Category Archives: Home Schooling

Friday Finds….National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month and there is a lot of fun things happening on the internet to help celebrate.  You can click here to visit Jama’s Alphabet Soup Blog where she has a post that has a list of many of the activities going on this month.  I wanted to share some of our favorite poetry books. The books I am sharing today are mostly filled with silly poems.  With a 6 and a 3-year-old, this is the type of poetry they appreciate right now.  Perhaps in a few years they will appreciate more serious poems (though I tend to doubt it!).

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1.  Take me out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs  and I’m Still Here in the Bathtub: Brand New Silly Dilly Songs by Alan Katz

These books are filled with super silly songs done to tunes your kids know. We love to sing the songs from these books and we laugh a lot whenever we do. 

2.  Anything by Jack Prelutsky!!!  

We love Pizza the Size of the Sun and It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles.  These books are filled with more laugh out loud poetry, perfect for my silly kids!

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3.  Random House Book of Poetry for Children–poems selected by Jack Prelutsky

This book was given to Wally when he was a baby and so now we have two copies (I had one in my classroom).  They are both well worn and we love this great collection of poems.  So many great poems about every topic under the sun.

4.  Anything by Shel Silverstein!!!  

These are the poems we grew up with and my children love them as much as my husband and I.   We all enjoy the crazy ideas of Shel Silverstein and especially love Where the Sidewalk Ends or Falling Up.

5.  Kids Pick the Funniest Poems–a collection put together by Bruce Lansky

Yes, another collection silly poems!  But so much fun.

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He Said….She Said

At the wedding last weekend in Arizona, we did not know very many people.  This gave my husband, the social butterfly, the chance to chat with all sorts of new folks.  He loves to “work” a room and is so good about starting up a conversation with anyone he encounters.  I do not possess these skills and so admire his confidence and interpersonal strengths.

At one point I came up to the bar where he was standing with a gentleman and joined in on their conversation.  The gentleman was a bit of a “bragger” and in the first 5 minutes I was standing there, he told us every accomplishment he has ever had in the sports world (use to drive for NASCAR) and beyond and bragged about how talented an athlete he was.  Now this gentleman was in his 60’s and I applauded his go-go attitude.  Based on his physique, I wouldn’t have pegged him for the athlete he claimed to be but we “oohed and ahhed” right along with his stories.

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His wife soon joined us and the bragging continued.  She was all about bragging about her perfect daughter and grandson but expressed her frustration with the public school education her grandson was getting.  Her children had attended private schools but her daughter could not justify the expense.  Instead her daughter supplemented her grandson’s education with Fencing, Soccer, Boy Scouts, Piano, Art lessons, Baseball, Swimming, Skiing (and a few other things I can’t remember).  I so wanted to ask when the poor child, who was SEVEN, got to be a kid and play.

This new topic of education was a refreshing change from the “I’m so great at sports” conversation and my husband launched into our own personal discontent with the public schools.  He told them that I was an educator and that we were planning on homeschooling our children.  The woman put her hand up in disgust to this news and was about to say something negative (where do people get off?), when my husband interrupted her and told her that he was homeschooled.  The husband gave us a thumbs up and said, “Homeschooling is Great, good for you guys!”  The wife looked at her husband, turned a bit red-faced, paused for a second but continued with her objection anyway.  She looked at me and said, “Honey, homeschooling will ruin your life!  You will have no life!! You need to think about yourself”

Not wanting to waste my breath on this individual that I would never see again, I assured her that this was something I wanted to do.  I told her I have dreams of my own that can be gone after while homeschooling and that I think it will be a gift to be apart of my children’s education.  My husband shared the positive aspects of his education and how today there are even more opportunities for homeschoolers.

Frustrated by our answers, she searched for a new objection and settled on the old standby…”Socialization”.  Tired of this argument already (and I haven’t even started homeschooling), I so wanted to say…”You were just talking to my husband, one of the most social people at this wedding, does he lack Socialization?!?!?”  But instead I quickly said that in this day and age children seem a bit over socialized and I am confident that my children will have plenty of healthy opportunities to interact with other children every day.

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Thankfully it was time to go in for dinner and I was grateful to escape this unwanted attack.   As my husband and I walked to our table, I felt pride about the way we responded and came together as a team to defend our decision. I felt like we took one step closer to living the life that we want to live and I was proud of myself for not letting her attacks ruin my evening.  It felt great!

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Still Searching for My One Liner

I can’t seem to do it….I can’t seem to find a way to explain our reasons for wanting to Homeschool in one line or less.  “It is the path that feels right  for our family at this time” seems a bit unnatural to me and usually doesn’t cut it.  Most people want more information and this line then leads to many more follow-up questions.

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It is rare around here that anyone would question a person’s decision to send their children to the Public Schools. Many do not blink an eye at the decision for Private Schooling and I am sure after a while no one will question the decision for Charter Schools either.  So why does Homeschooling get all the attention?  The number of homeschoolers continue to rise with each passing each year…..when will it be considered more of a norm?

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When discussing our decision to homeschool, I am so careful to make sure that the other person feels comfortable in the conversation.  By doing this I sound like an idiot as I trip around our real reasons for wanting to homeschool.  I don’t want to make anyone feel badly about their decision, I truly believe there is no best decision or solution.  So why not give it to them straight?!?!  Why do I worry so much about how they feel or what they think?

This tiptoeing around the issue makes it is difficult for me to put our reasons into words when I am in the HOT SEAT.  Often times the other person becomes defensive and comes up with reasons why my son would do just fine in Public School.  In truth I am sure he would be just fine but we think there is a better option for him, something better than fine.

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It is time to be honest with people and tell them that we do not like the direction the public schools are heading in.  We want our son in a learning environment where there is lots of time for exploration and discovery.  We are looking for a learning experience that is individualized, filled with adventure, lots of outdoor time and FUN.  There are so many opportunities for homeschoolers in our community and online.  We are excited to join learning co-ops, take interesting classes and experience all that life has to offer first hand.

It is time to stop worrying what others will think about our decision and OWN it!  Not everyone will agree with us, many will question the decision and some will think we are “odd” but in the end the people who matter most are on board with us and that is all we really need.

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Facing My Fears from the Inside Out….

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For the past four weeks I have been participating in this amazing e-course through A Free Spirit Life, called Inside Out,  A Creative Adventure of Self Discovery. It is a 6 week e-course that uses art journaling, meditation, yoga and the power of community to help you make your own self-discoveries.   Shannon, the course facilitator, is incredible and I now understand why people take this class again and again.

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The Inside Out course was carefully designed to meet your needs, wherever you are.  I am not an artist but Shannon and the rest of the group are so encouraging that I have been motivated to try some artistic things that are out of my comfort zone. The kids have also enjoyed all of the painting, collaging and drawing we have been doing lately.  I was really surprised at how freeing this form of self-expression has been for me.

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During week two, Shannon had us confront and face our fears.  This has been an emotional journey for me but one that I am so glad I made time to do.  I decided to face the fears I have about Homeschooling and through journaling, discussion, meditation, collaging, crying and lots more discussion….I have made great gains.  I know that my fears are many of the same fears that every homeschooling parent has.  You know the ones….”Am I doing the right thing?, Am I messing up my child for life?, Will we find other homeschoolers we identify with?  What will the future hold?  Do I have what it takes?” I am sure even public school parents have many of the same fears.

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Through this process I realized that every path has its share of rewards and challenges and it is important to trust ourselves.  It is through that trust or intuition that the right path for our family will be there.   I already have the most supportive husband and that is one of the key ingredients for a healthy homeschooling experience.  I just need to trust myself, lean on my support system and know that these fears are normal and okay to have. I am a pretty capable mama and teacher and I am so excited about the chance to give homeschooling a try.

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This next year is going to be an exciting time filled with our share of low days.  No matter what the low days bring, it is   important that my kids not see my doubts or fear.   I want them to see a confident mama, a mama who they can rely on.  A mama who will encourage them and help them find the keys and tools for their life long learning success.  I am so ready for this adventure!

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The opinions of this e-course are all my own and I am receiving nothing for sharing them with you.  When I find amazing things, I like to share and pass them on!

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Advice from Blair of Facts of Life Fame….

I had the rare opportunity two weekends ago to be in the library by myself.  Usually I am chasing my two-year old and begging her to use an indoor voice while trying to find the latest A to Z Mystery story for my 5-year-old.  Because of this I often request our books before we head to the library, so that they are waiting for us when we get there 🙂  However this early Saturday morning allowed me quiet time in the library to explore a section I rarely visit…the Adult Section 🙂  I decided to check out the education resources, specifically the homeschooling section.

When I located the section, I was not surprised to see that our town library only had one small shelf devoted to homeschooling.  Our town is a bit wrapped up in its image and not really a place that values doing things against the norm.  The pathetic homeschooling section was very dated with a religious focus and as I flipped through the titles one book jumped out at me.  I pulled it out to look closer and the face smiling up at me from the cover made me smile.  It was Blair from the Facts of LifeBlair Lisa Whelchel apparently married a pastor and homeschools her three children.  This book, So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling, was her story and the stories of 15 other families who homeschool.  I laughed and decided to check it out to see what kind of entertainment it could provide.

Well the old saying stays true, You should NEVER judge a book by it’s cover (or in this case author).  This book was great!  She set it up like a conversation between the reader and each of the families.  It can be hokey at times but for the most part it is a very honest look into 15 very different families and their paths that led them to homeschooling and the methods that they use.  There is a single mother, a navy wife, a mother who “office schools” from work, a homeschooling dad, a family who has one homeschooled and one who has never been homeschooled, parents of children who have special needs, grandparents who homeschool, families with young children, families with teens…..so many different families.  Each family’s story is so different and their teaching methods so different.  There are families who Unschool, families who follow the Classics Curriculum, very religious families, families who use video or computer curriculum….so many different families!  The thing I loved most was how honest they all were.  They shared not only the things they love about homeschooling but the many challenges that they face.  No matter how difficult the situation that they are in or how hard they have to work to live a life where homeschooling is possible….they all say the same thing…..they wouldn’t do it any other way.

The book was truly inspiring and I read it in a 24 hour period.  There were many quote worthy things about it (I will share them at a later time) but it was so nice to have this honest glimpse of real life homeschooling.  Never again will I make fun of a book because of the author.  After all Lisa Whelchel is a real person, a real mother and has a wonderful story to share.

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Finding our Path….Following my Intuition

Week one of this Unschooling Summit was like a breath of fresh air for me.  Most of the speakers (I have to admit there were a few that I half-listened to) left me feeling inspired and thinking that Homeschooling might be the perfect thing for my little guy starting in “First Grade”.  The freedom, flexibility, individuality, sense of family and adventure that homeschooling provides are the things attracting me to this journey.  I know that not everyday will be easy and there will be many challenges to overcome.  But something about it feels right, at least at this point in our lives.

One of the speakers last week, Debra Snyder, spoke about energy and intuition and how important it is to acknowledge your intuition and follow what you feel is right.  She pointed out that we know and love our children better than anyone and so we should trust our instincts when it comes to making decisions for them.  I know my son. I know his temperament, his learning style, his sensitivities, his passions and the things he finds challenging.  I know that when he is interested in a topic, he wants to explore everything about it.  I know that he needs to work at his own pace or else he becomes frustrated and shuts down.  I know that he has a huge sensitive heart and cares so much for all of the people and creatures around him.  I know that when life seems too challenging or stressful, he pulls into his shell.  I know that he has an amazing energy, inventive spirit and he is always looking at ways to solve interesting problems.  I also know that he is shy and it takes awhile for him to feel comfortable and open up to new people and situations.  These are all wonderful qualities that make him who he is and I want him to learn how appreciate these great qualities and learn how to utilize them to learn and grow.

The way that public education is set up today, there is little room for children to explore their interests. The main focus is on learning to read and preparing for testing and with large class sizes I fear my little quiet guy would get lost in the shuffle.  His LOVE and passion for learning and life might be hindered and I’d hate to see him pushed to do things that he is not developmentally ready to do.  It would break my heart if he ever considered himself a failure because he is not yet ready to read or write at the level that the school thinks he should be at.

So I continue to research this way of life and learning.  Between this conference and the Waldorf Global next weekend, the many books I have out of the library and on my kindle, the research I have done regarding the laws and procedures of our state, discussions I have had with other families and of course my own family.  After all I am married to a successful product of homeschooling and the wealth of knowledge that is my husband, mother and father in-law and sister in-law is so very valuable.  I am so very blessed!

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Can’t We All Just Get Along??

Yesterday I had my first taste of the prejudice and strong opinions within the homeschooling community.  I always hoped and imagined homeschoolers, no matter their philosophy or teaching styles, united as one working together to help their children get the best education that they as parents could offer.  I imagined homeschooling parents to be friendly folks who would be excited to meet other homeschoolers and share the cool things that they were doing in the home.  The internet is full of supportive folks on the homeschooling websites and forums and I thought (prayed) that was a good sampling of real life….I was wrong.

My utopian views of homeschoolers were shattered yesterday.  I found out that a woman in my son’s art class was homeschooling her children and was super excited to talk about her experience.  I shared that I have been considering homeschooling and she asked what my plan was.  I made the mistake of telling her that my philosophies land somewhere between the classics and Unschoolers but that I have plenty of time to figure it all out.  All she heard was “Unschooling” and she jumped up on her soapbox and let me HAVE IT!  I heard all about how Unschoolers are lazy, use it as an excuse to do nothing and are not teaching their kids a thing.  She had nothing positive to say and was so heated in her discussion with me (her tone was not very nice) that a bunch of other moms then started telling me that I was making a mistake by Unschooling my kids (they had not heard any of my prior conversation and assumed that I was Unschooling).  I had 4 moms (who know nothing about Unschooling or ME) jumping down my throat about how kids need instruction and I am fooling myself if I think otherwise.  Finally one mom who had been quiet stood up for me and said to the group…”She is an educator, I am sure she knows she has to teach her children”.

This unwarranted attack opened my eyes to the divide within the homeschooling community.  The homeschooling community, just like the rest of society, is filled with opinionated people who are prejudice against anything that they don’t understand, threatens their way of thinking or goes against their philosophy or methods.  I learned that the word “Unschooling” is toxic to most people and from here on out will use words like “Interest Led” or “Leadership Learning”.  I also learned that I need to be guarded when it comes to sharing my hopes and dreams for my children’s education, even with other homeschoolers.  Hopefully if we do choose to homeschool, we will find others out there who are kind, caring, open-minded, accepting and will welcome us for who we are.

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Got Socialization??

 

A few weeks ago there was a question from a reader posted on Simple Homeschool’s facebook page about what you should say to people when they are against homeschooling for socialization reasons.   Eighty-eight people responded to this question with great energy and one of the answers was a link to the video up above (I laughed out loud when I saw it).  The answers to this question varied but they all followed similar themes.  Here are a few of my favorites

“I appreciate where you are coming from. But I also know school should be about learning, and outside activities are when our kids should socialize. If there was less socializing in the classroom maybe kids would not have so much homework. Besides, last I checked most offices were not staffed by a group of people all the same age from the same nieghborhood. By being with all different age groups and having to learn to interact with them, I feel my child will be better prepared to interact with the diversity they will encounter in the “real world….”

“In the words of my 9 year old son: “Well, we have lots of friends and do lots of fun things. Like we studied volcanoes once. Hawaii is really cool for that. And we studied China. Have you been to the Great Wall? It’s pretty cool to hike on. And you know what else is really neat? Rocks. You should see the rocks in the Grand Canyon. . . . So, what do your kids do to learn cool stuff?” And anyone who has met my 16 year old for the first time, always comments on how well he can talk to adults. . . Imagine. A TEEN who enjoys talking to adults, looking them in the eye, and here’s the real kicker — he knows how to shake hands with a firm grip. . . . Yeah, imagine. Why on earth would I want a bunch of completely inept kids responsible for “socializing” mine?”

“I was public schooled, and it was only after I graduated that I overcame my shyness and low self-esteem, and started being properly “socialized”.”

My question after reading all of this was, “What kind of socialization are kids really getting in school?”

According to Dictionary.com, socialization is:

a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social  skills appropriate to his or her social  position.

As a former teacher of a multi-age 2nd and 3rd grade classroom I saw all sorts of socialization first hand.  I saw girls crying in the cubby room because another girl wouldn’t play with them, I caught a child stealing money from other children so that he could afford the toys his friends had, I saw many children being bullied, there were lessons in survival of the fittest, cliques, social order, social trends, social media and consumerism.  Many students quickly learn the norms and behaviors of a classroom (sit quietly during a lesson, raise your hand when you want to speak, pay attention, do not question authority, walk in a line and do what was is asked of you) and the rest of their socialization is usually covered on the playground, school bus and in the cafeteria.  It is during these times, with little adult supervision/interaction, that many of the social issues arise.

Our schools are too busy teaching to the test and thus are not teaching our young people to be good citizens.  There are few lessons in teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, cooperative learning, empathy, respect etc.  In my classroom I made time for these important life lessons.  We spent a lot of time working in cooperative groups, celebrated our likes and differences, we talked about and role played scenarios around feelings, I chose literature with important moral lessons and we would discuss at length, I taught and modeled problem solving (using Peaceable Classroom), we held morning meeting where we practiced sharing and listening by doing a daily roses and thorns and we constantly talked about respect.  I made time for these important life skills and made sure to model them everyday.  This is not the case in every classroom in the USA because most do not have the time or the resources to do it. I am not sure that if I were teaching today I would even have the time to run an effective morning meeting or take out the Peace Path in times of conflict.

So what is the social advantage of being in school??  Many would say that it is important for kids to learn how to deal with other kids and learn how to work out their own issues.  I agree with this but would you let your 16 year old take out your car with out any practice or skills?  Would you let them figure it out while driving for the first time??  This is what we are asking our kids to do everyday…..we are asking them to figure it out while they are in the middle of some really tough situations without any of the skills needed to help them.  And it is NOT WORKING.

Do I want to homeschool my kids?  I really do not know.  There is a big part of me that would LOVE to try it, at least for awhile.  There is another part of me that would love to find an amazing, affordable school that is right for my children.  I just wish the idea of homeschooling were still not so controversial.  Even I use to question its value until I met my husband.  He is one of the most social, well rounded and smartest people I know and his socialization did not happen in a public school.

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I Guess I am Not Alone

For quite sometime I have thought of myself as a bit of an outsider when it comes to my need for a better education for my children. I thought that perhaps I was too overprotective, too untrustworthy or perhaps close minded when it comes to public education (strange since I am public school educator by trade). My husband often wonders if I am over thinking the issue. He agrees that the public school system is broken, and has been for sometime, but he points out that I survived and that our children will too (did I mention he was homeschooled??).

Yes this is true, our children would survive the public school system as it stands right now, but is that what I want for them….mere survival? Yes they would get some good things out of it, a lot of bad and because we are a supportive and loving family they would do okay.  But call me selfish, I want more than just okay.

I recently found out that the first grade in my town has not done any learning in the areas of science or social studies yet this year….it is JANUARY!! Their focus is on literacy alone and they fit in some math once a day. When I asked the parents who shared this information with me how they felt about this (both are parents of girls and both attended Montessori before First Grade) their answers were very similar. They both said that their girls are adjusting just fine, that they love to read and that they love to please their teacher. They continue to be very curious creatures (products of Montessori) and that the one family supplements the science and social studies activities at home on the weekends. There is no time during the week because of all of the homework and extra curricular activities. The other mother looked puzzled by the idea of supplementing science and social studies (even though she is a science teacher herself) and said, “Well with four kids and all that homework, I just don’t have time to do that.”

My son thrives off learning about his world. He will not thrive in an environment that expects him to park his curiosity and sense of wonder at the door so that he can focus on phonics and handwriting. So what is a mother to do?? Am I just crazy??

Well I thought I was crazy, until I started talking with other mothers (many of them teachers) with children the same age. They too are trying to avoid the “teaching to the test” mentality and are looking for alternatives to public school. Because many of them are teachers, money is a BIG issue and so they are looking into Charters (although Charter Schools have to take the test too), scholarships at private institutions, Catholic Schools and home schooling. Meeting up with all of these mothers has been eye-opening for me and my husband as well….I am not ALONE! I am not crazy! Our kids do deserve better!!! They deserve better than the cookie cutter, one-size fits all, robot could lead the class, public institution that is our current school system. A system that is broken and failing our kids. They do deserve better, all kids deserve better but for now I can only focus on my own.  I want to help create a bright future for their educational learning.

So I have a year and a half to figure out my next educational move for my son and a few more years for my daughter. Will I home school?? Apply for the lottery in the new Charter?? Try to find a job at a private school so my children will get reduced tuition?? Start my own school??

Who knows but I am excited for the upcoming journey!

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WorldSchooling

I stumbled upon a blog the other day that truly inspired me.  It is called At Home in the World and it is the journey of a family of 6 from Canada who sold their house and the majority of their belongings to travel the world.  The Smneek kids are “worldschooled” as they travel and experience the cultures of the globe.

This idea excites me!  There are so many cultures and sites to experience and books cannot do them justice.  I had the privilege of spending 3 months traveling while in college.  I spent a Semester at Sea and traveled to Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Morocco.  We spent 3-5 days in each country and the experience was life changing.  I spent time in orphanages, walked on the Great Wall of China, stayed with a family in India, laid down in the Great Pyramids, was mistaken for a prostitute in Greece (wearing a down vest ;)), helped a waiter practice English in Vietnam, sang Karoke with locals in Japan and so much more!  I learned more that semester in school than the other 3 1/2 years of college combined.  I saw and felt things that you can not experience in books……I experienced life.

I want my children to experience life.  I want them to experience foreign lands and also see all of the amazing places and people in this world.  I do not want their schooling to be limited to four concrete walls, books and the internet.  This family has put aside the “American (or in their case Canadian) Dream” and is giving their children an amazing gift and education.

I have not yet had a chance to read the entire blog but the posts I have read are incredible.  They just got year-long visas to live in the South of France for a year and are very excited about this new adventure.  I highly recommend you check out the Smneek Family and see what they are up to today. It may just inspire you to go out into the world and explore for yourself 🙂  As they say on their blog, “Wherever we are together, we’re at home in the world.”

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