Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So Far, So Good

Although Abby has honed her test-taking skills and Ford has proven to be a remarkable student, I find myself reporting that I am the one learning from this public school experience. I want to be totally honest, so here goes. One of my initial reservations about sending my kids off to public school had a lot to do with the fact that they are in the minority. The majority of the students in both of my children's classes are Latino. I was worried about this for two reasons. First, I imagined that there would be a large language barrier and that this barrier would make it difficult for the teachers to do their jobs, thus making the class struggle overall. I also imagined that the parents would be less involved because of the language barrier. I have found these two concerns to be false by and large. I often see Spanish speaking mothers, accompanied by the parent liaison, checking on the progress of their sons and daughters. And a shout-out to the parent liaison who is AMAZING. She translates everything at meetings and virtually kicks ass every day. She may well be the most important person that works there. Secondly, the kids have little communication issues, if any. They're little sponges who learn from each other so quickly that for the most part I don't see it getting in the way of studies at all. My Kindergartner has a couple in his class that don't speak English very well but by 2nd grade they're pretty much on the same page linguistically. I do know that language arts tends to be the tougher subject with a lot of them, but not to the point I expected. They are spelling, reading, and writing away.

Putting all of the academics aside, this is what I have learned most of all. I have learned about my own desire to help. I have discovered unused compassion deep within me. There is a little boy in my daughter's class who I will call Eddie. Eddie is a behavior problem in the class but I was unaware of this until I went on a field trip with them last week. The first thing I discovered about Eddie is that he is very smart. I quizzed him on his spelling words on the bus and he knew all but one and they had just gotten the list. You could see how proud he was of himself and he loved all of my encouragement. Then we arrived at the adult-led field trip and he started exhibiting more and more disastrous behavior. He would do one thing, get in trouble, be removed from the group, return to the group, then escalate the behavior a little more and start the cycle all over again. By the time we were headed back in the building for a craft, he was making everyone (including me) miserable. I took a moment to try and give him some perspective. I told him to start over. He said he couldn't. I told him to brush it off, put it all behind him, and start over. He said it was too late. I told him that it's never too late. I honestly don't think anyone has ever told him that before. Within a minute, he was running to catch up. He wasn't perfect from there on out, but he didn't get into any more trouble and he had a good time. I have seen Eddie at the media center twice since then and he seems so happy to see me. I was pretty tough on him, but I think he may have learned something too. I always wave and say hello to him and that little bit of attention brings a huge smile to his face.

Abby and I talked last night about setting a Christian example for others to follow. I told her that they know us by our actions and I told her how proud of her I was for her compassionate heart and her concern for her peers. I told her that God would definitely use that trait in her. I have always loved that quote from Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage and we are all but players." (or something like that). Even if the world is a stage, life is not a play. It is real. The more we start living the truth in our simple day-to-day lives, the closer we become what God intended us to be. God laid it on my heart to trust Him, to try the public school, to get involved, to push the edges of my life to the limit and do more. That's exactly what I'm doing now and I swear I learn something new about humanity and the heart of Jesus every day. The door to my heart has been flung wide-open and for that I say thank you God!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

I dropped my kids off at school this morning and my three-blog excursion looks to be coming to a close. Do I remove this blog? I guess not. I started out blogging here so that I could organize lesson plans, share ideas, and write helpful reviews on homeschooling books. People may still be searching out a good review on something I have used, so I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Part of me wonders if I should keep it going, turning my focus on school, supplemental ideas, homework, etc... Perhaps I should do that. Someone might find it interesting. Plus, if there is one thing I've learned, it's that you really can't predict what's going to happen in life. We may come back to homeschooling. We may face a particularly challenging event in school that I need to blog about. Who knows. So, I guess that's my new direction.

Now, how about names? I just turned in my check to the PTA so the title officially does not apply! I'm going to have to change it now just to make myself feel better; but expect it to change again (maybe several times!)

For my homeschooling friends out there, please comment here when you want to share something really cool that you've done. I would love to continue to hear about your homeschool experiences even though we have ventured off into public school. In fact, the education of our children is so important, I'd love to hear from parents whose children are homeschooled, or go to public or private school, and I'd love to hear from teachers too. So, if you found my blog and want to share - have at it! My next post will talk about the first day of school. I'm not quite ready to talk about it......right now, I just want to write my ad script for Moe's.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

God Is Calling Me Out

Remember that post where I said, "God called me into homeschooling but I realize that He can also call me out"? Well, I am settling into the fact that it may very well be the case for us. We're moving and buying a home - one that will hopefully be our home for a very long time. My job offer fell through and I'm still plodding along for Skip at AMTC, writing for chicken feed. Thankfully, we can make it work on the income we have coming in. Yet, I feel there are a lot of valid reasons to change course educationally. We may enroll our kids in public school for next year. Here are my reasons:

1. We are called to be a "light to the world" and our homeschool bubble doesn't afford opportunities to show our faith to non-Christians. Is this really relevant? Do you really have opportunity to do this in public school? Why, yes! I have friends who might have turned out very differently if not for the bonds they made with strong Christian friends they met in school. I have put a lot of emphasis on protecting my kids from the dangers of the world and I'm sure I will still do so. However, I believe that only through adversity do we become refined and strengthened. And more importantly, I need to realize that my kids have the ability to impact the world around them. For me, it's a question of trust. If we were missionaries in a foreign land, would I want my children to be isolated from everyone or would I want them out there struggling for Christ? In this area, school is the more difficult path and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our schools are in crisis right now and we have had the attitude so far that we should run from danger. Well, maybe it's time we entered the fight. By being in a public school, we can become a real part of the school community and affect change.

2. My kids are smart. They're not going to get lost in a classroom and they're not going to feel behind or odd at this point. Some of the same reasons I had for homeschooling are now reasons I believe I should stop. If they go to school now, with the foundation we've established for them, they will likely do very well. I think that both of them may benefit from another teacher. I'm at the point where Abby is getting a little lazy and I'm not type A enough myself to rid her of procrastination or sloth. I think starting school right now would make her realize how smart she is and give her a sense of pride and renew her thirst for knowledge. This is something I can see because I also went through this. My last year of homeschooling was ridiculously lazy and pointless but when I re-entered public school, I realized I had a lot to work with and it lit a fire in my belly to do well.

3. I can still participate in their education as much as I do now. I can still take time with them to make sure that their reading skills continue to grow and that they receive great math instruction. I can be a classroom volunteer and I can oversee every homework assignment and keep communication open with teachers so that my kids stay on track. I may have more opportunity to work on life issues with them and open the doors to conversation about the world around us. I'm not afraid of this, although I know a lot of parents that are.

4. I will have more time. I'm not trying to sound selfish about this one, but I really could use more time. My mom is nearly 80. We lost my dad last year and her health has been waning. She needs more from me now and I'm going to be a block away. Having their education provided for while I take care of my mom's increasing needs and run our household and work.... well that would be nice. And who knows, maybe I'll even find time to write the book I started last fall?

5. I may still need to work more. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? God gave me a half a brain and I can pitch in and help my family if I need to - if that's what He wants - and I'm OK with it. I feel as if we're being prepared for something but I can't quite name what that something is. It may be another job.

6. Baxter is ready for them to go to school. I won't lie and say that he's been really crazy about homeschooling. He has supported me completely. He has never argued against my desire to homeschool. He has always made the children feel happy and proud of their achievements and has loved homeschooling in many ways. However, when the question gets raised and he knows it's his turn to voice his opinions, he wants them to start school now. He's ready for it and he thinks the kids are ready now too. We've had many discussions about the pros and cons and at the end of these discussions, school is winning the fight right now. I am my husband's wife and I want what he wants. Knowing now that a decision to homeschool again would be completely flying in the face of his wants feels completely rebellious, subversive and wrong.

7. They want to go to school. They're curious and they have a very "Franklin" viewpoint pushing the school agenda at them, but they're ready to be a part of a school. It would be a very exciting experience for them.

8. Memories of school. I made some of my best friends in elementary school. My first triumphs and my first disappointments occurred in those early grades. What kind of a person would I be without those events and people in my life? In adversity I became who I am. In friendship I felt appreciated for who I was. School isn't all bad.

9. We can always change our minds. We can always put them in school, try it out for a period, and pull them out if it's a disaster. Knowing that makes it seem almost silly that I'm contemplating it this much.

I started this list, thinking it would have 10 reasons but I only have 9. For some weird, David Letterman-related reason, that really bothers me. Well, if you have another reason either for or against, share it with me! I'll post our official decision in time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Owen And Mzee

During our Africa Unit Study, my kids had so much fun learning about two unlikely friends, Owen and Mzee. I happened upon the books Owen & Mzee: The True Story of A Remarkable Friendship and Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship at our local library. The first tells the true tale of Owen, an adorable baby hippo who is lost from his mother and group after the devastating tsunami of 2006 and the unusual friendship he finds in a 130 year old tortoise named Mzee. The books were great and widely available at local libraries. Better still was the information we found at There is an entire section just for kids that includes sing-alongs, interactive educational games, fun print-outs and more! They are so adorable that I'm tempted to pack a bag for Kenya myself just to get a firsthand look at this oddly-cute couple. If you need a great activity about animals, friendship, or just want something fun to do for a couple of days, I highly recommend a two-day unit on Owen and Mzee.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Garden Project

Planting a garden with your children can be a wonderful thing to incorporate into your homeschool lessons. We have made substantial progress in our garden so far. We should have started planning in January and ordered great seeds in the mail. If you plan ahead, you can get heirloom varieties and hard to find things like garlic and onion sets. However, this didn't happen for me. I got my Burpee seed catalogue and never even opened it. Winter was so long and cold that the prospect of planning for spring seemed to far off to even consider. I waited too long. I didn't wait too long to go buy seeds from a local retailer, however. We spent one day planning our crops and buying seeds. The next day was spent plotting out the garden in the yard itself and beginning the tilling process.

Each seed packet has full instructions on when and what to do. The kids helped sorting out things into the following categories:
  • sow into the ground this week
  • sow into the ground later
  • start indoors

I was able to get peas, swiss chard, lettuce and carrots in the ground on time in the first corner of our garden that we tilled. The next day, we started our seedlings in a tabletop greenhouse that we bought at a big box store. It cost $6 and has 72 plant plugs. That plus the seeds was really affordable.

While we were planting seeds in the vegetable patch, we decided to get some real grass started in the front yard too, and sprinkle a healthy handful of wildflower seeds in the front flower beds. My small children were able to take part in each step. They learned how to plan, procure, ready the soil, plant, and water. Then, we got two exciting moments this week. God sent us rain to help our seeds grow AND we have germinating seeds in two rows in our indoor greenhouse. Not only is this a great science project for the kids, but it will provide us all with exercise, sunshine and delicious fresh vegetables when all is said and done. So, if you have the chance to, consider putting your books away for a day or two in the early spring and learn some things hands on in the garden with your kids.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Summer Lessons Learned

Some of the most important things about life, I learned outside. More specifically, I learned them playing in and around my grandfather's yard. They lived next door to us and he was an avid gardener. He tended to use too many chemicals for my taste, but his heart was in the right place. His yard was his masterpiece. He had been a farmer of some kind all his life. That's the way people got through tough times back then! My mom grew up with chickens, hogs, and a milk cow. She remembers her grandmother patting out their butter with her own hands. When they ate chicken, her older brother had to wring their necks and she and her twin sister had to pluck them. Compared to how easy it is to procure our ingredients today, it's hard to even compare the two. I might have to travel to several stores if I'm really budgeting and shopping the sales but I am not getting to know our food before I deep fry it.

After living through the depression, WWII, and the 1950's - which were pretty hard in their own right and no one ever talks about that - my grandparents developed some land off Atlanta Rd, back in the woods, and built a house. My parents built there too, as did my aunt and uncle. It was neat living next to my grandparents. It was like having two backyards to play in. Since he was retired and no longer had to raise "crops" or have farm animals, he gardened for pleasure. He planted azaleas, flowering trees, and roses. My grandmother must have loved this so much. I think he pampered her. They built in the early 60's and I didn't come along until 1976 so things were pretty well established by then. I remember thinking that my grandfather was this wise old gardener, who knew everything about how to make things grow. He liked talking to me and telling me stories and I liked listening to them.

One year, he planted a rose bush that was mine. He told me to come talk to it every day and pick off the beetles and watch it for disease. I loved having my "own" rose bush and I remember being afraid to pick the roses on it. I guess I preferred to see it covered in blooms; but if you know anything about roses, you know it likes you to pick them. That rose bush has been gone for years; but when I visit my brother who lives there now, I can still see the rectangular plot of my grandfather's garden and can imagine the exact spot where my rosebush was - second row back third bush from the right.

We have decided to plant a garden this year. I always plant something around the mailbox and in the flower beds but this year I want to grow vegetables too. We have begun planning our garden and will start our seeds this weekend. I hope my kids learn as much from the experience of gardening as I did. What a wonderful way to transition our learning from the classroom to the outdoors for spring and summer!

For helpful information on starting a garden in Georgia, visit the The University of Georgia Extension Service or refer to this helpful article from their office I found online, Georgia Gardens.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thinking Ahead and Looking Back

It's official: I have begun searching for next year's curriculum. This will be our third year homeschooling and with each year, there will be new challenges. I want to begin first by thinking about our first two years.

In my first two years of homeschooling my kids, I will have completed teaching both of them how to read. This in and of itself is a monumental task. It's funny how little I think about that or dwell on how completely awesome that is. I can really testify to the fact that teaching your children to read is about as rewarding as it gets. In the first two years, we will have used the library a lot, reading our way through countries all over the world and many other subjects too. We have learned the joys of using Internet resources and television. I have become an expert in learning styles, time management, and loving my kids through a variety of frustrating situations. We have joined a homeschool group where we feel we fit in well and is a great source of social interaction. We suffered through one big move in which we downsized our home by more than half, made some sacrifices, and learned what is truly important in life. We also experienced a period of grief when my father passed away and we learned many life lessons together.

Our first two years homeschooling were absolutely the best thing I have ever done for my kids. Homeschooling itself allowed us to relocate with relative ease and gave us the flexibility we needed when faced with a family crisis. In tough times, homeschooling is actually the easier option. I couldn't imagine having my kids in school and trying to cope with either of those situations. Sitting down and thinking about the various challenges we have faced, both great and small, I realize just how wonderful homeschooling has been for our family. Whatever I choose for next year, I know that I'm making a wonderful decision for my family to educate them well.