Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Without a Plan

I wake up most mornings without a plan. By time I wake up DD, I have been up myself for 3-1/2 hours. Cooking, Cleaning, doing my Bible Study, getting something done on my "To Do" list. It is 8:30 when I wake her up most mornings. Which is reasonable considering she usually passes out around midnight.

We might lay next to each other and cuddle or talk before we grab something quick for breakfast, usually a fruit, cheese, granola bar, or toast. Some mornings we make homemade pancakes. Yum.

Whatever we decide to do, it usually leads to something else. Making pancakes leads to science experiments or doing more with fractions. Which might lead to board games. Which leads to computer games. Then lunch. Then a tired girl who wants books. Then there are mornings like yesterday. We have random items laying around for use. After a quick breakfast of cinnamon bread, (baked two days before) DD noticed I had finished wrapping gifts which meant empty wrapping paper rolls. Oh....the endless opportunities! She opted to make her own road map. Yes, Geography done! We have two left. She wants to make a giant roll out card for Daddy. Reading/Writing! Then she got bored so I showed/taught her to make origami hearts, which lead to further research about that as well as her creative plan to make a butterfly out of the hearts. (She decorated it with stickers of bikini tops, bottoms, hats, a purse, etc.) Then she remembered we never finished her most recent issue of High Lights magazine her Nana sent her. Filled with reading and games. We finished it. And so of course that lead to more reading and practicing reading scripts for her audition next Fall. We have a long way to go...and so on. This morning Grandpa will be here shortly after she wakes up. I know we'll make brownies for the librarians tomorrow, exchange gifts, go over some state quarters and post cards he is bringing her and work together on making a family dinner. No telling what else. Some mornings DD wakes up asking to bake or build an air plane. Some mornings we do nothing but play games on the computer or build blocks. Other days I might have in mind an activity we can do for our unit study, which she is usually more than willing, but can decline nicely. There are the days at the Center. And days we have gymnastics. Or like lately, visiting relatives, holiday baking, Christmas parties, wrapping, homemade gifts, and special lessons on Jesus' birth. All of it relevant. We just let the day take us wherever and juice as much from it as we can.

I have seen the results in my child and I like what I see. One day we may be more structured, but right now, I like learning as we go.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From a Tired Homeschool Mom and Super Wife

Before anybody gets judgemental about what I'm going to say, let me clarify. What I am saying is, "I am tired FROM." These are the things that make me tired inside. Things that require me to need some reenergizing. In no way am I saying, "I am tired OF" anything in my life. I wake up every morning and Thank God for all I have and everything I have the time to do: teach my child, care for my home, help others, be there for my Husband 110%. And the list continues. I wouldn't change what I do or who I have become for the World. But with all the time I have and everything I do that people consider me "another one of those Super Moms that has to be better than others," which is NOT why I do what I do...I get tired too. I sometibmes say, "Play on the computer as long as you want." while I retreat to the bath. I sometimes allow late sleeping in the morning so I can have "just 30 more minutes" to shop online for Christmas. No matter how great it looks on the outside, none of us can be Super Mom all the time...

I am tired from teaching. From making everything a lesson. From going to the grocery store and not being able to go in and out quick because it has to be a lesson. From not being able to watch TV without it being educational. From having to have meaning behind everything, especially holiday celebrations. I am tired from not saying no to reading her a book-ever. And from double checking she knows her math facts forward, backward, and everything between.

I am tired from using my nice words and soft tones. From saying, "That's okay. Next time we will make sure not to drop the whole batch of brownie mix on the floor." From saying, "I feel like we need time apart. Let's go to separate rooms." From having to continually put myself in somebody else's shoes and understand everything. From not being able to YELL OUT the way I feel.

I am tired from caring for someone else 24 hours a day 7 days a week. From clothing someone else in the morning to making that extra plate at dinner. From not being able to just sit down for 24 hours in pure silence. And sleep or watch TV. I am tired because my child has no bedtime. Because I can't just clock out at 8 PM and be on call for nightmares or sickness only.

I am tired from cooking. From buying organic and watching what we eat. I'm tired from making big, from scratch meals with fresh vegetables and homemade seasonings.

I am tired from cleaning all the time. From making sure there is no dust on the hardwood. No dog hair on the couches. I'm tired from mopping the floors by hand and keeping the laundry caught up. From making sure the drawers are organized at all times. And that the window sills are paw print free.

I am tired from making all the calls and paying all the bills. From making sure the budget is just right and everything is paid off right on time. From being the bad guy who says, "We can't afford that this week. Look what we spent here, here, and here." And from being the one who scrambles to keep us debt free, while the other half-my Husband, likes to see how far in the negative he can make us go, as long as we get that new phone or flat screen.

I am tired from driving everywhere. From one side of town to the next. And "After we leave here, we need to stop by two stores before we head home."

I am tired from helping others at the Center. I feel like I give it my all, but maybe that isn't enough. Maybe I need to do more. I'm tired from telling them, "It will be okay. Here is my story. Here is what God says." And even then sometimes, they still make the decision to end a Life.

I am tired from not having alone time to do what I want to do, not clean or pay bills, but bake without feeling, "This could have been a Math lesson." From not having enough alone time with my Husband. To resorting to sending DD to her room for 30 minutes a day on the weekend just so we can cuddle, talk, start a movie in peace and quite.

I am tired from not being able to ride in the car and just think or listen to music. From having to always have a conversation or play the Guess Animal game.

I am tired from being everything for my Husband. From getting up at 5AM after going to bed at midnight. From cooking the same breakfast for him every morning, oatmeal and two eggs. Then on to boiling the soup for his thermos. Making him a protein and creatine shake. And making sure to set out his vitamin and two BCAAs in a plastic Rubbermaid and a 1/2 gallon water bottle to wash it down with.

And at night, cooking dinner for an hour, cleaning for an hour, and then setting our all the clothes, vitamins, and breakfast to make the next morning. At which point I am too tired to moved or do anything else.

I am tired from upholding this image of "perfect." From having to make sure we are always learning. From having to prove even though my kid is homeschooled, contrary to popular believe she IS smart, involved, and NOT socially akward. From having to be involved in everything. From knowing everyone in the community and having to carry on intelligent conversations with them, which I generally enjoy, but would like to just have the option to be quiet for once. From having to know the ins and outs of my Husband and serving his every last need, no natter now trivial. Does he expect me to? For the most part, yes. And he appreciates it. Do I expect him to work and support us? Yes. And I appreciate it too. I'm tired from going to church every single Sunday and being at every meeting. Every event. Every invite we ever receive. Dressed and ready with homemade goodies in hand.

I Love what I do. There are no words to describe the joy and fulfillment I have. But some days being the best person you can be at ALL times you can be it, it will make you tired. And you just need to wind down.

For those of you who haven't noticed, this is how I wind down. I write every thought in my head. I ramble. And I reason. But now I feel much better. When I look in the mirror, I like who I see. I like the family environment my Husband and I have created. And I like the lifestyle that we live. But sometimes we all need a little sleep. So that is what I shall do.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Random Thoughts and Goals

Just a few goals for next year I have been going over in my head.

-We will start with our Ocean Geography Fair Project.

-We will study the History of Epiphany and Celebrate it.

-Start focusing more on subtraction, memorizing quick facts.

-Sam picked Wizard of Oz as her new chapter book. (She is auditioning for the Wizard if Oz play next Fall.)

-Incorporate more Bible time because of Sam's sudden, intense interest in the Bible.

-Group activities, field day especially.

-Start Organic Garden

-Learn to Can Together

-Paint with Nature

I will add more as I think of some goals.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Party

So my first official project with CHEA went A-MAZING!!

I worked with the board to get everything together. We met twice as a group. Once on a board meeting. Once on a field trip. And a few times alone at individual houses and the party location.

We divided up the responsibility. Larissa took over party games and location. (She was able to get a large room at her church for free.) Nekey craft. Penny, entrance game. (Guess how many candies in the jar.) My job? Supervise. I made sure everybody did their part, kept count of adults and children. (We do sign ups on the forum.) Posted updates. Made sure we had enough supplies. Etc. Etc.

It was so easy. And as cheesy as it sounds, I now have the CHEA Christmas box in my garage and I am the keeper of said box until summer break. I feel as if that was my initiation into the group of Moms. All of it. Planning the party. Going to their houses and planning/chatting while Sam played with her new friends. And keeping the box! They trust me to hold on to it. They know we aren't going anywhere. In fact, I was recently offered a spot on the board next year. My dream! It's like PTO, but we plan everything! Or at least help others who want to initiate something. Fieldtrips. Playdates/Socials. Parties. Field Day. (I recommended next year we do a Christmas float. They LOVED it! So next year we are on for that.) I just want to be 100% involved for Sam. Not TOO involved. But still...Involved.

Now I know I sort of got off on a tangent about me, but as a homeschool Mom, it gets lonely at times, and so it really has been nice to gain that acceptance and finally have this group of friends where we sit and chat about, "How long have you been homeschooling?" "What style do you use?" and joke about how we all put addressing Christmas cards in the lesson plan book under reading/writing. So selfish as it may sound to anybody who does glimpse into my life and read this, I need friends too.

The party itself went very well. We spent an hour setting up. All the kids helped. The younger ones like Sam set out food, hooked ornaments, spread out bowls, etc. It was nice to see Sam get involved in it and kind of learn what it is like to set up a party. It gave her a sense of contributing and made her feel proud. 

Afterward, since we showed up 2 hours before the party, we had an hour to sit and chat and make sure everything was just right. Samantha sat with her friend, Julia. They played their iPods, practiced cartwheels, played games, talked about books, and giggled about who knows what. Some kind of elf stuffed thing I believe. 
Once everyone arrived with their dishes-everyone brought something-we welcomed, prayed, formed a line, and started serving. We ate. Sam sat with her friend Julia and 6 other girls. I sat at a table with a few other Moms and teenagers. (Age 10 to 16.) It was interesting to hear them talk about volunteering, applications, reading, schoolwork, and family.

The craft was simple (marshmallow snowman ornaments) so everyone did it at their table.

Everybody enjoyed the games-Decorate the Human Christmas Tree, Snowball Fight, Rudolph Nose, and a few others.

Then we worked together to sort out the food donations for families. (We did that as opposed to a gift exchange.) We had enough to feed 30 families 3 meals apiece.

People began leaving after they did their part of the clean up. (When you sign up, you have to put weather you are helping with set up or clean up. This is nice because it is easier and faster to get things done.)

All the kids were exhausted. We were the last ones to leave. Once the doors were locked, we headed home just in time for dinner and Sam passed out until 9 o'clock. (At which point she woke back up, ate, read some books, played on the computer, and went back to bed with us.)

I'd say we had a good time. Turn out was amazing. 75 People. I haven't seen that many CHEA families together at an event since the Picnic.

This was the last gathering of 2013. Definitely a great way to close out the year. Next year will be full with more playdates, Valentines Skate Party, Geography Fair, History Fair, Science Fair, Field Day, Field Trips -including one to News Channel 12, Homeschool Days at Lake Winnie, Six Flags IMAX, and the Aquarium, Curriculum Fairs,  and more that hadn't been planned yet, but I'm sure it will be.


Monday, December 9, 2013

How Fast Things Change

Oh man. How fast they grow. How fast things change. Things today will be different tomorrow. We start new traditions. Learn new things. Come up with new interests. And life just keep changing. So we savor ever day.

Last night's trip to a local church's Christmas play drastically changed Samantha's point of view in two areas. (And I was afraid she wasn't listening because she sat with her friends to watch the play.)

We attended a Live Nativity and church Christmas play that retold the story of Jesus's birth, something that has been retold to her regularly,
Over the years. However, something about this play, maybe the environment, the other kids, the way it was portrayed, caused something to click inside of her brain. She started making connections and before we knew it we were at home reading the NLT of the Bible, starting with Matthew Chapter 1. And she got it. The basics were told to her beforehand and with that all the little details being revealed to her made complete sense. This was it. This was the story of Jesus. Not the little cut and dry kiddie version, but the real story. And she couldn't get enough. So we read until she fell asleep at 3 AM (Of course we didn't lay down until about 2.) Then we read again tonight. At five years old, I'd say she is read to continue on into unfamiliar stories, with explanation beforehand, but we will get there after we get through the gospels. I just thank God she is so interested in the Bible and in Jesus and living the most Christian life she can and I hope she doesn't stray from that. (I hope staying in strong Christian environments all of the time-home, church, Center, CHEA-will help to foster that.)

The second spark the play ignited is her desire to act in plays. She used to be in dance before gymnastics and keeps begging to do both just to get back on the stage. Imagine her surprise when she realized children could act! (Her Forte.) We called the local performing arts center and they said each play is different for age restrictions. The one taking auditions right now is 6 and up, as are most. She needs to be able to read a blind script in order to audition.

I told Samantha and she is more ready than ever to keep on reading. I printed off some simple scripts in order to get her familiar with the format and acting and to practice reading in a fun way. She is doing well so far and her reading is progressing daily. (She read High Five magazine by herself today.) I truly believe she will be ready to audition for their production of Wizard of Oz next Fall around the time she turns 6. *Fingers Crossed * Now we have a goal to work toward, which always makes the process more fun. Next "semester" is going to be a blast!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Called Pause

In one of my last posts about Sam's reading, I mentioned that I struggled getting her to read. She used to love it until it got harder-level 2 area. Something more than cat, bat, and rat. I would keep saying, "Focus!" And she'd say, "Do I have to read it?" And I'd say something like, "If you want to play Freddi Fish."

So...after much thought, I decided we would take a month off. So we did. I felt guilty at first. That is what a lot of my posts about feeling lazy were about. But we started enjoying our "time off," as I read to her more and more chapter books. At first I thought, "She is just going to expect me to read to her forever." She indulged the first week and did nothing but listen. I was patient and let her decompress. Then she started pointing out words or punctuation and saying things like, "Quotation marks mean someone is talking!" (Which she learned by asking questions when we read.) When we went out, she pointed out words and read them, not the brand name site words, but words like "wings" and "buy one get one free." Then yesterday, she asked to read a book to me. It was called, "No More TV, Sleepy Cat" and She. Showed. Me.

She whizzed right through that book with words like "turning" and "night" "fuzzy" and "kisses." She tripped up a few times, but figured it out herself. I was very proud of her. She read it again last night to Jessie and he was very impressed. It was obvious by the way she sounded out some words and pointed at each one, she did not have it memorized. The morning she read it to me was her first time reading it. (Library Book)

I can't wait to see how her reading progresses now! And I know to watch for signs of needing a break and she WILL learn during that time.

So far this year, by state law, we have have completed a semester. Not only has she mastered another level in reading, but she knows single digit addition like the back of her hand. She has learned about Native Americans, TRUE Thanksgiving History, not the diluted mumbo jumbo some people teach. She has learned about Christmas History, not just the Bible story, but WHAT are some of the old traditions?  WHERE did they come from? WHY do we do them? She has learned about the Ocean, which we will continue for her Geography Fair. She has learned all about the Human Body. Done many, many nature studies with walks and sketches. We talked about everything we see. Look up what we don't know. She has learned a lot about office work, compassion, and discipline through being at the Center. She has mastered Level 1 of gymnastics. She can do cartwheels, beginning stole bars, beginning trampoline and tumble track. She has a good grasp on the first steps of a head stand and also the pedestals. Despite never going to daycare or school, she has always sat well during class and has earned the favor of her female teacher, Grace. Samantha has done so much else this year, from beginning subtraction, fractions, and multiplication. To learning how to follow a recipe and bake a cake on her own. Comprte with recognizing the fractions on a measuring spoon or cup and adding up how many 1/4 cups we need if the 1 cup is dirty. She is also learning to make tortillas, breads, and hot drinks like tea and hot chocolate. She loves building and spends lots of time on Minecraft measuring out houses and making plans to build. (Looks even cooler now that we have a 100" screen to play on through the projector.) She has also enjoyed lots of art this year. She got some cool kits for her birthday. One of her favorites was make your own markers. She learned a lot about mixing colors and the process through doing that. It has really stuck with her. She loves watching how things are made-especially the TV show and clips. And she can explain how things actually work.

She has also had a lot of hands on experiences this year. The library has always been an important resource for us and hands on researching books on their computer card catalogue has taught her a lot about typing, spelling, categorizing, and finding her own books. Not to mention she has had field trips to the Bodies Exhibit, Nina and Pinta replica Ships, and Pioneer Days-which we thoroughly enjoyed. And our family trips to places like the Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch, Live Nativity, Christmas Plays, Improv Plays, etc . Lots of fine arts. Next year, once she turns 6, I would like to see her become more involved with the homeschool classes at the local nature center, but I won't push. (Although bird watching and digging for wildlife in the pond, sounds pretty cool and rich with learning opportunities.)

All this made possible without even pushing. Pushing made things hard. Letting go made it possible for her to take huge strides and initiate her own learning. There were so many "pauses" I felt, this year in homeschooling. My brother lived with us for awhile. Jessie hurt his back and was out of work and in bed for a few weeks. Keeping my little brother when he is off school. Not to mention this being her "first year," so we are trying to figure each other out in the way she learns/I teach-slightly more formal than before. And trying to balance being in a homeschool group, new friends, gymnastics, the Center. Now the holidays. And most recently, Sam's cold that keeps her sleeping several hours a day. Despite all this, in a mere 3-1/2 or 4 months, she has accomplished and learned so much. She has developed new, real interests as she has gotten older.

I have so much planned for next year. Although Sam may decide to take it in a different direction. I would like for her to keep progressing in her reading and become fluent in her subtraction at the very least. And continue learning, naming, and locating each of the states, continents, and oceans. We will also complete our project for the Geography Fair. I know she'll have an awesome Valentine Party with her Homeschool group at the skating rink. And some more field trips I'm sure. I plan for us to start an organic garden this Spring. From there we will see what new recipes she learns and what she gets from canning. Maybe she will learn to assist me more in my preparation for the Recovery Bible Study. Maybe she will decide to learn about the Medieval Times or Ancient Egypt. Maybe she would prefer to learn more about our state we live in. She might focus more on gymnastics or decide to put more time into art. Maybe. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Free to Learn Free to Live: My Parenting Philosophy

I get a lot of shocked responses and stares from people when they hear about my parenting style. My philosophy isn't quite as exuberant is Dr Spock's, but rather more like the teachings of John Holt.

As most of my friends and family know, I believe children thrive the most in an environment where they are free, with the exception of a few things that NEED to know, to learn by their own devices. Academically, Samantha is currently covering reading, addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, electricity, oceans, United States Geography, and History of Indians-about to move on to Bible History/History of Christmas ("Story of," traditions of the past and of other countries, foods, meanings of symbols...) ALL of this by her own choice. With that being said, we do have what some consider dry spells, where we aren't covering anything specific. We just read chapter books, play games, go outside. Although the value of these things should never be underestimated. Not only is Sam processing all the information she was taught, but she is learning from those down times too. But I digress.

For the most part, we also use natural consequences to teach. This is the real eye widener right here. Yes, we do whip-in extreme cases. From the way I interpret it, the Bible tells us to do so. But I also believe that we, as adults learn naturally, and that it is also as effective for children. In my own experiences, my car motor recently blew because of a snapped timing belt that I refused to replace routinely due to cost...Which in turn cost us over $4,000.00. Guess who does ALL their routine maintenance now? This gal! As if that doesn't explain enough, let me give a small scale example. I decide to leave the house for gymnastics 20 minutes before. We are late. I learned to leave earlier.

The same goes for Samantha. We allow her to make most of her own choices. She chooses when to go to bed, if she wants to eat dinner-no snacks if she doesn't. She chooses what she wants to wear. One that really seems of concern to some is that we don't make her wear shoes. She didn't  wear shoes last year, except in the library (required by them if she wanted to go in-so she chose to wear them and go in) and few other exceptions where she wanted to. (She never got sick.) This year, however, she remembers that winter means cold weather. Cold weather plus no shoes equals cold feet. And cold feet equals painful. Some lessons take her longer than others, but the end result means she is being responsible in CHOOSING what she wants to do. ie To wear shoes outside in the winter-instead of doing it because she has to. She doesn't always wear shoes now. She doesn't feel she needs them inside or in the Summer, as long as she isn't on pavement. (I'm the same way.) There is so much more to this philosophy, but the end goal is to give children small choices while they are young so that they can make mature choices as they grow. The are more apt to choose to stay away from drugs or promiscuous sex. (It is a theory that teenage rebellion comes from being at an age where you are first able to make your own choices. Children become more aware that they control their own decisions and want to exercise that.) But it should begin so much sooner. And let me say, since we began this way of parenting about a year and a half or two years ago, the petty arguments have ceased. The days go by more peacefully and more enjoyable. This, I believe, is the product of having a Free Child.

Another thing we allow and encourage is the opportunity for Samantha to express herself. (Lots of people say we are hippies for this. Even Jessie calls me his little Hippie because I am more extreme then him in this form of parenting.) I believe this helps her to find who she is and learn how to control her emotions. With one restriction. "Do not hurt anyone or anything." So if she needs to stomp, by all means, Stomp! (She actually does it less now that she knows it doesn't phase us.) She can do that at any time she feels she needs to. She can scream-in her bedroom so she doesn't hurt anyone's ears...You get the picture. She can cry whenever she feels the need to. It can be for no reason at all. She has actually done this before, at random times. Once she cried because we went down a road damaged by the tornado. Because she knew people died from the tornado on that road. This opened up for more discussion about God, Love, Life and Death, something that we may not have had the opportunity to discuss had she not felt comfortable busting out into tears in front of me.

I like to think my child is a Free child. Free to learn. Free to live. Free to express her emotions. Free to express her opinions. Free to spend her time the way she wants. Free to be who she truly is.
It has been said to me more than once, "Well, she does her own thing anyway." Although some say this as a negative remark,  I don't find this offensive at all. It actually makes me smile and think of all the things she does-her own way, the Samantha way.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gymnastics Progress/Geography Fair

Sam has developed a real interest in gymnastics over the past few months. She has deemed it worthy of her time to practice at home-continually. She mastered her cartwheel in just 2 weeks! Then she moved on to the stall bars....She is fearless now. Next was head stands. She has made some huge strides in this and can now balance on her head with her knees on her elbows-starting positicon. She is also practicing her splits-so close!

I am so very proud of Sam. Not just for making so much progress, but also for practicing, spending time and energy to get better at something she enjoys as opposed to just expecting it to happen. Next semester will be interesting as she works more on the trampoline and improving on the pedestals.

Side Note: Sam's CHEA Group is having a Geography Fair in February. (As well as a Science Fair in the Spring.) Anyway, all ages are encouraged to participate, so I asked Sam if she wanted to. She said yes! She chose Oceans, and we are going to start on her project after the holidays. She can do pretty much anything she wants. We just need to do a tri board with any information/pictures we want to include. She can bring in experiments she has done. Pictures she has taken. She can bake a native food-if she had chosen a country. She can even do a presentation or demonstrate part of a native language she has learned. Anything is allowed. I can't wait to see where this leads us. This is exactly the motivation we need to get going again with Oceans.

Geography Fair Update: It has been 2 days since I wrote this. Today I discussed the fair further with Sam. She wants to write a report to go along with her triboard and read it to the judges! She also requested to write it with ink and quill like the early explorers! So I said, "Can do! I'll get in it!" Anything that gets her excited about reading and writing. :) 

Saturday, November 23, 2013


"Wouldn't it be great if I could spend two nights with you, Sam?"

"Yah, that would be amazing. Wasn't it funny when we slept in each others sleeping bags?"

"Yah. That was my favorite part. Will you should me again how to do that?"

These are the words I heard from two small children in the room next to me as I read my book, Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days,.(Two children who are now doing each others make up to get ready to put on a show for me before we give the dog a bath....or bake. They haven't decided which yet.) God has sent us an amazing family to become friends with. A family quite different from ours, but so very much alike in many ways. The Weaver Family. A homeschooling family with 6 kids. Age wise, yes, they are older, doesn't seem to uncommon for us. They have lived more, traveled more, and were together a long time before having kids. But we can relate together, laugh together, and learn from each other.

Sam made friends with Rachel at the picnic this September. And then Suzette, being as outgoing as she is, scheduled a playdate the next week. And joined gymnastics...They have been inseparable ever since. They have so much in common, personalitywise. They are both tenderhearted, timid, agreeable little girls. No arguing here. All I heard all day was, "I'll help you clean." Or "We can play whatever YOU want." "No. It's okay. Whatever YOU want." Etc. Etc. Interestwise, they both love gymnastics and art. And they just...relate.

Anyway, my Husband met Mike, Suzette's Husband, at the CHEA Thanksgiving Feast last Thursday. They hit it off. We have grown close very fast. We do movie night at their house now from time to time. We go to special events together and the girls even spent part of the last holiday-Halloween there. I'm so glad we found "couple friends" that we have a lot in common with who have kids Sam can play with and really enjoys playing with. It has been such a Blessing to find such a support system and be a support system for somebody else. (They just moved to the area.)

On another note, this week has been a busy week with CHEA. We attended two big events this week, Audubon Acres and the CHEA Thanksgiving Feast.

Audubon Acres was an awesome experience. They always have something going on, including a bunch of home school classes. This week they had Pioneer Days. A bunch of volunteer families got together and "acted out" life in the Pioneer Days. They talked about the games of that time. And since each center had hands on activity, the kids got to play the games if they wanted. One area showed how they cooked. And the kids got to taste corn cakes. Yummy! We toured a cabin. Washed laundry the way they used to. Sharpened an axe. Dyed cloth with coffee and talked about other natural dyes the Pioneers used. They shucked corn. And tried cider. It was a great day. Sam got to play with her friend, Julia. And at the end we met to collaborate on the Christmas party. Afterward we went home. Sam was so cold she wanted to take a warm bath and play with her toys. Nap time followed for us. It was such a productive, memorable, fun day.

The next day was the Thanksgiving Feast. It was held at night to give the Dads the opportunity to be there too if they work during the day. Jessie, to be honest, was very skeptical. (I have drug him to one too many formal events for my speeches and he was afraid he would feel inferior at this "formal dinner.") But in fact, it was not formal at all. (I tried to tell them that.) It was just a bunch of different families from all backgrounds with all different lifestyles sitting together, eating, and laughing. Jessie felt more laid back after a few of the Dads came up and talked to him. And Sam ran off as soon as Rachel arrived. She ended up sitting at a table with them. (They have a big family so they needed their own table.) I watched her joke and play from the other side of the room. It was bitter sweet. I didn't mind giving her that time though. She deserved it. She was having fun. And I have her all day. I helped with set up and clean up, talked to other Moms I hadn't seen since the picnic, and got together with some others to discuss the Christmas party progress. It was a great night. As usual, it was a very welcoming environment. The food was great. (Potluck) And we got to know others better. We are always the last to leave an event. And we stayed after with another family (the Weavers) for an hour talking in the parking lot. That's when my Husband got to know Mike better. And the kids played in the area while Suzette and I talked about holiday lesson plans. (Also a fun one.) We left, and my Husband said he now knew that relaxed, warm feeling that I always feel after get togethers. This group has been such a Blessing to us.

We dove head first into home school this year, leaving the preschool days as mere memories. I didn't think much would change for us, since we are doing things the way we always have, but they did. It's a whole new chapter with all new people and things to do. I can't believe those days are gone. The days of PAT. The days of no obligation to the school system. The days of not being super busy. This season has brought new friends, new places, new views on life, and a deeper understanding of some things.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


My Husband had been my main Homeschooling support system for the last 3 years. And even though he listened to me about my fears, inadequacies, and the good times too. Even though he said, "Yes, you can home school and I will support you." And he understood Sam is receiving a very individualized education, he still wasn't 100% there. He stood up for us when friends or family said Sam would be under educated or weird. He stood up for homeschooling when people said it was wrong. But a part of him, still worried. The schooled part of Jessie made him think, "Will she be weird, unsocialized, or lonely?" This fear of mine was assuaged by my first book about homeschooling back when Sam was two. And though I read sections aloud and have repeated things for years, he still doubted. He had to see for himself.
I posted before about how we Get Involved. Samantha sees her friends so often and she is unrestricted in her play for the most part. In gymnastics she listens to her teachers. But while she waits her then she watches the intermediate class and her and her friends try to practice some of the stuff the higher level girls do. They are allowed to talk too, as long as they know what to do on their turn. Playdates, group parties/gatherings, sleepovers...All unrestricted play. Sam has so many friends. Everywhere she goes. Many live down the road. Walking distance. (Not her alone of course.) Together they practice gymnastics. (Most of them are also in gym. Some in her class.) They play pretend. Play games.
Tell stories. Listen to music. Explore. And sometimes teach each other math facts or reading. They really enjoy teaching each other what they learned that day. So much goes on around her friends. (And since she doesn't have any siblings, we might as well get ready for it now. Her friends will be at our house all the time. She always wants a friend with her lately, which is fine. I understand her need for company closer to her age.)
Anyway, Tangent Woman will stop now. What was I saying?
Oh yes, My Husband told me at dinner today a friend of his brought it up that homeschooling makes it hard to socialize. (We have had problems with this friend always putting homeschool down, even in front of Samantha.) Jessie said he really thought about it, and he told him that, while he used to agree, he completely disagrees now. He said Sam is making friends everywhere she goes. Left and right she is having people over it going out with them. She has kids spending the night on week nights! Gasp! (It is easier for our schedule to have kids over on week nights because of Hubby's schedule.) He said he knew then homeschooling was right. He looked me right in the eye and said, "We'd homeschool again in a heartbeat."
I have been longing to hear those words for years. I mean, he is a huge support. Giving me the okay. Allowing me to do it. Teaching Sam. Listening to me get excited and worry and get angry at times. Being the sole bread winner. Even though a second check might make things easier-financially. But I have never heard him say something like THAT. He is not only supportive, as usual. He is now aboard the homeschool train. He went from, "No. Absolutely not!" To "Maybe." To, "Whatever you want to do." Now...this. it's a Glorious day in the Mays house as I skip around grinning from ear to ear. "It took 3 years, but all in good time!"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Works For Us

I realize this tends to be a reoccurring theme in my posts, but nobody reads this really. It is more of an electronic journal. And on the off chance you happen to this-"thus is the life of a Homeschooling Mom."

Being that it is our first "official" year, we are meeting all different types of families in Sam's home school groups for the first time. It truly is a melting pot. We have met families with all different lifestyles-stay at home moms or dads. Families where both parents work. Adoptive families. Families with one child. Families with six. Families of all races, backgrounds, and "economic classes." Families that use a variety of different teaching methods.....I have encountered families who adhere to a strict "school" schedule. They do all the core subjects. Piano. Violin. PE. Even recess. I have met some who are more lax. They get their "school done." But at the bare minimums and play or cook or work on projects the rest of the day. They use their text books and work books and barrel their way through until lunch when they stop. Some don't stop until 4 or 5 o'clock. I have met families who use online curriculums. And some that do unit studies. I have yet to meet any like us. We may never, but I think we will. Of course many families will allow the child led learning in some aspects, especially once the main subjects are completed.

Seeing other families and their cabinets upon cabinets full of curriculum makes me nervous. Of course I ask myself if I slacking as a Mom. And I go home and think about if we have done enough this week. It seems like I never remember what we do at home. All I can think if us "Well, we went to the Center. Then gym twice. And the library and play date on Friday. Man! We are always on the go." But that's not true. It's really not. And moments like these I am grateful for Facebook Timelines and my pictures. It shows me and reassured me that all we have done, even if it is not as conventional as others, we are learning and having fun.

I saw where we had baked pumpkin cookies-new recipe-completely from scratch. We played Chess and other board games. Computer games. We built a fire together as a family. Not to mention cooked Smores on it. Studied our Rooster who has decided to roost on the back porch where it isn't quite as windy. We used a loom to weave a pot holder. Collected State Quarters. Played with friends. Planned a Christmas party. Went on a field trip. Read. Grocery shopped. Practiced math facts in the car. Played with fractions. Answered questions about what certain words mean. Wrote a book. Started reading "Trumpet of the Swan." Drew in our nature journal. Watched videos of trumpeter swans and their cygnets. Learned words for different male/female animals. Went to church. Talked about God, death, bullies, and handling emotions. Went on a long nature walk. Talked about the History of holidays. We talk a lot. (We also started researching and planning on using some traditions from early Thanksgivings. Something we do every year.) And all that was just this half of the month. Maybe the cookies were the end of October, but you get the picture.

But really, with all the self questioning I go through almost daily, I always come to the same conclusion. In the end what works best for YOUR family may not work for another family. We get stuff done on a lax schedule because it us just-us. We can go with the flow and Sam likes the unschooling method, which works for me because she is always going something productive. And mixing in a little Charlotte Mason here and there doesn't hurt. Using Living Books. Drawing in a Nature Journal. That is all fun and games and cuddles and warm times for both if us. Maybe there are days when seemingly nothing gets done, and we tend to focus on those days. But all of us, homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike have those days. Always have. Always will. We just have to keep going and trust that God has lead us down the right path, which is always does if we listen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CHEA Christmas Party

This year Sam's groups have been going extremely well. Sam has made friends upon friends upon friends.

And I have made friends with the parents. (One of which I was able to enjoy a night out with recently-much needed break. She is so encouraging and full of great advice from a Christian perspective due to her years of experience being married, parenting, cooking, and especially homeschooling. Parenting is a whole different world when you home school. We don't deal with teachers and homework or bullies at school. We struggle with if we are teaching them enough, how and when do we get time for ourselves-to just be with God. And how do we help our children handle some of their problems-ie being made fun of for not being in "real school." Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Neither is better. Both are hard. Parenting is sometimes hard, and sometimes fun. But talking to someone in the same boat helps no matter where you are.)

I feel like we are getting to know this group and getting involved has been an adventure, getting to know the board members and other members. Going to the play dates and field trips, just talking while we watch the kids play and discover from a distance. It has been amazing. Truly amazing.

One thing though, I like to instill in Sam is involvement, as I stated before in my post Community Involvement. So when they began asking for volunteers to help with the Christmas party, I jumped on it. Little did I know that they were going to ask me to plan it. "Me?! It's my first year!" "We need some fresh new ideas. It's easy. You'll be fine. You seem like you are organized and can do it." "Okay...If you say so."

Hours later searching on Pinterest for games. Making lists of what to buy. People to email. Others to call. Trying to get a location and days set up between the 4 of us.

Okay. Location/Date. Done.

We spent all afternoon yesterday at one of the board member's houses. We figured our she lives 1 mile down the road, as do most group members, so we trekked to her house to get the "Magic Christmas Box" full of supplies that everyone kept talking about. And Sam played with her 8 year old daughter while we planned and planned.

Okay. Meeting set up for next Wednesday after the field trip. Check.

Posting on the calendar. Delegated. Check.

We need games. We need decorations. Darn. I can't get the supplies until closer to time when we know who is signed up.

Well, good start. I guess we'll finish up Wednesday after I spend some more time on Pinterest looking for games.

It has been an experience. I have met many great women just in the past week. Sam has made new friends through this. And she sees the involvement. She sees me working hard at home. And soon she'll see the result.

I am glad I was "tricked" into planning this, as I put it. When my little brother started school my only thought as far as sadness goes was basically, "I'm sad I won't get to do like room Mom and PTO stuff, but it is worth it in the end to miss out on that but be here with her all the time." Now I get the best of both worlds. I get to plan parties for her group. Volunteer with her and the group. And in two years when they have people run for the board, you better believe I'm doing that too. That's even better than PTO. ;)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Homeschoolers and Community Involvement

It wasn't until I recently re-read the book, "The Well Adjusted Child," that I realized how much our lives have changed as Sam has grown. (She was 2 when I read it the 1st time.) And also how involved in the Community Homeschoolers-at least my homeschooler-is.
I remember reading and thinking, "Um, wow, these people are either showing off or I'm slacking off. Maybe we should be more involved." Looking back, we were just as involved as any two year old should be. She went to dance and church every week and she was part of a Community Group called Parents As Teachers. That, I feel, is more than enough for a 2-year-old, but, as most newly decided homeschool Mom's feel, there was soon this guilt plaguing me. So I got a licence. (No, I didn't have a license until I was 19.)
And overtime, naturally, we got more involved. Socialization is one of the best parts. Yes, the "S" word. I never worry if DD will be "socialized" well enough. Without going into the facts, or my opinion, I know that positive socialization is not something DD will receive in school. It is something she will receive from being out in the community, talking to others, learning from others.
For our child, God has commanded us to homeschool. And I believe homeschool is more than "school at home" or "school in a box." After much searching, praying, and fighting myself, I believe it is about a life of natural learning. It is about learning whatever you can, whenever you can. And not even drawing a line of distinction between if what you are learning is "useful" ie Math, Science, Reading, S.S. related or "not useful" ie just playing for the sake of playing. Whatever she is doing, it is relevant to her life then, and that is how we adults live, isn't it? I feel like I have learned more about writing speeches, researching my interests such as homeschooling, gardening, and anything else I have put myself into the past 5 years, than I ever learned in school. So in order to live this life of free learning, for one, I must quit sectioning things off in my head and isolating them as one subject or another. And two, we must put ourselves out there.
No, we don't leave the house on Saturday. Hello, crowds. No thank you. But all week we are on the go. I think I carschool more than I homeschool. On the way to where we are going (usually 30-40 minutes apart) DD and I talk. We talk about God. We talk about the tornado damage we see. We talk about shadows. We play a game called "Guess the Animal." We do math facts. Make up stories. And then when we get where we are going, we continue to learn. Gymnastics. Recipes. Adding up the grocery bill. Making new friends who teach you to sled down a hill on cardboard the "proper way." Totally relevant to her child life. And if I wanted, I could call it Geometry because you have to get at a certain spot and slide at a certain angle, but there I go again....
There are 5 ways I want Samantha involved in our community. They are these:
Volunteering (Serving): Since I serve at a local Women's Center, it has been a natural extension of DD's life to help out ever since she can remember. She counts change donations, sorts and hangs clothes, makes copies. She even helps me speak at local churches
And since I have a tremendous amount of trust for this girl, I am able to leave her unattended. (In a safe environment, where she can get to an adult if she needs something. Chill, y'all.) I tell her this is THE most important thing she could do for God right now. I counsel women. Give them their options and encourage them to choose LIFE. I also counsel women who have chosen abortion and just need to find healing in God's Word. This is hard to do, focus, give the Living Truth, and cry with another woman who is scared, when you know you have a kid sitting in the room next to you that might be tempted to knock on the door and ask when we are leaving or decide she is bored. But she never does. She plays. Draws. Helps out wherever it is needed-like when they are watching a distraught client's baby, so Sam occupies them. She talks to the other women who work at the Center. She has built up quite a relationship with each if them. Mostly Amy. She likes to tell Amy about gymnastics. And Amy will tell Sam about God. To Samantha, adults are grown up children who also make mistakes, the same as her. They are not scary authority figures she shouldn't talk to. And I thank God she feels this way, because I think she should enjoy all ages. (Although in the beginning, I'll admit it freaked me out when anyone older than Sam talked to her. I thought they must either be a creeper or want something.) Anyway, I'm off track. The fact that I can leave her alone without her causing a disruption or misbehaving gives me 1. Enormous pride in my child's behavior and 2. It lets me know that God gave me a child with her temperament because "He knew the plans he had for me."
My point to all this being, through serving in her community regularly, Sam has learned 3 very important things. 1. She has learned to serve God. 2. She has learned her time is precious, and giving of your time is an amazing gift that can change someone's life Forever. And 3. She has formed close bonds with other Christian adults that can help guide her. I know those relationships will blossom and become a deeper as she grows. And 4. Not to mention all the office experience she will have. When she turns 18, she'll have 15 years experience. ;)
Church: Aside from serving God, she needs to Worship God in an encouraging environment. It doesn't have to be a big church with fancy get togethers. In fact, we go to a very small church where the people there, she has known for years. She was 1 when we started attending. And though we have grown, we might have 100 regular attenders-including children. We know pretty much everybody. DD is forming relationships with the kids, on the common ground that they want to learn more about God too. The teenagers, her teachers, because they are "feeding her," and the adults because they are doing the same. The kids are involved in most things. We don't have childcare for everything and I prefer it that way. Why stick them in a room and say, " You aren't old enough to help at the yardsale." Or whatever it is. Instead of letting them see us get involved and get excited about getting involved too? But going to church doesn't just mean showing up on Sunday to sing and do a lesson. It means helping out at events like the Big Give after the tornado. It means building those relationships with others so that you can build each other up. It means being a PART of the church. Not just being AT church. And I want her to understand that.
Activity: We also require Sam to be in an activity, to stay active and learning her particular interest, which right now seems to be gymnastics. And I doubt that will change any time soon. Sam has gymnastics twice a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our busy days. I like that she enjoy what she is learning, but again, community building. She is meeting others. Forming relationships with kids and adults. Some that may be lasting. Others not. We spend our time after gym going to the recycling center, walking the Greenway which is this Beautiful nature area with a duck pond, a creek, a giant wooden swing, all sorts of nature, going right through Collegedale. We go to the local playground. Shop at the thrift stores. We just enjoy ourselves. (We drive 14 miles one way. Why only stay for gym?)
Community Places/Events: I expect Sam to know about the "hot spots" and current events in her community, at least in Ringgold. When she was little, we always attended Catoosa Kids day and we began going to storytime at the library, so it was a natural extension to go to check out books, go to l library events, or anything else local they advertised on their board.
Of course I also want her to shop locally too, which I encourage by shopping locally myself. We are very well acquainted with the owner of the local fruit stand and the ladies at the local "junk shops." We do shop at Earth Fare too, but they sale local foods and they are about as local as you can get. We see the same people each time. It is a small enough store that people remember you when you come in and they have the time to talk to you while you wait on your meat to be packaged or while you check out. Plus, it is better environment to be in. No candy bars or profane tabloids at the checkout counters. No isles packed with unhealthy, artificial flavored and preservative filled foods. Natural care products. Just an all around healthy environment to be in, for the mind and the body...Here I am though getting off track again.
Other Homeschoolers: The last area I expect her to be involved in is with other homeschoolers. She already takes gymnastics with homeschoolers, but I like her to be in an unstructured setting where she can sit and talk or play, which is why we joined the local group, CHEA.
Recently...Well, yesterday, we had a group play date, and I never can believe it because every time we get together, it is exactly like what I read about in homeschool books for years. I always thought, "Home
school can't be this good." But it is. And I expect her to keep involved because the children in her group share a lot of the same interests and it keeps her from getting lonely during the school day, when she has friends who can meet during school hours or spend the night on a weekday. Not to mention the field trips and other learning experiences. Being involved with either homeschool groups also means she gets the inside on what is going in. Things she can participate in or places she can go. If this is the lifestyle she is going to grow up in, she needs to be well acquainted with it, and she is. I know she can't imagine her life being different.
AND since I believe in leading by example, I too get involved as much as possible, by volunteering, getting involved in church, talking to the Moms of her friends, setting up "play dates," and most recently volunteering to plan her homeschool Christmas party. (Which is exciting, but I'm a little nervous about all the work that will go into it.) It'll be a new experience though and I'm sure I won't regret it. I did it because I want to show her not to be scared to get out there. Even if you are scared because you are new, put yourself out there anyway or you might miss your chance.
Living a community centered life isn't as hard or as busy as people may think. Some things we only do once a month or maybe twice. Others weekly. But it is part of our living life and "schooling," so even with all that, I don't think we spend the 30+ hours a week that school requires.
Note: For us Community means our small town Ringgold and the surrounding areas, Collegedale and Dalton mainly. Both small areas. 
Through homeschooling, Sam has developed a close connection and love for her community. The places, the people. I have developed a closer bond with her as we get more and more involved together. And a deeper trust as she shows me she is more grown up than some people give a 5 year old credit for. These things-volunteering weekly, homeschool groups, all the 2 hour visits to the library, they just wouldn't be possible if she were in school. Community ties are so important to us. To BOTH of our growing minds. I can't believe all those years I missed out on living in my community. Endless possibilities. Close relationships. Things so many people miss out on when they are in a hurry. Something some people never care to have. But community is something I hold dearly. Closer than I ever have before. We are a group of people just relying on each other. And that's a Beautiful thing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living Life Unschooling

Extension of my last post: I forgot to mention another "friend" I have had to talk to lately about homeschooling, someone to bounce ideas and beliefs off of is my sister in law, Brandi, who has a 1,year old she is considering homeschooling. It's really neat having someone I'm already that close to to talk to, so I'm very surprised I forgot to mention her before.
On with my post...
I usually tend to get in a panic when Sam and I have days where I feel like nothing has been accomplished except errands maybe. Meal times. That sort of daily living stuff. Then I realize, well, that is life. It happens that way sometimes. And we don't always have to be doing something deemed educational or productive. We need down days, days where we sleep a little longer. Watch a bit more TV. Or maybe just color all day. Our bodies apparently are asking for that break.
And I look back on the previous days, weeks, or even months and I realize how much we have done. This Fall alone we have been enjoying time together as a family, celebrating Sam's 5th birthday, going apple picking, to the pumpkin patch, to the park. Sam has been improving SO MUCH in gymnastics. All she does some days is practice outside until she gets tired. Then she comes in to watch a gymnastics competition on the computer until she falls asleep. She has made new friends and she plays with them a lot. She talks with them. She is finding out more about who she is as an individual and as a friend. We have cooked together, baked together, shopped together. We have read together. We have studied the tree leaves together. We have gone on walks. We have looked at maps. We draw. We color. We listen to music. Sometimes we just talk. All of this. And more. This time that we are spending together, we are walking through life together, figuring out problems. Yes, she helps with problems. We act silly and laugh together. We do the mundane tasks that we have to do, but somehow they seem less mundane when we do them together.
And living life together, things seem like they are always changing, like there is no normal day. One minute it is the 3 of us. The next day we have a dog or a family member moves in. One day we are going to dance. Then she switches to gym. One day Sam is interested in Space. The next day it's Oceans. Sometimes we learn by reading and playing games. Sometimes I freak out and we write on the marker board and do calendar. But it is all neat, going back and looking at all the stages. Just waiting too see what life brings us next. It's just nice that we are able to "go with the flow" because we don't have this super duper strict schedule we have to adhere to. So if the church needs us to do something. Or the Center. Or maybe a family member gets sick, we are able to be there to deal with what life has for us. I realize I say this a lot, "We'll see what life brings next..." but I mean it. We just have to be there ready for what is next.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


I have prayed for this since things began changing for Sam. Since her friends started going off to school and they would all talk to her about class parties and homework, recess and circle time, things she really knew nothing about. I have been waiting for this since the parents' of her friends started talking about dropping off/picking the kids up, meetings, and other school related things. I longed for a friend for Sam. And a fellow Homeschooling Mom for me. I wanted Sam to have a friend who would say to Sam, "Yah! I am homeschooled too! Yesterday Mom was teaching us how birds fly!" or a Mom who would say things like, "Of course we will be at the fieldtrip next week. Maybe we can meet for lunch afterward!"

It seemed like that day would never come. It would be impossible to fit into this group that has already been journeying through homeschooling together for so many years. They are comfortable in their own group. To them, it would be another year of new members. So how do these new members push their way in?

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Sam made a close friend in an instant. People have been talking to us left and right at every meeting we have been to. And everyone is so willing to set up play dates, swap numbers, or talk about "school" while the kids run around doing their own thing.

Samantha's gets to see her new "best friend," Rachael at least twice a week lately. (Rachael is the little girl she met at the Not Back to School Picnic.) Rachael also joined Sam's gymnastics class, and they are in the same group. She has 5 brothers and sisters from 9 months to 12 years old, and they all love having Samantha over to play. (Samantha loves them too.) This makes Sam so very happy and she doesn't ever feel alone now. She'll say, "Mommy, I can't believe that they are homeschooled too! I didn't know other kids were homeschooled with their Mommies." I think it makes her happier, I am sure it does, knowing she isn't alone. Because nobody wants to be alone.

Side Note: I went out with Suzette, Rachael's Mom tonight, and it was a nice night away. We went to Fresh to Order for dinner and then the mall to walk around and talk. We were out for 5 hours just talking about everything from family to homeschooling to cooking and the Bible. It was nice gaining some insight from someone with the same general beliefs and interests as me. It was a much needed, very refreshing night. I feel like we will get along just fine, despite my initial nervousness about telling her my age. (We actually did talk about it, and she said she didn't have a problem with it. She knew when we started talking that I was younger just from the way I looked.) In fact, when we went in stores to shop for clothes, she tried to help me pick some out based on the kind of clothes she buys for her daughter. It was like shopping with my Mom. In a good way. And I was able to help her too because I have awesome taste of course.

Of course we talked about getting the kids together again, maybe even the Husbands. (We'll see about that.) Friday is our CHEA Group Playdate on Cardboard Hill. Can't wait to see what the kids think of that.

I am home now. Put Sam to bed. I am ready and refreshed for tomorrow knowing that we won't be going it alone anymore.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Continual Thoughts

Being that I have constantly battled with this "first year everything must be perfect" syndrome, I am constantly having to rethink what I'm doing. I don't battle with it as much as some. No I haven't turned to desks, saying the pledge, or workbooks. But I feel like I am in this uphill battle against myself. One side of me wanting everybody to approve of what I do and to say, "She is at or above other kids." The other part of me saying, "What is truly important here? Her naming her math facts quicker than the other kids or her having a warm childhood filled with memories of playing outside and baking and going to fun places? Where is the balance?" I am having a hard time finding it with all this outside pressure. I keep resolving to say, "Forget what others think." But then I keep going back to that battle. So now here I am trying to find a good balance, a solution to not crawling back to pick up all those stones Satan puts in my sack.

What does Sam need to know?

Sam needs to know how to read, write, and do simple addition and subtraction. (We are also loosely working on Geography, but only as an extra since it is one of Sam's interest.) Science is required too.

How can I do this without being overbearing? Forcing her to do things she isn't getting much out of just so I can having something to show, something to write in my little lesson plan book?

Easy. We always play games, board games, computer games, apps. We own board games for all core areas. And even some that cover things like critical thinking, strategy, and statistics. Car games are our favorite. We like the "Guess Animal" game. We quiz each other on math facts. 

We read together. Reading covers all areas. I need to continue to build Sam's book collection so she has things to spark her interest. I should always be willing to take her on that extra trip to McKays or the library.

We even bring out some of the old school stuff like Mad Libs, Oregon Trail, and Magic School Bus, School House Rock, Bill Nye.

Hands on stuff is daily. We bake. We grocery shop. We dig in the dirt. Play with a tape measure.

Wow. All this comes so naturally. I guess I just needed a little mind refresher. Something to assure me she doesn't need to be forced to learn. Something to remind me why I liked the unschooling philosophy to begin with. I am going back and reading. Talking to other homeschoolers. Praying on what to do next. We keep going up and down. But it's a learning process. We have many more years of learning to go.

What do our days look like? How should they look?

Lately our days are all planned out for us. I feel like we gotta have SOMETHING to put in that darn lesson plan book-that I am about to throw out!

Tuesdays we have the Center and Gym. Also "reading day" where she reads me a book. Which frustrates her to know end that we have to do it right then.

Wednesday is experiments day, which I feel like is worthless to her. What is she truly learning when I TELL her, "It's time to study shells!" How much more would she gain if she chose to do it herself? Even if I just put it somewhere in her path so that she might initiate it herself. Then she has to focus on Math for part of the day or I freak, even knowing that she has been playing math games all week-on her own free will!

Thursday-MORE worthless experiments. "Let's mix oil and water to produce waves." While Sam is like, "Uh, yah, saw the waves at the ocean. This whole jar thing is just oil and water to me " Gymnastics. MORE forced reading.

Friday-Two Fridays a month are library day. Which is fun. No fight there. One is errand day and we go eat lunch with my brother. Fun too. And one is play date with her home school group. Also fun!

Saturday-The only "learning day" we both fully enjoy without one "fighting moment." And that is Game Day. It's not forced learning or busy work. It's something Sam loves to do and learns a lot from. We play State to State, SMath, Math War, Checkers, UNO. Computer games. LOTS of computer games. And so on. The list never ends. We Love games!

Although it seems to be a pretty busy, but well rounded schedule, there is something missing. One reason we chose to homeschool is the freedom in the schedule. But where is the freedom anymore? Where is the time for free play, building with blocks, playing outside, reading purely for enjoyment? Sure we still bake and she helps me cook dinner or plays with her blocks, but that is after "school time." 9AM-3PM It should not be separated like that. Learning is learning and you do it through reading, doing, and PLAYING. I need to quit looking at things in terms of. "Does Sam understand what I am teaching her right now?" And look at it in terms of, "Is this adding to her life?" If she spends her days reading. Playing with friends or by herself. Planting a garden with me. Cooking with me. Running real life errands with me. Adding up the grocery bill. Calculating sales. Making a shopping list. Helping out in her community. Learning about her community. Spending her days talking about recipes, seasonal foods, and holistic approaches to healing, just chatting with the locals. And going to church and learning the Bible. What more does she need? She'll be able to function more than adequately when she is out on her own because she will have been doing it for years.

So what should our days look like?

They should look like we are living and sustaining ourselves. Learning to care for ourselves, plants, and animals. How to care for others. We should be enjoying the holidays, learning why we celebrate them and how we should celebrate without giving into commercialism too much. Baking without having to "find the time between lessons." We need to be playing relentlessly. Putting together Legos. Pretending. Playing Paint on the computer. Getting out stacks of board games. Dumping all the art supplies on the table just to see what we can make of it all. Not following one pattern online. We should be outside in the grass, staring up at the clouds. Riding a bike, scooter, playing fetch with the dog, or helping Daddy work on his mower go kart. That is what childhood is about. Math and reading will come. Yes, they will be covered, but in a fun way. Not in a way that says, "Let's make this as dull and repetitive as possible because you just don't add or read fast enough for me." I will continue to fight my inner traditionally school self if it kills me. My child will receive what is best for her if it is the only important thing I leave behind in this world. She will grow up and say, "Mom did what was best for me despite what others said."

So now that I have wrote it all out, I will print this. My goal for the week is to chuck the lesson plan book-I don't even need it anyway. And start doing some of the things I listed. We will play with toys. We will play outside. We will play games. We will Trick or Treat. We will bake a pumpkin pie-in the Morning! We will go to gymnastics and kill time afterward. We with start swimming at the pool again. We with stop by Rachael's house after gym and just play until we have to leave. We will play games in the car and joke around. We will have a good week.

Side Note: Speaking of a good week, and trying to make more time for play. Sam is going out Saturday morning with a friend. We are going to an organic farm for an after Halloween celebration. And then that afternoon after Hubby gets home, I am going out for a "Mom's Night Out." I mentioned to one of the Homeschool Moms in gymnastics that I think we missed the sign ups for CHEA Mom's Night Out. So we decided to have our own night out, just her and me. I also mentioned we like to try to find natural/organic or at least healthy restaurants to eat at, and so does her family. So we are eating at Fresh to Order. Then we are going to go shopping. I doubt I'll buy anything. (I doubt we shop in the same stores, but walking around the mall area should be fun.) And I think it will be a great opportunity to create a bond between one of Sam's best friend's Moms, and a fellow homeschooling Mom. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Learning House


I Love looking around the house at night. It looks cleaner in the dark. No sunlight to show the dust floating in the air or the pawprints on the hardwood that seem to always come back as soon as I finish mopping.

I realized the other night how much learning is always going on. Math problems and words written everywhere. The experiments on the counters. The History. (Dates that Daddy writes on the board for us to look up.) Books everywhere. Collections. Maps. Drawings. 

At any given time this stuff is spread throughout the house, in every room. Throughout the day there is always being something done. Exploring outside and in the community. Reading a book together in the bedroom. Playing a computer game in the living room. A board game at the Kitchen table. Or a hands on game in the hallway, such as the one we made called, "Name That State!" 

It's Our Learning House.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

When Homeschooling Becomes Stressful

Days like today are the not so good days. The days where I just want to lock myself in a room and cry. I Love that Sam and I get so much time together, and I would not trade it for anything. We wake up together. We spend all day together. And she even still sleeps in our bed. Most nights. We are always back and forth with it. She can go either way for the most part....

But from time to time there are those days, where all that time together just takes a toll on both of us. I used to go to the Center by myself so that I could have that one day a week kind of to myself. It was like working one day a week. It gave me a break and I had time to do something that I enjoy, aside from educating Samantha. Now I don't even have that because MIL doesn't watch her anymore. So I go to the Center and I have to do my "work" at the same time that I am saying, "Sweetie, we need to wait until after lunchtime to eat your snack. You just had breakfast." "Yes, Sam, you can play on the computer. Sure. Let me bring that website up for you while I am doing 30 other things.

And with all this more structured "schooling" happening, it is making things hard. I feel like she HAS to learn certain things by a certain time or people are going to start saying I don't teach her, so I know I am trying to over compensate, which I said I would never do because I know she is learning so many other things...But of course, it is hard to ignore that external pressures! And they are wearing me down. Which all that is causing Sam stress. And when she stresses, SHE STRESSES! (FOR EXAMPLE, DH was recently out of work for 2 weeks because he hurt is back at work. Just went back today. He got paid 2/3 of his pay check while he was off for workman's comp. which was barely enough to pay the bills. BUT, all the bills got paid. We just had to watch that we weren't spending. Samantha heard me mention ONE time that we couldn't go out to eat because of it, and she lost sleep for days! She cried in the car because she wanted to make sure the bills were paid and that we weren't going to lose the house-which was never even a concern for us, so I have no clue where that came from...She even tried to give us the money from her piggy bank!)

So with all that stress that she heaps upon herself, she hasn't been trying at all! She has been super dramatic about anything that takes even an ounce of effort. Especially with math and reading. She doesn't want to play games on the computer or read books. Which is extremely unusual for her. And I keep hearing, "Do we have to...?" She even asked me that when I told her we were taking her shopping with her birthday money. She had little interest at first in going to spend it the day after her party. She had fun when I took her, but she kept having moments where she was like, "Do I have to go look at the toys?" "I don't really want to pick. You tell me which I should get."

On the outside, I just keep smiling, trying to keep calm, and saying things like, "Yes, Sam. We need to read this book. The more you read, the better you will get." "Computer games are fun. I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to play. Let's try this new one." and "It's up to you, Sweetie. It's your money."

But inside my chest is hurting and my blood pressure is rising and I just want to yell, "Yes! And if you don't do your "work" or make up your mind or quit being lazy, or whatever else you are doing, I am going to enroll you in school where you will have a lot more work than you do here! And then we will see if you complain about what I want. I don't ask for much! I ask for you to read one independent book a week. I ask you to play a few math GAMES a week. We go over maps for like 15 minutes once a week. And then do FUN experiments, activities, and movies for a Science topic. That is all I ask! Why is that so hard?!!!!!"

I don't understand. I ask her the problem so that if I need to change something I can, and she just mumbles something about how she doesn't know. It's just "so and so" hurt her feelings last year. WHAT?! How can I level with that? I try to remember she is just 5, and maybe doesn't understand, and that is why I give her calm, understanding replies, but inside I am like, "???!!!!" What am I supposed to do? I know we will get over this hump, but until then, "URRRGGG!!!!"

Vent Over.