20 March 2017

Day 32 / 106 - "Why Do You Still Do This?"

When it comes to educational opportunities for children, Charlotte, North Carolina is an incredibly unique city.  There is a large homeschool population here.  However, in my 21 months of Charlotte residency, I have discovered that most south Charlotte homeschoolers educate their children at home for only a short period of time before taking advantage of one of these opportunities.  The amount of educational opportunities seems to be both a blessing and a curse.  It is wonderful to know that your student can learn from a creative writing expert at one institution, a math expert at another location, and a foreign language educator at a third.   But, the schedule-juggling, the coursework taught independently of other subjects, and the siblings farmed out to three different locations on three different days of the week, leaves many home educators feeling tired, overwhelmed, and confused about the future.

Because of my relatively new position at the YMCA, I have had more conversations than ever before with new and/or potential homeschoolers.  Imagine their surprise when I communicate that we're wrapping up our eighth year of homeschooling.  They are shocked when they hear that I am homeschooling teens.  Even more astonishment comes when I reply to the question: "What are you planning on doing next year?" with "The same thing we've done for the past eight."

Naturally, the follow up question is usually:

Why do you still do this?

Hundreds of reasons!  Because my kids build snow forts and sleep in them!  Because my daughter taught herself how to spell by teaching herself sign language!  Because we write on the windows!  Because we love playing math games!  Because my son builds medieval weapons out of duct tape!  Because we're always learning!  [Of course the list goes on ... and on ... and on ... with at least 100 notable reasons for the past six years if you scroll back through this blog.]

Since no one really has the time to listen to me ramble on about all we've accomplished on this journey, I've summed up hundreds of reasons into just three.  It makes for better conversation.

1.  Time

In the past century in our country we have fine-tuned most inventions and activities so that everything we do can be done quicker. more simply, and better.  Meals.  Travel.  The work day.  Technology.  Even exercise.  Today a workout can be done in half the amount of time with the twice the results.  This concept is true in most all areas of life, except modern education.

Today, the school days have become longer, the school years have become longer, the amount of homework has become greater, and the expectation for time spent in outside tutoring boggles me.  If we have simplified all areas of life, why then are children expected to spend so many hours of their lives schooling?  My children's time (and mine) is worth far more than a schedule dictated by an academic administrator.  Their time is precious, and I will do everything in my power to protect it.

Over the past eight years, my children have had the time to: learn, explore, create, read, imagine, make music, draw, play, enjoy, make memories, relax, experience nature, develop outside interests, sleep, and (most importantly) be children.  

Time is what I value most, yet I know it is the concept that overwhelms most new homeschoolers.  I hear:  "It takes us one hour a day.  Then they follow me around the house making messes and arguing."

My response to this is the the same I give a mother of toddlers battling diapers, pacifiers, and sippy-cups.  This too shall pass.  It is only for a season.  In a blink they become teenagers, and surprisingly will learn how to clean and how to make peace.  Plus, because you provided them with time to learn when they were young, they will now make you dinner, fix major appliances when your husband is unavailable, mow the lawn, finish their laundry, hem your pants, and more!

2.  Individualized Goal Setting

One of the reasons we began homeschooling was to allow our children the freedom to move at an unfettered pace.  This goal still stands and watching it unfold during the teenage years is quite pleasurable.

Because my children are not micromanaged during the school day, (I believe) this allows them the freedom, the motivation, and the time to set their own goals and work towards accomplishing them.  Sometimes their goals are school-related (I would like to finish Algebra II before I take the PSAT) and sometimes their goals are related to the activities they love (I would like to attend a ballet intensive next summer ... I would like to run a 5-minute mile this track season).  Sometimes their goals are personal (I need to earn more money, so I can buy a new phone).  This plays out in home education because their goals and their learning are one and the same.  It's a beautiful thing.

We naturally learn about things we are interested in.  We set goals based on our interests.  Learning happens as we achieve our goals.

I could also label this reason as Watching My Teens Embrace Adulthood.  Allowing our children to have a say in what they learn and when they learn it has always happened throughout our homeschooling journey.  Because of this, as they age, we have been able to treat them more like adults.  In fact, I believe that they are already better functioning adults than I was well into my twenties.

3.  I Kinda Like My Kids

And, I'm pretty sure they still kinda like me.  I don't mind being around them all day, every day.  In fact, it's enjoyable.  So is the journey.  Sometimes the journey isn't always about the destination -- it's about the people you're with along the way.

The successes, the struggles, the a-ha moments, the discoveries, the fun, the learning, and the work is shared among us.  We are a team.  I couldn't imagine their education any other way.

How about you, friends?  What are the top three reasons you are still on this journey?

12 March 2017

Day 31 / 106 - February (and before) Happens At The Table

I am still trying to figure out if I can homeschool, work, tend to my children's increasingly busy schedules, and maintain a blog.  I'll keep you posted.  I had intended to pen this post almost two weeks ago. Better late than never, I guess.

I rarely use a calendar.  However, I knew that our weekends in 2017 were full.  In January, I created a weekend only calendar on a whiteboard.  It has definitely helped our sanity. (You should see that whiteboard now!)   What's funny is the entire reason I knew I needed to get organized was for this very weekend, March 10th - 12th.  I am writing this post from the lobby of the Myrtle Beach Marriott (it's 38 degrees here by the way) because my daughter is attending a Hollywood Vibe dance convention/competition.  It's the third weekend in a row that we've traveled for dance.  Yesterday, my husband and son spent 12 hours at UNC Charlotte for my son's regional Science Olympiad tournament.  I have known all along that if we could make it through this very weekend, the rest of the spring would be smooth sailing.  I think it's the first time ever that I've anticipated a Monday morning.

Science Olympiad took over our table for a few weeks.  It really was an incredible experience.  I plan to (hopefully) post more about it. 

I posted a few weeks ago about Math.  Math has been our main focus this year.  We have done more math than ever before.  It is definitely paying off.  

And finally, we have eaten once or twice around our table.  The picture below was from Super Bowl Sunday.  

We're looking forward to ushering in spring.  #LifeHappensAtTheTable

16 February 2017

Day 30 / 106 - Suite Seats

My husband's company has box and floor seats at Charlotte's Spectrum Center.  We've been fortunate to use the seats on several different occasions for both concerts and Charlotte Hornets basketball.

Late last fall, my son, and a couple of his friends, experienced a highlight of a lifetime while enjoying the courtside seats.  Hornets owner, Michael Jordan, was present at the game.   Throughout the evening, my husband texted me their play-by-plays. 

13 February 2017

Day 29 / 106 - Beowulf

During the fall term, I think my favorite week of History was the week we integrated subjects.  Rather than assigning my class an historical person or event to research, I assigned them a piece of Literature.  We spent the week researching the fine Old English poem, Beowulf.  Written nearly 11 centuries ago, this heroic poem celebrates the Geatish nobleman Beowulf and his victory over two monsters torturing the royal house of Denmark.

Throughout the week, my children read several different versions of the poem.  They also watched an animated version.  We illustrated the poem.  We knew the tale well by the end of the week.

In class, we discussed themes, conflicts, and epic poems.  We also mapped our characters.  I believe mapping characters is the key to making a difficult text understandable.

In class, we defined Beowulf as: Beowulf is the oldest known English epic poem that tells the tale of a heroic Geatish prince who rids the Danes of a plaguing monster.

Some notable hashtags: 

11 February 2017

Day 28 / 106 - Saxon Algebra I

This year, my son is learning and mastering higher-level mathematics.  Some days, I help him learn.   Some days, he teaches me.

If you know me, you know that my advice to homeschoolers of young children has always been -- Do math.  Play outside.  Read books.  That's the entire school day.  As we journey through the high school years, my advice remains quite similar -- Do even more math.  Play outside.  Read more books [including quality Literature as well as Science and History books]. I'm learning how to write transcripts and navigate the college admission process.  I feel that we are becoming well-versed in the collegiate standardized test process.  With all this new information, I still believe one subject needs to be emphasized more than the others.  Math.

If you have followed me on this homeschool journey, you know I firmly believe in not using a Math curriculum until children are older [middle school age].  Someday, when I have spare time, I'm going to combine all my math posts into one linkable page and present a nice resource of the variety of non-textbook math activities I've completed with my children throughout the years.  However, as children age and more advanced concepts are required from them, a textbook is needed.  For our high school math journey, we've settled on Saxon.  [As of today, February 11th, my son has completed 64 of the 120 lessons in Algebra I.  Again, if you know me, this is cause for celebration.]

Saxon is difficult.  Yet, I'm encouraged to press on with the curriculum because of a few recent discoveries.

First, because it is a full curriculum, after finishing Saxon Algebra I and Algebra II, students have mastered concepts in Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Analytical Geometry, and Basic Trigonometry.   If you are familiar with the transcript process, I just listed four math courses from two books.  There is great freedom here.  Because math comes easy for my son, he will probably journey well-beyond Saxon Algebra II.  But, for my daughter, I am confident in allowing her four years to complete two math textbooks which will rightfully earn her four high school math credits.

I have a new friend who was once a higher-level math teacher at a local elite private school before deciding to homeschool her children.  She reassures me that the Saxon curriculum is rich, and the material is more advanced than what is taught in high school today.  If students master the concepts presented in the Saxon tests, they are well on their way to math success.

Second, we have entered the world of collegiate standardized testing.  Our son has begun to prep for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.  [My husband and I have actually gained quite a bit of knowledge of these tests over the past several months.]  What I am discovering is that the lessons from Saxon Algebra are more than preparing him for the math sections of these tests.  In fact, there are several concepts he has already learned in Algebra I that are beyond the math knowledge needed for any of these tests.  This is reassuring to us.  A recent conversation with a new colleague confirmed this truth.  This homeschooling mother shared with me that she never went beyond Saxon Algebra I with either of her children.  However, during their high school years, she made it a priority to complete every single problem in the Algebra I text.  Both her children scored over a 650 on the Math section of their SAT.  They were accepted into their colleges of choice with scholarship money.

07 February 2017

Day 27 / 106 - Mohammed and the Golden Age of Islam

Following Emperor Justinian, week seven of Middle Ages History had us researching Mohammed and the Golden Age of Islam.  I truly enjoy researching history from Arabia.  I don't think I knew any Arabian history until I became a homeschooler.

With my daughter, my second favorite way to complete a History research assignment is by producing a poster [we call it a magazine cover] like the one pictured above.  [My favorite way is with an acrostic poem.  More on that later.  I'm amazed at the amount of information we can unearth is one acrostic poem.]

In class, we defined MohammedMohammed was a central 7th Century Arabian figure who founded the Islamic religion.  Islam preaches that Allah is the one true god.

Some notable hashtags: 

05 February 2017

Day 26 / 106 - Sierra

On Friday morning, we made the hard decision to euthanize our faithful [almost] 9-year-old boxer/yellow lab mix.  She was well-loved.


She had been suffering for a few weeks due to a soft-tissue tumor on her right front leg.  In surgery Friday morning, the vet discovered the tumor was a high-grade sarcoma and the cancer was extremely aggressive.  We decided prolonging her suffering was unnecessary.  


If you are a homeschooler with a beloved pet, you know that that animal is known quite well by your children.  Even though my children only had nine years with Sierra, it felt more like eighteen years due to the fact that they were with her all day, every day, for the past nine years.  They were her primary caretakers, and they shared in all dog-keeping responsibilities.


I easily could have included hundreds of photos in this post.  Instead, I searched for one from each year of her life, each year that we've been on this journey.  The above Narnia picture is one of my absolute favorites.  It shows up on a much older blog post.

Side note -- At times Sierra was terribly behaved.  We attribute some of her behavioral issues to incidents such as these.  She was not a dog who liked to be dressed up, yet she often was.


The picture below was profiled before.  I'm not sure what pioneer animal Sierra was forced to be in this picture, but I'm convinced she was fulfilling her role nicely.  



Since Sierra was our pet during the Information Age, our devices are full of pictures and short videos of her.  I'm not sure if that makes her death easier or more difficult.  But during her short lifetime she brought us much joy, and she's definitely worth remembering.  



Last spring, my daughter was playing around with a new tripod as well as some settings on my camera.  She snapped the above picture.  The picture below was taken on Tuesday.  My children continued to comfort Sierra with kindness, as well as providing much care for her up until the very end.


We will miss her.