Category Archives: Stuff we love!

The Grass isn’t Greener

Same grass and plenty of it!

I heard a quote recently that made me smile:

“The grass on the other side of the fence might be greener but it still has to be mowed!”

I love this! It sums up a lot of my sentiments on homeschooling and life in general, lately. In order to examine it, I think it’s important to note that we didn’t “jump ship” because the grass on our side of the fence WASN’T green. It was. It was very green and we liked it! We miss our friends from our former school a lot. I mean A WHOLE LOT. The only issue with the grass on the other side of our fence, was that our family never had any time to enjoy it.

So if anyone were to ask me, “is the grass is greener for you now?” Well, it would be a complicated answer, because in many ways we feel that it is. We have more opportunities to enjoy spending time as a family. However,  I would never want the illusion to be that homeschooling is the ‘cure for all that ails the modern family (over) schedule . . .’ because it isn’t! The grass on this side of the fence does indeed require mowing. Lots and LOTS of mowing. But the truth is, I feel like a greater number of families shy away from homeschooling because they are far more in tune with the amount of mowing required (or their perception of the mowing schedule) than they are with how green the grass is.

In some ways it’s like deciding to avoid having babies because you don’t want to change all those diapers (I know, there I go with the baby analogies again! I’ve had 3, what can I say?) –  few people would really do that!! Why? Because they see the bigger picture. They are excited about the little LIFE they could bring into the world! Diapers pale into insignificance beside that, right? But it’s still the reason I’ll spend more time blogging about the grass and less time blogging about the mowing. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s as much of a surprise to me as it is to anyone else!

I may not have shied away from having babies, but I came perilously close to ignoring all my instincts and going with the grass I already knew. Sticking with the safe, green grass on my current side of the fence.  I’m happy we didn’t. I’m happy to be mowing the grass on this side of the fence for now. But it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally look over the fence at my peeps over the there and wonder how they’re enjoying their grass.  I miss them. But we’re happy.

C'mon over! Enjoy the grass and drink my kool-aid while you're at it!

**OH, and my caveat for today is this: I realize this isn’t a “one size fits most” situation because no matter how much you like green grass or are willing to mow it, homeschooling is not a choice that everyone is able to make for reasons ranging from employment constraints to paralyzing fear of failure and everything in between. I’m just holding out the truth as we’re seeing it for the first time from this side . . .

What Every Parent Wants to Hear

As parents we often question the decisions we make. Homeschooling has been a pretty epic example of this in action. From the hours we spent debating, praying, and wondering about whether we could, would, should take this journey, to the even more hours we spent researching, planning, discussing, and paying for the year ahead of us, I have questioned every. single. step. of the way if this was right!

BUT

Today my middle red-head was engrossed in her art project and humming along to a praise CD we had playing in the background . . . suddenly, as if the thought had surprised her, she lifted her head up, looked around and sighed, “I’m just totally content right now.”

Um. WOW.

Can I rewind that and just play it over and over in my head for all those days when I wonder if I’m parenting her in the way she needs, making the right choices for her, showing her enough love, security, boundaries etc etc etc?

I think God speaks through children in many situations. Today he used my daughter to tell me “Good job, Mommy. You’re checking the right boxes for me right now.”

Thanks, God. I’ll take it!

(Oh, and then I took a few pictures to remind myself of the moment whenever the next time is that I REALLY need to be reminded of it!!) 😉

Filling her 'love-o-meter' apparently involves glue and paper (no surprise!)

What we’re NOT doing

Lots of people have been asking me what we’ve been doing lately and how the homeschooling is going. While I blogged a few weeks ago about how I really thought it was too soon to tell (and in some ways, it still is), I thought I’d share some things we’re NOT doing during this season of home education.

So here is my TOP 10 list, if you will . . .

Top 10 Things We’re NOT doing while Homeschooling

#10. Getting up at 6:30 am. Ever.

#9. Going to bed really, really early (like, before the sun sets). Why? Because we don’t have to. (See #10!)

#8. Carpool. (Epic)

#7. Saying NO to every extracurricular activity that comes along. Why? Because we have time now to do them! (See #9?)

#6. Writing checks for $2 – $10 every 5 minutes. Yes, it’s true! Why? Because there are NO candle sales, fundraisers, or wrapping paper catalogs involved in homeschooling.

#5. Saying NO to playing outside. Or playing in general. Playing happens here a greater % of the time than it has since probably all 3 of these kids were in diapers. I love it.

#4. “Wogging” in 100* heat. This lovely PE ritual will soon be a part of our homeschool day, but not until the temps dip into the 70’s.  Why? Because I don’t approve of heat stroke. And I said so.

#3. Building life-sized models of amphibious creatures, 3-D models of South American terrain, or writing 10 page research papers ON THE WEEKENDS. Why? Because that’s not what we want to do on weekends.

#2. Homework. All work is homework now – and yet, we’re all down with that. Why? Because it’s over before 1 pm most days!

And the number ONE thing we’re NOT doing while homeschooling is . . .

(drumroll please) . . .

#1. Missing out on LIFE because we’re too busy to enjoy it!!

To that end,  here are some of the things we’ve been busy doing instead:

Field Trip to Moundville, AL. Why?

Because Daddy had a business trip nearby and we thought it would be fun! It was.

We climbed Mound B. It was WAY better than wogging for PE!

Do not adjust your screen, this is NOT the Smithsonian. But it was fun!

Nail painting after dinner. On a school night. Why?

Because who doesn’t want lime green and silver crackle at 7:30 pm?

(Oh, and because *whispering* we’re not doing anything else . . . like homework!)

Oh yes we di'id.

Spontaneous dinner guests. On a school night. *gasp*

Playing outside around sunset and taking cool pictures of the cloud formations – while discussing what type they are and how it is NOT a funnel cloud.

Woah. Nice artwork, God! :)

“Back-to-School” Movie Night with our main peeps! Why?

Because we miss them, and we want everyone to remember that we’re just homeschooling,  and have not, in fact, relocated to Mars.

Yo, yo, the gang's all here!

I know there will be days when I blog about “the darker side of homeschooling”, but for today  I ‘m admitting that even with the emotional peaks and valleys of this journey, choosing this road less traveled by is indeed making all the difference.

P.S. For anyone new to our blog, I tag our photos – I find it more secretive and sneaky and delightful than captions. Plus I just like to make you all hover over the images. And then I know you’re really looking at them and not just scrolling past them! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work if you’re viewing the post on an iPad. So you’ll miss out if you use one of those. But I won’t feel badly for you, because, after-all,  you’ve got an iPad! Geesh!

Things that made me happy today . . .

(Just in case anyone thinks all we do is homeschool!)

The fact that everyone is looking is picture-worth in itself!!

My son and his peeps. Aren’t they adorable?!!!

I’m sure they’d rather be almost any other adjective, but the giant #8 on top of his red velvet cupcakes almost finished me off, so he gets whatever adjective I choose tonight!!

Can you beat that expression?!!!

His face? Are you kidding me here? *LOVE*

Can we play now?!

Happy 8th Birthday, (not so) small boy!

I can hardly stand it that you’re already 8, but you’re one cool dude so I guess it’s ok. Just maybe stay a tiny bit little, even if it’s just on the inside, for me, OK?  OK.

We love you!! 🙂

“C” is for “Cytoplasm” – and it’s good enough for me!

This week my middle red-head asked me if I thought she was learning anything. As I’ve been candid about in previous posts, I wonder the same thing – although I don’t share this with my students!!

I felt better last weekend, when my data-guru hubby helped me set up the mother of all grade-books. Yes, I understand why many homeschooling families choose not to keep grades – but, I’m sorry, my metamorphosis or assimilation or something must not yet be complete, because I still very much need to see grades for my kids! They need to be online, broken down by subject, and look pretty.

The last part is essential 😉

Anyhoo . . . once I could see the grades, realize they were all taking tests, passing them and moving forward, I began to breathe a little easier about the whole “are they learning anything” bit. I mean, even if they’re not, we know they’re not learning any LESS than their school peers, since we chose to stick with several of the same core curriculum texts as our previous school – at least for this year.

Oooh, who's this smart little cookie? Must be one of mine!

One subject where we jumped a little off the deep end was science. During my initial homeschool research, I came across the term “spiral” in reference to teaching similar concepts over a period of time (like the elementary school years). It’s basically a fancy way of saying you learn the same things every year, just in more detail each time around. This spiral approach is how all of my children have been learning science for several years now. The oldest often expressed total boredom with this approach and groaned when we looked at any textbooks following a spiral approach. Her books have been similar for 5 years now, I could see her point. And honestly, if I had to help her review anything to do with clouds, chlorophyll, birds, or sea creatures one more time I might just have pulled out my hair. Don’t judge. Everyone with a 6th grader on a spiral science curriculum has felt this way before! Admit it!

At the other end of the pole there is what is known as the  “immersion” approach. Who doesn’t love a fabulous invention called the immersion blender, right? It rocks! Especially for soup. Apparently this approach also rocks for things like science. It allows a full year (or semester, if you prefer) to fully immerse the students in a subject that would normally be covered by a few paragraphs (every. single. year).The topics are similar but more in-depth, avoiding the whole “jack of all sciences, master of none” conundrum.

This year, we opted off the treadmill of spiral science and jumped into an immersion study of Anatomy and Physiology. My reasoning was that it would be a great prep class for our oldest (6th grade) as she heads for the upper-level sciences in a year or two, including biology etc; our middle student (4th grade) is obsessed with all things related to anatomy; and our youngest, well, he’d probably be fine learning about the clouds. He’s only in 2nd grade so he hasn’t had time to be tired of the lather, rinse, repeat cycle of the ‘other’ books. So we purchased the other science curriculum too.  He’s currently using it as a reader. He informed me the other day that he had finished it and sweetly asked could he have something else now, please?  (Ummmm, glad I wasn’t planning to use it for an entire year!)

Over the years I’ve known many homeschooling families. They always seemed to do the most FUN and CREATIVE projects, and I’d think to myself, “I could TOTALLY never homeschool, I’m in no way crafty enough for that!” But . . . I’ll let you in on yet another super-secret part of the Secret Double Life of a Homeschool Family . . . they don’t always come up with those projects on their own! In fact, not to brag, but absolutely NONE of my crafts or projects have come out of my own head. Yet. 😉 Part of what makes a curriculum a good fit for me, is that it needs to include things to make the learning FUN for my kids – but not fun in a “build a scale replica of Mt. Zion in your yard using pipe-cleaners and plaster of Paris” kind of way, you know?

*gulp*

Enter the ‘Edible Cells’ Project. This one was not only enjoyable, but the kids actually got to EAT the project once it was completed. Tell me that isn’t the best idea yet??? Learning and food and no project storage/display once it’s completed?! Win, win, win. And I have to admit, it was hysterical to hear them saying things like “hey, pass me some of that mitochondria, please,” (pieces of laffy taffy cut into strips) or “umm, I’m not sure where to put my ribosomes,” (sprinkles!) or “Mmm, this cytoplasm tastes like pineapple!” (pineapple jello) – very fun.

Kids are like Jello - gotta get the good stuff in before they set!

Mmm, cytoplasm!!

Edible cells - way better than spiral clouds!

So, I guess they are learning something after all? Even though I flung myself fully off the reservation on this one. I figured hey, if it’s a bust and we send them back next year, they’ll have the opportunity to learn everything they missed all over again, right? 😉

Day 1 down . . . 179 to go!

Day 1 is down.

I’m trying to take it all in stride – especially the part where I asked my young students what their favorite part of the day was. Two of them answered with enthusiasm “PIANO!” (which I didn’t teach), and the other one sighed contentedly and said, “The white board crayons.”

I promise they picked out those textbooks on their own too!

My husband assures me that this is not a reflection on my teaching abilities. He was a straight ‘A’ student, and when asked that question as a boy, he always replied with gusto,  “PE and Lunchtime!” (Go figure, my kids used to say “Car Pool line!”)

So rather then being offended at this end to day 1, I suppose I will congratulate myself that apparently my kids are well on their way to normalcy. I must be doing a good job.

Well on their way to genius IQ. Should I tell the tween I posted this?

It’s all about the clothes, anyway!

So the night before our “back-to-school” day, there were some discussions about what outfits the kids would choose for their first day. Everyone knows that school itself is irrelevant, because the outfit is what matters – and given we’ve been in uniforms for as long as any of them can remember, this was cause for conversation (and rejoicing). What I found hilarious was the turn it took when they pondered what their teacher would wear.

Oh, and bear in mind, that for the duration of this conversation I was wearing a dress paired with 3″ heels – rare, but nonetheless . . .

The red-head: “So, Mom, what are you going to wear tomorrow? You know at our old school, all the teachers wore skirts.”

Pause long enough for tumble-weeds to pass through the kitchen while all of them turn and gaze at me uncomfortably.

Me: “Well, I guess at your new school you’ll adapt to your teacher showing up in PJ pants or sweats some days, won’t you?”

Another really, REALLY uncomfortable pause.

The red-head (sounding very concerned now): “Mom, do you even OWN any skirts?”

Is it too early to ask for a raise? Apparently I’m going to need a new wardrobe to go with this new gig.

As you can see, it makes no difference, but I promise I'm dressed in my best 'Day 1 Teacher Chic'!

What I’ve been doing this summer . . .

Are we there yet?

The dog days of summer have arrived and set up camp here in the deep south. It’s hot. Really hot. And at least in this house,  it’s making us all a little grumpy because the humidity and the temperature are about equal now, even at night, and it has been raining every. single. afternoon for almost 2 weeks. Yesterday, in a rare moment of mostly blue sky, I threw the kids’ bathing suits at them and we raced up to the pool for a few moments of enjoyable summer play time. However, now that our swim team season is officially over, the rest of their time has been spent memorizing an inordinate amount of Phineas and Ferb. I could feel guilty about it, but as that would just add to my summer ho-hums, I chose not to. Mostly because I’ve actually been doing something productive this summer. I’ve been turning our house into a classroom while attempting not to make it look like all we do is WORK here.

It’s true, this post should more accurately be titled “I know what I + several of my un-paid, conscripted, email-reading, internet shopping, homeschooling-friends-in-the-know did this summer,” because there is no way this kind of thing happens alone. But while waiting for the planets to finally align, the boxes to be unpacked, and the dust to settle . . . I admit, this is pretty much what I hoped we’d be looking at in our hallway.

Aahhhh. Order, how do I love thee?

Order.

Well-planned curriculum. (aka: ‘shiny new textbooks’ YAY!)

Variety.

Knowledge, waiting to happen! 🙂

Oh and the dreamy avocado green hanging pockets are just the cherry on my sundae, thanks to a bestie who hooked me up with the Container Store! LOVE!!

Yes, I do realize that it will probably never look this pretty again, but for right now, as far as I’m concerned (and surprisingly, the kids too), this is almost as lovely a sight as full stockings on Christmas Morning! And I spent probably as much time shopping for it’s contents – maybe more? LOL The girls have big plans for these pockets. I believe bedazzling was discussed. The boy asked if we could put a giant Mario on his. Maybe I’ll work on that. I’ve googled pretty much everything else this summer, I’m sure it can be done! 😉

If I’m feeling brave, later on in the week I might post some pictures of our other work areas, but tonight this hallway is my happy place because it means I’m done! The planning is over. The books are here, the kids are here, all we need is a deep breath, copious amounts of prayer,  and a whole lot of ‘ready, set, go!’

Welcome to August, people. The Homeschool Adventure awaits . . .

Homeschooling 101 – unless there’s a 99 level class instead?

apple-for-teacher

I have decided that homeschooling is like childbirth. If anyone could accurately describe the path a mother will take to bring these precious bundles of joy into the world, I wonder how many of us would back out before even taking the plunge into pregnancy? In much the same way, I’m not convinced that had I fully realized what this first foray into homeschooling would look like,  I would have thrown myself headlong into it without a backward glance. Well, ok, so those who know me realize there were many, MANY backward glances in the early days following our decision – and yes, probably some yesterday and the day before too. But, now that we’ve made this epic commitment to educate our children at home for one year, I’m torn between the feelings of sweet relief that I don’t need to “send them back” in 3 weeks and the panic that I won’t be “sending them back” in 3 weeks. I also wonder daily how we even arrived at this decision in the first place (a question many of my friends are asking themselves too)? Hopefully, once we begin this adventure for real (as in, more than just the all-consuming curriculum research, budget spreadsheets and anxious phone calls) that it will all come together and make sense. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my musings from this initial part of the process.

Word on the street . . .1. Setting up Shop (or, in this case, school) – Homeschooling newbies should really be given an instruction manual. On the first page of this manual, it should say “STOP. Unless you are ready to reorganize your entire home, including but not limited to every cabinet, cupboard, shelf and set of drawers . . . do NOT proceed with homeschooling. For real. I’m not even kidding.” Mostly because attempting to find room to home school 3 children in a house that has previously served NO homeschooling function at ALL requires a serious re-commitment of space and slightly ridiculous levels of organization.  Oh, and make friends with the people who will be delivering your stuff from Amazon and The Container Store. I should probably find out their birthdays and begin baking for them – I see them often enough.

2. Options. . Mmmmm, choices.. they’re not just for frozen yogurt any more – If anyone has visited one of these new frozen yogurt places lately, you’ll be better able to appreciate what it feels like to choose a homeschool course of study for your kids. These places have something insane like 84 toppings to choose from and 16 flavors of yogurt. It’s quite ridiculous and unless you are a fast decision-maker by nature, I would venture to guess lots of people end up not being entirely thrilled with the yogurt and topping combos they choose while they begin to panic about the wildly long line forming directly behind them. Curriculum is the same way. The best counsel I’ve received is not to treat it like my marriage, and feel free to actually ditch a book if it isn’t working! Imagine! Score one more for home school – I’ve never had this option before so I’m finding it somewhat liberating and terrifying all at once.

It's all about the Bejamins  - or in our case, the Lincolns!

3. Can we talk about the money? – I’m sure it isn’t really ‘proper’, but after having 3 kids in private school for 6 years and church preschool before that, suddenly the price of everything from horseback riding lessons to group origami with the masters doesn’t seem as intimidating. I’m betting that by next year I’ll be in the same boat as the other families who are complaining about the price of this or that curriculum and how everything is a`la carte (think Ruth’s Chris’ menu as a bookstore!!). For now, though, I’m rather enjoying the perks of not sending both arms and a leg to our private school this month.

I thought I ordered the EASY button?

4. Prepare to panic – I had one very helpful homeschooling friend who told me if I wasn’t panicking on almost a daily basis, that I probably wasn’t doing this right. Very, VERY helpful! I just assumed that all these people must have a clear reason for making this choice, and that said reason led directly to their zen-like parenting state! Not so! Sweet relief to know I’m not alone in my cold-sweat phobias that my children will somehow end up less smart at the end of this year than when we started. (This is especially painful because as everyone knows, our children are very, VERY smart. 😉

5. Obedience does NOT necessarily = Happiness and Peace – this revelation was a biggie for me and we can thank my smarty husband for it. During one of my many panic-stricken moments (see #4) I commented that I thought I would feel more peaceful about this if it was reeeeally the obedient thing to do. To which he laughed and said with irony (as he does most things), “Really? Let’s discuss some of the obedient people from the Bible and how they felt – starting with Noah? Umm, nope. Abraham? Not really!” OK, yes, I get it. I really do. Moving past my expectations has definitely led to a measure of peace with this whole decision, but it was really my own undoing in the beginning. Who knew??

Nothing reminds me of the fall like a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.So now I am here – staring down the calendar, and daring it to be August so that we can open up our shiny new text books and start the new school year. I’ll just be honest and say – does anyone else feel like maybe there should be a Beginner BEGINNER class for us homeschooling newbies? Thank goodness for friends. You all know who you are and how you have helped us in this process. My children thank you too – they don’t know it but thanks to you guys, we will have structure and good literature in addition to bouquets of newly sharpened pencils next month! Stay tuned – just as there were many initial details I never expected, I’m fairly confident there will be more to this “year of homeschooling” than any of us can predict. I’ll go on record and say that I’m believing for good things – at least when I’m not hung up on #4. 😉