Thursday, December 2, 2010

Burning Energy to Gain Focus

I've been slowly reading through this book.  In doing so, I've discovered a common cure for the "crazies" when it comes to achieving better focus on tasks- exercise.  This may not come as a surprise for many, but my daughter isn't like a lot of girls who could sit at home all day and paint.  A sports activity each week may not be enough for her.  She's jumping off couches and stairs, cartwheeling in the middle of the family room, and expressively waving her arms in conversation at the dinner table.  

In other words, she has a LOT of energy to burn!

Since we try to do the most of our schooling in the mornings, I've been working on a plan to get her in a happy place before she hits the frustration point and quits.  Yoga and karate have been two methods I've heard that help kids with extra energy or attention deficits.  So I went to the library this week and picked up some children's dvds.

Both Bella & Brody got so into it!

We'll see if my experiment works in the weeks ahead...

The Learning Curve

As with most new ventures, there's a period of time that it takes for us to figure things out and adjust.  So it's been over these past four months with homeschooling.  Some days I feel so certain of what I'm accomplishing, and yet there are a lot of moments in between when I second-guess my decisions, the curriculum, our schedule, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

For now, I'm hanging in there.  I'm trying out new methods to keep us on task and to keep Bella's attention.

One of the more interesting, difficult, and rewarding aspect of homeschooling has been what I'm learning about my daughter.  I can see the conversations and struggles directing her to a more mature role in her education.

Bella works best when there are absolutely no distractions, but she's having to learn that that isn't always possible.  It's ideal.  However, there are doorbells, little brothers, and her own daydreaming. I've been pushing her to get as many lessons done in the morning to give her momentum.  By lunchtime, she's spacing out, so I call it a day. 

The hard thing for me, is that I also have to stick to this routine.  With doctor's appointments, phone calls, housework, and the like, it's so easy for me to get distracted and blow off a lesson.  But I'm also learning here.  It's imperative that I stick to it!  We're so much happier when we can see all we've completed that day!

In addition, I'm still figuring out what motivates Bella.  What incentives work for her?  This week, we decided to do 15 lessons, so she can get a pedicure with Mommy.  So far, it's working!  Ten lessons down, and we have two more days to complete them.  But I can't do this every week.  I'll have to think about some less pricey rewards for her putting her nose to the grindstone :-)  She is really into girl time lately, so it shouldn't be too hard.  Maybe a trip to get frozen yogurt or pick out a new book at Barnes & Noble? 

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I think my frustration has finally surfaced with our current homeschooling curriculum.  I have been largely uninspired because I have very little say in what we learn and how we do it.  As I said in my previous post, while the material is good, I am way too stressed about meeting their guidelines.  It just isn't my style (as lame as that may sound).

I haven't even known how to blog about it lately.


Eye, aye, I want to call the shots, take a field trip, and work on projects with my 2nd grader, and I want all that to count. 

All this hit home when Bella asked me, "Mom, why don't we do any art projects like I did when I was in school?" 


Taking her out of public school has only changed her environment (which is good, but is not enough).  We are still doing what the state tells us is important, and I'm not comfortable with that.

Therefore, I will very shortly be pulling out of the state-funded homeschool curriculum and going off the radar for a while.  I'm looking forward to planning subjects, activities, and themes that we can dive as deep as we want into, before moving to the next thing.  Including my 3-year-old in the fun of learning will be another element of our plans.

So after the horrific realization that we weren't planning enough art in our life, we read a book by Peter  H. Reynolds.  If you haven't read any of his work, I also recommend the book Ish.  Love them!

In The Dot, we let the story inspire us to paint a picture, and then sign it.  You never know where something as simple as a dot can take you!

We headed outside for some back porch painting.  Brody skipped the dots and only added them AFTER he painted "Batman" twice. Bella took her time mixing colors and getting creative with her dots before she moved onto other subjects.

View their finished work in our toy room art gallery!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Choosing the right curriculum

Since I'm new on this journey into homeschooling, I'm still trying to figure out what "fits" my daughter's learning style and our family's daily rhythms.  I originally chose a curriculum that I thought would help us start off in an organized manner, but I've found myself feeling quite like I did about public school expectations.  The content of our current curriculum is great, but the requirements make me want to rebel.  I'm still reporting to someone and having to do things they're way, which makes me feel that I still have little control.

Instead of diving into a subject and spending as much time there as we like, I am constantly hurrying us along to check off the assignment and complete some impersonal daily agenda.  I'm skipping fun stuff, like field trips and art projects, in order to maintain what they deem as "progress."

And so I'm returning to the valley of prayer and research as I consider other avenues for learning.  I was really pushing to stick with this curriculum for an entire school year, but one experienced homeschooler advised me to "go with that gut feeling" concerning my kids.

I am looking for options that involve less sitting and obviously aren't chained down by the state's standards.  Afterall, if we really step back and check out the ratings, the state isn't doing so great.  My daughter loves stories, writing, and art.  She wants to cook more and take piano lessons, and I haven't had a lot of time to squeeze these things into our week so far.  With that being said, we still need structure and shouldn't avoid any subject.  I just think we can do addition problems in 15 minutes, without boring Bella out of her mind with more and more instruction time on it.

What curriculums are you familiar with?  Please, give me your opinions and your suggestions.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Show and Tell

Here's what Bella's learned lately:

  • Spelling words are easy
  • Grammar is about pluralizing nouns (irregular and regular), digraphs/blended sounds, types of sentences and how to write a sentence correctly (capital letter and punctation), capitalizing proper nouns...I think about half of the lessons are review for her and the other half are helpful concepts.
  • In literature, she's learning about different types of stories: fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction; recognizing other writings like magazing articles and talking about the authors and illustrators. She's read the following assigned stories in addition to books of her own choosing:
Clara and the Bookwagon
Several of Aesop's Fables
Independence Day
Sam the Minuteman
George the Drummer Boy

  • We work on handwriting in each lesson, which was much needed.  I see progress. 
  • Bella has to turn in a writing sample every month or so, and her first assignment is a narrative.  She chose the topic: If you were granted one wish, what would it be and why?  Guess what Bella's response was? 
Rockstar Wishes
If I could be granted one wish I would be a rockstar.  I like wishes when they come true.  It would be my wish because I love when they sing on stage.  People cheering for me, dancing, and the lights are awesome!  If I were a rockstar I would play the drums.
  • With our curriculum, we also have the option of joining interactive class sessions online.  Last week, Bella presented a book report this way, and I thought it was cool.  She got to decorate a page with pictures and text to help her share her story with a teacher and students online:


  • Bella's still flying through this subject as most is still review for her.  Counting money, using dollar symbols and decimals, telling time to the nearest quarter hour, understanding a.m. and p.m....  I have to skip activities when I sense she knows a lesson and move on, or I lose her attention.

  • We both love history!  We're learning about Ancient Rome, legends, the government, gods and goddesses, Greek influence...After each lesson, Bella draws a picture and describes something she thought was interesting that day.  Here's a sample:


  • These lessons take us a little longer, because of the experiments we dive into.  It's probably the most challenging of all the subjects for Bella, since she has to be exact and memorize terms that she doesn't use regularly.  Last week we talked about the scientific method, making a hypothesis, and testing it by seeing which rubber ball would bounce the highest.  She liked that :-)
We do the bulk of our lessons on Mon, Wed, Fri mornings while Brody's in preschool.  The rest of the week, we try to fit in what we can.  So far, I think it's working.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Supplemental Activities

With our current homeschool curriculum, we try to hit certain subjects a couple of times a week: Math, Science, and Language Arts.  We're also given 12 more hours to do other learning activities not provided in the curriculum.  For us, that's Bible, cooking, music, field trips, and art (when we get to it).  We're racking up the hours in P.E. with Bella's cheerleading season in full swing.

I'm seeing the most rewards, not from the assigned textbooks, but from these supplemental activities.  Bella is memorizing about 3 Bible verses a week for her AWANAS club every Wednesday.  We were lucky to memorize one verse a month last year when she was in traditional school!  Training our kids in spiritual matters was one of the big reasons we considered homeschooling while they're young.  There is so much more time to talk about God stuff now!  And she has tons of questions.  I'm so glad that I can be available to help her answer them.

As parents, we have to remember that our children need growth in other areas besides the one-dimensional intellectual academics that schools generally offer.  Our kids have spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical needs as well.  I can already see a sense of peace in my daughter as we are spending loads of time together talking, reading, resting, praying, and hugging.  During this time at home, I hope that Bella finds confidence, security, and purpose before we send her back into a world of harsh expectations, confused morals, and misplaced priorities.  That's the kind of education I'm concerned about.

Don't worry.  She can still read, write, and solve math problems too.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not All Fun & Games

As we progress into a steady routine of completing lessons and charting attendance, I have already found myself making mistakes as my daughter's teacher.  The responsibilites overwhelm me at times and I can find the tasks daunting.  It's work- physical, mental, and emotional work.

Most parents would assuredly admit to losing their patience when their children consistently disobey or repeatedly interrupt or exhaust their energy.  This is all very true for me, but as a homeschooler, I now have to be constantly aware of my attitude and expectations as I watch how my daughter learns.  Patience, patience, PATIENCE!

I find myself getting lost in checking off items on the agenda.  There's no need to rush to see what subjects we can complete each day.  It's about enjoying the learning process.  I have forgotten that a few times.

We're still learning though.  We're ALWAYS learning.  The mother AND the daughter.   For instance:

  1. I'm figuring out that when she mentally checks out on a lesson, instead of pushing her to finish it right then, I need to remember that's okay to stop and come back to it later. 

  2. I'm finding that some things just take longer to memorize.  If it's new material, I shouldn't expect my daughter to be a genius and grasp new concepts right away.  It doesn't matter if we have to take the time to review before we go to the next thing. 

  3. As long as we're doing it, we're succeeding.  She's learning, and that's the goal.
The beauty of homeschooling is that she can work at HER pace- It's not a race.

I wish it could always be fun though.  While we have to hunker down and work a lot of the time, my internal thermometer lets me know when we need a break here and there.  There has to be time for free play, time to give my son some attention, time to clean the house, time to get creative, time to socialize....

It all takes TIME.  The kids, by their very nature, take up our time.  There are only so many hours in a day to do what we want and need to do. 

And it's a JOURNEY.  All journeys, whether going on a road trip, taking a vacation flight, or hiking a new trail, require perseverence, flexibility, patience, a desire for adventure, and a sense of well as, time.

Today, we decided to journey backwards by starting with the things we like and ending with the things we HAVE to do.  Brody has been wanting to make a lion mask, so that's what we did.

It took some time, but that part was fun :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A gradual start

Every day gets a little smoother...

Day 2- We met our online teacher and other local homeschool students in our program.  Then, Bella got to take a behind-the-scenes tour at CiCi's Pizza!  Running the cash register was her favorite part.  Eating pizza was mine :-)

Later we completed our first history lesson.  Bella cut out pictures of animals from different continents and stuck them onto the globe.  It was a review of continents and oceans for her, but she enjoyed it.

Day 3- Bella has been most excited about Science since we first started talking about homeschooling.  And it was quite an introduction to the subject.  She had to learn all new terms for the metric system!  Here we are being scientists:

Even Brody wanted to be a part!

Day 4-  After such a successful day Wednesday (we completed 3 subjects in the afternoon), I decided to see if some outdoor exercise would help the kids calm down the rest of the day.  So we took a bike ride with some friends for an hour, went to the library to get new books, and sat down for Math & Language Arts this afternoon.

It worked like a charm.  Brody's been a lot quieter this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day of Homeschool

Because everyone takes a "First Day of School" pic, here's Bella's first day of second grade (minus the backpack)!

So here's the honest truth.  Our first day wasn't the smoothest.  We kept trying to get things done, but then there's a certain little 3-year-old I'm still in the midst of potty training, running around making loud noises.  I attempted to keep him occupied any time Bella & I had to sit down for a lesson, but he moves quickly. 

I had to tell Bella to be patient a few times, because we're going through all these boring orientation sessions so that we understand how our curriculum works.  She can hardly sit in her seat.  Needless to say, there have been a lot of breaks!  We chug, chug, chugged on though, so we can get started as soon as possible on the good stuff!  I can tell Bella's itching to begin ;-)

In an effort to begin routines, however, we woke up at 7:30, got dressed and ready before coming down for breakfast.  After that, we started the day with our "God Time"which introduced the big idea for the month: OBEDIENCE.  Thank goodness for this reminder!  Since I don't have a specific Bible curriculum, I'm working from our church's current theme.  Soon, the kids will enroll in an Awanas program and have a weekly scripture to memorize, as well.  It is an important part of our education to include a little of this in our day.

After many technical difficulties (mostly on our online school's end), we completed just one Literature Arts unit.  I don't feel entirely confident with the program yet, but as I told Bella, "This wasn't a normal day.  It's going to take us a week to get to know how this all works."  So we have to keep going and not get discouraged.  It was just our first day.

Tomorrow's a new one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Our curriculum

There are so many choices out there for homeschoolers!  There are different learning methods, as well as, curriculum packages.  Our family is excited to try out the k12 curriculum for a few reasons: 

1.  It's free. Our state has set up a public school called the Georgia Cyber Academy, which provides this curriculum for a certain number of students in the state.  When registering for the first time, they set up a lottery if the registrants go over their acceptance cap.  It has actually "become the largest public school in Georgia."
2.  It's organized.  I think every homeschooler would say that getting organized and keeping up with state requirements would be one of the most difficult aspects of homeschooling in the first year.  For me, having GCA take care of my attendance, testing, and documentation requirements is a relief!
3.  There's accountability & support.  We have an assigned teacher who checks in with us and is available to answer questions whenever we need.
4.  There's community.  Because Bella is technically registered as a student in a GA public school, there are up to 5, 000 other children across the state who are using the same curriculum.  We're all connected so that we can meet other homeschoolers her age or go on field trips together.

This our first year, our first try, our first choice.  We may decide that it's not quite what we're looking for, but that doesn't worry me.  There are "much- much, oh, ever so much-much, so muchly much much more" resources out there for us to discover (quote by Dr. Seuss)!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not our first day

We sat in our driveway at 7:30a.m. to wave goodbye to our neighbors boarding the bus this morning for the first day back to school.  It was slightly bittersweet with a hint of a secret liberation.  While I always liked getting caught up in that back-to-school hoopla of buying supplies, new clothes, and sharing the jittery experience with others, this new feeling of a peaceful transition from summer to school is strangely inviting.

I no longer have to worry about what Bella will wear to school every day, or that she gets to sleep promptly at 8:00p.m. every weekday, or that she doesn't dawdle in the mornings getting dressed and scarfing breakfast in time to be at the bus stop. 

Our mornings are going to less harried, less stressed, less frenzied than they used to be.
Our evenings will be more relaxed, more fulfilling, more peaceful with less pressure to be somewhere every day.

Sure, we will have appointments and playdates and field trips and schedules to rush out the door for.
(I say, "rush out" because I am horrible at grasping how long it takes to do anything.)
However, we're suddenly in charge of what we do and when we do it.  If it doesn't fit a pace we're comfortable with, we'll politely cut that activity out. 

Just like that.

We start homeschooling next week, and I'm not a bit nervous.  Excited, really.  Full of anticipation.  Happy to not be in a hurry. 
Until then we're making the most of a quieter week.  The pool was almost empty today.  I didn't mind :-)

(to be continued)

Photos by Squeezebox Photography.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Creativity Extinct?

I have written down so many great quotes as I researched the idea of homeschooling.  I'll share them throughout our journey.  Recently, a friend shared a video with me that really resounded with my concern for my daughter if she should remain in a formal classroom at this time.  I worry that she is a creative individual who will be told that she cannot be.  Here are my favorite quotes from Sir Ken Robinson (I recommend watching his 20 minute presentation.):

Kids will take a chance.  If they don't know, they will have a go...They're not frightened of being wrong...If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original...and by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity.  They have become firghtened of being wrong...and we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.  And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities...

It would be interesting to note how many groundbreaking inventions occurred on accident?  How often did people try things without fear of what might not happen, but what COULD?

We don't grow into creativity.  We grow out of it...or rather we get educated out of it...

Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at in school wasn't valued or was actually stigmatized.

I spent middle school and high school in a small town that glorified sports, namely football.  The band was wimpy, the choir rarely performed, and we managed only one drama production in my entire high school career.  For an aspiring performer, I had to quench my thirst for creativity in my local church youth group.  But to be deemed a success to the population of athletic fans, was to be one of them.  I became an average athlete to please my peers.  But it wasn't where my passions lied.

Homeschooling will provide my daughter the opportunity to explore what she loves and is naturally good at, instead of forcing her to become what a system has decided she should be.  Creativity is life-giving, innovative, and essential to future progress.  It's counter-productive to stamp it out.

This world needs fidgety people like Bella.

Photo by Squeezebox Photography.