Where have I been?

February 1, 2011

Where have I been?

Well, I’d love to say that I’ve been off designing brilliant homeschool lessons for my kids…

But the truth is, I haven’t.  Instead I’ve been developing lessons for other kids.  Kids I hardly know.  The kids at the local homeschool co-op. 

While that sounds nice enough, I beginning to think it’s not.  I’ve already spent HOURS upon HOURS preparing for the first lesson of this computer course I’m teaching.  I made a homemade, individual abacus for each of the dozen children in the class, made a simplified model of Pascal’s calculating machine, planned an activity to demonstrate how Hollerith’s read/write system was more efficient than a read-only punch card system, outlined 4 pages of the history of computers and created a worksheet for the kids to guess and then fill in facts on computer history. 

Um…

This is for a 45 minute lesson with a dozen 3-6th graders who might not care a bit about computer history. 

What the heck was I thinking?!

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New Year

January 1, 2011

It’s the end of my very favorite week of the whole entire year.  The week after Christmas has the potential to be the most relaxing, restful, wonderful week.  Last year it didn’t work out so much.  But this year?  This year made up for it and then some.

The week after Christmas is about PJs all day, simple meals and spending as little time in the kitchen as possible.  It’s about enjoying all the Christmas gifts, time to play games and spending as much time in my chair relaxing as possible.  It’s about sleeping in till nearly noon each day and spending time with my husband while work is light and stress is low.  It’s about a much needed and deserved break from work and life and the normal, every day grind.

When it’s done, I’m ready.  Ready for a new year.  Ready to get back to work.  Ready to get out of my PJs, get out of my chair and get out of the house.

And I am.

But as I consider getting back to work in a couple of days, I’m also considering what that’s going to look like.  Considering what I want it to look like.

Beat down by a combination of physical and emotional stressors, we took ‘off’ a good chunk of December from the school work grind.  I needed it. The kids needed it. It was good for us all and I haven’t the slightest regret about that.

Now that it’s time to go back I’m just not sure I want to go back to the way I was running homeschool before our break.  I wrote all the way back in October how things didn’t feel rightI wrote again in December about how I was still struggling to find a groove that works for all of us.  

I’ve yet to figure out how to satisfy all the internal and external pressures at play here. 

Gee is talking about maybe trying to go to school next year.  Her personality and work style fit the traditional school model well.  She’ll do fine.  But what do I need to do to prepare her for that academically?  Should I be actively pushing her towards a traditional homeschool model now to make it easier to transition? 

Bee and Zee have no desire to go back to school.  Can I scale back on the traditional learning and do more ‘unschooly’ things?  How’s that gonna play out if Gee’s moving in the opposite direction?  Can I do that and also satisfy my very traditional-minded husband’s idea of what this should look like?  Will he be on board with homeschooling if I don’t?

What about what I want for my kids?  My personal educational goals for them are that they:

 1. Learn the skills to be able to teach themselves what they need or want to know and 

2. Have a broad enough base of knowledge so they can choose to do what they love from a multitude career and lifestyle paths.

I don’t see  those goals as being tied to tests, textbooks, daily assignments, workbooks, essays, or any of the other traditional educational activities.  In fact, I think those things sometimes prevent these goals from being met.  I see self-taught as the opposite of formal instruction.  I see the search for what you love, for your passion and talent, as something that can’t happen on anyone else’s schedule but that of the individual.  You can’t rush it or push it or make it happen. 

I know there are specific requirements and paths society has created for pursuing certain careers.  If you want to teach in a public elementary school, you’re going to college. Period.  And I want those to be options they have based on the education I’ve given them.  But I really want them to look beyond the artificial values society places on various careers and choose what’s going to ultimately make them happy. 

But these are my goals for them.  Are they right?  Fair?  Are they going to grow up and wish I’d valued something different in their education? 

….

Monday life starts again.  I’m not going to have all the answers by then.  But I’m hoping when it’s time to assign the work for the week  I can begin to see better how to balance this all.

A Good Day

December 11, 2010

The evidence:

The end of my Christmas shopping

Sharing some Dunkin Donuts White Hot Chocolate….mmmmm

                                                                                                       Gingerbread Boy decoration….

Laundry… suppose you’d have to see the usual pile to understand why this is ‘good’ 😛

Evidence those music lessons are paying off….

 

Brownies and coffee…

… and I didn’t have to make the brownies

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night family movie….

 

 

And finally…

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, a good day.

Autonomy

October 12, 2010

Every now and again you can feel the homeschool boat list and you come face to face with the perilless sea on which we journey.  Students and teacher alike were unhappy.  Pouty faces, complaints, exasperated sighs and endless repeating of instructions were rampant.

Being analytically minded, the first thing I do when things go awry is to stop and analyze.  One needs data to do this and my poor family is all too familiar with the homemade questionnaires I construct to obtain that data.

So the girls answered questions about what they liked, what they didn’t like, how they wanted to see things changed, their motivators, their goals, their suggestions and attitudes.  And then we sat down to go over them together.  Though I’ve not made any actually changes yet, it’s amazing how much tension is eased just by sitting down and all recognizing there is a problem.

Now that I’ve heard their side of the story, it’s time for me to figure out how to change things so we can go back to sailing peacefully on our homeschool journey.  Not surprisingly, I’ve got my own challenges to rise to in addition to supporting the girls in theirs.

One of the biggest for me comes from our very different personalities.  Specifically, I’m a hardcore introvert and my children are all extroverts like my husband.  One of the biggest misconceptions about introverts is that they don’t enjoy being around other people.  We actually do enjoy socializing, it’s just that 1- We prefer it in smaller doses and groups and 2- Unlike extroverts, it wears us out and we have a need for quiet time to recover. 

I have a large family of extroverts.  My husband works mostly from home and 3 of the 4 kids homschool…in other words, they’re always around. It’s no surprise then that I often have a problem.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them all and I wouldn’t have my life any other way.  Any lifestyle choice has it’s good and bad and this is simply the one I’ve chosen.

But it’s still a challenge for me. The number one item on the girls’ wish list is ‘do more school work together’.  They would love nothing more than to do every single assignment at my side as a collaborative effort.  Zee still will sit uncomfortably on the floor next to me rather than work at the table 5 feet away.  I swear sometimes they’d all be in my lap 24/7 if I let them.

Besides my own personal need for some space, there’s the matter of autonomy to consider.  This is something we’d very much like our children to value and become. Working together is fine on some things, but overall I want them to own their work – from start to finish.  For the girls this is 7th grade, time for them to do more on their own, not less.

Like everything, I know balance is the key here.  So I’m trying to figure out how to best fit in more activities together without sacrificing autonomy or my own sanity.  Suggestions?

We’ve been homeschooling for 4 years now.  But the girls went to school until half way through the 2nd grade so this kindergarten thing is all new to me. 

After my experience with having the girls in school in those early grades, I vowed that I wouldn’t push Zee the way the girls were pushed.  There were times they just weren’t there yet and the need to keep them up with their peers at all costs was stressful and, in retrospect, unnecessary. 

So kindergarten for Zee has been little more than a few age appropriate workbooks (taken at a pace he sets) and the normal course of living.  What I’ve found is that he seeks out, on his own and without intervention, the very things the girls did in kindergarten. 

The girls came home with cutting exercises – sheets of paper with lines along which they were supposed to cut.  It was about as boring as it gets and they hated it.  It was pointless and the girls knew it as well as I did.  Zee often finds reason to break out his scissors and hone those same skills.  But for him it’s an exercise that has purpose and meaning.  He’s not aware it’s what he’s ‘supposed’ to do.  It’s what he wants to do.

The girls came home with reading exercises.  They’d have to read those silly little beginner books.  The girls hated them. The stories are… well, I wouldn’t even call them stories.  But it was work that was assigned and we had trudge through it.  The girls weren’t really quite ready to read at that level being nearly a year behind most of their classmates but we just HAD to keep up.  It was torture for us all.

When Zee seemed ready to start reading I pulled out the beginning reader books, of course.  That’s what you do, right?  He hated them.  Refused to read them.  Since we didn’t have to keep up with the class I backed off.

 We read higher level books together and he read the age appropriate words in those.  We worked on reading by looking at menus, signs, maps, museum exhibits, store displays, cereal boxes, clothing tags, computer games,etc.

And guess what?  You don’t need beginner reading books to learn to read.  It’s been a thrilling, fun, amazing  journey. 

Instead of making him sit for hours practicing writing skills, he makes treasure hunts for his sisters.  It’s gotta be neat or they can’t read it! 

He doesn’t do worksheet after worksheet of counting, addition and subtraction.  Instead I find that all on his own he’s making connections between numbers all the time.  “Mom, you know 3 and 3 is 6?”  “Mom, we’ve got 6 people in our family but with Grandma and Uncle N. that’s 2 more so it’s 8.” 

I even caught him trying to walk toe to toe on a line on the kitchen tile the other day and thought about how they used to make us do that in kindergarten as well! 

He’s just constantly doing all the things they make kids do in kindergarten… only there’s no adult demanding he do it.  So I have to wonder, are all those ‘kindergarten’ activities and skills IN kindergarten because they are natural, age appropriate behavior in the first place?  Which came first, kindergarten or the kid?

Focus. FOCUS!

March 28, 2010

I’ve recently come to the place where I can admit it.

I am not a multitasker.

I spent many, many years trying to convince myself and others that I was good at multitasking.  I’m still not sure why.  It’s always seemed like something that was good to aspire to.  It’s one of those traits that folks admire and appreciate. 

Sure, I’ve done my share of multitasking.   Motherhood kinda forces you into that, like it or not.  Having twins, doubly so. But doing it and doing it well are two different things.  And I’m just giving up on the absurd farce that it comes naturally to me or that I manage to do it with any kind of grace or skill.

Giving up the illusion that I am a multitasker frees me to focus.  When I focus on a single problem or single task, I do just fine.  I can do the things I need to do well… I just can’t do them all at the same time.

No where has this been more obvious than in homeschooling.  I find whenever I try to cover a lot of subjects at once, none of them gets done as well as I think it should.  But when we pick a subject and focus?  Well,  progress follows in leaps and bounds.

So I’m giving up on trying to be a multitasker in homeschooling, parenting, and most of all the kitchen.  Cause when I try to blog and cook at the same time… well, now I gotta go scrape the black off the bottom of the pot.  DOH!

Last Thursday I kept Adrian home so we could take him to the doctors in hopes that we’d get some good news about his cast and/or the antibiotics treatment.  It was one of those very, very rare days that the hubby actually has to go into work.  So I had to bring all 4 kids with me.  Here’s the email I sent him later that day.

The guy we saw instead of Dr. L. today was a wacko.  You thought Dr. L. was weird.  This guy took the cake.  They took the cast off,he looked at it and then said that he really felt more comfortable just putting another cast on cause it’s not healed enough that it’s ‘safe’ for him to not mess with it AND he says that the extra support so soon after the surgery is needed, especially if he’s going through a cast in 2 weeks.  So Zee chose red for him.  At least it’s clean and unbroken now and they put some foam around the top so that it won’t hurt his toes when he walks.  So yeah, we didn’t get rid of it, but the situation is improved.

Then we went to Dr. M. and I kicked myself realizing that this wasn’t the week for bloodwork and, DUH, of course he’s gonna want to see that before he ‘releases’ us.  DOH!
 
He said if it’s normal then we can quit, if it’s normal to slightly elevated still he might make us go another week.  (sounded like he’d be looking for a reason to push it another week) We discussed how we could switch to a dif med and do orals instead or if he pulls the line again.  (You hear the distant sound of Carol thumping her head against the desk)  SOOO the sooner we get the blood work in his hands the sooner he can say what’s next so we went to the lab immediately and got his blood drawn – and yeah, ya know they can’t do it through the PICC line there cause that would be way too easy.  😐
 
And I’ve been dealing with a slight headache all day so I decided I’m prob gonna get sick and might better pick up the Claritin D on the way home.  After all we went through I also wanted treats.  Sue me.
 
So we stopped at the grocery store and I got treats and the meds and a jar of pizza sauce – cause yeah, that would be good to have on hand.
 
But when we finally got home (after fighting with Adrian in the car the whole way – even stopping to make him move in back) there was a hole in the bag wth the sauce and YUP it smashed in the garage leaving pizza sauce everywhere.
 
Fun.
 
So now I’m having my ice cream and when that’s done I gotta do more antibiotics cause the lab won’t tell the doc till tomorrow if we can quit or not already.
 
See you when you get home.  Not sure what’ll you’ll get to eat as I’m pretty toasted and WILL NOT be cooking tonight.  No, you can’t make me.  I refuse.  It’s been a long day.  I’m done.  Have some ice cream… and some Claritin.
 
See you when you get home.  Drive safe.  Love you.