Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

This week is leading up to Independence Day. 

Every year, I read my kids the Declaration of Independence.  Have you read it lately?  I developed the habit when I was living in Germany, a military wife.  If you really want to see a 4th of July party, go to any overseas military post.  They KNOW what they're celebrating.  They take it very seriously. 

The base commander read the Declaration aloud to the gathered families and soldiers. The Stars and Stripes was presented and saluted, and pledged allegiance to.  Each State flag was presented in the order they entered the Union.  We had an artillery unit providing the cannon fire for Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  Which was played by the army band.  Amazing. 

Remembering that 4th of July at Wuerzburg, Germany, I get teary eyed over and over again.  I still know the Preambles to both the Declaration and the Constitution by heart. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And for these reason, for these documents, for the ideas and ideals of liberty and freedom, the men in my family have been willing to give "our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."  That is what I teach my children.  There really are some things worth giving everything for.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bedtimes in the Summer

I don't know quite what to do in the summer time.  The kids want to play until dark most days - and I really want to let them.  But then they're tired and they don't want to get up in the mornings.  Or they do get up at first light and I'm not ready to get up yet.

Winter is so much easier, because it is dark when it's bedtime, but I'd rather let them play and get worn out.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mercedes is up late...

She's up working on school work.  I love it. 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mine's not doing so well. 

We live in a townhome with no back yard, just a concrete slab.  Barely enough room to grill on.  So I am trying (again) to grow a container garden.  

My herbs seem to be doing well - cilantro, parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, dill - and my tomatoes are doing OK,  but a caterpillar or two got into one of my lettuce containers and enjoyed some good salad.  The lettuces are not growing very fast. 

I had planted some garlic in a couple of containers, and the lettuce with garlic has been left alone.  I wonder if garlic helps keep bugs out of the garden?  If it does, then next year I'm planting tons of it.

One of my pepper pots is doing great.  I'm excited to see new peppers starting to come on, the cucumber is blooming, and the tomatoes are looking promising.  But my poor lettuce!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Getting ready for a new year

Yes, just like everyone else, I've got to get ready for the new school year.  I love back to school sales (which will start next month) - I stock up like mad on art supplies and pencils. 

This time of year, I start considering what the kids have learned last year, and what I want them to learn.  Mercedes is behind on math, so I want her to move forward a bit quicker to catch up with her peers, yet still master the material.  Jared is a bit behind where I'd like him to be on reading, so what can I do to help him move forward more quickly?  Maybe he's bored with phonics and can just read....I was reading at 3, and he's always been fascinated with books, so it's possible.

Where are we in history?  What needs to be covered? 

Then there's consideration of curriculum.  What do I need to purchase over the summer that will have us ready to go in August and September? 

It's so easy to get overwhelmed in all the curriculum fairs and in others' opinions. What is important is to have a general map of what you want to teach your child, and then start considering how you want to get there.  What sounds good to Diane Hopkins may not be where I want to go with my kids (but I do buy my curriculum from her). 

Time to start planning! 

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Challenges of Being a Single, Homeschooling Mom

Right now, with working full time, and cleaning house, and generally living as a single, homeschooling mama, some of the formal part of the kids' education is going by the wayside.  We still go to the library, and I encourage them to sit under a tree (now that it's FINALLY warm outside!) to read, and I help with math when they ask, but it's challenging to "do school" in a formal way at all.

Some days are left almost entirely to play.  The kids get up at the very crack of dawn. Now that school is out, their friends are out playing nearly at sunrise, so I shoo mine out to play too.  Partly so I can get another few minutes of sleep.  Partly so I can stagger to the shower and get ready for work without worrying about them every minute.  Or having Mercedes study the way I do my hair and makeup.  It's unnerving at 8am.  (I am emphatically NOT a morning person.  Mornings would be great if they just came in the afternoon.)  Or having the kids at my elbow asking me if I want a fresh Diet Coke.

It's challenging sometimes to hear about 13 year olds headed off to college and wondering if I'm failing my kids because I'm determined to keep them home.  I'm reviewing my goals for my kids and determining what reality looks like for us.  It's not going to look the same as it does for my married friends where mama is the homemaker and the kids go to public school.  It's not going to look the same as my married friends who homeschool their kids because daddy is there and makes a bunch of money so mama can stay home with the kids, either.  No, in my family, everything falls on my shoulders.

There are things the kids need to learn for themselves.  One is self discipline.  No, you cannot go outside to play until your schoolwork is done, and that is written on the white board. Doing what you enjoy means getting through things you don't care for too much.  Example:  I like to cook.  I hate to clean.  But if I want to cook, I have to have a clean kitchen to do it in.  So I have to clean the kitchen. 

Another is routine.  Habits will make you or break you.  Get up, do your morning routine - and for my homeschooled kids, that should include reading, writing, 'rithmatic, and history.  C'mon kidlets, that can be done in an hour or two!  We're also working on routines of cleaning the house before bedtime.  That was a lot easier in the winter, when they were in by 5 because it was dark.  It's a bit more challenging now - but then again, they're OUT of the house all day, instead of making a mess inside.  That's a plus!

Are there any other single parents (or not single!) who have some ideas on how to maximize the kids' education without sacrificing my health, or putting them in public schools?  I'd love to know!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It Only Takes 15 Minutes

Kids love timers.  I love Flylady for teaching me about timers. 

Kids also love routines.

I'm finding that if I tell the kids what they need to do before they go outside to play, and how long they need to spend, they're more inclined to do it.

Jared's pretty tied to the timer right now.  Mercedes will continue working until she's done.  But they both like knowing that they are only required to spend 15 minutes, and that there is an end in sight.  It's hard to do something like clean your room if you can't see the end.  But it's easy to pick up 10 things, or spend 15 minutes on a list of tasks.

(They have to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per school subject, for those topics we don't do as a unit study.)

I spent 15 minutes cleaning up my living room last night.  It was completely trashed when I started, but I decided to use my timer for 15 minutes and then go do something else for 15 minutes.  It was amazing how much work I could get done in that limited amount of time!  Sames goes for the kids.

15 minutes is enough for a full chapter of math (at this level). 

15 minutes is enough to practice reading to Mom.

15 minutes is enough to write spelling words.
It's not so short that you can't get anything done, and not so long as to be overwhelming.  And if they're interested in what they're doing and want to keep going, well, there's always another 15 minutes!

Thanks, Flylady!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"But I Got the Grade...."

My Mercedes is struggling with getting into a schoolwork routine.  One of the things she had to do on a daily basis is math.  She's a little behind right now, but she's got the concepts down pat, and I'm so proud of her for that. 

The other day, I was talking to one of the neighborhood kids, who informed me that she didn't need to learn math because she'd already gotten the grade.  So learning it doesn't matter.

Is THIS what the public schools are instilling in our kids?  Once you get the grade, you're done? 

I do think it is.  I was reflecting over my formal education, and I can't even count the number of times I've heard people of all ages say basically the same thing. 

Adults saying (with pride, no less) that they've never picked up a book outside the schoolroom.  Never mind that the point of taking English lit was to learn from it as well as enjoy it.  They got the grade, and besides, Lord of the Rings is now a movie series. 

Moms who brag that they can't even balance a checkbook because they didn't bother studying math in high school.  And they got good grades, no less.  But that was 25 years ago....

We're shortchanging our youth and ourselves if this is the attitude we have. 

Why bother learning then?

Why bother trying so hard to educate our children, if it's just about "making the grade"?

I've spent a lot of my time pointing out to my kids that I make my living doing math (I'm a bookkeeper and executive assistant).  I have them shop with me at the grocery stores, and discuss how to figure out what a good deal looks like.  I've capitalized their budding businesses so they would learn what a profit margin is.

I let them see me read (and I am a big reader - if I don't have a book in my hand, I'm probably working or sleeping).  I talk to them about WHY I read.  I enjoy it!  I learn how other people think.  It's a magic carpet ride to other cultures, times, and places. 

I let them see me keeping my personal journals and blogging.  Is writing clearly important?  You bet!  I've talked to them about the importance of being able to make an intelligent, thoughtful business proposal. 

It's not about the grades, at all.  It's not about the test.  It's about instilling a love of learning that will last them all their lives.  That's an attitude that no grade can replace.   And that may not be measurable. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

My kidlings are at their father's house for the weekend.  Happy Father's Day to all you dads!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Young College Students

A friend posted this story on Facebook.  It's about a 13 year old girl who is finished with high school, wants to attend the local community college, and has been denied solely due to her age.  The college administrators don't think she's ready to sit in classrooms with older students. 

My question, on reading this, is what is the point of denying this young lady the opportunity to finish her education (if education is ever finished, but that's another post) because an administrator just thinks 13 year olds are "not ready" for college work?  If she's finished high school (yes, she's home schooled) then she's already demonstrated her readiness.

What's more, the story states that the administrators changed their policies to only allow 15 and up after this young lady was denied. 

When Megan was denied entry to Lake-Sumter last fall, there was no formal rule stipulating that applicants be of a certain age to gain admission. Charles Mojock, president at Lake-Sumter, told Inside Higher Ed that the college has long had an informal minimum age requirement of 15 but that a rule was only drafted following Megan's complaint. In April, the college's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a change to its rules stating that the college "accepts all students who have reached the age of fifteen (15) years on or before the first day of classes each term" and have either earned a high school diploma, a General Equivalency Diploma, previously completed college-level work or completed a home-school program. There is a clause in the rule change that allows for the president to grant exceptions.
Why 15?  What is magic about that number?  A young lady wishing to attend at 13 is an exception to the rule in any case, and if she's completed her homeschool program, she's ready.

Ironically, most of the major colleges, including my alma mater, Brigham Young University, actively and gladly recruit homeschooled students, citing an increased readiness for life on campus.  Community colleges, in contrast, are open campuses, with no dorms.  Students don't live on campus like I did at BYU.  So if she's living with her parents, does it matter which school she attends, so long as she's academically challenged?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Abby Sunderland

I was listening to the radio the other day when a local DJ came on and suggested that the Sunderland family was "Balloon  Boy part 2."


I was so tickled to hear about a 16 year old girl, with tons of experience on the ocean, whose father is a shipwright and whose older brother also captains his own yacht, attempting to circumnavigate the globe.  Yes, she ran into trouble on the Indian Ocean.  But even the most experienced sailors run into trouble from time to time.  She kept her head, did what she was trained to do, and came out just fine.

And now her parents are being attacked for "putting her in danger."  She's 16, for crying out loud.  She can get a driver license.  That's statistically a lot more dangerous than sailing around the world.

Why do we allow society to determine what's best for our kids?  I'm in favor of free range kids, where children are taught step by step how to behave, what safety rules they need to follow, with the goal of letting them fly the nest well prepared for their lives.

Too many young people today are leaving for college without a clue of how to do anything much for themselves.  Abby Sunderland is a young woman who is setting a standard of how to live your dreams, and how to behave when things do go wrong.

Her parents have done a terrific job with this young lady, and they should be justifiably proud of the way she's handling herself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Personality quirks

I get so tickled at Mercedes.  She is so her own little person (not so little anymore at 9). She's definately a neat freak - tonight she didn't go to bed until 11:30 because she wanted to make sure the house was clean before she went to sleep.  Her bedroom is kept very neat and clean.  Also, because she's so competitive, she spent half an hour extra working on her math while I was blogging.  Just for fun, let me point out that her Sun sign is Taurus - stubborn, bull headed, and very sensual, liking things "just so" and disliking things out of order.  Her idea of "homeschool" is rather rigid "school at home," working on certain projects at certain times, and finishing her day with a good book in bed.   She reminds me of the "Story About Ferdinand."  She's perfectly content to sit under the cork tree and smell the flowers.  Unless she gets stung, then watch out!

Jared, on the other hand, is a Pisces.  What a riot.  He just floats around doing things boys do.  He's not into structure at all.  In fact, school irritated him the few days he went - he complained that they had all these games stacked up but wouldn't let anyone play with them.  Made no sense to him at all, and he was relieved to come back home. He's one to wake me up the second the sun breaks over the mountains because it's time to go play.  Forget eating, sleeping, being clean - he's busy!  He's got mudpies to make, snakes to watch, grasshoppers to catch, and friends to play with.  Read?  Um, well, Mom can read to him while he's in the tub, because he's got too much else to do.  Unless it's raining, and then he's happy to curl up with a good book. Sometimes he just sits and thinks, and then he tells me some of the funniest things (and I'll post them later.)

Me?  I'm the rather lassaiz-faire Aquarius mom.  One of the best ways I've heard Aquarius described is a "bouncing crystal ball."  And that's me.  It's a good thing I'm required to do school at home, because that would drive me up the wall and across the ceiling in a week. I like to suggest activities for the kids, and then let them try by themselves.  I'm glad to help, but I want them to learn to do things on their own., and to ask for help when they need it.

And it all works.  Mercedes reads very well.  Jared reads quite well, but he needs more practice because he doesn't want to read anything challenging.  They're both on track with math, but they need some more consistency. 

It's all an adventure, and I'm glad I'm on it with these great kids. 

The Grandchildren are Sleeping Over

Today I have my 2 little grandsons spending the night.  Usually they're lovely.  Levi, however, is not settling down for the night well.  He insisted that he doesn't love his Grandma and wiped off all my kisses.  What a turkey!  I sure enjoy my grandkids.

Monday, June 14, 2010

William Shakespeare

Mercedes has discovered the joys of William Shakespeare and his plays, and she's only 9.  Recently, we saw A Midsummer Night Dream at the local library.  I think that really brought out the fun of Shakespeare for my girl.  (Jared proclaimed it "boring" since it didn't have enough blood and gore for him.  I think I should introduce hm to Macbeth.)

She's now found a mini-biography of the Bard to read.  She likes reading his early plays, and is anxious to be able to act them out.  I think she wants to play Juliet.

What's fun for me is that I didn't learn about Shakespeare or his plays until 9th or 10th grade, although I also read the story (not the play) of Midsummer at an early age.  He's just not discussed until high school, which is  a shame because some of his plays are just so fun!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parental authority

We skipped church this morning (for a number of reasons - no car, overtired Mom, bad weather, no car.  Did I mention no car?  My minivan died and it was going to cost more to repair than to replace, so we got rid of it.   Unfortunately, it hasn't been replaced yet.

Anyway, since I'm divorced from my kidlets' dad, I hate for them to miss.  (Fortunately, he takes them also, so I guess it's not that bad of a thing.)

Mercedes has chosen to spend her morning reading her scriptures.  She's 9, and reading the King James version of the Bible.  I think she's in Genesis, following my explanation of how to tell a story.  "Begin at the beginning, and when you come to the end, stop."  She's also working on some drawings to show our friend Rochelle, who just graduated from UVU with a degree in art.  Rochelle is going to give her some guidance as she fills her sketch pad.

Jared is my cuddle bug.  He's always wanting to snuggle up with me. I'm trying to get him to go play with Legos and toys.  He's quite an engineer, always building me spaceships! 

One of the reasons I started homeschooling was because I wanted more of this closeness with my kids.  Public school undermined my parental authority with my older children - they were taught that if I ever got angry with them, or tried to discipline them in any way, that was "child abuse" and they were to call the police.  As a result, I lost most of the closeness we had previously enjoyed.  How could I be close to kids who were being taught that I was the enemy?  How could they be close to me if they had to watch every move I made?  Natural, normal affection - hugs, squeezes - was suddenly molestation.  Putting them in time-out was abuse.  How could we be normal with each other?

Having my younger kids with me is priceless. 

And you know, if I'm making mistakes, at least I'm making fresh new mistakes.  I sent the three older ones to public school.  That was a mistake.  I'm keeping the younger ones home.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Little boys say the funniest things!

Jared (7) asked for a bottle of Axe shampoo.  It's branded as being helpful for attracting girls, which is what Jared wanted it for.  At 7!  Oh, my I am in trouble!

He just got out of the tub, so I smelled him and told him how good he smelled. and how much I wanted to kiss him.  "That Axe must work, son, you smell so good!"

He just laughed at me and told me I was silly.

Cleaning house the Flylady way!

At some point, I suppose I should clean up the house today,  It's so challenging to find time to get things done these days - by the time homeschooling done (the formal part) and I've gone to work and come home I'm wiped out. 

The only program I've found that remotely works for me is Flylady.  Her motto?  You can do anything for 15 minutes!  Now *somewhere* here I have a timer that I bought from her.  It is amazing how much you can do in just 15 minutes.  My 3 bedroom townhouse takes less than 2 hours to deep clean, IF I spend a full 15 minutes on each room.  The kids learn quick that they can focus on 15 minutes per subject (longer if they're into it, but at least 15 minutes). 

I can focus on writing if I just get started and write for 15 minutes - or brainstorm ideas for blog posts.  I have lots of ideas, but I have a hard time putting them into action.  By focusing on one thing for 15 minutes, I can get more done in less time.

The other half of her program that I'm implementing is routines.  Making a habit one month at a time.  I'm finally getting into the habit of making my bed - although my mom tried for years to instill that one in me.  Routines help the kids so much, by simply making it easy for them to remember what they need to do next.  If it's bedtime, we get a bath, pajamas on, teeth brushed, straighten up rooms, kiss from Mom (along with prayers etc), and go to sleep.  I'm working on leaving my home tidy before bed - sink shined, dishes done, garbage out, and living room straightened.  Then I don't wake to the demoralization of a wreck first thing in the morning.

Unfortunately, training my adult daughter has been more of a challenge than training the little kids (sorry, Krista).  I didn't have Flylady when she was little, so I'm hoping that as I get the routines in place, I'll also start getting more help.  It feels worse to leave a mess in a clean area than it does to make more of a mess in a messy area. 

Here's hoping!

Saturday is a Special Day!

It should be the day we spend getting ready for Sunday, but the kids spent the day outside playing.  I mean literally all day, even though it was wet and rainy all day.  Mercedes woke me up to ask if she could play with her friends.  It's nearly 8:30 pm and they're starting to come in from play.  It's really been a solid 10 hours!

Jared came in when it started raining and told me where Mercedes was (at a friend's house), took a warm bath, refreshed himself, and found someone else to play with after the rain stopped. 

It's almost a shame, really.  They play so hard on Saturday because their friends are so heavily scheduled all week with school and lessons that they have no time to play.  I hope things get better now that summer vacation is here.  Kids need time to play.

We're loving homeschooling!

Whenever I have a friend ask me why I homeschool, I tell myself that I cannot do any worse than the public schools.  I'm lucky enough to live in an area that permits me to dual-enroll my children as they get older; there are plenty of opportunities for community sports, dance, and music outside of school; and I don't fret about socialization at all.  Mercedes is a social butterfly, and Jared is close to becoming one as well.  They have plenty of friends through church and community activities.

I was tickled at Mercedes' wanting to do math until 1am.  She brags to her friends that she's allowed to do homeschool or reading activities all night if she chooses - she just has to get up on time.  She's very competitive about her school work (we're sort of eclectic - some school at home, classical home school activities such as math, phonics, and history, lots of unstructured stuff).

Jared is fascinated with his Legos right now, as well as magnets. 

They both speak Spanish as well as English, thanks to their Mexican father.  One of his friends is German, so I hope she'll teach them German as well.  

I'm looking forward to posting more about their activities and accomplishments.