-fiction/ picture-prompts
  • handwriting practice
  • reading/literature
  • PE/Health – FLASH
  • Spiral Scouts

Our homeschool group is planning to begin a co-op in mid-January that will offer classes in art, science labs and some electives. If not, then we’ll have to add all that stuff in as well.

On the homefront, we got a puppy a few months ago. He’s a chi-weenie (half chihuahua, half dachshund) and he’s adorable!

That’s about it for now. I plan to update more regularly this year – it’s one of my NYR’s, which will be posted in the next week or so. Until then, enjoy the rest of your holiday time!

Warmly,
~h

 

 


We Must Speak Out.

InstinctiveMom:

The Pearls and their ‘ministry’ are under fire again. Another dead child ‘in the name of god’. HOW are these people still publishing? Their most recent victim is Hana Williams. This beautiful girl  ‘was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition‘. I am re-blogging this from 2010 to raise awareness for the appalling things that are being done to these children – the dangerous, horrendous, sickening things. 

I am also calling out to Christian parents to speak out as well. This is being done in the name of YOUR god. This is your Heavenly Father’s name that is being dragged through the mud. I was raised Christian, and there’s no way that the god I was raised to know would approve of the methods advocated in To Train Up A Child.

If you haven’t read it, check here for the full text. If you want just the highlights, check Patheos, here.

To add your name/blog to the public boycott, and get your own banner/sticker for your website or blog, check MuseMama here.

Seriously. SPEAK OUT.
~h

Originally posted on This Adventure Life:

I’ve been aware of and vocal in other internet arenas about the horror of the writings, teaching and actions by followers of Michael and Debi Pearl for years. Between them and Gary Ezzo’s Babywise series, I’ve had many conversations about these books and philosophy, both with moms online and in real life, and once even with Anne Marie Ezzo herself, and I have yet to find any value in what reads like a ‘how to’ manual for child abuse. In fact, many of the methods purported to help you raise perfect children are so completely contrary to the notion of biblical ‘grace’ that it makes me wonder how people who profess to imitate Jesus could be so blind.  It literally makes me ill to hear people defend these books and even more so the people who wrote them.

I will say that I don’t think that parents intentionally pick…

View original 564 more words


Homeschooling: Where Do I Begin?

One of my favorite homeschooling bloggers (I say ‘blogger’, but she’s on Facebook), The Libertarian Homeschooler, wrote on this topic today. Her answer was long and thought out, and I sincerely encourage you to read her entire answer, and the comments that go with it, but here’s the part that called to me:

“Q: With all the resources and information available, where do you even begin? And how?

A: You begin with relationship. Children don’t come with instruction manuals. You have to seek them out. Many of the instruction manuals will tell you that you don’t have to make any changes to your life to accommodate your children. They sell marvelously well because we, as a culture, really don’t want to have to grow up and make time, space, and accommodations for our children. We want to be selfish and for our children to accommodate us. Be counter cultural. Devote time to understanding the planes of a child’s development. Find out what observation means. Learn to read your child’s actions, cues, and signals. Spend a lot of time doing this. Become intimately acquainted with your child’s communications and gestures. Watch what your child does without interrupting. Observe keenly. Like you’re looking for treasure. Because you are.”

I LOVE that she emphasized that aspect of homeschooling. This applies not only for homeschooling, but for having children in general. Parenting is not easy, but it’s not hard either, provided you treat your children like real people. Because that’s exactly what they are. They’re not clean slates that you start writing on the moment they’re born. They’re people, born with a personality that will develop with or without your help. Yes, you can influence them, but the basic wiring for them to become who they will be is already there. They’re born with feelings, with a sense of justice and fairness, and a thirst for knowledge.

More than that, though, the children that come into your family via birth, circumstance or choice, are entrusted to you so that you can help them grow into the potential that they are born with. Your task is to help them grow into productive members of the society we live in. In order to successfully do that, you need to know them; to be in tune with them. You have to meet them where they are, so that you can guide them on their path. Whether you choose to homeschool or utilize public/private/charter/alternative schooling methods, the point remains the same, and it requires just as much effort no matter how or where your children are educated.

In the context of homeschooling, I found that I lost some of the connections I had to my boys when they started public school. Even though I was at the school a lot of the time, volunteering in their classrooms, chaperoning field trips and doing my best to work with the school to help overall, it wasn’t the same as being accessible to them, and having access to them during their peak hours. Now, some people are going to read that and come to the conclusion that I’m just an overbearing mom, intent on monitoring her kids 24/7. If that’s what you take away from this, then peace be with  you. You needn’t comment, and I’m not here to try to change your mind; you’re not my target audience. But if you ‘get’ this concept, then you know what I am talking about. It’s more than ‘wanting control’; I don’t control my kids. In fact, I am sure that many people I’ve met wished I exercised more control over them. But that’s not my job. My job is to guide. To inform and educate, and trust that I’ve done my job well enough from my kids to make good decisions. At the same time, they are kids, and mistakes will be made, as will lapses in judgement. My job then, is to help them see other paths, other decisions that could have been made, and hope that next time, they choose better.

It’s been a while since I posted here, and I haven’t abandoned my blog; I’ve just been busy devoting time to other pursuits. But you’ll hear from me eventually, when something strikes my fancy and I feel the need to post about it. Y’all have a good day ;)

Warmly,

~h


First Day of Homeschool 2013-2014

ADITL

ADITLI did this once a couple of years ago, but things have changed so much since then that I thought I’d do another ‘day in the life’. This is our first day of homeschooling for the Fall Semester, in our 4th year.

Keep in mind that I wrote the above paragraph before today (being Monday, August 5th), with grand plans. In reality, I got a couple of pics early in the day and gradually kinda forgot about it after lunch. Also, the kids went to help Grammie move some things while I ran a couple of errands (which would have been boring to photo-document anyway), and since they weren’t with me, I figured you didn’t need to see me get gas and go by the bank.

My morning started off bright an dearly (7:15 AM) with Loverly Husband getting up for work. I got the kids up to say bye to Daddy; early, but with the caveat that they could get back in bed until 8 (their normal school day wake-up time). Fortunately for me, they both decided to stay up, so they had breakfast whilst Mommy mainlined caffeine.

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After brekky, instead of answering 9,000 questions about ‘what are we doing this year??,’ I put the kids new books on the floor and we went over everything from which books we’ll be using to the new schedule. I introduced them to Daily Oral Language, the Morning Board and their Thoughtful Journals, and the various other books – old and new – for this year.

We started our ‘actual’ day a tiny bit late – about 9:15 rather than 9 on the dot, but by lunchtime, they’d made it up and we were back on schedule. Pizza for lunch, then a break and back to the books… well, folder. Their weekly research paper, which we’ve been doing for a couple of years now. LBB chose to research jello moulds (having found some in the art supply drawers), and PeaGreen chose to learn about guitars this week.

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After the schoolwork was done, we had a ‘daily review’; something new we’re instituting this year, over tea. Tea Time is at 3PM, as usual, then reading for an hour before being 100% done and able to go do other things. In this case, other things meant going to held Grammie whilst Mommy ran some errands. Here’s where the picture takin’ drifted off; after school was over, I sorta forgot about that part.

The following morning (2nd day of school), I took their school pictures for this year, and made their ID cards for the new school year and had them laminated.

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We’re currently in our 2nd week of school. So far, things have gone along quite well. The morning board is working very well – minor tweaks and changes as we’re moving along to help it work better, but it’s a really good addition for us. We’ve also started watching CNN Student News each morning, and they are even trying their hand at writing opinion pieces based on current events. We’ve also been using our Thoughtful Logs – OMG, that is such a great idea! Having all of Grammar, Writing and Literature in one lesson works very well for us.

How’s your first week going?

Warmly,
~h


School Supplies Shopping

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IMG_20130801_151923_Max_Rain_PeriIt’s my favorite time of year – school supplies sales! I just love the bins and bins full of pencils, crayons, erasers, pens, post-it notes, composition notebooks, binders and other things that we consider ‘essentials’ for starting school.

You might wonder if, since we’re not in school-school, we may needs school supplies. Well, I’ll tell ya… just like any other school-child, my kids go through plenty of paper, pencils, binders and notebooks. We use some of the same things, but different things as well. Since we lapbook, we use file folders by the box. We also use a ton of construction paper and glue. Pencils probably top ever student’s supply list, and notebooking in our house only can go in composition notebooks, so we go through several each year. Pocket/brad folders also are prime real estate around here.

So, on my list was:

Don't judge me!!!
 

@ Target

  • pocket/brad folders (22 @ $.15 each; = $6.60)
  • page protectors (1 pkg of 50 = $3.79)
  • glue ( 5 – Elmer’s school glue; $.52 =$2.60)
  • markers
  • post-it notes (4 @ $1.00 = $4.00)
  • colored pencils (2 @ .75 ea = $1.50)
  • dry-erase markers (pack with 6 black & 4 colored = $5.00)
  • snap cases
  • construction paper (heavy weight) (2 @ 3.99 = $7.98)
  • pencils (2 packs of Ticonderoga @$3.99 ea = $7.98)
  • clear slick contact paper
  • loose-leaf paper (reinforced; wide-ruled = $2.00 per pack)
  • composition notebooks (5 for $3.00)
  • packing tape (clear)
  • page dividers $4 @ $1.00 ea, = $4.00)
  • page dividers w/ pockets (1 pkg. @ $2.29)
  • 2″ binders (2 @ $3.50 each = $7.00)
  • mechanical pencils (pkg. of  =$3.79)
  • BIC sharpwriter mechanical pencils (pkg of  =$2.74)
  • crayons (4 @ .50 ea. = $2.00)

There are still some things left to get, and some things I will need more of (like page protectors… they should make those in packs of 500, not 50), so I will be heading back to the store sooner or later, but for now, we’re good to go!

What about you? Hitting the sales, or minimalist homeschoolers?

Warmly, ~h


Lesson Planning – Fall 2013

I am always so excited at this time of the year. It’s LESSON PLANNING TIME!! I have been reading and researching my little heart our and now I am ready to start putting it all together.

It’s been a long time since I have detailed exactly how I got about my lesson planning for the year, and watching a friend of mine who is new to homeschooling trying to find her way has reminded me how difficult lesson planning can be for your first year of homeschooling. There is literally an information overload when you start looking at resources. It gets completely overwhelming, and it’s easy to get stuck.

I will say that for first-years, I really do still stand by what I have always said – don’t buy much (if anything); sample everything you can get your hands on to see what you and your student like best – but most of all, learn to find the FUN in learning again. If that means that for your first year, you only do the 3 r’s, that’s cool. The rest will come. De-school if you need to, but if not, that’s cool, too! Don’t get locked into one mindset or curriculum – and open mind on your first year will help you find your way to what is right for your family.

But if you’re looking for more intense lesson planning, here’s how I got about it (which is in no way saying that mine is the only/best way; this is just how I, personally, do it. There are hundreds of other blogging homeschool moms who are more than willing to share their methods as well).

Fist, I decide what subjects I want to tackle, and how many times I want to cover them each week. For us this year, it’s:

  • Handwriting (Daily)
  • Math (D)
  • Spelling (D)
  • Writing (D)
  • Literature (2)
  • English (3)
  • Latin (3)
  • Weekly Research Project (D)
  • History (2)
  • Science (2)
  • Geography (1)
  • Art / Music (2)
  • an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)

Then, go about refining the weekly classes:

  • Handwriting (Daily)
  • Math (D)
  • Spelling (D)
  • Writing (D)
  • Literature (2), English (3)
  • Latin (3), Art / Music (2)
  • Weekly Research Project (D)
  • History (2), Science (2), Geography (1)
  • an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)

That is a much shorter list, because some of my subjects alternate days. Since I am only doing 2 days of Literature, then I can focus more on English the other three, etc…

Next, I can start looking at multi-disciplinary lessons. For example, I taught the boys more individual lessons (a set time for Spelling work, then a set time for English (parts of speech, sentence structure, etc.), then a set time for History, and so on. Now that they’re older, I can lump all of the reading/writing centered lessons into one.

Then, I start going through the books I have on hand, and through my links and Pinterest boards (by subject) to see what I wanted to use. Pinterest can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s awesome for archiving things, but unless you are very conscious about properly categorizing your pins, it can be a big mess when it comes to finding things. I separate my pins by subject. All grades are under the same subject, but I can wade through to find the right grade (or adapt and idea up or down for my kids’ needs). There are so many amazing links on Pinterest; even searching (i.e.: Math 6th grade) pulls up a ton of links that you can use.

This year, we’re trying something I’ve only just read about (on Pinterest), called ‘Thoughtful Journals’. The concept is fairly simple; a composition notebook divided into 5 sections (or 5-subject spiral). Each section is named. The sections are: My Strategies, My Thoughts, Powerful Words and Phrases, Author’s Craft & Genre Learning. As you go through your lessons, the student uses the journal to record notes and other useful tools to help them learn to be better readers and writers. I am paraphrasing, badly, in describing this technique, so I will link you to Life in 4B, which is the awesome blog I found the idea at. In any case, the Thoughtful Journal is where most of our work related to Grammar and Writing will find a home this year.

History, Science and Geography are another area where I smooshed subjects together. We are still going through Story of the World II at the moment; I plan to be finished by December. We are still lapbooking it, thanks to CarrotTopX3. When Alia from ‘Chronicle of the Earth’ was unable to finish the lapbook template for SOTWII, awesome bloggin’ mom Brenda stepped in to fill the gaps (for which homeschooling moms all over the WORLD are eternally grateful!!) – Team Work, yo!! SOTW makes History easy, especially with lapbooking. We try to coordinate our artist and composer study with History, so even though they’re not ‘on the list’, we still work that in. As we finish up SOTWII, I have SOTWIII waiting in the wings. I have already started lapbooking it; hopefully I’ll be able to post it in full when we start on III. We have the activity guide as well, and I am looking forward to digging into that.

Science fills the other two weekdays when we’re not focusing on History. We usually switch them up, but I am considering doing History M/T and Science W/Th so they have two days in succession to focus on one subject this year – dig a little deeper. Then Friday, of course, leaves us time for Geography as it’s own subject. We also tie in Geo. with History, but this gives us extra time to work on land forms or other interesting components of the earth (which is kind of History AND Science).

Math is another one that’s easy to plan; I don’t go off-road much which Math, so I get a grade-level curriculum and go from there. We’re working with Math Advantage this year. Latin is another one that I don’t experiment much with. I don’t know Latin any better than my kids at this point (though I am learning), so I can’t rightly ‘teach’ it to them – we’re learning together. We are still in Book I, but will be moving to Book II later this year.

Once I decide how I am going to plan my lessons, I start looking at the actual curriculum. For the most part, I stick with what I can find that’s grade-level. But, as is wont to happen with homeschoolers, I have found that they naturally fall into their own strengths and weaknesses as they progress. I found a great article discussing Homeschool Misconceptions that touches on this a bit, and is worth reading. For us, it means that this year their curriculum may fall anywhere from 4th to 7th grade. Spelling is a weakness, but Grammar is something they’re both strong in. It balances out! I found that even the school system uses different books for different grades, depending on the school district. I have a copy of the Science book that I used in school in the 6th grade that the manufacturer says is 5th grade level. I’d rather have my kids spelling ‘below’ than keeping up and failing in the classroom. Their spelling skills can be improved. Self-esteem takes longer. Whatever sources or grade levels you choose for your kids, you get the most out of it in whatever way works best for your family.

Once you find your curriculum, it’s time to look back at your schedule. You may want to flip through the books you’ll be using and make some rough outlines of how much material you want to cover each week, or how long you want to spend in one unit before moving on. I usually map out the schedule on notebook paper (Week 1 = Unit 1, Chapter 1; Week 2 =Unit 1 Chapter 2; etc.). This may change during the year, and that’s okay. But having a guide makes it easy to see the pacing of the year a bit better. You can always make adjustments later on.

This year, I am using a binder in addition to my usual lesson planner (homeschool bossy book). We aren’t doing workboxes this year, so I have been using the workbox plans in my planner for scheduling. It works well for that. The binder is a more in-depth, day by day type of lesson planner. I have it divided by subject, and the year’s activities per subject mapped out in each tab. This is also where I am storing printed materials, and unit study/lapbook plans. Having both planners will help make the day’s activity easier to follow, I hope.

We have in the past clocked about 25-30 hours of school per week. That averages out to some longer days and some shorter days. This year, however, I am pushing for more of a set schedule – about 30 per week. That’s on the high end of what we normally do, but I think it’s reasonable for my kids. Mine still need to be led quite a bit, or they lose focus. Not all days will take as long, but some will go over, so again – balance.

The only things left after this point are gathering school supplies and waiting on the first day of school!

… and the second-guessing, and worrying, and reading a blog at 3AM that tells to do do something totally different than what you have newly finished and ready to go… relax. That’s totally normal! Know that you can change any aspect of what you have planned at any time. It’s not a big deal – just go with the flow. The hardest part is getting it all laid out in the first place. There are SO MANY cool things to try, to implement, to experiment with – and each and every bit sounds more exciting and fun than the next.

I read a great blog yesterday that was talking about being ‘inspired’ by someone without re-making yourself in her image. I take that to heart when I read about SuperMoms in the homeschool world who have their crap together far better than I do. Go have a read. It’s at Living Well, Spending Less.

Happy planning!
Warmly,
~h


Summer 2013 – Weeks 6-7

So basically, nothing that we’ve had planned for the last couple of weeks has panned out. After PeaGreen’s birthday party, I have been exhausted and have wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and stay there. Though that’s not practical, staying home a lot really has been, and that’s mostly what we’ve been doing.

To save time, I’m going to lump the last 2 weeks all together in one post. Just for kicks, I’ll add what we’d planned, and then what we actually did so you can see exactly how much I have not been in the mood to do things lately.

Week 6:

summer

Monday & Tuesday – Lactation Course for me so the kids went to Grammie’s house. She brought them to Tennis Camp Monday. Tuesday, she took them to Tennis Camp in the morning and to a ‘learn to draw cartoons’ class in the afternoon.

Nope. Plans changed. The lactation course I was going to take still happened, but I didn’t go since the group I was going with decided to go another route. I’m happy about the change! Monday morning we still had kids over from the birthday bash, so I slept in while various parents came to claim their kidlets.  I almost felt bad for sleeping in, but not bad enough to actually get up. Sorry about that, parents! The afternoon was spent cleaning up from said bash (which wasn’t too bad – we have delightful friends who helped to clean up the night before, which is amazing – THANK YOU!!).

Tuesday, Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie came for the day while Bridey was taking her nursing test (which she totally passed – Congratulations!!). The kids and I spent the day in the pool  and accidentally  missed the drawing class. When I realized it was already over, I was mildly upset, but figured we’d catch another one eventually.

Wednesday: Tennis and SPAR SPAR, though cheap was out of our budget this week. Some of the families in our homeschool group went, but we didn’t. The kids and I agreed that we’d been having so much company, and been on the go so much that we needed a break, so we had a lazy day… for the rest of the week.

Sunday, we had another Spiral Scouts event – our first one since being chartered! The kids made their neck cords and we made a bunch of huge messes with science experiments. We made Oobleck (cornstarch and water), Moon Sand (flour & baby oil), GAK! (school glue & borax) and elephant toothpaste, which kinda fizzled out. But the kids had a great time!

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Week 7:

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Monday – Tennis Camp & Mom Craft day Almost crafting… my sister and SmurfMom came over to chat for a while. My sister dropped Appleberry off for the day, but SmurfMom was without child so that she and I could work on lesson planning for the coming school year.

Tuesday actually went off without a hitch. Everything we’d planned went according to, and we had a great day. SmurfMom and my sister dropped their respective children off at my house, then we met some other friends at the movies to see the classic Willie Wonka (with the amazing Gene Wilder as creepy as ever in the titular role). After the movie, we headed out to the library for a summer reading club craft. The flyer said ‘sand sculptures’, which I took to mean that a sand sculpture artist would be on had to show off his/her craft and teach the kids a bit about actual sand sculpting. We were all disappointed to find out that they’d had sand brought in and the kids were just building sand castles on the porch. In any case, fun was still to be had; the kids enjoyed popsicles and lemonade outside, then we went in for some books.

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Wednesday – Tennis & riverboat tour w/ TH

Thursday – Tennis, Lego club, karate

Friday – Geography Fair & hike & swim and boys to Brideys to spend the night

Saturday – karate and edible book fair

 No to all of that… we were been homebodies much of last week. Over the weekend, Loverly Husband replaced our front door, and then ended up repairing our dishwasher (our NEW dishwasher), and I’ve been saying for months now that I was going to get the school room cleared out so we can use it again. I finally got started on that, which led to more intense lesson-planning for the coming school year. As ‘small’ as that may sound, it’s taken up basically all of my time over the last week (watch for a post soon about that). What time wasn’t spent on school was spent getting a new ‘command center’ ready so that hopefully, with more organization, I can lessen the stress in my life where it’s related to family and chores. I’ll keep you posted on that!

In any case, we’re still hanging in there – maybe not as exciting as we might otherwise be, but I’m planning on taking it easy for the next couple of weeks because school starts August 5th!

Warmly,
~h

 


Summer 2013 – Week 5

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This week was another one of those ‘super busy’ weeks. With a holiday, a birthday and special karate seminar, we were rockin’ and rollin’ all week long!

Monday was the usual – Tennis Camp. I wish I could make the write-up from this more exciting, but it’s not particularly interesting unless you’re actually playing. After spending much of the early afternoon at home, I had a consult with an oral surgeon for my wisdom teeth. That was all kinds of fun, let me tell ya.

Tuesday, we called a break and stayed home. Wednesday, we were supposed to have our homeschool group over for 4th of July crafts, but everyone was preparing for the holiday weekend, so we decided to call the group meet-up off for this week and reconvene next week.

July 4th fell on Thursday this year, and we were all about Patriotic Fun! We had a bunch of friends over with their kids for BBQ and swimming, then fireworks. The mamas all crowded the pool with the littles while the dads got their grill on, then we fed everyone and herded the small people into the yard for sparklers. We did have an injury – one of the sparklers backfired on a mama’s hand and burned her pretty badly, which sucked (but she was okay). Sparklers aren’t like I remember them. When I was a kid, they were long and burned for a long time. These as so short – they basically fizzle for a second and then are out. Lame.

The rest of the fireworks went off without a hitch. We had snakes and Black Cats and Roman Candles and quite a few that went way up and had a big shower of sparks. It was definitely a great holiday for us!

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Friday was, of course, PeaGreen’s 10th birthday. We didn’t have his actual party until Sunday, but the day-of, we went to

lunch at his favorite restaurant, then went to karate for a special seminar. The form of karate we take is Shotokan, and our dojo is part of the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation. The Kancho (head) of SKIF is Nobuaki Kanazawa, and our dojo (Beaumont Shotokan Karate) was honored to host him and several of the Board Members for SKIF over the July 4th weekend. This is the second year in a row that we’ve had this honor, and it so happened to fall on PeaGreen’s birthday. For my little green-belt, this was an awesome way to spend his birthday!

 

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Saturday, Loverly Husband and I went to The Woodlands for the second day of the seminar, which was 4 hours of training. Sunday, we actually celebrated PeaGreen’s birthday by taking a couple of his friends to see Despicable Me 2, then had 12 of his buddies over for a sleepover. That was a wild evening! This was really the only clear(ish) picture that I got – I need to remember not to try to take action shots with my phone!

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His cake was awesome. Though you can’t really see it here, it was made with plain chocolate cake, whipped cream (colored green) and topped with tons of fruit – grapes, cantaloupe, plums, and berries (and candles). He was very happy with it.

What a week!

Warmly,
~h


Summer 2013 – Week 4

summer 2

This week started off with Sunday. Usually, I like my week to start with Monday, but since I already published last week’s fun and games, I put the weekend with this post.

Recently (well, back in November) we signed up with Spiral Scouts International, which is a scouting program designed for minority faiths. Since our homeschool group is secular and this program can be tailored to be non-religious, we thought it would be great for our group. So far, so good! We were recently chartered, which means ‘official’, basically, but we’ve been getting together for monthly events just as a ‘get to know you’ type of thing. Over this past weekend, we had a ‘make and fly a simple kite’ craft and meet-up. It was fun! The kids made the simplest of kites (one sheet of computer paper, carefully curled and stapled, with a string attached). They also brought ‘real’ kites to play with. It wasn’t a very windy day, but they still got their simple kites in the air!

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Monday and Tuesday were pretty  non-eventful; just tennis camp. We’ve been going strong for a few weeks now and are getting kinda pooped! We took a couple of days off to rest since Wednesday will be a long day.

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Our homeschool group plans a big trip to Galveston to visit Moody Gardens every year. This year, the group had the option of any two exhibit halls, and/or Palm Beach, which is their newly-renovated water park. We chose to only visit the water park since our family just recently visited the other halls. It was SUCH a great idea! We had a wonderful time. The kids ran all over while the moms mostly stayed in the lazy river.

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Thursday was another ‘day of rest’; recovering from a day in the sun is hard work! No sunburns though, thankfully. Yay for sunscreen! Friday, we got to hang out with some long-lost friends who recently moved away. They come back to town frequently though, so we haven’t lost them entirely! We spent a few hours playing in the water out at Village Creek – one of our favorite haunts this summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWarmly,
~h

 


Summer 2013 – Week 3

summer 3Another week of summer fun down; nine more to go!

You know, I always pack our summer full of stuff, and with other family stuff we’ve taken on (Saturday karate and Sunday Spiral Scouts), the weeks seem to shrink – time flies by!

Monday started off as all the weeks of our summer seem to; with Tennis camp. Afterwards, the moms came back to my house after feeding the horde of children, for a craft day. We all have projects we’re working on, either for etsy stores or for craft fairs, and never time to work on them, so we decided to carve out some productivity time. We’ve dubbed this ‘Mommy Craft Day’ and decided that we should do it most (if not every) Monday.

On mighty Tyrsday, we skipped town for a day in Galveston. We usually take some time during the summer to meet up with some friends of ours in a Houston-area homeschool group for their trip to the beach. Though we missed them there, a trip across the bay is always fun. We were very late because of traffic – we waited for over an hour to get on the ferry. In any case, the kids had a blast.

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Wednesday, we went to a library presentation for the SBC. The featured guest was musician Ray Simien, who was with Young Audiences. I used to LOVE when YA would come to our school and do a music class. ONe of the ones I remember most was when a lady in a fabulous salsa dress to explain the finer points of ‘La Bamba’ to us. I guess that raised my expectations, but this (though he was talented) was in no way comparable. For one thing, the age group was way lower than my kids are. My mistake, maybe, but the room was filled with pre-schoolers, while the SBC was billed for 6-12 year olds. In any case, the kids were pretty cute. Mr. Simien asked for volunteers to sing with him, but they had to guess the song first. Thanks to this, ‘Baby’ by Justin Bieber has basically been stuck in my head for a week. We are less than thrilled.  My crew elected to visit the library instead of continue the YA program, so we checked out some books and made plans for home, lunch, and then swimming.

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On Thursday, I was teased mercilessly by Loverly Husband for saying, when we were discussing plans for the day while lazing in bed, that I was going to ‘drop the children off at tennis and go to the salon to get my nails done, then grab some coffee and pick them back up’. Apparently, that’s a very West-End Wanda (what we call the high-falootin’ bitches in my town) thing to say and he thought it was hi-lar-i-ous. In any case, that’s what I did, then took the kids to lunch, did some shopping at the local Goodwill (which isn’t very WEW at all), then we met some friends at the bookstore (and I got my coffee that I’d missed earlier). Then we hit the library for their Lego Club. The kids learned about castles, castle construction out of Lego’s, and got to build catapults out of craft sticks and launch marshmallows. LBB shot his off the mat, which was the record so far out of all the classes the teacher had done previously.

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Friday was our homeschool group’s Humane Society volunteering day, and we had SUCH a great turn-out! We had a total of 6 adults and 12 kids. One of ours even got to be in a photo-session with one of the dogs up for adoption. Afterwards, we picked up Happy Meals & met PBJMom for some swimming. After such a long day, I ended up bringing a few extras home to spend the night; the addition of Red Ranger, Huckleberry Pie and Red Butler made it a sleep-over party.

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Hope your summer is coming along swimmingly! (sorry, with all the swimming we’re doing, that seemed appropriate, if a bit cheesy)

Warmly,
~h


Summer 2013 – Week 2

Summer on a beachWeek 2 began nice and slow. Loverly Husband had jury duty, so we were stuck home without a car. Luckily, my mom let us take car, so we went to tennis camp, then came back home for lunch. I had every intention of making the kids do some schoolwork, but other than reading and chores, but that’s pretty much all they got accomplished.

Tuesday was tons of fun though. We went to tennis (again), then picked up Bridey and her boys and met SmurfMom and went to Louisiana to SPAR, which is a local waterpark that was built by their Parks and Recreation department. It’s really fun! I’ve known about this place ever sine the boys were very small, but we didn’t make it out there until last summer. Now, it’s one of our favorite places!  Because of the traffic and just plain organizing that many people, we didn’t make it to karate that evening. PeaGreen was quite disappointed, but we had to bring Bridey and the boys home, too. RedRanger spent the night with LBB. They were up plenty early the next morning, so I imagine they got very little sleep the night before.

Wednesday, we went to … Tennis Camp! in the morning.It was a pretty easy day. Bridey and the boys came over for the afternoon/evening and we grown-ups got some time in the pool sans children, which was niiiiiice while the kids played inside. So, SO relaxing!

Thursday was a bit chaotic. During the night, my phone switched off, so my alarm didn’t go off. I woke up late… LATE. We made it to tennis camp about 15 minutes late. Miss Eileen, one of the kids’ tennis instructors, wanted to work with LBB for a private lesson for a bit, so I didn’t want him to miss that. It’s funny how you look at your kids and see their various differences. Thankfully, the boys can admit their brothers’ strengths and congratulate the on accomplishments and skills without being upset. LBB’s talent really seems to lie in tennis. He’s really showing a lot of interest and picking it up very well. PeaGreen’s strength is definitely in karate!

After tennis, I was supposed to drop PG off with Bridey, and go to ‘work’, but by the time I got to Bridey’s house, it was too late for ‘work’, so we just went back home for lunch and a bit of schooling (and laundry), and then off to karate. We made it on time, and Loverly Husband met us there. This was my first class back in a while. I’ve either been busy or just plain slacking for a while, and it felt good to get back in the dojo.

Friday was another really good day. No tennis camp on Fridays, so we got to sleep in just a tiny bit. But we were still up and at ‘em by 10 and ready for company by 11. PBJMom brought her kids and crew, and another mom from our homeschool group came with her husband and 3 kiddos, so we had 11 kids in the pool. Rather than have the kids at each other’s throats fighting for space in the pool, I had them play some games… racing, Goofy, red rover, and some free swimming. By that point, everyone was getting tired and hungry.

So we dried off, cleaned up and went to the library to see The Bard of the South.

Ricky Pittman is a storyteller: singer, songwriter and author. He roams the south telling stories of the Civil War and the people who lived then; often the lost stories, bringing once again to life the lives and experiences of people long forgotten. He brought a lot of things with him: a candle lantern (complete with ‘Lucifers’ – candles!, a courting candle, a parasol and fan (and talked a bit and demonstrated the ‘language of the fan‘). He also had a few of the boys (PeaGreen and RedRanger included) to talk about some of the uniforms of Confederate soldiers. Specifically, he compared Texas Confederate uniforms and Louisiana Confederate uniforms to Union uniforms. He talked about what the colors of the trim meant, the equipment a soldier would carry, the artillery that soldiers were issued and the shoes.

He also showed a blow gun (child sized) and talked about the various parts and the making of a blow gun, and talked about the uses for them as well. He said that the boy would use a piece of coal to hollow the inside of the cane. I am thinking that this might be a cool project for the boys to try soon. He talked some about Sam ‘The Raven’ Houston, and about orphan Jim Limber Davis and his relationship with President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis and First LadyVarina Davis and their family, about which he wrote a book entitled Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House

Now we’re winding down into the weekend. My boys went to spend the night with Bridey and her crew, and Loverly Husband and I went out for a ‘date night’. Overall, I’d say this has been a pretty productive week!

Hope your summer is going along swimmingly! Next week, my niece Appleberry will be with us, and a long-lost friend of mine will (finally) be moving back to Texas. I can’t wait!!

Before I go, I’d like to dedicate this video to my BFF, Amy:

Warmly,

~h


Summer 2013 – Week 1

summer (2)Our summer is off to a great start!! Technically, we’re not out for the summer; we school all year through, but summertime still deserves its own special attention and curriculum, I think. Recently, I decided that our school year basically has 3 semesters: Winter (Jan. – May), Summer (June – August), and Fall (Sept. – December).

In Winter, we do literature units, unit studies, lots of lapbooks and notebooking in addition to the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic… and history and science). In Summer, we have lots of activities – tennis camp, hiking every week, plus other activities, so we kind of unschool with some desk work as well – but far less than ‘normal’. The Fall semester is hour hardcore, sit-at-your-desk, this grade’s curriculum time. This sort of schedule keeps things lively. We don’t get bored and there’s always something new right around the corner.

Last week, I sat down with a few of my friends who will be hanging out with us a lot this summer, and we planned the calendar. In our area, there is a LOT for kids to do, especially in the 8-12 age range. In addition to that stuff, our homeschool group also keeps the calendar running through the summer, so we have that stuff on the books as well. If you read last summer, then you may remember my niece, Appleberry, and our friends Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie, with stepmom Bridey. They’re back this summer, and our long lost friends, PBJMom and kids (JellyBean, Bella, AngelBoy and PuddleJumper) are back, and new/old friends SmurfMom and her son RedRanger are joining us as well. I figured I would introduce them now, to save time later.

I also made their Summer Passports for 2013 this week. Last year’s Passport was really fun, and is fun to have now as a reminder of all the cool stuff we did, so I wanted one for this year as well.  At one point, I will post the blanks for this year’s (which has a different cover), but the old one is generic, so you can either use it, or make a new cover with MSWord.

So let’s re-cap Summer, Week 1: June 3-7, 2013!

Monday was Bad Wolf Day! Unless you’re a Whovian, that won’t make sense. If you are, then I bring you this:

In less exciting news, I also had a dentist’s appointment. The kids brought schoolwork to do with them. They used an isolite while they were doing my teeth and LBB came in and thought it would be a neat topic for his research project this week, and PeaGreen decided to research teeth and cavities and dental work. So great for them, not so much for me. I have severe anxiety and was far from ‘okay’ even though each and every one of the thousand times I was asked if I was, I said yes. Let’s skip to Tuesday, shall we?

Tuesday was supposed to be our homeschool group’s regular field trip day, but due to the location’s schedule, we had to do it on Wednesday, so we basically just did school. Not very exciting, I realize, but stick around; it gets better.

Wednesday, the field trip ended up getting cancelled, so we did schoolwork in the morning, then had lunch and friends over for swimming! This was the first time since the boys got to see Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie since they got back to Texas over the weekend. They’d been asking when they’d get to see their friends, so I am glad the field trip got the axe.

 

Thursday, we had another field trip scheduled with our homeschool group, to the Clifton Steamboat Museum, which is in the back of a huge event center complex. Outside the museum is the 1938 tugboat, “Hercules,” standing at 36 feet high, 22 feet wide and 92 feet long.

The engine of the Hercules is inside the museum. It was constructed for a locomotive, and then put into the tugboat. It’s really huge!

The theme of the museum is Heroes of the Past, and they have tons of models, artwork and artifacts from the Civil War and WWII. There are portraits of boat captains, army generals and other ‘brass’, models of the warships (armoured in massive cotton bales since the South lacked metal, they used what they had), and other replicas. It was weird to see southern paddle boats kitted out for war!

Upstaris, they have model planes from WWII and other nifty old-timey stuff, like boy scout parephenalia and the processes of making bronzed states and figurines.

 

Friday was yet another field trip… we decided last year that during the summer months, we should do a weekly hike out to Village Creek State Park for some hiking and swimming. It’s a little over 2 miles out to the swimming hole and back, so we get a little exercise and some fun in the sun. We all (thankfully) remembered to bring sunscreen, so no sunburns for this crew!!

We also got signed up for the Summer Reading Club, which is always fun. This is the third (or fourth) year we’ve done it, and they just have so many activities for the kids to do! They’ve changed their program up a bit, which I think is easier now, so we’re looking forward to getting started next week.

The weekend consisted of karate for Loverly Husband and a bunch of loafing around for me and the kids, then spending the afternoon with my amazing BFF who just found out that the implantation for her first surrogate pregnancy took. So we celebrated with work, lol. And ice cream. Sunday, Loverly Husband took the kids to see their great grandmother and to make Monsters University clackers at the Lowe’s Build and Grow kids’ clinic while I cleaned house in preparation for the weekly hooping class that some friends and I started. We all are too embarrassed to go to a formal class, so we’re going to try it with ‘just friends’ who won’t point and laugh. Well, they will, but it’ll be WITH you,, not AT you. Okay, well it will be AT you, but nicely… not secretly being bitchy behind your back. In any case, we ended up cancelling because we’re all poor and didn’t have the money to make them this week… trying again next week!

This week was kinda light, but the local ISD isn’t out yet, so most of the community stuff starts next week (like Tennis Camp!!). We weren’t as busy as we will be next week.
Hope your summer is starting off with a bang!

Warmly,

~h


Summer Plans!

Like for many families (homeschooling or not) summer is always one of the busiest times of the year for us. My niece, Appleberry, comes to stay with us, and all of the kids’ friends are out of school (except for the homeschooling ones; some of them school year-round like we do). We have friends who come in from out-of-state for the summer, so our social calendar is packed.

We also have activities with our homeschool group all summer; since so many school year-round, our group stays active, and we take a few opportunities during the summer to meet with a Houston area homeschooling group. Additionally, we participate in the Summer Reading Club through our local library, have Tennis Camp for 10 weeks, a 3-day long Historical Day Camp at a local museum… my calendar is looking full and summer is just now starting!

If this is your first year homeschooling, you may be wondering where I found all this cool stuff (most of which is free) to do in our city. Now, by ‘city’, we’re not a big city – not at all. 2 movie theaters, 2-3 bowling alleys, a single story mall, and 9,784 churches, 2-3 mini-golf places, 5 libraries and 5 McDonalds’… to give you a frame of reference. We’re also smack-dab in the middle of quite a few smaller cities, so within 30 minutes of most of them is the ‘city’. (Whereas Houston is the ‘big city’. Savvy?) So, while we don’t have things going on every day, there is enough for the need to pick and choose what you want to participate in.

There are some things that happen that are on a national scale, or that are fairly commonplace and are easy to find out information on – summer reading clubs, sleep-away camp, day camp, vacation bible school, and the like. Other things may not be advertised as widely, and can be easy to miss if you don’t seek them out. Be sure to check your city’s website under summer recreation programs. They may have things like outdoor concerts, movie nights, or other city-wide events. Our city offers a free tennis camp, an inexpensive day camp, a free lunch program, and things like that, but I only found out about them a couple of years ago. I heard about the club in winter, so I wrote it down and started looking for information on it in the spring. Often, when you find one camp or club hidden away like that, it leads to more.

Check your local bowling alley and skating rink, mini-golf or game center, One of our bowling alleys offers 1 free game per kid, per weekday all summer long. Our skating rink has ‘family night’ so we can get in cheap and rent skates for a couple bucks each. Some restaurants have a ‘family night’ as well (free kids meal with adult meal purchase). Kids Meal Deals.com is a search engine that can tell you who has deals near you.

Local museums may also have summer day camps – one of ours offers a ‘pioneer life’ camp that lets kids experience life in the late 1800′s for a few days. There’s also a gardening camp, art camp at the art museum, and several restaurants offer cooking camps (but those can get kinda spendy).  Our local newspaper has a section called ‘Summer Camp Guide’ that comes out right before school lets out for the summer; if yours doesn’t, it may be worth it to request that they look into something like that for next year.

Word of mouth is also a good way to find out what’s going on in your community. ‘Liking’ local pages on Facebook can give you a heads-up on things in your town. Many of them have events posted, so you can add them to your calendar. Check out your local playgroups, homeschool groups, mom’s clubs and parks for other moms and their plans. Mommy-networking can be invaluable, especially if you’ve recently moved to an area.

If all else fails, there are always things like hiking at national or state parks, biking, canoeing, geo-caching letterboxing, and postcrossing. In Texas, the state Parks & Wildlife service has Texas Outdoor Family, which is a ‘family camping 101′ teaching event. They also sponsor Junior Ranger Program that offers explorer packs that the kids can use. Park clean-up days here finish up with a complimentary canoe trip for the volunteers – a great way to keep parks clean, and enjoy a free trip, too. Most of those kinds of events are free or inexpensive ways to keep busy during the summer. Just get out there and do ‘em!

Any other tips for a fun summer?

Warmly,
~h


Secular Homeschool Conference

Today, our homeschool group sponsored a mini-conference for people who are, and who are thinking about, or planning on homeschooling their kids in this area. The closest homeschool conference or ‘open event’ is in Houston. I’d go, but the only issue I have with it is that they tend to be heavy on the faith-based thing. That’s cool and all, but really not my bag. We’re secular homeschoolers, so I thought that hosting an ‘informational’ mini-con might work. I created a public event on Facebook, and sent out invitations to all of the homeschoolers I knew, and invited them to share the event and invite their friends. I was expecting only 1 mom outside of our group.

Color me speechless to find out that more people came than I was expecting! We had 3 soon-to-be homeschoolers, one who wasn’t able to make it, and four who are already in our group and are actively homeschooling. For our first event of this kind, I think it went pretty well, especially considering that we didn’t really advertise or anything. I’m fine with that, and having this one finished opens up a lot of possibility and ideas for future events.

So, I wanted to talk about organizing one, and make some notes and share some thoughts if you might like to put on a homeschooling mini-con of sorts for your community. Here are somethings I learned and wish I’d had on-hand:

1. an identifying banner of some sort – I didn’t realize that some of the ladies who were there waiting were there for us and if we’d had a sign of some sort, we would have been easy to identify. I priced a 1′ x 3′ banner at the UPS store and it was less than $30 for a vinyl sign with grommets at each corner. There are lots of times that may be a good thing to have, so I am considering getting one.  www.VistaPrint.com carries banners similar in size for $16.00.

2. name tags – helpful! Since it was a small group, I think I remember everyone’s name, but I am SO BAD at names! So having name tags would be good. Also, being able to address everyone by name creates a sense of intimacy that most people respond well to.

3. a sign-in sheet - also helpful! – since there was only one woman that had not already contacted me, and she was friends with another mom in our group already, I can pretty easily get in touch with them. Had we had a bigger turnout, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk to each of them individually (which is a perk of having only a small group).

5. Handouts – I really should have written up a hand-out or something for everyone to take home – a welcome kit… something. I’ve done them before by calling different companies and asking for samples (things pencils from office-supply stores, other swag from school supply stores, coupons for local kid’s places (jump zone, OrangeLeaf, bowling or skating, etc.), a list of resources, a pamphlet about our group, etc. If I’d thought about it a month ago, I’d have had time to pull that together. Maybe even a gift certificate for dinner or something and do a ‘just for fun’ raffle. A lot of places are wiling to donate stuff like that if only you ask.

4. I think next time, if we do this again, I’d like to do a bit more promotion. Our group is already on our local Library resource list, and is on several ‘group databases’ online, but local advertisement for local homeschoolers would make more sense and probably be more helpful at attracting locals.

5. Explain to my homeschool group members better what kinds of audience we’re targeting with this project, and break it down into small, specific jobs so that my group moms have a better idea of what’s happening and how they can help. I asked for help a couple of times, but, only to find out today that I wasn’t explaining myself very well. I’d love to make this a yearly thing, and many hands make light work, so I’ll need to work on that for next year (if we do this again).

The feedback was good – that what was presented was helpful, and the experiences shared by the more seasoned homeschooling moms (especially about their ‘getting started’ experience) was reassuring and worth hearing. Our group has been growing by leaps and bounds since January, and from what I’ve heard lately, we can expect more.

For our topics today, we covered:

*Homeschooling and Texas Law*

Homeschooling Law in TX  (synopsis)

HSLDA website

  • In Texas, homeschool families are considered private school and as such, are are not subject to regulation by the school district or state (this includes standardized testing and compulsory attendance edicts), and are exempt from school-time curfews (with identification).
  • Since homeschooling is legal in Texas and operate independently from a school district, you do not have to allow the school district representatives to ‘review’ or ‘approve’ your child’s curriculum.
  • The only the requirement for legal homeschooling in Texas is to homeschool in a bona fide manner, with a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with these subjects written on it.

*Methods and Philosophy*

The method an philosophy has to do with how you think that children (your children) learn best, and what you think school should be. We all start out with preconceived notions about these things, and sometimes, we find that we were right all along. Other times, we may need to choose a new direction. Reading about the various styles of homeschooling that are out there gives you a ‘niche’ for what you are already thinking. For the most part, why re-invent the wheel? Homeschooling has been around for generations. Though each new generation adds a new twist on an old idea, when you’re just starting out, knowing where you fall in the ‘structured…. unstructured’ scale can help find resources that will be closer to what you’re looking for and makes a good place to begin your research. Here are overviews of some of the more well-known methods and philosophies out there:


*Learning Styles and What they Mean to You*

Everyone gathers information about the world through three sensory receivers: visual (sight), auditory (sound), and kinesthetic (movement). Some people rely most on visual cues, others prefer auditory input, and still others learn best through movement. Educators refer to these differences as learning styles. How does knowing your child’s learning style help? By identifying your child’s dominant learning style you can tailor their education to lean heavily in that direction so that they learn best. Public schools tend to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ in their approach. Homeschooling with an eye toward your child’s learning style will help make schooling more enjoyable for you and the, and maximize their learning potential.

Learning Styles

  • Auditory - listeners: They may learn to talk early on, and may enjoy listening to tapes and playing musical instruments. Auditory learners are often talkative. They may like to read aloud, recall commercials word for word, or do tongue twisters. In school, they may memorize math facts much more easily in a song or poem than from flash cards.
  • Kinesthetic - hands-on: Kids who love taking things apart to see how they work, or who are obsessed with building toys may be kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic kids are often in constant motion, their movements are well coordinated, and they are anxious to crawl and walk as quickly as possible. In a classroom, kinesthetic learners can be fidgety. They’ll often be the first to volunteer to do something —anything—active. They want to do an experiment not watch it or read about it.
  • Visual - watchers: As babies, they are often drawn to lights, colors, and movement. They revel in colorful toys and piles of picture books. Visual learners enjoy and learn easily from pictures, handouts, videos, and films. In school, they can learn science principles by watching a science experiment rather than having to conduct the experiment themselves.

Not leaving the teacher out, there are different teaching styles, too. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor-make your education program. Everything is yours to try, tinker with or discard in favor of a new or changing idea or need. As a teacher, you’re interacting with your child in a different way than as a parent. The two are closely related, of course,  but what you want for your child may be different at an age, o what they need from you may call for more or less structure. So learning your teaching style is also helpful. I am sure there are more, but the way I like it explained best is Directive, Guide and Facilitator. All of these can work with basically any schooling philosophy or method, though it might take some finagling.

Teaching stylesTeaching Styles

  • Director - had total control over all aspects of the child’s education. Parent sets mood, tone, lessons, materials, and every aspect of what the child learns. I see this as more of an elementary level style of teaching, though some children who tend to be easily distracted may work better having everything laid out for them.
  • Guidance - Parent still sets most tone, but has slightly more input from the child. Parent helps guide the child to subjects, activities and research that are in-line with his/her interests and goals. I see this as more of a middle-school style of teaching, though may work for independent children who work well alone.
  • Facilitator - Parent is solely there to facilitate – to learn about and promote learning through the child’s interests. And/Or the parent is there to help, but the child’s education is largely self-directed. I see this more of a high-school age style of teaching, but also works well for children who are very self-motivated and who need little by way of encouragement.

Obviously, this list is not complete, but may help you determine what your style is, and what your child may need from you. Often, if you have more than one child, each of your children may need something different from you.

*Curricula – Finding What Works*

Finding the exact right curricula can be absolutely overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of options, and often many options associated with different methods. Finding what fits your family can be challenging at best. First, knowing what fits in line with your personal philosophy and what method you want to use is important. That will eliminate may curriculum options right off the bat. Identifying your student’s learning style and your teaching style will further narrow the options. Once you have those things out of the way, there are several places you can begin.

Grade level (or age/peer group) can be a good place to start. If your child is being pulled from school, unless you know they were behind, you should be able to pick up with that grade level work. If your child was consistently getting lower scores, it might be worth it to drop down a grade and work on cementing the previous foundations before moving on. Don’t feel bad if you need to do that; your student will soon catch up and even surpass his peers.

Many parents feel that it’s a good idea to have a ‘spine’ – a framework that tells you what your child ‘should be’ learning. This is often found in the scope & sequence. What is ‘scope & sequence’? A couple of options are:

Core Knowledge K-8th Grade Sequence 

Texas Education Agency Scope & Sequence

You also want to figure out your schedule. Many homeschoolers take more frequent, shorter breaks than public schools. We school for 4 weeks, then have a week break, then pick up again. Others have different schedules; you’ll find out your own. That may be closely aligned to the ISD, or may be totally different. Do what works for your family.

*Getting Started – Homeschooling, Year One*

Tip #1: Don’t buy anything ‘big’ the first year – no curricula, don’t re-model your house. There are PLENTY of free homeschooling resources that you can use the first year. The last thing you want to be is locked into an expensive curriculum that both/either you and/or your child hate(s).

Tip #2: Look at your first year as an ‘exploratory’ year. Try different styles, experiment with times and days, try out different methods. See what works and what doesn’t. After a fully year, you’ll have a much better idea of your teaching style, and of your child(ren)’s learning style. You’ll be able to spend that whole year trying new things and ideas and will have a much better idea of how YOUR homeschool will work when you start planning for Year 2.

For me, setting up our space helped get me in the frame of mind. Having our school space separate from the ‘home’ seems to help us all focus a little better. That’s not to say that we’re trapped in here during school. We’re just as likely to work on the living room floor, retreat to their own bedrooms, have school on mom’s bed, have school outside, pack up and head to the park… all totally valid options. But just having that space helps me out a lot.  Of course, that’s not practical for every family, and many families just don’t want that. Again, do what works for you! There are so many options – if you don’t know what you want right off the bat, start with one thing, then change it if it doesn’t work. Flexibility is one of your greatest ‘teaching tools’.

Another tip is to join a homeschooling group. If there’s not one in your area, start one and you can learn together with the other newbies. If there is absolutely nothing in your area, find a good forum or group to join online. Having someone you can talk to to vent, praise your children bounce ideas off of, share resources, talk about your latest field trip, gripe about your non-supportive family or in-laws… whatever – having that support is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The blogosphere is awesome, too. I have learned so much from reading other blogs! Moms that inspire, Moms that I am in awe of, Moms that make me laugh, Moms that really make me think… there are SO MANY homeschooling moms of every variety, of every style and method – it’s truly amazing how much these bloggin’ mamas share. Feel free to check out my sidebar – there are tons of links!

***

If you were able to be with us today, THANK YOU for coming out! If you’re planning a mini-con for your community, I’d love to hear about it! I’d also love to hear what kinds of things that you, as homeschooling parents, would want to get out of a small-scale conference.

Warmly,

~h


I Allow My Kids to Play Violent Video Games

Hi there. I’m a parent, and I play violent video games. I have never killed anyone,  mugged anyone, maimed or raped anyone, robbed a bank or knocked over any convenience stores, or lived through the Zombie Apocalypse or fought in any Alien Wars. I also allow my kids to play violent video games. 

I consider myself an AP parent, with all of the lovey-dovey concepts that go along with it in full practice.  I also consider myself a  ‘crunchy’ mom (scoring 157 on the crunch scale), and I do not find these lifestyles incompatible with allowing my children to experience and participate in video game violence. I thought that I would start off with that clarification so as to give you, dear reader, an idea of where I stand on this issue. 

This topic comes up quite a bit in my group of homeschool friends. Most of us have gaming kids, and they often play together online. The confession of which games our kids play is almost always admitted with a shy smile, ducked head and almost shameful countenance, like we’re divulging some horrible secret. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny (of sarcastic, cross-dressing fame) and Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd/Yosemite Sam trick and try to kill each other with horrifying regularity. Then there was Wile E. Coyote, with his unlimited spending account at Acme. Co., try, and fail (often with self-destructive consequence) to off the Roadrunner. Other cartoons, Captain Caveman, Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, the terminal stupidity of Beavis and Butthead… all had their share of cartoon mayhem and violence. I grew up with video games, like Super Mario Brothers (where the Mario Brothers begin their reign of murder and 8-bit violence on the animal population of Mario World within the very first frame), Contra (where there is nuthin’ but killin’, especially with the ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start’ cheat code, which allowed a wholesale killing spree virtually without consequence). Though the graphics have improved, the violence in video games nowadays is more often in story format now (movie format, even) and in many, you can choose your path to be less or more violent.

Articulating why I allow my children to play such games is often elusive. Being able to pinpoint exactly why I don’t find them as threatening as Media portrays them is very difficult. But I came across this article on The Escapist by Shamus Young called ‘Violent Video Games are Awesome‘ that does a wonderful job explaining what I haven’t been able to. Katie Couric apparently brought this topic into the limelight yet again(with a beautiful critique by Chris Person on Kotaku), and tweeted for the public to respond with the positive side of video game violence, and Mr. Young’s reply was, in part, thus:

“This is a really pernicious way to continue the conversation. Imagine if I argued that nose piercings caused brain cancer. To support my argument, I talk about two people (there’s a robust data set for you) who had pierced noses and who also had cancer. And then I ask everyone if there’s anything positive about nose piercings. Instead of defending my ridiculous and shoddy argument, I’ve put the opposition in a spot where they somehow have to justify the existence of the thing I’m attacking.

It’s hard to give the positive side of lots of things: Celebrity gossip shows, greasy food, rock music about sex and drugs, trashy romance novels, and shallow Bejeweled knockoffs for Facebook. You can’t show the societal benefit of this stuff. That doesn’t matter. In any kind of civilized world, you shouldn’t need to prove that your entertainment benefits society. That’s not why we make or consume entertainment.

The argument is taking the angle of, “since these games [maybe] cause violence, and since they have no redeeming social value…” and then letting the audience take over from there. Couric doesn’t need to dirty her hands arguing that violent games should be banned. She can just construct a narrative where that’s the obvious conclusion and let nature take its course.”

I’ve only quoted a small section of his rebuttal, and I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. His assessment of Ms. Couric’s methods are spot-on, and his reasoning is quite sound. Many of the points that he makes, including that of the regulation and compliance of video game manufacturers to  appropriately label their products being far superior to other warning labels, are points that never seem to get brought up in the ‘great debate’.

Another issue lacking in the ‘great debate’ is parental supervision. Aside from the fact that these are MY KIDS and I am the one who gets to decide what they are able to handle and allowed to do, the push to ban video games wrests this decision from my hands and puts it into the hands of a one-size-fits-all government. It implies that I, as a parent, am incapable of making the decision as to what my child should and shouldn’t be allowed to do.

As their parents, Loverly Husband and I have what we consider reasonable rules about video game violence. For one, our kids are not allowed to play games in which you are killing people. So, no ‘Call of Duty’, no ‘Rainbow Six’ – most realistic ‘war games’ are out. However, killing fictional monsters? A-OK. ‘Halo’,’ Gears of War’, and cartoon video game violence (Mario, Sonic, Ratchet & Clank, and the like are all fine). When they are allowed to play games with a more mature ESRB rating, they do so with language and gore off, so no huge blood spatters and gratuitous swearing. This is far less ‘violent’ than movies like even Harry Potter, where people start getting killed by kids in the first movie, and get tortured by wicked adults more or less throughout the franchise, or Chronicles of Narnia, where a sibling group of children lead a war of men and fantasy creatures alike, or Avatar, where an entire civilization is razed in grand American fashion for land and money, then rises up to kill their oppressors (which is what the Native Americans are still being punished for… and the American government is totally fine with that, even to the point of celebrating and revering the perpetrator of this horrific injustice with a national holiday). I dare say that’s done more to desensitize people to real violence and atrocity than killing off fictional invading aliens in a video game.

Another rule for us is that Loverly Husband usually plays it first. There are definitely games that they are not allowed to play – my personal favorite ‘grown up game’ is the Dead Rising franchise; zombie killin’ sprees all around. Games like  Alan Wake and L.A. Noir are off the table for the kids. Resident Evil, BioShock, DeadSpace, Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row… all are off limits to our kids.

I realize that other parents have different rules for their kids, violent video games or not, and that’s fine. That’s as it should be. When my kids go to friends’ homes that have more restrictive rules, they abide by them. When they visit friends who have less restrictive rules, they are required to follow house rules where they’re at (which means that occasionally, they may play video games that we don’t allow, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay with us).

One aspect of this argument is woefully ill-addressed. The constant assumption in this debate is that given the opportunity, kids will always choose violent video games just because they’re available, over others. That’s certainly not true in our house. PeaGreen plays Minecraft on creative with no mobs (no killing at all) more than any other game, ever. LBB’s favorite franchise is Halo, but it’s not just limited to the games. He reads the novels, instruction guides, watches videos of game strategy – it’s more than ‘just a game’ for him. Do they get carried away with it sometimes? Absolutely. They’re both focused, intense kids. When the game gets too consuming, we will either cut back of go for a full media ban for a while (which we’re currently doing in prep for summertime). The same could be said of any recreational activity. Balance in all things, right?

The bottom line is that I don’t think that there is a correlation between kids playing video games and being violent. That logic is post hoc ergo propter hoc. Violence is far more likely in children with underlying issues: depression, behavioural problems, un-diagnosed food sensitivities, developmental disorders, family issues and the like. But these issues are almost never brought up as the reason a child exhibits violent behaviour; instead video games are used as a scapegoats because we want something/someone to blame, and a ‘quick fix’ solution, even if it’s entirely mis-directed. We conveniently tend to forget that:

“Violence is (and always has been) a part of the human condition. From war to child abuse, murder to school-yard bullying, violence takes its toll, often with children being the innocent victims (or occasionally the not-so-innocent perpetrators).”

http://www.public.asu.edu/~dbodman/

Loverly Husband and I use common sense and knowledge of our kids, and communication with them to determine when something is within their ability to handle, and to help them understand the difference between entertainment/fantasy and reality. They’re not stupid. They understand that what may be acceptable in a video game is not how one would act in real life. They’re old enough to get that what they do and experience in an entertainment format is vastly different than real life, and we have done our best to ensure that with communication and supervision.

Allowing them to play violent video games does not make me an uninvolved or unconcerned parent, nor do I believe that it increases my children’s tendency to act in a violent manner. On the contrary, we are extremely involved in our children’s lives, and have been told to have an enviable relationship with them. Judge me if you will, but make no mistake about our interest in their welfare.

But if you need more ammo in order to cast me in the role of ‘bad mother’, I also let them listen to heavy metal and rock music, never used a trampoline net, allow them to play near a snake-infested pond, shoot guns and own archery equipment, and occasionally buy them a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go teach my kids about evolution and sex.
Warmly,
~h


An Atmosphere of Learning

I’ve been thinking lately about the atmosphere of learning in our house and I feel like we could use some improvements.

When we first started homeschooling, I was much more relaxed about what we ‘needed’ to do. Since we were just starting out, I felt like there was all the time in the world, and we could take things easy. Homeschooling was really fun. We did a lot of hands-on stuff, and there was much less resistance from the kids (which may very well be chalked up to the novelty of homeschooling after leaving a desk).

Over the course of the last few years though, I feel like there’s been more and more pressure on me to ‘get it right’; to be more rigorous and push the kids harder. I try to combat that feeling, but I am not sure where it comes from, so it’s hard to fight. I’m sure there is outside pressure, but I’d wager that the majority of it is internal, and that can be really difficult to overcome. My post last week was partially about working through that feeling, so I don’t want to dwell on that aspect too much this week; instead, I want to talk about the overall environment that we create in our home as homeschooling parents.

When we first started, it was very important to me to have a ‘school space’. We’re fortunate to have the room to dedicate to school, even though at present, it’s become more of a storage space and we’ve moved school to the kitchen table. I think that this is something I need to work our way back into. I felt more ‘together’ when we were working in a dedicated space, and more like we were altogether more focused. The school room also has less distraction, and the kids both have their own spaces to work in (which means that they annoy each other less). The other aspect to this is our style of teaching/learning. One of the things I have always liked about Montessori style education was that it was uncluttered and accessible. Things were laid out in such a way as to encourage the child to experiment and choose their own path. I do still agree with that, but I also feel like there needs to be a good, solid foundation of the basics before a child can really move on into learning what he or she likes or needs. But, if I left it up to my kids right now, everything would be about video games. It’s hard to find balance between those two philosophies, but in my plan for next week (when we’re off) is to de-clutter as much as possible and get us back into our school room.

Another area I’d like to work on is my tendency to lapse into ‘teacher’ mode. I struggle with finding the balance between lecture and encouragement. I’m a talker, so what I tend to think of as inspiration or helping foster ideas tends to come across as nagging or droning on. I also tend to jump the gun when it comes to offering help or going

on a new direction or way of thinking about something, instead of giving them the time to really consider what’s already been said. That’s one of the reasons that I used the picture above with Holt’s quote, because I need to learn when to shut up!

Something else I want to continue working on is ‘learning by teaching’. Teaching others is the most effective way to ‘know’ something. I want the boys to work more on helping each other, either when one grasps a concept first, or by working independently on different parts of something and teaching what they know. I think this will also help me keep my mouth shut and let them find opportunities to shine.

We have an anchor chart similar to this one that we use when we start something new. I have found that learning where they are in this journey helps relieve frustration when they don’t grasp something right away.

Another area where ‘learning by teaching’ comes into play is in our extra curricular activities.

We have become involved in scouting recently, and one of the things I like about it is that it encourages leadership and mentoring. We have a split scouting troupe – one group of kids who are in the 8-13 age group, and another in the 3-5 year old age group. This is an excellent opportunity for the older kids to be actively mentoring the younger kids.  This concept is also reinforced through their karate classes. Our sensei regularly pairs up more advanced students with newer ones to give them the opportunity to teach, which bolsters the students’ confidence in themselves. You can’t teach it unless you know it. I want to get to my kids on every level so that they really understand and know what it is to be adept at their skills. 

Other than those areas that need work, overall I am pretty happy with the learning environment we’ve fostered in our home. The kids have access to board/card/video games, art supplies, research materials (both in print and online), books, magazines and other printed media, mechanical things to take apart and reassemble or create something new, science craft books and materials, quick & healthy snacks to fuel up when the need arises, and a variety of different modes of learning pretty much all the time. They have plenty of outdoor space (including 10 acres to roam, bikes and a mile radius to ride, skateboards, a pool, a garden and a pond to explore). We also regularly meet with our homeschool group in person, and the kids have an online chat list and can play video games online with each other. We also engage in regular community service activity and have scouting 1x per month (soon to be more often) and karate classes 3x per week with a ton of other homeschooled kids.

It really does help sometimes to write down the positive aspects instead of the negative ones.

Additional Sources:

This is an excellent ebook by Brenda Sain called Creating an Atmosphere of Learning.

Warmly,
~h


Attachment Parenting and Independence

So I found this chart on Pinterest, about ‘Training Children to be Independent’ from the book ‘Teaching Your Children to Fly’ by Merrilee Boyack, and reading through it, I had some thoughts. My first thought, of course, was, ‘Well, clearly, I am doing things wrong’. Then, I thought about all my children know how to do and cut myself some slack. Now, looking at it again, I am wondering if I have short-changed them, or if this chart is a little ambitious (at least for us).

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but we follow an ‘attachment parenting‘ style philosophy with our kids. The basic idea behind this style of parenting is that by meeting a child’s need for a close attachment to their parents (through parenting practices such as extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, no ‘cry-it-out’, limited mother/child separation, etc.), you’re allowing them a firm foundation of parental trust that allows them to venture further into the world as they’re ready rather than pushing them to be too independent, too fast. The ideal throughout childhood is interdependence, not co-dependence or independence. This, in my opinion, is a healthy balance between ‘free-range parenting‘ and ‘helicopter parenting‘.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in the AP approach, I do sometimes flirt with the idea of a more free-range style in the scheme of helping your child develop independence in a ‘real world’ way, especially as the kids get older. While I do firmly believe that children are capable of doing more than parents often give them credit for, pushing them to be independent for the sake of being independent isn’t good either, which is the crux of my issues with ‘free range’ parenting. It seems like too much, too soon, and unnecessary – independence for independence sake – in virtually all of the examples I have read about.

In looking at this list, I am also torn between my perceptions of being a ‘good mother’ as my grandmother would define it (think June Cleaver) and more feminist ideals. Not that there isn’t anything good to be taken from that video; good manners are, after all, good manners; though there are some things seriously wrong with the perceptions and ideas perpetuated in it (Mom and Daughter OWE it to the men to look nice?? Don’t make Mom and Dad uncomfortable by talking about your feelings – wouldn’t want honest communication or anything…). I want my kids to know how to function in the real world – cook, clean properly, do laundry, be able to repair things in their home or on their car, and other basic skills. But I also don’t want to be the kind of parent who sees their kids as mini-servants, there to fetch and carry, thinly veneered as ‘fostering independence’.

So how does one find balance?

I would imagine that has to do with knowledge vs. expectation. Yes, I expect my kids to clean up after themselves and contribute to the running of the household (especially when the majority of the ‘mess; is theirs to begin with). But I don’t expect them to do things just because there is an arbitrary age at which to begin them. I think that child-rearing and (I don’t know what the specific term might be… I’m going to say ‘adult training’ despite the potential negative connotations… just go with it until I think of something better) are not incompatible. Adult training is part of child rearing – an integral part. I’d say that the goal of child rearing is adult training, even – preparing your children to be productive members of their family and society as adults.

But some of these things on this list make me wonder who would really expect their X-year-old to do XYZ. Taken as a general guideline or goal, and recognizing that yes, a 5-year-old can be expected to empty the trash, and fostering such skills, but that knowing how to do something does not make it his responsibility to do so, then this list is fine. I certainly helped my children to use the toaster and microwave at young ages (though admittedly, this was more so I could sleep in on weekends than it was to make them prepared to be adults), and they do have regular chores to attend to on a daily basis. But they aren’t solely responsible for fulfilling these responsibilities in the same way that you might expect an adult to fill them (i.e.: completely independently). There are still age-appropriate reminders and a parent to go behind them to make sure that whatever task was carried out completely. This is part of adult training, in my opinion. I do send my kids into the grocery store with either cash or a debit card to pick up a small list, alone. As their mother, with an eye towards their future, I present them with opportunities to explore on their own (today, we went hiking in a familiar area – they have the skill and are responsible enough to run ahead, and I allowed them to do so) and make their own decisions. But they are also given guidance and structure, especially with money (savings/contributions to charity and the like) and what our expectations of them are as members of our family. I think these are age-appropriate independences, and having my supervision (not molly-coddling) is the ‘inter-dependent’ part. They know that I will be here for them if they need me.

I’m curious to see what others think about this list, and how you prepare your children for the ‘real world’.

Warmly,
~h


Note to Self: You’re Doing Just Fine

This is a reminder that I need every few weeks, it seems. We’ve now successfully completed almost half of our fourth year of homeschooling, and STILL, I go through phases where I have these doubts.

Most recently, it’s come to my attention that my father is under the impression that LBB (now 11.5 years old and in 5th grade) does not know his multiplication facts. Nevermind that he’s been working on division for the past few months, and doing beautifully at it (including fractions and decimals). My dad asked LBB what 5×5 was, and LBB said ‘I don’t know’. When my dad told him to figure it out, LBB made like he didn’t understand what he meant or how to go about doing that. So this, of course, prompted a call to me with concern about his math skills.

Le sigh.

This prompts several responses on my part. On the one hand, towards LBB: “WTF, man? Really? 5×5? You’re having trouble with FIVE TIMES FIVE? That’s arguably the easiest of times tables and you’re going to choke on that one?? Dude. C’mon – you know this. Just take a minute, think about it and answer the question. No big deal.”

Then again, I totally get the ‘on the spot’ freak out. If someone asked me, my initial response would be to freeze; like if I was still enough, they won’t remember what it was that they asked and I can get out of the situation without answering the math question.

Towards my dad, I get this mama-bear, ‘Hey man! Not cool! Don’t test my kids!’ sort of feeling. I understand that it was a reasonable question. I know that some of my homeschooling compatriots have unsupportive families, and a question like that would come from a negative place, but my family is very supportive and I don’t think there was anything untoward or sneaky meant by it, but still, I get a little twitchy when I feel judged. I feel like my kid’s lack of willingness to answer a question is a reflection on my teaching ability (because that is what got called into question – not his attitude or interest, but *my* part in it).

Honestly, could he be stronger in math? Yes. Am I drilling him on basic multiplication tables? Daily; and this in addition to our regular math lesson. Do we do ‘math bingo’, Timez Attack, flash cards, and other ‘fun’ math things to help cement those concepts? Yes. Are those things going to make him pop out with the answer to a random math question? Meh … maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, I can’t separate his interest or cooperation with others from their perception of my ability to teach. I understand that it’s not my job to correct this perception, but it still affects me when I see/hear/feel it in action and directed towards me.

My kids are not babies anymore. They’re young men, and though they do still have to do the work assigned to them, I can’t learn it for them. I have said this before and I still think it’s true: One of the hardest parts about homeschooling is that no matter what you do, the blame rests firmly on your shoulders. When your kids are in school, to a certain extent, if they don’t get good grades or learn what they need to, then you can cast off some of the blame onto the school system. The school, in turn, can shove off some of their responsibility onto the parents – they weren’t involved enough, or didn’t give the child support/encouragement/motivation – whatever. But as a homeschooling parent, ALL of the ‘blame’ rests squarely on your shoulders… which is wrong, I think, to a point. Some of the blame rests with the child, himself, and I think that it is this point that many people forget or don’t realize, especially in homeschooling.

We see this in reverse and don’t question it. When a homeschooled child excels, we say how smart s/he must be, and congratulate them for persevering and working so hard. We don’t pat the parent on the back and say, ‘Way to go, Mom! What a great teacher you must be!’ So why do we blame the parent when the child’s ability doesn’t match up to what our perception of where s/he ‘should be’?

Children are not ‘babies’ forever. At some point, they do grow up. In fact, we have years between baby and adult that we should use to teach them to be responsible for themselves. This is a gradual teaching and learning – not something that they master all in one day or by whatever grade. If we want them to grow up into productive members of society, then we as parents must allow them a certain amount of responsibility, gradually, and offer them the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merit.

Over the past few years, my kids have taken on more responsibility for contributing to the overall running of our household. Their chores are divided into either ‘dishes’ or ‘laundry’, and they switch every month.

Dishes includes (but is not limited to):

  • loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • hand-washing anything that can’t go into the dishwasher
  • sweeping the kitchen floor
  • clearing and wiping the table and counter tops
  • helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed

Laundry includes (but is not limited to):

  • loading washer and dryer
  • putting towels into the towel basket
  • putting kids’ laundry into their baskets and taking them to the correct room
  • taking out the trash (kitchen, bathroom and schoolroom)
  • taking the big trash can to the road if Dad forgets
  • Cleaning the hallway bathroom
  • picking up the living room & sweeping
  • helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed

It’s a little un-balanced, but they both agree that dishes is the most onerous of the two, and so gladly will take on more work in order to not do dishes. Loverly Husband and I also have chores; in addition to helping the kids, we both do our own laundry, clean the fridge, clean all the stainless, blah, blah, blah…  everyone has chores.

My point in laying all that out is to say that where we used to step in and pick up the slack if the kids forgot their chores, now, we don’t as much. If they slack, then dinner has to wait until they’re done, or they don’t have the right clothes, or, or, or. It’s not just mom or dad ‘nagging’ – it’s the whole family who is irritated at you for not pulling your weight. It’s been a slow process, but one that’s starting to pay off. They’re more likely to step up and say, “Oh, I forgot to do that. Give me just a minute and I will get it done.” It doesn’t always happen, but it is happening now whereas before it wasn’t. They see more now how each person plays a role, and if they don’t do their part then the whole family suffers.

I think learning and education are the same way. Though I play a role in their education (especially right now), as they get older, I will play more of a guide role and less of a participant role. It will be up to them to choose a career path and go after the skills and education necessary to meet those goals. It will be my job to encourage and support and help guide them to appropriate courses, but ultimately, especially though high school, their education becomes more and more a product of their own efforts.

LBB is starting middle school in the fall. Middle school! I don’t want him to reply on me so thoroughly to ensure that he’s applying himself that he can’t work independently. Of course, I will be watching and making sure he is doing the work, but my goal isn’t for him to ‘just do the work’. That’s not real education. Based on what I know of my kids, and of children in general, this type of responsibility is years in the making for some kids, and that’s okay. 

Contrary to what we tend to believe, there is no rule that says kids have to do or know XYZ by Xth grade or by age N. Children aren’t programmable robots. They learn at different rates. They have different interests and what motivates one child may do the opposite for another. Knowing this, and repeating this is what keeps me from throwing the towel in some days.

And then there are days like yesterday, where we got into a discussion about the origin of life, and the boys both had fun schooling Mom on which came first, the chicken or the egg. Apparently, they are much more well-versed in this conundrum than I am, and though we both used the same bit of research (located independently, I might add), it was applied in different ways. They were so excited to showcase their knowledge, and that’s something that can’t be taught.

So yeah. We’re doing just fine.

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 

 


Top Ten Homeschoool ‘Must-Haves’

One of the groups I am in on Facebook joked about getting a new table and chair set for her homeschool room, at her request, for a combo birthday/Mother’s Day prezzie. Naturally, that made me start thinking about the things that I ‘must have’ as a homeschool parent and thought I would post about it.

In anything we do (sports specifically come to mind), it seems that there is a list of requisite supplies that you need in order to successfully compete or carry out the task at hand. Obviously, when you’re homeschooling, you have to have things like curriculum (or some sort of plan, even if you’re unschooling). A dedicated school room, while nice, is certainly not necessary; school can be just as well accomplished at the kitchen table or on the floor (or in the yard, in the car, at the library, at the park… you get the idea). So this list isn’t about the typical ‘basics’ – this is all about what I, personally, have found to be indispensable for homeschooling in our house. Your mileage may vary, and I would love to see your lists in comments or a link back to your blog if you write it there!

So without further adieu….

10. Coffee – without caffeine, nothing would ever get done. I an convinced that the pyramids were built *because* they had coffee running in their veins instead of blood. Though almost any kind will do, my very most favoritest combination is Texas Pecan coffee from HEB with Coffeemate Italian Sweet Creme non-dairy creamer. If you get coffee at my house, this is probably what I am serving you.

9. External hard drive – I have a Passport 500GB one (in fabulous red), and it’s almost full. When I got it, it was much more expensive – if you’re in the market and have the extra $20, I say go for the 1TB, minimum. Over the course of your child’s homeschool career, esp if you’re starting out homeschooling from the beginning, you’ll use it. I archive everything (in multiple places, really), and frequently. Computers come and go – I can’t tell you how many friends have lost *everything* because they didn’t back-up regularly. If you’re not already, PLEASE back your stuff up!

8. support system – We’re especially fortunate to have a supportive family. Not only Loverly Husband, but my parents and his as well. I was homeschooled, and so were several of my cousins, so I am lucky to have this kind of supportive platform to spring from. However, even with that built-in support, having a supportive community around me has been and remains essential to my homeschooling success. Not only for the ‘hey we’re having a crappy day’ support, but for the inspiration, the ideas, the encouragement, the thought-processing…. the list goes on. My homeschooling ‘community’ is in parts – real life, which includes family and friends (who do and who don’t homeschool), which includes my local homeschool group; and online support. I am a part of our local group’s chat list (and the kids have their own online chat list through the group as well). I also frequent homeschool forums, blogs, websites, and watchdog sites to keep abreast of the goings-on in the homeschool world at large.

7. Gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags – this is an organizational tool for me. I store lapbooks-in-progress in them. A gallon-sized bag holds the folded lapbook, all of the papers and templates and mini-books and the source material (literature selection, guide, and/or other assorted papers) all together in one place. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re into lapbooks, they’re indispensable.

6. storage clipboards - This many seem like a luxury item, and it is… this whole list kinda is, really. But this feels especially indulgent. We school ‘on the go’ quite a bit and my kids are notorious for losing their work. I usually keep things in folders (and what’s not 3-ring’d into place is stapled in), but these clipboards make storage and pencil-toting easy and all-contained. We have several of them and they get a good workout!

5. My blog – I have this on the list because I am a chronicler and I mean that it’s important for me to write, NOT that I think my blog is an essential for the world at large. By ‘chronicler’, I mean that when my kids were babies, I religiously kept up their baby books. When they started school, I kept papers, then at the end of the year, I culled, but still managed to keep a respectable overview of their school year. Now that we’re homeschooling, the days tend to blend together without some sort of narration. My blog allows me to do that in an unobtrusive manner. Sure, Facebook chronicles, and with ‘timeline’ even more so, but it’s not search-friendly. With blogging, I can chronicle what we did that day, or over the week or month or season. Tagging allows me to easily find posts on lesson planning or gardening or whatever, so I can usually fond things I am looking for. And one day, my kids will be able to go back and review their homeschool career (hopefully with fond memories).

4. Swingline 747 stapler - the big daddy, old-fashioned metal one. Not the plastic one. I staple everything, especially loose worksheets or bits of paper into the kids’ folders that would otherwise be in an easy-to-fall-out-of pocket. I have been known to threaten stapling my kids’ work to their foreheads if they don’t sit down and get finished. If that threat ever came to fruition, I have no doubt that my Swingline 747 would totally get the job done. You can get it in red (a la Office Space), but mine is a big, sexy black beast and I love it so much.

3.  laser printer & cheap toner - I started homeschooling with an inkjet. It was serviceable, but ink was spendy and when I started using refill kits (which worked for a while), I ended up with cartridge recognition errors. Plus, I could drain an ink cartridge in a week. I don’t print an extraordinary amount (mostly lapbooks), but when I sit down to print, I do a lot at once. We replaced the inkjet with a wireless laser printer about a year and a half ago and OMG = <3. I get my toner through amazon, and though I have had some issues (most easily resolved/replaced), being able to print over 1,000 pages per cartridge is muy bueno. I use cheap toner because of the volume I print. If I were printing for business or something that needed to be pristine, cheap toner may not work best, but for my printing needs now, it’s worth it.

2. Homeschool Planner – this is the end-all-be-all of homeschooling must-haves for me. Without it, I would be utterly lost. It’s my schedule and daily ‘to-do’ list, and also serves as a reference when I go to put grades into the computer. I have a weekly plan and a daily plan, and when I need to find something we’ve done, it’s in the planner. I keep track of field trips, notes for our homeschool group’s blog, contacts that I have made in the homeschooling community… not to mention other personal information. All of my appointments are on the calendar, shopping lists, meal plans, birthdays… I literally LIVE by what’s in the planner. The one I use is here, blank and free to download.

and the number one thing I cannot live without… drumroll, please:

1. electric pencil sharpener – and I am not talking battery-powered. I mean one of those ugly, old-school, plug into the wall types that will sharpen a TREE. I cannot tell you how many pencils we go through. Let’s just say that I am pretty sure we’re contributing to global de-forestation. We’ve tried mechanicals, and I love them for myself (Papermate Sharpwriters are my personal fav), but for the kids, they go through them too quickly. We’ve had the Westcott iPoint Kleenearth Evolution Recycled Electric Pencil Sharpener for about a year now and it’s not let us down yet.

That may seem like a silly thing to have as the number one, but everything else has an alternative which, while not quite as good, is serviceable.  The pencil sharpener though… I’d die and/or kill someone if I had to sharpen a thousand pencils a day with a handheld.

So, what’s your ‘top ten’?

Warmly,

~h


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