Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who are we now? Who am I?

A strange thing has happened in our homeschool world of lovliness....My children have opted to try out school. Yes that is right! After years of joyfully playing the afternoons away, my eldest two who are 13 and 11 have asked to go off to the public school.

We have always said that we would homeschool until it didn't work for us anymore. My children have always chosen to stay home and educate...and play...and create...and invent. But something happened a few years back, I returned to work. I returned so that we had more financial security and so that we could continue to have grand adventures. But that meant that I wasn't there during the day. That meant the children did more self directed learning and that I taught in the evenings and for 3 hours on the weekends. And that was fine and it worked...until it didn't. My son spent most of last May sobbing nightly in my arms. "Mama I miss you too much" was his mantra. And so, without thinking, I said "well, we need to keep you busy during the day so you won't miss me so much. Let's come up with a project, and I can get some friends to commit to a play date once a week maybe, and I will see if Daddy can take you to more classes. Or you could go to school and you would be kept busy ALL DAY". And then he looked at me with eyes lit up and said "Can I, can I go to school?" Apparently this had been something he had been thinking about, but didn't want to upset the balance. After-all, we were a homeschool family, not a public school family, right?

And so began our new adventure. After visiting the school, which we both fell in love with, we registered him and waited through the summer for the school supply lists to come out. On the first day, he donned his backpack, kissed me goodbye, and climbed on the bus. And had a pretty good week. He didn't meet the instant best friend like he had hoped. And things were strange, and waking up at 6am was very tiring. But all in all he had a good time.

And then the other shoe dropped...his sister, who would be in 8th grade, asked to go too.

Now we have always said that if the children did not choose to start middle school in 6th grade, that they didn't get the choice again until high school. I felt that starting in 7th or 8th would surely be harder than 6th, where everyone was new to the school. But after thinking it though, we decided that rules were meant to be broken and off she went too. And to our delight, she was met with a gaggle of girls just wanting to be her friends. She was also met with a ton of work as she had to catch up on the weeks she had missed. But she met it with vigor and joy.

So now my kids were all in school and that left me...what? I was not a homeschool mom if we weren't homeschooling, right? And most of my friends are other homeschool moms, so now what? Did I tag along to homeschool events ALONE? was like rewriting a book, this not knowing where I fit into it all. But I could help with homework and even elaborate on what they were learning. I supplemented where I felt the teachers fell short. And even homeschool kids went to co op, right? and had other teachers but did work for those classes at home. So what was so different about what we were doing? It was like being in co op all week.

I started emailing teachers, making myself know (sometimes annoyingly so, I am sure. Like the time I emailed to ask why they weren't being taught one thing along with the other, etc), and proving that I was an involved mother educating her kids whether at home or away.

My kids also still feel homeschooled. We started referring to their time in public school as a "field trip" of sorts. And so for now, that is what it is, a prolonged field trip. Where the "docents" of the trip teach, and where Mom verifies and oversees the work done at home, the studying, the math, the everything. We are having fun with it. After all, homeschooling is not just how you learn your lessons, it is a STATE OF MIND!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

By George....I think I've GOT IT!

Okay, I have been completely stressing over not knowing what I was teaching my children next year. My girl will be in 8th and my Son in 6th. We needed all new curriculum in every subject except Math. I am used to building our curriculum in the past, but now I am working and so I am not there everyday with them while they work. Their father is at home, but he is working so I need a more independent course of learning, and the children are at ages where they can handle more independent work.

But now I think I have it. after talking to a lot of folks and searching the internet, I am happy with the following curriculum.
History: History Oddysey, level 2 - Ancients  coupled with Learning Adventures - Ancients (an all inclusive curriculum that I will integrate, especially the LA pieces.
Science: For my 6th Grader: Bite Sized Physics
              For my 8th Grader: The Elements
Math: Saxon 7/6 and Saxon Algebra I
LA: 6th Grader: Still building this on, but based on our history and teaching the proper way to write paragraphs, etc.
      8th Grader: Still waiting to see if she will take a 9th grade class at co op or if I will be building hers similar to her brother's.
Music: Text on Music, broken into unit studies
Art: Well, this will come but I am thinking about doing nature journals that encompass drawing, sketching, painting.
Heath: We will continue on our household management course of action. This year the children will be doing their own laundry and each child will prepare dinner once a week. Can't wait to see what they come up with.

I am certainly happy to have this taken care of. Now I just need to break it all down into six 6 week units, and then those units broken down to what we will do each week, day by day. But....we have until September for that. Happy Summer Vacation Everyone!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two pathes start to diverge in a woods... and I have no idea how to walk them both at once!

Right now homeschooling has become quite simple. I teach a 5th and 7th grader and for the most part, they are learning the same things. They did the same grammar, science, art, philosophy, and world history this year. They each have their own Math curriculum, but other than that, I really was teaching a class of two. When I needed to make it more challenging for the older one, I did. When I felt what we were doing was a bit over the younger's head, I worked it out. But I taught them both together and have for the past few years. Their strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. My older, a daughter, is a natural speller, and LA and grammar are fun and motivating for her. My younger, a son, struggles and finds writing almost painful. Math and Science are his thing. Numbers are his friends and just make sense to him. My daughter on the other hand thinks that numbers are out to get her and science makes sense...sort of. LOL Both find History a bit boring, but didn't always. I want to find a fun way to spark their interest in it again.

Now with the coming of another year, each of them are starting to emerge as individuals in their studies and I really want to foster that. BUT...that means separating their studies. Next year my daughter is going to take her LA class through our co op as well as her foreign language, ASL. She of course will have her own Math course too. That means I need to come up with LA for my son as well as his foreign language (he thinks he wants to study Spanish). I can still keep their history and science together, but my son is totally on the engineering tract and I want to encourage that love while not taxing my daughter with too much science.

In a typical school year, by now (end of April), I have already figured out what we are doing next year. I have the start of our school schedule going and have most of the books in our homeschool closet. But we finished our 4 year history cycle and we have finished our science set of books we were working through. That leaves me searching out new curriculum. I could go to a curriculum fair, but that makes me even more crazy. I get so overwhelmed in places like that, so I have been asking friends what they recommend. I have had great advice offered and now I need to just look at it all and decide. I am deciding between an all inclusive curriculum which will start with history and launch itself off that. I can adapt what writing is required for my daughter so she isn't overwhelmed with her other LA class. OR....I can simply find a history and then a science (or two sciences so my son has one he loves and my daughter has one that she doesn't hate), and then my son's LA, as well as an art. OR...I can just throw up my hands and unschool and just let the kids learn what they will (no, just kidding....about what unschooling is as well as my confidence in ME being able to be an unschooler)

But right now, it is after midnight and I am watching "My 5 wives" and I am just enjoying that we have wrapped up our school year with the exception of 4 more weeks of our Body Systems study. Not that the kids are done learning. It is amazing that they both have started looking into things on their own and when I come home from work, run to me to tell me or show me what they have learned. My daughter mostly studies art techniques and my son, engineering and building things. I am so proud of both of them. I know that no matter what curriculum I end up choosing, they will thrive and blossom as they always do!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

To Sleepaway Camp or not to Sleepaway...that is the question!

So I was talking to a friend and he told me I was overprotective. When I asked how or why (because although I am protective, I also consider myself pretty laid back), he mentioned the fact that I wouldn't let my kids go to sleepaway camp. My kids are 10 and 12 and although he is right, in the past I wouldn't allow them to, the fact is my kids have never shown an interest in going to sleepaway camp...AT  ALL!

His claim is that sleepaway camp builds character and fosters independence as well as being fun. He feels that it is like pushing the nestlings out of the nest so to speak. And he may be right...for his kids.

Here is what I kids have tons of character, think for themselves, and know what they want and don't want. They have friends of all ages, from all sorts of walks of life, both children and adult. They can cook meals, clean house, and  grocery shop...if needed.
Up to this year, my daughter has not wanted to go to camp at all, though we did encourage nature camp (day camp) and she attended a few years, but just didn't take to it. She used to go to girlscout camp (day camp) and didn't really like it much. So we didn't push her. And this year she has asked to go to Fashion Design Camp (day camp) and she is going.  She has a few friends who LOVE sleepaway camp. One friend even goes to camp for a MONTH. But she has zero interest and I really don't thing kids need to go away to camp for a week so that works out well.
My son has always been more social than his sister. He loves camp. He goes to camp every year, be it Cub Scouts, or nature camp. This year it is Design your first video game camp.  But all are day camps. When he was a scout, I talked to him about sleepaway camp, but he didn't want to go. And I think that is ok.

Do I think I am sheltering my children and thus stifling their independence? ABSOUTELY NOT. We go away as a family to a huge camp out every summer. Both children have progressed from sleeping in the cabin with my husband and I and our youngest to staying in their own tents or in tents with friends in another area of the campground. We are there for 8 days. My children get themselves to their activities, may sure they have everything they need, make it to meals, etc. But within the confines of a loving community of trusted adults. Not at a camp where they don't know the counselors until they show up at the camp.

 We also go to various festivals, one being a fairie festival, where my children have progressed from staying with me exclusively to running errands (getting drinks, etc) by themselves, to going around the festival by themselves and just checking in from time to time. They know a few vendors from having attended year after year and my daughter has a pseudo job running errands for the critter guy who has snakes and other fun friends. She also gets to stand around all day holding lizards and snakes, etc. I trust that they will not go out the front gate FOR ANY REASON, and because I now work the festival and because we have a few acquaintances there, I feel safe letting them have this independence.

So I don't think I am overprotective, but I do believe I am selectively protective while also allowing independence when my children are ready for it. My children know how to and enjoy interacting with both children and adults. We homeschool because we believe in real world experience and we believe that the public schools are failing out children as a whole. I feel that many (not all, I try so hard not to just generalize) sleepaway camps are just an extension to the pubic school model. A large amount kids sorted into same or close age groupings with a few adults to supervise and instruct.And although I know they are not the norm, there is always the fear that some counselor will get it in their head to touch one of my kids in a "bad touch" sort of way.  This is just not what I want for my children. And I don't think they suffer one bit from not having this experience.

Just a final note to say...I AM NOT ANTI-SLEEP AWAY CAMP. Not at all, but I am anti-sleepaway camp for my children. And that is okay.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Coming out of the bubble

Each winter, just after Winter Solstice, my family and I head into hibernation mode. We go places less, though we do go outside, it is limited for me as I don't like the extreme all! LOL We also tend to watch more TV as a family and spend many an evening eating dinner in front of the boob tube. But we also play a lot of games, and do A LOT of schoolwork.

You see I plan for this hibernation each winter by making our units of study intense and full of a lot of independent reading as well as read alouds by me and this is when each child does a research  paper. This years paper was on WWII as we spent months studying WHY it happened, all the main players, Hitler from birth to death, and how ordinary people were slowly and systematically turned into uncaring beings capable of atrocities (and yes, how some caved under the fear of "doing to others so it won't be done to you") We read about brave women and girls who hid, transported, and ultimately saved many who would have been put to death by the Nazis. We learned about those who stood up and refused to join Hitlers German pride train that ultimately was a train wreck for humanity. So with all this study under their belts, they embarked on the culmination of our second trimester. And both children did amazing jobs.

We also studied astonomy and an intense grammar  course. And we completely finished our Saxon Math text books by March 2nd. Not that that was the end of math for us. The children will now get weekly packets reviewing the concepts that gave them trouble. 

But now that winter is waning (I know, I know, there is 8 inches of snow on the ground, what am I talking about) and the light is returning, we are entering our spring units in school. These are the fun units full of art and planning and planting our garden. We are going to learn yoga and read fun books, not just informational books. We will study the Human Body and learn how to do laundry. As the days get warmer, we will spend more time outdoors, less inside. The TV will be replaced with family badmiton. So come on spring!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Finding ways to save a bit and still have fun...and yoga!

I have blogged about living on a budget before. I urge everyone to start a budget and see what you make, what you spend, and how you can realistically save and still have fun in life.

We have tightened our belts and saved over the past year so that we have been able to start a retirement fund. We have budgeted monthly monies for entertainment purposes and have stuck to it. When there is no fun money we stay home for fun. When the gas fund is low, there are no trips other than work, doctors, and therapists. And when the grocery fund is getting slim, no snacks get bought, just milk, meat, and the necessities. It has been a hard lesson, but I wish we had done this years ago.Imagine what we could have saved.

And we are not suffering. The children go on field trips, have new clothes, never lack for necessities. As for luxuries, we didn't go on vacation as a family so we could pay off our debts, but my daughter went to the beach with her cousin, my son went to camp and Hershey Park, and we all went to a family camping trip for 8 days. We also hosted an exchange student in August and were invited to tag along on day trips to Ocean City, Hershey Park, New York, DC, etc.for free.

I have gotten creative too about savings. It is sort of exciting too! It is like a game sometimes. I look online and figure my weekly menu based on what is on sale and what we have in the house. Plus I compare which of the two stores I love have the best prices on what we need and what extra coupons I can find for stuff.
I make my own laundry soap and home cleaners that work just as well as name brands and cost pennies!!!! And with that extra money saved,  I reward myself with a month trip to the Korean Spa and Bathhouse that is near us. A day of relaxing and self pampering that I dearly need for my soul. We invite friends in for game nights and dinner instead of going out to expensive restaurants. We even invite families over for family sleep overs. That is WAY FUN!
Another creative  way to save money is on movies. It is EXPENSIVE to take three kids to the movies, even when I hypothetically might possibly take my own candy and soda into the theatre LOL. So we order our movies from the library for FREE and maybe we might not see them as soon as they come out, but we can watch them in the comfort of our home and we can pause them when we need to pee. hehehehe
We also take advantage of the rec center in our county for inexpensive classes that allow the kids to try our things they have interest in.

It is all about balance...the balance of earnings, savings, and spending. It is always a challenge, but I am up to the challenge. And along the way, I try and turn it into a game so we all have fun!

Oh and by the oldest and I are going to try some yoga classes...have always wanted to, was always chicken because I am not that slim silhouette that you see in yoga ads, but you know what, SO WHAT? I am a goddess and my body is my temple and dammit...lets go see what this yoga is all about. Plus I love yoga clothes hehehehehehe

Into the Garden We Go!

I am a woman with vision! I envision growning enough organic, healthy fruits and veggies to feed my family all year through. I envision working the soil, made black from my composted soil added in, full of nutrients and goodness that will work it's way into our food. I envision canning so as to enjoy our harvest when the snows set in. I envision color, smells, sights to tantalize the eye and enamour the soul. But right now, this is the sight that greets me:

 Snow, snow, and more snow. But that is ok, because as Mother Earth hibernates beneath her blanket of snow, so do I hibernate beneath my down comforter while writing this. And I plan! But I also am realistic. I am a chaos gardener. I will plan my plots with precision, gather my seeds and seedlings with care and knowledge. Plant and mulch the little darlings so they get their best start....and then go inside once it is too hot to stay out and hope for the best. I will return in August and see what there is to harvest and if it is enough, maybe do a bit of canning, but mostly we just eat it as it comes and then say "Ah well...NEXT YEAR!" LOL
So begins the planning of the 2014 Gregor Gardens!

Just this morning, over a breakfast of hot miso soup chock full of firm tofu, and apples with peanut butter(yes that is really what we had...I know, we are a weird bunch)...we started gazing dreamy eyed through the seed catalog. We looked at all the flowers and fruits and veggies and began debating what we wanted, what we could have in our zone, and what we realistically would be willing to do. These things don't EVER mesh when we start our yearly garden ventures. For example, my father in law wanted a pear tree that would produce 5 different pears all on the same tree but we don't have a spot and my husband is allergic to bees (I could just picture the ground littered with rotting pears and drones of bees). My son wanted pomegranates (not the right zone) and my daughter suggested doing a few items that needed careful attention (not our style LOL). But what we did agree on was strawberries, raspberries, and a potted blueberry bush as well as cucumbers, a ton of tomatoes, herbs galore, and maybe some peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash. Onions would be nice, as would edible flowers like geranium, nasturtium, and violets. I envision vegetables and flowers sewn together in a beautiful weed free garden of love.
But we will see.

Last year we put in bleeding hearts, more day lilies, moved a lilac tree and a bunch of lilies that I don't know the name of of, split the hostas and added more perennials in beds that previously had annuals so as to limit the amount of work I need to do so I can enjoy the yard more with the kids and yard work less.

And I have acquired a few baskets that I am going to put out on the steps with potted herbs in them. I got the baskets for free and am going to spray them with water repellent so they last a few seasons and not get too moldy in the rain. I also plan on finding some whimsical wind chimes to add to my collection and hang from the front porch roof. 

All in all the Gardens should be gorgeous and full of life. We are even going to order Mason Bees. These non-stinging bees are great pollinators and easy to house. They lay their eggs in small tubular "rooms" of the bee house. If you want information on them , this is a great website about Mason Bees.

But until the winds blow the warm spring air our way, I will snuggle under my blanket and  plot and plan and dream.