Thursday, March 27, 2014

A time to imagine...

Kids ask tons of questions. And at some point, they're ready for the real scientific answers. But as parents, we need to be discerning of when that is. Sometimes, they just need room to imagine. There's a certain beauty in leaving a question unanswered. In wondering along with your child. We live in a world where all the answers are at our fingertips, but imagination and creativity are dying.

As we were driving yesterday, Jane saw a rainbow and asked me, "What does a rainbow feel like?"

What a beautiful question. Do you remember wondering that as a child? Maybe you still do. I know I still sometimes imagine walking up to the edge of a rainbow and sliding my hand across it. What would it feel like?

It was definitely not the time for science. Where is the wonder of saying, "Nothing. A rainbow is nothing more than an optical illusion caused by water and light. Even if you could touch a rainbow, it would feel like nothing. Like air. Possibly damp air."


So instead we dreamed. And Rob, bless his wonderful soul, went right along with us.

As for me, I think a rainbow feels like soft silk.

Rob thinks it feels like a fluffy blanket.

Jane thinks it feels like flowers.

As we drove, the rainbow came more into view. Wouldn't you know it? One end was definitely touching down in the park by our house. Of course, it disappeared as we got closer. But we had fun imagining how we could catch up to it. Those rainbows. They're wonderful, beautiful things.

One day, there will be a time for science and answers. But yesterday? Yesterday was a day for dreaming.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Preschool/Kindergarten Music Appreciation: A is for Accelerando

New to Music Appreciation? Check out this post for a quick run-down!

A is for Accelerando, Angels Watching Over Me, and Andersen
                Sing your gathering song.
                Introduce the word.
Accelerando – literally, to accelerate. To gradually go faster and faster
Ritardando – the opposite of accelerando. G get slower and slower.
Atempo – return to original tempo (speed)

Flashcards with Illustrations
Have the kids do some sort of movement (marching around the room is always a good one. Jumping up and down, pretending to swim, crab walk, wiggling, you get the idea.) Have them do this action when you say go. When you shout "accelerando" they have to keep speeding up and speeding up until you shout “ritardando.” Now they slow down. Shout “atempo” for them to go back to the beginning speed. Continue to play this game, switching the action as needed, until the kids have had enough.
Learn the new song for the week.
Angels Watching Over Me is the song for the week. It is a children’s spiritual. As you’ll see in the lyrics below, it is basically a prayer and so much fun to sing! You’ll find a few different versions of the lyrics, but these are the ones I sing.
All night, all day,
Angels watching over me, my Lord.
All night, all day,
Angels watching over me.

When at night I go to sleep.
Angels watching over me, my Lord.
Pray the Lord my soul to keep.
Angels watching over me.

All night, all day,
Angels watching over me, my Lord.
All night, all day,
Angels watching over me.
If you want, discuss with your children how spirituals were sung by slaves while they worked on plantations in the south. They usually have a distinct style of a “call” and an “answer.” One person would usually sing the “call” and then everyone else in the fields would “answer.” 

Which parts of this song are the call? Which are the answer?

For more interesting information about African American spirituals as a secret code to send messages, check out the info on this site.

Sing through the song a couple times with your kids. The words are pretty easy to learn. Give them instruments to play while you sing, have them clap their hands, or pat their legs.
The last time you sing it, designate someone to call out your words for the day. Speed up and slow down the song according to their commands (you might have to sing the song many more times now so that each child can do this)

                Introduce the Composer of the day
Joachim Andersen – He was considered one of the best flute virtuosos and composers of his time. In 1882 he co-founded the Berlin Philharmonic, where he was solo flutist and a conductor. However, in 1893 he had to resign because of a paralysation in his tongue. He then became a great teacher and composer.

Here is his piece, “Hungarian Fantasie Op. 2”  Have children listen, dance, and pretend to play the flute.

Additional words you can teach with this video: Piano, flute, pianist, flutist, duet, solo
Can you hear where there is an accelerando or ritardando?

                End by singing a few “requests.”

Preschool/Kindergarten Music Appreciation A-Z (for young children and other non-musicians)

Everyone loves music, especially children. But a lot of people, especially those with little musical background, don't feel equipped to introduce their children to music. This series of 26 music appreciation lessons is designed for you. None of the lessons require the ability to read music or play an instrument. All it takes is 15 minutes with your family!

Music Appreciation A-Z is meant to be done as a "family music night" every week to go along with a letter of the alphabet. Each lesson, you and your family will learn at least one new musical term and song, as well as get exposure to a composer and his/her music. This music appreciation is set up for young children, preschool-first grade, but there are plenty of "rabbit trails" for you to follow with older kids as well.

You don't need any instruments or musical experience to enjoy this with your kids, but if you do happen to play piano or guitar, I highly recommend buying Dan Fox's The Great Family Songbook.

My kids also love this set of percussion instruments. They're high quality and lots of fun!

(If you do decide to buy these for your family music night, I'd love it if you did so through the links here or in the sidebar!)

All of the lessons are set up as follows.

Gathering Song - You can choose which song works best for your family. We sing "Here We Are Together," but if there is one you like better, by all means do that one. I like to start with a gathering song because it eases transitions with the kids and works as a signal.

Introduce the New Word/Words - Every lesson also includes printable cards with the words and a picture to illustrate the word.

Activity - Reinforce the new musical term with a fun game or activity.

Learn the Song - I will either sing it for you so you can hear it, or provide a link, just in case you are unfamiliar with the song. I will also try to give a little history or other musical tidbit to talk about with the song, although it is totally up to you whether you talk about it or not.

Talk About the Composer and Listen to Music - The amount of time you do this depends on your kids. I will give a very brief snippet of information for you to share with your kids, as well as a link to listen to a performance of one or two of the songs. I will also give ideas of questions to ask about the music and vocab words to introduce if you so desire. Most of these pieces will be very long. Encourage your children to listen, talk about and dance to them as long as their interest holds, but do not expect to get through the entire piece with kids giving their undivided attention. To increase exposure, try playing to music throughout the rest of the week.

Sing "requests" - One of my great hopes with these family music nights is to build up a repertoire of songs we can sing as a family. When your children's interest wanes in the composer's music, reel everyone back in by singing some favorite songs. They can be ones learned in previous lessons, or anything else your family knows and loves. Sing as long as everyone is happy.

Finish Happy - Don't drag this out. Always keep it fun. End when the kids no longer seem to be enjoying singing.

Are you ready?

Our first Music Appreciation lesson is A is for Accelerando!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Are you eating cement?

Have you ever heard of 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid? Probably not. Too bad you're eating it every day! This common food additive is found in all sorts of industrial products. It's used to clean circuit boards prior to soldering, and is added to cigarettes. 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid is used to make cement and to prevent coagulation in the slaughtering business.

Cement? Anti-coagulation? And it's in your food! I can't even imagine the havoc this TOXIN is wreaking in your body.

It maybe approved by the FDA, but you know we can't trust them since they're in league with Big Ag and Big Pharma.

Now that you're officially scared of this terrible, terrible chemical (and let's be honest, if it's in cement that means it IS cement), let me tell you everything you're eating that contains cement!

Orange Juice!
Apple Sauce!
Stock cubes!
Ice cream!
Tomato Based Sauces!

People you are eating cement every single day. How can our government allow this to continue? They're poisoning us. It's in everything! As we speak it is raging through your veins, making it so the next time you get a scratch your blood won't clot! 

This is cement! It's a chemical which means it's a toxin!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

P.S. The common name for 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid is citric acid. 

PPS - Were you scared?

PPPS - I want to say that as a whole foods enthusiast, I am not a fan of preservatives. But as a chemist, I am also not a fan of these wholesale scare tactics about "chemicals" and "toxins."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is a "good" education?

As I've waded into homeschooling, this is something I've thought a lot about. What is a good education? Is it the ability to know thousands of facts? Do math in your head? Long division? Score high on a college entrance exam?

Sometimes, I think we've ended up on the shallow end of the education spectrum. Let me give you examples of what I mean.

I came out of school able to do loads of math problems, without really understanding the foundations those processes are built on. It took a hard and arduous college math class for me to understand that math is not a set of steps to get to the end of a problem. It is a logic puzzle, built from the very most basic premises.

I read many good books in school and I could write a winning essay on anything I read. But I didn't really learn to delve into a book and draw out the life lessons for myself until I joined a book club.

I memorized lots of dates, places and people in history. But I didn't learn to really put myself into history, instead of looking at it in hindsight through my own modern lens, until I read the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

In our digital age, if you forget how to find the area of a circle, you can google it in 2.5 seconds. If you can't remember the exact year of Pearl Harbor, or the plot of Pride and Prejudice, you can find out almost instantly. Today, an education has to be so much more than memorizing information.

And these days, there's SO MUCH information. Too much to be able to truly know all of it. But what if, instead of training our children to memorize facts so they can bubble in answers on a test, we teach them to make connections? We tend to put history, math, science, literature, all in their little subject bubbles. But they are all interconnected.

I think we live in a time where we have to find the connections, see the overlaps, pull out the lessons. Sure, you can search it on google and find plenty of people to tel you what to think about one thing or the other, but a truly educated person should be able to come to their own conclusions.

To me, a good education will result in a person who knows quite a bit, but even more importantly, knows what they don't know and then how they can come to know it. Someone who can pick apart the flaw in others logic.

And beyond that, a good education should lead to a lifelong love of learning. Teaching kids to read means nothing if they don't ever do it after school. A truly educated person knows that they are always furthering their education and enjoys doing so.

A good education is more than knowledge, it is also life skills. A high ACT score is great, but we also need to make sure that people know how to manage finances, eat healthy, cook, take good care of themselves! There are so many skills I wish I had learned before now. How to fix a car, home repair, gardening.

A good education results in people who see a problem and not only want to help, but try to help, rather than assuming someone else can do it. They don't have to always be the leaders, but they should always be involved.

A good education leads one to look at the world in wonder and amazement. To go beyond the surface and see the miraculous in every day. It should teach compassion as well as independence.

These are just my hodge podge of thoughts. What do you think makes up a good education?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Christ even loved the loud and squirrely kids

This Sunday we discussed the Sacrament. Someone made the comment that really, we should be partaking of it as if Christ, himself, were handing it to us. Because that is really what it is like. That is where our thoughts should be. And are we being reverent enough? Are we focusing enough at that time and really allowing it to change us?

I couldn't help thinking about my sacrament experience only two hours before. The one where I told Max to sit up, stop spitting, put his tongue in his mouth, get his feet off the pew. The one where I told Jane to stop crying, took away whatever was causing a fight between the two, told her to whisper and tied and retied the "necklace" she was making. I think Rob remembered to whisper to them to, "Remember Jesus."

So when I imagined what I would be doing if Christ were passing the Sacrament at church, I had to think, what would my kids be doing? Would they understand the true weight of that moment? Would they sit there in awe and gratitude.

Maybe. For approximately 8.4 seconds.

I can tell you one thing, they probably wouldn't look like the kids in this picture.

Or this one.

This picture gets a little closer. At least some of the kids have removed pieces of their clothing and one is carrying a stick.

And as I pondered if my kids would just SIT STILL AND BE QUIET FOR TWO MINUTES so I could appreciate the wonder of the Savior, I realized, Christ loves my kids just the way they are. In fact, He's told me to become more like them.

Christ loved all little children. Not just the ones who sat quietly with their hands in their lap, or the ones who look up at Him with their angelic, sweetly smiling faces.

It occurred to me that Christ would still love a child who wanted to show Him a funny face.

Or is having a bad day.

Or can't seem to figure out whispering.

He thinks they're all great and wonderful and beautiful. And He knows I'm trying to teach them and we're all just learning and doing our best. 

And you know what? Because Christ was once a child. I'm sure he understands what it's like to have so much pent up energy that you just have to wiggle, or the need to jump off that really high table because it's just sitting there challenging your abilities every day, or how hard it is to use an inside voice when you have something REALLY IMPORTANT to say.

He knows. 

He loves. 

My kids. Your kids. All kids. Even the loud and squirrely ones.

Can we get a picture of Christ with some of those kind of kids please?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Preschool Week of March 17th - WATER

Art Project
Science Experiments: Make frost, make dew, make rainbows, make ice cream in a bag
Field trip to Aquarium and beach

Circle Time

Little Drops of Water

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

Song:  Water Song
(sung to The Bear Came Over the Mountain)
We’re jumping in the water
We’re jumping in the water
We’re jumping in the water
And splashing everywhere

We’re swimming in the water
We’re swimming in the water
We’re swimming in the water
And splashing everywhere

We’re spinning in the water
We’re spinning in the water
We’re spinning in the water
And splashing everywhere

We’re sinking in the water
We’re sinking in the water
We’re sinking in the water
And splashing everywhere

We’re shaking off the water
We’re shaking off the water
We’re shaking off the water
And not splashing…any…more!

Words by Joe Stover

Read science book on water

Map activity: Name the oceans

Go "fishing" for letters with string and a paperclip. Have kids identify letters at the end of the line.

Vocab: solid, liquid, gas, evaporation, condensation, precipitation (water cycle)

Finish reading "Winnie the Pooh," and "My Father's Dragon."

Friday, March 14, 2014

How We Got Here

   The decision to homeschool was one of those things that we had been building to for years, but happened in an instant. If I'm being honest, the journey here really started the day Jane was born two months early. She was a good size for her prematurity and only stayed in the NICU for 8 days, but she was still premature. That prematurity still rears it's ugly head in small ways. Jane still overstimulates easily, needing ample time to herself to recover from situations with lots of transition or noise. She still has a hard time soothing herself and sleeps more than her younger brother.

    I didn't notice her learning delays the first two and a half years. It's hard to see with your first especially. I didn't really know what normal looked like. But by two years and nine months I could no longer deny. We never had the language explosion at two years. She didn't speak spontaneously very much and didn't understand that the proper response to a question was an answer. Instead, she just parroted everything back to us.

   We got her tested. She was 9 months behind and qualified for speech therapy. Although she couldn't be diagnosed officially until she was much older, the speech pathologist agreed that she had the signs of the learning disability that runs in my family. Sometimes the therapist would throw around scary ideas like autism and make us practice eye contact with Jane. She warned me that Jane's learning disability, though a mild case, would need to be monitored closely, as she was okay enough to be able to pretend and bad enough to just slip through the cracks without the teacher's notice.

    I'd always flirted with the idea of homeschool, but now I thought about it more.

   When we moved to Reno, I took Jane's IEP to the school and she was enrolled in a special pre-K for other kids like her. That school and class were amazing. The teacher was lovely. It felt good to be there and Jane adored every minute. It was just a couple hours, four times a week. Jane improved by leaps and bounds. At her last IEP meeting before we left, the speech therapist informed me that she didn't believe Jane would qualify for speech by September and Ms. Ramos wanted to move Jane up to the older class because she was so far ahead of her peers. The only things they were really working on with her now were classroom issues. Walk in line, share the toys, transition activities right away, minor things really.

   If we'd stayed in Reno, I wouldn't be homeschooling. I know that.

  But we didn't stay in Reno. We moved to California, and when I took Jane's IEP in here, I was informed that I needed to enroll her in transitional kindergarten. It was full-day, five days a week.

   Full-day? Five days a week? It's preschool! She's four!

  I tried to ask if there was any way I could just pick her up before lunch every day. They waffled and said it would affect her attendance record. I'm smart enough to know this is code for "funding." I understand that schools need money, but I also know that what they were asking of my easily over-stimulated daughter was too much.

   I left the meeting that day saying I'd go sign her up. On the drive home I was overcome with one of the darkest feelings of my life. I can't explain it, but I just knew I couldn't do it. As I said at the beginning, I'd been preparing for this decision for a few years. I'd read several books about early childhood development. I knew that before the age of six, Jane's most important activity was having lots of free play, not sitting at a desk, or learning to transition from one activity to the next, or walk in a line down the hall. A couple hours a day was one thing. Six hours a day was another.

  I couldn't do it. I called my mom and told her. She said to trust my instincts. I walked in the door when I got home, sat on the couch next to Rob, and said, "We're homeschooling."

  We'd spoken about it before. We both thought it was a good option for us. Our passion and education in science and math made it so the idea of homeschooling high school didn't scare us. Rather, it excited us. Think of how much deeper we could go into their studies with just one-on-on instruction!

  So that's when our trial period began. The idea was preschool for now. If it works for us, then we'll move on to kindergarten (since I don't like full-day kindergarten, either). After that we'd reevaluate.

  I've learned a lot since that day. Some things from the several books and blogs on the subjects of education, homeschool, early childhood, and alternatives. Other things I learned from experience, like the fact that a child who is genuinely interested and motivated can learn without prodding and remember things like crazy. I also learned about patience and waiting for things to be developmentally appropriate. I learned that you can bang your head against a wall all you want to drill something into a child's head, but until they're developmentally ready to understand won't make a difference. But once they hit that point of readiness, it just clicks and the teaching is easy and the learning is absorbed.

  The more I read and experimented, the more disillusioned I became with the way things are heading in our educational system. I've read dozens of articles all lamenting the same thing. First grade curriculum being pushed into kindergarten where some children aren't ready to learn it. Pushing reading in kindergarten so hard that other things like social studies, science, art and music are getting less and less time.

  I look at my Jane, who some days spends hours on her "art projects." Shouldn't she be allowed as much free time to create as possible without being told it's time to pack up the supplies and move on to the next subject? Public school can't do that with a class of 20 kids. But I have the flexibility for that. We can work with that. I thought of how smart Jane is, but how she's also a bit of a late bloomer. What if she isn't ready to begin reading in kindergarten? What if, like so many other kids, she's not really ready until first grade? She shouldn't have to feel like a failure her whole first year of school. No one should feel like a failure in kindergarten.

   But beyond the problems in the public school system, the testing and the unsupported and unresearched policies began under no child left behind that were doubled down under common core, I came out of the last nine months of experimenting with a sound knowledge that I could do a better job for my kids.

   There were other things that went into this decision too. Less important probably, but still valuable to the decision making process. Rob has a four day work week that rotates, leaving us with two three-day weekends and one four-day weekend every month. Because he's a dentist, taking time off for vacation is kind of a double whammy. He doesn't get paid time off, his business doesn't make money without him, and then we're paying for the vacation. Our "time off" will have to come on those extended weekends. And the last thing we both wanted was to have to worry about attendance records and truancy issues.

   Rob also is home early enough in the afternoons to take on some of the teaching load. The fun stuff. Story time if that's what we need. Learning games, puzzles, chess, science experiments. He's up for that (and really good at it) and it helps to know he's got my back and I don't have to feel like I have to do IT ALL.

I didn't want to inundate anyone reading this with some of my views on the problems in our educational system. Our decision goes beyond those. But if you want to read articles that mirror my views, I'll link some below.

Everything you need to know about common core (Teacher Tom)
What standardized rigor really means for children
Testing Consumes Kindergarten Class Time
Kindergartener's Tough Bubble Answer Test
The transformation of Kindergarten
Quit Scheduling and Let Kids Play
Health Benefits of Free Play
Elkind's "Can We Play"
Children losing Creativity

Thursday, March 13, 2014

When You See Me

When you see me with my kids and their clothes are on backwards with shoes on the wrong feet, I hope you think She's fostering independence.

When you see me and my kitchen table is gouged and stained with the paint of a thousand art projects, I hope you think She's encouraging creativity.

When you see me in the grocery store struggling with crying children while I make my way down every aisle, I hope you think She's modeling real life.

When you see me and my house, with toys scattered across the floor and paper and crayon decorations where tasteful interior decorating should be, I hope you think She's allowing imagination to blossom.

When you see me at the library and my kids are running away from me, fighting over putting books in the book drop, and screaming in delight, I hope you think, She's building literacy.

When you see me on an airplane, and all three of my kids are pushing buttons, ripping magazines, or crying, I hope you think She's maintaining important family connections.

When you see me disciplining one of my children, I hope you think She's teaching accountability, even if you disagree with my methods.

When you see me in yoga pants, again, I hope you think, She knows her needs.

When you see me at the park, reading a book instead of following my children around the play equipment, I hope you think, She'll pass on a love of literature.

When you see me without makeup, I hope you think, She's showing her daughter how to be comfortable in her own skin, instead of hinting that I look tired.

When you see me out and about, possibly looking harried or bedraggled, kids hanging off my legs and arms, I hope you think, She's doing her best.

When you see me, I hope you actually see ME.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Home School - You might be thinking about possibly considering it. Maybe.

I my mind, there are three stages of Home School research. I've been through them all on my way to making the decision.

The first stage - I'm just reading about it. Probably not going to do it. know. Looking.
If you're at this point, you probably have babies and toddlers. You're looking down the road and just considering your options. There's no pressure or even a reason to commit. So you surf the web and see if there's anything out there that catches your eye. You just want a beginning view. You also want an answer to that nagging question that everyone asks. Will my kids be weird?

Here's what I recommend.  is an invaluable resource at this stage. It is very gentle and always positive. It offers encouragement and a little window into homeschooling without ever being judgmental or preachy. Even when I was thinking I wouldn't homeschool my kids, I still read it. Like them on facebook for tons of good stuff.

You Are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy   This book really opened up a whole new way of looking at childhood and learning and what is important in the early years. It made me re-examine my ideas on what is age appropriate, and so forth. It gets a little wierd, new-age for me, but the information and ideas are still good. It also freed me from the notion that kids need to be "stimulated" and "learning" all the time.

Anything by David Elkind. He wrote The Hurried Child and is a big supporter of slow childhoods and less pressure on our little ones.

I also recommend googling something along the lines of Are homeschooled kids weird? Homeschool and socialization. Etc. Hundreds of bloggers have answered this question far better than I can.

This is all to just introduce you to thinking about education and childhood a little differently. It's nothing earth shattering. Just thought provoking. It will not make the decision to homeschool for you, and you can enjoy all of these resources and decide not to home school. It's a nice idea to play around with, but it's a long way in the future and you don't have to decide right now. For me, this stage was like planting a seed that took a couple years to germinate.

The Second Stage:  Seriously considering home school. Something has probably happened to get you to this point. Perhaps you found out something about Common Core, or your child is struggling at school, or a nephew of yours got beat up for no reason. For me, it was moving to Merced, hearing about the gangs and then finding out that transitional kindergarten and kindergarten were both full-day.

Whatever it is, you need to look into home school more, not just for curiosity but with the intent to see if this will work for you. Can you do it? You need a confidence boost and to move from a motivation of annoyance/fear to something positive. If you don't truly think you can provide a better education for your child, then you won't do it. (Note: A better education can mean many things, not just higher test scores)

Subscibe to and read their free e-book "Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom."

Familiarize yourself with different educational methods and philosophies at this link  Home school does not have to look like school at home, and thinking it does makes it feel even more daunting.

Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Wheldon is a fantastic resource. I don't agree with everything she promotes (I absolutely think you should be pushing your child to learn how to read by 7 or 8 at the latest) but she has hundreds of pages of ways to learn EVERYTHING without the "read, lecture, test, repeat" method. You will be so inspired to make learning a joyful, exciting process. You'll probably use some of her ideas whether or not you end up taking the plunge into homeschooling.

Carl Honore's Under Pressure  A good intro to different educational styles and rethinking the high-pressure way we raise kids as well as a new look at just why those test scores in Asian countries are so high and the tradeoffs.

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto will feel prickly and uncomfortable at first, but as you continue reading you'll keep saying, "Yes. I remember feeling that way." Some of his assertions are a bit overboard for me, but if you want something to make you think, even if all it does is make you angry at the author, this is a great book.

This Blog post. Should I Homeschool or Not?  and Part two

Pinterest! Set up a pinterest board and label it teaching, or learning, or even homeschool if you want. Then start finding all the great pins there are out there about teaching kids. There's unit studies, worksheets, art projects, science experiments, book rec's, everything you could possibly need. Seriously. And most of it is free. This is one of the best ways for you to see what you can really do.

123homeschool4me. I love this blog!

Take a risk-free plunge. I think this is the best way to figure a few things out. Do preschool for your little guy. Or if you have a school age student already, do some summer school (but think outside the school box and keep it really fun and hands-on with minimal worksheets. Who wants to do those on vacation?) Do you like it? Does it work your creativity and leave you feeling buzzed? What about your kids? Can you see them learning and loving it? For me, trying it out was the best thing for "knowing" what it was like and if it would work.

Third Stage - I really want to do this, but how do I get started?

Find out what the laws are in your state as hslda. has a great checklist for you! Some of it I've already linked above.

Find homeschool co-ops, groups, enrichment classes, park days, etc. in your area. Get involved!

Check out all the resources available to you through your community arts programs, sports programs, college and university.

Go to your library! The best education will come with lots and lots of reading. There are so many good books out there! Read them for free.

Start writing down your ideas of what you would like to do in your home school. What is your vision? How do you want your days to run?

Here is an extensive list of "Core Knowledge" by grade. If you are a check-it-off-the-list type person, this is a detailed list of what your child should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. You can use these benchmarks when you're planning what your child will learn. Although I would by no means feel limited by it.

Check out curriculum. I'm not a huge all-in-one curriculum person. I'm more of a relaxed, unit-studies homeschooler right now. My focus is lots of hands on stuff. Because of that, I mostly just need ideas and lots of books. However, I will be buying a math curriculum (one with tons of manipulatives of course) I think it is good just to check out curriculums, just to kind of see what's out there and get ideas if nothing else. But remember, you really don't have to spend a lot of money to give your kids a good education. Check out this HUGE list of free resources!

And have you checked out online public school? It's a great way to go if you worry about being able to teach everything yourself. See what's available in your area!

Now, take a deep breath and repeat after me. This is an adventure I'm taking one year, one month, one week at a time. If something changes and this is no longer feasible for us, or if I feel like it is no longer our best option, I can change at any time. Guess what? The public school will still be there! You can put them back in! The world won't collapse. You'll both be okay. That's what public school is there for. Aren't we lucky to always have that option?

Have I overwhelmed you yet? Don't be. I'm just giving you what I have read and looked at. Yours doesn't have to be the same. Pick and choose. Find something else. We're all different, with different kids, different needs, different visions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We're Homeschooling...and it's not a reflection on you

We've decided to home school our children until it no longer works for us. The reactions I've received to this decision have been varying and enlightening. They are very similar to the reactions I got when I decided to go for a natural birth with Max. Some people were encouraging. Others told me to be careful and not plan too heavily on it. After all it might not work out. Others felt like my choice required them to give their reasons for not having a natural birth. Some expressed their desires to do the same followed by some sort of derogatory comment about themselves being wimps.

When people find out I'm home schooling, some of them say it's a great choice. Others warn me about not being able to get anything else done, stressing myself out, and needing a housekeeper. Still more give me reasons why homeschooling isn't good. Sadly, a few make comments equivalent to, "I can't/don't want to do that. Does that make me a bad mom?"

Ladies, STOP IT!

Someone else's choice for their family is in no way a reflection on you and how you are doing as a parent. A lot of thought and prayer went into this decision, including my children's personalities, their talents, my talents, my vision and desires for education, mine and Rob's education and passions, Rob's work schedule, etc.

The opportunities that I feel open up to my family with the decision to home school leaves me feeling energized and animated. I can't wait to get started! I have big ideas and plans! Rob is with me every step of the way and gets in on the teaching and experimenting.

Not everyone feels this way. And that's okay!

We've got to stop judging ourselves by the mom down the street.

I've seen so many people just rip into home schooling blogs. Their comments drip of bitterness. At first I wondered why. Then I read a few blogs from home schoolers, and now I would like to clear the air.

I am not homeschooling to protect my children from the outside world. Actually, I hope to put my children in contact with our community MORE than they would get in the public school system.

I am not homeschooling my children for religious reasons. I don't consider the public school system evil or think it is trying to create a nation of atheists. Occasionally, a few teachers might have that on their radar, but not very many of them.

I am not homeschooling because I had a poor experience in the public school system. I want to be clear on this. I had so many fantastic teachers growing up. This choice is in no way a reflection on any of them. There are so many good teachers in our schools. The problems with our education system have almost nothing to do with the quality of our teachers.

I do not think that anyone who sends their kids to public school is lazy or doing their child a disservice.

I am not homeschooling to create super geniuses. If that happens, awesome. But my goal is more to create a learning environment that allows my children to learn at their own pace (whether slower or faster), linger over subjects they find truly fascinating, and understand that learning is a lifelong, joyful process.

I do think there are problems with our school system. I don't have time to get into all of them in one post. Suffice it to say, a top-down, test-heavy, standardized approach is not the right one for our beautiful, sensitive, diverse, and naturally creative children.

I will probably write here about our home school. Why I do it and love it. The advantages. Whatever. But please don't ever take that as me judging or thinking less of you.

I'm homeschooling. You probably are not.

As long as both of our children are getting an education, I'd say we're both pretty good moms.

**If you're interested in the situations and ideas that led to this decision, and my vision for education, let me know. I'd be more than happy to write about it.**