Archive for the ‘Homeschooling/Education’ category

Coming to the End of an Era

May 21, 2015

I wrote my first post about homeschooling in January of 2008.  At the time, my oldest was learning first grade at home, #2 was a toddler, and #3 was on the way.  In those days there were two things that I could never imagine:  1) I would end up having five kids, and 2) someday all of my kids would go to regular school.

Three years ago Bailey entered our local parish school two months into her 4th grade year.  I was overwhelmed with trying to homeschool her and first grader, to take care of preschooler and toddler, and recover from the very recent birth of baby #5.  It also had started to become apparent that Bailey had reached a point where she needed the structure and discipline of “real school”.  It ended up being a life-changing move for her and for me.

Since then I have continued to homeschool and care for my four younger girls at home, even after coming through a divorce.  But the fact is that I have to start preparing to reenter the workforce.  Homeschooling has become very time and energy consuming for me.  I need that 3-4 hours per day for other things.

I had originally planned to put Piper into our parish school last year, but in the midst of the divorce, I realized that she really needed the consistency of continuing to homeschool.  Regular school would have just been one change too many for her to handle.  But over the course of this year, I think she has begun to realize that school might be the better option for her.  Frankly, she is starting to get bored at home.  At almost 10, she’s becoming less interested in playing with her little sisters, and most of our homeschooling friends have younger children.  So, Piper will be entering our parish school for 4th grade in the fall.

Katie will also be going off to the parish school next year for 2nd grade.  She has been a delight to teach these past two years, but if she’s going to have to go off to regular school anyway, next year will be a great year for her to start.  The teacher is a wonderful Dominican sister who will gently help Katie into the school setting and prepare for her First Holy Eucharist.  And Katie can not wait!  She is literally counting down the days until the next school year begins.

Next year I will only have a kindergartner and a preschooler at home.  It will be completely surreal to only have two kids with me during the day.  And I know that the next school year will mean a major lifestyle shift for us, which is both exciting and terrifying.

I know, though, that this is a necessary stepping stone to prepare us for the day when all of my kids will have to go to regular school while I work a full-time job.  I am thankful that my kids and I have been able to make these changes gradually rather than having our entire lives turned upside down in the wake of the divorce.

We have only a few days left in this school year.  As Piper and Katie finish their books, I am hit with the realization that this might be my last time teaching 3rd and 1st grade.  If I could control the future I would homeschool my last two children through first grade.  After the next school year, though, I need to be prepared to take a full-time job if the position I want opens up.

This means that Sabrina would start school in 1st grade, and little Cassidy may never experience being homeschooled at all.  That idea makes me kind of sad; I might not be the first one who sees all of those lightbulbs go off inside of her little mind like I was privileged to do with her sisters.

My original reasons for choosing to homeschool my kids are just as valid as they were when I wrote them down 8 years ago, and I have no regrets about the decision.  However, I have had to face at times that my realities for homeschooling have at times fallen short of my ideals.  I have had to humble myself and admit that homeschooling is not always a good fit for every kid or every family, including my own at times.  I have learned that both homeschooling and regular schooling have their pros and cons.  And I have had to learn to trust other people to make up for my limitations as a mother, a teacher, and a human being.

I’m not finished with homeschooling just yet, but graduation is looming before me.  And it’s kind of bittersweet.

Baby Birds

July 2, 2014

The hardest part of parenting is when you have two choices and you have absolutely no idea which way to go.  Do you push your little bird out of the nest a bit so that she can spread their wings and gain some confidence, or do keep her under your wing a while longer?

I decided a few months ago to transfer my second daughter, age 8, from the homeschool to our parish school for third grade.  Homeschooling had been extremely rough this past year with a lot of arguing.  Plus, since she was loathe to participate in organized activities, I felt that she could really use more social opportunities.  She seemed to lack confidence in herself, and I thought a successful venture into school would give her a boost.

Also, I really need more time to focus on her next younger sister.  My third daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder that mainly manifests with her eating habits.  However, I have also noticed some motor skill issues which I think are related to the SPD.  She’s extremely intelligent, but she struggles with certain life skills.  I need to start doing some therapy work, in addition to first grade homeschool work, to try to bridge the gap with her eating and motor skills.

On top of that, with the divorce, I need to start focusing on gaining some marketable skills to get a job in the next three to five years.  I’m looking at taking the ParaPro assessment to get licensed as a teacher aid.  I’m also looking at online Masters programs.  This means I need time to study.

However, DD#2 was getting extremely upset about the idea of going to school.  She got along fine during her two shadow days at the school in May, but she was miserable on the inside the whole time.  We found notes saying that she wished she was dead, and she said it was less about the divorce and more about going to school.  I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing.

After discussing it with her counselor, we all agreed that she will not be going to regular school after all.  She will be homeschooled for at least one more year.  However, this year I will be switching to a formal program.  Both my 3rd grader and 1st grader will be registered with Kolbe Academy Homeschool.  I’ll have to tweak a few things, but for the most part I will be using their book list and course plans.

It will definitely be more work and more structure than I would normally use at these grade levels, but I just don’t have the time or energy to put into planning my own curriculum this year.  I think a more formal program will better prepare them for the eventuality of school, which wasn’t really a concern of mine previously.  Of course it brings up questions like:  do you use the spelling program that you think will teach them more or the spelling program that will get them used to how they teach spelling in schools?

 

7 Quick Takes (v. 80)

September 6, 2013

7_quick_takes

1.  For the past week I’ve been eagerly checking updates on my best friend’s blog as she and her family are in China adopting the newest member of their family, Leo.  I’ve learned so much as I’ve followed her progress on this journey for the past year.  I started to tear up as I saw the first pictures of her and her husband holding their little boy for the first time.

2.  This is the end of week 3 of our homeschooling semester and “real” school for my oldest.  I think the kids are starting to settle into the new routines and work loads, but there were some transition issues and resistance at first.  We have had to tweak a few things.  For instance, I ditched “Fun Read Aloud” time in Piper’s 2nd grade schedule because it was apparent that it was not really going to be “fun” for either of us.  (Plus we were already doing a certain amount of Read Aloud in other subjects.)  I put an extra day of Geography in its place since both Piper and Katie (kindergarten) seem to enjoy learning how to draw a world map from memory.

3.  Cassidy (13 months) finally seems to be on a sleeping schedule.  Hallelujah!!  This means that most nights I actually get to go to sleep by 11:30 at the latest.  Those 7 am alarms on school days aren’t quite as rough.  And some days I even get to lay down with her for about 45 minutes at nap time.  She is also not nursing quite as much, so I don’t find myself tied down for as many hours of the day.  I actually find myself with time to do things like clean the bathroom or sweep the floor on a regular basis.  I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the baby tunnel.

4.  Cassidy is hitting a fun age, though.  She is walking, and she climbs worse than the other four combined.  You can tell she understands way more than she express, but she does find ways to get across what she wants.  Lately she likes to bring me the nursing pillow whenever she is hungry.  She loves her sisters, constantly reaching out to squeeze them around the neck.  And they are always looking out for her.  She’s also turned into quite the Daddy’s girl.

5.  Sabrina has definitely showing signs of the Psychotic Threes, but she so far she doesn’t seem to have them as bad as her next oldest sister did (famous last words).  I don’t know if it’s her temperament or because she sleeps better, or maybe it’s just taken me to the fourth child to figure out how to handle it better (picking battles, making sure they get a lot of sleep).

6.  On good days we’ve been finishing our school work by 11:00.  Other than dealing with lunch, this usually leaves me with almost two hours of “free time” while the kids eat and play.  I’m not used to having a big open space where I am not being pulled in ten different directions.  I have to be careful not to get sucked into wasting too much time on the computer and remember that there are 5000 chores around the house that have barely been addressed in the past year of craziness.  I think I am just still in shock at not being over-whelmed and exhausted all day every day.

7.  I think Bailey (5th grade) is over-all glad to be back in school.  She’s on the school volleyball team this year, and that has been an adventure in itself.  There was a three-day pre-season tournament which made all of us parents feel like we had just survived a fraternity hazing ritual.  The fifth grade work load hasn’t been has challenging as I expected, but I had forgotten how much “introductory” time is wasted in regular schools just as part of the system.  I’m waiting another month to see how things get going before I have Bailey start a supplementary French program at home (her language of choice).

A Whole New Holy Family

July 20, 2013

I’ve been very busy and very exhausted for most of the past year.  I’ve started blog posts here and there, only to have them fall to the wayside in the midst of all of the chaos.  Some posts were even finished and just need to be proofread and published.  But I recently deleted them as they are no longer relevant.  I’ve just had other things to do, and blogging fell way down the priority list.

Since school let out at the end of May I’ve been catching up on as much sleep as possible.  I’ve been trying to have fun with the kids.  We’ve trudged through our summer school work.  It’s been a time to reorganize and declutter.  And we managed to make an extended visit back to Kentucky to visit with family and friends and torture the children with our boring stories.

Now the summer is half-over, and the new school year is only about four weeks away.  I’ve ordered Bailey’s lunch milk for the first month and a half.  Before long we’ll need to go shopping for new shoes and supplies for fifth grade as she returns to our local parish school.

I just finalized the homeschool plans for the other kids and have been busy getting everything in order at Holy Family Homeschool Academy.  We are trying some new methods and subjects this year.  We’re going to be doing more read aloud time, which I think will appeal to my 2nd grader more than workbooks.  I also hope that the younger kids will listen in and learn things at the same time.

I’m am also incorporating memory work for the first time in my homeschooling career.  While I still think it is as important to be able to find the right answer as to know it, I’ve begun to realize how much easier it is in the long run if kids don’t have to interrupt their studies to find basic information.  Piper needs to memorize a few things for our geography lessons anyway, so that is a great place to start.

The workload for both Piper (2nd grade) and Katie (kindergarten) is a little more than what I have done for those grades in the past.  (This is my second time teaching 2nd grade and my 3rd time with kindergarten.)  I am hoping that the “extra” work of Geography and Science will be enjoyable for both of them, especially since those are subjects they are doing together.

I am a little nervous about this new schedule which incorporates more cooperative work and less independent work.  The advantage of giving the kids a lot of independent work is that I can do things like fold laundry or load the dishwasher and just be on-call to offer assistance.  I worry that the house will become a bigger wreck than usual and about the difficulties of keeping the little ones quietly entertained as schooling eats up more of my time.  On the other hand, I think this can be a great opportunity to build knowledge and memories together with all of the kids.

So, here are the plans for the coming school semester:

Piper (2nd Grade):

  1. Math (5 days per week):  Singapore Primary Math US 2A
  2. Reading Practice (5 days per week):  Story of the World v. 1 (book and audio book), various library books
  3. Spelling (5 days per week):  Sequential Spelling 1
  4. Memory Work (4 days per week):  various lists of things from continents to oceans to books of the Bible
  5. Vocabulary (M/W/F):  Wordly Wise 3000 Book 2
  6. History (T/TH):  Ancient History (Creation-A.D. 400)
  7. Fun Read Aloud (T/TH)
  8. Logic (1 day per week):  Mind Benders A1/A2 Software

Piper (2nd Grade) and Katie (K) Together:

  1. Geography (1 day per week):  Learning to draw blob maps
  2. Science (W/F):  Behold and See 1

Katie (K):

  1. Math (5 days per week):  Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten B
  2. Phonics (3 days per week):  Little Stories for Little Folks program
  3. Phonics/Handwriting (2 days per week):  Get Ready for the Code A, Get Set for the Code B

Sabrina (age 3):

  1. Potty training
  2. Puzzles

Cassidy (age 1):

  1. New foods
  2. Walking
  3. Talking

This year we will not be studying our faith as a separate subject.  Our study of Ancient History will include some Biblical history with reading practice passages from the our children’s’ bibles.Our science text is from Catholic Heritage Curricula and relates some scientific concepts to Catholic theology.  Katie’s main phonics program is also from CHC; most phonics programs don’t have flash cards in which “A” is for St. Anne, “J” is for Jesus, “P” is for priest, and “R” is for rosary.

Of course, we will be at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, living the liturgical year, and generally encountering and incorporating Christ in our everyday lives.

Prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, model of love for every human family,

Please bring peace to this house and all who live here

As we work together to become the best versions of ourselves.

Holy Family of Nazareth, help us to know, love, and serve our Heavenly Father.

Mary, teach us patience.

Joseph, protect us from evil.

Jesus, you are the Truth we seek.

Amen.

School’s Out! (Almost…)

May 2, 2013

It has been a doozy of a school year.  If I picked two words to describe my life since August, I would choose sleep deprivation.

I knew to expect it to a degree with baby #5 arriving on August 1st.  I just didn’t expect to the horrendous levels that have been achieved in the past nine months.  Part of this was exacerbated by the desperate decision to put Bailey (4th grade) in regular school in October.  It has been good for her, but terribly stressful and exhausting for me.  (Can we say 7 am wake-up after the baby won’t settle down to sleep until 1 am?)

There are only 5 more weeks of school left, 5 more weeks of waking up early and packing school lunches.  If Bailey were still being homeschooled we would only have three weeks left, since we used to follow my husband’s college teaching schedule.  But now Piper (1st grade) will have an extra two weeks of school since I try to keep her and Bailey more consistent with each other (to reduce the complaining).

So, over the next 5 weeks Piper and I will be finishing up her various curricula.  Some subjects, like history, will peter out early.  And other subjects, like logic, we will need to double and triple down on to finish.  Our math is a little bit up in the air.  Piper finished first grade math weeks ago, and we have started on our second grade math books.  She is at a point where she really needs to have her basic addition and subtraction facts down cold before we can start the next unit.  So, until she can finish a 5-minute frenzy with at least a 95%, we will be nothing but addition drills.  Then we’ll move on to subtraction drills.  Then we’ll eventually jump back into our math books.

Having Bailey away at school all day has been an adjustment for Piper.  Bailey’s work was always more intensive than Piper’s due to the difference in age, but Bailey was also very, um, high-maintenance.  As result, sometimes Piper’s bad habits and behaviors would fly under the radar.  This has caused some rough days in recent months.  I also just had to do a lot of tweaking since some of my original plans for the year included combined subjects for Bailey and Piper that can’t be done the same with only one student.

As I write this, we are expecting that Bailey will continue to go to regular school for the foreseeable future.  I will have two “full-time” students again next year, though, with Piper in 2nd grade and Katie starting kindergarten.  I’ve been busy, on my less exhausted days, putting together the plans for the fall, which can be a subject for another post.  I am also sure that it won’t be long before Sabrina (almost 3) starts asking to “do school”, too.

Right now, though, I am looking forward to summer.  Bailey has already had her dreams of a school-free summer dashed.  Her school gave her a reprieve on not knowing how to write cursive for this year, but she needs to be ready to write in cursive for 5th grade.  She will also finish up her 4th grade homeschool math book and math drills to keep that information fresh in her mind.  Piper will just continue solidifying her math facts and moving on in her 2nd grade math book over the summer.  And Katie will continue working her math and phonics books.  Our work loads will just be lighter and more flexible depending on the weather and opportunities for summer fun, but whether we do much formal work or not, I know that the learning will never stop.

Spring Semester 2013

January 13, 2013

All of my well-laid plans for the fall semester of 2012 went awry when we decided to put Bailey in school mid-semester.  There were so many adjustments to be made, things were so hectic, and I was so exhausted.   There were a few days when I literally forgot to do school with Piper.

But a new semester offers a chance to make a fresh start.  Now I’ve only got a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler, and infant with which to contend during the day, and only two of them do any formal schooling at this time.

Piper will be doing a little more work this semester than the last.  This will be her schedule:

Math:  We’ll continue with Singapore Math 1B, doing math five days each week.  I anticipate that we will finish 1B within the first six weeks and then start on level 2A around week seven.

Reading:  Last semester we did reading lessons three days per week; this semester we’ll be moving up to five.  Last semester Piper read about 2/3rds of The Elson Reader Book One, but she and I were both finding it a bit tedious.  She was also getting really bored with the Level B Phonics book by Pearson (used for 2nd graders by Kolbe Academy).

This semester we’re going to do a hodge-podge of reading activities.  We’ll still do some pages from the Pearson Level B, but not every page.  I’m going to try (yet again) some read-aloud time two days each week, starting with the book Ivy & Bean.   We may try some audio books, some library books, and some reading/spelling games and activities (like Boggle or having a spelling bee).

History:  History will still be two days each week, but we have A LOT of material to cover as we study events from 1900 to the present day.

Logic:  Piper will continue with Mind Benders Beginners Book 1, doing two puzzles per week.  She’ll probably finish the current book halfway through the semester, and then we’ll move on to Book 2.

Science:  Last semester, the extent of our science was watching one video of Bill Nye the Science Guy every Monday.  This semester we’ll continue with that, but on Wednesdays and Fridays we’ll be using the Harcourt Science 2nd Grade Text and Work books along with the corresponding Kolbe Academy first grade science syllabus.

Faith Formation:  We are still receiving monthly packets from the Family Formation program, but we will probably be using it in a limited fashion this semester.  Our most important goal this semester is to prepare Piper to make her first Reconciliation during Lent and her First Holy Eucharist sometime this spring or summer.  The first six weeks we’ll be working through The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism, solidifying her memorization of the basic prayers, doing an examination of conscience and walking through the confession process.

Katie will turn five in May and as such would be eligible for kindergarten in the fall (if we planned to send her to regular school).  Since Bailey and Piper both had late birthdays (right after the school cut-off date in August) it made sense to start them on kindergarten a semester early.  Katie already asks to do schoolwork, and I think she would benefit from starting a semester early also.

So, I’m going to make a real effort to sit down with Katie at least three days a week to work in either her Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten or her phonics workbooks.  We may also try a few Five in a Row read-aloud activities that I previously prepared  for the older girls at this age.

I’d also like to get in the habit of doing something fun with the girls each day:  baking something yummy, exercising, playing a game, or even just coloring and drawing together, something that I can incorporate Sabrina (2) into also.

We’ll just have to see how certain things go as the semester progresses.  No matter what happens, though, I know it will be a time of continued learning and development for all of us.

Real School: 7 Things Double Feature

January 5, 2013

Bailey has been in “real” school for almost 3 months now.  It was a bit of an adjustment for our whole family for awhile.  It would be very tempting for me to only focus on the things I don’t like about Bailey being school, but in an attempt to be more fair and honest I’ll start with the positive.

7 Good Things About Bailey Going to School

  1. More Time:  It has freed up a 2-hour block of time during my day that was spent fighting with supervising Bailey’s homeschool work.
  2. “Positive” Peer Pressure:  Bailey has had to step up and learn to deal with disappointments and frustrations in a less volatile manner because she doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of her friends.
  3. Jumbled Birth Order:  Piper is now “the oldest” during the day and is having the opportunity to learn that being in charge means serving others. 
  4. Friendly Faces:  We are more connected with our parish community as we recognize different families at Mass and they recognize us.
  5. Support for Homeschooling:  Bailey has demonstrated that homeschooling hasn’t damaged her socially or academically, since she has proven herself more than competent at getting along with classmates and learning the new material.
  6. Extra Graces:  Since Bailey goes to a Catholic school, she attends Mass an extra day each week and attends Eucharistic Adoration once a month.  They also pray every morning, before and after lunch, and at the end of the day.  I think all of the extra graces have been really good for her.
  7. Individual Needs:  School has been fulfilling some of Bailey’s specific needs that just couldn’t be filled in our homeschooling environment.  Bailey is an extreme extrovert, and with only having one vehicle I just could not set up as many opportunities to socialize as she needs.  More importantly school keeps Bailey busy almost all day; she’s someone who just doesn’t do well with too much free time.

7 Bad Things About Bailey Going to School

  1. Early Mornings:  Having to be up every morning at 7 am is killing me, especially after multiple nights when the baby won’t settle down until 1 am.
  2. Lunch:  Bailey is completely grossed out by the school lunch program, so I have to pack her a lunch every morning.
  3. The Money:  It’s not just the cost of tuition.  There’s the fundraising.  There’s the charity donations.  There’s the special event supplies.  There’s the special t-shirt or skirt/dress for the special dress down day and the Christmas program.  It’s the nickel-and-diming that really gets to me.
  4. Negative social interactions:  Bailey has never lived in a bubble, but up until now we’ve been able to minimize negative social interactions or at least supervise and offer guidance.  While the girls at her school have all been really nice, there have been issues with a few of the boys.  There’s one boy who apparently gets volatile every few weeks, throwing things and making threats.  Another boy is apparently the class pest, and Bailey has been his most recent target.  Then there are curse words and inappropriate comments on the bus.  Bailey eats up some of the drama, but it is a little disconcerting to have so little input or control of the situation.
  5. Homework:  I will have to give Bailey credit for trying to finish as much of work as possible at school, but having to set aside time for homework each night gets old really fast.  There are papers to be signed, school information to go over, and then supervising the work that wasn’t finished during the school day.  It’s like homeschooling without the control or flexibility of being the sole teacher.
  6. Loss of Flexibility:  Speaking of flexibility, we didn’t get to take the girls to see Santa until a few days before Christmas and had to deal with a long wait.  In the past we would have gone during the day while everyone else was at work and school, breezing in and out of Bass Pro Shop.  But now we are a slave to Bailey’s school schedule for doctor’s appointments and special activities.  And when my parents come visit in February, Bailey will miss out on some of the time and treats with them.
  7. Uncertainty and Frustration: I usually feel pretty confident as a homeschooler.  As the parent of a school kid, though, I am constantly riddled with insecurity, confusion, and indecisiveness.  I think it is the pressure of having to conform to someone else’s expectations and not always being certain about what they are.Yes, I went to regular school for 12 years, but it is very different being the parent: not being there during the day, not knowing what your child was told to do, and having to trust that your child is reporting things accurately.  Yes, there is a school manual, but we haven’t been there long enough to know which rules the school is strict about and which things they aren’t.

    I know that the other parents deal with all of these things and just accept them as part and parcel of being a parent.  I think it becomes very frustrating for me, though, because we have lived life a different way for so long.  The structures and strictures that others might see as normal, I can’t help but see as annoying a lot of the time.