Organizing for a New School Year

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Organizing the school year has been quite fun! This year we have four students, grades K thru 12! It is a BIG year for us, so I wanted to be more than ready.

Hunter is completing his last year, so we are tying loose ends and filling in the holes.

Parker is officially a freshman and could not be more eager to start! He sees college in his future and wants to be extremely prepared.

Natalie is starting 2nd grade (though in elementary, we do not focus on what “grades” they are in). She is most interested in gymnastics at this stage.

Lila is super excited to continue to learn how to read and write. She has officially joined the homeschool ranks with her siblings and couldn’t be more proud!

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I have assigned each of the kids a binder (from Dollar Tree). In each binder, there is a monthly calendar. On each calendar, I label each school day & hours, as well as insert in any extracurricular activity, such as gymnastics, homeschool gym, art, music, playdates, field trips, volunteer work, etc.

On a magnetic white board (from Amazon.com), I have the family activity calendar, to make sure all of the outside appointments, classes, and field trips are remembered. Everyone’s calendars are married into this main one.

Now, from there we split off.

The boys have weekly class sheets that I print off from an original copy. I hand them one on Monday and they hand it in when all classes have been completed at the end of the week.

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I look over their homework and discuss what we need to discuss. They make corrections on the weekends, and the loose sheets and notes get put into a separate binder.

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The girls get daily boxes (from Costco). I put the hands-on work/ideas for the day into one of these boxes. Each day they get a new box of things to do.

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All of these assignments and classes for the four kids, do not encompass everything they do for “school”. They are also learning outside of the home, as well as with one-on-one projects with us. They are involved in astronomy clubs, library volunteer and planning boards, music lessons, art lessons, gym classes, sports classes, gymnastics, youth groups, multiple field trips, etc. within several communities through the park districts and the YMCA, as well as through churches, museums and community events.

It will be a big year and we couldn’t be more excited!

This has to be a short article, so PLEASE shoot me any questions you may have on detailed planning ideas. What ideas have you put together? Please share!

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I’ll Raise My Own Kids, Thank You

I’ll Raise My Own Kids, Thank You

I have helped many families pull their kids out of public school, as we did with our kids eight years ago. The reasons vary, but most often they stem from bullying and over-testing, causing children to have ulcers, multiple doctors’ visits, hospitalizations and even suicide attempts.

What comes next, never fails to happen. The persistent whining and protesting against the parents’ decision to teach their children from the safety and love of their home, comes from the closest relatives of these said parents, even from spouses and ex-spouses, fathers and mothers of these children who are not the full-time caretakers. It never ceases to amaze me. These horrendous protests are trying to push these kids back towards hospitalizations, nightmarish victimization from both peers and at times, abusive teachers (the exceptions-the bad apples who shouldn’t be there), as well as straight into suicide. Is that their intention? No. They think that they are “saving” the children from a life of sheltered, Bible thumping, communes. The picture that they get of homeschooling in their heads, is not a realistic one. They have no idea how very well these students do. Homeschooled kids have graduated from Ivy League schools, as well as from other top colleges and universities. They go on to have great careers, or to simply fulfill needed jobs in the job sector. Are there those kids who do not succeed? Of course! Are there kids in public schools who don’t succeed? Do I need to answer that?

Kids are all very different. All kids learn differently. If they are not homeschooled because of bullying, or as a result of stress-induced medical issues, or due to other more serious medical issues such as cancer, then they are often taught at home for this reason. Not every child fits in a square box and succeeds. Home education can adapt and grow with the child and succeed brilliantly with the one-on-one instruction given. Actors, actresses, high-performing gymnasts, ballerinas, singers, Olympic-bound ice skaters, and those living in rural and abroad places, must homeschool if they are to succeed in their lifestyles, careers, and education. This is just a short list of reasons we take our education into our own hands.

I am preaching to the choir.

When relatives (and other nosey know-it-alls) fight a parent’s decision that they have agonizingly made (with floor pacing, nights of no sleep, discussions with close friends, much research, tears, heavy hearts, endless questioning of this decision), from a place of a parent’s endless love, it is just the end of a very long struggle in their parenting adventures. It is the beast at the end of the movie that we need to put to its demise.

Here’s how it is done.

Arm yourself.

Know your state laws (by searching on the internet, “my state’s homeschooling laws.gov”, inserting your state’s name, or U.S. Abroad, and also the country’s name that you are staying in). If you are staying abroad, not just for a short vacation, know the laws there as well. Boldly, knowingly, tell your nay-sayer that you are following your state’s laws to the letter.

Arm yourself with factual statistics, and the books and articles that quote them. Make sure that they are current, because our numbers are growing rapidly and the success rates are phenomenal! Children are becoming healthier, more self-sufficient, and much more confident! Colleges and universities are quickly adapting new standards and separate homeschooling requirements for the admissions processes. The University of Wisconsin, Madison, is one such amazing university that is doing just that! We homeschoolers are actually being RECRUITED by some of these brilliant schools! Check them out!

No, I am not going to link these books and articles for you here. They need to be current, and if you do your own research, you will learn more. Duh! It is the golden rule! This is how our own kids learn best! Hop on this progressive train of self-motivated, independent learning! Have FUN doing the research! Yes, it is fun!

What’s next?

DON’T ARGUE with these ignorant fools!.Hand, send, and write to them; the articles, the statistics, the book titles, or better yet, the books themselves. Tell them to EDUCATE themselves.

STAY CALM. LOOK like the educated, sophisticated, mature, outstanding parent that YOU ARE.

BLOG. Present your blog to the Facebook world, the email world…SHOW them YOUR child’s world by giving examples on your blog, of what you do on a weekly basis. Pictures of science experiments, art, music classes, gym classes, sports, library activities, field trips, papers they write, lists of books read, etc. At least POST these things on Facebook. They will get “slapped” in the face with wonderful, wholesome learning experiences and see for themselves, how unsheltered and fantastic your children’s lives REALLY are!

That is all you have to do.

Remember to TELL YOURSELF, daily, what a wonderful gift you are giving to your children. Then, READ those articles and books that you have shared with your naysayers, over and over again. SEE the work that you have done and that your kids have enjoyed on your Facebook posts, or blogs. LOOK at your daily journals, or schedule books to remind yourself how much your kids are learning. Often times, we need to combat the doubts that the unsupportive beasts have put into our heads, with the armor of education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Homeschool with Four at Home

One of the most frequently asked questions in the homeschooling world is, “How does one homeschool with multiple children at home?”

I do not have many children at home, but if four is considered “multiple”,  then I will be game for answering that question.

Currently, I have 2 teens, a 7 year old, and a 5 year old. Oh, and a dog. Yes, a dog. No, he is not a child, but he is more needy than a child. He disrupts our learning environment at the worst possible moments. He needs to be let out on a leash to potty every hour it seems. We are working on a schedule for him….because most of the time….he just wants to ingest rabbit scat.

Okay. Onward.

Times change every year, twice a year at least. The dynamics and needs of the kids change. When we started, I was pregnant with #3, and the teens were 6 & 9. If you were to categorize them like items on a grocery shelf, they would have been in the 1st. and 3rd. aisles. Life was quiet, homeschool was a foreign country, and we were trying to duplicate public school at home at the dining room table. Oh, don’t worry. For a change in scenery, we duplicated a classroom setting in the basement and took them to the backyard for recess.

When the baby arrived, we waved the white flag. We watched documentaries, a ton, and fit in desk work and reading while the baby napped. If we had not hired a housekeeper at this time, the toilets would have molded; everyone would have ran around naked; and we would have slept in filth. Really. Homeschooling is a full-time job. Childcare is a full-time job. Having a newborn is a full-time job. Whomever doubts this has never had more than a full-time-out-of-the-house job. Believe me. It is much easier to go to work, than to be home 24-7 with children. Debate with me. I’ve done both. Hands down. You will lose this debate.

If you work outside of the home, or from home, and homeschool, do all of the laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, cleaning, errands, clothes shopping, etc., etc., then take care of the children, cook, and do the dishes, you win! Hands down! Let’s move on…

When baby #4 was a few months old, the 2 year old was running around, and the boys were just turning 9 and 12, we laid off the housekeeper and sh** got real.

Here goes…

I created “busy boxes” for the toddler. Under-the-bed storage boxes with lids were filled with rice, oatmeal, Cherrios, and small (watch for choking hazards-not too small) toys that could be “hidden” in the cereal. This was an indoor “sandbox”. Other smaller boxes, without lids, were filled with building blocks, gears, dinosaurs, dolls, and other categorized toys, each having their own box. I had a paint mat, that only needed water and a paint brush to paint on. It laid on the kitchen floor and when #3 painted with water, the mat would change colors. There were fat, washable crayons and coloring books to color on. I also had easy, wooden, Melissa & Doug puzzles available. Sometimes, #3 would sit in a high chair; at other times she would sit on the living room floor and play. This allowed me to have time with #1 and #2. Most of our one-on-one work was done while baby #4 slept.

One topic that has never changed throughout the years, is housework. Housework needs to be done before the kids wake up, during breaks, and after learning hours. It is very distracting to do housework during teaching and learning times, and it sends the wrong message to your kids. Education should be top priority. They should be top priority. They also need to see how setting a schedule works.

(Unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, and facilitating learning opportunities for OLDER kids, works differently however. Schedules are not as rigid. They are set differently for each kid as well. See later articles on this from me, in the near future.)

Believe me, I am the last person who likes to adhere to schedules. I find them very confining. I also do not like rules. I have tried it the other way though. I have flown by the seats of our pjs and done housework all day, while facilitating learning opportunities for the kids, and it is just chaotic. It feels like running a hamster wheel, and at the end of the day, everyone is frustrated and nothing gets truly accomplished. Your kids lose in this game every single time. The feeling is awful, even if your living room gets cleaned and the towels are put away.

HOWEVER, when the students get older, the game changes yet again.

Today, I still complete housework only before and after “school” hours. What has changed, is how much time I have to spend with each kid and how I schedule the day. The older teen has completed all of his core classes, so he unschools on his own with “electives” and meets with me to discuss what he has learned, and what further materials he may need from me to continue his education. The younger teen takes up the majority of my time. We meet in the morning, at 10am, to discuss his assignments and materials needed for the day. He leaves me to complete his work at his desk, or on his computer, or simply from the couch. He may also physically leave the house to go to classes. Then, in the afternoon we meet up again to go over his math assignment, complete a science lab, work on writing his paper, and discuss his reading assignments in social studies and language arts. We may talk about his electives as well and discuss his progress, challenges, and future class needs. I also drop him off and pick him up from his outside classes at the YMCA, library, community building, lake, art building, or music lessons. Those are my teens.

The younger two take up my time in the morning. I still have to feed them when they can’t help themselves. I have to make sure that they get dressed and brush their teeth. Then, we wait until after I meet with their brother at 10am. We may complete workbook pages, read, watch documentaries, play games or puzzles, perform or create art, or work on the computer on sites such as abcmouse.com, starfall.com, or jumpstart.com. They attend classes in art, gym, soccer, dance, swim, and preschool type classes (such as Passports, which is for cultural studies, ABC Fun, Lunch Bunch, and Music and Me) at the library, the YMCA, and at the community center. They also have been taking gymnastics at Gymlingo for years. We end our time together in the afternoon when I meet with their brother, and they go to play outside, or inside, and wait for their neighborhood friends to come home from public school. Our youngest, who just turned five this past month, has signed up for public school kindergarten next year. She is excited to attend school with her friends from her outside classes!

Okay. My time is up! It is 7:30am and time to start the day with my kiddos, after the laundry gets started…

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Should Leave a Marriage

I am not going to quote facts, statistics, or magazine articles from ElleGlamour, or Family Circle. I am not going to throw you advice from marriage therapists filled with terms that you may, or may not understand. I am going to talk about what has worked for us, the past two decades, as well as for both sets of my grandparents who had decades of successful marriages with their spouses, in the next few articles.

I have also seen what does not work in numerous marriages over the last three decades that I have been studying personal relationships. So, this I would like to share with you first.

There are times that a marriage, or relationship, should not continue.

Any relationship where a partner, or both partners are physically, or emotionally abusive, should be dissolved. THIS WILL NEVER CHANGE. GET OUT NOW! Trust me. Infidelity that happens more than once is a pattern too. Get out of this as well. This is emotional abuse as serious as any other abuse. YOU never cause the abuse issues. You may be blamed for them by the perpetrator, but if you were truly the reason, they should have broken off the relationship and left. This person should have never abused anyone.

Unmanageable mental illness that has not resolved itself to a healthy degree, via meds and therapy, should be considered difficult at best. It is a very sad state, because these beautiful people need a life-long partner more than anyone. They deserve to be happy as much as the next person. However, on the flip side, these relationships can be awfully toxic and abusive. The one with the mental illness often gets abused, because the partner loses patience and lacks understanding on what the illness really is and how to deal with it lovingly. On the other hand, I have been a victim of abuse by more than a few persons with mental illness. I don’t think they mean to be abusive in the least, but they are none the less.  It becomes a cycle of abuse from both persons after a while. It is an endless, unhealthy cycle. I find it rare, unfortunately, that this ever gets resolved with the same two partners. It is time to move on for everyone’s sake.

Abusive relationships end up affecting many more people than just the two involved. It seeps into the extended family and circle of friends. Individual partners will call individual family members with their marital problems. Sometimes these end up being monetary problems as well. The person trying to listen to, or help, the struggling persons may not want to take sides. They really shouldn’t. This gets ugly in a hurry. Holidays are tense. Kids get stuck in the middle of the mess; even nieces and nephews and cousins. They feel the tension, hear the arguments, and feel the absence of beloved family members at functions, when they don’t end up showing up. The sooner these relationships are dissolved, not resolved, the better.

“WHAT?!?!” (That was you.)

Yes, that is what I said.

“I thought you were FOR marriages!”

I am. I am for HEALTHY marriages.

The unhealthy ones are the relationships that continue to be rough, for long periods of time, month after month, year after year.

Abusive relationships that last for just months, need to be dissolved immediately. (I am not talking about arguments that can get a bit ugly. I am not talking about going through hard times of moving, job change, job loss, loss of a child, money issues, temporary illness, physical handicaps, etc.) I am talking about constant belittling, constant name calling, hitting, throwing things at, drug abuse by one or both persons, and a pattern of infidelity.

SO….what DOES a healthy marriage look like? WHAT does it take to have one? Do they REALLY exist?

How do we resolve issues that are long-term, non-abusive issues, but that may cause depression, anxiety, and a feeling of helplessness? Do we stay, or do we dissolve?

Please join me in the following articles to come! Better yet, please “follow” this blog officially, so you don’t miss out by getting lost in the waves and seas of the blog world.

I am here for YOU! Throw me a specific question in the comments below, and I will write you a specific article! See you soon!

Bunco for the Black Sheep

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When your neighborhood is full of teachers, including the high school principal, and you are invited to a ladies’ bunko night, you cringe. You cringe if you are a homeschool mom, because you KNOW that every conversation is going to surround high school/grade school events at the schools.

No matter how much you try to be excited about how well the high school football team is doing; or how interested you are to hear about the homecoming dance; or how much you sympathize with those soccer parents for the exhaustingly long and wet seasons of year-round soccer, you are not going to fit in.

You don’t want to fit in.

You just also don’t want to stand in the corner of the room, draining a glass of punch, while you listen to all of the conversations around you, feeling like that black sheep in the crowd.

I love being the black sheep. Just not in a crowd of parents who are excited about things that you are so thankful for not having to participate in.

It is a relief to not have to worry about your kids getting drunk after the dance. It is a relief to know your kids won’t be getting pregnant in high school. It is a relief to know that your kids are not growing up too fast in those mature, adult-like worlds. It is a relief to not have to sit in the cold rain again for those games. (We did so often in community sports.) It is a relief to not PRESSURE my kids to WIN the next football game. Kids have enough pressure in school. It is a relief to not have to test my kids every week on all of the subjects that they are in. (My kids are EXCITED about the subjects that they are learning. Tests would squash that right out of them.) Adding the pressure of whether or not your school has a winning team, is ludicrous to me. I know. I am a black sheep.

I snap out of my run of zoning out and drowning in punch when, again, I get the often asked question of when will my kids go back to school. Also, the winning question of, how in the world will they go to college, and without a class ranking! Let’s not get into the socializing subject. As if my kids don’t socialize in the neighborhood nearly every day, or in gymnastics, or at art, or during dance, or when participating in their preschool classes at the YMCA, or at the library, or on errands in the community with people of ALL ages, or on playdates, or in soccer, or at swim….you get it.

BLAH! Enough already!

After an hour of endless chit-chat about our offspring dating and winning, we sit down to play Bunco. Yeah! Now they have to sit next to me and interact on a mutual subject. Until it is all about what the last neighborhood party was about; what the teachers are doing now; what sorority everyone was in.

By the way, I was in one. I thought that I should prove myself wrong in what I thought of them. I didn’t prove anything different to myself. I got out after one semester. It is great for those that are into that sort of environment. They do great things for the community. I just felt so…suffocated and controlled.

Relief.

I suppose the way I felt at Bunco night, is the way adults who have no kids may feel like. I suppose this is what people who have tried to have kids, but couldn’t, feel like. I suppose this is part of the world of parents whose only children have passed away early. Black sheep.

I have avoided these get-togethers for this reason. It is icky. You come away feeling deflated and elated at the same time. Deflated because you have wasted a beautiful evening that could have been spent drinking wine with your spouse, or playing a board game with your kids. Elated because you have only spent a few hours in a world, that you realize, you would wither in if you had to spend your parental life participating in.

We were those school parents until October of 3rd and 1st grades. I still remember the day I pulled our kids out of school. They still did community sports, but it did not have the intensity of high school sports at that age.

It was one of the best days of our lives.

Relief!

**I DO understand that MANY kids LOVE sports and winning! It is GREAT for their self-esteem, health, and over-all social stance in society. It is AWESOME that SO MANY parents SUPPORT their kids at those hundreds of games, rain or shine. THEY should! Go get-em friends! I am SUPER EXCITED that it works for YOU! It just doesn’t work for us, or the millions (yes, millions) of homeschooled kids in the United States alone. That is why I wrote about our side, for once, after my night of Bunco, which my friend, so graciously and thoughtfully, invited me to. She is a sweetheart, really! We will just keep our friendship to a glass of wine at the fire pit.

 

 

 

Asperger’s Syndrome and Sensory Over-Load

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This picture says so much. I want to smack it clear off the page and stomp on it.

I do find it cute and sweet that my child is mowing the yard, but I can’t stand that bright, blaring light. It’s frustrating that the picture is also so blurry. I can hear that loud-ass lawn mower right now.

I do not have Asperger’s, that I know of, but I do have sensory issues. Five out of the six of my family members have sensory sensitivities. It makes for an interesting household.

Everyone is familiar with the five senses of taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch. I believe that there is another, very intense sense that is labeled “empathy”. Those people are accused of being “too sensitive”, or in the shows and literature on the paranormal, they are labeled as “empaths”. These “empaths” soak in the moods and feelings of other persons nearby without being mindful of it. It is overwhelming at times, and can over-power the other five senses, ultimately affecting the mood of the empath herself. That topic is for another post.

Why am I bringing up the senses? Sensory sensitivities control our family’s environment and routine every single day. It makes life very tedious and difficult for my son, each and every day of his life. Having sensitivities and sensory over-load issues make learning such a struggle in even the most controlled of environments. Hunter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago. Along with having been bullied by both peers and by teachers alike, it is the main reason why he is unschooled and why we homeschool, or better yet, facilitate home-based learning for our other three children.

(Home-based learning can occur in every household. Each time an adult teaches, or facilitates learning opportunities for the child, even if the child attends a public school, it is home-based learning. Homeschooling can be any form of schooling done at home in place of sending a child to a brick and mortar school. It is debated whether or not online public school, such as k12, or an online charter school falls under the category of homeschooling. Unschooling is the newest, most radical idea of education as of late. Unschooling is child-led learning, rooted in the firm belief that a child will learn naturally from her surroundings, and will continue to hunger for knowledge and seek out knowledge in an independent, self-motivated manner. If there is a problem, they will dig in to find the solution. If there is a need to learn, they will find a way to gain the knowledge that they need.)

So what is sensory over-load? What does it feel like? Using the photo of my son, Parker, mowing the lawn, it is similar to walking through life as if every moment of each day is this bright, this blurry, this loud; all the while you are trying to process a conversation a parent is having with you, or a lesson that a teacher is trying to explain to you, in the midst of such a picture.

Have you ever been to a state fair, or an amusement park? Imagine being hot and sticky, sweating in the sun, as you walk through the crowd. The air is thick with humidity and of the smells of corndogs and garbage from the nearby bins. The sun is super bright and it is hard to see five feet in front of you, because you have forgotten your sunglasses. You are walking through a crowd of people, stomach to butt-cheek, hitting naked legs, with other sweaty naked legs, pushing through like cattle squeezing into the gates of the stockade. Meanwhile, the friends you came with are trying to tell you about last night’s party that you missed, yelling above the crowd so that you can get in on all of the details. You just want to know which ride you and your friends can hit next, but you have no idea where you are in the park now, and you can’t see above or through the crowd.

“Are you listening to me? Dude! I am trying to tell you about that jam you missed at last night’s crash session, and you can’t give me enough respect to at least let me know that you are listening? Hello!”

Eesh! This is every moment of every day in public school, in restaurants, in a shopping mall, in Target, in just a family’s living room, for persons with Asperger’s Syndrome. This is my son on sensory-overload. Let me not even attempt to explain how horrifying the Disney World experience was to him at the age of 9. It was right before we got him diagnosed. We had no idea what we were doing to the kid!

This year is going to be slightly different. He is 7 years older to the day. He knows exactly what he is getting into. So do we. We are better prepared and he is old enough to stay at the condo if so desired. We are armed with headphones, his own bedroom, and permission to exit situations when the need arises.

Check out future posts on how to help those with sensory over-load issues, cope with everyday life and vacations!

Are there any questions that you may have, or ideas to share with the Asperger’s Community? Please throw them at us in the comments section below. Your input is very much appreciated!

In-Laws Can Make or Break a Marriage

Today is my Father-In-Law, Gary’s, birthday.

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This birthday is extra special.  It is the second year that we have been given a chance to celebrate his birthday as a cancer survivor. Have we had huge, dynamic celebrations each year because of this? No, but this doesn’t mean that we are not sending THANKS to God for another year to enjoy having our perfect Papa around!

Our family, on my husband’s side, is very low-key.  We are a quiet family, not known for big, loud parties. Also, we live states apart. Rarely do the   Annans get to see each other. If it wasn’t for their willingness to drive 10-12 hours one-way, a few times each year, we would never see them. It is hard and expensive to travel with four kids.

I, personally, owe them my whole last 20 years of happiness. No, that is not an exaggeration; and no, I am not working up to an inheritance of some sort. I am just truly intelligent enough to know the importance of having stellar in-laws.

Yes, Chris and I have just celebrated our 18th. wedding anniversary and 20 years of living together in sin before marriage. Watch out! (No, this was not the way he was raised, but that is for another post.)

My in-laws have been supportive of not only our relationship, but of me, personally, every single year that we have been together. Never once, have they taken sides in situations, decisions, or disagreements. Never once, have they given advice not asked for. They have only led by example. These seem like mundane points to list, but these points, gone in another direction, could break up a marriage faster than a pit crew can change a tire and add gas.

Gary Annan is intelligent, supportive, fun, and has a great sense of humor. He, along with Shirley, have raised a stellar son. I have been blessed with the greatest gift a girl could ask for. They have given me their son, whom they have raised to be a perfect husband, father, and friend. I know that they miss him, as much as we miss them.

In two days, we will be having cake with Papa in Disney World. Not because of his birthday, but because they have decided to join us in Florida, to support our family on this once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Enough said. Wow!

Happy Birthday Dad, and THANK YOU!  We love you so very, very much!