Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homeschoolers Being Socially Awkward - My Thoughts

One of the concerns I hear a lot when it comes to homeschooling is the fear of their child being socially awkward. They will dress weird, not know how to hold a conversation won’t be street smart and not know how to interact amongst friends.

Here are some of my thoughts on the issue:

Being Socially Awkward:

I have known numerous awkward public, private and homeschooled children. One of these forms of education is not the remedy to the issue. Whenever I have met a socially awkward child, I have noticed the parents are too. The parents have an awkward way about them that has influenced that child’s personality and way of interacting. If the child is homeschooled then yes, they will have been more influenced by their parent’s ways simply because of being around them so much…the good and the awkward (notice I did not say bad). But a child who is in public or private school does not escape this influence...that is not the cure.

One thing that public and private schools do is give the child an opportunity to interact with many children of all races, personality, style and tone. This allows them to learn and have opportunity to interact with all types of people and be able to learn how to communicate with them. When homeschooling parents do not give their child similar interactions then yes, they may not be as practiced in interacting with all different types of people. This can turn into them being “awkward” socially.

But, we as homeschooling parents can provide this for our children when educating them at home. We can join groups for play dates with other children, put them in a music class, play with kids at church, and be around friends that have children, play with neighbors….etc. One thing I am thankful for is that I can get them this exposure to people and ages of all different races, ages and personalities, but it is under my supervision. If there is a conversation I think is too mature for her with a child at the park, I can have her come away from it. If I see her being over influenced by a friend that has captivated her attention, I can distance them until I think she is ready for that, if someone is exposing her to wrong ideas on something, I can be there to hear it can walk her through how to think about it. I can offer them a form of protected exposure to people and experiences.

I am not saying I am a better mom for doing this… I am simply saying I want to do this and homeschooling offers me this ability.

Dressing Weird:

I do know many homeschooled children of all different ages and once again, the dressing of the child is a direct influence of the parent’s style and preferences. I would say in general that many of the homeschooled parents I know are very wholesome and have convictions of modesty. They do not care as much that their child is wearing name brands and the trendiest style out there…so in that way, are they weird. Maybe, if so, who cares? I love that weirdness. If the child is wearing a dress to their toes and bonnet with purposely outdated attire…this might be because of the mindset of the parent having an unhealthy view that this is more spiritual. Or, it could simply be their style and their influence in this manner is to be liable, not homeschooling.

Madison and Adia are often in thrift shop finds with a slight hippy or vintage look, an old scarf in their hair, kind of a raga muffin eclectic look. That is because that is a style we like as their parents. That is why they are dressed like that, not because they are homeschooled. If someone thinks they are dressed “weird”, so be it, but it’s not because they are educated at home and would be dressed differently if they were not.

Not Street Smart

It all depends on what someone means by this as to what my thoughts are.

If someone means that a child is awkward because they are not aware of the current music and shows in the MTV culture, doesn’t know lyrics to the hottest teenage pop artist, is clueless on name brand clothing and never heard of certain sex or bathroom humor…than PARISE GOD they are awkward. That is a naivety I wish more children knew and did not embrace as “cool” or necessity to being not awkward. When they are an adult they can watch what they enjoy and have liberty to do through their adult mind and conscience. For now, we parents are the guardian of their conscience and thoughts…this is something that we as parents long to protect. If our children are awkward because of that…then that is because of our personal convictions on these topics that we enforce in our home….not because they are educated at home. I hope we are raising the type of child who will not get older and feel neglected because they were not exposed to these topics and content. Even if they are, that is a risk we are willing to take, as parent, wishing good for our children based on biblical principles.

If someone means a child is nervous around adults, children of different ages or races because they have purposely been unexposed to them then I think there is room for criticism. If the child knows nothing of evil, death, crime or a need to protect those they love, then I also think there is room for criticism. Of course this is all exposed to the degree of age and maturity but these topics of life and the reality of the world need to be taught and made aware of. Protecting your child is one thing, trying to shelter them from any form of displeasure or ugliness is not wise. They need to know how to live in this world and know how to handle it well and in good character. We have to prepare them for these things and the scriptures give us great wisdom on how to think about these things.

In general I think people need to look to the parents as liable for their children’s worldview, dress and way of interacting instead of the manner in which they are schooled. What influence has the parent been or what influence has the parent allowed their child to be exposed to form their current state of awkwardness or lack of.

I pray we as parents grow more aware of our responsibility in the thinking and growth of our children. Weather it’s our direct influence or the influences we subject them to. Our influence is huge…even down to their style of dress and what they know and don’t know that is going on in the world. I am not saying that a parent who does not home school does not understand this…I am simply saying that whether your child is educated at home or public or private school…we as the parent are responsible for our children and helping them form a solid and good worldview. Protecting them where we think necessary and providing a methodology to have them achieve this until they are old enough and mature enough to measure these for themselves…weather that methodology be in the form of homeschooling or not.

By God’s grace and wisdom, He gave us His word to help us know what to think about this world and our place in it.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fullerton Arboretum

We headed to the Fullerton Arboretum this past week for Nature Study.

There were orchards with ripening fruit

an Ombu tree

a shady creek

with freshwater clams!

and rocks for baby boys to go 'kerplunk'

and cool water for darling big sisters to dip their baby brothers' feet in

and bamboo shoots to delight little flowery girls

here is Jen working on her nature journal

here are some oleander aphids on milkweed

look closer underneath the leaves that have holes in them

check under the other ones also, look a Monarch egg!

This was a first-time sighting for me, a tarantula hawk! I'm not sure what the flower is. It was so big it looked like a black fairy of sorts flying about. These sting and paralyze tarantulas, drag them back to their dens (hole in the ground), lay an egg on them, and their larvae feeds on the tarantula. You can see a video here.

Cactus with thorns

Beautiful cactus bloom

It's been almost five years now that we have been meeting this way and every week is still as exciting as ever because we just never know what God's creation has in store for us!

Designing Sane Habits - Meal Planning

You may recall my unfortunate post here.

As I mentioned, planning out our meals was the first place I wanted change because it would bring the greatest relief. This past week was my first week designing the change I wanted in our home.

We sat down at dinner one night and made a list of all the meals the kids and my husband like. Then on Sunday, I grabbed a cup of coffee, that list, the weekly ad, pen and paper and I planned out what meals I would make for the next seven days using mostly what I could find on sale.

From there, I made a grocery list of all the things I needed to buy to have everything I need to prepare the meals.

Then I looked at the calendar and wrote in the meals on the days I would make them - I made sure the easiest meals (crock pot pork ribs & left-over-chicken burritos) were on Tuesday and Thursday since we have Bible Study and Nature Study those days.

On Monday, I had planned on getting the shopping done early in the day, but we dawdled and ended up having to squeeze it in after swimming. I hardly felt like shopping and the kids were extra squirrely but I. was. doing. this. no. matter. what.

It felt like a BIG shopping, but I bet we probably saved some $$ not heading to the grocery store so many times the rest of the week - because you always buy more stuff when you're there.

And guess what? My family had home-cooked meals, on time, all week! Except one night when I forgot to take the chicken out and had to defrost it and my daughter cut the potatoes a little big so we had to cook it longer. But we learned from both of those things the right way to do things next time!

The planning really took a huge load off my back all week and I've already planned and shopped for this week. I even have left-overs for extra nights in the freezer.

Another change I made was actually a suggestion by Pam in the comments of my previous post. She recommended having one child help me cook one night while the other cleans and then alternate. I really love that! I used to have three cluttered in the kitchen saying "Can I do it? Can I do it?" and chairs to stand on and everything else. Now, I only have one at a time so I can teach them to cook much better and we also get individual time together. Thanks Pam!

Next area of relief: MY CLOSET. I'll keep you posted :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shannon's Notebooks and What I've Decided for Our Book of Centuries

If you haven't read the last BOC post I did, you can find it here.

Last week we had our Monthly Meeting on the topic of The Book of Centuries and I invited Shannon, a wonderful friend we met through the AO Yahoo groups. She attended one of our meetings a while back - drove all the way from Pasadena, mind you!

She attended the Childlight conference this year after hearing it discussed at the meeting - much like Kristine, and I and Kathy and Connie did after hearing Wendy talk about how eye opening it was for her at a meeting the previous year. Amazing isn't it, how word travels?

She came back from the conference this year and told us that Andra Smith had said she was like our 'child' from California and that next year, there would be grandchildren attending Childlight from California! That Andra, she is so warm and when you meet her, you'll feel like she's known you all along. Lord willing, we're coming next year!!

So Shannon came to the meeting and having attended Laurie Bestvater's class at Childlight, she was quite knowledgeable about the BOC. She even prepared samples of it as well as a Century Chart for us to look over. And wouldn't you know, my camera was completely out of focus :/

I can't recall now if this was the BOC page sample or the Century Chart sample she brought. Maybe someone can clarify in the comments section.

CORRECTION: I spoke with Shannon and this was actually a time-line she got from a pamphlet in the CM Digital Collection titled Notes on Making a Timeline by Winifred Irving. So it appears, please correct me if I'm wrong, that a 'history chart' or 'time chart' as it is both called in the noted pamphlet, and what I noted as a 'century chart' in this post, is a single page the child uses to chart a specific time period they are studying with more space for detail than a timeline or BOC would have. A picture of said chart can be found in the pamphlet linked to above.

What I love about this page is the way she has the reigning Monarchy listed along the margin giving a great visual. From what I was able to gather, the difference between a BOC and a Century Chart is that a BOC is a book the child adds to for all the years of their schooling once it is begun around 4th or 5th grade. The Century Chart, on the other hand, is one page that might have been used for a brief time for the study of a specific time period.

In addition to this page, Shannon also brought a family tree of the Kings and Queens of England that she had made. You'll notice it begins at the bottom and goes up, as a tree would.

This was her copy; her son made his own copy separately. She said having her own copy helped her have more patience with how he made his. She didn't need his to be perfect because she had hers to refer to if she needed. I liked that. And I'm kicking myself now for not having taken pictures of his to show you.

Another interesting thing we discovered was Shannon's nature journal. It drew a crowd to say the least.

On this page, you can see that she meticulously drew the phases of the moon. She said that for one month straight, she would read bedtime stories with her kids every night, then take them outside to draw the moon before they went in to bed. Click on the very out of focus picture to see a larger image.

Here, she drew a picture of the view from her house (I believe). She then drew the sun exactly where it set at that time of the year. Then she went back to the picture at a different time of year and drew in to the very same picture where the sun set then. Fantastic.

I imagine you could do similar things with the location of shadows, the water level in creeks, tide levels at differing hours of the day, the growth in size of a pet, etc.

Touched by an idea :) Thank you so much Shannon! You have just enhanced our nature study exponentially; and actually, Jen has already taken advantage of this idea and scheduled our nature study group to go to the same locations multiple times throughout the year so we can split pages in our journals and draw comparisons. Exciting indeed!

In case you're wondering, these are all Moleskine notebooks Shannon used.

After much thought and having talked with Shannon, I've decided I'm going to use the A4 Moleskine Folio Sketchbook and create our own BOC.

It has a black hardcover that has a nice feel to it and good thick pages, a pocket in the back for maps and things, and an elastic band to hold it shut. Last I checked it was on sale at Amazon for $19.77

She suggested coming up with a template of sorts with the horizontal and vertical line points mapped along the edges on a piece of paper smaller than the notebook pages so I could easily place it on each page and mark them that way. I think I'll use pencil and make faint lines to start because I just don't see my daughter easily being able to figure out where to write in the entries without it.

Another good point Shannon made is that I don't need to complete the whole book right now. I could just do two or three centuries where we would be filling things in now and fill in the rest as needed. I would just need to figure out where that page falls relative to the rest of the book.

Here are Shannon's notes on the BOC page spread within the 96 pages of this notebook. I haven't figured it all out yet, but plan to in the next couple of weeks to finally get my daughter's BOC going.

There were other great resources shared as well. I unfortunately wasn't able to get pictures of everything so if you were at the meeting and have any additional pictures or links to share - email them to me and I'll add them to this post.

Here are Kristn's links which she shared the following day:
Here is the site I was talking about tonight:
And the link to the actual Century Book:
They also are the ones that I got those cut outs for. They do not come colored (I did that) but that could be a project for the kids.
They have some really wonderful hands on ideas too. Check out some of these pages

Let us know what you're doing for BOC in the comments section, we love to hear what you're up to!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Parenting Styles

We know wisdom comes from God, scripture and good counsel. I've also heard someone put it this way:
wisdom comes from two places - your mistakes, or the mistakes of others.

I providentially landed on this MUST READ post over at The Common Room tonight. And I do prefer to learn from the mistakes of others rather than my own so I'll be heading over there for some reading. Particularly the first link is something I think we should all read and consider.

I have to agree with what she says here:
Parenting is not about the style of parenting you use or the system, or the guru you choose- it's about your children and your relationship with them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Design, Not Default

Everything came to a head.

It was as if God's grace disappeared all of a sudden.

Maybe it was the extreme heat that led to dehydration that led to poor milk supply that led to fussy baby and the need to nurse all day long, leaving everything else undone.
Maybe it was the un-pluggable milk duct.
Maybe it was the stress of the first week of a new school year.
Maybe it was the messy house and the piles of laundry everywhere.
Maybe it was the fleas we somehow ended up with and the fact that *I* was their new host.
Maybe it was the sleep deprived camping trip and all the packing, hauling, and orchestrating along with the logistical complexity of camping with a four month old.
Maybe it's the late night blogging ;-p

Whatever it was, I have been covertly losing it over here! As much of a 'do-er' as I am, I have come to the very end of my physical and mental ability and have entered a state of sheer discouragement by the fact that all my efforts thus far have amounted to nothing more than a big pile of muckety muck!

Kids bickering, shoes scattered on the floor, books and toys left all over, teetering piles of laundry stacked up everywhere, hungry mouths to feed, spilled food under the table, sticky stuff on the table, lego's they're 'still playing with' all over their room, piles of stuff out front waiting to be put away... AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

And this is *after* I implemented my new schedule that I talked about here and here.

And my first guilty thought was "I should be content in this circumstance and just accept that this is the way it is. I need to learn to bear this yoke with joy. Shame on me for being frustrated, discontent, angry, short with the kids, miserable. If I would just stop getting upset, then everything would be fine!"

And there is absolutely truth to that, yet we shouldn't stop there. We should continue to pray and strive and seek wisdom and discernment, because in most cases, we don't 'just change'.

My husband once told me that he thinks the idea that you can go from problem to solution without hard work in between is one of the greatest tools of deception. It breeds discouragement. Because we try once, fail, and then resign to the fact that we will never be able to change. We tried and couldn't do it.

My husband actually takes people like me on as clients - to help them learn how to optimize their business rather than their home, but it really is so similar so I took my situation to him, as I often do, and he helped. A lot.

Sometimes you just can't see the forest through the trees when you're right there in the midst of it.

So for starters, he told me to make a list of all the problems I have in the home - on paper. It has to be on paper.

Here's the list I came up with off the top of my head:

-Meals sneak up on me and not everyone likes to eat the same things.
-Kids not patient about waiting for me to help them with school.
-4 month old fussing at times instead of eating, burping, playing quietly and going down immediately for a nap as my ideal schedule calls for.
-Child #2 dragging feet to get started when asked to do independent work.
-housework still undone even with kids doing their chores - dishes, laundry, vacuuming, clutter, etc.
-animosity between #2 and #3
-No time for grocery shopping/leisure in the afternoons.
-no time so I'm always rushing
-closet nightmare - my clothes are in piles so everything is wrinkled, I have to dig forever to find anything to wear.
-kids don't put things back.
-so frustrated with the condition of the home that I'm grumpy and unable to play and enjoy my kids.

Going over my list, he empathized with me. He then said some things that hit home.

"Whether you take the time to plan or not, you are living by a plan. Unfortunately the plan you have is a default plan and, how's that going for you?" {ouch!}

"What you want is a plan by design, not default."

"Because you have no good plan, you compensate by exerting control." {boy, did that remind me of CM's talks here and here.

He continued... "You lack discipline, not because you aren't capable of it, but because of a lack of focus. You have been disciplined and consistent in other areas before, just not in these areas. You've just never taken the time to focus on a good plan for everything you do."

"And then there is no joyful spirit in the doing - the kids obey, but Galatians 5:22 is out the window. And without joy, you resort to outlets."

In my case; chocolate. It makes me feel sooooooo much better. for the moment. But why stop there? Indulge in some bad thoughts; selfish thoughts and start blaming others. {ugh} {sigh}

So now that he had me feeling so fantastic about myself, he pointed me to the sensibility of a plan that I could have confidence in through prayerful discernment and wisdom.

We looked at the list again and he told me to pick out the top two things that cause me the most angst. So I picked meals and closet. Then because meals come three times a day, closet comes once, we decided meals was the place to start to give me the greatest relief.

He asked "What do you want your meals to look like? What would be ideal?"

My mind turned to how I currently open the fridge at lunch time to try and come up with some sort of lunch from the existing components - "how about cucumber and mayo on a tortilla?!"

So I answered, "I want to be able to make healthy, quick and easy meals that I don't have to think much about. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes sometimes, but I need a standby plan that I can fall back on." So that became the goal.

By this point, I was figuring out what all I needed to do now. I started making another list of things the kids like to eat for lunch:

lunch meat sandwiches
bean & cheese burritos
chicken tacos
buckwheat noodles w/seaweed
onigiri (Japanese rice balls)
pasta w/olive oil & salt
fried rice (quick with leftovers)

From there, I made a shopping list of all the ingredients I would need to have on hand to make those items. My husband, who also used to create systems for a living as an engineer, said think of it this way:

Keep a stack of tuna in the pantry in the same place always. The kids know where it is and can always find it when they're looking for it. It's in the tuna spot. When you take a can and there's only 2 cans left, automatically write 'tuna' on the shopping list so you don't run out.

Sounds like creating good habits. This was nothing less than revolutionary to me. I have never had this kind of order in my home and am just now learning it. I'm sure this is all common sense to you all. Unfortunately, I never learned it.

Now, every which way I look, the wheels are turning in my head, wondering what else could be done more efficiently to simplify our lives. I'm hoping between the meals and the closet, I should be able to shave close to an hour a day.

Even though I've only figured out one tiny corner of a plan, and actual implementation is yet to be seen, I feel soooooo much lighter already. The entire tone of the home is lightened.

In the end, I don't think it was God's grace disappearing, it was His grace abounding! It just took a bit of intensity for me to come to terms *again* with my shortcomings and His perfection. And isn't that so often the way? In the valley we look to Him, seek Him, find Him. And in to the valley He sends us for our very own good.

If you have any tips on how you manage your home that you'd like to share, please do post them in the comments for us all to benefit from!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Nature Study 2011

We had our annual Nature Study meeting last week and our first Nature Study day for 2011 this week at the creek. It turned out to be 97 degrees, which wasn't so bad until we started trekking up the creek to a point I blogged about here. The creek was rather parched and the heat was very intense. We were all dripping with sweat!

Some things we decided on for this year are to do our nature journals in the first half hour and to reserve that time for nature journaling only so the kids could better focus on their drawings instead of getting distracted by others who may be up and poking around, playing already.

We also will have recitation in place of nature journaling, the last week of the month. The Moms are continuing finishing up The Screwtape Letters, then reading The Great Gatsby while we save our pennies for Norms & Nobility to follow.

We're planning on starting a book club of sorts for the kids with the Peterkin Papers but it's still a bit fuzzy.

Another idea we were tossing around was to find a central online location where the kids could collaborate and share their nature observations. Obviously, the Moms would have to post the info for the kids at this age still, but I thought it might turn out to eventually contain a significant body of observations and encourage more interest and closer observation. The idea is still just that - an idea so we'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Here are pictures from our day. Did I mention one Mom almost slid off a slippery rock, toddler in arms, into a pool of algae covered water? Praise God she didn't and both made it back safe. Her comment later was "Way to bring in the new year with a bang!" What a great attitude. Glad to have such troopers in the group.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Picture Catch Up

Here's my post for pictures I've been meaning to share, but don't feel like writing an entire post about.

We had Robin Hood 'play' at the end of the year last year...

We went to see Much Ado About Nothing in the park...

We went to visit Johnna and watched a little tiny tug boat tug a massive military ship out to sea.

Our alligator lizard's eight eggs hatched!

We drove up the 101 - marked as part of the Historic Camino Real Route by these bells - just past Santa Barbara

to Refugio State Park and spent four days beach camping

this little gopher was our friend and came to see what we were eating every day

a train roars through there at mind blowing decibal levels so we lost some sleep

That's all!

First Day of School 2011

The first week of school always lands on a four day school week because of Labor Day. But AO has a full week for week 1 - regardless of when you start. So rather than start our year with the stress of trying to squeeze it all in, I decided to split the first week over two weeks. This would also allow me time to hand out our hymn books, new notebooks, discuss new books, composer, artist, and walk through the schedule pointing out new subjects - grammar, latin, plutarch, etc. We also talked about which books will be read independently, listened to on audio, or read with me; all things that are important for them to know.

After we were done with introductions, my first born daughter characteristically ran off to read two days worth of poetry, the first chapter of Story Book of Science, listen to a chapter of This Country of Ours, and check them off her schedule.

My second born son asked if he was done and could go outside to play now :/

My main goal this year, for my YR4 daughter is to get her working more independently. Her schedule, her responsibility to narrate, rather than me always asking for it.

For my YR2 son, my goals are to continue improving on his reading and to get through some of the more difficult books like Pilgrim's Progress without diminished interest; maintaining and cultivating that love of books and learning, which the CM method so wonderfully preserves.

With my 3, almost 4yo, my main focus is training her to use a regular tone of voice, ie. not fuss and whine when she doesn't get her way. I think this one thing would have the greatest impact on the peace in our home and is worthy of my utmost attention. It will take great vigilance and the patience and grace only God can provide, but I am willing because the alternative is just NOT an option.

With my almost 5 month old, I'm trying to figure out if it's gas, teething, or is he over-tired? I suppose like the rest of the bunch, he'll grow up and be running around before I ever figure it out.

Here are our first day of school pictures...

Never did get the perfect one ;-)