Monday, August 31, 2015

Dads Welcome Too

What do you do when you and your spouse's home school styles differ? Things have been a little strained around home schooling, because my husband and I have two different views about should happen.

As you glean from earlier posts, I lean more towards "give the children free reign to learn what they will." My way is loud and messy. I want to make way for natural learning in math, English, etc.
Picture Courtesy of AHS 2015

He believes there are certain things that should be formally taught, such as math and writing. He also doesn't believe in labeling what we do, but suggests we're just living, learning, and doing what's best for our family. Although, I still think his ideal day is the kids sitting at desks, quietly progressing through the day's work schedule, and being actively engaged for a certain amount of time a day. I assumed he just wanted to recreate formal schooling. Or this was my initial impression of the situation. But, this was incomplete.

I see now it's not so much he wants to recreate public school. First, let me say, I initially wanted him to leave me to my domain and let me do my thing. We use to home school in a classically structured way. It created a quiet, peaceful day and learning was definitely observable. I grew into a more relaxed style, struggling to fully embrace unschooling. Now, the kids and I discuss specific interests, learning objectives, and goals. I assist them in locating resources, classes, and field trips. Formal math instruction time has always been required even though I really wanted to let it go. Based on their interest, we meet our educational requirements for the state. If they need help, I make suggestions or use resources I think they'll enjoy. Each child also chooses year long or short term projects to complete.

Today, I realized his views are a result of what he experiences when he comes home. Lately, our environment has been chaotic and filled with constant sibling arguing. On a whole, we are not honoring and respecting one another as we should. In the past year he's probably heard more complaints about the failure and difficulty of home schooling that ever before. More structure is his answer to my complaints. He's all about "slow" learning, not comparing our children to others, and supporting their interests. I finally realized he's suggesting what he believes creates less stress for us,
 it's not about home school methodology.

I haven't been valuing his opinion about how our children are educated. Maybe, I've set myself up as the Queen of Home Schooling, and he's just a peasant with no input. He doesn't read home school books, blogs, or articles, so he can't possibly know what his children need (said with much sarcasm). I have made light of his suggestions and have a counter for every recommendation. So, I haven't respected and honored him. Many times, he's been on the outside looking into home school, not quite getting jokes or conversations.

We've compromised. He still has certain things he wants to happen in our home school, just like I do. I've made the decision to listen. It's just possible I don't know everything. Math is now his domain. He has chosen a new math program, after listening to the kids say they're tired of Life of Fred. They only want to use them as readers. They're testing the new program out this week and will give him
feedback. He wants to strengthen writing for the children who need it. So, we've gotten new resources. He's willing to use whatever works for each child. He actually suggested not using the writing resource I wanted for all the children because in truth only one child would love it. I'll organize more using Evernote and calendars to help the kids manage their time and document their days.

I plan lots of free time and give space for creativity. At every turn, we incorporate real activities into our lives, and try not to create assignments for no reason. The kids control how fast or slow they  move through material. They are able to say this resource or activity no longer works for me.

Honestly, I haven't exactly put out the welcome mat for my husband. We need my husband's experiences, thoughts, and ideas in our lives. His views aren't wrong, they just add a different flavor to our day. So, our process might change, but not the principles of respect, choice, listening, and love of learning.

How do you incorporate your spouse's ideas into your home school?





Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Choice is Yours

  "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears,"
Nelson Mandela 

I stopped wavering between two masters: fear and peace. I've been afraid to home school and afraid to stop. On one hand, I'm fearful I'm failing my children by home schooling. On the other, I viewed stopping as failure. So, how did I stop the fear and replace it with peace? Honestly, it's an ongoing process. Peace establishes a foundation of hope and fear destroys everything it touches. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your particular circumstances.

Are you taking responsibility for your decisions? More than likely you didn't make this decision on a whim. You took your time to make an informed decision. When the kids are struggling with mastering some bit of knowledge I have two options. I can choose to look back with the grass is greener mentality or I can persevere through the difficulties. So, stop looking back in regret wishing you'd made a different decision. If appropriate, focus on how to move forward. Every obstacle is not necessarily a sign to quit home schooling. Only you can tell the difference.

Are you home schooling out of fear? This does not include instances in which home schooling occurs because of violence, bullying, or any other type of abuse. Don't home school because you're scared of the public school system, the world, or the future. There are no sure roads to success. Fear taints our very being, keeps us from seeing situations clearly, thus affecting every decision. It limits our dreams and hopes. Fear causes us to teach and approach our children negatively. We'll push for earlier and earlier learning, even when we notice signs of distress or unreadiness. It tells us push or she'll get left behind. Push or he'll be a failure at 30 years old. Fear drains our abilities to accurately assess the present and extinguishes hope for the future. Fear can cause us both to jump into and out of home schooling too soon.

Does the situation still exist that caused us to begin home schooling?  For example, if you decided to home school because of learning difficulties and those have been alleviated, maybe home schooling has served its purpose. In our case, we based our decision to home school on our firsthand knowledge of the increasing emphasis on standardized test prepping, and we wanted something different. We felt that teachers were not given the freedom they needed to aid in educating their students. This has only worsened in my opinion.

Is home schooling still a viable option for my family? I have a friend with medical issues and it's physically impossible for her to continue home schooling at the level she desires. Perhaps economic reasons necessitate a change to public or private school.

Are you following your heartfelt convictions and vision or someone else's agenda (whether religious, political, or philosophical)? On the surface, deciding to home school is as simple as filling out a notice of intent and going to traditional school is as easy as setting up a meeting with the local principal. But, it involves so much more. My goal is not to represent a religious or political leaning. Although, I do believe home schooling definitely speaks to certain philosophical ideas. Just make sure they're your beliefs. Also, I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to say there are groups where it is almost demanded that a family home school because everyone in that particular group home schools. Do not allow another family, group, or person decide what's best for your family.
Picture Courtesy of AHS 2015

Are your expectations realistic? Home schooling is not a magic pill, panacea, or utopia. Problems won't suddenly disappear, but  often magnify. Recently, my children discovered a Monarch caught in a spider's web. It held the butterfly firmly in his grasp. At times, I have felt entangled, embarrassed, and embittered by a movement I wanted out of. I once pictured the home school community as a safe haven from the realities of racism, sexism, and economic discrimination. Yes, I  admit to some handholding, kumbaya illusions.

Don't expect perfection or understanding from every adult or child. Some people have some weird notion that we all dress, think, and believe the same things. I get tired of being the only face of color on every field trip, play date, and class we take. This community is not always warm, fuzzy, and accepting as often portrayed, but neither is the world. So, remove those rose-colored lenses, recognize the warts and shortcomings, and pledge to do things differently.  If you came looking for total acceptance by everyone you meet, then you're not basing your decision on reality. Fortunately, there does appear to be a group for every family and lifestyle choice. 

Are you trying to go it alone? When you home school it can be more in your face when people don't really accept you or your children. It is more difficult to connect with other home schoolers depending on where you live. In my previous town people were more out and about in the community than where we live now. So, it was pretty easy to meet new people. People were also less cliquish. Now, everything seems to require some great coordination of calendars and minds. We're having a harder time building community. I choose to regularly drive 45 to an hour away to meet our needs. Find your friends where you can. I have made some the greatest friends through simply hanging out at the library or park with my children. Since I am an introvert, I often force myself to attend activities for my children's sake. If you haven't found your tribe yet, it might just take a little time and effort to find the right fit. Start with Facebook, yahoo groups, and other online forums if necessary. I started commenting on other people's blogs. I haven't actually met my virtual friends in person, but it's nice to know there are others who share my concerns and views.  More and more, I am finding that I need those adult friendships to encourage me to continue home schooling.

I maintain a strong hope for a different sort of education and world for my children that keeps us home schooling, thus involved in the home school community. We're a microcosm of  society. I believe the home school community has an opportunity and responsibility to break down barriers, reach out to include the community, and stop perpetuating old stereotypes.

When I answer these questions for my family, I acknowledge we're right where we need to be. Your answers might be different. If you are rethinking your decision, remember choosing another path is not failure, but simply exercising your right to change course. At the end of the day, I just want to make peace with the decisions we've made.

What other questions are helpful in deciding to continue home schooling or return/enter traditional school?





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Right Place, the Right Time

Last school year, we participated in the 4-H Embryology program. We examined each egg for cracks, marked them to indicate top and bottom, and rotated them two or three times a day. I think it took around 20 or 21 days for the eggs to hatch. The incubator required the proper amount of water for humidity and correct temperature. Extreme fluctuations in either could result in poor hatching. So, it was important to accurately monitor the environment. Upon hatching, we used a heat lamp to keep the baby chicks warm and fed them. With the right conditions, we had healthy chicks. The optimal environment, watching the conditions, and time was all it took.

Picture Courtesy of Art of Home Schoolery 2015
These are the same requirements for our home schools. Right now, I'm working very hard on setting the right environment. I've done a massive decluttering, but haven't determined how I want things set up. Honestly, I don't want a separate home school room, but project or work spaces would be great. I want everything to flow into one another. Considering I'm the worst decorator, as I don't really have a decor theme going on, I'm not sure how this will work. I plan to get the kids involved in the process.

Our art supplies are in a cabinet, so out of sight, out of mind. I donated 10 sticks of glue, threw away tons of broken pencils and crayons, and found unused clay. The kids are constantly complaining about boredom and I found tons of resources. My goal is to have an area where they can see all that's available, thus making it easier to start and complete projects. Every project that we start usually has to be cleaned up before completion. I won't even pull out the sewing machine for this reason.

Lori Pickert's book Project-Based Homeschooling has been a great help. Although her website and book have been around for a couple years, I need a reminder every now and then on how to support the kids' ideas. The book is easier to manage than the website. Basically, I need to do more observing to enable them to direct their own learning. I constantly find the need to remind myself to take it slowly with them. Honestly, I have a tendency to suggest projects when they are too slow, by my standards, to generate their ideas. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to over involve myself in gathering supplies and conducting research, thereby taking over and denying them the opportunity to take ownership. It's time to take a step back. At some point in the incubation process, we stopped turning the eggs to ensure proper development. We had to literally take our hands off them, while still maintaining optimal circumstances.

Most importantly, I'm making time for their interests to manifest. It's hard to deliberately leave time in our schedule for imagination, thinking, and processing. Sometimes, I get caught up in the ability to spit back facts and the awesome things other children are doing and rush/push for my children to follow. My husband constantly reminds me not to compare them to other children. It amazes me how much I learn when I take a backseat. Just like the chicks, with proper care and attention, my children will develop right on time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Monday Morning Blues

Monday was one of my worst days so far. I've had winter blues, spring fever, and now the Monday morning blues. I awoke tired, already behind, and just generally out of sorts. According to an article at PsychCentral.com by Marie Hartwell-Walker (2013)*,  "Monday Blues" might be a sign of emotional concerns. We normally equate it with the start of the work environment, but it speaks to the beginning of my home school week as well. This is a full time job.

Her article highlights six areas to consider, but balance, satisfaction, and attitude resonated with me. Is my life out of balance when it comes to homeschooling? Rarely, do I step outside of home schooling between classes, activities, and projects. Honestly, right now I'm not experiencing the greatest degree of satisfaction with our home school in general. I've written previously about finding that place of joy. So, it all comes down to attitude and the changes I need to make. I woke up thinking about the carpool, practices, schedules, and road trips happening this week. I started off tired. Home schooling, at times, feels like a job I can't quit.

I really blew it yesterday, again. I wanted the house spic and span for the appraiser. It started early with an all week decluttering and cleaning fest, going to bed Monday morning at 1 am because I wanted to finish the downstairs, and waking up early to clean bathrooms. Now, the longer I cleaned the angrier I grew. I refused help because I hate for people to see what needs to be done and then ask me if I need help. Okay, maybe a part of me wanted to play the martyr. So, I completed their chores to get it over since it wouldn't meet my standards anyway. Then, I proceeded to remove everyone's media time for a week since I had to clean their bathroom. One child took an overladen jelly filled sandwich into the newly cleaned living room and stained the carpet. We went to the library and left without books for two children because of arguing and pushing, and a threat of no library for a month. One child had to put back a book on request for two months.  So, we finished the day with the ultimate home school promise/threat: School. Public or private don't really care.

Now, what did I take home from all this? Most importantly, I owe four people apologies for totally losing it. Two, lack of sleep is detrimental to the parenting process. Three, I don't really want to die a martyr's death on the hill of cleanliness. I did all that work for the appraiser to walk through, snap a few pictures, and leave. Four, it is possible to remove cherry jelly from the carpet if you are quick enough. Five, I may have overreacted just a little at the library. Plus, at some point, I'm going to need to go to the library before a month is over. 

Hopefully, Tuesday starts and ends on a better note. 

*Hartwell-Walker, M. (2013). 6 Signs that ‘Monday Morning Blues’ May Be an Emotional Alarm. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 18, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/6-signs-that-monday-morning-blues-may-be-an-emotional-alarm/

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

Today is one of those days when everything seems so pointless. I need something more. My children need something more. It's hard to keep hoping for the impossible. Then, I read poem 303 by Emily Dickinson, "The Soul Selects Her Own Society" (see poem hunter.org). Now, Dickinson isolated herself from society as a whole. Most research I came across says she was shy, possibly psychologically or neurologically impaired, thus pushing her into isolation. Although, But, the year she isolated herself she penned poem 303. I like to think in doing so, she's describing choosing to live life on her own terms, never succumbing to the supposed dictates of society.

The kids and I spent yesterday complaining to my husband how we hate this area and just want to go back home. We're bored, lonely, and want our family and friends. My desire for a tribe, in my local area, without exclusivity and labels appears impossible. 

I don't care about curriculum, co-ops, and classes. It's such a big world and it seems as if home schoolers are closing ranks against it. Contrary to Dickinson's isolation and I started home schooling to enlarge my territory. I dreamed of traveling, meeting people unlike me, and experiencing something outside of my small town upbringing. But, more and more, I see that people want to surround themselves with people who look, sound, and think just like them. I want to meet people with their own thoughts and ideas about life. Why would I need someone to regurgitate my thoughts back to me?

I refused to buy into the idea of home schooling as isolating, and narrow-minded. I don't home school for religious reasons. Since I am Christian, I fall  into a kind of no man's land. I'm not seeking to build a generation of warriors to institute a religious revival. But, I'm also not accepted by those who have a knee-jerk rejection of things Christian. Plus, I'm African-American, in an area where not many of us home school. Everyone is walking around with assumptions based on Fox News or MSNBC. It's all ridiculous. I'm not perfect, but I try hard to engage people based on who they are as individuals. People don't know how to label us, therefore they're not always willing to engage with us. 

Home schooling is a microcosm of the world. So, I don't expect to find open doors everywhere. Just like the world, we often categorize other families by religion, race/ethnicity, socioeconomics, who wears skirts, who doesn't. I try very hard to kick against stereotypes. Does it really come down to assimilation or isolation? We have such an opportunity to break down barriers, but humans tend to recreate what is comfortable. 

Dickinson's poem reminds me that it is up to me to create the society or group of people that I want in our lives. It also means others have the right to create the society they want as well. Our souls don't speak to everyone, so maybe true friendships are composed of a chosen few. What I can do is refuse to duplicate barriers. I retain the right to close the door to exclusivity. I choose how to interact with this life, and hopefully in the process leave the door open for those people who are important to us to enter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keeping It Real

I decided to re-read John Holt's What Do I Do Monday? He attempts to provide teachers with suggestions on how to bridge the gap between the classroom and children's lives. Until this summer, I have failed to gain principles, but looked for rules to follow. Today, I am asking what practical changes can I make in our home, so that we're truly living and learning. I noticed some of my methods were sadly lacking this past year. 

After completing our state's required evaluation, I cleaned out my children's folders as one of my sons looked on. His face said it all. I performed as you asked me to and this is where my effort leads, the trash. Activities that tortured the soul sailed into the garbage.

I'll admit much of what we did was designed to check off a list. I like to have a standby answer for those mom's meeting where everyone is discussing curriculum. I 
can whip out a schedule and course of study with the best of them. As I mentioned in a previous, I love lists and planning. I type unit studies and curriculum guides for fun. Long after my children have moved on I'm plugging away gathering resources. 

But, what is my role if my children don't need me to do this? Where is my place if I don't need to create asinine projects that end in the rubbish? As Holt suggested, are 
we doing things the way people do them in the real world as much as possible? How do I meet my children where they are right now, not where I want them to be? So many questions, but as I grow in understanding, hopefully I will find answers.






Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Remember. Reconnect. Recapture.


Picture Courtesy of Art of Home Schoolery 2015

Laugh for no reason

Attend amusement parks and local fairs

Just do nothing

Catch butterflies in a net

Anti-Coloring Books by Susan Striker

Blow bubbles


Skip Rope, Double Dutch 

Catch fireflies

Watch favorite movies

Backyard Camping

Video Games

Play Tag

Play Hide and Seek

Dye my hair

Watch cartoons

Build with Lego

Read Calvin and Hobbs

Stay up all night just because I can

Complete 39 Clues series, I really need to know why Isabel Kabra is so crazy

Sleep late

Watch a sunrise

Stargaze

Take a dance class

Plant a garden

Play in the rain

Try peak bagging

Watch entire 50 years of Dr. Who

Go iceskating

See wild horses

Look for shark teeth

Go camping

Go skiing

Pull out the art supplies

Play my clarinet

Embrace my scatteredness and call it being a renaissance woman

Sing opera just because my daughter thinks it would be fun

Don't just think outside the box; throw it away

I want to remember the fearless, little girl. I want to reconnect with her creativity, imagination, and zest for life. I want to recapture the joy of living and sharing this moment with my family.

Monday, August 3, 2015

At the End, It's All Trenzalore

The kids and I finished season 7 of Dr. Who on Netflix. This entire season really had me thinking about choices. *Spoiler Alert*  This last season focused on the Doctor rewriting history to avoid his death at Trenzalor. The entire universe is conspiring to end his life to avoid the return of the Time Lords. He travels to remove himself from all of history. But, no matter what measures he takes, Trenzalore is unavoidable. This final battle is destined.

Some place I read about a mom describing her decision to home school as a mistake, which culminated in a divorce. Obviously, I don't know the complete story or the hardcore details. But, the idea appeared to be if she had known the place she'd find herself her choice would differ. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately we don't get do overs. We can't wipe the records clean. I get we want to avoid the bad places. To sum up Pam Larrichia at LivingJoyfully.ca, our decisions are based on our current knowledge. I can't take this forty year old mindset and superimpose it on my twenty or thirty year old self. It's even doubtful I would heed the well-intentioned advice. Life is about choices, and I am responsible for the choices I made and continue to make. Valorie Burton highlights this in her book Successful Women Think Differently. Home schooling and children didn't ruin my life. The universe hasn't conspired to keep me from my destiny. At the end of the day, all of my choices, the good, bad, and ugly, shape me. They led me to this day, this moment. The place I am needed.

I reject the notion of a do over. Oh sure, I might have a little more money, time to myself, or a cleaner house. But, like the Doctor, maybe I'll acknowledge the path to Trenzalore is unavoidable, and that's a good thing. In the end, it is a hesitant journey undertaken, but one of waiting, struggle, hope, salvation, and maybe redemption. But, it's worth the fight.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Dis"Enchanted?

On my morning run, I spent most of the time ruminating over Disney Channel shows. I spend a lot of time explaining to my children and other moms why I hate Disney Channel shows.  Obviously, Disney has perfected the fairy tale comes to the big screen, but TV shows and specials concerned me. My problem with Disney shows have always been the idea that parents are often portrayed as dumb,  men lack authority, and the boys seem nerdy. Of course, I can't speak to the intent of the creators and the ultimate gain. But, what if I change my perspective. With neurons firing and connecting child psychoanalyst (meaning there's a lot of id, ego, superego, Freud lingo) Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales and Disney's TV movie Girl vs Monsters I made peace with Disney. *The views expressed do not constitute a wholesale support of Bruno's Freudian analysis, discredited autism theories, or his professional behavior. I'm simply talking fairy tales.