Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
We were studying the Mayflower and learning about what life was like on the journey to the New World. Seasickness, cramped quarters, hardtack, chamber pots, and rats were just a few of the delightful terms that came up during the reading. The kids each created a "trunk" that they were to fill with items that they wanted to bring with them on the Mayflower. When I saw a drawing in my daughter's trunk that looked just like a Bath and Body Works dispenser, I had to know. "Honey, what is that bottle that you're bringing to the New World?" Her reply... "Hand sanitizer."
Totally made my day. Hope your day gives you lots to laugh about!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
1. I love candles. It's going to be near 100 degrees where I live today, but I have a Hocus Pocus from PartyLite burning right now. Somehow, just smelling it makes me hopeful for fall. I also have issues with floral candles. Fruity, sure. Floral, no.
2. Diet Pepsi, not Diet Coke.
3. Travel is my luxury. My dream is to travel to every state in the US with my family.
4. I do NOT eat lettuce...EVER (was that emphatic enough?). Something about the crunchy, cool texture freaks me out. Not on hamburgers and no to salad, thank you!
5. Movies!!!! Love them! My favorites are all the Jane Austen remakes (1. Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson 2. Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly) and Anne of Green Gables. I am definitely the kind to sit out all night for a midnight showing, too!
6. My dream car is an Econoline van. I sigh wistfully every time one drives by and think, "someday...".
7. I would LOVE to live in the country and have chickens and a goat. Bear in mind I've never raised an animal (outside of one dog and one cat), never been in 4-H, and the closest I've ever come to a barnyard uproar was a Target on Black Friday. Hey, a girl can dream!
Well, if you're not snoring by now out of sheer and utter boredom, I will let you know that I'm going to post my next curriculum give away later today. If you ARE snoring, you can thank me later for the extra sleep. I'm always here to help a girl out! :)
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
He has actually surprised me with how mature he is getting. Can't believe he is actually engaged in pencil and paper work in this shot. I kind of put it out there and see what comes of it, and he has really been making an effort this week. I guess that's probably why he's been sound asleep within three minutes of bedtime every night this week! :)
Here our oldest is completing the first of our Presidents study pages. I downloaded the color photos from homeschoolshare.com and created my own fact sheet for them to fill in. I fill the youngest's in with grey marker and he traces what I've written (or doesn't depending on the mood!).
Love this shot! I made my first muffin tin lunch this week. The kids loved it. So much fun!
Well, here's where we get to the part where you see what we're really about! Our family is um, just slightly active. ;) My FAVORITE part of homeschooling is the field trips. The kids' educations have been so enriched by the going and the doing. We have such a blast!
Awww, here's our sweet girl. Dad made her a garden for her birthday present. She has a gift for gardening and we've enjoyed eating her tomatoes all summer long!
There are just the neatest museums near us. Most of them are SO interactive for the kids. Loved this exhibit about what the invention of electricity has done for us.
After studying Native Americans last year, we were blessed to be able to visit a wonderful western museum that had an amazing basket exhibit. The kids had a blast using the touch screens and seeing the familiar names of the different tribes.
These kids have no fear, I tell you! The docents at some of these wonderful places are just the neatest people you'll meet.
My city kids adored their day at the farm. Ohhhhh....someday....
My cousin wondered if the kids were saying "hey" to our Lord... :)
Tide pools have got to be my favorite places to explore. Some of these little hermit crabs just walked all over my kids.
Whale watching was wonderful, even if it did turn out to be dolphin and seal watching!
Can't believe the baby is finally big enough to go "rock climbing". He was so proud!
You know, most of the things we do are educational, but some are purely for the fun of it! If you haven't done it yet, click over to Heart of the Matter and check out what others are doing with the wonderful time they have at home. Truly, each day for us is a gift for which we are eternally thankful!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
This is the fourth grader. If he could just explore tide pools from dawn til dusk and go frog catching after dark, he would be the happiest guy on the planet! I absolutely love watching the way his curious mind works!
This darling girl is our second grader. I am contemplating changing her name to The Huntress, or Xena, or something along those lines. She has this amazing ability to find sea creatures...giant crabs, fish, shrimp. Of course after she catches them, she is usually horrified, but she is amazing!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"You Can Homeschool Because You Were A Teacher", "You Have Way More Patience Than I Do", And Other Lies People Mistake For Truth.
When we first started to tell people that we were homeschooling our children MANY responded with, “Well, that’s okay. You can do it because you were a teacher.” At first it seemed like such a benign thing to say (because when someone stands in front of you and says something positively CRA-ZY, you smile and say something nice, or try to justify it. “What’s that? You’re going to sculpt Michelangelo’s ‘David’ using only mashed potatoes? Well, that’ll be just fine. I’ve tasted those potatoes and they’re fantastic!”). It took a few months before I realized just how many people believed it and even worse, how many moms don’t believe they can teach their kids because of it.
I can tell you, absolutely unequivocally, that ANYONE can teach their child at home. Notice I didn’t say EVERYONE SHOULD teach their child at home. (For further clarification, please see Disney’s Ratatouille and pay special attention to the “anyone can cook” message.) Many people believe that teacher’s receive some magic key to the universe upon graduation that unlocks the mysteries of the human mind and how to shape it. We DO learn much about educational theories and practices, which is essential because it drives home the incredibly important fact that not all children learn the same way and what works for one, will not work for all. You see teaching is about reaching. You try one thing and it doesn’t work, but you don’t give up because something will, you just have to discover what it is.
Everything I learned about teaching, I learned on the job. It was a trial by fire. You have to do it and do it and do it again, until you find a measure of success. I’ll tell you another thing, it’s a good thing those new teachers are under contract because some days, you just don’t want to come back for the next one. It’s HARD work! Yet, with all things, practice makes perfect… or as close as you’re gonna get in this lifetime! The sense of accomplishment you feel when the year is over is second to none. You rose to the challenge and you’re fired up to do it again (well, after a massage and a vacation). I should have a Master’s Degree in Parenting for all the books I’ve read on the subject, but no book can substitute for the daily practice of actually doing it. It’s like muscle memory. You do something so habitually that what was once unnatural is now just like breathing.
Let me say it right here and now: ANY parent who feels called to homeschool their child, is already qualified to do it. I tell you I LOVED the students in my public school classroom and I wanted the very best for each and every one of them. That love is in no way the same as the fierce, “I would do anything and everything for this child of mine” love that a parent has. A teacher may throw up their hands in exasperation and say, “I just can’t reach this child today,” but a parent never would. A parent is compelled to keep trying because that’s what love does (even if we have to strap the kids in their car seats and drive around town so the Starbucks has a chance to flow freely through our veins before we go back into the fray).
Here’s another secret, teachers are not human sponges. I remember distinctly re-teaching myself the differences between mode, median, and mean before I taught a lesson on it. That doesn’t mean I was unqualified to teach it. It meant I needed to hold myself to a certain standard and plan far enough in advance that I did have mastery before the lesson came around. I love listening to homeschooling parents encourage each other by saying, “You only have to stay one day ahead of the students.” It’s true! Don’t overburden yourself by believing you have to have memorized every single second grade standard on the first day. Guess what? Your child might have mastered those standards in first grade, or they might not get it until third. You’re teaching a person, not a “norm”.
PLEASE don’t misunderstand me!!! Teachers have special training. They are qualified. Many of them know much more about “teaching” than I could ever hope to. I am NOT implying that ANYONE can go into a classroom and effectively instruct a differentiated group of 30-150 kids a day, in the same way I would not “gas” someone and do dental work in my home. Professionals are professionals because of their knowledge and training. They are the experts in the instruction of children within the scope of their training, just like you are the expert in teaching your own child. You are welcome to share my opinion with others, but just remember that not everyone agrees. J
Oh, and as for my patience… I am not some sort of superhuman! Are you kidding me?!? If someone said, “Would you rather stay at home all day, worn down by the bickering of your children and covered in baby spit or would you rather spend the day getting a mani-pedi and lunching al fresco with your dearest friends?” Hello?!? I’m going with the mani-pedi every time, but neither of those are realistic pictures of homeschooling or schooling moms. We ALL have our challenges. For us, life became more PEACEFUL when we brought our children home (see: Why We Do What We Do All Day Pt.1).
As for those other lies, “You’re incredible. I could never do that.” “Staying at home all day would drive me crazy. I could never do that.” “I could never do that. I don’t have that kind of patience.” Friends, hear each other’s hearts. Homeschooling mommies: Your friend or family member may really believe those things. They may also feel like you’re making a judgment about their choices. ALL parents want the best for their child. EVERY family needs to weigh the scales and decide what’s right for their family, and our knowledge is limited to our own. Where family members are concerned, remember they’ve got an interest in your children, too. If they want to justify what you’re doing, that’s probably okay, right? (“Well Myrtle, my daughter-in-law, Susie, has decided to homeschool her children, but she watches a lot of “19 Kids and Counting” and those Duggars sure seem to know what they’re doing. I’m sure it will be fine.”) YOU get to make the ultimate decision and only YOU have to answer for it. Friends and family members: You have NO idea what you’re capable of. You can do anything you’ve been called to do, but not by your own power. If we relied on our own strength, we would all fail. Your homeschooling friend is probably super-enthusiastic right now, too. They’re bubbling over and filled with the joy of finding the confidence to do something they didn’t think they could do. They are most likely not thinking a thing about what you did or are doing with your kids. Now… everybody hug it out. J
I love the phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” The greatest triumphs of all time were not recorded by those who did everything right and made no mistakes along the way. It’s the brokenness that makes the story special. It’s the meager beginning. It’s the courage it takes to do what you know you should, but might not believe you can. Give it to God and He will qualify you by His authority.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
So, we decided to homeschool and we all lived happily ever after, right? Um, not so much! J I shifted into an all-consuming, “I’ve-got-a-new-mission-in-life mode and don’t anybody stand in my way.” We bought “The Well Trained Mind.” We informed the school that we would not be returning next year. We bought “Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.” We took the quizzes. We became the parents of a Wiggly Willy/Competent Carl, a Perfect Paula, and a Sociable Sue (who is actually a Sociable Sam). We went to the conference. I got overwhelmed (and a little nauseated) in the vendor hall after discovering that my World’s-Greatest-One-Stop-Works-For-All-Of-Your-Children-At-One-Time-While-Washing-Your-Dishes-And-Folding-Your-Laundry curriculum was not actually going to work for MY family (insert paper bag hyperventilation and mass quantities of Diet Pepsi, here). We dry walled the garage. I finally decided on the curriculum. We set up the desks. We joined a homeschooling group. I bored my friends to death with my endless ramblings (God bless you girls. I love you.). Finally, we opened our doors for the first day of school (two weeks before our public school friends).
Or we would have opened our doors, if the garage had been finished. We sweated through our first days in the August heat, going back and forth between garage and kitchen table. The kids were fighting. The baby was always too loud and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our family had also had a rough summer. I was hot. I was scared. I didn’t have anyone to reach out to (because, um, hello?? I’ve totally got this! I WAS a teacher for Pete’s sake). Deep down, I started to doubt that I COULD do it. I was less worried about becoming the flighty-looking mom and more worried about not meeting my kids’ needs.
I was worried ALL THE TIME. I was nervous ALL THE TIME. I doubted my abilities CONSTANTLY (cause it was about me, right? Not what God wanted to accomplish through me). And then came the day that all public school families wait for… the posting of the class lists. Guess what? My kids were on the lists. Guess what? Their closest friends were in their classes. Guess what happened next? I had an out…
Ah, and then I started rationalizing. “It’s probably better to let them start the year with their classmates, than to decide in two or three months that I made the wrong call and try to enroll them later.” I think my darling husband could sense the mania taking hold. He was so encouraging and supportive. He couldn’t be here during the day, so he didn’t fully know and he would support me whatever we decided… but he did continue to encourage me, “I know you can do this,” he said. “I will support you through this.” “We can do this together.” But I wasn’t listening. The confusion made it impossible.
And then the worst part… Whenever I have gotten to a tough spot, I have always said to the Lord, “If you could just go old-school for a minute, Father, and send that hand to write on the wall and tell me what to do, I promise not to be freaked out. I will do whatever you say.” But as I was praying (and crying) the night before school started, I did hear the voice of the Lord and He said to me, “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it. I will give you everything you need to complete the job I have set before you.” Wow…….
Here, the Lord had given me the very thing I asked for, and I was still scared. Call it what you will, I call it spiritual warfare. We were under attack and in the end, I caved. I walked my kids to school and it didn’t grieve me as I thought it would because all along the way we saw the happy faces of the people we loved. I was so relieved that I mistakenly believed I made the right choice. Their wonderful teachers were so happy to see them. The school secretary was pleased when she told me, “I kept them on the list, just in case.” It was early October, when I understood the mistake I had made. The problems we had were bigger than ever. I repented… big time. And I praise God that He is the God of second chances. His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. We pulled the kids from school, this time officially.
I can tell you, without hesitation, that for every reason you have for homeschooling, there are a hundred you will discover, over time. I hadn’t noticed, but even at their young ages, they were growing up way too fast. I’ll never forget the day my kindergarten-age daughter came home innocently singing every word to a certain Katy Perry song. They were growing up and I was missing out on so much of it. THEY were missing out, too.
My son, who is pretty bright academically, was invited to join a special math group. Basically, they were second graders doing third grade work. The problem was that now he had second AND third grade math homework. When I asked if he could just do the third grade work, (since, he’s clearly mastered the second grade skills) I was told, no. That was fine, it was her call. One night, he was SO upset about his homework and it was getting very late. I said, “Son, do you really enjoy being in that math group?” If it was really important to him, I didn’t want to take it away from him. “I will support you, if you want to continue,” I said, “but I think this is a little much for our family and if you don’t want to stay in it, you don’t have to.” I silently cheered his decision the next day when I came to volunteer and his teacher told me, “Your little guy politely informed me that he wouldn’t be participating in the math group anymore.” We both chuckled, but I started to feel bad because I knew he wouldn’t progress at the rate he was capable of.
One day, after we pulled the kids for good, my mom went out to lunch with my their former kindergarten teacher and she was asking about how homeschooling was going for us. She said to my mom, “You know what? She really just needed to believe she could do it.” I am not trying to say that ANYONE is being disobedient in not homeschooling their children (though I was initially). If you’re considering homeschooling, what you need is courage. The Lord will give you every measure that you will need for this job, you just have to ask.
People always say, “Well, you can do it because you were a teacher.” This is ABSOLUTELY untrue and I will write about this tomorrow, but there is one advantage that former teachers have and that is perspective. My first year of teaching was difficult, at best. I questioned my college education and my choice to pursue teaching. I was taught nothing in my teacher prep classes about the most important part of teaching: classroom management. Yet, the summer between my first and second years, I researched, I plotted, I planned, and you know what? The second year was incredible! Homeschooling is filled with highs and lows, but I would always encourage moms not to give up after the first year. You learned a lot during your first year and the second year is where it shows.
If you are considering homeschooling, I have to say DO IT NOW! You will NOT be disappointed. You might become discouraged and disillusioned, but you will not be disappointed. The friends I know who pulled their kids from school to homeschool, have only one regret… that they didn’t do it sooner. I will pray that if it’s courage you need, that you receive it; if it’s encouragement, that you find it; if it’s a drive-thru Starbucks, that there is one around the corner. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:5-7 NAS
p.s. One of the very best articles on this topic that I have ever read is by Gregg Harris called, “Priceless Treasures”. You can Google it, since I don’t know how to link yet. J
This blog hop idea is pure genius. I’m overwhelmed by how homeschoolers reach out and lift one another up. I sure could have used y’all at this time last year. My insides are pretty much churning remembering the turmoil we went through trying to make our decision about whether to pull our kids from public school or not. I know many of you are in a similar position as I was last year, playing mental ping pong, and basically wearing yourself out. I received a comment on my first post from Brandy, whose little one goes back to school tomorrow, and my heart was just so touched at the memory of how draining it is on us moms trying to make the right decision for our most precious treasures. I’ve decided it would be important for me to tell it all, so here it goes…
Brandy is a former public school employee (teacher), as I was once upon a time, and my husband still is. My first thought about homeschooling occurred when I was taking a post-graduate class. The professor challenged us to make a list of our students, in random order, just as their names occurred to us. We teachers get pretty good at memorizing our class lists in alphabetical order, or by table groups. J So here I was, 31 names into a list of 32 and I sat agonizing in my chair, grieving for the one who I could not remember. How could I spend six hours a day with this child and draw a blank? The teacher then challenged us to look at those last few names, as they were probably the ones receiving the least amount of our attention. Each child was so precious to me, but as I looked my list over, I realized that numbers 1-3 dominated about thirty percent of my time, while the rest divided up what was left over. However, my dream of being a PTA super mom, was very much still alive. You better believe sweet, undemanding, do-my-work-not-cause-any-trouble “Katie” was my first thought daily after that. It was at that time that I began to wonder, “Is my future child worth two percent of somebody’s time?”. You see each child was incredibly priceless to me, but it is just an unchangeable fact that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.
Flash forward a few years and God has issued me the greatest, sweetest challenge of all, the raising of my three incredible children. You see, my specialty in the classroom was dealing with active boys (they are NOT, in any way, the same as every other student, and cannot be handled the same…more on the revolutionary “every child is unique and has unique needs” principle at a later time...smile). Now, I had the caring of three children with unique needs, and ALL of them are incredibly active!
So one fine August day, my husband and I arrived at the door of the kindergarten classroom with our little world-changer in tow. He was enrolled in the same school I had attended as a child and his teacher was one of my mom’s best friends from high school. We saw nothing but blue skies smiling at us…until we picked him up. He did not love his first day. I was sure it was kinder anxiety and as the year went on, we were assured that he was doing great in school. “Great?” we questioned. “What about his high activity level?” She saw only typical kinder energy. We were shocked. This was not the kid who went from swing, to bike, to swing, to trampoline and got himself ready for bed by doing laps around the kitchen island.
Over time, we began to notice a huge difference in our family life. The little boy who held all his energy in all day, was coming home exhausted and dissolving into tears at the mention of soccer or homework. And, OH the homework! Every mom I talked to had the same reply, “You think this is bad? Wait until first grade!” “You think this is bad? Second is worse!” “I wish my child were back in second grade. Third grade homework is an absolute turning point in the amount of homework they receive.” I could hear the little voice in my head wondering, “But when does he get to be a little kid?”
You see our family life was VERY different now. I was an absolute drill sergeant, issuing orders from dawn til dusk. “Hurry up, out of bed. Get dressed. Finish your cereal, FAST! Don’t forget your backpack, or your socks for silly sock day. Give me a kiss. I love you! Jump out of the car. I’m holding up the line. How was your day? Here, eat this snack. Get your baseball stuff on. Hurry, into the car. Be nice to your brother. Don't talk to your sister that way. We’re gonna be late for practice. Do your silent reading now. Let’s all sit down for dinner. Let’s finish your homework. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Say your prayers. Goodnight. I love you.” The memory of that breaks my heart. We were so busy and task-oriented and I… Was… So… Tired… I’m sure my family was, too, but we were all so depleted from the pace we had set that I would drop into bed at the end of the day, barely communicating with my husband. There were too many fast food dinners. Too many nights of ice cream in front of the tv (so I could just be quiet for a bit...is that too much to ask?). Too many snippy comments to the ones I loved the most. I was filled with anxiety, and as I looked around I saw, the family was, too. We knew something had to change. We decided to look into homeschooling.
Oh, how I wish that were the end of the story. I wish I were about to write, “And it was the best decision we ever made and we never looked back.” But, that’s not how it happened and it wasn't my finest moment, friends. I’ll post the rest in just a little bit. I have a feeling the children will require food this morning. J
On another note… Wow! I cannot tell you how overwhelmed and encouraged I’ve been by all the comments you’ve left me. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for the longest time, mostly to have a record of this incredible season in our lives. Never, did I realize, it would lift me up so much to connect with the homeschooling community. You guys rock!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Here we are in the school room. I have been teaching writing classes this summer, so we have an extra table in here that is going to leave in another two weeks, when they end. I'll be glad to see the table go, but not my wonderful students. We have had such a blast together so far!
Each of the kids has a desk and a pinboard. I got these desks at Target last year for a really great price and I love the chairs from Ikea!
I got these at Ikea, too, in the kitchen area. I LOVE how accessible the kids' supplies are and they stay organized pretty easily. Man, I've got a real problem with school supplies. I will NOT be opening the cupboard to display just how many packs of crayons, pens, pencils and glue sticks I bought. You know you've got a problem when you can't sleep on Saturday night in anticipation of Sunday morning's Staples flyer in the paper.
I grabbed a few "Command" hooks and hung our Poster Center on the side of my armoire. Big kid posters up top and the Pre-K posters down below (although I'm sure they'll crossover).
The kids' old cubbies find themselves on top of a table that was a FREE cast-off from a J. Crew store that was closing in our area. Curriculum that needs to be kept close at hand is stored here.
This table is also where we will do centers. You can see some of the "centers" file folders I mentioned in my previous post on the lower shelf. One set of workboxes is also to the left of the table. The other ones are up from by my table. The LAST thing I need to do before we officially start is to organize the filing crates down below...ugh...paper...my nemesis!
I love that the glider found new life in the reading corner. I just got these cool chairs for the kids at Walmart for $19 each. I'd love to make cute covers for them one day, but the black is fine for now. These are definitely a step up from the Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs that were there before. My kiddos would flop over backwards in them and I'm sure you can imagine how engaged they were in reading from that point on.
The old computer now plays the games that are not supported by our Mac.
This is Carlos! Carlos is the perfect example of why we do what we do. My oldest is so creative. One day he found a bent hanger and I could see the wheels in his head start turning. He grabbed tape, construction paper, scissors, googly eyes, rubber bands and enlisted the help of his sister. The two of them were busy at our kitchen table for a solid hour, plotting and problem solving. The end result of their efforts is Carlos, the duck. He is starting to fade, but he is absolutely priceless to me!
One last look out from where I sit. The overhead projector is my baby...and as I mentioned earlier, teacher habits die hard. I'm so excited to have one again!
I hope you all enjoyed seeing our schoolhouse. Guaranteed it won't be this neat for long. Look, my little guy is already moving posters around! :)