Homeschooling: A Lighter Load for Spring

I have gone to a lighter load already. My kids now do one assigned pencil drawing (art) assignment and a chore on Friday. Other than that, Friday is an unschooling style day. During the week, my kids do (in this order) one “spelling workout” lesson (4 pgs. long, including vocabulary, grammar and one paragraph of writing), 2 pages of “handwriting without tears” workbook, one worksheet of math in a binder I created for each child (from multiple sources), a half hour of reading non-fiction science book of choice, a half hour of reading non-fiction history book of choice, a half hour of reading fiction book of choice, a chore, and a half hour to two hours of interest-based learning (depending upon age).
This gives them more choices and they love it. Their spelling, vocabulary and writing skills are great. They are learning math every day. They get to learn the history and science that peaks their interest that day. I have a huge library of non-fiction books in all subjects and levels which I picked myself (and I am very picky) for them to read. I have a huge variety of fiction books for all levels and interests for them to choose from. 

We are constantly adding to our library, which makes the kids excited to see the new books. Sometimes, with their own money (the older they are, the more they generally earn), they buy books they are interested in.

As for the “boring” and “gave too much work,” I negotiate with my kids and change things up about every couple months. Last time, I took away some spelling (they used to do 2 lessons a day) and added the reading non-fiction (because my son wanted science in, and less spelling.

I also spend about two hours a week helping my eldest and about the same, teaching kids how to read and having then read to me (for the younger ones).

Montessori Pink Reading Extras

Extras for  teaching to read and write (montessori pink reading level, which is about kindergarten level).

Miss Rhonda’s Readers and Phonics Cards
Lowercase Montessori Alphabet Workbook

I am a Homeschool Mom, Which Means I Am a Teacher!

I am so tired of being excluded from conversations because I am seen as the wrong kind of teacher. I try so hard to get into conversations with full time paid teachers to let them know that I have so many experiences similar to theirs, and so much in common with them. Why can’t they see me as a teacher, too? I also worry about curriculum. I teach fractions, too. I teach reading, too. I teach kids to discuss stories and their meanings, too. I search for lesson plan ideas, too. I get worried over how to get kids excited about creative writing, too. I read aloud to my kids, too. I work late into the night and plan all summer, too. I get worn out and exhausted from working with kids all day, too.

Sure, we also have our differences. The problem is, all that the public school teachers see, are the differences, the things we do not have in common. If you are a public school teacher, please do not exclude homeschool moms from the conversation! We have a lot in common. Can we not just focus on what we have in common, instead of fretting over how we are different?

I have seen worksheets used by public school teachers, made by homeschool moms. It was found in the credits at the bottom of the sheet. I have used things made by public school teachers, found on Pinterest, made by public school teachers.

Granted, I do not have to do tests or common core, but I still think we can be friends. Perhaps when we do not see one another as someone to be feared, things will get better. If we help each other, things will improve for both homeschool moms and public school teachers!

On “De-schooling” and Me

My friend posted a link on a local homeschool group board. It has really made me think, a lot. Here is the link. It is an article by Leo Babauta. You’ll have to read it, before you’ll understand my blog post today.

http://unschoolery.com/de-schooling

It includes 8 bullet points for beliefs we carry with us, given us by our society and culture. These are:
“Kids should get up early and start learning as soon as possible.
“Students should learn reading, writing, science, math, history, etc.
“Students should be learning at the same pace as others their age.
“They need to learn certain things by the end of high school.
“They need to focus hard and really study and be tested to make sure they’re really learning.
“We need to force them to learn because otherwise they’ll just watch TV and play video games.
“They need to go to college.
“We know what’s best for them.”
I will modify them to what my current beliefs are. They are:

1) Kids can learn without the kind of “focus” school requires, though they will have an even greater focus, when learning things they want to learn. When they are focused in this way, internally motivated, they learn at an exponential rate. I do believe that when in this mode, the “really study” is there, but it is not forced. It is the child’s choice. There are academic subjects that the children will not “really study,” but will learn more slowly, with their own learning style. but they will not remember it well because they simply do not care. I do not believe in “testing.” I do notice, though, when my child wants to understand, but is frustrated. I do notice when their eyes light up, hear them say, “Oh, I get it,” and see that they can do it quickly with little effort. This is how a homeschool mom knows whether their child “really understands it.” It does not, however, necessarily mean they will retain that knowledge. If they don’t use the skills in real life, they will lose them. This has happened to me, with many things my school teachers think I “learned” by “proving it” with a “test.”

2) Kids should get up before noon and we should do the personal, family and homeschool routine, before bedtime. The daily routine includes personal health and grooming, household chores, the learning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my reading aloud to them and reading to themselves. It also includes 2 additional weekly academic subjects of the day (chosen by me). If they do not do these aforementioned, then every day, at least during the same calendar week, I will push them to “catch up” before they can have “just for fun” (not for learning) technology time, or play with friends.

3) I think my children need to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to have good values and character traits. I think they should love books and enjoy their parents reading to them. I think they should do their part in and learn how to clean the house, cook, and care for their family members. I think they should learn to spell well. I think they should have a regular habit of, and enjoy, reading on their own. I think they need to learn math in order that they might avoid debt and so that, with the entrepreneurial hearts they have, they’ll be able to do well in their future businesses. I think they need to learn science, as it is a part of us everywhere. I think that they need to learn to write and to draw, because knowing how to do these will be essential in their lives and will help them a lot. I think they need to know about their world (geography) and about what has happened in the world in the past (history). I think they need to understand freedom and how to keep it.

4) I would like my kids to have the desire to constantly learn and to progress. I do not believe that others their age learn at “the same pace.” I think all people learn at different paces, depending on their abilities and intrinsic interest levels in each area. I do enjoy instructing my kids and giving them the opportunity, should they want it, to learn all of the things that were required of kids at their “grade level” in public school in Utah from 2003 to 2011 (before the Common Core).

5) I want my kids to learn certain things by the time they reach adulthood. I do not have the same goals that the school system has, but I do have goals for them. I hope they will gradually improve themselves so that by the time they are adults, they will know:
a) To have lifetime habits that will help them keep themselves as healthy and well-groomed as possible
b) To be kind, considerate, good listeners, Christlike, wise, thoughtful, polite, honest, true, chaste, virtuous and to have wonderful manners.
c) To have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ
d) To be able to see and understand boundaries in relationships and decision-making; To be able to “stand up” for themselves and their own beliefs and decisions
e) To be “responsible” for their own actions and decisions: To know they are accountable for their own decisions and actions; To understand that there will be natural consequences for their actions and decisions in life.
f) To be hard workers. To be determined. To set their own pace and their own goals. To learn from failure rather than give up because of it.
g) To have been given the “opportunity” (meaning, as stated above, that I “offer it” continuously until age 18, but if they choose not to learn it, that is fine. At least they were given the chance) to be instructed in, all of the things that were required of kids at each “grade level,” in Utah, before Common Core.

h) To be enabled to make and reach their own personal goals as they are on each given day and moment.

6) I believe I need to offer the learning aforementioned, each academic or calendar year, so that if it is that child’s desire (which desire some of my kids have), then they will be at least as instructed as their public-schooled peers. I have promised this to these children, and I must deliver on that promise. I know I will have kids “just goofing off” (with non-instructional stuff) some days, even when I am “offering” instruction. Some days, they will have the eagerness to learn that cannot be held back. On these days, I must give them those opportunities to learn, as well as I am able.

7) I do not believe people need to go to college. I do have the desire to offer them that chance, should they desire it. If that child desires to be ready to enter college by a certain time, I will do my best to give them that opportunity which they desire.

8) I do not think I am “better than” any of my kids, and therefore, do not think “I know what is best for them” in every aspect of life. However, I know I have gained much wisdom and experience in this life which can help my kids have happy lives. I will impart my wisdom when they ask for it. I will offer it but will not force it upon them.

Writing, Reading, Spelling and Math

I have decided we need to focus more on Spelling and Math in our home education. I think they are so important. I am not going to go into detail about which kids are behind their grade levels, or where I want them to be, but I am going to tell you that I have made yet another new schedule, one which includes more reading, writing, spelling and math than did the previous one. 

I am really hyped up about it and so are the kids. My kids have known they needed to work on these subjects more. We just haven’t, because I have tried to fit in every single thing I want them to learn before they are adults, into each homeschool year, which is just not possible.

I really DO want my kids to know how to be an adult. I am just slowing it down. They can’t know it all now. We are not superhuman and cannot fit more into a day than other people can. I have to humble myself and focus on the small things, in order that I may get big results over time.

For now, these are our focuses. One thing I like about homeschooling is how flexible it is. It wasn’t until my kids made me lose my patience, go outside and read the newspaper on the back porch for 5 minutes to “cool off” my anger and re-gain a heavenly perspective, while reading it, that it dawned on me, TODAY IS SEPTEMBER 11th. WHY AM I NOT MAKING THIS A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE? I went inside and had a new plan. Today would be PATRIOT DAY in our home. I asked the kids what September 11th was. They were clueless. This was unacceptable. My plans for the lessons of the day went in the trash, so to speak, and we watched things about September 11th. No child of mine would be unknowledgeable about this day. Not while I am in charge.

I tell you this because I don’t want you to think that because we are going to focus more on Writing, Reading, Spelling and Math, that we do only those, or that we can’t just grab any day we want to, and do something completely off of the regular plan that day. I do have the other subjects in my schedule plan, and I do allow us to do unscheduled, impromptu things, as needed. I have added more time to the subjects mentioned here, though, and I think that is needful now.

If my children were having a hard time with these subjects in public school, the teacher would not change the plan, or the schedule, or the curriculum, for my child. I can, though, and that is a beautiful thing about homeschooling!

Main Earth Character & Earth Conflicts Changed

This morning I thought of all the things I hate about the story plan (I’m an outline person) for my adult paranormal novel. I decided to eliminate them and do something different. There was a war on earth, and now there won’t be. It just didn’t make sense. The conflict on earth has to be made of spiritual, not physical, danger. I also did not like the secondary (main on earth) character. I decided to make a different child be the main earth character. She’s 8 instead of 17.  None of the changes have been written down. They are in my head. Well, I suppose they’ve been written here now.

To the Library for Novel Outline Type-Up

I went to the Library on Saturday to get away from my family and get some work done. I typed up page after page of notes on the outline of my novel, “Postmortal Parenting and the Seven-Child Leaders of the Earth,” which I am doing with the guidance of author, instructor John Truby (“The Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller”). At home, it would have never been done, even though I have a computer. Why? Right now, I am breastfeeding, not lending to good easy-on-the-back typing of large amounts of text. When my husband is home, it is still not possible to do it, because the kids need to be taken care of, the house needs to be cleaned, food needs to be prepared, kids need questions answered, people call me on the phone, and my husband wants quality wife time. Even an hour at the library accomplishes so much more than months at home. It’s sad, but true. I am grateful that the county library system just gave us a new, closer library branch which is modern, clean, sophisticated, small, uncrowded and quiet.