Saturday, August 31, 2013

This is how we rock and roll!

It has been three weeks since we took this picture on our first day of homeschool.  We have learned so much since then, and most of the lessons didn't come out of any of the books we are using.  

We were called to homeschool.  The circumstances that brought us here do not really matter, the fact is we were meant to do this.  From the moment we became parents, homeschooling our kids was part of our lives' plan and we had no idea.

Our boys are thriving with the one on one attention they are receiving.  They are happy as 7 year old boys should be. Last year while attending regular school, Cade had a lot of problems learning to read early in the year; while his brother was reading very well since kindergarten (thank you Mrs. C!).  This caused lots of doubts and self esteem issues for Cade.  We eventually got over that hump (after many nights reading and crying together) but his self esteem has taken longer to rebuild.

These past three weeks I have seen him blossom.  His self esteem has come back in full once he realized he is as smart as his twin brother and so very good at math.  Would he have reached his point in regular school?  I'll never know for sure, but I'm glad to see he is learning more than just academics now.  He is learning he was made to be great!

For Braden, last year was a struggle because of discipline.  Academically he was doing wonderfully but he would finish his work early and would start to play.  Or talk to someone else in class.  We would get notes every other day about how he was "interrupting class" by playing, or talking. His grades were great, his behavior was the issue.  He simply got bored waiting on the other kids to finish their work.
Needless to say, he no longer has to wait for anyone else.  He can finish his work and move on to things that matter to a 7 yr old, like PE and looking for bugs outside.  Even his handwriting (which was a huge issue for us last year) has improved considerably, just in three weeks of homeschool!

As for my sweet Candace, she has always been a great student.  It has taken her (and me!) more time to get used to the more relaxed approach that comes with being homeschooled.  The first thing I've noticed is her piano playing skills have improved tremendously.  She is was a good player already, but now she has more time to practice, but most importantly, she wants to practice.  I no longer have to remind her (over and over) to take time to practice.
She is also feeling more comfortable debating different subjects with me, and doesn't get flustered now when I ask her questions that are not in the textbook. She now goes and finds the answers and knows it is ok to know things that are not in the books.

My kids are learning from more than just books.  They are watching documentaries and using their computer to find videos on the educational websites.  They are going outside to explore and looking forward to field trips.  

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord".  I believe homeschool was part of that plan for our family.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

We made it thru week 2!

We survived our second week of homeschooling without any casualties.  No one has ran away from home in a screaming fit, no one has asked to go back to "regular school", no one has locked themselves in the bathroom and refused to come out.  And that's just the adults!

The truth is, we have settled into this a lot easier than I anticipated.  The kids are slowly finding their own rhythm.  The twins have adjusted really well, they are ready and eager to get their work done in the morning so they can get to the important stuff, like PE lessons and terrorizing their sister.  My girl is taking her time finding her rhythm.  Slowly, she is taking more and more ownership of her school work; and feeling more and more confident about structuring her daily schedule.  

Every day brings a lesson, at least in my opinion.  So here are a few of the lessons/realizations/thoughts for our 2nd week of homeschooling.  (Disclaimer: These are not all my own.  My husband is the one who does the teaching, but he doesn't blog and many of these are his thoughts.  The others are the kids, a few are mine.  I'm simply the crazy lady with the laptop and a blog)

Starting every "school day" with a prayer makes it go easier.  We are a Christian family. Even though we did not choose homeschooling for religious reasons, we are raising our kids in the ways of our faith.  Every week, I write our weekly Bible verse and place it on our bulletin board.  Every morning, my husband prays before everyone begins to tackle their assignments.  Wednesday, he mentioned how well things were going, and said "Starting every day with a prayer really does help me get thru the lessons".  

We are all teachers, even my husband.  If anyone had told my husband he would one day homeschool his children, he probably would have called them crazy (among other things).  I'm not sure anyone would expect my Harley ridding husband to have the patience to teach.  Yet here he is, educating his children.  And he is so good at it!  He finds ways to engage them, and keep their interest, and even quiz them without them realizing it. 

The cleaning fairy does exist.  Really, she does.  I'm not sure how it happened, but now that we are homeschooling, our house is cleaner than when the kids were attending regular school.  Mind you, it is NOT spotless.   There are still shoes they forget to pick up, and dishes they forget to take off the table.  But I can actually see the floors! All the school books and notebooks are always in its place and I don't have to wonder where the pencils are when it's time to work on something.  Maybe the kids like to have things in their place?  Nah, I'm pretty sure the cleaning fairy is real.

The laundry fairy, however, does not exist.  Laundry multiplies, no matter where your kids attend school.  I had this idea that once we started to homeschool, the amount of laundry would diminished.  I mean, the kids could do their school work in their pajamas.  Rather than wearing 3 outfits each day (school clothes, home clothes, then pajamas); they would wear maybe 2.  Nope, apparently my kids like to look their best no matter the occasion.  

Kids are highly adaptable creatures.  I have been amazed to see how easily they have become homeschoolers.  I know every week won't be easy.  I'm sure there will be whiny days, and sick days, and days we will all reconsider this choice. But the kids do understand that, even though we have a flexible schedule now, school work is still required.  They don't need a classroom, a chalkboard, to understand that school work is important.  

We are a team, all five of us.  I knew we were a family. I married the boy, we had the kids, we became a family.  But now we are a team.  The success of our homeschool depends on all of us; not just the adults.  The kids have taken their place on the team and are doing their part.  Our girl will help dad with a lesson if the boys are just not "getting it" the way he is explain it.  They don't fuss when she does, they simply listen to her.  The boys do their assignments without issues, always ready to get done and move to the next thing.  And my husband, the tough guy who many doubted could do this, is doing an amazing job at engaging and teaching the kids.  
I'm doing my part too, I guess.  I do the planning and make sure their weekly schedules are ready for them.  As my friend Terri said, I'm just managing the team, they are doing the real work.

And they are doing a beautiful job.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

For the love of Learning

I would be lying if I said I knew I wanted  to homeschool the minute I held my daughter in my arms almost 12 years ago.  How we came to this decision is a long story for another time.

As I did my research (have I mention how much I research stuff?), the more it seemed homeschool kids simply love to learn.  That's not to say that children who attend regular school don't, I guess what I'm trying to say is there are more opportunities for homeschool kids to explore a topic they are interested in, research it, enjoy it.   Again, not bashing schools or teachers.  I attended private school, public school and I loved to learn and still do.   

It is hard to explain what I mean when I say I want my kids to have a love of learning.  As I was driving home the other day, a memory came to mind of my 6th grade science class.  Yes, I can remember that far back.  It was almost *gasp* 30 years ago but I still remember it.   I think that memory summarizes what I wish all children, not just mine, would get to experience in a school setting.

My 6th grade teacher's name was Carmen de Esquivel.  How impressed are you that I remember her full name?  I surprise myself sometimes.  She had a reputation for being very strict, so going into her class I had some apprehension.  I remember our lesson on cloud formation, which was part of the whole unit about the water cycle.  My science book had this pretty picture that depicted all these different shaped clouds, and the name scientists gave those clouds.  We sat in the classroom and listened to the lesson, and tried not to stare out the window into the big blue sky.

Until Ms. Esquivel told us to line up by the door; and guide us outside.  Into the playground area.  And told us to look up at the clouds.  If I close my eyes, I can still feel the sun on my skin, and the wind on my hair as I stood there looking at the clouds on the beautiful blue sky.  She asked us the names for the different shaped clouds, and share some more information while we were seating outside on that playground.

I have never looked at the sky in the same way again.  I'm sure that's not the only lesson that took place outside but that's the one I remember when I think about my love of learning.  I want that for my kids.  I want them to never look at anything the same way again.  I want that one lesson to spark their curiosity and make them thirst for knowledge.

So yes, homeschooling affords me that opportunity.  They can spend time learning about volcanoes, or Egyptians mummies; passed the allotted time they would have at school.  

I know there are more teachers out there like Ms. Esquivel who try to spark that love of learning in the kids they teach.  I'm thankful for her and for them. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Homeschooling. The least conventional way

After much anticipation and what seems like years of preparation, we have finally joined the ranks of homeschoolers. 

In the months prior to our joining, I have spent countless hours reading blogs from other homeschooling families, researching curriculum, looking at pictures of "school rooms" in Pinterest; and finally I've come to the conclusion that we are like no other homeschooling family.  At least none I've found.

For starters, I am not the one doing the teaching.  I'm the one who gets up in the wee hours of the morning, yells at unsuspecting drivers on the way to work, and puts in 9 hours each day in a downtown office.  Where most homeschooling families have a mom doing the teaching, ours has a dad (wonderful dad!) who is willing to take on the task of educating the kids to my ridiculously high expectations.

And yes, while I'm at it, I know sometimes I have unrealistic expectations, and that I expect my kids to be smarter than most children, but that's just me.  I figure if we aim high and not achieve it, we'll still achieve our goal.

As I was saying, I spent countless hours looking for blogs about families like ours: families where dad did the schooling, mom went to the office every day, and they both had a significant role in their children's education.  I'm pretty certain there are homeschool dads out there, we can't be the only family with one.  I came across a few blogs that had not been updated in several years, which made me wonder: did the dads call it quits, did they get too busy and no longer had time to update their blogs? I guess I'll never know.  

I have been very surprised to be asked "are you quitting your job?" every time we've mentioned homeschooling.  Are we conditioned to think men are not capable of teaching?  Because every professor I had in college was male, and there are many male teachers in elementary and high school.  Is it because mom usually stays home?  I'm never sure why the question come, but it is usually accompanied by a look of disapproval.  

What most of these people never bother to ask is what my role is in this homeschooling adventure.  I wonder if they think simply because I'm not doing the teaching, I'm not involved in the schooling.  

Truth be told, I'm the mastermind of this whole operation.  *insert evil laugh* .  Once we made the decision (it was a joint decision, not just mine); I knew the researching, learning, finding curriculum, getting organized, keep up with records, etc, would fall on me.  That's just the roles we have in our family, I'm the one who does the planning, even if my husband does the execution of the plan. Homeschooling is no different.  I put the lesson plans together, I keep their schedules straight, I run the operation behind the scenes.  

We are just on week two of homeschooling, but I can see already it will only work if all parties (parents and kids) communicate.  The kids let me know if they don't like something in a lesson.  Dad will tell me if he notices the kids listen better if read to, rather than having to do the reading, or if the material in a textbook is boring.  Homeschooling is more than just school at home, it's a family endeavour.  

So here we are.  Homeschoolers.  I can add that to the list of things I never thought I would be.  But I'm certainly glad we are on this path.