Election Study and Detours

October 23, 2008

We’ve been focusing most of our time and energy on election studies these past couple of weeks.  I’ve been using some of the materials from Lydia’s wonderful unit study over at Little Blue School.  Last year, when we began discussing the election, we found the girls were very interested in the subject.  They wanted to create their own campaigns and have our own family election.  As luck would have it, Lydia’s study walks through that process.  Thank you Little Blue School!

As we’ve explored various issues, detours of interest have presented themselves.  When talking about wars, the girls expressed interest in learning more about World War II.  We’ve also discussed and read about the different sides of the abortion issue.  Other topics we’ve touched on include the environment, education and health care.  The girls are quickly learning that these are all complicated issues with no one right answer.  We’ve got multiple political parties and many different opinions represented right here in our own family so the girls are getting different takes on all of them and forming their own opinions about the direction they think is best.

With all the great detours and information this study has brought us, I think I’m just going to ignore the dates on my homeschool plan and just let it continue till we’ve exhausted their enthusiasm. 🙂

Planning for Disney

May 5, 2008

With the hubby busy getting his Masters (and shelling out the bucks for it), we’re holding off on our usual once (or twice) annual trip to Disney World this year.  It’s hard!  What can I say, I’m spoiled!

I should really be avoiding anything Disney right now so I won’t be reminded what I’m missing…. but I just can’t resist Jennifer’s carnival on Disney over at Snapshot

This past Friday she asked about trip planning.  Oh yeah!  Not much I love more than preparing for a Disney trip.  Thinking on it more though, I realized I probably don’t have much to offer in the way of advice for newbies.  We’ve gone so many times that we don’t put much thought into where, when or how we go any more. 

In the past our family has stayed at Disney’s Beach Club, Yacht Club, AllStars, Contemporary, Animal Kingdom, Key West and Carribean resorts.  We’ve also experienced staying off site once.  Now we know what works for us so we always stay at the cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness.  If you have a large family or a child with autism, this is the way to go!  The mobile home sized cabin features a bedroom with a full sized bed and a set of bunk beds, a murphy bed in the living area, a full kitchen (full size fridge, microwave, stove, dishwasher, dishes, pots and pans, dining table for 6), two tvs, and most important of all – space between cabins so your kids aren’t always waking the neighbors!

My favorite time to visit is October.  The weather is perfect, the crowds are light and you have to try the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot. YUM!  The hubby and the kids also like to go in May for Star Wars Weekends.  It’s just too hot for northerners like us in the summer and being that we homeschool, we’ve got no reason to go in the spring when everyone else is there.

We tend to go for 9 or 10 days at a time so most often we purchase annual passes.  Last I checked, if you’re going to the parks for 7 or more days, these are the best deal.  We often get 2 or 3 trips out of ours so they’re definetly worth it for us.  The bonus here is that we can go for a few hours the day we arrive or chill in our cabin in mid-day heat and I don’t have to feel like we’re ‘wasting’ our ticket for the day. 

That’s all no brainer stuff for us.  But each trip has to have a plan.  Here’s where we spend our time and build the excitement.  A couple of years ago I made our own personal Ultimate Disney Guidebook.  It’s got everything we need.  Printed menus from Allears.net, maps of all the parks, lists of our favorite rides and restaurants and THE PLAN.   For each day I plan which parks we’ll visit based on the hours, extra magic hours and special events.  We get votes from everyone on where they’d like to eat (the menus come in handy here) and make the reservations.  Then I print it all up on a master plan sheet complete with a list of all the park hours (so we can make changes on the fly) and it goes in the front of our guidebook, ready to help us make the most of our trip.

Besides that, preparations for the trip usually include the little things I like to do to make it special.  I make audio CDs full of Disney music, personalized t-shirts and car magnets that go with our trip theme, luggage and ID tags for the kids.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to get the kids to make a paper chain to count down the days!

 

 

I found this list of  ‘101 Ideas to Add Spice to Your Homeschooling Days’  through a Google search.  I haven’t read through the whole list yet ( it’s a lot to digest in one sitting) but I’m saving the link for a ‘rainy’ homeschooling day!

Foolish Fears

April 1, 2008

Home Education Week continues over at Principled Discovery where in honor of April Fool’s Day folks are sharing foolish moments, challenging times and rough days.

My first (of many) brushes with foolishness came before I even started homeschooling officially.  I was committed to it.  I’d told the school I was pulling Bee out and our official start date was about a week away.  Despite the fact that it was such a big step, I was feeling pretty confident that it would all work out.

Well, until a well meaning friend in my moms group said, “I don’t know how you’re going to be with your kids 24/7 like that and not go crazy.”   She meant it as a compliment, I think. But when she said it, I realized I’d not even considered that aspect of homeschooling.  I’d been so busy thinking about curriculum and schedules and plans and official paperwork and teaching methods … I hadn’t even thought about the potentially significant switch to being with my kids all the time without a break – ever!

How foolish of me!  I had made the decision to homeschool and never even considered the reality of the endless hours I’d be with my kids as a result!  Her remark had me worrying about it for the next week or so.  Could I really handle being with my kids that much?

Of course, now I feel a fool for every having given it a second thought.  I love having my kids home with me.  As I explain here, I’ve actually found it easier to be around them now than when they attended public school.

In the Beginning…

March 30, 2008

It’s Home Education Week over at Principled Discovery and Dana’s asked us to share some personal history… life before homeschooling.  

In the beginning there was my husband.  Of course, back in 9th grade he wasn’t my husband yet.  We were friends.  I enjoyed bugging him while he worked in study hall.  I sat next to him in almost every class.  But neither of us was romantically interested in the other.

Until 10th grade.  Suddenly we looked at each other and thought, “Wait a minute… you’re the one!”  We dated through 10th grade and by the end had a solid relationship.  Which was good since he and his family moved an hour away the summer before our junior year.  We carried on a long distance relationship for the final two years of high school. 

College time came and although we both looked at private schools, we both ended up at the same, much cheaper, state school.  I went into college with the idea that I would become a math teacher.  I hated the math department so I switched to computer science.  It didn’t really matter.  I think I knew all the while I was just killing time waiting for a proposal. 

I think I finally convinced him we didn’t have to wait till we finished school to get married.  So with a year still to go we finally tied the knot.  Then I convinced him we didn’t have to wait for our degrees to have a baby.  We timed it perfectly, the baby was due just as my last semester was scheduled to end.

Thus I began my career in my chosen profession.    For years I worked at part time jobs. Both for the much needed cash and the chance to be productive, the opposite of my full time Mom job.  But when Adrian was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, I realized that I was going to need to make being Mom my only job.  I gave up the part time job and have been putting all my energy into my career as Mom ever since.

Adrian started at a special preschool as soon as he was diagnosed.  That was a no-brainer given the amount of educational intervention required and my inability to provide it while caring for 6 month old twins.  School is still the best option for him for many reasons.

The girls went to preschool at 4.  The teacher had some concerns and suggested we hold off on sending them to kindergarten.  But we sent them.  In my mind I figured if it didn’t work out I could always homeschool them.  They had a rough time in kindergarten.  Bee had a rough time in first grade too.  But we muddled through all right. 

Then we got to second.  Bee wasn’t muddling through anymore.  She had some ADHDish tendencies and the school was pushing towards diagnosis, medication and educational interventions.  We didn’t think she needed any of those.  She just needed the right learning environment.  The time had come to homeschool.

Hubby wasn’t fully on board back then.  He wasn’t sure I could handle it with a toddler running around too.  I didn’t have time to think about that.  I had to make it work.  And I did.

So here we are, homeschoolers.  What do we miss?  Absolutely NOTHING.  I wouldn’t go back to the school nights full of stress and homework and chaos for anything.  You couldn’t ever convince me to go through school supply shopping, unproductive meetings with teachers and making my kids do work I know is pointless.  Fortunately, the girls and the hubby all feel the same.

What have we gained?  EVERYTHING.  It’s the ultimate freedom to do what works for us as individuals and as a family.  It’s the chance for the kids to learn and grow without labels, medication, boundaries or boxes.  It’s the chance for us to be together and enjoy our family time – all the time. 

MMORPGs

January 27, 2008

I found this post recently.  It’s an interview with a homeschooling mom who plays World of Warcraft with her sons.  As expected, the comments that follow range from supportive to nasty. 

I’ve recently gone back to playing Star Wars Galaxies, a MMORPG game similar to World of Warcraft.  My character is tailor so I spend a great deal of my time doing market research, thinking up new marketing strategies, dealing with customers, stocking vendors and calculating ways to increase my profit margin.

Playing as a homeschooling mom now, I find myself thinking about all the lessons that could be taught in this microcosm. Everything from economics to sociology concepts are represented.  Unlike most games where you simply have to figure out the rules or programming the software plays by, you’re dealing with real live humans who don’t always act in ways you’d expect. That adds challenge and interest to the game.

But it also adds safety issues.  Just like in real life, there are bad folks out there and I think it’s with good reason that games like these are rated for teens.  As much as they’d love to play and there’s so many good lessons there for them, I don’t think my 9 year olds are mature enough to handle meeting an unscrupulous person alone.

So for now we’re keeping them out of these types of games. At least until they’re old enough to pay the monthly fee for themselves 😉

I read this post on GNMParents and it seem to fit in with what I’ve been thinking about all week. 

See, this past week was VBS at our church… and I was teaching.  I spent a good part of the two weeks before gathering supplies, making decorations, shopping for costume accessories, putting together lesson plans, experimenting with activities….. and then the week of VBS was crazy.  We left the house at 8am and got home around 1pm.  From there it was more prepping, cleaning, organizing, planning, ….  an endless cycle of work.

None of it the homeschool variety.  Like Karly says in her post, our lives these past few weeks have been ‘full of constant interuptions’.  I know the temptation to flip out about loss time, unchecked to-do lists and what seems like unproductivity.

But wait!  Homeschooling is about more than learning more than just academics and success isn’t measured by how many worksheets are completed. There were a lot of valuable experiences for the girls in the past few weeks and we shouldn’t dismiss them simply because they didn’t produce paperwork for the portfolio.

I think parents who measure homeschooling sucess by the number of hours completed, the number of days worked, the height of the paperwork produced or the number of things checked off the list are setting themselves up for disappointment.  Life WILL get in the way on a regular basis.

But then LIFE is where some of the most important lessons are learned!  One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that kids can learn in real life. 

I’m a list-checker at heart and I would have liked to been able to mark everything on my plan for the past few weeks ‘done’.  But instead of flipping out, I’m just going to be grateful that life was kind enough to bring some unscheduled lessons to our homeschool.  There’s plenty of time for the rest later.