Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What would I do without my homeschool group?

Yesterday was one of THOSE days.  You know the kind.  You're trying to homeschool, and at the same time trying to fold the laundry, wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, make the beds, and take a shower.  Only yesterday I had the added bonus of watching my twenty-two month old niece, Samara, who was all to eager to help me write with dry erase markers, uncap glue sticks, build blocks, turn on the CD player, and unshelf every single book in the house.

Yep.  One of THOSE days.

As soon as Samara's mother picked her up, I rushed into my office, scurrying to plan an agenda for our new homeschool group's second monthly meeting that would begin in just a few short hours.  It was at that time, I realized my youngest son, Camden, was still working on the Science activity I had given him TWO HOURS AGO.  My other son, Bryson, ever the overachiever (just like his mother), had completed his entire list of assignments.  At this point, I was very  much tempted to have him teach his brother.

But I didn't.  I sat there with Camden, appearing so patient, but actually on the brink of a major breakdown, when my husband walked in the door.

I took this as my cue to retreat.  While I realize now, it might have been more productive to pray, I literally ran to my bedroom, buried my face in a pillow and cried.  It was not as soothing as the calming peace of quiet-time with my Savior, but I did feel better afterward.

Later, at our homeschool meeting, I showed a brief clip of Christian comedian Tim Hawkins talking about homeschooling.


He wrote a song that quips when a homeschool mom is talking to herself, it's okay.  She's just having a parent-teacher conference.  I confessed to my fellow homeschooling moms, most of whom I've only known for a few months, that my day had been filled with parent-teacher conferences.

Once I started talking about it, I just couldn't stop.  I poured my heart out to these women, telling them things I am barely willing to tell myself.  Homeschooling is hard.  And my biggest enemy is myself.  I have these expectations of how I want the homeschool year to proceed, only it never works out that way.  This year the setbacks started almost as soon as we started.  I came into the meeting feeling very defeated, and not at all well-equipped to lead a group of moms who are looking to me for encouragement.

You might think at this point the atmosphere in the room felt like a deflated balloon.  But no.  Those women jumped right in and started sharing their own experiences of feeling inadequate.  Apparently this is an ongoing battle, only to be conquered when you witness your child's success as a grownup.  There were nodding heads, reassuring smiles, and verbal hugs all around.

That's when it hit me.  These are my peeps.

These moms are in the trenches with me.  They know what I'm trying to do because they're trying to do the same things.  They know what I'm feeling because they feel the same things.  They know what I'm thinking because they've thought those same things themselves.

Our devotion leader talked about absolute worship - praising God when there is no music, when there are no people, when you are by yourself and it's all about Him.

I wish I had praised God instead of crying yesterday.  I'm sure it would have uplifted my spirit and comforted my soul.  I was so desperately in need of those things.

But I didn't.

So God found another way to pick me up and calm my nerves.  He gave me peeps.

What would I do without my homeschool group?

Thank you to the ladies who were able to come to our meeting last night - Melanie, Deanna, April, Melissa, Julie, Eunice, Missy and Donna.  I am so grateful for your words of encouragement.  Today is better than yesterday because of you.  May God bless you all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homeschooling makes me brave

Homeschooling makes me brave.  I think that's one reason I am so addicted to it.

Things and ideas that I would normally be too afraid to embrace, are much less scary when they are required to further the education of my children.

For example, I was once a fan of having pets.  However, after the tragic loss of our beloved dog, Gizmo, two years ago, I no longer have the desire to take responsibility for the life of another non-human living thing.  I know it will most likely die before I do, and I just don't have the heart required to say good-bye to something I love so dearly.

Sooooo...  imagine my response when my oldest son, Bryson, begs me to buy him a dog.


Then a cat?


Then a rabbit?


How about a fish?


Of course, you know how diligent children can be.  He would NOT stop asking.

So, thinking I could outsmart a nine-year-old (and thinking my mother would back me up), I told him if his grandmother had a spare fish bowl, we'd give fish ownership a try.  He eagerly approaches my mother, who totally ignores my fervently shaking head.  What do you know, she just happens to have a spare fish bowl right there in her cupboard.  Oh...  yay...

So we bought a betta fish.  And just as I feared,  within four days, she was dead.

This is where my uncharacteristic bravery kicked in.

It would have been so easy to give up, and say we're not meant to own a fish.  But I couldn't bear to see that look of failure and hopelessness on the face of my precious child.  He was ready to give up, after the death of one fish.  I guess the home educator in me knew we could not pass up this teaching opportunity.

What did we learn from fish #1?   Answer = We don't know the first thing about fish care.

We spent the next few nights researching betta fish and how to care for them.  We checked out books from the library.  We looked on the internet.  We talked to my mom, who owns a tankful of fish.  And we actually listened to what she said.

We went to Petsmart, bought another fish bowl, and purchased two fish ~ Waterfall and Big Guy.  My husband and I figured our odds of keeping at least one fish alive were better this way.

That was three weeks ago.  The fish are still alive!!!!

Go us!


Another example of my homeschool-inflicted bravery -

For our science curriculum, we've been going through the days of creation.  This is our third year of homeschooling, so we are on Day Three - when God created the land, the trees, the plants.  This year I've chosen to use Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany.  This means we will be spending the entire year studying plants.

Let me first tell you, I am not a "plant person".  When they were passing out "green thumbs", they completely left me out of the rotation.  Give me a plant, and I guarantee it will be dead by the end of the week.

I don't know where I get this from, as my mother has the greenest thumb I've ever seen.  She has plants literally climbing the walls at her house.  It's beautiful.

I have two green plants in my house.  They are in our fish bowls...  and they are artificial.

So as you can guess, I was a little nervous when on Day 6 of our school year, the curriculum says we need to plant some herbs so we can watch them grow throughout the semester.


I must admit, I was tempted to say, "Let's skip over Day Three of creation (botany), and move onto Day Four (astronomy)."

But I didn't say that.

Instead, I got some pots, some dirt, some seeds, some water, and some courage.  We planted two small pots of romaine lettuce, one small pot of basil, and one small pot of parsley.

That was yesterday.

We actually remembered to water them today.

They're not dead yet.  At least I don't think they are.

I'll keep you updated...

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day One

We started a new school year today at Chapel Hill Academy.

I couldn't sleep at all last night because I was so excited!  I love day one.  It marks the beginning of a new educational journey.  It's a day filled with new composition books and freshly sharpened pencils, three-ring binders and clean index cards.  While I love all these things, what I adore most about our first day is the potential it holds for the year to come.

I am filled with hope on that first day of school.  I'm hoping this year I'll get it right.  This year, I'll be more disciplined.  This year, I'll get up earlier.  This year, I won't give in to those "no school today" desires.  Then maybe this year, it won't get overwhelming.

Day one is always good.

I got up at 6:45 this morning.  This is a huge deal to me, as I am not what you might call a "morning person". Totally out of character, I jumped out of bed, eager to face the day to come.  I turned on the radio just in time to catch the "Good Morning" song by Mandisa.  So I knew right away it was going to be a good day.  I made breakfast, which I never do.  I loaded the dishwasher.  I even got dressed!!  Woohoo!  And it was only 8am.

We started today with prayer time, followed by praise time, followed by Bible time.  And then my favorite part...

We went to our homeschool group's kickoff party!  Two hours of outdoor activities followed by two hours of lunch and fellowship.  That equals for hours of playing and chatting with our friends.  I don't know who came home more satisfied, my kids or me.  What a perfect day!

When we got back home, we weren't quite as eager to go back to our homeschool room.  We were more in the mood for a nap.  But we did go over a few calendar activities before we called it a day.

So here I am.  Telling you that our first day of homeschool was a huge success, but also wondering if perhaps it wasn't the best way to start our year.  I mean, how can we go up from here?


We've got a full day of school planned tomorrow, filled with Science, Social Studies, Handwriting, Language Arts, Math, etc...  I don't know if I'll wake up quite as eager to start the day.  I doubt I'll be up at 6:45.  I do plan to fix breakfast (this is a major goal for me this year).  I do plan to start with Bible time.  I may even get dressed.

On Day Two we will be at home, doing school.  And isn't that what homeschool is all about?

So, here's to Day Two.  May she continue to hold the potential of a great year ahead.

Or at least be a fun day of learning at home in our jammies.  :)

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The last four months...

In my last "Yes, they're homeschooled" post (four months ago), I was jumping for joy about our one-hundredth day of school.  That was a truly awesome day.

So, why has it been so long since I've written about my passion for homeschooling?

Weeeeellll....  To be completely honest, I kind of lost it for awhile there.  My passion, that is.  And perhaps my mind too.  Depends on who you ask.  :)

The truth is, for me, the last two months of school are the hardest.  I spent the first week in April fulfilling the testing requirements of our home state.  This year I decided to test my boys myself, rather than do so in a group setting.  It was a learning experience which I hope to perfect in the future.  But it all ended very well.

The test scores revealed that my boys are geniuses!!!!

Hahaha!  Just kidding.

But seriously, they are.

No, not really.

Well, sort of.

They did very, very, very well.

As their mother, I'd like to take full credit.  However, I will step aside and give that credit to their teacher.  Oh wait!  That's me.  :)


Anyway...  once testing was completed, I felt less than motivated as we entered the fourth and final quarter of our school year.  It seemed as though we had reached the climax of our 2011-2012 learning adventure, and the remainder of our work was less than necessary.

We trudged through.  Although we spent much less time in the classroom, and more and more time on field trips (the zoo, the museum, the park, the movies, Chic-Fil-A).

We finished our school year on June 5th.  I had hoped to get in 150 school days, but we called it quits at 140.

I then spent the next 40 days recuperating.  By recuperating, I mean laying on the couch, watching TV, reading novels and eating bon-bons, of course.  In other words, nothing of educational value to my children.

So why am I blogging now?

Well.  I've spent every day this week making plans and preparing for our 2012-2013 school year.  And now I am getting really excited about our next educational adventure!

I'm researching subjects, creating visual aids, developing lesson plans, studying library books, and counting down the days til school begins.

We're starting our third year of homeschooling on August 20th.  I am really looking forward to seeing what this year has in store for us.

Expect more blogs, (hopefully) more often.

I pray blessings upon you in your upcoming homeschool adventures!

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our 100th Day of School

Yesterday, we celebrated our 100th day of school.   Woohoo!

Our original schedule had us celebrating this special occasion during the month of February.  However, we were forced to deviate from that original schedule.  Of course, that is one of the major advantages of homeschooling.  We can, and are often times forced to, be flexible with our schedules.

Anyway, we were so excited when we put the number 100 on our school day number door.  We have been numbering our days since we started back in September.  Hitting the 100 day mark really makes you feel like you've accomplished something.

As we did last year on our 100th day of school, we ventured to Chuck E. Cheese.  On the way, we made a pitstop at Bojangles, where we enjoyed our biscuits while reading The Night Before The 100th Day of School, by Natasha Wing.  As the story unfolded, I found myself wishing I had read it sooner.  I'm assuming in the public schools, the teachers encourage the children to bring 100 of some item to school on that special day.  Why didn't I think of that?  Hmm...  we'll have to do that next year.

Now, for those of you who don't know me well, I'm kind of a freak when it comes to taking my kids to places like Chuck E. Cheese, or the circus, or the fair, or anywhere there might be a large crowd.  I get very overwhelmed and panicky.  Don't get me wrong.  I love people, and I love kids.  I just don't like to throw my kids into a huge pile of other kids.  They blend in too easily, and I'm afraid I'll lose one.  It just makes me nervous.  I much prefer to have a conspiring adult with me (i.e. my husband or my mom or my cousin) who I can assign to watch one kid, while I keep an eye on the other.  Yesterday, that conspiring adult was my husband, Keith.

We arrived at Chuck E. Cheese at 9:15am.  I just want to let y'all in on a little secret.  If you arrive at Chuck E. Cheese on a weekday morning, just after they open at 9:00am, you are more than likely going to have the entire place to yourselves!  We were the only ones there!  I love it!  What a relief! 

We purchased our 100 tokens, divvied them up (40 for each of the boys and 10 each for Keith and me),  threw our stuff down on a table and ran around playing games and collecting tickets!  Another secret.  They test the machines each morning, by playing them and fixing the ones that need to be fixed.  They leave all the tickets they win for whomever is luckiest to grab them.  We were the only ones there, so we grabbed all the tickets.  We came home with lots of prizes too.  Woohoo!!!

So as you can see, we've conquered the "having fun on our 100th day of school" thing.  Next year, we'll have to incorporate a little more education into it.  I'd be happy to hear your ideas. 

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Dinosaur Box

I told you last week how I much I enjoyed the two-story education store I came across.  The top story was all bargain-priced items.  I spent most of my time up there.  My cousin was with me.  Because he is such a good listener, he remembered me mentioning that we are starting a Dinosaur unit study this week.  He found "The Dinosaur Box", a box of fifty index cards with dinosaur information and activities.  I was hesitant to agree that it was worthy of my purchase, seeing that it was published in 1980.  He pointed out that it was a bargain price of two dollars, so I put it in the basket.

I spent a few hours this past Friday planning our Dinosaur education, and I am telling you, this Dinosaur Box is awesome!  I am using it as the basis for our unit study.  We're doing 50 Days of Dinosaurs.  Each card inspires our information and activity for the day.  It made my planning so much easier and purposeful.  Of course, I'm supplementing with other resources, but this $2 bargain has turned out to be a priceless commodity for me.

Today we are being introduced to the study with "Myths About Dinosaurs".  Tomorrow we'll talk about "How Fossils Are Made".  Wednesday we'll learn "How Fossils Are Found".  We'll even find a fossil of our own.  Thursday we'll discuss "The Early Finds", when the first dinosaur bones were discovered. 

If you haven't noticed, I am super-excited, not only about the incredible deal my cousin found for me in this Dinosaur Box.  I'm also excited because I have two boys, ages 7 and 9.  Let's face it, boys LOVE dinosaurs.  So they are going to LOVE school (and their teacher), at least for the next fifty days.  For our field trips, we're going to visit various museums and the dinosaur exhibit at the zoo as well. 

My husband questioned the fifty-day-unit-study, with dinosaurs being extinct and not quite as relevant to us today as math and reading.  I gave him the look that says, "I'm the teacher!  How dare you question my methods!"  I don't think that eased his concern, but he'll see.  There is much to be learned from dinosaurs.  A unit study on dinosaurs is not just about dinosaurs.  It's about fossils and reptiles, exploring and discovering, imagining and creating.  My boys are going to enjoy reading, drawing, and writing about dinosaurs, more than any other topic we've explored. 

I'm quite certain this will be the greatest 50 days of homeschool we've experienced thus far.  WooHoo!  Happy Homeschooling to me!

The Dinosaur Box
written by Nancy Hathaway
Illustrated by Eric Alley
Educational Insights, Compton, CA 90220
(c) 1980

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Education Store

Mondays are our "fun days" of homeschooling.  If you ask me, every day is fun (well, not EVERY day), but if you ask my boys, they'll say Mondays are our "fun days".

On Mondays, we do art, music, Spanish and critical thinking.  Doesn't that sound fun?!  While my boys thoroughly enjoy these subjects, I think they call it our "fun day" because we're usually done by 11am. 

Yesterday we finished at 10:30am.  So I decided to add a field trip to the theeater to see the new movie The Lorax.  However, the movie was not scheduled to start until 2:05.  So we had some time to kill...

We enjoyed lunch at Chic-Filet.  After we'd cleaned our plates, I read The Lorax to them.  But we still had a couple hours before the movie started.  So I drove down the main street, trying to decide what to do. 

I vaguely remembered someone mentioning that there is an education store closeby.  We kept our eyes peeled.  As soon as we spotted it, I got butterflies in my stomach.  I'm not normal.  I get so excited about homeschooling and finding homeschool stuff.  I practically jumped out of the minivan and ran into the store.  I opened the door, and I promise you it was like a chorus of angels welcomed me as my eyes feasted upon not one story of educational resources, but TWO stories!

The sales lady approached me, and all I could say was, "I am so amazed".  She could not hide her joy at my eagerness to shop.  She quickly showed me around and told me about their sales.  Then I was left to browse.  It was a good thing I had kidnapped my cousin for the day.  He kept an eye on my boys so I could revel in the awesomeness of this huge education store.  I spent the next 40 minutes walking around, "oohing" and "aahing" at all their products.  Even my boys enjoyed themselves (for the most part).  I'm not sure my cousin did though.

Amazingly, I left the store having spent only $58.  That may sound like a lot to some of you, but trust me, this is a good number for me.  I tend to get carried away when it comes to homeschooling.

I'm telling you all this to say, there are a LOT of resources available to us as homeschoolers.  Controlling one's spending on such things requires a LOT of self-discipline.  This is a work in progress for me.  I am sure I am not alone in that challenge.  Please feel free to share your spending struggles in the comments section below. 

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

As I said yesterday, I pretty much had an emotional breakdown soon after I decided to homeschool.  I was overloaded and overwhelmed, and despite the piles of information available to me, I still had no idea where to begin.  Every time I started a Google search, the panic button inside me started buzzing in my ears.  When I was at the point that I truly started to question my decision, and my sanity, I decided perhaps the worlwide web was not the best place to start. 

I set up a coffee date with my homeschooling friend.  As we bonded over morning beverages, she asked me, "So which approach will you use?"  With a blank expression, I responded, "I have no idea what that means." 

Until then, I had no idea there were different approaches to homeschooling.  There's Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling, unit studies, eclectic, and cyber - just to name a few.  My friend uses the Charlotte Mason approach.  But now that I knew there were other methods, I thought I should check them out. 

Still avoiding my computer, I took the old-fashioned route in my quest for more information.  I drove to the public library.  I checked out every book they had on homeschooling.  Of course, living in a very small town, (a population of just over 1,500), there were only two homeschool books on the shelf.  Still, I got them both.  When I didn't find those super helpful, I decided it was time to try a bigger library. 

I girded up my confidence and logged into my Amazon.com account.  Surely Amazon would not be as intimidating as Google.  While my "homeschool" search yielded over 5,000 results, I was brave enough to keep digging.  That is how I came across Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  This book was a blessing to me in my moment of desperation.  It set me on the right track. 

The author, Cathy Duffy, offers various questionnaires and surveys to help you determine your child's learning style, as well as your teaching style.  The results then help you to determine which approach to homeschooling might work best for you.  And that's not all!  Duffy goes on to tell you which curriculums coincide with the various approaches to homeschooling.  But wait!  There's more!  She also provides a review of each of those curriculums. 

Learn more about Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum at http://cathyduffyreviews.com/general-book-reviews/100-top-picks.htm

It has been determined that I prefer the eclectic approach.  This means I do not subscribe to any one curriculum in particular.  I use a wide variety of different resources to guide my childrens' education.  I'll tell you more about that in the days and weeks to come.

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If you plan to homeschool, please read this blog post

Did you know that if you go to Google, and type in the word "homeschool", you get about 4,220,000 results?  Wow!  That is a lot of information, which can be quite overwhelming to a mother who has recently decided to homeschool her kids.  I know because two years ago, I typed that exact word in, and was flabberghasted at the plethora of websites alluding to this topic.  You might think I'd be excited about the excess availability of homeschool resources.  In reality though, I was overwhelmed.  When you have that large of an amount of knowledge set before you, there is only one question that comes to mind...  Where do I begin?

I'm gonna tell you what I did.  I went to the upper right-hand corner of the page and clicked on the red box with the X in it.  And then I cried.  I hadn't even started homeschooling yet, and I was already questioning my decision.

A friend of mine had been homeschooling for about three years at that point.  She was actually the one who put the idea of homeschooling in my head.  She knew what I was feeling, because she had been there herself.  She offered so much to me from encouragement to curriculum suggestions to playdates.  She was my lifesaver.  (Thank you, Bethany!)  So that is my first advice to you.  Find someone who has some homeschooling experience, and cling to her for dear life. 

From the moment you decide, "I am going to homeschool my kids", and through at least the first year of doing it, you will question your reasoning, your ability, and your sanity.  You will often ask yourself, "What have I gotten myself into?"  "Am I qualified to do this?"  "What on earth was I thinking?"

Fully expect that many people around you will be asking themselves the same thing.  "What has she gotten herself into?"  "Is she qualified to do this?"  "What on earth was she thinking?"

That's okay.  This is all normal.  Trust me.  I've been there.  I beat myself up that entire first year.  But you know what?  I survived.  And so did my kids.  

Do yourself a favor.  Go ahead and tell yourself.  "This first year doesn't count.  It's a freebie."

I promise you, the second year, you will feel much more confident and much less anxious about it all.

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Passion

A very dear friend of mine recently encouraged me to read a self-help book - Unlimited by Jillian Michaels.  I could be reading into this, but I think she thinks I need to help myself.  I'm not offended by that.  I've known her a long time.  I've watched her go from where I am - unhealthy and undisciplined, to becoming a very strong-minded, strong-willed woman who cares deeply about her health and her body.  In many ways, I am quite jealous of her. 

But how can Jillian help me help myself?  I asked myself this question as I pondered whether or not I should actually delve into the pages.  Figuring my friend would ask me if I had checked it out, I decided enlightening myself with Jillian's knowledge would cause me little harm.  Plus, Jillian is skinny.  Maybe reading her book will make me skinny too.  Right?  So I read it.  Well, I read the first chapter, anyway.  Which surprisingly did NOT talk about weight loss; rather, it talked a lot about figuring out what you are passionate about in life, and not being afraid to go after it.  She related this thought process mostly to one's career choice. 

I will admit the first chapter of this book got me thinking and had me asking myself a couple questions. 

1.  I currently have no career.  So how does this apply to me? 

2.  What am I passionate about?

I thought about that last question a lot.  I've only come up with three answers.  I'm passionate about my family, I'm passionate about homeschooling, and I'm passionate about writing. 

Soooooo....  that's why I'm starting this blog.

I've seen lots of homeschooling websites where the moms share what they are doing on a daily basis.  I don't know if I'll be that diligent.  But I ask you to join me on this journey.  I hope that some of what I write is helpful and maybe inspiring to you.