Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Thing Leads To Another

I am finding that one thing I really like about this unconventional way of educating my children is the divergent nature of their learning. Typically, children are taught to think convergently. They gather facts, narrow down the information and focus on one solution. That is an important skill to have, and there is certainly value in learning to think in that way. (Without it, we would not have Tollhouse Cookies or brownies or muffins.) However,  there is also considerable value in allowing your mind to work in reverse, starting with a single bit of information and branching out. It's sometimes good to think like the mouse in If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

Often, my son will be working on something that will spur a question about some other matter. We get totally sidetracked from our original lesson while we hop around the internet or through books following the rabbit trail of questions.

For example, today he was working on his copy work. He was copying a short paragraph that talked about Hot Springs, Arkansas. He asked, "How hot are the Hot Springs there?" So we researched that. (143 degrees F.)

Then he wondered, "What makes the Hot Springs hot?" ("Geologists believe that just the right combination of rock types and old faults exists here to permit water to perculate deep, where it is heated by surrounding rock.")

Then my daughter asked, "What's a fault?" So we talked a little bit about the Earth's crust, plates, etc.

That led us to a discussion of Earthquakes.

I think after Earthquakes, we all decided it was time for lunch. We had spent a good thirty minutes researching something we didn't even know interested us when we started our day. Both children asked if we could study more about Earthquakes next week.

It's really wonderful to have the time to indulge and encourage their curiosity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why I Love Otherwise Educating...Reason #174

No Homework! Our nights are so calm and unhurried now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's A Journey...

You would think after five days of Otherwise Educating that I would have this all figured out, wouldn't you? I would think so!

I'm not the most patient person I know. I'm not even close. So not having this all figured out is killing me.

I feel like I should be doing more. I feel like my children should be learning more. I feel like I'm not as creative as I want to be. I feel like they're bored.

What's wrong with me? It's been five days! They should know all the states and capitals by now. We should be halfway through their math curriculum. And shouldn't my 4th grader be writing a novel? Clearly, I'm a home schooling failure!

There is an adjustment period, for them and for me, but more for me. We're all trying to shake the traditional school mentality of completing an assignment and moving on to the next worksheet. I'm having trouble because I set my expectations too high. I plan to accomplish way more than we can in a day.

As much as I believe in a child's natural desire and ability to learn, I'm having trouble living in the moment and letting them soak up whatever they can. When my daughter jumped up from her spelling work to watch the hummingbird drink from the flowers outside our window, my instinct was to say, "Come back and sit down and focus on your spelling." I had to remind myself that she was learning from watching that hummingbird and that if spelling had to wait, well, then spelling had to wait.

I know we will figure it out and that everything will be fine. I just have to remember that it's a journey, not a race.

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." Albert Einstein

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why I Love Otherwise Educating...Reason #168

AC: "You know why I LOVE homeschooling, Mommy? Because I can hug you anytime I want to. I don't have to wait until 3:30."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In-School Suspension

You've always heard that girls are easier, right? WRONG! Thing 4 is going to give me a run for my money. She can't sit still and focus to save her soul has a little trouble concentrating.

I had to move her to the dining room (by herself) so she could get her Math finished and so her brother could concentrate on his work (in the other room).

And again, she makes quite the fashion statement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Official First Day of School!

Much to the dismay of my older boys, we have a tradition of taking pictures outside our front door on the first day of school. It's a fun way to see how much the kids have grown from year to year by checking how tall they are compared to the door.

After taking pictures, we did a little math.

For some, math can be a bit of a challenge.

But she got it!

We met some other OE friends for donuts and then headed out to the Oxley Nature Center for a first day of school field trip. We thought it would be fun to take a little hike on the nature trails.

(My daughter is quite the fashionista with those arm warmers, doncha think?)

But approximately 30 seconds after I took that picture, it started to rain. Then it started to pour. It poured for an hour. We poked around the nature center waiting for the rain to stop...but it didn't stop.

There is a lot of cool stuff to touch in that nature center! The working beehive is particularly interesting.

The staff there was great! They answered all the questions our kiddos had, and our kiddos had a lot of questions!

We had such fun! I think I'm going to like this!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nature Study

Thanks to my daddy, I love nature. He instilled in all of his children a deep sense of appreciation for the natural world. So it's not surprising that one thing I love most about the Charlotte Mason approach is the emphasis on Nature Study. Miss Mason believed that adults should nurture a child's love of and curiosity about the natural world through nature walks with children and close observation of things discovered in nature. Keeping a Nature Journal is a key part of the nature study.

After some looking, I found these really cool supplies at Tuesday Morning for our Nature Journals. Each child has a journal and a set of black pencils and colored pencils. I got them each a nifty little pencil box just for their Nature Journal pencils. I love these materials because they look so organic and they're made from recycled materials.

We've had a couple of opportunities in the past week to do a little nature study right in our backyard. Tonight, we looked out and noticed that we had a rather sizable mushroom growing beside our pool. We left the dinner dishes on the table, grabbed our Handbook of Nature Study (which is some of the best money I've ever's an amazing book), Nature Journals and pencils and went to check it out.

First we read all about mushrooms in our Handbook.

Then we observed.

We contemplated.

And finally we sketched.

And that was Science...and Art.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Glimpse Of Things To Come

While our journey into Otherwise Educating doesn't officially begin until 8/19, when our older boys go back to school, we've been doing a little of the basics here and there so we can get ahead of the game and have more time to go on field trips, do cool art, etc.

Today, while working on our Singapore Math, I left the room for a few minutes. When I came back, I caught my precious, angelic daughter solving her addition problems on a calculator which she was not-so-cleverly hiding under the table. When I called her on it, she just looked up at me with those doe eyes and said, "What?"

There's no cheating in home school!

Oy to the vey...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Home School Summer

Right now I'm thoroughly enjoying not mourning the end of summer vacation with my younger children. Even though I love shopping for school supplies, I used to get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach around this time every year when I walked into Target and saw the school supplies. I'm so looking forward to Home School Summer with them. I just wish I could have it with my older boys, too, but they would run away if I suggested pulling them out of school (and away from their friends) at this point. I really can't blame them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mourning The School Supply Shopping Trip

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I love buying school supplies. I always have, even when I was a child. I passed this sickness on to my children.

As a mom, I dread the first day of school because I hate sending my children back, but the school supply shopping trip is something I look forward to every year.

We love going to Target and picking up the school supply lists, then roaming through the aisles together, looking for folders, spirals, glue, crayons ("Can I please get the box of 64 with the sharpener this year, Mom?"), markers (Crayola markers only, please...not those crummy RoseArt ones), water colors (we've been using the same set for three years and two children, as there is not much painting in public school)...checking off things as we go. Then, I love coming home and putting names on everything, sorting supplies into stacks for each child, organizing and reorganizing. There is something so orderly about it all.

I knew I would miss it this year, what with me home schooling Thing 3 and Thing 4. And I knew the children would miss it, too. Sure, I have Thing 1 and Thing 2 who still need supplies, but school supply shopping is not the same with high school kids. There is no master list. Their lists trickle in daily for the first few days of school, and most of what they need (notebook paper, folders, pencils and red pens) I already have because I am addicted to shopping the clearance aisles a savvy, bargain-hunting shopper, and I have five years' worth of that stuff in my closet. It's a good thing, too, because I needed the money I saved to purchase the $175 calculator my son needed for one class. But I digress...

I know many home schooling families take their children out to shop for supplies, but my children don't really need anything in the way of supplies, so it seems kind of wasteful. Still, like me, they were kind of bummed that we we wouldn't be shopping this year.

Since we have many needy families in our town who can't afford to purchase school supplies, the children and I decided that we would go shopping for supplies and donate them to our community resource center that helps those needy families provide what they need for their children every school year. It was a great opportunity to involve the kids in helping others, and it satisfied our weird love of shopping for all things school-y.

We went to Target and checked out the lists.

Then, each child shopped for supplies for a student in their grade level.

45 minutes later we had this:

Ahhhh. There's just nothing like it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Big Question

When I tell people about our decision to otherwise educate our children, they are always supportive and say something like, "Good for you and your kids! I think that's great. You will be very successful at it and your children will become very well-rounded."

Ok, that's not entirely true. That's not even partly true.

In reality, after they clarify that they did, indeed, hear me correctly, and they process this crazy idea, 99.99% of them (some after picking their jaw off the floor and putting their eyeballs back in the sockets) say, "Why?"

I suppose that is a fair question. Choosing to educate one's children outside of traditional schools is certainly not the norm (yet). And our family does not fit the typical "home school family" demographic.

It's especially not surprising that people ask me that question given our family history of educating our children. We've had kids in public school for 11 years, and we're starting our 12th this year, as our oldest son will be a senior. I have a lot of time and money invested in our public schools. I did a quick, conservative calculation the other day and figured that I have volunteered at least 1800 hours over the past 11 years. I have laminated, cut out many things, decorated bulletin boards, made tens of thousands of copies (and don't you know that the tree hugger in me bears a lot of guilt about that!), chaperoned all but four field trips (and I sent my husband or my sister on those), planned a handful of field trips, read with struggling readers, shelved books in the library, planned every holiday party every one of my children has had, and purchased a ridiculous amount of wrapping paper, magazines, and lots of other junk merchandise in order to support our schools. We are big supporters of public school teachers, as well. We are always quick to express our appreciation for the endless hard work of public school teachers.

Given all of that, I am sure it's hard for people to imagine why I would choose something other than public school now.

I have spent hours pondering how to best answer this question. I certainly don't want to run down public schools or the wonderful people who work in them. I don't want to offend my friends who have children in public school and/or teach or work in the schools. I don't want to be a cheerleader for home schooling, either. However, I do want to be honest.

So...the honest answer is that we can't stomach the thought of another school fundraiser, and this is the only way we could think of to get out of it.

But seriously, after months and months of research, we have come to the conclusion that our youngest children's educational needs can best be met by learning outside of traditional school at this point in their lives. We want our children to continue to be excited about learning. We want to nurture their God-given creativity and curiosity. We want them to read great books, not because they are working toward some point goal but because great books are wonderful and they nourish your mind and your soul. We want them to learn to write well. We want them to learn to reason. We want them to do more than scratch the surface. We want them to go deeper than what's on "the test". In short, we just want more for them. As much as we love their school and the teachers there, we believe that this is the right thing for our young children right now.

And if those reasons weren't compelling enough, the guilt over those thousands of copies and the thought of killing more trees and having their sap on my hands would have pushed me over the edge.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Otherwise Educating

Scott and I have made the important, controversial, unconventional, crazy...take your pick of adjectives and feel free to add your own...decision to educate our two youngest children outside of public school. I hesitate to use the term "home school" for several reasons, not the least of which is that the term "home schoolers" conjures up images of families like the one depicted in this Tim Hawkins video:

...not that there's anything wrong with that. (And I must admit that, like the boy in the video, two of my nerdy children are quite good at Speed Stacks.)

While researching home schooling, I read a wonderful book, For the Children's Sake. In it, the author mentions a law in England that allows for "Education otherwise than in school". For me, that perfectly describes the plan we have to educate our children. It is about so much more than schooling at home. To be more specific, we have no intention of "schooling" our children at home or otherwise.

Unfortunately, Education Otherwise was taken...copyrighted, trademarked and I had to switch things around a little.

And there you have it.

I hope you follow along as we learn the ins and outs of Otherwise Educating our kiddos.


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