Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homeschooling: It's Not For Everyone

I have had many people tell me that they couldn't homeschool. There have been several reasons given for why they don't feel they could homeschool. Some don't feel they have the discipline to do it. Some don't feel they could deal with having the kids home so much. Some don't think their kids would deal well with having their parents as teacher. There are other reasons I've heard, too. I generally don't really have a response when people say that to me. You see, I don't think that homeschooling is for everyone. Now, I'm not saying that the people who have expressed doubt to me shouldn't homeschool. What I'm saying is that I don't have some sixth sense that can determine if a person could/should homeschool. When you tell me "I don't know if I have the discipline to homeschool," I really have no response (I mean, really, if you don't know, how am I to know?). Even if I have known you for years, even if we're related, I don't know if you would be able to homeschool sucessfully. Homeschooling is not a guarantee of a superior education. It is not a guarantee of a better environment. Not everyone can homeschool. Not everyone should homeschool. If having your kids around that much would lead to you beating them, you probably shouldn't homeschool. If their education would consist of 30 minutes of educational activities and video games the rest of the day, maybe you shouldn't homeschool. If their education would consist of nothing more that memorizing Bible passages, maybe you shouldn't homeschool. If your spouse works from home as a drug dealer or other illegal career choice, maybe you shouldn't homeschool. If you're living in your car, maybe you should focus on getting a job & home before considering homeschooling. I'm really not trying to be funny here, I'm making a point. Not every family, not every home, not every parent is cut out for homeschooling.

Now, I'm not saying that any of the people that I know, who have expressed doubt about their ability to homeschool, live in any of these situations. I'm simply saying that it is not for everyone. SO, I can't tell you that it would be right for you. It's not that I think you can't do it. It's not that I share your doubts. Really, it's just that I DON'T KNOW. Maybe your doubts are totally unfounded. Maybe homeschooling would be the perfect option for you. Maybe you'd be the best, most organized, most together homeschool mom ever. Maybe it would be a complete disaster. Maybe your doubts are spot on. Maybe your kids would be light years behind their public school peers. I simply don't know. I also don't know the laws for evey single state. SO, I have no idea if you are even organized enough to deal with the laws for your state.

Now, as I'm sure you've figured out, I am not one of those homeschoolers that thinks that everyone can (or should) homeschool. I have personally met many people who should not homeschool. If you can not provide your child with an education at least as good as (if not better than) the one they would receive in public school, you should not homeschool. 

I get really irritated when I hear (or see) homeschoolers complaining about all those people who "could homeschool but instead leave their kids in public school & complain about the school system." It really doesn't seem to occur to these homeschoolers that some people are simply not cut out for homeschooling. Not every family can adjust their work schedules so they can keep both parents employed and have someone home with the kids. Not all families can go down to just one income. Not all families have a family member or close friend that can help with child care while parents work. Not every household can juggle things around so that they can homeschool. Not everyone is capable of teaching or helping their child learn. Not everyone has the dedication to homeschool.

Homeschooling is simply not for everyone. Homeschooling is a commitment that should not be entered into lightly or on a whim. Why? Because, we're talking about your child's future. If you choose to homeschool & then don't actually do anything to provide an education for your child, it will be your fault when they can't get into a college or can't get a job. If you aren't willing or able to do everything & anything needed to provide your child with an education, then you should not take on homeschooling. It takes dedication. It takes time. It takes effort & energy. It takes money (exactly how much will depend on you). It takes work (for you & your kid). It often takes sacrifice. Plus, the amount of energy, effort, time, money, and dedication (not to mention the amount of challenge) rises as you add more kids or special needs (LD, ADHD, kids on the spectrum, Gifted, dyslexia, physical disabilities, etc.).

Now, I'm not saying that some people shouldn't homeschool to try to make anyone feel bad. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, an actor, a teacher, or even a parent. So, it stands to reason that not everyone would be cut out to homeschool. It doesn't mean that anyone is better or worse than anyone else, just that we all have different abilities, strengths, talents, and different familial situations. Do what works best for you & your family and have faith & confidence in your choices.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Harsh

Ok, I know that some people think I'm a bit harsh. I have posted several times about my issues with the immature way some people behave. I even admitted, on a homeschool forum, that I take what people say with a grain of salt , knowing that it may or may not be true. In other words, I don't believe every thing that everyone says. Sorry, but I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone is honest. Some people lie. Some people exaggerate. Not everyone, but some people. So, some people think I'm harsh. Some think I'm a bit of a b*tch. Of course, everyone's entitled to an opinion, and I'm fine with the fact that there are people that don't like me or my views.

However, before you accuse me of being harsh or being a b*tch, keep in mind that I keep it generalized. I don't mention screen names, or even specific sites. I don't call people out. I don't respond to their posts and tell them they're full of b.s. I don't post quotes from their different posts to show the inconsistencies. I don't point out when things they claim their kid did were developmentally impossible for their age. I don't give specifics. I could do those things. I could call people out. I could point out inconsistencies and impossibilities. I could trot out statistics or quote Scientific evidence. I don't, though. I'm nice enough to let these people go on with their delusions of grandeur. I'm nice enough to not publicly embarrass them by telling everyone they're full of it.

Now, if you still want to think I'm harsh or a b*tch, fine. Just remember, though, I could be a lot worse. Also, keep in mind that this is MY blog. It's going to be written from my perspective. It is going to have my opinions. I write from my point of view. I write about my experiences, my thoughts, my ideas, etc. Even when I'm on a forum & not here on my blog, I'm not going to pretend, exaggerate, or lie. Now, I'll admit that I can be a bit blunt, and sometimes the truth hurts. I'm really not trying to be rude or hurtful, but sometimes it happens. I don't mean to offend & apologize if I do. However, I don't apologize for my point of view. I don't apologize for being honest. I don't apologize for being me.

Differing Opinions

Have you ever noticed that people can be a bit vicious when your opinion differs from theirs? This is something I've been thinking baout lately, not because of dealing with it myself, but seeing others deal with it. The topic of education of chilren is one that spurs many such vicious disagreements.

Some people are very upset at how 'academic' Kindergarten has become. You see, some schools actually expect students to be able to recognize their letters & numbers, be able to write their names, and even know names of shapes & colors BEFORE they start Kindergarten. There are some people who are just FUMING about that. Some will even go so far as to say that a child's brain isn't ready for that kind of work that young.
Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. So, if you believe in the 'better late than early' mentality, that's fine. You go ahead and believe that and you can voice that opinion, too. However, it is not right to berate someone who has a different opinion. It is not right to accuse someone of pushing or harming their kids because the child learned to read at a young age or because they have the child doing a little bit of schoolwork at 4 or 5 years old.

Many homeschoolers will tell you that school should take less than an hour per day for preK -1st or 2nd grade, and should increase by 15-30 minutes per year after that. That's all well & good, if that's how you want to do it. If, on the other hand, your opinion differs from that, you may want to watch where you voice that opinion. I have seen some hellacious arguments on that topic. Apparently, if your child is doing more than an hour of school before 3rd grade, you are a horrible parent. If you explain that it's because you cover more subjects, that just makes you the overbearing, overachieving parent who is pushing your child and trying to claim that your family is better than everyone else. If you explain that it takes more than an hour because your child struggles with something (therefore, more time is spent on it), you'll find out just how horrible of a parent you are. Don't you know that them struggling means that they simply aren't ready, yet? If you would stop being so pushy and just let them be, whatever they're struggling with would just click when they are ready for it (because we all know that you don't have to work at anything, everything will just eventually click). GRRRRR. I can't tell you how tired I am of that ridiculous garbage.
I mean, seriously, how old are we? I don't know about you, but I'm an adult. I would assume that most other homeschooling parents are also adults. Maybe, we could all act like adults, instead of having infantile arguments.

If you are comfortable having 'the basics' (math, reading, writing) being the only things your child does before 3rd or 4th grade, that's fine, for you. However, that doesn't mean that someone who sees it differently and has their child doing Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, Foreign Language, Logic, etc is wrong. While Science, Social Studies, Art, and Music could be done in an Unschooly, child-led way until maybe 4th grade, they can be done formally in the lower grades, without causing detriment. Remember, your way works for you, but education is not one-size-fits-all. As for the idea that whatever a child struggles with will just magically click one day, ummm no. That's not how it works. You can't just skip education assuming that one day they'll just suddenly get Math concepts, how to read, how to do Algebra, etc. with no effort or practice at all.

Now, what it really comes down to is this: Everyone has their own ideas of what education should look like. Some people feel that rote memorization should be a large part of learning. Some feel it should be a smaller part. Some feel it shouldn't be part of learning, at all. Some people teach only 'the basics' until 3rd or 4th grade. Some feel that the other subjects should be started before 3rd or 4th grade. Some feel that once or twice a week is enough for Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Art, and Music. Others feel they should be covered more fully than that. Some prefer textbooks. Some prefer 'living books' (some can't agree on what living books are). Some think tests are appropriate assessments. Some prefer projects, portfolios, or other forms of assessment.
What each person uses, when providing their child's education, is a personal choice. People need to remember that. The fact that someone chooses to do something in a way different from you, is not some kind of personal attack on you.

I think that having penmanship as a subject is a waste of time. If you have your child working with a penmanship program, that's your choice. My decision to not use one, because it would be a waste of time FOR US is not an attack on your way of doing things. I don't like textbooks for elementary school except for Math and Foreign Language. That does not mean I'm judging those who use textbooks. I disagree with the idea that all that's important in the lower grades are Math, Reading, and Writing. However, I don't attack those that cover just those. I do choose to have my kids cover more than that, though. In other words, I'm more of the 'live and let live' mentality. I'll do things my way, you do things your way, we can share ideas & advice, explain our reasons for our choices, but I don't take the fact that you do things differently as a personal attack. I'd like to think most people are like me in that respect. I know that many are. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of people who are the opposite. Their way is right, and if you disagree, you are wrong. Voice any differing opinions, and they are treated as a personal attack. By saying that you find rote memorization useless, you have insulted their entire way of life and called their children morons. By saying you think Science is too important to leave to just Nature Study until 6th grade, you have claimed your kids are smarter and better than their kids, and have accused them of educational neglect. Some people really just need to learn that the world is full of people with their own opinions and their own perspectives. Just because someone doesn't agree with everything you say, that doesn't make them your enemy. Seriously, just grow up and realize that the world does NOT revolve around YOU. You are NOT infallible.
The world is full of different people, different points of view, different preferences, different priorities, different, differentDIFFERENT!!!!! Differences are what give us the wonderful variety that fills our world. Stop berating or belittling anyone who sees things in a different way! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Final Choices for 2011-2012 School Year

I have finalized the list of materials & the exact topics to be covered for the next school year. Some of the materials we already have, the rest we'll be buying next month.

Music:
Jay - Alfred's Kid's Guitar Course w/CD/DVD
        Recorder & instructional book
        Continue guitar lessons with dad & practice at least 3 days a week
Dea - Continue to study various different musicians (her choice this year)
          Recorder & instructional book


Art:
Dea - she has chosen an in-depth study of 5 artists & their works
Jay - various projects, mostly related to Social Studies, but some more Art specific

Latin:
Jay - Latin For Children Primer A
Dea - Latin For Children Primer A with Jay (her choice to do this)
         Oxford Latin (possibly also helping tutor her cousin in Latin)

Computer Programming:
Both - Logo Adventures

Spanish:
Both - Tell Me More

ASL:
Both - continue using Signing Time DVDs and various other DVDs from library

Math:
Dea - Life of Fred, not sure which level(s) she'll be doing, depends on what she finishes this year
Jay - Mastering Mathematics from wherever he leaves off this year (looks like he'll start next year with quick review of Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication and then focus on Division), will also do the sections in his Subtraction book on subtracting time & measurement
        Key to..... series for Measurement & Metric Measurment

Science:
Dea - Anatomy & Physiology using a college text we have as a spine, and adding in some supplementals like anatomy coloring books, software, and some projects
          Intro to Psychology using college text we have
Jay - more Magic School Bus based Science using MSB kits & MSB Teacher Created Science/Literature Units for:
    Electricity
    Flight
    Space
    Slime (this one is just for fun)
we'll also be supplementing with MSB DVDs, and various other DVDs & books

Language Arts/English;
Dea - this is year 2 high school English
          Easy Grammar 10
          Put That in Writing
          literature focus is Mythology & Legends
Jay - Easy Grammar 2
         Grammar Tales
         Discover the Deck (writing program)
         continue to read at least 1 hour per day, books of his choice, from a range of genres & writing styles

History;
Jay - various supplemental materials & lots of projects
        topics: Vikings, Ancient China, Native American history
Dea - 1st year high school history: Ancient Civilizations: A Comparative Study

Geography/Cultural Studies:
Dea - done with Geography, Cultural Studies combined with History
Jay - Map Corner (program that teaches Map Skills)
        World Geography and You
Even though each program is meant to be used in 1 year, I'm combining them, adding extra depth, and stretching them over 3-4 years

Logic:
Dea - taking year off from Logic
Jay - Logic Safari book 1 and various Logic puzzles from various books of logic puzzles

I have already planned some of these courses entirely. Some, I have planned everything I can until new materials arrive. Others I can't even start until the new materials get here.  Once I have all the materials, I can finalize plans regarding how many & what projects Jay will do for History; how many & what Labs Jay will do for Science; and basic stuff like how many pages/lessons/chapters/units/ per day/week will be done in each subject. I'll post a more comprehensive plan once I have all the planning finalized.

I know this looks like a lot, but much of it has been requested by the kids. We are very flexible in our plans & change whenever we need to. For instance, this year I had planned for Dea to do LOF Beginning Algebra & Advanced Algebra. She could have easily done both this year. However, due to her extreme hatred of the subject, she has decided to stretch it out & will likely only finish Beginning Algebra this year. We are purchasing LOF Geometry & Trig for next year, in case she finishes both Algebra courses this year or decides to do extra Math next year, even though I doubt that will be the case. To graduate, I require they do at least: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, and 1 year of Accounting. As long as she gets those done, I'm fine with her not going further. Though, she may need to go further for her career choice. That's something she'll have to deal with herself, though. What I require is more than our local district requires for graduation, and is enough to get her into any college (I've yet to find a college that requires Trig, Pre-Calc, Calc, etc). Jay has requested computer programming, but I will have him drop it if it is too much for him (or he can drop it if he doesn't like it). Spanish is a language I require, but if it's too much for him this year, we'll put it off another few years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Petri Dishes

Earlier this school year, the kids both did Petri Dish labs.

Jay tested if toothpaste killed germs, if soap killed germs, & if antibiotic ointment killed germs. He also grew cultures from his & Dea's toes and yogurt.


It was a little difficult to photograph them, sorry you can't see much.

Dea tested 4 different antibiotics. We got antibiotic discs to use for the lab. She collected samples from the most disgusting place in the house (the toilet) and tested the different antibiotics to see what effect they had.






For extra fun, we tested the antibiotics on water from the local river. Each dish has 2 antibiotics - one on each side & river water on both sides.





The results were somewhat disturbing. The river water ate through the gel, and the antibiotics had no effect at all.

Penmanship

Jay has AWFUL penmanship. He still doesn't write with lowercase letters. He forms his letters in odd ways. He's driving me nuts! He won't even really try to improve. When I can get him to write with lowercase letters, they are the same size as his capital letters. Everything he writes is HUGE. I have to constantly tell him to erase them & write it smaller. He puts large spaces between letters, for no reason at all.

We're finishing off the Explode the Code series this year. It has been review for him since the beginning, except book 4 (which covered syllables). Since he doesn't need the reading/phonics practice, we're using it for Spelling/Vocab & Penmanship practice. He's working on it right now, is almost done with the 4th page for the day, and it has been almost an hour. There is no reason for this to take an hour. Maybe he's distracted by the fact that Dea is working in the same room (she's usually in another room while he does this), or maybe it's the fact the Hubby is home today (his grandfather died last night, so he's taking some time off).n Whatever it is, something is causing him to drag this out today, and it's driving me CRAZY!

I won't make him use a program for penmanship or even force copy work. To me, that would be a waste of time. His penmanship will improve with time, and he gets plenty of practice writing for other subjects. He has enough subjects to focus on without having to try to fit penmanship into his day, as well. I know he'll improve. He's made improvements this year, he just still isn't to where I'd like him to be.

This is his weakest area. It is the only area that a school could even attempt to tell me that he isn't where he 'should' be. I know I'm lucky, and I'm not complaining (not really). I'm lucky that penmanship is the area he struggles most. I know that. I'm just venting because I've just spent an HOUR trying to get him to properly write the answers on 4 pages. I'm trying to get him to write correctly (and legibly). Yesterday, he was drawing dinosaur mouths eating the words he wrote (dino teeth make it very hard to read).

Monday, January 24, 2011

My School Binder

My school binder is quite large (3"). I wanted to make sure I had enough room for everything I wanted to put in it.

The first thing in it is a pouch. The pouch contains highliters, dry erase markers, a few sharpies, and a Post-It pad.

Next is the 'School Info' section. This section holds basic stuff like the start date for the current year, the dates of planned holidays & breaks. If we did portfolios, this is where I'd keep my checklist. If we did Standardized testing, this is where I'd keep the test information. We don't do those, though, so it's pretty basic stuff in this section. This section is also where I keep the basic scope & sequence we use, and the requirements I have set for graduation.

Next comes a section for each child. Each child's section holds information specific to them. It is where I store information on the extra-curricular activities and outside classes they're involved in. It is then broken up into subsections - one for each subject. Each subject subsection contains whatever I need for that subject. The most important page in each subject section is the Class Plan. The Class Plan is similar to a syllabus, except less formal. A Class Plan lists the school year, child's name, grade the child is in, name of class, grade level of class (so I can keep track of the high school level classes they do), a description of the class, the goals of the class, assignments, how many lessons/chapters/units per day/week, and a list of materials for the class. For Subjects like History & Science I may also include a list of topics to be covered. The next page is a Curriculum Key, a page that lists each material we plan to use for the class & the abbreviation I use for each. Behind those pages are any other pages I need for the subject.

After the kids' sections is the 'Field Trip & Extra-Curricular' section. This is where I keep information about extras I'd like to sign them up for or want to look into. This is where I keep information about potential field trips. It is where I keep a list of museums, zoos, historical sites, etc, and the hours, admission prices, and free days.

Next is the 'Resources' section. This section has a complete inventory list of all of our school materials. I replace the list each year with a new, updated list. This is where I will store a list of educational DVDs when I finish the inventory for them. It also contains other resources, such as blank Venn Diagrams, blank maps, and lists of various things.

Then comes the 'Ideas' section. It is where I keep my ideas regarding school - schedules that may work, books I want to read (about homeschooling or education), books I'd like the kids to read, ways to make school more fun, etc.

The 'Future Planning' section holds concrete future plans. My final list of materials for the following year, the class plans for the following year, new updated inventory list, information on extras the kids will be involved in during the following year, all are things that will live in this section as I finalize plans for the upcoming year. I have another binder that I use for future planning, so this section is reserved for definites for the upcoming year. Longer-term & less definite planning goes in the other binder.

The 'Community Service' section holds information on community service work the kids can get involved in. It is where I keep track of what community service work they have done & when.

Last, but not least, is the 'General & Legal' section. This is where I keep a copy of my state laws. I print a new copy each year, just in case something changes. This section is also where I keep information on educational philosophies, educational psychology, and any other information pertaining to education or homeschooling in specific.

The kids each have their own school binder. Their binders are smaller and contain less than mine. They have a section for each subject. Each subject section has a copy of the Class Plan and any printed pages they need for the subject. I put new pages in as they start new topics, so the binders only contain what they need right now. The binders are also where the kids store their finished work until I put it away in the plastic file boxes that hold the current year's finished work. At the end of the school year, all the work from that year is collected and put into the rubbermaid totes that hold all their completed work.

No matter what schedule we use or when our year starts or ends, these binders work to keep us organized.

The kids also each have a canvas basket to store their schoolwork. The baskets hold their binders, all of the books they currently need, their pens, pencils, and the 16 disk CD case they each have that holds whatever CDs & DVDs they need for the week.

Of course, if they don't put things back in their baskets, they don't do much for organization. Right now, my daughter is searching the house, trying to find her Biology textbook. This, of course, wouldn't be needed if she had put it away the last time she used it. For the most part, though, the binders & baskets keep them pretty organized.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Family Brain

'The Family Brain' is what I call our family organizer. It is a binder that contains everything needed to keep the family organized and on time.

The first thing in it is a folder. This folder is where all incoming bills (the few we still get on paper) go. It is where the payment book for the car is kept. It is also where I put important pieces of mail that need to be dealt with.

Next is the 'Planning' section. This contains a 12 month calendar, on which I record all appointments, holidays, and birthdays that the family needs to know about.

Next is the 'Contacts' section. It contains emergency numbers, numbers for our Drs, numbers and addresses of family & family friends, etc. Basically, every number or address that we might need.

After that comes the 'Bills' section. This section has a bill payment tracker where I record the Date Due, Amount, Date Paid, & Amount Paid for each bill and annual membership.

Next comes the 'House & Car' section. This is where I keep track of work done to the car, work done to the house, household projects, decor projects, seasonal & holiday decor inventory lists, and seasonal chores.

The 'Family' section is next. This is where I keep gift wish lists for each of us, gift ideas, ideas for fun family activities, information (hours, admission fees, etc.) on museums and other places we visit or want to visit, etc.

'Medical' is the next section. It's where I keep records of our medical information - allergies, medical conditions, regular medications, and major events (like sugery).

The final section is the 'Family Metting' section. This is where I keep track of what we discuss in family meetings, what we need to discuss in future family meetings, etc.

This binder serves two purposes. The first is that it helps me to keep the family organized. The second is that, if something happens to me & my hubby needs to help with basic stuff like paying the bills & getting the kids to their appointmants, he'll be able to find all the information he needs in one place. Some of the forms in the binder were created using software from Franklin Covey. I made the rest, in Microsoft Word or Excel.

If you don't already have a family organizer, I urge you to make one. Having everything you need right at your fingertips makes life so much easier.

How we do History pt 5

Alright, here are some more pictures of work Dea has done for History. This still isn't every project she's ever done, but it gives a good idea of how we've approached History.
                           Native American/American Indian:
                                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                                 
             Ancient Civilizations                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                 
                



   Pioneers:
                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                 
                                                 
Now, please keep in mind that these were all done in grades 1-4. There may be spelling errors and they may not seem to contain a ton of information, but they are the work of a young child and only part of the work done for each topic. Please keep that in mind when commenting. I will delete any comments that I find rude, demeaning, or insulting toward my child. These were entirely her work. The most I did on any of them was help cut, print pictures & maps she asked me to print, and provide her with the materials she required to do the projects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                               

Organizing the Kids

Since January is Get Organized Month, I thought I'd share one way we help the kids get organized.

We have this chart that hangs in the living room. It's poster board with cards attached with velcro. The cards have the things they need to do - school work, reading time, chores, and daily basics like brushing teeth. Here's a picture of the chart:  

Each night, I place on the chart the cards they will need for the following day. As they do each task, they take down the card and place it in the envelope at the bottom of their side of the chart. 

TV and Computer time are marked as educational or free time. Certain things are broken down into 30 minute increments, for easier tracking. We have cards for each school subject as well as cards for 30 minutes of school time. That way, they can keep track of how much time they do school (in 30 minute increments), which subjects they do, or both. The chore cards have the basic chore on the front and, for more complex chores, a list of exactly what the chore includes on the back. 


The cards are laminated for durability. That way, they'll be able to stand up to being put on & pulled off the chart day after day.

The brilliance of this method is that is so easily adaptable. We can remove or add new task cards at any time. We can change what's on the chart for the day if something comes up. I'll be able to hand over responsibility to the kids, gradually. Plus, it is a hands-on way for them to keep track of what they've done & what they still need to do. I also love that we've incorporated their chores, schooling, computer time, TV time, quiet reading time, minimum hour of outdoor play, and personal care into ONE chart, instead of having several charts to cover it all. This really is perfect for us because it can grow & change so easily. Little laminated cards stuck on with velcro - they have longevity and disposability all at the same time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Have your dreams come true?

When you were child, what did you want to be? Did any of those dreams come true? If they came true, did they come true exactly the way you had imagined or did they take on a different life?

I had so many different dreams as a child. Only one stayed consistent - being a mom. I always knew I was going to be a mother. I was going to have two kids, a girl and a boy. That dream always persisted. What else I was going to do with my life chaged frequently, though.

I was going to be an actress. I was going to be a singer. I was going to front a band as singer & lead guitar. I was going to be head chef at a famous restaurant. I was going to run a catering company. I was going to be a world renown Poet. I was going to be an artist. I was going to be host of a fun, educational, kids' Science show. I was going to be a Paleontologist. I was going to be an Archaeologist. I was going to be a doctor. I was going to be a teacher. I was going to be an Accountant. I know there were others, but it's hard to remember them all now.

The funny thing is, many of my dreams were fame-seeking. Yet, I hate to be the one in front of the camera. I hate to be in the limelight. I always have. I wanted to be famous, but have always been completely camera shy.

As I'm sure you can guess, I'm not a famous or world renown anything. My dreams haven't come true in the ways I had planned. However, many of them have come true, in a way.

I'm not in a band, as lead guitar (good thing since I can't play) or as a singer. However, there have always been people who love to hear me sing & think I have a beautiful voice. They are all the audience I need.
I'm not head chef of any restaurant, but have often had people (family, friends, neighbors) standing outside my door waiting for me to make them food. My food may never be reviewed by a critic, but my family & friends love my cooking & I appear to specialize in making foods people normally wouldn't eat, in a way that makes them really enjoy it.
I don't have my own catering company, but am regularly requested to cook for others or to bring food to gatherings.
I'm not a world renown Poet, but I am a published Poet.
I am an artist, but only as a hobby.
I'm not a doctor, but I do take care of many of my family's medical care needs with alternative methods.

Of course, some didn't happen in any way. I'm not an Archaeologist, Paleontologist, Accountant, actress, or host of any kind of TV show.

Some of my dreams came true completely. I am a mother. I do have two kids, a boy & a girl. One of my dreams came true in a way I would never have expected. I wanted to be a teacher, and I became a homeschooler.

So many of the things I dreamed of, are still a large part of my life, just in a less grandiose way. That's a reminder to me of how important our dreams are. They may not come true exactly. They may not come true at all. However, if they're still there in your life (in some form) 20 years later, they're there for a reason.

So many people can't handle having their dreams not come true. There are also some that see dreams as ridiculous and pointless. I think they are an important part of making us who we are meant to be, even if they are never fully realized (or never realized at all).

I'm not giving up on any of my dreams. After all, who knows what the future may hold? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Organized does not mean inflexible

Being organized does not mean you live in a house that is spotless all the time. It does not mean that nothing is ever out of place. It does not mean that every second of your day is planned and there's no flexibility.

Being organized means that everything has a home, and (with some work & effort) it all ends up there by the end of the day (most days). It means that there are scheduled chores and they usually get done on time. It means that you always know when appointments are scheduled, and you're on time to most of them. It means your bills are paid in a timely manner, you don't have tons of late fees on your library card or at the video store, and you don't have to go back to the grocery store 3 times to get things you forgot.

Being organized isn't about your life or your time being controlled by a schedule. It's about learning how to make efficient use of your time.

I can't count the number of times I've heard (or read) someone say "I'm just too organized to allow that kind of flexibility in our day (or our homeschool)" or "We need flexibility too much to be organized." That is such a misconception! Organized and Rigid are not synonyms. You can be organized and still have the amount of flexibility you need/desire. It may require some trial and error. It may require a little creative planning. It is completely doable, though.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Update on our break

So, we're a little more than halfway done with our 'break form formal schooling.' Really, this break has been a time of testing new schedules for both kids and them figuring out what they want.

Right now, Dea is trying out doing Math everyday M-F and doing 2 other subjects each day (a week's worth of each). I'm not sure it will work for her, but I'm going to let her try it. She still doesn't like Math, but tolerates it. She's loving doing Biology this year, and has thanked me repeatedly for the materials & labs. She's enjoying reading the Poetry for  English, but is not really enjoying the Plays. Maybe I'll let her just watch the rest of the plays, instead of having her read & watch them. They aren't the most enjoyable things to read, because plays aren't written to be read. She's enjoying doing her Geography project; though I don't think she'd miss it if I told her she didn't have to finish the text. She had decided to stop doing Oxford Latin, and started doing Song School Latin with Jay (so she could talk to him using the words he was learning). She has since decided to continue doing Song School Latin with Jay, wants me to get Latin for Children for her next year (that's what Jay will be using), and has started Oxford Latin again. She's really looking forward to starting Spanish next year, too. If she can find a schedule that works for her, she could easily finish this year's work by the end of our break (the end of March).

Jay is doing great with the relaxed schedule. It's pretty much guaranteed that he'll finish his work by the end of the break. He's loving Latin even more now that his sis is doing it with us. He really enjoys Math & is frighteningly good (and fast) at it. He takes every opportunity to do Math in his head. He surprised me the other day when he did 15 x 4 in head to tell me the total cost of something, especially since we weren't doing a Math lesson (hubby & I were haivng a conversation). He's flying through books so fast. If it weren't for the fact that he gives me detailed descriptions of every book reads, I'd be concerned about his comprehension & retention. I do need to work with him on how he chooses which assignments to do. He needs a bit more balance with that. He's almost done with all of his Science labs, but still needs to do several of the written assignments. So, I want to work with him on balancing the hands-on and written work.

I'm pretty sure that we'll continue the relaxed schedule for Jay next year. Although, I think I'll make it 3 hours a day, instead of 2. Considering the amount of work we'll be doing, 3 a day sounds fair. He'll be starting Grammar & Writing in Language Arts. His Music & Art are both going to be a bit more structured. He'll be starting Geography. Of course, there's History, Science, Math, Latin, and Logic. Plus, he wants to learn Spanish and Computer Programming. We're going to let him try those two courses and see how he does. So, that's eleven courses. Although, 3 of them are part-time - Logic is doing a Logic workbook a few days a week; Art is mostly connected with History & Science, but will have a few Art specific projects; and Music is mostly becoming more familiar with different musicians & genres, but will also include regular guitar practice & lessons and learning to play the recorder. The other courses, though, are full-time subjects with a lot of work. So, I figure 3 hours a day should be a good time-limit to start the year. I can adjust if need be.

Hopefully, by the time Dea finishes her work for this year, we'll have found a schedule that works for her. If not, I'm not sure what schedule we'll start her off with. She's got a fair number of courses herself next year, and they'll be mostly High School level. She'll have Math, Science, English, History, Latin, Spanish, Art, Music, and Computer Programming. She won't have to do Geography because I only require 1 year of high School Geography, and she's doing that this year. We're also going to give her a year off of Logic. Up until now, Logic has been logic workbooks and books of logic puzzles. The year after next, she'll start a formal Logic program.

As it stands right now, the kids are doing great, and it looks like they ahould both be done by the end of March. They're both looking forwar dto next year. Dea is helping me design her History for next year. Most of what can be done, before buying the new materials for next year, is done. Within the next month, I'll be finalizing the list of materials for next year. I'll be purchasing by the end of February. Hopefully, I will have enough time to plan out all of next year before the end of March. I've decided that we may not take a break between school years this time, because of this 6 month break. If they are both done by the end of March, when the 'break' ends, I'm hoping ofr us to start the new year right away. I'd like to have the planning done by then, in case that's what happens.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Most Important Things I can Teach My Kids

What are the most important things for a student to learn? Many people will jump to answers such as Math, Reading, and Writing, and those are important things to learn. However, I think that the most important things students can learn are not subjects, but certain skill sets. What skills? How to learn & how to think.

Learning encompasses multiple skills - study skills, research skills, listening, etc. Schools simply don't teach these. In most classrooms, you read the textbook, answer some (very basic) questions about what you read, the teacher lectures or explains how to do the work, and you do the assignment. When the teacher is lecturing or explaining, they are generally talking AT the class, not TO the students. Now, some of you are saying "I had a teacher that wasn't like that" or "Hey! I am a teacher & that's not how I teach class." Please, don't be offended. I said MOST classrooms. There are some fantastic teachers, who really want the students to learn & get them involved in their education. Unfortunately, they are not the majority (at least not in my experiences and the experiences I've heard from many other people).
Students will learn more from discussion - active listening, asking questions, asnwering questions, comparing different perspectives - than they will from being talked at.
Students need to learn to research using a variety of media sources. They need to be able to use books, magazines, newspapers, the internet, software, and DVDs (educational ones, like documentaries). They need to understand that each event and topic has more than one perspective. They need to be able to tell the difference between Fact and Opinion.
They need to utilize various study skills. They need to understand that each person's ideal study environment is different. When I was in school, they gave us a very generic (and ridiculous) description of The Ideal Study Environment. It included pretty much everything that would guarantee I would get nothing done. Sitting, with proper posture, at a desk or table; brightly lit room; complete silence; no food; no drinks; have everything you could need (including extra pens & pencils) so that you have no reason to get up and leave the study area; read your books the exact way we tell you to; take notes the exact way we tell you to (usually that meant in an outline format). AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Leave me in that room for an hour and you're likely to find the desk through the window & me missing. I need noise - tv, people talking, music (with lyrics, no instrumental stuff), or some combination of them. I need comfort - couch, bed, overstuffed chair, etc. I need fairly dim light, I have very sensitive eyes & a brightly lit room gives me headaches. I need a drink and snacks close by and I need to get up and move around regularly. I read how I want to read and take notes in slightly unusual ways.

Instead of telling my kids how they should study, I introduce them to various different study ideas. We then try them out to see which ones work & which don't. I invite them to offer ideas that they think may work. I don't lecture or talk at them when working on school. I involve them. We discuss the concept. I ask them questions, not just to verify that they've been listening & comprehending, but also asking for their ideas & opinions. They get to ask me questions & I answer honestly, including admitting if I don't know. We work through examples together, then I provide examples for them to work through alone, and then allow them to come up with examples of their own. When they ask me what a word means, the answer is almost always the same "look it up." They learn, at a young age, how to use a dictionary. They are not allowed to use online dictionaries until they have proven mastery with a regular dictionary. They start out doing research with me, and graduate to doing research alone. They learn to use books for research first. Then, they learn to use the computer for research.

I think that learning how to think goes hand in hand with learning to learn. When I say learning to think, I mean learning to think for yourself. I don't want my kids to just believe everything everyone tells them. I want them to be able to apply logic and critical thinking skills. I want them to be able to put themselves in someone else's shoes to see things from a different perspective. I want them to learn about a topic before forming an opinion. I think we cover this quite well, with the way we school & the types of questions we ask. The kids have learned to ask & answer open-ended questions, not just one word answer questions. We try to make sure they know that their ideas & opinions matter to us, so they'll continue to share them, even when it's not 'school time.'

This week, I'm working on planning Dea's History for next year. She'll be doing her first year of High School History. We've decided to allow them to choose specific time periods to study for High School History. Next year, she wants to do a comparative study of Ancient Civilizations. She gets to help me plan the course. She's helping me choose the topics to cover, based on what's important & what she wants to know more about. We will determine together which civilizations to include in the study. She will study each topic one at a time, and learn about that topic within each of the civilizations. So, when she studies Government, she'll learn about the government of each civilization and compare them.

The great thing is that if they know how to learn & how to think for themselves, they can apply those skills to learning anything they want to learn - any subject, any topic, any concept, for school, for a job, or for fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How we do History pt 4

Well, I promised pictures. So, here they are.

These are from Dea's study of Native Americans when she was in (I think)2nd grade :






These are from her Museum of the Middle Ages in 4th:














I'm having trouble finding some of the pics, but we still have most of the projects they've done. So, I'm going to pull them out & take pics again. I'll post them as soon as I can.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Setting Goals

Setting Goals is an important part of getting/being organized. Some goals are short-term, some long-term, and some are so quick & easy we don't even write them down.

I have added a page on my blog for my goals for 2011. Today, I was talking to the kids about goals. I shared my goals with them and asked them to come up with their own goals for the year.

Jay came up with just a few goals. He's only 7, so I wasn't really expecting him to come up with a lot of goals.

Dea came up with quite a few. She has goals for various parts of her life - school, health, behavior, etc. I need to print off a few tracking sheets, so she can keep track of her progress. I think I'll have her show me her progress monthly. That way I'm not badgering her about her progress, but I'm still making sure she's making progress.

I've found there are several keys to successful goal-setting.
1) Make them attainable - not easy, but attainable
2) Don't set too many goals at once - we all know what happens when we try to do too much at one time, know your limits & don't set too many goals
3) Use positive language - positives are more motivational than negetives
4) Make it something that can be tracked - keeping track shows you your progress, this is especially helpful when motivation is lacking
5) They must have meaning to you - if you set a goal to do something you don't want, but plan to do for someone else, you're less likely to actually accomplish it

Have you set goals for the new year, yet?