In Homeschool This Week (take 7)

The theme of the week was tradition, ritual and sacred wisdom. It is important for kids to have family rituals that tie us all together. For example, every Christmas Eve the kids sleep under the Christmas tree. This is a tradition that my sister and I did as children, that we now have passed onto our own children. But there are rituals and traditions that we carry on in daily life, and these are just as important as the big holiday ones.

I found this great book at the library:

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From Amazon: “Quality family togetherness—everyone wants it, but it seems increasingly harder to achieve. In a world run by cell phones, computers, and virtual networking, the comfort of human connection grows more important— and rarer— all the time. In a guide newly updated for the next generation, family expert Meg Cox offers a solution. Family rituals provide a sense of home and identity that kids and parents both need. From holidays and birthdays to bed times, meal times, pets, and even chores, The Book of New Family Traditions spotlights hundred of ways to bring the fun and ritual back to family life”

In this book, there was another book suggestion: “The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens”. This was particularly interesting to me as the mom of two teens. I think it especially important for teens to go through the process of the “rites of passage” or “initiation” into adulthood. Native Americans describe these years as “The Thundering Years”. I immediately bought this book.

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We started out this week by going out to my dad’s prairie/creek land and observing/drawing nature for an hour in silence. It was the best. Then, we sat down in the tall, dry, autumn prairie grass and read the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” together.

This chapter, “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior”, talked about the intensity, beauty, difficulty, and questions of the Thundering years, and how they are designed to challenge us to determine what path we are going to take in life. A Warrior’s way includes a journey to oneself and to one’s purpose.

The next day we used watercolors and worked into our drawings:

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At the end of the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” there were instructions on how to make a Medicine Bag. So we did this as well. Pictured above is Kali with her artwork and medicine bag.

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Kali’s completed artwork

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I also created an artwork!

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Fiona stitching her medicine bag together (not just for teenagers!)

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One tradition that we have in our family is Movie Night! Is there anything better than sister snuggles?

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Fiona strumming for mommy after bath-time. Music is so important to us.

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Yoga in the woods at Blue Mound State Park

We read Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare in the woods, and then left it on a bench for another person to find. I’m going to start leaving poetry in the woods more often!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

In Homeschool This Week (take 3)

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Fiona making “potions”

I am loving the natural curiosity and love for learning that Fiona has. One of my main reasons for wanting to homeschool her was encouraging this! She had fun mixing up “potions” this week with water, food coloring, and salt. She created her own experiment where she tested the taste differences when she added the different ingredients. Plus, it’s just fun to play!

This week in Kindergarten, Fiona continued with her core subject studies, but I feel like she is learning the most by going out into the world and observing and participating in real life, and our discussions as a family. I’m very “unschooly” with Fiona, because she is so smart and I don’t want to put ANY pressure on her learning.

I LOVE this Native American model of education, The Circle of Courage:

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For Kali, Monday and Friday mornings are dedicated to horses! She is learning how to ride and take care of horses. This is a dream come true for her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she owned a horse farm someday!

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Our time at the horse farm is also really great for Fiona. We are lucky that the farm is very accommodating, and I’m able to do school work with the other kids there as well.

But the main thing we have been doing while Kali is at horseback is to go to the YMCA!

We are having SO MUCH FUN at the Y. Especially Matthew. He is in 9th grade and I have mentioned before that it is hard to get him motivated to learn at times. He is taking “coaching connection” sessions and they are really helping him set goals, and he is really getting into fitness now. The best part is, going to the Y has motivated ME! I am working out several times a week now and loving it! So needless to say, we are getting a lot of Phy Ed in.

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For Social Studies this week, I had Matt and Kali choose articles out of National Geographic Magazine to read, and then we discussed. Ebola and Global Warming were two main topics.

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We found ourselves in Madison one day, so we stopped by Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which is a gem (and FREE). The kids loved the succulent kaleidoscope, and had fun observing monarchs and a TON of hummingbirds (not to mention the beautiful flowers). They also have an amazing (and authentic) Thai Temple, which was a wonderful experience, and we were able to discuss even more about our Buddhist studies.

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We also learned about Monarch Waystations at Olbrich. This is a program that creates, conserves, and protects monarch habitats. This inspired us to devise a plan to create a monarch waystation in our yard. We started by heading out to my dad’s land, where he has been doing prairie restoration for the past 20+ years, to collect seeds from many of the plants such as milkweed and other perennials that are beneficial to the monarchs. We were lucky that he could identify and teach us about many of the different plants. He has quite the habitat already (we will have to get him a Monarch Waystation sign, too)! We are drying out our seeds now and will be ready to plant them in the spring!

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On Friday, we had another horseback/YMCA morning, followed by a picnic lunch, and then we visited the Monroe Public Library for their “Homeschool Hub: Make It” series. This library is absolutely wonderful! The kids made flextangles (check out the free template here, they are really cool and fun geometry), paracord slings, played some new educational apps on the iPads, chatted with their friends, made some new friends, and best of all, experimented with Snap Circuits!! If you have never played with Snap Circuits, I would highly recommend them (and I’m not getting paid for the mention, either). They. Are. Amazing. There are not many things that both my 5 year old and my teens find interesting and challenging!

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Fiona did a great job looking at the diagram and figuring everything out, with a little bit of mom’s help! She was amazed to create a circuit that powered a fan!

Let’s see what else? Kali finished The Island of the Blue Dolphins and completed some worksheets on that. She started reading “Marie Curie: Pioneer Physicist”. Matt continued reading his Twilight book, and Fiona and I just read a TON of books.

The older kids did some reading, videos, and worksheets about chemical reactions for Science. Matt continued with his video editing course. Overall it was another amazing week. We got out into the real world, learned and experienced a lot, and had our challenges and triumphs, too.

14322552_1011745612277971_3379652539635327285_nJust a note that in my blogs I definitely focus on the positive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our hard times as well. It is REALLY HARD to homeschool (for so many reasons that I won’t get into right now). But it is soooooo worth it!

 

First Day (Ever) of Homeschool!

Wow, wowza, wow, wow, WOW!

I am sooooo happy with our decision to homeschool! Today was our first official day ever of homeschooling. Well, it wasn’t my first day, as I was homeschooled Kindergarten through 5th grade, but it was a first for my kids. I wasn’t sure that my son, Matt, was into it. He is 14 and was getting ready to head into High School after being in public school his whole life. When my husband, Brandon, was driving him to his Freshman orientation, he exclaimed, “I don’t want to go. I would rather be home schooled with the girls”. Well, we thought we had talked about this many times before and figured it out, but it takes Matt time to process things, and he is not the best at communication. We discussed it, in depth, again, ONE MORE TIME, and we told him we were on board. So that meant I was scrambling last minute to get a NINTH grade curriculum planned out!

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I am beyond happy, though. Do you see that smile up there, on that young man’s face? That is not normally there (haha)!

Today was our first full day, and it was AMAZING! I saw my teens HAPPY! And I got to witness it, because I was right there running the show. They were engaged in learning, interacting with each other, myself, and their little sister. I could already see after ONE DAY that Matt’s confidence in his own abiliiies were starting to bolster. Last year, and this happened all the way though middle school, he would say negative things about himself like, “I’m not smart”. Today, he was beaming when he go 100% on an English quiz via Time4Learning.

Yesterday, we went to a picnic with other homeschool families. I was very excited and nervous to attend, because I really didn’t know anyone. I had met a couple of the moms once or twice, and they were there, and another mom greeted me warmly the moment I arrived. It turns out there is a great network of other homeschool families in our area. It seems like a very diverse mix of people who are all educating their children at home, and there are a TON of activities planned throughout the year that we can participate in. And that is only one group out of 4 in the area that I would like to be involved in.

On a side note, I just bought a total mom-mobile. Field trips are a big priority for me, and our other vehicle would be too crowded for our growing family (and dogs, etc.) so I thought to myself, you know I really need one of those big, old conversion vans like my Uncle Dewey used to have, and I looked it up on Craigslist and Voila…!
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I may be a little too excited about this van but I LOVE IT! Photo by Matt at our trip to Wyalusing State Park last weekend. 

So, our first couple days were wonderful, and I am so GRATEFUL that I have the opportunity to be able to go on this journey with my kids. I kept pinching myself the entire day, I felt like I was living in a dream. Wow that is hokey, but I’m not even kidding.

The little one, my sweet and sassy Kindergartner, Fiona, well she’s as bright as a button. Light years “ahead” academically, I’m not worried about her education one bit. I just want to hold on to that natural love of learning that she possesses, and encourage her endeavors and creativity as much as I possibly can.

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Fiona is really happy that she is able to have more (healthy) SNACKS!

Last year at this time, I thought I would have a kid in each school – Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Now, I feel so much closer to them, especially the older two, having them at home. It means so much to me on so many levels, and I can tell even after one day that it means a lot to them as well. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just keep posting on this blog so we can let this journey unfold and see the magic.

Until next time, happy learning!

 

 

Why homeschool? More accurately, why are WE?

Why are we homeschooling? I would never try to convince anyone that this is the right path for them, but we are choosing this as the right path for us. Every family is different, and every family also faces constant changes as children grow and go through their various phases. I’m planning on homeschooling my 5 year old daughter, Fiona — which has been a very long and difficult decision for us. Being a former home-schooled person myself (Kinder through 5th grade), I have always considered homeschooling my daughter and seriously started thinking about it when she was 3. I was dreading sending her to preschool. During this time, we did “preschool at home” with some semblance of structure. I would ask Fiona questions about what she was interested in learning about and write it out on a whiteboard like this:

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These were daily goals but I didn’t push it. I let her lead the way and if we didn’t get to a subject or idea, it was totally fine. I was amazed at what she was interested in learning — one of her favorite things was asking questions about how the human body works, and she loved watching middle-school level videos on YouTube about the digestive and circulatory systems (definitely something I would not have thought of myself).

We happened to move back to my hometown last summer (2015). In light of this and other changes, I decided to send her into school for 4K. My hometown (Brodhead, WI — south of Madison near the Illinois border) has great schools. Since it was only three hours a day, four days per week, I thought it would be a great experience for her. And it has been! She enjoys it, although she does complain that she keeps “learning the same thing over and over” and I know she is on the advanced end (she is already reading) which is not getting noticed or worked with. The experience has been fun for her on a social level but has not challenged her intellectually.

The school year is now coming to an end. It wasn’t always easy having Fiona go to school, even for the relatively short period of time she was gone each week.

Most days, we would be just getting in the middle of a great learning experience (such as a violin lesson, art project, reading, experiment, etc) and we would have to put whatever we were doing on hold so she could go get on the bus. It was honestly heartbreaking at times.

So the thought of sending her to school ALL DAY EVERY DAY was just too much for me. If there was an option where I could send her for 3 hours a day though High School I would do it. But the entire day is just too much.

I know this, because I have two older children who have been in the public school system their entire lives, and are now in 6th and 8th grades.

Now, I’m not going to start bashing teachers or the system. Yes, there are flaws. Yes there is too much testing and too much homework. Yes, sometimes you have to deal with a teacher you don’t see eye-to-eye with. However, overall, we have had a good experience with public schools. Good, but not great. Certainly not an amazing, fun, student-centered, highly individualized learning experience. My older kids get deflated by testing, testing, testing, homework, and are honestly outright bored most of the day. As they get older (especially my son who is in 8th grade), I see them getting more uninterested in learning or creating anything at all. It breaks my heart. And I know there is another way.

What I want for my children is this:

  1. To develop a LOVE for learning. To realize that learning does not stop at a certain point during the day (like, say, 3:00 pm). Learning does not stop when you graduate from high school or college. Learning is a fulfilling part of life, your entire life!
  2. To develop CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS. I don’t want my kids to be robots. I want them to question everything. I want them to THINK about the world and their place in it. How can they help, what type of person do they want to be, how can they contribute, what is happening and what can I do about it, what do I really want out of my life, what are the next steps toward my goals?
  3. Knowledge Retention. I want my kids to not only be excited about what they are learning, but I want them to remember it. The typical system of learning and testing doesn’t do much for retention. Many times, kids (including college students) only learn enough to do well on the test, and then it’s gone. I got almost straight As in college myself, and can’t tell you much about what I learned except for the classes that I was INTERESTED in. Good grades does not equal learning.
  4. OPPORTUNITIES. Being homeschooled means freedom. The freedom to create, imagine, work with your hands, travel, connect with different types of people, visit more museums, spend more time in nature, read more, play music more, work on more projects, apply skills to real world living — the list of opportunities are endless. Simply because you have more TIME.
  5.  To have an amazing childhood and develop their own unique perspectives and intelligence that will continue to guide them as they enter adulthood and during the rest of their lives. I want my children to know, down to their core, that life is what you make of it and you are capable of anything you set your mind to.

I have talked with my older two kids many times over the years about homeschooling. I have always said that it is their choice if they want to make the change. I did not start them homeschooling because at the time I was not in a place where I could do it. Now that I am older and more established, I am able to do this for my youngest daughter and hoping that my older two might like to join us in this grand adventure as well. My middle child, Kali, is on board for now but we will see after the summer what she thinks.

Speaking of summer, I am planning on doing year-round school. I should call it life-round school. I don’t think it is beneficial to distinguish between periods of learning and periods of breaks. Learning is not a factory job. It shouldn’t be mind-numbing drudgery. It should be something you are looking forward to doing at every opportunity, without even realizing it, because it is inherent and natural and your mind is open to it.

I organize my thoughts best when I am writing. So I knew that if I were to embark on this homeschooling journey that I would definitely need to start a blog. Not only to organize my thoughts, but also to hold myself accountable, and to create a lasting documentation of our journey.

Kali (my 6th grader) and I came up with this acronym the other day, when we were discussing what home school would look like to us:

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At any rate, that’s a brief overview of why I am homeschooling some, maybe all, of my children. Whatever works for your own family, that’s what I say. We have more choices in this life than we tend to consider.

Until next time, cheers!