Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering 9/11

Disclaimer: Below is my recount of September 11, 2001.  Raw, and full of emotion as I remember that day.  This is more for my benefit, I know, than anything else. Though I did not personally lose anyone that day, my heart goes out to all those who did. 

    This is always such a hard day.  Has been for 14 years.  Today has been harder than normal, with the exception of that day 14 years ago.  Today I am teaching my children what happened on September 11, 2001.  I know many of you are doing the same.  Some of you may have been kids yourself on that day.  I was 25 years old and 7 1/2 months pregnant with my first baby.  My husband was in the Navy, and was already on a deployment with the Marines from Camp Pendleton.  I remember it was near 6:30 am on the west coast, and I was still in bed asleep when my friend, a fellow military wife whose husband was also deployed, called me and very urgently told me to turn on the TV.  As I walked down stairs, my first thought was that there must have been another ship attack like the USS Cole.  I turned on the television and found the first news station showing a burning sky scraper in New York.

    Honestly, my first thought was relief.  It isn't a ship.  My husband is safe.  Just some sort of plane crash.  But as I stood there watching, another plane crashed into the second building, and I slowly realized this couldn't be an accident.  As the morning wore on, two more planes.  One into the Pentagon and one into an empty field.  

    The worst wasn't over yet.  I sat watching the news, the towers burning, the panic in the reporters' voices. The images will always be in my mind, stronger than anything.  Stronger than labor pains.  The planes, the billowing smoke, the bodies of desperate people trapped high up in the towers jumping to their deaths rather than burn.  Then the towers just seemed to disintegrate where they stood.  What was happening?  How many more?  Was the west coast next?  I wish I could talk to my husband, but there was no way of contacting him.  Camp Pendleton stretches from Christianitos to Oceanside, CA. Were we safe?  Should I drive north to family or stay put?  No choice at first, the base was now on full lock-down.  Suddenly I felt guilty for being pregnant.  What was I thinking, bringing a baby into this world?  What sort of legacy would be there for him?  Fear is a powerful thing.  Maybe that's why even now, I fight back the tears at the thought of what we now call Patriot Day.

    So how am I supposed to make it through this lesson with my children without completely breaking down?  We watch a video on brainpop, made for children about that horrible day.  We watch a news clip from that morning, on youtube.  We sit in silence. Cry.  Then we hug each other and try to get through the rest of our studies.  The day seems so much sadder, and the work less meaningful right now.  But we will not forget.  My sons will know what happened that day.  They will understand why their father had to be deployed to Afghanistan and eventually Iraq.  They will understand why freedom isn't free.  It is hard fought for.  My middle son's response to the idea that the terrorists' goal was to strike fear into Americans was "but it didn't work".  I tell him, "but it did.  The human response to fear is fight or flight.  In 2001 we were faced with a choice to either fight back or hide in fear.  We took the fight to them.  They pushed, and we pushed back."

    Next year, we will go over it again.  Each time, more in depth.  We will never forget.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Beginning homeschool is like...

Starting homeschooling is like getting married. As you get closer to the wedding date, and maybe even as you are walking down the isle, reality sets in. You begin to ask yourself, is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with? Can I really be a wife? Do I really want to give up the freedom of being single? What if he snores? What if he doesn't like the way I look in the morning and can't bare to face me? What if he stops paying attention to me? Translate that to homeschooling; Is this really the educational I want for my child? Can I really be a teacher? Do I really want to give up the hours from 8am to 3pm? What if he doesn't like the way I teach? What if he sees me as me as Mom and doesn't want to see me as Teacher? What if he stops listening to me? But you felt before this scary moment that this was IT. This was the one. The way it is meant to be. Hold on to that. And to borrow from the "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People", begin with the end in mind.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Finding our Style and Radical Unschooling

This is something I wrote back in December, but just wasn't ready to post it then.  After rereading it and making a few small adjustments, I am ready to post this now.  I apologize that this is out of order from everything else.  Happy Homeschooling, friends.

  Although the boys have been on hiatus for the past few weeks, and may continue until after Christmas, I am constantly doing research and trying to learn more about homeschooling and different learning/teaching styles.  I started out thinking we would be more traditional in our style, but in looking into other styles, I considered unschooling. 

    One of the tools I like to use for information is Facebook groups.  I have joined several homeschooling groups of different types, two of them were unschooling groups.  I did find them very informative and am glad that I joined them.  I learned that although the unschooling philosophy, in regards to academics only, does have its merits,  I might still use a curriculum to teach math.  I also learned that I would not be a good fit for radical unschooling.  I do not want to have to give up who I am as a parent just to fit a philosophy. 

    I found that radical unschoolers (RU) are very all or nothing with their thinking.  Basically, it's not just letting children learn what they want to when and if they want to, it is letting them decide when they want to go to sleep and wake up.  What they want to eat and when they want to eat.  What they want to watch, for how long, etc. Or what games, internet searches, etc.  It is trusting your child to know how to make the best choices for themselves.  My problem?  Even the best child has a tendency to want to look up porn or watch a show that isn't appropriate for their age.  RUs do not tolerate limits or worksheets or anything that looks organized by a parent.  Or at least that is the perception I am getting.  Here's the thing:  I have no problem with anyone who makes this philosophy their family lifestyle.  Good on ya mate.  Just don't get mad at me for not doing things exactly like you do. 

    In the end, I left one of those groups and then came to the conclusion that we are more eclectic homeschoolers, integrating different styles and methods that suit us as a whole.  Some how, that feels liberating.  Like by knowing and accepting this, I can accept that how I do things may not be how someone else does things and that does not make us wrong or them wrong.  It just makes us different.  That's all right.  I will not look down on a fellow homeschooler or unschooler or even a public school family for their preferred style.  I hope that I will gain the same respect from others  that I choose to give them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Preparing for Round 2 (pt. 1)

    The next few posts are going to be my reviews and experiences of a homeschool convention and what came of it for me.  I have included a ton of links this time that I hope you will find helpful.
Two weeks ago my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend the THSC Homeschool Convention and Book Fair in Arlington, TX.  While there, we attended a few workshops, checked out the different exhibitors, and perused the numerous vendors for a bit of shopping.   By the way, if you are new to homeschooling or even an old pro, and haven't yet attended a homeschool convention, I would highly recommend finding one near you and attending.  It is a wealth of information and a great way to meet like-minded families.  If you're in the southern portion of Texas, check out the one at The Woodlands, just north of Houston.

    The first workshop I attended was titled "Preparing High Schoolers for STEM futures" by Embry-Riddle College's David Hernandez, where the speaker talked about what STEM is, what programs and activities use STEM, and what career fields STEM can lead to.  This gentleman was gracious enough to email us the power-point he used in case we missed something in our notes.  My oldest is part of a robotics team, which turns out is a great start toward a STEM career, plus he's really great at math.  I think we may finally be finding his path.  It's funny, neither of us had really considered that until now.  It had always been ministry or archeology or something.

    The second was "Breathing Life into Language Arts" with Rosie Watson, and highlighted Total Language Plus, a language arts program that is fully literature based.  I really liked this one.  The way the program is set up is, you pick three to four books for the year, reading one at a time.  Instead of rush reading the book, you break it down into six to eight units (weeks) and really break it down.  All of your grammar, writing, vocabulary, spelling, critical thinking is based on the book.  This curriculum starts at the 3rd grade level and goes up to 12th grade, with books like Charlotte's Web, The Whipping Boy, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Hiding Place, etc.  At one point Rosie talked about an assignment she had given for the book "The Bronze Bow".  The assignment was to write a letter to the main character.  The response from one of her students was absolutely beautiful and inspiring.  One of the things about this program that really appeals to me is that each book covers two to four grade levels, which means that I can use the same book and study guide with more than one child at a time.

    The third workshop was one my husband attended, called "Limited Language - Limited Mind" with Jean Burk, author of College Prep Genius. This one focused on preparing students for college SAT.  Although it wasn't quite what he thought it would be based on the title of the class, he did say the concept made sense.  Sadly, as my husband is not the best at relaying information, I do not have much I can offer on this one.

    After attending the desired workshops and parting ways for a bit (he needed to do a little shopping of his own), I went on to explore all the fantastic vendors that were set up.  But that adventure will have to wait for another post.   So visit again soon to find out what I saw and what I ended up purchasing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THSC Homeschool Convention & Book Fair

    This weekend is the THSC Convention in Arlington, TX.  Though it starts today, I will not be there until Saturday.  I am looking forward in eager anticipation to this adventure.  There will be speakers and topics ranging from Sonya Shafer: The Quiet Schooling of Nature, David Gibbs: The Future of Home schooling in America, to Crystal Payne: Raising Kingdom-Minded Kids, just to name a few. The Duggar family will also be there.
    There will be exhibits; Becky Muldrow: How to Earn a Bachelor's Degree During High School, Martin Cothran: The Classical Thinking Skills Program, Erin Karl: The Language Arts Tool belt, and David Hernandez: Preparing High Schoolers for STEM futures, and so on.  Wrapping this whole experience up will be the numerous vendors, with their different curricula and materials to view and purchase.  A virtual wonderland for home educators.
    This will be my first convention to attend.  I have taken the tips of The Pioneer Woman on how to prepare for attending a homeschool convention.  I have pre-registered and booked my hotel room.  I have been studying the schedule, list of speakers and workshops, and have narrowed it down to a number of specific workshops I would like to attend.  I am working on my plan how to make the most of my day.  All that is left is to attend, look up, smile, and chat with other homeschoolers.  I have my backpack loaded and ready to go with a notebook, pens, water bottle, crackers, etc.  I thought about a nice open tote, but decided that I want my arms free and no worries of a shoulder bag slipping from my shoulder.  I have my list of vendors I want to make sure to check out, as well as a short list of specific items to look for.  All that is left is to finish packing my overnight bag.
    All right.  First time attendee excitement?  Absolutely.  I wish I could have attended last year.  But I think having trudged through the past year as we have I at least have a better idea of what I want to gain from this convention experience.  Oh, and a fantastic bit that I just discovered:  If I miss a workshop, I can catch an audio recording of it later!  Now, I know that there will be things for kids to do.  I am not bringing mine with me this year.  First time, I just want to go with the hubby and soak it all in.  Maybe next year.  Thankful for this opportunity.  Thankful for family willing to watch kiddos so hubby and I can attend.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tim Tebow bill and the slippery slope

I understand that UIL gives kids the opportunity to be scoped out by colleges for scholarships, and that is a huge draw.  When we decided to homeschool our children last year, the biggest complaint of our oldest was that he would miss band.  The state leaves it to each school district to decide whether they want to allow homeschool students to participate in things like athletics, band, art, etc.  The kids would not be allowed to participate in UIL functions, but could otherwise participate in the school program.  Our school said no.  So here are my concerns;

1. Will this bill force schools to have to allow homeschool students, a decision that was previously up to each district?  Or will they still be allowed to deny homeschool students?  In which case this whole thing is sort of a moot point for many throughout the state.
2. One of the biggest draws to homeschooling was getting away from state-mandated testing.  From the looks of it, in order to participate in public school extra-curricular activities such as sports and band, homeschool students will be forced right back into the very thing we were trying to avoid. Our children are free to learn what they want when they want, rather than following the scope and sequence of the state.  If a child wants to learn Greek mythology in 8th grade rather than US history, he/she can.  If they have to take a bench mark test in order to participate in UIL with a public school, this has the potential to take away that freedom.

3.  Also, another of the appeals to homeschooling in the state of Texas is that we report to no one.  We don't have the state micromanaging us.    With the Tim Tebow bill, any homeschool student wishing to participate in UIL will have to submit regular academic/progress reports.

In the end, this bill with all of its well intentions opens the doors for the government to start imposing more restrictions and monitoring of homeschool families.  What I propose is rather than trying to open the doors for homeschoolers to participate in public school athletics and band, is encourage more programs strictly for homeschoolers.  There are many great homeschool groups that provide basketball, football, baseball, volleyball, robotics, etc.  Support more of that.  Encourage college scouts to look into those groups as well as public school events.
Once homeschoolers start getting funding/support from the state and federal government, it opens the doors for that very same government to start putting it's policies on the homeschool families.  The very thing we try to avoid.  At this moment in time, I am able to teach my children with God in the midst of it.  Science through a creationist view.  What happens once we let the government start "helping"?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Conversations heard in a Mini Van

    Hello world, sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I admit I have not felt that inspired as of late.  Ok, maybe my inspiration hasn't been that uplifting.  Anyway, I am back and have a fantastic little story to share with you today.  Please allow me to set the stage for you.

    I am in the van with Porthos, Aramis, and my 10 year old nephew, Batman.  We have just left the grocery store where we have picked up a package of apple fritters (the boys wanted donuts, but the donut shop was already closed).  As we sit at the intersection at a red light, the boys notice a police car across the street.

Porthos:  "Look, it's the PoPo!"
Batman:  "Quick!  Hide the donuts!  The PoPo's gonna steel them."
Porthos pulls over his hoodie and stares at the police car as it goes by.
Aramis:  "Hey, where's the PoPo?  I don't see anyone in the driver's seat.  (The windows seem slightly tinted, making it difficult to see inside the car.)
Porthos:  "That's because I made him invisible with my super scary face."
Aramis:  "No, it's the super yummy donut."
Porthos:  "Maybe it's a ghost car."

We arrive home and as we get out of the van;
Batman: "I want to be a PoPo."
Porthos:  "Why so you can eat coffee and donuts all the time?"

The End.

Top 2 Reasons

    On Crossing Over to Homeschooling, Facebook group, the question was asked what our top two reasons were for choosing to home school.  It is a frequently asked question by new members, and I have answered it with only slight variance.  I think in part because my reasons become more clarified as time goes on.  As I answered this question, which came surprisingly easy this time (I often have to spend a moment thinking about this before I answer, because so much went in to our decision) I begin to remember some details over the past 4 years that have come to impact our decision.  I will get to that in a bit though. 

1. I believe that public school should not be mandatory, but optional. Like day care. You use it because you want to.  Perhaps teaching your children is not your cup of tea.  Or out of necessity.  Maybe both/only parent/s work. I believe homeschooling should be our first choice and public school our last choice.  This could go on to a long tangent about government interfering with natural parenting, but that's another topic.

2. I want to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for my children.  I want them to be free to be themselves and can take as long as they need to grasp a new concept.  Ok, so that was probably more like three.  

    The first point is relatively self explanatory.  The second one is where the details come in.  As I was initially answering the post, my oldest son reminds me when we first arrived in this state, and he was just starting 4th grade.  Now we are from California, and moving to Texas brought some expected and unexpected changes.  One being that in 4th grade, the school here has the kids rotating classrooms.  They say it's to prepare them for middle school.  Oh, and middle school starts at the 5th grade level.  Anyway, Athos reminds me how in the 4th grade or so he was so stressed that he was actually losing hair.  He also went through this phase of pulling his eyebrow hairs out.  As time went on, he started having more problems with being able to sleep.  Although he was a straight A student, the stress was showing.  By 7th grade, his grades were starting to slip a little.  He was acting out at home and suffering from insomnia more and more.  He had one teacher that was condescending on a regular basis.

    Porthos had done really well the first two years.  By 2nd grade he was getting in trouble in class and low grades on a regular basis.  The teacher couldn't recognize that he laughs when he's nervous.  She thought he was just being rude and silly.  3rd grade brought a more patient teacher, but I think the previous year's experience had killed it for him.  He no longer enjoyed school.  Came home angry a lot.  Wasn't finishing assignments, and missed out on a lot of recess.  The pressure the schools put on the kids regarding standardized testing was too much, and, in my opinion, unnecessary.

    The final straw;  Aramis was in Kindergarten last year.  OK, maybe you have all heard this story already. But it just warrants repeating.  He is a generally quiet kid.  His teacher was nice.  He was doing well academically.  Then came the Kindergarten musical program.  Each grade does one throughout the year, and the whole grade level participates.  Aramis is not a performer.  He doesn't like doing group activities that put him in the spotlight.  So when they were rehearsing for this program, he would just stand there.  I talked to his teacher about it, and talked to him.  He said he didn't want to participate, so I decided to not make him.  His teacher told me I should make him participate or how will he ever learn to get over stage fright?  Regardless, I informed her he would not be participating.  She informed me he would spend the time during the program in the school office.  So on parent day of the program, I come to sit with him in the office while all the other parents are out there in the auditorium.  I arrive to find he is in a storage closet sitting at a desk coloring.  A CLOSET!!!  Seriously?!!!  Althogh the storage closet was in the office area and the receptionists had a direct line of sight of him, it was still a closet!
    Have you ever watched the movie "Dirty Dancing" with Patrick Swayze?  Remember the scene near the end when he comes in during the closing night's show and tells Baby's father "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!", Johnny takes her hand and leads her up to the stage?  Yeah, it was kind of like that for me in my heart.  All of these things, just made us realize that our children were better off at home in a safe and loving environment.   So here we are.  Since it has been weeks since I started this post, I sort of forgot what else I had to say, so I am going to leave it here for now.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Science Experiments

The past two days have been filled with science lessons and experiments.  Yesterday at our Cub Scout meeting we had guest speakers from the Wood County Electric Co-op.  They gave a lesson on electricity, it's uses and sources.  Then a arc presentation was done for the boys, much to their surprise and delight.

Today we finally wrapped up our volcano lesson with a small volcano eruption.  The Boys had built the volcano out of homemade clay two weeks ago.  I put plastic wrap inside as a barrier due to small gaps in the volcano.

  Today we finally got around to making it erupt with a simple water, soap, baking soda and vinegar solution, 
with some help from my niece Starbrite.

 Red food coloring was added for effect, and the result was lots of fun and giggles along with a relatively contained mess on my     counter and bar pan.

Tomorrow is Robotics, where the team will go over last weekend's competition and discuss what they did right and what needs to be improved on.