Make Yourself Proud

The chemistry of our homeschool will change this year. Our oldest son will be headed to college next Friday. The composition, structure, and changes of our household and school will be an adjustment for the entire family. I am not exactly sure what to expect. I do know that emotions will be like a roller coaster ride. Our other three children have been sad about his departure for the most part. Occasionally they are a bit celebratory when he attempts to parent them, rather than being their sibling. But, the reality is that they love him and will miss him. I am excited to watch him on this new journey. However, I must admit that I am feeling sad and anxious. How did the years roll by so quickly? Is he ready for this new step toward adulthood? Did we prepare him well for his future? It is out of my hands now. This is hard to accept, but there is no other choice. It is time to let my baby fly on his own.

I felt a huge weight on my shoulders when I took on the role as his educator. I still feel this weight for our other three children. However, now I know that it is possible to survive and for the children to be successful. I have spent the last four years terrified about planning his high school curriculum as we prepared for his college entrance. We had to work as a team researching the admission requirements for the universities he was interested in attending. I feel a sense of relief in some ways. He was accepted to several universities with scholarships. I discovered that it is possible to homeschool your kids through high school. I have been told that it is conceivable for homeschoolers to be accepted to college, but until he was successful, it was hard to believe. The words to describe my relief do not exist.

Dear Son, here are some things I want you to know. I am proud of you! I love you more than words can express. The future is yours to own. Make good choices. Be passionate and compassionate. Study hard. Make new friends. Enjoy your college years. You need to realize that balance in life is important. Choose your words wisely. Respect your professors and instructors. Call and text us, please. Come home every once in a while. Dad and I are setting you free, but we will always be here for you. Now, go forth being your own person and make yourself proud!

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Homeschool Summer Respite

I love the long, hot days of Georgia summer. The heat rises from the pavement.  A sharp, sting of hot air blasts your face as you exit your air conditioned home. I have always loved this time of year, especially when I lived north. I was never one to enjoy the cold weather and snow. Now, I feel fortunate to live where I can be outside more often than not.

As a homeschool mom, summer feels like respite care. It is time to recharge my batteries. Well, not a complete break, but a change from our usual schedule. I use this time to refine the plan I have set for the fall school year. The kids continue with their usual math lessons. They also read fiction and non-fiction books. We continue learning, but from a different perspective. We include plenty of free playtime. I try hard to plan activities with moderation. I want them to learn how to balance work and play.

Our summer activities in addition to math and reading include:

~ attend swim team practice four evenings a week
~ continue with piano and guitar lessons and practice
~ go to the beach as often as possible – we live near the coast
~ drive back to West Virginia to visit our families
~ art projects
~ attend musicals, go to museums, etc.
~ play board games and card games
~ play outside
~ ride bikes
~ play with Legos
~ watch movies
~ household projects (refinishing antique desk with kids)

These are just a few things that we are doing this summer. How do you spend your homeschool summer? Is it a respite from the typical school year? Do you do the same thing all year? Do you take a full summer break? I would be interested to know how you plan your summer.

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Homeschooling or Circus Act

I needed a break. I needed it more than I can express in words. I felt worn down, frustrated, jolted, and exhausted. The academic year 2012-13 was challenging for me as a mother and as a teacher. My youngest son, who was in seventh grade at the time, is an intelligent, push the parental boundaries type of tweenager. I felt as if I were somehow failing him. I spent a great deal of time thinking and analyzing the situation during the summer of 2013. I developed a plan and moved forward with it. This led me to an unintentional blogging hiatus. I did not have time or the energy to think about or process anything outside of being a mother or teacher. Now, after finishing the 2013-14 academic year, I feel as though I am ready to write again.

My then tween has an uncanny ability to remember almost everything he reads or hears with immense accuracy. He is a chatterbox full of curiosity, ideas, and creativity. He may be extremely focused on a topic, yet easily distracted if the assignment is not high on his priority list. (I would venture to say that many of us experience this type of distraction.) He went down an academic path that sapped my cognitive processes. I would make assignments that would never be turned in to me. When I questioned him, he would tell me that it was misplaced. Somehow all of his assignments were misplaced. When we discussed the material he was studying, it was evident that he was reading the material. However, he chose not to write papers or complete any of the written assignments. I know some people would argue that I should allow him to direct his interest and assignments. Personally, I believe in balance. I discuss interests and learning objectives with all four of my children as we plan each school year. I believe it is important to teach them how to follow directions and complete assignments, even when it is not their number one desire. I provide them opportunities to express their concerns, ask questions, and request assistance. After all, they will be in college someday and their professors will not negotiate. They will have bosses who will have expectations and set deadlines.

I had to determine an appropriate plan for my son. I did not want to discourage his love of learning. Truly, he loves to read, ask questions, research, and analyze information. And, while I needed to pull in the reins on him to teach him that assignments matter, I still had three other children who needed me to let go a little. If only I had the training of a circus high wire performer. I felt this balancing act was about to crash. I discussed the issue to death with my wonderful, supportive husband. I am sure he was tired of listening to my venting. I was feeling self-doubt and failure on my part. Luckily, my husband was standing nearby with a net to catch me just if I fell off the high wire.

I am sure many people would disagree with the approach I used with him. That is fine. The way I see it – children are all different. They are not cut from the same mold. What works with one kid, will not necessarily work with others. Believe me, all four of mine have similarities, yet huge differences as well. What did I do as a solution? Take a deep breath. I failed him for the school year. Yes, you read that correctly. This homeschool mom failed her son on his seventh grade year. This time last year, I would have told you this while hanging my head, trying not to cry. This year, I write about this experience with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Why the change? Initially, it was heartbreaking for all of us. But, he jumped in with both feet and completed all of his seventh grade work by mid-year. He worked every weekend on his school work. I did not tell him to do this. He asked me if he could work hard to get back on track. I told him to turn in his work daily, including his note taking tasks, and we would see how things panned out. We revisited planning, organizing, prioritizing, and decision making. We are constantly working on executive functioning skills at our house. I get to be the frontal lobe for five of us. Hubby is on his own, well, most of the time.

I also had to juggle the schedules of our seven and eight-year-old daughters. I was teaching them basic time management skills and prioritizing assignments. I still had to work individually with them, but I was teaching them the building blocks for independent learning. And, our oldest son was in his senior year of high school. This required monumental patience of guiding his frontal lobe to be certain that he was completing everything necessary to be accepted to college. Now, that is a blog post of its own. So, I’ll drop that topic for the moment.

There you have it. I was on a blogging hiatus in order to go through homeschool circus training. And, what did I learn?

1. This homeschooling journey is a balancing act. Sometimes the wind will nearly knock you off the high wire.

2. Sometimes the animals have their own agenda. You have to find out what makes each one tick and work with them.

3. The animals need boundaries. They all need love, and encouragement. And, when they fail to perform as expected, they need more boundaries, love, and encouragement.

4. You will feel like you are falling from the high wire at times. Hang tight and look for your safety net. Who is there to support you?

5. Remember why you began this journey. Look at where you were at the beginning, and how far you have traveled.

6. Laugh. Cry. Laugh until you cry. Then, laugh some more.

I hope to get back to weekly posts. And, for those of you who are wondering, I am referring to my children as animals in jest. Also, by no means do I support the cruel acts of circus animal training – just so you know. Most importantly, my son finished seventh and eight grade in one year. He is on track to be a freshman in the fall. His work for both grades were thorough and impressive. Now, you will find me smiling. I am proud of what he accomplished.

Chaos or Learning?

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Piano music permeates the living room.  Clank, clank, clank of dishes being put away in the kitchen cabinets.  The sound of computer keys lightly clacking in the breakfast area.   A voice conducting math instructions and making assignments.   Good morning, folks!  You have just entered our house on a typical school day.

I often wonder what people think when they enter our home during school hours.  Typically, we don’t have visitors on school days.  However, since moving south, we have learned that you need to have a bond with exterminators so that termites and other interesting insects do not invade and destroy the house.  Every three months, the “bugman” makes his visit to our home.  We conduct  school as always.  Occasionally, the kids get a short lesson on insects and other creatures from our exterminator.  He kindly answers the kid’s questions and sometimes provides a short mini-lesson spontaneously.  I wonder what he thinks as he pulls out of the driveway.  Maybe I don’t want to know his thoughts. <chuckle>

The face of homeschooling is diverse.  What you might see in my home is different that another family who chooses to homeschool.  There is no right or wrong way to do it.  What I do know about the chaos:  learning is happening right before my eyes.  It might not look organized to someone who walks through the door.  However, it is orchestrated.  Seriously, have you ever walked into a public or private classroom and wondered, “What is going on in here?  What is happening?”  Yes, good school teachers organize their chaos too.  It is like the idiom, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  What is chaos to you is learning in action to us.  Obviously, there are times we need silence for a particular assignment.  We make silence happen.  But, most of the time by the end of the day, my ears are exhausted.  Tired from the sounds of computer keys, chores being completed, scissors being used to cut paper, questions being asked, hearing my voice, and so much more.  I long for the silence of the night; those few hours that I have between getting up and down with children.  But, when the silence finally arrives, I think about all the learning that I had the pleasure of witnessing.  This makes those sounds of our homeschool environment all the more pleasing to my tympanic membranes.

Approach to Teaching: Flexibility and Research

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“If a child can’t learn in the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” ~Ignacio Estrada

I have always believed in approaching my patients in speech-language therapy this way.  When I taught speech-language pathology students and supervised new graduates, I would tell them to assess what they are doing as a therapist before assuming a patient would not make further progress.  Now, this quote inspires me as I homeschool my children.

Have you ever presented a brilliant lesson, yet your child looks at you as if you have two heads?  Your well executed plan deflated right before your eyes.  You try multiple times, but with each attempt your progress halts.  Yes, it has happened to me.  What can you do in this situation?  Here is my approach:

1.  Ask the child to explain what she learned from the lesson in her own words.  This allows you the opportunity to figure out what information she has correct, and what you need to adjust in your explanation.

2.  Evaluate your method of teaching the topic.  Find another way to explain it.  Use different words.  Does the child know the definitions of the words you are using?  Ask them what is confusing to them.

3.  Ask other people how they would explain the topic.  Use Google to search for other ways of teaching the topic.  You might be surprised at how many ideas are readily available.

4.  Let a sibling attempt to explain the information.  Even my younger children have been able to help the older ones.  They are “nosy” and listen to everything going on around them while they continue with their own schoolwork.  They may not explain it all correctly, but often they will say something that triggers a lightbulb moment for the older ones.

5.  If they become frustrated, dismiss the topic for a while and return to it at a later date.  Is the child tired?  Are you tired?  If it is a building block for the next topic you have planned, well, change your plans.  Flexibility is the key.

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“The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.”   ~Alice Wellington Rollins

I believe the more you learn, the more questions you formulate.  A couple of months ago, a mom asked me, “What do you do if your kids ask you a question you can’t answer?  I would just die if i couldn’t answer their question.”  My response, “We research the answers together.”  Whether or not you homeschool, your children are going to ask questions.  As a parent or a teacher, you do not have all the answers.  Education is learning out how to find answers.  It is important to show them that learning occurs over a lifetime.  It is not about memorizing facts, but learning what to do with the facts you have learned.  Applying knowledge and making decisions based on the research they have conducted.  Teaching them how to find reliable sources.  This is how we look at education in our house.

 

Liebster Award

 

Liebster Award

 

I would like to thank MingoMomma for nominating me for a Liebster Blog Award.  She is an energetic and positive homeschool mom, raising a daughter and a son.  She has many interests, first being her family.  She enjoys cooking, gardening, and photography.  I enjoy reading her blog, which is genuine, caring, full ideas and love for her family.  I am honored that she enjoys reading my blog enough to nominate me for this award.  The Liebster Blog Award acceptance means that I must answer the questions presented to me by this inspiring homeschool mom.

Who inspires you?  My husband inspires me.  He is dedicated to our family, in addition to his career as a professor and researcher.  He is forward thinking, loving, kind heart, and a wonderful father.  My parents inspire me with their compassion for others and their decision to always take the high road, even when others are not so kind.  And, good-hearted people in general inspire me.  When I see the love and dedication others provide for their families, friends, and strangers I feel a restoration of humanity in my heart.  People who advocate, provide care, and love children and adults with special needs uplift my spirits.  

What is the hardest part about blogging, if any?  The hardest part about blogging is finding time to write.  Currently, I write in between everything  happening in our household of six.  Often, I write in the midst of chaos, which is not any different than many bloggers.  I am not sure if it is a sign I am aging or the busyness happening all around me, but words seem to escape my lexicon on occasion.  And, I do not have time for that minor problem.  :)  

What is your favorite quote?  “A person’s a person no matter how small.” ~Dr. Seuss

What is your favorite dessert?  Oh, I love dessert!  Do I have to pick just one?  I would have to say anything with chocolate is high on my list.  Our family eats a plant based diet.  We began this adventure two years ago.  And, I thought desserts would be out of my life, but I was so wrong.  There are many fantastic vegan chocolate desserts!  

What skill do you wish you had taken the time to learn when you were growing up?  I wish I would have learned to sew.  I can do simple things such as sewing a button or hem, and making pillow case dresses.  However, I should have learned the craft from my mom when I was younger.  She can sew anything!  Now, I attempt projects and call my mom for help.  She lives 11 hours away.  Thus, we discuss the projects by telephone.  Although, little does she know, I plan on having her Skype with me regarding a few sewing projects.  :)  I would like to incorporate sewing into a few math lessons.  Seriously, think of all the math that comes with it.  

What is the one activity you wish you had the time to pursue?  There are many activities I would like to pursue.  But, one thing I really would like to finish is decorating our house.  I jumped into homeschooling and a move to a new state all at the same time.  The house was unpacked and ready to go within our first month of arrival, however, the little decorating details have not been completed.  I have a grand plan in my mind, but I lack the time to finish it at the moment.  Someday, it will all come together.  

If money were no issue, where would you like to travel?  I would like to see every state in the U.S.  Currently, I have traveled to 39 states.  Also, I want visit Australia and Europe.  I have my iPhone set to respond to me with an Australian accent.    

What is your favorite holiday?  This is a hard question.  I love Halloween and Christmas!   We make our own Halloween costumes.  It is a fun family activity.  Everyone shares ideas and pitches in with manpower.  And, at Christmas I enjoy trying to pick just the right gift for each of the kids and my husband.  I do not like to purchase items for the sake of buying them.  I enjoy the process of thinking about each person and what item would be the most unusual, yet loved.  And, it is not about expensive items.  It can be simple.  But, I like it to be something that surprises them.  Also, I love family activities at Christmas, which includes traveling back home to West Virginia where many of our relatives and friends reside.  

What is your favorite pastime?  I enjoy running, yoga, biking, reading, photography, cooking, baking, movies, crafting, and just hanging out with my family.  Typically, all of my pastime activities include the family.  We exercise, cook, craft, and watch movies together.  

What book are you currently reading? Currently, I am reading: What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland; Wonder by R.J. Palacio with my two youngest daughters; and, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum.  I highly recommend these books.  

Do you play a musical instrument?  I used to play musical instruments, but now I do not have the time to practice.  I can pick out songs on the piano.  And, I am relearning the recorder with my daughters.  

Now, it is my turn to nominate other bloggers for this award.  These blogs are full of good ideas, life experiences, recipes, and much more!  If you get a chance to check out these blogs, I think you will enjoy them.

To the winners, if you would like to pass this award on, you can post about this award on your own blog with your own nominations. One of the rules for the Liebster Blog Award is to post your answers to the questions above that I answered.  This will allow me to know you a little better!

Congratulations to the following bloggers:

1.  Quarks and Quirks

2.  From the Mom Cave (She contributed entries in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book I am reading.)

3.  Fitting into Vegan

4.  Roxane’s Natural Kitchen

5.  Homereferee’s Blog

Keeping My Sanity

Run, breathe, and downward-facing dog:  what do these words have in common?  Any ideas?  Yes, exercise is one good answer.  But another commonality for me is keeping sane during my life detour.  I find myself spending day after day, hour after hour working constantly for the munchkins in our house.  Now, I do not mean waiting on them hand and foot.  But, the constant feeling of being responsible for their education and future success does weigh heavy on me.  I am constantly researching, planning, grading, and driving myself batty over educating them.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love it.  But, I need an outlet.  So, I run, breathe, and get out my yoga mat.  I manage to do this by incorporating it into our school days.  We get our blood flowing first thing in the morning with yoga.  Amazingly, since putting this in our routine, I have noticed a huge difference in attention and focus of our children.  I feel more awake and energized to handle the day, not to mention the increased flexibility that has returned to my aging body.  All four of our children are on the local recreational swim team.  While they are at practice two evenings a week, my husband and I take turns running while the other stays at practice with the kids.  Those days, I run with a friend of mine.  We have increased our miles recently.  We began with two miles and now pump out five.  No, I am not a marathoner.  I am just a mom trying to stay healthy and sane.  Although, we have entered 5K races as a way to set goals.  My husband and I run together on the weekends.  We put our daughters on their bikes and we run behind them.  We try to run six to eight miles on weekends.  Our sons run as well.  This is my first step to securing sanity, teaching our children that exercise is important, and getting a great endorphin rush.

How do you feel after laughing so hard that you can barely breathe?  There is that word again, breathe.  You get winded during exercise as well as when you laugh so hard your sides feel as though they are splitting.  It feels good.  Blood full of oxygen is flowing to your brain and muscles.  I laugh as often as possible.  Mostly, I laugh at myself, my husband, our children, my parents, and siblings.  (Thankfully, they know how much I love them.)  I even laugh while running with my friend.  Now, this does pose a little difficulty.  Talk about needing to breathe.  And, my dear email group of motivational running gals make me laugh.  We encourage each other via email, and frequently someone will write something that causes me to laugh.  Truly, I am fortunate to have a variety of friends.  Some love sarcasm and the nerdy/dorky sense of humor as much as I love it.  Of course, there is the group of dirty minded friends, who always catch me with innocent comments, and turn them around on me.  Really.  What can you do but laugh?  Laughter helps me maintain sanity.

Writing.  I love to write.  I am out of practice.  I have put my children before my work and hobbies.  But, recently I have tried to find my writing voice again.  I have nearly completed a children’s book, several others are in the works, along with the beginning outline of a young adult book.  Eventually, I plan to put the books in a binding for my children.  I do not plan on going through the publication process.  I just want my kids to have my silly stories bound for their children.  Additionally, this blog about my life detour helps me keep my marbles.  I write in short snippets of time between lessons, grading, planning, cooking, continuing education units (keeping my speech-language pathology license), exercising, continuous chatter and endless questions.  I am acquiring a new skill while keeping my sanity:  learning to write in chaos.  And, my friends have assured me it is possible.

So, there you have it.  This homeschooling mom keeps her sanity by exercising, laughing, and writing.  How do you keep your sanity?  We all lead busy lives.  How do you manage it?