Posts tagged ‘Homeschooling’

November 27, 2011

Do whatcha can.

The holiday season is fun and beautiful and it’s also stressful and not without a certain pressure of its own. Because we’re Christians, we want our boys to take more from the holiday than just a list of toys they want and a sugar-soaked parade of treats.

Last year I saw this thing going around all the Christian mom-blogs called a Jesse Tree. It’s like an advent tree and has been around forever. It’s for counting down to Christmas with little stories connected to symbols you hang each day on a small tree. It’s called a Jesse Tree in reference to the tracing of the lineage of Jesus. Isaiah, 11:1 is: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

Last year I tried to do a big, poetic, fancy version of the Jesse Tree. I collected little things. Stuffed camels, crowns, hearts, jewels and all kinds of gew-gaws. It got overwhelming before I even got started, and my boys were only flippin’ 2 and 4 at the time. The bag of stuff is still in the closet, so I suppose there is some chance that one day there will be a super fancy super mom super Christian tree.

This year I found a printable online of Jesse ornaments that the kids just color in each day. We’ll glue them on a square of cardstock with a hole for a string and call it good. Coloring with a very brief story & verse, this I can handle.

Silly Faces- these we can do.

So the short story long, I have come up with some advice for moms of young kids. Only read the blogs that inspire you because you can actually take something from them and only read them as long as they inspire you. I get like my boys in the Lego shop: I want to do everything artsy and deep to bring my boys closer to Christ. Then I realize I can’t do it and I decide not to start. Pretty soon I feel like each amazing mom post is making me feel like a short order chef next to Julia Childs.

November 27, 2011

How long, Oh Lord?

I bet from the title you thought this would be an adoption post, but it’s not. Ha.

Actually, I’ve just been thinking about how long to school each year. Many states require 180 days minimum.

Bookstores pop up just about everywhere these days. Awesome.

This year my 5 year old boy & his 3 year old distract-inator brother and I began schooling at home. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks as we round the stretch into our first big holiday break. We’re doing it pretty much every day and I am loving that.

I think we’ll emphasize reading now, and probably always, and keep that on our plate daily. Because we’re still at the letter recognition/BOB books level, it’s pretty work intensive for me at this point: he can’t work independently yet, unless he’s just tracing or doing copywork. Even then he does better with me sitting nearby. I have a somewhat unpredictable schedule, a mashed-up SAHM-WAHM teaching music and playing gigs. So my philosophy has become “do reading & some math every day we can”. That has worked out well, and I think my son actually appreciates the predictability of what will be in the first couple of workboxes each day.

I still labor under a bit of a shadow of the school curriculums. I want to be sure we are at least on-level with the public schoolers and I don’t want my son to suffer academically just because I’m so new at this. For that reason, I think schooling every day is helping me relax a bit and let us take our time. I find myself much less snappy with him when he gets tired or distracted, too. Maybe I should have listed that as the best reason to school 365!

We aim to be chill. It's a lofty goal.

November 27, 2011

Why do you homeschool?

A friend whose wife is a school teacher has been poking some fun at homeschoolers on facebook, and I had replied to a couple of his threads. He then asked me directly why we decided to do it, and I thought I might post my response here. This blog exists in part to organize my thoughts and in part to keep my memories of our lives. As I wrote that answer to my friend, I realized my memory of how we came to homeschool was already becoming fuzzy and it spurred me to get it out here before I forget entirely. So here, in short, is why we have become homeschoolers.
Oh, I just realized I didn’t answer the “why”. In retrospect it feels like a complicated thing to answer.

Our five year old is really excited about/distracted by action around him. He’s bright and when he’s interested in something he’s borderline happily obsessive. The combination can be frustrating when a teacher has a big group of kids to work with. We learned this about him in preschool and at church.

Also, as we approached fall and had a decision to make about school (his birthday being in January meant it was optional to start this year), I started researching the neighborhood schools. They aren’t horrible, not great, they have large classes and aren’t strong in reading. I had a couple of friends who homeschool and started looking into that, too. At first I thought I’d just make sure he got a good reading start.

Mixing "gamillas"- vanilla banana cookies.

I also read a book called “How to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child”, and “The Well Trained Mind”. Those began to really tip me toward sincerely considering it. That was a shock even to me.

We went to an info meeting about a virtual public school but much of their system really is just like public, including grades from teachers and needing to complete subjects in grade level lock-step. Also, they wanted us to log 6 to 8 hours a day, which with one-on-one attention is just dumb in kindergarten. My impression was that it is mainly for people having trouble in public school.

Then I went to a huge homeschool conference here in portland. I could not believe the diversity of families there. Everything from head-covering mennonites to freaky tattoed people (that’s us). There were so many transracial families, too. I remember being struck by that. Last month when we had our social worker interviews for the adoption she also mentioned how huge adoption is in the homeschool community. I think that’s awesome. It was a beautiful thing to see.
The other kind of diversity I saw at the conference was the wide wide range of curriculae. There are some excellent statistics on homeschooler achievement, but I know it’s not the academics that are generally criticized. The socialization factor has also been debunked, but I’m thinking it’s more the insular nature of families with crazy ideas/ideals that you’re thinking of…

PJ's are the best.

Anyway, sorry to ramble but it was a curvy road. I love it now that we’re doing it. We’re in a “Classical Conversations” group and that is incredible. Very broad.

This is Toby's group, memorizing the history sentence: The war of 1812 gave confidence to the US to write the Monroe Doctrine, warning Europeans not to attempt to colonize the Americas.

After writing this response to my friend, I looked around for some good statistics on homeschool graduates. The statistics are overwhelmingly positive.

May 14, 2011


Today I attended a teacher training for a curriculum for teaching children to read. It’s primarily used for homeschool kids, and my fellow students today were Christian homeschooling parents from all varieties of life.

Huddled around the plastic tables were ten students, including a homeschooling 10 year-old dressed in gingham and braids, a couple who had themselves been homeschooled dressed in flannel and claiming to raise goats for a living and a couple of former teachers with whom I kept getting into trouble for chatting our way out of confusion. Then there was the trainer herself who told me all about her water barrels thoughtfully stockpiled in the backyard by her husband for the coming apocalypse. I found myself, as you can see by the details provided, fighting the urge to stereotype these fine folks as… well, as oh so many things.

It’s a funny thing being part of the family that is the church. People decide they know things about me, and I them, based on our doofy perceptions. We forget not only their status as image-bearers made for the glory of the creator, but our obligation to love them as members of a family. Without this membership, I see no way to reconcile myself to, let alone work with these people for the cause of Christ. I can barely imagine agreeing on a radio station or a take-out order.

I wish I could say I was able to encourage and learn from each of the folks at class. The truth is that even with all the break time in the world I’m sure I would have failed. I get busy thinking of my own agenda, my interests, my opinions, my image.

This opportunity to homeschool has already forced me to broaden my perception. I didn’t think of myself as a homeschooler, and had definite ideas about what “those people” were like. I’m excited to see what other developments come our way as we refuse to accept the assumptions we have held.

Here’s to phonograms and faux perceptions. May one take root even as the other dies with one more small layer of my immaturity.