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Sex-Positive Sex Education

 So here’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. With two pre-teen boys in the house, I think it’s a good idea to check in with them periodically to see what they’re thinking and going through, and to reiterate our family’s position and expectations on various topics with them. As they get older the topics of puberty, sex, and related issues come up, and if they don’t then I feel like it’s my responsibility to bring those topics up with them.

Sex is by no means a ‘new’ topic for my children; I’ve been a breastfeeding counselor and worked as a birth doula for a many years, so they’ve had access to age-appropriate information about the birds and bees all along. When they were old enough to start asking questions, we always answered factually, but let them guide the depth of the conversation. We started with simple, factual answers, using proper names for body parts and terms – no ‘cutesy’ stuff that might muddy the waters – because I feel that information is good for them. It also normalizes those conversations that have the potential to become ‘uncomfortable’ if you wait until kids are old enough for body-awareness and self-consciousness issues to come up. Not to say that it erases it completely, but open communication as a staple of family life is important, IMO.

Once we started homeschooling, we added in a more ‘formal’ health class, which included use of the FLASH curriculum. We’ve gone through it once already, and will be covering it again this year, with added material from Planned Parenthood and other websites (most of which are linked in various place throughout this post). I’ve bought the boys several of the ‘growing up’ and ‘about my body’ books for them to read through at their leisure, and added some kid-friendly health websites to their computer desktops so they can research on their own. We also worked through a lapbook on puberty and sex that I made (which will be posted eventually). We’ve even tackled conversations about having sex for the first time, proper use of condoms, and what kinds of things they would want to do afterwards (like condom disposal and washing up). They’ve never been restricted as far as information goes pertaining to what they ask about, and I’d not have it any other way.

The approach we take is called ‘sex-positive’ sex education. It’s talks about sex as a normal, natural, pleasurable experience. It’s open and honest communication, without the tinge of embarrassment, guilt and shame that often accompanies the topic of sex.

It’s pretty much the polar opposite of what’s ‘allowed’ to be taught in Texas schools, which uses shame and religious oppression in a failing attempt to reduce teen pregnancy and transmission of STDs by promoting ‘abstinence only’ education. I won’t go into how ineffective that method is; the fact that Texas is among the highest in the USA for teen (and even pre-teen) pregnancy (5th, actually), and first in the US for repeat teen pregnancy speaks for itself. If their goal is kids having kids, then I say, ‘Well done!’

Additionally, for many in the religious set, children are often coerced into entering verbal contracts with their parents, peer groups and/or youth pastors to remain ‘pure’ until marriage. This trend of tying a child’s self-worth to their sexual status is disturbing at best; abusive and creepy at worst. For something that’s a natural biological process, supposedly instilled in us by the Creator, to be so vehemently linked to sin and corruption and impurity just begs for sexual dysfunction later in life.  I really love that quote by Bertrand Russell. It states exactly how I feel about ‘biblical morality’.

Before I go much farther, let me address something (because I KNOW this will come up). I am, in no way, advocating that persons under the age of consent (in Texas, see: Texas Penal Code Section 21.11) engage in any type of sexual activity. What I AM addressing is that I believe that all children, including yours, have the right to know what will happen, or is happening, to their body at the onset of and during puberty, and that they have the right to know that masturbation and sex are normal, biological functions, and that their self-worth is in no way related to their virgin status. I believe that they are entitled to factual information, free from constraints put in place by a puritanical history with no medical or scientific basis. Furthermore, I believe that all children, especially those near or undergoing puberty, should have enough knowledge about sex and sex acts to protect themselves and their partner(s) should they find themselves in a situation where such knowledge is critical.

So what level of education is appropriate for pre-teens?

Well, that depends on a lot of things, including but not limited to: your personal beliefs and stance; your child’s maturity level (both mental/emotional as well as physical – meaning that if your child is physically more mature, then s/he probably needs at least some of the information even if you aren’t sure if s/he’s emotionally or mentally ready for the full picture); your environment and his/her associates – is s/he likely to get this information from peers, and if so, is that where you want your child’s support to come from? (not that that’s inherently a bad thing, but you do want to ensure that the information s/he’s getting is factual, and you still want that open line of communication with your kid).

For my children, this includes more detailed information as they get older, including the idea that sex is pleasurable, normal and healthy for adults to engage in. We’ve talked about appropriate speech in company – with friends vs. in mixed company (either girls or adults), being conscious of who else is around them (younger children).

At this age, consent is an important topic. They need to understand what consent is, and what it isn’t. How is consent conveyed? How can signals be misinterpreted? How do you voice your consent? How do you express dissent? Consent is important for them to understand, not only for themselves, to know if they’re being coerced or taken advantage of, but also so they can identify consent in their partners. I believe that consent starts from a very early age. Helping children own their bodies is a key factor in developing the confidence to voice dissent when it matters. The GoodMenProject has a great article that can help parents develop good communication habits that help children understand consent from a young age.

Pre-teens and teens also need to know what qualifies as ‘sexual contact’. This is where a lot of parents get sorta squidgy. Who likes talking about sex acts with their kids? Our parents never had to do that… which is probably an ideal example of why we should talk to our kids about sex acts. If you’re super uncomfortable talking about it, at least direct your kids to something appropriate, like PlannedParenthood’s What is Sex? article. Once they know what sex is, then talks about being ready and protection – for your child, and for his or her partner – can begin. Along with talks about sex, talks about drugs and alcohol, ‘partying’ and what to do if/when they get into a situation where they need help are natural progressions. It’s equally important to talk about being victimized, and to make sure your children know that if they are assaulted, it’s not their fault. EVER. Talk about ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘victim-blaming’. Talk about ‘rape culture’, and about how they can be advocates. Talk, talk, TALK!

And if you agree that information is important for kids, it’s absolutely crucial if your child is gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, bisexual, asexual or falls in any way outside of the mainstream. LGBTQ kids have all of the same pressures that other kids face, as well as the unique issues that falling outside the mainstream brings. The Trevor Project is a great place to learn about how being LGBTQ affects a child, how to deal with your own thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, how you can help them, especially if you think your child might be suicidal. There are websites devoted to helping parents talk to their LGBTQ child, and others that can help parents understand and support their child. Even if your child is straight, help him/her be an ally. Talking with him/her about gender and sexual orientation is important. Because of how society views sex and gender, including promoting homophobia, sexism, and transphobia by not talking about it, it’s important that children are taught that these characteristics are no more exclusionary than skin, hair or eye color – just another variation of ‘normal’ that makes our world such a  grand, diverse, beautiful place to live in.

Armed with this information, how do we keep them safe? I think that information is the first string of safety precautions. The more open and communicative your family is, the fewer things get ‘stuffed’. Most kids have smart phones, and there are apps that are specifically designed to help them, like the Circle of 6 app, and the Life 360 app. Others, like the bSafe app, even have a feature that will allow you to program an automatic alarm that will trigger if you have not checked in with your friends or family in time.

You might be asking, ‘ How do we keep them from experimenting? How do you keep them from having sex?’

Honestly? The truth is… you can’t. You can, of course, communicate and express your desires for your children. You can let them know what your feelings are as far as sexual relationships go, and what your expectations for them are. Even the dreaded Planned Parenthood has discussion topics and suggested conversation responses to help parents help their teens delay having sex. But I don’t know of any people who wanted to have sex who didn’t because of an external expectations placed on them. Having an open and honestly communicative relationship helps though.

Given the option, I would prefer my children not have sex until they were in a committed relationship and were old enough to accept and responsibly handle the consequences of a sexual relationship. But another hard truth is that my kids’ sexuality belongs to THEM. Not me. It’s not up to me to dictate to them, once they’ve reached the age of consent, what is right for them. But I can influence their choices, and I would *always* rather them have protected sex (and sexual experimentation) than unprotected sex.

Warmly,
~h

 


Kids and Labels

When you have a child that is ‘different’, it’s often a challenge to get people to see the same small person that you see. Where you see an active, witty, inquisitive kiddo, they may see a hyper, sarcastic and nosy brat.

It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s perceptions of your kid(s). We were at the bookstore a few weeks ago with our local playgroup – mostly kids 5 and under – and my big kids were sitting quietly, playing their Nintendo thingies. I was watching the other littler kids running around and being delightfully noisy – as littles tend to do – and I kept seeing the employees cut evil eyes over towards our little group.

The kids weren’t being ‘bad’ – they weren’t excessively noisy; they kept well within acceptable ‘joyful chatter’ limits for in public. They weren’t making messes (at least not ones that the moms weren’t helping to clean up) and they weren’t disrupting other customers. Really, there was no cause for complaint. Even our most boisterous tots were pretty chill on this occasion – and yet still, they were being viewed through the eyes of people who probably don’t really even like children all that much, much less enjoy the exuberance of youth.

I think the same thing happens in school. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people who do not enjoy children would go into teaching them as a profession, but it seems that many do. I remember conflicting particularly intensely with my 8th grade math teacher. We had instant dislike for one another the first time we met. Some personality conflicts are just that strong and quickly formed and no less important because they’re between an adult and a child. My mother thought that the conflict might be a good thing for me; something along the lines of teaching me/helping me learn that sometimes you have to work with people that you don’t particularly like. I agree in theory, but in practice, all that accomplished was continued animosity and a lifelong (at least to this point) hatred of all things math-related.

Sometimes, it is as basic as a personality conflict. Sometimes, the problem is deeper – like a fundamental lack of understanding about how children with more than their allotted share of ‘muchness’ function and relate to the world. My oldest child is ADHD, has sensory processing disorder and is all-round a ‘high needs‘ child. He’s growing out of it (or adapting better, maybe?) but there are still some key areas where his muchness shines through. It’s his personality, true, but there are other contributing factors. He is the way he is because of certain things, like his hearing (hyperacusis) or his need to touch things (sensory seeking) or have non-sticky or dirty hands (tactile defensiveness) or his need to be up and active with a 30-second attention span (ADHD). He is ‘this way'; he’s always been ‘this way’. He will always be ‘this way’.

Then there’s my youngest… he is alternatively the sweetest, most polite and helpful child on the planet, or the most obstinate, willful, argumentative and unyielding child ever to have been born. That’s just his personality. I’ve watched it develop as he’s gotten older. I see personality quirks in him that I recognize as being my own, or my Loverly Husband’s, and others that are uniquely his own. But he doesn’t have the same kinds of issues that my oldest has. Noises don’t affect him the same way. He can focus on something for long periods do time, and if he’s interested in what he’s doing, then it looks more like ‘obsession’ than mere interest.

I remember what it was like as a younger mother with two small boys. The bookstore is a fairly contained area where, for the price of a cup of coffee (Starbucks, so it’s not even cheap coffee), we could hang for an hour or two when it’s unbearably hot outside and the boys could stay relatively close to me, but still had plenty room to maneuver – and this was back when they had a train table, even. Why have a big comfy kids’ area when you’re not really ‘kid-friendly’?

We’re fortunate to have in our circle of friends several families with at least one child with more than the normal allotted ‘muchness’. I’m also extremely fortunate in that most of my friends parent somewhat similarly to the way I do, so when there is need for a mama-voice in a situation, no matter which mom steps in, the procedure is on-par with what I’d do myself. I value that consistency for my kids.

I also value the overall parental attitude that sees this type of ‘muchness’ as something to be encouraged – not something to be disciplined out of them. We/They value these personality quirks and attitudes as necessary skills for future thinkers and leaders. We/They see our kids as the amazing people – individuals – that they are, not as mini-robots who are stepping out of line. They have a voice, and they’re used to those voices – however small – being heard and valued. I don’t understand people who think otherwise.

 

In days of yore, way back before I had kids, I was nanny to a HN child before I knew there was a term for it. We took a Kindermusik class for a couple of years and one of the things that I still have and use some 10 years later is a bookmark that I got that talked about language – how the words you use when talking about your child shape how other people see him, and how the words you use shape how your child sees himself. The bookmark had a list of words in one column that could either be neutral or negative, depending on the situation, and an alternative word in the second column with a more positive connotation; instead of ‘bossy’, you might describe your child as a ‘leader’. That sounds really easy, right? But it’s hard to do when you’re tired or stressed out and don’t have the vocabulary handy.

Over our years of homeschooling, I’ve expanded the ‘extra pages’ section of my planner to include various articles, charts and other bits of information that I want to use to help me be a better parent and teacher for my kids. The ‘positive adjectives’ list on this site has been extremely helpful to me to keep handy. Sites like SizzleBop  were great helps when my kids were younger, and though it’s changed formats several times through the years, it’s still a great place to find appreciation for the ‘highly distractable child’.

As far as using labels for children, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the labels are a quick way to convey information. If I say to you, ‘My child has ADHD’, then you know (or should know) that lots of sit-down and be-quiet instruction isn’t going to help him achieve as much as he could with a few adaptations. As a teacher who understand this label and what it is intended to convey, you’d know to adapt how you’re teaching to help him learn and retain the information you’re presenting by including activities that work his body as well as his mind. But all too often, those labels also carry a negative connotation. Instead of conveying information, it too often condemns a child to a ‘box’. I’ve seen teachers check out when they hear a label, and that’s absolutely devastating to a parent to see.

There are negatives to labeling for parents as well. I’ve seen lots of parents who hear that their child has a label and just sort of … give up. They either don’t have access to, or don’t care about getting, more information so that they can help their child. Or, they might not believe the label (and plenty of children, esp. with ADHD are given the label without actually having ADHD) and so their child falls through the cracks.  Others, parents and teachers alike, can’t see past the label. The diagnosis takes over and that’s the only thing that people see. In either case, those kids need an advocate.

I get frustrated with parents who don’t advocate for their children. For children with a ‘label’, it means that we sometimes have to advocate a little more. We need to be educated, to network with other parents and build support networks for our children. We have to learn a little more, put a little extra effort into them. Our kids still have to function in the real world, so my goal (for both of my children) is to help them develop coping mechanisms that will help them function to the best of their ability. There are thousands of adults who learned to deal with various disorders as students – some in good ways, some in not-so-great ways. With today’s plethora of research and knowledge about how to help, we are in the best position possible to help our kids manage their needs in productive ways.

For my child, this has been a series of interventions, from very noticeable, to less overt as he’s gotten older. I’ve blogged about learning tools before, and about helpful bits I’ve picked up along the way several times over the years, but this is a topic that keeps coming up as more and more parents with ‘labeled’ kids choose homeschooling.

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 


Timelines and Art Notebooks for History

One of the fun things that many homeschoolers do in conjunction with learning history is to create a timeline of events as the kids learn. There are a hundred different methods for creating a timeline, from a notebook or binder system, to a wall-based system, to a scroll system (which is what we’ve been using for the last few years).

Last year, we started keeping a history notebook. The kids worked on that together with their lapbook. We are using Story of the World, and several bloggers have made coordinating lapbooks that cover books 1-3. We’ll start book 4 later this year, and I’d like to transition fully to notebooking, rather than lapbooking for this last book. If you’ve never worked on a lapbook or a notebook, the concepts are pretty similar. I like to think of lapbooking as a little more ‘directed’, while notebooking is a little more student-led, but lapbooking can be student-led as well. It’s really up to you as to how you use and/or combine the two methods.

We’ve been working on taking notes in various subjects, and I’ve been requiring that the boys write more from their own perspective, rather than being told what to write. With our new school year on the horizon, I’ve been searching through my history & geography pins on Pinterest and seeing what I’ve pinned that will help me help the boys make notebooks that they will want to read through later.

One pin on Interactive Notebooks has several really good tips for creating lasting work. The site is geared towards younger students, but even with boys in middle school, the tips are just as relevant. As I mentioned before in my middle school lesson planning post, we’ve been using ‘mind-mapping’ to take notes, which combines color and pictures with words and related ‘branches’ arcing out from a center, or main, point. I have one child that likes this method of note-taking, and one that prefers a linear (traditional) style – but both ways have merit.

I also am a big (BIG – HUGE) fan of art journals, and art notebooks. I’ve been toying with the idea of helping the kids work on art notebooks for history. Combining maps (geography) and art in this way would make a great project. Printed pictures, colored pencils layered with notebooking (journaling and notes) would make a keepsake that can be referred to in later years as both an art piece and an educational review.

Something like this (pictured – not ours!!) would be ideal. That’s not history (art history, maybe??), but that’s similar to what I envision the kids’ notebooks looking like in this process. It probably will require more preparation on my part, as far as printing pictures and graphics to use, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

Currently, we’re in Russia, with Peter the Great. There are several battles and movements of the army that would make for great visual aids in a notebook like this.

This would be another way to mark your timeline if you work through history chronologically. Keeping up the notebooks will keep your timeline in order. I am looking forward to getting started with this idea with my kids!

If you art/notebook, I’d love to hear from you, and see how it works and looks for your students.

Warmly,
~h


Homeschooling in Middle School: Lesson Planning

Well, we made it! Both of my boys are officially in Middle School. When we started our homeschooling journey back in 2010, I had a 2nd grader and a 1st grader, and now I have two pre-teens. I can scarcely believe how quickly time has passed.

Things have definitely changed over the years. If you’re new to homeschooling, then please be assured that we all started out right where you are – overwhelmed, questioning if we made the right choice, and wondering how we were going to make this work. And, like you will no doubt find, things just have a way of working out. We’ve tried lots of different things over our course of homeschooling, and some have gotten tossed right out the window while others have become a much-relied-upon staple of our learning day. The continuous theme has been ‘learning’, for me just as much as it has been for the boys.

When we started, I was really drawn to a more classical approach; more structure, more parent-directed. I wanted to make sure that they had a good foundation so that when they started looking into career focused education, they’d have a solid base to work from. Now that the boys are older, we’re moving past the basics and into a more interest-led dynamic, I am really glad that we chose to do things that way.

We recently celebrated our 5th ‘Not Back to School Day’, both at home (in our jammies) and with our homeschool group:

 

 

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Once again, we’re trying some new things this year. We’re already a couple of weeks into the fall semester of our school year (we school January – November, on a 4-weeks on, 1-week off schedule). We ended up taking a month-long break during the summer, so we’ll be doing continuous schooling for the next couple of months with a few days off here and there. One big change is that I am working again. I stopped working when we started homeschooling in 2010. Now that the boys are older and they can work more independently, my schedule is a little more flexible. I work with our local produce co-op once a week, and am taking doula clients again, which means that I am on-call when I have a client who is due to deliver.

One thing that’s helped me keep the kids on-track when I can’t be there is Discovery K-12. DK12 is an online homeschool program that is free. If you know anything about me, then you know that I am all about the free! DK12 is designed to be a stand-alone curriculum for homeschooling students. The student logs in, and there are are daily assignments in all of the basic subjects (including PE and Art/Music). We’re using this as a supplement for days when I am not available to teach our regular curriculum, and it’s been working nicely to fill that void. It’s almost a review of sorts, because it’s different from what we normally do, both in scope and method. For example, we use Story of the World for history, and work chronologically, from ancients to modern. DK12 uses a more traditional, grade-based history program. While we’re in book 3 of SotW (Early Modern Times), LBB (7th grade) is studying Medieval times at the moment and PeaGreen is studying Early Civilizations – both of which we’ve covered before. I like that it revisits those eras; it gives them a different perspective than what we’ve learned in the past. I think the boys like it because they’re learning different things. Since my two are so close in age, I school them together for the most part. DK12 is grade-based, so they both get something different, and I think they like learning about something the other one isn’t privy to. That sounds odd to say, considering that if they were in a different school setting that would be the norm, but homeschooled kids have their own quirks, I guess!

English, which I use as a broad term to encompass Grammar, Language Arts, Writing, Handwriting, Spelling, Reading, Literature, etc…, is always a complicated think to explain, because I do group those subjects together. Right now, we’re working from Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books for reading & lit, and even grammar (using the mentor sentences method). We’re covering some geography as well, mapping out the lives of the Ingalls family as they travel. I would link to specifics, but there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of resources for that series if you Google it. The boys are also reading Tom Sawyer in their DK12 lessons, so we’re working on that as well. We still lapbook, so we’re working on those for both books also.

Other grammar-related work includes sentence diagramming, and various writing assignments. I found a great idea for collecting topics for personal narratives, which we’re adding to our thoughtful journals (which we still make use of, and I LOVE!). Writing,, journaling and note-taking/notebooking are also staples for basically everything. We watch CNN Student News 2-3 times per week, and I have the kids take notes (traditional style or mind-maps). They also take notes for history and for several subjects when they work on DK12 assignments. Essays have gotten longer and more detailed, and research projects are more ‘on your own’ than in class time.

For math, we’re using Khan Academy’s student program. It’s gotten to the point that I am no longer comfortable ‘teaching’ them, so that’s a really good way for them to have expert examples and explanations for complex maths. I created my account, then added the kids. They do the practice and skills assessment assignments (mastery-based) for their grade level and earn badges, awards and energy points. I have my own account and am brushing up on my skills as well. We’re keeping tabs on each other and competing for energy points (and seeing who can upgrade their avatar fastest), which makes it competitive and fun.

We’re also working through Life of Fred this year. It’s more of a supplement at this point, but I am sure it will get more challenging as the kids work through the series. We’ve worked through The Number Devil in the past and are tacking it again this year as a supplement as well, and maybe some tasks in The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math if we need it.

For history, we’re in book 3 of Story of the World, soon to be in book 4. Science this year is focusing on biology. We’re using a text book and working from Khan Academy’s Biology section as well.

Because I am a slacker mom, I missed out on the NBTS Blog Hop this year, so I am playing catch-up with this all-in-one post. I updated my lesson planner in December last year, but never posted it. I kept some of the same elements, but re-designed the whole thing, and I am really happy with it! Here’s mine:

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And here are downloadable blank versions for you to use if you like:

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As always, we snagged school pictures for this year, although I may re-take them. We normally take pics outside, and it was sunnier that day than in previous years, so both boys have squinty eyes.

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How’s your new homeschool year going? What are your kids using/learning about? What grades are you teaching this year? Share!!
Warmly,
~h


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.

 


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