Tuesday, November 24

A Step I am Thankful For


You home schooling moms know that doing something just for you is not easy. We put so much into our kids that we put personal aspirations on the back burner or we let ourselves go entirely. Personally, due to fairly recent changes in our life story, I am in a process of becoming myself... that person that I knew God had in mind for me is now actually becoming me.

Therefore, a couple months ago I decided to take step one and get out of this rut of self-deprecation before it ruined me. Three times a week I go to a Tae Bo gym. And good things have come out of it.

1. I get to get out of the house for three hours a week.
2. Instead of constantly giving I get to receive something for an hour.
3. I do not have to be the expert. Someone else teaches me and I'm glad to listen.
4. I do not have to talk (or nag or repeat myself) for an entire hour.
5. My clothes fit much, much better.
6. As a mother of boys I think I should learn well how to punch and kick. :-)
7. When I come home I'm a different mom.
8. A homeschooling mom-friend of mine is now coming with me and she likes it too.

I hope to add more steps to my "me" process. But this works for now.

Monday, November 23

An Opportunity I am Thankful For

The Opportunity to Fail

As many homeschoolers do, my kids learn to a level of mastery. We just keep exploring a subject until I feel they have a level of familiarity that merges with their real world experience. (i.e. I try to help them answer the question, "Why should I know this?") In this scenario they always succeed. Awarding grades, therefore, is moot.

This week, my oldest son had the opportunity to "fail." During his theater class, he had the chance to develop a very short play based on Charlotte's Web. I went to watch their production and it, frankly, did not go well. Lines were forgotten, few props and costumes were prepared, backs to the audience, lots of unintentional movements. My son emerged from his class to say, "We will probably get the worst grade of all the groups." He's thinking, "This sucks. " But I'm thinking, "So what?"

He learned something and he's not done learning theater yet. Grades, at this point, are counterproductive for him. There is still more skill and content to learn and the timeline for doing so is not yet up (will it ever be?). But the fact that he has self-impressed himself to move toward a better grade is an opportunity he does not get at home. I'm interested to see where this motivation will take him.

Wednesday, November 18

Taught Himself

One more reason why homeschooling is awesome.
(by B, age 7)

Monday, November 16

Less is More

The day after Thanksgiving, while consumers take part in Black Friday, there is also a quiet counter-cultural observance called Make Something Day. Rather than participating in mob mentality in order to get a $10 microwave (Do you really know someone who needs one? Really?), stay home and make some things to give for Christmas. Here are some of the things we made last year:

1. The Exploding Box. This is a fun take on a photo album. It's a 3 layer box (12 flaps in all...perfect for a photo a month) with a lid. When you lift the lid the box expands so your recipient can immediately catch up with what you've done all year. We made a couple of these for friends and family far away. Google "exploding box instructions" and you'll find several sites to inspire your own version.

2. A Perpetual Calendar. I learned this idea at an independent workshop I took a few years ago. It utilizes a clear 8 1/2 x 11 expanding pocket with tie closure and features 12 pockets in which I slipped lists for every day of every month. My sister-in-law can keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and memorials that she wants to acknowledge throughout the year. I even made some matching cards to get her started. She can tuck the cards into the folder so she has them at the ready to mail.

3. Gift Card Cozies. This is an easy way to recycle t.p. tubes. Fold them flat, glue one end shut, paint them and let dry. Cut a piece of cardstock to fit inside and affix the gift card to it. Decorate and done.

4. Wood Creations. This was the project my 6 year old made for his 2 year old brother (with a lot of help from Grandpa). It's a multitone drum. S loved it. Even the drumsticks are homemade using dowels and super balls. (Make sure you glue those balls on tight!)

5.  Place Card Holders. Grandma likes to dress her table up for all the holidays. Since the boys and I were learning about simple machines right before Christmas, we bought a coping saw and cut out pumpkins and acorns so she could set a proper Thanksgiving table. They cut them out over a period of a couple weeks and then painted them. I cut slits in the top to hold the name cards for her guests.

6. Sewing Projects. It's kind of a crack up but my boys actually love to sew. We had four new white placemats that I knew would never survive our family meals (let alone the fact that there are five of us). So we re-used them for Grandma #2. The boys cut Christmas shapes out of felt, I brought my DMC floss out to the light of day and they each stitched two placemats. Simple and cute.

The day after Thanksgiving, Make Something Day, I enjoyed the company of my friend who was creating her own bath salts while I finished up an Exploding Box. Take the time for conversation and creation this year. Here are some sites for your inspiration:


Wednesday, November 11

Trying a Schedule, Part 2

We are in week 12 of our school year and we were all growing weary of 7-hour learning days. If school work takes until 4:00 in the afternoon then J and I are wasted, B is bored (because his work doesn't take as long) and S turns into a pest because he needs some attention.

I could resort to empty threats ("If you don't finish by such-and-such a time, then we can't go to Tae Kwon Do/swimming/insert other calender event here today.") But I'm not going to ever follow through with them because the calendar events are part of their education too.

So, I tried to lighten the load.

Two weeks ago, because of other forseen interruptions to our schedule (see this post), I took out two subjects. Bye-bye spelling and Topic #2. We don't have time for you right now.

That should do it.

Nope. School was STILL taking until 4:00. Part of it was my fault...I was distracted by my own stuff and tended to give them longer breaks, which means we went longer in the afternoon. Not good. They, in turn, were wiggly and disrespectful... yadda, yadda. I needed to help prod J along because he was dragging miserably. Both boys were goofing off, blaming S for distracting them, stopping their thought process when I left the room to answer the phone and so on and so on.

Then I remembered: A few weeks ago, we had an afternoon field trip planned so I tried a time schedule so we could get there on time and still finish some work at home. It worked really well and I rewarded them accordingly.

Today I tried the time schedule again (see previous post). It worked but J really felt pushed. I don't mind pushing him a little bit. I haven't asked him to do anything that's too difficult for him. If he maintains focus he can get through everything and I built in time at the end so he could finish up what was left undone.

B was done right on schedule (2nd grade is such a piece of cake).
J was encouraged to keep to the schedule and I made note of what he couldn't finish in time so he could wrap it up at the end. We made some negotiations when we did two days of work in one subject. As long as he was focused and moving forward I made concessions and let him succeed. In the end he was only 9 minutes over time. So, I asked him to spend 9 minutes on cleaning his room and we would be square.

B likes the time schedule. I think it keeps me accountable. S liked knowing when his brothers would get a break. J saw that it really IS possible to do everything that's expected of him before 3:00 and we are now headed out to Tae Kwon Do... on time.

Trying a Schedule

We're trying a time schedule today.
9:00 Read Aloud
9:40 Science
10:15 Independent studies
10:40 Math
11:00 Break
11:30 Colorado History
B is done
11:50 J's reading questions
12:30 Lunch
1:30 J's Cause and Effect Article
Then finish what you didn't get done
3:00 Done

We're done with break. I need to go stick to the schedule. I'll be back to give you my thoughts at the end of the day.

Saturday, November 7

Parent Teacher Conferences

You can buy a t-shirt at homeschool conferences that says, "If you see me talking to myself I'm having a Parent Teacher Conference." It cracks me up because it dually draws attention to our moments of insanity and reminds us that we have less things to attend while we tend to our kids.

While I'm not concerned about them missing Prom, freshman hazing, Sweetest Day flower sales, or Pep Rallies, the one thing that I am...was... curious about was Parent Teacher Conferences. I wanted to have that opportunity to hear insights about my kids from someone else. Comparing notes has the potential to really help steer them in a direction that's right for them.

Their Friday Class program had Conferences yesterday. I stayed to talk to all (but one) of their teachers and this is what I heard:

Regarding J:
"He's one of my best students. This comes easy to him." -- Pre-Algebra Teacher
"He zooms through projects and is easily frustrated." -- Art Teacher
"He's got great energy and he's so animated." -- Theater Teacher
"He participates a lot and he has missing assignments." -- Journalism Teacher

Regarding B:
"He's one of the most mature kids in the class. He's a leader." -- Science/Karate Teacher
"He genuinely seems to enjoy the class and he's very respectful." -- Computer Teacher
"He pushes through the hard stuff and he appears excited when he 'gets' things." -- Language Arts Teacher
"He seems to enjoy the process of creating." -- Art Teacher

Funny thing is. I KNOW all these things about my kids. It's just affirming to hear it from someone else.

(Yes, we'll get the missing assignments caught up (on OUR timetable). And we'll make sure he knows it's okay to not like the process of making art, but you still have to be respectful.)

Wednesday, November 4

Flexibility and Balance

There are families who can drop everything in order to do something completely different for a day. We are typically not one of those families. But, sometimes, God gives me a schedule that lets me at least appear flexible. It's pretty cool when that happens.

Last week I took two subjects out of our school days because I knew that we had dentist appointments and company on the calendar. In addition to that we had a major snowstorm, an impromptu babysitting opportunity, and a playdate that we've been needing to do.

We've had a fabulous week and I don't think they missed spelling at all.