Saturday, September 27, 2014

So I Have Some Things To Say...

And I remembered I had a blog where I could say them! Isn't that nice?

Sheesh. Life is too busy. Little bitty two year olds make a big difference in the house.

So I found out today how easy it is to score drugs for your kid. Sweetheart is drowning in 9th grade. We are barely keeping her head above water. And if it were public school, she would NOT be keeping it above. Only because homeschooling is flexible and able to be fit for each child's personality and needs is she still here today.

S and I talked about meds for the first time a few weeks ago. I've known for a long time that she probably has ADD. No hyperactivity on her part. She a little impulsive, but nothing that would warrant grave concern on that side of the equation. But the inattention? Oh yes. She's there. So I called her pediatrician, who gave me the numbers to four psychiatrists in the area, explaining that the pediatrician's office just doesn't handle ADHD referrals. No problem.

After some shuffling, we were finally seen this morning. Through a series of events, I don't believe the doctor even was aware that we were coming or what we were there for. But within about 40 minutes of our arrival, I walked out with a prescription in my hand for stimulants for my child. Easy peasy.

Then I came home and started researching side effects for the particular drug we had been given. And I got scared and chickened out. As much as I long for a magical pill that will suddenly make everything easier--room more organized, school work completed and in a timely manner, things not constantly lost....etc., I just cannot bring myself to go this route just now.

So I'm researching more natural alternatives and dietary changes. That won't be a quick fix and that annoys me, but oh well. It was funny while the doctor was asking "Do you....?" "Do you ever...?" questions, Sweetheart's eyes got kind of big and I could tell she was thinking, "How do you know me?" Because oh boy was that doctor describing her!

And next time I'll share with you our recent medical journey with 10 year old Little Bit.....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

You Can't Make Me Pay!

So Little Bit has been invited to go watch the new American Girl movie next week. This movie is about the girl of the year--Isabelle--of which Little Bit happens to own the doll. So, it's pretty cool to take your American Girl doll to the movie with you. Doubly cool if your doll is IN the movie! I know Little Bit would really, really like the outfit for girls that matches the doll but, you see, I'm not independently wealthy.

My word the amount that company charges. She was helping me clean out paperwork yesterday (yes, she enjoys that stuff) and we ran across the receipt for Isabelle. She said she wanted to keep it. I told her, "Yes, keep it so you can show your daughters how cheaply you got your doll! They will say, 'No fair Mom! American Girls cost $500 now!'" She cracked up.

Anyway, Mama is not dumb. I have a plan to make Little Bit an outfit that matches her Isabelle. I will share it with you when I'm done. It's going to be awesome.

We have had a pretty busy summer. For the first time ever, I signed the girls up for classes in a nearby town at their rec center. Sweetheart was supposed to take a self-defense class and her friend signed up with her. I was going to count all the hours (10 classes!) towards high school P.E. credit but, she and her friend were the only ones who signed up. Needless to say the class was cancelled.

But Little Bit's "Mini Gourmet" class was great! It lasted 4 mornings and she took it with 2 friends.

She learned to cook quite a few things and even got to help cook one of her meals for everyone at our church a few weeks later. She was very proud. 

Then last week, Little Bit attended VBS in another nearby city. She enjoyed it. I can't get over how brave she has become--this child who wouldn't talk to anyone outside of our home for years. She didn't know anyone at the VBS but just marched on in every day and had a good time. 

The last day of VBS happened to be Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A. I promised her we would NOT come in and pick her up from VBS dressed as cows. So, we had our black and white on and then had to do a lot of shuffling around in the van. But we made it and had a completely free lunch for four. 

Mama has no pride. I wanted Free food! I did not wear the ears the whole time.
We also had cow toes but I'll spare you the pics of feet. I hate feet pics. 

And that reminds me that I need to remove said cow nail polish before lunch today. S and I are going to go eat to celebrate 21 years of marriage. And something tells me he'd rather not dine with a bovine wife. 

Because we're classy like that. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Yesterday Was Awful and OK--a List for Your Viewing Pleasure

Yesterday was awful because...

  • Bee poured a huge cup of water all over the couch, my ipad, the floor, etc. 
  • We were still doing school at 8pm
  • S had to work on church stuff so he was pretty much disengaged all evening
  • Bee won't come when called and I don't like spanking her in public. It just makes every single trip to the store or anywhere 50% harder than it needs to be. 
  • Actually right now it's all harder. She doesn't want to get buckled in her car seat. She doesn't want to sit in the basket at the store. She doesn't want anyone to hold her hand. She doesn't want to walk into the house, she wants to examine every leaf in the yard. Sigh.
  • It was the first day back after spring break and a wonderful vacation and I just wasn't ready to "be back." 
  • I didn't sleep good. My coughing, Bee waking up, Little Bit's bad dream (all layered on top of each other of course.)
  • I told the girls I was going to sack up anything in their bedroom floor and they both told me it was good and I sacked up an entire tall paper garbage bag FULL. 
  • I had to sweep the living room (we have carpet) just so we could get all the crap in a pile and it took 3 of us 15 minutes to clean it all and we had started the day with the floor clean.
Yesterday was OK because...
  • S did Bible stuff with the kids before bed. And Bee sat so proudly between her big sisters holding her Bible and just beaming.
  • We got a little refund check and now I'll be able to pay off some more debt.
  • We had enough food for supper so I didn't have to go grocery shopping.
  • Bee took a nice, long, early nap and we got a lot done on our projects.
  • The girls were happy to be back at choir.
  • Everyone was healthy and we are blessed.

Not sure I'm ready for today either but at least we can stay home (except grocery shopping-ug) and get stuff done. Maybe we won't have to be doing school all evening. S has a Bible study with a gentleman tonight so he'll be gone all evening, which I'm not looking forward to. Spring Break was probably the most and longest we've been around him ever and I liked it. 
Going to sack up anything from the girls' floor or bathroom again today. Let's see what kind of bag collection I can get going in the garage. 
Off to tackle this day....ready or it comes.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Little Toot

What do you do when Mama says, "Stay on the hard floor to eat your muffin. Don't get on the carpet"?

Well of course you go stand right on the edge. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In Which We Try to Undo Sloppy Habits

Yesterday I was asking and wondering about instilling good character qualities in our children. I posted on a Facebook group I am in about what resources there are to use for character training. Boy, I got a lot of responses! I'm going to be going through those and posting the ones I find interesting on here a bit later. As soon as I have time to look up all the links. Sounds like a good summer school study, don't you think? I could incorporate reading (books and stories about characters with, possibly writing, and maybe even some good old movie watching could be involved.
We rode the ferry Saturday. Free and fun!

S and I talked about this over the weekend. He and I were trying to remember when we started to "take over" doing things of our own initiative. It was hard to remember. The reason? Because we did things because we had to do them. There was no choice. You came home from school, you got a snack and immediately started on homework. You did the dishes after supper and when everything was done, your time was your own. For him, that meant going outside to play basketball. He was motivated to get finished with his responsibilities before it was pitch black outside.

So we decided that's how things needed to be around here. Playing will happen when you are done with everything else. Now we did take recess yesterday at 10am like we are supposed to. The girls and I all went on a 30 minute bike ride. So it's not like they didn't get a break.
Bee was really excited to be on a boat. Little Bit loved watching the birds. 

Before breakfast I expected them to be up, dressed, hair fixed, and bed made. And their pajamas put away. They were already frustrated with me before we even ate. Then, before school they had to clean up their breakfast, brush their teeth and have anything else done that needed doing. It made the whole day run smoother. 

I know you're thinking....Brenda...this is not revolutionary news. I agree. I was trying to think how we even got into sloppy habits like the girls not making their beds in the mornings. I always make our bed. I always had to make my bed before school growing up.
Did a little rearranging this weekend. Surprised? Now Little Bit has her own desk. She's happy. She has to have things neat.

I believe it began with a pregnancy test. That year I was pregnant with Baby Bee...whew! Mama was tired. We did the basics. Then, of course, I had a newborn. The girls had to be pretty independent for a while there. They got breakfast themselves, they took breaks when they wanted to (I was sleeping or busy with a baby so I didn't fuss). All that to say, I think they slipped into some sloppy habits over the last few years.

So I am staying on them about picking up after themselves at every turn. I will insist responsibilities be finished before playtime. They're going to love me.
Now everyone has somewhere to work. 
This girl sits across from me now. 

But I think it will go a long way towards them looking like responsible people. And perhaps those habits are what turn you into a responsible person down the road?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dreaming and a Question

Can I go to work today, please?

Can I just drop the kids off with someone else, get in my car by myself and go sit in a quiet little office and work on the computer and file things and copy things? Please?

It really sounds nice today.

Instead, today I must handle a crazy (albeit cute) fit-pitching toddler, educate a 10 year old, and nag a 14 year old to death.

I am very grateful to be home with my kids! I know I am blessed. Just not looking forward to today. Is that OK?

Now I have a question. How do you instill character qualities into your children? I can make my kids do things, but how do I ensure they develop the character quality that will help them to do the things they need to do even when I'm not standing there making them?

I think it's initiative I need to instill. Plus self-control, attentiveness, diligence, responsibility, thoroughness, and dependability. Yeah, how do I instill those things?

Is learning about them enough? Does memorizing the definitions of  the character qualities produce them in your children? Certainly it would help them in recognizing good character vs. poor character. It's been a few years since we really studies character traits. Perhaps it's time again.

But will that do it? When does this transfer take place? When can I expect them to do what they know needs to be done without my direct involvement or a command?

Friday, February 14, 2014

I'm Either a Really Great Crafter or a Great Pinner

Can't take credit for any of the ideas. Every single one was either inspired or copied straight off of Pinterest! How I love Pinterest! In the olden days I would have had to flip through old magazines for inspiration.

Wow there's a lot of pink in this post.

Baby Bee loved passing out Valentines. And getting candy.

Bee's shirt was just 2 hearts put on with Wonder Under. And some heart pants we got somewhere. 

Of course a bird shirt for Little Bit. She loves birds. 

Little Bit's balloon was fragile and fell apart during the party. But it worked well. 

She made her own shirt. It's very light and subtle but it was just a doily used as a stencil. 

Sweetheart's box won a prize. A few years ago she was absolutely heart broken when another robot box beat hers out. She was excited to win yesterday (and to eat the pretzel she got from the snack bar!) but it amazed me the difference in her reaction compared to a few years ago. Sometimes maturing happens very gradually and we don't always notice it's been going on!

We had a great time at the party and no one broke any bones. Success!!

Now tonight we are going to have a special dinner on our china and celebrate Valentine's Day together as a family. I think that's fun. I wish more people just celebrated together instead of making it strictly about couples. It hurts a lot of people.

Having said that, S and I do plan to do something special together. Just not tonight. Restaurants are going to be really crowded tonight! Date nights are important and time as a couple is important too.

Off to wrap up the school week, get the grocery shopping done, and finish cleaning up the house for our special dinner! Busy day!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine Boxes

I made sure to take pictures of our Valentine boxes this year but then realized I didn't take any with the girls holding their box.

And THAT'S what I want to remember. How they looked and how proud they were of their box! So I will take those before we leave for our skating party today. But here they are:

Little Bit's Lalaloopsy hot air balloon. Got the basket from Grandma. Bought the doilies and washi tape and balloon but some of those things served double duty for the shirts we made. 

Of course this one is Baby Bee's! Made from a cereal box wrapped in upside down Christmas wrapping paper, painted, construction paper, duct tape. Free.

Sweetheart's cupcake. Bought a paint bucket for $2 at the hardware store. Used a balloon we bought for Little Bit's box and bought tissue paper. Not too bad.

All boxes inspired or copied straight from Pinterest. Thank you Pinterest! They also worked hard on their Valentines. Bee painted 6 pieces of paper and I printed the To and From on top of the painting and cut each sheet up into 9 cards. 

Working hard!!!
Dollar store stickers add the finishing touch. Total cost: $1

And Little Bit opted to do part store-bought and part homemade.

And Sweetheart made all hers from an idea in her American Girl magazine. Will have to get a picture of hers later.

I'm very proud of all the girls for their hard work! And we made Valentine shirts! I'll get pics of those later too!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Checklists and Accountability

I've never had the girls turn work in, so to speak, in our homeschool. For the most part, we've sat around the table together doing the work and I knew how they were doing. As Sweetheart has gained more independence, being in 8th grade and all, I'm less on top of her day.

As a result, even though I have them hilite what they have finished in their planners, I'm still not keeping tabs of her work well enough. So yesterday I went and bought one of these:

This is the "in box". Instead of putting things back on the shelf or in a binder, work I need to look at will go in here.

In addition, I made a checklist for my 8th grader so she could systematically go down the line and make sure she has turned everything in. Also, to give accountability for things that need to be done, but cannot be turned in.

This form may need some tweaking, but we're going to start using it today. I put funny pictures and captions on the back of each form and had way too much fun doing it. Hey, we don't have TV, OK?

And I was only kidding about the extra chores if she didn't do a subject up there on the form. We'll see how carefully she's reading!

The only other thing I would like to do as far as organization goes probably won't happen. I long for those rainbow drawers I see at Mardel all the time. They can be had cheaper elsewhere.

I wouldn't use them as workboxes really. I just love the thought of having each subject in it's own drawer instead of jumbled up and falling over on the shelves.

But reality says Baby Bee would also love those drawers so they probably won't happen right now. If we had a closet I could lock up top that would be perfect but we don't.

Our night 'o homework seemed to have an impact because little girls got with it yesterday in school and actually finished early! Well, OK, mama's throat hurt so we couldn't do some of the things that required me reading out loud. But today I have throat spray so no excuses!

Here's to a really organized Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two Hours Late

That's how our day is starting...

I woke up and got S's breakfast ready like usual and then I went back to bed. I can feel all this sinus junk starting and I figured I better rest up a bit while Baby Bee was sleeping. I trusted S to wake up Sweetheart as agreed upon but...

So. We adjust. She'll do the 4 most important exercises in her PT regimen and then move on to school.

Now let's talk about homework. We had some last night. I gave Sweetheart an hour to do math and she didn't finish. Truth is she completely didn't understand the lesson and yet never once came to ask for help during the school day. And Little Bit didn't even get to math yesterday, which is rare.

They were both feeling really sorry for themselves all through dinner. So I took a little Facebook quiz for them and lo and behold! So many of their friends had homework too! Imagine that! S gave a wonderful and calm lecture during dinner about how life was when he was in school. I love his lectures. Makes me feel like I'm not the only one telling them these things all day long.

Then I helped Little Bit with math and got Bee bathed. S helped Sweetheart with math. It's painful watching someone else go through what I have been doing for years. Painful, but reassuring. (Look! Other people get frustrated too!)

Oh I remember my parents helping me with homework. I really don't think I would have wanted to be homeschooled.

Today is supposed to be our glorious ***stay home day***!!! (Angels singing while you read that) BUT...we have no groceries. Sigh. So before lunch a run to the store is in order. And it's Texas cold out there too!

We also will be working on Valentine boxes today for our homeschool party coming up on Thursday. Sweetheart chose a box that involved paper mache' and tissue paper and many steps. Little Bit chose a box that requires hot glue (and therefore mama). And I need to finish Bee's box. We are also making a box for a young man who used to be part of our homeschool group but now is fighting leukemia. Since he isn't in school this year, or a homeschool group, I thought our group could give him some cards. He loves all things sports so I'm attempting a boy baseball Valentine box.

I am way out of my league here.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Running two hours late and still I'm that funny. Just imagine what the day holds!

Ok, apparently I holds spellcheck. Lots and lots of spellcheck. Wow. My whole post just lit up yellow. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Early Monday Morning

S has been very helpful and supportive with my homeschool concerns lately. He's home enough now to see for himself the problems I have with keeping Sweetheart on task and on schedule and not distracted and not losing things, etc. When he had his mowing business he was gone a lot. I'm thankful that preaching-as-a-second-job allows him to be home so much more. He's very helpful!

It always surprises me when I give one of the girls a direction and they are whining or begging for some other thing and he cuts in with, "Go do it!" to the girl. Ah. So nice and refreshing to cut all that jabber and just have them go obey.

I know I could/should cut them off every time and have them obey like that, but honestly it is very tiring to always be the one giving directions. I think that's one thing about homeschooling that's exhausting---the directing all the time. To be the one constantly re-directing, checking on, getting on to, encouraging, instructing, keeping on task....

Does that tire you out too?

Maybe that's just parenting.

It's easier to ignore them and just think, "I don't hear any sounds of violence coming from their room so things must be good." It's easier--but not better.

So he said he would get Sweetheart up at 6 every morning so she can have time to get ready and get her physical therapy done. Her stretches and exercises take 45 minutes twice a day--a real time sucker! This morning Bee happened to call for me at 6:15 and that was the first any of us knew it was morning. Thankfully, I got her up and she got going. In fact, she's in the living room getting Bee dressed now. So nice for her to have time to get her stuff done AND be helpful!

Mondays are choir days for us. Choir is about 30-45 minutes away. We have to pack school work, choir stuff, lunches, toys for Bee, and stuff for me to do. It's an endeavor let me tell you. And then when we get home there is more school work to do.

Which is why I love Tuesdays. Tuesdays we stay home. ***big smile***

But first I must make it through today where I set the timer for every single thing Sweetheart does to keep her on track, assign homework for what is not finished, keep after her to pick up after herself following any activity, while also teaching a 4th grader and managing a 1 year old.

A one year old who scratched me on Sunday morning. I said, "Why on earth did you do that?" and she said, "I a tiger."

Then when we got to church she ran 15-20 laps around the auditorium. We were hoping that would tire her out for during church but ha ha. Needless to say, I made use of the cry room on Sunday and there was crying. And I wasn't even trying to make her sit! I was letting her play! Some days it just isn't happening. She was in such a fine mood. After church she walked across the big field by our church and then when she got back to the car she was hanging from the door handles saying, "I a ooh-aah!" (monkey). Oh it was quite a morning. I should have known after I took this picture Sunday morning before church:

One day THIS one will be my 8th grader.

And you know what? I can't wait.

 Because I love every single one....
 ...of these girls.... stinkin' much!

Even early on a Monday morning.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 7)

The problems.

So no matter what I think of our daughters' education and in whatever ways I may change my thinking on how we need to do things, there is still the practical problem of how to implement what I believe. 

To sum up:

1. I believe that college is not always necessary. It is over-priced and a better education could be had for a buck 50 in late charges at the library. We will not raise our children assuming that they MUST attend college.

2. I believe that learning can and should be enjoyed. Now we won't always enjoy everything we must learn. I have learned some things about doing our taxes but I do not enjoy learning about that. It's just necessary. But things I am interested in? Those should be enjoyable.

3. Home education does not need to look like school. Even in high school! I do not have to do what everyone else is doing. I do not have to do what is expected. I do have to follow the law.

4. I've been trying to get too much accomplished in school every day. Checking off boxes, while making me extremely happy, does not equal a good education.

5. Our children's character is far more important than their academic strengths. Their experiences during their growing-up years need to reflect that we feel that is more important.

6. We are too busy. We are too disorganized. We are poor time-managers. We have a lot of room for improvement and those improvements will benefit my kids.

7. I can approach the non-essential (outside of what is required) subjects differently than I have been.

8. I want them to learn to learn by themselves.

Having said all that, there needs to be some serious work around this house on organization. I have a child who struggles greatly with staying organized (both things and time) and another child who naturally is orderly and prefers it--to the point where it's almost a problem. And then we have a 20 month old tornado who lives here too.

I am frustrated because stopping to clean up messes sucks our school day away like nothing else. If I just roll with it, we will finish school. But I want them to learn to clean up as they go. Therefore I cannot ignore the messes. Understand I'm not talking about babies and preschoolers. I'm talking about my 14 year old. Different expectations at different ages Mama. I've got minimum 4 1/2 more years with this girl. Gotta make these lessons count.

We've moved to just reading and discussing science. Oh my word how enjoyable!!!!! I feel like they have retained more that way than what we have been diligently doing all year! Comprehension is absolutely better as we aren't hurrying through the reading so we can fill out the answers to the questions and get them glued into those notebooks. I LOVE the idea of notebooking. But this is working much better for us.

History, which is also not required by law, is far too enjoyable and important to stop. Plus, with our curriculum it is tied into reading and cannot be separated. History stays. I've done the same thing with every non-required subject. We've looked at it, the time it takes to accomplish it, and decided what to do and how many days a week to spend on it. Cooking, sewing, learning to be a hostess...these things are far too important to skip over just so we can cover every subject under the sun. Instead of SCHOOL, I'm truly trying to think EDUCATION.

What do you want your child to learn or to learn to do before they leave your house???

That is the question you must ask and answer. Then you have to implement it.

And that's what we're working on here at the House Revised.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Saturday Fun

It's pretty sad when you have to schedule time for family fun. We had so much to do this weekend, some of which did not get done (grocery shopping, finances....). But this is important stuff too.

We went strawberry picking at a nearby farm. 

Bee caught on very quickly which ones to pick. 

Little bit choosing good ones!

Sweetheart LOVES to eat strawberries. 

I had to really keep on top of Bee. She was quick. 

Add caption

You don't see the pictures of when Bee ran ahead down the row and into mud. Mama had to wade in to get her and we both had shoes that were caked with mud. I was just really happy I didn't fall in it!

Then we shopped a bit at their farmer's market (there see? I did go grocery shopping!) and went to eat lunch together. It was a nice Saturday morning.

And just in time too because a cold front came through Sunday morning and it was raining and cold the rest of the weekend.

Now we face Monday somewhat unprepared for the week. But that's OK. There are only 24 hours in a day! Lesson plans got done and S is going to get Sweetheart up early from now on so she can get a jump start on her day and NOT be behind all week.

Have a great Monday!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 6)

The Dilemma

We've had a lot of problems lately with a certain student's time management skills. Ahem. Adding physical therapy twice a day hasn't helped the problem either. I should cut her some slack because she does have 45 minutes of exercises to do twice a day, but honestly one should be done before school and one before bed. That really shouldn't affect the school day in theory.

This particular student 'o mine really got my set of genes. She struggles with organization and I don't just mean "where's my book?" although that's a major problem on a daily basis. She struggles with "should I do this first? or this? Oh look! something shiny!!!" The last two weekends she's done hours of school on Saturday because she failed to finish so much during the week.

I've been trying to get her to see that small decisions all day long affect tomorrow. Yes, you can stop and play with Bee for a few minutes. Yes, you can play baseball after lunch. Yes, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. These little choices mean you aren't going to finish today....and you'll be doing school on Saturday. I'm not sure the lesson has sunk in just yet.

And we've even dropped science for the time being and she still isn't getting finished! The other day I went over her lesson plans with her and said at the end, "So, go do math right now." Then I set the timer. It was 9 minutes until she actually started the lesson. Finding a pencil, sharpening pencil, gathering notebook, computer, cord, book, getting a drink, going to the bathroom. Good. Ness. Sake.

Sweetheart really does enjoy science experiments.
So how can I add in time to pursue her own interests? Her own interests right now seem to be stopping to watch Curious George with the baby. Until she gets herself more organized and her time management skills in check, how will she ever have time for interest-led learning? How will she ever have time to become a hacker??

I really didn't have an answer to this question until I found that link on the 20% project. (A little history here.)The idea that is forming in my head involves having both of them spend a portion of their day (at least 3-4 times a week) on learning something of their choosing. I will most likely set a time limit at first--like maybe 30 minutes a day. As they catch on to this, I hope to increase that time until they are spending quite a bit of time every week learning on their own.

Since we've never really done things like this, I can't just let it go and see what happens. All extra time I could carve out for them would get eaten up by playing and finding pencils. At first, we will have to be very purposeful about it. Perhaps it will flow more naturally later.

I also think I would like them to document their learning. In my mind, a smash-book type journal would be great. But I'll let them decide. The best thing I could do is set an example for them. I'm currently trying to learn about essential oils, so if they saw me making a smash-book on essential oils, that would be good. A lot of my research and learning I do on my ipad while sitting in the living room and so they really aren't even aware I'm doing anything other than looking at my ipad. A journal would show them that I am learning too. And they also will need to report to the family (maybe at the end of the month?) on what they have learned. Accountability.

So that's my plan. The dilemma stands. Time management and organization must be a part of our lives for this to work. But I will not wait until those skills are attained to begin. We will learn both and work on both simultaneously. And hopefully, this will turn into something they love and motivate them to get through that math work so they can do this each day.

Also I need a name for this time besides "20% project." Ideas?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 5)

One of the things I want to do to overhaul my daughters' education and make it more meaningful is to allow them time and resources to pursue their own interests. A child who is motivated to learn say....first going to learn SO much more than a child who has been assigned something to learn.

Of course there are things my daughters have no interest in learning that they still must--Math being king around here. That's not even up for discussion. Math is required by law. You need math to graduate. Math is happening. Within those parameters, we can play around a little. We will get into that next week.

Yesterday I asked you what your children chase after. What are they drawn to in their spare time? If you answered "watching TV" then we may have an issue. That certainly would have been my answer for Sweetheart about 5 years ago. She had definite couch potato tendencies. Getting rid of our TV was an excellent move for her future. So perhaps part of having time for children to pursue what interests them is having an environment that encourages that as well.

Sweetheart trying to learn math with Bee helping. 

In researching all of this, I found myself on a lot of unschooling blogs and websites. I have to tell you, reading about unschooling makes me twitch just a bit. When we first decided to homeschool and I was learning about it, I read Learning All the Time by John Holt. I remember I closed the book and said, "You know, I agree with what he's saying.....for little kids." I just couldn't see how my then 7 year old would EVER come to me and say, "Mom, I'd really like to learn how to do long division please???" Not happening. If I just totally let my children go with the attitude of "it doesn't really matter what they are doing because they are learning all the time!" I would have some seriously stupid kids. I do agree that Bee is learning all the time. Even the most mundane of activities helps her pick up new vocabulary and new concepts. Last night while I was rocking her before bed we  had to discuss the heater she heard come on, the air vent the heat comes out of, and the difference between heat and when we turn the fan on. With my 20 month old.

Captain Baby Sword
The Bible tells me that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Also that God is a God of order. That ramble around homeschooling lifestyle didn't seem wise to me. My children would not make wise choices. They would make easy choices. And their learning would be very disorganized.

Now before I get attacked by some unschoolers, let me say this. I KNOW there are unschoolers who have raised up successful, smart, awesome kids. Graduated them and sent them out into the world and it all worked great. I also think that that would work on some kids no matter what. But it's a percentage of children and families who could successfully do that--not everyone. Also, I know that unschooling families differ greatly in their methods. Some are truly hands-off, go on with life and leave the kids to their own thing. Others are very intentional about leaving the right resources lying about and guiding their children into learning. There is interest-led, delight-directed....all kinds of descriptions for what goes on in an unschooling homeschool.

But it got me thinking about the right environment. I think that is key. If I want Sweetheart to pursue writing, for example, then I need to provide her time and physical space to write! She has a school laptop she is writing her book on right now. Her dad has shown her how to do some things on the computer to make it easier. We make sure the girls keep their room cleaned up and the desk area straight. She has access to a camera to make the pictures for her book. Whatever she has asked for, I have tried to help her get. (She needed a board for a picture prop the other day.)
Little Bit working hard
If my child were interested in a topic, I would need to get them to the library and help them find resources. Or perhaps I would need to find a field trip for them to go on. I would need to help them search the web to answer questions they had. Knowing that some questions will require 5 minutes online and then they are satisfied, and some things might take days or weeks to pursue.

I thought about what I have done as an adult when I am interested in a topic. Here comes my super nerdy confession. I've kind of learned not to talk about this stuff because I always have gotten strange looks and yes been made fun of as an adult. We went to see Apollo 13 when it came out in theaters. I had never, I mean never heard of this event before! We went straight home from the movie theater and asked both S's mom and my dad if they remembered it.

Then while Dad was talking I was confused about the difference in the Apollo program, the Gemini program and the Mercury program. So I went to the library. Lost count of how many books I read. Watched documentaries on it. Watched an HBO special. Read more. Then I found myself sitting on the floor in "the stacks" at the old library thumbing through the bound copies of LIFE magazine that featured the articles on the astronauts and their wives and families. Man I miss the stacks. Point is, I LOVED learning about the early space program. Totally intriguing to me. A friend's Dad worked at NASA during the Apollo 13 event and he brought me a file folder with the entire transcript of every radio conversation between Mission Control and the spacecraft. SO awesome.

I can think of other things I've researched and learned about because I wanted or needed to. I read Consumer Reports at the library before I purchased a car seat for Sweetheart. I went to a car seat check up when she was tiny to have them help install it correctly after reading that most are installed wrong. The guy said, "Let me just check to see if there are any recalls on this car seat." I said, "Well, there shouldn't be. It was the top rated one in Consumer Reports." The guy and girl working there just looked at each other.

Yeah, I'll keep my nerdy mouth shut from now on.

The point is, I had time (pre children HA!) to research and read about what I was interested in. I not only loved every minute of it, I could tell you more than you ever want to know about the early space program. I learned and retained because I was interested.

What do you think we need to do for our children to be able to pursue their interests? I'm not talking about buying a horse because my child wants to ride horses. I'm talking about, for starters, Sweetheart picking something she wants to learn and learning it. Maybe it's something your child wants to learn to DO like juggling. I will almost say "this is part of your school day--do it."

Check out this awesome link I found last night. The 20% Project sounds like something we could easily do in our homeschools. It might begin what I want to become a habit and way of life around here. And help Sweetheart to wrap her head around what I'm asking her to do.

What do you think? What needs to happen for kids to pursue their own things?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Raising up Hackers (Part 4)

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday. Bee has a double ear infection and we went to the doctor yesterday morning. Also we managed to get school done and clean the house. AND that's the pretty much the full 16 hours I'm awake during the day. 

Now we get to the title of this series. If you watched the TED Talk featuring the 13 year old boy that I linked to previously, you know he talked about "hacking" his own education. He did say that he studies the basics. And then the rest of the time he spends learning what he's interested in. THIS is the part of our daughter's education that is lacking.

We started toward more independence a few years ago when Sweetheart began 6th grade. I wrote a post back then about how I had realized something was wrong with the way we were doing school. About how the homeschooling sun rose and set with me. It was because of the curriculum choices I had made really, but Sweetheart was waiting on me to do every subject. The only thing she could really do independently was Handwriting.

And that is why we switched to Sonlight in her 6th grade year. It really has helped too. Now, in 8th grade, the only things she needs me for are discussion/questions, help with math as needed, and spelling. And of course help with questions at any time. But I'm not actively teaching her all day. Light years away from where we were in 5th grade!

Now, in preparation for high school next year, I've got her doing so much there literally aren't enough hours in the day. Not good.

So there are really two parts of this education overhaul:

1. Teaching my kids to hack their own education.
2. Changing the way I do a few of those "non-required" subjects so that they still love to learn. (more on that later)

I really, really don't want my kids hating school. I dont' have a problem with them thinking of it as sort of a chore that has to be done. But I would like to them to intermittently get excited about it. Those two items listed above are both going to play into that I hope.

So I started texting Sweetheart because I wanted a record of this conversation for later. Plus she was all the way in the other room.

Me: What do you want to learn about? What interests you but you have no time to learn it?
S: Well I have lots of I want to be a painter, a dog owner, writer,  horse rider and so on and so on and also how to create a business.
Me: What kind of painting? You skip art every week!
S: What art?
Me: I used to put art lesson plans in your planner every week but you kept skipping them so I stopped!
S: Oh yeah
I'm just so busy with school! I don't even have time to do things I want to do cause we clean the house on Saturday and then on Sundays I don't have time
And I can't get a dog
Or a horse

(Yep, she summed it all up pretty well!)

Me: That's why I'm asking. Daddy and i are trying to knock school down to be more manageable. So what would you teach yourself if you had time?
A unit study?
S: What's that?
Me: Where you pick a topic and then learn all about it. Let's pretend you picked deer. Although why would you? But for fun let's pretend.
Then you would read books about deer, watch movies and documentaries about deer, learn to sketch and paint deer, go visit a petting zoo that had deer, etc.......
You just learn all about something you are interested in.
S: Well, I really want to make a book. It sounds fun and that's what I would like to do in my spare time. I looked on this website the other day and it had links to show you how to publish a kids book.
Me: Yes, writing is definitely something we need to focus on since that is your interest and talent. But I also want you to learn to be a self-directed learner.
S: ?????
Me: Here's the thing, unless we spend 20 hours a day doing school there is NO WAY I'm going to be able to teach you every single thing you need to know for life, right?
S: Yeah
Me: So do you agree that even after you have graduated there will still be lots of things for you to learn?
S: yes, you learn your whole life

(Ding ding ding!!!! good answer Sweetheart!)

Me: Right!!!
S: Okay so I have to teach myself to do things when I'm older sooooo....
Me: How will you do that if Mommy has been holding your hand every minute telling you exactly what to do and when?
S: Read?
Me: Reading is good. The point is you need to know how to learn yourself and teach yourself things you are interested in.
S: How do I teach myself something I don't know how to do?
Me: Unit studies!

We continued that conversation later. The point is, Sweetheart couldn't wrap her head around just having time to learn whatever she wanted. I'm still not sure she has grasped it.

I guess I will just have to make time for her to find out. Long term goal here. See, I know she said "writing and publishing a book" but that will almost be something we do in school. Or as a part of school anyway.

What do your kids chase after? What are they teaching themselves right now? What are their outside-of-school interests?

Next time I'll share my really nerdy side.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 3)

So I told S everything I was thinking and how I was very overwhelmed. He asked me, in his always calm manner, "Brenda, what are we required to teach them?"

So I read the state law to him. In Texas, we are required to teach reading, spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship.

He said, "Then teach those things....and Bible...and let the rest go."


My mind immediately starting arguing why I HAD to teach _______________, and ___________, and _______________. It literally took me two days to wrap my head around just teaching what was required.

Why do we have to make everything so hard?

I told him all the reasons why I couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't skip certain subjects. He told me I could do what I wanted, but if it were up to him, certain things would just be hit once a month or so. Teach them, but not daily.

Hmm. So I really had to think all this over. When it was time to make lesson plans, I sat down and made a list:

What I teach that's required: reading, spelling, grammar, math, good citizenship. 

What I teach that's extra: history, geography, writing, handwriting, typing, science, art, current events, Bible. 

Do you see an issue there? That doesn't even include the time we spend on music education (which I don't teach), physical therapy, vision therapy, and homemaking skills, etc.

How would a sane person think all of the above was possible, with two students, a one-year-old, a house to run, and a husband who works 2 jobs? I mean, why would I think I should have enough time in the day for all that?

Now remember...all those links I posted yesterday were still buzzing through my head. Especially the theme of children loving to learn and being able to learn what they are interested in and how it really doesn't all have to be about college prep.

What to do?

All the things I have studied and learned about homeschooling high school tell you to tailor your child's education to their interests and talents. If your son is very interested in a certain career, lean heavy on the math and science or whatever will be required of him for that job/degree. If your daughter wants to work with animals, get her into a program at the zoo or local vet.

The problem was, up until a few months ago, Sweetheart showed no special interest in anything. The question of what she wanted to be when she grew up was a big ol' question mark. But recently she has been writing a book. She talks about it all the time. She works on it any spare moment she has. She has her friends involved in it. And the thing is, she's still working on it! For months this has been going on.

Sweetheart, historically, has changed her mind as the wind blows. When she was 10 she begged me to decorate her room in pirates. She read about pirates, she played pirates, she drew pirates.

For 2 weeks.

I knew her well by that time. Well enough to know we would not be decorating her room in pirates. So this writing thing has pleasantly surprised me. She loves writing. She loves reading too. She's even told me she needs to learn to spell better so her writing will be easier. Wow.

So S and I talked about what a waste of time it was to spend time every single school day on science for her. She loves doing experiments. She hates slogging through the book and writing out answers on all the little flappy things I print out (a notebooking companion I bought). Come to think of it, Little Bit hates writing on those flappy things too. But she LOVES going outside to look at the stars. (She's studying astronomy this year.)

Am I killing my children's interest in science by the way I'm teaching it?

Why yes. Yes I am.

If I'm really serious about having my children love learning, I need to change up the way I am doing a few things. 

It took me nearly a week to be able to say that. That notebooking companion I bought is GOOD. And it helps them retain! And I was so proud we're making it through that astronomy book on schedule. Look how much we've done! Look how much I've been able to check off! I think we're actually going to finish the book this year! They just need to stop their complaining. I know what's best for them. Sweetheart NEEDS to do this book because it's getting her ready for high school. It's only going to get harder/worse from here so she better get used to it. It's just what you have to do!!!

Says who?

That little voice has been getting louder. Who says we HAVE to do it this way? Every homeschooler I know uses this science curriculum in 7th or 8th grade. It's what you do. Really, Sweetheart should have done this book last year. Really, we're behind!

So this week we just left science off completely. Mama hasn't had enough time to process it all into a plan of action just yet. The wheels are still turning.

My next step was to find out what Sweetheart was interested in learning (besides writing). I'll share our conversation with you next time.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 2)

So I was feeling really overwhelmed and decided school was the main culprit. I remember our first year of homeschooling. Sweetheart was in 2nd grade. Little Bit was 3. We used ABeka curriculum and added in lapbooks and unit studies and we were still finished by lunchtime every day. My children had tons of time to play and explore. I remember watching with delight as Sweetheart figured out what things SHE liked doing....not just what had been cool in first grade among the popular kids. (Turns out she didn't really enjoy Littlest Pet Shop nearly so much when she didn't see other kids with 50+ pet shops playing at recess every day.) The point was, they had time to do things they wanted to do AND get school done.

Now granted we weren't involved in very much that first year. We did go to gym days and field trips and parties with our homeschool group. We still do that. But over the years we've added in piano lessons and choir and now Toddler Time at the Library for Baby Bee. So we run a bit more than we used to. That won't change any time soon.

And of course 8th grade and 4th grade are a bit meatier than 2nd grade and no grade. Obviously there is more school.

But why should my homeschooled children spend their whole day doing lessons just like public school kids? Where is our benefit? Sure, they can sit on the couch or lay in the floor instead of sitting in a desk.....but that doesn't seem like enough difference to me. Shoes or no shoes? Small potatoes.

So in the midst of my dissatisfaction, I saw this article someone posted on Facebook. What I took away from that article was, "Shoot. MY kids are unhappy in school. THEY have lost their zest for learning!" Some of the descriptions of the public school kids rang true about my own daughters. I didn't like that. 

Then, my husband clicked on this TED Talk. I'd seen it before, but as I sat across the room listening to it again, it only solidified what I was thinking.

Time to hack their own education.
Time to explore what they are interested in.

These these were not true of our homeschool. They weren't happening.


And THEN, I read this blog post. And now my wheels were really turning.

Everyone says it's OK for your kids to not go to college and I totally agree. I suspect a lot of homeschoolers agree with that. Yet, we really still feel that we owe it to our kids to educate them as though they ARE going to college. I mean, you're supposed to. We don't want to write off their fate in the 9th grade and have a child graduating who doesn't have a transcript that will help them in their future! What failures we would be!

Plus, so-and-so's kids are studying ______________ and _______________! Is it really asking too much for my kids to study ________________? I mean, that's not even 1/4 of what this friend's kids are doing! And on the field trip, that kid knew so much about _______________ and asked such intelligent questions and my kids were just standing there looking dumb! I have failed them! We haven't done enough! We haven't learned enough! Must. Add. More. Courses. Must. Hit. (fill in subject). More Often!!

****deep breath****

And that's pretty much how we got to where we were at the beginning of this month. We were doing every single thing we could possibly fit in. And still I was lashing myself for not having Sweetheart spend time on that vocabulary app I downloaded. Because her vocabulary needs work. I know because she took a standardized test last spring. How can I fit vocabulary in? I know! I can have her do it while she's in the bathroom!!! Otherwise that's just wasted time!

OK I'm kidding. But that's how crazy we can get. Maybe it's just the pressure of being completely responsible for our children's education. Maybe I'm starting to crack.

But those three items started my wheels turning. And that started a conversation with my husband.

Next time....

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 1)

(By the way, we made it through December.)
(That's what my last post was about and I was told I should update all my readers.)
(So there.)
(All 3 of you can consider yourself updated.)

I hit a wall this last week. I laid in bed Sunday morning completely overwhelmed. Like, to the point where I just laid there and looked at the ceiling. It's all I could do.

I was so overwhelmed by everything I really couldn't even think what to do. What would help?

Would it help if we weren't so busy? Well, not really. Our schedule is do-able.
Would it help if we had a maid? Well, of course it would...but that's not exactly in the budget.
Would it help if I had a mother's helper? Well, yes...but what would I even have her do?

I decided what I needed was a nice, older woman like Michelle Duggar had that comes over to do my laundry. And my dishes. Where are my Titus 2 older women???

Then I decided it was school that was killing me. It's simply taking too many hours lately. My whole day is filled with that.

You know, pioneer women might have taught their children to read, but I know they spent precious little time on that compared to daily chores.

Housewives in the 1950s spent their time on the house. But their children were in school.

Working moms have to do a lot (it's hard, I know), but their houses look better because everyone is gone all day long.

Homeschoolers are the only idiots trying to completely educate their children and completely keep house at the same time. And about a million other things.

It's just not possible, I tell you. Not when we're doing school pretty much like the public school system.

It's time to think outside the box. I was OK with that in elementary. I had no need of school being exactly like the classroom when the girls were younger. I absolutely would take them to the museum and consider that checking off several subjects at once for the day.

But approaching high school has kind of got me freaked out. I thought, "It's go time. No more taking it easy. It's time to get real!"

Yes folks, as if we haven't been doing "real" school all along!

So I left the Christmas break with a renewed purpose. It was the second half of 8th grade and I had to get with it. High school is 6 months away! I haven't been practicing keeping records! I haven't been grading! We're all of us going to starve!!!

OK. Whew. I'm calmer now. Sorry.

So we launched January by getting up at 6 a.m. every morning. Sweetheart is doing physical therapy now but that was no matter. We had to get serious! And for about a week we got every single subject done. My checking-boxes-off self was very pleased.

And I was exhausted.

And the kids were unhappy.

And then I read or listened to three things. be continued...