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!

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.