Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up on your kids.

Uncategorized

It’s been a little longer than 7 hours and 15 days (Sinead O’Conner anyone?  Anyone?), since I have added any new posts.  But, I went back and read some of my old posts and something pretty incredible happened. Because I had stepped away from the blog for years and came back to read the entries it was almost as if reading someone else’s posts.  And during that time I had to admit that I was pleasantly entertained and impressed with some SOME of the writing and witty tales I told.  It is in light of this little event that I want to try to start writing again.  Many life events have happened since my last post.  The most life changing was the sudden death of my Dad on December 16, 2014 but I will save those entries for a day when I think those words would flow.  Today is not that day.

Today I just want to take a minute to talk to any mom out there who has a child(ren) who, despite all your hard word, dedication and discipline, seems destined to be “that kid.”  To be the kid who when people see coming they are less than happy.  The kid who causes the phone calls, meetings and conversations with school officials, teachers and principals.  You are fighting tooth and nail to raise this little monster into well rounded, happy, polite, kind and responsible citizens of the world yet you go to bed every night with visions of them grown and talking to you through a 3 inch thick sheet of glass and a telephone to each of your ears.  To you I say, do not ever, ever give up.  Some kids, it appears, are born with this natural need to behave, keep people happy, and do as they are told.  I have one of those too.  I did not raise either of my two differently but as they continue to grow, it is obvious they are two very different people.  And, I am finally getting to that point that I can SEE the results of all the countless tears, hard word, determination, and most of all LOVE we have poured into Action Jackson.  He is succeeding with flying colors in the gifted class he was invited to join this year.  His grades have all been A’s and B’s (with 1 C and he did NOT like that) but most impressive and awesome to me is he received his first EVER “S” for “Satisfactory” in conduct.  He does have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that is WORKING.  I am such a believer in these.  At first it was hard for me to admit my child needed extra help.  That he was outside the norm and couldn’t handle some situations like the everyday 10 year old.  But once I swallowed my pride and let the process do it’s thing I not only believed in it, I advocated for it.  I have talked to several of my friends who are going through similar situations and I am always saying, “Get an IEP!”  I know our IEP, the fact that he is being challenged at an academic level for the first time in his life, and the availability of the resource classroom and teacher if things get overwhelming have changed.our.lives.

I am not going to espouse all this without admitting that things are still not, nor will they every be, perfect but when I go back and read some of my posts from my pasts career as a Mom and think about where we are today I can’t help but realize just how far we’ve all come.

So, frazzled mom with the tears in your eyes, just hold on hun.  If you keep fighting for him (or her) and love your child in SPITE of their actions, there will come a time when you start to see light at the end of that dark tunnel.

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Yard Selling with the girls

I am blessed, My kids, Uncategorized, Unschooling
I had a moment this weekend with Alex that made me realize just how awesome and grown up *sniff* she is. She went yard selling with me, Mom, my aunt Mel and my childhood BFF Elizabeth.
She asked for $10 of her money she’s been saving (the kid has more $ than I do most of the time!)  and Elizabeth gave her $5 as a late Bday present.
Alex took care of her money in her little purse she kept over her shoulder, shopped around,  asked questions, and very rarely paid full price because she always asked if they would take less.
She bought presents for just about everyone she knows. A picture frame that says “Me and my dad”  that she said she wanted to put a picture from one of her and her Daddy’s Valentines days dances. A doll for Cilly, a Gary plush toy for Jackson, and the last goes on.
What she bought for herself was a coin purse to organize her money better, a little cell phone that’s actually a calculator and a container of nail polish.
She never once acted like a child that I had to take care of.  More of a little girl who was out doing some shopping with the girls.
It was surreal.  I was shocked and happy and sad at the same time. When did she grow up??   I must have missed it.
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The kids and I are in love with one another – And Minecraft

Homeschooling, I am blessed, My kids, Parenting, Unschooling

I learned a new favorite saying from my friend and fellow veteran, unschooling/ homeschooling mom, Heidi:
“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow”

Along with “My hands are full but my heart is overflowing.” (thanks Maggie Mackay)

These two saying are basically my mothering style. I mess this up but this is the goal.

And yes, I’m feeling pretty emotional today because I’ve realized, my children have been at home with me 24/7 for 14 weeks and I have gotten over the hump. The only way I can explain what “hump” I mean is we’ve all had kids home all summer long and at the end of the summer you are so ready to be away from your kids. You are arguing, not getting along, etc. You are simply counting own the days to be separate from one another.  Well, with homeschooling, for me, I got to that point but didn’t send them to school and our relationships suffered, no learning was happening, and everyone was miserable.

This new approach to parenting and homeschooling has given me back my relationship with my kids. I don’t yell anymore! OK – I have a few times the last several weeks but this is a GREAT improvement to where we were.  They are not throwing fits. We are having fun together again. I am reveling in their joys, new explorations, hobbies and interests. They are my little BFF’s. I’m still their mother – make no mistake about that – but we are also happy to spend the day together.

Only if you walked this journey with me could you fully understand what I’m saying. Of course, I’ve always loved my children and they’ve always loved me.  I would have died for them at any stage of this process.  But, we have falling in love all over again with each other. I compare what happens to parents, (well what happened with ME, I can’t speak for others) is when you have that new baby it’s like a new boyfriend/girlfriend. You are so in love with them and find everything they do amazing. If they have a hobby or interest you learn to love it as well because if it brings your love joy, you love it.

Then you get married, the honeymoon phase is over, and you sort of get into a lull and your focus shifts just a bit. That football obsession you once thought was “cute” is now not quite so cool and gets in the way of the things you need him to do for YOU. You find yourself rolling your eyes when he excitedly talks about an amazing play he saw. Before long he no longer comes to you to share those moments because he feels you belittle it.

For my kids, this happened as well. Minecraft (right now) is their obsession. I didn’t know the first thing about this “silly” game.  I didn’t try to get it. But, after reading blogs, books, essays, and forums about unschooling/deschooling they ALL say the FIRST step is: “Just start enjoying life with your kids. If they are in to something GET INVOLVED IN IT WITH THEM. Don’t just allow them to play it, encourage it, play with them, help them find new information about this obsession, dive into it WITH THEM.” I took this to heart. I sat down with the kids one day as they were playing Minecraft and said, “Can I play with you guys?” They looked at me like I had grown three heads and then excitedly brought me a tablet and they talked over themselves trying to tell me what to do. We laughed together (well they laughed at me mostly 😉 ) and spent two hours on this “silly” game that I now LOVE! I get it now! And I didn’t play it with them with the “teacher” glasses. I just played it like a friend with them. OK, I can’t say I didn’t find myself every ONCE in a while thinking, “He just did math.” and then stopping myself. Just enjoy the game, the time, the laughter and the joy.

As soon as I post this blog I am going to join with my kids again. They are waiting patiently on either side of me laughing and talking and planning what they are doing. I can’t wait to join. The dishes are still in the sink and that’s so very OK with me.

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I’m being punked right? Where are the cameras?

Homeschooling, Unschooling

The morning after the last blog post, I sat my children down on the couch and told them we needed to have a talk.  I had told them the day before the decision had been made:  Mommy is quitting homeschooling.  There was no talking to be done.  My mind could not be changed.  So, I could see the fear in their eyes as I was about to start talking.  They were waiting for the dreaded “back to public school” talk.  I started with, “Yesterday I told you Mommy is quitting homeschooling and that is still the case.”  They talked over one another about how they will do better, listen more, argue less, etc.  I told to quiet down and just listen.  As I began to explain to them what unschooling was, how our day, our lives, their education, our home would run I saw the hope, doubt and then confusion paint their faces.  Alex, my daughter (6), was just sort of staring at me.  Jackson (7) jumped up off the couch and had the biggest confused smile on his face.
When I finished my lecture, I asked them if they had any questions.  Alex said, “Um…..it sounds cool but….I don’t get it.  We learn when we play?”  Funny, since that’s the same thing most adults say when they first hear about unschooling (the same thing I thought).  Jackson’s question was, “Are you………..really sure you are ok with this?”  So funny because my son knows me.  Knows my need for structure and control in this house.  I explained to them that this is a learning process for all of us but that now we both share in the responsibility for making sure they get an education.  Also, (and this is something I tell anyone who is confused about my choice to unschool) unschooling does NOT mean unparenting.  Rules, a schedule, chores – all these things are still happening in this house.  We just don’t follow a schedule for when we learn.  There is no “ok, now we are going to sit down and do math” going on.  It’s life learning.  Because – that’s what it is!

Well, it’s day four of unschooling.  And – what is happening?  I am going to do my best to remember everything that has happened in the last four days that are what I see as indications that this is working for us but I know I’m missing things.  These are things I can actually see and noticed.  TOTALLY child-lead.  I’m certain what they have learned using this method will stay with them for the long haul.  It’s really quite insane that this is happening and I am almost convinced I’m being punked.  I DO NOT DILUTE MYSELF TO THINK THIS WILL HAPPEN EVERY DAY ALWAYS.  We will have our bad days I am 100% sure.  But, this is definitely a great first impression of unschooling!

Since that day the following things have happened:

  • The kids have read more in the last 3 days than they ever did when we when we were using a curriculum.  Jackson especially.  I went to the library on day one and got as many books and movies as my Large Utility tote and my back could handle.  Which turned out to be 27.  I just went through and picked up both nonfiction and fiction in areas of interest that I know they have and a few that I though they would like and some random others.  I then put them up on display around the living room.  Yes, it looks like we have a book store but it worked!  And we always have gone to the library at least once a week to get books but since I started using a curriculum and getting books in the “area of topic” that week and a few others their love of learning was stiffed.  Glad to report – IT’S BACK!0109142253

  • We are all in such better moods. I don’t need to explain this other than to say I love having my kids home with me once again.  We laugh more.  We hug more.  We are learning together.  There are no words to describe how profound, important and how much we needed this change.

  • Alex did her very own optical illusion “magic trick” from a (library) book she was reading completely on her own without any prompting or coercion from me.  She called me into the kitchen and said she wanted to show me a magic trick but that she needed a clear glass, a small piece of paper and something to cover the glass.  Then she told me to record her and post it on Facebook.  I had no idea what she was going to show me and I was dumbfounded at her doing this.  Not because she hasn’t always been creative and a camera ham.  It’s just that when we would do experiments from the curriculum she was not all that excited about them and I had sort of chalked it up to “science might not be her thing.”  I do not think that is the case.

  • Jackson wrote a complete correct sentence with correct spelling and punctuation completely without my prompting.  I know picture below might not impress anyone but you haven’t lived with us for the past several months.  This boy, like most, hates to write. But, he wrote about something he was interested in (I hate Spongebob but I think he’s here to stay).  He brought it to me to show me the picture he had drawn and when I saw the writing I seriously scanned the corners of the room for a hidden camera.  What is going on right now?!  A week ago I tried to get him to write a sentence about this long and there were tears, a fit, name calling and Jackson was upset too.  And the sentence never got gone.  And this was while I was drinking my coffee playing on Pinterst.  

  • 0109141400Alex learned she loves cartooning.  She read an adorable (library) book called “Adventures in Cartooning” and began creating her own comic book characters.  This was her first go at a scene but she told me about panels and “gutters” which evidently are the spaces between panels and how speech and thought bubbles work.  She hasn’t started actually working with panels yet but her “doodles” as she called them are really adorable :)  Will she return to it or was it a fleeting interest.  Time will tell.

  •  0109140842 0109140856

  • They watched a 45 minute documentary on the history of computer games.  But….This was easy and I expected them to like it.  What I didn’t expect was after the video was over for us to sit and have a discussion about Japanese vs. American gameplay,  the inception of a cartoon character in a game and why that was so successful, the social backlash that video games got (and still get) from media and moms who say video games will warp a child’s mind, the amount of bravery and faith an entrepreneur has to have when starting a company especially when their product is a revolutionary technology people don’t understand, and the type of engineering degrees best for video game creators.   The thought they put into what they were saying and question they were asking are the quintessential ingredients to raw, unencumbered creativity and learning.  It was a moment I enjoyed and wanted to remember so it deserved a spot here.

  • We went swimming – TWICE!  And Alex conquered a challenge that has been out of her reach until today. She dove to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to retrieve a diving ring.  To see her struggle, listen intently to the lifeguard when he gave her a couple of tips, do a few false starts, then grit her teeth and come up with that ring was just one of those Mommy moments where you just are so happy for your child.  You know how she feels inside having conquered a fear and you are feeling it WITH her.  Joy, pure joy.

  • Jackson made good decisions in his Minecraft Homeschool class.  Yes, you read that right.  There is a Minecraft Homeschool out there and my son is in it.  Look into it.  We are about to wrap up our first week and so far I am extremely please with what the kids are getting out of it.  The quality of the instruction,  the organization of assignments, the monitoring they do, the topics – it’s all just done very well.  It’s not just a video game.  It’s learning about structures around the world and recreating them (This week – next week it’s ships through history).  It’s learning to share.  It’s speaking kindly to others in “Team Speak” where the children can talk to one another.   It’s learning spelling when chatting with members who aren’t in “Team Speak.”  It’s respecting the admins and game masters who are monitoring it.  It’s working together with teammates toward a common goal. It’s problem solving.  It’s making friends.  Resolving personality conflicts.  Taking constructive criticism from someone when they see a way to improve your monument.  Call me crazy but when he spent 3 hours on this yesterday and I could hear an see the things he was learning and could tick them off in my head as I saw what was happening and also hear the laughter in his voice I did not feel like I was ruining my child AT ALL!  Jackson has a hard time not just taking what he wants.  He is academically ahead of his peers but emotionally he’s very far behind.  He is still in the “mine” mindset and takes things he wants because, well, he wants them, with no regard to anyone else.  He got reported once for stealing another person’s house and locking other people’s chests.  We had a talk, I explained the consequences (getting kicked out of class if he keeps it up) and 3 days later he has yet to have anther report about bad behavior.  I’ve seen him struggle with his decisions as I am usually within ear and eye shot of him playing but I’ve seen him make the right choice time and time again.  I love me some Minecraft Homeschool.  (this is not a paid advertisement!)

So, as you can see – This is working for us so far.  I know my biggest hurtle will be my own fear and the competitive freak out in me that is going to happen when they do fall behind their peers for a while.  In my research about unschooling they all say that will happen initially because, for example, we won’t be memorizing times tables just because we are 9 years old.  We will do them when something they want to do will require they know how to multiply.  Then we will sit down and in a few days they will know it.  Instead of the months it takes in public school.  But, I am devoted to this method and I truly do think it will work.  I just have to remind myself of that when a neighborhood boy asks Jackson what 6X9 is and he doesn’t know and then looks at me disapprovingly LOL.  I’ll be doing all sort of inner dialog like, “He’s going to go home and tell his mom and they are all going to think we doing nothing around here but play video games and watch TV.”  But, I am going to have to deal with that day when it comes and know that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO WORK OUT.

One thing I know we will continue as far as “curriculum” is concerned, every morning to start our day with prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and read our Bible verse/study for that day.  I feel that is something we need to create a habit of doing, regardless of our homeschooling style.  :)  We all need some joy and grace to face the day, right?

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Radical Unschooling…here we come (*drinks more wine)

Homeschooling, My kids, The Anti-super Mom, Unschooling

If you read my previous blog post you saw where I was having a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself over this whole homeschooling quandary in which I find myself.  Jackson has pretty much began to reject anything that can even remotely be called “educational.”  It’s like he can be doing something he really enjoys but when he catches even a whiff of  me trying to get him to learn something and he says, “Nope.  Not happening.”  For a woman who needs checklists and finds the curriculum EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE this is hell, for all of us.  I seriously would be OK to do like the curriculum teacher’s guide says and do the “Say the following to your child…..” type of teaching.  But, it doesn’t work.  Ever.  With any child.  OK – I have no idea what will work with someone else’s children nor do I have the inclination to give a rats anus but I do know, it doesn’t work with my children.

Case in point:

Today was our first day back after our holiday 2 week break.  I attempted to “loosen up” my curriculum schedule.  Gave the kids the choice of what subjects they did and when and how.  I felt really proud that I was giving away some control but still felt that I had a hold of the reins.  Until Alex (my darling, always ready to please, happy-go-lucky angel) crumpled up her spelling list, threw it across the table, folded her arms and said, “I’m not doing this.”  And Jackson started his math worksheet, got 3 questions into it, put his pencil down and looked me in the eye with all the anger of Beelzebub himself and said, “I hate this.  Do you hear me?!  I. HATE.THIS!”  The shit storm that hit after these two incidents is something I would like to soon forget.

Today our local public schools were closed due to the extreme cold we are having.  If that had not been the case, I can not guarantee that I would not have loaded them up in my car, drove by the school and pushed them out as I rolled by.  It was that bad people.


Jim, God bless that man, told me to get them bundled up and he’d be by to get them to take a drive.  I was curious if he too was ready to drop them off for someone else to deal with but I kept my mouth shut.  He gave me a kiss ,took the kids and I didn’t hear from anyone for almost 2 hours.  I sat with my mother and vented and worried and freaked and moaned for the entire time saying things like, “I am quitting.  I can’t do this any more.”  “What am I doing wrong?”  “I’ve never failed at anything I wanted this badly.”  etc etc etc.  My dear mother listened to everything I had to say and encouraged me the best she could but, like everyone else, couldn’t really give me any ideas on what I could do to fix this pickle I found myself in.  The pickle of I WANT TO HOMESCHOOL SO BADLY and I AM FAILING MISERABLY AT IT.

When Jim got home with the kids I learned that he had taken them to a local doughnut shop (gee – thanks Dad – rewards for being hellions LOL) and talked with them explaining that “Mommy has quit.  She is throwing in the towel.”  And trying to get an idea of what was going on, why it wasn’t working etc.  At this little meeting he learned very little except that they desperately want to remain homeschooled and do not want to go to public school.  Outside of that, he had nothing.  Being the awesome partner he is he told me he will not allow me to homeschool under these conditions.  He understand, more than anyone else on this planet, that Jackson is not only a special needs child but also a force of nature that only the mightiest of souls could handle and Alex was beginning to find her “independent streak” and these two things combined would scare many-a man.  He believes I am smart, strong and able enough to do the job successfully but that at this current time, that is not happening so he was ready to pull the plug as well.

I cried for close to 3 hours coming to terms with the idea that I will be sending them off to school and admitting that something I so dearly want to do I simply am unable to do.  I got out of bed and sat in silence and prayed to Jesus for wisdom and guidance.  He knows my heart.  He knows my strengths.  He knows my weaknesses and also knows my children.  Then I posted on a local homeschool co-op we are members of asking for any advice from veteran, SUCCESSFUL homeschool mom’s could give me.  I got a lot of words of support and encouragement.  But, of course, no answers because that’s impossible.  This is my family, my children, and my problem.  I have to figure it out myself.

I came to the obvious conclusion that what I am doing is not working and therefore I need to do something different.  Radically different.  The most radically different method I could think of was unschooling.  So, I began researching.  This was not a new concept to me.  I had heard about this for a long time.  Honestly, I thought the unschooling famlies were nuts, freaks, off the grid hippies, and crazy liberals.  Sorry, but it’s true.  I really have to apologize for that little admission because I have friends who do or have unschooled but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it as being a viable option.  How can child lead learning result in anything but a 45 year old, unmotivated man child who plays W.o.W. while living in my basement?

I’ve been researching, reading blogs, reading testimonials, and learning exactly what is unschooling and envisioning my children doing this.   This young lady really hit the nail on the head with her answers to all the things I was thinking were reasons NOT to unschool.  She is a 19 year old woman who has unschooled herself and dang, she impressed me.  Could it be true that a human being will educate itself if given the opportunity, guidance, and the availability of information?  I think, knowing my children, their personalities, learning styles, IQ’s, my own drive to see them HAPPY (FIRST AND FOREMOST) and educated, it just might work!

So a decision has been made.

We will begin radically unschooling, effective immediately.  I have until August, when the public school reconvenes after summer break, to see if we can all agree that this is something that is sustainable and commendable.   I think that even if right now, this second, we stopped reading, or doing anything education wise they would still be at grade level when they returned to school in August so, this is the perfect time to try this.

I know my tendency will be to try to coerce the type, style, and way of learning that I know from public school.  I have read several times that where the unschooling model fails is when the parent tries to get too involved in what is being learned.  I will do my best to simply be a facilitator, to strew great books, movies, TV shows, links, and field trips around them.  Making them available…but  it will be up to them what they pick up, and what they don’t.  If they get an interest in something, I will do my best to encourage them, help them find more way to learn about that topic or interest and try hard not to limit things simply because it doesn’t fit in my trained public school box.  This will be hard as letting go of control is NEVER something I am comfortable with but I have to say I tried everything before I decide to stop.  Otherwise, my whole life I wonder, “What if.”

So, friends, family, and acquaintances – I would love it if you could pray for us, maybe encourage us and the no judging thing would be awesome but hey, I used to judge these whack jobs so I know that last one is a stretch.  I’ll meet you on the other side.  If on the other side I look like this I apologize. hippie

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Chilling Out. Letting go. & Having Fun!

Uncategorized

I know many of the blogger super home school Mom’s talk about how everything is awesome.  Their kids are so well behaved and learning at break-neck speed.  Their house household runs like a well-oiled machine.  The all-natural, gluten free, one month meal plan makes the school schedule, co-ops, ballet, tap, violin, underwater basket weaving class more manageable.  But I’m here to tell you – THIS.IS.NOT.ALWAYS.AWESOME.  I am not a super mom.  I pretty much struggle every stinking day.

At the end of last semester we were nearing Christmas and the absolute END of my rope.  I shut down.  I can’t tell you how many times at night, in my husband’s arms I just shook with sobs and announcements that “I just can’t do this.  I’m not cut out.  I give up.”  Jim is so good to listen and let me vent.  He then picks up the pieces of me and helps me rebuild my confidence piece by shaky piece.  I took 2 full weeks off before,during and after Christmas to just unplug from the whole homeschooling thing.  I put my teachers guide away and shelved every single subject and literally haven’t looked or thought about it for 2 weeks.

Jim had a heart to heart with the kids and asked them what they liked and didn’t like about homeschooling and my son, at age 7, had such an insightful observation that it almost knocked the wind out of me.  He said, “I like it when Mommy is just being Mommy – not the teacher.  Mommy is fun.  The teacher Mommy isn’t.”  I had to sit in silence for a good 5 minute letting this settle into my soul.  “…Mommy just being Mommy.”  Wow.  That’s it.  That really is the root of everything I’m doing wrong.  I am taking myself out of my element and trying to do what I think I should be doing instead of just doing what I did their whole lives when I taught them their colors, letters, numbers, to read, simple math, etc etc.  We just live, we see, we read, we watch, we learn.  When Jackson was 3 I used to watch what he was getting into (dinosaurs, space, firefighters etc) and when we would go to the library I would grab a huge pile of books of that subject.  And then I would just have those around.  The boy would read what he could, look at pictures, bring them to me to read to him, ask questions, we played with Playdough and made little planets and put them in order from the sun and WE HAD FUN.

But that was because I wasn’t “homeschooling.”  In my mind there was no pressure.  I was just doing what naturally came to me for my child.  I don’t know what paradigm shift I had once I pulled my kids from public school, bought my curriculum, stuck my chest out and announced to the world, “I shall NOW begin to home school.”  What the hell is that?  I have to relax.  I have to stop worrying that my kids aren’t going to be well-rounded, educated, smart, courteous adults if right now I don’t follow some regimented schedule.  They will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.  I am not a paid, public educator who has to answer to some bureaucracy at the end every 6 weeks (I pray for our teachers and the monumental task they are given every day).  Hell, I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself.  And “myself” needs to chill-the-fuck-out and stop being so hard on herself.  I am a free, adult, caring, creative, loving MOM who knows her kids better than anything else on this planet and is devoted to their well being and education.  I have got to give myself credit that IT WILL BE OK.  IT WILL BE OK.  IT.WILL.BE.OK.  They will be educated, kind, caring, HAPPY adults if I just keep doing what I know I’m good at – being their Mommy.  I suck at standing at a chalkboard and being a cliche’ teacher.

I shall return to this blog and read it often to remind myself of this.  If you are about to begin your homeschooling journey, learn from me – just chill out.  Stop stressing.  Just be Mommy.  Love your kids, watch them, let them tell you what and when it’s time to learn and sort of toss ideas their way.  Bam – done.

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End of First Semester – Overhaul of Curriculum for next Semester

Homeschooling

I sat down with the kids this morning and asked them to help me create a school that THEY want to go to. A fun school where no one is fighting or arguing with me about what we have to do. We went book by book. Subject by subject and I had them tell me what they liked and didn’t like. They gave me fantastic feedback.

Turns out, they love the history, bible and science part of our curriculum.  This was great news because that means “My Father’s World” was not a waste of money and was the most expensive part of our curriculum budget.  They do, however, hate the Math and English curriculum..more specificially the “busy work.” I sorta knew this. We also are going to tweek spelling, music and art.

Jackson had some FANTASTIC ideas on pretty much every subject on how to change it up and make it more fun. For instance in math he suggested math games.  Specific example he used was Math Bingo.  I give them math problems, they look for the answer on their game board and first one with a line across wins a “prize.”  I don’t know if this is a game he’s played before or he just came up with it but either way, I’m impressed.

I agreed with the kids on the English.  “Primary Language Lessons” is very dry and a bunch of drill.  I’m back to the drawing board to find an English curriculum but that’s ok.  We were all ready to see that little book go away.

They both agreed that they are totally fine with having a spelling list every week but the “busy sheets” that come with the list are unncessary.  Also, they would like to do spelling practice and tests in different ways.  Sometimes the standard writing of the words, sometimes typing on the computer (sidenote here Jackson even said, “If you let us do the spelling tests on the computer you won’t even have to grade them.  Just do spell check and it’s done!  Bam!” LOL), oral tests or blocks with letters on them.  Just to change it up.  All good suggestions.

One thing he complained in the area of art and music about is how we are always studying about “classic’ composers and artist.  They want to learn about modern artists as well. So (totally Jackson’s idea) we are going to impliment “Modern Monday” where we study an artist from 1979 to present day. No idea where he came up with the year especially since many of the artists he’s interested in are from before that time but whatever LOL.  On Monday’s we will learn about “The Beatles” or “Paul Simon”, “Bob Dylan” or (Jackson’s request -ugh) “Miley Cirus.” On Wednesday we will do “Wayback Wednesday” when we will study about the classic composers and artists.  How awesome of an idea is this?!  And Jim has started toying with the idea of teaching one to two days a week just to change up things and he said he’d like to do “”Psychedelic Saturdays.”

I’m hoping with implimenting their ideas they will take ownership in our little schoolhouse and cause us to have more fun and learn more!  I’ll post an updated report later next semester.  This is definetley a dynamic environment.  I will do whatever it takes to make it work.  Not that I won’t have my moments of giving up…but I will keep on keeping on.  I’m learning more and more that I need to GET OUT OF THE WAY.  The kids no best how to teach themselves.  I have to let go of control and the standardized thinking that was instilled in me in the 17 years I spent in public school and college.  Each day is a new lesson.  FOR ME!

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First Experience as Bell Ringers for Salvation Army

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Today, of all days, I forgot my phone at home so therefore I have no photographic or videographic evidence of the event today which bums me right the hell out but it went something like this:

I called the S.A. headquarters to get us scheduled for a 2-3 shift at a local grocery store a few days later.  I told the kids the who, when, what, how and most importantly the WHY we were going to do this.  Jackson comes up to me a little after I told him about our upcoming volunteer work and says, with a face full of excitement, “Mom!  I have an idea.  What if we take the iPod, my little speaker (we got free from Pringles) and I do a street dance next to the bucket to attract more money?”

I thought, at first, this was a great idea.  Anyone who knows my son knows he can’t stand still anyway and he absolutely LOVES to dance.  Actually, if music is on he HAS to dance it appears.  Also, his thought process on this was pretty spot on.  He would attract more attention to the bucket and thus, hopefully, more money donated.

Here’s where my reservation came in.  We don’t do this for us or for other people to see us and give us pats on the back.  “Not to us but to God be the glory.”  So….if he’s out dancing and getting attention, that’s not putting the glory on Him.  I struggled with this.  But, ultimately I decided if I was able to feel that he truly understood WHY we were doing this and that this money, 100% of it, was going to a charity for those less fortunate, then maybe it would be ok.

So, we arrive, get our bucket, apron and bells handed to us, and head outside the store.  Alex wore the apron and grabbed a bell.  Smiling at every patron and saying, “Merry Christmas” Or “God bless you” if someone put money in winning over every single person who comes into her light.  She looked like a little angel in her houndstooth long coat, knee boots, and ear wrap with a bow attached.

Jackson, in his white top hat, Nike exercise pants and two layers of long sleeved shirts and gloves, set up the iPod the the playlist he and I created together and the boy did what he does best.  And, it worked!  We had pretty much every person giving money and a couple tried to give the kids money personally.  This was not something I expected to happen.  I didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings so I held the money until they were out of sight then put it in the bucket.   The kids never batted an eye at this.  Once Jackson did put his top hat upside down in front of him like a street performer (I should add here that “being a street performer” is on Jackson’s bucket list) but when I asked him what he was doing.  He rolled his eyes and said, “It’s all going in the bucket Mom!”

About 5 mins before our shift was up a woman that I had noticed sitting in a truck pretty much the entire time we were there, came up and talked to the kids.  She said, “I just wanted to tell you two you are doing a fantastic job.  You are doing good for people like me who don’t have a lot of things.  I don’t have any money or I’d put some in the bucket for you.  I’m actually hoping the Salvation Army can help me.  You see, my electricity and heat are shut off right now and it’s really cold in my house.  I’m going to see if they can help me.  So thank you for doing this. You are doing a wonderful thing today.  I just wanted you to know that.”  My kids listened, never moved.  No dancing.  Jackson kind of got behind me which told me he was feeling emotions he was uncomfortable with and said, “Ma’am if I had a lot of money I’d just give it to you today.  And we can’t get in the bucket.  It’s locked.”  She smiled at him and said, “That is very sweet and I thank you but you just keep doing what you are doing and you are helping many people just like me.”

My kids really got it today.  Before bed tonight when we were praying I asked Jackson what he learned today, which is a common question from me.

His response,
“That it’s kind of like if you do things to help other people it’s sorta like YOU are the one being helped too….”

Yes, I think they really, truly got it today.

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A day in the life of a homeschool family.

Homeschooling

Back when I was beginning to think about homeschooling I wondered, “What exactly do home school kids, and (more importantly) their moms, do all day?”  I just wished I had the view of a fly on the wall to see exactly what and how it is done.  Well, now that I’ve been at this for 10+ weeks, I thought it might be helpful to someone out there to have what I wished I had had.

Now remember, this is one house, one set of kids, on one day.  Every day, family, child, curriculum, and style is unique.  Some days I have cramps. Some days the kids are sick.  Some days Mom says, “Piss on it.” and we go to a museum or watch a documentary instead of our scheduled curriculum.  This is merely one example, of one day, from one family, who do it one way.  I don’t pretend to imagine I have the end-all, be-all way to successfully homeschool as I have personally talked to women who have successfully homeschooled for years and their days look nothing like this .  I simply hope it is helpful to those who really just want to see how one real person does it…for real.

For those who care or want to know, the curriculum we use is as follows:

My Father’s World – Adventures in US History.  This covers (of course) History, Bible, Science, and provides the overall organization of my entire class. I.LOVE.THIS.CURRICULUM!

For Math we use Math U See and are in the Beta section of their products.  The kids really enjoy this and I love that the lessons are taught on a short DVD lesson by a guy who my kids just love.  They use tactile blocks to really grasp the concepts and my kids have yet to see the DVD and not instantly get what he’s teaching after using the blocks.

For Spelling we use Rod and Staff’s Spelling by Sound and Structure – Grade 3.  It’s simple, easy to use, and effective.  Love it.

English we use a combination of Primary Language Lessons and practice sheets I find on the internet.  PLL is just a small, simple little book full of drills to do with your kids but dang they are perfect!  Sometimes, when I don’t feel my kids totally understand something (like too, to, and two) I might find more sheets online for added practice.

For reading we were using an OLD Christian School 3rd grade Reading curriculum.  It was given to me and I’m not even going to try to find it online to link.  Over the last couple weeks, I have began picking a classic book for us to read, taking turns reading out loud, and find a study guide with questions online.  Recently we finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  We have now moved on to The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.  Study guides for classics such as these are plentiful on the internet as well as fun activities.  Plus, My Father’s World suggests books and we do those (unless the books are not to our liking).  Also, the kids do 30 mins of “Book Basket” every day (this is usually when I shower).  The basket is full of books from the library on that weeks’ given topics.  I get the books on Friday and don’t show them until Monday so they are new and fresh.  This week – Revolutionary War and Water

For Art we are so lucky to be borrowing How Great Thou ART: Feed my Sheep curriculum from a friend.  Although, this curriculum is supposed to be for 10+ my 6 and 7 year old do enjoy it.  I don’t do this every day but every other and also intersperse in there once a week a study about one great, classic artist.   I just randomly pick a classic artists and print out topics, find a slideshow online of his or her work, and then the kids make a piece of art “inspired” by that artist. My kids LOVE the artists studies I think more than actually doing the art.  I’m not really sure why exactly but they ask for it every single day.

Music – as of right now we just listen to classical music while doing art and I tell them who the composer or artist is and now and again do a study on a classic musician similar to how we do for art.  After the first of the year, once our co-op classes have ended, both the kids will be taking piano and voice lessons so that will help us cover this area.

Our foreign language study is done completely online at www.duolingo.com.  It is a free site published by the great folks who give us Rosetta Stone.  We just added a foreign language to our studies this past couple of weeks.  My kids really enjoy it and are learning fast!

Ok – on to what our day looks like

  • 6:30am – Kids wake.  Jim is already up so he gets them breakfast and settled while I blissfully remain asleep (Thank God for Daddy!)  The kids have screen time in the morning while Daddy is getting showered and ready for work.

  • 7:30am – Jim comes and wakes me up and says he’s off to work.  I stagger out of bed, head straight for the coffee pot (once again, thank God for Daddy!) and pour me a cup, grab my laptop and go back to bed.  I spend 30-45 mins checking Facebook, emails, forums, and groups.  Kids are watching TV, playing Wii or Minecraft.

  • 8:30am – The kids are told to get dressed and teeth brushed and be in at the kitchen table no later than 9am.  I set a timer for 15 mins so they will have warning.  During this time, I look at my curriculum teachers guide and prep for my morning.  I have all the items I need as I prepare all supplies by Friday for the following week.  It sounds more impressive than it is – my curriculum tells me what I will need. I buy/rent/prepare.  Simple as that.

  • 9:00am – Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.  Yes, we actually do this at the start of every single school day at roughly 9am every day. Some days it’s earlier and every so often it’s later but usually no later than 9:30am.

  • 9:00-9:15am – We read a passage from the Bible about how Jesus is the “Living Water.”  We discuss it and after discussion the kids ask how they can get Jesus to live inside of them like living water.  I explain that all they have to do is ask him to come into their hearts and he will be there.  It was awesome because, they did just that!  :)  Today!

  • 9:15-10:00 – Math. (Math usually takes only about 20 minutes but today had some bumps in the road. ) Alex started a new section so she watched the DVD lesson of it.  Jackson did two practice sheets on the section he was still working on from Friday.  The kids began to fight a bit about not wanting to do their math.  I told them if they did their math we would go to Wal-Mart later in the day and play something we would call, “The Price is Right.”  Each child gets $3 to spend on anything in the store but if they go over $3 (not worrying about taxes just yet) they lose everything.   Each child would have a pad of paper and pencil to do the math.  Jackson had a meltdown saying he would mess up, lose all his money, and I was mean.  Alex wanted to go, ‘RIGHT NOW” and when I pointed to the chalkboard and told her we had to get through the other subjects first, she threw her pencil across the room and stormed off into her room.  A spanking, lots of tears, two tissues, some hugs and apologies later we were back on task.

  • 10:00-10:15 – Spelling.   Gave new spelling list and did one worksheet from the list.  Easy enough.

  • 10:15-10:20 – US History.  Listened to “Yankee Doodle” on our Patriotic Songs CD and had planned to make “hasty pudding” like in verse 2 but after digging for 10 mins realized we had no cornmeal.  Put that on the list of things to go on Thursday.

  • 10:20-11:00 – History and English.  Kids colored a map of the 13 colonies.  Coloring each one a different color while we talked and named them.  While they colored we went over English and learned about proper usage of “was” and “were.”  Two birds one stone – booya!

  • 11:00-11:20 – Spanish – online.

  • 11:20 – 12:20  – Ate in living room with TV trays and watched an animated movie from the library called Heros of the Revolutionary War.  I showered, got ready, changed the sheets on our bed, started a load of laundry, and should have done the dishes but I started watching the movie with the kids and got side-tracked 😉

  • 12:30-1:30pm We left the house and went to a local nursing home where the kids and I volunteer.  Basically what that means is the kids color and paint pictures all week long and we save them up to deliver to the residents along with some smiles.  We do this every other week.  The kids really look forward to this and the residence have begun recognizing and looking forward to the kids’ visits :)  (side note here – on the drive today we listened to an audiobook from the library that’s an historical fiction about the Revolutionary War -this week it was from the Magic Treehouse collection – this saves my sanity as my kids can be yelling and fighting and I put an audiobook on and BAM they are helpless to do anything but listen.  Works wonders!)

  • 1:30-2:30pm Wal-Mart to do “Price is Right” game – they loved it and passed with flying colors.  Jackson got 2 Hot Wheels cars and a dollar to use in the arcade.  Alex got a wooden birdhouse to paint, a pair of pink, heart earrings and a dollar for the arcade.

  • 3:00-4:15pm We went to the local park where one of my best friends met us and the kids played while we chatted.

  • 4:30-7:00pm  Took the kids to a local Christian youth center where I usually help in the kitchen to serve the food.  Tonight they had plenty of help and didn’t need me so I dropped the kids off so they could stay and play, sing, make crafts, play games, color and have fun while Jim and I went out to supper at a local Mexican restaurant.  Sans children.  It was lovely.

So, that was our day today.  Just so you know, this is a LONG day for us.  We do NOT do this much every single day but usually one day a week looks like this. Did you notice we were actually done with “school” at 11:20?  Pretty cool huh?  On Mondays, co-op days, all we do is Math and Reading, they go to co-op where someone else teaches them Bible focused crafts, tumbling and stage skills. Then we come home and no nothing else really.

Remember, studies have shown that public school kids get an average, if they are lucky, of 3 hours of ACTUAL instruction every day.  So, if you are doing that, you are golden!!

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….and YOU can homeschool too!

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When I began homeschooling a little over 9 weeks ago, the amount of worry, second thought, and anxiety I had over what I had decided to do was so heavy on me.  Am I doing the right thing?  Can I do this?  Will they learn what they need to?  Will I ruin them socially?  Will they end up hating me?  Can I keep it fun?  Can I keep my sanity?  Can I keep up with the house? Can I actually enjoy this?  Will my husband and  I end up bald from pulling each other’s hair out?  All these things ran through my mind with alarming consistency.  Sleep was hard to find.  But I finally decided:

ican'tdothis

In the vein of “we have to socialize or you will be backwards kids” we joined a play group/field trip co-op. I have gotten to know these (mostly) women, met their children and learned the “personality” of the group now that I’ve been around for a while.  But in the beginning it was hard.  Just as any new group you come in to, it is nerve-wracking the first several times you attend.  Being the “new guy” is a situation at which I am usually good.  I can talk to anyone but, this realm seemed different to me.  I felt like they knew the hidden code or secret and I was yet to receive this needed knowledge.  I didn’t know what I was doing and these were experts. Will they sniff me out and see I’m a fake?  Maybe I can blend in….maybe they won’t see.  After sitting with these awesomely calm, cool, creative and welcoming people for a while I learned by listening to them.  Looking around me you see a collection of normal, every day women.  But they are doing something extraordinary.  What makes them different?  I am usually a talker but at first I was pretty quiet just trying to get the feel of the land.  Kind of like going to a new church.  You have to keep looking over your shoulder to see if this church waits and does Communion all at once or each individual as the plate goes around.  You don’t want to slip up and doing wrong – so you watch, listen, and wait!

I learned, over time, something shocking and comforting; (and this seriously is the inside scoop folks) They don’t really know what they are doing either!  Wait…What?  These experts?  These seasoned home schoolers?  Surely, by now, they have cracked the code?  But, what I learned is they are just doing the best they can day by day.  They teach the child by knowing, loving and devoting themselves to their child(ren)  and their education.  Weird!  That’s the secret?  All I have to do is know my child and I can teach them?  Surely I am wrong…..but time and time again I sat at these play dates listening to the moms, watching the children play (well behaved I might add) and I heard a theme.  Although the phrase “know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, fears, joys, and learning styles” never were uttered, that’s what I kept hearing over and over again.  But, if that’s true then I did know what I was doing.  And so does every homeschooling mom out there.

But, but….I thought I had to have a degree to know how to do this?  I thought the schedule, curriculum and teaching of public school was best?  I thought…I thought….

Well – this is absolutely great news.  And guess what?!  You know your child best as well.  And YOU CAN DO THIS!  Pretty awesome, huh?

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  • Why I Write this Stuff

    My children called me Bobby when they were toddlers due to not being able to prounounce "Mommy." They are now 7 and 8 years old and I am Mommy. But my real name is Mandy. I just do this so I can keep in touch with the REAL me. Being a Bobby is a dream I thought I may never realize and I do not take it for granted. I homeschool (more specifically unschool) my two children and it's easy to lose yourself in the tasts of the day. I just want to make sure that after 19 or so years have passed,and my kids have moved out, I'm not stuck looking in the mirror and squinting in hopes of seeing Mandy again.