Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Three

Why We Love It (Homeschooling, that is):

1. No bugging our extended family members 19 times a year with fundraisers. (I am reminded of this because my uncle recently went off about his daughter's school and the obnoxious fundraisers they have.)You can only tap the same people for money so many times a year, and I, for one, hate feeling obligated to buy something. (And I hate putting people in the position of feeling obligated to buy buy buy so my kids can "win" a prize that would be hundreds of dollars cheaper if I just bought it at the store.)

2. Homemade lunches. I know what my kids are eating. I know what is in what my kids are eating. I know they are eating. No "I bought three malts for lunch today and a tray of nachos, Mom. My account is empty, I need more money."

3. As we were walking into the library yesterday, Iggy saying quite innocently, "What do those kids do all day in the big school? I mean, really, Mom. They are totally missing out on all the fun."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stuck under a bridge...

Yesterday was great! Mama threw caution to the wind and took Iggy, Ooky, and Hubster on a trail adventure, completely ignoring the call for rain most of the day. (Ok, so my in my defense, there wasn't any severe weather predicted, just on and off showers...and, as far as I know, no child has ever melted in a shower.) Anyhow, so we are walking the winding lovely trails of a park system near my house, stopping off at little places on the river to hang out, having a lovely time. And then, the thunder starts. Me, I'm not too concerned. The boys look at the sky, Ooky pulls out some Transformers line like "The darkness is approaching, Autobots..." but we basically ignore the possible rain. "Besides," I say. "I know where the van is parked, and its just around the corner."


Well, as you probably can guess, the thunder got a little bit louder, and we eventually left the spot we were hanging out in to head for "the van". Only, the parking lot I thought the van was in was not just around the corner. It was quite a bit farther. But, no worries. It's just thundering. So we keep walking.

Iggy remembers what trail we are on and asks if we can walk under the "giant bridge", and I said "If its not raining by the time we get there, we can go under it and explore for awhile, but if it starts to rain, we're just going up the hill to the van (because now I really remember where we parked)." So that's the plan. And plans are good. But what actually ended up happening was about 50 feet from the bridge, the sky opened up with this torrential downpour, so we ran to the bridge and hung out underneath it until the rain let up. It was awesome. Ooky thought maybe we'd just make it our house, and had big plans about where all his stuffed animals could sit. I assured him the rain would eventually stop and we'd be able to go home.

All in all, a very educational day (graffiti included).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hmmm, good question.

Here is my short but sweet Sunday evening pondering-

Directed at those who are dead-set against homeschooling, I'm wondering if this point has ever been brought up: Most studies I've read put nationwide homeschooler estimates at about 1.5 million kids. Who knows how accurate this is, because it depends what a homeschooler is defined as, and if you're talking just kids of compulsory education age, etc. But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that 1.5 million kids is right. If you divide them equally, for the sake of argument, between all 50 states, that would be 35,000 kids per state. Right?

My question, to those who are completely and totally anti-homeschooling and feel all kids should be in public school....WHERE are you going to put them all? 35,000 kids per state? That's an awful lot of new schools to be built...or crowded classrooms in the ones you already have. And if I'm not mistaken, "new schools" and "crowded classrooms" are already a hot topic, aren't they

Just a (stir up the pot!) thought...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A dirty bathtub means "great day".

At our house, one way to measure the success of the day is by seeing how dirty the bathtub is after the boys are done taking a bath. Let me tell you, today was an awesome day. Filthy bathtub, happy boys. I'm not sure what was so exciting about ripping around in the dirt/mud/sand/grass/etc. today, but the boys did it and had a fabulous time. Totally one with the earth, I tell ya.

Today's (non-dirt) adventures included a quick shopping trip where it was once again demonstrated that $3 will not buy as many toys at Walmart as it will at a garage sale. Why not? Well, let me explain it to you right here next to the Transformers action figures and the nice Wal-mart employee who is giggling at my speech.

Another adventure included our daily game of badminton, and figuring out that badminton rackets purchased at a garage sale aren't going to last us through this season because someone else has already whipped the crap out of them. Save money and compromise quality? Spend more on something that might last longer? Such lovely life lessons we are learning.

We also experimented a bit in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of puppy chow (you know, rice chex, PB, chocolate, powdered sugar...) and then Iggy suggested we put it in the freezer. Sure. Why not? Well, guess what? Experiment a success. Frozen puppy chow "tastes a miracle", which is the highest compliment Iggy and Ooky can give to anyone about their cooking.

Last but not least, we played another round of our favorite dessert game called Sweet 100. A yours truly invented game which requires a 1-100 chart (we have a large laminated one we found at a garage sale for a dime), some candy, a die, and some place markers. This is how you play: Mama lays the 100 chart on the floor (ours is 1-10, next line 11-20, and so on). Mama puts a small candy (M&Ms, Mike & Ikes, Smarties, etc.) on each number. Iggy and Ooky take turns rolling our (10 sided) die and move the number of spaces as detemined by the die. They can't take the candy unless they can identify the number they have landed on. Who knew that four year old Ooky had any clue what 86 or 57 or 39 were? Certainly not his mother. (Well, now she does...)I guess I'd never really asked him. The ultra cool thing was now that I am pretty sure they are pretty solid on identifying their numbers up to 100, I explained to them that they can figure out numbers all the way to 1000 now, since putting a 1 in front of 86 makes it... (and Iggy says " One hundred and eighty six!") Let's be tricky and make it a 2 in front of 86... (and Iggy says "Two hundred and eighty six!") and then I look over and Ooky has taken his dry erase board off the wall and is writing number and after number after number. Where the heck did all this come from??

Friday, September 19, 2008

Video games = Satan?

I grew up with the belief that video/computer games were the work of Satan. That they sucked brain cells out of your head while you mindlessly sat in front of them for 14 hours a day. They couldn't possibly teach you anything except how to be completely irresponsible all day long. And besides, who could afford them? A couple well meaning family members often tried to buy the little portable devils for us, citing they would be perfect for those long (5 hour) car rides to the cabin. I responded with "My kids are fine looking out the window at the scenery." Man, I am so hardcore.

In "Deschooling Gently", Tammy Takahashi has a whole section on video games, and how they are in fact NOT the work of Satan. Since I loved every other part of her book, I really tried to love this part, too. Truth was when "video game" jumped across the page, my brain shut down, screaming whatEVER while I appeared to be paying attention.

That's right, mama. Close up your mind just a wee bit more.

Anyhow...long story short, this is where the crow-eating begins. Because now, through some twist of fate (which included me using my check card)the boys now have Leapsters. Its a long drawn out story which includes me attempting to play a game on and totally not being able to do it, and watching my kids use their noggins to figure it out. It also includes my mom finding a brand spankin' new Leapster at the Goodwill for $5. (My guess is that someone meant to tag it $50, but forgot a zero.)It also includes me having to buck up and not care what other people think, which is probably a huge part of my anti-video game thing. It also includes me realizing that as a homeschooler, there are a ton of resources I can tap into as educational options. And I shouldn't just write any certain one off because I'm afraid of what someone thinks of me as a parent. If I REALLY cared...would I be homeschooling? Homeschooling might possibly be one of the biggest I-really-don't-care-what-you-think-of-me-and-my-kids movement you can make.

So now they have Leapsters. Iggy has a Spongebob game and knows way more about money than I thought he did. Ooky has a creature game and is really good at mazes. And Mom learned that you can't just shut out one system of learning because it seems a little more mainstream. If you boycott it simply because its that any better than mainstreamers boycotting what's off the beaten path?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thursday Three - Why We Love It

"It" being homeschooling. Or unschooling. Or whatever label you want to give what we are doing.

1. We don't have to deal with homework. I will never have to worry about how my kids will get off the bus at 4 pm with two hours worth of homework that we have to attempt to fit into our family time. For this, I'm thankful.

2. Alarm clocks aren't necessary. This is not to say there aren't situations my kids need to be up at a certain time, or that my kids don't have a decent hour they should be in bed. But it does mean that I don't have to worry about (as a friend said about her kids) "plucking the sleeping children out of bed in time to shove them onto the bus looking halfway decent". It also means that we CAN have a campfire or visit people (and stay late!) or have a movie night, and I don't have to worry that they have to be up at 6 am the next morning. They can sleep in until 8, and its ok.

3. We can just be ourselves and do what we want to do. Which basically means being a crazy family, exploring everything we can, going until we crash into a giggling heap on the floor.

Warriors of the Woods

Today was a big day of exploring the woods, both at a park about an hour away (we had to do deliveries for my mom) and then in our backyard. Lots of animal tracks to be found, and lots of first signs of fall approaching!

We even took an adventurous dip by way of the back yard rope swing...and learned that at some point, its just not ok to be dippin' in the water anymore. "So, um, Mom. At what point does water freeze?" I'm telling you, the water was unbelievably cold! It was a quick walk back to the house...followed by a warm bath!

All in all, another awesome day with my homies!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Camera is working!!

Well...if you can't tell, we finally got the camera to work with our computer, so I'm slowly adding pictures to my blogs to make them just that more exciting. And, if you also can't tell, I love taking pictures of my kids.

Hubster is home and so its been ultra-relaxed around here. We had a campfire last night and Iggy did a whole impromptu spelling bee thing - which made me giggle, because Hubster and I watched a hilarious Youtube spoof on homeschoolers and how they are going to take over the world, one spelling bee at a time...Anyhow, spelling bee was followed by a late night dead-animal-remains-identification-quiz, as we kept finding...well, dead animal remains. We have four outside cats here who take it upon themselves to rid our 13 acres of woods/creek of rodents...and we sometimes come upon...well, you get the idea. Good backwoods fun.

We made a new recipe (Caramel French Toast) for supper (I'm assuming we aren't the only people who eat breakfast type foods for supper) and Ooky helped me put it together. He was the egg cracker. I got out the carton of eggs and told him he had to crack five...but one at a time into a bowl. So he gets through two of them, and I was thinking outloud and said "How many more do you have left to crack?" And he says "Three." But dangit, how did he know that when he had a whole dozen in front of him? Was the kid doing (gasp) math?? (Big smile from mom, who is always amazed that the crazy insane full of energy youngest child of hers knows WAY more than he'd ever actually come out and tell you. She has a way of sneaking it out of him, though...)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Games Galore

Today we played a plethera of games, both in the flesh and online. Here were some we conquered today:

Monopoly Jr: Went well, Iggy explained to his brother that you didn't need to have a four dollar bill to pay the banker four dollars, but that you could use two two-dollar bills. He was completely amazed to learn that you could also use a one-dollar bill and a three-dollar bill to make up the four dollar fine. I took this opportunity to explain to the boys that there is no such thing as a three- or four-dollar bill. Oh, yes, and the game we bought was used and when we opened it we realized there wasn't enough "money" in it to even play the game, so we had to make more money to play. Which turned into a fair amount of practice writing those pesky numbers. Who knew?

12 and Back: A great game we learned one day at a local homeschool store. All it takes are three dice, a piece of paper with 1-12 written on it, and a few place markers. (In our case, a button, a miniature dog, and a miniature owl. Guess who was the lame button?)The rules of the game: Player rolls 3 dice and adds them in any grouping of the 1, 2 or 3 dice to make the numbers 1-12. Beginning with #1, the player moves his marker up the board in sequence as he is able to "make" each number. A player may make as many numbers as is possible with each roll and moving accordingly. Which means that when you roll and 1, 2 and 3, you can not only move past the 1, 2 and 3 on the board, but you can also move to 4 (1+3), the 5 (2+3) and the 6 (3+2+1). And the coolest thing is when the kids GET THAT!! Imagine this, but there are some tough logic games on that site! We got hung up on Junkbot Undercover...which is a game where you basically have to use a certain amount of Legos to get Junkbot from one side of the screen to the other. The upper levels are actually pretty hard! : A cool site where they have a hangman game (actually Hangmouse) that has a ton of different topics and words for the kids to figure out. They get seven chances to guess letters, but if they get a letter that's actually in the word, the "chance" doesn't count. I kept telling them "start with vowels!!!" and to my delight, they knew what they were.

Wheel of Fortuneish Thing: : This is something I started on a dry erase board awhile back, but haven't done it for awhile. (I think the game died about the time roofing started...) I think of three or four bigger words that the boys use a lot, but probably have no clue how to spell, and I write them on the dry erase board with some letters missing. Then sometime over the course of the day and pondering, we figure out what the word is (whether it is from sounding out what's there and guessing what the whole word is, or getting clues for what the word is from me, and then having to figure out what letters are missing). Today's big words were transformer, unicorns, and bloodhound.

Sidenote: Iggy wanted to know why, in the word bloodhound, does the double o not make the sound as in boo. I said "Great question, never even noticed that before." Then later, when he again volunteered to read the bedtime story, and came across the word to, asked "why does that make the oo sound if it only has one o?" "Good question," said his mother. He said English makes no sense. Well, thought I, at least you figured that out early.

Call us unschoolers, if you must...

Our family doesn't/can't operate on a real schedule. With a law enforcement husband, the grandiosity of Saturday/Sunday quickly faded because very often, days we can hang out as a family are not the traditional weekend, but instead some random Tuesday/Wednesday combo. Trying to plan, or relying on the days my husband is told he has off, doesn't much fly. I've done this cop wife thing long enough to know that when my dear husband gives me a supposed "work schedule", it will most likely change completely within the next 72 hours.

I came into life as a total anal retentive planner, and yet, homeschooling was sold to my husband partly as a great way to work around his schedule. (You can see where the issue might arise...) So in the very beginning it was me trying to plan school-at-home around his work schedule. Which was fine when his schedule didn't change. But when it did, I was freaking out about my lesson plans being behind. I would map out the month, and within two weeks, we were already "off". We'd not "do school" when Dad was home because, seriously...what kid, if they haven't seen their dad for a week, is going to care the least about long vowel sounds or counting to 100? Bring on the Daddy Love! Which was great for them and Dad, but then I was left with this Nag Lady in the pit of my stomach silently trying to change lesson plans while I was supposed to be enjoying the fact that my husband was home. Makes a great deal of sense, I know.

Long story short, I read some books (which I'll eventually get into a list on the right side) and changed our song and dance. There are so many different ways out there to learn, and I think you have to just find the one that works for your family. I think "unschooling", at this point in life, is our gig. The label can be a little wonky; from what I have read, there are about a gazillion definitions to the term. But at the heart of it, I think those dreaded "unschoolers" are what this family is destined to be.

Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11 = Transformers?

So...continuing on the September 11th thing, I basically gave my kids two books to look at (I'd ordered them a long time ago and they are full of tons of pictures, nothing too graphic in my opinion) and just said we can look at these and if you have questions, we can talk about it. Iggy mostly was just interested in 1. why someone would want to fly a plane into a building if they knew they were going to die, and 2. who in the world could hate America, like who exactly are the bad guys? Now you might think this is totally weird, but the only way I could think to explain anything remotely close to the whole September 11th thing was to delve into the boys' world of Transformers. Then, oddly enough, there were a lot of things they "understood" far as good guys/bad guys goes. Then the day morphed into us writing a Transformers story, and them each making a book from it and illustrating it. (They turned out really neat, actually.) And there you have it. The September 11th disaster in a kindergarten-like world.

Today, our learning took us to issues like "Mom, why doesn't this frog we found have any legs?" to "Maybe instead of reading this book, Mom, you could sing it." (Um, what?) We played badminton, went goose "hunting" (which basically meant the boys sat in the backyard with a lunchbox full of snacks and the "duck boats" they made a few days ago and made a lot of noise), and also spent some time explaining to Ooky why swinging a three foot long metal pipe at various fixed objects could be dangerous to anyone within eye or earshot. (We have yet to figure out where he found the pipe. In all "fairness" to the child, he was being Optimus Prime and it was his ax. I told him I didn't think OP had an ax, but what do I know?) We harvested all the carrots from our garden, made four loaves of bread and some chili, helped Grandpa haul things to the burn, I'm exhausted just typing it all down. As far as anything actually academic...Ooky told me that if I wanted to spell "cube" (this was during another Transformers spazz out) that it would be spelled "Q" and "B"...which I suppose, if the English launguage made any sense at all, would be correct.

The evening ended with another rousing game of Slamwich, and I was again told I was the best mom ever. (Wow, if that's all it takes...)I love doing games with the kids. I enjoy the time with them, and there are so many billions of things you can learn from games besides the rules of how to play. Any favorites that you gals like to play with your darlings?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Busy couple of days...

Its been a crazy last couple of days. We are going to try the Pizza Hut "Book It" homeschooler read-a-thon this year so Iggy sat down and had to come up with reading goals for the next year. He decided ten new books a month. So we will see what happens.(As a sidenote: I really don't believe that read-a-thons are the magic cure for reading ailments. And I'm not sure, for the most part, that promising a kid they are going to get a pizza for reading is going to suddenly flip their "I love to read" lever if its not already on.) My mom-guess here is that although Iggy likes to read, he likes to read as his own little thing and the "pizza prize" hanging over his head, after the first time he gets one (there is a new one every month) will have lost its magic and become more of an evil sinking rock of doom than a "reward". I'm not the kind of mom who will sing-songily remind "Iggy, remember, you have 5 more books before you meet your goal..." And Iggy generally doesn't respond well to "reminding" anyway. But that's just my mom-guess.

I taught the boys how to play kickball, which was quite an adventure with only three people. They had fun though, and can't wait until "all our friends" come over so we can play kickball together. I will be quite pleased to have other kids here to play because I'm pretty sure that a mama and kickball on uneven terrain don't mix well together.

Yesterday we went and visited my awesome friend Sarah and her two lovely daughters. We had a great time. The kids played so nice together and the two mamas got a lot of talkin' done. That's always good for the soul! Sarah is so welcoming and a dang creative woman.

Last night ended with a game of slamwich and a "Hey Mom, tomorrow is September 11th." conversation which reminded me to pull out my Sept. 11th books for today for Iggy who wants to learn everything he can about it (and how the heck much do you tell 12 year old in a five year old's body?) youngest doesn't want to hear about it because after all "Mom, terrorists are monsters." Well put, Ooky.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What do YOU remember?

So the other day, I thought - wouldn't it be interesting to actually sit back and jot down what I remember from being in school myself? As in, my oldest is in "kindergarten" right now...what do I remember kindergarten being? For me, I remember it being a lot of playing, and me being really bored when they tried to teach us anything because I had pretty much really figured it out on my own at home. I also remember being pulled from one school and put in another because my mother had a fit about the K teacher I was given. The second day of school at my original elementary, the teacher came over and told me I would need to go play with the girls because little girls just did not play with cars with the boys. (Imagine my surprise, when I'd been allowed a total tomboy lifestyle at home!) Well, you can guess what my mom's reaction was...I was pulled, but not before I brought in some sort of dead wild animal's tail (probably that my Dad had got while out trapping) for show and tell. Dang, I was kind of a sassy girl back then, wasn't I? Oh yes, and kindergarten was hours at the painting easel. And that, my friends, is what I remember. What do YOU gals remember about the "grades" that your kids are in now, when you were there?

Something else that struck me as...well, I don't know what, but...I don't remember ever being taught how to read. My mother never sat me down and said "These are the rules of phonics, these are all the things that don't make sense..." and yet I was reading really well by the time I got into kindergarten. I don't say this to brag about early reading, I bring this up because sometimes I think that although there are a lot of insane rules to the English language, I think there are kids out there who just pick it up along the way. I did not teach Iggy how to read. And yet, he's doing it. What I did do was read to him constantly. And it makes me wonder if there are a lot of things having to do with learning that if we just naturally immerse the kids in it, they will learn just as much (or better) as if we cut the process into a million pieces and drag it out forever and ever. This is not to say there aren't kids who need things cut up and explained. (After sixth grade math, I was totally lost and never really recovered.) But at the same time, sometimes I think the way we learn at "the big school" or how people are taught to teach is way more complicated than it might need to be.

I found this quote last night and I really liked it: It is so tempting to think we can teach kids, but the fact is, we present, and they learn. I agree 100 percent.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bedtime story...

Very quickly...tonight I had a couple library books chosen for me to read as the family bedtime story. Iggy says, "Mom, I thought I would read the bedtime story tonight." Seriously?? So he picks out one of our books ("Old, New, Red, Blue") and reads that bookity dawg to the four of us for bedtime. How wicked is that?

Book Addicts Anonymous...

Today was a great day at the library. I think we checked out 47 books. We also got a good look at the homeschoolers of the area. Walked inside in the middle of the day and thought "Aha! There you are fellow homeschoolers! You can't hide now!" (Insert devious maniacal laughter.) The librarian and another mom got into a great No-Child-Left-Behind discussion that I would have loved to have joined in on. Alas, I was distracted by the half a million books being brought to me accompanied by "Mom, we HAVE to get this one..." How can you turn down the kids bringing you books?? Ok, so there has to be some line, I guess, and ours is very easily drawn by "When the crate is full, its time to go." Let me tell you, that crate was REALLY full. Do you know how much 47 books weigh?

We really do read a lot of books...and lots of different kinds. Everything from the simplest reader books (Iggy mostly) to chapter (with pictures) books like Magic Treehouse and Captain Underpants. Today we read a whole book on the origins of Halloween...why? Because it looked cool, and you know if you try to get that library book at Halloween time it will be at someone else's house lost under their couch. So we read it today. Because they wanted to. I learned a lot. I love Halloween (mostly because I love fall, but anyway) and have never understood the newish anti-Halloween thing that goes on. And (gasp) I even go to church.

As far as reading/writing curriculum, I guess we don't have one. We play a lot of games: A to Z (both with the board and without) Boggle Jr., Scrabble Jr., rhyming games, making up stories and books. The book "Games for Reading" by Peggy Kaye is wicked awesome and has also brought a lot of cool homemade type reading "games" to our school shelf.

I absolutely adore books. They rock my world.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Impromptu Field Trip

Since my mother had to make a delivery for her biz to way southern MN, we offered to do the driving and turned it into a little field trip adventure. Along the way we bought a new camera and took some wicked pictures, however, our computer is not cooperating and we can't load the pictures in for you to see at this time (we apparently need a new cd rom drive. Nice.) Anyhow, I can tell you we went to a fantastic park in Redwood Falls and traipsed across a sway bridge, saw a waterfall, and lots of animals. We stayed overnight in a hotel. We watched some late night television which included Smash Lab and How it Works. Which reminded me that my boys know all they will ever need to know about the scientific method. I'm pretty sure that the awesome people who work through hypothesis making and experimentation on Smash Lab are having WAY more fun than I ever had in 7th grade science class. Note: I cannot wait to buy Backyard Ballistics for my boys. In any event, we had a blast. (Ha, no pun intended. Or maybe it was.)

Tomorrow is Iggy's first day of "hunting" - he is totally excited. Ooky will be spending the day with me doing some treasure finding at the citywide garge sales. I must collapse into bed now, the hotel beds last night were not quite comfortable at all...but I shouldn't complain. The boys let us sleep in until 7:44 am before they politely told us it was time to get up. "Mom. The time is now seven dot dot four four. Oh wait, the time is now seven dot dot four five. Or two. Mom, get up." I should have never taught them how to tell time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What Matters to Me

Standards are great, aren't they? How else can we figure out exactly how far ahead or behind our kids are in the educational world? Without standards, what in the world else would we have to base our homeschooling success on?

Obviously, that first paragraph is soaked with sarcasm. I just often wonder who came up with the educational standards we have today. Who decided what a kindergartener or an eight grader should know? Who decides what ahead and behind is? And why does it matter so much?

At our house we learn about a lot of different things. But what matters most to me is that my kids figure out how to be good decent people. I would call these "life standards" instead of "educational standards". I realize that I only have so much control over that. I don't care what the experts say -you can serve a kid up a really healthy upbringing of "this is the right way to live" and they can tip the platter right over and run the other way. I guess I just want to know I showed them that the right way to treat people, in the long run, is more important that identifying nouns and verbs or memorizing big dates in history. I want to know that I showed them, by example, good character traits like thankfulness and respectfulness and generosity and cooperation and responsibility and patience. To me, that's a hugely important goal to shoot for. You can get by not knowing every single spelling rule in the English language, but its hard to get by if you're a total irresponsible jerk. So I guess, underneath it all, that's what matters to me at our house and in our "schooling". Life standards.

I bring all this up because a couple things have happened recently that really made me smile. Some people are aware that I (foolishly) taught my boys how to play badminton and we now have to play a hundred and ten hours a day. And as we were playing today I was kind surprised by how well they have started playing and catching onto the rules of the game and such. But what really made me happy was to see things like Iggy being so patient with his brother Ooky when Ooky has to try ten times to serve the birdie before he gets it over. Or when Iggy says really encouraging things to his brother like "You almost got it, bud! Try it again!" Instead of "You stink at this game, just let someone else serve." Or when Ooky talks on and on about being a team and how we need to work together to play the game right. Those, my friends, are life standards being met.

Also, today we were at a Not Back to Public School party with our homeschool group and Iggy wasn't able to go. He is sick, and I, playing the role of evil mother, told him he had to stay home because it wasn't fair for him to go and get the other 31 kids sick. He was really upset, to say the least. Anyhow, I go out to the van where Ooky is waiting for me and Ooky is just in tears. I ask him what is wrong. He tells me that we shouldn't go to the party if Iggy can't go because he doesn't want to see Iggy sad. (Aw...) So then I tell Ooky that he and I are still going to go and its going to be a.o.k. but we have to stop at the store to get chips to go with our salsa. We walk into the grocery store and the first thing out of Ooky's mouth is "we have to look for something to bring home for Iggy because he is so sad he couldn't come and it has to be something soft and mushy so it doesn't hurt his sore throat". (Double Aww...) Ok...this was with absolutely no prompting from me AT ALL.

I think we might just be hittin' the mark on our "life standards" acheivement. Of course, the boys still scrap and kick the crap out of each other, like brothers do...but I'm starting to think that something bigger just might be getting through.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Five Things

Sometimes I struggle with what to tell the kids about homeschooling. I don't want them ever to think they are better than others who aren't homeschooled. However, I do want them to be aware of and appreciate the different opportunities we have as homeschoolers. Today we spent some time talking about "school" and "learning" and how we don't necessarily have to be sitting in our living room or at our desks "having school" to be learning something - I want them to understand that learning is a constant thing and that what we learn "during schooltime" isn't anymore important than what we might learn while at the store or in the backyard or visiting friends. I'm considering stopping using the "school time" reference. Although we generally have different times we gather together in any given day to do something that might be considered "schooly", I don't want that to take away from something they might learn while rolling around in the grass outside. Structured gathering times have their place, I think, but I don't want them to think its the only time we learn anything worth knowing.

Today I told the boys one of the very cool things about homeschool is that we have a lot more flexibility in what we learn and how we learn it (whereas in the "big school" they tell you what to learn when. So we did an art project type thing (the boys love art) where, long story short, they had to think of five different things they want to learn more about this coming school year. Of course we can learn about way more things, but I thought it would be cool to get a feel for what they are thirsty for.

Iggy's list:
Monster trucks
Hot rods
Building with wood

Ooky's list:
Monster trucks
Hot rods
The Edison Museum
more gymnastics

Tomorrow we have a "Not Back to Public School Party" to attend for a homeschooling group we belong to. There may possibly be a library trip worked in as well. Another busy day that I'm sure I will learn just as many new things as my kids. (I should really make a list of the things I have learned since starting this homeschool journey...)

Homeschooling cat claws?

Whlie discussing a few homeschooling type isues with my mom the other day, she made a great observation: sometimes the homeschooling community can get a little...well, catty. You'd think, she said, that a community of people who agree that public school isn't the best option for their kids, would be a little more unified.

I get what she's saying. A friend of mine recently made the jump to homeschooling one of her children because of his complete boredom with school coupled with hyperactivity. She chose to do cyber school for him. However, she's having a hard time finding support from any homeschoolers because apparently she's not seen as a "real homeschooler". Another example is the undercurrent of cat claws (or whatever you want to call it) between those who "unschool" and those who use packaged curriculum.

My comment to all of this: Ok, seriously. Are we in high school? (Public, that is.)

It was my impression that homeschooling was an agreement to do what worked for your family. People opt out of public school for about a thousand different reasons and homeschooling is a legal place to fall. While "bucking the system", we need to make sure we aren't jumping into another system where just as many separations exist.

While its important that the world at large is aware that not all homeschoolers choose homescholing for precisely the same reason or go about it the same way, it is good for them to know there's a purpose to what we are doing and that homeschoolers, on the whole, are not simply a group of rabble rousers who can't even get along on their own turf. Now, I'm not saying we should all agree. Nor am I suggesting we should school the same way. That would defeat the purpose in the freedom of homeschooling. I'm just saying I'm tired of attending homeschooling groups or conferences and feeling like people are trying to convert me to their way of schooling, rather than just putting information out there and letting me decide for myself.

What kind of a homeschooler am I? I don't know if there is a label for it, and if there was, I would hesitate to slap one on. School means something different for us everyday. I do know my family is happy and my kids are learning. If school-at-home or cyber school or unschooling or unit studies or what ever works for your family...more power to you. Whatever works for your kids, you, your family...because that was the point, right?

Monday, September 1, 2008

'Twas the Night Before School...

...and all through the house, not a child was sleeping because...well, we're in the middle of a sleepover. I feel like I should be marking this night/tomorrow as some big deal...but in truth, it will probably pass by without much of anything at all. Were we public schoolers, I'd be waking up tomorrow to send my oldest child to his first day of kindergarten. Since we're not, we'll probably do our normal snuggle-and-watch-Spongebob until we have to leave to pick up our dairy order (and see a lot of other kids who, like us, didn't get on a bus). Kind of uneventful. Kind of everyday normal for around here.

I have to remember that even though homeschooling was a huge decision that Hubster and I had to consciously make, it was never an issue for my kids. This "homeschool thing" is normal to them - its how life has always been for them. Except for an occasional ECFE class, the kids have been pretty far removed from public school anything. But that's "normal" to them. So this tiny (very tiny) bit of "Ok, we are seriously doing this now. For real. Because our oldest actually should be at kindergarten tomorrow and he won't be..." is undetected by the kids. As a former straight-A-follow-the-rules student, there's always a little part of me that knows I'm not following the rules. Do my kids get that? Does it matter? I'm not sure they even realize we are "undergrounders", as we occasionally are referred to. I mean, they know that other kids will be going to the "big school" tomorrow. They also know that they will be at home - or wherever - doing whatever "school" means for us tomorrow (it often changes). Its not a big deal to them. Its just how we live.

My oldest said something to me a couple days ago and it was really cool. He said to me, "Mom, homeschool rocks. This family is a powerhouse." And although I think he was really referring to the fact that we taught them to play badminton and can now play as a family about two thousand hours a day...I thought his statement was pretty awesome. It made me think, completely unrelated to badminton... Yep. He's right. Homeschool does rock. And this family IS a powerhouse.