Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things I've discovered after a year of homeschooling

Summer flew by and school is about to start once again.  We are no longer "new" to homeschooling, our first year is behind us.  So I thought I would list the things I have learned and encountered in the last year or so; about myself, my kids, and everyone else we know.

1) Homeschooling is NOT easy.  
Some people believe homeschooling families choose this path out of laziness.  The thought is laughable at best.  All your household chores are still there, and now you have your child's education to focus on.  You may never catch up with your sleep, your laundry, or the rest of the chores.  There are field trips to be taken, lessons to be covered, and guess what?  There are no sick days.
Kids don't play video games all day; and eat junk food while you watch soap operas.  That's a myth.

2)  Kids dread the first day of school, even those who are homeschooled.
This is a sentiment I cannot relate to because I loved school.  Literally.  I was the kid who could not sleep the night before due to the excitement.  It wasn't about seeing my friends again; it was all about what I was going to learn. 
I have heard my kids say "ugh, I'm not ready to start school again".  They sound like any of the regular school kids, don't they?  You know why they feel that way?  See #1 above.

3) Just because you homeschool in your PJs, doesn't mean you are lazy or unable to function in the "normal" world.
Forgive me for a second here, because I'm about to vent and the following is MY personal opinion.  You don't have to agree with it; but you don't get to badger me about it either.
On most days, the kids will do their work in their PJs. We are in our house and I don't want any more laundry than a household of 5 can produce.  I don't make them get up and change clothes in order to do school work because we are NOT recreating school at home; we are homeschooling.  There is a huge difference.  If they want to change clothes, fine.  If they don't, that's fine too. 
My children function just fine in the "real world".  The fact they do their work in their PJs doesn't hinder them from joining the "real" world.  When it's time to join the rest of the human population, my kids know to dress appropriately.  They understand that PJs are not acceptable attire for church, piano lessons, or museum trips.  
I am still trying to figure out why anyone would think the attire you wear while doing schoolwork makes you a "better functioning" human.  I see plenty of people dressed in professional attire every day who can't function in normal society.  I rest my case.

4)  How do I know what to teach, and how do I know my kids are learning?
Well how did I know that they were learning while in regular school?  Truthfully, some things they weren't learning. They memorized it for a test; and it was out of their mind once the test was done.  I know they are learning because my kids have taught my husband and I more about animals in the last year than we even realized they knew; just from watching educational shows about it.  They have read more encyclopedias than most people do in a lifetime.  They have a need to tell me all about something they read in a book at the library; and they are excited about exploring the backyard and looking for "new" species of bugs.  That's how I know they are learning.
As to what to teach, how did I know my kids were learning what they were supposed to learn while in school?  I honestly didn't, I just trusted the school.  Well, I follow the same guidelines the schools do to make sure they learn what they need.  Simple as that.

5) People from the "good school districts", who live in the nice subdivisions, homeschool too.
Most people know I live in a very crappy school district.  My kids attended private school for a long time; and we now homeschool them. I hear often how I need to move to x,y,z town because the school is better; and you guessed it, the kids can go to school there.
Turns out there are families who live in the elite school districts who homeschool.  So I am ok staying in the crappy district and homeschooling too.

6) All kids are not created equal.
Well duh.  Everyone knows that, right?  I knew my kids were different from each other from day one. What I didn't realize was how differently they learn.  They process information in a way unique to them.  While textbooks and worksheets work for one, the other needs a more auditory/visual environment.  I don't force them to sit still at a table while we do school. Yes there are things that have to be done while sitting down, like writing for example. But they don't sit through every single lesson.  Some lessons are on the computer, science experiments may take you outside into the woods or into the kitchen.  

7) Dads can homeschool too
Here is a big one for us.  When we made the decision to homeschool; the very first question people had was "are you going to quit your job?".  Imagine the shock when I said no.
You don't have to stop working to homeschool, there are plenty of moms who work from home and outside the home who do it.  I'm one of the lucky ones who has a husband who is willing to do most of the schooling while I'm in the office.  
Most people seem shocked, some ask if I double check after him to make sure the kids are learning.  When did we decide men can't teach?  There are plenty of male teachers in schools right now; and all my professors in engineering school were males.  So why the double standards?

8) Everyone is an expert about what you should be doing; specially those who have never homeschooled.
Everyone.  I've been told what curriculum I should use, how I should teach; etc.  By people who have never done it.

9) Everyone has a horror story about someone who homeschooled and did a horrible job.
I don't know every homeschooling family in the world.  The ones I know are committed to providing the best education for their kids.  Period.  I'm sure there are lazy people out there who use the term homeschooling to allow the kids to run wild while they watch soap operas.  And if you come across one of them, report them.  That's not homeschooling. I'm not entirely sure what's the point of those stories.

10) I have my kids' best interest at heart.
Don't assume that I don't care about the future my kids will have because I homeschool.  That's the reason I do it; because I want the best for them.
I know plenty of graduates from "good" schools who have done zero with their lives.  Going to a regular school doesn't guarantee success in college or anywhere else.  

Homeschooling is a journey.  You will come across people who will support you and some who will do what they can to put you down.  Just remind yourself of the reasons you made the decision and keep going. 

Besides, why worry about what people say?  You were made to be different.

Monday, July 7, 2014

4 miles? No problem. That one time I thought I was a Kenyan

Once upon a time, I was a runner.  I laced up my shoes early every morning and logged in my miles; and I even trained for a marathon.
Then last week I decided it was time to get back to racing and signed up for a 4 mile race.  Piece of cake, right?  I mean, I have logged up to 30+ miles per week; how hard can 4 miles be?

What I seemed to have forgotten is that I had not run in a YEAR.  That's right.  A WHOLE YEAR.  And those 30+ miles per week were logged 7 years ago.  

Somewhere inside this crazy brain, I convinced myself that I was part Kenyan; and since my body has logged that many miles before, it would remember how to do 4 miles easily.  Insane idea?  Absolutely.

I signed up for the race; and told myself even if I didn't finish, the fee went to a worthy cause.  Besides getting on my elliptical machine at home; and taking the stairs at work; I have done no other form of exercise in a whole year.  I know what you are thinking.  She is either crazy; or she certifiably insane.  

I got up early on July 4th and headed out to meet destiny.  I had one goal: to finish.  I didn't care if I was slower than "a stampede of turtles running through peanut butter" (Gotta love that phrase!); I was determined to finish all 4 miles.  Pace was simply not important, just survival.

So the race began.  First half mile and my legs were burning and my shins hurting.  I know the feeling all too well since this is what it feels like every time I get on the elliptical so I pressed on.  I got this, that's what I told myself.

Then I came to the first hill of many and became certain I was either going to die; or going to hurt for a while.  Who knew there were these many hills in our town? I certainly didn't.

First mile was over; and I had gone uphill twice.  Someone was playing a practical joke on me; this was supposed to be an easy 'get back to running' race!  

Mile 2 took me to the lake in town.  Nice setting; how can you not enjoy running around such a placid place?  Let me tell you how:  HILLS.  All around the lake.  At this point, I'm considering calling it quits, calling my husband to come get me, and doing the walk of shame out of there.  

This was the point where I began to talk to myself. Part was motivational, the other half was "what the heck were you thinking, you crazy woman" speech.  I reminded myself of all things I had accomplished in life, including surviving twins; so this was a piece of cake, right?

The struggle continued in my head and soon I had made it to Mile 3.  Can't quit now, I told myself.  You just have one mile left.  Quitting now would really be embarrassing.  That was until I realized this last mile would be UPHILL.  Who designed this course?  Someone who was trying to make a quitter out of me? I was not quitting, I told myself.  I was finishing even if they had to pick me off the ground at the finish line!

Then I saw the most beautiful sight closer to the finish line, my husband and kids cheering me on.  I smiled, almost cried, and kept on because I really couldn't quit now that they were watching, right?

In the end, I finished all 4 miles, and my time was better than I had anticipated.  I crossed the finish line, found my car, and headed home before I got stiff and couldn't drive.  ha!

I learned a few lessons that day.  Sometimes you can't prepare for what life brings.  All you have is willpower; and the desire to overcome your obstacles.  Keep your eyes on the prize and keep on going.  If you are believer, as I am, then you pray for the endurance to finish the race laid out before you.  As I did.  

Now I'm ready for the next race.  Because apparently the insanity stayed, even after the sore muscles.  I'm ready to run again!