School On the Move?

We've had a plan in the back of our heads for some time now that in two to four years, we're going to be moving. We know what we want in a new house, approximately where we want it to be, and an approximate price range. We even have a list of things that would be really neat, but we don't necessarily expect to find.

On a whim Friday night, I looked at real estate listings. I was getting tired, and told myself I'd look at just one more page. I clicked, and on that page was the magic listing. It has everything on the list of what we want, and most of the things that would be really neat to have. The location is pretty much exactly where we would want to be. In short, I managed to find what appears to be a perfect house for us.

Being the weekend, we haven't been able to actually get inside the house. We'll try to do that Tuesday or Wednesday. Assuming we still like the house, we're going to cautiously move forward. At every step, if we encounter substantial roadblocks, then we'll stop, and let it go, knowing it wasn't meant to be. There is, however, every possibility that it is supposed to be (though I admit that percentage is small), in which case... we'll be moving, during the school year.

Let me pause here to say that even though I only found this listing less then 48 hours ago, I've poured over the virtual tour, driven past it, learned more about the neighborhood, and discovered I could walk to my good friend's house from it. In short, unless the tour reveals a very grievous flaw, there's a high chance that I'm going to be devastated if/when this doesn't happen.

Right now, though, I want to dwell on the five percent chance of it happening. Even if things proceed relatively slowly, we're potentially looking at a move before Christmas. Let me pause to say this is one advantage of purchasing at least some Christmas presents early; if we move and it takes all of our money, at least I know there's something to put under the tree for all three kids. Let's also accept that from here on out, everything I say should have "potentially" or "maybe" or "if this happens" in front of it. We all know it's conditional, I just don't want to rewrite that fact repeatedly.

I like being done for the year the same week or one week earlier than the public school kids, and consequently, there's no extra time in the spring semester to make up missed days this autumn. I also don't think I'd have a high compliance rate or very good attitudes if we tried to skip our spring break. Ideally, a move would take just a few days of absolutely no access to schoolwork, and with proper packing, some work could undoubtedly be continued almost constantly - each kid does have a backpack, after all.

It's actually more the idea of selling this house that worries me, the idea that we could be settling in for a good morning of learning when the telephone rings and it's an agent, saying someone wants to see the house in an hour or two. Suddenly, then, I'd need to put away dishes and the like, and get everyone out the door. Let's not forget that I have Purple Child on top of my two students. The chances are high that some things would fall further and further behind. Spelling for EG, math perhaps for FB; neither are particularly portable.

My only conclusion is that, if we proceed forward, then starting on September 13, we're going to have to become 7-day-a-week homeschoolers. Finishing subjects that aren't daily, grabbing extra days so we can build up a 'bank' of extra days, all of that. It's not a horrible idea, but it does sound a little bit exhausting, especially since the week of September 13 promised to be a bit stressful on its own.

Yes, this house is awesome enough, though, that it'd be all worth.


Weekly Report: Week Three

The big news for the week happened on Saturday. I posted on facebook that it was the end of the world as I knew it, to paraphrase R.E.M. Why? Purple Child took her first steps. She was all of two days past the nine month mark. I admit, I had hoped for a later start date!

Fabulous Boy is making me somewhat crazy. It's clear he sees little to no use for phonics (or reading in general). After all, he has me, his father, and Eclectic Girl all to read to him, should he desire. He has a great deal of enthusiasm for handwriting, though, as well as his math. I do think FB thinks some of the math work is a bit silly (tally marks, for starters), but if I can rework anything to make it a game, then we have a winner. I also remembered this week that I have the Book-on-CD for Visual Perceptual Skill Building. I printed out the entirety of the mazes and he worked his way through them quite steadily.

FB has memorized three poems, and EG has memorized seven!

Both FB and EG were excited for the first day of Master's Academy. Our new co-op started this week as well. Here, they're getting ready for the first day at MAFA:

And here, they're exhausted from the first day at MAFA:

Eclectic Girl had a good week. She read Ghosts of the Civil War, If You Lived At the Time of the Civil War, Lincoln: A Photobiography, Caddie Woodlawn, and started its sequel, Magical Melons (it's my old copy, so yes, it just says Magical Melons on the cover!).

EG finished her review of fractions (she needed some review with adding & subtracting mixed numbers), and continued working in LoF: Decimals & Percents. She passed the Bridge to Chapter 11 on the first try: 100%! She also "beat" two different levels of math drill this week (we alternate between an addition/subtraction and a multiplication/division drill each day). It was a really great math week!

Grammar is still simply editing, but I can see it's getting easier for her to find each need correction. Spelling is still spelling. In Writing Tales, she finished Lesson 12 with a great retelling of "The Little Red Hen." Her next story to work with is "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

As might have been apparent from the reading selections above, we're quickly approaching the time of the Civil War in history. EG read Chapter 4 in Story of the World, and wrote a summary about Italy becoming a nation, along with the accompanying map work. In addition to her other memory work, she's got "The Charge of the Light Brigade" about 90 to 95% committed to memory.

Science lab was Thursday. I discovered that rather than reading the instructions, both of my pupils were constructing their circuits and the like merely by looking at the drawing of the finished product and attempting to replicate it. Needless to say, this meant that their first attempts just didn't work. After the cause of the trouble was discovered, though, things proceded nicely. Science, as you can see, is exciting.


What's For Dinner?

I had to do last minute rearranging of my meal plans for the week, which meant an additional trip to the grocery store this evening. Instead of thawing flank steak, my other half brought in cube steak. Oops. So, with cube steak freshly thawed, we're changing dinner for the week. I am bummed, a bit, because I like cube steak, but we've already had it this month. Additionally, this is the last of the cube steak from our quarter cow. While we're definitely wanting a half (versus a quarter) next year, which will mean six packs of cube steak, late May/early June is quite awhile to wait!

Monday: Cube steaks in the crock pot, leftover mashed potatoes from Saturday, and green beans
Tuesday: Leftovers - bbq chicken, hot dogs, etc.
Wednesday: Hamburgers, baked beans, and some fruit
Thursday: Leftover cube steaks, fried okra (hopefully that's in our CSA box this week), and Annie's macaroni and cheese
Friday: Payday! We'll either still have leftovers, or we'll have pizza night or spaghetti.
Saturday: French bread pizza
Sunday: Rib steak, squash casserole, hot cinnamon applesauce


Weekly Report: Week Two

We had a good second week, though it was interrupted somewhat on Thursday by a migraine on my part. Ouch!

This week's reading included Invincible Louisa, the remainder of Abraham Lincoln's World, Clara Barton (from the Childhood of Famous Americans series, this is my mother's copy!), portions of Physics (Basher), and part of The Cartoon Guide to Physics. I'm not sure what chapter Eclectic Girl and her father are reading in Sing Down the Moon, but I know it's ahead of where I expected.

EG finished her grammar for the week, completed steps 18 and 19 in AAS 4, and did a lot of writing. She finished her retelling of "The Doll in the Grass" and did a great job!

In math, EG completed a drill level (yay!), and worked on a few pages in Key to Fractions Book 4. She completed her first Bridge in LoF: Decimals & Percents and finished chapters six through nine.

We fortuitously listened to a podcast about Florence Nightingale this past weekend, and part of EG's reading in SOTW 4 this week mentioned her. (The podcast in question was an old episode of Math Mutation.) Instead of writing a summary this week, she has a poem to memorize ("The Charge of the Light Brigade") and a project on taking medical records for a week.

On Thursday, we had physics lab again. They did three separate activities this week.

No Master's Academy or co-op this week (both begin next week), but activities at the YMCA began, which for EG means stroke clinic on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. As it happened, EG is the only one in the clinic, so she essentially gets private lessons for the cost of group ones! She's also swimming on Wednesday mornings and possibly Saturday mornings, on her own.

Fabulous Boy's YMCA activity is the much-beloved Tumbling Teddies class on Wednesday mornings. He was so excited to go back to class! We worked through two more lessons of OPGTR, and he read the first three Bob Books. Another set of pages in HWT's Pre-K book. We worked a lot on the Memory game and memorization for math. I did get him a basic Kumon workbook on telling time, which he thought was fantastic. He got a new book this week which we read a few times - Seymour Simon's Stars.

Memorization-wise, EG has now memorized the first five poems and is working on the sixth. FB has the first down cold but still stumbles on the second. I think he'll probably move on Monday or Tuesday.

Purple Child and FB both have well child visits this afternoon, since chorus and band don't start until after Labor Day.


This Job I Do For Free

Don't let anyone tell you that homeschooling isn't a job. No, it's not one for which you'll receive any monetary compensation. There may be other rewards along the way and at the end, but they aren't monetary in nature (unless, of course, your child gets merit scholarships, but you still don't personally receive that money).

Don't let anyone tell you that being a homeschooling parent is just like being a stay-at-home parent. I've been a stay-at-home parent, and I've been a homeschooling parent. They aren't the same.

I have three distinct jobs. I'm the stay-at-home mom to Purple Child. I'm both stay-at-home mom and teacher to Fabulous Boy and Eclectic Girl. I'm also the administrative and support staff - I have to make disciplinary and curricular decisions, after research.

This job I do for free is one that I choose to do, out of love. I care enough to do it to the best of my ability. I devise replacements for colored cardstock (construction paper, trimmed to 8 1/2" x 11"). I collect slow cooker recipes. I chauffeur to classes, co-ops, and extracurricular activities. I do everything I did as a stay-at-home mom, except I also research curriculum, make lesson plans, correct math work, discuss literature, teach Latin, run a science lab, and desperately wonder where to post a timeline. Without meaning to be conceited, I do this, and I do it all well.

Don't tell me it's not a job.


Some People Should Not Homeschool

Homeschooling is not an activity that should be undertaken by all. Just as not all women should attempt an unassisted birth, not all parents are willing and/or able to take on the responsibility associated with homeschooling. Many parents realize this and do not attempt to homeschool.

Other parents, it seems, do not.

I don't wish to single out particular people, but I do see examples, and I'd like to cite some of them.

• If you've been reading a book for some time as a family, shouldn't you know that it is called Johnny Tremain and not Johnny Tremaine?

• A message board post reads "What would you do for kindergarten if you only had thirty minutes a day four days a week? My daughter will be a kindergartener in the fall, and she is my last child, so I want this to be fun for both of us. ...but with three older dc, I need it to be short and sweet." I don't really understand this at all. What will this woman do in two years' time, when she will have a high school age student (14), a middle school age student (12), an upper elementary age student (10), and a second grader (7)? Will she still relegate her youngest to a half-hearted, quickie version of school? I understand that formal academics is not as important at the kindergarten age, but it seems desperately sad that you would limit your interactions with one child so severely. How will the following year be different? How will more time appear in her schedule so that she can teach her then-first grader?

Homeschooling is a commitment. Many experienced homeschooling parents will argue that it should be approached as if it were a job. I would agree - and I suppose some would argue that four years lets me speak as one of those who is experienced. Unless you are planning to unschool, which is a completely different philosophy, you need to have plans, goals, and expectations. No, homeschooling doesn't have to mean drudgery. Often, enough school is completed to enable us to go out of the house by 10:30 or 11 am. However, that doesn't mean that it does not require some commitment from the parents. Depending on the approach that is taken, it can mean a significant investment of time and resources. Since I fall into the camp of "if it's worth doing, it's probably worth doing well," I'd argue that if you're not willing to make those investments, you need to look at why you're doing it.

What level of investment do I mean? It looks different for different families, of course. For us, it means a significant amount of time that I spend researching resources and approaches before purchasing, and then a smaller but still significant amount of time spent planning how we'll use those resources. On a daily basis, I instruct Eclectic Girl in spelling, provide direction with writing, discuss reading assignments, and check work in all other areas, requiring her to correct those exercises that were initially wrong. I also spend time teaching Fabulous Boy phonics, handwriting, and math. I guide both of them to do memory work. There's also a lot of reading aloud. Apart from the home instruction, I'm often driving them to enrichment classes or extracurricular activities. Yes, I would still take my children to the YMCA to swim or participate in swim lessons, even if we weren't homeschooling, but I think it's safe to say that many of our weekly activities would no longer be on the calendar.

My personal schedule has two thirty minute blocks, per day, for reading. One is labeled "Reading for Pleasure," and the other is labeled "Reading for Research." The latter one generally consists of items I am researching for school. Currently, the "Reading for Research" pile is relatively short: Classical Writing's Poetry for Beginners, Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies, and The Snake and the Fox. I'm at the nadir of planning, though, as we've just begun a school year, and I have 51 weeks to plan for the next. That list will surely increase!

I also consider it my (and my partner's) responsibility to model life-long learning, and a love of learning. My stack of books for "Reading for Pleasure" is composed primarily of non-fiction works, especially concerning various science and social science topics. Eclectic Girl is going to be learning to play the trumpet, which has inspired Titian Fellow to get out his old clarinet, and has equally spurred me to investigate at last fulfilling an old dream - that of playing the saxophone. We list to educational podcasts as a family, but not out of an effort to impress Learning upon the children; we just happen to enjoy them. Lately, too, TF and I have tried to showcase ourselves learning new things together. This has mostly taken the form of reading from the same book and then discussing it, but we've also purchased some courses from The Teaching Company that should be fun (and educational!) to view. Now, with regards to this paragraph, I'm certainly not saying that non-homeschooling parents don't do some or all of these or related things, or even more than this. I want, however, to draw the point that TF and I continue to do all of these things, in addition to homeschooling-specific duties.

In sum, then, homeschooling entails a significant amount of dedication as well as zeal, and this should be carefully considered, along with more commonly cited issues such as "don't you get tired of being around your kids all day?" or "my kids wouldn't listen to me, we'd just argue all day." Even when you are willing and eager to be around your kids all day, and your kids do not argue with you, there are deeper requirements that should be met. Yes, many homeschooling parents will tell you that of course you can homeschool; after all, you helped your children learn throughout the first years of their life. Advancing academics, though, are hardly comparable to biological imperatives such as walking, and you must be certain that you will follow through on your commitment.

I don't mean to be discouraging. If someone wants to homeschool, but fears they may have an issue with the time and thought needed, the desire can help make the necessary commitments happen. I do think, though, that any homeschooling parent must periodically evaluate what their homeschool is accomplishing, and if there are serious issues, they need to be rectified as soon as humanly possible, or the parents may need to consider other educational options.


I'm a Birth Advocate... not a Midwife Advocate

There was recently an interesting discussion on a mailing list to which I subscribe. It was, as so many conversations are, an offshoot of a previous thread. When retitled, its new name became "Is birth for everyone?"

The original author went on to elaborate her position. I'd like to quote most of a paragraph: "Nearly every basically healthy, normal woman can give birth entirely on her own. The most serious handicap most of us face is our mental state. After that are general health concerns like adequate nutrition, sanitation, and serious disease or malformations."

She further makes a statement which with anthropological researchers such as Wenda Trevathan would take issue.

"Birthing on our own is normal. 'Assisted' birth is a choice."

Another respondent rephrased that statement as "People don't NEED doctors/midwives for birth... they want them."

This also then began a good discussion on the fact that true choice must be truly informed to be any sort of real choice. Further, it was pointed out that it is very difficult to know how many women are truly benefitted by having an assisted birth, and since that knowledge is missing, it can be hard for mothers to make an informed choice. One of the theoretical, somewhat rhetorical questions then posed struck a chord with me (and I apologize for the pun) - "Does a cord around the baby's neck make a midwife a hero?"

Because too often I see midwifery advocates and clients not offering up midwives as partners, who can help women to reclaim both responsibility and freedom, but instead substitutes for obstetricians. Yes, the skills of a midwife can be important in some births, in ensuring the health of the mother or the baby. Yes, the support of a midwife can make a true difference in a woman's emotional and mental state, giving her the power to continue through a difficult labor or long period of pushing. However, midwives are frequently portrayed as saviors, just as obstetricians are. How they act as saviors does differ - obstetricians often save the day with the snip of a perineum or the slice of a belly, and the "saving" they provide may be unnecessary and necessitated by their own actions earlier in the course of labor. Midwives, on the other hand, are presented as the saviors in that women hand their own power to the midwives. Rather than "I did it," the woman may, in effect, say "My midwife and I did it!" The woman may give credit to an intervention performed by the midwife that "allowed" to experience a natural or vaginal birth. Many times, motives and actions will be ascribed to the nameless, faceless Hospital Doctors, and the actions of the midwives will be contrasted with those that the woman supposes would have happened had she been in a different location, with different care providers.

Make no mistake - location of birth and choice of provider (and choice to have a provider) are fundamentally important, and no two decisions will have greater impact on a woman's eventual birth experience. However, there often remains an ascribing of actions to an external locus of control, even by the women who had their beautiful, midwife-attended homebirth. This redirection of power is a negative thing, and can only serve to stroke the ego of midwives across the country.

Unassisted birth is emphatically not for everyone. However, the premise that midwives can be heroes and saviors must, I feel, be rejected. What must be remembered by all birth advocates is that birth is ultimately about the mother and the baby, and all involved in a birth should be careful not to take the power of the mother from her.


Weekly Report: Week One!

Weekly Report: Week One!

We're just wrapping up our first week of 2009/2010. I referred this being our Emeril year, and in keeping with that, I'll just say we started off with a "BAM!"

Eclectic Girl started off fourth grade even earlier than anticipated. Somehow her clock's time was changed, so when she thought she was waking at 6:45, it was actually 5:45! This week, she read Little Women, Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House, If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad, half of Abraham Lincoln's World, Where Does Electricity Come From?, Waves, and portions of Electricity and Magnetism, plus she listened to seven chapters from her read-aloud selection, Sing Down the Moon.

EG started her study of cursive, using the Spencerian Penmanship materials, and resumed spelling, completing review and Step 17. Grammar consisted of three editing activities in Editor in Chief A1, and in Writing Tales 2, she finished the equivalent of seven days as laid out - working on the story "Moses and the Bulrushes."

In math, she resumed work on Caluladder drill (speed is still not her forte), and she reviewed some fractions concepts using selected pages from Key to Fractions Book 4. EG also started her study of decimals & percents with Life of Fred: Decimals & Percents. I was really impressed, once again, with her quick grasp of the concepts presented (though I shouldn't have been surprised).

The Story of the World Volume Four was begun, with reading and mapwork centered around chapter 1. She also read the history-related titles listed above, and wrote a summary of one section from the chapter in SOTW. On Thursday, we had physics lab with one of her best friends, who's a brand-new homeschooler! They worked on the first five activities from the TOPS Electricity module, and appeared to have a great time.

In between all of her schoolwork, EG also attended the orientation for Master's Academy of Fine Arts, where she was excited to have moved into the third, or oldest, rotation; the open house for a brand-new co-op where she'll be taking martial arts, creative writing, and math club; and went to the instrument fitting to determine what instrument she'll be playing in the beginning band class of the local homeschool band. (The winner was trumpet, about which we're all excited!)

Next week, stroke clinic (swimming) begins at the YMCA twice a week. EG has had a great week to start off the year!

Fabulous Boy kicks off his official entre into homeschool with "prekindergarten" this year. We covered lessons 27 & 28 in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which he did very unevenly. It's perfectly clear that he both knows how to sound out words and how to read at least some common words, but it's equally clear that he's not going to be very serious about letting us know just what his abilities are. As far as handwriting goes, though, he's quite motivated, and he's zooming through his Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K book. He's suspicious of the crayon use with it, so while I'll have him finish it, we'll move on to the K level book by mid-year.

FB has requested a math workbook; silly Mom, separating math ability and writing ability! I'm on the look for an inexpensive complement to Right Start Level A. I may simply buy a couple of Kumon workbooks to appease him until he at least Kindergarten age. He's extrapolated the concepts to new situations and also is beginning to understand "parallel."

FB and I read lots of books together - too many to list. Next week, I'll begin being more purposeful about our selections at least once a day. FB also attended orientation for Master's Academy - his first year, and he's pretty excited. Next week his favorite tumbling classes start again at the Y, and a week from tomorrow, he'll resume swim lessons.

Both kids are using IEW's poetry memorization program. EG has learned the first three poems already, and FB has learned one and is working on the second. I originally bought this over a year ago and just hadn't implemented it, but I'm pleased with the return we're getting for a modicum of effort.

Last but not least, Purple Child finally ate food that didn't come straight from me. Really.

A great first week to begin the year.

Three Days Down

"Hey, Mama. Nine is five and four!" So said Fabulous Boy yesterday as we headed home from co-op open house. If you've used Right Start math, you might guess the origin of his statement, but what thoroughly impressed me was that we haven't discussed nine as a quantity yet. We're only up to eight, which means he had to extrapolate to reach that conclusion.

I've settled upon calling this our Emeril year of homeschooling. In other words, it's time to "kick it up a notch." For the first time, FB is having regular, scheduled school time with me, covering phonics, handwriting, and math. We read a lot of books, too, so he'll touch upon not just literature but also history and science through those books. He's asked for a math book "like Sissy;" Right Start Level A just doesn't have much written work (which I, silly Mom, thought was a point in its favor), so I'm on the hunt for an inexpensive workbook series that he will complement what he's learning in Right Start. I'm going to try to take a look at Singapore, and I've had a recommendation to look at Math Mammoth.

"Kick it up a notch" takes on a different look entirely with regards to Eclectic Girl. Being in fourth grade, The Well-Trained Mind would consider her in her last year of grammar stage, but as the authors acknowledge, kids will enter the logic stage at different times. It became readily apparent in the spring that in the areas where she had not already been doing logic stage-type thinking, she was quickly entering it. Our expectations of her have risen accordingly and she seems ready for the challenge. The first day went extraordinarily smoothly, we had only a few hiccups on the second day, primarily due to fatigue, I think, and today (the third day), we've managed to work ahead of our schedule.

The schedules are new. Over a year ago, I had purchased Managers of Their Homes. It's an extremely Christian book, to the point that I couldn't separate the wheat from the chaff the first time I read it. I went through it again this summer, though, with a great big filter in my mind, and I began to see how scheduling could help things run more smoothly here, especially as I added a second student. So I completed the process, and we have beautiful, color-coded schedules, one for each day. I warned everyone that they were guidelines, and that not everything on the schedules would happen every day. That's true. On the other hand, a vast majority of it is getting accomplished, which is something amazing, indeed.


Back To HomeSchool 2009

Tomorrow is the official first day of our 2009-2010 school year! Eclectic Girl will be in 4th grade and Fabulous Boy will be doing pre-kindergarten work, largely at his insistence. We had a fun day on Friday - Daddy took a day of vacation from work - that included swimming and going to lunch at Henry's in Acworth. Yum! The kids have back-to-school cards sitting at their places at the table everything is ready for the new year.

This shelf is holding most of the biographies EG will be reading this year. She's studying 1850 to the present in history. The second shelf from the top is sunscreen and bug spray - this shelf is also right next to the door to the backyard!

This year's read-alouds. I select them, and her dad reads them at night. From left to right, Sing Down the Moon, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Hobbit, and The Hunt for Red October. Beside the books are the file boxes for the final two levels of All About Spelling.

Three of this year's science kits: on top, Adventures with Color and Light, then TOPS Magnetism, and finally TOPS Electricity.

The top shelf is this year's supplemental history books. The second shelf is this year's literature books.

Science books! EG is studying physics this year. The blue binder on the left is my Master Binder, or that without which I would be lost.

Notebooks for the year. On the far left, you can see EG's assignment book. Then we have Latin, English, Math, Physics, and History.

Inside the history notebook, there are 36 tabs, labeled 1-36 for each week. Each has a sheet like this inside, along with mapwork and other relevant papers:
Sample History Page for 1850-Present, Late Grammar Stage

Our storage system - Trofast from Ikea.

EG's desk, including her new planner and her new timer.

More science kits! Water Physics, Sound Vibrations, and Flight! From Gliders to Jets, all from Science in a Nutshell.

The last science kit: Physics Workshop, from Thames & Kosmos.

That's it - I think we're ready!
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"A little rebellion every now and then is a good thing." - Thomas Jefferson