Category Archives: Homeschooling

Curriculum for the Preschooler

I see posts all of the time asking, “What curriculum should I use for my preschooler?”  And overwhelmingly the answers are, “None.  Just play.”

Studies are showing that young children need play.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children has dedicated a lot of their research to play-based learning and how important that is.  And we have all heard how Scandinavian countries are promoting play-based learning over academic learning until the age of 7.  See this article in the Atlantic about Finland’s Kindergarten:  The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland.  I certainly can’t deny that my kids do some of their best learning when they are playing, exploring, experimenting, and just being a curious kid.

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But some people need regimen.  Some kids are truly ready to be more academic at an earlier age.  One thing I’ve learned over my 23 years as a mom is all kids do not fit into one box.  There’s no one size fits all in educational philosophies.  I was one of those parents looking for more academic opportunities for my preschooler.  Keep in mind that the Princess was fluently reading by age 3.  To her, reading chapter books and writing math problems WAS playing.  So to all of those moms looking for something more academic for your preschooler, I hear you.  And I agree with you that “Just play” isn’t an answer.

Just like for older students there are many different curriculum options out there.  There is no one right choice.  What’s right for me may not be right for you.  But you want advice, so I’m going to lay out for you what I’ve tried and why I did or didn’t like it.  I suggest reading my post on my 2016-2017 School Plan where you can find other great curriculum recommendations and academic suggestions.

Read, Read, Read

My first advice is to rethink you idea of “curriculum” for the preschooler.  Boxed curriculum that we might buy for our older students can be overwhelming for a preschooler.  I hope we can all agree that no preschooler should be sitting at a desk doing schoolwork for hours on end.  Instead, I have found that the Charlotte Mason approach works really well.  Mrs. Dee, my beloved homeschool mentor, told me when I started homeschooling that all I really needed to do was “Read, Read, Read” for the first few years.

As a kind of very simplistic explanation:  Charlotte Mason’s approach was to consume quality living books and also keep a nature journal from lots of exploration in nature.

Personally, I love the plans for both Ambleside Online and Sonlight History as Charlotte Mason guides.  Both of these include a variety of books from historical fiction to biographies, science, etc.  The books are quality reading material.  Most of them  you can find at your local library or pick up for cheap at your local used book store.  Sonlight has an amazing reading list for ages 4-5 that are read in small sections so even your youngest, most inattentive students can handle.  Ambleside, on the other hand does not start until Year 1 or 1st grade and may be a bit much for smaller kiddos, but if your 3-4 year old will sit through a chapter, the books are fabulous.  Plus, I really love that Ambleside provides topics for Geography, Science, and Math that should be covered in the first year.

Secular Homeschoolers Beware:  Both Ambleside and Sonlight are Christian based.  It’s easy enough to skip the Bible sections, but some of the books (and I stress that it’s really only a few) are Christian fiction, so you should read the summaries before starting the books.  Typically, for me, I read the summary as I get to the book in the list and if it feels right, I read it.  To date I have only skipped a mere handful of the books from the Sonlight lists we’ve done and only skipped the Science and Bible parts of Ambleside.

Traditional Curriculum

Ok, maybe you want something more than just reading books.  Here are the things I have used with my kids:

Reading/Math Online

ABC Mouse:  I signed up for ABC Mouse when Little Man was 3 and set up accounts for him and the baby.  They really only played on it sporadically, but I love that you can use it on tablets and my phone.  Mobile education is VERY important when you travel a lot.  I think they could have learned from ABC Mouse, but they spent more time “buying” clothes and accessories for their avitar and playing dress up.

Reading Eggs and Math Seeds:  I signed up for Reading Eggs and Math Seeds for Little Man when he was 4.  The cost is reasonable, especially if you can get in on the deals through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  The Baby was always trying to play big brother’s games so I eventually got her an account of her own.  These programs have been pretty amazing for helping the kids learn reading and math, but I confess that they preferred the math over the reading usually.  Little Man enjoyed playing, but quickly learned how to cheat the system so I had to switch him to another program.

Reading

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons:  This is one of those curriculum that people either really LOVE or really HATE.  It’s very scripted and if your child is having trouble with letter sounds, it can be really painful to get through.  For us, it worked great.  It’s very step-by-step, builds on each lesson with a variety of activities, and best of all we could usually get through one lesson in about 10 minutes.  I admit that I did skip over activities within a lesson once it was clear the kids got it.  And I have yet to actually finish the book because by about lesson 80 my kids were pretty fluent readers and it just seemed redundant to continue.

All About Reading:  This is another early reader program that I tried briefly at the recommendation of a couple of friends.  I think it could be really successful for a parent with more patience to sit down with their early reader and go through it.  It’s great for teaching phonics concepts, spelling, and reading comprehension.  But it is time-consuming and frankly, I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel… about 10 minutes is my maximum attention span to anything involving sitting down to teach the kids.

Writing/Phonics

Handwriting Without Tears:  If you’re looking for a complete language arts program for young children, look no further.  HWOT teaches reading, handwriting, spelling, and phonics.  They even have a collection of songs that you can find on YouTube to go with the curriculum.  I happened to have the songs on CD (yeah, I’m old school like that) long before I was even thinking about the education of my youngest 3 so we already had some of the songs memorized.  I don’t know how much they help, but they certainly make writing more fun.

Explode The Code:   This is another complete language arts program for young children.  We have enjoyed ETC because the pictures are fun, but sometimes the pictures aren’t exactly clear as to what they are trying to correspond to.  For example they have a picture of a person and the word is a name (see example below).  But I love that the kiddos can do 1-3 pages relatively quickly and learn so much.  Plus, for the kiddos that want a little extra, you can have them color all of the little pictures to fine-tune those fine motor skills.

Math

Saxon Math:  I have mixed feelings about Saxon.  This was the first math curriculum I tried with The Princess, recommended to me by several friends.  On the one hand, it was a really good curriculum spiraling through the topics in a very logical way.  I liked that Saxon used manipulatives, but I didn’t have to buy anything, just use things around the house.  It was scripted which, for my first year was actually good because I liked the direction.  After a few months I could go off-script comfortably, but it was good to start off with it.  I didn’t like that the pages were so dull to look at.  No frills.  Also, I’m not sure if I just bought the wrong year for us or what, but we worked our way through the entire 1st grade in 4 months because I started skipping things.

Abeka Math:  Abeka is a tried and true workbook style curriculum, but if  you are strictly secular, it is definitely not for you.  While I am secular in most of my curriculum choices, the reality is that Abeka is a good program, and (for me anyway) adding 2 of Jesus’ disciples is no different than adding 2 of Bob’s friends.  Plus, I love how colorful and sweet Abeka is.  And really, the math is pretty inexpensive.  I don’t usually buy the teacher’s manuals at this level, although I have heard they have extra activities.  I’m perfectly capable of supplementing activities so the only reason I would buy the teacher’s manual at this level is ease in grading.  It’s much quicker when I don’t have to work each problem out.

Right Start Math:   Right Start Math is completely secular, but it’s also pricey and time consuming between the planning and the actual activities.  As I said above, I just don’t have the attention for teaching my kids in long teaching sessions, and for my kids, they really just wanted to play with the manipulatives as toys, so as soon as any were brought out I’d lose the kids for the lesson.  With those negatives being said, it really is an excellent curriculum and anyone that has more attention and patience than me should look into it.  It’s one of the best I’ve seen for building a solid foundation for math.  Join a Right Start Math Facebook group and you can usually get the curriculum and manipulatives for far less than buying new.

Workbooks

Another option that I didn’t explore enough, but I know several families that have are the education sections at Dollar Tree or the books sections at Walmart or Sam’s Club or other discount retailers.  They have some pretty good workbooks and don’t discount the coloring/activity books.  I know when we think “curriculum” we have something more prestigious in mind than the Spider Man activity book, but you’d be surprised how great these are for early learners.  Not only do they include a lot of your basic motor skills like drawing lines and coloring, they also cover letter and number recognition, early reading, simple math from shapes to adding single digit numbers.  Plus they are often made using characters your kids already love like Spider Man and Bubble Guppies and Mickey Mouse and Disney Princesses.  Plus, they are often very inexpensive so you’ll have plenty of money left over for a lot of field trips to the museums and science centers to really fill your little ones’ minds.

Here it is.  This is all of my suggestions for what I have used with my kiddos.  I caution you to be sure your child is ready, and not just that you are excited to embark on this great journey.  I strongly encourage you, if you have money to spend on curriculum, consider putting that money toward taking advantage of hands-on learning opportunities like classes at local museums or parks instead.  While “just play” is tired and unhelpful advice, remember too that these are just children.  They only get to be children for a short time, so enjoy all of the time you can NOT buckling down to academics.  Remember that children learn when they are ready so if you are ready for them to be doing academic work and they aren’t picking it up like you expected or they are giving you a lot of push-back, take a break and come back to it later.

Most of all, remember that you are doing this for your child.  Listen to your heart and recognize in your child the ready learner.  You know your child best, and if he/she is ready…. Go for it!

How to Make Homeschool Mommy Friends

Homeschool mommies are a special breed.  I know.  I’m one of them.  But we are women and we need friends.  Since friendships are primarily a matter of circumstance, we need friends that are going to run in our circles, cross our paths, and inevitably spend time together. We need Homeschool Mommy Friends.

I am a social butterfly with many, many friends (a whopping 178 Facebook friends)  So of course being the amazing awesome person I am I am going to share all of my friend-making secrets in this step-by-step plan so you too can be the epi-center of an active friend circle.

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Step One:  Get Prepared

When you’re on the friendship prowl you absolutely must get prepared.  Most homeschoolers connect through social media, so you need to get yours ready to sell yourself.  Remember, you’re trying to attract female friends, and women can be judgey.  Let’s get started.  Change your profile picture.  Make it something intriguing, interesting, and mysterious.  Show just enough of yourself to prove you are a real person, but not enough to show how really hot or hot mess you are.  Leave a little something to the imagination.

While you’re logged in, go ahead and rewrite your public bio.  Here’s mine:

Married Mom of 4 seeking friends’ circle of 4-5 women.  I am 32 (again) and prefer friends that are within that general age range of “Young Hot Thing” and “Resigned.”  Must enjoy long talks in loud environments where children are most certainly screaming, arguing, and possibly fighting.  Must engage in sarcastic commentary during educational classes and field trips or just in general.  Occasional evenings out required, but last minute cancellations due to one or more puking family members must be accepted.  Open conversations about vaginas, sex, problems with parenting and/or being a wife, the stupidity of dieting and exercise while also being on a diet and exercise plan are required, but politics, religion, parenting styles, vaccinations, GMO foods vs. organic foods, and whether or not Ross and Rachel were actually on a break are hot topics and will be approached with caution or avoided altogether.  No perfect Nancies because I am a hot mess and I need someone that can compliment that.

There is no Match.com for homeschool moms so we have to create our ad, and social media is our platform.

Step Two:  Stalk Your Options

Every good friendship begins with stalking your options.  (Don’t you love social media and its ability to allow us to anonymously stalk people?  Yeah.  Me too.)  Troll those Facebook groups and check out other people’s profiles.  Even if you can’t see their profile entirely you can see mutual friends, pages liked, groups, and profile pictures.  Check out their posts and comments in mutual groups to get an idea of their general attitude.  You can also check out their other social media accounts if you really want to know about them.  Instagram is a good one for really seeing what a person is interested in.  Do they have 50,000 pictures of their ugly cat or are they constantly posting spiritual memes?

I believe in in-person contact.  Friendships can (and do) happen without ever meeting in person, but that face-to-face contact will mean a stronger and longer lasting friendship in the end.  To stalk someone in person is not as easy as through social media so you have to be more stealthy.  Fortunately, no matter how large the area or homeschool groups, there are only so many resources so chances are your prospective friend won’t be suspicious that you just happen to show up to the same 9 out of 10 events.  But just for stealth, skip that one event.  You will have the opportunity during these mutual events to observe:  Is this potential mom friend interesting?  Is she a hot mess?  How many kids does she have?  Are any of your kids interacting with any of her kids?

Step Three:  The Mom Date

Ok.  She’s interesting enough.  Just the right mix of perfectly normal mom and total hot mess.  At least one pair of your kids has managed to tolerate each other.  You don’t want to poke your eyeballs out being around her.  It’s time to take this friendship to the next level.

Ask her out on the Mom Date.

A mom date can be pretty intimidating, but don’t stress.  This is the natural next step in your relationship.  If you are bold, just ask her to a playdate, coffee date, or out for drinks.  By this point, you’ve stalked her enough to know that she’d be down for something.  If you’re feeling super shy, that’s ok too.  The quickest way to lock that homeschool mom in is through…. wait for it…. homeschooling.  Ask if she’ll show you her curriculum or do a unit study with you or a class or just a trip to the library or museum.  This Mom Date is your real opportunity to get to know this mom.  Can she handle your hot mess-ness?  And more importantly does she balance you with some hot mess-ness of her own?

Step Four:  Have THAT Moment

You’ve hung out a few times.  You’ve engaged in some pretty awesome GIF conversations.  You totally don’t hate her.  It’s time to cross that line from “casual homies” to “best bitches.”  Really.  It’s the moment you’ve been building up to.  It’s time to reach… Friend Nirvana.  So get down to it.

Let’s get serious for a minute.  This is the probably the most challenging step.  You’re going to have to put yourself out there.  Let your crazy really show.  I know it’s scary, but if she can’t accept your crazy then she’s probably not the friend for you.  And you definitely don’t want to wait until the crazy rears its ugly head out of the blue.  Set up a more controlled environment.  Choose a comfortable setting and a time when shit can get real.

Be ready to accept her crazy too.  If you’ve calculated this moment carefully then she’s going to be primed to expose her inner self too.  This is the time when you truly emotionally connect.  Word of caution:  This is the moment when the two of you share your truths, but no one wants a friend that is always waving their crazy flag like a badge of honor.  Those friends can be exhausting.

There’s no set timeline for when this step should happen.  It will be different for all of us.

Step Five:  Enjoy Friendship Nirvana… Until It’s Gone

I’d like to say that all of this hard work led up to a BFF (best friend forever), but the reality is that we are adults and our lives and circumstances change.  Kids go back to school.  Spouses’ jobs get transferred to other states.  New babies come and throw a whole new dynamic to life.  Any number of things happen to change our current lives and with those changes friends must change.  Don’t dwell on the “when this is over” but rather the present right now.  This is your BFFN (best friend for now) and she is worth your time and effort.  Enjoy the connection you have with her.  Share your truths and let her share hers.  Be in the moment with your friendship.  And when that time comes, whether it’s a month or ten years down the line, you can walk away with a sense that you have touched someone else’s heart and they have touched yours.

      

One more word of advice.  For some people, having just one BFFN at a time is all they can handle, but for many of us, we can handle more.  I personally have a tribe of women that I love and adore dearly.  I need a whole tribe.  I need my BFFN that will go workout with me and my BFFN that loves to go out and have a drink with me.  I need a BFFN that I can carry on snarky conversations strictly via GIF’s with and my BFFN that lets me call my kids assholes on particularly bad days and she never judges me.  I need a BFFN that needs me to be a light in her life and pull her out of the depths of depression and that BFFN that will let me cry on her shoulder when my depression overcomes me.  Sometimes these BFFN’s are the same people and sometimes they are not.  Having a tribe means that when one BFFN isn’t available for me, I have another I can call.  I need a tribe because, for me, there’s never just one person that can fulfill all of my friendship needs.  And when one friendship ends, I am not struggling to find another while left with that emptiness.

  

Women need one another.  We need one another because that double X chromosome makes us think in more complicated and emotional ways that was left off of the coding of the Y chromosome.  We have vaginas and breasts that have special needs and special problems that men don’t really understand.  We are dealing with spouses and children and dreams and desires and issues and problems that really only other women can relate to.  There’s no reason we should ever feel alone.  Not when there are so many wonderful women we can share our experiences with.

I’ll leave you with one more thought…  The relationships we build in our lives set the examples for the relationships our children will build in their lives.  Be an example that you hope your children will follow.

    

Homeschooling 101 – My Advice

Recently, I have had the pleasure of talking with some families that are embarking on the homeschool journey.  They are in that phase of excited anticipation, overwhelmed stress, and constant worry if this choice they are making is the right choice.  I remember those days.  Fortunately, I was blessed with the most amazing homeschool mentor and role model.  But even with her guidance, love, and support there were still so many moments of panic.  Not everyone has a Mrs. Dee in their lives so that’s where I come in with a Homeschool 101, advice for beginning homeschooling.

Of course, like most things I have to do it in my way.  I don’t think I could be genuine trying to do it any other way.  Plus, I have spent so many hours looking at the advice given in homeschool groups and on forums, and honestly I think it’s all too often MORE stress-inducing.  So, here it is…

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I always start by telling everyone that I hated homeschooling the first year.  Remember that post?  You can read it again here —->(I Hate Homeschooling).  Not everyone hates it their first year, or maybe they just don’t admit it, but I did.  There were a lot of reasons I hated that first year, but I think one major reason that is extremely pertinent to new homeschoolers is that I was disappointed by the huge discrepancy between what I envisioned homeschooling to be and what it actually was.  My expectations were of these precious moments of learning with my children.  I didn’t expect them to whine about having to do one workbook page or take 2 hours to complete ONE.  SIMPLE.  MATH PROBLEM.  Ugh!  I didn’t expect push back about reading together (they LOVE reading at bedtime, but read one word during the day…).  I didn’t expect that in order to cover ALL of the subjects, we would be doing schoolwork for hours upon hours.  The list goes on…

Take Time To De-School

De-Schooling.  Do it.  Take time to just readjust your thinking about school and how it works.  Consider that “school” can happen anywhere, any time, any day.  Don’t be married to a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. schedule August through May.  Allow yourself the freedom to NOT do subjects.  Think outside the brick and mortar box down the street where children are bussed, and create a homeschool that works for your family.  Give yourself time to acknowledge who you are and who your children are without comparing to anyone else.

After you’ve taken time to de-school whether it’s a week or a year, you will probably still harbor some residual ideas of what school should look like.  I think one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to consider the ACT or SAT tests.  College bound students take these exams to test their college readiness.  So, what’s on these tests?  I’m glad you asked.  Simply put, Math and Language Arts.  These are really the only subjects you absolutely MUST cover.  Stop stressing about trying to fit in a specific history, science, art, and music curriculum.  I think it’s time we look at what history and science really are- reading comprehension.  Hone those reading comprehension skills and suddenly, history and science are understandable.  Ok… ok… I know that is a VERY simplistic view, but I think when we begin to think more simplistically we are better armed to overcome the overwhelming stress of covering so much information.

Now what if your child is scientifically-minded or really interested in history?  I have a friend whose son is beyond gifted in science and my advice to her was to build his language arts and math around science.  It’s the same principle as above- to cover only language arts and math, but it’s done through a science perspective.  However you do it, I assure you that your child will get the education he/she needs to be successful as long as you are covering those basics.

Leave Some Flexibility in Your Schedule

Some people like a more scheduled life.  As you know, I am not one for schedules.  You can revisit my issues with scheduling here ——-> (Homeschool Schedules are for Losers)  If you like a more scheduled life, please by all means DO IT!  There are some really wonderful curriculum and groups that have good schedules.  There are some amazing homeschool planners that will help you schedule every aspect of your life.  But if you are more relaxed, like me, that’s ok too.  Plan your school with the flexibility that fits you.  Don’t be married to a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. schedule August through May.  Some of us are early risers and work best at 8 a.m. and some of us (—>ME<—) are late risers and don’t function until noon.  Sometimes school can happen during regular business hours, but sometimes school works better at night or on the weekends.  Christmas Day, July 4th… holidays are just days and learning can (and does) happen on them.  I once was trying to finish up a curriculum before the end of the year and made the Princess do math on Christmas Day.

I highly recommend thinking outside the box when it comes to schedules because let’s face it, life doesn’t really happen on a schedule.  We can’t schedule illnesses or surprise visits from the in-laws or natural disasters that displace us from our homes or sudden job losses.  We can make plans for the “what ifs” in life, but there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility so when they happen we are not completely thrown off our game.  Plus, there are so many wonderful opportunities out there- classes and co-ops and homeschool days at the local historical site and field trips and play dates and educational movie or TV specials….  don’t schedule yourself so tightly that you can’t take advantage of all of these amazing chances to learn.

Know Your State Requirements

The last piece of advice I would give is know the laws in your state.  All of the laws vary from state to state and like so much in society right now, there is a whole lot of misinformation.  One of the new homeschooling moms I had the pleasure of talking with asked me about record keeping.  I live in North Carolina and our state requirements are pretty relaxed.  We are required to register our homeschool with the state, maintain shot records and annual test scores.  That’s all.  This mom’s friend told her she needed a portfolio showing what was done for the year and grades and attendance records.  This mom was overwhelmed enough without having all of this misinformation.  Some states DO require all of that, but not ours.  I could see the relief in her eyes when I told her, “No.  You don’t need all of that.”  Familiarize yourself with the requirements for your state.  If you don’t understand the legalese, there are many, many, many homeschool groups out there you can check with.  You can also call your state’s Department of Non-Public Education and there is sure to be someone there that will help you.  I am always cautious with answers from others because there are so many people that just don’t know or understand so always consider your sources as well as the majority of answers.

Ultimately, I think my primary message is to relax and let this happen naturally based on you and your family’s needs and wants.  Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination.  The more you allow natural life and personality to lead your journey, the smoother the road will be.  Take each day, week, and year one at a time.  The longer your are on this journey, the more you fall into natural rhythms.  I hope that the new moms I got to talk to walked away from our talk feeling less overwhelmed and stressed and a little refreshed.  I hope you walk away from reading this feeling the same way.

Are you a new homeschooler?  Does this help?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

Are you a seasoned homeschooler?  What advice would you give a new family?  Do you agree or disagree with my advice?  Leave a comment and share with new homeschooling families.

Why Worry About Unfinished Curriculum

The last few years we have spent several hundred dollars on curriculum.  We work diligently throughout the year on our curriculum.  Then, each year in March I begin to think about the next school year, exploring new curriculum options, thinking about what to add, what to change, what to do differently.  By May, I am all ready to move to our new school year.  So… what about the unfinished curriculum?

Unfinished curriculum feels like a huge waste of the hundreds of dollars spent each year.  Three years into homeschooling and we have only managed to successfully complete one curriculum during a school year.  But I think that ultimately, it’s not a big deal.  In fact, I don’t think we should worry about it at all.

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Let’s first consider schools… you know, the traditional, publicly funded kind.  There is no possible way the schools can get through an entire curriculum in one school year.  Schools use text books that are hundreds of pages long to provide their curriculum.  School year cycles are frequently organized so that every other grade level is a “review” grade to help students fill in the gaps before building on further.  There is so much subject matter to cover and plenty of distractions to take away from learning time.

But fear not!  As homeschools we have a few benefits over the more traditional schools.

First, we have the ability to just keep going.  We are not tied to a school calendar year with assigned breaks.  There’s no reason that if our math curriculum is not complete by May, we can’t continue working on it through June, July, or until it’s done.  Similarly, if you MUST have that summer break, there’s no reason you can’t just pick up right where you left off.  That is our plan for the 2016/2017 school year.  We plan to continue the Language Arts and Math curriculum I bought for the Princess.  The freedom with homeschooling to take our time and work on a schedule that works for us is truly one of the best parts of homeschooling.

Second, it’s not uncommon for a homeschool family to switch between curriculum during any given school year.  If you have every considered homeschooling then you know there are hundreds or even thousands of curriculum options.  And many times, we get started with one curriculum that for all intents and purposes looks perfect only to find later one that is much more in line with our teaching style, or our child’s learning style, or our morals or values.  Curriculum gets boring or doesn’t teach to the right style, or just isn’t the right fit at that time.  And kids learn differently at different times in their lives.  What may work with one child, may not work with another.  And what may work now for a child, may not work in a month or in 6 months as every day kids bring a different attitude to learning, a different emotional response to their world, a different interest in a new subject.

Third, and probably most important to keep in mind is that moving from one curriculum to another or finishing one grade without finishing the curriculum for that grade doesn’t necessarily mean gaps and holes in education.  Most curriculum cycles back around to cover and recover topics.  Most curriculum begins with a review to cover the previous year.  And let’s not forget that there are so many different opportunities for learning- classes and co-ops, life learning and play learning, and just general reading all contribute to learning and filling in gaps left from unfinished curriculum.

Ultimately, I think if we don’t finish curriculum in one year, I guess it’s ok.  Because sometimes you just don’t.  And we continue on educating our children.

Why I Don’t Worry About The Homeschool S-Word

I think every homeschool blogger on the planet writes a post about the Big S word.  You know the one…

SOCIALIZATION

Even in these modern times when information is so much more readily available and people are so much more aware, there is still this preconceived notion that being homeschooled today is like it was 20 or 30 years ago.  Too many intelligent people still have this idea in their heads that going to school Monday through Friday for 6 hours a day with our peers is the only real way to learn to function in a social society.

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It baffles me that my Mother, an educated and intelligent woman, still feels compelled to ask me every time we talk whether or not the kids are getting enough socialization.

My favorite blog post on homeschooling that I’ve ever read is a post (that I can’t find now but if I could, I would totally link up to it) that goes on about how “unsocialized” her kids are because they went to the post office where they proceeded to talk up the postal lady about mail travel; they went to the grocery store where they engaged both the lady in line behind them as well as the cashier in conversation; they went to church where they helped in the church nursery and attended their Sunday school class.  The list goes on and on of all of these people the kids talked to, engaged with, etc. in a single day.  People of all ages, genders, races, economic backgrounds…

This post is probably the most quintessential Homeschool Socialization post I’ve ever read.  Next time I find it, I’m going to save it so I don’t lose it again.  Or if you find it, please send it to me.

Anyway, I thought maybe today was as good a time as any to maybe put into perspective some of the socialization observations I’ve made in my 21 years as a parent.

My oldest daughter went to private Catholic school Kindergarten through half of 5th grade, then went to public school the other half of 5th through 12th.  She is now entering her 4th year at UNC Asheville.  She’s played basketball, soccer, and run track.  She’s taken art classes and ballet.  She was in student government and the orchestra.  She is very outgoing and friendly and personable.  One can reasonably say, that she has all of the makings and opportunity of a social butterfly.

(Pictured here with friends.  She is bottom left.)

But, despite her willingness to be friendly, she has been plagued with problems with friends.  There were the friends in 4th grade that all of a sudden decided they didn’t like her anymore.  Then there were the girls in middle school that excluded her from their sleepovers.  By high school I thought she had found a good crowd, but still she sat at home alone on Friday and Saturday nights.  In fact, this has gone on for years and only very recently has she found a small group of friends that she has been able to connect with and forge long term relationships with.

Now let’s back track a little here.  When she would get in trouble at school for talking, or playing at school (which often happened) do you know what happened?  My mother popped right out of my mouth and said, “I send you to school to learn, not to socialize!”

Ummm…..  So, how was public or private school so much better of an opportunity for socialization?

Isn’t that the assumption when people ask about homeschool kids being socialized?

Let’s take a look at us.  Adults.

As an adult I have friends that range in age from about 20 upwards of 60+ years old.  In fact, I joke with my Mom and Dad all of the time about how the older I get, the closer in age we become because we are closer to being peers.  (My parents were quite young when I was born, but that may be beside the point.)

Why do I have the friends I have?  We are friends because of common interests and/or goals, similar lifestyles, or sometimes just because it’s convenient.  Whatever the reason, it is rarely because we are forced to spend 5 days a week, 6 hours a day with the same 30 people.  We may make acquaintances in those circumstances, but rarely true friends.

Ok, let’s now look at my weird and unsocialized homeschool kids.

As I’ve mentioned before, we spend a lot of time partying during the school year.  What I mean by this, is playing.  We spend a lot of time playing with friends during the school year.  We go to the park and play.  We go to the museum and play.  We have friends over or go to their houses and play.  Sure, there might be some school activity involved, but we usually rush through all of that learning so we can play.

All 3 kids have friends the same ages respectively, but they also have friends of all sorts of ages.  One of my Little Man’s favorite friends is an 11 year old boy.  And let me tell you, that 11 year old boy will play with my Little Man just like they are the same age.

One of the most wonderful things I have found about the vast majority of homeschooled kids is that when it comes to “socializing” they have no worry about talking to anyone of any age.  While most kids look at an adult warily and speak uncertainly, homeschooled kids have no qualms about it.

I’ll leave this post by sharing a story about a little boy I had the pleasure of having a conversation with.  I was sitting outside of co-op one afternoon with the Baby while The Princess and The Little Man were finishing their classes.  This adorable little 7 year old boy came up to me to warn me about the fire ants in the grass behind me.  I thanked him for the warning and returned to watching the Baby.  About 2 minutes later, he came back up to me and so ensued the most hilarious, yet intelligent conversation I have had in a long time.

“See this?”  he points to an obviously old scratch on his upper arm.  “A fire ant bit me there.”

“Oh really?”  I must have looked quite skeptical.

“I’m just kidding.  That’s old.  But a fire ant really did bite me on my hand.”  he points to his hand where there was clearly no bite.

“Oh wow!  So, are you going to get super powers now?”  Ok, maybe I was being a little silly.  I am, after all talking to a little boy.

“No.  That’s not real.”

“What about Spiderman?  He’s real.”

“No.  He’s not real.  That’s just make believe.”

“Oh.  So… what do you do to cure a fire ant bite?”

He thinks about this for a minute, then responds, “You have to stop eating meat.”

“Meat?”

“Yes.  You can’t eat any meat.  Or any junk food.”

“What about steak?”

“That’s meat.”

“Chicken?”

“That’s meat too.”

“What about ice cream?”

“Only if it’s vegan ice cream.  You have to become vegan.”

“I have to become vegan now?”

“Yes.  If you get bit by a fire ant.  You have to become vegan and you can’t eat meat.  I’m vegan, but only at home.  When we go out we are just vegetarian.”

“So you don’t eat meat?”

“Right.”

“Did you get bit by a lot of fire ants?”  Yes, clearly I’m taunting this poor boy, but it was all in good fun.

“No.  My mom just decided we were going to be vegan so we are.  I don’t like meat anyway.  Sometimes when I visit my Dad he gets us chicken nuggets, but I don’t eat them.”

“But you do eat ice cream.”

“Yes…..   If it’s vegan.”

The conversation sounds silly I guess, as I type it out, but the confidence with which this boy talked to me was like nothing I’ve ever seen.  He held his own while I was teasing him, never losing his cool, always just pleasantly playing along with me.  I can think of so many adults that went to school all of their adolescence and well into adulthood that couldn’t have a conversation like that, much less one so deadpan.  This will forever be the conversation I think of when I worry about my kids being socialized.

Well, that and the 50 million things on our social calendar….

The Kid’s Honor Club

Last month my friend Tina invited some close friends and myself to join a Kid’s Honor Club.  Ok, well, she invited our kids.  It’s a sweet little 12 week program Tina picked up that teaches the kids what it means to be honorable people.

First I want to say, I love that in homeschool we are able to have sweet little groups like this.   Tina chose to make this a small, select group instead of an open group which not only allows our families to be close and intimate.

I also love that we can learn lessons about such a meaningful topic.

You won’t find this class in public school.

But why not?

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Ok, the program Tina is using has a Christian base with references to Biblical stories and that doesn’t fly in public schools, nor should it, but there should be a non-religious version of this that is mandatory in all schools.  Our world needs our children to be more honorable people.  Heck.  Our world needs our adults to be more honorable people.

Maybe we don’t teach this because we don’t understand what that means.  Maybe it means different things to different people.  Maybe that’s why we don’t do the things we should.

So…?  What does it mean?  What does it mean to be honorable?  What is Tina teaching my children?  What does our world need to know?

To me, being honorable is being respectful, having good manners, treating other people kindly with compassion, being thoughtful (and if possible, responsive) of the needs of others.  Being honorable is not only doing what is expected of you, but going above that to be the best you can be.  Being honorable is having a good attitude about things, even in the crappiest of situations.

This is what I want my children to learn.  This is what I want all children to learn.

Will they learn it through a 12 week program?  It’s a start.  But these are lifetime learning lessons.  Lessons that are constantly learned and relearned.  Lessons that need reinforcement time and again.  Lessons that need strong, positive examples to follow.

Umph.  That last one is hard.  WE have to be constant reminders to our children of what it means to be honorable.  Sometimes, that is very difficult.  Things get in the way, emotion, opinions, religion, greed, desperation.  And in this current state of unrest in our world when we are all taking sides, divided by politics, religion, social issues; when the media reports both news and satire meant to further our division; when emotion and tempers are running high and everything is offensive to someone.  During this time in our history we need more respect, more compassion for others, more thoughtfulness.  We need better attitudes and more exceptional people.

I don’t know that this 12 week program, sweet as it is, is the answer but we have to start somewhere.  And for my kids, I hope this the start to a difference.  I hope The Husband and I can continue these lessons through reinforcement and example so that one day  in 10 years when the kids have a Facebook page (or whatever social media platform is popular) they are able to be the honorable people we are trying to raise:  moral, respectful, kind, compassionate, and thoughtful.

6 Ways To Help Convince A Reluctant Spouse

When I first started toying with the idea of homeschooling I really wasn’t sure how The Husband would respond.  I really expected him to scoff at the idea (and in some ways, I hoped that he would).  But when I finally brought it up to him as a possibility he surprised me by being completely on board.  And throughout our homeschool journey, he has been very supportive and encouraging.

But, it turns out, not everyone has that experience.  In fact, I have a couple of friends whose husbands have balked at the idea.  Their concerns have been everything from socialization, missed sports opportunities, concern about the educational value, and ultimately, the mental health of Mom being home all day with the little ones.

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So, what does a Mom say to her spouse?  How can she help him let go of his preconceived notions about homeschooling and be a team player in this new adventure?

Have the Answers Ready

You’ve already done the research on homeschooling.  Now you need to find references to the successes of homeschooling:  successes that speak to your spouse and his/her concerns.My friend Denise’s husband loves sports so maybe her husband would be interested to know that Tim Tebow was homeschooled.  Tebow was a a professional football player for the Denver Broncos, playing quarterback.  He currently plays outfield for the NY Mets.  Clearly, homeschooling didn’t hold him back from his sports goals.My friend Tina’s husband is a molecular biologist.  This long list of scientists and mathematicians that were successfully homeschooled should provide great encouragement for the kids’ futures in the science and math field:  25 Modern Science, Math and Technology leaders who were homeschooled

My friend Shannon’s husband is a “techie.”  The forward thinking computer programmers and developers of our society are a huge part of the modern homeschool community.  This article on Wired.com is a great article:  The Techies Who Are Hacking Education By Homeschooling Their Children.I think for nearly any interest your spouse may have, there is at least one, but probably a handful of extraordinary people that were homeschooled.

Show The Future Benefits

Maybe your spouse isn’t impressed by great people like Albert Einstein or Condoleezza Rice.  If not, then he’s probably not going to be convinced by the “who’s who of homeschoolers.”  If his concern is more about your child(ren)’s future, you could try appealing to the promise of a solid college career.  Start with this article from U.S. News to warm him up:  Home-Schooled Teens Ripe For College.  Once you have him hooked, you can reel him in with the MIT Admissions requirements for homeschooled students.  Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, and many other ivy league schools have similar requirement pages especially for homeschoolers.  You can also find several articles that talk about why homeschooled students are sought after by colleges.

Lay Out a Plan of Opportunities

After you’ve sent him every article you can find to address his external concerns, you should probably present him with a plan of what you will do to meet all of the needs of your child(ren) and address any concerns of socialization and extra-curricular activities.  Go ahead and look at all of the local homeschool groups to see what they have to offer you in terms of support, co-ops, classes, and field trip opportunities.  Don’t forget to look at the costs to participate in these.  You can also look at local museums, historic sites, farms, community centers, libraries, etc. to find out what’s available for you and your children.  A lot of these places offer classes and opportunities and/or will put together something for homeschoolers.  There are some opportunities for homeschoolers through local public schools for things like school sports so you can always look into that as well.

Bring Hard Evidence to the Table

I suggest getting together some curriculum ideas to show him all of the cool things your kids will learn.  Curriculum is probably one of the most daunting choices you will make, but it can also help showcase that home learning doesn’t mean TV and Minecraft all day.  If you want to go ahead and buy curriculum, most curriculum companies have a 15-30 days return policy as long as the books aren’t marked in.  Of course, you could borrow from friends too and then you would have a variety of things to show him without already committing.  I think having that tangible item in front of you that you can flip through and look at can really make a difference.

Have a Plan For Your Mental Health

This one is just as much for you as it is him.  You need to really think about your own mental health.  Don’t take this lightly.  Yes.  We love our children absolutely.  But I’m not going to lie to you.  Being with them 24/7 can be very straining on even the strongest of people.  Go ahead and think about what you will need to keep yourself as healthy as possible.  For some people it’s exercise, for some it’s time to read a book, and for some (like me) it’s a glass of wine or two with the girls periodically.  Whatever you need to keep your sanity, make a plan.  Talk to your spouse about it because chances are, he’s going to need to understand and be a team player here.  I know you don’t want to overwhelm him with responsibility when he’s already against this homeschooling thing, but even if the kids were in school, he’s still a part of a parenting team and just because you try to do it all, doesn’t mean you can.

Be Strong

Probably the most important thing is BE STRONG.  If you feel in your heart that homeschooling is the right option for your family then follow your heart.  Nothing in life holds more regret than our choices leading us away from what is in our hearts.  You may just have to drag your spouse kicking and screaming for a year, but hopefully, at the end he will see how much better your family is because of this choice.  Or, maybe by the end of the year you will change your mind and decide that homeschooling wasn’t the best option.  Either way, hopefully you will both be on the same page.

I am a firm believer in “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  For our family, we still take homeschooling one year at a time.  We do it, until it doesn’t make sense anymore.  There are plenty of days that I want to quit, and I rely on The Husband to help me sort through my feelings and maybe give me a break to get away.  There are plenty of times I know The Husband wonders if this is the right choice, but then one of the kids says or does something extraordinary and I can see his “Aha” moment and he’s back.  Ebb and flow here.  But ultimately, if we hadn’t taken this journey, we would never have known if it could work for our family, and well…  you would have a lot less to read about on this blog here.

No More Mommy Judgements

This week I had some errands to run and to reward the kiddos for being so good during my errands we got milkshakes and went to the playground.  The Princess, ever the social butterfly, met a girl that quickly became her newest BFF, and so I was obligated to then become BFF’s with the girl’s mom.  (How I ever managed to make friends before The Princess is beyond me.)

Anyway, as my new BFF and I were chatting, the topic of school came up.

She asked, “Do you homeschool?”

 

 

~tense moment of silence~

The first thing that popped into my head were the many blog posts, Facebook posts, and articles about negative reactions to the the choice to homeschool.  Would my new BFF approve?  Or would she have snarky, passive-aggressive comments condemning my choice?  Or would she be the type to have a full on tirade about this choice I’ve made for my family?  I mean, it’s not like it’s a big secret that we homeschool, but this particular day I didn’t happen to be wearing my “Proud Homeschooling Mom” badge or my “Homeschool Club” t-shirt or my “Super Homeschool Mom” mask and cape.  Because, well… you know, I’m all smooth and low key about it.

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I had an initial holding of breath, then with a certain amount of uncertainty as to what to expect I answered:

“Well, yes.  Yes we do.”

~Awkward silence~

She looked at me cautiously, and then, with a frown said, “We kinda homeschool over summer.”  Then she proceeded to tell me every reason she couldn’t homeschool; how it just didn’t work for her or family, right now.

It dawned on me that she was afraid I was judging her for not homeschooling.  She was trying to justify to me why she had made the choice of the public school system.  She wanted me to not think less of her for sending her kids to school every day.

Damn.

So, here’s the thing.  Homeschooling is just one of many, many choices in life.  It’s not for everyone.  You don’t need to justify to me- or anyone for that matter- why your kids go to school every day.  Even if it is GASP!  public school.  Because guess what?  It’s ok.

I mean I graduated from public school and look how awesome I turned out!

(See?  Hahahaha!)

Ya know what else?

I wasn’t breastfed, I had 2 working parents and went to daycare, my parents were divorced, most of my meals growing up came out of a box, I watched a ton of TV- almost exclusively crap TV, and I rarely played outside exploring nature.

But I get it.

We are all fighting the Mommy Wars.  Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, homeschooling, organic foods, natural living… there is so much pressure to be some kind of perfect parent.

My question is not “Why do we judege?”  My questions is “WHY DO WE CARE?”

Why do we care what others think about how we are educating our child(ren)?  Why do we care what anyone thinks about anything we’re doing as a parent?

We have to do what is right in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls.  If it feels right to let that baby cry it out, then do it.  If you want to breastfeed your child until they’re old enough to stand up on a stool and nurse then do it.  If you want to go back to work 1 week after that baby pops out because you love your job or just need the money then do it.

Stop worrying what these other mommies are doing, thinking, or saying and do what feels right to you.  Stop reading these stupid blog posts that tell us how inadequate we are because we don’t feed our children organic kale smoothies and seaweed every day (who touches that stuff anyway?)  Stop listening to that mom on the bench behind you who brags to her mommy-friend about working out every day and losing all of her baby weight within 6 weeks of giving birth!  (I hate that lady anyway.)

Just be a mom.  Be the best damn mom you can be.

Oh, but here’s the kicker:  when you’re not being your best, that’s ok too!

Our kids need to see us at our best, but they need to know we have a worst too.  We are human.  We have flaws and bad days and we make mistakes.  When our kids see us being human, they know it’s ok for them to be human too.  And don’t we want our kids to know it’s ok to be human?

Ultimately, there is already so much unrealistic pressure on us, as moms, to be certain people, do certain things, and pull it all together with amazing style and panache.  Why we feel the need to take on the responsibility of others’ opinions of us, is beyond me.

I didn’t say it to my new BFF mom.  Despite her title as “BFF”, we’re not really that close.  Not close enough for me to say:

Look.  It’s ok that you don’t homeschool.  I get it.  No justification needed.  Five children, 2 that are special needs….  Girl, you just do your Mom thing.  Because you’re awesome.

Depression And The Homeschool Mama

Last summer I kinda broke.

It had been coming for a while.  A slow downward spiral into depression.

I think after the suicide of the beloved actor Robin Williams depression really came under the spotlight.  More and more people were coming out about their struggle with depression.  Social media platforms were plastered with memes about depression.  Thousands of blogs were written about depression.  Nearly everyone was talking about depression and the real effects it has on people and those around them.

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The idea of depression that seems to be prevalent is that of sadness.  The image of a sad person moping around through their every day trying to make it to the next day.

I’ve been depressed.  I’ve been depressed like this.  That overwhelming sadness.  The lack of ability to function any more than I absolutely must.  But typically this depression for me has been symptomatic of specific situations or events.  Like when my grandfather died or when I graduated from high school and had to decide what to do with my life.

But the depression I went through this past summer wasn’t that sad kind.  It wasn’t moping about or indifference to life.  There wasn’t any specific event that triggered it.  I wasn’t sad.

I was angry.  I WAS ANGRY.

I was angry at my husband.  I was angry at my kids.  I was angry at my friends.  I was angry at my mom, dad, sisters, in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.  I was angry at the grocery store clerk.  I was angry at the other drivers on the road.  I was angry at my shoes, pants, shirts, and underwear.  I was angry at the radio DJ.  I was angry at Facebook.  I was angry at the world and everything in it.  I was angry at God, the Heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars…  you get the idea here.

My anger was palpable.  Everyone around me could feel it and those closest to me were responding to it… with anger.  My kids were angry with me and with each other.  My husband and I were angry at each other.  I had more than one conflict with neighbors and friends and that poor grocery store clerk.

Some of my anger was based in reason.  I wasn’t just angry to be angry.  But some of my anger was irrational reactions to my anger at large.  I was taking it out on my kids and the grocery store clerk because I couldn’t say what I wanted or needed to the people that I was genuinely angry at.  I don’t like conflict.  I avoid it.  But that means bottling it up and letting it fester.  And you know what happens with that eventually.

By July, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  Besides being angry at the world at large, I was overeating (and gaining weight like crazy).  I couldn’t sleep at night which meant I was overly tired every day and this certainly compounded the problem.  I was ignoring healthy habits like bathing and cleaning the house.  I was beyond the point of being “a hot mess”.  I was just a mess.

I went to the doctor.  Now, I could have tried some natural remedies like oils, aroma therapy, etc., but I don’t think like that.  Plus, I needed something more immediate.  I needed a heavy dose of valium… like stat.

On the day of my appointment I was so nervous.  What would the doctor say?  Would I be able to tell her?  Even if I was able to tell her, could I tell her everything?  Could I be as blunt as I needed to be?  Would she understand the depths of my anger?

As I sat there, nervously awaiting her to come in I had that giant rock in my throat.  You know the one.  The one that blocks anything but tears and sobs from coming out.  I had to hold onto that rock and keep the tears back through the nurses taking my vitals (even the 4 times they had to take my blood pressure because for some reason I am actually dead and frequently doctors and nurses can’t find my blood pressure.)

Finally, she came in.  We talked about me- who I was, what my life was like, and several of the “other issues” I wanted to address, then I took a deep trembling breath and said with great hesitation…  “I am very angry.  All.  The.  Time.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I am angry.  Like.  I hate my family.  I hate my kids.  I hate my husband.  I hate the poor grocery clerk I yelled at last week.”

Then she said something that I didn’t expect.  Something that took me by surprise.  She said, “This is really normal for the stay-at-home mom.  You don’t know how many moms I see that say the exact same thing.”

Oh.

Nope.  I didn’t expect that.  I mean, I knew that I wasn’t the only one in the world that suffered this, but I thought that maybe mine wasn’t a common case of depression.  Really, I hadn’t even labelled it as depression.  My doctor told me it was depression.  A common type of depression that stay-at-home parents get, especially those dealing with children under 3 (I had 2).  A type of depression extremely common to the homeschool parent.  She said that it has a lot of factors, but some of those factors being:

  • Lack of sleep- being up frequently with babies/toddlers, and never reaching a good REM cycle.
  • Lack of healthy eating- eating on the run while trying to take care of the kids.
  • Lack of “me time”- SAH and Homeschool parents are frequently 24/7 parents with their partner not stepping up to take over because we all enjoy our precious children so much that spending every second of every day with them IS our “me time,” right?
  • Lack of identity- I am The Husband’s wife and The kids’ mom, but who am I without them?
  • Lack of opportunity to be adults- when you spend 24/7 with your kids you miss out on the time when you talk with grown ups.  The few times you do talk with grown ups, what are you talking about?  Kids.

The question now was how to alleviate these problems so I could regain my sanity.  I’m a pretty laid back person naturally.  My patience are not endless, but certainly I have always had a long fuse.  How do I become ME again?

It wasn’t an easy answer.  First, the doctor put me on an antidepressant.  After a month on it, I could feel a significant difference but still asked to up my dose.  My new dose was perfect.  I could feel a lot of the old me coming back.

The second part was I had to tell The Husband that our current life wasn’t working for me.  I needed some changes.  I needed some sleep.  I needed some ME time.  I needed some support from him to take on the kids.  I needed some time to be a grown up.  He stepped right up to the plate.  He kept the kids overnight so I could take my Oldest back to college.  He started waking up with the kids one weekend day every week so I could sleep in.  He has the kids for my once a month girls’ night out.  And most importantly, he recognizes that my sanity depends on these times.  He doesn’t always see when I need time in the immediate, but when I say, “Hey.  I need an hour.”  He really tries to accommodate.

The third part has been reaching out to make friends.  I am a very social person.  I thrive on my relationships and time spent with others.  Facebook likes and connections on Snapchat are not enough for me.  I need to talk to people- on the phone or in person for long conversations.  I’m happy to see family photos plastered on Instagram, but I need to hang out with the family, love on the baby, pet those furry children.  I want to make people laugh (I’m funny, have you noticed that?).  I want to be a shoulder to cry on.  I want to hug and kiss and hold hands.  Yes, my friends.  Absolutely.

I have been reaching out.  This past year I have really been reaching out and I have made some wonderful new friends.  I have rekindled with some old friends.  I have built stronger friendships with current friends.  I have been blessed with some of the most wonderful women to grace my life.  They are strong, intelligent, beautiful (inside and out), fearless, influential, amazing women.  How I have lived my life without these women in my life until now…  well, it explains a lot of my early failures in life and why now I finally feel powerful within myself.

This is the perfect segue to the last part of my keeping my sanity- rebuilding my sense of self.  A lot has gone into tearing me down.  Slowly, through the vision of others I am beginning to see how wonderful I am.  Those wonderful women I spoke of earlier constantly remind me how awesome they think I am.  I have an inner voice in my oldest daughter always telling me how much I am loved even when her siblings are still too young to appreciate me.  Despite how crazy some of my notions are, my husband continues to support and encourage me to live to the fullest potential.  My parents remind me how proud they are of me and who I am and what I have, can and will accomplish.

I am beginning to remember who I am.  The funny, stupidly sarcastic, laid back person that I used to be.  I have found my silly and fun side and I let it shine.  The ME that I lost is finding her way back.  Every day I am closer and closer to the happy ME; the ME before anger took over.

The 2016/2017 School Plan

I have been in the throes of planning for our upcoming school year.  A lot of planning goes into each year trying to decide what did and didn’t work during the year, what opportunities there are for us, and what opportunities we need to create for ourselves because they are not being continued next year.  I have to look at curriculum choices and consider if we want or need to change.  I have to listen to the kids and what they are interested in right now and make some presumptions about what they will be interested in over the course of the upcoming year.  And I have to consider the budget we want to put into homeschooling.

There are quite a few changes I hope to make for our 2016/2017 school year.

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For one, I really want to make sure that we do schoolwork more days than we drift by.  I think this is going to mean creating a schedule that we can reasonably stick to and adding curriculum choices that fit within that schedule.  Second, my goal is to do more with The Littles, especially My Little Man.  Not only do I want to be reading to him more, but I am looking at doing actual programs for Reading and Math.  Lastly, I really want to get more involved locally so we are not travelling so much.  We have a local homeschool group that I can certainly work with.  I may have to be much more proactive though.

So here it is.  My curriculum and plan round up.  I do not anticipate making many changes, if any to the overall plan.

First up is a Morning Basket.  If you have not heard of the Morning Basket, this is a basket that contains a variety of items to start our day, much like “circle time” at schools.  I like the idea of the Morning Basket because it gives us a set something to do each morning.  We have something else to do besides wake up and get on our devices.  If done right, it should only take an hour of our day.  Plus, it’s something we can do together as a family.  We can do it as we are fixing and eating breakfast or we can do it in the car on the mornings we have to travel and are rushing out the door first thing.  The big bonus is that if it’s all we do for the day we will actually have accomplished a lot of schoolwork.

Our Morning Basket will contain:

A Child’s Introduction to Art.  Taking from the Charlotte Mason style of education, I’m turning towards a bit more of a classical education.  This book will allow us the opportunity to study some great art and the artists behind that art.  I have a passion for art and I want the kids to have exposure and hopefully gain a passion as well.


The Mike Venezia ” Getting to Know” books, like the one pictured here on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, are amazing.  He has a whole series on composers everything from Bach and Beethoven to the Beatles.  I mean, come on!  How cool is that?!  I think music is probably one of the most important things in our lives.  I can’t wait for the kids to experience music greater than Taylor Swift.

 

eBoo French Flashcards.  The Princess has wanted to learn French for so long and it’s about time we got serious about it.  The Flash cards will just be a quick review each day to keep us talking… in French of course.  I picked the Eboo flashcards because they are cute.  I suppose any would do, really.  And probably we will need to fit in some Duolingo time here too.  Maybe alternate flashcards and Duolingo.


Sonlight World History G.  We have done Sonlight reading lists for a couple of years now, and I was able to pick up the teacher’s manual for World History G from a used curriculum sale.  The list I have varies slightly from the current list on the Sonlight site, but it’s close enough.  I don’t do the Bible aspect of Sonlight, but the readers and read-aloud books are excellent reading suggestions.

  
It’s about time we dipped our toes into some Shakespeare so we are going to dive right in.  I hope to pick up two books for this:  The Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare by Usborne and Shakespeare Stories for Kids by E. Nesbitt.  I like each of these books for their appeal to the younger audience and they each have different plays (some overlapping) so they will each be beneficial.

I think daily poetry is a pretty cool concept.  I have this book my sister gave me that is one poem every day for 365 days.  I love to read it and meditate on what it means.  I like the idea of the kids hearing poetry and also doing some memory work to remember some poems.  I originally had planned to do some Shel Silverstein and Jack Petrelutsky but in keeping with my “classical education” theme I decided to try a collection of classic poems, like Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy.

One thing I think the kids are missing is knowing a lot of the traditional folk songs I remember from when I was a little kid.  I have decided to pick up this CD A Child’s Celebration of Folk Music to get us started in our folk music journey.  I will also add in the several Kindermusik CD’s I have.

I am also considering picking up La Voix en Rose which is a French folk song CD for fun reinforcing our French lessons.

Since we will be doing quite a bit of history and quite frankly, mapping skills are important I would like to do some mapping in our morning basket.  I plan to give the kids a map to study on Monday, then each day we will add cities, geographical elements like rivers, mountains, etc.  By Friday I hope they can have a completed map.

I know this sounds like a lot.  Believe me, I know.  But it’s really not as much as it looks.  And several things will be alternated day-to-day like the artist and composer study.  Plus, like I said, if we can get through the Morning Basket, but do nothing else for the day, I think I will feel like we had a successful homeschool day.

Beyond the Morning Basket, we will have our regularly scheduled curriculum.  I intend for all of the kids to do Language Arts/Reading and Math every day.  These are the core subjects and I want to make sure, if nothing else, that they have a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math.

  

We will continue with Abeka Language Arts Grade 5 for The Princess.  I will do all but the penmanship component as I feel her penmanship is fine as is.  I am currently considering Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for The Littles reading program since I have heard some great reviews and I have a friend who may loan me her copy.  Sometimes, when it comes to curriculum, the best kind is the free kind.  I will probably also incorporate some sight words and phonics apps for fun.

  

The Princess will also continue Abeka Math Grade 4.  I believe that this curriculum has worked for us so far and unless her annual testing results show otherwise, we will continue.  The Princess has a math flashcards app on her Kindle just for reinforcing her basic math.  I am still deciding on The Littles Math program, but am leaning toward Right Start Math.  I have had a few recommendations for it, however I am concerned about the expense.

For History, I am excited about doing Story of the World with all of the kids this year.  I have been told that this program is more than suitable for children of all ages as a read aloud and has activities we can all do with each lesson.  If I get really organized I may try to make our Sonlight readings in the Morning Basket reinforce our SOW history.  The positive reviews of this program have been overwhelming so I am really looking forward to using it.

I picked up a free copy of K12 Art 3 and I really like the way it is laid out and the lessons.  When I asked The Princess what she was missing in school the only answer was a resounding ART!  Why I don’t do more of it, I don’t know.  I love doing it.  So, this year we are going to work harder to make it a part of our weekly schedule.  I like the idea of doing Art on Mondays because it’s a fun and easy activity to do to start our week off.

I am assuming we will finish our life science curriculum this year and be able to move on next year, so if my assumption is correct we will do R.E.A.L Science Odyssey Chemistry.  After this we will have done all of the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey curriculum and I will have to start considering other options.  I like that The Littles can do the program too so it’s another thing we can all do together.  I hope to get another membership to the Museum of Life and Science so we can continue our frequent trips there as well.  I like to do science on Wednesdays because, oddly enough, the museum is less likely to have school groups on Wednesdays AND it’s a good middle of the week subject.

I am still in the works on a French program.  I worry about doing an online program working through Skype, but the teacher we had this school year is out of our budget unless I can get some families interested in splitting the cost.  So far, no takers.  I can probably get the kids through the basics of French on my own, but I really want them to become fluent if it’s at all possible and that’s not going to happen with me being what they hear.  I am always reminded of Tina from my French class in high school saying “Vouloir c’est pouvoir” with the most heavy of southern accents.  I hope the kids can have a more authentic experience.

Beyond curriculum, our social lives will be as busy as ever I am sure.  I am reminded of that Eddie Murphy song, Party All the Time:

(Please excuse me… my age is showing…)

We will continue to participate in various activities and classes as the mood and availability strikes within the 3 homeschool groups we belong.  The classes and field trips that we have done this year have all been so incredible and I hope to do that just as much next year.

This year we have been doing Kinder Co-op with a wonderful group of families, but the organizing moms are moving up next year.  The Littles need this group activity, and I like the idea of not driving an hour to participate like we have been doing this year, so I have reached out to the homeschool group closest to us and received some pretty positive feedback.  I think I will try to organize a Kinder Co-op and while I’m at it,  a co-op for 4th-5th grades for The Princess.

Those wonderful organizing moms from our current Kinder Co-op are considering a Magic School Bus science group.  If they get that going we will definitely participate in it even though it will be an hour away.  If I plan our schedule right, this will be our only real travel day and we will get all of our travelling condensed.  I like that because it means less time wasted in the car.

We were spoiled by the library near the farmhouse because they had some awesome programs, but since it’s an hour away and my goal is to do things closer to home, I suppose I will be trying to find  similar activities.  I have suggested a monthly book club for The Princess. which I think will take off.    I would like to find a good weekly storytime experience, but so far I haven’t found anything close by that I like.

The Princess and my Little Man both want to do some kind of sport activity and I will try to do that.  Of course, they both want to do different things so I will have to work it out with The Husband so we can get them all over town.  I suppose first we need to narrow down what they will be doing.  I’d like to see The Princess in some kind of dance but thus far she hasn’t been real keen on it.  Little Man would do well at soccer so hopefully that can happen now that he is of the right age.  Or we can just continue him in T-Ball.

I’m still hoping to get The Princess involved in the Duke TIP program, but that may be the next year.  I’m not sure how the testing and involvement work with that program; like if we test in late fall if that means we don’t start until August 2017.

The homeschool group closest to home has a fall and spring co-op that is a 3 hour class opportunity.  We are participating this spring and will continue next year in both seasons.  One of the classes this spring that the Little Man has been doing and absolutely loves is “Fun with Legos.”  The Mom that teaches this class has mentioned doing a regular get-together at her house so we will definitely try to make that work in our schedule so he can build and explore.

I really think this is all.  It sounds like a lot and I guess it is.  I’m not sure who decided that what we were doing is homeschooling, but clearly whoever it was does not know what we do.  I love that homeschooling allows us so many opportunities to learn and explore in so many different ways with so many different people.  Our 2016/2017 year will be a busy one, but full of fun.  So… let’s get started!

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