Monday, February 23, 2009
I don't know if it was our decision to start homeschooling last year that inspired her to homeschool this year. It could have been other factors. Either way, we have been each other's cheering section. The support we give each other is relative to that I have been finding in reading many of the blogs in the Blogging Carnival.
Recently I was stumped though. B is good friends with her son the same age. We finally started last week with B going to her house to sleep over and attend AWANAS. We are hoping to make it a weekly thing since poor B is "girl trapped" (as my kids call it) during the day with two sisters! The testosterone boost of her three sons is good for him now and again! And AWANAS is right up his alley since he seems to have an innate interest in the Word of God.
My friend called and gave me an update on their day. She decided to take a "light" homeschooling schedule since B was there. I was fine with it either way... I trust her guidance. But her "light" day entailed so much! They did cross-lateral exercises (B's friend has learning disabilities as well), they did math, they did writing, the did puzzles... and that was just in the morning! I found myself feeling largely inadequate.
I have been dabbling in combining Unit Studies and a certain level of unschooling lately. I do think the three "R's" are very important but I don't take as structured an approach as my friend does. I use to. When we first started homeschooling I made it more like school at home. I felt that the children wanted it/needed it after being pulled out of public school. I thought it would help them see that we were seriously intending to learn/educate.
We had perils shortly after starting homeschooling though. Situations outside of education but directly effecting it none-the-less. I decided to scale back our plans of attack and by the end of the "school year" we were truly doing Un-schooling.
As the new school year started for this year I was ready to get back on the ball. I had figured out that complete Un-schooling was not the route I desired. Ash and her ADHD couldn't move forward in that format. But I didn't want full school-at-home either. None-the-less, we started our year as Unit Study combined with diluted school-at-home.
All was going well. The one down-side was that our schedule was so strictly drawn out that we would want to investigate a topic further but instead felt pushed forward and past exploration by a "schedule". I was beginning to suspect that another adjustment was needed.
In December we were sitting in our "circle" area. This entails a circle rug we painted together when first starting homeschool. We sit at it to have discussions that require direct focus. We sometimes use it for other purposes as needed. This particular day in December we were sharing some information in a book. B was sitting off to the side fidgeting with some other things in our vicinity. I was growing frustrated that he wasn't "paying attention" so I directed him to turn around and participate. I asked him if he had even heard what I was saying and he said, "yes", and repeated, word for word what I had just been telling his sisters!
I was stumped. I realized that day that, as I have learned in my research, Visual Spatial learners do not always have to be directly attending information in order to obtain it. I had always taken that concept for granted. But the research and advice is there for a reason! Perhaps it was about time I took it!
After our Christmas break I decided to start sampling different approaches. We are only two months post-break and I am still sampling the waters, but so far so good. Our one month space study has turned into two. Some days we just read, other days we just do science or art. Every day I require the kids to read to me and every day I issue some sort of math challenge.
I encourage them to write but I don't usually force it. However, the ways that I do incorporate writing is encouraging to them and much less of a battle. Ash chooses to write on her own anyway. I suppose that is a natural attribute of a pre-teen!
We play a lot of games and I strive to involve them in every aspect of our daytime routines as possible. If I am baking I will call them in to help and measure. If I am trying to figure something out, I call them in to observe the process and contribute in whatever way possible.
We implemented a no-t.v. policy a few weeks ago to encourage self-initiated exploration of books and projects that would otherwise go by the wayside when electronics are available. It is working well.
So my point, my conclusion? Yes, I was intimidated and overwhelmed by my friend's exuberance. But I had to quickly remind myself that, while what she is doing is wonderful, it isn't what we do and that is ok.
Each child and each family will progress in their own way and in their own time. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error. It can require changes now and again when something quits working. That is one of the beauties of homeschool though... it is what you need it to be and it can be adjusted at any time to better fit those needs. Homeschooling is as individual as the families that are blessed to be part of its discipline.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Last year I found a book by Scholastic called, "Fun-Flap Facts, Multiplication"
It seemed like a good idea since it appeals to 2-3 of the senses not to mention my 10-year-old daughter was/is really into "fortune tellers" which is the concept of these sheets (as you can see).
Fun Flap Facts are a hit in my household (when I remember to drive them to using them!). The flaps in these fortune tellers are filled with all sorts of anecdotes. There are questions like, "Name the 12 months backwards" under the answer to 2x6. There are tongue twisters and silly sentences like, "2 kings asked 4 queens if they ate." under 2x4. Most of all they are just plain fun!
My 6-year-old is soaking up math facts right now but, obviously, not ready for multiplication. I haven't been able to find Fun-Flap Facts in any other form then multiplication. I realized it wouldn't be so hard to make other fact tables in this format as the kids are ready to work on them. So here she is, my darling 6-year-old, with her "fortune teller" which is helping her to learn her 2+ facts :-)
I put numbers on the top flaps that she has been needing to work on recognizing such as 6 and 9 which she still confuses sometimes. 12 is often mistaken for 21 and 10 was needed for reinforcement. I drew pictures with her input so it has some visual appeal. When she wants me to do a fortune I will pick, for example, "Bunny, but what number is that?" She is always excited to tell me and it reinforces the skills :-)
I actually like this better then the Scholastic book because I can customize it to what we are studying and what skills the kids need to work on most (such as the 12 vs. 21 I am working on with my 6-year-old). I even added trivia like, "Name 2 planets" since we are still working on our solar system study.
If anyone sees and likes this idea but thinks, "I can't draw", do not despair. You can use stickers! If you want directions on how to fold a fortune teller, just email and I will send them to you.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Through this activity we learned a few things: How to determine what the scale is, how to find the measurements of each object (or space between them), and problem solving. I have gotten real big on building problems solving skills with my children.
Being in public school and struggling, both child #2 and child #3 have just followed the masses. If the teacher said write, "The Dog" they wrote, "The Dog". If they teacher said, "Color the circle Blue," well... they colored the circle blue and they didn't ask why. But I want them to ask "WHY". I want them to understand and deduct from reasoning for themselves. Something their inabilities did not give them the luxury to do BHS (Before HomeSchool). It is a skill that will become crucial to their success (or any child's success) as they progress through life.
Here is a simple problem solving exercise: You have 9 planets ranging in size from 1" in diameter to 28" in diameter. They are all cut out on white poster board. How are you going to color them?
Child #2: "With Markers"
Mom: "Yes, you could do that, but the larger ones are big circles. Is it possible that you might run out of ink in your marker before you are done?"
(child #2 is thinking and seems to see the logic)
Child #3: "We can paint them"
Mom: "Yes, you definitely could. Now, do you want to paint them with the acrylics or do you wish to use finger paints?"
(Heads dart up and faces glow)
Children 2,3,and4 agree: "FINGER PAINTS!!!"
It may be 20º outside but finger painting really warmed up their day! After all, they are painting the sun!
So, for those of you who have done the quick math so far, yes, I know the sun is too small for a 1" Pluto to have relative size. This is just a sample of the sun. The real sun would have needed to be 128". I have plans for that... but not enough poster board for the full size! We still have to hang our solar system and I will be sure to post the finished product in case you are wondering how we are going to make it all work!
We use to have 'chore day' on Sunday. I hated that since it is God's day and should be reserved for family time, prayer time, church, and such. After much protest on my part we switched chore day to Saturday. This did not seem to work well though. The kids spent half the day helping pick up around the house and cleaning their rooms only to turn right around and mess them up in the 'relaxing' mode we usually take on our weekends.
Chore day has been moved to Mondays. So far so good. We all actually look forward to it... if that doesn't sound too crazy. The kids know they can relax for the whole of the weekend. I drive them pretty hard during our homeschool week so the weekend is a nice break. (It is a wonderful break for me as well).
Mondays begin with a general picking up of the house. This usually isn't too bad because the one thing I do make them do throughout the week (other than help with dishes) is pick up after themselves. But still... it seems there are always stray stuffed animals, baby dolls, and legos from "games" they played on Sunday.
We move from the outer areas to the inner areas: their rooms. I don't' make my children clean their rooms during the week (usually). I use to when I had one and two kids. But once we added #3 and #4, cleaning rooms EVERY day has sort of gone out the window! We all have more peace of mind with this. Besides, most of us can remember back to the "game" of Barbie, Matchbox or Legos that you just get set up perfectly when the parents said "Time for Bed" and you didn't want to take it down. You wanted to resume play the following morning!
It all goes mostly smoothly. My kids seem to actually be good sports about these tasks on Mondays where they fought me more about it on the weekend. I think they are secretly relieved to go from two days of no structure and no requirements to starting the week with getting things in order. I am thankful for that.
We always wrap our day up with reading time. If they do no other school projects I like them to at least read. After all, it is fundamental to all other things in life. I'm thinking of adding some "math" by ending our day with a yummy treat that requires measuring. A bonus for jobs well done.
I guess this is just my way of sharing other ways we tackle a homeschool day, keep the sanity, and manage some semblance of order in our homeschooling house! It may not work for everyone, but it works for us :-)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I have been researching in order to justify the structure of our homeschooling days. It seems like the more I look for articles and blogs that will tell me, "do this, do it now, do it then, do it how..." the more I find that there is no cookie-cutter 'guide' for how to conduct a homeschooling day. Everyone is different.
On one website I found an article that indicated you must have a set schedule every day, no sleeping in for kids, do your school work only during set times... and so on. A grim feeling began to creep over me. We try for a "schedule" and we do loosely have one. However, our day’s structure was nothing of the manor this woman insisted upon. As my face turned green and my head spun with the thought that I was failing, I looked on.
Contrasting that article, on the same website, was another mom who sounded much more like us. The kids sleep in some... not too long... but they are allowed the luxury of a little extra sleep. She talked about a slower approach to the day, taking long breaks, and approaching their 'schedule' in a more laid-back manor. I like that idea!
When we first started homeschooling, we were doing school at home. We started promptly at 8:45. We had set subjects at set times. We took breaks at set times. We ended our day promptly at 3:00. We also burned out of that schedule within three months. I wonder if my hang-up with a schedule is from growing up in public school or if it is from my children's public school days and my extensive involvement in them.
Since deciding to homeschool, I have spent a lot of time trying to justify what we do. I keep thinking I need to have something to show for it all. I have something to prove… but what?
I am slowly coming to realize that the most important thing is just being together. Learning together and being spontaneous are priceless parts of our homeschooling day. We can be sharing a book about a dog that travels to New York and suddenly stop to review a map of New York, run some math numbers on how far it is, and how long it would take to drive there. To not cease moments like that is to deprive myself and my children of one of the best parts of the homeschooling experience.
We have a schedule. We wake up, we work together to take care of our house. We read every morning, for most of the morning. We break for two hours over lunch time so the kids can eat and have 'recess' and I can take a break. We reconvene in the afternoon for math, which lately coincides with science. Some evenings we are still reading or doing experiments as I am cooking dinner. Some nights we are exploring history as we share a bedtime story. Most days we play board games. Every day we laugh, we explore... we have fun. So why do I keep looking for something else?
It has been said time and time again and I can't help but agree: learning isn't just in a classroom. It isn't here or there. It isn't at a set time or on a set day. Learning, when we cease the opportunity, happens all around us, all the time. What better lesson can we give our children in homeschool than to realize that all of life is about learning and this entire world is their classroom.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I hate that word, "disability". That label is what turned my husband off from the beginning. He has only recently begun to be responsive to her, shall we say, difference when it is referred to in a way other than "disability". Can you blame him?
Studies show that dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and other visual/spacial anomalies in learning are on the rise. I personally think it is a gift from God. These "disabilities", that I will instead refer to as "giftedness", coincide with a period in time when the jobs in high demand have to do with concept. Visual/spacial learners can "see", within their minds, the concept of how something functions and how it should act. In a highly technological society, this ability is very advantageous. You can't "see" the World Wide Web or the functions of a mother board with your eyes. You can only grasp their concepts in a more figurative/imaginative way. The way that children, like mine, grasp things most naturally.
So what does this have to do with homeschooling? Well today as an example, my "gifted" children can not attend to any one activity for an extended period of time. Especially my ADHD child. We are trying to do charts so they can visualize some information on the solar system. But it does require some more reality based/logical attention that just does not come as easily to these two. In their past public school days situations like today would coincide with a call from the teacher. You know, the one where you are told your child had to be set at their own private area because they wouldn't sit still. They were held in from recess because they couldn't focus to finish the tail end of 3 hours straight of school work. All the calls and meetings that I dreaded. Even when they had the diagnoses and would still look at me like, 'what is wrong with your child... why can't they act "normal"'.
But they are normal. They are wonderful. And today, when they just couldn't sit any longer to work on their math/science, I could easily say.... "RECESS"!! After all, we had been working for almost an hour straight with great results. That is a lot for one child whose eyes tire from the strain of dyslexia and another whose body emanates with ADHD.
And so, as they gear up for some snow play and I type this blog, I have peace of mind knowing that when they get back in with their energy somewhat spent, we can re-focus and finish our work for the day. AND, I will not be getting a call from the school or a note home from any teachers stating that my kids couldn't focus today.... 'please do this additional homework tonight so your child is ready for class tomorrow' when we will likely go through it all again!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
My coffee maker quit working this morning. I stood at the sink for 20 minutes, sand in my eyes, grumbling tummy, and in the dark of the early hour while I hand strained hot water through a coffee filter. Only the dim light of the stove's overhead illuminated my task. Yes, I was desperate! I also wasn't waking up. Standing steady while water filters through coffee is far from exhilarating and more along the lines of hypnotizing!
I brought my husband his cuppa-jo and then fell back onto my pillow, 'just until he kisses me goodbye'.
It was nearly 9:00 when my 10 year old was the one to walk in and kiss me on the cheek. Her way of saying, "time to get up mom, you have slept long enough"! But she doesn't say that. She just smiles and asks what we are doing today. "Can we start our science projects now?" I had no caffeine yet to help form a coherent reply. Still, I felt terrible. It is a "school day". I keep getting told that the joy of homeschooling is that the kids learn all the time and you don't have to have a rigid schedule. But still, I like to pretend we do!
So now we are having an upside down day. By the time we all had breakfast and I showered off it was approaching 10:00. The kids were desperate to do the secret project I had planned with some Modeling Balloons (the kind you make balloon animals out of). I gave in. We can always do reading and math this afternoon. The point is, it gets done... right?
I set them to decorating a toilet paper tube in preparation for the attachment of a rocket booster. The whole contraption was to sit on a clothesline in launch mode. Yes, we are studying all things outer space.... still. We have been at it since right after Christmas break! All the "experts" say if they like something, go with it. So we have.
It was a groggy start. Just like the whole of my morning. (The warmed coffee tasted awful by the way.) No one could find the bicycle pump and I really didn't want to hunt for it. Modeling Balloons are next to impossible to blow up by mouth! BUT.... I am trying to be healthier, stop sending the kids on errands I can do, and I was trying to redeem my day so I searched for and found it.
We had lift off. It fizzled. I felt I could relate to the lazy send-off of our rockets still sitting close to the launch pad -aka- beginning of the clothesline. But we kept at it. We "observed", we made adjustments, and we tried again and again and finally, my 8 year old's balloon made it all the way!
Does that mean I will eventually reach lift off too? Will I land on the moon before the day is over? I don't know, but I am going to aim there!!!
A note on this project: Perhaps through user error or some other malfunction the modeling balloons didn't work at all. We decided to try regular ones and achieved better propulsion when they were angled right.
--- My 8 year old enjoying the excitement of indoor flight! Hey it is Montana... of course we have indoor clotheslines!!---
Monday, February 9, 2009
I wanted to homeschool since my children were young but I never had the confidence. I live in Montana, a state that is very laid back on the homeschooling laws. When I first moved to the area I lived across the street form a homeschooling family, the mother was the head of a local homeschooling group. But still, I was reluctant.
I had a love/hate relationship with my own educational experiences. I hoped for my son to experience the positives of public school. He was a smart kid and would do well. I was divorced from his father and he was against the idea. I guess my mind was pretty much made up for me. I didn't want to fight it.
Remarried and 3 more children later I have watched my oldest sail through school. His only challenge: he was too smart for the classes. His teachers refused to challenge him and he was forced to take the same subjects repeatedly because that was the school's idea of providing for "gifted" students. Put them in 7th grade math while in 6th grade so that when they reach 7th grade they have to do it over again.... it has been frustrating to say the least.
I wished I could homeschool but my confidence was still too low. One day I had a divine revelation. I decided to start taking classes in education at the local college. I figured if I can't homeschool I can still educate others. I was planning my degree.
Soon after classes got into full swing I started noticing odd things. Problems were arising and I was realizing that there were other factors at play. After reaching my 30s with 3 kids in public school, volunteering to the point of being asked to sub, heading up groups and writing for educational publications, and just being a very observant person... I was feeling as though I was wasting my time. I don't mean that to sound haughty. Let me explain further.
I feel I am more of a common sense type of gal. I have a knack for figuring things out. I like to read and research any subject that requires more knowledge. The World Wide Web and my local library have all that I need. This combined with my seasoned experience as a very active mom left me finding my classes redundant. They were merely repeating concepts and ideas I had presumed or used for years. Only now I was forking out money to not only be taught what I already knew, but to be led by an instructor/advisor who was a non-Christian, liberal, feminist.
I am not against any of those things but I am against forcing someone else to bend to your will on subjects that have more than one point of view. I am against outwardly attacking Christians in a classroom in a country that was founded on the premise of religious freedom. I am against using the teaching platform as a political platform to enlist others into your own agenda. All of this was going on and happening to me and others in those classes. That is exactly what is happening even in primary schools. My oldest has reported to me on as much from his teachers.
Then it hit me: I have to save my children from this type of 'represion'. And I could do it by doing homeschooling. I realized that I was not inadequate after all. I had it within myself all along. God had revealed to me, through my classes, that I was indeed capable. But now the challenge was winning my husband over to the idea of homeschooling. I had to leave it in prayer.
My oldest daughter was the surprising answer to that prayer. God bless that poor child, I always knew something was different with her. I had pointed it out for years to the school but, of course, what do I know? I am just her mother. Finally, in 4th grade, she was tested for ADHD and dyslexia. Her scores on ADHD were almost off the chart. Dyslexia was a mild side note that didn't help matters any. When her little brother, 2nd grade at that point, tested in the high end of the spectrum for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia I knew I was going to have to become a very proactive parent if they were to receive the help they needed.
Within weeks of the diagnosis and subsequent teacher/counselor/specialist/mom meetings, things were going from bad to worse. They were both being held in from recess because they could not complete their work. They were coming home from school just to spend the entire evening on catch-up homework. We were all burning out. To top it off I was discovering that my 2nd grade son had additional auditory issues from spending part of his early years mostly def (another story I will dive into on a different day!) The teachers seemed to glaze over when I addressed the issue. Addressing my daughter’s ADHD only invited comments of, "if you would just put her on medication". I had had enough.
My youngest was a year from starting kindergarten (another quandary in itself that I won't detail here) and, like my oldest, was already a very accelerated child. I foresaw a future of stifling knowledge potential in my youngest while her other two siblings struggled and battled against the waves. I finally decided to approach my husband.
What I thought would be a tough sell ended up being a quickly done-deal. We set expectations of ourselves and the kids and agreed that, after Christmas break, they would not return to public school. I spent the interim researching curriculum, getting back in contact with my old homeschooling neighbor, and looking for any and all information on the challenges my middle two children were facing in their learning abilities.
Homeschooling isn't always easy. But I can honestly say that I don't really miss the public school days. Public schools are not what they were when I was growing up. From curriculum to kids to teachers... it is all different, in a bad way. Not that all teachers are bad, mind you. There are some great ones out there, but the system seems to restrict even their best potential.
I am blessed to have my kids home. My oldest is still in district as a high schooler now. The choice to homeschool would probably still be a tough sell to his dad and my son is rather attached to his friends, even if the curriculum still discourages him. He is blessed with a good head on his shoulders and enough drive and ambition to lead him onto his greater potential.
My first blog, Why We Are Here , along with this blog helps to set the course for why I homeschool and why I am blogging about it! My hope is to share our trials and tribulations along with any and all research I do on Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Auditory Delays and ADHD. Perhaps it can help someone else. I am finishing up some classes still at the local college (as of February 2009). So information, at present, may be a bit delayed at times. If you have a particular area of the learning disabilities I have listed that you would like more information on, please let me know. I will do what I can to help.
A post note: It has been two falls ago since the children were diagnosed. We are now into our second year of homescholing and my daughter's ADHD symptoms have changed from severe to mild. We can often detect a rough day and accommodate. They are far fewer than before and we can manage them (withOUT medication!). She is happier and much more productive than she ever was in public school! My dyslexic son is even reading closer to "grade level" than he was IN public school. But, perhaps, more on that another day :-)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
So what of all this? Why are we here? Well, we are here to learn about and share God's love. Even in a crisis we are called to share love and forgive "our trespassers". Walt Disney said it best in Meet the Robinsons, "Keep moving forward".
So I 'accidentally' discover this link to a Homeschooling Blog Carnival. "What is a blog carnival?" I ask myself. I start reading various entries... thinking I am just humoring the authors. But the more I read, the more I am drawn in. These people have the same challenges and trials I do! Rough days, kids that resist a subject, successes, failures, critics, and cheerleaders. How naive.... I thought it was just me! But the proverbial, 'icing on the cake' was a blog where one mom set down a list of a highly successful day she was proud to report. Oh how I missed those days.
See, I am a list maker. I pride myself in simple accomplishments like folding laundry and vacuuming the stairs (a tedious task to be sure). I have let that go and given into the Divine laziness that I have chided other mothers for. Not that I think everyone should be "perfect" just that everyone should do their part. I had let my steam go out of my engine. I had quit doing my part. Why? Because I let trouble get me down.
Wherever we go trouble can find us. It is up to us to banish it each time. A favorite saying I have on the side of my fridge states, "When the devil comes knocking just say, 'Jesus, would you get that for me'" Amen to that!
So here I start my adventure, or rather reclaim my ground, with this realm of blogging. There is much work to be done inside and outside this body of mine. I pray all those who decide to follow along will be empowered by my adventures as mom, homeschooler, wife, and member of the human race.
(For information on why I homeschool you can read my post, "How it all began")