Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homeschool Conventions and Contentions

Originally posted 4/25/11

So, we attended our second ever Great Homeschool Convention-Midwest last week. It is always overwhelming. There are so many great ideas & curriculum materials, all of a sudden you're thinking about buying something that 10 minutes earlier you didn't even know you wanted to teach! Violin, Chinese, Music Theory, Latin, dozens of others all sit in their respective booths screaming, "I thought you were going to do this right, this whole teaching your kids thing, but here you are and you don't even have a circuitry and electric work curriculum!" Wait a second, my second grader is a little young to be wiring real breakers, maybe next year.

We knew about the overstimulation this year though. We went with a list of goals (ie things we needed for next year) and tasks (things we were researching). Out of that 12 item list, we were able to cross one thing off, ONE. C'est la vie. It was a biggie. We bought Math-U-See's math curriculum. Math-U-See. It's pretty cool, all hands on and brain-using. Hopefully, it'll give the kid's some better tools for learning going forward. We were using Singapore Math. I do really like it but it only goes through sixth grade and Matthew needed a little more guidance through the concepts. I'm hoping the dvd's that come with the program provide that.

Contentions came in at the history section of our list. I love WinterPromise. We've been using their "Animals & their Worlds" curriculum for science this year. I am planning on using their "All American 1" curriculum next year. Shown here:

 My fabulous husband loves this one:

I am trying to be a good Christian woman, an obedient wife...but I'm not pulling it off very well. His is cheaper, mine is better. Oops, that's not what I should say. I'm so torn, POE looks good, but not great. AA1 looks great but WP is slow to ship and it'll drive me crazy til I get it.

In the Weeds

Originally posted 2/7/12

Welcome to February, we're behind and I'm frantic. I'm disenchanted with parts of our curriculum, can't afford new curriculum and have too much invested time-wise to start over anyway. To top it all off, I think I have iPad neck, you know, where you sit in a bad position too long staring down at a screen?

We have a Valentine's Day party Sunday. The house is a disaster, like some kind of 1970's B-list actor studded burning building disaster. Like the Mayans quit counting because they saw my house in their nightmares. Like...well, you get the point. So much for making a good impression on the homeschooling crowd :-/ There's only a few people coming anyway. I just wish we could get the whole place vacuumed, mopped & the dogs washed first. Oh, and laundry...16 baskets currently take up my living room. Course, Emma is starting multiplication this week. So I'm going to have to teach her extra and Matthew is having issues which I need to figure out if it's laziness or he's lost.

I'm in the weeds at work, too. Why does it all hit at once? I wish I could call my aunt to come clean. Man do I miss her. That would eliminate me working 6 hours after work every night.

Guess I should sleep...goodnight.

"Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story..."

~Quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Originally posted 8/19/11

I feel poised on the edge of a precipice. We sent our official letter to the school district last week, our "official" letter. My head keeps screaming, "There's no turning back! THERE'S NO TURNING BACK!" For the most part, my heart says, "You're doing the right thing." I know that I need to quit looking for confirmation in our decision and realize that I make my own path. I still get a catch in my chest from it though.  I feel poised on the edge of greatness as well. If this works and it goes well, my two littles will have an incredible variety in their education, they will have limitless possibilities for expanding their intelligence and an education that is hand-crafted for them with their interests and learning styles solely in mind. The edge of a precipice, indeed.

I do worry though, it's what I do; who I am. I realized while looking through some grammar lessons that I don't believe I've ever heard of a gerund before...how can I POSSIBLY teach grammar and not know what a gerund is???? (it refers to the usage of a verb (in its -ing form) as a noun).  The non-lizard part of my brain acknowledges that I quickly figured out what a gerund was and how it fits into the lesson at hand. Additionally, it's part of a seventh grade lesson (which I'm currently teaching fifth and second grades).

We have taken a slight respite from our weekly schedule after having made the decision for sure. We wanted to allow the kids that last fluttering days of summer to play with friends, ride their bikes, and drag their grandmother to the creek.  Matthew needed a little more deschooling to bleed off some of the massive anxiety that he has built up around all things school. We got a postcard from his teacher yesterday, introducing herself and welcoming him to her room. I felt guilty, as though I could have gotten my letter in sooner and they wouldn't have held out a spot for my kids. I know that I couldn't have, but I still felt bad.  I may email her a note though so she doesn't give him a desk and put him on the cubbies, etc. The Homeschool groups tell you  that you shouldn't, but it just seems like a courtesy from here.

Time for work...or lunch anyway, more crazy later ^_^

Somedays, you need some umph!

Originally posted 7/25/11

I feel like we were making great strides, only to grind to a halt. I know my husband would say I'm exaggerating and in return I would argue, "You're right, we weren't really making great strides."

We made it through 2 weeks worth of lesson plans in 3-ish weeks. Since we're starting slowly and easing into it, I felt like that was acceptible. Then, we just made no progress last week. A tiny bit of independent reading that was more like dental surgery than happy homeschooling.

I feel like I'm floundering a bit. I'm second-guessing myself again and questioning whether this is all a good idea. Maybe I'm just dreading sending the letter and making it official. Then, in the same thought, I'm cursing myself for not pulling them all out when heather was a sophomore. Matthew would never have built up all this anxiety and Emma wouldn't have had to go to school. WHY do I think this will work again?

Then my parents, who earlier in the summer made it clear that they needed to cut back to one day a week, just had a breakdown on the phone because I was making sure they knew we were keeping them at the store tomorrow.

Idk, some days it's just too hard.

Welcome to Homeschool!

Originally posted 6/23/11

My Facebook today summed it up nicely:

"Welcome to homeschool...
Rule #1: There's no crying in homeschool.
Rule #2: There's no fighting in homescool.
Rule #3: There's no whining in homeschool.
Rule #4: There's no yelling in homeschool.
Now that we've broken all the rules, maybe we could open some books."

It actually went very smoothly (I'm sure it never will again). I kept putting things off until everything was perfect and the lesson plans were combined and on and on and realistically, it will never be perfect. So my parents bailed on watching the kids today & instead of calling my MIL, we took them and two huge bags of books to work and we just started.

Was it perfect? No. We had left Ereth's Birthday at my parent's house Monday night and I pulled the wrong independent reader for Matthew, but by golly, most everything else got done.

The kids did their reading together (mostly Matthew who's 10 did the read alouds). We discussed the readings, did our lesson in World of Animals and then did Spelling and LA. After a break to watch a movie, they came back individually and finished up LA and did their first lessons in Singapore Math. Emma (7) even did tomorrow's math because she enjoyed it.

We didn't make it to the Habitat book, but Tuesday's my busy day at work and I had to focus at the end of the day when UPS showed up 3 hours late with my big shipment for the week.

I let the kids mark off their assignments as they finished them in my book and that made them so excited. Next week, I'm gonna try that with the chore chart.

Here's hoping that we manage to fit in more lessons this week and that the kids are as agreeable when the grandparents are at work too.

While we were finishing up at work, my 7 yr old shot a podcast about homeschooling with special effects. She was playing with the built in camera on my Mac & just started doing this PSA about how great homeschool was. Once I figure out how, I'll post it. It was funny and sweet. She also interviewed her brother, but that devolved into chaos.

The Hungry Ipad

Originally posted 6/15/11

Apparently, my iPad has been eating the posts I do at night. I've posted at least 1-2 times per week since May and I have 3 posts showing from the last two months. Not pleased, not pleased at all. Perhaps the app is not that cool.

We have missed the first deadline for starting school. Partly,  I felt like the monkeys needed another week to deschool and partly, I want to compile the LA, Math, and AW curriculums into a single page per week.  I don't know HOW I'm going to do that or with what program I'm going to do that, so at the moment, I'm not doing such a good job as a teacher :-/ I also have to make copies of some of the materials, get everything out on the table and sort it out, and label everything.

Anyway, probably tonight, we're going to start reading our first book from AW which is Ereth's Birthday. We may do a little Math since I figured out how the Singapore outline works today at lunch. {{{Groan, shouldn't have mentioned lunch}}}.

Humpfrey is feeling under the weather. Has a goopy ear that's got a fever in it. We may have to take him to the vet soon. They both need to get to the vet. Not sure how to get them there with work, games, practice and schooling, teleportation possibly.

Plus, I need to schedule a date for a board game day at work, guess I need to grab a calendar and get that under way.

There's my to do list, any volunteers for helping??? Beuler? Beuler?

Baby Steps...Man, I Hate 'Em!

Originally Posted 6/9/11

So, with our deadline looming, we've made some decisions. Although the kids wanted to each do a separate curriculum, we are officially doing one at a time. We may break each up into 5-8 week blocks & study one, then the other, but I'm not going to blend two full year curricula and do it in a year. Between the language arts, the math, and the "everything else", I dont think anyone would enjoy that blend. 

So now I have a goal, a small possibly attainable goal...get the first 7 weeks ready (that's the length of the first section of Animals & their Worlds. My brain is so rusty, atrophied, I feel like I'm thinking through mud. I think I'm going to cut out sweetener soon, that should be fun.

Speaking of which, gotta find a nutrition curriculum for grade school...

One More Day...

Originally posted 5/27/11 on Wordpress

One more day...one more day of school and I'm petrified. IS this the kids LAST day of school ever? Are we really going to do this homeschooling thing? Will we succeed? Fail? Wimp out? Will we return to Stephens next August having the most stressful and tumultuous summer on record. Return with our tails between our legs and our eyes on the ground?

Matthew told everyone today at school. Made a huge deal of it. I wasn't going to in case it didn't work out. Then only a few people would know of our failure...

I'm so torn, I LOVED school. Can't imagine missing the things that happened at school. At the same time, did I? I loved my close friends, I got into fights, was bullied and mocked and left with a broken heart crying on the phone. I was pushed by my peers to grow up too fast. What if I could have been a kid? Relaxed and learned to like myself? 

What if I had gotten that positive feedback at home instead of by being the teacher's pet? I know I would have finished school early if given the chance. I loved learning.

Do I have enough positiveness in me to nurture the kids while teaching them? Can I keep them from killing each other while we're doing school?

My ulcer is NOT liking this homeschooling thing, he's definitely against it. Course, we had another bullying incident today. Bully brought axe body spray to school & sprayed Matthew. Set off his allergies & then joked that it had peanuts in it. Wow, thats funny. Wonder if I'll get a call from the nurse tomorrow too.

On the upside, he's apparently getting an award for the honor roll tomorrow for the first time, he'll be very excited about that for sure. His own medal.

This weekend...organization, cleaning & blending the curriculums. Huzzah!


Originally posted 5/11/11 on Wordpress

Small victory, middle of the road defeat. Tuesday, we did receive a small box of books...not a large box like we were hoping, but something anyway. It had the Animals & their worlds lesson plan which was number one on my list of needs so that I can get to work laying out our year. Significantly missing was the books for the first section of work. Disappointing. They will get it fixed asap, which I'm sure will not be as fast as I'd like for sure.

Anyway, I find myself oscillating more than a Georgia fan on a stand about whether we CAN get this done. My head understands that it's going to work out, but my heart is full worry and doubts. Maybe it's the reverse, head heart...IDK, some days it seems insurmountable. Other days, it seems like its going to be easier than sending them to school. 12 more days...12 more days! The kids, the grandparents, us, even the dogs are looking forward to an end to this interminable year. Testing is finally over. Course, they did four tests today to get it finished. FOUR, THAT wont eff up the results or anything, I'm sure.

Today, I think we can do it. Two curriculums at once, I can't swear to, but we're going to give it the old college try. I decided for handwriting, they're going to write to their godparents & other assundry uncles, aunts & such. Letter writing is a wonderful hobby and who better to spend time on than uncle mark, aunt Jackie & the rest of the people they love. I can even make pretty stationary with decorated computer paper & printed primary paper templates. Good times :) if I add pictures at the bottom, they'll have a little keepsake of the kids too. I'm pretty excited about this idea for handwriting. Copy work seems painfully dull, even if it's great speeches or poetry. They may still do a little of that though.

Next stop, trying to decide between Farsi & Mandarin Chinese for a language program. I would like to learn Farsi, then get hired by the government pulling down big money to sit and translate all day. That would be good work...you think? Guess the kids want to start with sign language, we can do that too...
Now if I can just go without sleep, I'd get twice as much done.


Hurry up and WAIT!

Originally posted  5/2/11

So, we are at the hurry up and wait stage of our homeschooling adventure. We have one curriculum in and ready to start and are waiting on the other. Adventures in Sea & Sky is sitting on a shelf and ready to be figured out. We also have the fifth grade LA stuff waiting to organize. Both the second and fifth grade math curriculi are lined up on my "school shelf." we are still waiting on the Animals & their Worlds stuff. The web-site said it would ship by tomorrow, but the truth is, I was really hoping it would get here early. Like now!

My work should have already began, but I've been dragging my feet a little. We must organize the house. We must clear out some stuff and make room for our schooling area. The key to our success will be keeping it all together.

On top of organizing, I need to pull together a master list to combine fifth grade and second into a master lesson plan, week by week & day by day. I have been reading the Kentucky Scope & Sequence in my free time. I'm trying to devise a checklist, for lack of a better word, to make sure I cover everything the public school would cover. I don't want to do them harm by homeschooling.

Guess I need to get back downstairs and give my rotten dogs some scratching, they've been neglected this weekend. Everyone is excited to start, even the kids who realize they'll be doing school in the summer. 

My Lightly-Taken Decision

Originally posted 4/21/11

I have to say, I've been questioning lately the impression I leave on my friends and acquaintences. Apparently, many people believe me to be shallow and think that I take critical decisions very lightly. Mark & I have decided that we want to be in charge of our children's education. The last couple of years, I thought by being more involved at school volunteering/joining and being active in the PTA/being in the kid's classrooms that I would know more about what was going on and how to help my kids deal with their stresses. However, being more involved has shown me that I don't want my kids dealing with these stresses. There is a fundamental problem in the education system today, many fundamental problems. No, I don't have my degree in education, but I do believe I know my children very well. I know their strengths and weaknesses and I believe that I am capable and qualified to teach them. I'm already teaching them. I spend an average of 22 hours per week either in their classrooms or at home helping them with homework/projects/etc. Plus, there must have been 10 field trips this year. 16 hours per week. If I add 8 more hours in, that is the amount I agree to instruct my children if I pull them out of school and home educate them.

30 hours. Let's examine this. At school, part of their day includes lunch...ok, 30 minutes per day for lunch, got it (2.5 hours). They inevitably listen to an audiobook (1.5 hours). Often (2-3 times per week) they watch an educational dvd (2 hours). They read silently at their desks (20 minutes per day at least) (1.5 hours). They have recess (20 min/5 days per week) (1.5 hours). That's 9 more hours for a total of 25.

Mark & I work full-time (40-50 hours each per week). We do work at the family business though, so we can take the kids to work with us and keep them close to us. We see our kids currently after work (I get home around 6:30, he gets home around 7:45). All together, including busy morning time and after work time, we get to see our kids for 1 hour in the morning and 3 hours at night for me and an hour and 45 minutes at night for Mark. I guess we're weird, but I WANT to see my kids. I WANT the majority of their time to be spent with me and their father and their siblings. I MISS them when they're at school. They're at school for 7 hours, they're with a babysitter another 2-3 hours, 9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week that I don't get to see them, but other people do.

Friends of ours, people I thought knew me pretty well, act as though I'm
a.) An idiot who has no idea what it takes to teach a child
b.) Trying homeschooling as though I'm switching sandals
c.) Not even considering what's best for my children

If you've been paying attention, I've been researching this every waking non-working moment for 3 months. I've read the entirety of the Kentucky Core Content for the kids' current grades and the next two grades for each of them as well. I've read Virginia's core content/scope and sequence/curriculum documents and Iowa's. I've looked at no less than 300 different boxed homeschool curricula and compared them one to another. I've read reviews of each of them, discussed them on yahoo groups/company forums/other homeschooling parents. I've had several meetings and discussions with people who have homeschooled successfully. By successful, I mean parents who homeschooled "normal" acting children who were well-spoken and pleasant kids who eventually went to college. I've discussed homeschooling with those same college going kids (do you feel like you missed out on things? Were you deficient in anything heading into college? etc). On top of that, I've read or digested no less than 30 homeschooling how to books. I would have read more, but I maxed out my fines at the library, so I'm cut off at the moment.

Does that sound as though I'm taking this lightly?

I am very aware that I DON'T have a degree in education. I also know kids who are homeschooled who have no social skills. MY kids are NOT like those kids. They are extremely social. We're playing baseball, softball, soccer and we're going to start art lessons/gymnastics/karate in the fall when those other commitments slow down.
No, dad, we are not going to let him lay on the couch playing video games 8 hours per day.

Being able to keep the kids on a schedule that matches our work schedule will give us more time with them. Not having to put them to bed as soon as I get home at night, will give us more time with them. I want to be with my kids more. I want to show them what the family business is like and share that with them. I want them to have my values and Mark's values not their friends' values. I want to teach them about God and the Bible as part of their schooling without paying $10,000 a year in private school tuition. I want to teach them how to LOVE LEARNING instead of watching them from the sidelines learn to HATE TESTING.

Will it work? Time will tell. Being irresponsible idiots, we've decided to start as soon as the kids get out of school. We're going to try it throughout the summer, if it doesn't work, we'll just send the kids back in the fall. If it does work, then we send the letter to the superintendent and we don't look back.

If you are one of our friends and you think we're crazy, keep it to yourself. If you have concerns and you feel like you really have to share them with us, do it in a manner that doesn't scream "YOU'RE GOING TO FAIL MISERABLY AND I CAN'T WAIT SO THAT I CAN SAY "I TOLD YOU SO"." I don't mind hearing your reservations, it helps my resolve to talk through them, but when I think you're my friend (maybe even one of my best friends) and you intimate that I'm going to fail AND damage my children, that's crossing some lines.

I have thought about the consequences.
I have considered how difficult and time consuming it's going to be.
I do understand how frustrating my children can be.
I have thoroughly and completely investigated other options.
I do plan on socializing my children.
I know that it is a second full-time job (guess what, kids are always a second full-time job, I'm just choosing now to remove the middle men).
I am prepared for the possibility of failure BUT I am also prepared for the possibility of success.
Yes, homeschooled kids CAN and DO get accepted to college and I'm aware of WHAT I need to do to make sure they're prepared for that.
I am committed to this path. It's a shame I don't have more support from the people with which I'm closest.

Filled with crazy and stuffing more in

Originally posted 3/14/2011 on my Wordpress blog.

I started this blog probably two years ago and never successfully completed a single post. Now, as my life is even more hectic, I've decided to revisit blogging as a method of organizing my thoughts and the links I find useful. Our newest endeavor is homeschooling our two youngest kids. After a stressful school year and much discussion, we've decided as a family that we want to be in charge of our own kids' education. Little Missy is less than keen as she loves school and everything about it but Little Mister is really warming up to the idea. Hubby and I have discussed this for some time and we just feel like the time is right and we want to spend more time with our kids than random strangers do.

That being said, we both work a minimum of 40-45 hours per week. How can we take on this additional full-time job with all that we already do? Well, that is what we keep asking ourselves over and over and over and over... We really feel strongly that it is the right decision for our family however and we are at this point about 90% sure that come June, we'll be "THOSE" people. 

Despite what some of our friends think, we are taking this very seriously and we do realize how much of a responsibility this is. I also realize that I currently get to spend maybe 4 hours a day with my kids. Their teachers spend 7, their grandparents spend 2-4. I want to have more influence on who they become as people than their peers and their teachers. I want them to know the basics that are covered under the core content as tested by the standardized tests, but I also want them to have time and freedom to explore subjects that interest them and be inspired by great works of literature and art. Right now, they're being taught like rats in a maze to pass a standardized test without even the promise of cheese. My fourth grader is under so much stress "practicing" for the written section of his standardized tests that  I swear I found a grey hair on his head last week.

Our current plan is to start our school year, right after school lets out. However everything goes, we should know by August if we are going to be able to successfully homeschool while working. If everything is going well, we write the letter and officially pull them out, if it's going poorly, we send them back and they're a little ahead for the start of their next year. I sound all non-chalant, don't I? Yeah, my ulcer would disagree with that statement. Time will tell.