Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

What am I missing here?  We have been officially homeschooling for 30 "school" days now.  Family, friends and random folks are politely asking, "So, how's it going?"  It isn't quite the rhetorical question of, "How are you?" to which no one is actually looking for a truthful answer.  The "How's it going?" comes after the "Hey" and "How are you?" conversational starters.  The "it" in the "So, how's it going?" question, is always referring to homeschooling.  So I take a deep breath and think before I answer.  How is it going?

The answer is, "Shockingly well."  "Really well."  Hmm.  

I must admit that I am quite surprised by this.  I was expecting to be going a bit crazy by now.  Stir crazy or even a bit "postal" even were some possibilities I wondered about.  I think my husband is still holding his breath before he walks into the house each evening.  What will he find?  Has his family imploded or are we still doing okay?  Check!  We are all okay.  No one is going crazy.  The kids are not at each other's throats. In fact, they have never gotten along this well.  Hmm.

Am I missing something?  I am starting to wonder if I am delusional.  Could this really be working out so well?  Uh, yes.  Are the kids actually learning? Hmm.  Maybe that should be the new area of concern.  Are they learning? How would I know?

Yes, they are learning.  I have math tests that came with each child's math program.   They are doing extremely well on the tests.   They are reading books. They are writing and creating.  They are applying what they learn. (This isn't too hard to check up on because as their teacher, I know exactly what we have covered.  So I can tell when they have made a connection to new information.)  They are actually retaining the information that we have covered! 

For example, after studying Ancient Egypt, we had a field trip to the Carlos Museum.  While examining a coffin, the kids started identifying all the gods in the hieroglyphics.  They did an amazing job of making connections while examining the various artifacts throughout the museum.

Holy Cow!  This homeschool thing seems to be working!  Man, when the other shoe drops, it is going to really stink.  Because to be honest, right now this is really fun!  It is a lot of work, but truly rewarding to watch your kids thrive.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Survival of the Nitty Gritty

If you have read my prior blog posts, then you know I have tried some pretty fun things to ease my children into the homeschool lifestyle.  However, as we all know, field trips alone will not adequately educate a child for today's world. As boring as it is, we all need to know how to spell and use punctuation. Like it or not, no one will make it in this world without math.  So, it was time to buckle down to the "Nitty Gritty" studies that my kids were dreading.

Good News!!!  We have made it through over a week of all subject homeschooling without anyone dead, maimed or bleeding.  I call that a success!  I would be lying if I said that the kids did not complain or have some meltdowns. They were to be expected.  I also anticipated testing of boundaries and comments about missing school friends.  I was not disappointed there either. Check those of the list, boundaries were most certainly tested! However, I met the challenges without loosing my cool and turning into a screaming banshee.  Success again!

For all of you who think that not turning into a screaming banshee is a poor definition of success, then you must have something that I lack, namely... PATIENCE.  Patience is a virtue that I simply do not have.  I think that when St. Peter was distributing patience in heaven, the line must have been too long so I probably just left.  For those of you whose kids are still in brick and mortar schools, search your conscience.  Weren't you just a little relieved when school started back up this year?  Any thoughts of, "Phew, we made it through summer"?  I think you see where I am going.

I have noticed that homeschooling has a double-edged sword of time with your children.  24/7... no breaks.  It is a lovely thing and it can also be extremely annoying.  I can tell that we are going to have to figure in some mental health breaks for Mommy.  Or as an alternative, my husband can go ahead and reserve a room for me now in the psych ward.

So did either child have any interesting moments during this past week of nitty gritty work?  Yes, for both of them.  My 2nd grade son has issues retaining rote facts. If it is not interesting, forget it!  Challenge him, and he is all over it.  He had no problems keeping up with his 5th grade sister in science and history.  But, math facts???  He can't be bothered.  He did have a lightbulb moment when something finally clicked.  We were listening to counting songs in an attempt to get the information to go in a different way. He asked about the lyrics where 9 would "slurp" (sound effects included in the song) one of the number it was adding.   The idea is that 9 is stealing one to make 10 and then leaving the rest.  Eureka!  He laughed and shockingly-- remembered!  The "slurping" noise got his attention long enough to let the concept sink in.  Then it was a simple jump to see that 8 steals 2 from the number you are adding it with to make 10 and 7 steals 3.

How exciting to see a lightbulb moment!  You mean to tell me that I have been letting his teachers have all of these???  Shame on me!  I'm glad I didn't miss his first steps.  This feels about as exciting as some of the baby milestones. Why would his intellectual milestones be any less important than his physical ones? I believe I have found the Holy Grail "PERK" of homeschooling.  This must be why so many families have chosen this path.

Did my daughter have any revelations this week?  Why yes she did, thanks for asking.  Hers also came during math.  She has always gotten math concepts extremely quickly.  So quickly that she has developed a nasty habit of not being required to think.  She is used to things being so easy, that she tends to freak over small challenges.  Her knee jerk reaction is to think that she can't do it if the solution isn't readily apparent to her.  This is one of the main reasons we wanted to homeschool her.  She has a beautiful mind that needs to be challenged.  Her first mental challenge came this week when she was required to combine factoring, algebraic thinking and mental math all together.  It was quite a shock!  It even caused to her to roll on the floor in tears crying, "I can't do this."  But with a little encouragement and showing her just how much she did in fact know, she attempted it.

It took real effort and (gasp) "thought" to find the solution.  I explained to her that she could do it, but it would take a genuine thought process to find the answers.  It was a challenge.  Her response was, "I like easy better."  But we stuck with it for about thirty minutes and then she conquered it.  Her smile when she realized that she could do it lit up the room.  Genuine accomplishment of a challenge!!!

Once again, I had a fantastic feeling that I had helped guide her.  No wonder teachers put up with poor pay and unruly classrooms.  The "Ah-Ha" moments of children must be addictive. Greedy me, I get to keep all of my children's "Ah-Ha" moments for myself.

The nitty gritty of homeschooling is going to be a bumpy, exasperating road.  I have glimpsed some of the perks, however and I think the journey will be worth it.  Educating my children is not going to be a sprint, but rather a marathon.  I hope I have the endurance for the challenge.