Thursday, October 14, 2010

Small Successes

So, I haven't done one of these in a long time, and I can tell. I never really feel successful. My life has ramped up so much that I pretty much have a trail of failures every day. So thinking intentionally about possible successes should be good for me. Let's give it a try:

1. I finished that home schooling series of posts. I had to dig deep and most likely, will never speak of it again. I am still amazed at all the moms who home school in contentment and peace. Truly.

2. I am continuing to adapt our daily schedule around the missing 3 oldest children. Struggling, but continuing to try.

3. I had a successful gathering here for our 18th anniversary, so this is two successes: planning and carrying out a party, and being married for 18 years.

More successes at Faith and Family Live

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Final Part of the Series regarding Home Educating my Children (whew)

In Conclusion:

A portion of the things I have learned from home schooling:

  • There are many different, legitimate styles of homeschooling.
  • Become familiar with a resource, and keep using it. Change for change sake isn't good.
  • Be willing to change resources, however, if it is obvious that the teacher can't use it or the student isn't learning from it.
  • A raving review on the internet does not a good resource, for you, make.
  • There are good parts of the culture about which your children need to learn and with which they need to interact.
  • There are toxic parts of the culture with which you need to help your child deal, whether you home educate or not.
  • It is easy to loose family unity and cohesiveness if you aren't vigilant, whether you home school or not.
  • Home schooling is a lifestyle, not just another viable educational choice. It takes over your life (and your house).
  • Schools are not full of evil, judgmental, liberal control freaks
  • Home schooling gives kids much more time to be "them", to explore the world, and to play
  • Home schooling gives kids freedom to learn as they do, not as they should
  • If you have no physical support, I would discourage you from home schooling. It will kill you. But...
  • If you have a large family, home schooling can actually make life easier.
  • But you have to have a fairly well disciplined home
  • and children who do what you tell them
  • and emotional and physical support
  • Keep it simple. The basics well learned will prepare the students for anything.
  • Make sure, if you home school, you have some situation where the students learn from someone else. They can not see themselves as the authority of all things, and need feedback from other adults.
  • There is a season for home school groups or co-ops, and sometimes a season to pull back. It is all about balance.
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If things are going well, leave it alone, enjoy the calm and don't mix it up, just because you can. Life will do that enough on its own.
  • Any insecurities you may have about your own abilities will be magnified by home educating.
  • Watching your children sitting around the home, engrossed in books, and knowing you taught them to read, is one of the best feelings in the world. "I gave them that!"
  • Curricula full of propaganda is distasteful to students. Straight forward information and facts give them the ability to think for themselves, because they have you for a teacher who will give them the context.
  • By high school, my kids can pick out propaganda without even trying.
  • Sometimes, workbooks are the perfect solution
  • The best gift you can give your children is a sense of wonder about learning. Once that is gone, you might as well send them to school. They might get it back.
  • Home schooling is not necessary to produce children of faith. It can help, or it can hinder. Either way, as a parent, you have your work cut out for you and lots of prayers to say.
  • I am dismayed by some of the silly bureaucratic stuff you have to do to deal with a school. Lots of wasted time and paper dealing with "the man".
  • The kids are a little more grateful for our intact and supportive family now that they have experienced the "norm" for many kids in their school.
  • The best part of homeschooling is being in charge of my own schedule. And having the kids have relaxed, productive childhoods. The lack of external pressure is terrific.
  • The extra internal pressure is very, very difficult.
  • I am glad my children escaped the self esteem killer of peer judgments when they were small. While I wish they could avoid it forever, they can not, so the older ones are learning how to deal with it.
  • No matter how good a job you are doing, someone will seem to be doing better. Don't let it bother you.
  • Some people can give you terrific advice, some people are just being critical. Learn to tell the difference, and you'll be much happier.
  • Learn about your own personality type, and the types of your children. It makes a big difference regarding choices you need to make. Introvert? Extrovert? They are very, very different.
  • It can be positively delightful to spend time with your children in a relaxed natural learning environment
  • The days that make you feel like your head is going to explode don't undo the good days
  • If there are too many days in a row where you feel your head is going to explode, some kind of change is in order. Usually simplification or implementation of a routine. If you are always falling away from your schedule, then it is probably unwieldy and needs to be tweaked.
  • Once you make an educational choice for your family, you are not married to it. Constant evaluation is needed to stay on top of reality. However, stability is important to children, so don't be capricious about your decisions.
  • Having children correct their own papers is a very effective way of having them learn from their mistakes, and keeps you from getting irreparably behind. After they find out what they did wrong, then you can teach toward their areas of weakness, saving you time and teaching the child self direction. Once I got over the feeling that this was somehow cheating, things got much better for our homeschool environment.
  • Finding an outside person to grade the children's essays is very helpful. We had a few people willing to do so for us, and that helped the kids take the advice much more to heart, and much less personally.
  • There are so many good resources out there now for homeschooling. When I began there was mostly adapted classroom texts. Now, things are designed for home schools, and the internet is amazing for the choices provided. Try to look at or use a resource before you invest a lot of money or time into it. Don't just read one review and order it. Trust me, you get lots of stuff sitting around your already crowded learning space if you do that. And the guilt about the $$ you spent makes you keep it, even though you'll probably never use it, but life could let up, and maybe with one of the younger children you'll use it......
  • For me, with many children, my home school resources are like my diaper bag. With each successive child, the items I lug around with me in a diaper bag have decreased. Now, I have a diaper in my back pocket as I head out the door. The fancy "extras" for schooling have also gone by the way side, and the basics are where it is at!
  • It is quite a thrill to learn history and grammar and math again. I like it much better now than I did when I was young.
  • Despite the chaos and angst, I am glad to have had all that time with my kids. It goes so quickly~!
  • For me, home schooling until high school has been the perfect combination of formation for them, and relief for me. We'll see what I say in a year or two.
  • I am blessed to be able to send them to the LCHS. The local public high school is huge and much less appealing to me. I love the size of the LCHS, the uniforms and despite some lapses, overall a Catholic sense is there. Just a small reinforcement of what we have given them so far.
  • As uninspiring as Seton 9th grade program is, it is rigorous and prepared my kids very well for the rest of high school. Except in math. Saxon Algebra I hasn't really served my kids well, but I know of no better alternative. Maybe they just aren't math people.
  • I have not decided if the rest of my children will continue with this pattern. I will make that decision when we get there. My 12 year old is in 6th grade, so we have 3 years at least to see what would be best for him. At least that is my plan for now.
  • Overall, for our family, home schooling has been a big plus. Knowing myself as I do, I would have felt overwhelmed with my life whether I home schooled or not, but having them home, together, spending so much of their time with each other and with me, has been a blessing beyond measure. And despite my failures, they have learned well, and are prepared to continue their lifelong learning.
So, there you have it. As I wrote, and then re-read this, there is about as much I could still add, but I think I'll stop here. I have said all along, we'll make our choices year by year, child by child, and that is what we have done (although it isn't as easy as all that). I have also said before, home schooling is the best thing I have ever hated to do. Like most of the rest of the work required of me to run a household this size, home schooling didn't come naturally to me. But I think I have found a groove, and we're sticking to it, and all I can do now is hope and pray it was the best thing for my family.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Penultimate Part of the Series about Home Educating My Chidlren

Shining Light on the Boogie Man in the Closet:

So off we went to meet the Vice Principle. I begged my husband to go with me, because I was frightened, Auntie Em, frightened! I had our records for our son, to "prove" he had been schooled. I had all my defensive armor on, ready to stand up for my decisions. And then didn't need any of them. The vice principle was very nice, very respectful and quite helpful. He pulled together a schedule for our son, gave us a quick run down, and the amount of tuition, and said, "Here is what we can do for you. It is your decision to make, so if we get a tuition check and he is here the first day of the Term, we are happy to have him. If you decide otherwise, good luck and keep up the good work you have done so far."

Wow. Not what I was expecting. We enrolled him.

And my son was no longer miserable. He was thriving. Thriving, I tell you. And home. He took constructive criticism from his teachers and used it to improve, where with me he would take it too personally and reject it. He was inspired by the competition of working with other students. He was pleased to see he was very, very good at things. Without a measure previously, he always felt he was just squeaking by. He had always tried to do well for his own sake, but now, he was getting FEEDBACK glorious, glorious feedback from someone besides Mom (actually, all three now in High School love the fact that they get feedback from someone besides me).

But then there was the 9th grader, struggling under the weight of Seton home school, miserable, spending all day in her room, learning like it was a chore and had not a shred of anything redeeming about it. I thought she would do better, but she was having the same experience as our oldest, and I couldn't see her spending the next 3 years like that. Next year we would have yet another 9th grader. Would I beat ourselves over the head the same way again? Or was there another option...

The Saga Continues...

By the time we enrolled our oldest in to the Local Catholic High School (LCHS), we found the admission test for future freshman was in a month. So I signed up my then 8th grade daughter, thinking this doesn't commit us, but gets us on the path to enrollment, should we choose this. My current freshman daughter wanted to transfer the LCHS, too, but hadn't completed enough of her Seton curriculum to get any credit for it, so that was a no go. Maybe next year.

The little kids at home were plugging along, and finally we "kept on swimming" even through February, the month from Hell as far as home schooling goes. We were successful at this because I LOWERED MY EXPECTATIONS and only took on what we would actually do. And we did. Suddenly my slow reader was reading better (it is amazing what consistency can do), and I was happy to see real learning taking place in order and some peace. Except my for 9th grader. I didn't have time (and she didn't want me to anyway) to take control of her school. So she got more and more behind (she finally finished the school year two weeks after this school year began. She did do very well, grade wise, but the daily time management skills she is getting now at the LCHS are much better suited for her).

We got the test scores back from the school for my eighth grader, and they were awesome! She was recommended for all honors classes, and we were thrilled. So it was decided. The three oldest would go to the LCHS, and all would be well. Huzzah!!

And we find ourselves here, now.

So Where Are We Now? That is the question. Here are my thoughts about all this now, in both hindsight and hope for the future.

1. I am glad my oldest are in the LCHS.
2. I am sad they are in the LCHS.

I miss them. But that moment comes with every child, sooner or later, and I feel I have put that off long enough. I have seen changes in them. Wobbling, wavering a bit. Confidence challenged by peers, more care about physical appearance, doubting a few "absolutes" regarding social issues. At first terror rose to my throat when I saw this happen. The old fears rose straight to the surface and the desire to pull them out, take them home, keep them safe.

But that was a short lived temptation. Overall, questioning assumptions is not bad, and it actually leads to many very good discussions. Confronting the culture in a controlled environment and coming home every evening to get soothed back to the familiar is working out just fine. And I am seeing that they are pretty clear on who they are and what they stand for, much more than when they were at junior high age. I think it was wise to home school through junior high, as the kids miss some of the worst as far as peer pressure and peer identification. By high school, they are much more comfortable being unique. Of the three in high school, the freshman has changed the most, and that makes me sad. She is having the most difficult time staying herself and not wanting to fit it. However, she has found terrific friends, and her bending of personality has not been towards any dysfunction. All three kids are finding extra things to do, like journalism, a play, cross country, and are all taking honors and AP classes.

They seem to be well prepared for this. So far.

(The Final Installment, In Conclusion, to be posted by Monday. Stay tuned! )

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Long Overdue Series of Posts on Home Educating My Children part 5

Now What?

So now I have a newborn, a kindergartner, a first grader, a third grader, a fifth grader, a 7th grader, 9th grader and a newly returned 11th grader. What to do with everyone?

Here is the run down. The Elementary School Students all used MCP math books and Phonics books and I used Saxon math for the 7th and 9th graders. I did a nature study co-op for the Elementary students (included lots of art, as well), and Dr. Wyle's Physical Science for the 8th grader ( a co-op also with one other student). The history was being done by the other co-op parent, Medieval times with numerous resources. We used Easy Grammar, Wordly Wise and Editor in Chief for everyone at various levels. For the first and third graders we used Language of God for Little Folks, and a spelling program from CHC. The middle kids did MCP map books, as well. There was pretty much nothing left of the original Mother of Divine Grace curriculum I began with, but I used the same principles and theories, and still considered that as my inspiration. And my 9th grader was doing Seton Home School. The second time through for me would be better, and she was more of an autodidact, so she should be able to stay on track better. Or so I thought. It turns out she was rapidly getting behind, and would refuse to take my advise or assistance. By the end of what should have been the semester, she wasn't finished with the first quarter yet.

The kids were still in choir, so I had those rehearsals to get them to, as well as the newborn I was trying to soak up, and the gardening, that with 3 acres, must be tended to a little or nature wins. I had a variety of other obligations out side the home that were quickly becoming loathsome to me. Actually, everything was becoming loathsome to me at this point.

Meanwhile, I am trying to run a household. Shopping, cooking, keeping the cleaning schedule on track, laundry. One thing that did work quite well at this point was assigning each bedroom a laundry day. The eldest child in each room needed to get their room's laundry all the way finished on their day, with the help of the younger resident. I was the manager, and kept it all moving. The laundry did stay consistently managed, and I have to give credit to the boarding school for that idea. It still works to this day.

That leaves the newly returned 11th grader. I still avoided "brick and mortar" schools for various reasons, and tried the path the other home educating families I knew did for high school. He was enrolled in the local community college for two classes (after not getting into college algebra because of his low admittance test. My first wake up call). He was in a home school co-op Spanish class, a Christian speech and debate club, and Eastern Catholic Religion through Seton. I thought we had our bases covered, but the erratic schedule and not feeling he "belonged" anywhere was making my son miserable again. And his schedule was erratic. A time management nightmare for this particular 16 year old who needs regular, predictable and steady. Looking back I can not believe I thought that this would work. It shouldn't have been a surprise when this semester did not go well, but I was surprised and disappointed because it had worked for other families. This was again, a wake up call. Other people's solutions are not a universal, and every family, every child is very unique. This is why I home schooled, because I didn't want them to be in a classroom treated like everyone else. Without realizing it, I was doing that very thing by having my son do what worked for others, instead of taking his particular needs into consideration.

Again, my son asked to go to a "regular" school. So, after Christmas, during the semester break, I screwed up my courage and went to the local Catholic high school to see what we could do.

(Coming up: Shining Light on the Boogie Man in the Closet)