Wednesday, July 30

14 Years

I never thought I’d homeschool my kids. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure that I’d have kids. I wanted to live in a loft in NYC and work in marketing and make life all about me.

But then one Valentine’s Day I went on a first date with this guy I had known for years and, to be honest, never really liked all that much. I was concerned about who he chose as friends, his unpredictability and frankly his direction in life. It turns out that he, in turn, thought I was a snob.

It’s amazing how things change. And that people like us became parents of three little men whom we are trying to teach to be focused, to choose good friends and to know that life isn’t all about them. It’s sooo complex and I can only imagine how much harder it would be to send them away for 6-7 hours a days and still be able to accomplish it.

I could NOT do this without the support of my husband who works at a job he is dispassionate about simply because he is passionate about his family and wants to support us. It’s the ultimate act of love.

I get that.

I could NOT do this without him listening to me ramble about how J needs to do more of this and B is not understanding this and I think that this certain method could work for one but I’m not sure how to integrate the other into it and then there’s always S who seems to complicate things and yet…

He simply says, “You’re doing a great job.”

I could NOT do this without him taking the reigns on the occasional afternoon, cleaning the house because I let it slide until all the other work is done, going to bed without me on Sunday nights because I’m up late prepping for the week, encouraging me to keep on when I absolutely say, “I’m done,” taking the little one out of the room so we can work without him tackling us, and all the other zillion things that he does to support and protect our homeschooling endeavor.

Today we celebrate 14 years of marriage.

And just 14 more years of homeschooling to go.

Tuesday, July 29

The Planning Begins

I’m in the thick of planning and I am letting the boys each pick two topics for us to focus on at some point in our next year. I get to determine the remaining 5 which I’ll pull from our curriculum. Here is what our year looks like so far:

  • 18 days of Flight (J’s pick)
  • 21 days of Biographies
  • 19 days of The Temple/Simple Machines
  • 12 days of China (B’s pick)
  • 19 days of Last Supper and U.S. History 1865-1920 (I’m not sure what the link is either)
  • 12 days of Electricity (J’s pick)
  • 20 days of Resurrection and U.S. History 1920 – present (Again, an odd link)
  • 12 days of Space (B’s pick)
  • 19 days of Art & Music (my pick)

Add to that 16-18 days of Friday School and about 12 field trips or otherwise educational endeavors and you have 180 days to complete the school year IF you live in Washington. However, in Oregon we are not required to do any certain number of days in our school year.


We can kiss those last 12 days good-bye.

  • And every Friday in December and February. Because homeschooling in February bites. (I hear that, “amen.”)
  • And birthdays.
  • And two weeks at Christmas.
  • And two weeks at Easter.
  • And a week to just get away and do something unexpected.

O.K. now that I've planned all the breaks, I'll get back to planning the content.

Friday, July 18

Dead Language

My husband is reading Eldest to J and as a result J is interested in making his own video version of the definitions of some of the words. We've filmed a few words. Now I just need to let him loose on the editing.

I've been wanting to get J working through a foreign language for a while, but I figured I would wait until he seemed interested in one or in the process of learning one in general.

My DH suggested that this might be a good year to begin a language study since he's interested in the "ancient language."

Hmmm. So, I brought it up to J.

Me: Dad and I were wondering if you'd like to begin learning a foreign language this year.

J: {thinks a bit} Sure, as long as it's a dead language.

Me: Oh?

J: Yeah. What are some languages that no one speaks anymore?

Me: {my practical side is mourning} Well, there's Latin or maybe Biblical Greek.

J: No one speaks Greek anymore?

Me: Not Biblical Greek. It'd help you read Scripture. Latin might help you if you go into sciences one day. Or it helps you win spelling bees.

J: {thinks}

Me: You sure you wouldn't rather speak one that you could practice with someone...Spanish. German. French is almost dead.

J: Russian would be good.

Me: {Aha! I'm understanding that it's not about the language, it's just about saying the edgy thing to me} Then again, you don't have to learn one.

J: Yeah, that'd be fine.

Thursday, July 17

You Can’t Force Me, But You Can Make it Appealing.

Every summer I try to stretch my thinking by reading up on a different homeschool approach. “How many are there?” you ask. Several. Trust me.

This summer the approach is unschooling and I’m just about done with John Holt’s, Teach Your Own. I loved the beginning and then it dragged a bit in the middle because it was full of examples of how children learn without being formally “taught” (as in a lesson plan organized by an adult and imposed on a child regardless of his interest or readiness). Included were letters from people who spent the day baking, managing their business, caring for a convalescent father, or playing the violin all with their children nearby and as involved as they wanted to be. Though they took up a lot of book space, I found a lot of merit in the letters and experiences he shared.

Anyone who has ever taught anything knows that you can’t force people to learn. You can force them to perform, to memorize or to regurgitate, but you can’t force them to learn and transform. When we allow children to participate in our work, we help them feel the value of it and the value within themselves. We can give them the opportunity to learn as I do in my unit study approach, or we can seize the opportunities of the day to continue a thought, pursue a question, and be engrossed in discovery as unschooling does.

It’s all very appealing and seems quite free, but then I have to wonder how do you really get to everything…like the basics? It seems that most questions children have would be related to science or history or social studies, but how many times will they say, “Hey Mom, this book contains a really well-written paragraph. Could you show me how to structure one myself?” I think you could incorporate a lot of math into a day, but can you do it without gaps and in a sequence that makes sense like addition before multiplication? I’m not criticizing unschooling, I’m just left wondering how the writing and math happen without imposing an assignment of sorts on the child?

This is a great book to inspire you not only to encourage your children toward learning as they live, but to look into the whole package of what they are getting when they go off to school. According to Holt (and Farenga), school has very little to do with education let alone transformation. We give our kids better opportunities for both by teaching them as we are going. Good stuff to think about.

Monday, July 7

I Don’t Know How You Do It

You know who you are…you year-round homeschoolers. How do you look at these sunny days and squirt guns and even remotely link them to geography and spelling words? I just can’t do it.

Remember that report Jake and I were going to plug away at? Yeah, haven’t even touched it. Which is a bummer for him. He seriously got cheated out of the experience. Ah, well. He did get some experience in researching.

Something about summer screams, “Unstructure your life!” And even though we have things planned, camps and cookouts and camping trips, we have mornings to sleep in and tickle the baby, we have after-dinner time to walk to the playground and we have hours while the little man naps to do nothing. I think we really need to “schedule” more “do-nothing” time.

Turn off the tube and let the kids explore the stuff of the backyard and relationships and creativity. Catch up with friends whose email you’ve neglected. Dream up what comes next in the fall. And if you can do it all on a sunny deck, you’re the better for it.