Evenings

By the end of my day (6ish) I sit down, with a book, a notebook, a drawing pad, paints, and something on the television or radio. Multitasking keeps me grounded. Usually, Jason is around, either making room near me while I have my crap sprawled out on the bed or coffee table, or he’s enjoying his time doing his thang (computer, snowmobiles, astronomy). The kids are sucking up their evening time with movies, Minecraft, and youtube while playing, drawing, and building. Maeve is running from front door to back door intermittently; call it her evening workout. I’ve come to love this time of the day when we can just chill. The kids run into the bedroom and tell me whatever it is that has popped into their minds, I occasionally have to remind them not to bump me while I’m “working,” we smile, tell each other loving words and go on with our personal time. What is so fantastic is that while we are separate, we don’t feel it.

During the day I’m completely enveloped in their play as it is my play too, hours of read alouds (seriously I read aloud 2-4 hours a day, thankfully not all at once) math, writing, cooking, plus all the adulty things that just need doing. This week and last week Jason has switched over to night shift for an unforeseen amount of time. The flow of my days has become all the more important and the extra task of trying (and failing) at keeping the kids quiet for the morning has added another level of planning to my adulty things to do. I call it a good day when I can sit down and contemplate on the moments of today while wishing and planning for the best tomorrow.

Getting Back to Nature

For four days and three nights we cooked over the fire, slept in sleeping bags, stargazed, plunged into swimming ponds, and made new friends. We learned about turtles, Native American ingenuity and the great big universe.

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When we decided to go on a family camping trip we choose a state park because of its price, location, and amenities. However, we found that the parks provide an amazing amount of activities, and learning experiences for the public at a very reasonable cost. ( In Minnesota a annual vehicle pass is only $25.) The speakers were fun, engaging and friendly.

We highly recommend using and supporting state and national parks as an amazing resource for your homeschool. Check out those close to you at the America’s parks website.

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The kids were able to find many critters including snakes, toads, frogs, and dragon flies. During the parks activities they were also able to meet Shelby the turtle and learn about all of Minnesota’s turtles and how to identify them. As well as, how they can help keep turtles safe.

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There was another wonderful talk on how the Natives utilized different types of tree bark to make canoes, homes, rope and more. The kids were even able to make their own piece of rope from the bark of the basswood tree. They even got to keep it as a souvenir tied as bracelets.

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One evening we were able to meet with two U of M astrophysics Graduate students who gave a great talk on the universe. They even set up two telescopes for viewing Saturn and a few stars. Jason also set up his telescope for viewing.

Oh, and of course we had Smores’ 

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All in all we had a wonderful time, learned a lot, and found another great homeschool resource. We have already started planning another day at Kathio in September, learning all about anthropologist.

Letting go of the school mentality. . . . and learning to read

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It has been a journey. I’m feeling the struggle in the process of letting go of labels. Most of us intrenched in the school mentality have formed ideals that can be extremely hard to remove from our minds and life. It is not as if these attitudes just disappear when you decide its time to give it up. They sneak in unsuspecting, in conversations with strangers and family, in deciding learning skills, when making goals. Even when your children play with other schoolers.

This year the idea of grade level learning keeps popping up, especially as we are entering the start of a new “school year”. Blake and Maeve are continually asked what grade they are entering, which has ensued a few awkward conversations. Here’s why, technically if he would have continued on track with public schooling he would be in 3rd grade. However, Blake’s learning is asynchronous meaning he is many grades all at once. After reading clicked with him, he improved rapidly (which is usually the case) and is reading fluently in most any capacity. I could say he reads at a 5th grade level or a 3rd grade level or even a 9th grade level, but that is exactly what I am trying to rid myself of. This idea that he is ahead or below grade level, opens the mind to comparisons between children, creates unneeded goals and places unwanted stigma on our children. These insipid labels have little meaning, you and your child are reading at a pace and comprehension that is at level for you, at the time. Once these labels are gone, real progress can occur unimpeded by expectation. (However I have to make it clear that I believe if at anytime you have concerns with your child’s development a serious talk with your physician is appropriate, they should help you weed out if your child’s emotional and intellectual development is within an appropriate range. )

The hurdle to learning to read was an emotional struggle for Blake, one that broke my and his heart. So for awhile we backed off, however, I began reading aloud to him more and more. We read 17 chapter books within a 6 week span. Books that he chose for me to read, and when he wasn’t interested in the story we just picked another. Somewhere along the way he asked me to track my finger along as I read. (He picked books by Bruce Coville, Rhoald Dahl, and even J.K Rowling) Then one day he picked up “The BFG” and said “I’ll read a chapter, then you read a chapter.” I was so excited I nearly jumped outta my pants, but I reared it in and said “ok.” He read beautifully, and when he didn’t know a word he would pause look at me. I would supply it to him, no questions asked. Soon after this I realized that Blake could not learn to read through phonics instruction and was strictly a learn by sight type. It became apparent that after seeing a word and hearing it from me once or twice within a text he was able to internalize that information. It didn’t take long after that for him to start burning the midnight oil, so he could read “just one more chapter.”

Since then it has become apparent to him how much information he can gain by reading. He has become a lover of instruction manuals, and the internet has become a treasure trove of information he can now “access”.

And so as we begin a new school year not only with Blake but Maeve as well, I am continually throwing away the labels, and fostering my children’s growth at a pace that is comfortable to them.

Decision to Homeschool

We have been “homeschooling” or schooling at home since January of 2014. I had never planned on homeschooling, and I’m positive my husband never had planned on it either. After 4 ½ years of being dissatisfied with the public school system we decided to plunge into the world of schooling at home. The decision was made quickly over Christmas break, and so we began the process of enrolling our then 7-year-old into the K12 format of online public schooling.

I was hoping to accomplish a few things with a Public school option at home. #1. I wanted Blake to be able to focus on learning to read, as a previous Reading-Corps member and avid reader myself I worried that Blake was behind compared to peers and knew he was struggling with self-esteem. I was told (by his various teachers) and saw that in comparison to many of his classmates/statistics he was behind. #2. I wanted Him to be Happy. My once joyful, caring son was becoming crabby, extremely emotional, and selfish. He was displaying these outward emotions at home and in the school environment. I was worried. In my mind, one-on-one communication and a less restrictive social setting would be ideal to help him work through his feelings. #3. I wanted to see gains in abilities. I’m not going to lie; I wanted to see him improve. Improve in reading, writing, communication, and behavior. #4. I wanted a curriculum that wasn’t going to cost me and arm and a leg. I wanted the support of another teacher. I needed this. I needed the guidance, the accountability, and the idea of a safety net.

And so we began schooling with K12. They sent us books, supplies, got us set up with a teacher, classroom and off we went. What happened that first year was a process of growth that needed to happen before I could realize that my sons education should be as much his choice as it is mine. That I have all the resources I need through the local library,  internet, and a daily engaged life. We needed that time to regrow trust, security, and create secure learning environment. I needed time to relearn who my son was, not what I or society wanted him to be. I needed that time to learn what kind of parent and person I wanted to be.

What we found with K12. . . rushed days with little engagement, more, and more, and more busy work (extra mandatory sites the school would like you to use). Mandatory online times for reading and math classes. We felt these were rarely needed or relevant to what we were currently working on. There was an inability to move ahead in subjects that Blake enjoyed, or to work longer in subjects that needed it.

What we gained. . .  wpm in reading, sight word or dolch word recognition, a disinterest in boring math (adding, subtracting, word problems, common core blah, blah, blah) but a love of math manipulatives and application.

What we needed. . . Freedom. The freedom to work on reading one day. Paint the next. To LEARN. Learn about ourselves, what we like, what we want. Experience. Travel. Culture. 

This past year has been full of research on my part. On the authentic homeschooling culture, on traditional homeschooling, on unschooling, and finding our way through the chaos of choices and learning with our 3-year-old in tow.

From here on out. . . an eclectic mix of child lead activities that fit with our goals. With food from thought from mom, dad, little sister, grandparents and those we meet along the way.