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!

Posted in In The Classroom

An Unsent Letter To My Students

Things I’ve wanted to tell my students, but I bit my tongue instead:

I have never been so amazed at the wonders of God seeing sooo many unique individuals – even among families! Every individual child brings something new to the classroom and is irreplaceable.

A Greek Temple made out of Legos, recreating the scene from Hercules. By an 8th grader.

Your brain works in ways I couldn’t ever predict – and it’s brilliant!

I consider it a privilege to teach the smart kids in my class. I don’t take credit for their intelligence or pat myself on the back when they do a good job. I feel honored to have had their attention and their efforts instead.

I go home and cry when I’m blown off. I take it personally even when I know better! I know that a teacher can only do so much and a student’s behavior is a reflection of their attitude… And yet, I can’t help but beat myself up for not doing better.

If I did my job better would you be a better student?

I despise homework and busy work. I wish my classroom could be a Socratic environment where we all learn from discussion, sitting there talking about big ideas. However, without assignments many might like being in my class was a waste of their time. And they wouldn’t have work samples to turn in to their contact teachers.

Most of the time, I’m just happy you are here! My satisfaction comes from seeing the gears in your head turning as you learn something new.

Some of my 7th Graders

I love how opinionated you are. And passionate. It’s a breath of fresh air to see you have such big thoughts about our world, and it’s welcome in my classroom.

I think you are too young for social media, and trust me – you don’t need that kind of negativity and comparison trap in your life.

I don’t really care how well you read or write. I do care whether or not you put any effort into my class. If you show me you care, you will not fail my class. No way, no how.

I make a lot of mistakes. I have struggled with ADHD and Dyscalculia all of my life. I forget things, confuse things, mix up things quite often. And I freeze under any kind of confrontation. But because I care about you, I stay up often hoping I didn’t let you down.

Some students have to work twice as hard to produce the same results as others.

I hope I made a positive impact in your life some how. That you will move on to High School and then as an adult, remember your middle school years and remember me with good memories.