Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Tag

Like Catan   Leave a comment

Homeschooling my kids is like a game of Catan.

It came to me this morning because we were ready to start school fifteen minutes early.  What happened? I asked myself.  Normally I am running late and we never start when we mean to.  What did I do differently this time?

I wasn’t sure and I’m still not able to come up with a specific technique that made this bizarrity occur.

What I do know is that when I play Catan, I never feel that I am getting ahead building settlements and cities fast enough.  I’m always plotting how to block someone else’s road, so I can get the Longest Road card.  I look ahead as far as I can, listing what resources I need to do the next three things on my wish list.

A few turns later, when I calculate other people’s victory points, and mine, we are usually neck and neck and running about 7 or 8.  I keep strategizing.  It really gets moving.  My strategy is working and I am seeing results.

Then, just when I have enough cities to rake in the resources–somebody wins.  And the game is over.

 

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Posted February 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor

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Just Faking It   2 comments

So yesterday was a homeschool day for our family.

Yesterday, that meant that I wrote the day’s work for each student up on the wipe-off board.  I read with both kids, which is a highlight and a fun time of day for me.  I often help with questions or math or whatever gets done in the morning.

Yesterday, we had an art teacher come to the house for an intro session with my high school senior so they could get to know each other and make a plan for what the weekly lessons will look like.

While they were talking my 8th grader and I went upstairs to get some work done.

That afternoon, he and I did a baking experiment together and rapidly found out why leavening is such a tasty thing.  Baking soda by itself is not appetizing, but the cupcakes that didn’t have it weren’t anything I would want to eat.

The senior helped me make fish tacos for dinner, as I’ve decided these two aren’t leaving the house without a modicum of kitchen experience.

The 8th grader learned how to do goulash the night before.

I think that covers it.

So, that sounds like a pretty good solid homeschool day, right?

I did pat myself on the back for it and wanted to brag about it on Facebook.  However, the rest of the story is that yesterday was probably the single most awesome day in my homeschooling career.  I’m coming up on eighteen years of experience, and I can assure you that most days have looked nothing like this.

I have been intending to teach the kids to cook by having them sous chef with me for literally years.

Usually I don’t do experiments.  I assign pages to read in a science book.

Usually we don’t have an art teacher coming to the house!  That is an exciting new development that just worked out this year.

I do read to them every day.  But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t usually look this wonderful.  It’s not pretty.  It’s just doing the next thing each day.

Ask me about the day the then preschooler threw something at me and knocked over the celery stalk/red food coloring experiment which then got all over people’s papers.  Ask me about how I never used to even get up on time so school started whenever I got my crap together.  Ask me about all the mornings I lit a candle in the den to just lighten the place up in January and February because I was so depressed I did not want to do anything.

Or better yet, ask them.  Yes.

Somehow they survived.  They are people rapidly approaching functional adulthood, in spite of me, not because of me.

 

 

 

Posted February 11, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor, motherhood, parenting

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I Never Thought I’d See This   Leave a comment

What a glorious night!

We were at the theater, an older, slightly worn, but very classy one near our city’s downtown.  The lights went down.  The story and music began and I was as entranced as I could be.  Beauty and the Beast has always been one of the best Disney movies ever.  It’s a story in which more than one character is transformed by the events of the story and by love.

By the end of the show, when the cast took their curtain calls, cleared the sets and headed for IHOP to ride the wave of adrenaline, I was
riding it with them.

Remember the line from My Fair Lady?  “I could have danced all night, and still have begged for more…I’ll never know what made me so excited, why all at once my heart took flight!”

Well, unlike Eliza Doolittle, I knew exactly why I was so excited.

My child with an autism spectrum diagnosis was on the stage, acting, dancing and singing.

In those few hours, amidst the emotions that flooded me, came one that has been uncommon: hope.

Why?

Before my eyes was the proof that his life for the past ten years, my life, our lives together were not destined to continue status quo.

I wouldn’t have believed it, even a few years before.  My life was circumscribed by the limits of what my son could handle and the number
of triggers he could cope with per day.

Our lives together were relatively simple, with relatively few outside activities for anyone, because between him and me, we could only handle
so much stress.

He went to occupational therapy because he had to and with a reward program to motivate him.

He went to a STEM class, which was OK because he liked the science topics and because I was with him.  He could never go to any group
activity without a parent to help maneuver the social situation.

He went to church with us because that was non-negotiable for me, but we modified our time there for him.  Most of the time, we didn’t even
try to have him participate in the children’s program after multiple days where he argued with and kicked the volunteer teachers, and we drove two
cars so my husband and I could take turns staying longer to visit or serve, while the other parent took our son and other children home.

He went to the homes of a few friends we had.  They came to our home and those times were usually fun and enjoyable, although there were also
misunderstandings that led to melt-downs.

If we invited a group of friends over, I had to be ready to de-fuse problems or take my son to his room for a cool down time.  I could
never, ever, ever anticipate a straightforward visit for me with other moms or a fun time for him with the other kids, because
invariably, some comment or event would make him either irritated and frustrated, or explosively angry.

There were months and years when I pretty much gave up on my life ever looking different.  We homeschooled and we stayed home a lot,
because that is what we could handle.

But — there he was on the stage.  All because a teen theater group’s director was willing to include him.  All because she had been led to
start the conservatory nineteen years earlier.  All because the environment was one of respect, care, professionalism and mutual growth.

All because God does amazing things.

Posted July 6, 2017 by swanatbagend in autism, homeschooling

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Download   Leave a comment

I am working on re-organizing the school supplies in my front room. It always been the room where books, toys, games, teacher’s manuals, textbooks, math workbooks and all have been kept.  Plus, there’s a worn blue loveseat we always sit on to read or go through problems together, a chair with a footstool and a table with a desk lamp where we pile up the day’s/week’s materials or crafts, puzzles or projects.  OK, not that many crafts really if I’m honest.

Life has been so full for the past ten years I can’t remember the last time I really purged materials.  I haven’t had the time or the energy to do so.

But, this winter, I have felt the desire to download and re-arrange gradually coming over me.  My youngest is 12 years old.  I know that I won’t be using the kindergarten books again.  I don’t need all the fun science books we used when the kids were little.  Yes, I do plan to keep many of the best toys.  The bins of cars and trucks, the Playmobil animals, the marble run–these are permanent fixtures because we have younger company often enough that they get lots of use.

For that matter, I will probably keep the marble run until they take me to the nursing home.  I love that thing.  The wooden marble dropper too; it’s a stress reliever in the guise of a children’s toy.  You drop a marble in the top bowl and it rolls around, dropping into a lower colored bowl, and so on down six times with the most peaceful noise of marble on wood.

But realistically I see that I am not going to need all the art supplies, the puzzles and the books we have used over the years of homeschooling.

And facing that is harder than I thought it would be.  I actually found myself thinking that perhaps I should save all the historical fiction and read-alouds from our curriculum because I could end up homeschooling someone else’s children.

No offense, self, but barring a miracle that is utter nonsense!

So–realistically I must accept that the time has come to change the look of the school room.  I want to move my computer desk there, where I can enjoy the beautiful curtains and the great morning sunlight through the bay window.  My office can be there when the kids are all grown.  It’s a good thing to contemplate having time and space to do some more writing, research, advocacy and–who knows what else?

It’s still incredibly difficult to box up books.  It’s a life, it’s a season, but it’s a season I’ve been living for many years.

And I don’t want to let it go.

Posted March 13, 2017 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, transitions

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On the Other Side of the Equation   1 comment

Have you read about George Müller?  He’s the one who ran an orphanage but never solicited funds or food or clothes from the public.  He just kept running it and praying for provision.  His prayers were answered to the point that when there was no food in the building and they prayed for their need, the baker’s wagon broke down in front of the orphanage and he came to do the door and offered all the bread in the wagon for the children as he had to get rid of it in order to get the wagon towed and fixed.

I’ve often wondered what it was like to be the person on the other end of the prayers Muller was praying.

I think I just found out.

Some people we know went to another country a few years ago as missionaries.  We don’t contribute, but we do get their prayer newsletter.

They have small children so haven’t had to deal with education in the past, but now their oldest is ready for some school, so they had ordered homeschooling curriculum.  Unfortunately it got stuck in customs somehow due to not being labeled correctly, and they would have to fill out a lot of paperwork to straighten out the mess, plus pay many fees.

They were already over a month behind their planned start time for school and to make matters worse, the order also contained a friend’s materials as well.

They didn’t ask for help, just prayer, but I was almost attacked by a desire to help.  I’m a homeschooler and I can’t imagine having to wait that long for materials.  So I offered to pay for the fees to get the boxes of books out of customs.

She didn’t know what the total amount of fees would be yet, but I did not want to wait until they did know, because I didn’t want them to have to wait for a reimbursement, so I told her I’d just go ahead and make the donation.

I asked God to give me an amount that would cover it all.  And a certain figure appeared in my head, I sent it off, and yesterday I found out it covered it all with a bit to spare.

I could say that I just felt sorry for them because as a homeschooler and a parent, I could imagine the situation they were in.  And I did, because they’d had a really rotten week when they shared this particular situation.

But this time I think it went further.

It’s pretty wild being on the responding end of a prayer.

Posted June 15, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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Must it be so exclusive?   Leave a comment

I spent the first eight years of homeschooling life, if you count preschool co-ops, with a group of people who made decisions by consensus and who took turns doing the work of the co-op.  We met in a church, but had a variety of faith beliefs amongst us.  We talked about what to do in group meetings, which were facilitated by someone who was good at hearing our concerns and helping us hear each other.

I always felt respected in this group.  Each person was free to speak up about problems that had come up with the kids during the co-op.  Each person was valued.  Our children had a lot of fun spending time with each other.  They also got group problem solving laid out for them, not just in the way the adults modeled it, but when Miss Janet helped them to walk through the very same process in circle time when they had conflicts with each other.

So–I thought this model was the norm.

In my current city, there are quite a few homeschool co-ops.  When I moved to the area I had trouble narrowing down the options.  I found few that were similar to what our family was used to.  Many were quite large and well established, which can be a plus for those who want the playing field already marked out.

But in a large group you will find it impractical to solve things by consensus.  And with dozens or hundreds of students and parents, you can’t create the schedule or student conduct guidelines by consulting everyone.  All that is understandable due to size.

What bothers me is that some of the co-ops and homeschool mailing lists require member parents to agree to a statement of faith; in my area that’s the Christian faith.

However, there are quite a few homeschoolers in any metro area who aren’t Christian.

That doesn’t mean Christian homeschoolers don’t have a great deal in common with them.

Most homeschool parents want to give their kids a quality education.

Most have moral standards they live by, such as the Golden Rule.

Most homeschool parents have talent, skills, creativity and energy (well, some energy) to offer the group.

Most people want to experience community.

When you homeschool it’s nice to have a place where your children can learn some new subjects, be part of a group, meet some new friends, and be part of a broader community.

But you can’t really do that if the door is shut in your face up front.

For some online homeschool mailing lists signing a statement of faith is required to be on the list, receive email, and post to the group.  This is viewed as necessary in order to avoid list members getting into doctrinal arguments.  But it seems to me that variable could be avoided by simply stating that discussions of theology should stay off list.  If any person broke that simple rule she could be removed from the list.  Other online groups work in a similar way, for example if flaming occurs.

Possibly more to the point would be a code of conduct which could be effective online and definitely in a co-op.  If the expectations of how the group would work and how the people in the group would treat each other were published up front, everyone would know how the group would operate.  The Golden Rule, conflict resolution, co-op goals, what elements of faith (if any) could be discussed, what the master plan is–all of these could be laid out.

Utilizing a code of conduct would allow people from different backgrounds to come together for a mutual purpose.  You’d know what you were signing up for and how you would be expected to behave, but you wouldn’t have to give assent to a set of religious beliefs that might not be yours.

If you can’t ethically sign a statement saying you adhere to a faith, but all you want is to find a good, active co-op for you and your children to be part of…where does that leave you?

On the outside.

Talk about missed opportunities.   It’s a loss to all parties.

Posted December 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, homeschooling, the church

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Fighting Alzheimer’s Every School Day   Leave a comment

You know what they say.  The more you can keep your brain active and working as you age, the less likely that you will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

I have always thought that homeschooling parents have a leg up on this goal.  Our brains are working every day by definition.  I know that teaching division, Algebra I, history and more does a lot for me.  It may not be a Sudoku or a crossword, but I think it meets the goal of doing a task that is mentally challenging.

While I have stuck with the same core curriculum through the years, the curriculum company has made some text changes as time has gone by.  With each student, when I either purchase the new teacher’s manual or look at the current book list, I can see they have pulled out a few books (some I was glad to see go, such as The Dark Frigate; most I was sorry to see go) and added some new ones.

This year in the American history course we read World War II and How it Affects you Today: The Rest of the StoryWhatever Happened to Penny Candy? by the same author was a helpful explanation of economics, inflation and all those esoteric topics, and I have now read that twice and will read again with my youngest student this school year, but I had not read anything by this author on war history.

Because it looked quite different from the standard historian’s view of the whys and wherefores of WWII, I told my daughter she could read the fiction selection by herself for this time period; I was definitely reading World War II out loud with her.

What an eye opener.  Disagreeing with the standard explanations of why the US got into WWII, the author makes a case against the idea that the Germans and Japanese were such vicious fighting machines that England and our other allies would have been destroyed without our help.

Potentially changing the way you see the world and considering the possibility that what you’ve been led to believe is false will keep a mind active.

Another way I’ve been keeping Alzheimer’s at bay is learning to play chess.

At my age, it’s difficult to retain all the rules.  And even when I do remember exactly what moves each of my pieces can make, that does not mean that I will notice what dangers I’m moving them into.  I am planning ahead, checking out possible dangers for the square I have in mind, coming up with long-term strategies for taking my opponent’s queen and getting at his king: all that stuff.  It’s just not working yet.

What really makes it embarrassing is that the person teaching me is ten years old.  I lost my queen to him in our play yesterday in the course of ten minutes tops.

And no, I’m not letting him win.  It’s just happening.

But I can be a good sport.

At least I’m fighting the loss of brain cells!

 

Posted February 26, 2015 by swanatbagend in learning

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