Friday, September 14, 2012

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

So, what kind of homeschooling family are we?

Eclectic. Very eclectic.

There are so many different educational methods and philosophies out there. How on earth do you choose the "best" one?

I am a researcher at heart. Or possibly just obsessive. The jury's out. But anyway, I love to research and learn. I started reading. And reading. And reading and reading and reading. I started talking to my homeschooling friends and my public education friends and family members. I looked up state standards. I ordered catalogs. And I read a lot.

After quite some time, I realized that we love literature, history and science. Those needed to be key areas we emphasized in our schooling. We have a huge amount of children's literature so it made a lot of sense to start there, as unit study homeschoolers. 6 hours a day. Starting at 9 and ending around 3. We did everything like she had done in school except that I allowed her to start 90 minutes later than her public schooled friends (because I'm so very nice, you see).

We were going to do hardcore second grade!

My units were AMAZING!! In fact, we were a bit overwhelmed by the awesomeness of my units. And Haley, who had unmedicated ADHD (among a lot of other learning and neurological issues) lost interest in our units after about 10 minutes on Monday mornings. Seriously. Kind of rough when they were designed to last a week. We fought through that challenge for months. And it was truly a fight. E.v.e.r.y. day. All day. But hey, her anxiety was getting better. :)

In desperation, I threw out most of what I had spent months working on and decided to get focused on what turned her on to learning. Life improved immensely and although I had to mourn what I wanted our school to be, I'm really loving what we've come up with instead. It's much more wonderful.

So this is what our new and improved homeschool life looks like:

Haley gets up whenever she wants to get up (she's always need a few hours more sleep than other children her age). That's usually around 8. She eats breakfast and plays, usually all morning. She can be on the computer, watch tv (we have PBS and Qubo), do art, build with her legos, clean the house (something she does for fun!), take a shower, whatever she wants to do (within reason).

When we start school we always write and draw. She either does an entry in her journal (her choice of topic, three complete sentences and a picture - next year I'll be choosing the topic) or she does an entry in her animal book (she is making a book about animals: I read information about the animal, she writes three complete sentences about the animal and then draws a picture of it). Not sure if we'll stay with the animal  book or move to a geography book next year. We usually use this as handwriting practice, too (Haley has fine motor delays so I don't push too hard here, yet she's made huge improvements).

I always read a scripture story to her (usually using the LDS Gospel Art picture kit) and we'll briefly discuss it. We'll do this next year, too.

She reads to me. We used a lot of different items for readers this year. We'll do that next year, too. She has completed the sight word lists we have.

Next we do we spelling. She has a different spelling task 3x a week. We do five words at a time and I'm currently choosing them from sight words lists (she's learning to spell all 500 words we have as sight words). She's almost done with this! Earlier this year we focused on word families.

She does math, usually worksheets because that is one area where she can typically work independently. She loves math! We are currently looking for a good math curriculum for next year.

She does phonics. She just completed a huge phonics book. Now we're looking for something new to use. Maybe Explode the Code (6, 7, 8) next year (or sooner). Just something to reinforce what she's learned and to continue working on some of the more difficult concepts.

Then we do some basic grammar or reading comprehension skills or analogies.

Next is health (we've been focused on emotional health lately). We only do this about 3x a week.

Next we do history and geography. We currently use Story of the World, Volume 1 (Ancient History) for history. We supplement a ton for geography and history, mostly with living books. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. :)

Then we do science. Other than math, I think this is Haley's favorite part of the day. We just do whatever we want, mostly using living books. This is super fun. We've done a lot of fun stuff this year! I'm considering a science curriculum for next year but I'm not sold on the idea. What we're doing is working really well for us.

That's it, except for art and music and physical education. We do those when we want to add them in. Haley is really musical and artistic so this doesn't feel like school at all.

And every night we read aloud (more). We focus on chapter books at night. Jason and Haley and I snuggle together in bed and read and read. It's fabulous!

So, that's what we do, except when we are on a field trip or visiting Grandma or going to the doctor.

Start to finish it takes about 2-3 hours (except the nighttime reading). Perfect!

How did we become a homeschooling family?

Jason and I are, admittedly, somewhat snobbish about education. We have strong feelings about education and have been vigorously advocating for our daughter for, well, 8 years. We had never seriously considered homeschooling until last year. We knew about it. We had plenty of homeschooling friends. I, specifically, had thought about it many times and every single time I immediately rejected the idea.

Haley has been a very challenging child to raise. Frankly, I needed a break from the parenting challenges. While I've never sought ways to be away from her, I admit that a few hours of peace a day while she was at school were warmly welcomed. Plus, she had an IEP so she needed the extra help she was getting from the professionals at school. She needed the socialization (a problem area). And come on, we all know only certain people homeschool. We weren't those people.

Enter first grade, her fourth year in public school. The year didn't go well. The teacher was fine (and very sweet and kind) and Haley did pretty well academically. Unfortunately, the same issues we had for most of the four previous years were still there: unrelenting anxiety, poor socialization, no real special education services, bullying (Haley was both the bullied and the bully).

In my anguish over my child's emotional health, I started feeling extreme resentment about the whole public school life we were living. Very early morning school start, complaints of a tummy ache or headache almost every day, fights about going to school almost every day, calls from the nurse multiple times per week due to said tummy ache or headache, inane homework, fundraising stupidity, too many uneducational movies shown during the school day, administrators overly concerned with the bottom line and restrictive special education policies that meant that my daughter was getting exactly 3 minutes of special education each day (yes, seriously, 3 minutes per day.) This doesn't even touch on the neverending battles we were enduring with the school district just to provide the IEP (let alone trying to get them to actually follow the federal laws). I was startled. Was there anything we were enjoying about the school experience?

My answer was that, no matter how many positives there were, we obviously weren't enjoying it enough. The cons far outweighed the pros. I was a bit dazed, to be honest. I've always defended public education. My parents both worked in public education. My mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was an administrator at a public university. Public education was practically in my blood! Many of my extended family members and friends are talented and loving public educators. Education is extremely important to me. Public education blesses the lives of countless children. I certainly had some great experiences growing up in public schools (on the whole, the school district I grew up in was very good). I was having a hard time reconciling my new feelings to my ancient beliefs. :)

Aside from an extraordinary special education preschool teacher, Haley has largely been lost in the shuffle (easy to do in an elementary school of over 830 students). Her school experiences were leading to her dreading school and hating "learning". Some of this was the fault of the school, some of it was due to Haley's disabilities and challenges and some was due to her personality. I'm sure plenty of other children (especially "typical" students) in our school district are thriving. I know many of them and the ones I know seem to be doing fine. But overall, public school was a failure for Haley and that was simply not acceptable to us. Especially not when we had the means to fix it.

Thus, the homeschooling journey began. And it has been FAR better than I would have ever imagined. Far, far, far better. So good, in fact, that I can't imagine NOT homeschooling now.

I guess we are those people, after all. :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just pondering

I've always loved etymology. :)

School: I love the ancient Greek word skhole. It means leisure spent in pursuit of knowledge or time used for intellectual discussion. How awesome is that?

Learn: to get knowledge; to be cultivated.

And studying these words today lead to studies of words like "know", "knowledge" and "wit". So glad for my 7th grade gifted class on root words. Coolest class I think I ever had in school. Off to have "school" and hope that we can have some intellectual discussions today. :)

Curricula or not?

Now that we've started to find our way through the maze of home learning, the big question becomes curriculum. This year we've used a hodge podge of curricula. It's worked for us, sometimes really, really well. But it's been a ton of work and I've had to throw out great curricula I created because it didn't fit Haley's learning style, her interests or was too much work for the educational payoff. We've concentrated our efforts, condensed our volume of work and found true learning without all of the superfluous bells and whistles.

So what about next year? I'm currently trying to find a language arts program and a science program. Maybe a math program. Or maybe not. Which brings me to an even bigger question: How school-y are we going to be?

I know we are going to continue with our relaxed attitude. "Unschool" is not something I think will work for us--I'm not sure I can relax that much. I am, after all, a control freak. Haley is generally resistant to challenging herself. So while I believe in the concept of "unschooling", especially in children with internal motivation, we're not ready for that. Since I don't want to move backward in our educational journey, that leaves me with continuing what we are doing.

Choosing exactly what to do and how much to do and when to do it is a huge decision. I hate to waste money buying something we'll hate or that won't work. So I'm researching, researching, researching and trying to walk that fine line between following our interests and forcing a set curriculum on Haley. I'm trying to find a balance between home learning and home schooling. Schooling is unimportant to me but learning? Learning is essential. And joyfully learning is vital!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Deschooling thoughts (or, in other words, finding our way)

I know. Jason and I completely stink at updating our blog. Please don't throw tomatoes at us. We are nice people. Promise!

I've been thinking a lot about our homeschooling journey. We've gone in a huge, curving, oops-I-missed-my-turn type of journey to get from a simple point A to point B. I think our meandering journey was a necessary part of figuring all of this out.

Before we made the decision to pull Haley out of public school, I had read about the concept of "deschooling" but didn't grasp how much I needed to deschool myself. I haven't been in school since I graduated from college in 1995. Still, deschooling for me has been the somewhat long and quite difficult process of getting rid of my old ideas about "school" and replacing them with the ideas in my heart and mind about learning. I have always been a learner. Somewhat of an obsessive learner, actually. What I really needed to do was stop trying to make our home a school like the one Haley used to attend (which didn't meet her needs) and follow my heart about how she might learn best.

We started in August with all kinds of schedules and a huge list of things a second grader "needed" to know. I was obsessed about making sure we did 5-6 hours a day of hardcore "school". No extra stuff until we finished with "school". Talk about stressful! This tactic is a bit amusing in hindsight, since anxiety was a huge reason we chose to homeschool.

I felt guilty for the first few months, constantly worried that we weren't doing this "right". It's already laughable, just a few months later. There is no "right" way to homeschool. I realize that now.

Things have been hard. Within months of beginning, I had to throw out all kinds of curriculum choices, things I had worked hard to put together. I had to adapt to Haley's attention problems and extreme emotional impulsivity. I had to adjust to being with her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had to adapt my schedule to fit her back into it. I had to really focus on her intelligence, humor and creativity because I knew that in order to be successful, we needed to emphasize her strengths and minimize her weaknesses. But the "how" of doing that was hard to find.

After struggling for a few months, I decided to be "lazy". To relax. To watch her and listen to her and see what happened. I realized that Haley is an auditory learner. That didn't mesh with my teaching style at all. Huge problem! I had been feeling that in order to be a supermom and extraordinary teacher, we should be doing lots of hands-on activities. You know, "fun stuff". I added lots of multi-media, activities, songs, games. That stuff went over like a lead balloon.

What did Haley really want to do? Listen. She loves to be read to, she loves to listen to music, she loves to listen to shows. She even likes her worksheets (but only with music or tv noise in the background). Most of the other stuff I was hoping we would do? Nope. Nada. No interest. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time she threw a fit over something "fun", well, I'd be ready to head on a nice long European vacation by now.

I really should not have been surprised. Haley is amazingly verbal. She remembers everything she hears. She prefers oral reporting and discussion over writing. She's very musical. She always wants sound in the background (tv, music). She rarely makes eye contact when I'm reading to her but she's soaking it all in. SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY. Why was I forcing her into learning in a way that made her irritated and uncomfortable. She WAS learning. Why was I stressing so much?

Now I am better able to give her what she needs. I'm letting go of those old schooling notions and learning to embrace our, quite lovely, reality. Haley is thriving. She has very little anxiety about "schoolwork" now. She is curious and loves to ask questions. More importantly, she's figuring out how to find answers to her questions. She has learned SO MUCH already this year and we still have two full months to go. That is exciting!

Deschooling has been hard for her but it's especially and surprisingly been harder for me. That wasn't what I expected at the beginning of this adventure. It's turning out to be a great lesson in patience and trusting myself.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For my non-Facebook friends

Sorry, I can't get them rearranged. Anyway, that's some of the work we've been doing. A lot still needs to be done but we're getting closer. I'm loving all of the fun colors we've used. Makes me so happy!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

All I Want For Christmas, a Haley-ism, and a BONUS Picture!

My wife casually tore into one of the gifts her parents gave her for Christmas. Chaos ensued around us as kids ran here and there, playing with new toys, and adults carried on a half dozen loud conversations. However, as Kelsee let out a loud gasp, the room grew quiet. Then she let out an excited series of shrieks and squeals. I was sitting behind her, so I peered over her shoulder to see what what had her in such a tizzy. The box, which usually held a new shirt or pair of pajamas, held one tiny item. That tiny item represents HIM, a man that constantly has my wife bubbling with joy. Now, HE sits on her bedside table. She gazes adoringly at his picture every night before she goes to sleep. And she sighs contentedly. When she wakes up and sees HIM, she giggles like a schoolgirl. By the way, written on the inside of the giftbox was a simple pickup line "You got me, babe!", as well as the promise of hours of his services. Now, you might think... ...What horrid parents! Giving their married daughter a MAN who was not her husband. ...Shame on Kelsee! I mean, goodness, she's married! ...Poor Jason, a victim of all this...this...debauchary. See, the thing is, HE's visited our home before. Often. Usually, while I was at work, he was in my house rendering his services in the family room and the bedroom. I'm ecstatic that he's visiting again, and hopefully, when he's done rendering his services in the kitchen, my wife will be satisfied. Who is this man? Rick, the carpenter, who will--finally--give my wife the kitchen she desires... ---- On another note, two days ago we were sitting around the table talking about Kelsee's birthday, which was yesterday. Kelsee jokingly lamented that she had only one more day before she was as old as me. Haley, the always sweet(??) daughter, went out of her way to comfort Kelsee. "You don't look old at all, Mommy. You don't have lots of ruffles like Dad!" Thanks, Haley. ----- Here's a picture to go along with the previous post about Haley's FHE lesson...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Haley and The Rebuke

The name of a new chapter book for older kids? Nope. The story of our Family Home Evening tonight? Yep. Haley was so excited to teach our Family Home Evening lesson tonight. She worked hard, cutting out paper footprints and writing things in them like "Help Mom", "Be Naughty", "Do Good", "Say Bad Words", etc. She taped them to the floor making a pathway to a picture of Jesus, which she taped on the table. The object was when you got to a footprint, you read it. If you did the good thing on the paper, you went forward. If you did the bad thing on the paper, you went backwards, and had to start over and pick a new route to the end. Haley made it in the fewest steps. Kelsee got hung up a couple of times (I won't say which obstacles stood in her way, largely because I enjoy sleeping in my bed). I had a really hard time getting past "Listens to bad music". Cameron just kind of gave up part way through. Then Haley told us if we want to get back to Jesus, we need to be clean and pure. Ouch. Thoroughly rebuked by a seven-year-old! Seriously, though. What a wonderful kid, and what a clever activity! She's growing so much in her faith and understanding of right and wrong. She's a great example to me. I feel ashamed that I'm not a better example for her. Time to work harder!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Here's One I Forgot

Look! Haley did pretty good on this spelling test. She only missed one... This is funny on so many levels, not the least is the fact that Haley is the naughty word police in our house...