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 Homeschooling

Learning That Looks Different

I can imagine that to outsiders looking in, my Instagram feed looks strange.  What we consider homeschooling doesn’t look like schooling at all.  Where are the text books? Where are the worksheets?  And how is going to the gun range “schooling” at all?

The whole gun range rant is for another post.

But in essence, the truth is: If I wanted to recreate “school” at home I may as well send them to school and save me the trouble.

If “school” was producing such great results, with amazing prodigies in science, sports, and art, our education would rank higher than that of other countries, and our college graduates a much more formidable force in the competitive labor market across the world.  But it doesn’t.

I’m not saying that there aren’t children who do absolutely amazing in public school – because there are.  However, I would argue that succeeding at Public School is not necessarily equivalent with being a successful individual.

So in my personal experience, I need to determine what would my child look like as a successful individual, and work my way backwards from there.  And here is my flow chart:

  1. Being uninhibited in kindness and compassion is a big priority for my children.  They are very tenderhearted, and I don’t want them to be “toughened up” by bullying.  I don’t want them to learn through peer influence and unsupervised socialization to be callous, or rude.  As a result, at this time public school is not the best choice for them.
  2. My kids are argumentative and struggle with submitting to authority.  There is (believe it or  not) a benefit to this: they don’t accept any information at face value.  Everything is questioned, researched, debated… from a history lesson to the chore of washing dishes.  If I want the learning to be meaningful, they would benefit best from a Socratic approach to learning.  And that’s just not a style of learning in most public or private schools.
  3. Creativity helps my children de-stress.  It’s also how they express themselves.  I’m sure there may be a charter school that would allow them to turn in their report in Manga form *somewhere*, but I haven’t found it.
  4. There are learning disabilities to consider!  My kids aren’t behind as a result of ADHD but I also know that the way I work with them at home has helped them to not be handicapped by this condition.  They can stand on their heads, pace back and forth, bounce a ball, and overall wiggle their way through all their learning assignments without being reprimanded for the inconvenience it would cause to the class.  Homeschooling for the win!
  5. A strong family unit is by far the most influential and beneficial factor I could give my children.  I don’t know whether they’ll be doctors or game programmers, but I know that they will grow up and be in relationships, get married and have children of their own (possibly).  And regardless of what they do as a profession, they need to learn how to love their children and their spouses.  Research shows they learn that from experiencing it at home, and I don’t think a few hours around the dinner table is enough.

Am I a helicopter parent? A little bit.  But there is science to back up that a happy heart leads to a smarter mind.  Looking at each child as a unique individual and helping them feel joyful means that they will retain more of what they learn and *gasp* develop a LOVE for learning.  Not learning for passing the test sake.  Not learning for passing the class sake.  Learning because knowledge is worth acquiring.

This is why homeschooling looks different in every home, and it varies within the home from school year to school year.  It’s fluid and organic as the students themselves.  And it will provide very different results from what you might have experienced in other children.  That’s the point.

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

Unquantifiable Benefits of Homeschooling

At the beginning of every year, I start evaluating all things from last year to determine our course of action for this year.  It’s kind of like setting New Year’s Resolutions, except no one keeps those.  I like to go a bit deeper and try to journal out things I wanted to do but didn’t, things I AM doing that I no longer want to do, things that worked out well and things that didn’t.  Then I try to be a bit more intentional moving forward.

menu

Homeschooling is one of those things that I can slave away and need some coffee in the morning and wine at night to get through.  But then again, that has more to do with parenting and less to do with schooling.  Temper tantrums, disobedience, and eye rolling happens in seasons for every kid (and I have three!) and they would happen here or in public/private school.  They just wear on me more when we are home together.

workout

However, every year I also find very tangible benefits to homeschooling.  Some I can put down on paper or a chart.  Some I just can’t.  More often it’s the unquantifiable benefits that far outweigh them all and has us pursuing the same course.

We are getting ready to do assessments with their contact teacher at their charter school tomorrow.  I needed some quantifiable results from an outside source to see if the kids are doing as well as I think they are.  Even though I’m seeing it with my own eyes, I have a hard time believing my 8 year old with ADHD does multiple digit multiplication in his head.  As much as I watch him do it.  He’s a self proclaimed 3rd grader that is supposed to be in 2nd and I’m not sure he has memorized his time tables.

It also feels like all of the sudden the three of them took leaps forward when it comes to writing, grammar, and penmanship. I would pat myself on the back if I knew how I did it.  I had been frustrated for almost an entire calendar year and all of the sudden – Whoosh! As if by magic – it clicked and it’s happening.baking cookies

But if I’m completely honest, my 5 reasons to continue our homeschooling journey are:

1.- My kids aren’t fussing with each other nearly as much as they were last year!  They have awesome moments of playing together or working together and they have more moments of resolving conflict calmly and respectfully.  If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD, this is HUGE.  As in, knock on wood, walk away and cross your fingers HUGE.

2.- My kids are taking a step back and making wiser decisions about their friendships outside the home.  They are realizing that even though they can be friendly to everyone, not everyone is a good influence on them.  I don’t think there’s a curriculum that teaches this.  But I’ll take it.

3.- My kids are the most outward-thinking, compassionate beings I have ever seen.  I am frequently getting reports from other parents who thank me about something very kind and helpful my kids did… of which I had no idea.  And would never had known if the parent had not messaged me.  Not something I can take credit for either, except to say that I’m convinced learning and living from a position of rest helps them to be less self-centered.Bible Quiz

4.- My kids are overcoming bullying a lot more effectively.  Yes, homeschoolers get bullied.  Because homeschoolers are socialized.  They are “weird” and often their kindness gets mistaken for weakness.  While it’s never pleasant, we’ve been able to address and recover from every incident and I am thankful for that opportunity.

5.- My kids have not gotten sick in a long time.  I have missed annual appointments because I forget.  Nothing lasts more than a day.  No fevers.  No runny noses. YAY!

caleb science

I’m a firm believer in that if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.  I’m seeing homeschooling working on all fronts.  So that’s how we plan to continue until changes need to be made.  With my husband returning to medical school there is a possibility that sometime in the future I will have to work full-time so he can attend school or do rotations full-time.  We will cross that bridge when we get there, but I’m praying for a way to continue on this course that has been  specifically charted out by God for us.

signature