Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Update on our Homeschool Experiment

So, it seems that my Grand Plan to blog weekly updates went the way of most of my Grand Plans.  That is, it sat in my mental "In Box" and collected dust.

Oh well.  Frankly, after doing this whole homeschooling thing for almost five months now, I have absolutely no clue how some of these homeschooling mommy blogging gurus write a post a day.  Or several a day.  Are their children writing the posts for them for Creative Writing?  Probably, as is more likely, they have trained their children to work independently and not disappear to the backyard mud hole when you take a break to go pee while they doing their math.

I've been asked several times lately,

"So... how is homeschooling going?"

The people usually appear genuinely interested, albeit a tad concerned.  I think most of them are honestly just asking how it is going.  They are not, as I am apt to believe, actually asking, "So... have you come back to your senses yet?  Is your daughter a weirdo yet?  Are you drinking Sangria in the bathroom on a regular basis?"

Here is my answer:

Homeschooling is good.  It is the rest of it that I haven't got figured out-- balancing the grocery shopping, the laundry, meals, appointments, errands.  I know that with homeschooling, family life just runs into everything else.  But that's tough for me.  I like doing certain activities solo or just having peace and quiet exactly when I want it.  Homeschooling has been a lesson in self-sacrifice for me, but ultimately, I am thankful for it (as uncomfortable and tiring a lesson as it might be at the time.)

The Good (or rather, The Things That Show Me That We Did The Right Thing With This Homeschooling Business)

We have already seen some big improvements in the areas that were of concern: attitude, reading and writing.

Our life is slowing back down to a happier speed.  No more hair-pulling school car lines and hearing all the garbage that she learned on the playground.  Anna and Noah play out in the sand and dig up worms while I watch the school bus drive by-- little kindergarteners getting home from school at dinnertime.  I feel thankful that doesn't have to be my kids.

I am discovering new stuff out about my daughter everyday.  Anna hates coloring books.  She likes logic puzzles.  She would rather figure out her math problems on her own, but she still wants me to sit next to her.  She loves Little House on the Prairie and Amish primer readers. 

Learning world history together has been been amazing.  I could read to her about history all day and she would be happy.  The study has brought about so many fantastic discussions and God and humankind and life in general. 

I love having her home.  Of course, there are days when I just want a Me Party.  But for the most part, it just feels right and well, normal,  to have her home during the day.

We've had many comments from loved ones that say the same thing:  "Big difference.  She is happier.  She is calmer."

The Bad (or rather, The Things That Need Some Work)

We need a group.

We have been attending a wonderful renegade Classical Conversations group, but it is an hour drive to get there.  I love the moms.  I love the kids.  I just wish I could transplant them ten minutes from my home.  Anna really needs some homeschooling buddies.  I need other like-minded homeschool moms nearby who I can call and say, "Phooey.  Let's all meet at the park this morning."   I am coming to realize that support is imperative. 

The other thing that needs quite a bit of tweaking is my schedule.  I need to find a balance of structure and flexibility.  As an artist, I can be very flexible.  I have flexible down pat. 

The problem is that I have never been good at the whole schedule thing.  It never ever works for me, longer than five minutes.  However, I think what might work is HABIT.  I am actually a very habitual person-- with both good and bad habits.  Routine, I can do.  Schedule, I cannot.  Trying to figure out what to do about this realization and how to utilize it for effective homeschooling. 

The Ugly (or rather, The Things That..Oh Help Me, I Didn't Know It Was Going To Be This Hard)

Toddlers and homeschooling.   Just typing that caused me to pull my hands up to my eyes and lean back and heave a sigh. 

It is so stinkin' difficult to get anything done with a toddler.  We really use Noah's Mother's Day Out day to our advantage, and we school through nap times every afternoon.  Sometimes Jason takes Noah out and we get work done.  But other than that, it is like stealth homeschool.  Is Noah playing with his cars quietly?  Quick!  Let's do spelling!!!  (Of course, immediately, he comes over to shake the table and holler that he wants Cheerios.)  It's frustrating. 

I know this is just a stage, but it's just so exhausting.   I would say that Toddler Maintenance has been my Number One challenge.  We eat a lot of Cheerios around here.

So, there it is.  We have survived.  I dare say we have thrived.  I have to keep telling myself that we are new at this home education business and still getting it figured out.  I will be interested to see what our home looks like in a year...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week 4: The Honeymoon Is Over

It started out well and good.  Monday morning.  We can do this week!  Here we go!

Then my friend texted me and reminded me not to take Noah to Mother's Day Out because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and all the schools were out.  Oh and do we want to come hang out for the morning with all the other out-of-school kiddos.  My willpower and schoolwork plans left me and desire for female conversation and coffee took over and we packed it up and left for much-appreciated community.

"Oh, we'll just finish up our schoolwork later this afternoon," thought I.

Fast forward to Friday, and we were still playing catch up from Monday's missed day.   Anna had a grumblish week, as it slowly dawned on her that homeschool really truly Mommy-isn't-kidding-around means reading, writing and math everyday.  I had the same grumblish week, as it slowly dawned on me that I really truly had left my former Hey-let's-all-drop-everything-and-spend-the-morning-drinking-coffee-at-Francine's-house life.

It isn't as if I can't still engage in spontaneous socialization every once in awhile.  But now if I do, there is catch-up work that must be done.   It also became obvious to me that the girl... well, she's always with me.  With me.  With me.  With me.  Me to the with.

Truly, on the whole, I have been surprised by how natural most of this homeschool life feels to me.  It feels so much more "normal" now to not have Anna away from home for 8 hours every day.  That was the way of life that felt odd in my bones.  But this week seemed to drive home the sacrifice aspect of our decision to homeschool.  It's going to be long and tedious and mundane and boring sometimes.  There are going to be other things I wish I was doing.  We are going to get off-track at times.  I am going to have to juggle ten things at once most days.  We are going to have some weeks where I am still having to reteach Monday's math on yet again on Friday because my child just cannot figure out why "half past six" is the same as 6:30.

(And then there is the crabby, rebellious part of me who wants to just say WHO CARES and throw the lesson in the trash.  I mean, who really says "half past six" anyway?  We are not living in Mary Poppins' merry ole England.  Really.  I mean, come on already.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week 3: The Girliest Girly Girl Treasure Box Ever

Yes, I realize that this treasure box looks like something that Miss Piggy might have barfed up in her Muppet Theater dressing room.  (But that was sort of the point, since we got the idea from my all-time favorite craft book, The Muppet Big Book of Crafts.)

It may be a blinged-out eye sore, but come on... just tell me that you wouldn't have loved this treasure box when you were a 7 year-old girl?

Friday, January 18, 2013


When I start freaking out about educating my child, I try to think about God grabbing me and having this conversation with me:

I don't have to have it all figured out.  My keys may be hidden right now. But God knows where they are.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Week 2: Crazy Huge History Timeline

The Adams SynChronological Map of History
Math is not my strong suit.

When I ordered this timeline, I was expecting it to be about 1/4 of this size.  Great Googly Moogly. 

But it is amazing.  Look at those colors!  Look at all that information!  I feel faint.  One of the things that got me excited about homeschooling to begin with, was getting to teach history.  I loooooooooooove history.  Well... that's sorta weird to say, since so many awful events have occurred throughout history.  I guess I looooooooooooove learning about history.

I was an Art major in college, and I almost minored in Art History.  Oh Art History, I love you so.  You little minx, you.  But I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I knew I was already bound to be unemployable with that Art major hanging over me, and adding Art History would have just pushed me over the edge.  Instead, I minored in the the vague Communications, where I took courses like "The Vietnam War Throughout Film" and "The History of Animation."  You know, so much more practical.  Eye roll.  Whatever.  At least I didn't minor in Dramatic Set Design.

Anyway, back to my hot and heavy love affair with history.  Smoochie smooch.  Ironically, my passion was once nearly quenched when I was 20 years old and studying abroad in Florence, Italy, of all places.  First of all, in Italy, the art itself can almost send you into sensory overload.  Sometimes, it is just too. much.  You just want to turn it off and watch a coat rack for awhile.  But even their coat racks are beautiful, so you can't.  That was a small part of my problem.

But the real problem--the ghastly monster who almost destroyed my love of both art and history--was named Helen.  At my art school, the only professor of Art History was a certifiable OCD nutjob.  I've blocked her last name from my memory, but her first name is stuck in there forever... Helen Helen Helllllllllllllen.  Helen, an American expat in Italy, had been at that school for many many years, and it pains me to think of how many art lovers this woman probably destroyed over time.   In class, we flipped through art slides at lightening speed, unable to keep up with the dry and boring facts that Helen flatly rattled off.  On field trips, we literally ran from church to cathedral to museum, barely glancing at monumental works of art, while a trail of spewed facts jabbed into our skulls.  As students, we were constantly scolded for drifting off, not "appreciating" the art enough or trying to listen to other tour guides.  Some students took to sneaking off to drink wine in small Italian villages we visited.  I finally tucked headphones inside my cap, listening to old "Police" songs in an attempt to drown out the pratterings of Helen.  I will forever think of angrily staring at Renaissance paintings in freezing cold churches when I hear "Don't Stand So Close To Me."  When I was actually reprimanded for spending too much time in "awe" in the Sistine Chapel (approximately 15 minutes), I almost snapped.  I went and hid behind some scaffolding to keep from having a professor verbal smackdown in the middle of the Vatican.   I look back and cannot believe that, because of one mentally ill teacher, my love of Art History was almost ruined.

But no, Helen, did not ultimately kill my joy.   It took awhile to recover... but I think I am ready to jump back in and study some great art and some fascinating history.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Week 1: Derailed

Cave Painting

Our first week started lovely.  Anna announced the first day that she loved homeschooling and she loved history and she loved me.  She didn't throw any fits during math and I actually was able to explain it to her.  She made a cave painting.  We read several books.  I felt like I was accomplishing major feats of strength. 

Then, of course, mid-week, Noah got sick and whiny and demanded to be held.  None of us changed out of our pajamas for several days.  There was lots of snot and old "I Love Lucy" episodes and unwashed hair.  I tried to still at least make Anna do her math everyday.  By Friday, though, I succumbed to the virus myself and parked my feverishly pathetic self on the couch while my husband herded children.  Math schmath.

Virus: 1.  Ellen's Perfectly Laid-out Plans: 0.

Oh well, my plans were bound to get obliterated sooner or later, so it's probably good that it all got derailed from the get-go.  Life is going to happen.  God just wants me to try my best at this homeschool thing... He is really the one in charge anyhoo.