Posted in Family

Family Reunions

Before everything went down with my family, we had a wonderful five day escape to Idaho for my husband’s family reunion.

If I’m honest I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. I had only really met my mother and father in law and my husband’s siblings. I’m an introvert. A house with a bus-load of strangers (and the added pressure of getting along with everyone) was a tad bit terrifying to me.

And overwhelming. Not just to me, but for my son Caleb as well. Caleb has ADHD/ODD and is by no means a social butterfly either.

I was worried about drama, because these things are inevitable in large families.

I was worried about seeing my husband’s birth mom and adoptive mom in the same house for two days straight.

I was worried because I didn’t personally know all the men that would be there. And with the statistics being that 1 in 4 children are sexually abused by a relative or someone they perceive to be a close friend/authority figure, I think a small amount of anxiety is healthy in this regard. Momma bear instincts and all.

I was worried because I don’t do crying. Which is also inevitable at family reunions.

But as much as all these stressors were very clear to my husband, I also knew that I had to be the right example for my children. I HAD to be joyful, excited, and at peace about meeting more family because it would affect how my children reacted to this experience. This was important to my husband. So I put on my big girl panties and my smile and off we went.

The reality is: What worries a person who struggles with anxiety like me are often scenarios imagined (chronically) in our head that more often than not, never happen. We make big “what if” monsters entirely out of our imagination.

The truth is, none of the things I worried about held any ground. At all. The most I had to worry about was what did I want on my french toast for breakfast one morning.

It was soul-refreshing and wonderful.

There was plenty of sunlight and fresh air.

There was games, conversation, and laughter.

There was worship. And of course, where there is worship with the Hass family there’s me singing off-key.

There were pictures and family trees and genealogy building.

There was geocaching!

There was late nights talking or playing skip-bo. And of course, there was a game of Catan!

There were “new family” – people who like me, married into this family and didn’t really know everyone either.

And my kids had a blast. To the point where they didn’t want to leave and said they’d miss their cousins!

I was a little bit “socialized-out” and took some naps to help cope with the insane amount of noise and activity. But it was nothing a Tylenol couldn’t handle and I got back in the game as soon as I felt better.

All of this to say, my husband’s family is doing it right. Have the family reunions when people are alive and well! Don’t wait for funerals to bring family together! Looking back after my own experience with my mom’s passing, I’m so thankful to have spent time with everyone and have all these wonderful pictures that my kids can look back on and remember.

Specially if everyone lives in one country and aren’t separated by political asylum visas and dictatorships.

Posted in Family

Sprinkles of Grace

Good friends like Ralfie are around even though I had not heard from him since 2011.

Getting the gloom and doom out of the way in the last post, I have to say I also experienced “sprinkles of grace” on this trip to Florida. Any moment when I smiled, laughed, or felt joy was like a refreshing rain after a summer of forest fires and unbearable heat in Alaska.

And I’m sure my mom would’ve wanted it that way. She hated funerals and cemeteries. She didn’t want people mourning her and moping around. She even hated flowers because they remind her of funerals.

I am here to let you know that it’s ok to feel joy in the middle of grief. It doesn’t make the grief any less valid or real. And I readily embraced any comfort given to me.

Comfort came in the way of hugs with family I haven’t seen in ever. My family in Canada, for example… It had been 24 years since I last saw them! We only hung out for like one night, but it was so nice to be hugged and prayed for by them.

Later on my cousin came down from New York and spent two days with us. That was fun. I had grown up living with or close to him most of my childhood, or visiting his home over the summer when we didn’t live five minutes apart.

I always love hugging and spending time with my mom’s youngest brother and his family.

Then there’s family that’s not really blood but might as well be. My mom and Yeiby had met back in 1997. We were roommates in Venezuela from 97-99, then again in Homestead FL from 2001-2004 or so. We are talking about years of meals together, doing each other’s hair, helping with homework, etc. What the Bible calls “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”. I could spend time with them any day! That felt like home to me.

My high school biology teacher came to my mom’s celebration of life (the only one of my friends who could make it!) and then connected my sister and me with a trunk full of mangoes, star fruits, avocadoes, and even a jackfruit! Which we tore up… and now that I’m back in Alaska I’m bummed cuz I want more fruit…

And as a way of saying thank you for the trunkload of fruit we came over and made Arepas for their Dungeons and Dragons group. Which was fun! Got to connect with old friends and meet new people.

Not only that, but while in Alaska my husband found the time to take the kids to Dave and Busters, because no one wants to grind without stop. So they had sprinkles of grace as well.

I actually feel worse for my cousins who had to leave Venezuela, because through this grief of their favorite aunt, they were alone. Alone in Peru, or Chile, or Argentina. I was able to connect with family and reminisce, cry, and pray. They were left to their photos and Whatsapp. There’s nothing like a hug from family during these hard times, and leaving your parents in search of a better life is a hard time enough as it is.

Posted in Family

Stop this ride! I want to get off!

Just passing through…

I haven’t even had the time to sit down and blog the past two months. And that’s because everything came like a hurricane – the good, the bad, and the ugly – all at once. I would not have chosen this; if I had a say in the events of my life I’d schedule them out, give me a chance to recover. But in the span of only 15 days:

  • My oldest son needed oral surgery and major orthodontic appliances
  • My mom went in the hospital with pneumonia, in FL
  • We passed appraisals and inspections on the house, got ready to close
  • My mom’s cancer came back in her lungs
  • I booked the soonest flight to FL from AK, in the middle of everything here at home (Thank God for my friends Tony and Tracy who worked together to get me a ticket within an HOUR of getting “the news”).
  • My mom passed away in her sleep before I boarded the plane.

What followed felt like a Lifetime movie, and I was jumping through hoops to keep everything moving.

My mom holding me in one of her Venezuelan beach adventures…

I processed my mom passing away from the floor of the airport in Phoenix, AZ. That’s about all the time I got before I was on the ground making decisions, and planning her ceremony.

Her entire ceremony was at the hands of none other than my sister and yours truly. Thankful for the friends who helped, kept us company, or at least brought us food.

My sister had to move out of the apartment she shared with my mom, so we were also going through boxes and drawers, deciding RIGHT NOW what to do with all of my mom’s belongings. $160 worth of shipping costs from FL to AK later, and a suitcase costing me $130 on United Airlines, I can honestly say I kept as much as I could because I wasn’t ready to let her go.

Mom, Sister, and Me with the pink suspenders. 1991

I was too busy to be angry, but I felt angry anyways.

Back home, my husband closed on a home, packed our apartment, worked 60+ hours a week and moved us into our home (and completely out of our apartment) all by himself. Well with heavy lifting and a lot of help from friends the Saturday we moved. But all the packing, all of the paperwork, all of the childcare, all of the kid stuff was entirely on him while he’s working two jobs. I’m surprised I have any husband left and he didn’t just fall apart and die on me. Entirely grateful for having him in my corner.

The only family able to be there for the Celebration of Life. Family from Canada, Miami and me (from Alaska). She left behind another 9 siblings in Venezuela and nieces/nephews scattered all across South America and Portugal who would’ve loved to have been here.

While I was gone I would keep in touch with the kids and my son’s appliance broke, in the evening, while Dad was working. That made me feel so helpless. If I was home, I’d call the emergency line and get him to his orthodontist after hours. But because I wasn’t home, my husband had to take a morning off work to get him in. I felt a little bit like I was failing. I felt like I was being torn in two – half of me in Alaska, the rest of me in Florida.

So now I’m home! I came home to my house, to all of my belongings in boxes I can’t sort yet, to needing to figure out where the grocery store is or my new church… to having to set up mail service. And with weeks before my husband and I start teaching through AK Exploring Studies/AK Exploring Science. I’m still running… But it may be a good thing. I wouldn’t know what to do if I just sat still for a moment with nothing to do.

Teresa Karalus
August 14, 1962 – July 12, 2019
Posted in Friends, Homeschooling

Reaching And Extending… Socially

It’s no secret to people who really know me that I’m an introvert. I recharge my batteries after church or school events with solitude.

While it’s very easy for me to stay inside my happy little shell, I finished the school year with a Spirit-led prompting to make myself available. To branch out from my usual friends and family and be a supporting hand to someone else, somehow.

I know it was Spirit-led because all my plans revolved around rest and me-time. But I found myself in situations that made me realize, “This is a need… and I think I can fill it.”

I’m a pretty active member (when I have the time) with my kid’s school’s Parent Advisory Committee. Even though I homeschool, I partner with a state-wide charter school. This has made me a liason of sorts between the school administration and the new parents wanting to homeschool their children, and I realized quite gravely that there are moms who know my name and face when I don’t know theirs.

It put a little bit of pressure to make sure I actually represent homeschooling well to both fronts, yet I welcomed it because it gave me a ministry of sorts that I was unique to fulfill. See moms trying to homeschool don’t get ministered to by my pastor or his wife; it’s not their job. But God placed me in these unique intersections (not the pastoral staff at my church) so if not me, then who?

So I worked with new moms to get kids together for Dungeons and Dragons group since it was an interest that a few of our kids had, even though this isn’t my strong point and I don’t do much. And I’m working with my school to start a 4H Club since that was also their desire and I knew the Regional UAF Extension Coordinator, so why not? I’m helping them get the ball rolling.

My husband and I will also be facilitating a Love and Logic 6-week workshop for couples over the summer, because these classes are mind blowingly revolutionary and we want to help, at least at this time, with getting the word out.

We can’t do all things at all times. And there comes times when I can’t do anything, where life or health has me otherwise occupied and I have no effort to give anyone else. But that time is not today, so why not?

But I think the funnest and most meaningful stretching point for me is starting a book club. We are reading Julie Bogart’s “The Brave Learner”, and I even hosted my first tea party! This is new. This is out of my comfort zone. This does not come naturally for me, it’s not in my skills set. But it’s going great and it’s helping me reach other moms where I wouldn’t have been able to before.

The Brave Learner’s Book Club, in the kitchen of our homeschooling charter school.
Posted in Family

Bite the Bullet…

I signed my kids up (and attended) a free event put on by Friends of the NRA and other local shooting organizations at one of our largest outdoor gun range. I’m always up for an opportunity to get my kids around guns and handling them under the safety and supervision of professionals such as law enforcement, our local SWAT team, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s very common in Alaska; most of our high schools have indoor ranges and offer competitive shooting as a PE elective. There are more guns than people in this state, most homes own more than one! (And by the grace of God, every school shooting attempt or threat has been thwarted by our hard working law enforcement who assigns police officers to each school and does not delay in addressing social media comments as serious.)

However we moved to Alaska in 2009, so we weren’t raised that way. My husband and I grew up in families that consider guns to be evil and would never own one. The first time I went to the range, I was 30 years old. So this isn’t something that brings warm childhood memories for us.

In fact, If I google search my brain so to speak on the words “gun” and “school”, the first thing that comes to mind was the incident at Columbine – and the avalanche of copy cat threats and evacuations at the schools I attended. I also recall a lot of tragedies where a child found a gun and killed himself or a sibling – sometimes these children who pulled the trigger were barely 4 years old, not even old enough to be safe in Kindergarten during the school day.

Aside from all the personal reasons my husband and I have changed our minds and choose to conceal carry ourselves, I want my kids to fire a gun (safely, at the gun range, with adult supervision) as often as possible because:

  • Video game and TV violence has snuck in gun usage to younger and younger ages. My kids have seen people shoot at Captain America and he lived to defeat the bad guys with nothing more than his shield. But hearing the gun go off on the TV or playing a game where a gun is fired doesn’t have the child register just how powerful these weapons are. The moment my children felt the recoil of the gun in their hands, and heard the deafening noise of it discharging (which reminded them to put on their ear protection and leave it on all day!), their perspective on them changed. They can easily separate fact from fiction now.
  • Curiosity has killed the child tragically ONE too many times. Kids are naturally drawn to risk and adventure; a gun is not one of those things I’m letting my children have ANY curiosity about. There’s no mystery in it. They’ve taken law enforcement led classes where they disassembled and reassembled guns to clean them, they’ve been able to look down the empty (unattached) barrel of a gun and hold bullets in their hand.
  • All of our homeschooling or parenting purpose boils down to building a relationship with our children where they feel comfortable coming to us FIRST as a reliable and honest source of information. One day, when they’re older, we’ll have to bite the bullet and have honest discussions about sex and dating that we aren’t exactly having right now. But it would be very dangerous for me to assume that they’re too young to encounter a gun in this day and age, so we are going to beat everyone else to it.

Conclusively, there’s something taught with gun usage that is drilled into their minds and I believe it’s life-saving: Because you have to assume every gun is loaded and lethal, NEVER point a gun at something you are not willing to destroy. Target practice is appropriate. Waving a gun while recording yourself in selfie mode to try to look cool is NOT.

If nothing else, regardless of your stance on gun control rights or the second ammendment, I’m going to recommend you teach your child something about guns – no, I’m going to beg you to do so. I’m going to step on your parenting toes and implore you to drill this into your child the way you know “Stop, Drop, and …” (Roll, that’s right.)

If you see a gun anywhere at any time: STOP, Don't Touch, Run Away, Tell a Grown Up.  Never, ever try to transport the gun to an adult.  And don't try to argue with a friend who is holding one or convince them to put it down.  The moment you see a gun, run out of that building or area to another place immediately and ask a grown up for help calling the police.  This response saves lives!
Posted in Faith, Family

A Long-Awaited Open Door

I don’t think this blog post will have any context without knowing all that we’ve been through since I started this blog. So for a point of reference, I’ll summarize and link to previous blog posts before I start.

I married my husband “For Richer or For Poor“. And we’ve had our fair share of “poor”. As I mentioned before, “… we’ve been homeless more than once, tried to make ends meet in Oklahoma, Florida, and now Alaska. We’ve changed careers and jobs at least four times; from military, to Subway (making sandwiches), to the FAA, to selling cell phones, to now working in the medical field where he’s finally growing and doing great.” But I would not trade any of it for all the money in the world, because our marriage has been reinforced like gold by a blacksmith.

There was a whole year where we were technically “homeless”, living with our friends (9 people in a three bedroom condo) while we did some major credit repair (no thanks to a military leak) and tried to buy a home. It was a trying time that would have been disastrous for our friendship had God not intervened. But, as I shared in “Unanswered Prayers“, He didn’t answer by getting us into a new home. He answered by saying a hard NO and we moved into a small rental to nurse our wounds like dogs in a corner. My heart and my faith had nearly been destroyed through these “Hard Times” and it took some isolation to heal. Really heal. But as we healed, our friendships and our church relationships were like… lavender essential oil to a burn wound. Or an IV to a dehydrated patient. It brought our family back to life.

Through this experience over the span of 18 months I learned to dance with God in this “Cha-cha of Life“, and I saw God work in miraculous provision, and miraculous healing. Not because we got the house but because of everything He did after the “no”. I saw my mom beat breast cancer, and a lawsuit dropped. I saw the will of a church family in an envelope with $5,000 cash to go take care of my mom and reunite with my family.

And then the dust settled. And we all sang joyfully, “It is well with my soul.” And we took on new adventures, more manageable ones. We paid off our vehicle AND flew to Hawaii. We were making it work.

So this is where I give the glory to God and to God only: We have been pre-approved for a home loan and are in negotiations for our dream house. To be even at this step makes me terrified to share for fear that something goes wrong! But I can’t say it was our great budgeting skills (because mistakes were made) or our amazing credit score (which actually went down after paying off debt) or a real impressive mortgage application. It was God and He alone. It was a night where I was praying instead of sleeping and I asked God, “What am I supposed to teach my children from that rejection? God I want them to have faith in You. I want them to build their lives on prayer and yet we prayed really hard and our prayers were not answered. How do I make sense of that for the sake of THEIR faith?” And then meeting a new friend at a wedding who became our realtor… and who had a good friend at a mortgage company who took all of our stuff… and here we are. Hoping to buy a house.

We are a family of 5 in a 1,000 sq ft, 2 bedroom apartment and a beautiful, blue, sun lit open door has been placed in our path and all I can think is “Thank God for His mercy and grace” because I don’t know how we got here, I’m just thankful we are here now.

Even if this home doesn’t work out, our hope has been revived. And there’s no price I can put on that. Hope that God has always heard and kept in mind every tear we shed. Hope that His “no” at that time wasn’t because of His inability or our unworthiness. Hope because we don’t know and may never know why He said “no” then and seems to be saying “yes” now. But I worship a God who is so far greater than my understanding, I can’t calculate and manipulate His responses or bribe Him to give me my way.

Posted in In The Classroom

Making This Thing Work

I’m taking the time this summer to work on professional self-growth before starting to teach again in the fall. If I’m honest, I feel like there were some major victories but I also feel like my failures in the classroom out-weighed them all. With my confidence brought low, I feel it’s wiser to work with just one group of younger students until I learn exactly what kind of classroom I want to have.

Now, there are a lot of things for ME to do. Classroom management, curriculum choices… I could drown in all the thinking I need to do to prepare for next fall.

But the truth is, to make this thing work… The parent has some work to do as well.

My biggest struggle was dealing with unmotivated, disruptive learners. If I taught at a public school setting I think I would be more prepared to handle this but it caught me off guard – specially coming not only from homeschoolers (who, because of my bias, I hold to higher standards) but also from older teens that I expected more maturity out of. This was my lesson to learn.

I can’t help but wonder, though, what parents are expecting out of this system. Why are parents homeschooling in the first place? I had some who did so because their children had learning disabilities. I had some who did so because their children were very gifted. Some did so to protect the innocence of their children and others did so because it was a little too late and their child was on the “high way to hell” after their public school experience.

I’m not invalidating any of these reasons at all. I just want to take a moment to empower the parents for a bit – YOU are in charge of homeschooling your family. I know that feels like I’m dumping a burden on you (sorry to bust your bubble but that burden is already there) but I’m saying this to give you the courage and strength to make this work! Part-time classroom learning is meant to be the best of both worlds; distributing the weight of the education evenly between you and educational support, both you and me in partnership with your contact teacher from your charter school program (if any), so that the student gets a great school experience and a great HOME experience.

The HOME experience falls entirely on you. At a minimum, I need parents to state the expectations for homework and enforce them. At most, our children would thrive if you captured our classroom experience and built on it.

We only meet two days a week for one hour and fifteen minutes (per subject). It is not a sufficient year-round school program without homework. Beyond the homework there is so much you can do that only you can do: Read alouds. Field trips. Movies or documentaries. Cooking projects. Interviews. Once your child is home, how well this takes off is up to you!

You are also empowered to request changes to better suit your kids. I will work with a 504 plan or IEP, but I will also work with a parent without one. I’m willing to work with anyone through anything except a bad attitude! So don’t be afraid to take charge. If there’s too much writing, use “talk to text” and type up the homework assignments. Ask if the child can do half the problems if it’s taking them longer than expected to complete at home. Draw instead of write if inspiration hits that way. And if you want your child to do extra credit, assign it yourself! At home, you’re the teacher. That’s what you agreed to do when you decided to homeschool, and that’s what we want to empower you to do!

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

The Strength to Educate Bravely

This is not a sponsored post, I did not get paid to read this book or review it, and if you go buy this book I will not see a dime of it.

My current “I’m going to start a book club!” Inspiration

But I strongly recommend all homeschoolers to read Julie Bogart’s “The Brave Learner”.

Spoiler – The Brave Learner is not the homeschooled child. It is you. The parent. But now that all disclaimers are out of the way, I’ll proceed.

In my last post I shared how I learned this school year that I needed to let go of my kid’s education. And how they actually did BETTER being educated by others than in my homeschool environment.

In all transparency, this was a huge blow to my ego! I mean, I had homeschooled them for 6 years! How could they turn on me like that? And what would that say to the other 60 students I’m offering classes to!? I felt like a failure all school year – doomed because my kids weren’t progressing the first semester now that Mom was distracted with “part-time” work, doomed because I had to outsource and pay for their education at the hands of other teachers who were clearly better at this than me.

A Happy Curriculum Fair Goer

That’s probably the Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria aspect of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder speaking. But it was still there.

The turn around point from defeat to surrender was at the IDEA Curriculum Fair when I listened to Julie Bogart. She shared how her kids loved playing video games (and I felt a little less guilty) and how she played Yu-Gi-Oh cards with her sons for years (and I felt a little more validated). By all accounts I felt like we were in the same boat – so why did I feel like a failure while she is a renowned author and speaker?

But she encouraged me with a monumental truth I can’t help but share with everyone I know – a truth I’m not plagiarizing but making my own:

If I want my kids to be sincerely happy with this very different (and valuable) form of education, I need to let go of the type of education that makes ME happy and surrender to the life that makes THEM happy.

Today’s Brave Learning involved meeting up to play Dungeons and Dragons with other kids….

This next school year, my kids didn’t ask me to enroll them in public school or a charter school. And they didn’t ask me to enroll them in the same classes where I work. But they did ask me for real opportunities to work independently.

They want to do math online, specifically with Time 4 Learning. They loved their preview videos and felt like they would enjoy their time doing math in this manner. I wanted to enroll them with the fabulous math teachers I work with.

They want to do Oak Meadow textbooks for middle school, working at their own pace off one book (primarily) because Sonlight was “killing their love for reading”. I have mostly happy memories of teaching with Sonlight, and they loved the books! But they resented me for pressuring them to read the books as a part of their curriculum instead of allowing them to read it out of curiosity and enjoyment.

They have no choice with band. I paid $1700 for their instruments. They are stuck doing band till they get married!

My older two won’t even be in the classes I teach. They were more interested in the Oak Meadow materials than the subjects I would’ve covered next school year. I did not take this personally at all because at this point of the conversation, I saw the sparkle in their eyes as they ‘Ooohed’ and ‘aaaaahed’ over the textbooks that Oak Meadow brought to the convention. They are excited for next school year… I’ve homeschooled the past 6 years waiting for this moment of independent learning.

The time has come. I’m no longer the leader in my kid’s education.

Now my job is to be strong enough in my love for them to support them no matter what they choose, and to be brave enough to go on this journey being led by them (and not the other way around).

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

The Courage to Let Go

I’m super thankful to the charter school I homeschool my children through, Interior Distance Education of Alaska, which is different than the program I normally teach for.

Why aren’t my children students with the program I mostly work for? Because we started our homeschooling journey with IDEA long before I even thought of AK Exploring Studies. They are family!

My youngest LOVES WORKBOOKS and his pets.

IDEA puts on a curriculum fair every year for all homeschoolers in the area (more than one, across different cities, to be precise). It’s an opportunity to hear good speakers, and browse a whole convention’s worth of curriculum vendors. I love looking at stuff with my own eyes before considering what we are going to do next school year! There are also “fun” vendors like the Anchorage Museum, Barnes and Noble, or Classic Toys, which are a must-stop-at for my kids.

As a bonus, because I’m an IDEA family I can complete purchase orders at this fair for ALL THE SUPPLIES I WANT for the following school year. Some vendors will ship it to me in July (and most of them had free shipping as part of their deal), and some vendors give you a bag of stuff (like the vendors I bought Legos, or microscopes from). That means IDEA pays for it, I make a purchasing choice, I don’t spend any money out of pocket. We even walked out with three new iPads!

But for as long as I’ve homeschooled my kids it’s all been about ME. How I was going to teach. What I was going to use. I took into consideration my kid’s learning style, but I went with what I thought was fun or interesting.

He actually won money at his science fair project… Which to this day I do not understand.

Imagine my shock when my kids asked me – no, begged me – for text books. WHAT?! You mean you don’t love my Charlotte Mason/Classical/Unschooling approach?!? You didn’t enjoy all the wonderful readers I got from Sonlight?!? And all the projects from Moving Beyond The Page?!?!

And I guess this was the lesson for the school year: It’s time for me to let go. When I felt like I was hitting a wall with my kids and sacrificing their education at the altar of my new business venture teaching OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS, I had to enroll them with teachers and place them in a classroom (GASP!) where they had to do homework (GAG!) and even work out of textbooks (DEATH!).

But you know what? They thrived. More so than they had with me.

My daughter is my Pokemon Go buddy.

My youngest went from refusing to read or write to reading Robinson Crusoe, memorizing poetry and Latin, and diagramming sentences. My middle child went from refusing to learn her time tables at 5th grade to passing her math class at the very top, doing division and fractions like a boss and teaching others! My oldest wrote more essays (and learned to write better) the second half of the year than all the fussing and nagging I did would’ve ever accomplished.

So the first thing I learned at this year’s fair is that if I want my kids to enjoy their educational experience, it HAS TO BE THEIR educational experience. It is time for me to let go. And I did…

Posted in In The Classroom

My Report Card

I just finished grades for all of my students. And I asked my older students to grade me in return. After all, this was my first year teaching in this capacity! I want to do the students justice.

I taught Ancient History for kids from 5th through 8th grade. Started the year with 60 students, ended the year with about 55 – many students drop out half way through the year, specially if they do winter sports. My 7th and 8th grade classes together had 30 students strong all year round.

This is what they said:

These were the topics I covered through out the school year. And Australia.

I had fun teaching about the Romans because you can do so much! We did a day in the life of a Roman and really dove in to the different Roman classes… and played Mafia.

And well, for Vikings I dressed up, and we did lap books and Kahoots, so they liked that.

It’s hard to allow for conversations and keep the conversations on-topic. Rabbit trails are a struggle!

Actually, Kahoots was the biggest hit in my class with a 91% approval rate. By the students, at least. I’m not entirely sure the other teachers were happy with the amount of cheering and hollering that happened in this friendly competition. Another thing that had high approval was what I called “laugh therapy”, where I showed a funny video the first 10 minutes of class (helping with transition). My Role-Playing-Game (which I made up all by myself and brought dice and everything, playing out an Ancient Greece scenario), Florence CSI (I borrowed this from Mr. Roughton because I came across it just before teaching about the Renaissance, and it was brilliant!), and Extra History videos were a hit too.

No one hated what they were learning in my class, so I think this was good!

But not everything was roses. I had a lot of disciplinary struggles too. I have a hard time balancing the classroom, and I mentioned some of my thoughts on this “Unsent letter” to the class.

I don’t handle conflict very well and I honestly don’t know what to do with students who don’t want to participate in my class. I work for homeschoolers so the classes are ultimately, completely voluntary. That’s the reason why I don’t work for the public school system. My erroneous expectation was that every student was going to be there, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to learn. I never imagined I’d have students absolutely refusing to cooperate, participate, or heck even stay in the classroom during class hours. And then what do I do? Chase them down? Beg? Threaten? Bribe? How is it my responsibility to make kids care about their grade?

Obviously the kids who struggled with classroom behavior did not complete my report card.

Well, I’m trying not to take that to heart. I’m looking at resources to read over the summer in hopes that it improves next school year. My old biology teacher when I was in High School shared the same frustration with students in a High School HONORS class – and he’s got decades of experience! So if it happens to the best of teachers, I’m sure it happens to teachers like me.

Overall, it was all good notes, and lots of heart-warming comments I’m holding close to the chest. Next school year is bringing a world of changes, but it will all be for the best!