What Homeschooling Has Taught Me

 

I started this blog mostly as a way to let interested family members know what was up with our family.  At the time we were on a different continent and it made sense.

At various times it has been used as different “platforms” (i.e. a “soapbox”, a “look-at-us-aren’t-we wonderful”, a homeschooler’s aide, a gripe box, etc.)

By the way, the community needs to determine if “homeschool” should be one word or two, because I’m getting a mite bit tired of spell check telling me I’m wrong.  And, honestly, how can a community be taken seriously if they can’t determine that singular thing.  Oooh, squirrel!

Yesterday I was pondering if I even wanted to continue to write a blog and if so to what purpose.

I haven’t yet figured out “to what purpose”, but I do believe I would like to continue.  It seems to help me focus.

To that end, yesterday was sheer “pandilerium”!  (Which I’m pretty sure is a made up word, courtesy of my husband, but which suits perfectly.)  My head was completely out of any game what-so-ever and nothing I did could bring it back.  But, just as I was drifting off to sleep, something popped in my head that I wanted to share.

What Homeschooling Has Taught Me (thusfar)

  • Patience is not merely a virtue.  Once upon a time a long, long time ago, I thought patience meant being able to stand still in line or sit quietly in a doctor’s office.  And I worked hard to perfect both.  Oh how wrong I was!
    • Patience shows respect.  Let’s face it, I don’t care to hear about a silly-to-me game ad nauseam any more than I want to hear all the griping about how math is “too hard”, or how “school is so stupid”.  However, listening to these things is often what my children need for me to do.  They need to feel I respect their opinion (even if I don’t agree), and that they are valued.  Additionally, in taking the time to show patience in this way, I generally learn “why” they find math hard, or school “stupid”.   Usually, they would not be able to form these thoughts quickly and succinctly.
    • You need patience to persevere.
      Why, yes, I spent 2 years teaching one child the multiplication tables anew on a daily basis.  I even managed to retain some of my hair and tooth enamel.  And, by golly, I would do it again if the need arose.  I just may purchase a mouth guard.  To my knowledge the child has no emotional scarring from that period of time, which is probably the best testament of my patience there could possibly be.
    • Patience for the “ugly”Let’s face it, there are some things you have to teach that you don’t like.  Despise even.  Yet, there you sit plugging through it; even going so far as to research and get to know it better so that your child may possibly find it interesting and, if you’re really lucky, “fun”.
  • Two sides to every equation.  This is a big one!  There are so many articles out there about discovering the type of learner your child is.  Or the best teaching style for this type of kid, etc.News flash!  You need to know YOU first.  And believe it or not, most of us haven’t actually considered that.
    • One of my students was very kinesthetic, so I did all this study about how to incorporate that in teaching situations.  Made sense at the time; except for the fact that I have tactile issues.  It’s amazing how all the activities in sandboxes that are highly recommended caused all sorts of heeby-jeeby issues in the teacher that would put school on hold until fully body showers of all involved were completed and an entire house vacuum session.  However, painting with water on an exterior wall totally worked for both of us.
    • Also, phonics makes no sense to me (whatsoever).  I think homeschool gurus still strongly recommend teaching phonics to children.  I remember at one time, I was truly determined that I should “do things ‘right'” and spent a good deal of time researching phonics, and the more I researched the crankier and more confused I became.  I do not purposely teach my children phonics.  They may “pick it up” through some intuitive gift from God, but they surely don’t get it from me.  (By the way, my kids all read well, so pthhbt! to phonics!)
    • Guess what?  There is every likelihood that EACH of your students will be very different from the other.  What works for one is not guaranteed to work for the other.  Not only based on learning style, but the “who” they are and their personal strengths / weaknesses will throw a wrench in your carefully laid out plans.
  • Know the reasons why.  When I started homeschooling with my oldest he would frequently ask “why”.  Why did he have to learn this?It’s an excellent question, and if you can’t answer it, then why on earth teach it?!
    • Sometimes I have had the reason why, but still decided it wasn’t worth teaching.  i.e. Latin.  If you go into a science / medical field Latin can certainly come in handy.  Learning Latin can help your child learn the grammatical rules for language, it helps your ability to learn a 3rd language, etc.  We don’t learn Latin.  (I have the books though. . .should sell those.)  It’s a dead language for heaven’s sake!  If you need it for your chosen field, you’ll learn what you need.  Get a good grammar book; you’ll be fine.  ANY second language will help in your ability to pick up a 3rd language, if only to affirm your personal abilities to do so.
    • Telling your students “why” can eliminate a lot of frustration.  I didn’t realize this for a period of time, but the state law of “you must have math every year” is an amazing gripe eliminator.  “Sorry, dude, it’s the law.  You want me to go to jail?”  (Thankfully, children have yet to decide to send me to the “big house”.)
  • Set the GOOD example
    • I got fussed at last night by my 11 year old.  I had gotten frustrated a let a choice few words fly free in his presence.  “Mom!  If you don’t want me to say such things then why would you say them?”  Why indeed?*sigh*Let’s face it, everything we do is closely observed.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  We do not have the benefit of those whose children go to school and can therefore blame a lot on peers or other external influences.  It’s all “HERE”.
    • This goes beyond “school” as well.  My personal struggle right now is diet.  (I don’t diet; this is more a discussion of “food habits”.)  What food habits am I “teaching” my children that is setting them up for failure in their future lives?  (Cheese on broccoli?  Desserts twice a day?  SNACKING?)  Let’s face it, there are a number of things that I am not willing to change for me; but for my kids. . .it is amazing what leaves I will turn over.
    • I spend a lot of time researching and planning and preparing.  Not just for school, but for life as well.  The children are now frequently heard to say, “Can I look up ___?”  It does not dawn on them that they are learning.  Heaven forbid any of this research should in any way, shape or form somehow be related to learning (AKA school).  I’ve had two children learn instruments in this fashion.
    • PS  YouTube is an awesome resource!
  • The “magic pill” does not exist
    • Oh, *sigh*.  This is a big one I STILL fall prey to!  You are talking to a friend whose opinion you highly respect and they offer that such-and-such saved them.  You read an advertisement about some product or other and, of course, it is in the topic you feel least comfortable in so you just have to buy it.  And on, and on, it goes.
    • There is NO magic pill.  I mean, you may come across something that totally jives with you at this point in time.  That does not mean it will work for your best friend or even your next child.  Five years from now it may not even work for you.  A lot of this plays into who you are and learning styles and such, but be very careful.  “We” have a tendency to recommend things like they are God’s gift from heaven.  Just a mite bit audacious.
    • I am a scheduler.  Schedules and lists not only work for me, they are necessary for me to be able to work.  I know of others that can’t deal with a simple list, let alone a schedule.  Yet, they still get things done and are quite productive.  (Call me baffled!)  Here’s the thing, if you know you are talking to a non-scheduler, don’t recommend a schedule unless they ask.  (Then, you can honestly say they asked for it.)  And obviously, the reverse is true also.  But, let’s say you don’t know what type of person they are.  Then mention both!  Don’t pretend the one side does not exist.
  • Marathon vs. sprint
    • “Education” is a marathon.  Too frequently we can get into the mental “sprint” trap.  It’s an easy trap to fall into as there are so many courses of study, benchmark checklists, etc.  Guess what, if your child took till 4th grade to learn their multiplication tables, chances are they will do fine in life.  Truly!
  • Flexibility
    • Oh, your students will help you with this one; even if you go into it kicking and screaming!
    • I knew of a family once that believed all their sons should be engineers and all their daughters wives and mothers.  Based on that philosophy this was how their “school” was designed.  I recall the mother expressing frustration because one of the daughters wanted to study more science and was “fighting the power”.  hmm
    • Your goal, in my honest opinion and whether or not you choose to accept it, is to help your children attain THEIR goals.  Now, if their goal is to be a bum, that’s fine.  They will just be one that has a basic set of solid skills (remember, “state laws”).

Finally, I have learned that this is probably the period of greatest “growth” in my own life, and I strongly suspect that I will continue to stretch and grow further than my wildest imaginings on this journey.

Freak Out!

It’s that time of year.

The fact that this happens EVERY year should, in my mind, somewhat diminish the reality; yet, that has never happened.

The start of the new “school year” is upon us, and I have hit total “freak out” mode.

I am NOT ready!

What was I ever thinking!

I am no-where near “good enough”.

And on and on.

Honestly, I think I would happily run-away, if I could only figure out where to run to.  But, that would require time, research, and funds; and if I’m going to use those resources it only makes sense that I use them toward the application of what I had chosen to do in the first place.

My head is killing me and I just remembered one of my students wants to learn the clarinet, another the BAGPIPE.

Oh gosh.  And then they will both be studying Spanish, and I haven’t liked anything I’ve seen on the market, so I had started pulling things together on my own.  (Was that back in April?  Did I come up with a plan?  Did I write anything down?  OH good gravy!)

That’s not even counting the super easy stuff like:

  • Do I have enough paper?
  • Pencils?  Where did all the erasers go?
  • Why is it every pen in my house is missing its lid?
  • Can I find my bookcases?

Actually the answer to the last question is NO!  I can’t find my bookcases, because I had pulled off the books to try to organize at some point towards the beginning of summer and got sidetracked.  So all I can tell you is that behind all those stacks of books the bookcases exist.

Egads, if those books are in piles then how will I find the ones we need???!  Wait.  Do I know which ones we need???  I had a list!  Where oh where is my list!?

I think I’m coming down with a rash.  It’s probably got some awful acronym to go with it, like “HAGS” ( for Homeschool mom’s Acute Guilt Syndrome).

MATH!  Oh my goodness, did I make a plan for math?  Oh, I did.  That’s right.  I did.  Aw man, where are the math books???

Paper bags.  Paper bags are used to help with hyperventilation, right?  I think I saw that in a movie somewhere.  I have paper bags.  Wait.  I only have 12.  I have 12 students in one of my classes.  Are we using paper bags in that class?  I can’t remember!

Breathe.  Adapt.  Overcome.  Repeat.

Ah forget it!  Someone else can do without a paper bag!

Exercise Woes

I have to tell you that exercise is not my friend.

It is said that exercise is great for increasing your energy levels, making you “feel better”,  as well as decreasing your stress.

Ah, the “magic pill”. . .that does not, in any of those categories, work for me.

Exercise leaves me feeling insanely exhausted.  At the end of any given workout I feel like death warmed over, and hubby pretty much verifies that is what I look like too.  As for decreasing stress?  Let me just say any time you have something on your daily to-do list that you dread. . .it is a major stress inducer.

Oh, and during any workout (I do exercise videos), the nutty, smiling leader is always talking about all these stupendous benefits while also proclaiming the wonders of “endorphins”.  Let me just say, for me, those little buggers exist on the same mythical playing field as Pegasus.

I think the worst thing is the number of people that state these things as FACT.   Sort of like those who declared for decades, that you know you are having a heart attack if you have pain in your left arm; or the whole “flight or fight” theory.  Course, recently it has been shown that both of those aren’t true for the majority of the population because the studies that came up with that bunk only used male test subjects.

Not that I’m suggesting this exercise hocus-pocus is false, or that it only applies to men.  I am merely stating it does not apply to me; and I’m willing to bet I am not the only one.  Because, it stands to reason, should exercise be as wonderful as exercise gurus claim it to be, we would not be a nation of obese people.

All that said, you will find me up at 0500 nearly every morning for my daily workout.  (I have very low energy levels and they are at their highest in the morning; otherwise, I would try to figure out how to workout at night, as my most favorite thing to do after working out is to go to sleep.)  Also, given the dread I have for working out, I reduce my stress by not being completely awake when I’m prepping to cross  it off my to-do list.

I do not work out for any benefits other than the fact that it does help my clothes fit better and, possibly, because it will keep me healthier.  (I’m not holding my breathe.)

So, it should not surprise you that in the midst of my workouts my thought processes are. . .grumpy?

I do a different workout every day, on a rotating weekly schedule.  This keeps me from getting bored and plateauing.  Just this week I switched to a new, more “difficult” routine.

Wednesday is yoga day.  I think the routine I did yesterday is headed for the trash.  Not only did I have to hear the bunk about all the great benefits I was NOT going to be feeling, but  I had to listen to the dude’s idiocy.

I mean, at one point we are doing breathing exercises.  (And literally, we are sitting in the “ohm” pose — modified criss-cross applesauce, with wrists on your knees and your thumb and middle finger touching in a circle.)

Just to interrupt my own train of thought here:  Why???  What does that pose do for you?  How does holding your fingers in such a way do anything for breathing or relaxing?  I just don’t get it!

Anyway, the guy wants us to think about “absorbing energy”.  And to help us do this we are to “visualize a sun or a star above your head”.

What?  Does the man not know that a sun is a star?  I mean if he doesn’t that could explain a lot.  Wait a second!  What if he thinks WE don’t know that the sun is a star?  (offense taken)  And, that retard, if the sun and / or star was above my head I’d have “absorbed so much energy” I’d be burnt to non-existence.  Like that will do me a fat lot of good.

You know, I thought of one other benefit I gain from these terrible torture sessions.  Normally, my natural aggressions are completely expelled by the end of the workouts so that my family doesn’t have to deal with such a cantankerous me.  I would suppose there is a great blessing in that.

Briar

Normally, during the summer, our yard is teaming with rabbits.  It has been a rare year if we see less than 5 on any given evening.

This year has been a very rare year indeed.  In fact, I’ve only seen one.

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And, it has been rather fond of sitting under the blackberry bushes.  So, I named it “Briar”.  (Seemed like a rather good unisex name at the time.)\

Now the blackberries are rather close to the garden but Briar has been rather polite about the whole garden thing, and seems to have a decided preference for weeds.  (Go figure.)  So, Briar is given a fair amount of leeway when it comes to finding “it” in the garden.

(Unlike the stupid squirrel, who seemed to take great delight in taking a bite out of every strawberry it saw this year.)

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It is still a little disconcerting to go out there sometimes and realize that feeling of being intently watched. . .

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 . . . isn’t merely a feeling.

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Someone likes to keep their eye on you when you are messing around in the garden.

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It has been determined that Briar is a girl.  And her little babes are right in the middle of the cucumber patch.

 

Playing Favorites

I have favorites.  That’s all there is to it.  And I thought I should ‘fess up to it, in honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day, as it is all my Mom’s fault.  ;)

See, when I was growing up, I was (still am) my Mom’s favorite daughter.  She told me quite frequently, so I knew that it was true.  She also had a favorite son.  Lucky for her, she stopped at two.

So, my Mom had a favorite husband, a favorite daughter, and a favorite son.  Then, her daughter got married, and she had a favorite son-in-law.  All this is working out beautifully.

Then came the first grandchild, my eldest, and he was her favorite (and mine).

And, then came the 2nd grandchild — my second son. . .  And he’s our favorite too.

To make a long story shorter, my Mom is now blessed with one favorite husband, one favorite daughter, one favorite son, one favorite son-in-law, one favorite daughter-in-law, FIVE favorite grandsons, and (almost) TWO favorite granddaughters.  (Almost, as we are awaiting the birth of the second granddaughter.)

So, of course, it would seem only natural that I would have favorites too.  I never saw this as a problem until son #2.  But, in typical Christine fashion, I adapted and overcame.  The child simply became my “favorite 2nd son”.  Then there came the “favorite 3rd son” and the “favorite 4th son”.  This was happily accepted by all parties.  The children never questioned that they were my “favorite”.  It was a known fact, as I told them frequently enough; required adjectives withstanding.  And all was well in my world.

Over the years though, the children have modified their titles, to the point that they sound strangely like some crazy Native American moniker.  Things like, “But Mom, I’m your ‘favorite-son-who-desperately-wants-cookies-right-now’.”  Or, “Mom, just remember I’m your ‘favorite-son-who-did-not-mean-to-spill-milk-all-over-the-floor-but-am-so-grateful-you-are-helping-me-clean-it-up’.”

What is interesting though, is that this favoritism has expanded outside of the family situation.

I was asked if, and which one, was my favorite co-op class last week.

Yes.

I taught 3 classes.  I had 3 favorite classes.  I had 24 students, and each and every one of them was a favorite of mine in some fashion.  And I still have favorite classes / students from previous years.

So, in response to that question, “Yes, your class was my favorite.”  And in response to the question you did not ask, you are totally a favorite student of mine (with quite a few adjectives), who I will always remember fondly.

The Power of Youth

 Today I had not one, but MANY mothers come up to me and thank me for requiring their children to do a personal finance project.

“It has taught [my student] the harsh realities of life.”

*sigh*

And I walked away feeling very deflated.

In all honesty I could not, with any sense of personal integrity due to the nature of this class, avoid doing this project.  That said, it was truly a personal struggle to make it happen, and it was for this very reason that I was so hesitant to require it.

I have been inundated with conversations of late about how hard this teenager is going to have it or that teenager, or those hypothetical few that fall into *that* category.  (Pregnancy, young marriage, medical issues, pick your poison.)

According to all the adults with whom I am forced to suffer these conversations all I hear over and over again is:

“They won’t be able to do it.”

“Oh, don’t expect them to be able to adapt to that change!”

“It’s too hard!”

“What were they thinking?!”

and on and on. . .

My favorite is, “They don’t know what that will require from them.”  At least that one is completely accurate, and God bless them for their ignorance.

The others are a bunch of old-fogey junk!

I mean, “Hello??!!”  Well over 98% of the people I have these conversations with, I know how their adult life started out, and yet they somehow made it.

Because:

Youth is highly adaptable.

Youth is truly optimistic.

Youth has the power of imagination and belief that it can be better.

Youth has the ability to rise again, even if they have been beat down repeatedly.

Why do so many of us with the *wisdom* of age refuse to acknowledge those very simple truths?  Think of the many very young mothers that somehow raised families.  Think of the young men who provided for those families.  Think of Alexander the Great, who died when he was about 30.  What about Civil Rights?  Was it a bunch of old people (or even middle-aged) marching the streets demanding change?

What truly scares me is the number of parents who see everything as an impossibility for their youth making excuses for their offspring.  Or worse, preventing certain things from occurring on the pretext of saving their children from these challenges.

Gosh darn it, CHALLENGE YOUR KIDS!  Provide them with an opportunity to grow.  Let them learn the power of success in spite of change or difficulties.  Let them learn the pain of failure, for it is often through those failures that the most is attained.

I want to scream to teens and young adults alike, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (courtesy of Ms. Frizzle)

Today I was congratulated on helping the teens in my class get a “grasp on reality”.

To those teens, and all others:

“Reality” will come soon enough.  Until then, reach for your stars.  Make things happen.  Go for the impossible.  Achieve all and more that those who are older than you say is beyond your grasp.

You have the enviable power of youth.  Do not squander it.

My Pal, Insecurity

I’d like to introduce you to a very close friend of mine, Insecurity.  We have a knot that ties us together that is the result of a life-long bond.  Through thick and thin, Insecurity has always been here with me.

My husband has been known to tell me on occasion that Insecurity plays with him also.  This is akin to the puddle saying to the ocean, “Look, we are both bodies of water!”  True, yet so vastly different as to be laughable.

It is interesting, because I am forever telling my children that they need to exude confidence.  Mind you, I don’t tell them they need confidence, just that others need to perceive that they have it.  Personally, I don’t believe that you can “create” confidence where none exists, but I do believe that you can fake it really well.

I also believe it is incredibly important to be able to fake it.  People who appear confident are leaders.  Others will listen, and follow, those that appear confident.  And, regardless of whether or not confidence is a friend of yours, it is easy to fake.

So, I tell my children,

  • “Stand up straight.”
  • “Speak strongly and clearly.”
  • “Look people in the eye.”
  • “Give a firm handshake.”

This list seems overly simple, doesn’t it?  Mmm-hmm.  Take a look at all the leaders you know, and tell me in which of those areas they falter.  And what’s amazing is that they could totally be faking it.

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a book:

I picked it up to read it shortly after receiving it, but then put it quickly back down.  The thing is, I don’t know that I want to be rid of insecurity; nor, do I necessarily feel that it has been “a bad friend”.  In fact, I would argue that I am a better person because of my insecurities, not in spite of it.

Think about it for a minute.  Because I am fellows with insecurity I question how I do things, I am constantly striving to improve.  I question relationships and whether they will make me stronger.  I question all the whys and hows and wherefores in an effort to excel.  (The trick, I will readily admit, is knowing when to stop.)

Go a step further:  How many “naturally confident” people do you know that need a book entitled, “Lose your confidence, because you have no reason to believe you’re that good.”

I seem to know a number of people like that. . .   Personally, I think they lack something that allows them to feel the insecurity they should.

Anyhoo

Insecurity and I are off to play today.  We are going to try something new and different in our school day and I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out.  I’ve already picked my pen so I can write notes on how to improve in the margins.