Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homeschooling Year One

We've been homeschooling for almost a year now any my blogging has jumped off the face of the earth.  I have probably lost all of my blog followers this past year.  

Life has become much more busy for us; especially this year as my youngest has also begun preschool.  

I could write a whole blog now just on our homeschooling learning curve.

In a nutshell, this year we are trying out an online charter school.  It has its pros and cons.  The reason I singed onto this is to make it a little easier.  Financially it makes sense. They provide the curriculum and support.  

Easier it has not been, however.  With the benefit of the curriculum, you also have to buy into their expectations as well. Their time frames and grading.  They expect the kids to complete at least eighty percent of the curriculum and there are other projects they are expected to turn in.  We have a teacher visit once a month and monthly work samples to turn in.

I don't think that is bad, but it adds an element of stress.  There was a writing assignment that I didn't even know about  because it was embedded into another website I hadn't checked thoroughly. It was past due and I had to ask for an extension when I found out about it.  We turned something in and the teacher knocked ten percent off for it being late.  

There is always a price; I suppose.

On the other hand, we have curriculum paid for and I have teacher to consult with.
They were flexible when one of the math programs was not a good fit and let us change to a different one.  I have some assurances that my kids are on track if they want to go back to public school.  I also like having an external accountability. It is comforting to me that the responsibility isn't all on my shoulders.

But easier it has not been.  We have yet to find that tranquil homeostasis that others appear to have.?? 

 It has not been utopic or blissful for us.  At times we have had blissful moments, but it has actually been hard.   I do like being with my kids more, but it is intense almost all the time.  Someone is usually having a bad day, or they are fighting or my youngest gets into the chocolate syrup and smears is all over the floor while I'm trying to do a lesson.

We are still in the "first year" and I've heard it can take a year to transition.  We added a second transition by trying out the charter system this September.

We are learning. Some things work some don't.

We are also entering into pre-adolescence.  My son is 11, my daughter is 9, almost 10.  My youngest is almost 4 now.

The hardest part is the whining.  I do not see homeschooling as an escape from life or "work".  I don't want them to see it as a way to "avoid" that.  I do not want my children to grow up thinking they are "entitled" but this culture of entitlement seems to permeate everything.  Media is a hard thing to balance as well.  Minecraft obsessions.  Do you take it away, let them self-moderate, or set boundaries around it?  We chose to set boundaries. One hour a day.

There are things we do that they enjoy and things we do they do not enjoy.  Math is a subject my son is particularly not fond of.  We still have to do it.

Yet, I am researching now how to make it less painful.  I think there may be some ways to make it more fun.

Math is not my strongest subject so it takes extra work for me to figure this out.

We have recently switched to Saxon and Life of Fred. So far it is MUCH better than Acellus for our son.  My daughter is dong Teaching Textbooks and it is pretty easy for her.  I am thinking a balance of standard math and fun math to be the way to go for us.

Me, personally, I may not have been blogging, but I have been writing: A LOT.  I am writing a novel and that seems to be more my path than blogging right now.

I am here right now though, and my focus for this blog must shift, yet again.  Homesteading has been much less a focus since my third child.  It has not been sustainable for us to put so much into gardening and canning, etc.  I miss it, though, but all i have time for is homeschooling, writing, and some knitting for relaxation.

You can do only so much.

At least I can't do it all...

I am sure it will shift yet again.  One thing you can know for sure when you have kids is that your life will not be the same, you will not be the same, your approach to parenting will not be the same from year to year.  We are in yet another stage of parenting as we enter adolescence (and still have a preschool age child).

Homeschooling is also a whole can of worms in and of itself.

At some point, hopefully soon, I will share what we've learned so far on this subject now that we've had nearly a year of it.

I am still feeling new at it, though.  Making mistakes. Still navigating our different options/choices (there are SO MANY-unschooling, classic, Charlotte Mason, School at home, hundreds of curriculum choices etc.)  My kids also have their own unique challenges that may be different from other people's (or not).

I will plan, though, to share what we've learned so far.  (if I have any readers left)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Minimalism Versus Creative Clutter

I am by far not a minimalist.  I agree with many of its tenants and ideals, but currently unable to subscribe.

I get it.  Less stuff. More peace. Less materialism. Clutter causes stress and weighs you down.  Less stuff; less money spent. Americans are wasteful. This is a movement towards being better Americans. I live in Oregon..Portland, Oregon and a huge part of the culture here is "shame on you" if you are cluttered.  Shame on you for your bookshelves and bookshelves of books.

But, to play the devil's advocate as often these trends seem to go the full spectrum. A pendulum rotating from one extreme to the other.  I am going to "wonder" and play with the idea that there might be something wrong with this too--

Just like diet; the one size fit all may not work.  Some people are vegan and some are Paleo, etc..What works for one may not work for others.

I look at my unsuccessful attempts at "minimalism" in a house with 5 people and 3 pets. Three kids outnumbering the adults. I look at what I may need to homeschool them.  Materials and books, and trips out of the house, and exercise, lots of books, lots of paper..Not very minimal and not a lot of time to simplify and clean.   I actually think that having some materials--creative materials around me; books around me, even some clutter around me, to feel comforting; and it puts me at ease.  When I first move into a home and it is bare/stark; I find the need to "fill it"--Not overfill it (mind you) but it seems to cry out, for decoration, purpose, use, creativity.  Could it be that the peacefulness to simplicity could also be looked at in a different way...that perhaps, the vegan/Paleo...Not judging either way of eating..  That there is also a "value" to a "creative" home; one filled with books and paper, and art, and constructing materials...

Maybe there is a really really good minimalist homeschooling family out there..who also "lives" in their home rather than uses it as a museum to visit when they get home from work.  Or someone who does not go crazy with picking things up as their career...(ok that is maybe not for the minimalist, because they have less to pick up, don't they)  (-;  (I mean no disrespect for the minimalist or the person who likes an immaculate home)

I mean to address the shame of not quite being a triangle, when you are a circle.   I think being a minimalist may be a little bit like this.

I think being a minimalist may also be a bit like being thin.  Some can achieve it, while others struggle..Some people may just be inherently round.  (although it is important to be healthy)

I feel shame; is what I am saying.  For not being a triangle in this recent wave.It is the same kind of shame of being unable to be thin.  And shame is not good.

So, I wonder in my own need for some sort of self-acceptance; is it not possible that some people are actually more at "peace" with a little clutter, too.. And maybe that is indeed, why I cannot achieve minimalism.  (that and that blasted thing called ENTROPY)--which especially applies with children in the home.

I have a friend who asked her friends to post on facebook their living rooms as they are; not at best angles, or on a good day, but truly how they look as if someone were to "drop in" right now.  It was wonderful to see the pictures. Real.  I posted mine, but it wasn't the most "telling" room for me. It wasn't "too bad" that day, but it can be..Still, I think bedrooms may be more "telling"...I don't think I'm brave enough to post a bedroom selfie.

Still, perhaps, is it possible that minimalism is not the answer?  I feel so embarrassed in front of them...  Could it be just another form of "puritanism"--

When you diet and diet; then suddenly just want to eat and eat..  ??  Is it really more noble to be a minimalist?  It seems it is much better to be less materialistic and less wasteful (for sure)--but peace=open space?  maybe?  but, if you just can't really do that, and it is not practical for your family of young children who need things to play with, dirt from outside, etc..

Maybe, just maybe I'm just not "there"--but maybe just maybe, there is another option? another way of looking at this; thinking about it that brings less shame.  Maybe its okay to be a little messy and cluttered?

Ok, here was my living room picture.  Don't laugh. It's not really that messy, (it can be much much worse) but it is definitely not minimalist.  My kids homeschool right at that table a lot and my three year old brings out tons of things to do-legos, blocks, tinker toys, books, and they often end up allllll over the floor. There is also a large bookcase on the right full of books; and another book case, with preschool building materials-puzzles, trains, toys, etc..

I loved seeing the other messy pictures of those brave enough to share.  It is comforting to see "real" sometimes; rather than "best foot forward".  Here I am without my airbrushing and makeup.  Here I am when I am not trying to impress anyone.  Relieving really.  This blog is definitely itself a testament to my own imperfections. I write it as flash non-fiction.  I do not correct my grammar a whole lot. It is a journal.  It is raw.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Homeschooling Family Now

Three weeks ago, my daughter began homeschooling as well.  She wanted to be on the "band-wagon" I believe in what I am doing, but it scares me and I have some trepidation to be honest.  A part of me wants the quiet time six hours. A part of me wonders if I will ever be able to have a career. A part of me feels trapped.  Right now it takes a large portion of my mind.  I worry if I am covering enough with them or being too lenient or indulging too much into one topic.

We spent this past month learning about African American History.  My kids now know some key figures. They know what the underground railroad is, segregation, The Civil War. They have also been studying Ocelots and Cheetahs.  We are finishing those units with projects; an essay, and a poster.  They have both been working on fractions on differing levels.  My son is running everyday with the goal of pushing himself to run for longer/farther. My daughter is learning yoga moves.  We are studying the Baha'i Hidden Words 2-3 times a week.

Last week, they were sick and we covered less and were pretty isolated.  I am trying to shake this feeling of end of the winter depression.  It is also like having another child.  Suddenly my life is even less of my own.  It isn't enough to simply supervise my children.  I need to make sure they are learning and becoming the best they can.  There is this ongoing battle of the screen-time.  Minecraft takes up so much of my son's mind.  It is what he looks forward to every day; and it isn't always serving him.  Sometimes, it is isolating and vegetative. It is not the worse game in the world, and it taps some active creativity; but it is addictive.

I am struggling with what I think I am giving up.  There is even less time now to think about being a writer; less time to work on the craft; and I am feeling more and more like I need time off--to compensate for being always "on"--  This may be part of the balance that can take a year to adjust to.   I also feel a loss--a loss of the school community we have been a part of for six years--having that end mid-year is painful to me.  My children do not seem to miss it at all.

Then there is my youngest daughter who is three now and refusing to use the potty. She has it in her mind that the objective is to stop going alltogether.  This is a stressful thing for her to decide to to--My goal with her is keeping her hydrated enough so "holding it"  is not possible.  She is very good at sticking to her guns, though.

I am not feeling very inspiring or inspired right now.  I am grateful my husband is giving me a rest this weekend as much as possible. I am feeling a huge burn-out..and I am trying to figure out what I need to I can keep going on.

I sometimes think of the people who survived or died in the major Tsunami--  I picture trying to hold my childrens' hands keeping myself and them from being carried out to oblivion.  I can imagine the fatigue after awhile--but just trying to hold on--trying to hold on and hoping I can hold on long enough to keep them safe.

I wonder if I'd be able to hold on long enough or have the strength to keep holding on during something like that.

Sometimes it feels like that, though...Day after day..All that needs to be done. All who need to be cared for.  The intensity of it.  It seems to be the right thing to do (for now)--But I'm not totally sure.  It feels like jumping off of a cliff.  Do I really know what I am doing?  What if they get behind?  I'm scared.  They say they are happy.  I'm not sure I am yet..  I feel a loss..

I want to have a magically inspiring experience to report right now. I don't feel that yet..  I feel just sad..  What if this was not the right thing to do?  What if I am just giving in to my kids?  What if I am feeding into their own fears or avoidance of facing difficult things?

I am not doing this to avoid life.  I don't want them to avoid difficulties.  I am doing this because I want them to enjoy learning and be inspired..rather than feeling like learning is painful..  But what if this is avoidance for them?

I am doing this because there is so much potential here, for them to REALLY learn!  But I'm not sure if that is happening yet?  In the educations system, there are checks and balances and ways to measure this learning.  I am not quite doing it like that...Well, that is what the reports are for--

It is hard doing this with another child on board who has very different needs. Am I meeting her needs?  I made flubber and am trying to find things for her too.  It is not the easy road for me..That is for sure.  By nature I am an introvert, and I just signed on for having my kids need me even more--Needing to meet their educations needs now; when that part seemed to be taken care of when they spent 6 hours in a...not brick building.  Now its on my shoulders.  And it stresses me out a bit.  At times it is wonderful, but right now, as I am adjusting, I feel the weight of the responsibility and the work.

I hope hope hope this is a successful experience ultimately.  I do have a feeling it is not easy the first year, though..(or so I've heard)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homeschooling Day One

I ended up homeschooling both of them today, since my daughter was home sick, but not too sick to do some school work at home.

Lots of emotions spinning around for me while I was doing this.

There is the joy--It is fun to teach my children and engage them in ways that seem positive for them.  There is a gaining back of my son..  for now..

Then there is the feeling of, "oh crap!" What am I doing?  I am going to miss having my two older kids at school and the quiet time with my three year old.  I have to give that up-- And it hurts a little.  There is also the feeling of "I am never ever going to be able to do my own thing"--ever. "I am always going to have a child at home for the rest of my life!"  LOL!

It is also TRICKY with a three year old who is resisting being potty-trained.  My son sits down in his chair to learn and she wants to climb up on the chair too!

All in all, though, it was a good "school-day"--We started with a Spiritual Lesson.  For those of you who are Baha'is and reading this, we talked about the first Hidden Word.  He also, read for an hour a book he is reading for a book group today at 4:30 at the library.  He did some fractions practice on IXL webiste. He wrote a story.  He read an article about the Dead Sea and how the water level is getting lower.  He did some spelling vocabulary.. He went out jogging around the block--working on increasing his stamina to go longer.

Not bad.  He was pretty busy and seemingly content about it.  I also saw a much higher quality in his work than I have seen in his class/homework.

So, that is Day One.  I really want to homeschool my daughter too..And she wishes for this as well, but it might be best if she at least finish her third grade year.  I think it would actually be easier to have three children at home all day; and follow our own rhythm with this, than to try to deal with the constraints around her school day..and the after school transition when she is tired, hungry, emotional (sometimes)--

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taking the Giant Leap to Homeschool

This is my son's last week of public school (for now).  He is in the fifth grade and is ten years old.

I feel crazy. I feel scared and stressed out.  I also feel excited and optimistic.

Over the past couple of years, I have seen a marked decline in his creativity and enthusiasm for learning.  This year, it has completely sunk.  It was very hard to get him to even go to his first day of school this year. We knew we were in for it. Usually there is at least some curiosity/excitement about the first day. Not this year.

It has always been in my mind that homeschooling was an option/even a plan for middle school.  We decided not to wait.  Currently, we are debating our daughter, also who is in third grade this year.  Not sure, yet..  I guess we will begin with one child at a time.  (Not counting our three year already at home)

I almost want to just have them all home and not be divided or have the constraint of the school schedule. It is really going to limit what we can do and when we do it.  Still, it might be good for her to finish her third grade year, since she is doing well.  She is expressing, though, that she also wants to homeschool.  We will see.

So, now, I expect my blog will have yet another shift as we explore and discover our own process of this plunge that feels so unconventional..and scary to be doing this!  I feel like someone is going to be knocking on our door demanding why we are not bringing our son to school..  Or checking up on us..or something like that.

I hope I can do this.  It is going to be quite a change.


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