Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Need Motivation!

I have been lazy.  Well considering the undertaking, that I undertook this past year I am being a little hard on myself.  Something I am very good at.  I did start homeschooling, without having a clue as to what I was doing.  I have another blog, about my homeschooling journey at this link. One reason I haven't been blogging, I felt inadequate.  I wanted this perfectly written, intellectual, informational and smart blog.  I was going to give parenting advice through trials of my own.  I don't care anymore, I am not a perfect parent, we have our struggles (as does everyone), I have tried a million different "proven" techniques.  I like my technique, which is mine alone, it is not something I can tell another parent how to do, these are my kids.  It works for me.  You have your own kids, your own technique, as long as it works for you and you are happy, who cares if it didn't come from some world renowned child psychologist.  Everyone's family is a little dysfunctional, even if you don't want to admit it.  I kind of prefer a little crazy, it makes life more interesting.

Speaking on being lazy, I have decided I need a schedule - for me.  I need to figure out how and when to fit things that I need/want to do into my days.  Like exercise for one, something I have been greatly neglecting.  The main reason I need a schedule, is so that I can start helping with our finances.  Finances to me are overwhelming, and since I made the decision to stay at home I have not felt it was my place.  I am now sure that it is, and I need a budget.  I need a budget for fun things, field trips, and extras for my daughter who is now a teen.  I need to know consistently what I can spend.  I also think we waste more money, than we actually think we do.  Make sense?

Today, I am going to dive in head first, and probably become totally overwhelmed, but I am going to figure out what all our bills are.  I will be making a list, and I hate lists.  

I also have to write a disclaimer, that I may make a little money (if I am lucky) with the links on this blog, though I am not crossing my fingers

Friday, December 13, 2013

Loosen Up! First Year Homeschool Lessons.

Here I am again enjoying a nice glass of wine.  Watching a Christmas movie with my family.  Getting ready to do a lot of baking tomorrow.  We are going to make goody plates and bring to a few of our neighbors. 

I have been so worried since we started homeschooling about where my kids are supposed to be academically.  I have been trying to keep them in the academic area that the public schools/standards tell me they are supposed to be.  I have completely forgotten, I did this for a reason; to help them achieve their personal best.  NOT, what some standard says should be their personal best, at a certain age or stage of their young lives.  I received some very good advice, on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, "Start your children where they are at, not where they should be." 

I can try and force them to try and be where the "standards" say they should be, but that isn't helping them.  If they are more advanced than the standards, I am just holding them back.  If they are falling behind in a certain standard, I am just further confusing them.  Today, I made them do math and my 12-yr-old daughter some pipework.  Then they did absolutely nothing, but watch "The Magic School Bus", while I ran to the store.  My husband, I think thought I was crazy, but we needed a change.  I have been trying so hard to mimic an actual school setting, and it is not working.  It isn't inspiring the love for learning, that they should have, that the public school is so good at losing.   

So, I am going to loosen up, hard as it may be, and do what works for us. "Doing what works for us", is still a learning experience with mistakes, sometimes many.  This is our first year, I think we are allowed a few mistakes.  I just need to learn to allow myself the ability to make mistakes, something I don't like to do.  I have spent so long trying not to make mistakes, that I have forgotten who I am. 

Mistakes are part of life, and that is important for kids to learn as well.  If we help them learn from and accept the fact that mistakes are part of life, they will grow into well adjusted adults. 

Helpful links:

Homeschool Helpers (Pinterest)
Please Don't Help My Kids (Very good read!)
Fun Kids Crafts (Pinterest)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Secret Life of Walter Mitty, That's Me.

I believe the title about sums it all up.  My husband who just got home and has been gone all week, and left me behind with a bunch of savages, I know right.  Savages whom, I love dearly.  Sometimes it is nice to have a little peace and quiet.  I don't get that very often. 

So.  Here I am, locked in my bedroom.  Do you hear the quiet?  I am pretending that I am in my hotel room, all by myself, drink by my side.  Those noisy kids downstairs, are that annoying couple's below me.  I decided to live the "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for a few minutes.

Ahhh, and here I am exploring space.  Sometimes my brain needs a break, my kids during the day get brain breaks.  I will call this short few minutes of mine, a space break.  Why? Because I am allowing myself to "space-out" for a few.  It feels wonderful! 

I have always been one who needs some space and quiet.  Once you have kids, it's funny how those opportunities can slip through the cracks.  Usually I feel guilty about taking any time for myself, but today is not one of those times.  Overstimulation is the word they use for babies.  Some people, even people I know, think that is crazy talk.  I for one, know it is, most certainly, true.  Having experienced it quite frequently myself. 

So now that I have unwound, I am ready to deal with my 3 lovely savages, with the calmness of mind a mother should possess.  Question is.  Are they ready for me.  A week alone, homeschooling 3 kids, 2 dogs with not much sleep, requires a decent space break, when the beast gets home.  Plus, not to be gross, but I have to get out of here, the people who stayed in this room before me, they forgot their dog.  She just let one fly, and I think I am going to die.  (boy humor) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Letting Go

Sitting here in my husband's chair, admiring the Christmas tree, while my kids watch "The Santa Clause", thinking about how fast this last few months has gone. I am slowly gaining confidence in my own abilities to adapt, change and teach my kids. There are still more days where I am constantly wondering if I am doing enough. Our days are still pretty structured, when it comes to subjects. I am trying to find ways to let go of the traditional school setting structure. It is harder than I thought it would be, and I am pretty laid back. One thing I am sure of is, that homeschooling is the right thing for us now. I am also so very thankful I have a husband who supports me in this crazy adventure.

One thing I have been struggling with is, letting go of the traditional school structure.  I know that being a little more flexible and fun, would be very beneficial to all of my kids.  I want my kids to be independent thinkers, no robots who just do what we tell them to "because we said so".  I am starting by giving them a few choices during the day, making math as short and fun as possible, and implementing more rewards for hard work and good behavior.  In fact, I have spent so much time researching, finding and saving resources that I forget what I have.  I did make an advent calendar for them, we have started reading a bible verse a day for advent as well.
The Advent bible reading we are doing.

Our Advent calendar.
Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, we rarely attend church, and here I am teaching them bible lessons.  I believe this is important, and I have no really good excuse for not going to church.  It is called being lazy.  I like sleeping in, I know bad excuse.  One of my goals is to really try to start attending church, we have a really good one not far from us.  They have a great children's program as well.  

One thing I have found is a huge support system, here where we live.  There are a ton of groups on Facebook, international, national and local homeschooling groups.  I have learned an exorbitant amount of information from these wonderful women.  My kids now go to the Y for homeschool gym/swim classes, and have met some really nice friends, plus I get to workout.  There are scheduled field trips and even sports teams.  

Easy Peasy also has support groups on Facebook.  

I also wanted to share a fun Christmas themed math game I found online, through TeachersPayTeachers, called Santa's Sleigh Drop.  It is a subtraction game, I printed it out, we are going to play it for math tomorrow with my 8-yr-old.

Here are some more websites that we use to supplement:
I hope these links are helpful.  One piece of advice I am going to give because I keep hearing it myself.  When you choose to homeschool, for whatever reason, stop worrying about what others think.  I need to work on this one, and I need to work on my expectations.  I am doing this, so that my kids can learn to love learning again.  Yes, I am going to make mistakes.  Mistakes are the way we learn.
"Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement."
 ~ Henry Ford

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crazy - Homeschool - Pinterest - Rambling

There are days that I think I have literally bitten off more than I can chew.  Today would be one of those.  For those that don't have a clue as to what I am rambling about, we have been homeschooling for the past month.  I am not 100% sure of myself, or our daily routine.  We are still learning, testing, trying, stumbling, grumbling (me) and their are days we are soaring.  All kids are different, which is good we want them to be individuals, not clones.  My 12-yr-old daughter gets up and works, she tries all the time.  My 8-yr-old son on the other hand, he has to test, I am starting to think he likes being difficult.  I swear when he grows up he is destined to be a lawyer.  My 4-yr-old he mostly runs around the house all day believing he is a Power Ranger, doing ninja moves and the appropriate sound effects.  I am not joking when I say all day.  I could copy his moves and have the next new exercise fad.  When we work on his letters or numbers if he wants, he does sit down and do them.  I am rambling, the point of this paragraph is why we chose to go this route.  We weren't happy with what our kids were being taught and the pace at which they move them along.  Everyone has to stay at the same pace, there is not any extra time to stop and pause, not with the new crappy standards.  Look up "Push down effect". 

We started with Connections Academy, thinking it would be easier.  If you like traditional school structure and pace, then Connections Academy might be for you.  It was too rigid and there is a lot of busy work, and it moves fast, if not faster than brick & mortar schools.  We spent 9+ hours per day, with my 12-yr-old on average.  It was a stressful experience.  I am glad we did it, because I was able to see where my kids excelled and where they were struggling.

We now are using Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool, it is free.  The lady who put the site together is an angel.  I can't believe the amount of work she put into this, that and the fact that it is free.  When I decided I wanted to homeschool, looking at all the curriculum available is overwhelming.  Easy Peasy has helped us get started.  It has been a God send.  The curriculum is very good, she uses a lot of classic english, the old McGuffy Readers.  I was a little hesitant about that, especially with an 8-yr-old boy.  Miracle of miracles, he actually really likes it, poems and all.

There are things that my kids don't like, so for these I try to find replacement ideas.  Of all dangerous places to find these is Pinterest.  Pinterest has a ton of resources for homeschooling, and of course all the other goodies that make you lose track of time.  We also use our local library to supplement some things.  We have also found another helpful site, that I love for history.  It is Ducksters, they have tons of information (kid-friendly) and quizzes to go with the history portion. 

Yes, I get frustrated, extremely so sometimes.  I do believe it is worth it, my kids are able to excel in the areas they excel, and are able to master a concept they are having a hard time with.  No pressure.  I am pretty sure my 8-yr-old son is feeling some pressure, since he insists on arguing with me on a daily basis.  Which if I can channel that he will be an excellent lawyer one day if that is his chosen career path.  We are still learning, tweaking and figuring out how we can all work together, learn together and have fun.  I think the latter is more important, if I can figure out how to do that consistently, then maybe they will think learning is fun.

Some Pinterest boards to follow:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hectic Homeschooling

It has been a wild ride these last few months.  We started out with Connections Academy, a virtual public school (they also have a private school) to try and improve our children's educational experience.  As most of you know, in school now they move extremely fast. If someone isn't understanding it the way it is being explained, they have to just move them all along like cattle in order to stay on schedule.  The schedule of the new and disastrous Common Core Standards.  My daughter's 5th grade teacher, whom was wonderful, actually told my daughter that "you are kind of getting it, so we have to move you guys along with the rest of the class".  There is no freedom in teaching anymore, if you can read and follow a manual (and have some patience) you can teach.  I only know this from my Connections Academy experience.  For my 2nd grade son, I was sent an at least 1" thick manual, going step-by-step what to say for each lesson, what questions to ask, what the answer should be or at least resemble.  My kids, when they saw these, said "Hey! My teacher had a book just like that."  Granted, I believe that most teachers go into education because they love kids and want to make a difference.  My daughters 5th grade teacher, and my sons 1st grade teacher were wonderful.  I am not blaming teachers, I am blaming the government officials that have taken the fun, creativity and even sometimes spontaneity out of the classroom; for the cookie-cutter one size fits all mentality. Well, now I am just rambling.  To cut to the point.  We pulled our kids from Connections Academy, the public option, is not flexible or individualized as advertised.  In fact, we found that it moved even faster, and there was even more work (busy-work) than regular B&M schools.  It was so stressful.  My 6th grade daughter, was spending 9+ hours each day on school, that is taking out her 1-hour lunch.  Considering most people only work an 8 hour day, that is ridiculous.  She was in tears almost everyday.  My son, who is in 2nd, I could get him to finish in 5-6 hours.  There was no individualized plan, you had to move along, there was not much time to stop and really work on a concept that they were struggling on.  I don't know about the private option, but the public is not flexible, nor individualized.  So we took the leap, and I am homeschooling.

This about sums up a typical day with my 8-yr-old son.

I never in my life dreamed I would homeschool.  Yet, here I am.  I have learned so much about my kids, what their strengths and weaknesses are.  I have incorporated these into our school day.  I am by no means an expert, or even sure of what I am doing all the time.  I doubt myself constantly.  I also know that I am giving my kids the chance to master concepts that they were struggling with, and I can push them on things they excel at.  For instance, my 8-yr-old son, excels at reading.  He reads beyond his grade-level, so I let him.  He hated writing, that is because he had to write about stupid things, that wouldn't even come close to interesting a boy.  I don't make him write a whole lot, when he does, it is a good sentence, or two, maybe three.  Guess what? His handwriting has drastically improved, in fact he has extremely nice writing now, especially for a boy in second grade!  When it comes to math, he was missing a few concepts, so I moved him back to 1st grade, which is developmentally appropriate for him and he is excelling.  Math is important and you can't move them forward, without them having mastered all the concepts before what your are moving them to.  There is less pressure to perform at a certain level, they are starting to enjoy school a little more.

My 6th grade daughter struggles, when it comes to grammar and some aspects of comprehension.  If she is reading something she likes, she has no problems.  It is when she is reading the dry, boring, educational materials for science, history, etc.., when she has problems.  I am trying to incorporate more hands on activities, we are incorporating a lot of educational videos on YouTube and Netflix, and library books.  I am also working with her on skimming text, something I don't think they worked a lot on in public school.  She also thinks she struggles in math, but I have come to think of that as more of math anxiety, because once you take all the pressure to perform off, she seems to pick up math very quickly.  She just needs the confidence to believe in herself.  

We also have them signed up for various programs at the YMCA, and other programs.  We are signing them both up for the American Legion sponsored, National Junior Air Rifle program.  I am not some gun-toting  fanatic, in fact, I have never in my life shot or handled a gun.  I do believe it is important to learn proper gun-safety and handling procedures.  I will also be learning how to properly handle a gun and shoot.   I also plan on taking a self-defense class with my daughter. 

This is not my house, but I stole this idea for inspiration from Pinterest!  I will add my own pictures.

As for the curriculum we are using, we use a site called Easy Peasy All-In-One-Homeschool, it is free!  The amount of work the lady did who built the site is awe-inspiring.  She made taking this leap possible for us.  It is over-whelming to look at all the different curriculum options out there, this is set up for you day-by-day for the entire school year.  It goes from Pre-K through High School.  So far, the kids seem to like it.  There are distractions, like my 4-yr-old who is constantly doing ninja moves and making the appropriate sound-effects. Yes, there are days I want to pull every single hair from my head and theirs, but it is so worth it! They don't dread school anymore, which is very important! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Think I have Gone Insane

My promised weekly blog posts have not happened, and you know what, I promised something I could not possibly deliver.  I obviously knew not what I had promised.

Taking on the chore of virtually schooling my kids was and is way more than I expected.  Some of it good, some of it not.  I am not going to lie and be all cheerleader like "Oh, It's the most wonderful thing we have done!..W...I...N..Win, Win, Win!" (followed by a back flip and a hurkey).  Yes, I was a cheerleader in highschool, and no I never was a self-centered snob, topic for another blog.  I admit, with this post I may have a few Rolling Rocks in me, and am a little less inhibited, which I find freeing.  I actually think it is helping my writing, because I don't care as much about what people are going to think.  Future note.  For many of you who are reading for the first time, we decided to pull our kids out of traditional public school, and try virtual public school.  NO, it is not even close to homeschooling (much to my disappointment), it is basically public school, some crappy curriculum and all at home.

The teachers so far have been OK, though I do most of the teaching, which makes me give kudos to all the teachers out there with a classroom full of kids.  It is hard enough getting through to one kid, I have two in different grades, I can't imagine getting through to a classroom of 20+ kids, especially with this Common Core crap.  They have turned math from something straight forward and as simple as possible, to something with so many unnecessary steps and weird terminology it doesn't begin to make sense.  I don't know who thought these standards were a good idea, but they obviously didn't have kids, or at least kids of average intelligence.

I am blogging this because I think parents deserve honest, unbiased opinions, and I am giving one.  I am not saying that I hate Connections Academy, but I do think the advertising is a little misleading.  I signed up for this so that I had a little more control over the pace my kids learn things, but that is not the case.  Since it is still, technically a public school, they have to keep up, you have to move them along, even if they haven't quite mastered a concept.  I understand that with Common Core the goal is to look good, but how can we look good, if we move a student forward who hasn't mastered the concept needed to move forward?!  Common Core is a recipe waiting for disaster.  We are giving this another month, and if my kids and I are still stressed beyond reason, we are going to completely homeschool.  I think my children's educational future is worth the risk.

For some families Connections Academy has been the answer to prayers, I am just a little skeptical, because in the last couple of months I have been asking for more prayers than ever.  Maybe it is just not for us, I have to say the teachers so far have been wonderful, the parent support network has been phenomenal, it may just be too faced paced and inflexible for us.

Yes, I am going to have another Rolling Rock, and pretend that I have no worries.  The stress and pressure of the last couple months has been more than I have ever experienced working, and every once in awhile it is nice to be able to just not think.