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 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 Homeschooling

I love/hate Alaska

Confession: I am South American.  I don’t do winter sports.  And I was raised swimming outdoors in ocean water every weekend.  As a result, Alaska isn’t “natural” for me.

img_1670I have this love/hate relationship with Alaska, as I think most people do who weren’t born and raised here.  It’s definitely not a ‘meh’ state.  It’s always going big or going home, in everything from sunlight (and lack thereof) to snow.  Winters are long and hard on my joints.  Summers are short and sunny even during midnight.  It’s very extreme.

And very beautiful.

One of the reasons why we have stayed as long as we have (and plan on staying) is the way homeschooling has just opened up doors for our family.  We have a family we could have never imagined.  We live in a way that feels almost fairy tale like.  And I’m so thankful!

img_1674Just a few Sundays ago we went on a homeschool fieldtrip organized by our charter school.  Drove three hours one way to sit on a boat for 5 hours, and do marine biology lessons and experiments.  And whale watching.  And sea lion watching.  And glacier watching.

It’s the part of Alaska you fall in love with, the views that leave you breathless.  The smell of rain and pine trees that I’m sure I would never smell in any other place.  It’s the big ocean and the big mountains all in one panoramic view.

Then there’s an almost unbelievable amount of homeschooling support in this state that has afforded us to be here.  Paid for by their school (and not my pocket).  Learning about our ecosystem and being surrounded by kids just as interested and curious as my children.

img_1688My children (and I) learned:

  • Alaska (south of the Arctic circle) is indeed a rainforest.
  • We are so rich in phytoplankton that it is visible in our waters from outer space.
  • Alaska is the final frontier to many species of pelagic birds – birds that can swim and fly.  These birds have dense bones to help them really fly underwater but can still get airborne.
  • Marine mammals have had multiple adaptations which help them survive in these cold waters.
  • The tail of a humpback whale is worked by a muscle called a peduncle.  It is so powerful that in two swipes it will get a whale completely out of the water and into the air.  That’s 66,000 lbs!
  • Otters have such lose fur that they can literally grab their back, bring it in front of them for grooming, and put it back.

img_1690My kids got to look at and identify plankton under a microscope that they caught in the bay.  And they learned a lot about how unique our state is, the state I’m learning to fall in love with after all these years.

We also went outside and learned how to spot humpback whales by watching the patterns of the birds that feed around them.  We came to understand their behavior and know when they were going to dive for a long time.

How many people in the world could honestly say they’ve seen a humpback whale?

We also spotted sea lions resting on rocks to conserve their energy.  And so many birds.

img_1730I can get tired of the long, dark winters… but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of exploring the beauties of this place with my children and seeing the wonder in their eyes.  When you are in front of such big wildlife, you are more aware of how small you are in comparison to the rest of creation – and more in awe that God loves you THAT much.

 

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.

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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.

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Posted in Homeschooling

Dear New Homeschooling Mom

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Dear new homeschooling Mom,

I’m so excited that you have taken the big leap!  Not because I hate public school or think private school is overrated, but because I know it takes a special kind of bravery to take hold of  your child’s education and put that burden on yourself.  It’s a huge responsibility, and definitely not a step you can take and be a wimp about it.

kidsI pray your husband and you chose this path because you love your children, and you want to redeem your time with them.  Because you envision something different for your children than what the rest of the world does.  I certainly pray it wasn’t under traumatic circumstances like bullying, an abusive teacher, or a learning disability that can’t be worked through.  These are problems you can only run from for so long.  Look instead at all you gain!  Fear is not the best motivator when times get rough.

I love seeing pictures of your new homeschool area!  I’m sure you were stoked to get those cute little desks from IKEA. I love the alphabet and math facts on the wall.  I frequently see all your efforts and questions to create a learning environment.  But can I interject?  Your homeschool area is… your home!  The rigidity of sitting in a desk 8 hours a day is one of the biggest downfalls of the school system.  Don’t be disappointed if that school desk collects a lot of dust while all the kid’s work is on the kitchen counter, the sofa, or his bed.  That’s a good thing!  Comfort is a perk of being home.

petsI also see all your questions about curriculum.  I have a few suggestions on that, but the shocking truth is: It’s not necessary.  There are hundreds of way to homeschool for free.  Between online sites like mathgames.com (completely free), a library card, and a child’s interest you would be surprised how much learning can take place.  I don’t want to discourage you from picking a curriculum, I just don’t want you to put all your hopes and dreams on it.  It will be great – for a season.  Then it will get difficult, and then you’ll love it again.  These rhythms of learning are normal.  So instead of beating your head into the wall when it fails, just set it aside; borrow a book on the subject, read it together, and try again later.  I promise you it will still be ok.tri

Please stop asking for permission to do what is right for your child.  If the question is, “Is it ok if we…?” The answer is, “You’re the mom.  You know best.”  Every child is different and what is good for Billy may not be good for Susy – and these two might be siblings!  Grab a cup of coffee, a good book (I recommend the Bible) and relax!  No matter how a schooling day goes, the household enjoys it more if YOU are enjoying it too.

The only thing I ask of you is that you take this amazing opportunity and become friends with your kids.  You can’t demand good character out of a hollow relationship.  They will be with you now for a long time, so prepare yourself to have little shadows in the ebbs of your life.  They will watch how you treat others, how you care for the home, and how you love your spouse (and vice versa!).  It’s waist deep in this lifestyle where children can really learn to be honest – the way mommy is honest – and patient, and kind… While they can re-learn math or reading at any point in their lives, growing up with integrity is kind of a one-shot deal!  They’ll Anakinonly be children once, and in the blink of an eye they’ll be off to college… And you’ll miss them terribly.

I am just now on week two of the school year.  We live in a one-bedroom apartment that is like a Little House in the Big Woods type of experience – only we are surrounded by a concrete forest in the middle of the city.  We eat, learn, play games, laugh, discipline, pray and cry in the same area.  And yet, it’s working!  Witnessing the growth is such a reward.  If it is working for me in these crazy circumstances I’ve been in, I’m sure it will work for you too.

true story

bri and me

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

One Week of Idita-Reading

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Confession: My oldest son loves to read.  In fact, when he gets into a book we’re all normally annoyed by how he binge reads – and neglects everything and everyone else.  My daughter likes to read too…

… But when it comes to my youngest, asking him to sit down and read a book is like asking him to volunteer for wisdom tooth extraction.

Caleb at Iditarod Start
Here’s Caleb, freezing cold but happy to see the Iditarod Ceremonial Start in Anchorage!

Sit the youngest in front of the pediatrician and  he can read 4th grade level texts at age 7.  He knows a lot of “encyclopedic information” from books about animals and human anatomy.  But there’s something about sitting down with a book for a few minutes, specially a fiction book or a chapter book, that he was just not having it.

Enter IDEA, stage right! (Interior Distance Education of Alaska)

Anakin's Artwork
Original Artwork by Anakin Hass, done entirely by freehand 3/4/17

They are our homeschooling charter school.  I’m always very thankful of their educational support.  They have always stood behind me as a homeschooling parent – an experience I’ve heard is unique to charter schools in Alaska.

Our schools every year participate in the Iditaread, a race against mushers actively competing in IditarodThis race to Nome is a big deal for us Alaskans, as these Mushers access towns that are off the road system completely – only reachable by dog mushing or plane.

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Mats Pettersson lead dog jumps and is ready to continue to run after Mats checked in at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod on Sunday afternoon March 12, 2017.Photo by Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com (C) 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In the Iditaread, kids read on average a page per musher’s miles.  They log their miles and try to make it from Fairbanks (only this year) to Nome (979 miles) before their selected musher does.  Many homeschooling families do this challenge outside of the official Iditaread because it’s very fun for readers. (That’s the key… It’s a marathon of reading, usually all pages are done in two to three weeks!). 

http://iditarod.com/photo/
Jason Mackey runs on the Yukon River with many snowmachine tracks running alongside on the trail nearng the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod on Sunday afternoon March 12, 2017.Photo by Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com (C) 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Obviously, this was daunting for my 7 year old.  But I have a couple of liberties recommended to me by the teachers and staff at IDEA:

  • Pick rookie mushers for emergent readers!  Caleb is racing against Roger Lee in his first Iditarod, all the way from England! It gives them a chance to learn about new mushers.  If your kid is a good speedster reader, he can tackle the more challenging mushers.  My son always races against Dallas Seavey – and that’s hard to beat! He’s won multiple times and finished last year in record time.
  • I get to “vet check” the books the way veterinarians check the dogs to make sure they’re healthy.  In that sense, I can offer Caleb 2 miles per page if the book is more 2nd-3rd grade level, as well as make sure with my oldest who has read the entire I Am Number Four series that the content isn’t entirely inappropriate for a 10 year old.
  • Keep track with maps and colors and progress book marks – provided entirely by IDEA, Caleb now has a visual so he doesn’t feel discouraged.  He can trace his finger along his map and see how far he’s come!

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We started with a kick off party at the school where each kid did a cut out of their lead dog.  Then the staff can move their dogs along as the kids reach the check points along the way.  This captivated all three of my kids!

Then we added a twist: Mom and Dad are doing the Iditaread too!  We’re racing mushers as well (and falling tragically behind, but it’s the effort and attitude that counts!).  We’re leading by example.  The rules for us are a little different though:

  • I can’t count pages I read during Paul’s work hours, because that’s not fair!  So the pages I read have to be between 12-1pm (his lunch break) or after 5pm in the evening.
  • Pages of books we read aloud to the kids in the evening or during lunch count for the parent who reads and the children who sit still and actively listen.  Woo-hoo for the Read Aloud Revival led by Sarah McKenzie!

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We’ve spent a lot of evenings just reading after dinner until bed time. The TV is collecting dust, and I kind of like it that way! However, we decided to take the weekend off, and our mushers didn’t, so now we’re pretty far behind them.  But there has to be a balance to everything – a big learning point when you have 1 confirmed and one awaiting diagnosis for ADHD.  So there is still school work, math, writing, chores, family board games, outings and church.

And for the record, Caleb read 300 pages this week.  Motivated himself to make it 400 pages starting tomorrow.  He’ll make it to Nome with his “lead dog Max” in no time!

caleb and max

How do you motivate children to love reading when they seem to prefer doing ANYTHING else?