Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rambling Thoughts

It's summer break here. I wish I were a year round homeschooler. I would love it if my kids didn't think of learning as happening only between the months of August and May. I would love it if I were the kind of mom who felt inspired to plan fun learning activities all year, to teach grammar in July, to plan fun field trips over the summer, but that's not reality for us.  Right now, I have one kiddo in the pool with her friends and the other three kiddos are rotting their brains playing League of Legends together, and I haven't done one productive thing today, unless you count getting a pedicure as productive. We are slackers from late May to mid-August and we like it that way.

We have been part of the public school system in one way or another for 16 years. The younger two have been homeschooled for the past four years, but we have always worked with the older boys' public school calendar. Summer weather signals a break...a big chunk of unscheduled time with few obligations. We love summer break. We need it. That's never going to change.

In the fall, we will start our fifth year of Otherwise Educating. I can't believe it. This whole thing kind of started out as an experiment. I had no plans for how long I would continue doing it. I truly take it year by year and figure I'll do something different when this doesn't feel right anymore. Right now, it still feels right.

As the kids get older, people get more uncomfortable with me not having my children in "proper" school. When we first started homeschooling, many people thought I was crazy, but I've always been a little unconventional, so most just chalked it up to another odd thing I chose to do like cloth diapering, baby food making and breastfeeding for longer than most people consider "normal".  As time has marched on and my older homeschooled son approaches high school, people are starting to get uncomfortable and have started asking what I'm going to "do" with him. I mean, clearly I can't homeschool him once he reaches high school, can I?  Sometimes I pretend like I've put a lot of thought into it and lay out my "plan", but most of the time I shrug and say, "I'm not sure", because that's the truth.

I am conflicted, because when I look back over my older boys' public school experiences, there are some cool things they did/experienced/learned that I'd hate for my younger kids to miss out on. I also see that they wasted an enormous amount of time and they both tell me that they would have been much better served doing things differently. They don't learn the way public school teaches. Much of the time they were bored, frustrated and sadly apathetic. While I can't give my younger two identical opportunities my older boys had available to them in public school, I think the different experiences and opportunities we have because we homeschool will more than make up for it.

I make no promises about our future plans. My second son just graduated from public high school, so we are definitely going to enjoy one year of not being tied to the public school calendar in any way. After that, we will reevaluate.

Happy summer!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Morning Writing

Thing 4 started writing a story yesterday. As soon as she got up today, she began writing again.

When kids are excited about and invested in a project, they take ownership of it. No threats or bribes are needed to motivate them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 22, 2013

Finding the passion again

When I started this crazy experiment, I was beyond excited about learning at home with my children. I researched curriculum options until I couldn't see straight. I read more books and blogs on homeschooling than I can count. I blogged every sad science experiment we did. We field tripped, co-oped, crafted and nature walked our little hearts out those first two years. It was wonderful and we loved it. When I look back on those years, I just feel all warm inside. I wouldn't trade that time for all the money in the world. As time has gone on, we've fallen into a rut. We are bored. I hate to admit it, but homeschooling just isn't fun anymore. It used to be a way of life. It has turned into something we check off so we can move on with our day.

One by one, our homeschooling friends are going back to school. I admit that I'm tempted. Wouldn't it be nice to "just" be the mom? No more answering "What do we have to do for school today?" No more  Sunday night list making. No more worrying and stressing about whether or not I'm teaching them everything they need to know. More coffee with girl friends. More time to clean and organize my house. Maybe I could finally get to that four year old to-do list.

Whenever I am trying to make a big decision, my wise younger sister always advises me to envision my day to day life as it will be if a make the change. When I envision my life with my kiddos back in school, I don't like what I see. I see rushed mornings. I see kids coming home exhausted after spending  all day at school yet still facing two to three hours of homework at night. I see me opening up a lunch box and finding a lunch that wasn't eaten because my child was being teased at the lunch table and couldn't "stomach" eating. (Ugh... I still get teary when I remember that event.) I see busy work, stress over state tests, drug dogs... I could go on and on. I see these things because I have seen them. I've done this before. It's less than 70 days until my second son graduates from public school (not that I'm counting). Having had two children go to public school from K-12, I know of what I speak.  As I have said over and over and over, my kids have had some fantastic teachers and experiences in public school. They have also had some not-so-great experiences. I'm just not ready to travel that road again... yet.

I'm not saying my children will never go back to school.  I don't know what tomorrow holds. When people ask how long I'm going to do this, I often respond, "At least until next week." What I do know is that I really like my life right now the way it is. I love learning with my children. I love not feeling rushed. I love walking into the family room and seeing them bundled up by the fireplace reading or working on math. The flexibility is priceless. It's wonderful to be able to drop the books and go spend time in nature on a beautiful day.  I like being able to allow them to follow their interests instead of having to follow someone's idea of what they should be learning at this point in time. When I focus on the the good things, I realize that there is a lot that I would miss.

So... I have started reading John Holt again. I'm reading homeschool blogs and books.  I watched Sir Ken's Ted Talk for the umpteenth time. I have committed to making new connections with other homeschoolers. I am going back through the pictures of our first two years of homeschooling and re-reading my blogs from those days. I'm even considering going to a local homeschool convention, which will be new for me. I am reminding myself of why I started this journey in the first place and it gives me renewed passion to continue. Thanks for following along.

"What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out." ~ John Holt

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fireside School

...just one more reason to love learning at home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


A few weeks ago, another homeschooling friend suggested I check out Udacity for Thing 3. (Thanks, Alison!) Wow! I am so impressed. If you're unfamiliar to Udacity, as I was, here is a short description from their site:

Udacity is the future of online higher education. We offer accessible, affordable, engaging classes that anyone can take, anytime. 

And it's free!

They offer online classes with engaging videos, complete with quizzes, tests and a certificate of completion, for free! Right now they offer math, computer science, physics and business classes. I'm really hoping they add more subjects. The classes are geared toward high school students and above, but the beginning classes seem challenging yet not frustrating for younger gifted kids. They are great for independent, self-directed learners.

Thing 3 chose Introduction to Physics and is loving it. I can't believe how much he is learning and retaining. He asked today if there is a second physics class he can take after he finishes this one. What the heck? Asking to take a class? I've dreamed of this moment since I started this crazy journey over three years ago.

This is one of the best resources I've found in a while.

Did I mention that it's free?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night

We are doing a little school on this election night. Thing 4 is learning about politics and geography. She is coloring in an electoral map as results come in. She's doing a little math, too, as she keeps a tally of electoral votes for each candidate.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A very long overdue post

It's been months and months since I've blogged. We switched things up a little last year with the kiddos going to a Montessori school a couple of days a week. It was a good fit for them, but it caused a real time crunch for me, trying to cram five days of lessons into three days. I felt like I didn't have time to do anything extra, so the blog got put on the back burner. I regret not having blogged much last year because I really enjoy going back through my old posts from the first couple of years and seeing what we did.  It's a homeschool diary.

Today was a beautiful day here in OK so we headed out to the nature preserve this afternoon. It's one of our favorite local places to hike, and every time we go there, I wonder why we don't go more often.

While we were hiking around, 

looking for letters in nature for art projects for the kids' rooms, 

enjoying having our pictures taken,

and watching butterflies do their thing, 

I had a moment of clarity. 

Lately, I've been feeling like I'm at a crossroads with this whole Otherwise Educating thing. This is our fourth year, and I've loved it. I haven't loved everything about it. There have been days when I have not loved it at all. But overall, it has been a wonderful experience for me and for my children. I wouldn't care if they hadn't learned anything (they have), I would not trade the time I have had with them for all the money in the world. However, we are quickly approaching the high school years with Thing 3, and Thing 4 has been telling me she wants to go back to school. She doesn't want to go back to any school. She thinks she might want to go back to public schoolYou know, that place from which I rescued her over three years ago. 

I've had many conversations in my head, with my husband, with my neighbor and favorite homeschool mom about whether or not to continue on this path. I wonder if my children would be learning more in school.  Would they be better off socially? I have doubts about my ability to homeschool high school.  It's one thing to homeschool elementary school kids. Anyone can teach state capitals and multiplication tables. But how will I teach geometry, chemistry, writing? Can I do this for the long term? Do I even want to? Should I have done this at all?

And then, as she often does, Thing 4 said something that brought me back to the moment. She has been learning about food chains and food webs. Before we headed out today, we covered (for the third time) the various parts of the food chain...producers, consumers, scavengers, decomposers. As we walked past a log that had been eaten by termites, I casually mentioned, "Oh look. Termites have been eating that log. Where do you suppose termites fall in the food chain?" She looked at me, looked at the log, thought for a minute and shouted, "Decomposers! They're decomposers. And look, Mom! You can see how they're breaking down this log. It's turning back into soil." Then, "Wow. You know, it's one thing to read about decomposers, but when I can actually see and touch what they've done, I really get it." 

And that's why I do what I do. I'm doing it again tomorrow. After that, who knows? For now, I'm just going to enjoy the moment.


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