Friday, January 31, 2014

Day Thirty-One: How Kids Feel About Being Homeschooled

When moms are wondering about which curriculum to use or how to incorporate science experiments into their day, kids are thinking about how they'd like to have recess or do some art. Not much changes from school to home in what children desire, but we have the opportunity to listen to them and make their education soar to spectacular heights that foster individuality, creativity and fun! Let's see what kids have to say about being homeschooled...

I asked several kids these three questions:

1. What is your favourite thing about being homeschooled?
2. What is your biggest challenge in your homeschool day?
3. If you could change something in your homeschool day, what would it be?

1. "My favourite thing about being homeschooled is that I don't have to get up so early and go to school.
2. "I have to do chores. (giggle)"
3. "If I could make up my own school day, I would work in my pyjamas and I would do spelling for five hours and then one page of Explode The Code and then I'd read a picture book and then I'd be done."
Molly, 11

1. "Math is my favourite part of being homeschooled."
2. "I can see my family more often."
3. "Sometimes Oliver and Molly are talking and I'm trying to do school. I would have the counter spot all to myself to do my work."
Emily, 9
1. "I can manage my time as much as I want."
2. "Distractions, kids being loud, and I want to organize my room when I'm in there doing schoolwork.  My mom sometimes interrupts me to do various things when I'm trying to get work done."
3. "I would like to have one curriculum for all my subjects so that the test and quizzes and exams are organized together instead of all over the place. I would also like scheduled outdoor activities after school since my siblings get to go out before I am able. I'd also love to have a dance studio in my home so when kids are still in school, I could use those hours to practice."
Meghan, 14

1. "That you can go to people's houses."
2. "Math. The funnest is Journal."
3. "I want there to be no math books."
Oliver, 7

1. "I like going outside."
2. "The books are the hardest part, except journals and going outside."
3. "Ben and me just want to do 3 things--journals, go outside and play and go sledding. Phonics, I would get rid of phonics."
Sam, 6

1. "I like doing the drawing part and reading and all my books."
2. "Phonics is the hardest part."
3. "I would change all the books, except journals."
Ben, 6

1.  "We have the privilege to not be influenced in a bad way and that we don't get taught evolution as though it were fact."
2.  "The biggest challenge for me is that I don't have as many acquaintances as I would have if I were going to a school building."
3.  "I would like to have my friends with me during my school day ~ learning the same things at the same time in the same room."
E, 11

1. "What I like the most about home school is that I am able to direct my own day and be able to get as much as I can done academically so that I can devote time to other interests."
2. "My biggest challenge is to know when it is time to call it quits academically."
3. "If I could, I would take one of my interests and make it into an academic subject."
F, 14

1. "I like to be able to work at my own pace and learn from a Christian perspective.  I also get more free time to pursue other interests."
2. "My biggest challenge with home school is keeping on track with my academics."
3. "I would not really want to change anything about my school day."
C, 16

1. "Getting to hang out with friends during the day." 
2. "Having to work with my sibling all the time. (Not getting a break.)"
3. "I'd like to go away every day"
Serena, 12

1. "That I can learn about the things I'm interested in."
2. "Being with my sister and working through differences." 
3. "Having computer time first, before I do school work."
Aaron, 8

1. "I like that there are not as many bad influences." (was in traditional school for a few years)
2. "I find that the curriculum is more challenging and sibling irritation sucks."
3. "I want more access to internet and technology."
Jake, 17

1) "It is more relaxing; no rushing in the morning to catch a bus, or worries about the latest fashions. I like being able to do schoolwork outside and go out to the store or on trips whenever we feel like it."
2. "No challenges really, once in a while it is tricky working with younger siblings."
3. "I'm fine with it."
Brooke, 15

1. "I like going places."
2. "There's too much pressure when Daddy is around."
3. "I would like more math manipulatives."
Caleb, 12

1. "I like Mommy as my teacher because she does the best projects and knows how to help me."
2. "None."
3. "No more poems or speeches."

Eden, 9

What can we conclude from this small sampling of homeschooled students? As each of the moms sent me the honest answers of their children, they commented on how interesting or surprising some of the responses were. As I know each of these mothers personally and that they absolutely look into the interests of their children, it's still amazing how much more there is to take into consideration. Sometimes, their immaturity causes them to want certain subjects to disappear from their day and while this is not possible, what is possible, is the wonderful opportunity to make all of learning an enjoyable experience. Mostly, our children love being homeschooled and for that, I'm thankful. In reality, there will still be math struggles and kids who just never want to write a sentence, but we can make a difference in our children's education by hearing their voices and searching for options that create an environment of joyful learning. I've been challenged! Have you?

Thank you, my lovely readers for "tuning in" to my 31 Days Of Homeschooling Goodness! I pray the Lord blesses you as you begin or continue your journey or simply learn about home education.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day Thirty: A Mother's Determination

I push the Secret Garden CD into the player, wait a few seconds then glance in my review mirror. I marvel at how four rambunctious, wiggly kiddos fall silent and still upon hearing the first sentence uttered in a thick English accent. For the rest of the hour long drive, I don't hear a peep. They're riveted. We've taken many detours and driven past our home several times in order to listen to the last minutes of our radio theatre stories. I've played these CDs since my oldest was very small and I'll play them until my youngest tires of them. My children know I love these stories and I have often paused them to explain what's going on when they were too little to fully understand. They're used to this riding and listening and I'm thankful.
She reads Shakespeare to our children, only she does it through graphic novels and pauses to remind the kids, "Don't forget, this dude has a thing for Olivia." and "The jester really has a lot going on upstairs, if you know what I mean!" and "She totally digs him." They colour a Shakespearean scene and look up at the pictures now and then, but what they're really interested in is this mom's passionate explanations of the dialogue. At the end of the reading (in which my sister and I are stifling laughter the entire time), the kids can answer every question and we're blown away.
They run into thrift stores because they're looking for a croaking frog for their Rainforest room. It's almost totally decorated and their projects are well under way. The kids are excitedly preparing for presentation day when all their homeschool friends arrive and they can show off  all they've accomplished. Their mom has a love for science, especially biomes, and it's rubbing off in a big way. They spend extra time on the details of the room, their-larger-than-life paper maches, and their essays to make it all realistic. The result is nothing less than inspiring.
She's all about "being there". She's intentional in planning outings that will deepen her children's love of learning. She frequents the Science Centre, the Pioneer Village, and other locations that foster a greater understanding for the theme in their current education. These children know what things look like, sound like, feel like, smell and taste like because this mom's desire is for them to truly know their subject beyond the books.
Her fervor for dialoguing with the culture in an effort to share her faith in a relevant way leaks out to her kids. She reads to them and shows them videos that will stir their thinking and cause them to question what blanket ideas they have about people. She won't allow thoughtless answers, only ones that take another person's worldview and culture into consideration. She doesn't compromise the Gospel, but makes sure that her children don't judge others by some half-hearted standard. She wants them to love as Jesus loves.
She doesn't have a lot of money for fancy curriculum but she is dedicated to getting the best resources for her children. She regularly uses inter-library loans, she frequents local thrift stores and borrows from friends and family. She prints lapbooks and other activities she finds online and uses every last book and idea she can squeeze out of her conscientious planning. Her children benefit from her routine and order and yet, fascinating ability to be flexible.
What do all these mothers have in common? A love for teaching their children at home. No matter how they choose to implement their kids' education, their greatest credentials are their determination, God's blessing, and His mercy and grace. Gratitude runs through the veins of these women. Children love to learn from a momma who loves what they're teaching. These moms are thankful for the opportunity to be free to home educate and grateful for the little and big ones who've been entrusted to them.

A few fabulous resources for you...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day Twenty-Eight: Homeschooling In Africa

There's a whole world that is beyond the one I know to be "real life". It's filled with Sisters-in-Christ who, by way of technology, are now in my acquaintance and a few, I call friends. I may never hug them when their blog post aches in pain or hear their laughter when the joy of celebration fills my screen, or pray aloud with them over burdens, but friends, indeed we are. For these women, I am grateful. Rebecca has been a reader of my blog and I have prayed for her to become married and as we correspond about her adventures in Africa, I'd like to share them with you. How small the world seems when blogging and emailing brings us together.
Rebecca and her husband, Leon
You can find Rebecca's blog here. Please drop by and say hello!

1. What made you decide to move to Africa and how did you become involved in homeschooling?

I moved to Zambia after my husband and I were married in May, 2013.  He is a dairy farmer and has lived most of his life on this farm.  I started homeschooling my two nieces (ages 8 and 9) because I was the least busy on the farm when I moved here plus I have my degree in Elementary Education.  It was an absolute joy to begin homeschooling.
2. What curriculum do you use and is it convenient to find materials and resources where you live?

We use the ACE curriculum.  The books we use come from South Africa.  There's an entire ACE school system there.  They even have their own ACE South Africa books for the students. Sometimes, it's difficult to get the books here but it's simply because of a shortage of materials being printed there in SA.

3. What is the general feeling of the people in your area? Support? Curiosity? Negativity?

Most ex-pats send their children to boarding school.  There's a small homeschooling community among missionary children and a few ex-pats.  I wouldn't say there is negativity towards homeschooling.  People simply view it as our choice.
(Wikipedia: An expatriate--sometimes shortened to expat--is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing.)
checking for mail from U.S. pen-pals :)

4. What are some of the challenges to homeschooling in Africa?

The biggest challenge I have found is the availability of resources (outside of curriculum).  Science and art supplies are very hard and expensive to come by.  There is no public library with an immense amount of books for the girls to use.  Art supplies and books are my main challenges right now.  :) On a positive note, homeschooling is very flexible here.  We can go for walks in the nice weather whenever we want.  There are lots of bugs and small animals for observation.  Not having many resources causes me to become more resourceful and optimistic than I typically would in the States where resources and good deals abound!

5. What are your goals for your own family?

When we have children, I'd like to use a more diverse curriculum.  I also have a goal to buy as many used books as possible when I go back to the States.  :)
trying to get the water lily out of the dam
6. What advice could you offer to other homeschoolers?

Well, I'm a very new homeschooler but I am learning for myself the importance of being flexible!!  I came from a very traditional school so it has been different to homeschool.  But it was always my dream to homeschool my children and I get to live that out through my nieces right now.  But I tell myself often that I need to be flexible!!  Homeschooling is supposed to be fun as well as full of learning.

Thank you sooo much for sharing your journey with us, Rebecca and congratulations on you marriage and new beginning!
Don't forget to say hi and encourage Rebecca!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day Twenty-Eight: Homeschooling When You Don't Want To

He stood over our bed, kissed me and I rolled over and snuggled deeper into the duvet.
 "Isn't it 'Take-Your-Kids-To-Work Day'?" I moaned and peeked with one eye open at the digital clock. It was 6:44 a.m. and getting out of my warm burrow was inevitable.
My husband laughed and whispered, "See you at breakfast."
Breakfast means "around 11 a.m." because the math teacher, a.k.a. Daddy, likes to check in on the kids' work, especially math. He uses the short time he's home for meals to quickly teach a concept so the kids' can carry on in their weekly lessons. This morning, I was not up for having math completed by 11, or English, or... anything else. I pulled the blankets up over my head and promised myself that if I could just have ten more minutes, I'd cheerfully hop out of bed and dance my way into the day. But that didn't happen... and the rest of the morning was less than a dance.
Do you ever have those days when you don't like who you feel yourself becoming? I mean, those days when your intentions are good but that last blog post you wrote that sounded so diligent, and that friend you helped to get back on her feet, and that promise you made to your husband just strangely seem so unlike the person you're hearing in the sergeant's voice? I yelled for my son to get into the schoolroom for the fifth time and I forgot the laundry overnight and it started to smell. I impatiently brushed past a child who was trying to show me her new story and I answered the phone after 9 a.m.. Line all those deficiencies in a row and you've got a wall that seems impenetrable for change.
So, what do you do when you just don't want to homeschool? My sister thought of this topic for me to write about (knowing many moms can relate, I'm sure) and I exclaimed in a return text, "Yes! Good one!" But quickly texted her back, "Okay, now what? What's the answer?"
She texted her reply, "crazy man date".
What? Hmmm... perhaps she should go on a crazy date in order to get her energy back to homeschool? I wondered.
A few minutes later she returned with, "Sorry, typo. I meant, Christ's mandate."
Well, that makes more sense... I think :)
Essentially, that is key. But first, I need to sit and ponder for a moment why I am feeling this way. Is it lack of sleep? Is it poor time management that inescapably creates a day of chaos? Is it lack of quiet time with God? Do we need a change in routine? Do we need to maintain our routine better? Has disciplining the kids gotten away from me and I'm dreading the pandemonium that ensues as soon as one thing goes wrong? Have I not experienced enough adult time? Once I am able to pinpoint the source of the problem, I can begin to yield to God to give me some creative and practical ways to rescue our day and my attitude. I don't want guilt to be the motivation for getting up in the morning when God can give me joy!

Accountability for these areas that affect homeschooling is very important. Whether it's my spouse, my conscientious friend, or my children's needs, I must answer to someone so I don't slip into apathy and laziness. My heart desires to know what Jesus requires of me above all. He spoke so often of how to treat others. Ultimately, we are to share God's love and bring others to Christ (Matthew 28:15-20). Do I do that daily with my children? Am I even capable? Isn't that what got me in this mood in the first place--feeling like I can't do it, that I don't want to do it? Our pastor spoke this Sunday of Jesus' sermon on the mount and how it's impossible for us to live up to it completely but that it's a picture of who God is and an example for us as we walk this temporary journey called life. When I finally stop ranting and come to a place of introspection and softness to God's voice, I usually sense the Lord reminding me He's with me and will help me do this homeschooling thing, one day at a time. He never leaves me floundering (or under the covers) for too long.

The following Scriptures always encourage me that there is hope for my apathy, fear, frustration, and laziness--and they hold me accountable!

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
Gregory Lang says, "Although saved, we remain imperfect people who continue to be tempted by our sinful nature. Do not take salvation for granted and act as though you are unchanged. Train yourself to be godly, obey the Word, and rise above your nature, demonstrating your renewal so that others may wish to follow your example. Obedience to God is the sign of your sheer delight and a joy-filled thankfulness for your salvation. Hold yourself accountable."
Yes, holding myself accountable, with the help of an almighty and omniscient God!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day Twenty-Seven: Homeschooling Highschoolers

I sat shoulder to shoulder with other eager parents as the keynote speaker for Homeschool Legal Defense contended for carrying our children through their highschool years at home. I'll never forget how he challenged us to think about why we would place our child into the school system just because they enter grade nine. Who made that grade disassociated from grade eight and what makes us suddenly abide by a standard we've been ignoring up to this point? What makes those children abruptly profit less from home education? Learning is still learning and how you arrive at the knowledge and skills your child needs is a decision each family makes. Whatever level that child is at is the level you continue to teach, regardless of the credit system being something the general population adheres to. I wrestled in my mind as to whether or not I could handle teaching highschool. Then I realized I had already trained my girl to become an independent learner and she has been mostly working on her own for about three years.
My Homie
I slipped off my shoes when I walked through my front door and mulled over what I had learned. I began boiling a pot for the potatoes when my husband entered the house. I shared all the nuggets of wisdom I'd gained that day and he agreed there was no other way for our family but to simply continue what we were doing with our oldest. "Highschool" would just be the name of the next step, not a daunting idea or an overwhelming change, but just another grade.
Plastering Daddy with a concocted yogurt facial while he's watching the game?--priceless :)
However, fear did begin to grip me as I later rifled through websites looking for answers for curriculum choices and advice. The more I read, the more I became confused. When we sat down with our daughter and told her we felt she should stay home the following September, she was quiet. She shared that she had been hoping to attend the Christian highschool where her cousins went but only part-time. She still wanted to be at home but take a course or two there. We thought about the possibility and concluded that schooling the other kids and running her back and forth for classes in another city wouldn't be feasible. She responded well. I asked her what her desire was for curriculum, promised her a laptop for grade eight graduation, and planned what we'd be involved in for her grade nine year so she could look forward to it.
Now second semester is quickly approaching and Meghan is tracking her hours and credits. She strongly desires to have everything she does quantified and so we looked up the Ontario requirements and do our best to stay close to them. Our friends and family have opted to use highschool resources that do not require tests and exams and will decide what to do about transcripts at the end of grade eleven. Since many homeschooled kids have entered university by being placed in school in their senior year or by taking correspondence or online courses for their transcript, it is a viable choice. Thankfully, in Canada, homeschooling is legal in every province. But each family and student must make their own decisions based on how it works best for them.
As we journey, I'll be better able to give wisdom on the subject of homeschooling through highschool but at this point, we know that our daughter enjoys the extra time for her competitive dance and to connect with her friends and family and we love having her around! The more families we encounter who homeschool through highschool, the more kids we see who are simultaneously planning their futures while using their schoolwork to achieve an early acquisition of this objective . Some of them already have small businesses! Many are aware of what career path they want to take and are streamlining their subjects toward that goal and even taking university courses concurrently with highschool. The possibilities are wide open for these kids. Our daughter has known for a long time that she would like to open her own Christian dance studio with nutrition and wellness as a large component. You go, Girl!
For more information and support, you can click here for the Home Scholar and here  for the Homeschool Mom and here for Homeschool Legal Defense and here  for Ontario Homeschool.
If you're planning on joining us in the journey of highschool at home, may God bless you as you do!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day Twenty-Six: Making Art and Memories

"The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children."
                                                                                                                             -Elaine Heffner
Messy tables, spilled paint, popcorn prayers, fingerprints on the wall, finding the other shoe for the field trip, mixing and rationing supplies for creating when there's not enough, dressing up, Bible songs, writing speeches, baking pies, creating a General Store, playing games, and exploring the woods... these beautiful experiences are the art of living.
As we near the end of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Goodness, I felt that it might be inspirational to share some of the most enjoyable things we do together as a family and as a homeschool group. These photos make me smile. When I scroll through them on my computer or the children see them in our book, they inevitably exclaim, "I remember that!" or "Mommy, can we do that again?" There is nothing more memorable than adding the more time-consuming, inconvenient things to your day--even if it's once a month. Making art and memories are the experiences that my children will never forget. It is these which they'll share with their own children. And if that's the case, I want to make many, many more of them. 
 art evening for moms at my house
 Unbelievable talent between my friend Tanya and her husband who create so much art and share it! 
 ready listeners 
the lovely Tanya inspires us
art as a group
 proudly displaying his art
 using Tanya's idea and creating this fabulous mask and headdress
 dressing up, always
nature notebooking
 our General Store for learning the concept of money
rolling out the dough
baking pies
 finding interesting creatures
 winning speech meets!
 Mama has a lot of homeschooled grandchildren :)
 playing games for a change in pace and practice of a concept
sewing with a furry friend
 field trip with homeschool buddies
celebrating the art of living--given by the Creator of it all!