Monday, January 9, 2012

Why I chose to homeschool {Vol. 1 homeschooling series}

First let me give you a little background on my children's education.  I have 3 children, ages 9, 12 and 15.  The 15 year old is a sophomore who is currently attending a private high school.  She has attended private Catholic school since the age of 3.  My 9 and 12 year old also attended private Catholic school, until 1 1/2 years ago.  The schools they attended were fine.  They were receiving the education they needed.  The schools have wonderful teachers and the Catholic environment I wanted my kids to grow in.  There were lots of kids, lots of activities and lots of social experiences.  It was an entirely acceptable schooling experience.

The idea of homeschooling had been lingering in the back of my mind for quite awhile.  In college, before my 15 year old was born, I was studying elementary education.  One of my classes had us research different types of schooling approaches.  I chose to research homeschooling.  There was next to no information available.  In the process though, I met a girl in one of my classes who had been homeschooled.  She was very bright and independent.  She was a class leader.  Writing this college paper about homeschooling started the wheels to turning.

Fast forward to the 2009/10 school year.  My little Amazing was in the first grade, Cosmo was in the fourth grade and Awesome was in the eighth grade.  My sister had started homeschooling her kids because of the health needs of one of her two children.  I was her biggest fan.  I loved how she dove right in.  I admired her courage and determination.  I was feeling a little like sending my kids to school was a bit of a cop out.  I began really looking closely at what was going on with my kids in school.

During the 2009/10 school year I began to notice some trends with my kids that were very upsetting to me.  My little Amazing was crying about going to school EVERY morning.   Yes, at age 7 she was crying about going to school EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.  There were 29 kids in her class, no assistant, and Amazing claimed that when they got in trouble they "had to do preschool work".   Needless to say, this was very upsetting and concerning to me.  Cosmo, on the other was screaming at me EVERY night about homework.  This was also upsetting.  I really thought that with him though, it was a matter of not getting enough exercise in school and chalked it up to him being "a boy that age".   Everyone I spoke with had a son who did the same thing.  Awesome was dealing with her own kinds of stress.  Primarily social, or as I like to call it, social garbage.  I had reached a breaking point and was seriously considering homeschooling. 

During the fall we had parent teacher conferences.  Daddy Y and I went to go speak with Amazing's teacher.  I expressed my concerns and asked how she was doing in class.  I was shown her test scores.  Of course, she scored off the charts in everything, which I already knew, without the test.  I expressed concern over her being in the class, as she was 4 days past the age cut off and so was the oldest in her class.  I was informed that she was exactly where she needed to be.  I asked about how she behaved in the classroom.  I was informed that she was quiet and well behaved and never asked any questions.  "She's a wonderful student".  Now I know that normally, this kind of a parent teacher conference would have made a parent proud, and I was. Really, it wasn't until a few days later that the conversation we had at this conference began to sink in.  That was when I got upset.

I began to realize that she was the model student.  She's bright, happy, well behaved and sweet.  She gets along with her classmates, quietly does all of her work without assistance and never gets in trouble.  Who wouldn't want this child in their classroom?  She was miserable because she was spending her days doing busy work.  Other children may very well have needed the work that was assigned, but Amazing was not one of them.  She needed more.  She needed challenges and acknowledgement.  She was bored.

This got me to thinking more about Cosmo and his situation.  He is very easy going.  He had a wonderful conference as well.  We had no real questions.  The teacher had no real questions.  He was an A student, got along with everyone and rarely got in trouble (he is a boy...)  Our problem was in the evening, after school.  If there was homework, and there always was, he was upset.  He'd spent the day doing school work and felt he should have evenings for play.  Grownups go to work and then come home to be finished.  He felt when he was finished with school he should be able to come home and be done.

Awesome, well, she was just going through normal 13 year old social adjustments.  She was a girl, and her friends were girls, and girls were, well, girls.  What could I do?  She would start high school the next year and it would all fly by very quickly after that.

The wheels were definitely turning. I was becoming more and more aware of a feeling that I needed to homeschool Amazing.  I had decided in my heart that it was the right thing for her.  No 7 year old should hate school.  Her education would be challenging at best if she decided she hated learning in first grade.  I needed to resolve this problem and help her to hold on to her love of learning.  I was going to homeschool 2nd grade for Amazing.

In my heart I knew I was going to homeschool Amazing and Cosmo.   My biggest challenge now though, was going to be getting Daddy Y to see my side of the matter.  He was not okay with the idea at all, YET....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Free range daycare provider

I've always considered myself a bit of a free range daycare provider.   My approach to daycare is to provide a loving, home-like, relaxed and open environment for children to explore and be their own people.  I provide a safe environment with boundaries and allow them to develop their own games and adventures.  While I do play music often, I primarily offer books, toys and craft supplies for them to interpret in their own way.  If I see a specific game developing between the 2 and 3 year old, I will offer more toys, rearrange furniture or compliment their play with more imagination suggestions.  We never have circle time and rarely have set projects (aside from the occasional too good to resist hand and finger print projects)  I rarely start the day off with an agenda and I don't consider my daycare to be a preschool.  Learning here occurs as part of natural development and not as a result of introducing concepts and themes and projects.

I start off the day every morning by asking the children how they are today as they come in the door.  I compliment them on something (hair, clothing, smile, manners) and then I ask "what are we going to do today?" and "what toys would you like me to get out?".  I do have a few things set out on Monday, but the toys available shift all week long.   They jump from coloring, to puzzles, to books, to cooking, to cars, to ball games and baby dolls.  They imagine they're in races, in houses, out shopping, cooking in restaurants.  They sing and dance.  They scribble and trace.  They play hide and seek.  All the while I ask questions and they ask questions.  We have discussions.  Have you ever had a discussion with a 3 year old, or better yet a 1 or 2 year old?  They are just like you, only smaller.  They have a world of knowledge and experience to offer and are dying for you to share your world of knowledge and experience with them.  They crave a listening face and love to be understood.

I've never once asked myself "will these children be ready for school".  I've never once worried that they might struggle or be left behind.  These children are learning to think and interact.   Through interaction and observation they are learning words, colors, numbers and shapes.  They sing and dance and are physically active.  They are very bright, every one of them.  I only hope that when they go to school their independent learning qualities will be encouraged and embraced.  I hope that school is ready for them.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The year of "clarity"

Linking up with these great blogs today!
One Word 365 and Bohemian Bowmans and By Word of Mouth
The past two years I have chosen a "word for the year".  The first year, I did it out of frustration and irritation.  It was the year of "no".  I was over committed with daycare and volunteering to help at school.  Every time someone asked for help with something I felt obligated to say yes.  I was overextended and unhappy.  I had little time to enjoy my family and my family, with all of their commitments, had little time to enjoy anything either.  This was the year that I quit being a scout leader, stopped helping coach basketball (or ANY other sports) gave up helping out in the classroom and decided to homeschool my kids. It was the year that I actively enforced boundaries that I had laid out for daycare parents.  It was the year I stopped being taken advantage of.  The first few "No's" I uttered to people in response to their requests actually made me feel physically sick.   By the end of 2010 though, I had gotten the hang of it.  I consider "The Year of No" to have been a huge success. 

I decided that 2011 would be the year of joy.   After a very stressful year of "no" it was time to embrace all the positive things that had come from this change.  It was time to live with joy.  It sounded simple enough, but there is so much static that gets in the way and makes true joy difficult to find.  I think that the year of "joy" is still a work in progress.  I don't want to carry that term over into 2012 though.  I want a new word to help me enter into this new year. 

I've decided that 2012 will be the year of "clarity".  Some synonyms for the word clarity are; comprehensibility, focus and translucence.  It's time to find a little clarity.  So for 2012, the "year of clarity", I will simplify our home, my work, our schooling.  I will work to bring focus to our household and eliminate all of the disruptions that come on a daily basis.  I will find simple ways to bring clarity into our home.

So, cheers to a year of clarity!  This week I plan to outline the ways I would like to see more clarity.  The word definitely sums up what I feel I need.  Now I need to define what that means to me.

By Word of Mouth Blogging
By Word of Mouth

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Daycare Christmas Crafts

Linking up with Rub Some Dirt on It today!


This week we made 3 different types of hand print/footprint paintings, a reindeer, a Christmas tree and a candy cane.  To make the reindeer I traced their feet on brown construction paper and for the 1 and 2 year old, I cut it out.  I let the 3 year old cut his out himself.  Next we glued the footprint onto a blue sheet of construction paper.

Naturally, I didn't think to start taking pictures until we were already at this point, but it's pretty straight forward really.  Next I painted their hands with white paint, one at a time, and stamped them onto the paper to make antlers.

Six sets of hand prints later, we had these:

Then we gave them faces.  I have used red pom poms and googly eyes to finish them off in the past, but this year I couldn't seem to locate my red pom poms and googly eyes when it was time.  Instead, I used a variety pack of sequins we had.  We chose shiny red circles for noses.  One year old chose blue hearts for eyes, two year old chose pink flowers for eyes and 3 year old chose a red Christmas tree and a green Christmas tree for the eyes on his reindeer.

Have to say, the crazy mismatch Christmas tree eyes are my favorite!  (The face was much cuter once the glue dried!)

After this, we worked on fingerprint candy canes and a foot print Christmas tree.  Amazing dropped the camera.... so we didn't get pictures of that process, but it was very simple.  Here's a picture of our finished candy cane and Christmas tree:

Luckily, you can see the footprint Christmas tree project here at Rub Some Dirt on It .  The only challenge we had with the foot print Christmas tree was that we had a "bald spot" in the middle of our tree's because of high arches.  I simply took a paint brush and dabbed at the paint until it seemed pretty uniformly filled in.  Next we dipped our fingers in different paint colors and stamped on ornaments.  The kids LOVED these projects. 

My quick tip for easy, relatively mess free hand print paint projects:  I keep my box of wipes handy and a paper plate for discarding used wipes.  This way I can clean as we go and I don't need to leave the table unsupervised to wash one hand at a time.  That would be an awful lot of hand washing trips!