Saturday, May 28, 2011

Can You Homeschool As A Working Mother?

"I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves."  - Joseph Smith, Jun

YES! YES! YES!  In fact, if your child is over 8 and you're spending more than an hour or two a day actively working with them on "school" subjects, you're doing too much. 

Kids inherently want to learn.  You really can't keep them from learning.  And they really like it when they *get* a new concept.  

Math and history are the only "subjects" we spend a lot of "teaching" time on.  Notice the quote marks....Math does tend to be learned in a vacuum, sort of separated from other subjects.  History - well, it's a story.  So for history I read them a story, and then encourage them to read other books from the library.  Science?  I cover it along with history and math, often with trip to the planetarium or the Bean Life History Museum at BYU, or one of the other wonderful museums in the area.  Since I'm in Utah, I get the joy of having many resources available through the many universities. 

The best way to teach at home, I think, is to teach them HOW TO LEARN.  The most oft heard sentences at my house are the ones where I'm encouraging them to think instead of looking to me as the fount of all knowledge.  Although I am brilliant (LOL!), I still want the kids to think for themselves.  :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I'm spending some time this week planning with the kids.  What do they want to do (if they know)?  How is their education coming along?  Where are the areas we need to work on? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Did anyone struggle with Daylight Savings Time?

We didn't.  We did what we always do - set the clocks forward, then relaxed.  We went to bed a little earlier, and woke up when our bodies told us to.  (OK, so I got up earlier - I do have obligations outside the home.)

The only screaming was from my public-schooled grandson.  Ironically, there was no school today.

The kids got up as usual, maybe a little later according to the clock, did their schoolwork after being prompted, and went outside to play.

Gotta love it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Long Division

Mercedes is currently learning long division.  Bless her heart, I think she understands the basics, but it is confusing her.  She keeps losing her place!  I'm so glad she's learning this at home, where I'm here to go over this with her over and over.  Would she be able to master it at school?  Maybe, maybe not.  I suspect she would learn it well enough to pass the test, but not be internally motivated enough to retain the information.

I sneaked this picture of Jared over the top of my laptop.  He's doing his math - and rapidly catching up with his sister.  This is what homeschool looks like!  Doesn't he look so much happier than anyone sitting at a desk with 29 other students?  He's on the couch, with a blanket to snuggle with and Mom across the room if he has questions.  And he loves learning.

This is the way real learning happens.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Why Did You Decide to Homeschool?"

I get asked this a lot.

I have older children, who attended public schools.  When my oldest graduated, I read an article about how little HS graduates know about history.

So I asked her, "When was the Civil War fought?"

She said, "Gee, I don't know.  1812?"*

After I picked myself up off the floor, I decided that I could certainly do better than the public schools.  I'm three years into a computer science degree involving advanced mathematics, I love history, and I have a well-rounded liberal arts education.  Loving to read and write helps.

When my younger kids, Mercedes and Jared, came along, I determined not to make the same mistakes that I had with the first ones.  I'm sure I'm making mistakes, but at least they're brand-shiny-new mistakes and not the same ones I made before.

Choosing to homeschool rather than send the kids to the government school was part of that thought process.

The results, even this early, speak for themselves.  Jared excels in math, Mercedes is already writing a business plan for her party-planning business, and they absolutely love history.

The other part to the equation, besides the academics, is that I lost custody of two of my children after a long, drawn out custody battle with their father.  Heartsick, and out of time, money, energy, and resources, I decided that I would keep my younger children with me as long as I could, rather than entrusting them to the schools.  After all - you never really know how long you will have with your children.

*Oh, and if you went to public school - the Civil War (known in the South as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression, and there was nothing civil about it!) began January 1861 with South Carolina's opening salvo on Fort Sumter.  The issue was not slavery, but states' rights.  It ended in 1865.

The War of 1812 was against Great Britain.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Changing the Workload

Mercedes just figured out that her workload needs to change.  She'd been doing minimums - 2 pages of math, for instance - but has now moved into advanced enough math (long division) that she needs to spend a more substantial length of time in schoolwork.  She's also starting to figure out that the earlier she can get her work done, the more time she has available to play in the afternoon. 

She's reading at a more advanced level than I thought she would at her age (she's 9).  Right now she's reading Twilight, which she reads for pleasure, and Heidi, and the Chronicles of Narnia.  I suggested that she read anything by Lewis Carroll soon (and Jared, too) because of his made-up words.  What a great help for phonics! 

Jared - is catching up to his sister in mathematics.  He's reading the Tale of Devereaux and loves it.  I really enjoy hearing the pride in his voice as he reads to me. 

We discussed the Mayflower Compact in history today, and did a Mad-Libs style Compact for our own family.  The combination of 17th century language and 21st century vernacular sent the kids into peals of laughter.  And they're finally getting the joke - "If April showers bring May flowers, what to May flowers bring?  Pilgrims!"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bringing Kids to Work

I was so pleased when one of my clients invited my children to an office party today.  (We celebrate the new month and all the birthdays the first Wednesday of the month.)  I was even more pleased to see how well the kids behaved. 

Jared happily answered questions about what he likes to do, and Mercedes chatted with the women, with complete ease. 

Socialized?  My kids have great social skills.  They behaved appropriately (Mercedes did get bored, but complained quietly to me about it rather than announce it to the room at large), and they helped clean up afterward.  They interacted well with the adults present, and generally were a joy to be around.

No, I don't want to take them to work every day - but I was pleased to see that, at least occasionally, they can be trusted to behave well!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dealing with Sick Kids and Mom's Work Schedule

Mercedes has had the flu all weekend.  Bless her heart.  She's slept all weekend long, and I've been pumping fluids (and Tylenol) into her.  She flopped on the couch most of the day. 

However, I had to go to Salt Lake to clean an office for a client.  So I hauled the kids along with me.  I'm so glad I did - the job went so much faster with their help!  Mercedes vacuumed the floors, Jared helped me polish the furniture and take out the trash, and instead of the 2 hour job it would have been, we were done in 20 minutes. I was able to get back early, get my grandson from public school, and meet with my business partner an hour before I would have without their help!

Jared diligently did his schoolwork.  Mercedes, like I said, flopped on the couch and watched Harry Potter.  But, as I said, she's not feeling well, so I didn't worry about it too much today.  If they'd gone to public school, they'd have been in Valentines Day parties all day long, anyway. 

It was nice to be able to teach - and show - them that their efforts are valuable.  This is real-life stuff here.  And that's what I want them to learn! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No, I'm Really Not That Organized.

It never fails.  I talk about what I do - I'm a Reiki master teacher, have two jobs (mostly working at home), a boyfriend, and homeschool - and people are amazed.  "You must be really organized!"

Um.  No. Not at all. 

I can organize other people's stuff just fine.  It's mine that throws me into overload.  What saves my sanity is homeschooling. 

Once a day, I sit down for 15 minutes and plan the lessons I want to do for the following day.  Once a week, I think about what we need to get from the library.  We school (formally) for less than 2 hours a day.  Most of that is independent work time. 

Let's see - 15 minutes preparation, about an hour a day teaching.  2 hours a day, and we're done. (Ok - three if we go to the library and take our time.)

Homeschooling really isn't that hard.  In my experience, having had kids in both public school and homeschool, homeschool is much less stressful and takes up far less of my time.  And I've seen far better results than in government school. 

No,I'm not really that organized.  Let me tell ya - if I can do it, anyone can.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Remarks on Socialization

I swear, if I hear one more person ask me about "socializing" my kids, I'm going to scream.

Look.  When I was in school, and I tried to talk to my friends, my teacher would turn to me, fire in her eyes, and say, "You are not here to socialize, young lady!  You are here to learn!"

So why do people think that homeschooled children are somehow missing out if they don't learn to stand in line?  Do they think I lock them in a closet?

My kids talk to everyone.  They use please, and thank you.  I've taught them that the definition of being a lady/gentleman is someone who makes others comfortable in their presence.  They are comfortable asking adults for assistance.  They attend Church activities and Cub Scouts, walk themselves to their events (or ride their bikes), show up early to help their leaders set up and stay after to help clean up. 

In a typical day, they talk to: the grocery store clerk, the librarian, an ex-cop, my business partner, all the kids in the neighborhood, their nephews, Scout leaders, Church leaders, and neighbors.  Because they'll play with any kid that's reasonably nice to them, they are highly sought after playmates.

Mercedes shovels the walks for us.  She's decided that with the next snow, she's going to shovel walks and driveways for some of our older neighbors (and maybe make some money at it). 

You know, they get along well with nearly everyone, they know how to deal with bullies effectively, and they often help others learn to deal with challenges of friendships.

That is how I want them socialized. 

No one thinks they are weird - in fact, they are remarkably well adjusted. 

Of course, we all know public school never turns out strange, maladjusted children.  Ever.  Right?  And if it does, it's obviously the school's fault.

What?  It's not?  You mean, kids turn out to be like their parents?  What a concept.

Relax about socialization.  Relax about socializing.  You want your kids to manage in the real world - not just the pressure-cooker of public schools.  If you take them places with you, and allow them to interact with a large variety of people - they will be fine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Different Methods of Homeschooling

Just as every family is different, every homeschooling family uses different methods with their children.  There are rigid school-at-home-ers (wow, that's convoluted!), the eclectic homeschoolers, the unschoolers, and so forth.  There's classical homeschoolers who use A Well Trained Mind  or Charlotte Mason or A Thomas Jefferson Education as their curriculum.  There are advocates of child-led education.  I tend to use a mix.

My primary inspiration, and the book I go back to when I feel like I need to get "back on track" is A Well Trained Mind.  I do not follow it strictly.  For one thing, I am a very busy single mother - I basically have 2 jobs, one outside the home for a couple hours a day, and another that I mostly do at home.  Either way, when I'm working, I'm WORKING.  (The ex didn't understand it - part of the reason he's the ex.  Bless his heart.)  Because of all this, I have to schedule time to take an afternoon off to have a field trip with the kids, and I need my kids to be very independent workers.  I just don't have time to molly-coddle them.

Hanging out learning about nature.
Also because I work all the dang time, I'm not able to "present lessons" the same way other classical homeschoolers are able to.  History is the only "lesson" I'm able to present on a regular basis.  (We use Story of the World right now.)  I have the kids read classics that go with history, and write narrations about what they read, then correct spelling and grammar and have them re-write it correctly.

I outline for them what I expect them to do that day, and they are able to ask me questions about their assignments when I'm working my WAH job.

The wonderful part of it is that they learn quickly how to be truly self sufficient.  Mercedes is a perfectionist by nature, but by learning to ask questions and daring to make mistakes, she's learning to learn.

Jared has learned to find the answers he needs in rather *ahem* unconventional ways - he's notorious for finding Mercedes' old workbooks and then copying them.  Argh!

Because my youngest kids have never been to school, I haven't had to cope with the necessity of "de-schooling," or allowing time for them to decompress after being removed from public school.  We do have times of burn out, for them and for me, when I feel like the best thing I can do is have them play as much as possible.  We have dolls, dollhouses, K'nex, Legos, magnets - and that's a great time to do science experiments that are noisy and messy, like the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment.

If you're planning to begin homeschooling, start with the books listed above, as well as John Taylor Gatto's writings.  And feel free to ask me questions!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Releasing Perfectionism

Mercedes has been my "difficult" child during our homeschooling.  A classic Taurus, she thinks that everything she does needs to be done perfectly.  So she puts a lot of pressure on herself to do her schoolwork perfectly the first time.

I kept trying to explain to her that I didn't mind her making mistakes - everyone makes them - I just wanted her to learn from them.  She wouldn't write because she's a "creative" speller - ie, she spells like my dad.  I wanted her to get her thoughts on paper, and then we would correct spelling later.

Finally, today, she brought me her narration on Heidi that she wrote.  I corrected her spelling and asked her to re-write it with the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation - and praised her to the skies for just doing it.  Same thing with her math. I explained what she did right (she set up the problems correctly) and what she did wrong (forgot to borrow/carry).  She left to do her work beaming. 

I reminded her of one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie, Meet the Robinsons - "From failure, you learn.  From success, not so much."

Don't be afraid to make mistakes.  The only time mistakes = failure is when you fail to learn from them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Storage, Hoarding, and Clutter

OK, so this is not really a homeschooling post, but it is home-oriented. 

I've been reading a bunch of blogs that are very alarmist in nature.  Store, store, store, hoard, hoard, hoard.  Get a treadle sewing machine and other items for living off the grid.  Repent, for the end is near!

Well, maybe repentance is in order (it's never a bad thing).  And I'll grant that having an emergency plan and kit ready is smart.  But what worries me is that so many of these sites recommend "storing" so much that will probably never be used.

Yes, I know how to sew - and rather well, too.  I'm a good cook, and I like to have food storage on hand.  But I don't have material - because my lifestyle (homeschooling, work at home mother with a virtual assistance business and a bookkeeping business) doesn't allow me the time to sew.  It almost doesn't allow me time to blog!  And it so much of this sounds like hoarding without a plan.  Besides, I live in a small, 3 bedroom townhome with no storage space and too many people (my oldest daughter and her 2 kids are staying here temporarily).   And I have a "thing" about looking like I furnish my home in early Goodwill.  I'm not likely to make a desk by placing a board over food storage buckets or anything like unto it.

So here is my suggestion.

Don't even THINK about storage until you've decluttered.  Get the house under control.  Get rid of EVERYTHING that you don't use and love.  Really.  If you don't absolutely love it, or if you don't use it, get it out of your house.  I'm planning to empty a couple of rooms (slowly!) down to the walls, scrub the room, and then thoughtfully consider what I want that room to be used for and what needs to be in it.  Declutter at least 15 minutes a day. 

Once the house is decluttered (and it will be an ongoing challenge), if you want to do food/fuel/clothing storage, do it thoughtfully.  Consider where you will keep your storage (again, I'm never going to set the TV on food buckets, but YMMV.)  Will you love it there?  Will you USE it?  There's no point in storing things you won't use, and holding on to baby clothes when your youngest is in college is just silly.  Buying a year's supply of canned foods may make sense, but don't just dash out and start buying wheat. 

Store what you use.

Use what you store.

Don't let it take over your house.  It's not likely we'll be off the grid for years at a time. 

Put some real thought behind it rather than hanging on every word the alarmists tell you.

My personal emergency plan is to pack everyone up in the van and drive to Kentucky.  Well, not really, but I know I have items that can be bartered in an emergency, I'm building a stash of cash to keep on hand for emergencies, and although I don't generally need to butcher a chicken, I do know how. 

I want to make sure that my home is, and remains, a haven.  It can't do that if I'm hoarding "just in case."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Virtual Public School vs Home School

I spent part of the evening helping a friend get her granddaughter's computer set up for K12.  This young lady is 14 and has not been happy in the public school system, and is thrilled to be doing K12 and to be out of the classroom.

Why don't I set my kids up with K12?  After all, it's "free" because it's public school.  And you know what? That's why.

I don't educate my kids according to a public school model that's not working well anyway.  I am using a Thomas Jefferson Education / Well Trained Mind approach, which is a more classical education.  I prefer to be in full control of my children's education.  It's just a different philosophy.  I certainly don't put anyone down who uses K12 - they're getting their kids out of the pressure cooker, which is wonderful. 

It's just not the choice I made when I chose to homeschool.

And we're loving the process. 

I'm excited to see how my friend's granddaughter does!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A house full of sick kids.

Mercedes is coughing, and Jared went to sleep on the couch before 6.  I think the kids are getting sick.

We had a wonderful history lesson on Henry Hudson.  Jared was impressed that Hudson was stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of Hudson's Bay.  I've got to get a globe tomorrow so we can study the way the sun strikes the earth and why it's dark at the North Pole for six months in the winter. 

Mercedes is starting to pick up her studies.  She's been lazy for a while.  The frustrating thing with her is that she is VERY intelligent.  She just gets frustrated easily (her hormones are already in overdrive).  She hasn't been sleeping well, so she's chosen to sit up and read Harry Potter or Narnia. 

I'm so glad that homeschooling means education goes on - a little scaled back, but still goes on - when they're sick and in bed. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reason number 40028 why I homeschool

There's nothing so rewarding as realizing what fun learning is for your kids.  Jared lost his math book a few days ago (before Christmas, probably) and had been searching for it for weeks.  He even suggested that Mercedes had hidden it to keep him from passing her up in math - and I wouldn't put it past her, either.

What joy it was to hear him shout, "Mom!  I found my math book!"  with triumph and excitement in his voice. 

Jared loves math.  It's what he works on first, and loves working on most.  Other than building his Bionicles, Legos, or K'nex, of course. I love that he loves math, and that he doesn't have school to take the enjoyment of learning away from him.  He goes at his own pace, keeps up with his peers easily, is developing an amazing work ethic, and quickly and easily understands concepts.  He explained to me how to divide yesterday, and he hasn't even hit that part of math yet.