Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yes, you CAN!

It's that time of the year when homeschool moms start thinking about the upcoming year.  Some already know what curricula they will use for their children.  Then there are others like me, who have tried a few, and are now ready to settle in using a different one and praying this is the one that works for all parties involved.

I have been doing research, and had found the one curriculum I think will work wonderfully for my active boys.  The one that will keep them interested in the lessons, and with plenty of hands on activities for them to enjoy (and burn some energy). I downloaded sample pages and the more I looked through them, the more I liked what I saw.

I really should have stopped then.  I came across a post on a facebook group where someone mentioned this other curriculum, and then this other... Before I knew I was second guessing myself and the choice I thought I had already made.

Thing is, I never second guessed the education my children were getting when they were attending a brick and mortar school.  I never asked to see the lesson plans, or the textbooks that would be used to educate them.  I blindly trusted someone else, a stranger, to make those choices for me.  

{Not trying to start a debate between school vs homeschool.  This is just my personal observation, that affects solely the people I gave birth to.  You do what you believe is best for your children. I am doing the best by mine.}

So here I was, on a late Saturday night, ready to pull my hair because I couldn't figure out which of three curriculum I was researching was the best one for the boys; and I couldn't really figure out what math would work best for my daughter.

In a moment of (rare) sanity, it came to me.  I know my children best.  I have watched them learn for two years at home; and I know what works for them, what gets them excited about learning, what helps thing go smoothly.  
How the lessons are presented is just as important (to me) as the material that's being taught.  

Why didn't I ever question the curricula the school chose for the kids?  Maybe because I am a product of regular school.  Maybe we are taught not to question those who educate us.  I honestly don't know why I never did.

What I do know is I am quite capable of picking the curriculum that it's going to allow my kids to learn and still have fun doing it.  I understand that sometimes they need to stand up and move around while I read to them, or that they need  to burn some energy off in between their lessons.  
I know that they are auditory learners, and what that means when it comes to how they learn.

I know my children and I CAN choose what works best for them to make their learning experience a happy one. I should trust my choice just as much (or more) as  I did those choices that were made for me when they were attending school. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

What every homeschooler needs, the other "S" word in homeschooling: SUPPORT

There is a dirty little S word among homeschoolers no one wants to hear.   The dreaded "socialization".  It is the first thing a family gets asked when the decision is made to homeschool and it seems to be the one thing non-homeschoolers worry the most about.  

But this isn't about that dreaded word, this one is about what I believe every homeschool family needs: SUPPORT, specially from other homeschool families.

My family has been incredibly blessed to have found support even before we began this journey.  I was lucky enough to know someone who, unbeknownst to me until then, homeschools.  She offered her support, guidance, and when a group was being formed at her church, she invited me to join them.

For the last two years, we have joined the other families in this group for fun activities and field trips.  Yes the kids get a chance to "socialize" but honestly, I think I get the most out of these opportunities.  There is nothing as encouraging as talking to another parent about an issue you are facing and have them say "oh yeah we have gone through that too".  We are all at different stages in our homeschool journey; and I've always received lots of support and encouragement when I've needed it.

You may be thinking, why do you need support? Don't homeschoolers want to be left alone, and be away from the general population? Isn't that why you took your kids out of school?

Well no, but that's a story for another time.  If there is a family out there who homeschools to stay away from the rest of humanity, I obviously haven't encountered them.  Because, you know, they are staying away from the rest of us.

Today some of our group got together to have a Valentine's Day party for the kids.  I was reminded then how blessed I am to be part of a group that supports my journey, who makes us feel welcome, and who actually cares about us.
Why should you join a group if you homeschool?
1) Support. 
Yes your family may be supportive, and your friends may be supportive.  But unless your family has homeschooled and your friends are in the trenches with you, you still need the support of people who are traveling the same road.

On the days when the kids will not listen, when the laundry is piling up, and you are ready to flag the yellow bus down the next morning and ship them off to school, you need someone to remind you "this too shall pass".

2) Curriculum suggestions
We've only been doing this for two years, and we have changed curriculum several times.  Not because they were not good but because they didn't work for my kids.  So what do you do when you are in search of yet another one?  You go to that group of parents who has traveled that same road and ask them for suggestions.  

3)  Resources
Looking for a used curriculum sale, suggestions on how to test your kid, or just a recommendation for a book/movie for you or the kids?  Look no further.

4) Friendships
Sitting with someone and talking about parenthood always makes me feel normal.  Really, it does.  It helps me realize that my kids aren't as terrible as I think, they are just kids.  When you sit to talk to a parent who homeschools, you already have something in common; and it gives you grounds to explore what other things you may both like.  

5) It is fun
Whether you are in group that meets on a regular basis, or part of an online community, being part of a group is fun.  You can laugh together at the frustrations that come with daily life, about the funny thing your kids did, or just hang out while the kids get to spend time doing that other S word, socialize.

So if you are considering homeschooling, make sure to find a group that can offer you more than just socialization for the kids.  One that will offer you the support you need.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Just call me Mr. Magoo

Does anyone remember the cartoon character Mr. Magoo?  The bald, blind man who would run over everyone driving because he couldn't see?  

Today I feel like him.  You see, I forgot to make an appointment with the ophtalmologist for my annual exam.  My contacts, which I'm only suppose to wear for 30 days before throwing them away, are now 30 days passed their expiration date; and the earliest appointment I could get is still 4 weeks away.

So at the risk of causing my eyes permanent damage, and rendering myself completely blind, I decided to wear my glasses.  
You see, I have a love/hate relationship with them.  I love the fact they allow me to see, but I don't really like to wear them.  I guess it all goes back to being in high school and being called "nerd" because not only did I need glasses, I was sort of a nerd.

I see other women who look great wearing their glasses and think "I wish I could look like that with mine".  I just can't pull off the look.  I guess I've gotten so used to the reflection on the mirror that I don't recognize myself with glasses.

I put my contacts away last night (just in case); and wore my glasses to work today.  Talk about trying to adjust!  Everything looks weird, I spent half the morning feeling like I had too many tequila shots before work; and finally at lunch; I closed my door, took them off and allowed my eyes to rest for a bit.  

Will I make it until my appointment? I really don't know.  I'll give it a few more days and then we'll see what happens.  In the meantime, just call me Mrs Magoo.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Aslan who?? Family Reading Time. Sort of

Our homeschool adventure has gone through many changes in the past two years.  It seems we (and by that I mean me) are always trying to find new ways to do things, adapting to new schedules, you get the idea.

After the holidays, I decided that my kids spent too much time in front of the tube. If asked, they would emphatically deny that statement but I know what I know.  So a new rule was established: no TV during the week, and only allowed with permission on weekends.

Too harsh? Not in my book.  I grew up in a household with no TV.  On those days when I wasn't outside playing with the neighborhood kids; I would be sitting somewhere in the house with a book.  I simply love books.  I have been known for spending a weekend lost in a book and forgetting all about the laundry, the dishes, and eating takeout.

So cutting TV time was an experiment to get my kids to read more.  Don't get me wrong, they do read. But I want them to love books as much as I do.  My suggestion was met with several raised eyebrows, so I suggested we have "family reading time" at first; until we all got into the groove of things.
I chose to begin with The Chronicles of Narnia books.  Kids have seen one of the movies, so it seemed like a perfect choice.  
Picture this: a mom sitting on a chair with the children at her feet, attentively listening to every word she reads to them, with a roaring fire in the background.

That isn't quite the image we created.  Ours looks something like this.

"Kids, it's reading time.  Let's all gather on my bed".  "Do we have to??  Can I read a different book?" "NO, I'm reading and you are listening.  Now gather up".

Picture a mess of kids and a dog (gotta have the dog on the bed, he likes stories too) in one bed.  I begin to read about Digory and Polly, and how Narnia was created when Aslan began singing...

"leave the dog alone!".  "stop putting your feet on your brother!".  "put your legs down, you are going to kick your sister on the face"

I continue on to how the wiser animals formed the council, how the Cabby and his wife became the first King and Queen of Narnia... 

"why did he choose the Cabby?.  "who made him King? "weren't you listening? mom just said Aslan did".  "I wasn't asking you.  Mom, would you answer my question?"

Sigh.  There is no roaring fire, or perfect little kids gathered at my feet, eager to hear every word.  But we are doing it.  We are close to the end of the first book and will move on to the next one until we have read them all.

As a mom who spends 9 hours per day away from home, this is my quality time with the kids. There are nights we only get to read a couple of pages, and other nights when the kids want to take turns reading.  They get to hear quality literature read to them and hopefully it will eventually spark in them a desire to read that will never go away.

Either way, we are not giving up on our reading time.  Even when the dog is the most attentive of all the participants.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What I've learned from my dog

Dog owners everywhere, unite!  There is no greater joy than owning a dog, is there?  They just make life better, don't they?

Back in October, we added Max to our family.  
This little fur ball arrived at Casa Johnson in October.  He was 4 weeks old and I just knew he was a keeper. There have been so many lessons learned since Max joined our family.  We are a homeschooling family after all, we find lessons everywhere. 

1) Potty Training a dog is very much like potty training toddlers.  Most of the time they know what they are supposed to do, but it's a lot more fun to watch mom react to you going in the middle of the floor.  

2) Bath time can be fun.  Just delegate it to the kids and pray the house isn't flooded  by the time the dog is clean.

3) Your kitchen counters are never high enough, specially if your dog is half Great Dane.  

4) Having a sick dog is just as bad as having a sick kid.  You will not sleep well, you will make yourself sick with worry; only to have the creature bounce back as if nothing ever happened.  True story.

5) Your bed is their bed.  And by their I mean the kids' and the dog's.  That's where they all go to congregate.  I have found the dog and kids all piled on the bed, pondering the laws of the universe.  Or just watching TV.  

6) The puppy stage doesn't last long when your "puppy" is part Great Dane.  We have a dog that looks like an adult but still behaves as a puppy.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves he is still a baby.

7) There is no moment as precious as your family  holding hands and praying together; including the dog.  Kodak moment.

8) No one is as happy to see me after a long day at work as Max is.  All he knows is "Mama is home"! 

9) Need to let the stress melt away?  Just climb in bed and let that big baby snuggle up to you.  Pure bliss.

10) Dogs will steal your covers, your pillows, your food; and most importantly, your heart.  

Our family is complete with Max.  He is spoiled (and he knows it!); he is crazy at times (fits right in with the kids); and he has brought the joy we didn't know we were missing.  

How can you not love a face like this one?