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Jun. 16th, 2013

mei tai, home school, nature

Major Life Events

There is never a dull moment in the Jones household.  In leaving the military five years ago, we thought we would be settling down into a quiet lifestyle, and we actually thought we might become bored quickly.  HA!  If we aren't moving into a new home, we're having another baby, and this last year we did both, one right after the other.  Homeschooling took a dive.  I recently forgot that I had consciously decided to let it all go and catch up later, so I was feeling guilty and defeated.

How does a mother divide her time in such a way that she is able to homeschool and then also deal with major life stressors that take all of your attention like moving or having another baby?  I mean, it's easy to think it can be bounced back from, but the reality is that each time you change jobs or lose a family member or gain a family member or change addresses there are months of refiguring after.  I already decided: we are done moving.  We're done.  We bought a house that should be manageable on mortgage in the event that I am a single mom working at McDonald's even.  However, you can't always foresee or prevent a huge life stress.  You can't control it.  So, how do you continue homeschooling through things?  I can't.  I just succumb to the faith that in the end, they are no better off in the public school system even if we are doing no real schoolwork.  The thing I forget though is how stressed out I get and how hard it is for me to ask for help.  I need a huge sign that says "If you aren't doing it with love, why are you doing it?"  

My stress level just needs to be managed.  I don't want my kids to remember only how grumpy mom was when we were going through a hard time.  They don't get that it's not about them.  It's the other life stressors.

Community is hard to lean on if you're an independent person, like me.  I have to remember that I'm either going to have to lean on community as a homeschooling mom or as a public schooling mom.  Which community do I want?  I don't continue in prayer as much as I know would bring me peace, but I'm either going to have to be in prayer as a homeschooling mom or as a public schooling mom.  Which worries do I want to be going to God with in prayer?  That's what it really comes down to for me. 

Mar. 28th, 2012

mei tai, home school, nature

Balancing Life Outside the Box

I don’t set my alarm in the morning.  I wake up to the sound of Gideon, my preschooler, playing with his dinosaurs in falsetto voices and an occasional roar.  Guinea pigs are squeaking as nine-year-old Kyler and seven-year-old Suzanne are feeding them breakfast and stroking their fur.  My toddler, Eliza, throws her leg over me, opens her big blue eyes, and pushes her golden hair back from her face.  She grins at me and says, “Bee cereal, Mommy?”  She wants some Honey Nut Cheerios.  We get out of bed and make our way to the kitchen.  It’s nine o’clock in the morning on any random weekday, and everyone has eaten breakfast except for the two of us.

I ask if anyone has gotten ready for the day.  These are code-words for being dressed with a bed made, teeth and hair brushed, and pajamas put away.  Of course they haven’t.  I have barely made my coffee and eggs.  I sit down at the table with my laptop and take care of my online business while I eat and direct children in their chores.  Chores take longer with little people helping, and often there are giggles and shrieks from playing or fighting. 

Today is a grocery day.  When we go to checkout at Crest, the clerk looks confused and asks if school is out that day.  When I tell her that I homeschool, I’m guaranteed one of the following responses:  “I don’t have enough patience.”  “That’s great, if you can do it.”  “How do you know they are learning the same as other kids their age?”  “My kids don’t listen to me the way they listen to their teacher.”  “What about socialization?”  Or perhaps I receive comments from her about maintaining a clean house or how hard it must be to take care of the errands.  She can’t imagine being a stay-at-home mother for eighteen years.  “Do you ever get a break”, she asks.   She says she had to work or she would have gone crazy. 

I understand that every comment is stemmed from a fear that other person holds and that these fears can be overcome.  I’m not a super-mom.  I just have different priorities.  My priorities challenge these fears.  I work at finding solutions when a struggle has come up just like parents working within a school system do for their children to succeed. 

I find that homeschooling my children develops my character.  I don’t have patience naturally, but patience has been developed within me.  Finding balance in my life, friends of my own, and time to enjoy my own interests helps me with patience.  In order to keep homeschooling, I have to ask for help, and I have to avoid burn-out.

My school motto is “quality, not quantity”.  Because of this perspective, I have found they need far less direction than most people assume.  They aren’t being given as much memorizing and stuffing of their brains with things they don’t care about at that point in time.  They are being given a taste of a new idea that leaves them begging for satisfaction and searching for answers.  I’m honest with them when I tell them I don’t know the answer, and they are learning how to be resourceful to satisfy their curiosities.  I find they are learning to take me seriously and be appreciative of my help when it’s given. 

I remind myself not to compare my children to other children, because we study different subjects than other schools at different times.   I don’t take down grades.  We don’t repeat the same work.  I circle mistakes, and my child corrects it.  If the understanding isn’t there no matter how I address it, we let it go, and I see the connection made in another way, usually through living life.  I don’t test their skill level or comprehension separately from lessons and life.  This keeps my record-keeping down significantly. 

I sometimes worry that they aren’t getting enough time with peers, but then I see them socializing easily with other people when they have the chance.  I know that they will have more chances as their world broadens—as they gain more freedom with age and responsibility.  I’m glad that for the time being, they focus on and get excited by their own passions without social distractions.

My children have tight and individual friendships with each other and with the few close friends we spend time with.  These relationships teach them how to resolve conflict.  They learn to tolerate the stages of children who are younger or older than they are, because they don’t have the luxury of avoiding the sounds of a sleepy, whining toddler or being free of the bossy older child.  They don’t get the same treatment as people around them all day long every day of the year, and they are used to understanding that people need different things at different times.

The hardest part of homeschooling for me was the idea of being a stay-at-home mother once I felt the calling to midwifery.  I suddenly understood why some women wanted to work.  I struggled against following a career path from 2004 until 2010, but then, I couldn’t resist following my dream anymore.  To serve women in childbirth the way my midwife served me became an important life purpose rivaling that of motherhood itself.  

Then, I found a compromise.  I challenged the notion that a homeschool had to have a full-time teacher to be successful.  With only four children at different skill levels, I don’t have to spend as much time teaching as a teacher of thirty children in a classroom does anyway.  The amount of time I spend directing their practice work, reading to them, listening to them read aloud, or taking them on field trips is the same amount of time that a mother of a student of public school spends with her children doing the same things in the name of “homework” and “school involvement”.       

The difference between our school and any other school they could be in lies in the way they spend their time when I’m not “schooling” them.  If they aren’t set in front of a television or video game for hours, they spend more time creating their own learning experiences based on their own questions.  Why do I get zapped when I rub the ground and touch something?  What do I need to gather to create this sock puppet?  How do I spell the word “ocelot”?  They are constantly learning, and they don’t wait until school time to do it.  They don’t question if they can make snacks or tea for everyone or follow instructions to create a science experiment out of a new book from the library.  I find that my second and fourth graders do not need as much supervision when I lay down safe boundaries.

As an added perk, we have freedom in our days that compliments a flexible lifestyle.  We can spend time catching up on inside work when the blazing heat of the Oklahoma August sun threatens to send human beings into dehydration or stroke.  We aren’t restrained to spend hours in traffic picking up children from school.  I can turn an academic or networking opportunity for myself into a vacation or field trip for the children, or at the very least, they can pack bags of their own interesting books and activities to sit quietly in a childbirth meeting.   

My children meet midwives regularly, and they know what a doula is.  A doula provides labor support, and it’s what I am hired to do while I’m slowly pursuing midwifery.  At seven years old, my oldest daughter says she wants to be a midwife’s assistant when she grows up.  Maybe she will be.  She sits with me near my textbook copying the words and drawing pictures of babies in mother’s wombs.  She is upset when I tell her she isn’t invited to a birth, for she has been invited before.  My daughter played in a birth pool with a client’s daughter while the mother labored through birth contractions.  In the next hour, both girls were wrapped in towels, sitting on the laps of friends, and watching the mother birth her baby into her own hands.  Sometimes, the kids have their father home from work unexpectedly or a friend over to babysit, so that I can serve another family.  When I return the next morning, they recognize a shining upon their mother’s face, and they know I’ll share another story with them.  It’s the story of parenthood: of overcoming struggle, of grace, and of joy. 

Mar. 25th, 2012

mei tai, home school, nature

Spring Break was NOT a break.

At first, I thought it was nice to have us all up, dressed, and leaving the house early with a purpose each day.  After dropping the older kids off at their activities, I took a breath of relief from not having four children to feed or supervise.  I looked at the clock and thought, "I have all of this time to get things done today and spend time with the younger kids. This will be fantastic!", but by the end of the second day, I found myself in a different opinion.

Most of my time in the day was taken up by driving, taking children in and out of the van to pick up other children, and waiting in lines.  I didn't get anything more done around the house or with my studies than I normally do.  If anything, I got less done, and I was so exhausted by the time I went to bed that I couldn't fathom the idea of staying up to finish anything.

Nap times were interrupted for Littlest Miss, and none of the children were getting enough sleep at night.  There was so much to do after they came home to get ready for the next day.  And this is without homework! 

By the end of the day when I picked the kids up, they were completely stressed out.  They had a blast, but they were over-stimulated and had no tolerance for people of different age groups.  I thought they were difficult people to be around sometimes before, but this was RIDICULOUS.  The behavior escalated to an extreme that I rarely ever see.  Oldest Daughter literally screamed at Littlest Miss for an age-appropriate violation that she normally would have reacted to with understanding, patience and gentle guidance.  Little Man was begging Big Brother for attention, while Big Brother was withdrawing and snappy because all of his energy for crowds had been spent. Little Man is an extrovert and Big Brother is an introvert, so this dynamic didn't work out at all.  It led to punching in the back seat. 

The whining was about a hundred times worse than our worst homeschooling day.
The backtalk hit a new height.

By the time we got home, I didn't want to spend time with them at all, because they were such negative people to be around.  I wanted to get them in bed as soon as possible.  I have had days while homeschooling that I feel this way by evening, but at least we had the first half of the day to spend good quality time together.  With them gone all day, I felt like we didn't get any time together, and I didn't even get more time to take care of my own projects for school or business.  It was the most stressful week I have ever had, and I was just writing about being overwhelmed with stress before experiencing this.  I am now convinced that homeschooling is the easy way.

So the next time someone tells me their kids go to school, I'm going to have to hold myself back from giving them the reaction I get so often.

"Wow.  I could never do that.  How do you get anything done?"

Mar. 11th, 2012

mei tai, home school, nature

Spring Forward

I used to have dreams of driving on I-64 in Virginia Beach when suddenly my car would go over an overpass and that feeling of being weightless and crashing down to the ground would leave my heart racing.  I used to have dreams of being on a rollercoaster slowly climbing up in a car of people, but as I neared the top of the steep climb, no one else was with me, the track was a bit loose (I could see bolts flying off), and I suddenly realized the rest of the ride was incomplete.  Too bad for me!  I was stuck in with one of those bars over my lap and no way out.  I never saw the end.  My stomach would tie up in knots and my heart would pound until I woke up quickly and out of breath.  This week felt like I had no control over my life, and I was watching it with no way out.  That's the best way I can describe it, because really all of the little details are just little details. 

On Friday, in one moment of clarity, I left the kids with my husband and got my eyebrows waxed.  Then, I got a sandwhich at Jersey Mike's because the salon girl recommended it.  After that, I went to the gym.  It was nice to do some things for myself. 

Then, I drove by the elementary school that the kids would go to if we didn't homeschool.  Earlier that day, I had checked out the website telling myself that maybe it would be better.  Maybe I wouldn't get so stressed out if I could have peace and quiet while I did my schoolwork.  I convinced myself that it would be fine, and I would be just as involved when they weren't in school.  I remembered feeling this way twice a year (one in the fall and one in the spring).  I remembered that we worked things out each time.  It's just a hiccup, I told myself.

The next day, I talked to the kids to feel them out.  The one who I thought might not have an easy transition told me he did not want to go.  The ones who I believe would have the easiest time were excited about the idea.  But later that night, my older daughter (one of the kids excited for public school) suggested ideas to me so that we could keep homeschooling.  So maybe as excited as she was, she would be sad to have it end after all. 

One of her suggestions just won't really work to the extreme that she wants.  We can't very well travel the world at this point of our lives.  We can't go to The Jungle to learn about monkeys or drive up to Boise City to meet mountain lions as she suggested we do.  But, we can plan more exploring and hiking trips in Oklahoma because there is much we still haven't seen.  We can go camping, and we can go to the zoo regularly.

Her suggestions affirmed for me my philosophy of education---facilitating a deep love of learning in children by giving them tiny bites of quality to get them drooling for more instead of overfeeding and wondering why they don't care about anything.  Next, my daughter suggested that each child get a binder and choose something to study.  "Something cool that they really want to know about" were her exact words.  It reminded me of a lady I met in Houston, a Christian unschooling mother and midwife, who shared with me that her children grew a collection of something (like rocks, dolls, bugs, stamps, fancy teasets, anything).  Then her kids found out anything they could about each of the things in their collection, and in the end, they had actually written a book.  They learned a whole heck of a lot about science and history, probably used math, definitely used writing (spelling and grammar), broadened their vocabulary, learned research skills, and created something productive that others could truly appreciate about a topic they were fascinated with.  What better way to have "school"?

So now, I am keeping in mind that days will be warmer, so mixing books and the park will be a necessity for balancing the needs of younger children and older ones.  I'm going to have to make my schoolwork work around the needs of the house a little more, but be gentle with myself when I just have no choice in the matter.  Managing time for college can be difficult for anyone with kids, homeschooling or not, and it really will be okay if the kids don't have the absolute perfect scenario for a few days or a week. 

I came back here to read some of my past times down this road of self-doubt and frustration, and I am finding myself cycling back up from that already full of ideas and motivation.  It keeps me writing to have words to remind myself that--YES, you have a hard time but you still get through it. 


Jan. 1st, 2012

mei tai, home school, nature

My Three Guiding Words for 2012

Kathy Morelli, a friend from Facebook and a mental health professional specializing in helping families with the transition to parenthood, posted an excellent blog today.  She explains an exercise that she had read about that helps focus intentions for a business.  She used this to focus on improving mental health, and I'm going to be using this idea to write about my growth and the attempts to balance my life this year as well.


So my three guiding words this year are Presence, Freedom, and Compassion



Presence

This year promises to be full for me.  I mean, my plate is so piled up with projects that I am super excited about being involved in that it is flowing across the table and onto the floor.  God is good!  I wouldn't change a thing!  Sometimes it's overwhelming to think of the abundance to which God loves, provides, and blesses my life with so much.  Somehow I have to keep from neglecting the house, the children's academics and social needs, my health, and my husband while keeping my sanity through Fellowship. 
 
I'm practicing the art of being fully present in what I am doing while I'm doing it. 


I tend to daydream and go on rabbit trails when my intuition and ideas strike.  I am naturally inclined to be reflecting on the past and planning the future more than paying closely attending to what's currently in front of me.  It causes a lot of anxiety actually because I'm also a perfectionist.  So, while it's nice to improve and grow, I can spend too much time scrutinizing what's done and fine-tuning what's in front of me, instead of just stepping out, doing my best, and quieting my mind.  This year, I'll be present in each activity as the time allows, complete it to the best of my ability, and leave it for the next.  Journaling helps me to dump my reflections, so I'll be probably using that to stay present every other part of the day.



Freedom

This year, I'm reminding myself that things don't have to fit inside of a neat box or follow a straight line to get the desired result.  This is one that I have been learning about for a long time.  I believe God has been teaching me about this from the time I became pregnant with my first child.  I had years and years of inner turmoil from my lack of understanding.  I still have a lot to learn about freedom, grace.


I'm releasing my children and myself from what our homeschool "should" be. 

I'm releasing myself from what my journey to midwifery "should" be. 

I'm releasing my husband from what our relationship "should" be. 

I'm releasing my parents from what our relationship "should" be. 

I'm releasing my house from what it "should" look like. 

And I'm releasing myself from the expectation of perfection before pursuing more networking and promotion of my birth services. 

I'm practicing freedom to embrace the present, so these kind of go hand in hand.




Compassion

I love people.  I do feel empathy for them.  However, I have been struggling to get outside of my internal struggles to serve others in a way that builds true compassion for them.  This year, I have chosen to step outside of myself and serve people in their present circumstances with a graceful attitude. 

Being present and releasing myself and others from a pre-conceived notion lead me to serve compassionately, whether it's the way I serve my children, the way I clean my home, the time I spend in God's word, or the way I support expectant families. 


These are not my New Year's Resolutions because I've been focusing on these things in different areas of my life for the past year.  I don't really like resolutions.  I just like to continuously improve and be aware.  This is just a reflection of what I've been consciously working on when I couldn't organize my thoughts clearly to label them until now.  It is a continual process of growth, but these are the things I am seeing as being vital for survival this year.


Where's your focus for this coming year?  Feel free to comment, and Happy 2012!

Dec. 16th, 2011

mei tai, home school, nature

Missing the Mark

As a day or week or month builds in stress, I find myself going back to my default parenting, reactive.  I think about the intentions I write here.  The picture of what is happening at that time in my life doesn't always fit what I strive for. 

In the past, I have felt incredibly guilty.  I have felt as though all I was representing was false.  I have felt like a failure as a parent and a person.  Sometimes it has been tempting to throw away all of the thoughtful parenting decisions and to give myself permission to be a reactive parent.  I can't consciously do that though, because it goes against every instinct I have of what's best for teaching my children. 

The very thing I want my children to learn, I am still working on, and that is difficult to overcome.  If I want my kids to be free to make mistakes without condemnation, I need to give myself the freedom to also.  It's through the feelings of condemnation, unacceptance, and unworthiness that I find myself feeling like giving up on what I know to be right and true.  So, if I want my kids to be encouraged to continue on right path, I need to model to them that acceptance and unconditional love that God has given me. 

When I feel less control over the situations around me, I tighten up control on my home and kids.  Each time I have the experience of this, I remember more quickly what I'm doing and that it's not effective or loving.  When I was exploring homeschooling my first son, an experienced homeschooling mother with graduated children gave me the best advice for managing stress with kids.  The best thing I can do when I have lost my temper is to pray (silently or out loud) and take deep breaths.  Even if they are all around me, and I can't leave, there are ways to slightly get that "break" to step back from the stress.  If everything feels chaotic, it can't get much worse during that minute or so of letting it all go and getting control over my own mind.  A clear mind and a calm spirit does wonders to improve the children's behavior and suddenly, the situations we are in don't seem so desperate anymore.   

After a very bad day, when I know I acted inappropriately, I try to get time to myself to get closure in some way.  Then, it doesn't follow me into the next day.  Another thing that I swear by is to apologize to each child genuinely.  Children are perceptive.  They know your heart.  Their forgiveness and ability to leave that hurt behind is a perfect example of what I want to have for myself and for others.  

Dec. 10th, 2011

mei tai, home school, nature

I don't make my child put a coat on.

I don't make my children have blankets on their beds while they sleep.

I don't strongly state that they must be cold, because I am.

I don't make them wear slippers, socks, or shoes.  They wear shoes when they go somewhere that requires shoes.  I let them wear flip flops on a cool day, if that's what they want to do.

My son likes to wear shorts in December, and that's okay with me too.

I don't force my daughter to eat meals when she says she isn't hungry.

I also don't coerce her onto the chiropractor's table despite all of the benefits I believe that chiropractic care can offer her.

Likewise, I try to refrain from saying, "Go pee." to my son who is doing the potty dance.  I try to remember to ask him if he feels like he needs to go pee, or I say, "It looks like you're holding back the urge to pee."


Here's why:  I believe that human beings are born with innate urges to naturally be clean, warm, and satiated by food.  From the time we are born, infants who haven't been compromised in some way (and often, even the ones who have had a rough start) naturally seek out food and shelter.  Our bodies don't give us signs of discomfort in the womb, because all of our needs are met, but the minute we are expelled from our worry-free home, we have signs of discomfort that lead us to meet our needs.  Over the years, the role I have gradually chosen as a parent is one that guides a child to understand what that sign is and how to meet that need, so that someday, they don't have to rely on someone outside of themselves to accomplish such a task.  In short: just because we are humans and have huge brains doesn't mean we weren't given instincts, animalistic instincts-I dare say, beneficial instincts to have been using along with our huge brains. 

I know what you're thinking.  Adults who have had parents that tell them "Put your coat on.", "Your feet must be cold.", "Go pee.", or "Eat all the food on your plate." don't rely on a parent to live with them and remind them all of the time.  You're right.  My theory is that instead they become so dependent on this habit, the voice of the parent still guiding their movements, that they do it whether they are cold or not, whether they have to pee or not, and whether they are hungry or not until they unlearn that habit, if they ever do. 

Habits are so powerful.  Sometimes we have to deal with a situation in an unfamiliar way to learn self-control, and we have to make that habit before we have that natural urge to do the "right thing".  I've been there in conflict resolution with my children reversing the patterns that I have absorbed through my childhood.  Although it is uncomfortable to me to strive for this kind of habit forming at an age below the ability to understand a simple explanation of why, I'm not referring to this habit-training in this particular blog.  I'm addressing our primal needs, not the logic of civil discourse.

One thing that I find fascinating in studying natural birth and midwifery is how women find themselves at a disconnect from their bodies.  We, as childbirth educators or natural birth advocates, say, "Tune in to your body and your baby."  Really?  It's that simple?  It has taken many pregnancies, much reading, enormous amounts of energy overcoming blocks in my own habits to do this.  And I believe I started with an advantage most people don't have!  I was raised trusting birth to a certain extent.  I believed natural birth and breastfeeding were possible for me.  There is social programming at play that we aren't even aware of, though.  It's so subtle, but costant enough.  There is the fact that we are taught to ignore signs within our bodies as newborns and throughout our lives.  As babies, we aren't trusted to be leary of a stranger (even if it's a relative).  We aren't trusted to have something really wrong with us, just because our caregivers don't know our language or can't see what it is yet.  We aren't trusted to know if we are warm or hungry, so why should we trust our bodies?  We aren't trusted to know if we aren't feeling well; we go to the doctor at set intervals to have checkups and people disregard our complaints as we grow up.  Well, that's probably a good idea considering we have lost touch with our own instincts and feelings of wellness.  <---(sarcasm)  It's cyclical.  It's not an easy thing to reverse when our culture relies on outsiders to tell us if we are well, warm, and fed.  But, it's a worthy endeavor.   

Elimination Communication is also fascinating.  It revealed to me another amazing quality our newborns possess: the desire to not pee or poop on oneself.  They have so much of a desire that when taking the time to really listen and respond, our newborns can and will cooperate in remaining dry.  So, dabbling in EC with my second son at 3 months old begged the question from me:  What are we limiting in satisfying our desire to keep our children within the bounds of our comforts and what we think is acceptable from other people's pictures of "good parenting"?  Our pictures of "good parenting" are really other people's pictures of "good parenting" until we form our own.  I believe we could form our own pictures of a "good parent" more easily without the habit of doing what we are told or what is expected of us, but instead looking to our bodies during pregnancy-naturally-and to our babies after pregnancy-naturally-to discover what need is being expressed and how it can best be met.    

I have read a library full of parenting books over the years.  It has taken 9 years and 4 kids, and this is not the part when I say "I finally have it figured out".  This is the part where I say, "That inability to tune in to primal needs, that habit of looking outside of my kids to figure out what they should be doing by now or what temperature the bathwater needs to be or what form of discipline to use and when or what their sibling fights need to look like to be healthy, THAT SAME HABIT is what made parenting so damn hard." 

So if you see my kids in shorts in the winter or skipping a meal, it's not a sign of negligence, it's part of my long-term goal as a parent. 

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**Disclaimer**

I am not writing this to anyone.  I'm not writing this to offend anyone, and I didn't take offense by anyone.  Although this train of thought stemmed from a conversation I overheard, it's just the train of thought I had in reflection of the conversation.  That's all there is to it.  Thanks for reading.

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Sep. 8th, 2011

mei tai, home school, nature

Hiccups

I became overwhelmed a week ago, when I felt like it was becoming so difficult to meet all of the demands on me. Sometimes, when I look around at what my life is full of, I freak out a little. It seems almost impossible that I am doing it, but somehow I am. When I have a bad day, I question things. That's actually a good thing because it helps me to re-evaluate what my priorities are and what they should be

As I move further into homeschooling the children, I'm noticing more quickly that this is just a hiccup.  Things get straightened out.  It's not a sign that something is severely wrong.  Instead of taking apart the whole plan and causing myself emotional turmoil, I now can take a deep breath, reach out to my support system, and tweak things a bit.  Or, drink a glass of water from the other side of the glass...have someone jump out at me....whatever cures the hiccups. 

One thing that I decided to do is to go in and highlight the most important things to practice with the kids each week and highlight the fun extra activities with a different color.  We have a busy life, and I feel strongly that if they get real world exposures to helping adults, they are getting the best 'extras'.  The most important formal learning subjects I work with them on take as much time each day as it would take to work on homework with them each night if they were going to school somewhere else anyway.  That was a nice realization to have.  Wow, what a burden is lifted when I think about it.  On top of that, I get to teach my children about the world first-hand following me around doing things they will do in real-life someday.

The reason 'the grass was greener on the other side' for a couple of days had more to do with my priorities being out of focus.  Yes, the kids' silliness and arguments can start to grate on anyone's nerves, but I was putting my priorities on the checklist more than making a point to find enjoyable things for me to do with them--not just enjoyable to them, but enjoyable to me.  My perspective can suck the fun out of anything, because when I set my mind towards something, I tend to see a straight-line to accomplish my goal and forget to relax enough to enjoy a different path to meet it.


Aug. 18th, 2011

mei tai, home school, nature

(no subject)

I thought I would try to upload some of the work I have done here to share with anyone who might be interested.  Unfortunately, Livejournal is being ridiculous right now.  There seem to be technical errors in uploading anything at this time.  


I have a basic school-day routine chart with each of our names at the top.  Along the left, there is the amount of time needed for each activity.  The placement of each activity is in the order the activity would be done ideally.  This gives me a way to keep track of what my thought was for keeping children involved with specific things while I'm giving one-on-one time with others, and it also helps me to remember which activities are best accomplished in the morning or to switch to a large muscle activity after doing memory work, for example. 


I have a course of study chart that gives me the basic subjects each child has and how each need is met, how many times per month or week.  I have a chart for each child, with their weekly focuses broken down into days.  I have room there on each chart to write in more details for planning the week, and this is the one I can check off.  I have files written out for this year now for Kyler, Suzanne, and Gideon.  I have reading lists for Kyler and Suzanne to keep track of which books are read (and for what subject) throughout the year. 


I also have a list of activities for Eliza in a colorful table.  This way, I can tell a child to go pick something to do with Eliza while I'm needing her to be busy somewhere else.  The kids had a lot of fun picking out activities to type onto the table.    


I'm still lacking certain materials I would like to have.  We're just going with what we have so far.  I'm working on putting together the nature study and art lessons, but other than those things, I'm done.  If I can upload documents later, I'll add them and re-post.





 

Aug. 9th, 2011

mei tai, home school, nature

A Season of Planning


I was supposed to take a week break to plan for the next year and start school back up with them two weeks ago.  I was not giving myself a realistic amount of time.  I thought that since I knew what program I was using for Fourth Grader and what resources I had available for Second Grader and Preschooler, I thought it was going to be easy.  Next year, I'm going to start my planning season three months in advance. 

Our school year is based on the past experiences of when we have been successfully schooling and when we have fallen into a rut.  I've noticed a trend of certain months causing us an impossible amount of stress that almost sabotages our home-school.  So, instead of trying to force us through the months where we are all miserable, I'm going with it.  This year, we have school September-November, January - March, and June-August.  I'm thinking that in 2013, I'll spend June-August slowly going through the steps I have tried to do here in a week and failed at.

For future reference, these are the steps of preparing my home-school:
  1. Write a small assessment of each child's skill level, what they seem to be gravitating towards in interests, and what we would like to bring more of into their education.
  2. Write down all possible resources that we have available to us for each child's needs and interests.
  3. Put together a focused planner from this awesome website with free planning pages.
  4. Take some steps each day towards gathering the books/ worksheets/ study schedules for each child.  Many books and worksheets have to be printed and placed in a folder.  Some books can be downloaded for free as an audio, but I'm not technologically savvy in putting that together yet.  That could be a project for next year.
  5. Fill in the planner.  For me, this is about getting the ideas out in a clear organized fashion to organize my thoughts.  I become more focused through this exercise.
  6. Divide the studies reasonably throughout the term. 
  7. Look over the first month's work and put together a list of supplies needed.  When you keep your child at home, you can go month to month on what you need, saving your family money.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I was listening to people call into a radio station.  They spent more than $100 per child on school supplies for the whole year, and it hit me how much we save in home schooling.  Even with the ink and paper I use to print things off and the occasional trip to buy crayons or notebooks, we spend maybe $50 per child.  When I do buy homeschooling materials like math programs, books, and teacher's guides, I get them used, and I am able to use them for four different years, since each child will be there eventually.  If I find I don't use it or like it, I can resell it!  I love home schooling!
  8. Include fun outtings.  We spend time regularly having errands to run or work around the house, but there should be a balance of enjoyable exploration and social experiences.  The book work is really done around our day's activities instead of being our day's activities.  Find the free or cheap trips to the museum or the zoo and put them into your planner.  Add in the social aspects like Home school P.E., Scouts, or Clubs, depending on the age of the child.
In the first year of home schooling, I was just trying to make it day-by-day.  It worked for what I needed at that time.  The next summer I was considering home schooling versus public schooling again.  I was having trouble feeling comfortable with how things were going.  I stumbled upon some great planning tools at Simply Charlotte Mason.  In 2008, was a series of articles guiding moms in the planning process.  Once I put that plan of 12-13 years down on paper in a graph form that allowed me to see how the other children would enter our schooling and to see when I could worry about grammar lessons, writing reports, and certain math concepts.  We haven't been working the plan perfectly, but organizing all of those things onto paper in the beginning helped me to relax and stay focused this year without even referring to it.

Recently on SCM, there has been an article on WHY we teach the children certain things.  We aren't just picking random things for no reason.  There is intention behind every choice whether a person realizes it or not.  There is also intention behind the kind of mindless schooling that basically just keeps feeding facts to people whether or not they are actually keeping it past the exam.  My intention is for my children to have influences in their lives that encourage healthy growth and doesn't rate them on how much information they can spit out if asked.  As their minds are inspired by rich ideas and are trained to be actively seeking understanding instead of passively digesting what's given to them, they will have plenty of information absorbed and they'll be able to communicate the information creatively and effectively.  

This article helped me to question what I'm bringing into my children's education this year.  It's easy to get carried away by all of the fun things we can do and all of the things my children should know, but when I'm reminded of the reasons I'm homeschooling and picking only the activities or lessons that will encourage more growth on rich ideas, there is freedom.  My kids and I are free from standards that keep us from enjoying life together.  When we get down to what really matters, we have less time wasted on the things that don't.

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