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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Progress Report for This Year SO FAR

Ah. These reports always make me feel better about what we have been covering throughout the year. And WHEW-EE, Samantha sure has covered lots of art! She is an artist though, so that is her job. I have worked on her progress report since September, adding a little at a time. And at the end of the actual year, I go over it and revise it, adding things I may have forgotten. I marvel at how many pages just the big stuff takes up. (Our day to day living is detailed in her journals I keep for records.) 

We still have TWO more semesters. (We run like this September-December, January-May, and June-August, for paper work's sake. It helps me know where to begin and where to end on progress, even though we do year-round "school.") 

I jumped ahead and added some things I know she will be doing next year. I know she will start swim classes. I know we will be reading some of the Molly American Girl books. I know she wants to continue to learn some math facts with her new card games that she loves. And I know that she will be doing a project of Egypt (or possibly California) for the Geography Fair. I have this nagging feeling it will switch to California pretty soon. (She has this undying love for the way the land and weather are portrayed in that area.) I also know she wants to learn how to knit with a loom and do some more You Tube videos with real clay! 

Oh, how exciting it always is to start a new "chapter." Even though we only segment out our learning and life phases for paperwork purposes, there is always a difference we can feel and see as each new semester starts, weather it is renewed interest in old hobbies after the long Summer, new learning experiences after receiving numerous art supplies for Christmas, or a new sense of adventure rediscovered during the warm months, every part is always so exciting! And I know I can't wait for 2015. 

Samantha Anne Mays Progress Report 2014-2015

Curriculum Description: Samantha learns using a relaxed custom curriculum meant to teach her the basic concepts of each subject and allow for growth in areas that interests her most. She uses a range of learning tools and experiences from books, games, and movies to real life and hands on activities. Samantha choices her own units of study, which is then extended to include all the core subjects as well as other areas such as Bible Study, Arts, and Music.

Unit Studies

Samantha has completed a variety of unit studies (of her choosing) this year.

Dogs: Samantha really enjoys dogs and has two of her own, so she chose to complete a study on dogs. During that time everything she did was about dogs, from looking up images of dogs to consistently looking up questions about dogs.

Activities: You Tube Dog Training Videos-Zac George’s Channel, Clicker Training, Care and Observation

Books: Marley and Me, Bad Dogs, and various informational books about dog breeds, caring for dogs, and dog training and competitions

Art: Samantha main unit of study this year, has been art. She has covered various form of art from sewing and knitting to drawing and painting. She has used numerous mediums to make her creations and finds her inspiration in many different places from outdoor scenery to studying another artist’s work. She has even been inspired by classical music selections. 

Sewing: Samantha continued to hold an interest in sewing from last year and has learned many new skills. She can thread a needle and has been practicing needlepoint in order to make her sewing more precise. She can also prepare her sewing machine and use it with minimal assistance to complete a project. Some projects she has completed include a pillow, cat outfit and doll clothes.

Crocheting: Samantha also showed an interest in learning to crochet this year and went to her grandmother for assistance. She started by learning to cast on and hand placement and can now finish a complete chain. She hopes to be able to complete a dish cloth in the next few months.


You Tube Videos: Samantha has taken her art to a new level by making her own instructional videos, usually containing instructions on how to make Play-Doh figurines based on video game characters-inspired by the sweet treat You Tube channel Nerdy Nummies by Rosanna Pansino. Samantha has also made videos on cake decorating, clay making, and magic tricks. Samantha goes through the process of planning: what to make, how to make it, gathering materials, rehearsing what she will say. Then I assist her in filming the videos, sometimes taking several takes for one scene.  She has her own You Tube account and has learned to post her videos/upload, name, and type a description. (She follows a few channels such as How It’s Made, the History Channel, Zac George, and Nerdy Nummies. She also enjoys browsing the videos on You Tube for art videos and other topics of interest.) Samantha will soon learn how to edit videos on her own.

Drawing and Painting: Samantha loves drawing and painting and practices several hours a day. She loves reading How To books and looking up videos to help her understand how to make things look more realistic. She has started a few projects including several of her own books.
For her best book, she spent the day at the library looking for Children’s books about foxes to get an idea of the illustration style she wanted to use. She named her book The Fox and the Chicks. She illustrated the cover, typed the story with some assistance, and completed the pictures inside using sketch pencils and charcoals.
Her paintings have made a marked improvement over the last year. She is learning to control her brush strokes better. She can mix colors to make the colors she wants. And she knows the effects each type of paint makes. Some of the projects she completed with painting include her own interpretation of Starry Night, her favorite painting by Van Gogh and her painting interpreting The Four Seasons classical music by Vivaldi.

Field Trips: One of Samantha’s big field trips this year was to the Downtown Chattanooga Bluff View Art District. Samantha took a walk through Downtown Chattanooga, an art focused area. As she walked to the Art District she saw many statues, some that were abstract and others that were merely statues of people. She read about each one and talked about it, what she liked, what she didn’t like, what it could mean. Once she entered Bluff View, she visited the River Cress Art Gallery where there were many different styles of art. Each medium of art was in in a separate room. There was a glass room, a room with pottery, yard art, wood, paintings, drawings, etc. (Samantha found inspiration in an oil painting on wood and was determined to learn to use oil paints. She received a set of oil paints for Christmas and has been experimenting with them ever since.) After the art gallery she discussed what it must be like being an artist, starting out as an artist, how to get displayed in an art gallery, the prices of art, art styles, mediums, and interpretations.


Samantha started the year being able to read simple sentences without having to stop and sound out each word. Most of her reading has evolved into recognition more than phonics. By December Samantha was able to read storybooks on her own and intermediate elementary chapter books (8+) with some assistance. She even practices her reading throughout the day without being prompted by challenging herself to read road signs, text messages, instruction manuals, game boards, etc. She also challenges herself to spell out the word she is trying to convey when she talks as opposed to saying the word. Her reading has become so fluent that she rarely stops to sound out a word. Her spelling has become just as second nature as her reading. Although there is still room for improvement, Samantha ended the Fall semester “a reader.”

Samantha has read a variety of texts including those listed above in her unit study topics, hundreds of easy reader books, children’s classics, cookbooks, poetry books, historical fiction, and books about topics she is interested in such as books about horses and gymnastics.

She listened to and assisted in reading chapter books such as Marley and Me, The Samantha American Girl series including Meet Samantha, Samantha Learns a Lesson, Samantha’s Surprise, Happy Birthday, Samantha, Samantha Saves the Day, and Changes for Samantha as well as the Samantha Mystery series including The Curse of Ravens Court, The Case of the Stolen Sapphire, and The Call of the Loon.

The second semester she focused on the Molly American Girl books about World War II (See History).

Grammar and Punctuation: Samantha has a firm grasp on tenses as well as a beginning understanding of punctuation. She knows what periods, exclamation points, question marks, and quotation marks are for. She is beginning to use capitalization and punctuation in her writing when she writes letters to friends, notes in her diary, or when writing her own stories.

Activities: Samantha takes bi-weekly trips to the Library. Each visit she checks out 20+ books, some related to her unit studies and others not. Some she reads individually and others are read to her in a variety of environments such as the Library, home, outside, and in the store or car.


Samantha began the school year true counting to 100. By December she was able to true count to 1,000 by 1s and 10s. And can, although does not when prompted, count by 2s and 5s. She has continued to work on her addition and subtraction fact memorization and by December knew all her addition facts from 1 to 10. She also started working with double and triple digit addition, including “carrying the 1.” To help her better understand the concept, we covered place value by learning expanded form and using an “underlining method” on the marker board.

At the beginning of the 2015 year Samantha started covering the same areas with subtraction…

Samantha has continued to be exposed to and learn a little about fractions. However, by December, she still has limited understanding of what a fraction is. For example, she understands that if the pizza is cut in half, we both get one piece. But she does not understand how to complete word problems with fractions or divide out more complex fractions.

Samantha continued working with money this year by becoming more familiar with the value of each coin, how to add totals in columns, and how to skip count to add aloud-beginning. She is around money daily whether she is making a purchase herself and receiving change, watching others make a purchase, going to the bank, and watching budgets be made.

Activities: Samantha learns math through playing board/card games such as Go to the Dump by Right Start Math, Smath, Math War, Math Mat, and Race to a Quarter. She frequently plays computer games such as funbrain.com, fun4the brain.com, powermylearning.com, and cool-mathgames.com.


For Science this year, Samantha has been focusing on Earth (Geology) and Life (plants and animals) Science through camping and hiking. She has been to many different parks and trails in the southeastern part of the United States. Samantha is familiar with some of the plants and animals in the parks. She has learned about which insects are poisonous and which are safe. She has learned about some of Earth’s formations and how to find them on the map. (Beginners Map Reading) She has learned about weather patterns and causes for specific patterns, while being stuck in the rain many times. She has also learned to start predicting the weather. She has watched and assisted in building fires, giving her better understanding of its properties and uses.

Samantha has covered some Medicinal Science, holistic form. Throughout the year Samantha has learned more on how to make and measure the PPM of colloidal silver. She has also begun learning about essential and carrier oils and how to mix or diffuse them to help with illness or injury.

Samantha has completed several Nature Studies every month. She has a nature journal and art set with pencils, colored pencils, pastels, and water colored paints, any of which she can use in her portraits. She has used each of these individually as well a mixture of them together. Topics range from unit study related, such as dogs, based on what she has heard, or seen in pictures and videos, to nature related topics based on close observation such as the top of the clouds from the Chimney Tops Trail in Gatlinburg.

Samantha has also used a variety tools throughout the year. She has used measurement tools such as a ruler, scale, and measuring cups/spoons, as well as observation tools like a magnifying glass and microscope. She is learning more in depth how to use these tools and why we use them.



       Nature Sketch Book
       Caring for Pets
       Fishing Trips
       Camping Trips
       Everyday Questions


Civil War: Samantha’s carried her focus on the Civil War through the first part of the school year.

Activities: She continued to look through non-fiction books, watch documentaries online, and visit local sites. (Our area is full of Civil War History including the local Battle Field which has many statues with inscribed histories and stories on display as well as a museum where they show a historically based film, put models on display along with several gun cases full of era guns, and put on reenactments.)

Field Trips: Samantha took a trip to a local reenactment at the Western Atlantic Railroad Tunnels. She was able to visit several tents set up to tell about popular sports and hobbies of the time such as archery and quilting. She sat through an outdoor reenactment and asked questions about the battle. She also was able to tour the WAR Tunnels museum, which included Civil War relics such as guns, bullets, and old letters, and even walked through the actual tunnels.

Early 1900s: Once Samantha completed her Civil War study, she started started studying the Victorian time period, starting in 1904. She read several of the American Girl Samantha books, which tell the story of a little girl growing up in the Victorian era. We made the study come to life while looking through a book that discussed all aspects of the Victorian era: hobbies, clothes, toys, etc. She also cooked recipes from a Victorian recipes book.

World War II:


·      Timeline


Activities: See Unit Studies: Egypt

Samantha continued to get familiar with the US and World maps this year. Both are on display in the hall and Samantha enjoys looking over them in her free time. She focused mainly on Map Reading skills this year. She learned to use grids for location-introduction to longitude and latitude. (Battleship has been a great resource for this.) She has also learned about map keys and legends, direction, and geographical feature maps. (For this we used _____ games.)

Physical Education: Samantha stays active during the day by playing outside-doing flips, running, playing games with friends, playing on the playground, learning to skate, or simply taking a nature hike. She also spends much of her time on her trampoline practicing her gymnastics.

Samantha participated in a homeschool gymnastics class for the second year through Southern Adventist University. This year, however, she only attends class once a week for an hour. She was placed in a mixed class that put emphasis on form for basic exercises including rolls, cartwheels, headstands, stall bars, trampolines, ropes, and other exercise.

For Spring semester, she continued gymnastics and also began swim classes through the University.

Music: Samantha is surrounded by a variety of different music in her everyday life including Gospel, Classical, Rock, Pop, Country, and traditional music from other countries.

Her favorite music is Classical Music, with her favorite artists being Vivaldi and Beethoven. (She enjoys Bach’s softer music.) She could sit and listen to Classical music for hours and hours. Many of the more famous pieces she has memorized and likes to create art to accompany the music.

Art: (See Unit Studies: Art)

Fine Arts:

Technology: Now that Samantha can read and spell and enjoys writing her own books, she showed interest in learning to type. She practices and plays games on http://www.freetypinggame.net/ By December she knew where her home row keys were located and knew how to place her hands and reach each key without moving her other fingers. She can type at an average of 12 words per minute, 8 words adjusted speed.


·      Playing on the Computer, Wii U, etc.

Home Economics: Samantha is able to do a variety of housework with little or no assistance. She understands the basic concepts of cooking/baking from scratch, simple cleaning, and household errands. Samantha has ample knowledge about the health benefits of eating organic foods. She is familiar with the process of making household detergents and cleaners. Samantha goes grocery shopping on a regular basis and knows to look at the labels and ingredients and what to look for. She has been taught the benefit of buying from local farmers and is encouraged to do so. Samantha is also learning ways to be more economical with her money.

Bible Study: Samantha has a basic knowledge of the Bible and some of the stories in it. She knows who her creator is and what he sent his Son to do for us. Recently we have begun putting emphasis on reading the Bible for herself and interpreting it based on its Hebrew origins. As she begins reading more independently, she has taken over most of the reading portion herself.

Volunteer Work: Samantha assists in volunteering two places: Women’s Enrichment Center in Dalton and West Side Elementary School.

WEC: Twice a month Samantha assists me in volunteering at the Women’s Enrichment Center. This year she has been able to complete more simple office work such as making copies, licking envelopes, and placing stamps.

WES: Samantha takes bi-weekly trips to WES during the school year where she helps with clerical work such as making copies (like at WEC) or classroom assistance such as making work samples.

Special Field Trips: Ripley’s Believe it or Not Gatlinburg, TN, Cades Cove Smokey Mountain, TN Ruby Falls Chattanooga, TN, Pumpkin Patch Riceville, GA, Apple Picking Elijay, GA Pioneer Days Audubon Acres Chattanooga, TN,

Conclusion/Main Goals: Samantha is on track to meet her goals for the 2014-2015 school year. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

We recently had the amazing opportunity to take a day trip to the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. It is only a few hours from where we live and we heard word, from my friend Suzette, of a Beautiful hike up there. It does take a full tank of gas to get there, so we don't get to go very often, but we have been able to go twice in the past year and we make sure to savor every moment.

We figured we would go for the hike and stay for he lights. (Gatlinburg really does up the lights for Christmas, the whole town does.) It was definitely worth the trip. And it was a nice to get away from the dreaded "2 week wait."

We started our morning on the mountain in 30 degree weather. Weather so chilly we could see our breath. But it wasn't a stinging cold, so once we bundled up, we didn't have an issue. It was actually quite cozy. I think we may begin Winter hiking. :) We had warned S it was a rigorous hike and made her promise not to complain if she wanted to go with us. She promised, but I didn't see her holding to it...However, to my surprise, she did! She is a strong. She made it all the way up, only breaking about twice. (Which we required the breaks also!) While the hike itself is only 2 miles, you gain almost 1,000 feet of elevation over the last mile. Lots of stairs and rock climbing. There was one point where we all thought we were going to pass out from lack of oxygen. But we barreled through and made it there, all the way to the top. It was good family time. We talked about the nature and the hikes we want to take next Spring, and maybe even this Winter. We talked about Christmastime. And Samantha's (Hopefully) future sibling. At the point Samantha became too enthralled with the scenery to care what we were talking about, we discussed marriage and future goals. And then some petty, lighter things like Rugers and couches and what color to paint the bathrooms next year.

Once we reached the top, the Beauty that we experienced left all 3 of us speechless. Whereas it was damp and cold at the bottom, we were now above the clouds where it was sunny and warm. The clouds surrounded us from every direction. You could hear the snow melting off the trees, quickly. And faintly, in the distance, the water rushing below. It was nice. So we sat for awhile. Until we all got so hungry that we weren't sure we would make it back to the bottom, which by the way too half as much time to get down as it did to get up.

We were able to enjoy dinner at Calhoun's, doughnuts at Krispy Kreme-which by the way, I have the sweetest Husband ever. He surprised me with doughnuts because he knows how much that KK means to me. Every time we talk about Gatlinburg, I can remember when my parent would take my brother and I to see lights at Christmastime and we would stop to buy doughnuts. The tiny shack of a building hasn't changed a bit. Afterward, we drove around to see the lights and stopped at Pigeon Island to walk around and see all the festive decorations as well as stay for the musical water and lights show.

Such simple things we did, but by far my best memories of us as a family. I am a very Blessed woman to have a family of people like them. Even if it is small, they fill me with enough happiness to last the rest of my life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful Post

Yesterday we had a fieldtrip to Pioneer Day with CHEA. And on the way there, Samantha and I were feeling a little festive. Since I was feeling a little down that our "newest family member" has not yet made their appearance in our lives-yes, I know, still soon-I thought maybe we could concentrate on positives and play the Thankful Game. So we did. Samantha came up with some good ones and so did I. Some of them were funny. And some of them were sad to think that others do not have. Here goes:

I will begin with the standard and end with some of the things we do not think about day to day.

I am thankful for my family.

For my Husband, who is a pretty awesome guy, not always perfect, but a pretty awesome guy. He works hard for us. And he supports what I do. He lets me get away with acting like a complete and total hippy. And listens to me yap away about my crazy theories. Although he sometimes likes to act tough, he has so many soft spots inside that he might fall over if you touch him. Eight years together and it seems like the blink of an eye. And each and every day that I wake up next to him I KNOW that we are together for a reason, for something bigger than us.

I am Thankful for my Daughter who is the PERFECT match for me. God could not have matched me with a better buddy than her. (That's how I know my next will be the complete opposite-to challenge me. ;) I am Thankful she is here and she is alive. I am Thankful that I am the first one to see her face each morning and I am the last one to see her face at night. I am Thankful that I get to do her hair and dress her up in cute clothes. And that I get to do all the fun things that Mommies dream about doing with their daughters. I am Thankful that she loves to read together at night-and cuddle. (I love to cuddle.) I am thankful that she has such a big heart. And that she is so easy going, most of the time. I am Thankful for our quiet days at home together or playing games with her inside the car. I love her so much and I can't imagine life without my oldest and only living child.

I am Thankful for my extended family. We have so much family, so much family that we could probably spare some. Ha Ha. Not to mention they are pretty awesome too. There are so many of them I could not describe each one, but they know who they are.

I am Thankful to have friends, people I can turn to and talk to. People who tell me about their day too. What a lonely life it would be without friends. 

I am Thankful for mentors. Yes,  I still have mentors. I have some people I view as both a friend and a mentor, someone special that God sends you to show you what is next in Life or give you advice on how to deal with the Here and Now.

I am Thankful for our house. I am thankful that God has given us a place to live and to call ours. I am Thankful that is has 3 bedrooms. And heat and air. And I am doubly Thankful that it has emergency heat. Most of America may have central A/C, but many do not have a backup system, so we are very Blessed to have discovered that last winter when our unit kept freezing over. And I am thankful that this place still looks almost new-without costing us much more than our rent did!

I am Thankful we have a garage downstairs in which I park the car. And in that car is a full tank of gas so that I can go to the store to get groceries and take S downtown for special outings without it taking a whole day's work. And I am Thankful that it runs. I am Thankful that it has only had to be fixed a handful of times in the years we have owned it. And that, being it is my first car, I have not wrecked it. 

I am also Thankful for my kitchen. And Thankful for my food, that I can go to the grocery store when I need to grab something and not think twice. I am Thankful I can feed my family healthy, even if it means sacrificing in other areas such as snack foods. I am Thankful that sometimes we have leftovers and sometimes we have seconds. And even if we don't get either, we always get full. I am also Thankful that I have a sink that lets out drinkable water. And cups to put the water in. So that we will never be thirsty in this house.

I am Thankful that my Husband has a good job to pay for the things I listed above. And that (at least 75% of the time he enjoys what he does). I am Thankful that they treat them well. And they let him drive his van home. I am Thankful that he has a nice jacket they supplied him with to keep him warm and that we were able to buy him nice work gloves and a face mask to keep the wind from stinging him in the Winter.

I am Thankful that both financial and family situations allow for me to stay home. It is well worth the monetary sacrifice for us. I am Thankful I get to spend my time cooking, cleaning, teaching, and volunteering. I am Thankful we can schedule our days pretty much how we want them and that I have time to get things done. And even time to sit down and breath at night.

I am Thankful that I have the wonderful opportunity to Homeschool my child-and any future children, to teach her and be taught BY her. To be able to drag through the mornings with her and spend the afternoons either lounging in our night clothes reading books until it is time to start dinner, going outside to study the bugs on the ground, following the ants back to their hill, or going on a special outing like our recent trip downtown to the art district. I feel so Blessed to have those extra hours with her in the day. And so very happy that I discovered this amazing form of "school" so early on, when she was still just a baby.

I am Thankful for our Homeschool Support Group and the friends we have made through it. I am Thankful that my Baby, in her loneliest time, of feeling like she was the ONLY Homeschooler in the  WHOLE world, was able to turn to the group, do some fun things she wouldn't have the chance to otherwise (field day, holiday parties, Geography Fairs), and make some friends at the same time. Now she never feels alone.

I am Thankful that I have the time and ability to help out where I can. I am Thankful that God showed me my callings and purposes early on. I am thankful that He uses me for something greater than just Me.

I am Thankful I can do many things that sometimes people can't do, like walk, and talk, and see, and hear without struggling to. And I am very Thankful for my health.

I am Thankful for camping with my family-that we all really enjoy being outdoors. I am thankful for Reading and for Writing-Blogging. I am thankful to have things that I am good at and I truly enjoy doing.

I am Thankful for many random, recent things. I am Thankful that we were able to buy S a new bed. I am Thankful that my A/C is not broken like we thought it might be. I am Thankful that Southern Adventist University offers so many affordable classes. And that next semester S is going to learn how to swim and continue her gymnastics. I am Thankful that S is reading so much, so fast! I am Thankful that we were able to buy Christmas gifts. I am Thankful that on Thanksgiving I will get to see some of my family. And Friday I will get to wonder the malls in Atlanta just for the fun of it. And that the Sunday after Thanksgiving I will be getting a Christmas tree, decorating it with my family, and making homemade hot chocolate to drink while we do it. So many small things, that make me think in the back of my head, "Wow. I am Greatful."

These are the things that God has not chosen for me to struggle with (yet), but maybe one day he will. Among these things that I am Thankful for there are other things that I have had to learn to see the good in and be Thankful for. "And we know for those who Love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 Like my Lucy, whom I am thankful for. She really changed my life, but sometimes I feel unthankful that she never saw this Earth. Or like our inability to have another Baby thus far. Sometimes I feel unthankful, but I know, one day, I will see the good in it all.

Call to Action: I feel like if we are thankful, and I mean truly Thankful for the things we have, we will do something about the ones who don't have it. How can we not? If we feel passionate about our food. If we really think, "I love eating. I literally can't live without it. I am SO Thankful to have food, good food." How can we sit back and let somebody else starve? It can be as simple as bringing some canned foods to a pantry somewhere or as complicated as starting up a new charity that takes up food donations and ships them across the World. If we are passionate about being warm, we can hand out blankets to those who need them. If we are passionate that we have Life, then help to save a life. I love the song, "Jesus, Friend of Sinners," because in it he says, "Break our hearts for what breaks yours." And I think that is what He does. He breaks our hearts for what breaks his, from abuse to poverty. I am Thankful for that too, for Him Breaking our Hearts. I used to think that God only sent us down her to have one Passion to focus on and the rest was left to someone else who has a passion for it. But I realize that, while we may have one passion that we really focus on, we can STILL do other things. We can spend one evening a year cooking meals for others if we feel that is what we need to do. We can keep a pack of waters in the back of our car to give to the guy at the exit with the sign in his hand or to the family who is waiting outside for their car to be towed. We can pick someone up when their car breaks down. After all, aren't we Thankful our car isn't broken down?...Something to think about.

I told S to think about what makes her the most sad and decide what she can do about it. I want her to start taking action instead of dawdling beside me as I do what I am passionate about. She is 6 years old. She can do more than pray beside me now. She is going to give it some thought and we will see.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Samantha is on a new diet!

It is called the "All Book" diet. That girl is tearing it up! It is so awesome watching her go at it! All she has done lately is read. Of course we still read together too...All. The. Time! On our home days we just sit on the couch or the bed and cuddle and read for hours after she wakes up. Sometimes we forget about lunch. My throat gets sore from all the reading and all the effort she puts in on the chapters she reads makes her tired, so she has gone back to napping.

It all started with the Samantha American Girl books that I bought her last Christmas. 10 months went by and we read one of the books, "Meet Samantha." Samantha talked about American Girls and how much she loved it, but she didn't know a whole lot about it. Then one day....We read the rest of the 5 books in week and a half. Of course each book is only like 75 pages, medium sized print, and some pages have pictures. I was about to pull out one of the story collections I had put back for Christmas so that she would have something to read, but then she began to beg for the Samantha Mystery book I had bought her for Christmas last year. We finished a 200 page, small print book in two days. And when I say we, I mean we took turns reading! And she did amazing for a 9 and up book! She has been reading anything and everything she could get her hands on.

We tried to go to the library last week to satiate her thirst, but THEY WERE CLOSED! So we made the trip today, on our usual day-today, and she was more excited than I have ever seen her about a trip to the library. She went straight to the computer and began typing-CORRECTLY! She had her hand placement perfect. And when I asked her if she wanted to start a typing program all she could say was, "YES! YES!" She looked up "Animals" and she we talked about the difference between non-fiction and fiction again. And used the decimal system to find the books. She picked out several, but this time showed a lot of progress because she can read most of the titles and the back description now. So she picked out only the ones she KNEW she wanted to read. Afterward, we headed for the American Girl section and picked up the next Samantha mystery book, "The Stolen Sapphire." Wonder if she will race through it in 2 days also! The last thing she picked out was a Frozen novel version of the movie. I explained to her that we already had more than we would finish in two week-being that Thanksgiving is coming up, so we needed to focus on one at a time. Then she volunteered to start reading it to herself "in her head" before she went to sleep last night. Works for me! My throat needs a break, but I do NOT want to discourage her.

I should have known I would have a reader on my hands. We have been reading to her since before she was born and anytime I get a moment to myself I am either writing or reading. Actions speak volumes about what we value. We have been making weekly/biweekly trips for years and she has always enjoyed getting 40-50 books each visit. (However, this time she only checked out 25 because they are more difficult reads.)

But there were discouraging times where I wasn't sure. She sometimes opted out of visiting the library. And there were days, back when we "officially" started homeschooling that Samantha would whine when we read. I was afraid I had destroyed her love forever. I'm sure it doesn't help lately when she wants to practice reading super late at night and I hurry her along. Yea. We all have faults. And while she is most active at night, I am ready to wind down around 9 lately. But she keeps pushing through and every night it seems lately, as I read to her every night, she is following along to herself and she will suddenly pick up where we are and begin going.

Reading on Her Own at my Brother's School

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5 Things Homeschooled Children Have to Put Up With

Just a little humor for the day.

As my daughter lay in bed last night with a nasty cough, I rubbed my newest most improved oil concoction on her and asked what she would like to do tomorrow, to which she replied a coughy reply, "Some *cough* thing *cough cough* in bed *cough cough cough*.". Then I realized how unfortunate home schools are because they get no sick days. I hear a lot about how lucky homeschoolers are, how many perks they have, and they really have quite a few-starting at the best time for them, wearing their pajamas to "school," ending early (sometimes), being able to go out and do things during the day when it isn't crowded...but then there are those things that poor unfortunate homeschoolers have to put up with. It is just part of the deal.

#1 No sick days. Nope. Nada. Zilch. Not in this house. "What's that? You're sick? Sure. We can chill in bed all day, but we need to read or play our newest math board game. Well, maybe dice game so you don't throw up all over it."

#2 Breaks are shorter. I have yet to meet a family that didn't say something like "Well, we aren't quite done with the school year yet. I know it is almost June. Public schools are out and we are winding down most of our school year activities, but there is still stuff left to be done. We will probably work until July and start back up in August." For our family, even though we UNradically homeschool, true breaks don't actually exist. No No. Our household is too easy going on a day to day basis. There is no "spending 5 weeks straight sleeping until 2 o'clock and watching TV until bedtime." Sure, there is lots of play time. When schools are on break and I have my little brother, I love nothing more than to see S play the entire day away, creating castles and making up rules to games together, but there I am noting, everything I see as a "learning experience." Ha Ha Ha. I have tricked her. She thinks she is on "break" because the days look different, but she isn't!

#3 All work is homework. That's right. We may not traditionally school, but the poor girl can never leave education behind at school. School starts when her eyes open and ends when her eyes close for the night. Whether it is a project we are working on, a new art technique, or even a math computer game we found. Learning. All. The. Time.

#4 Mom Freak Outs I don't care how you homeschool, whether you unschool or do school in a box. At some point, Mom always freaks out. I have never met a homeschool family who has never experienced that time of panic. Mom starts thinking of how much time has passed and wonders how much have you really learned?! Oh no! Or maybe December is approaching and you are two chapters behind. Moms usually freak out a few times a year, generally as the end of the semester approaches. And when Mom starts freaking out, the work gets piled on, and it just keeps coming, sometimes through the holidays...And nobody rests until she does.

#5 Going EVERYWHERE with Mom. I see this as a blessing and a curse. You learn a lot running errands, at least S does. She stays super involved. She likes to fill out deposit slips and slide the debit card. She has made friends with many adults in the community and enjoys talking to them. She tells them about herself and they tell her about them and teach her things about their job. She knows how to purchase meat from the local farm. Or how to barter at the Farmer's Market. BUT some days it gets old to her and repetitive. I'm not going  to lie and pretend it is always fun. Some days we are hurried and she doesn't get to slide the card. I forget. And some days even I wish I could just leave her home! (I'm sure she feels the same.) So okay. I will admit. I think the core of this is, on occasion, we would both really like a break. So on those days we usually go to a friends house and she just plays with the kids while Mommy has some adult time.

Thus is the life of a homeschooler, but it is not so bad. Even if you ask DD about all the things she has to put up with, mostly "Freak Out Mode Mom," she would say she still wouldn't have it another way. And neither would I.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I just needed somewhere to get excited.

Just gotta have somewhere to ramble on about our exciting news because I know after I was so back and forth last time nobody really wants to hear me go on. So here it is.

DH and I began "Trying to Conceive" in July 2012 when we closed on our house. We tried for over a year and got discouraged. (Also, I was very back and forth-although we never stopped trying-about how we were going to afford a midwife for a homebirth and if I wanted Samantha to be an only...) So we just let go and didn't really do anything to prevent pregnancy or track fertile days, except now and then we would not do anything around ovulation if I knew it was coming up. I took down the "baby room" and we recently turned it into an office. One thing I couldn't do, however, was give up some of my best baby items that I had been collecting over the months when we were TTC. So I bought a giant grey Rubbermaid bin and I stored it all in the garage. It kinda haunted me to be honest. And seeing toddlers depresses me because I miss those days more than anything. I just want so badly to experience raising a child again. All of it. Planning, Babyhood, Toddlerhood, preschool. And although most of my friends at this point are ready to leave the baby stage, I have been out of it for awhile and want to go back.

And even though I know it is probably going to take a lot of time and a lot of patience to try again, the last few weeks I have been feeling like we should do it anyway. So I talked to J. At first he freaked. He got those bug eyes, so wide I could see them in the dark as we were driving down the road. DD in the back, humming, like she didn't hear a thing, "You can't put somebody on the spot like that! That came out of left field! We are in no position to actually plan for that right now..." (Apparently he figured that not "trying" would mean it would never happen, which has been true thus far I guess...It was an awkward night. He kept saying that he wanted to say yes because that is what I wanted, but he wasn't sure what he wanted, and it wouldn't be fair for him to say yes and not really want another baby. Fair enough....But I was still sad.

The next morning Samantha and I had a lovely day together at a local art gallery downtown and then to get ice cream after. I basked in the fun that I was having with my only and last child. Afterward I drove her to a friend's to spend the night and DH and I went on a date and discussed it. He said he realized after I went to bed the night before that he actually would really like to be a Dad again. (Ha Ha. This is beginning to sound familiar.) He is just scared of the disappointment and of me getting depressed again. But he'd like the chance to experience a baby without being in school or work 70 hours a week. We both agreed S would be a tremendous help because she would be so much older. So it was decided. (Of course not without trying to get me to tell him he can get an XBox One. ;)

We discussed getting a doula who will advocate for me and encourage/help with breast feeding and cloth diapering and then having a water birth at a birthing center instead. It is cost effective and the only thing you are missing is being at home. But I will still have DD in the room and get that natural birth experience. I'd prefer being at home, but don't want to put our family in a bind when we could use that much money to buy a car or something we REALLY need.

And as far as my worries about DD being an only, I think her age will be good. It is hard to explain, but I do.

So DH bought me some oils that help balance hormones and prevent inflammation of scarring to help with implantation. Fingers Crossed.

And I have lots of the stuff that I need. I have all the breastfeeding supplies-pump, washable pads, homemade nipple cream and diapering supplies I need-tons of cloth diapers, inserts, disposable liners, reusable wipes. A sling-Moby wrap! I have a pregnancy pillow and Boppy. Toys. I even have some old Baby CDs and Books that I loved when S was little. We have a crib, but we will be co-sleeping so no need to set up a crib or bedding, so we may not set up a room for awhile. We are opting out of pacifiers and bottles-unless she is with a sitter. And we are going to use our own homemade lotions and such. All I'm missing is the co-sleeper and clothes!

I'm excited, but nervous. Going to be honest here. I'm nervous it will hurt without an epidural. That I will hemmorhage again. And most selfishly, that I won't be in my size 2 jeans anymore, that my stretch marks will become prominent again, and that I will wear maternity pants the rest of my life hoping to get back into my old clothes, which mostly upsets me because I just stocked up on some (oiginially) very expensive clothes for cheap at yardsales and they are SUPER CUTE!

But all in all I most nervous that it just won't happen at all. We spent dinnertime tonight picking names and laughing about some silly ones. We told S how we chose her name. And just had a good time, but part of me could not bring myself to think of any names-only to listen. I don't want to pick names. I dont want to set a room up. Or buy things at yardsales. I don't want to get attached to the idea again, but I'm afraid I already have.

So these are the ups and downs. This isn't the beginning and I'm sure it isn't the end. But that's life. And I am always asking for trouble.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I have this insanely crazy story to share. You will not believe it...

I was at the store today when I met this older woman who berated me for not being in school today. (What can I say, I still look 15.) I explained to her that I had graduated 5 years ago and told her that I was a Stay at Home Mom.

"A Stay at Home Mom," she asked, "how do you socialize if you aren't at work?"

I explained to her that I have a Husband, family, and a group of friends I see regularly, some that I met when I was younger, some that I meet through the groups we join as homeschoolers or volunteering and I also meet people daily at at the store, like her. That we have become good acquaintances with the librarians and the people at the Farmer's Market too. I went on to say that I have met many interesting, different people, and that I think it is a breath of fresh air to meet so many new people regularly.

Still, she insisted that I can't have an adequate social life unless I worked. So we agreed to disagree.

And the conversation continued. Finally it hit her that I had said "Homeschool Groups" so she asked me, "You homeschool? Who taught you how to do that? Do you really think you are qualified to teach your child?"

"Well," I explained, "When I want to learn about something that applies to me, I research it in depth. I don't stop until I have had enough. I spent 3 years researching homeschool styles and looking up advice before we started. And I still read and learn about it all the time. I have researched curriculum. I have found groups in our area..." "Poppycock! You need a teacher! You should not be homeschooling your child unless someone has taught you how to. You can't possibly know everything you need to know-" "That is true," I agreed, "But that is the great thing about continually learning. I am always finding new ideas and new ways to do things that work better for us, just like they do in the workplace. My mind is always working, even if I don't have a boss over me to teach me or tell me what I need to learn."

Still, she disagreed. And the conversation moved forward.

"But don't you feel like you are not doing your part in society-without a job? You are snubbing your community by refusing to send your child to school and get a productive job. It is good enough for the other children, so it should be good enough for yours."  Frustrated at this point, I explained to her all that we give back to the community-without pay. As if raising the next generation is not enough to contribute...We volunteer regularly at a Pregnancy Center. Nothing gives more to this Community/World than a new life does. We have started volunteering at a local school. We shop locally. We recycle locally. We study our community's rich History. We live and breathe Community. We live for Local Relationships.

But again, she did not agree.

She told me that Taco Bell was hiring, and no matter how much more productive I think I can be from home, that I need to have a job. That is just how it is. That is the only way for me to socialize, to learn, and become a productive member of society.

I was appalled. In all of my...4, almost 5 years since becoming an adult-I had never been treated like this before.

Sounds absurd, doesn't it? That somebody would say, as adults, we can only socialize in the workplace? That we would only further our learning and be productive when given external motivations such as pay raises and promotions. That we are not productive unless we are doing what society demands of us.

Then why is it okay to say and think these things of children? Why is it okay to say that the only way that they will socialize is inside the walls of a school? Why is it okay to say that the only way they will learn is if they are externally motivated by gold starts and good grades?

Why is that okay?

We need to quit looking at ourselves as superior to our children, like we don't need what they need. My daughter and I, aside from age, are one in the same. We both have needs for food and for sleep. We crave love and attention. We thirst for knowledge of the World. And we find it. We find all those things. We eat. We sleep. We love one another. And we find ways to learn. We are there to walk with our children like Jesus walks with us. We are there to guide them, but give them freewill, like God gives us. We are the "in between," and we are here to set the example, not to dictate. We are the same. So why does one need what the other does not?

Disclaimer: I hope that it was obvious to everyone that I made this story up for the purpose of this post. For people to read and see how absurd it is for somebody to be so closed minded to something so normal and natural, staying home with your kids. As adults, nobody makes a big fuss over our social lives or how much we are learning or if we are doing enough with our day. We just are. We do. We live.