Saturday, September 29, 2007

We rented the movie at Blockbuster Thursday morning. I have never seen kids more eager to finish a story. We picked up J's friend, A, and we all sat down to watch. I made ham and cheese triangles for everyone. I'd seen the movie years ago, but it was great when the kids got to see their book come to life. They kept commenting how things looked exactly as they pictured - or not. Our next readaloud will be "The Bridge to Terabithia".

We picked up K at 3:30, drove J to dance, and K and A walked her inside. When A came out she decided she would rather take dance (acro) with J now rather than the weekly guitar lessons she's been taking. Her mom agreed and hopefully she can start next Thursday! Acro is mandatory for the company kids, but there are recreational students in the class as well. J would love A to be a part of this - then they can do the recital together.

Friday morning the kids did some paper crafts for a while then we made a cake. At noon I packed a lunch and we all drove out to a science class at one of the environmental centers in Nassau. The class was on monarch butterflies. We had about 25 kids there. I just love watching homeschooled kids in a "class" situation. So many hands go up to ask and answer questions. W really got into it and asked and tried to answer as many questions as he could. After an hour or so, the kids got to go to the garden area and try to catch monarch butterflies with the big nets. Everyone got a turn and the several that were caught were labeled with little stickers and set free. Monarch butterflies usually fly all the way to Mexico at certain times of the year. The butterflies with labels are identified down there and a letter is sent to the environmental center stating they arrived safely. Afterwards we ate lunch at a picnic table with everyone and the kids played together for a long time. We weren't in a hurry to get back because K went to a local fair with her friends after school. We picked her up around 8:30pm. She had a blast and went again tonight.

Today J had her first rehearsal for her new solo this year. I worked so B took her. She's doing a musical theater number to a song from Smoky Joe's Cafe. Eric, her solo coach this year came up with a great dance. J loves it so far. I think they got about 40 seconds of it completed so far. She's scheduled for Saturdays and that works great for us. Soon we'll get the competition schedule and we'll start working on the new costumes.

I love this time of year.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We have one more chapter left of The Witches. We'll finish it tomorrow and then go rent the movie! They've been dying to see it, but wanted to wait until we finished the book. J's copywork yesterday and today was "When Skies are Low and the Days are Dark" by N.M. Bodecker and "Gathering Leaves" by Stanley Cook. She also wrote a (revised, lol) letter to her new pen pal in Texas and did a few pages in her bridge workbook: singular, plural and collective subjects and verbs in a sentence, greatest common factors, and identifying the southeastern states and their capitals.

W did some reading, practiced a few sight words, and did a few pages in his bridge workbook: short vowels, rhyming words, and drawing. He has been creating a lot of paper crafts, coming up with new recipes, and engaging in so much creative play this week. He's been practicing the recorder, shadow puppets, and basketball, too. I keep forgetting to call the guy who runs the CYO basketball team. Ugh.

J had dance for 3 hours last night and K decided to take the Musical Theater class again this year. J is starting work on the big production number that includes all three company teams in her studio. K got a response from the place she applied to do volunteer work! She has an orientation/party next Thursday and has already been asked to help out at the big festival their having this Saturday.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More of the same today. We read 3 more chapters of The Witches, with detailed narrations from both kids. J's copywork was a poem by Kathryn Worth (and she recited it to us), W's was from the Sentences book. J did a page from the 7-8th grade math workbook (decimals subtraction and perimeter), and W did some single-digit addition again. It's working very well so far. They are liking the routine-ness of it all and look forward to that hour and 1/2 every weekday. We will soon be adding the science, history, and geography throughout the week, but I don't want to rock this great boat we're on yet. Besides, we're covering those subjects all the time anyway without even trying.

W went to the Jets game with B yesterday. It was his first football game and he loved it. They were in the luxury skybox on the 50-yard line, which was full of food, drinks, TVs, and couches. How great is that for your first game?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yesterday I read them 3 chapters of The Witches. They're so into it and we would have kept going if it wasn't getting too late. J's copywork was February Twilight by Sara Teasdale. Then she stood and recited it to us with total dramatic flair, lol. W did another couple of pages in Writing Sentences. His handwriting has gotten so much nicer than just a few weeks ago.

After that we picked up a few things for J's costume. This is for the audition she had today. She came up with such a cool getup: red leggings, white booty shorts, half the leotard from when she was a semifinalist for nationals in Boston (I cut it into a half tank), a boys long-sleeve white oxford school shirt (open with the bottom sides tied together under the chest), a red scrunchy "pleather" belt, big silver hoop earrings, and topped off with a red urban poof cap. I was so excited for her today, but a little anxious since I had to work all day wand would have to miss it. She got herself dressed and made-up, and B took care of the smaller details, like pinning and making sure she was all put together.

They were keeping these auditions very secretive and had all the windows covered. B peeked in through a crack, lol. J performed very well. She was so proud of herself afterward. The studio owner said it was the best performance she's ever seen her do. P (J's solo coach last year and also a "judge" on the "panel") said she was really "in the box" with that. J didn't know what that meant, but she was sure it was a compliment, lol. The third panel judge just wrote a bunch of notes. This audition is not about seeing if J continues in the company - she pretty much automatically does. I think it's to have the kids showcase their ideas and talents in a creative way so the owner and teachers can see more of what they're all about. It is, however, an actual audition for new students hoping to qualify for the company. I think we'll probably have one new girl this year on the team.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yesterday morning J had Creative Writing class. She really likes it, and I'm so happy there's something like this for her. The woman running it is a children's book author and knows how to get the kids excited about writing. They'd left off before the summer with some "homework" that I completely forgot about. So I mentioned it to J before the class and told her not to worry about it, she could hand it in next class if she wanted to. J said, Oh, I already did that a long time ago. I was totally shocked. She pulled it up out of the MS documents and I printed it for her. It was really good, too. It was basically character description built into a 3 paragraph story. It was about orphan children, the nuns who ran the orphanage, and the relationships between the characters. Blew me away.

Today the kids couldn't wait to get onto the academics. They're both excited to finish The Witches so we can rent the movie. We're about half-way through. J's copywork was 2 short poems - one by D.H. Lawrence and the other by John Fuller. W is doing the Kumon Writing Sentences workbook and today we discussed nouns, verbs, adjectives, capitalization, and periods. J's math was subtraction with large digit decimals, perimeter, and calculating time lapse in her head. W's math was some more single-digit addition and I introduced him to the number line to help with it. He loves that and this evening, showed B how he does it. He also drew hands on clocks to show the correct time.

The afternoon was spend running errands and J had dance from 4-6:30pm. Today was Acro and Junior Company Jazz. The instructor announced to the class that J was the only one who got the routine right "because she seems to be the only one concentrating and paying attention". My J, who was told over and over that she has attention problems, can't focus, and surely needs medication, was complimented for paying attention. I've always said her "problem" was only apparent in school and they wanted her on medication because God forbid a child in their mecca of conformity tends to think outside the box and has her own way of doing things. Drug her up so she can be the conciliatory robot they want her to be. Ugh, I cringe when I think about it. She is the one who requested a structured homeschool morning. She focuses completely on what she's doing, never whines or complains about it, is incredibly proud of it all - then asks for more. She is an amazing example for her brother, who also is excited about his work. He does most of it on his own while I do other things, and loves to "surprise" me when he's done. Every day they confirm for me why we homeschool. I couldn't be more proud of them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I decided we'd get back to the structured stuff tomorrow, so the kids spent the morning doing their own thing (I had a mountain of laundry to put away). J picked up an English-Spanish dictionary and was into that for about a half-hour, telling me new words she learned and putting them together to make sentences. Both kids played on the recorder for a bit and we sat down together to watch a movie. We made lunch together, too.

K went to hang out with friends after school and J had her first day of dance this season. Today was Musical Theater, Tap Technique, and Ballet Floor Barre. She was thrilled to come out of the summer break and is so ready to start learning new routines. As for W, the school we originally thought of taking him to for basketball has now told us they only take 3rd graders and up. They did admit to having 7y/os on the team, though, so I may take him there next year. The coach is actually going to see if W can join this year. W's a big kid and plays pretty well, so we'll see. Otherwise I may take to a different place where they have "instructional" for 6 y/os. That might be better for him anyway. I'll call tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This morning we went to the homeschool group's art class. It's called "Reinterpretation of a Masterpiece". The kids brought in 3 prints of great works of art, chose one, and traced a basic outline of it onto tracing paper. J chose a print from Van Gogh and W from Monet. The basic outline was done using large shapes that just suggested the actual detail in the picture. W really got into it and followed the directions wonderfully. The next part was that they made a grid right over their outline.
Then they measured their outline to be proportionate to the paper they were going to use - which depends upon what artist medium they chose. J picked acrylics, which will go on a large canvas. W picked oil pastels which can go on watercolor paper (or any good paper). The idea is to then create an identical grid on the larger paper or canvas, redraw the large shapes to scale, and fill in the picture with their own "reinterpretation".
Using only their basic outline of large shapes, they can fill it in with whatever colors they want - as long as they generally use the original print picture as their inspiration. LOL, it's a lot easier done than explained. Today they got as far as the tracing paper grid. The rest of it will be worked on at the subsequent 3 monthly art classes.

The kids played outside in the park for the remainder of the afternoon. J hung out with her 2 best friends, and W ran around playing cops and robbers and climbing trees with the older boys. I ended up buying sandwiches at the deli, which I vow never to do again since it cost so damn much. But it was a nice little picnic we had. J and her 2 friends went back to one of their houses and I picked her up after work (around 9:30pm).

I called the homeschool office this morning and was spoken to very rudely by one of the women there (MS. BROWN). She refused to give me her name at first ("Why do you want to know my name?!") and abruptly told me NO, the Metrocards aren't in yet (although all the public high schools seem to have theirs already - K has one), all the LOI response packets are delayed (but God forbid a parent is late mailing their paperwork), NO, you have to keep trying Ms. Becoat's line until she picks up (Ms. Becoat won't answer her phone and her voice mailbox is full), and NO, there IS no one in charge here (huh?). This office is a disgrace. But, hey, if being a disorganized, chaotic, embarrassing mess keeps them off everyone's back and out of our way for a while - I won't complain.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

After the readaloud (J is now supplying some of voices with foreign accents, lol) and the copywork (W did Kumon's "Writing Sentences" today) they both went right to math. W did a page of Kumon's "Simple Multiplication" and J started her new math workbook. She liked it. It starts out easy - 6 digit addition, finding perimeters, and calculating coin totals (e.g. 5 quarters, 4 dimes, 8 nickels, and 7 pennies = ?). Then it moves on to more challenging stuff. I think really mastering the basics creates a firm foundation for the higher advanced formulaic math she's looking forward to.

So, week 2 of implementing the schedule is going really well. We'll start doing more history, geography, and science next week. They've just been touching upon those so far with a few workbook pages, experiments, and homeschool events. Together, the kids and I will come up with what we'd like to start with first. J will probably pick American history, which is cool because I picked up a great book a few weeks ago. I'll use it as a readaloud and supplement with websites, museum trips, projects, a homemade timeline, and documentaries. The same goes for science. The theme was unanimously chosen as "nature" this year (specifically: geology, ecology, astronomy, and meteorology). We have some great books to read and we'll do a lot of experiments, nature walks/sketching/identifying, documentaries, websites, gardening, and museums. Totally relaxed, hands-on, and fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The kids were very eager this morning to continue with The Witches. It's getting really good now. Then J's copywork was another poem and W's was from Green Eggs and Ham. His handwriting has improved so much doing this. After that, we cut up some canteloupe and watched a movie. K got out of school early today and we drove over to the place where she will hopefully be chosen to do volunteer work once a week. She dropped off her application and now we wait for the interview call.

On the way home we stopped for Japanese food and to buy a few more books at B&N. I found a great poetry book for J (and maybe W) to use for copywork and a 7th/8th-grade math workbook. She absolutely loves math and has asked for something a little more challenging than what's in the 6th-7th-grade bridge book. She started on prealgebra a bit last year, but she's realizing that math has somewhat of an order to it and wants to work up to algebra more slowly.

K went to a friend's house in the afternoon, J went in her room to learn some more songs on the recorder, and W played a couple of computer games. I took off work tonight to go to the big dance company meeting at 7pm. This looks like it's going to be an awesome season. J has 5 group numbers (tap, jazz, lyrical, large group jazz, and production tap) and 3 solos this year (jazz, musical theater, and vocal). Classes start on Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quiet day at home today. It rained on and off and we got off to a late start their scheduled stuff. Earlier in the morning J and W did a little painting on a paint-by-numbers 3-D kit. W is becoming quite a perfectionist. He "messed up" 2 of them before he was satisfied with a partially painted 3rd one. He didn't feel like using the colors suggested by the number and just did his own thing. J preferred to follow he directions to the letter and was proud of the way it came out. She also hand-wrote a letter to a new penpal. She's been asking for one for a while and I put the word out last week and got a couple of responses. Now as soon as I remember to buy stamps, she can mail it, lol.

We started the readaloud at about noon. Then onto copywork. W then did some phonics work and J did several bridge pages. One page had 12 various multiple choice questions. I had no idea she knew that it was Galileo who made the first famous observations with a telescope and Vasco Nunez de Balboa who was the first European in North America to sight the Pacific Ocean. I was impressed.

K came home with a 10/10 on an essay she did last week and is eager to start a big project due Monday. I'm glad she seems to be settling in well at school. She has off Thursday and Friday already. I called the school today (anonymously, lol) to ask about a few certain things I was unsure of. At the end of the call I laughed and said I'm sorry for all the questions, but I just want to make sure I have everything in order. The office secretary said, "Are you kidding? It's so wonderful to hear from a parent who is really involved in what goes on at school!". That was cool. I do plan on being as involved as I can be.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The homeschool group had it's monthly geography club meeting today. The country was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. J and her friend A did an oral report on clothing and W did his very first oral report! His was about the styles of music and instruments. He read from the paper (I wrote it out big for him and used some picture clues to help him with the words). He read with confidence and was very proud to finally be brave enough to do his own.

After the readings, we all ate. Congolese food is really really good. We had couscous with okra, chicken stew with rice, chicken and onions, salad with yogurt/cucumber dressing, greens with peanut sauce, and beautiful desserts of coconut pie, mangoes, papayas, and the sheet cake with the country's flag on it. We brought fried plantains. It was my first time making them and I thought they were great. They tasted a bit like french fries, so I brought some ketchup (which was probably not very Congolese, lol, but W liked it).

After the geography club, we cleaned up and set the tables up for the Mad Science demonstration. This is a company that does these great science shows for schools and birthday parties. He was hilarious and very good with the kids. We had about 25 kids at 5 tables. The class focused on Matter. He talked about physical and chemical changes. He showed us flare paper and the vinegar/baking soda experiment (he added blue dye to his - W loved it). The kids made several different molecule models, wore protective goggles for the battery/nickel/paper clip/liquid copper experiment, and got to make their own batch of slime to take home. The presentation lasted about an hour. Then the kids went outside to play cops and robbers while the moms chatted for a while.


I picked up K from school, dropped the girls off at A's house (where another hs friend was also) and they got to hang out until I picked them up after work. I love fun days like this.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Today was the annual street fair near J's dance studio. We got there around 10:30am and they started performing at 11. There were about 10 numbers altogether comprising all 3 company teams. J did 2 group numbers, her dance solo, and her vocal solo. All the kids did the big High School Musical number as well. K and W are in that one - K is Gabriella and sings by herself, too! It was so fun! The whole run lasted about an hour and then they did it all again at 1pm. It was a big fair this year. There were a lot of rides and bouncy things for the kids and so many stands. W bought silly string, poppers, buzz gum, and plastic handcuffs. K hung out with all the 14 other y/os and was happy to help promote the dance school. J and her friends walked up and down the 5 block area handing out flyers and holding the big studio sign. J's homeschool friend, A, came with her family to watch and my parents were there too. It was so hot - thank God they didn't have to change into costumes.After the fair, we went home, showered and changed real quick and went to my cousin's Christening party at 4pm. It was so nice to see the extended family. We got home around 8pm. J is sleeping over A's house tonight and working on the oral report they're doing for the Geography Club (typical clothing of the Congo). The rest of us can't hit the pillow soon enough, lol.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Today was the homeschool group's annual Back to No-School Picnic! We had about 50 families with over 6 dozen kids filling up the park. What a great day. I met so many new group members and reconnected with old ones. The kids were the best. We were all pretty much in one playground area and even though there were so many kids, there was no screaming, no fighting, no nastiness, and no exclusion. Everyone played with everyone, big kids helped and guided little kids, games were played fairly, and so many new friendships were formed.

Since our group has over 100 families now, 100 was the theme of the day. The kids brought anything representing 100. There were rock collections, homemade cookies, bracelets to hand out, etc. J brought her award bunny that has about 100 dance ribbons pinned all over it. We had a parade so the kids could show off what they brought. I loved it all.

Before we got to the picnic, I stopped to pick up a "new" bike for W. I wanted to get him a brand new 20", but found nothing less than $90. I just can't bring myself to get him an expensive bike when he's still learning to ride. It would get beat up so fast. So on craigslist I found a gently used 20" Magna that was just perfect - and only $40! I picked it up right after I dropped K off at school. He loves it.

J had her first dance rehearsal of the season this afternoon. It was just a once-over of all last year's dances to perform at a local street fair on Sunday. She can't wait til the regular dance schedule begins.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Day three and all's well. K is liking school, making plans with new friends, and she's even happy to do homework. She did a 350-word essay yesterday that she typed out on her Sidekick phone and emailed to B, who printed it out for her. She can even email homework and papers directly to the teachers. How cool is that?

The younger kids and I started with The Witches again this morning. They're loving the book so far. It has plenty of scary-ish parts to keep them paying close attention (they love scary). J did copywork from a poem book called Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash: Poems About Growing Up. She enjoys fun poems, but I'm going to print out some light Shakespeare next week and see if she can connect with that as well. W copied out of his Corduroy book. Then he did a little out-loud reading, some long-vowel exercise, and a section on telling time in the bridge workbook. J moved on to her bridge workbook where she did a section on synonyms, a page on the geography and countries of South America, and a page on multiples and least common multiples.

In the afternoon the kids decided it was bike-riding time. So I grabbed the old bikes out of the garage and threw them in the back of the van. J's front tire was totally flat and both of W's tires were. W's bike is this embarrasingly small 12-inch, but I grabbed a wrench before we left, took off the training wheels, lifted the seat, and almost broke the bike apart trying to raise the handlebars. He is determined to ride a 2-wheeler and I've put off teaching him all summer. He normally rides his Green Machine (a new-fangled Big Wheel) and really hasn't asked about a regular bike until this week. So I stopped at a bike shop near the park and the guy replaced J's front tire tube and "rim strip" and filled the air in W's tires.

It was a beautiful day for bike-riding. J sped off as soon as we got out of the car and W put on his helmet and with one push from me, pedaled into the park. He thought that was the most awesome thing in the world and I just couldn't believe he did that his first time on 2 wheels. The small bike was a good idea for learning. If he can stay balanced on that thing, he should have no problem adjusting to a bigger bike later on. After a little while he tried riding J's bike (22") and did just as well! He still needs to learn how to brake and how to stop without flying headfirst over the handlebars, but for his first day he did really great!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Second day here. K was happy to meet a lot more kids today. She still eats lunch with the 2 girls she knew before, but now the lunch table has grown. She likes her teachers so far and the principal already says, Hi K, in the hallway. She had plans today to hang with her old and new friends at the pizza place near school and is now at the park until I go to work.

When I came back from bringing K to school, I sat for 30 minutes with coffee and emails. Then I set the kitchen timer for 45 minutes and did morning cleaning. I swear by the timer now. By 10am the kids were ready to start on academic stuff.

We did another readaloud chapter from The Witches. Both kids gave great narrations. J then started on another poem for copywork. W wrote out the next sentence from Frog and Toad. He dawdled a bit and lost his place more than once, but then all of a sudden he sat up straight, got this serious look of concentration on his face and said, I get it now. I don't know what exactly occured right then and there, but he was all of a sudden determined to finish writing out the entire page. Throughout, we talked about quotation marks, commas, colons, paragraphs, indenting, and capitalization. I know he doesn't really understand it all yet, but he was happy to get somewhat familiar with it. At the end he was proud of his handwriting and that he finished really fast. I've notice that he writes better on regular wide or college ruled paper than with the usual 1st grade paper (the one with the broken lines between the solid lines). That paper makes kids write so big. W prefers to write small. His notebook has college-ruled paper.

W moved on to math and did about 20 addition and subtraction problems in his bridge workbook. He was fast with that as well, figuring most of them in his head and the rest on his fingers. Then he wrote out the whole capital alphabet as practice. J did a page of vocabulary and a page on longitude/latitude. She had to find a city on the map, then identify it's coordinates. We played around with this last year, so it was more like review. She made it like a game and challenged herself on how many she could get right.

My plan was to start out slowly with only reading, writing, and math for now and eventually build up to structured science and social studies stuff. But the kids literally begged to pleeeeeeeeease do science and even chanted "we want science" over and over. It's so awesome how much they love this. So, I decided to do a basic chemistry lesson on mixtures, solutions, and reactions. We talked about the fundamentals of each and then I broke out the vinegar and baking soda to show them a reaction in action, lol. J had seen this before, but it was all new to W. He was so amazed at the mini explosion, that he had to try it again. I would love to find other household substances that combine to create safe reactions. But for now, they have requested creating their own volcano. Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Today was the first day of schooooool!! K's day was great. She's happy to be back in the grind of things. I'm so excited for her, too. She seems to have a renewed confidence about herself and just wants to excel and be a part of it all.

After we dropped her off, B went to work and the younger 2 were eager to start their own work. I needed to make breakfast and clean up first. So J continued learning songs on the recorder with the self-teach book from the night before and W grabbed his Sight Words workbook and started on the next page - both on their own. Then I finally sat and started our schedule off with a readaloud. We picked The Witches (R. Dahl) and after a couple of chapters they each narrated back what they got from the story. W is really great at narrations. He remembers the tiniest details and puts in his own reasons why he thinks something happened. J likes me to throw questions at her about the story to show me what she remembers.

Then they went on to copywork. J copied a beautiful eagle poem from the Native American book we bought at the museum last month. She cracked open a brand new purple notebook and made it as neat as possible. W was doing the Sight Words book pages with me, but wanted to do "real copywork" like J. So I grabbed the Frog and Toad book and told him the first 2 sentences of the story would look great in his new green notebook. He copied it word for word with all the correct capitalization and punctuation. Then he read it to me while J was starting some Language Arts in the bridge workbook.

She did a section on fragmented sentences and one on finding which word was spelled incorrectly. Then both kids moved on to math. W did about 3 pages of review on telling time on the hour. J did a section of math from the bridge book. I love this book. It has just enough problems to get the point across without overkill. She wrote out numbers in the billions with words, did review problems on big number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and a multi question graph problem. And she said, Why is math so fun? And I just smiled and wished I'd felt that way too.

We had geography on the schedule next, but J went back to the recorder for a while and W went to the computer for a couple of games. We then had lunch and decided to hold off on our schedule geography til next week. The homeschool group has a geography club meeting on Monday and both kids will do their own oral report on the Congo. J buddied up with her bff, A, and they're presenting on music. W will be doing his first presentation and his topic is native clothing. He doesn't seem nervous, but he knows I'll be right there if he needs a helping nudge or two.

It was a great relaxing first day back.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ok, so I’ve been asked what exactly am I all about, as far as schooling.

I believe homeschooling is far superior to public or private schooling. This is for the many reason I had already mentioned over the last 2 years and most of the reasons other homeschoolers agree on as well. I’ve seen a love of learning dissolve in the classroom and then return after a few months of homeschooling. I’ve seen how the majority of kids treat each other in a school setting, and the result of it. No matter what anyone says, it is NOT healthy for them to experience. I’ve seen biased teachers and questionable janitors. I’ve seen my gifted child be ignored, stifled, humiliated, and berated – by the 1st grade teacher. I’ve seen how boring the day is at school. Kids need more play time, more 1-on-1 attention, and more time for themselves. I’ve seen my 4 yr old in a rage and full temper tantrum 2 minutes after coming out of preschool because he wanted me to buy him something. He already knew at that age he had to be fully “on” for those 3 hours – or it’s the time-out chair. I’ve seen how these buildings are set up like prisons – moving around together at the bell, having orders barked at you by those in charge (stand still, don’t touch, hands folded, no talking, walk in a straight line), rewards and punishments for how well they obey, barred windows, one 20 minute recess a day (maybe), no family allowed inside, and a police guard at the front door. I’ve seen educational concepts that take several months to master at school learned in a week at home. I really do believe most teachers are there for very noble reasons and go into teaching wanting to change the world. And then they realize they can’t and end up just conforming to the rules and sticking by the rigid curriculum they’re given. I have seen more good teachers than bad over the years, but in my town, what teacher you get is not up to you. And most of the time, the school you end up in is not up to you either. I don't see why we should take that risk. Thankfully, at least high school offers a few more choices here.

I have yet to find a bad thing about homeschooling. I figure, the reasons parents put their kids in school is for academic and/or social reasons. Not to mention, wanting to have 6 hours to themselves or needing someplace to put the kids while they’re at work. As far as academics, a homeschooler has an ideal situation (and I’m talking about the majority of us, not the .00001% of parents/guardians who use homeschooling as an excuse for neglect and abuse). A program tailored to his needs and abilities, very low student to teacher ratio, and a great deal of the day geared toward what he’s interesting in. There are hundreds of resources to use and guidelines to follow if you so choose. I find homeschooling socially superior as well. Kids are not forced to spend 30 hours a week with 25 other kids their age – whether they like them or not. Homeschooled kids are able to choose who they want to be around and make friends with and see them however often works for them. My kids have incredible social lives now. From the time they were born, they were outgoing, and at school they were in the popular circles. That has carried over into homeschooling, but now their friendships are so much deeper and more real. Their calendars are as full as they choose them to be (and that’s pretty full). Homeschooling fits into any budget, works in any kind of setting, and the children grow up happier, healthier, better educated, more self-confident, more independent, know what they want out of life, and thrive socially.

I have decided against a specific label for our method of homeschooling. We can certainly be categorized with many labels, but we’ll never be able to assert ourselves as true purists of any one recognized method. I’ll just maintain that our family probably fits best in the very broad spectrum of relaxed, eclectic homeschoolers. This is general enough to not have to feel we have to “live up” to certain requirements of any one label. We just live our lives and do what comes naturally. Although, we seem to be radical unschoolers to many, we could be probably be categorized into any of the following homeschooling methods because of where the kids’ interests take them: regular ol’ unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Eclectic, Unit Studies, and Literature Based. I’ve even researched distance learning and virtual schools (in case the kids ever want to try that). We’ve dabbled with a few ideas from Enki, Waldorf, Thomas Jefferson, and Montessori – it all depends on what the kids feel like playing around with at the time. We may even try a boxed curriculum one day. We could probably fit anywhere except School-at-Home. I’ve read all about the different homeschooling methods and pick out things I know the kids will enjoy. I like to think of our homeschooling as an “Infinite Mosaic”.

Infinite – immeasurably great. Unbounded or unlimited; boundless
Mosaic – composed of a combination of diverse elements ( )

It’s all learning, it’s all life, it’s all great stuff.

The underlying basis for us is that the children are in charge of their educations. They own it. Their learning is child-led and self-directed. This year they have asked for more of a structured rhythm to the day. I offered them a multitude of suggestions as to how we could implement this. They have always loved the Charlotte Mason activities and want their schedule to mainly consist of those. With them, I created what I think is a fun, very do-able schedule that they will enjoy. It seems to have enough routine and rhythm whereas they will both feel confident and comfortable. And of course, the kids will decide when and if anything in the schedule needs changing. In addition to complete control over their learning, they have freedom over their bedtimes, TV time (I do have an R+ ratings block on each TV for their own safety), meals, clothing, and chores. This may seem unharmonious in the scheme of things, but in having these freedoms, they live very respectfully and wisely. They are all in bed between 9pm and 10:30pm, the TV is off most of the day now and they have learned to compromise on what they do watch, they make healthy food choices and enjoy family meals together, and they wear whatever they choose - and I’ll admit they do a much better job of coordinating clothes than I do. I will request help with chores, but do not demand it of them. In turn, they voluntarily do many household jobs because they know it feels good to live in a clean house. I have also always done my best to practice gentle discipline and respectful living.

Having my oldest child start public high school put us into yet another category. She has always had the choice to decide what she wants to do. After her decision was made last year, I did everything I could to research what would be as close to a perfect fit for her as could be. I was her biggest supporter and she felt confident about her decision. Together we found a wonderful place that she immediately fell in love with after the first visit. She is still in control of her education and owns it just as much as her siblings do theirs. And if they choose one day to go to school, I will once again do whatever I can to help them to that goal. It’s all ok.

Homeschooling is such an amazing journey. We try to live life to the fullest and feel very proud of who we are and what we accomplish. We live in an incredible city and beautiful state that easily provides and supplements the kids’ education. We are so fortunate to be able to live the way we choose.