Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Ready for the Year

These next few weeks is the final push before starting the school year. I remember when I first started out, lo those eleven years ago, I didn't put much effort into preparing. I was teaching little bitties. It wasn't that hard to me. Now, though, I have older kids and it's me who's having to keep up!

Algebra 2 is keeping me on my toes. I've always been pretty good in math, went all the way through calculus. But it's been a long, long time. I have to constantly refresh.

Pre-algebra is not that hard, but it is a hard subject for the student. Yeah, that makes it harder.

The younger maths aren't hard, per say, but they do require me to be familiar with the material, explain it to them and then go over the problems. That takes time.

We have a pretty clear math schedule. Or should I say 'rotation'? I sit in one spot and the kids rotate to me. It takes some practice.

So these next few weeks, I have to finish out the older kids' syllabus for history, as well as one for American Lit. I'm having some trouble with it because it's important to me to have some continuity and flow to the year. So, I'm going through the books and curriculum and trying to co-ordinate.

The youngers need basics like school supplies, workbooks, etc. I already have all of their books. Except for history... I write their unit studies. This year we're going to "travel" around the world. We will go to every continent and spend a few weeks learning about the history, geography, religion and art of each one. I have this outlined, but I really, really need to sit down and actually write the worksheets. *sigh* Not hard, just time consuming.

I am very glad that I don't have to work out a science curriculum. That's my sister's job. I teach my nephew history; she teaches my kids science. It works beautifully. I make history real and exciting and she has them cut up animals and do experiments. Everyone is happy. If you have the opportunity to do this with someone, JUMP at the chance. It will make your life so much easier. Just make sure that the person teaching your kids is passionate about their subject. If they're not, your kids will be bored out of their minds.

The important thing that I've done and gotten out of the way is to write out my goals for the year. These may be broad- "For Maggie to be conversational in American Literature."- to specific- "For Brody to be proficient at reciting his multiplication tables by Christmas break." They are thoughtful and written down somewhere. It helps to channel this beginning of the year excitement. Otherwise, your school year turns into a trip to the grocery store with no list: I know there was something else we needed, but I can't remember what it was...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Have You Asked Them?

Have you ever asked your kids what their favorite part of school is? I just asked Brody. His response... "I like that you're learning something, the point of something that God did, that God wants you to know." I like that response.

I also asked him if he liked homeschooling. Turns out, he likes that he doesn't have to sit at a desk all day or ride the bus. Hmmm... ok.

After asking Brody and writing it down, I went to the other children where they are hanging out in their rooms and asked them. This is what I learned.

Maggie said she likes learning things, figuring things out. She likes the hands-on stuff, like the dissections. She likes that moment of discovery when she finally understands.

Gracie said she likes learning about stuff she's interested in. She likes that she can explore stuff.

Ty said he likes figuring things out and finding out new things. He likes having the knowledge of new things and sometimes knowing things that other people don't know. He likes knowing how things work.

Then I asked John, who is our dear friend. He goes to a prep school. He said his favorite thing about school is being able to bounce ideas off of classmates who are of the same mindset. I think that's interesting. I don't really know what to make of it, but it's cool.

Turns out, that my objective of ten years has, to a certain extent, been realized. I have always wanted my children to love learning. I've taught them that learning is an act of glorifying God because he is the maker of all things. Kepler said that to try to discover/understand new things is to try to know the mind of God. That's awesome. For real.

Why do you homeschool? Is it so your children will be happy or successful? Is it because you are afraid of the alternative? Whatever your motivation, that is what you will teach them. They learn what we REALLY believe; not what we SAY we believe. Actual theology vs  Verbalized theology.

Friday, July 20, 2012


The wonderful thing about homeschooling is how other people want to participate. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been struggling with what science Maggie and Ty are going to do this year. I've spent hours looking into it. This morning while I was exercising with my good friend Trisha, I made a passing comment about it.

Background on Trish, she's an amazing physical therapist. So much so that I tease that she's a magician. She has magic hands and a ridiculous knowledge of the human body and how it works.

Anyway, when I mentioned my frustration with finding a science curriculum for my kids, she looked at me like I was crazy and reminded me that she told me a year ago that she wanted to teach them Anatomy and Physiology.

Duh! I had completely forgotten. So now, I have a great teacher who will use the anatomy book that we already have and she's doing it for FREE! Woot! God is good! SO excited!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Inspirational Quote

"The mind has 3 aspects: the intellectual, which gives us truth; the ethical, which gives us nobility; and the aesthetic, which gives us beauty. It is really impossible to seperate one of these things from the other entirely; but we may say that in science we have intellectual, or truth; in religion nothing but the ethical, or nobility; and in art nothing but the aesthetic, or beauty. But as a religion without truth or beauty would be a very poor affair, so art without truth or nobility would be almost inconceivable."

- The Art of Writing and Speaking the English Language
              published in 1906

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Hidden Side of Me

Maggie went to a private kindergarten. It was fine, twenty-five minutes away, brand new teacher. She didn't hate it, but she also didn't really learn anything. She was easily distracted and struggled with memorization. She struggled with everything. I have home video of us trying to make it through her word ring homework. She was definitely NOT a visual learner.

On the other hand, Ty, only 18 months younger, was an extremely visual learner with strong memorization skills. He taught himself to read by listening to Maggie and I do her homework. He could add, subtract and understand math concepts, as well as read, by the time he was four. But he also acted out when he got bored. Like stick someone's head in the toilet acted out. Not good. He cried if I put him to bed when his room was untidy. He needed structure and a challenge.

When Maggie "graduated" K5, she still didn't know all of her letters and could care less about math. And the private school went up on tuition. We simply could not afford it. But the public school we were zoned for was a mess. The police were called to the middle school almost twice a week and the middle school shared a building with the elementary school. The test scores and reputation for our zoned school were appalling. It was not an option. What's a parent to do?

Our small group leader at church had just started homeschooling the year before and I mentioned to him that we were leaning towards it. I had no idea that the other family there that night would react the way they did. The father started screaming, not talking loudly, screaming, at me. The mother started crying hysterically. How dare I pull my kids out of the private school? Didn't I know that because of people like us the school was in danger of closing its doors? Did I not even care about all the other families? Why was I being so selfish? He went on a ten minute rant until our leader could get him under control. Ever since then, I have been afraid of that kind of a reaction. It's only happened once since but it still leaves its mark. I've also had people, adults, make fun of my kids for our choice to homeschool. I don't understand why though.

I once overheard an acquaintance from church made a comment about how if those people really loved their kids they wouldn't send them off to some public school. I immediately pulled her aside and lovingly reproved her. She, and I, have zero right to make that kind of a statement about someone else's life. We are not the Holy Spirit and cannot make condemning, blanket statements like that. It puts that person under the weight of a law that God did not institute. That in itself makes it wrong.

People who meet us for the first time have no inkling that we homeschool. We don't advertise it. If someone asks about school, we freely tell them that we homeschool but I'm always on my guard for the ones that get offended. I've only had 2 people yell at me about it but countless others take it personally for some reason. I've even been told a few times that I was crazy.

In talking with a good friend, oh about five years ago, he gave me some advice. Now this friend was still in college, unmarried and had graduated from a public school system. After stating that if he had children right then, at that moment, and had to choose, he would definitely homeschool. BUT, he said, but he would be very careful about socialization. I asked him what HE meant by that and he explained, "I would make sure that my kids spent time with people who are different than them. Kids who were not raised the same way and have a different way of living life." He made an impression on me.

So many people, myself included, want to protect our kids, keep everything perfect and right and good all the time. But by doing so, I isolated them from the very people Christ sent us to share the gospel. That's a blog for another day.

I wonder if anyone else has had experiences like ours.

Post Number 2 or Ten Minutes Later

I just posted the first post about ten minutes ago, but I have more to say.... now, what was it?...

Homeschooling high school is scary to me. Like, for real scary. So many opportunities to screw up with no one to blame. It makes my head spin. Deep cleansing breath. In. Out. What does it look like to trust God in this?

I have chosen our math for the year. We are going to try Teaching Textbooks. I am hopeful. With four kids, it gets almost impossible to give them each the instruction they need, especially with one child with a Specific Disability in Math. Teaching Textbooks has tutorials included. We shall see.

English/Lit we are continuing on with Learning Language Arts through Literature. I like that curriculum. Plus they will have their required reading lists. A sample of this year's lists (I'll not take the time to differentiate grades): The Neverending Story, Fahrenheit 451, Pygmalion, Lord of the Flies, The Education of Little Tree, The Whipping Boy, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Silent Boy, The Secret Life of Bees, Mere Christianity. That's not all but I'm tired of typing.

History will be a mid-depth study of the continents. Culture, art, missionaries, language, politics, geography, history, etc. The olders will be reading biographies as well.

Foreign language will be Latin with Rosetta Stone.

Science is still sketchy. The youngers are taken care of but the olders... geez Louise. Still searching. I'm leaning towards Chemistry.

Electives? Hmmm... Home Ec for Maggie and Automotive for Ty, for sure. Health. PE. Other than that? No idea.

One of the hardest things to me about homeschooling is deciding what our year needs to look like. Do we do like last year and enroll the kids into a co-op or not? This year is really our last year to be flexible and travel. Maggie and Ty are going to do dual enrollment in the local community college next year. I want to travel as much as possible this year. My sweet nephew is stationed in southern California right now with the Marines and I want to take the kids on a road trip down Route 66 to visit him. My first cousin lives near Miami and has offered us a place to stay. I want to do these things with my kids so badly. So this year is the year of the traveler... I think.

Post Number 1 or Introduction to My Insecurities

I could have just as easily titled this blog Square Peg Round Hole or Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe. It occurred to me the other day that I have a bit of a complex about homeschooling. No, not just homeschooling, about having lots of kids too. I feel the need to apologize to people for some reason. I don't really own the path upon which God has set my feet. This blog is the first step in making that right.

I will introduce myself for anyone who might not know me. My name is Crissy (full name, not short for anything). I am married to Chris (I call him Love Monkey). We have four children: Maggie, 16, Ty, 14, Gracie, 11 and Brody, 9. We have been homeschooling for a decade.

I am sitting on my Ikea couch in my small living room in my house in Alabama, praying. I am praying about the coming school year and the curriculum and the future of my children, Maggie especially.

I think every mother worries about their oldest child. My friend Gordon says, "We always over-parent our firstborn." He's right. I am riddled with fears about my oldest. Have I taught her well? Have I taught her enough? Is she prepared for college? Is she going to grow up and wish that we had parented her differently? Blah Blah Blah. I make myself tired.

If you are looking for a pep talk or a try-harder-do-better blog, this is NOT your destination.  If you are looking for someone to paint everything rosy and tell you "YOU CAN DO IT!", this is not your Mecca. But if, for that one person who is just starting out or feeling overwhelmed and would like some company, welcome.

I do not have all the answers. I do not even know all of the questions. But I do know that homeschooling my children, being with them 24/7, and being responsible for their worldview, socialization and education is the most joyous, terrifying, overwhelming, blessed experience of my life and I love it.

Disclaimer: *because I am afraid of people thinking ill of me*
I do not think that if you love Jesus/angels/your children that you will homeschool. At all. Period. That is all I have to say about that.