Homeschool – Why We Love It

When my step-son came to live with us, he was well past school age.  He is a very special, special-needs child who will never think and perceive beyond the mind of a 5-year-old child.  So, when he came to live with us, my teaching him was on the very basics of life.  He hadn’t learned how to do much of anything for himself at all.  He couldn’t even fold over Velcro on his shoe (let alone put his own shoe on) because it was a complicated concept.  He was sick and thinking like a 2-year-old.  But, we worked hard.  He lost 80 pounds, we worked with his doctor to get him phased off of all of his medications and, once his mind was clear, he started learning and developing until he behaved more like a 5-year-old and could do many things for himself.  You could say we home-schooled and we still spend a lot of time working with him and teaching him.  We probably will for as long as we live.  Schooling him is a special challenge in and of itself.  There are many homeschool parents out there who have the additional challenge of having to homeschool their special-needs, school-aged child under their state regulations, taking special tests to help show improvement if there is the capability of such, and also teaching their children who do not have special needs.  I respect what you’re doing!  It’s not easy.

This month we formally registered our homeschool with our state for the first time since my youngest son is now 7.  We have a formal school name (as required by our State) and an official logo that was fun to create.  My son is excited.  He’s in second grade this year.

My son LOVES homeschool.  We homeschool all year round for several reasons.

  1. My 7 year old son laughs when I say that one of the reasons is that I don’t want his math, gammar and spelling to leak out of his ear during the summer.
  2. Another reason is that we can cover so much more than they do in a standard public school.  Who says that a child must learn only so much per grade.  Kids are sponges and we need to take our clues from them as to what they are capable of learning, understanding and retaining… and how they learn best.  There’s the formal school time and then there’s the informal “life learning” that takes place all the time.
  3. The third reason is that this allows us to have shorter “formal” school hours each day.   That gives us time to do other learning activities such as cub scouts, field trips, fun computer research, cooking & baking (while he’s still interested in participating), learning games on the computer that he doesn’t even think of as “learning”, reading aloud together, volunteering, playing, doing chores, taking care of the pets, helping Daddy with landscaping things, participating in community sports and activities (tennis lessons, little league, tae kwon do, and anything else he’s interested in taking), and so much more.  Life is as fun and filled with learning as you make it.
  4. We don’t need to take days off for parent/teacher meetings.  (I’d be a little worried if I had to meet with myself.)  We don’t need teacher work days so the teachers can get seemingly unending paperwork completed.  We don’t have to worry about taking snow days off, although if we wanted to we could take the day off and play in the snow while learning about how snow is made in a fun and casual way.

Our schedule is completely different than the public school schedule.  We have the freedom of flexibility.  We fit our school into our family life, yet spend more hours learning (since it is year-round school) and learn more than kids in public school.

What public school do you know where a second grader is learning art, Bible, typing/computer (because he’s really interested and motivated to learn and at the moment he really wants to be a computer specialist when he grows up), basic economics (saving, giving, spending money, keeping track of his money using his math skills), spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, writing (including script, because he’s done exceptionally well with printing), imaginative writing (creating stories and poems), geography, history, math (beyond the public school grade 2 math because he already learned half of that last year), music (piano, theory, voice, music appreciation by listening to and identifying various styles of music scores and instruments, etc.), personal development subjects, photography (simply because he’s so interested in it, motivated to learn, and has been experimenting with his camera for a year now), PE (through the community activities, through our homsechool association activities, and at home), science, sign language, Spanish… and more?

What public school covers all of that in grade 2, participates in science fairs, geography fairs, history festivals, music concerts, numerous field trips (most can’t afford more than a few), and has time to teach to each individual child’s needs without sending tons of homework home to be done in the evening?  (Bless the hearts of each teacher in a public school.  You have to respect their hard work.  Their job expects that they teach a large number of kids from many various family cultures since each family has their own unique culture, personaliities, capabilities, and interests/motivations… and complete it all in 180 days or so.  It’s simply not possible with an average of 36 kids in a classroom, with a limited school budget, and with policies about not being allowed to teach certain things.)

It’s so much fun for the kids to do what they are motivated to do.  It’s so much fun for them to participate in all of the extra activities and know that they created that science project and presented it for the fair or they created that geography presentation on the country of their choice, etc.  It’s so much fun for them to have various ways of learning, a good variety of activities, and personal encouragement all along the way.  Homeschool allows for parents to teach their kids in this way.

Not every homeschooler does all of this type of thing.  Each Mom and Dad evaluates their own children, their motivation, their interest, their needs, their capabilities, etc., before adding additional classes.  It’s not a competition.  Homeschooling means observing each and every child and doing what’s best for him/her.  It’s about our children, not about a curriculum.  It’s about spending more time with our children, giving them greater opportunity to practice and develop in various areas, and teaching them our life values.

It’s OK if one child is, for example, in grade 2 for most classes, grade 1 for math because that’s a bigger area of stuggle for her, and grade 3 in reading, writing, spelling, etc.  (That wouldn’t be possible in a public school.)  We can take more time to cover areas of stuggle and that’s OK because we homeschooling parents have the ability and the flexibility to do exactly what our children need… and a parent is the best possible judge of what his/her child needs because we know our children better than anyone else could possibly know them.  With homeschooling parents that truly care and are vested in their child’s life, there will be no child going through homeschool never having really learned to read (as has happened too many times to children in public school).  There will be no moving a child on from grade to grade because holding him back reflects badly on the school’s record.  We can take time to make sure that our children really, truly understand the foundations and concepts of a subject before moving on to the next level.  That is called flexibility and it allows us to do what is best for our children.  We can let our child go ahead in an area that is really easy for her because she is getting bored with the “same old, same old” in that subject.  On the other hand, we can choose to allow her to look up other examples that reflect the concept she just learned so that she isn’t moving way ahead or we can take a short break from that particular subject, getting back to it in a couple of weeks.  There are many ways to handle situations like that.  Again, it’s called flexibility.

We homsechool parents teach to our childrens’ needs.  My husband and I have put together this year’s curriculum for our son because he is doing really well in all subjects and is extremely motived to learn these extra things.  It’s wise to take advantage of it when a child is motivated to learn.  If we find that the extra classes are a little too much, that’s OK.  We switch one of the subjects from formal learning to informal learning and cover it in a different way or we still do the formal method, but do a shorter class once a week or once every two weeks.  There are so many different ways to handle it.  Again, it’s not about the curriculum, it’s about your child and what he/she can do.  It’s about making sure your child isn’t bored because school is too slow and making sure that you’re not pushing too hard and taking things too fast.  It’s all about your child.

It’s incredible.  My husband and I can choose to teach the extra things that my son is motivated to learn.  We can teach in a way that our child learns best.  We’re doing what we feel is best for him and giving him the biggest headstart on life that we can possibly give.  We have the ability to help him think independently and, as time goes on, to study independently so that by the time he’s out of highschool he’s incredibly well prepared for college and the world beyond.  He’s only going into grade 2 right now.  Yet, with everything on our list, my son has plenty of time to play and just be a kid because we have the flexibility to cover this at his speed and teach the way he learns best.   We love homeschool.

Tae Kwon Do

My son has been taking Tae Kwon Do for 10 months now.  For the last four months I’ve been thinking, “That looks like great exercise!”  I’ve wanted to join the class, but didn’t have the nerve.  All these young “whipper snappers” (including my son) are flipping over on the mat, doing 80 push ups, 80 crunches, and so many other things that I didn’t think I could do.  They’re going through their forms, leaning move after move.  I was rather concerned that I might end up on my back side trying to do some of that.

English: Rhee Tae Kwon-Do self-defence drill i...
Tae Kwon-Do self-defence drill in May 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, there are two families who have joined the class and are doing Tae Kwon Do together as a family.  My son has wanted me to join him.  One couple goes to church with me and they’re doing it as a family with their son.  That finally convinced me to try.

Thursday was my first day.  My son is loving this.  He’s a yellow belt who is close to getting his green belt and I, his Mommy and home school teacher, am just a beginner.  I don’t even have a rank… no cool white outfit, no belt level yet.  I’m simply working toward getting my white belt.   He can teach me.  He’s pretty excited about it.  (And, I have to say he is a good teacher… very patient with Mommy, noticing wrong stances and showing me how to do it right in a very nice way.)

Well, I had decided to see if I could even do push-ups before the class.  My legs are strong, but my arms are rather weak.  I managed to do three.  Great!  I’m going to look like a fool.  But, I had paid for the class and told my son I was joining him.  He was so excited so I couldn’t back out and the good thing is that everyone lines up by belt rank and age.  So, black and brown belts are at the front.  I am way at the back behind the yellow and white belts.  No one can see me doing the pushups because they’re all focusing on their own pushups, not facing toward me.

I surprised myself.  I actually managed to do 13 pushups while everyone else was flying through theirs and I did every single crunch that everyone else did… all 80 of them with legs in different positions.   I could hear my son (in the row in front of me) giggling, but I whispered to him after the warm ups that I had done 13 push-ups.  He was so excited for me that he shouted out, “Mommy did 13 push-ups!  Good job, Mommy.”  That put a smile on my face.  He has such a sweet and caring spirit.  OK… I didn’t have to flip over on the mat.  But, on Tuesday I will have to flip over my shoulder, roll down my back and land on my feet again.  I can see myself gracefully doing it in my head.  But, reality will probably be a very different thing.  I think I’ll stick with the graceful image that I have in my mind.  🙂  Maybe my body will follow suit.

Tae Kwon Do is fun.  I have a great instructor… a seven degree black belt who is also very patient and does a great job of explaining why we are doing what we’re doing, how to do it without injuring ourselves, etc.  I was right.  It’s excellent exercise.  As a beginner the class is 45 minutes.  When I get my white belt it will be 1 hour and yellow belt and above is 1 1/4 hours long.  Adding two lessons and five home practices to my routine will help me with my weight loss goals.

I highly encourage any of you who are reading this to sign up for a Tae Kwon Do class.   Go for it.  If I can do it (being someone who is overweight with back problems and headaches), you can!  My son told me, “Don’t be nervous, Mommy.  Just do your best!”  Great advice.

Have a blessed day.

Homeschooling: Is It Everyone’s Business?

This past year we decided to homeschool our youngest.  He had gone to public school for Kindergarten, but after a number of problems we thought that first grade was a good time to start schooling at home.  Being six, he was not required to be in school at all.  So, we decided it was a good transition year to try it and see if it was a better fit for him (and for our whole family) than the public school had been.  This was our first year of homeschooling.  I’m convinced.  He’s doing great.  We’re going to be starting second grade in a couple of months.

We’re not trying to recreate at home what the public school does on campus.  You see, homeschooling is a whole-life learning opportunity, from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed.  Yes, there’s a formal aspect of it in that we sit down and go through classes including, but not limited to history, math, science, geography, music, spelling, writing, and reading.  Guidance class should not be a formal class in a homeschool, in my opinion.  It is an ongoing mindset and lifestyle training that goes on between parent and child.  He learns through your example in all of the things that “Guidance class” covers and so much more.  Simply living life brings up topics such as manners; how to handle anger, grief or stress; interpersonal skills; planning; study skills; and so much more.  All of these things are taught by example, by talking through it, by answering questions your child might have (“Why did he do that, Mommy?”), and in other ways.  The entire parent/child relationship and interaction is a “guidance class”.

But, homeschooling is much more than a formal time of training during the day.  The attitude of learning is a lifestyle.  Going for a walk mid-day and looking at nature, going to the grocery story and checking out our math skills or learning to read labels, going for a walk in the park to get exercise, learning what street signs mean or playing the alphabet game (finding the alphabet in sequence on any and all signs, license plates, etc., until we get from A to Z) while we’re driving.  Every single moment can be a fun learning experience.

We usually have an organized schedule, but at times it changes.  Flexibility is part of the beauty of homeschooling.  We do not have the public school schedule so my child doesn’t have to “be in school” from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm.  We homeschool year-round  and have the opportunity to cover far more than what the public school covers, yet there is still time for activities with other kids (such as t-ball, Tae Kwon Do, tennis, Cub Scouts, meetings or play time with other homeschool kids) and plenty of time to just play and be a kid.

We don’t have homework in the evening because everything necessary for the day was covered during the day.  If we decide to go on vacation, we can take a break from the formal-sitting-down-to-class part of homeschooling.  But, remember that every opportunity is a learning opportunity so even going to the beach or taking a drive somewhere is filled with opportunities to learn.  Some people are very structured in their homeschooling process.  We tend to be a bit more flexible.  My goal is to learn beyond public school requirements and enjoy the process.  We can choose to work during the holidays, but we also have the ability, for example, to take Friday off this week and go do something fun because we’ve had an incredibly productive week.  We can plan field trips together as a family or take a spur of the moment field trip because questions came up in history class and tomorrow we’ve decided to go to a historical re-enactment to better understand something.

But, I’ve also discovered something else.  Time and time again, people in the community who don’t know us or anything about us have felt that it is their business to confront us about our schedule.  When I say, “confront us”, I mean confront my six year old son who isn’t even legally required to be in school yet.  One time we had errands that had to be taken care of so I decided that school would start at 10.   Well, on this day that I’m recalling, we swung by the grocery store to pick up a few things while we were out.  In the parking lot as I was putting the grocery bags into the trunk a woman came up and menacingly hovered over my little son with a big frown on her face, barking “Why aren’t you in school?”

First of all, if she had a problem, she should have addressed me, as the adult with the child, not scared him to death.   He ducked behind me at her sharp tone.  Many things quickly went through my mind before I chose to smile and ask, “Have you heard of homeschooling, Ma’am?”  She sniffed and moved on down the parking lot.  I had to bite my tongue and not say any more because I didn’t think it was appropriate to start a fight with a stranger in the grocery store parking lot… regardless of how upset and protective I felt at the moment.  I simply don’t appreciate people by-passing me and verbally assaulting my son with demanding questions.  What happened to addressing the parent first?  That was a great learning opportunity.  We talked about how that made him feel and about which good manners would have been appropriate for that woman to use.  We can learn from other people’s choices as well as our own.

Variations of this scenario have happened a number of times during this school year… from people ignoring me, but politely asking him why he wasn’t in school to people practically accosting him with the kind of rudeness described above.

We are doing what we feel is best for our son and the results of this past year have been extraordinary.  What a difference one-on-one time makes.  What a difference it makes to be able to not have strangers spending more time with our son than we do.  The values he learns are values we believe in and not those of strangers we really don’t know.

I’ll talk about homeschooling with anyone who is interested because of our positive experiences.  However, our schedule is not the business of a bunch of strangers who choose to be rude to my son or to us about the whole school thing.  Experiences like what I’ve described can be a learning point in this lifestyle of homeschooling.  We will come across rude people in this life.  Learning how to cope is a good thing.

Traveling From Home – China

This week our family “traveled” to China.  Our week was loaded with other activities as well (including the Geography Fair and presenting Ethiopia to the attendees) so we didn’t have a chance to look at any potential shows on the Travel Channel.  But, we did find out a lot of other information and enjoyed great food.

FOOD:

General Tso's Chicken as served at the Shangha...
General Tso's Chicken as served at the Shanghai Dumpling King in San Francisco, California, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made Chinese food one night and we got some take-out the other night.  However, I am pretty sure that what we ate was “Americanized” Chinese food and not necessarily authentic to China.  Over the two nights we enjoyed sesame pineapple chicken with peppers and noodles, chicken broccoli, shrimp with Chinese vegetables, noodles with vegetables, pineapple chicken, hot and sour soup, shrimp rolls and, of course, rice.  (Any time we have takeout we like a variety, but there’s so much food that we always have leftovers.  We usually also have lots of rice left over and that makes great fried rice for another meal.)  I didn’t think in advance to get pictures when I cooked because everything was so hectic.

I found some recipe websites that you may also enjoy.  If you want to learn how to make your own Chinese food, check these sites out.

Eating China is a site that gives a lot of recipes, some that you won’t find in an average take out menu.  I’m going to have to try some of these and see how they turn out.  A number of them sound really good.

Chinese Rcipes gives several interesting recipes.  Have you ever tried Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs or Crisp Chinese pork?

The Chinese section of World Recipes gives recipes like Moo Goo Gai Pan, Duck Sauce, General Tso’s Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken.

Try some of these recipes out and see what you think.  If you are from China or know authentic Chinese food, I would appreciate your comments on whether these recipes are an authentic representation of Chinese food.

GAMES:  

We found a fun puzzle place where you can put together all of the provinces of China.  Check it out at Your Child Learns – China Puzzle.

OTHER INFORMATION:

There is so much we learned and so little space on a blog entry.  But, I wanted to include a few of the many things that we learned.  Did you know that there are close to 500 indigenous, distinct ethnic groups in China, but that only 55 “nationalities” are officially recognized for administrative purposes?  (See Operation World 7th edition pp 214 – 251.)

Scholastic, News for Kids by Kids, has an article about a particular school in China to give us all an idea of what it is like to go to school there.  Whether this represents most or all schools, I am not sure.  But, our little guy found it to be interesting information.

China.org writess about the festivals the Chinese celebrate during the year.

There is so much to learn about China that it is impossible to do more than cover some highlights in a week’s time.  But, the point is to get our children to learn more about other parts of the world and this is a start.

It would so be interesting to be able to take the whole family and actually see China for ourselves and experience, in a very small way, what it is like to live in China.

I welcome any comments about the Chinese culture, authentic food, and any other subject from any reader.  Join in on the conversation.

[For other “Traveling From Home” blog entries, select either the “Homeschooling” or “General” Categories from my Categories menu.]

Traveling from Home – Introduction

As of this week, we have decided to add an activity to Homeschool and our family experience.  We will be learning and eating our way around the world.

I think it’s important for people to know about countries and cultures other than their own, so we’ve decided to broaden our horizons.  Since we are homeschooling, every single week our sons will be given the responsibility of picking out a country from around the globe for the following week.  (That will give me time to look up recipes and see if I need to find special spices, etc.)

The week we study that country we’ll open up our “Operation World” book and learn about how to pray for the people in that country.  We’ll get on the internet and look up interesting things about that country and its culture(s).  We’ll visit the library and see if we can find stories about the people of that country.  We’ll see if the travel channel has any shows about that location.  And, finally, we will look up recipes and each week make food that will give us a sense of what the people in that culture may eat.   I’ll try to remember to take pictures for you all!

Every member of our family will participate and learn together. Each week, I’ll write and let you know about our “travels” around the world and our kids’ responses to the food and the things that they learn.

Pad thai (ผัดไทย), served in Bangkok.
Pad thai (ผัดไทย), served in Bangkok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I chose the location because it was simple to buy the food from the grocery store.  (We’re visiting Thailand and tonight we had Pad Thai for dinner.  The boys thought it was very good.)  However, starting next week, the kids will get to choose where we “travel”.

Care to join us and do something similar in your home?  We’d enjoy hearing about it.

Please share this and tell everyone you know.  We would love to have people come to our blog to make comments and contribute suggestions and ideas, places to “travel”, foods to try, tidbits of information on different cultures.  If you’re from a culture other than North America or have visited places around the world and have a favorite cuisine or country, we’d love to hear real life information about your culture or the culture you visited!   I’ll be posting our “travel” blog every Friday starting next week.

Kids, Fun, and Homeschooling

If you have children, treasure every moment that you have with them.

I love being a Mom.  What seems like only weeks ago I was changing my little one’s diapers and now he’s only about 4″ below my shoulders in height when I’m barefoot.  Wow, he’s grown fast.  It just reminds me to treasure every moment, write down the cute things he says, and enjoy watching him learn and grow.  Being a homeschool Mom is such a blessing.  Not only do I get to invest so much in my son’s life, but I get to see his growth and development first-hand rather than hearing about things from his teacher.

(Kids tend to have more fun with boxes than they do with the contents of the box!  Here’s a pic of him in his “convertable boat” with the roof up.)

We study all of the normal school subjects, have outside activities with other kids, enjoy fun art classes, participate in various music activities (such as children’s choir), do projects together, have “shop” class with Dad so he can start to learn some basics about a variety of practical things while enjoying spending time with his Daddy, and even have cooking (mostly baking) activities where we can enjoy each other’s company, talk about math (measurements) and science (why certain things happen when you use certain ingredients) and just have a lot of fun singing, giggling, and eating what we’ve made.  Mommy does voice lessons, piano lessons, computer lessons and so much more.  When he gets older, Mommy will start on guitar lessons.  (Music has always been a big part of my life and I want him to be able to enjoy it as well.)  “Guidance class” is not a specific class, but rather a general lifestyle in our home where Mommy and Daddy get to spend time guiding our children on how to live life based on values we want to impart to them.  (Guidance Class in the public school is based on values the teachers want to impart to our children.   But, when our children are at home they see us living our values and discussions throughout the day involve various aspects of life values so a class is not necessary.)

Because we have time, we do a lot of reading and his reading skills are excellent.  We have the scheduling ability to accomodate what he wants to do.  For example, when he turned six he wanted to start learning how to type so that he could send letters and notes to his older cousins who don’t live close by.  So, we looked up fun typing games on the internet and he started learning to type with proper hand position and all.  Yes, we have computer class that is far more advanced than what a 1st grader would learn in public school.  He also wanted to learn how to take pictures and videos.  (I might regret this one as he takes many, many pictures and videos of me… the camera-shy person.)  But, he has the ability and time.  Some of the things he’s doing make me laugh.  I can see him creating really fun and imaginative videos when he gets older.  He is motivated and, as a homeschool family, we have the ability to take advantage of that and give him excellent opportunities while making it enjoyable.

(The date is set wrong on his camera… one of his experiments in seeing how things worked.  But, in this picture he was trying an experiment.  He wanted to take a picture of “nature” while spinning around as fast as he could just to see what would happen.)

I hear some people saying that he’ll miss out on so much if he’s being homeschooled.  But, I can tell you from first-hand experience that he gets to be active in more things as a homeschooler than he could possibly participate in if he spent the entire day in a public classroom and had to spend time in the evenings doing homework.  He gets to spend lots of quality time with Mommy and Daddy.  And, he has plenty of time to learn, play and just be a kid.

Homeschooling is worth every moment.

English: Leeside Community Primary School Orig...
Image via Wikipedia

In school, teachers have to accomodate 20 – 30 students and teach to the lowest level to make sure that everyone is keeping up.  There’s a lot of repetition since some of the kids aren’t listening, taking time to explain things to those who don’t understand while those who do understand wait, shuffling kids from place to place (the gym, the cafeteria, guidance class, PE, etc., etc., etc.), waiting in line, having interruptions from kids who are distracting the whole class and waiting while the teacher deals with the situaiton.  On and on it goes.

But, in homeschool, you teach to the level of your chlid(ren).  If it takes a while for your child to catch on to something, that’s OK.  You keep at it until he does understand it, maybe focusing a little more often on that thing that is hard to comprehend during the week, finding different ways of explaining it until it clicks and he understands.  If he catches on to something quickly, you can move on and not wait for others to catch up.  Each child is different and unique.  You are the best judge of how your child(ren) learn most efficiently and effectively, what areas they need extra practice in, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and so much more.  Knowing your child far better than any teacher could makes you an excellent candidate for homschool.  But, you HAVE to be patient, consistent, persistent, creative and make your learning environment a place (physically, mentally and emotionally) where your child can thrive.  Or it won’t work.

“I will always remember when I was just 6 1/2 years old.  That was a good time!”  ~ My 6 1/2 year old son.

I’ve had the joy of being able to fully participate in my son’s life and watch him develop and grow.  I highly recommend homeschooling.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding.