Why We Homeschool Reason #77

“A picture’s worth a thousand words.” But I didn’t get a picture of it. So my words will have to suffice.

At the end of my day, I sit reflecting on the beauty that was my daughter today … in the middle of our school district’s school day, my 7th grade homeschooled daughter was spinning on the swing that hangs from the tree in our backyard, her hair flying around her, her flouncy skirt flouncing (with shorts underneath), while her 5th grade brother leaned against the tree, yakkety-yakking at her, waiting his turn. They were just out enjoying the weather and each other’s company.

I stood at the kitchen window and gawked at this incredible blessing.

This 13-year-old wasn’t standing by a brick wall trying to look cool, checking her phone – her hair, her makeup - talking about (well, I don’t even know what they talk about nowadays) and worrying about whether the boys like her. Instead, she was enjoying another day of childhood. This is a gift that homeschooling has brought to our lives.

Don’t get me wrong – she’s got a crush on a boy. She has an iPod that I have to confiscate sometimes. She makes music videos with her friends. And she’s pretty much traded in her Littlest Pet Shop toys for nail polish.

But she doesn’t have to pretend to care about all of this all the time. Most of the time, she’s still busy enjoying the last remnants of her childhood in a world that sucks that out of our children earlier and earlier, it seems. 

One of her public school friends is here for a sleepover in the tent in the backyard tonight. Tomorrow they’ll switch houses. This is not a backwards, sheltered, unsocialized homeschooler.

This is just a beautifully well-rounded, intentionally socialized child. She can grow up another day. Tonight I’ll hold onto this gift.

A Funny Girl and Her Brother

What 7th grade and 5th grade look like at our house …

We All Have Bad Days

Homeschool Bad Day Reminder Particularly Rough Days 100%

http://www.courageousmama.com – Courageous Jane Homeschools

Don’t think you’re alone. We all have them. Days when every spoon is dirty, the only pair of jeans that fit are at the bottom of the hamper, something in the fridge stinks, you still haven’t clipped the dog’s toenails, and your best friend gets sick and asks you to take her kids for the day. (Honestly, it can’t just be me!)

Or maybe you’ve received an unexpected medical diagnosis, or discovered your identity has been stolen, or lost a loved one, or are dealing with an aging parent, or your sibling (or child) was in a bad accident, or you (not your child) has explosive diarrhea. (Oh no, she didn’t. — Oh yes, she did! Because that’s enough to throw a busy mom way off track!)

Notice … not even a mention of schoolwork.

There are days when you just have to say, “Enough’s enough. No school today.”

Given the option, I will always fall on the side of cancelling school when everything in my life feels like it’s spinning out of control. That out-of-control feeling is the one that always trips me up, making me snap at my kids and whine to my husband and pick on the dog. None of those is a pretty reaction. And that’s just what it is … a reaction.

When I find myself reacting to my circumstances (especially when I’m reacting poorly), I know it’s time to scrap that which can wait until tomorrow, find something, anything, I can get control over, and start there. I can throw on too-tight pants, go pick up the friends’ kids, and wash the spoons by hand while the washer spins. We’ll eat sandwiches for lunch, after which I’ll give the fridge a wipe down, then I’ll take 30 minutes for myself to just sit while the kids play.

Generally, by the time I wake up the next day, I’m surprised to find I survived and accomplished enough to feel more peaceful again … ready to fill the buckets that are my children’s hearts and minds again. (I’ll admit, I’ve been in some of those more critical circumstances at times, where school was put off for much more than one day, and I’m here to report that we survived and thrived and my kids are still on track.)

You, too, will survive … many days will spin out of control with unexpected events, tragedies, new babies, sick friends, or just grumpy attitudes. Don’t be afraid to take some time off as needed.

Homeschool teachers have a special circumstance that other teachers don’t have: we don’t have substitutes who can come in when we need to take a personal day. But you’ll have to trust me when I say that your kids won’t suffer or “fall behind” … in fact, they just might learn something along the way, and rebound beautifully when you all get back to it. Keep in mind that kids need personal days, too. Think how refreshed you’ll all be if you take them at the same time!

What do you think? Am I off-base on this one? (I have to be honest … I’m writing this as fast as I can while I have the house to myself for a few minutes. Dad has the kids at the YMCA right now, and I have a list a mile long of things to do, but all I really wanted to do was write to you! Forgive me as this goes out unedited!)

Blessings to each of you!

~ Courageous Jane

Don’t forget to leave a reply, like this, and share it (on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!) so I know I’m not alone out here, and take a peek at my other blog (www.courageousjane.com) before you get back to the dishes and laundry.

(And please forgive whatever ad gets inserted below my posts! I have no control over those!)

M is for …

If you aren’t familiar with the Homeschooling A-Z series, you can start here: What is she talking about?

Today I’m continuing the Homeschooling A-Z theme, with the intention of demonstrating that homeschooling families have so many similarities, and yet it’s what makes each family unique that makes homeschoolers so special. Can you relate to any of this?  

Today’s letter of the day is … M! 

M is for ...

 

In most home schools, M is for Mom. Mom, Momma, Mommy. Whatever you call her, most homeschool teachers are of the female persuasion. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a random dad out there who’s the primary teacher, but they just don’t look the same in their denim jumpers, know what I’m sayin’? That said, I know the dads play different roles in each family. Substitute teacher, principal, superintendent, personal assistant, financial manager, custodian, cook, disciplinarian, chief bottle washer. What role does Dad play at your house? In our house, Dad plays all of those roles except disciplinarian and financial manager. He also teaches really useful life skills while I sneak away to my bedroom for some peace and quiet.

(M is for “Momma needs her quiet!”)

In addition, M is for mistakes. We all make mistakes! We spend money on a resource that doesn’t work for us, we yell when patience would be more effective, we employ constructive criticism right when the child actually needs encouragement and praise, or vice versa. One of the first things I found myself teaching my kids when we started homeschooling was that mistakes are ok. We had a sign that reminded us that “Mistakes are opportunities to learn.” I’ve always tried to be very forgiving about mistakes, being very nonchalant about them. My kids have heard me say many times, “Oops. Let’s try that again!” in a cheerful voice. I’d much rather have my mistakes handled that way, and I’m sure they will appreciate my approach someday. How do you handle mistakes?

Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Oy. Sometimes M is for miserable. Let’s just admit it. Some days we just feel miserable. We don’t always know why. Maybe we’ve been stuck in the house too many days in a row. Maybe we’re second-guessing our decisions. Maybe we’ve abandoned our schedules and now no one knows what to do with themselves. Whatever it is, let me reassure you: the misery will end. No need to panic! My advice is to roll with it. Take the day off, troll through Pinterest looking for words of inspiration or ideas that will motivate, turn on some music and dance, or curl up in bed with a movie or a book. Dumping the written work for the day and playing board games or reading books instead has an amazing ability to lift us from the doldrums. Even with my kids being in middle school, I can still pull out a stack of funny picture books and all of our spirits are lifted by the time we’re done. We all have miserable days now and then. (And sometimes weeks!) FYI: If your misery is lasting months on end, you might be suffering from depression and I hope you can find the strength to reach out and ask for help. You’re definitely not alone or unique in that respect. Many others have been there and are willing to help.

Do you ever feel like M is for magic? I don’t mean the hocus-pocus stuff. I mean those magical moments when something clicks with your kids. I mean that day when you suddenly realize that you really did teach your child to read! I’m talking about what it feels like when your child instantly clicks with another homeschooler and you know you’re witnessing the birth of a new friendship. Those moments feel like magic.

M is for madness. That’s what I call those “semesters” (for lack of a better word) when we accidentally sign our kids up for too many outside activities and schedule too many playdates. Suddenly there’s not enough time for the math and spelling because we’re running to art and dance and soccer and youth group and the theater and the library and yet another field trip. Everyone’s first argument against homeschooling is the lack of socialization, but they should really be worried about our lack of downtime! 

Just a few more quickies here: M is for: music – because it can soothe the savage beast, inspire, grow brain cells, and stimulate the synapses; money – some can find ways to homeschool for free, but you have more choices if you can find a little something in the budget to purchase what you need; and mopping – a great chore you can give a child of any age! If you knew how infrequently my floors get mopped, you would understand that even done poorly, but proudly, by a toddler, everyone will still live. A little dirt never hurt!

Speaking of mopping, what is a chore you assign to the kids because you really just hate to do it yourself? (Mine is emptying the dishwasher.)

Happy homeschooling, Friends!

~ Courageous Jane

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Temptation to Change

Dear Homeschool Friends,

My most frequent advice to homeschoolers is to not be afraid to change things up when needed. If something isn’t working, scrap it and try something different. You hit a wall and aren’t making any progress? Look for new ideas. You hate the curriculum you chose? Find one in a different style. Kids aren’t “getting it?” Try a different method. Maybe you haven’t found their learning style yet. The work you have them doing is too easy or too hard? Be honest about that, sell it to someone else (if you bought it), and find work for them at a more appropriate level. Be flexible.

However, I also want to advise you to avoid the temptation to change when you’ve finally found something that works.

I recently realized that we’ve finally found some materials that really work for us! After four years of learning to homeschool, we have figured out what works for us, and what doesn’t. Year Five has been the most productive thus far, and my children have made the biggest leaps this year.

Four years of trial and error, purchases, borrowing, returns, scouring the library, internet, and the homeschool convention, curriculum fairs and book swaps, and peering through friends’ bookshelves and garage sales … guess what I have now? (Besides a store room of unused materials that now need homes.)

I have an email inbox full of sales notices. I have a snail-mailbox full of catalogs. I have piles of temptations! I have thoughts like “Oo, that looks like fun!” or “What a great idea! We should try that!” “I wonder if that would work?” “Oh, that would make an interesting study!” “50% off?? I should try that and see if my kids like it!”

homeschool curriculum catalog textbooks sale clearance for sale used books

Friends, the last few months have been an exercise in self-control for me. We’ve found materials that are working for us very well, but the temptations don’t stop coming. I really need to keep my focus on taking baby steps forward with what we already have and stop looking at alternatives. I need to wear a sign when I’m with other homeschool friends that says “Got what we need! Don’t tell me about anything else!”

Just to reiterate my top two pieces of advice about curriculum choices: don’t be afraid to change it up until you find something that works; and, once you find something that works, resist the temptation to keep trying out different things!

Happy homeschooling!

~ Courageous Jane

L is for …

If you aren’t familiar with the Homeschooling A-Z series, you can start here: What is she talking about?

And the letter of the day is … L! This might be my favorite letter so far! (Even better than C is for courageous?)

Remember, I’m all about truth here, and if we’re gonna talk about truth, let’s start with … L, in relation to homeschooling, is for l-o-n-g.

Not only can homeschooling days be long, but the entire journey is long, just like the parenting journey. In fact, since I’ve done it both ways, with two already graduated from public school, I can say with certainty that the homeschooling journey is longer. Face it, we are together all day, every day. When my olders were in public school, the weeks flew by. I was busy with my day doing my own thing, and they were off doing theirs. We had a few hours together in the evening, if they didn’t have an activity or practice they had to attend.

Nowadays, Thursday rolls around and some weeks all I can think is “Are you kidding me? I have to do this for two. more. days?!?” … “… for how many more years?!?” (Which reminds me of when my oldest started her last year of high school and I realized my youngest was only starting kindergarten … I couldn’t believe how much longer my life got that year.)

At the same time as it feels so long, I also can’t believe we’ve already put in almost 5 full years of this adventure! When we started, people would ask how “long” we were going to homeschool. I didn’t have an answer back then, but I’m pretty sure now we would answer “forever.”

A better truth is that L is for laughter! Our best school days are the ones where we laugh together. When things start to turn sour and I can tell our day is going downhill, that’s when I know it’s time to pull out some fun, get a little crazy, and stir up the laughs. Of course, sometimes I’m the only one laughing.

Last week, Andrew had the word “locomotion” in his vocabulary book. I tried giving him hints, but he didn’t get it. He was getting frustrated because I wouldn’t just tell him the answer. To ease the frustration, I pulled up YouTube and found the song, “Locomotion.” I got up and started dancing (and impressed myself with the fact that I still knew every word by heart). He really tried not to have fun with this (being a fifth grade boy and all), but I loved the high I got from laughing about it.

Now for the best truth of all … L is for Love. You knew it, right?

Lego Love

Lego Love

We give our “reasons for homeschooling” all kinds of different names, but what it all boils down to is love. We might not love every minute of every day of homeschooling, but we do it because of our love for our children. (No, not love of control or power, silly! Where did you get that idea?!?) No teacher, however much she loves teaching or loves her students, can ever love our children more than we do. We love our children enough to say, “This is the better choice for us.” We love them enough to say, “I am willing to give up a career in order to give you more of what you need.” We love them enough to say, “I would rather be with you than without you each day.”

Homeschooling Mom and Daughter

At our house, we love homeschooling. We love the freedom to come and go as we please, without signing in and out “at the office.” We love the fact that our kids are home at lunchtime with Dad since he doesn’t get home from work until we’re all in bed. We love the fact that we’re rarely sick because we’re getting enough sleep and pacing ourselves through the day. We love that we don’t have to stress over packing or buying lunches, unpaid school fees, lost school library books, and … no stress over grades! We don’t do grades at our house. We learn to learn, not to pass a test or get a good-enough grade.

What else is L for?

Learning with Legos

Learning with Legos

L is for Legos … I’ve done the whole Google search for Homeschooling with Legos and Learning with Legos and Math with Legos and Language Arts with Legos … the list goes on (L is for lists! Lots and lots of lists!). If you want to know how to incorporate your child’s love of Legos into your homeschool, skip Google and head straight for Pinterest. The ideas are there … for free! You can follow my Learning with Legos board on Pinterest by clicking here.

 

L is for lousy … as in, “No school today because we all feel lousy.” Or, “You need to erase that and do it again. It looks lousy.” … Not … “You need to come get your child. The whole class is lousy.” (infected with lice)

L is for laps … as in, homeschooling children get to sit in their parents’ laps during school, as they learn in a loving environment … Not … “Your parent didn’t sign your notebook, so you’ll have to walk laps during recess.”

L is for listen … as in, my children love to learn by listening to: stories, books on cd, the tv, music, and each other, but not my voice when I say, “Turn that off so we can do math.” But they do it anyway, because the alternative is not an option. The alternative is to go back to public school where their needs are not met so readily. The alternative is to get up each morning, rush to get ready, and ride a bus to the building where they can’t sit on a couch to learn history or go swimming before lunch for phys ed. The alternative is homework before bed, being hungry before lunch, and going outside for recess even if your socks got wet on the way to school.

L is for long days full of laughter, love, and life done together. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Happy homeschooling, friends!

P.S. I think I just heard a certain friend say “L is for looney!” As in, “The woman who writes this blog is definitely looney.” Yeah, well, I hear ya, sister, and you are looney, too!!!