Monday, March 7, 2016

The Top Five in Homeschool Advice

We have been homeschooling for a year now.  Along this journey, I have trafficked many websites, read homeschooling periodicals, scanned blogs, and ingested advice to the point I am now seeing homeschool spots.
It is wonderful to know that there is overwhelming support for any parent that believes themselves unworthy to be an at-home teacher. What is even more of a blessing, is the amount of people that believe in you, when you don't.  So, with all the blogs, books, magazines, and advice that I have consumed, what are the best piece's of that pie you ask?  Well... since the internet loves lists, here are my TOP FIVE:

                Pretty simply, at the end of the school day, find your happy.  If its just a quick reflection, a silly song, or a nice story to read aloud... finish your day's curriculum with a smile. As educators and parents, we can become so focused on the task and not the fun.  Try to plan your day with your funnest activity last.

                When one of us is crying, this means something is not working. If the tears do fall, take a hard look at the curriculum.  It may need tweaking, or you may need to tweak your teaching.  If you are the one crying, teach it when you are freshest, at the start of the day.  If that doesn't help, enlist some help. Dad, a friend or an online tutor.   But once those tears of frustration fall, move on.
Now... if these are tears of sadness because you have shamed or scolded them for not understanding, maybe homeschooling is not for you.  I have met a few brave mommas that have been strong enough to admit that they just couldn't hack it at home.  Homeschooling is not easy. Not all moms could or should homeschool, and it's not a failure if you admit that to yourself.

                 Yep... you love your schedule, but you hate it, too. Come on, admit it! You know you want to tear that thing up and make it hamster bedding. Yes, they help you stay on task, but they also can kill the joy of the flexibility that schooling at home is supposed to give.  So, yes, please keep your beloved schedule.  But may I suggest a loose one?  So many websites, blogs, books, and such, have shown examples of schedules, some so intense, they are down to the quarter hour.   Personally, I took my kiddos out of school to avoid such rigidity. From all this advice, I chose to use a list. Every day, I write a list of the areas of study we are going to cover for the day, in the order we will do them in. Crossing them off, as we go. Kids LOVE doing this, and it gives them the satisfaction of seeing a task get "done".  We give ourselves a window of five hours to get it all done.  If we need more time with math, we have it.  If we don't get to grammar, it goes to the top of the list tomorrow.  Those five hours include lunch and outdoor/play time.  We learned very early on that strict schedules just aren't "us".  For many, schedules are a must. So by all means, please keep your schedules, but try not to be a slave to it.

                  If you are a Christian, home-schooling your children, this is most likely a HUGE reason you are doing what you are doing.  Most, if not all, of the homeschooling parents I know, are Christians.  They implement God's word in all they do and teach.  This is awesome, if you are a Christian.
       If you aren't Christian, you might be thinking... "Why should I teach my child The Bible?  Well, you shouldn't.  If you are an atheist, teach Darwin's theory of evolution.  If you are a Buddhist, teach the Eight-fold path.  If you are a purple people eater, teach purple people eating.  You follow?  Our family happens to be Unitarians, so we teach it all.  We have several books that we rotate, and our children are given a world's view of spirituality.  We believe daily devotionals are important because they give children lessons in mindfulness, compassion, empathy, and patience.  Every religion embodies those key attributes.  A daily moment of mindfulness, no matter what your religion, is helpful for children to connect to their own beliefs, and helps them understand the world around them.

                  Yep.. I said it... don't listen to me!  Don't listen to one iota of the crap you read on the internet, hear from friends, or get from books.  Listen to your heart.  That's why you are here right? You decided on homeschooling because you believed, in your heart, it was the best for your child.  See! You took to heart what you heard, read, or saw. Your heart is what made your decision.  I write this, hoping you don't listen to this blog, but you take this blog to heart.  If I had listened to ALL the advice I heard and read, I'd be a red hot mess.  (Okay, a bigger, red hot mess than I already am.)  Just like when you eat, your body takes the best out of every bite.  Everything else ends up to be, well, crap.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Stress-Free, Home-Schooling Mama? Yep! That's me!!

It's a bad feeling when you drop your kids off at school and feel guilty.  Guilty for what you ask?  Guilty for feeling elated to have the next 6 hours to myself(!!) may have been your first thought that races to mind, but this is not the guilty I am feeling.  I am feeling guilty for dropping them off at a school that under teaches, and over compensates for second language students.  I am not, in anyway, saying that kids that need that extra help aren't entitled to it.  Not in the least.  What I am saying, is that in our school district (in California) the kids, who are above the average, are now no longer focused on.

Our school had discontinued AP/GATE classes, to make room for Spanish Speaking only classrooms.  Yes, you read that right.  They replaced Advanced Learning with Spanish Speaking only.  Now, you could probably say that most of the children in our economically and socially diverse

school wouldn't be directly effected with this change, but my kids were.  My kids were now the kids that the teachers used as tutors or would not "worry" ( the word my sons teacher used during conference) about because they were already at the required
Common Core Curriculum goal for their grade.  My daughter can read at a 8th Grade level with full comprehension and my son was off the 2nd grade charts for Math and Reading.  Now, after discussing a possible class change with the Principal, I was told that 1) She doesn't "do" class changes, and 2) if I wanted more of a challenge, I should supplement at home.  ( I could write a whole other blog about this principal, but it would be a waste of internet space).

But that didn't take care of my problem.  That being my children would still be wasting 6 hours of their day "waiting" for other kids to reach their level of comprehension.

So whats a frustrated, guilt stricken mom to do?

Yep.. I pulled those kids out of that school, pronto.  Okay, not Pronto per-say, but as soon as I possibly could.  I researched charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling options.  While I found that most private schools didn't take mid-year enrollment, I did find a highly rated Charter School that had a homeschool option. Bingo!  That was it!  They would attend 2 days a week, while I would implement the curriculum, at home, for the rest of the week.  This was perfect!!  I could enter into the homeschooling pool via the shallow in, instead of diving straight in from a 10ft board, right into the super-scary deep end.
I was nervous, I was excited.... I was nervo-cited. (new word, tell your friends). What I wasn't was scared or guilt-ridden. I knew it was the best choice for my two youngest.  
Okay... you must be thinking- this crunchy granola loving mama is crazy.  But I am not.  With all of the statistics on Homeschooling being far better for children than traditional school, I never thought it was a hair-brained idea. I am now in control of my children's education.  If I see they need more help on fractions, I can spend that time with them figuring a specific method out.  Where in a traditional class, the teacher would say "practice more at home" and move on to the next lesson without making sure all children have a full understanding of the last lesson.  Being a Math Teachers' kid, I know that this MUST happen, and it is frustrating for both teacher and students, but it's what they are required to do. Mom's don't have to stick to the curriculum.  Thats the thing... we can spend as much or as little on a specific subject that we want to. How often do you see kids bored out of their gourds when the teacher is droning on and on about something they have no interest in, or they understand completely?  Yeah... I remember being in those classes, too.

In the 8 weeks that we have been transitioning  or "un-schooling", I have seen a huge change in my children.  They no longer answer "Nothing" when their father asks "What did you learn at School today?"  They can tell him, in detail, what they did in each subject.  I have also noticed they interact with adults on a higher wave length now.  Maybe this is because they aren't made to feel shame or guilt here at home, where at school they are scolded for raising their hand when the teacher is talking.

Maybe its because I am not "Teaching" or lecturing to them, but sitting next to them while they work out the lesson themselves.  I am helping them learn to self-teach.  I am helping them research and understand.  I am not teaching them, I am supporting them.  Wow... think about that.  If all teachers would support and not preach... imagine how empowering that would be for a child.

I have also noticed a change in my kiddos when it comes to concentration.   Before, my son would get distracted quite easily.  He would want to talk to his classmates and discuss the work.  Of course, a majority of teachers hate this, and quickly shush kids in a shaming way.  We encourage him to ask questions, to converse with his sister or classmates, about what they are learning.  Squashing the natural desire to work together is teaching children that it's not okay to work as a team.  Isn't that what we DO want?  Teamwork is a  skill that a majority of kids don't know possess.  Because they are taught at an early age not to work together.  Chew on that.....  yep.  They are taught, at an early age, that working together is wrong.

Now... I am not saying to remove your children from public school, or that homeschooling is the only way to go.  In fact, if we hadn't had moved from affluent suburbia, I would have kept them in public school.   But if we hadn't moved to the country, if we hadn't been adamant for a more challenging curriculum for our kids, I wouldn't know the joy of helping my children take control of their education with their own hands.
Seeing my kids soar is so rewarding.  Knowing that if we hadn't made the choice to homeschool, I would continue to feel that guilt everyday by forcing my kids to endure those doldrum classes.
It's also a wonderful feeling, knowing that I get the best of my kids, and they get the best of me on a daily basis.

So far, I haven't once had to beg them to do their work.  We have the flexibility to learn when we want, how we want, and where we want.   We have even had a "field trip" to the Zoo and do our math with tigers.  I feel very lucky to have this opportunity and thankful that my children wanted to do it, too.

My two kiddos haven't missed traditional school yet, and from what they continue to say, I don't think they will.  They are able to learn through hands-on experiences, they are in more activities because they aren't restricted to "School-Hours", and they see friends that are in the same learning situation they are.  With all the benefits that home-schooling has blessed us with, I wonder everyday why we didn't do it sooner.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

No title is worthy.. Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams passed away this week.  It's a tragic loss and is such a shock, that it truly has taken me days to deal with my feelings and emotions concerning his passing.   I am not alone, and I am not special in my mourning.  Robin Williams, I am sure, means more to so many others that he does to me.  His family,  his friends, his peers, and his many, many adoring fans are all grieving in their own way, at their own level of loss.   I see posts on social media sites showing personal tributes and depictions of scenes from his more famous movies.  I witness the media sensationalize his death and its circumstances.  He took his life, it is tragic and hopefully now we all realize that even the happiest seeming person can have an overwhelming sadness inside.

We all have a Robin Williams story and a reason why we mourn him.  He was that comedic powerhouse of quick wit, brilliant impersonations and he possessed a natural aptitude for finding the funny in everything.  My story is most likely, no different than many stories out there. I also don't pretend to think for a moment that it's any more special.  But I need to release it, to let it be known, to let it go.

When I was a child, my dad and I would watch Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and then Mork & Mindy reruns every Sunday morning.  Mork was always my favorite because of the fact he seemed childlike, innocent, and in total wonderment of the world around him.   We were fortunate to have HBO and in the late 80's,  Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg started an awesome comedy special called "Comic Relief".  My dad loves stand up and he would let me watch most all of the comics with him.  His laugh would fill the room, and if things were really funny.. he would give his loud "laugh clap".  Robin Williams was one of his favorites.  Therefore, becoming one of mine.     I equate Robin Williams to my father's laughter.

Many of you know that my dad is fighting Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.  He has tumors in his lungs, brain, colon, and abdomen.  While he is in treatment, it is just that, a treatment. Not a cure.  I have had to wrestle with the reality of my fathers mortality as of late and hearing of Robins Williams death hit me particularly hard. Harder than it may have, if circumstances were different.   His passing created a reality for me that I wasn't quite ready to accept.

I  realized that one day, I will no longer get to hear my dad laugh. My dad has a great laugh. And now someone that made my dad and I laugh together for decades, is gone.  No longer able to continue to make my dad "laugh clap" at a time he needs laughter the most.

I am heartbroken, but so are we all.  All of us differently, but also in the same way.  We lost a person who created happiness and joy in a world that can be filled with sadness and pain.  We needed Robin Williams.    He brought joy to us in everything he did.  Now that he has gone, life just feels a little less...funny.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Invasion of the Crappy People..


Most of the time, I usually struggle with this little Blog ( as you can note from the 7 month hiatus) for one of the two following reasons:

1)  I am to busy to take care of everything else much less this bloggity blog blog.

or  - and most likely - 

2)  I am scared shit-less that I am going to offend someone.  (see, right there... I probably just offended someone with my crassness.) 

As with most things in life, you run the risk of offending some one.  I run that risk everyday.  I have a major problem with speaking before thinking, OR thinking and speaking AT THE SAME TIME!!  (EEK!!)  You know that moment where you realize you just said something in your "out loud voice". So knowing that I am socially inept, I try very diligently to run in circles of people that I except me to who I am, that won't judge me or who won't be offended with a slight vulgarity once and a while.  

So that all being said,  I wanted to touch on a subject of when you can't avoid people who judge.  Who make you uncomfortable in your own skin.  Those who will never just accept you for who you simple are.  While it is an awkward feeling, it shouldn't be a powerless one.  Knowing that it's their issue, not yours, is HUGE. The minute you know that, the better off you will be. 

For so many years, I was so concerned with what other people thought.  This was due to years and years of listening to my mother tell me, actually ask me, "What will 'so and so' think?" I was seven!  Why should I be troubled with questions like that?!  It took me awhile to realize that people don't really give a damn about me and my troubles.  People are pretty self centered.  They don't go home and think... "I wonder what she is doing?"  I mean, I had secretly wished all those boys I had crushed on in school did, but I now know that they didn't.  People have lives, they have bills, they have troubles.  They don't worry about my shoes and the scuffs on them, nor to they care if the braids on my little girl are perfectly straight or not.   I look at my mother now, and I see this question still plaguing her.  I have many times told her to stop caring to much, and she says "I Know, I know"... but I know she still cares what the neighbors think... even though she has never EVER let the neighbors into her house.  

So back to those judgemental crappy people.  I think that Dr. Seuss said it best, " Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."   Think about that.  Surround yourself with people who matter to you, and you matter to them.  Sometimes we just have to be around terrible people, but make those moments learning moments. Look and see how you do not want to act by way of how they are acting.  Know that these moments are temporary and look at those judgemental, crappy people and hope that they have people in their life that make them better people. Because while you may not like them at that very moment, someone must and they matter to someone too.  

As for this blog,  I am going to stop worrying so much about offending you guys.  I am pretty sure that if you get offended, you can avert your eyes, move your mouse, or just click delete.  I would hope that you would start a conversation... that would be the awesome thing to do... but you know... just a suggestion.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy... what can one do?

While my world; my circle of friends, family, loved ones, and acquaintances is fairly small,  I cannot help but feel that my actions have the potential to help or hurt others.  Because I try to be so very mindful of this fact,  I am so deeply saddened in regards to the NewTown, CT massacre.  One person can effect many.

I do not care about the politics, news stories, or media that will surround this event for, what most likely be weeks, maybe months.  I do not feel my stance on gun control is important to the grieving parents who will not be able to hold or kiss there children good night, tonight. Not to mention the children that won't fully understand why mommy or daddy didn't come home from work today. Or how innocent children will be to frightened to go to school again. Frankly,  my heart is raw just thinking about the ripple effect that surrounds this tragedy.  I feel impotent and weak.  With my own children are at school, and my initial reaction is to run and gather them, hold them until they are purple and a appendage possibly falls off. To tell them how they are my everything.  

I look into myself and ask "What can I possibly do?".  Right now, for me, the most effective thing I can do is to properly grieve for the lives lost.  To recognize how substantial a child's life is, and how pivotal a parents role.  I will not focus on the propaganda, the media, or spectacle that social media is going to create.  I will focus inward, looking at my own family and hold them, love them, and honor those who have been taken by embracing what I still have.  When the time comes, of course, a reaction will be necessary for prevention and awareness. But right now... I choose and encourage a moment of silence for those who are grieving and to remember those who are the victims.  Turn off the T.V., put down the mobile devices, stop reading this Blog and go hug your children tonight. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Business trips suck...

In the last year, my husband has travelled for work more that he ever has during our 7 year marriage.  While the first part of the series of trips were 2-3 days at a time, they quickly grew to weekly trips with the longest being a month in Europe.  After the first few trips, I figured the next one would be easier.  I wouldn't miss him as much, that the kids would get used to him jumping in and out of the activities, and that it wouldn't bother me so much being in an empty bed.  I never got used to it, and I hope I never will.  They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.. I now believe in that adage.

Yes, while he was gone, the house stayed cleaner, the kids kept to their schedules, and there weren't little black hairs all over the bathroom. (He's italian)  I didn't have to fight for the middle of the bed, I finally had a hot shower, and I was able to watch all the Nic Cage movies I wanted, and didn't have to bargain or bribe to do so. At first, this distraction worked, but somewhere about the 8th viewing of Moonstruck or maybe during my Raising Arizona/ Valley Girl double header,  Nic's piercing blue eyes and perfectly arched right brow, didn't cut it.  It was official,  I was Tieg-sick.

I can now understand Edward and Bellas romance in "Twilight ".   It actually hurt to be away from him.  I woke up, looking for his head on his pillow.  I would smell his soap, just to smell him.  I would wear his t-shirts and sit in his chair. Anything that made me feel closer to him.

I would rather have a sloppy house, unruly kids, a small edge of the bed, a luke warm shower, and all the little black hairs in the world on my floor - then to NEVER have them at all.   The point of this bloggity blog you ask? Kiss, hug and hold on to your loved one.  Never complain or nag.  Smile when you look them in the eyes.  Tell them that you truly, madly, deeply love them. And be grateful for what you've got, because you never know what you have until it is gone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hotel Schmotel.. I've got your deals right here....

Okay, so I am going to do a quick little rant/blog about making a gosh darn hotel reservation.  I know.. I know.. but if over a decade in the travel business taught me one thing... its how to book a hotel room, at a good rate, and to fit the needs of the hotel-goer.

All those search engines are great, really they are... and if you navigate them correctly - they will save you a pretty penny.  But if they make your head spin ( I don't blame you), stick to the one that has the best layout (User Interface) that you can understand clearly.  They ALL have the same prices. Swear it, I'll put blood down on this. Travel Agency search engines are powered by any one of the top four travel sites. So if the price is lower on one.. taxes or a fee or something else isn't included. My experience - Travelocity has the most competitive and honest fares.  Now that we have covered that, here is what else you need to know and consider before hitting that confirm button...

1- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION : Use the sites map option, if you know where you want to stay, or easily get to.  A exact address of a function, concert, meeting, or whatever is best. If you don't know an area, go with a major landmark. Putting in an airport will get you hotels closest to the airport... not what you what most of the time.

2 - ROOM TYPE : Make sure you pay attention to this if you are going to stay longer than 2 nights.  YOU WILL CARE what your room is like, really, you will.  Square feet, coffee maker, blah blah blah... some rooms in some towns can be quite spartan for that $119.00 a night special.

3. PERKS : Need WiFI? Got pets? Looking for shuttle services? Workout Addict?  Make sure your hotel stay has what you need, at little or no cost.  If the perks that you want are not included in your hotel pricing, expect a fee-a-palooza when you check out.

4. PARKING : Yeah, so where ya gonna put your car? No choice sometime, valet or die.  Thats another $25-$50. I stayed in San Francisco once with an $80.00 a day parking fee.  Consider point #1, and make sure that your hotel doesn't charge you in-out fees if you need to drive. And ALWAYS tip your valet.

5. JOIN THE CLUBS : Sometimes you can join a hotels' frequent guest program and get all these above charged amenities, wait for it ...  FOR FREE.  Thats right FREE!!

6. AAA : If you don't already have this little silver card in your wallet, get it.  AAA will get you another 10% off that hotel bill.  If you stay at a hotel at least 2 times a year, you have just paid for a basic AAA membership.  AAA usually can beat an online "best buy".   Also - they give FREE travel arrangement assistance. Bonus!!

7. GO TO THE HOTELS WEBSITE : Thats right, go to the site directly.  They might have a nifty package/special/rate just for making that extra click.  Also, you can see additional pictures and notices (like construction) online.  Don't be afraid to call the Sales Manager yourself if you want to find a lower rate also. It is their job to be competitive.

8. KIDS : Okay... I have three of these things, and you can't just take a whole brood like mine and stay just anywhere.  Be aware of Max. occupancy of a room. DO NOT LIE, and say you don't have as many as you do.  They will either turn you away, or charge you WAY more at the desk.  Request a roll-away or crib prior to check in, and call 3-4 hours to confirm you have one in room.  ALSO!!!! If your child has allergies/breast feeding or formula storage needs, you can request a refrigerator or microwave to be in your room. Some hotels do this without a fee, some charge $10-$25 dollars.  In addition, request a ground floor room. NO ONE likes hearing your childrens' pitter-patter but you. If you can't get a ground level room, get one near the elevator. Kids running through halls is not cool, it's fun, but not cool. Another perk that some hotels offer  Kids' under 12 to stay free.  Try to look for a hotel with a free breakfast, kids love a buffet that lets them call the shots, and its easy on the wallet as well.

9.  POOL : Do you need one?  Some charge more a night just for the simple fact that they have one.   If you are looking for a resort-like hotel with an awesome pool - look at the pictures.  Is there shade? Do they have lots of lounge chairs compared to the size of the pool? Do they have an adult only pool, or will you run the chance of sharing your pooltime with toddlers. Oh - and more importantly, do they have a poolside bar?

10.  PRICE :  If it seems to good to be true, it is.  A hotel advertised as $200 on one site,
and one has it for $150... be very wary.  Extras most likely will be tacked on to that baby like a bumper sticker to a volvo.  Take into consideration State and Local Taxes, Hotel & Resort Fees, parking fees, WiFi, Gym Fees, and blah blah blah... If a site doesn't charge you these in your "Total" - they will add them at the hotel upon check in.    Look at your check-in bill to make sure you aren't being charged for frivoles fee as well, like in-room phone service.

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