Friday, November 6, 2009

Word Turkeys

The 6 year old and I have been working on nouns, verbs, and adjectives for the past few weeks, and I have been struggling to come up with new and interesting ways for him to absorb this knowledge. So, while I was browsing the (FREE) Super Teacher Worksheets website, I came across a cool turkey template that I thought would be perfect!

I'm not sure what this worksheet was originally meant for, but I have tailored it for our own purposes.

I printed out 3 pages. 1 for noun, verb, and adjective. Then, I re-wrote the existing instructions (cut BEFORE coloring?? Really? I don't think so.) and had my son fill in holiday related words. We are doing 1 turkey a week and displaying them as Thanksgiving decorations. Pretty sweet, huh??

This is a great example of what I love most about homeschooling - the flexibility to find my own creative ways to demonstrate a topic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Failed Experiments...

As I mentioned previously, I purchased a Pandia Press Chemistry E-book awhile back. I have to admit that, up until today, we have enjoyed the content of this curriculum. BUT....my face and hands are currently covered in lemon extract, and that makes me irritated.

The experiment we did today discussed atoms, and the instructions involved pouring almond extract, lemon extract, water, and cinnamon in to separate balloons and then inflating them. The point is to determine whether the scent molecules are small enough to pass through the balloon atoms. Sounds pretty straightforward, yes??

Umm. No.

First of all, I don't think the editors actually tested all of these experiments prior to putting them in the book. If they had, they would have clearly stated that you need an eye dropper (rather than a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon) to fill the balloons. Because, it is important not to get any scent on the outside of the balloon and that is IMPOSSIBLE when you are using a spoon-shaped device to pour liquid into the rubbery, cylindrical-ish neck of teeny-tiny balloon.

Secondly, they explicitly state that you are to use balloons that have never been inflated. WHAT?? I think we have all had near-aneurysms from trying to blow up brand new balloons....so, try that with potent-fumed extract in the bottom. GACK!! And then, while trying not to burst a vessel in my eyeball, the lemon extract balloon EXPLODED all over my face. Many expletives later, I decided that 1 balloon with scent in it was more than enough to complete the experiment.

Technically, the experiment wasn't a failure because my son learned what he was supposed to learn, but he also learned some new and colorful language to share with his sailor buddies. I may need to do practice runs on these experiments the night before we do our lessons. I had a really tough time today, and now I'm a lemon-scented grump. :(

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thrifty Homeschooling

I frequently shop at the local thrift stores for my recycled apparel sewing projects, but I never realized how many homeschooling supplies could be found there too!

I got these awesome posters for only $2!
And these story writing posters came in the same bag with the items above:

Of course there are always books:
And, how about this sweet find for $1??
I don't feel like homeschooling should break the bank. People have been schooling their own children for thousands of years, and they have done it with few other resources besides their own experience. I am trying to follow that example and demonstrate to my son that opportunities for learning are all around us. But, sometimes posters, books, and child-friendly clocks are fun to have. Especially when they only cost a few dollars. :)



Friday, October 16, 2009

Roadschooling

This week we took homeschooling on the road since we planned a visit to my in-laws out of state. I thought that the quiet "backwoods" haven of his grandparent's house would be a tranquil environment conducive to uninterrupted lessons. It didn't occur to me that grandma's house is a "rule-free-zone." After cereal for dinner, a shower of new toys, and hours upon hours of puppet play with grandma, I realized that my plans for scheduled lessons were deluded. So, instead of being the mean mom that taints the few days a year that my son gets to see his paternal grandparents, I just wrote the whole week off as a homeschool wash. We did get through one lesson early in the week, but his heart wasn't really in it and I doubt he even retained anything.

I plan to start fresh next week, and I even bought a Chemistry Curriculum via E-book from Pandia Press to inspire the boy. He loves to do experiments, and this lesson package is fabulous. I didn't expect to buy any pre-made curriculums for this homeschooling endeavor, but he is so interested in chemistry that I felt it would be worth the investment. Plus, it was only 30-some-odd dollars, so it's not as if I'm cashing in any bonds to provide this for my son. I definitely want to encourage his passions, and I'm confident this will add another level of excitement to our current activities.

I just hope that the trip to Grandma's isn't going to make lessons harder to focus on next week. He's always a little wonky after we get back from vacation. I guess I will just have to plow through the poutiness and woo him with new material. :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homeschooling is hard

I am obsessed with whether or not I am doing this "homeschooling" thing right. Am I giving him enough structure? Too much structure? Freedom to make his own conclusions? Skills to learn from his mistakes?

I have to keep reminding myself that education is a cumulative effort. That it is a progression. I need to step outside the present and realize that I am laying a foundation for the next lesson, and not prepping him to take the SATs tomorrow.

This homeschooling thing is hard. But, although I am harrassed by self-doubt, I can already see the difference homeschool has made to my son. He is excited to learn, fully engaged in each activity, and aware of his abilities. Regardless of whether I'm doing it "right" or "wrong," he is flourishing. I just need to teach MYSELF to focus on his success rather than my imagined failures. I'm sure it will get easier....eventually.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Left to their own devices...

One of the advantages to rearing an only child is that they learn independence pretty early. For example, as I was preparing dinner the other day I peeked around the corner and watched my son practice his handwriting - completely unprompted. I love that he has a passion for learning and an obsession with grasping concepts/techniques. I can't even count how many times he has erased and re-written a word until every letter is perfect. But, I worry about his fear of failure, and I consistently try to encourage an easy-going attitude towards making mistakes. It. Is. Really. Hard. I want him to realize his potential, but I also want him to cut himself a little slack.

I think his perfectionism is the source of his love of reading. He can just understand a word in context if he doesn't know the definition. He can't get enough of it. The other night, I went to bed around 1am, and I caught him awake, reading in bed. It's hard to punish a child for being unwilling to put a book down. Especially when I am often guilty of the same thing (which is why I was headed to bed so late that night). I, obviously, explained that he could finish his book in the morning and that sleep was more important. But, I felt like a hypocrite until I justified my actions by reminding myself that he is 6.

Back to the point, my only child takes it upon himself to complete a project or perfect a skill. He can often be found counting change, writing stories, and searching Google for information on flounders without any adult encouragement. He seeks his own knowledge on his own terms, and I am merely a guide. And I feel damn lucky to be his mom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Easing in to it...

So, the badgering about when I am going to "start" homeschooling is starting to grate my nerves a little bit. It's as if my family and friends expect me to set up desks and a chalkboard, wake my son at 7am, and crack open textbooks. There is a serious misunderstanding about what this "homeschooling" idea is all about. The public school system has brainwashed most of us in to thinking that a child cannot learn without all of the bulletin boards, worksheets, and flourescent lighting of a formal classroom.

Well, today is my "official" homeschool start date. At least, as far as other people are concerned. I feel that I have been homeschooling since the day my son entered the world, but that is too much to explain to others. We are going to the zoo today, and my son has written a list of specific animals he wants to see, and has been prepped on identifying animals by whether they are mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, or amphibians. I am hoping this will be a fun and rewarding "start" to a fulfilling educational year.

And away we go....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reality as a perception.

A friend of mine recently turned me on to Jean Piaget who was a Swiss child psychologist and natural scientist. I am only at the very beginning of my research in to his work, but so far I am feeling his vibe. His research in to child development and cognitive studies is interesting, but it is his philosophies on education that really speak to me. For example, in Conversations with Jean Piaget, he says: "Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society . . . but for me and no one else, education means making creators. . . . You have to make inventors, innovators—not conformists" (Bringuier, 1980, p. 132).

That statement blows me away because it so eloquently states what I have always strongly believed. One of the reasons I decided to pull my son out of public school is because of their policy of conformity. I want to encourage independent thought and creativity while he is still young enough to benefit from an organic approach. But, Piaget has made me aware of another level of education that I would have otherwise overlooked. - Our habit of trying to mold our children's perception to agree with our own. It's ridiculous that our common sense doesn't remind us that children perceive the world differently than we do, and so we force them to organize the information around them in to adult-made boxes.

That leads me to Piaget's concept of reality being a matter of perception. Loosely interpreted, "reality" has no substance without human thought. In short, we all define our own realities. What is a ripe, delicious avocado to you, is a disgusting, mushy brown fruit to me. Except, of course, when it is guacamole. Then, our realities merge for a moment. :)

So, Piaget has helped me form a better idea of how I will guide/support my child rather than "teach" him. His studies have given me a little more confidence about my intended direction relating to the education of my child. I'm going to let my son discover for himself what the world around him means and how he wants to function within it. And, maybe this journey will help me re-interpret my own perception of reality as well.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bitter Homeschooler's Wishlist

This article cracks me up. From Secular Homeschooling:

The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List
by Deborah Markus, from Secular Homeschooling, Issue #1, Fall 2007

1 Please stop asking us if it's legal. If it is — and it is — it's insulting to imply that we're criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

2 Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3 Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

4 Don't assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.

5 If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a "reality" show, the above goes double.

6 Please stop telling us horror stories about the homeschoolers you know, know of, or think you might know who ruined their lives by homeschooling. You're probably the same little bluebird of happiness whose hobby is running up to pregnant women and inducing premature labor by telling them every ghastly birth story you've ever heard. We all hate you, so please go away.

7 We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

8 Stop assuming all homeschoolers are religious.

9 Stop assuming that if we're religious, we must be homeschooling for religious reasons.

10 We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

11 Please stop questioning my competency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn't have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don't need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least twelve years in the kind of chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can't teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there's a reason I'm so reluctant to send my child to school.

12 If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

13 Stop assuming that because the word "home" is right there in "homeschool," we never leave the house. We're the ones who go to the amusement parks, museums, and zoos in the middle of the week and in the off-season and laugh at you because you have to go on weekends and holidays when it's crowded and icky.

14 Stop assuming that because the word "school" is right there in homeschool, we must sit around at a desk for six or eight hours every day, just like your kid does. Even if we're into the "school" side of education — and many of us prefer a more organic approach — we can burn through a lot of material a lot more efficiently, because we don't have to gear our lessons to the lowest common denominator.

15 Stop asking, "But what about the Prom?" Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don't get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I'm one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.

16 Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

17 Stop saying, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more.

18 If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you're allowed to ask how we'll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can't, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn't possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.

19 Stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child's teacher as well as her parent. I don't see much difference between bossing my kid around academically and bossing him around the way I do about everything else.

20 Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

21 Quit assuming that my kid must be some kind of prodigy because she's homeschooled.

22 Quit assuming that I must be some kind of prodigy because I homeschool my kids.

23 Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.

24 Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.

25 Here's a thought: If you can't say something nice about homeschooling, shut up!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Adventure Begins

As I stand at the precipice of my potential undoing, I feel an enormous amount of trepidation. From what I have read, very few people start their homeschooling endeavor with confidence. It amazes me how many of us are so sure about our decision, but so insecure about our ability to effectively follow through. Because isn't that what the fear really is - feeling inadequate?

I, of course, have had a few people ask me if I need to be certified or meet special criteria to homeschool my child. It amuses me to be asked that, but I certainly understand their concern. I feel it too. There are so many curriculum options for homeschoolers that the research alone tears at the fragile fibers of my resolve. Where do I begin? how do I know what program is right for my family? What do I do about my weak areas, like math? Would a teaching certification give me more direction or confidence? Would a state-mandated test or criteria help me prove/understand my own worth as an educator?

Overcoming these insecurities is challenging, but I find myself watching my son charging head first in to each day and that makes me stronger. I did not need a certificate to have a child. Parents have to figure their own shit out along the way. My boy is smart, confident, and curious. That proves that I have been doing okay so far. And, I had no curriculum to guide me for the past 6 years, so I think I have established my worth as an educator. Is teaching a child to talk easier than teaching them to spell? Is social studies education more important than teaching compassion? It may get more challenging as he gets older, but I don't think 1st grade math is going to uncover my teaching inadequacies. Of course, I am not above asking for help if it does. (I would be above admitting that 1st grade math might be too much, though, so I would ask for help on the down-low. )

I am often surprised and encouraged at all of the parents who support my decision to homeschool. I get more "Good for you's" and "I don't blame ya's" at this point than the "Are you a nutjob's" or "you couldn't possibly be smart enough to school a goldfish's." And, it makes me sad that our public school system has jaded so many other parents who don't have the resources to take matters in to their own hands. Someone told me that homeschooling isn't for everybody. Maybe so, but it is within all parents to fight for their children's potential and provide the best for them. Therefore, I may be daunted by the responsibility of homeschooling, but I am more terrified of the result if I don't. I know that I can do this. I just have to do it in my own way, embrace the support of others, and ignore the asshat nay-sayers who are content with stifling their children's potential.