homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, August 10, 2015

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE...

...WHEN YOU HAVE "KEEP UP WITH PUBLIC SCHOOL STANDARDS GUILT BUT REALLY,  AN UNSCHOOLING MINDSET
 
A Play In One Act
 
Scene
Suburbia, weekday.
  
MOM
[to self] "Damn it! These writing worksheets have not been touched!"
[yells in an accusing manner as she walks around looking for her offspring] "What are you guys doing?"

C
[constructing a working excavator]

T
[performing taxidermy on a dead woodpecker he found in the woods]

J
"Mama, how do you spell PENGUIN? I am witing a BOOK!"

MOM
"Never mind; carry on."
 

(END)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Homeschooling Snapshot, end of 2014-2015 term

Full disclosure: these prompts are from a website link-up in which I no longer participate...and the host blog has moved and the rules have changed, so oh well. They are good prompts and I'm using them. The idea is that they're to be used for weekly reflection, but I haven't done one in quite a long time, and as I'm doing my term-end paperwork, here's a very general overview encompassing the past year.

In our homeschool:

This year was a mixed bag. I am still (perpetually?) trying to strike that magical balance between flexibility and structure. I felt like we were scrambling much of the time, and I got stressed out a lot, but now that I'm looking back over what we actually did accomplish/cover, we did well. We went on a lot of field trips, we had a few touchstone habits that kept us at least moderately on track with forward momentum, and we still had space for personal exploration. Deep breath. It will be okay.

A disappointing trend, however, is that I found myself focusing on being regimented with grammar and math and just kind of letting science/history/art happen if and when we got around to it. I am starting to wonder how much of that is the nature of skill-based learning as opposed to fact-based learning, and how much of it is--gasp--"teaching to the test". Both school-aged boys were required to take standardized tests this year and I would be lying if I said that it didn't stay in the back of my mind. C constantly asks me if he's "at grade level" and T stressed that if he did poorly on the test, he'd be forced into school. We don't need this kind of pressure. We did this to sidestep that pressure and actually learn.

My favorite thing:

Watching both C and T read for fun. C is more of a natural reader, but once T caught the bug (see the Watterson post, below), it became an activity that was theirs. They eagerly trade, share, and discuss what they're reading. They write their own content. They have secret inside-jokes and they ask me to drive them to the book store and my heart is pretty happy to see this happening.

My least favorite thing:

J is three. A threenager. Threevil. He's adorable and funny and loving and sweet but OMG he's also relentless and annoying and volatile and absolutely thrives on interrupting lessons. Not just with his own natural demands for attention but also sometimes just with spite. "NO! READ *MY* BOOK! NO! I HATE DIS SHOW!" He scribbles on worksheets; he dances in front of documentaries, he bangs on laptops while others are using them. We all needed lots of deep breaths. Homeschooling older kids with a younger child in the mix can be deeply frustrating, and it needs to be acknowledged that he, for reasons beyond his control, was a huge obstacle much of the time. Sigh.

I'm inspired by:

My homeschooling friends. Mary, for trusting her kids. Robyn, for always at least appearing to be organized. Michele, for modeling how to relax. Kathi, for reminding me that our flaws can be pretty funny. Elizabeth, for rolling her eyes when I stress over minutae, and Celishia, for being fiercely unapologetic.

Best resources:

I like Khan Academy. Cayden liked Time4Learning. We all like CNN Student News. I found Super Teacher Worksheets to be well worth the investment. I'm currently fond of the Harcourt Family Learning series of workbooks, and plan to buy their complete graded curriculum for next year (which nearly guarantees that it will suddenly no longer suit us, as these things go LOL). I adore Joy Hakim's "Story of Us" series of American History books, and hope to find something similar for world history (many are steering me toward Story of the World, but I'm balking at price). Of course, we couldn't even consider doing this crazy home education thing without the Internet, a good computer (I just upgraded!), and our awesome regional library system.

I'm working on:

Inner peace. Outer balance. Humility. Patience. Joy.

All of these are ridiculously difficult for me.

I'm reading:

Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. Because escapism. I'm reading lots of classic chapter books with the kids (they loved "Tom Sawyer" and "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH"). I've stopped, for now anyway, reading books on education theory because, as with all of my over-reading when I first became a parent, after a while it all becomes overwhelming and keeps me from just trusting myself.

I'm learning:

More about American history than I was exposed to in school. It's eye-opening. I hope that my kids are absorbing more than the general whitewashed propaganda we all accept. I'm also learning a variety of new ways to do math, because they don't always understand the way I teach. Which is how I was taught. Which I have always done because I was taught that way...and when they look at me, puzzled, and ask WHY or HOW something works and I realize that I don't even understand--well, it's time to take a step back. At past-40, I'm suddenly beginning to be able to do mental math operations and I'm like, Where has this skill been all of my life?

Helpful tips or advice to share:

Dear Future Me: Don't overplan. It doesn't work for you. I know you like the idea of having extended goals and lots of paperwork to keep you on track, but it happens every year that you end up with too many things that don't happen, and you don't need the stress of undone "to-do" items that turned out to be unnecessary. I know you think that it will save you work at the end of the year to do frequent progress reports but let's be honest here: you know your students intimately. You know where their strengths and weaknesses are from day to day, and when you do gather your records at the end of the term, most of that stuff won't even make sense to you anymore.

Keep taking notes in your planner. It's awesome and helpful. Keep saving Internet history. But stop thinking of the year-end scramble to create the portfolio as punishment for poor organization the rest of the year. It isn't. It's just the nature of a review cycle. And you know what? You secretly relish the whole making-order-from-chaos of turning stacks of worksheets into a neat packet of sample work. It's all good. You've got this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dear Bill Watterson

I don't know you. I don't presume to understand your reasons for leaving, or vigilantly avoiding, the public eye. I don't judge your choices, because I am quite sure that you have good reasons that are none of my business. I know that you'll never read this blog post and that you do not want my fan mail. And that's okay.

I'm still writing it. For me.

Mr. Watterson, your Calvin and Hobbes strips remain as appealing and relatable and timeless as when they were first inked. You continue to reach all sorts of readers and make them laugh and think. You continue to gain fans.

Your two newest fans are my eldest and middle children. In a very short span following their discovery of their first Calvin and Hobbes treasury, we have quickly acquired and devoured the entire collection.

The love of these comics has turned my reluctant reader into an engaged reader, and my "meh" reader into a voracious one.

The challenging vocabulary of these comics has pushed both of them to improve their decoding and comprehension skills and learn new words at a rate that random and context-free assignments never could have.

The delight of these comics has served as a springboard for a number of self-motivated projects, many of which have two brothers working joyfully together toward a common goal.

Right now, my kids are creating a tribute comic. For you. They are chattering excitedly, speculating about how you will react. "I bet he'll love this!" "Maybe he'll write back!!"

Right now, it's bittersweet and kind of breaking my heart, because all of my Googling has indicated that you wish to remain private and not receive fan mail. Which I will respect. But still, a part of me aches for them.

But I'm going to let them hang on to that joy for a little while longer. At least until their current project is done. Because they are inspired, and that is no small thing.

Monday, May 11, 2015

On why I do, and don't, blog

I used to update this blog with relative frequency. Lately, not so much. Because reasons. And although every time I pick it up again, I do this same type of "here is my apologetic (or unapologetic) list of reasons why I haven't been creating content in a while", I'm nevertheless going to do it again. For my own benefit. Because reasons. ;)

But seriously, as a blogger and mother and home educator and writer, this is important to me. So read it, or don't. It's for me.

Why I don't, and shouldn't, blog:
  1. I'm too damn busy living my life to justify so much navel-gazing.
  2. I'm probably the only one reading this anyway.
  3. I'm in a constant state of reassessment and reinvention and sometimes my viewpoints change with experience or observation and former assertions may not reflect the person I am now, which makes me feel hypocritical and neurotic.
  4. It feels a bit exhibitionist, and not a little privacy-invading, to put my children on display for public consumption.
  5. Because, really, what is the point?
Why I do, and should, blog:
  1. Because my life is so busy, the time goes by quickly. Even if all I post is a brief vignette, it's nice to look back and reclaim those moments as memories.
  2. If I'm the only one reading this, so what? I didn't start this blog to be a Name. I started it as a diary. If my musings entertain or inform someone, that's cool. If it's just a convenient (and nicely-formatted) diary, well, I still win.
  3. Yup. People change. And it can be interesting (and informative) to revisit old pre- (or mis-) conceptions in the light of current values and try to figure out why I may have changed, and what that might mean (about myself, my children, the process, whatever).
  4. Yup. I'm putting them out there. But as they get older, I tend to screen more of what is shared and respect their comfort levels. It's a difficult thing to navigate, and I hope that I don't someday regret the way I've handled it.
  5. Because, really, doing this helps me to focus. To articulate things that have been swirling around in my thoughts. To ask myself the questions that need to be answered. To remind myself of things. And, as I tried to remind myself with the blog title, to celebrate--both the journey and my travel companions--every day.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

So, about that field trip...

It turns out that the Internet is angry with the Carnegie Science Center today, because *Sparkly Science*. I won't rehash the controversy here; if you don't know the details, a search will certainly give you an idea.

Why I'm posting is because I meant to do this *yesterday*. Before I saw the image or read the story. See, we went to the Science Center earlier this week, and after a very full day of experiences there, this was my strongest impression.

EVERY staff member who took extra time to interact with, explain things to, or answer questions from my sons (and there were many!) was female. Every. One. I am utterly geeked that this has given them a frame of reference to think of *women* as experts in robotics, electrical engineering, etc.

I'm sad to see the story that's getting viral attention...but I suspect that it may be a matter of enrollment/interest on the part of participants. The Science Center is heavily staffed by knowledgeable and engaging women, and as both a mother of sons and someone who self-identifies as a feminist, I'm encouraged by their visibility as STEM spokespeople.


The woman in this photo is (boy I hope my memory is right on this) Ali. She gave a presentation on voltage & electricity and stuck around afterward to address C's *many* questions and provide advice and suggestions for continuing his own investigations. She was an instant Science Hero, and I'm sure that the impact she made on his life will last far beyond yesterday afternoon.