Category Archives: Homeschooling

Maybe the Gratitude is Rubbing Off

Today, I’m thankful for:

  1. The opportunity that I have to teach my children at home so we can focus on learning a concept instead of just being graded on how quickly you can pick it up.
  2. Finishing our school work for the day before lunch today. That almost never happens, and it is so nice to know that we don’t have to go back to it later in the day.
  3. Finishing our school work before the utility worker in the neighborhood shut the electricity off on us for an hour or two. If they had decided to do our house earlier, it would have screwed up our whole day. Instead, they shut it off about 45 minutes after we were finished.
  4. Noah’s sweet generosity. Today is my father’s birthday. When Noah signed his birthday card, he also got a dollar out of his own money and stuck it in the card as his own present to Grandpa. He makes birthday cards for just about everyone in our family, and he always puts money in them. How sweet is that?
  5. Wyatt’s show of gratitude. My mom gave the boys books that she bought for them this evening. Wyatt asked her for a piece of paper, then proceeded to write a thank you note to her for the book. Again, I’m so impressed with my boys!
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Real Education

Before I get on to more important things, can I just say that Julie Chen should fire her stylist over tonight’s outfit? Yes, that’s right, I WATCH BIG BROTHER. And Julie’s finale outfit? She looks like she’s wearing a Snuggie.

 

What do you want to teach your children?

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, but even more so lately. I don’t remember how much I went into it here, but I seriously considered going for complete homeschooling this year instead of using the virtual school. This was because I wanted the freedom to teach my children what I wanted them to learn, including adding things like religious studies (and, in case you are wondering, that doesn’t mean that we would be going on field trips to the Creationism museum where they have Adam and Eve in the Garden with animatronic dinosaurs). Ultimately, though, I chose to stick with the virtual academy because I wanted that paper trail showing that Wyatt started school this year just in case it ever became an issue. Next year, I may feel differently.

The past several days, though, I have been thinking about more than just traditional learning. And a lot of that, I have to admit, has to do with things I am learning to do in my own life.

This is the part where I put my little disclaimer that I’m not criticizing my parents (Hi Mom! Love ya!). Seriously, I’m not. They did so many things right in how they raised all of us, and I have so much to be grateful to them for. And, let’s face it, even with the best effort, we all have things we could have done better.

I want to make sure that my kids develop life skills that will help them become self-reliant. I have reached a point in life where I look back on who I was as a college student and young adult early in my marriage and just think, “Wow, how did I manage when I was so clueless?” I was always really book smart. My parents insisted that I got good grades and threatened to limit my social activities if I didn’t keep up with my studies. They expected a lot out of me in that regard, so I performed. But so many of the skills that I need now? I had no clue.

The really interesting thing to point out, though, is that it was all available to me. My parents are some of the most impressive people that I know when it comes to managing their lives. My mother has always had a garden. She’s always canned food. She sewed everything from dolls to blankets to Halloween costumes to Homecoming dresses as we grew up. My father can fix anything. He took the time to learn about engines and plumbing and wiring so that he can do so many things on his own instead of relying on (and paying) others to do it for him.

All of that knowledge was available to me growing up and I didn’t take the initiative to learn. And, as a parent now, I understand a lot of why my parents probably didn’t push me to learn it all. It takes time and effort (and a whole lot of patience) to teach that stuff to a kid. And when you’re in the middle of it, it is a whole lot quicker (and less frustrating) to just do it yourself. That is the problem I run into with my own kids already. I have so much to do and so little time to do it in that I don’t want to slow down to make them learn how to do it with me.

Incidentally, this is one of the areas where I think my husband truly excels as a parent. As much as it scares the crap out of me on a regular basis, he is always letting the kids be part of what he is doing—even if that means the one-year-old is out there while he’s cutting down trees. Or the three-year-old is rolling a tire around the yard while he’s working on the brakes. Even though I’m the one who spends more time working around our kids, he’s the one who is teaching them more about work because he does it WITH them—I do it AROUND them.

I want to work on this. In the past couple of years, I have been learning to do a lot more things to be self-reliant and I want to make sure that my kids can do them all before they leave our house (unlike my sweet husband, my boys WILL know how to sew on a button so they don’t have to rely on their wives to keep their pants up). I want them to learn how to sew. I want them to know how to garden (and I realize this means letting them do it with me—as much as the thought pains me—and not just in the sense that I try to make them weed it for me). I want them to learn how to preserve food (I canned five quarts of peppers and EIGHTEEN quarts of salsa last week—go me!). I want my kids to know how to fix things so, unlike me, they’ll be able to change tires and oil and whatever else life throws at them.

I want them to be able to take care of themselves because, someday, I won’t be able to do it for them.

What do want to teach your kids?

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Important Life Lessons

As I was getting ready for the day this morning (shortly after scrubbing the carpet because I was stupid enough to put carpet in the dining room and, you know, orange juice BELONGS on the floor), my oldest three boys came running to me.

“Mommy, Mommy! We’re making a band! Can we have tattoos? We can’t be a band without tattoos!”

I am, of course, glad to see that my children have developed a strong awareness of pop culture. So, being the stellar parent that I am, I reached on top of the refrigerator and pulled down the sheets of temporary tattoos kept for just such an emergency. Within minutes of application, they had also retrieved the sashes from their Superman curtains, which were being worn as bandanas. Noah informed me that Eli would be playing the drum solo.

Can I just say how completely my children crack me up? (Of course, I’ve noticed it a lot more since I started putting all of their funny little moments up on Twitter. I guess I didn’t pay as close of attention to how funny they were until I started writing it all down.) Honestly, though, how can you not laugh at three little boys with temporary tattoos, Superman sash bandanas, a toy drum and an acoustic guitar who are “rocking out”?

Since our car has a nifty line in feature that allows us to plug in our MP3 players, we spent a few hours this weekend listening to our favorite songs while travelling back and forth to a family member’s house.  At one point, Sean and I got into a conversation about how wonderful technology is because we were able to expose our kids to the music we like without making them (and us) listen to all of the other crap on the radio. And really, how awesome is it that our kids can sing along to Tom Petty and Aerosmith? Or that Noah regularly asks to listen to Paradise City? Or that Wyatt asked us to play Bohemian Rhapsody a couple of times in a row because he liked the second half so much? Or that Caleb makes awesome “rockin’ out” faces while bobbing his head to the whole darn playlist? (I know, some of you are just shocked by this…) It is parenting nirvana (as opposed to Nirvana, which is not currently on the playlist but has some worthwhile offerings that the kids would probably enjoy…).

My kids are hilarious AND cool.

Changing topics…

I spent an entire hour this morning confused as to why my internet wasn’t working. Wait, backup, let me clarify something. We don’t actually have an internet connection (shocked?). What we DO have is a rockin’ signal booster that allows us to surf off of my (next door) parents’ wireless connection. So, if something goes weird, I reboot the signal booster. Or reboot my laptop. Occasionally, I hold the laptop in the air with the side that I think gets the best reception pointing out the window towards said parents’ house (seriously, I’m that pathetic). If all else fails, I sacrifice a chicken and dance naked streaked in blood.

None of it was working this morning, and we had done all we could with school without an internet connection.

I finally broke down and called my dad.

“Can you reset your wireless for me? I can’t get on the internet.”

“Nope,” was his only reply.

Then it hit me. He was having some electrical work done. He couldn’t reset it because he didn’t have any power. Which was why I couldn’t log onto the internet. Duh.

So I did what any good homeschooling mother would do. I turned on the Science Channel and told them that today’s attendance hours would be brought to them by Junkyard Wars (hey, you learn about mechanics AND get handy environmental lessons about how cool it is to recycle stuff).

I suppose that I could have done things more like they would have encountered in public school. I could have written several lists of rules that would be different for each subject, or had them jump on the trampoline yelling “Go Team!” to replicate a pep rally. Goodness knows how much of my school  time was occupied with things of that nature. And maybe it would have been more effective—after about 15 minutes, Noah was begging to do real school.

Maybe next time I’ll just pull out the Superman curtains and teach the boys to play air guitar for music credit.  I don’t think I’ve exposed them to The Doors yet…

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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

How do you people with a bunch of school-aged children do it?

A couple of weeks ago, I finally sat down with my calendar and scheduled in all of the boys’ soccer games. I instantly felt overwhelmed. Today, Wyatt’s coach sent a practice schedule for the rest of the season.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Can I just say—Sean agreed to being a coach because that was supposed to insure that the boys would at least have their practices on the same days. Those days being Tuesday and Thursday. But the schedule we got today? Most of the practices are days other than Tuesday and Thursday. And that schedule was made by the wife of the person who told us that Sean coaching would mean overlapping practices.

Ugh!

Next week, we will be on the soccer field every day except Monday (a holiday) and Sunday. That is largely due to the fact that Wyatt has two games AND two practices that week.

Add to all of the soccer my commitment to Cub Scouts every week, the fact that Sean’s mother is coming to town in  a week, we are going out of town for a birthday party in a couple weeks, and my mother is planning a BARN RAISING this month (yes, seriously) and I’m wondering if I will survive this month. Hmm…Maybe I should just plan for a nervous breakdown in the next week. The sooner I do it, the more stuff I can get out of for the remainder of the month. 😉

Honestly, though, we’re surviving. I can’t believe that we are already starting our third week of school. I won’t say that it is easy, but we are hitting a groove. I know this because the kids are showing signs that the novelty has worn off for them. Honestly, though, we are doing better than I had feared. Much better. Especially since I was scared of utter failure this time around. But we aren’t failing. And, so far, I feel like I’m interacting with my younger kids more this year than I did during school last year. I’m finding ways to include them in school sometimes and everyone is relatively happy with the arrangement.

I have so much more to say about life, but so little time because I’m so busy living it. And, on that note, I had better close. Tomorrow is my early morning and Caleb just came out burning up, shaking (he’s my only kid that gets the shakes like that when he has a fever), and asking for a barf bowl.

It could be a long night.

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And Now the Real Fun Begins

Before I move on to anything else, let me just be clear on one thing:

You people suck.

Or, at least, those of you who had it in your power to help me out of my kitty conundrum and didn’t.

Yes, the sweet little kitty does now have a permanent home. That’s the problem. Do you have any clue just how difficult it is to nurse a baby with a kitten laying on your chest an head-butting you for attention? Writing this blog post is presenting its own challenges with my furry little friend on my lap begging for attention. And I may never eat a turkey sandwich in peace again.

Yes, people, I am an enormous sucker. I’m also kicking myself for forgetting the fact that absolutely no surface is safe from a cat. Is it even possible to teach them to stay off of the table? Or will this be the thing that finally pushes me into a complete emotional breakdown?

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of emotional breakdowns…

At some point around Saturday evening or Sunday morning, it occurred to me that Monday was the first day of school. (This is why I arranged all of the school supplies BEFORE the baby was born—I knew I wouldn’t be thinking about it once she was here.) So, yeah. Sunday evening I told the kids that, by the way, we would be starting school the next day.

Sean called me Monday afternoon to see how our first day had gone.

“Well,” I told him, “The baby screams if I try to set her down, Noah was crying half-way through our math lesson, Eli has poured out a box of tapioca—TWICE and, oh yeah, I’m pretty sure the ferret is dead.”

To his credit, he said some encouraging things after he finished laughing. To MY credit, I didn’t mention the part where I found the one-year-old playing in the cat litter. (And, yes, the ferret was dead. At least I was expecting it—he had stopped eating a few days earlier and was obviously not doing well.)

Three days into the school year, though, and I’m feeling a bit better about how we’re doing. I’m not saying that I’ve achieved a groove that leaves my house looking anything other than terrifying, but we are doing everything academically that we are supposed to every day. Heck, we’ve even gotten a few extra lessons in here and there.

And that brings me to another confession. I have decided that I’m not keeping track of how much time I spend on lessons this year. I’m just leaving the default times and not stressing about if we are actually doing the time requirement every day. Because you know what? If I sent my kids to public school, they wouldn’t be getting instruction the whole time they were there. Not even close. And I’m not going to drive myself crazy holding myself to a higher standard on something as unimportant as how much time it takes us to do the work if we are DOING THE WORK.

I’m sure that some people will see this as some glaringly dishonest flaw in my character. Undoubtedly, I am mere baby steps from knocking over banks and selling my body to strangers. Oh well. I can live with that.

At least my sanity will have a shot at surviving.

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Where I Resist the Urge to Thumb My Nose at Public School Conventions

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was gearing up for a fight with the online charter school that we use because Wyatt is technically 13 days to young to start kindergarten next year. You see, when the federal government pays your bills, an arbitrary date on the calendar becomes the most important factor in determining a child’s ability to learn.

When I spoke to the principal of the online school, he informed me that my only hope would be to have Wyatt tested for early admission into our public school system. But, he told me, that usually meant scoring very high on an IQ test. He told me that only a few kids had done it since they started the school.

I told him that I would set up the testing with the local school.

I called our local elementary school. Folks, it would appear that people question the system so infrequently that even the school principal didn’t know who the heck was supposed to administer the testing. It took a few more calls before I finally spoke to the school psychologist. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I would like to have my son evaluated for early entrance to kindergarten since he misses the cut-off date by less than two weeks.

Her: Okaaaaaay…We can do that, but he’ll have to be evaluated for readiness.

Me: That’s fine.

Her: That involves an IQ test. (Said slowly–I’m assuming in case my own wasn’t high enough to understand that it might show that my kid is some dolt.) 

Me: That’s fine.

Her: He’d have to score in at least the 95th percentile, which is really high.

Me: OK.

Her: Do you have any reason to believe that he might be able to do that?

I resisted the urge to ask her if she would prefer a portfolio of his professional accomplishments to date, or if it would be better to go straight to the nature side of the discussion and provide her with the academic transcripts of mine and Sean’s families. Instead, I just talked about reading and math and my confidence that he is intelligent enough for kindergarten.

Thursday, I took him to be tested.

The counselor told me the testing would only take 1 1/2 to 2 hours. THREE AND A HALF HOURS LATER, she came out to let me know that they were finished.

I kid you not, the first thing she said to me was, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it. It is working.”

Of course, I told her (honestly) that he deserved way more of the credit than I did. I mean, as she and I were discussing the things she did with him, he was sitting there lining up little blocks and counting them (Look, mom, I have 53!). That is just the way this kid is. She told me that it would take a few days for her to put together the evaluation. I left there feeling that he had done well.

Yesterday afternoon, I went by the school to pick the evaluation up.

I can now officially say that I’m not just another parent who thinks that little Slack Jawed Johnny is “gifted” because he can get so far in Grand Theft Auto. Wyatt’s verbal IQ was in the 97th percentile. His performance IQ was in the 99th percentile. That means his overall IQ was in the 98th percentile.

Of course, that and 50 cents will get you a can of Coke.

OK, ok, it gets you a little more than that. It will also get you accepted into kindergarten even if you are 13 days too young. Which, from what all these school administrators would have me believe, is a nigh unto impossible feat.

Honestly, yes, I am very impressed with my little guy. Not really surprised—after all I’ve seen the things that can happen when he gets bored and those little wheels start turning (lunch in the ceiling, anyone?). I believe that the term is a “dangerous mind.” But it is nice to have official confirmation of what I basically already knew. He’s a bright kid.

Of course, here’s the thing. I’ve known equally bright people who didn’t graduate from high school or otherwise take full advantage of the gift they had been given. And I’ve known “average” people who have done extraordinary things. A high IQ is a great starting point but, honestly, it’s only worth what you do with it. What really counts is how hard you work.

Now, thanks to that test, the work can officially begin.

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Proof that Bribery Works

School’s Out! School’s Out!
Time to let these fools OUT!
No more pencils, no more books,
No more teacher’s dirty looks!

And, believe me people, the dirty looks have abounded around here for weeks now. From Noah, who was so completely over schoolwork, and from me, who was so completely over his attitude.

About a week ago, seeing that we only had about a week and a half to go before we were finished with school, I decided to give Noah some motivation to keep plugging away. I promised him that, the day after we finished, I would take them all to the zoo. Noah, realizing how close the zoo is to one of his favorite cousin’s houses, asked if she could come along, too. I promised to check.

When I mentioned the zoo plans to my mother, she pointed out that Cousin Z~ could only go on a Monday, since she isn’t in school that day and the other day that she is out is when she’s at her mom’s house. This was a problem, since I knew we were set to finish on a Wednesday.

But then I saw how this could all work to my advantage. I called Noah to me and put my evil plan in motion.

“Noah,” I began soberly, “Z~ can only go if we go on Monday. But you won’t be done with school by then, and we can’t go unless you’re finished. The only way we can take Z~ with us is if you do extra lessons before bedtime and finish school before Monday.”

Have I mentioned that I’m sick of doing school at this point, too?

Well, that time before bedtime is when I let my kids watch TV and wind down some. Noah was loathe to give it up. So, every time he complained about the idea, I would just shrug my shoulders and sigh.

“Oh well, I guess we won’t get to go to the zoo on Monday, then.”

And that is how we finished our last lesson about an hour ago.

Noah is so excited that, as soon as I closed the books for the last time, he insisted on calling Sean.

“Daddy, it’s Summer vacation!” was shouted in lieu of a hello.

I’ve already made it clear that, just because the official stuff is over doesn’t mean that we will ignore learning and remembering the things that we have worked on.

But, for now, I have a lot of time freed up. Which is probably a good thing. After the phone conversation I had with the online school people today, I have a feeling I better gear up for a fight. Wyatt is technically 13 days too young to enroll for kindergarten next year. And these people still very much have a public school mentality. Sadly, in their minds, readiness is not proving to be more important than and arbitrary age cut-off.

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