I am breathing a double sigh of relief. I am on break now. From work, and from home schooling.
As of Friday, we completed 76 days of school. I only know this because each school day is counted by the online school.
So here’s to surviving through 76 days of home schooling.
Interestingly, my children are both still very smart.
We are waiting for Santa anxiously, and watching Star Trek Next Generation. What fun!
Day 25? Or something?
Okay, so Khan Academy is awesome. Annie has decided to challenge herself and build up her knowledge using Khan Academy’s online math problems. It’s a pretty cool website and you should check it out: http://www.khanacademy.org/ There’s a lot there in addition to math (no pun intended.)
I had a pretty good day of home schooling with my kids. I find that every day that includes art seems to be more lively and productive and they are more cooperative and passionate about learning in general. Art! Yes!
The weird thing for me about being a homeschooling parent is that I really never thought I would go down this path. I love schools. I am a big believer in “the school experience” and in sharing your life with your friends, and in the social scene of school. So when family members ask me, over and over, whether my kids are getting any social interaction, I know where they are coming from.
Now I know. Asking a homeschooling parent whether their kids are getting enough social interaction is like asking a pregnant woman when’s she’s due. Apparently it’s the first and only thing you can think of, other than, “how are you feeling?” The answer is “I feel pregnant, you stupid swine, and I’m still due on Febuguster the 28th.” And the answer to the question about social interaction is, “Yes, you dumb fuck, my kids still like playing with other kids, and we do so plenty, just not always between 9 am and 3 pm.”
I think I’m a little bit of a crankypants tonight. I just watched the Candidates Debate. BORING! Waste of my time. Carla and Annie tried watching with me for quite a while. Carla, 12 now, is starting to experiment with the power and the glory of expletives and cursing, so she kept giving Mr. Smarmney the finger. Annie, too, made fun of his smirky arrogance. They are not huge fans of the President, but they prefer him over Mitt and his phony baloney blather. Frankly, I thought the whole thing was severely annoying.
I’d let the two kids stay up and watch, you know, history in action. They came away disappointed and pointing out that the two guys just kept repeating the same stuff again and again. There was no listening to each other. There was no common ground, really, just a lot of smirking and boring talk. Well, I agree, though a few interesting bits came up which I will try to work into homeschooling discussions some time soon.
1) My kids don’t know what Wall Street is. I guess I should fill them in!
2) I’m not sure they understand the basic structures of government branches yet.
3) “I like coal” said Romney. (Why, is that what he gets in his stocking each Christmas? What does he like about coal? I don’t get it, says Annie, what’s that all about?)
So that’s all folks. Good night, and don’t forget to continuously question the judgement of your homeschooling friends, and find out whether their kids get any social skills, and what not. That’s a great way to connect!
Friday September 21st 2012, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Anxiety
, Family Life
, garden variety angst
It’s Day 19, officially, of our home schooling so far. I guess technically, it’s Day 18 for A., because I let her have one day off for Roshashanna, since there are 185 days in the Virtual Charter School calendar and A’s day requirement is 180 days, and I figured what the heck.
By the numbers we are existing.
But the lesson I learned today, and probably it won’t do me any good, because I’ll still try to fight it, is that when something isn’t interesting to a child, it’s really hard to make them interested. C is doing this online charter school stuff and I keep feeling like we’re just going through the motions in History to make her aware of stuff that she’s not that interested in but can nod in its direction and say, yeah, okay, now I see that historic cave painting exist. We looked at a bunch of pictures of cave paintings on websites. Let me tell you, I’ve seen prehistoric paintings before in person and it’s a whole lot more exciting to BE somewhere amazing and learn that way than to LOOK AT A PICTURE OF IT on the internet.
I am going slowly insane, feeling so edgy and lost all the time at home. I want to give my kids the world but my budget is I can give them the internet. C’s curriculum is bland in spite of the internet being so rich; it is a rich blend of things to learn about but it’s so distant and clinical. She’s so, well, bored by it!
Meanwhile I’m going out of my way to find hands on projects for A to do. Right now she’s still working on her Stuffed Pillow of a Plant Cell diagram. It’s a way of making those parts of the cell piece by piece and reviewing what happens in a cell. I’m figuring we’ll keep on thinking about the processes of plant cells through hands on experiments and going back to our Pillow so that it sinks in, and we have something concrete to talk about.
C sees this activity and I think that makes it harder for her to tolerate her online learning method that doesn’t involve much hands on stuff.
However, I will say, she loves her Life Science class, and will jump to do extra projects. In English, and in Math, it’s harder. History is the worst.
And sadly, I’m having trouble getting her to even TOUCH her music and art classes. Which are a) entirely online and b) Pass/Fail based on her online completion of the programs. So in other words, she has to do them, and she feels so reluctant.
Meanwhile in my own personal life, I’m feeling panicky and worried and tired, wanting to get us ready for a trip to the shore tomorrow with a total of 12 ‘party guests’ who are joining us. I’ve made my things to do list, but where is the time? To do everything seems impossible.
Then there’s my work life, in which I feel alienated from the other adults who work there, and I am trying to be a model employee and do a very good job because I feel like if I don’t then my job is on the line. And we are so pinched for money that I can’t afford to lose the income. What other job will at least bring my kids joy by having a fun place to go after school? What other job will be only in the afternoons, allowing me some time to work with my kids in the mornings?
Which, by the way, the morning is over and it’s now and hour and half before I have to be at work, and there’s all this stuff I need to get done so we can go to the shore tomorrow?
And my car is just about out of gas.
And, and, and, and! I feel so out of control and behind on everything.
Sorry for ranting and whining. It’s just one of those days where I feel lost and out of control.
Another fail. I wanted to write daily, but who was I kidding?
I have this exhausting schedule now that I am back to work. This week has been so very hard. I hate to be a whiner.
My kids have been very helpful to me at work, and very understanding and cooperative during the day. I should be celebrating how wonderful they are rather than lamenting that I can’t find time to blog, right?
So I’ll do that. Yay for C. Yay for A. They are really kind, smart people and this year won’t be a misery but something of a joy.
I admit to being exhausted, though. Yay for 4 day weekend.
End of whining / pep talk.
Yesterday was a homeschool day FAIL.
I’m in the middle of negotiations about policies at work, and an upsetting email came yesterday morning which caused me to need to make phonecalls. I spent the whole morning talking about work and didn’t do any instruction for the kids.
They slept late, had breakfast late, and the I was distracted. C didn’t get her adderall and could focus on nothing on her own. I then had to pack her stuff because she is off on a 5 day trip with her dad.
There went the rest of the home school day; and on top of that, I forgot to pack her adderall, so now she’s about to have 5 days with no ADD meds and try to focus on school work, while away on a trip!? Poor kid! I feel terrible.
However, as her dad pointed out, it’ll be okay. She can catch up slowly, and they’ll manage however they’ll manage. It’s more important that they have a nice trip together than that she cram her curriculum down her throat.
Still I feel kind of bad. But, because C and D are away, I can hang with A. She’s right now reading her math book (something she wanted to do on her own).
I am about to drink some coffee. After today, I will have four consecutive days off from work. That should give us some time to do really cool stuff.
I’m thinking about going here today: http://www.wagnerfreeinstitute.org/museum_collection.shtml
Looks awesome, right?
A moment of quiet
Friday September 07th 2012, 10:59 am
Filed under: Big Picture
, Family Life
This is a nice thing. The girls are each cozy in the living room, reading happily to themselves.
This is an easy part of homeschooling.
Later, I’ll be going over pre-algebra with Carla, and working on making a scrap-fabric model of a plant cell with Annie. This feels like a good thing.
Just hope that next week, once I am back to work in the afternoons, I won’t feel like my head is exploding, just trying to fit everything into the mornings. The real challenge here is that nobody in this house likes getting up early. We’re night owls.
Can’t we just do our educational stuff at night? Unfortunately, the afternoons will be work times for me, making it harder for dinner to happen at an early hour, making the evenings scarce too.
Thinking this over, though, I think that if I can plan out meals today, shop for them tomorrow, and make sure our household needs are under control during the day, perhaps I can open up our schedules enough to make this all work. It’s so much easier if you are organized, plan ahead, and have the resources you need at hand.
Annie quietly reads to herself.
And moments of quiet like this are so nice for planning ahead, reflecting, and examining this life I’m living.
Butterflies in the knots in my stomach
Though I feel like a complete basketcase, I do think that homeschooling is okay. I mean, there are the upsides and downsides to it, like many things.
The difference with school and homeschool is that you just see your kids’ progress with school. You don’t watch their struggles and their learning first hand. With school, they go out, then come home later. They tell you it was fine. A month later, they show you an awesome art project they did, or a book they read, or a good job on a math test. Then you say, great, my kid’s doing well in school.
With homeschooling, it’s an excruciating struggle of learning, and deciding on projects, and finding something to do, and convincing your child that reading that book or doing that set of math problems, or doing a hands on biology experiment really are education. It’s day by day and hour by hour, so so so so so sloooooow for me. While they should be taking their time learning stuff, I am also sitting here with my mind all a whirl about the things that my mind has in it.
My personal life… my concerns about where I work… my own emotional reactions to their learning and whether they are fidgety or bored or hyper or whatever… this is what is making this hard. I have to also recognize that I am in my usual before-school anxiety. I always get freaked out just before starting a new school year. This year it’s compounded by the fact that I am also trying out homeschooling for the first time. Add to that the fact that my employer appears to be trying to get rid of me… well it’s a lot for one little bear of very little brain.
Of course, I’m not a bear of very little brain. But sometimes when life is so overwhelming, I sure feel like one.
Days 6 and 7
FAIL. I didn’t blog on Day 6. This will have to do for both yesterday and today. But really, who cares?
I guess I do.
I’ve got a lot going on right now. In addition to getting homeschooling going for my kids, I still have this other job as an after school director. Tonight there’s a meeting to determine some details for the program, and I am really pretty nervous about it. I’m prepared, but it’s been a big distraction from homeschooling.
Thus lies the main thing I’ve been worrying about. I start back to my job running the after school program on Monday next week. That means that whatever home school stuff my kids are doing, I have to make it happen before 2:30 PM every day, in fact before 1:00 PM on one day of the week when my job begins early. I am nervous and not yet feeling prepared about this.
That aside, yesterday went pretty well. I came up with a nice way for Annie to study cell structure – she’s going to make a stuffed model of a plant cell, thus combining her love for sewing and crafts with a part of her study of life sciences.
Annie today did her math work with her dad, using the Life of Fred math book called “Ice cream.” It’s a really fun way to work on math. She then went to her writing / art work on making comics.
Meanwhile Carla is nearly done the first unit of her History class. She’s been working on her assignment (first one for a grade!) for a couple of hours now. She also did her literacy work. In math, I see she’s nearing the end of a unit, and will soon be doing the assignment (for a grade) for Pre-Algebra.
I guess it’s moving along nicely. I feel like it’s hard for me to see the progress day to day and hour to hour. I also feel so emotional about how the kids are doing, so when someone claims that they’re bored, or someone gets frustrated and whiny, then I feel personally responsible. Because I am their teacher, their food supplier, etc. At least I have help from my husband, and from the homeschooling co-op. I will be glad when those classes begin next week.
At least the cat’s 100% satisfied, as evidenced by this photo:
One Week Down, now what?
Friday concluded our first week of home schooling. It was like a dress rehearsal, in a way. Actually, no it wasn’t anything like a dress rehearsal.
I have to come up with better ways of thinking about what we’re doing. Right now I feel jittery, nervous, and unprepared for next week. When I try to think about what I’ll do with Annie’s curriculum, my mind keeps going in circles. It’s not that I didn’t think about what we’d do all summer. I researched different topics, I looked at different models, I’ve pulled books off the library shelves, I’ve made google docs galore, trying to get a handle on her educational plan for the year.
What I think I drew up is a kind of map that shows the territory I want to cover. What I don’t know is where I am on the map, where to start traveling, and what to do each day. In other words, right now I feel lost.
I’m up super early today (for me) on a holiday weekend because I have a lot going on this week. In addition to Annie’s week not being planned yet, I’m gearing up for a meeting at the school where I work. I have a bunch of administrative issues that need to be sorted, and I need to be prepared for that. Then add to that, the classroom where I work with the after school kids need to be sorted as well. It’s a lot on my mind.
I’m putting aside everything else for the moment. I’m hoping that this near daily habit of writing will help my mind get organized. Focusing on one issue at a time is what I need to do. This blog, a personal blog, can be about anything but my stated theme for now is how I’m home schooling my kids. And today, I’m going to stick to Annie’s education because Carla has a curriculum, books, and teachers and is off to a good start. My role with her is mostly to support her and keep her on track.
I’m teaching the following subjects this year with Annie: Literacy, Biology, Music, Art, and Spanish. In addition to what I do with her, my husband will be teaching Math and my father in law is going to do some kind of writing workshop with her. And in addition to their work with her, she will be taking classes through a parent-run home schoolers’ group, once a week. There’s a lot of social studies built into that plan, so that is why I left out out history or social studies. Oh yeah, and I also said I’d take her swimming once a week and count that as gym.
So the next step I think I should do is draw up a weekly and daily plan for this week that covers my subjects and gives her a structure to look to, and a way to understand what I expect of her. It would help if I understood what I expect of her, too.
I expect her to read, not just fiction books but also about biology and any other non-fiction topics of interest to her. I want her to write creatively. I know she’s not very interested in writing reports, but I do want her to do some research projects. Book reports are out– she flatly refuses to write them. This came up as an issue last year at school because her teacher wanted book reports written once a month, and Annie hated them terribly. She flat out refused to write another one after the first one. I don’t really get what her problem was with them, but there you have it.
In Spanish, I expect her to practice speaking, writing, and to learn more vocabulary. I want us to watch some videos / movie clips in Spanish, to listen to music in Spanish and to play games online in Spanish. I do not yet have much materials for this subject, unfortunately.
For Art, I’ve signed her up for some guided tours at the art museum that are designed for home schoolers her age. That’s a way to expose her to amazing works of art, and get some art history in the package. At home I want her to feel like she has a space and time to create. So that needs to go on the schedule, too.
For Music, I want to teach her to read music, and to start her on learning about playing the guitar.
For Biology, I’ve gotten some books out with hands on projects, scientific experiments. It helps that Carla is also taking Life Science, for though it’s 7th grade level, her text book is written at a very easy grade level. I think I should be able to yank a lot of the basics from there.
So many pieces to this! I’m finding it really hard to focus on specifics. Where do I start? I am going to go to paper now and try to sketch out a schedule and then lesson plans for each spot. Next time I’m back to this blog I hope I have a handle on this.
I’m counting today anyway
Today Annie was at her friend’s house for the entire “school” day. Then we spent two hours weeding at an organic farm. She found 15 or more caterpillars, a snakeskin, and received multiple bug bites at the farm. She and Carla brought home the caterpillars and snakeskin and will be observing them under the microscope. I think this is where we’ll launch our biology lessons.
Carla put in a full day of plugging away at her online schooling, finishing a history lesson, a grammar lesson, a math lesson, and a science lesson. She wanted to do one more history lesson, but I dragged her off to the farm.
So – does Annie’s day count as part of her 180 days of home school? Why shouldn’t it? She spent a bunch of time doing artistic stuff with her friend (sculpting little play foods for their stuffed animals). She got a hands-on lesson on how to farm, and what happens if you leave a bed of chard without weeding it for a few weeks in high summer.
On the other hand, I can’t say I made her do any reading, writing or arithmetic. Clearly I have to balance out what we did today with other more academic pursuits. But for today, I’m satisfied, and both kids are happy. I think I’ll count today… our day 4 of home school.