It's okay to try something new.
It's okay to make mistakes (you will learn a lot from them.)
It's okay to take risks. 
It's okay to take your time.
It's okay to find your own pace.
It's okay to try it your way.
It's okay to fail. You may try again free of fear. 
It's okay to look foolish. 
It's okay to be different.
It's okay to wait until you feel ready. 
It's okay to make a mess ~ which you are willing to clean up.

~~~~As posted in my homeschool room. Completely ripped off from an unknown source.

Science in a Nutshell - Good Stuff!

My kids are focusing on earth science this year. Science for us is all about reading books about the subject with a generous helping of hands on experimentation. I try very hard to find story books, picture books, and any other book about the subject except nonfiction texts aimed at teaching. Why, oh why do they insist on making these boring books that are just watered down versions of the truly boring texts used in high schools everywhere? Grainy photos of children in outdated clothes only makes my son feel that the entire subject is something from when mom was a kid and not relevant to him. Definitions in bold print only make my daughter cringe at having to memorize something she finds dull. UGH! My kids love nonfiction books that have illustrations and are written conversationally. They love fiction stories that convey facts. When they are very interested in a subject, even the "boring books" are chosen and read, but a new subject that was not their idea had better be interesting if I don't want to waste all our time.

Experimentation if often found everywhere. I love to take real life situations and relate them to our current topics. A hillside worn away by a nearby brook showed my kids the layers of rock accumulated over time. A trip to Cedars of Lebanon State Park was chock full of sink holes, limestone, fossils, and other geological formations. I rarely feel the need to supplement this type of experimentation, but I am so glad I decided to try a couple of kits this year.
Science in a Nutshell Rock Origins Kit

The Science in a Nutshell kits have been wonderful. They are less than forty dollars each, have six to twelve experiments in each that are easy for my elementary kids to do. They have most everything you need except for a few common household items so I don't have to worry about setting up something only to find I forgot a crucial ingredient. This year we are using the Fossil Formations and Rock Origins. Yesterday, my 7yo son and 9yo daughter correctly identified ten mineral samples. I missed two. I got magnetite and hematite switched. They were very pleased!

I'm interested to know if anyone else has tried the other kits. We'll be delving into space soon and I noticed a kit for the moon. Hmmmmmmm.......


The Nina and Pinta, Up Close and Personal

Learning has many layers. The learning that happens when a child sees, touches, and experiences something often makes an impact that will remain with them for a longer time than just reading about it.
This replica of the Nina and its companion ship the Pinta were in Kentucky recently. Its schedule has it sailing into several ports in the Southeastern US. You can follow this link to see if they will be near you. The Columbus Foundation
Our tour explained everything from where Columbus' crew slept (on the deck soaked by water until they discovered hammocks from the natives) to why it's called a "poop deck" (believe it or not, it is derived from religious icons and dolls kept to protect the sailor.) I am not a sailor. I barely know my port from my starboard, yet just seeing the rigging and feeling the boat sway slightly below me was exciting. This ship has modern safety additions such as an inflatable lifeboat in order to make it seaworthy, but every effort was made to keep her as authentic as possible. A real sailing museum.


Learning with Legos

Getting Our Goove

This year has not been easy. About a week into school this year I was really beginning to question my ability to handle a second grader, a fourth grader and a soon to be three-year-old preschooler. My days were erratic and my kids were resistant. A good friend of mine who unschools her children told me

Reconnect with the kids.
They have to trust you. 
At that particular time I didn't even trust myself. I was yelling a lot and there were lots of tears going around. I decided to put the books away for a day and have a game day. We pulled out game after game, sorted the pieces, relearned rules, and had a real good day. I proclaimed the day a success, felt quite proud of my brilliance, and went right back to my old ways. Needless to say, things only got worse. Two days later, I am at my wits end. My husband, who never interferes with my method of teaching told me to take a week off. Two things caused me to agree to this even though it went against my nature.

1. He NEVER interferes with my teaching! 
(Have I said this before? Well, it's true!)  
2. He's usually right. 
(Yes. I put it in print. He'll never let me live it down!) 

So, did it work? Yes. The kids had a great week of doing absolutely nothing. Somewhere in my deluded mind, I envisioned them coming to me with books saying things like "Mother, I'm bored. May I please do some math?" or "It's so much better having something to do. Could you please start school again?" But no. Shockingly, they were content with their Legos and video games. This would never do. They were happy but I was a nervous wreck! How would I ever teach them all that they need? Am I a failure at homeschool? What now? Again, my husband came through. These are the suggestions he made that saved me:

1. Book work only until lunch. 

The kids are so much more productive when the end is in sight. Today, my son woke at 6:00am and decided to get started. He flew through his books and completed three subjects before his school buddies could even get inside the building! Also, I no longer feel stressed about getting in just a bit more after lunch. There is always tomorrow!

2. No TV or other screen time for any of us until after 4:00pm

This is tough. I hadn't realized how much television I was allowing the preschooler to watch. I always tried to give her something educational while I focused on the other two. Unfortunately, she was feeling left out. Now I start with her. I make sure she has something fun before I do anything else. She feels much more included and I feel relieved that she's getting the attention she deserves too. 
The other person who was getting too much screen time was me. Guilty. The computer was eating hours of my time that is better spent elsewhere. Now, I am stopping less frequently and still getting things done.

3. After lunch is project time.

My oldest is involved in several projects and feels the pressure to maintain them. By setting aside these hours for her violin practice, calligraphy, sewing, and various other interests she is more relaxed, getting more done and enjoying things much more. My son uses this time for Lego projects and drawing or outside play. He never tires of any of these.

These simple guidelines have really helped us out. As long as I keep focused on them and don't slip into an overdrive again. I think this year is going to be just fine. 


Color Me Classic

One of the things I love about homeschooling is choosing curriculum. When I saw a friend post about the not-back-to-school blog hop it got me to thinking about how we found ourselves on our current path.

We didn’t find what works for us until halfway through last year. I really didn’t expect to take any particular approach to homeschooling. I had initially decided to create our own path by pulling from many sources and changing direction as needed. This was fine but I felt adrift and the kids were confused. Last December I was blessed by a former homeschooling mother who asked if I had ever heard of The Well Trained Mind by Wise and Bauer.

I had, but I had dismissed the classical education method as too much writing, memorization and mundane work. She loaned me her copy for a week to see what I thought. As I read the book that week I was constantly running over to my husband to read passages aloud as he brushed his teeth or tried to work. I would catch myself actually saying out loud, “Yes!” as I read about her opinions of public education. I ordered my own copy along with the recommended history books before I saw my friend again the next week. When I told her how much I loved the book and that I planned to begin this curriculum as soon as possible, she gave me her entire set of books for the next three years! What a gift!
I am so excited to begin this year with these books. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be about schedules, workbooks, or any certain curriculum, this is just how our family works best. I still believe in using every teachable moment that presents itself, and regularly build in unschooling days so that we remain fresh and do not get burned out. Yet having a clear path lets me relax in the knowledge that I am not neglecting my duties as their teacher, while giving my children the confidence they need that they are still learning as much as all of the schooled children. Perhaps in the future I will need to re-evaluate our needs. If that happens, I will be happy to do so. Until then, we will be plodding along the classical path.
This is what we use:
Spelling Workout, Spelling Power, First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease, Singapore Math, The Story of the World, Prima Latina, Rosetta Stone, Geology(a mix of things for this), violin lessons, cub scouts, First Junior Lego League, Calligraphy classes, our public library, the internet, and lots, and lots of field trips!


Setting Out On Our Own

The decision to homeschool is a personal one. I can only attest to why we decided on this unorthodox path. I looked into homeschooling the year before sending my oldest off to kindergarten. It was one of many options I was researching in order to fulfill the promise I made to her before she was born

I promise to prepare you the best I can for life.

I looked into private schools, public schools, religious schools, secular schools, and home schools. My husband and I would debate for hours the pros and cons of each option until one day my daughter piped up 

I like the school with the blue roof. They were nice there. 

Yes, they were nice. They went out of their way to give us a tour and answer all of our questions. Our pediatrician had concerns that our oldest was gifted so we discussed their pull-out program. It seemed to be enough for now. The next month we signed her up for our local public school. We were not sorry. Her kindergarten teacher helped to meet her educational appetite with lateral learning. 

 Since we are studying the letter "V" here is a book for you about volcanoes.

Her first grade teacher picked up the pace nicely. My daughter learned a great deal about responsibility and the rewards for being orderly. Although her teacher was strict, she was full of praise and encouragement. I couldn't ask for more. Everything was humming along so perfectly...until it wasn't. Second grade brought us to our first problem teacher. On the surface everything seemed fine but I had concerns even from the beginning that, when looking back, were the signals of things to come. When my daughter consistently placed second and third in "Math Down," a game where children pair off and try to be the first with the correct answer to a math flash card. The teacher said

It's fine if you're not good at math. 
You can't be good at everything. 
Girls often have trouble at math. 

My husband and I were livid. We told her that she was capable of doing very well in math and that second and third of a roomful of peers was nothing to get upset about. By mid-year my daughter was a nervous wreck that things weren't perfect. By spring she would cry so much when she left me that I'd sometimes keep her home. She once threw-up from this. When I asked the teacher what was going on in the classroom, she said

I don't know. I've noticed her upset a lot too.
Is there something going on at home I should know about.

My daughter pleaded for me to not go to her teacher. She was afraid she would get mad at her. But her dad and I had had enough. When I was not allowed time and again to attend a field trips, I just showed up. I was stunned by what I observed. The children in my daughter's class were silent even when no teacher was immediately present. When I asked one where the teacher was, they mouthed to me that she was at the office and they couldn't talk. On the bus they were angels. At the Children's Museum they were in a straight line while the others were off playing. They were allowed to only do the structured activities. When a little girl with a reputation for misbehaving began to fidget, she swooped in, bent nose-to-nose and firmly threatened the girl with immediate removal to the bus if she wasn't still. I'd known that they had not been to a recess at school for weeks. It was either too cold, or they were too bad, or there was no time. It became clear that this teacher wanted absolute order and control of her room of seven-year-olds at all time.

Home schooling was on my mind a lot at this point. Of course, I had the concerns that worry most parents about socializing, having them resent the removal from their friends and getting them to listen to me as well as they listen to their teacher. Not to mention how terrified I was by the fear of what my friends and family would say! Fortunately my husband was on board. He viewed it as do-it-yourself private school. I felt up to the challenge but I still wanted outside advice. I decided to ask my pediatrician. After hearing my concerns about my daughter's emotional changes and my observations of the classroom she gave me this advice

I like homeschooling. I see many homeschooled children and they do quite well. 
If you can, do it. Otherwise,
if you get a great teacher next year she should bounce back with no problems.
If you get a teacher like this one again
she may never get over it. 

Homeschool, here we come!!!!!!

But there were others to consider. My son had just completed his first year of kindergarten with a wonderful teacher. He loved school. What should I do with him? His wonderful, yet overworked teacher once told me something about my son that really concerned me. 

Keep an eye on him. He's capable of so much more than I realized. 
He will not push himself. He only does exactly what is asked of him.
Kids like those are the ones who fall through the cracks. 

 Well, that is easily solved. I don't think he can pull that off with me. The decision was made. We brought them both home the next year. We haven't looked back.