Archive for September, 2012

September 29, 2012

Native American Day

Yesterday was Native American Day, and since my son has shown interest in learning about Native Americans in the past, I thought he would enjoy commemorating the day.  These are just a few easy things I was able to do without much planning.

(We have checked out library books on Native Americans in the past, so I didn’t feel the need to do it again. If you are interested, however, there’s a wonderful series that starts each title with “If you lived with…”  They are for older children, but my six-year-old enjoyed listening to me read parts of those books.)

  • We read a book from our own library, The Very First Americans.  We’ve read it several times, and it’s a great starter book for understanding who the Native Americans are.
  • I had my son watch this very short video on National Geographic.
  • We did this totem pole craft that you can see in the photo.  My son loved it, and he’s very proud of his creation!  You can get the easy instructions and template here.

This is my son’s story he made up for his totem pole: The eagle at the top is protecting a lake from the two monsters (just below him).  The two faces on the bottom help the eagle protect the lake and keep the monsters from stealing all the water from the animals!  Well, he told it much better, but you get the drift!

There were also some cool events happening at some Georgia State Parks today, but we’ve been so busy, I needed a day at home!  I also think it’ll be easier to attend things like that when my three-year-old gets a little older.

What are your plans this weekend? 

 

September 22, 2012

Homeschooling and Socialization

my boys playing with their cousins during a trip to Chicago

Note: This column was printed the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.

The biggest criticism against homeschooling is what many people feel is its “lack of socialization.”  Critics believe children ought to spend their whole day in a classroom of peers, and they give no thought to the opportunities homeschooled children have to meet many people of various ages.  Perhaps they are afraid homeschooling parents won’t take advantage of these opportunities.  This, of course, is possible, though most homeschooling families I’ve met make “socialization” a priority.

Some homeschoolers don’t give socialization much thought because they don’t need to.  They have plenty of friends, or they may belong to a homeschooling co-op or a large church.  They might have a big family too.  More seasoned homeschoolers who are past the stage I’m in – that of meeting and creating a community for their youngsters – feel this is not a topic worth discussing anymore.

I’ve been giving this issue a lot of thought, though, mostly because my eldest son’s personality didn’t make meeting other kids easy at first.  And he’s a lot like me –introverted – so perhaps it’s because of my personality too.

When my son was younger, he was reserved and cautious, and he didn’t jump into playtime with large groups of kids.  Going to park days or joining a homeschool group never worked for us.  The other kids would play together, and my son – the little biologist – would explore the wood chips or other natural environment.

While I, too, think socializing with people of various ages is a plus for children, I had to find friends that played well with my child.  Finally, in this past year, I’ve met some families with kids who love my kids – How did I do this?  I kept my eyes focused on local homeschooling e-mail lists, and I responded to those infrequent requests from other homeschoolers looking for friends.  I also let it be known online that we’re looking for friends, and I’ve had some people contact me.  It’s not easy finding people within driving distance, but now we have regular playdates, and I couldn’t be happier.

My second priority was thinking outside the box and considering different ways my children could be socialized.  I’m still doing this, but these are some ideas I’ve pursued.

  • Community Classes – My son blossomed after a year attending the knee-high naturalist class and homeschool science classes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.  He seems to enjoy following the lead of the teacher without the pressure of having to “play” with all the other children. Now he’s more at ease with large groups of kids, and he even enjoyed attending some summer mini-camps there by himself.
  • Lost but not forgotten friends – After these last grueling few years of rearing infants and toddlers, I’m coming up for breath and remembering all the friends I had before my marriage.  Many of them are older than me and without children of their own.  I called one couple and took my boys to visit them.  My son fell right in step with the wife, who is a gardener.  Now we’re committing ourselves to monthly visits, and my friend has been teaching my boy about gardening and plants!
  • Family – I don’t think anyone should discount family when it comes to socializing children.  Indeed, these are relationships that will last the longest.  I’m grateful that our family is large and diverse, and my boys will be exposed to different cultures and belief systems within it.  Unfortunately, I also feel disconnected from some of my family. Busy lives and distance can do that to you. But I’m hoping that somehow we’ll stay connected through Skype and e-mail and occasional visits.

For homeschoolers who need other ideas on how to build a community or who live in remote areas, I would suggest the following:

  • Be sure to join local, state, and even national homeschooling e-mail lists (do a search for Yahoo groups in your area).  In the subject line of your introduction e-mail, put your county or town and state and ask if anyone knows of other homeschoolers or groups in your area.
  • Check Facebook for groups in your area.
  • Contact your local library and see if there’s a homeschool group using the facilities.  If not, try asking the librarians to help you get the word out that you’re homeschooling, and you’d like to start a group of your own.
  • Is there a community center in your area?  Nature center?  Art center? Check to see if they offer any classes for children, and if they don’t, see if you can help them start one.
  • If it’s hard to find homeschoolers in your area, become friends with school children.  You’ll have to work around their school schedule, but it’s better than not having any friends at all.  (I know this can be hard though – kids who go to school and especially kids who have both parents working just don’t need the same kind of community.  Their weekends may be family time.  Still, it’s worth a try.)
  • If religion plays a part in your homeschool, check local churches for homeschooling groups.  Even if religion doesn’t play a part of your homeschool, ask if you would be welcomed into their group.  (And see my previous column about homeschooling and religion.)

Whether children are homeschooled or not, parents must think about building a community of support for their children as they grow up.  Parents can’t do it all, and every child eventually turns to other people for role models. Parents need to make sure that they trust the people whom their children turn to.  Homeschooling parents have the opportunity to be more involved in cultivating their child’s social outlets.  

My lists certainly aren’t exhaustive.  What would you suggest to new homeschoolers seeking to build a community? Thank you!

September 19, 2012

Worthy Reads & Blog Business

First, I’d like to say thank you to those who recently began following me on this blog, Facebook and/or Twitter.  And a huge thank you to those who are still following me after all this time.  It means a lot to me.

I’d also like to say thank you for all the supportive comments and e-mails I received after posting my last column “On Homeschooling, Socialization and Religion.”  It heartens me to receive positive feedback on such a sensitive issue.  Even if there’s only a few of you who understand me, I appreciate that, and many of you are opening up and teaching me more about what, exactly, creates a true friendship.  Perhaps a follow-up post is simmering somewhere in the back of my mind.  We’ll see.

 Also, I finally succumbed to Pininterest!  If you’d like to follow me there, I’ll be sure to follow you back.

Worthy Reads

It’s amazing to see all that’s being written in newspapers about homeschooling!  These are just a few of the articles that caught my eye.  It goes to show that word is spreading about homeschooling, and that’s good.  The more people can learn about it, the more they will realize it’s a worthy alternative education.  It’s not an option for everyone, but I know it will challenge what many people consider is a good education.

Homeschooling

Illinois Spotlight: East-central Illinois homeschool families have formed a community – The Republic, Columbus, Indiana

Illinois lets parents decide on home schooling – burridge.suntimes.com

IU instructor organizing global network to study homeschooling – Evansville Courier & Press

Opinion: My Point of View – Powhatan Today – a very impressive article written by a 13-year-old homeschooler!

Homeschooled Kids Are Making Our Education System Look Bad - The Stir

Homeschooling Has Gone Mainstream – westcobb.patch.com

How To Save Money On Homeschooling – Investors.com

Homeschooling gives kids, parents many advantages – Iowa City Press Citizen

Homeschooling 101: Busting some long-held myths about home education – pnj.com

On Building a Community for Homeschoolers

it’s up to us – watching kereru – Thanks to Lori for sending me this link after my post on building an inclusive community.  I think this would make another good topic to research, so if I find any worthy reads about it in the future, I’ll share them with you.

Homeschooling Resources

Teaching perseverance and grit - Project Based Homeschooling’s Camp Creek Blog

A Is for Apps for Education – PCMag.com – A list of apps pre-k through college level!

Geocaching and Education – I have heard of geocaching, and I need to look into it!

What’s In The [work]BOX? Handmade Word Family Game - The Snail’s Trail – My sister sent me a link to this, and I really want to try it!

Education

My View: Education is useless – CNN Schools of Thought – good read!

Back to school by the numbers – CNN Schools of Thought

My View: Parent engagement = Child success – CNN Schools of Thought

Virginia Children Excused From School Last Year Due To Religious Exemptions From Education – Huffington Post

Worst College Majors for Your Career – Yahoo! Finance

Young, Gifted, and Neglected – New York Times

Miscellaneous

10 Great Work-at-Home Jobs – Kiplinger – I know many homeschooling moms need to find some extra income, but there are so many work-from-home scams out there.  It’s nice to see an article highlighting some more reputable opportunities.

September 13, 2012

On Homeschooling, Socialization and Religion

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on September 12, 2012.  It was also posted on the newspaper’s website, which you can view by clicking here.

I’ve had a number of people ask me advice on how to meet other homeschoolers.  To be frank, these parents were discouraged at their efforts to meet other homeschoolers because all they found were Christian homeschooling groups who required a “statement of faith.”

I don’t mean to insult anyone by bringing up such issues, but these are topics potential homeschoolers have to deal with.  People who chose to build an exclusive community have an easier time banding together and standing up for their beliefs because they’re all on the same page. Their families are making a profound statement to the rest of the world.  As someone who doesn’t want to exclude on the basis of belief, I can’t do anything about them, but I want to speak for those who are more open and tolerant. We, too, need to make a statement despite our varied and diverse belief systems.

There are many homeschoolers who want to belong to a religious co-op, and if that suits your needs, then you’ll probably have luck finding a group.  But homeschooling is becoming more mainstream, and many parents are embracing this alternative form of education.  They may not necessarily be homeschooling for religious reasons, and they seek a diverse community for their children to socialize with.

I’ve noticed that a lot of secular homeschooling groups have been popping up, and as I’ve noted before, there’s been a lot of talk about “liberal” homeschooling in the media.  But I think it should be noted that “secular homeschooling” does not necessarily mean “secular families.”  These families may or may not be religious.  They may be Christian too, but they don’t want to limit their social life to one group of people.

My advice to these people is to keep looking and don’t give up.  It’s been a slow road these past two years for me to find people we connect with, and by that I’m not talking about religion.  I’m talking about finding families with similar needs – children of the same approximate age, children who like to play one-on-one like my son, a family who doesn’t live too far away and whose schedule and social calendar isn’t already full.

I found these people by making my needs known on the Internet and paying attention to queries from other families on local homeschooling e-mail lists.  You never know when someone new might join.

I encourage homeschoolers who are seeking a more diverse community to not be afraid of religious homeschoolers.  Yes, there may be families who do not want you in their co-op.  They may not be interested in befriending you unless you hold certain beliefs and live a certain lifestyle.  Fine, let them. We don’t have to agree with someone’s philosophy, but we do have to respect his or her rights.  If we don’t, how can we expect our rights to be respected?

But if you’re like me, you may have been terribly hurt in the past by strident, religious people. I know this can make you angry and hesitant to meet new people – I have been there more times than I care to count.  But I got tired of feeling that way, and I started to remember my life before I understood the impact – both positive and negative – that religion plays in our lives.  I started to think like a child.

When I was a child and young adult, I had a lot of friends from many different backgrounds, but none of that kept us from being friends.  That stuff was just interesting side notes.  What kept or unkept our friendship was how we treated each other.  Was she nice, or did she stab me in the back by liking the same boy as me?  Sounds silly, but it was about kindness and respect.

After remembering the good friends I had who didn’t care what I believed – only whether I was a nice, loyal friend, I decided that surely in this complicated adult world there must be people – even religious people – who won’t hate me because I’m not a strict “insert-your-religion-of-choice.” I decided to stop being scared of meeting new people and whether our beliefs would cripple our friendship.

Guess what?  My best homeschooling buddy is a conservative Christian, but she welcomes other people into her home because “It’s the loving thing to do.”  We have plenty to talk and laugh about without arguing theology.

Another homeschooling parent from a different religion told me that he and his wife wanted to meet people whose first priority was educating their children. They considered their religion something private that they could teach at home.

In my next column, I’ll write more specifically about how I’ve been finding social outlets for my son and suggestions for those who are still looking for a homeschooling community. Meanwhile, remember that there are people out there who will welcome you no matter who you are, though sometimes you may have to search harder to find them.

What has your experience been meeting other homeschoolers?  Have you encountered intolerance?  What are your strategies for creating a welcoming community for yourself and children?

September 7, 2012

Back To Homeschool

a rare photo with me in it

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, September 5, 2012.

As you read this, I’ll be in the middle of my first official week of homeschooling my son.  We have been homeschooling for the past few years, but now that he has turned six, we’re required by law to declare our intent to homeschool.  I’ll also have to submit attendance forms once a year starting at the end of this year.

The law recently changed, so all homeschoolers in Georgia will be reporting directly to the Department of Education (GaDOE) instead of their local school district. The GaDOE has some simple online forms on their website, and the other night it took me less than five minutes to submit my declaration of intent online.  It could not have been easier.

Some homeschoolers are not happy with the online form because it requires us to give our child’s birthdate while the law states that we only have to report our child’s age.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that the GaDOE should be updating their form to reflect this, but that remains to be seen.

Currently the attendance form is a monthly form instead of a yearly form.  I e-mailed the GaDOE to ask about that, and I was told they would be changing it to a yearly form shortly.  (UPDATE 9/6/2012: I checked the GaDOE website, and a yearly form has been posted.)  I’m not surprised that since this is all new there are some kinks to smooth out.  In recent years there have been over 107,000 homeschooled students in Georgia, so the GaDOE will probably hear from some unhappy families, if not.

For me, now that my form is turned in, it’s an exciting week.   I’ve been telling my son that “school starts next week,” but after clarifying that I meant “home school” and not real school, he didn’t seem too impressed.  Perhaps it’s anticlimactic because as a homeschooler, he’s always in school.  We do a lot of educational activities that he thinks is just plain fun.

Starting anew is more for me as I once again begin to keep track of exactly what he’s doing and plan a more structured routine.  We had a nice routine last year, and I had planned to keep it going through the summer, but as a friend said to me, the summer has it’s own “time sucking vortex,” and I decided we needed a break from all things planned.  More than that, I needed a break from keeping track of how my son’s natural curiosity moves us through most topics in a typical course of study for his age.

The most important subjects we’ll tackle are reading and math.  We’ll start the morning off with either a reading or math lesson.  At six years old, my son is still pretty squirmy and more interested in playing, but I think he’s old enough to understand that we have to get things done.

After a formal lesson, we’ll spend most of the morning on a project that will be multi-disciplinary.  As he gets older he’ll be able to pick his projects, but for now, I’m directing most of them.  I think he’ll like my choices, though, especially a project we’ll be doing on ants, and I’ll be sure to write about it when we’re all finished.

There will also be days that we go to science classes or spend an afternoon with friends.  Field trips with daddy are sure to happen, and both my boys will learn the basics of housekeeping and shopping.  That’s a side effect of homeschooling, but a good one.

We’ll also get back to doing book time, library visits, and I’ll try to throw in a short and easy preschool lesson for the three-year-old.  It’ll be a challenge to get anything done with my littlest boy present, and I really don’t know how any of this will pan out.

The three-year-old loves to draw, so I’m hoping he might be satisfied with a little box of art projects he can do while I’m working with my older son.  I’m also hoping to teach him how to use a gentle touch with our iPod Touch, which was a handy, educational tool that my eldest mastered at two years old.  For some reason, my younger son is all thumbs with it, but I’ve noticed he’s gotten better lately.

I’m sure there will be bumps on the road, but hopefully we’ll settle into a routine like we did last year.  Now that we’re official homeschoolers, it will definitely be a test for mama to see if this lifestyle will be worth the effort.

Please come back and I promise to tell you how this homeschooling journey turns out!  Meanwhile, please share your “back to homeschool” stories in the comments section.

September 3, 2012

Worthy Reads

Happy Labor Day!  Because we’re crazy homeschoolers, I’ll be starting what I hope will be a new homeschooling routine today.  (It’ll include a lesson about Labor Day.)  Wish me luck!  What will you be doing this holiday?

Worthy Reads

First of all, thank you Kohl’s Children’s Museum for featuring my post on their blog!

Homeschooling

Review: Quinn Cummings’ THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY – Homeschooling Research Notes – I have not read Cummings’ book yet.  Have you?  The reviews give me mixed thoughts about it.

Born to Draw – Children’s Art Drawing Program – This looks interesting, and they have a good blog about art and education. Has anyone used this program?

School – anywhere, anytime – The Courier

Homeschooling has become a viable option for parents; here’s why that’s not a bad thing – nj.com

East Texas parents say religion, environment and curriculum among chief reasons for homeschooling – news-journal.com

Education

My View: Obama, Romney need to know one thing about early childhood education – start over – CNN Schools of Thought – This commentary is excellent and right in line with many reasons as to why I’m homeschooling my boys from the start.

Georgia failed to count thousands of high school dropouts - AJC

Best way to handle children’s college debt? - CNN Schools of Thought

My View: The joys and challenges of raising a gifted child – CNN Schools of Thought

School and Self Esteem – regarding Waldorf School – Huffington Post

Parenting

Moms: ‘I can’t afford to work’ – CNN Money

Miscellaneous

Be More Productive. Take Time Off - NYTimes.com

Why Creative Geniuses Hated School – Psychology Today

Storytelling

Story and Narrative : Scoop.it – Someone is collecting some very worthy reads on storytelling.

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