Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting too busy!

This past couple of weeks I've moved my office back into my home, leaving me with both more time and more demands on that time.  It's hard to juggle housekeeping, paid work, homeschooling, and recreation sometimes.  However, nothing is more rewarding than having the kids laying in the living room (where my office is) working on schoolwork while I do my bookkeeping. 

I love being a homeschooling mom. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Worried about Homeschooling? Relax!

Really.  Relax.

We homeschooling parents put a lot of pressure on ourselves.  Society puts a fair amount of pressure on us as well.  Do our children have the social skills requisite for success?  Do they interact well with their peers?  Are they learning everything everyone else seems to think they need to know?  And....how are we going to teach them calculus?

First - remember that most learning occurs from a child-led perspective.  That doesn't mean complete parental hands-off, but it does mean that when your child shows an interest in something, let them satisfy that interest.  Are they interested in gemstones and crystals? Have them grow rock candy to see how crystals form.  Buy them some interesting rocks at a metaphysical shop.  Show them geodes, and maybe even go rock-hounding with them.

We just finished studying Galileo and Copernicus.  Jared is very interested now in the solar system, stars, and telescopes.  We'll go to the planetarium, head out to the West Desert here in Utah to look at the stars, get pictures of the planets for his room, make a mobile of the solar system.

The point here is that ... kids will learn.  All a parent really has to do is give them the tools to do it.  Homeschool doesn't necessarily mean "school at home" - and by relaxing about school, my kids have more freedom to explore what they want to learn.

Oh, and calculus?  Learn it right along with the kids, find someone who is good at it and can teach it, use a homeschool co-op, or allow them to dual-enroll with the high school or community college.  You don't have to know everything - or even very much! to homeschool effectively.

So relax!  If you're putting any effort at all into your kids' education, odds are pretty good you're going to do better than the government schools ever could

Monday, September 20, 2010

And people wonder why I homeschool....

On Friday evening:

Me: Son, you've gotta go to bed.  Daddy will be here early in the morning to pick you up.
Jared: But, can I bring my math?  I'm adding and subtracting HUNDREDS!
Me: Yes, I guess.  You may also sit at your desk and do math for a while, if you want.
Jared: Oh, thank you, Mommy, thank you. 
Me: (bemused) Do you like math?
Jared: Oh, yes, I love math!

He then dashed off to do math work.  He's well into 2nd grade math, nearly half a grade level ahead of his peers, and reads well, too.  He's competing with Mercedes to see if he can catch up with her.

And people wonder why I homeschool.  What a joy to see my son loving math, enjoying music, art, and begging for a lesson in history.  When else do I get to have the kids gathered around my computer looking at pictures of the planets and discussing the solar system?  How many 1st and 3rd graders do you know who know Copernicus and Galileo?

Friday, September 17, 2010

What? Me, Organized?

I was telling a friend of mine about my day.  Honestly, I don't think I do that much more than any other mom - I just keep my kids close to me while I do it.  I get up the same time as everyone else (7ish - 8ish), get the kids ready for the day, give them their lessons, work, and keep my house (reasonably) clean. 

Her reaction was, "Wow, you must be so organized!"

Well, I am, in my work life.  My desk is clean and organized - it has to be for me to keep my clients happy. 

My organization starts the night before.  I have a rule that I don't go to bed until the house is cleaned up - not perfect, but tidied.  I want the bathroom where the kids take their baths cleaned, laundry in the hampers, the kitchen cleaned from dinner, the dining room table cleared, and the living room picked up.  It takes me about 20 minutes to get all this done. 

Then I decide what clothes I want to wear the next day, and make sure they're in good repair. 

Everything I need for the next day, I set on my desk or place by the front door.  Do I know where my keys and purse are?

I spend a little time pampering myself, meditating, catching up on my leisure reading, and I'm ready for bed. 

All of a sudden, the next morning is easy!

Thanks to FlyLady, who taught me the way. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interesting troubles with schoolwork

My kids are having some trouble with their school work. Some of the phonics words have become obsolete.  Once I tell them what the word is - "Honey, a record player is a phonograph" they do just fine. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TV Woes

I have come to utterly and completely HATE TV.  I can't get my kids to read if the idiot box is on; I can't focus on my work, and it just makes too much noise. 

So I moved my office into the living room, across from the TV, and I've LOCKED the remotes in my filing cabinet.  Now the kids can't waste time mindlessly watching cartoons. 

TV is fine for news and educational programs, but the kids tend to leave it on all the time.  I'm trying to teach them to watch TV occasionally and not constantly.  Let books be their first choice for entertainment!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Testing, one, two....

Since I homeschool, I'm often asked about standardized tests.  No, in Utah they are not required, and I'm pretty sure my kids know how to fill in bubbles with a number 2 pencil.  Does anyone remember the purpose of testing any more?  Anyone?  Anyone?

The purpose of testing used to be to find out what students had learned, and what they still needed to master. In a classroom setting, testing is important, because teachers need to prove that they have taught effectively.

In a homeschool, testing is virtually unnecessary.  Parents who are taking on the responsibility for educating their children are well aware of the areas the kids are deficient in. 

Eventually, of course, they will need to take the ACT and SAT.  In the meantime, they are already better educated than their peers, who are in classrooms and only after the grade.

I "test" them sometimes by having them read to me, explain what the last history lesson was about, talk to other adults about what they've learned, and solve real-life math problems.  Sometimes what they've learned isn't what I thought I taught, but that's OK - that happens all the time, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

I spent the day mostly inside with the kids, and discussing why there are some things that are just worth fighting for. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Socialization" and homeschooling

I recently read an article by a sadly misinformed young man who seemed to think that the homeschooling movement was going to threaten our democracy because he had ONE encounter with ONE homeschooled young lady - who wasn't able to discuss different worldviews.

Well, #1, the USA isn't a democracy, it's a republic.  A democracy is the rule of mob, a republic respects and safeguards the rights of the individual.

In other words, in a democracy, majority rules, and the rights of the majority override the rights of the individual.  This was brought home to me in a rather explicit example: Two men.  One woman.  She doesn't want to have sex, they do.  Majority rules, and the will of the majority overrides the will of the individual.

In a republic, however,  her right to say no is explicitly respected and protected.  The right of the indivudual is not subsumed into the desires of the majority.  That's why we have a Constitution that is supposed to protect our rights, that's why we have the Electoral College. 

We don't live in a democracy here, so I'm not at all worried about homeschooling causing damage to the democracy.

Further, homeschooled students have a greater range of friends and aquaintances than their schooled peers.  They are regularly exposed to different worldviews and different ways of living. 

Schooled kids can't get that kind of exposure.  They can talk about it, but we actually are out doing it. 

Besides, when I was in school, I was told I wasn't there to socialize - I was there to be taught. 

Homeschooled kids tend to have better social skills than their publicly schooled peers.  I had to laugh when I was talking to some friends who work at a car repair shop.  We were waiting for my car to get done, and my friend told me she was amazed at how well behaved my kids were.  They were respectful to her, they said please and thank you, and they cleaned up after themselves. 

That's the kind of social skills society is sadly lacking these days. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homeschooling as a Single, Working Mother

I wondered if I would be able to continue homeschooling when I divorced my husband and needed to go back to work.  However, where there's a will, there's a way, and I continue to homeschool even through a heavy work schedule.

I'm blessed to be able to make my own schedule.  Generally, we do school in the mornings, when the kids are fresh - but I've also done it in the evening after work.  I've also asked my daughter, Krista, who is grown, to help me with the daily routine subjects, like making sure the kids read and do math daily, and then I review their work at the end of the day.  Some days, we do part in the morning and the rest in the evening. 

We do history and writing together, and I look for every opportunity to get the kids to write.  Shopping lists, journals, book reports, family newsletter.  They see me blogging and writing in my journal frequently.  Krista likes to write song lyrics, which has inspired Mercedes to write poetry as well.

I can plan a day off midweek (when everyone else is in school) to take the kids to a museum or the zoo. 

My oldest, Krista, works as my nanny.  The younger kids are very self sufficient - they've been taught to fix their own breakfast (even bacon and eggs), clean up after themselves, do the laundry - valuable life skills that will serve them well.  And I teach them routines.  They get up in the morning, get dressed to shoes, have breakfast, and start on their schoolwork without too much prodding from me. 

And that is a very big deal.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why do YOU homeschool?

I'm often asked why I homeschool my kids.  I have a number of reasons. 

  • I can get through the curriculum at a faster pace than the schools can, and in fewer hours per day.
  • We have more flexibility in the curriculum.  My kids are learning Spanish and I'm looking into Latin.
  • I can provide one-on-one instruction.
  • I have a job that allows me enough flexibility that I can devote blocks of time to my kids.
  • It eliminates the homework battle. No more sending the kids to school 6 hours a day to end the day with another couple of hours of homework. 2-3 hours and we're done. 
  • I'm more efficient than the schools.
  • My oldest child was routinely verbally abused by a teacher in the 4th grade.  As a parent, my kids aren't my job, they're my future.  I don't need to waste my time undoing the damage bad teachers cause. The teachers only have them for 9 months, anyway - I have responsibility for them for 18 years.
  • We can actually discuss God and religion in the context of history (and anywhere else), providing a more complete education.  Really - you can't get through history without talking about God and religious devotion.  Religion has dramatically influenced history.
  • Speaking of history - there's a whole bunch of it before the landing of the Mayflower.  My kids are as familiar with Julius Caesar as they are with George Washington.
  • The kids are comfortable speaking to adults, and enjoy playing with kids of all ages.  The schools segregate by age.
  • If anyone's going to brainwash my kids, it's going to be me.  I don't want the kids being taught the political nonsense du jour. 
  • Mercedes and Jared are closer to each other than most siblings.  They are also close to their nephews.  We enjoy a more tightly knit family than many others.
  • They actually know how to play!  I don't have to plan every spare moment for them - so they know how to entertain themselves.  Legos, reading, dolls.
The only downside I've been able to come up with is that I miss out on the full time, government provided babysitter.   Fortunately, my oldest daughter (23) is able to fill in and help out.  (She was educated in the government schools, though, so I'm still having to teach her writing and math.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just Write!

It was nice to sleep in today.  Jared and Mercedes got up bright and early, fixed themselves breakfast (and cleaned up after themselves), and watched TV.  I got them started on their schoolwork - and then the power went out and they couldn't have the TV on anyway. 

It was pretty nice.  Jared is starting his 2nd grade math book.  He is so proud of his math abilities!  It's fun to watch.  Mercedes is confident that she's going to sail through hers.

I'm doing a lot more with writing this year.  I guess it's all the blogs I'm writing.  Writing is a vital skill, especially in our information-based culture.  Those who don't write well will be stuck in low paid, dead end jobs, while people who can express themselves clearly and concisely will be able to earn more money. 

How to teach writing?  Well, I have the kids make my grocery lists, write down how they feel, keep a daily journal, write down science experiments, write down what they learned in history, do book reports, make notes on the dry-erase board, write letters to grandparents, and more.  And then they also have specific writing assignments, and a study of grammar.

Maybe I'll have them put together a newsletter, like the Pickwick Papers in Little Women.  That would be fun!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kicking things off

My sweet #1 Grandson
My grandson, Ryan, started kindergarten today.  He was so proud!  I am looking forward to seeing how well he does at school.  He isn't a very social boy, so I think school may be just the thing for him, at least for a while. 

I went over the expectations for the year with Mercedes and Jared.  We discussed "life skills" or "home ec" or whatever you want to call it.  I had Mercedes wash the sheets on her bed and put them back after they dried - she was so proud of her abilities to run the washer and dryer herself.  Part of "school" this year will be for them to plan and cook a meal once a month (each).  Hopefully I can keep them from making hugely fattening foods! 

Jared proudly finished his 1st grade math book today.  He refused to start on 2A until he was done with 1B.  Interesting!

Mercedes is going to be a handful.  I am having trouble getting her to focus. 

And the adventure continues!