...Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16 This is the journey of our lives...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Our Homeschool Journey

How do we go from this...

to this:


Well I'm not. I'm going to allow this year to be the homeschool year I had always wanted but was too afraid to make a reality. Well to be honest, I've always started out really structured and with a beautiful, color coded, even hour by hour, schedule lined up and eventually my year becomes who I really am. I'm always afraid to plan it this way, but this year with a lot of help from some pretty amazing homeschool moms, I'm leaving the blocked schedules and just starting off the way I always end up anyway. It's wild and free, it's free range and although well planned and some color coordination has been involved, its looking a lot more like a good fit for our family.

Let me start from the beginning and try to explain this freeing transition of embracing my homeschool style. I was homeschooled, until high school. Then I attended a public high school and 2 years of junior college. My husband was attending a private college and working towards his bachelors in elementary education. I ended up getting a great corporate job and working my way up the ladder and was making more than my husband's teacher's salary. We decided very early on that we wanted to homeschool our children. Soon, I was pregnant with our first child and my husband was looking into a different career. I quit my full time with benefits job and took a part time job with the City, planning events, teaching dance and drama classes and looking forward to staying home with the baby. However, It wasn't until baby number 2 that a new career path for my husband allowed us to see a future of me staying home full time and homeschooling our growing family. By the time baby number 3 was on her way, I was beginning to formulate a homeschooling plan for our two boys. I immediately purchased box sets of Abeka materials and taught traditional phonics, math, handwriting, bible and on it went. Thankfully my oldest was easy and this made me feel like a total winner. I was on my way to becoming homeschooling mother of the year. Cue music...wah wah waaaah.... yep, you might have guessed this was a little early to celebrate my great victory. After baby number 4, schooling got a bit more serious. I was a little overwhelmed. Boxed sets of curriculum weren't easy to finish with a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, a kindergartener and a baby in diapers. I kept leaning towards this school of thought that my kids behaved better, learned more and enjoyed life when we played a lot, read books and discussed out loud what we were discovering. We made up plays, we painted and we read a lot. But this nagging person in my head kept telling me that that wasn't enough and with one of my boys showing real signs of learning disabilities that what I was doing was falling short. So the next few years I found myself in full research mode, always trying new things and always feeling a bit overwhelmed and a few steps behind other homeschool moms. Finally I gave up and went back to a more relaxed day, reading a lot, doing art projects, nature studies and lots of outdoor time. I spent a lot of extra time with my kids who were struggling and we did some special exercises and picture cards, but always we did copy work and read alouds. When sitting with other homeschool moms I usually felt like I wasn't doing enough testing, writing, book work, co-ops, or sports. There were a few other moms who encouraged me to continue to teach the way that I was inspired and the way that worked for our family. I took it in and I listened and although I still fell back into failure mode and would buy too much curriculum that we'd never really finish, we pushed on. I wanted my children to love to learn and to remember what they learned. I wanted them to be independent and confident in what they knew. Although I knew we were accomplishing all of thison an emotional level, I wanted to be sure we were keeping up on an academic level. But who and what do you compare yourself to? A failing public school system? Other homeschooling parents? Charter Schools and Private Schools? And then I still had my doubts about my son who was dyslexic. I had been doing research and creating a learning plan for him that was showing signs of progress. However, he was at least 2 years behind in reading according to the public schools. So I took him to the public school and had him tested. For 3 days he sat with all the specialists. My son was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. He was going to need specialists, reading, writing, speech, occupational, but only if I put him in school would he qualify. I was torn, I wanted what was best for him. I wanted to give him everything this world had to offer. So I sat down with a room full of teachers, psychologists, therapist and the principle of the school. It was our meeting to discuss what was best for my son. I brought all my curriculum, I brought my research, my colorful sight word cards, my exercise charts, his copy work book, a list of all our read alouds, his artwork and explained our daily rhythm of school to these very kind, very educated, very invested individuals. After a few moments the school's special education teacher looked at me and with a big smile said, "I wish we could do all that you're doing for your son with our special needs kids, there is no way we could give your son the time and attention you are". The entire room agreed and continued to ask me more questions about the research I had done to create his daily routine. I left that day understanding in a deeper way how much my kids needed me to continue on the path we were on. That was over three years ago and to this day I still wonder if I'm doing enough for each child, and each year something happens to re-confirm that this is what's  best for our family.
Our homeschooling style is very basic, I use unit studies to incorporate all the kids so we can learn together. I create a lot of my own blends, using pieces of curriculum instead of box sets now. I like to use a lot of nature and art with good literature. We use very traditional math programs, but that's because I'm not very good at math and so I need the outside help from the internet. We use co-ops for sciences with labs and drama club. The kids do a sport activity here and there, depending on their interests. We've done dance, theatre, soccer, baseball, flag football and team roping. Mostly for the experience. If my children were going to be professional sports players I probably would have noticed earlier on, so mostly they just like to do these events for the pure enjoyment. I still have my mom friends who think I don't do enough formal schooling, but I have others who do less than me. I have found a tribe of women who support me even if we homeschool very differently.  

It's been a long, teary, joyful, regretful, elated, enlightening, journey. I am still in the trenches and I still continue to question myself, but the last few years have been a turning point in all those doubts. Not because I became smarter or my kids became more obedient, but because I am more confident on the path we're on. Homeschooling doesn't have to look like traditional school or your best friends' school or the Christian school up the road. It has to be the things that not only fills your child with a love of learning but excites and interests you.
I challenge you to close your eyes and imagine the perfect homeschool day with your kids. Whatever that looks like, do it. And work at it until one day it becomes the reality you have. Your kids will crash that plan on a regular basis an you'll yell and people will cry, but one day for like an hour, it'll happen and you'll feel very accomplished. Well until you remember you forgot to put the meat out for dinner and you find the dirty laundry under your teenage boys bed.
Yep, it's that awesome. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

My homeschooling style

Almost the end of the school year!
I realize every other school in the country is out for the summer, but they didn't have as much fun as we did. ;)
We took some breaks, fall, Christmas, New Years, 2 weeks of Spring and a major surgery. Its the beauty of homeschooling. The freedom to choose when you do school work. I am on a mission to finish World History. We've been working as a family to finish it for the last 2 years and I AM DONE. It's been fun and interesting but I need to be finished! My kids will work a little bit all summer on a few skills and we will do summer reading, but otherwise our days will start later and include lots of adventuring and hopefully a trip across the US to North Carolina.

I have finally grasp and adopted my style of homeschooling. In my 10th year of homeschooling, I can finally pinpoint how I teach. I've always taught the same way and no matter how many times I start differently, I end up going back to what I've always loved. I think I've always tried to hide my style and fit into what I thought was the Right WAY to homeschool. I started with teaching my kids at home by emulating the school systems. I felt that if I stayed the course, my children would fit into the box of future education and seamlessly transition into college. This is silly of course, because not many children who graduate high school can actually do that. It takes something else for kids to transition into successful adulthood. A love for learning, thoughts of their own about their future, an invested interest in the world around them and I believe, passion. In my quest to homeschool the right way, I have tried many curriculums and some worked and some didn't. Even when a curriculum didn't work, I would tailor make it so it fit into our lifestyle of learning. I teach based on the needs of my children. I have struggling learners and I have easy peasy learners. Each one of them has their strengths and weaknesses and some strengths are not recognized in a traditional learning environment. So my job has been to find a learning style that encompasses the qualities that will produce a love for learning and minimal frustration.

Charlotte Mason has been an inspiration to my teaching. She talks about laying before our children a feast of knowledge through literature, nature and the outdoors. That children should play and through play they will learn.

I was afraid to follow my heart and teach my children this way. I wasn't brave enough to step away from traditional learning and just teach my children naturally, the way I as an adult learn. It wasn't until I truly thought back to what I remembered from school that I finally grasped how to teach my children. I was homeschooled from Kinder until 8th grade. And my mom was a pioneer homeschooler and although the only curriculum she could buy was from the local schools, she still taught us in a very natural learning environment. I remember sitting at my desk and diagramming sentences, but I don't really remember how, I know my math facts and I am thankful for that. I have to budget my check book! But what I do remember was the days we spent all day reading books, planting our garden, field trips, movie days with other homeschool families watching Shakespeare and holidays where we dressed as our favorite literary character and talked about it. We studied the fullness of life and my mother was more concerned about the people we'd be and the success we'd have as adults than the scores of our tests. Even when I went to public high school, I only remember learning about the things that I was interested in. The stuff that ignited a love for learning, the teachers who made learning an experience. The Scarlet Letter, dissecting a cat and putting all the bones back together, theater performances and passionate teachers who invested in our individual passions. All of these things left an impact on me as an individual. How then can I sit and drill my children in facts without making them memorable? Other than math ( oh help my bleeding soul), at which at some point we will hire a tutor if any of my children need upper level math to become an astronaut or pharmacist, I am creating a lifestyle of learning. We read a lot of good books, we draw a lot of nature, we build a lot with our hands, we take a lot of trips. I still follow curriculum and I still teach foundational truths that will allow them to go on to be whatever God puts in their hearts. But my heart's goal is to keep them in love with the things they learn, to find their passion and follow it. If there is an interest in something we are learning, we explore it.  I realize that I am not the perfect teacher, I don't have perfect grammar, I struggle with fractions and I don't know all the details of the constitution. The Lord has given me the desire to teach my children at home and the ability to research what I don't know and share what I do. I pray He will cover my children with grace and knowledge for all of my short comings.

Resources for encouragement




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Find your seasons of freedom....

Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing enough for my children....I'm pretty sure this is universal. Every parent wishes they had more resources to provide the right amount of activities for their children and if they have enough resources to do it all; they want more time.

In my wandering and searching for just the right amount, I started to look backwards. Way back. Long before families were run tired and ragged from activities and school work. I think somehow I've been caught up in this quest to expose my children to all the right things, sports, music, languages, fine arts....the list goes on. In this quest I find that I begin to lose something very fundamental. Freedom.
Although each and every thing on my list is beneficial, it was becoming tiresome and it was all encompassing. I was losing something, slowly it was slipping through my grasp.

Freedom. Childhood. Exploration. Self-realization.

All of a sudden my children were being told by everyone else how to do something, how to be, how to play, how to create. They weren't able to explore on their own without the pull of the piles of homework and expectations that were put upon them by all the planned activities.

This is MY experience and I AM a freedom fighter by nature. I am an explorer and a creative soul. I do not color inside the lines and I don't make a lot of schedules. SO this mama was trying to keep up with something that just rubbed me the wrong way. My children were holding up and yet pulling against the constraints of the activities. 

And then one day as I was teaching World History and my kids were asking questions and it turned into this full day of exploration and talking and natural learning and my lesson plans kind of went out the window. My children had this light in their eyes and excitement over learning something new and I knew that we had grasped onto something. Freedom! The freedom to learn the way it made sense, to hold onto the information and use it in the real world. It was a scary moment to step away from the text book and learn with passion. Normally, I forget everything I learn until the end of the test and I move onto the next thing and drudge through it until I've passed someone's expectation of learning. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to grasp it, to love it, to understand it. I doubt this will happen with every subject for every child, but it could. IF we can find the freedom in it. The joy of learning another subject can come alive when we are allowed the freedom to appreciate it in our own way.

I have to remember that the best things in life are free. The freedom to allow my children to explore on their own and find adventure in the outdoors to learn by their own mistakes....is priceless.

I don't know the right rhythm for every season in our life, it changes every year. But I have learned that living and planning through the expectations of the world around me produces failure and burnout. SO I am looking back, way back to the season of life when families worked together, played together and learned from each other. When children were allowed to play until dark and explore their own passions with the freedom to make mistakes and try again. Where trophies and tournaments and loads of homework weren't the only things that filled their minds and hearts. I want to leave an openness in them that challenges their hearts to search for what's important to them.

I am challenging myself to not panic in the moment when other people's children are playing Mozart on the piano or traveling to Europe to sing songs or winning the world cup or finishing college at 15. I am settling into my own ordinary and extraordinary. I am learning to pace myself and be busy enough for my extroverts and quiet enough for my introverts. Stepping back when my schedule starts pulling me away from the freedoms I hold dear.

Find your freedom. Explore your world with abandonment of expectations!

Be wild and free mamas!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A view from the top..

I was able to leave on an adventure to North Carolina this week. It was two, 8 hour travel days all to myself and a wonderful 2 days with one of my closest friends. Her 8 children and beautiful home on the outer banks of the Atlantic were a time of rest and fun. We were able to take moments to ourselves to visit and encourage each other during this exhausting time of parenting. We are both in the midst of tweens and teens. She is back in the age of toddlers and diapers after adopting 3 littles from China in the last 2 years. It is tiring and fulfilling in the most frustrating way. Yet, it feels like the moments are racing away and the children will all be driving and moving away at any moment.

It is always such a different perspective when you watch someone else do the parenting. It's amazing really, that a person can be bombarded from all sides, running on no sleep, and still manage to have this grace and softness for each little person in their home. It is truly a God given gift to be able to love our little monsters! I love my monsters more than anyone else in the world ever could. And although, every day holds these huge moments of failure, I must remember that this is my job. My most important job in the world and God knew that I was the very best person to guide these little people as they learn to navigate the world around them. I am the best person to love them and teach them.

I am reminded daily how quickly this world is changing. The news is pretty much off at our house. I get all I need from the internet and I am so quickly discouraged by the biased media... I suppose we all need a place to exercise our freedom of speech, our blogs, our Facebook, our IG accounts; but it is in our homes that we are able to truly have a platform. No one REALLY listens to us, but our children do. Our children are the ones who watch and learn from our every move, our every word and action. This is the place to be teachers and to make the biggest impact on the world around us. We have this platform in our home that reaches far beyond the world of social media.

As I was flying over the United States, from Arizona to North Carolina, I felt so small on the airplane. I am always amazed at how tiny I realize I am. From above our little tiny homes its easy to understand a little better how many times this world has changed over. How many generations of mamas and children have journeyed this life and struggled our struggles and loved their babies and lost sleep and shed tears. How many will come after me and worry my same worries? In my smallness looking out of the tiny window from the airplane. I realize that from my home, my perspective is small, my job seems small and my little world insignificant.
And Yet,
My moments are big, my feelings, my hopes, my dreams are big. They are big to me and they are important to my creator. He is using me to shape the little people in my home. And although I am not on Capital Hill, I am not running for Senate or even the neighborhood HOA. I am doing what I have been called to do.
I am finding purpose in the race I'm running, and contentment. Yes, contentment. That's a hard one.

Taking 4 days in someone's home and watching the magic of parenting, not the perfection, just the daily moments of grace. It was this reminder, to take a moment and evaluate the way I use my moments. I am self evaluating this life, this smallness and learning to embrace it.

Embrace the small moments and your small people.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Top O' the Mornin to ya!

I've had this love hate relationship with them since the beginning. Yep, the beginning of time as I know it.
Growing up, mornings were my dad's very favorite time of the day, this was ok as a young child but add in the teen years and let's just say World War 3 might be more tame. It was probably the most I ever fought for something. FREEDOM TO SLEEP IN!! Getting up at 5am to have breakfast with my dad before he left for work seemed, well....unbelievable and unfair!!
My mom made this commitment to my dad that she would get up with him and make him breakfast and send him off to work each morning. I've always admired her for this, well when I was younger I thought she was crazy. But the older I got and even now as I'm closing into 40, I see how, for them it was a special time in the day when the stresses of the world hadn't quite started yet and the beginnings of a new day meant coffee and bacon and a kiss goodbye. Today, I wish I could go back and sit at the breakfast table and enjoy a hot cooked meal with my family. Blurry eyed and sleepy watch my dad in his happiest place, around the table with his beloved family as the sun rose up over the mountains behind our house. Mornings were a beautiful time at my house and the sights and sounds and smells are still a part of who I am.
I know I'm not a morning person like my mom and dad and to be honest before I married my husband I made sure he wasn't either. There might of been a pre-marital agreement that he would never expect me to wake up and make him bacon before he went to work, I mean the details are foggy now but I'm pretty sure I wrote it down somewhere....I was 19 and kinda still hated the idea of watching another sunrise.
Fast forward almost 20 years and here I am sitting on the couch drinking coffee with my husband, in the dark, before the sunrise...And I'm enjoying it. Wouldn't my dad be proud?
Mornings have this way of setting the tone for my day. I'm attempting to find a balance for my morning routine. I know it's not at 5am, frying bacon and shaking everyone out of bed to hang out with me. I think, it looks like 1 or 2 hours before I wake up the kids, dark and quiet with my books and coffee in hand, a hot uninterrupted shower and then slowly waking up the kiddos to begin our day. It changes with the seasons and the seasons in life.

So mornings at our house are pretty relaxed and for my kids not very early. I'm usually ready, dressed and showered, bed made, 1 cup of coffee down. I push and shove the kids to do the same and we all eat breakfast in a haphazard way. Some eat cereal, some cook their own eggs and others eat a granola bar. I do the same and have another cup of coffee. We do our quick morning chores, which now includes feeding a horse, a dog and a bunny. We check the river level and sometimes the game camera across the river and then head to the school room to begin the day. I'd like to say we start right at 9am and finish after lunch. But some days we don't begin until 11 and school way past 4. That's the beauty of homeschooling for me, I cherish the freedom of my day, the un-hurried moments of sitting on the couch for read aloud. I still hate grammar and fractions and that could have deterred me from homeschooling. But for me it has been a challenge, a learning experience and now, because I have children who have the gift of those things, I can ask them!

I haven't figured out how to be more organized, or how to enjoy filing and paying bills, or how to enjoy teaching math, but I have figured out mornings. So maybe in another 20 years I will go 1 week without losing my keys....my husband would love me so much if that happened.

What are your morning routines? Are they beautifully orchestrated and organized or everyone for themselves?