Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In Their Own Words...

 It's always exciting for me when I see others, in professional roles, paying positive attention to what people like my husband and I do, which is home education.

Peter Gray of Psychology Today has written often about topics related to education. His latest piece shows off the results of a survey of 231 families who are "unschoolers", or who do not send their children to school. It's interesting to see what so many of the families say in the quotes he includes!

One person wrote how they appreciate the "family-centered life" that unschooling fosters. When I read that, of course it struck a chord...we certainly have a lot in common, as far as the benefits of this lifestyle goes.

See for yourself here:

The Benefits of Unschooling: Report 1 from a Survey of 231 Families



and, just for kicks, ever wonder how those unschooled kids turn out
when they grow up? Here's one sample.

My Experience as an Unschooler
"I'm 27 years old, and was unschooled from the age of 0 - 18. There's a lot of speculation on the effects of unschooling - on intelligence, socialization, worldview, etc. So I'm here to try and provide the perspective of someone who has been through the process and come out on the other side."


In the Garden

Don't you just love the scent and sight of growing things? 

In our corner of the desert, 
I have little spots in the front yard that brighten the day.
I love to take my meal and eat outside while the kids play
or have little helping hands take a turn watering the garden.


Small blessings, big happiness!



The hanging basket of petunias and alyssum that I just planted. 
There are three across our front windows.

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These cute markers where I sowed seeds earlier this month 
were made by my nieces and me. Very fun and cheery!

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I'm so pleased the blueberry bushes are doing so well. 
They'll produce berries next year.

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Lavender, lemon verbena, chamomile, and lots of parsley 
are just a few of the kinds of herbs in the garden, also recently planted. 
I can hardly wait to start using these in my cooking!

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Where are your favorite spots in your garden or yard? 

What is it about nature that soothes your soul?


Monday, February 27, 2012

How We Came to Home Education, Pt. 3

To read the first 2 posts on this topic, click:

How We Came to Home Education, Part 1
How We Came to Home Education, Part 2




Why Home Education?
 I love being with my kids. I love cuddling up and reading with the little ones. I love having adventures and exploring with my older kids. I love that we can choose where we go and what we do and how our schedule / routine is our own. I can choose what to teach them based on what I know about my individual kids and I don't have to get permission from anyone to do so. That is a very freeing feeling. I have the satisfaction of seeing them read for the first time or discover a math concept. It's a privilege and I am so thankful we can have this option of home education available to us.

My husband and kids like home education because we can all do things together during the day, like go to In-n-Out for lunch sometimes or take a hike when Daddy's work is not too pressing. It allows us all more time with one another, especially with my husband's unique work schedule.

Like many parents, we want our children to have a clear self-concept of who they are, a strong desire to do what is right and to look for ways to serve others. We want them to grow character traits that will serve them well their whole life through. Those are the most important kinds of an education we seek to offer our kids as a foundation to build more wisdom and knowledge on. Home education is a wonderful lifestyle that affords us the time and space we need to instill these qualities into our children's lives. The math, science, reading, history part is par for the course! Learning happens all the time and is quite natural.
 

My husband and I are not perfect people. We do not have infinite patience. Through our choice to home educate our children, we have the opportunity to learn those traits and skills we need to do this effectively. We aren't "there", yet, believe me!

We believe in the opportunity that being born /adopted into families offers: to learn and grow through our relationships with each other. Home education is the environment that supports the family in its learning-through-relationships with less outside distractions and interruptions.

We are not 'stuck at home'. "Homeschooling" is an easily recognizable term but not an accurate description. Family-centered, home-based learning fits the bill nicely, but is just not as easy to roll off the tongue! "Homeschooling" opens the world to our children. We are often out and about in our neighborhood and community, and no, we don't call our outings "field trips"--we call it "life as usual" ;-) You can see many photos on this blog of the things we have done and places we have gone that never would have been possible had our children been in the regular school routine.

Lastly, one unforeseen benefit has been that Home is also not just a stop on the way to the next 'thing'. Home is a haven and a place we love to be together. Home education has helped us to build this kind of home life together and enjoy it as a gift.



Finding Our Family Learning Philosophy and Style
As many parents know who have also jumped feet first into the wide ocean of home education, there are many different ways to 'teach your own'. There are lots of kinds of curriculum, certainly, but behind the books are ways of thinking about how people learn best.

I want to emphasize that there is no one "best" way of homeschooling, no matter what anyone tells you. Many parents want to find that 'magic bullet' (or book or curriculum or school of thought relating to educating children) that will make sure their child never misses anything and that they will turn out just as the parents plan.

Sorry if this disappoints someone reading, but just as in life we all learn as we go, and mainly from mistakes, this also holds true in home education. But take heart: there are hidden benefits to be found in that! (You'll discover these as you go along)

There are lots of ways that work differently for different families and it takes time to find the one(s) that will work for you. In fact, your best ways of learning will really be the ones you discover and invent yourself, even if you use a "philosophy" of one or another as a jumping-off point.

We are still (always?) trying new ways of learning and I expect we will as long as we live and breathe! I am just now getting used to that idea, so don't worry if that scares you at first, too. I have days where I feel I have all the answers I need, quickly followed by days where I feel like I need more answers. I have a foundation of what works for us to build on, so I am never floundering entirely, but there is always more for me to learn from others and try out for us, as far as how to learn and what to learn are concerned.

Name that Style of Education...
Learning at home is something that is very different from school learning. Home education is about learning and experiencing and really has nothing to do with schooling.

Even when our oldest was only 2 years old, I began to research all the varieties of styles of home education and learning and choose the ones that I agreed with and liked best. I then put them to the test! Our home education style is influenced by what we as their parents value and what we want our children to be exposed to and experience, as well as taking into account their unique gifts, talents, and also the interests that come and go over time. We borrow from the various methods what we like and have created what works for us over time. We unschooled from the beginning, and over time I have added in 'flavoring' from Montessori and the Moore formula, to Thomas Jefferson Education and Charlotte Mason education principles. We had always included tenets of our Christian/LDS faith through our normal lifestyle of teaching our beliefs to our children, as well.


A little about each...
Each of the bolded headings below contain a link to a website that goes into more description, if you are so inclined to learn more.



Unschooling is also coined 'life learning', which is the definition my husband likes best. This is a style of education where the child and parent are partners in learning. Learning is recognized as a personal process, not something 'done' to the child. I loved that it lets me off the hook, so-to-speak, as a parent because I do not have to be a 'school teacher' and dole out assignments in order for my kids to have a good education. It frees me to be who I am, a mother (a natural teacher), and offer experiences and support my children's interests in the ways I do best without taking on any additional (non-authentic) roles, and the guilt / 'am I doing enough' cycle that accompanies that.

Since the child is trusted and learning is considered a natural part of life, that parent facilitates learning experiences as the child's needs dictate. This method, or way of life, is sometimes known as 'child led learning', but this is only partly true. It is focused on the child's needs, yes, but parent and adult involvement plays an important part.

The example I gave earlier of our oldest son's interest in monster trucks as a 3 year old and how we supported that as a family is a wonderful formula for how unschooling looks in a family's life. There are also plenty of examples I could give that are more informal ways we as parents have supported our children's interests as their main learning. Sometimes books or curriculum can be used, but as an extension of what is desired and needed, and never instituted without a child's acceptance. There is no forced learning or coercion in this method. Lessons that come from life and the normal course of every day living are considered as valuable as any other kind of learning.

Moore Homeschool Formula....the late Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore developed this concept of home education. They were pioneers in the home school movement in the 1980's. I like their thinking in the way that they give the elements to the basic formula, which can then be adapted to a family's own needs. There are 3 components to their basic formula.

1. Study, from a few minutes to several hours a day, depending on the child's maturity.
2. Manual work as least as much as study.
3. Home / Community service an hour or so per day. (We are just dipping our toes into this)

This formula, I have found, works so well for us because educating our boys has shown us that hours of sit down book work are not effective ways for them to learn, on its own. I also learned this from Thomas Jefferson Education as well, but more about that later. The Moore formula gave me some direction and helped me to think of our learning in a more balanced way, with manual work being placed as just as important as study, for instance. It also emphasized the things that I feel are vital to my kids' learning and building their character, like giving meaningful service.


Thomas Jefferson Education is often considered a leadership education. This is one that I really can't give a brief overview of because there is more to it. I can say the part that drew me in most is the acknowledgment that children are ready for different kinds of learning at different stages of their growth and development.

For instance, there are 4 Phases of Learning in TJ Ed. The link I included in the introduction to this method is to a pdf that goes into more depth for anyone interested. Our kids are in the Core Phase and Love of Learning Phase, which allows me to enjoy and relax being with my kids and not feel that I should be "keeping up" with what the schools are teaching because we are on our own timeline.

As a wise person once said, "One can more patiently tolerate unfinished business when one's priorities are in order." I can patiently wait to share certain learning experiences with my children until they are ready for them because I know that when they are ready developmentally, it will be the right time to learn those things...there will be plenty of time to learn all that is important.

1. Core: Birth to age 8 (Montessori and some Charlotte Mason methods)
The heart and habits of life. This is where the values, character and work ethic are learned typically through play, such as right / wrong, how to relate to the world around them, others & introduction to social skills.

2. Love of Learning: age 8-12 Delight or Interest Driven (Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Unit Studies) This is a stage when a child will want to try it for awhile then drop and move on to new things. They are curious but not capable of deep intensive study yet. The attention/focus time still relatively short. They are enjoying the journey of looking into a myriad of things. An introduction to everything is going on in this phase. They “practice scholar phase” as they transition.

3. Scholar: age 12-16 (Classical/The Well Trained Mind, or, Curriculum approaches)
Broad and deep study preparing for life’s mission. The learner willingly takes on long periods of intense study 8 –10 hrs at a time is typical. Eventually leading up to 5,000 to 8,000 hours of study. They focus on this intense personally driven study 5-6 days a wk for 10 to 11 months per yr. They are self-motivated and somewhat reclusive because they are intent to learn. This is considered “pre-university” study. They use mentors, and willingly seek to have their work reviewed and will do it again until it is excellent.

4. Depth of Learning: age 16-22 (university or professional study)
This is where the learner now goes into professional study, typically at a university. Here is when one has figured out his “life’s mission” and does all he can to achieve it, receive training for it, it’s the Depth of Knowledge process.

Charlotte Mason Education
I fell in love with CM education principles because it was basically what I grew up with, before I went off to school at the ripe old age of 6. We read 'living books' and explored nature and I loved music and art and beautiful things. It is the education I wish I had been able to continue, had I not had to attend school and is one I strive to offer my children.  It is basically a liberal arts education for children, and goes into more depth as the child ages and his or her needs change. This helped give me the direction that I found lacking in unschooling at times. Unschooling was like the "get out  of jail / school free card' and showed me how to trust my child; CM was helpful in formulating a vision of  how I wanted to create the kind of home environment I wanted for my family. It's a lot of beauty and appreciation. It's actually hard to put into words. It has to be experienced. It is an education of the mind and the heart. From the website:

"The goal is to bring a wide variety of meaningful subjects to the children via literature, masterpiece artwork, poetry, and various other humanities. Along with these inspirational additions the core subjects are in no way neglected but they are approached in such a manner as to foster the love of learning."

Another vital aspect of CM education is the idea of "habit training." Study for even just a few minutes a day helps a child, or any person, form the habit of taking time to think about something, to ponder and mull an idea over in one's mind. This, over time when done consistently, becomes a part of one's character.

The last thing I will say about what I like about this approach to learning is that it allows for the child to enjoy their childhood! It brightens it with beauty without burdening the child with too many facts to memorize or time spent at a desk or table when they yearn to be running and playing. Plenty of time for bookwork when it is developmentally appropriate!

Montessori is one of those methods that can be interpreted differently for everyone. I do not use this method to-the-letter, but just as the other methods, as I find things that appeal to me and implement them. From the site linked to:

"All parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends are "homeschooling" children all the time whether they are aware of it or not! The most important life lessons, including love of academic learning, come from the home, not the school."

I love this description. We definitely use the family-centered approach with so much extended family nearby!  Michael Olaf Stephenson's experience as outlined on the website linked to here is a great "word picture" of what a Montessori education can look like, from youth to adult.

How do the philosophies we embrace translate to our everyday experience? 
To illustrate, I created a year theme with focus points each month for the 2011-12 year.  The emphasis was  character traits to build on using hands-on projects. Living books offered another perspective, but other than time for the older boys to learn the basics of reading and writing and help them develop a habit of study for a few minutes each day, I am leaning away from doing much "sit down" work this year and learning though literature will not be the focus this year.  Cub scouts and the LDS youth program "Faith in God" serves as another enriching experience for our oldest son. All the children have benefited by participating in a small family-run homeschool co-op at the beginning of the year.

Home Education is a Blessing
I know that the Lord has guided me and my husband and walked with us on this journey of discovering homeschool / family-centered education. I am so grateful it came across my path so that my children could benefit from it right from the beginning. Although we began right at the start of our children's education, it is never too late to pursue home education!

The Lord has blessed me to come across the 'golden resource of people' through blogs, books, websites, groups and families I've met over the years who have influenced me and taught me as I sought them out. I am so grateful for all the families who have "gone before" and shared their experiences so that mothers, like me, could be taught and influenced in this way!

I wasn't and am not just "one of those people who is cut-out for homeschooling". God truly has taught me what I need to know, when I needed to know, about my children and their needs and how to meet them, or find resources to help me. I know He does this for anyone who asks prayerfully, in faith.

Since all parents are their child's first teachers, God gives us everything we need in order to bring them up in light and truth, as we ask God in faith and then seek to follow the counsel He gives to us. That is true, no matter what educational path you choose for your family.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5–6)

As you can see from this series of posts, it took me time to gradually grow in confidence and ability to do this. He can make any weakness strong, if we rely on Him with faith. He has expanded my understanding and helped me to grow as a person to be able to spend this kind of time with my children. I trust in Him and I know that with Him, all things are possible.

If this is something that speaks to your heart, that you desire to know more about, consider it carefully. It can work, and well, but it is something that needs to be examined carefully and is a whole family decision and effort. It can work for most families, but whether or not it can work for you and yours is up to YOU, as each family's needs and circumstances are unique. I do know that if the desire is there in one's heart and when one's motivations are in the right place, the good Lord does provide. Be prepared for small miracles and expect to be surprised!

This journey, for me, has been a marvel. I have met and talked with a variety of interesting people, both in real life and online, and been privileged to have a peek into their families' lives and how they learn while living their daily life. Days continue to roll by and I really have to wonder, where will this lifestyle take us? What adventures/mistakes/crazy things/quiet times/new interests await us in the coming days and years? Who else will join our family and add to the beauty and bedlam of family life? Only time will tell!

I thank you for being a part of our journey as I express it on this blog and welcome your kind comments and thoughts, and yes, even your questions! Why not share about how you are inspired in your own child's education?




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Having a "Runaway Day?"

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

We all have them, you know. Though I tend to have "runaway moments" more often than "days", and my solution is usually to put a show on for the kids and I go lie down for the moment and savor a nice bite of chocolate ;-) Chocolate really does make everything all better.

Here's an article that makes ya feel like you are not the "only one". 
Enjoy :-)


Run Away Days by Michele Bolton



How We Came to Home Education, Pt. 2

 To read the first post in this series, click:
How We Came to Home Education, Part 1


Meeting the Groups
I began joining homeschool groups' Yahoo lists and my sons and I attended park days. Being around and interacting with kids and parents who were homeschooling made a big impression on me. These people were pretty cool and their positive attitudes really got me thinking that this lifestyle could be a good fit for me and my family, too.

One highlight was participating in a History Fair that one homeschool group put together. Our oldest son was really into the Grave Digger monster truck and had seen a monster truck show with his Dad when they came to town. The little guy, at age 3, would put on a toy hardhat and sit atop the coffee table, his 'truck', in the living room with odd pillows and waste baskets placed as the 'wheels'.



 Since I was learning to respond to my son's interests, I decided to use this interest of his as a jumping-off point for a family project on 'the history of monster trucks' for the History Fair. Our little guy painted a poster board very haphazardly and my husband and I helped to create a picture display from photos off the Internet with the history of monster trucks as the theme! Did you know the History Channel has a DVD about the history of monster trucks? We wore that out, watching it at home with our son. We even had my husband's laptop playing that DVD the night of the fair!



I giggle, looking back, how excited I was ! We invited the grandparents, who came, and our son had fun running around with all the other children who attended that night. This was a very good experience for us as a family. I was very enthusiastic and happy to be involved with other families whose focus was similar to mine, which was that learning-within-the-family was a fun and exciting lifestyle!


Lessons in Parenting
Since the birth of our oldest child, I have attended monthly meetings which taught me about the aspects of the normal course of breastfeeding. I also learned valuable skills of mothering and enjoyed getting to know other mothers who were in the same stage of life as me.

La Leche League was that guiding influence in my relationship with my sons and from what I experienced and learned through the people I met there, I chose to adopt an attachment parenting approach. I responded to my sons' cues to nurse, started solid foods when they were ready (rather than on a schedule), among other things.

Attending LLL meetings, regularly talking with other mothers who were interested in these things, and reading LLL's magazine, New Beginnings, as well as books the local group lent out, contributed to my education as a parent. I learned more and began to accept my role more fully as a parent, as a nurturer and a guide to my children. I began to really feel strongly that though books and extended family members / mentors and groups were there for us to learn from, the bottom line was that my husband and I were (and are) the experts when it comes to our kids. This was our turn to learn how to raise our kids, by our own experience. I understood that since we knew and loved them best and because we care, we could educate ourselves, seek out and then find the tools / resources that would enable us to meet our children's various and unique needs. We could do homeschooling and succeed at it!

My confidence was growing as I spent time with and learned what was working with my sons, especially where parenting and relationship-building skills were concerned. This was, believe it or not, very much a part of my decision to move toward home education. This time was filled with some very happy times, interspersed with personally challenging moments for me. I had to shed some negative mindsets and learned behaviors that did not serve our family well (like spanking and authoritarian parenting), as well as come to terms with difficult moments from my growing-up years, but things were getting better. I was striving to learn a better way, and was actively pursuing my own growth into becoming an authoritative, connected parent.

My husband has his own journey, though he was more positive in many ways than me at that point. He was a great help to me as I struggled with letting go of my need for control and I am grateful to him for his patience with me as well as his sound counsel. I am grateful for our experience of home education as it has helped me to grow more as a person than if I relied fully upon the school system. It has taught me I have a lot inside of me to give to my children and inspired me to shift and change in order to invite better working relationships with our children.

While learning to tune into and respond to our children's needs took practice, and certainly we also learned to balance it with our own expectations and attitudes, this way of living together felt natural to us, and created a more peaceful family dynamic and gave us better results than other models of parenting we were familiar with, which operated on fear, distrust and coercion.

It made sense that if my husband and I could tune into our children's needs on the physical and emotional level, and that it was working for us and the children, that we could continue to find ways to meet their needs educationally. Our decision to home educate, at least for the first few years, was growing firmer.


A New Home...
We moved across town for a new job for my husband. I had a lot of fun in that rental house finding ways to entertain my two little ones and keep us busy and happy. We took a lot of nature walks and took full advantage of the backyard this house had, as well as the many nice city parks surrounding it. Daddy was able to come home for lunch occasionally and we enjoyed his shorter commute.

I was still reading and absorbing information, only now I was participating in online forums with other parents who homeschooled their children or were exploring the idea. I read Teach Your Own by John Holt, The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith, and a few books by David Albert. I subscribed to Home Education Magazine. That magazine taught me a lot by way of real families' experiences, and there was a variety of ways to homeschool presented, which was helpful for me to see.

     
                                             The old 'flour in a bin curriculum'. 
                                    What? You haven't heard of it? LoL
                                  Yes, this one really was started by Mom! 
                                     I wanted them to have lots of ways 
                                    to explore their world and their senses.  
                        I wasn't wild about the clean-up, however. Sure made a fun memory!


                                                                      Exploring dress-ups and being silly...




New Friends and a New At-home Co-op
After the move, I formed an at-home preschool co-op with new friends. I had learned enough from the first group we did co-op with to be courageous enough to invite other mothers to start a new group in a new city.

Fortunately, it was an involved group of women I invited to create this new group with, so I could sit back and enjoy the experience with so many helpful hands at work. We really enjoyed creating fun learning experiences for the children in the co-op. We took turns teaching all the kids, about 6 of them, in our homes twice a week.

My oldest son participated in this for another year or so and we really loved it. He enjoyed making friends and seeing them regularly in their homes. He liked being with their mothers. When it was my turn to host, we painted, played in the backyard, played with dress up clothing, practiced writing and colored. His little brother was about 2 by that time and had fun and loved it when all the children came to our house to play. We also participated in a playgroup, which my second son began attending.

Our third son was born (hooray!) and then we were all ready for something else.

But what?

A Difficult Time...
A new job opportunity came at a very opportune time. We were so thrilled about it! Since we had discussed home education for our family from the beginning, my husband and I purposefully sought out job opportunities that had flexibility and would still allow him to provide well while I stayed at home with the children. We felt blessed that this job was the step we needed in order to have the career we'd dreamed about and planned for that would allow flexibility of travel and schedules for the lifestyle we wanted to grow.

His new job required him to be out of town during the week and home on the weekends. There were many adjustments the kids and I had to make, which were hard and took time. I was, at that time, organizing and leading monthly LLL meetings for new mothers across town and also involved in a calling for church. Because of the new challenges we had with a third child and my husband's absence often due to work, my involvement with La Leche League and church was tapering off. This was a new era of life for our whole family.

We continued to visit with extended family, invite friends over occasionally and have play dates at others' homes, but I really did much less during that time. I had to save my sanity, understandably. I pulled back from positions in which I had previously given much time and attention to as a volunteer.

This was very difficult for me at the time because so much of my identity was wrapped up in that volunteer work. Though I will always look back with fondness on the friendships I made and the people I impacted positively through that stage of my life, I am glad I had the chance to focus back in on my kids and have the privacy to create better daily rhythms and become more used to really being home with my kids.

We did have lots of interesting, fun things going on at home and the kids did watch a lot of TV. Hey, at least it was PBS, right? Our oldest son was learning how to use the computer and started fiddling around on www.pbskids.org and www.starfall.com.

More changes occurred.

My husband and I had made some financial choices which we later found out put a big strain on our family's budget (read: Housing Market 2007-8). Consequently, we moved back to the city we had come from to settle in a small home so we could start paying off a large amount of debt we had incurred.

Socially-speaking
Our home we settled into was small, just two bedrooms and an office for a family of 5. Though our financial setbacks were discouraging in some ways, there were hidden blessings that became more apparent as time passed. We now were living closer to more family members again and had a lovely little city park just up the street from us. This neighborhood was one I had grown up in, so I really felt like I had come full circle! My husband was now traveling a lot less due to the downturn in the economy and that made home life lots more relaxed. Because I knew how to connect with homeschool groups via the Internet, we met other homeschoolers right away through attending Park Days and other activities.

The Daily Pace of Life Sloooooows Down...
Another unexpected surprise happened in the needs of our third son. I was finding that with three small children, and my youngest son being more needy at nap time than his brothers had been, that our time out of the house was rather limited. This was new to me! I really missed what I then-considered that 'special time' when I had just the two young ones and we were out of the house more often. I was not used to having to stay at home because of my children's needs. This was difficult because I often felt lonely and 'trapped'. I liked the freedom of being able to 'get up and go!' But, it was also an experience I chose to learn from.

We were finding a new "normal" and, to my surprise, it was turning out to be better than I thought. Because we were staying home more, I learned how to better balance my time between outside interests and personal and family projects. Though it was hard at times (I am a social person), it was also healthy for me to establish daily routines and rhythms for myself and my kids.

Happily, there were young children just a few doors up on both sides of the street! The neighborhood friends were a great distraction for a while, but as they reached school age, they started going off to school and were less available. At that point, we started inviting other homeschooled children over whom we had met through parenting and homeschool groups. That solved the issue of the times when my sons grew bored and wanted friends to play with.

Family-Centered Fun
We began to have extended family members over more often, as well--especially my two younger brothers who still lived at home with our parents. Other family members dropped by occasionally. We even had my youngest brother live with us for a while, as well as my husband's youngest sister (though not in the same ends of the house!). Did I mention, my husband and I are each second children in families of eight children? Talk about having things in common! Anyway, our sons thought this arrangement was perfect! Imagine, an on-call uncle who likes jumping on the trampoline, playing video games and Lego. They were living the little boy high life! It really was pretty terrific. I liked it because it met their needs and allowed me time to rest!

Then, our house guests moved out. I was expecting a new baby and soon our fourth child, this time a lovely daughter, was born. My sister, her husband, and their two young daughters moved into a home just a street up from us. The fun had begun! We began adjusting to being a family of 6 and having another family close-by to have dinner with and lots of play dates.

I fully realize how unusual this arrangement is and how really fortunate we are to have this experience of family close-by. It has enriched our home education experience and our lives, to this point, but even when we were not living near family, home ed. was still a great lifestyle. Someday we may live far away from our families, but when that happens, we have lots of good memories to keep them with us in our hearts.

The funny thing, to me, is that this all just fell into our laps as a happy accident, or perhaps more accurately, a blessing in disguise. The Lord knew what we all needed even if it didn't coincide with my grand plans and schemes. (Note to self: Trust the Lord more, worry less. Repeat. Repeat.) Our kids love to walk up to see their aunt and uncle and cousins and also have them over to play. I feel lucky that my sister is willing to trade watching children so we can get breaks and run errands from time to time. This situation we find ourselves in is working for now, while we are planning and saving for the near future (and, hopefully, another move).

Are you considering homeschooling?

You might like:



Stay Tuned for Part 3 in this series: 

How We Came to Home Education Part 3:
Finding Our Own Learning Philosophy and Style

In the meantime, why not check out 
some of my Favorite Homeschool Posts:

Learning is FUN!
The Baby IS the Lesson
Sometimes Preschool Really Is That Easy

Learning Her "Colors"
Our Art Table
Playdough and Computers
Hands-on History: Mummies
Nature Study: Birds
Reading With Boys

A Lego Curriculum
Scripture Study in the Home




Friday, February 17, 2012

How We Came to Home Education, Pt. 1

 Stay Tuned for the next two posts in this 3 part series!

We love "homeschooling" now, but we didn't always think this would be our education / lifestyle choice as a family. As with many things, there was a time when we were unaware of its benefits or that it was an option for us.

Since I know how much reading others' blogs and stories about homeschooling helped me when I was first starting to be curious about it, and because it will be a great way to record it for my family, I'm including a series of 3 posts about How We Came to Home Education. Enjoy!

Looking back, I now realize that we were building a foundation for our family in those early, early "preschool" years. If you are considering home education, terrific! It's a decision that we have never regretted making and that has opened a whole new world of enjoyment together for our family. If you have any questions about beginning to homeschool or homeschooling during the early years, I invite you to ask via the comments section below or by e-mail.


In the Beginning...

If you (the child) didn't have to go to school at all, how would you learn?
What would you do all day?

If you (the parent) chose to not send your child to school,
what would your life be like?
What do children need to learn? How do children learn?
What environment is best in which to learn? How will a child become a happy, well-adjusted person without a classroom of peers?

Whether school or  no, what is it you want for your child?
What is a parent's role in creating experiences for the child?
What kinds of experiences do you want them to have
and which ones do you think they would benefit from?
What kind of life, as a parent, would you like to have?
Are parents qualified to be their child's teacher?

Preschool?
I started asking myself all of these questions as soon as my oldest son was turning 3 years old. Most parents I knew with children his age were sending their children to preschool. I did not go to any preschool as a child and I figured I turned out fine, so I knew it was not necessary for me to send him. We did interesting things at home together, my son and I, much like my mother did with me. We would take walks or play with paint and water and sand. I read to him often, he liked to watch PBS children's shows and DVD's from the library, he wrestled with his daddy, we would go out hiking together as a family sometimes and we had extended family close by to visit with. Also, we did have friends we met at the park for play dates. I figured this was as good an 'education' as anyone could offer him, if not better. At that point, I was not concerned with beginning academics. Life was about exploration and spending time with people.

                                                        Shaving cream finger paint!

As anyone with a young child at home knows, as soon as you begin an art project...it can easily become a "I want to experience with my whole body" kind of 'sensory' art experience. I figured at least this one would be easy to clean up! We discovered and made a lot of fun together. I have my children to thank for changing me in that way. It was a crash course in creativity and extreme patience!


Of course, I did need a break from time to time during the day while my husband was at work. As anyone knows who parents a small child, it can be exhausting!

My husband's parents, and mine, were still in the midst of raising the children they had left at home, so they were not as available to watch my son so I could get a break, though they did as often as they could.  I struck out to find other people near me to connect with. I enjoyed meeting and visiting with other moms at various mom's groups, La Leche League meetings, and church.

I also wanted our oldest, and only son at the time, to experience having friends and exploring the world in a fun way, beyond Mom and the walls of our home.  I decided to try out a high quality Montessori-style in-home preschool for a few weeks, but my son did not like being dropped off twice a week. I enjoyed the brief hour or two to myself when he was there, but he had trouble wanting to go without me. Some may say that meant I *should* have left him, to toughen him up or something of the sort, but I followed my mother's intuition and didn't want to force him to attend when he was obviously not ready for it.

I learned a bit more about normal child development from the Montessori teacher herself, and knew that I did not want to overly emphasize reading and writing and other "academic-y" things just yet. I knew it might be better to wait until he was mature enough. So, combining a delay of academics, and continuing exploration and being around other people!, I was looking for an alternative to formal preschool....


The First Co-op
As luck would have it, a few friends in the same neighborhood were forming an at-home preschool co-op and needed a fourth family. We joined and I had a break twice weekly for two hours and my son enjoyed going to his friends' homes with their mothers doing small crafts, having snacks and short lesson on an alphabet theme. His personality was quite friendly and he happily went off to his 'friends' homes. I learned to organize and engage four young children when it came my turn to host co-op. It was a learning experience for all of us! (But mostly me!) I also had a new baby at this time as I had just given birth to our second son, so I began learning how to juggle these kinds of days.

Influences
During this time, I came across Diane Flynn Keith's Universal Preschool website ( I really liked the article entitled "Preschool Pressure") and Lillian Jones' website. I read about John Holt and unschooling, but it was still pretty foreign to me. I found The Natural Child Project online and really liked a lot of what I saw there. I read Learning All the Time by John Holt and that book helped me better understand my role as parent in facilitating my child's learning rather than directing it. I also read In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong and that confirmed what I already knew; children, and adults, each have their own unique ways of learning. I was starting to think that schools weren't necessarily the best places for people to learn as they don't, and can't, accommodate the multiple intelligences people use in order to learn. I liked what I was reading, but it took time to read a bit, then think about it, then try things out and sit back and evaluate how it was or wasn't working and how we (my family) felt about the results.

My husband had been homeschooled for the first two years of his elementary education and liked the concept of having our son home. I explained a lot of what I was reading and we had lots of discussions about what we liked and what we wanted to avoid. We wanted our children to be healthy and happy and explore the world around them. We planned to give them the guidelines they would need to be safe and to introduce them to many ideas and experiences. We wanted them to follow their interests and be confident in their abilities. We agreed that we could provide this kind of life for our children better than a school could. We also agreed that home education could not only work for our family educationally, but that it would allow for more freedom and flexibility in our family's daily rhythm. Instead of being locked in a school schedule and having to bend around a school's set of expectations, we could create our own (or just go with the flow).

   
                          Look familiar? Yes, toilet paper has been an accessory since the beginning!




                             This is the very first father-son Lego project! (Cue the 'awe'!) 
                                                The first of many to come....





                  Keepin' cool outside the front door of our condo we lived in at that time.



Stay tuned as our story continues in
How We Came to Home Education, Part 2...




Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine's Day

I enjoy the change of seasons and moving from one holiday to the next, not only because it marks the time we spend together (life is not a blend of laundry-dishes-etc routine), and is a great excuse to spend $2.50 on pink kitchen towels in the Dollar aisle at Target, but that it also offers us a chance to make unique family memories.

This year, we celebrated simply, what with my husband's schedule for work being more demanding at present and me being more tired from caring for the children and household and expecting a baby.


I took my two youngest children with me earlier in the day to deliver some goodies and cards to my parents and sister (still have one sister to go--late candy is always eatable, right? lol) We had fun with cousin visitors and eating candy they shared with us (and had fun with the cards and goodies another set of cousins sent a few days later, thanks-to-you-know-who-you-are!) On the evening of Valentine's, my sweet husband drove us all to get sandwiches and chips from a favorite place of ours, which we then drove home and ate them together at the dining table, along with some sliced strawberries.

I made sure to do something nice for my hubby, because even though he doesn't show a lot of enthusiasm for those kinds of things like candy and a nice card, I know he still likes them.  :-)   His hugs and being able to spend time with him are the best gifts I could ask for. Oh, and he's been converting all our family videos of the last 10 years to DVD, which I called the Best Impromptu Gift Ever.

Watching those DVDs so I can label them correctly has given the kids a chance to see Dad and I when we were newlyweds and when we just had one baby. We've had fun laughing at each other and watching how our family has grown. That's a gift right there! Both the reminiscing and the laughing. Everyone has been more loving, and I think watching these DVDs has been a part of remembering we all have something pretty special together.

The day after the official V-Day, and the day after that!, we actually did a few more organized things, like play a few rounds of Don't Eat Pete with candy hearts and ate chocolate while I read a book or two out loud. Candy is always fun. The kids really liked the book about monsters making valentine's for each other and how even though they were different, they could be friends.

I also read a book about Martin L. King Jr. (February is National Black History Month, after all) and talked to the kids about the Jim Crow laws and how many people worked hard to change things so black people had equal share in the rights white people already had. This led to talking about how we can be friends with anyone, even if we look different than each other. I think the kids actually already have that down pat--usually it's adults who need to learn and re-learn this lesson! We talked about God's love and how He loves all people, and how He loves the kids a lot, and how Mom and Dad love them, too!

I mentally checked off "one meaningful teaching moment" on my Mom List in my brain ;-)
Good moments this week.

Happy LOVE Day / Week / Month from our family to yours !


Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Day at School

Did that title draw you in, just a little?  (wink! wink!)

I have talked quite a bit about why we home educate, how we do so, and what we like about it, but I would like to mention that I do respect and appreciate what teachers and staff at schools do for the young people they interact with on a daily basis. Many teachers were positive influences on me throughout the time I spent in classrooms for 12 or so years, and I continue to admire those who work so hard to benefit young people who are learning within schools. While my husband and I have chosen another path for our family, I do recognize that for many families, school is working well for them and their children.

Several family members of mine and my husband's are in the teaching profession. My Dad is a drafting teacher at the local middle school and is close to retirement. He told me last week about his classes' recent project building bridges using Popsicle sticks and hot glue guns and it reminded me of my boys. Do your kids like to build things with glue and sticks? My oldest sure does.

When my Dad told me they would be testing the bridges this week to see how strong they were under pressure, I knew it would be a blast to visit and watch. He kindly agreed and today my two oldest sons and I attended one of his classes.


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Can you spot the bridge testing apparatus in the background?




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The three of them together. Little guy in the middle is trying "not to smile". Goofy guy :-)



The kids liked seeing the bridges. Did you know little bridges made of thin wooden sticks can withstand at least 90 pounds of pressure? We learned something new! It was their first time inside of a school, which was a fun first for all of us. The fun part was signing into the front office where we were issued sticky name tags with our photos on the front. The boys laughed a lot trying to take silly photos!

Of course the 6th graders in the class were curious about us visiting at first and several of the boy students came over and shook our hands or gave us high 5's. Very nice of them. After the class ended, the boys' Grandpa thoughtfully let them choose a candy bar from the prize winner's box. (He awarded the teams with the strongest bridges with candy bars.) The boys really liked that part! Overall, a neat little visit today. Thanks, Dad!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

I love Home Ed ! ! cont'd...

Read the previous post { here


What is so great for us about home education?


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I get to teach my kids about character traits, all of the time. How many parents value this as a priority in this day and age? To me, this will impact my children's happiness and future growth as much, if not more than, academics. How happy can a person be if they are smart but not true to themselves or nice to live with? Wealthy but dishonest?

What better place to learn these valuable lessons than in the home, and who better to teach them than Mom and Dad? It starts and ends with us, and involves the people we invite into our lives at church, in the neighborhood, and beyond. It's best learned through real life, anyway. Home education offers us lots of time and plenty of experiences to accomplish this.

It may sound daunting as a task, but it is actually a really great opportunity for my husband and me to improve our own character, too. How can we teach something we don't live? Some of the traits we have learned about are honesty, work, compassion, and accountability, so far. My favorite tools to use for this are Brite Music's Standin' Tall series and the word of God found in the words of living prophets and the scriptures. The Duggar family has a chart with scripture references to teach this, too. It's awesome!!!



Where else can the curriculum be centered around the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For members of the LDS church, we have received counsel as parents as for how to do just this.

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I get to have all the time I need to teach my kids something they need to know! No remedial classes needed. If they need extra time to learn a concept, no problem. And it doesn't set back any further learning. Less worry for Mom or Dad...we have had plenty of past experiences that support that when they have the time they need, they learn what they need to know. Home education is relationship-based education. It works because of our ability to trust one another, communicate, and find compromises. Education really can work for everyone, and home education provides the "space" for this to happen.


The kids have all the time they need to learn something without feeling pressure to perform or being constantly judged. They don't have to develop a self-concept about themselves that is incorrect based on someone else's interpretation of their educational progress. For instance, no math phobias here or "I'm bad at/hate math." They use it all the time without thinking twice.

This freedom also allows them to learn about who they are, what they like, and to become who they are meant to be, not who someone else says they should be.

Even if that means goofing around   :-)


IMAG2804


They have the privilege to do this, right from the start, without a school or "expert" dictating that what they are interested in is "not as important" as something else (ie: choose science over math, or reading over, say, balloon art). They don't have to experience mid-life crises because they never got to follow what they truly were interested in.

Another bonus of home ed? I don't have to find or invent ways to motivate my kids to learn. They are born learning; all people are. It's external things that kill curiosity and creativity that begins so naturally. Now, there are times when it is appropriate to motivate them to do something they may not feel like doing, like writing practice for 5 minutes a day....but that's another story!


Freedom FROM. We are free from the rat race of keeping up appearances, or dancing to the tune of someone else's constantly changing expectations from schools or other families. We are free from being consumed by that competitive, superficial lifestyle fostered by school life. I breathe a long sigh, ahhhhhhhh!, of relief. We enjoy living a life that feels good to us, with true principles that will lead us to God and to helping out other people, but we don't have to worry or spend a lot of time keeping up with the Joneses (or Smith's, or whoever). We invite others to join in our life, to enjoy and experience together. This gives us the opportunity to minister to others, build relationships, and be proactive in our social choices. (Did I mention...we love our friends ! ! !)

IMAG2717
Cousins make good friends.

This leads to how we can spend time serving others! This not only feels great intrinsically, to fill a need that wasn't met before you met it, but also fulfills our responsibility to one another as brothers and sisters of a loving God. We can find ways to be a blessing and encouragement to others, as well as receive the encouragement that comes our way. That is a big part of character training, but also a lifestyle which allows plenty of room and time for reaching out to family and neighbors and others we meet in friendship, sharing our time and energy to give to them.

Another freedom my kids experience while living without school is the freedom from bells and external schedules (yes, they do still learn to wait in line and take turns and do hard things). Also:  bullies and unkindness and coarse and vulgar ways of speech that come out of nowhere and hit you repeatedly out in the world at large, and even in schools, is absent at home. How can a young person sit and stew in that kind of environment for 12 years in school and NOT have it profoundly affect them for life?


FREEDOM TO.  Our kiddos are growing up surrounded by love in our home and close network of friends, family, and neighbors and enjoy all the best things that the world has to offer right now. They will meet the coldness and unkindness that can exist in the world when they are grown and mature enough to face it. Not stunted in growth, but prepared for further growth. Think greenhouse, not "sheltered."

This means our family gets to grow our own culture of kindness, without having to accept or integrate the school's, or the world-at-large's, interpretation of polite interaction. Um, how many people do you meet who are polite these days? At businesses or other places? (Not very many, at least where we live) We get to create / maintain our own social dynamic and set of social mores, to some extent.

I would love to say that means our kids never tease each other, but they are kids, so they are learning to control their impulses and choose kindness over selfishness. I will say, compared to what my siblings and I were like as children, our kids do tease a lot less, and I do attribute that to the kind of lifestyle we live in our family now. There is more of a general concern for each other, and this doesn't "go away" as the kids age, as is common in most kids who attend school.


I appreciate the freedom of schedules to wake up when we need to, especially when someone needs extra sleep, whether that's Mom who has a new baby and needs a few more Zzzzzs or a child who stayed up later than the rest of the family.  I love the freedom to go to the library or the museum in the middle of the day when it's all ours while the other kids are in school!  We all like the freedom to have a day of doing-nothing, or a day at the park or hiking when we feel like doing that.


Then, there's the freedom to read the same books over and over with the kids, and no one to say, move on to the next one!

IMAG2672


We have 100% freedom to base what we learn off of our own interests, to create our "curriculum" from life.

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Making Lego stop motion videos with Dad.


They get to keep all that experience gained forever! It's their own. No need to teach to a test, memorize disconnected facts, only to watch them forget them instantly in preparation for the next fact-testing barrage.

IMAG2669.jpg
The boys designed our fort with Dad, and watched and helped a little with construction.



Can you tell I am really pumped up about home education?!

I really could just go on and on. 
Maybe in another post...  :-) 


If you liked this post, you may also like:


Linda Dobson talks about "Homeschooling Starts in Many Different Places" at her blog Parent at the Helm. 

Montserrat shares in this post why they homeschool 
at Chocolate on my Cranium


If the topic of home ed. intrigues you, I will have a series of 3 posts soon about how we came to choose home education for our family. Most of it is my journey, but I do include a few details about my husband in this. It will be fun to share this for those who are curious about how a family comes to that decision point, as well as for my own records.

 It's our own story; we each write our own!  

What's yours?  

You are welcome to comment here with your own story
or a link to a post about what inspires you about home education.
Sharing is fun!




Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homeschooled Kids

This blog post (linked to below) is almost a year old, but new to me. The blog author talks about homeschooling and what the newest generation (born between '95 and 2010) may look like in the future, in terms of educaton and jobs.

I had to smile when the author, Penelope Trunk, mentioned that Generation X parents won't mind homeschooling their kids because they (the parents) are "so noncompetitive." That fits me to a 'T'!

Here's the blog post:

Generation Z Will Revolutionize Education


Edit to add: If this topic interests you, you won't want to miss reading through some of the comments below the post on Trunk's blog. Very interesting discussions and points made there.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Question: Learning to Read

I have a question for my blog readers this morning.


What are your favorite resources for teaching reading?
I'm in the midst of this stage in our home education,
have been trying different books and programs with my kiddos,
and while I think things are going well enough, I am curious about others' experiences.

I'd love to hear what works for you!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I love Home Ed ! !

What?

Were you expecting me to complain about having my kids around all. of. the. time. ??? or that I feel trapped and can't escape the burden of my kids' education ??? or how annoying it can be when random people offer me advice on how to teach my kids or ask me why they don't know X yet ???

Nah. Not me. No complaints here.

Just as children are a blessing, home education is, as well.
(Of course I would say that. You're getting to know me pretty well by now, right?)

Home education does have it's drawbacks, I will admit, like a perpetually busy household and a house that never stays clean longer than 5 minutes. Sure, that could describe any family with little ones, but it's a tad different when the kids are almost always at home, and you are spending time with them, not cleaning up after them all the time.

There are definitely challenges to having little children home during the day when my husband has a phone meeting that he needs absolute quiet for. (Quiet? What's that?) Luckily, he's as much "for" this lifestyle as me, so we find ways to make it work.

But there are so many positives about home ed. that I just have to shout, "Hooray!"

Happily, sometimes those "random people" offering advice turn out to be public school teachers cleaning out their closets and offer me great supplies!

Life is not lonely or boring, and it is so fun to share this life with our extended family and friends...we love you wonderful people!! So even being busy is okay, especially with built-in quiet times for resting.

Someday, like in 100 years, my floor will not have dirt-catching juice splotches that never fully disappear or handprints and toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror, even after I clean it twice a day.  But this also gives the kids more opportunities to pitch in and help around the house, which they do and are improving in all the time as they grow.

It's all good. Days with lots of little ones and the messes created and all the needs that must be filled right now (!) only last a short time, in the long-term perspective of life.

What do we get in exchange for our effort and time, by keeping our children around us? Memories and experiences with each other that we can have forever, just for starters.

And so much more...




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A special trip to Disneyland in September...less crowded during "school hours"!


  • We get to cook together, whether that's breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • The kids are learning to get/make their own food throughout the day. Great life skill!
  • I get to do fun stuff during the day, like take walks or go places with them, or garden. No school pick-ups to interrupt what the little ones and I are doing.
  • It's easy to include the kids in my interests, like baking, sewing, gardening, and bargain shopping--or my husband's, like hiking, playing games, or cooking. It also works the other way 'round; since we don't have homework and school schedules and meetings to juggle or projects to work on, the things they do already fit into our everyday lives. That might be my 4 year old teaching me how to play a video game, or my oldest and I watching an episode of the show "Cake Boss" together, or Dad playing a favorite game with our 7 year old guy. The kids' interests consistently provide a springboard for further learning. Awesome!
  • We can spend time with Dad when he is available; great for a flexible lifestyle.
  • I get to be there for most of their "firsts": first book read, first weeks with a new sibling, first questions about math or first science experiment they get into (vinegar and baking soda)......I love that!
  • We all stay well more often, especially during cold and flu season. We don't have three children going off to three different classrooms every day for 5 days every week to be exposed to 25 other kids' germs, then bringing them home to us or a new baby. Because we are home, when someone is ill, they have all the time they need to get well, as well as people around to help care for them. Another bonus for us: no sick days or make-up work to worry about.


    Okay, okay...Mom loves life without school... 

    but what do the kids have to say??


    Keep in mind, they've never attended school.

    Here's their take, in their own words:


    Oldest son, 9 years old:

    "Making friends."

    "Having fun, like Legos and Bionicles and stuff."

    "Friends." (can you tell someone is a social butterfly?)

    "No mean teachers."



    Second oldest son, 7 years old:

    "Getting toys."

    "It saves me time so I can play my video games."

    "I like playing with Ninjagos."



    WHY ELSE IS HOME ED. GREAT?

    Stay tuned as I continue this topic in another post...


    { You can read the second part of this post HERE }



    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Learning her "Colors"

    Our little lady is 2 years old and loves "colors", or "cudders", as she calls them. By that, she usually is referring to crayons. She carries some in her backpack most places we go, along with a coloring book. She also likes to "paint" using water and these neat pages from Melissa and Doug.

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    I am enjoying our little daughter who likes to sit and color! The boys' idea of coloring at that age usually involved scribbling wildly all over the page, then breaking the crayons in a few pieces, then flinging them off in the distance, before finally scrambling away to go climb on something.

    No, no, they weren't naughty! They just had more important things to do than sit still and color. Like I said, I am really enjoying having a little daughter who does like to sit and color! :-D

    Speaking of colors....

    Did you know that children can "learn" colors 
    without worksheets, PBS kids' shows, or (gasp!) Preschool?

    I know, amazing, but true.   :-)

    Color is everywhere!

    She likes to tell me what color the oatmeal packets near the toaster are.


    IMAG2926.jpg


    She had fun with Grandma discussing "boo" ("blue") at her house.

    Most recently, we enjoyed taking a "walk" through the plant nursery, with my little daughter pointing out to me the colors, as she saw them.

    Here is "boo" (blue):

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    Red and "poo-pl" (purple)...don't you just love the way toddlers talk? :

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    Lots of "geen" (green):

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    I think some curious onlookers wondered who this nutty pregnant woman was, who was snapping photos on her phone with her little 2 year old near bags of soil...but it was fun!

    ...I like doing all I can to encourage people to assume I am nutty,  lol.    Is it working? Is it working?? hehehe...


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    The Wonder of Colors...they are everywhere in our world!