Art!

Years ago when I was in school, I often found that art was a great time to goof off. The teacher was normally pretty laid back, usually really into what they were teaching which took the focus off of me and c’mon they aren’t going to fail you for goofing off in art class…but some time in middle school I found that I really enjoyed art. I wasn’t necessarily great at it but there was something kind of calming about the different styles of art…though I’m fairly certain my 2 year old could make a better vase than the one I made when I was in 8th grade.

I’ve had 3 art teachers in my life that have stood out to me (I will try to be quick but no promises):
1.) Mrs. B. – she was eccentric and vibrant. We thought she was crazy because she expressed herself in wild colors and big flowing words that she matched with equally giant strokes on canvas. She was passionate. She taught us never to drown Mr. Paintbrush and though I found her a bit maniacal as a child her words have stayed with me as did her love of art.
2.) The Mom Clone – okay so I cannot for the life of me remember her name because quite frankly it always freaked me out how much she looked like my mom. It was rather odd. I joked with her about it and when she would knit pick at me for something I would always counter with, “Okay. Mom”. (I was a bit of a brat in hindsight.) She too was eccentric. She reminded me of a mad scientist always running around in a tizzy uttering odd idioms. In fact, she often wore a lab coat quite similar to a mad scientist. She was fun going and really allowed me to explore for the first time ever. I remember 2 projects…(I still have them to this day)…and both of them I took caution and I think I surprised myself as much as I surprised her.
3.) Mrs. E.- She taught me a lot about life and though she wasn’t any less quirky than the other two she was the first I got to know on a personal level. She taught me that art isn’t just about offbeat paintings or half naked archaic sculptures…but she helped to teach me the history of those pieces and in a sense bring them to life for me. She helped me understand the mindset of the artist. I remember once we were talking about why it was silly that art history isn’t forefront in more people’s minds because if you study the art of a particular period you can learn so much about the people of that era.

So, what does all of this have to do with homeschooling you ask? Well…nothing really. However, because of these three amazing women I have always wanted my boys to grow up with a love of art…and the history that surrounds it. I’ve been told countless times that Sarah up the street can’t believe we do canvas paintings or that we build structures we learn about or that my kids spend more time drawing than they do on most of their other work or that the literally color for hours every single week! However people fail to realize how essential art is to mankind. And some of you non-artsy-fartsy folk may say that it is just over rated and that you aren’t artistic but I’m not buying it. I think people who cannot appreciate art simply haven’t tried and equates to the person who swears they don’t like to read but has also never picked up a book. You don’t have to have the skills of Michelangelo or Picasso but an appreciation of art will get you far!

Toddlers

In our home there are three school aged children and three toddlers and most days that means we do a constant juggling act with the MMM (many mini monsters – and yes they are monsters but they are VERY well adored and in the absolute best monster way). On the good days, the MMM are well behaved and we get all our lessons done without a hitch… but not all days are good days. In fact, more times that not there is a hitch, a kink, a road block, a tropical storm…. and some days there is all of that and a tsunami on top of it! Those are the days that is seems that with every step we take forward we get blown ten steps back…and in a homeschool situation this can be very frustrating. In fact, last week we had one of those tsunami days. This is what I am talking about:

It was a normal Thursday morning and in fact we were rather excited that we only had two days left of the week and my boys had no clue that I had planned on having Spring Break the following week so I was even more thrilled that this particular morning was Thursday. The morning started fairly well though my 4-year-old was throwing the typical tantrum that is often thrown  and the 2-year-old was quickly following suit. Somehow, breakfast calmed them down and we headed downstairs for lessons (our school room is our basement, yes there is plenty of light down there, which allows us plenty of space) hopeful the day would go smoothly. We had our morning prayer, Bible reading and in anticipation of the older children’s lessons I handed the 2 and 4 year old MMM a bucket of markers and told them to make race cars out of leftover cardboard boxes. While walking to the cardboard box the 4 year old, tripped, hit his face on the edge of a desk and bit a hole through his lip. He instantly was profusely bleeding and screaming…. and I knew the entire day was about to unravel. He bled for like thirty minutes, I kid you not lip injuries are no joke, finally sat still long enough for the injury to clot. By this point my three big MMM had dispersed and were off loudly playing and coloring their own race cars and though this was not my original plan for the day I went with it and allowed them time to do that while I organized some paperwork.

Some time had passed, lunch was complete, their race cars were done and I called them back over to get started on their lessons. The youngest two MMM were down for naps (or so I thought) and the 4 year old was playing in the playroom in the kitchen raiding the pantry. I got him situated downstairs in the playroom and before we knew it the 2 year old was downstairs again interrupting lessons fighting with the 4 year old over a toy and quickly the fight escalated to two screaming toddlers! The biggest three MMM were so distracted, I was distracted and the day was over half over and nothing had been accomplished.

Now, I could have decided to push through and have a defiant We-are-going-to-finish-all-our-lessons-no-matter-what-happens type of attitude…or I could have decided to just go with it and give in and just do the basics with the kids and allow for us to have an off day all while throwing a temper tantrum  accepting we did not accomplish our goal for the day. I chose the later of the two options minus the anger/guilt of not finishing our goal for the day. Some days, things just do not work out for lessons and that is okay especially when you have lots of small MMM all over the house. Quite often I wake up not in the best of moods for this reason or that and I have to snap out of it and decide to have a good day… and though normally I can shake a grumpy mood some days I can’t and I am grown so it must be even harder for my MMM to do it. I have six MMM in my home all the time and you know what, there are going to be days were one, two or all of us are just having an off day. Occasional off days are great and we call them Attitude Adjustment Days but obviously you do not want every day to be an Attitude Adjustment Day because then no work ever gets done.

Therefore, since I can not justify constant AAD days, I like to have a bunch of stuff that the 2 little MMM can do (I say 2 as 1 MMM is much too small to get into much mischief right now) while we are working on lessons. Here is my lists of 10 things to entertain kids under 6 while we work:

Legos – These are phenomenal but depending on your kid you might need the Duplo Blocks so they do not chew on the blocks and end up causing more chaos to your day.

Puzzles – We have about 10-15 chunky puzzles from Melissa and Doug. My MMM LOVE these from toddler all the way up to my oldest who is almost 9.

Daubers – I had never heard about these until a good friend of mine had mentioned them but these are phenomenal. I know them as Those-Bingo-Card-Colorful-Circle-Thingies… but they are actually called daubers and they are great. I am not sure why kids love them so much but I kid you not these are a great buy! They even have dauber books that though they do not seem all that enticing to me as an adult my MMM are absolutely in love with them.

Lacing Shapes – You can buy sturdy cardboard, at least I think they are a cardboard, shapes that are colorful and they come with colorful shoestrings and the toddler can practice weaving the string in and out of the shape. My MMM love these but I have to warn you that you WILL spend time unknotting these because they quickly learn to knot them 50 million times in itself and even more into other ones.

Counting Bears –  Counting Bears like those are great. These little bears can amuse my Many Mini Monsters for hours…seriously! This may seem extreme but I am not exaggerating.

Snap CubesThese are kind of similar to the counting bears but my MMM like to pretend they are light sabers. They do also sort them into colors, stack them and find other things to do with them and if you pair them with the counting bears and a small balance for kids like this then the fun is endless and they are still learning though they never guess it.

Pattern BlocksThese are great when paired with the books are simply by themselves. They too provide endless fun and this is another one that MMM of any age can enjoy!

Geoboards – Again, this will depend on the age of the child but I know both my 2 and 4 year old MMM like these little geoboards . You do have to be careful because the rubber bands apparently are quite enticing to chew on and if they break pose a problem to younger MMM but overall my kids love these!

Coloring Books – Melissa and Doug have some awesome jumbo pages for toddlers that can keep mine entertained for some time but simple coloring books suffice too.

Reusable Stickers – Now I have multiple opinions about these. They come in sets so you can get some that are all about princesses, firefighters or mixed ones. I recommend these from Melissa and Doug but again anything works. However, you must be fully warned that these are messy and tedious to clean up. I never realized how annoying these can be when they are pushed down in to the carpet but they really are. So, if you buy these, I warn you to sit your kids at a dining room table to play with them. I also have to warn you that kids like to chew on these too! Overall though, my children have lots of fun with these and some will even come up with stories about what they are doing and will stay on one page for a long time.

 

Spring Break

A lot of parents dread spring break…but not me. I rather like it, granted we do not take it every year. Either way, I particularly enjoy it. We try to get the house a bit more tidy/organized and then we try to spend the rest of our time outside enjoying the nice weather because who doesn’t love a cool spring breeze? This is our first spring living in the Midwest so it’s kind of a pleasant experience for us. The kids are loving having grass (who’d have thunk grass would have been so exciting)! One of my sons recently pointed out that they’ve never lived in a place where they were able to see so much green grass and it was strange to them. (They also, much to my delight, pointed out that our neighbors have an obnoxious and blatantly fake set of palm trees in their backyard and it bugs my little Californian Kids and though I tried to hide the laughter I had to agree!) But I digress, we are enjoying the calm of our week of nothingness and enjoying our surroundings…and who knows, maybe, we just might extend spring break a week or two… Afterall it IS the Midwest and there will be plenty of nasty weather to school through later in the year!

Beautiful Chaos

My husband is the King of Orderliness. He likes things a certain way, thrives on solid, consistent routines and hates when things do not go as planned. In fact, I often tease him about being completely OCD regarding his schedules. My husband and I are profound polar opposites. I completely loathe consistency and repetition. The more inconsistent schedule I can have the better because to me it keeps things interesting and keeps boredom or discontentment from settling in. If your schedule is constantly changing it is hard to complain of monotony.

Do not get me wrong, I love having a “schedule” per se but more of a loose fitting schedule. For example, I know Monday through Friday we are having lessons, chores, animal care, toddler/infant care…all of that sometime within those days and the weekends are family time with no school. With my husband, if he were the homeschooling instructor, he would have things planned out in 30 minute increments every day of every week for every child… including the fun, free time/preschool activities for our non-school aged children. He is just THAT orderly. I am not. AT ALL!

On Monday morning, or Sunday night if I am feeling ambitious, I write on a piece of computer paper everything Child A needs to do for the following week including math lessons, piano, or whatnot. If they are supposed to do it for educational purposes it is on that paper. Then I move to the next child and repeat the steps for him, so on and so forth. Then that week I highlight the things on the list as they are completed. The child has absolute control over which day they would like to do which subject/assignment with the exception of our group subjects and math, poetry and copywork. Those things are done every day regardless. However, one of my sons today wanted to get all his history reading and timeline work done for the week. So he did. Tomorrow he may do all his literature work or all of his “free reads” or he may mix it up, but that is his decision. (Granted obviously if it is something he needs extra help from me and I am busy they have to rearrange their schedule so I can help them, but generally speaking they are the masters of their days.) Our goal is to get all the things on the list done and the order in which it is done is too technical to fret over in my book.

This would NEVER fly in my husband’s book. Do not get me wrong, he knows it works for our children and me, but he often shakes his head and grins that grin that says, “I understand it works for you but that is way too chaotic for me.” But to me, to our children, it works. There is something almost beautiful in the “chaos”. My children are able to plan their workloads, in a sense and they feel they have a say in their education and they get to learn the way that works best for them (for example when I do long readings one child will color but the other prefers to sit still and just listen). So despite the chaos, it works… for us.

Schedules are important. I get that. However, not all people are so systematically detailed that every second of every day needs to be planned out. We ARE one of those homeschooling families with 50 million lots of children so with four preschool/Kindergarten children running around all the time there is no way to schedule EVERY minute of every day…for me! Some people can and I really do respect that they are able to stick to their schedules so much. My problem (and the problem my children have) is that I get so caught up in something that interests me and I spend ten times longer doing it than I planned and when I look at the clock I freak out realizing my husband is getting off work in ten minutes and we have an hour before he gets home and the 2 and 4 year olds have completely unrolled and entire roll of paper towels throughout the entire downstairs, they have emptied their drawers and thrown everything down the laundry chute dropping articles that are now scattered all over the floor and now are raiding the pantry for an afternoon snack though two minutes before they were just as engaged in their older brothers’ project as we were!

The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom to see what works best for you. I have tried the militant, everything planned out schedule but it did not work for me or the children I have. We just do not prefer to live that scheduled and though I fought it for a long time I know now that it just isn’t worth beating a dead horse when I know what DOES work for us. I have friends it works beautifully for and they, I am sure, think I am a bit of a nut with how we do our workloads… but in the end, the joy of homeschooling is that we each get to pick our type of “chaos” and then make it beautiful!

General Mom

I have requested a good friend of mine write a post for us today. Now the funny thing is that when I met General Mom we were both military wives with young children but neither of us were homeschoolers. Now, eight or nine years later, we are both homeschooling moms.

Hello Homeschooling World! How’s it going out there? So I have been asked to tell you about the Good the Bad and the Ugly, so here it is!!!
The Good – get to stay in jammies all day
The Bad – get to stay in jammies all day and not required to shower
The Ugly – yeah just avoid people and mirrors….trust me.

I kid, sort of. So let me give you a bit of a background about my little squad. I have been called a General Mom, in a complimentary way, so that is my name on here and then there is Sgt, Specialist and Private. They are my life and seriously amaze me daily with the way they look at the world. We started homeschooling out of necessity and I was not really thrilled about homeschooling all three of them and it was a struggle for awhile. Our oldest, SGT, is on the autism spectrum with other issues that go with it. So over time we have found a curriculum we love and the oldest 2 are working more independently and I work a lot with Private who is 7. We still have a lot we have to juggle and make it work but it is getting better.

The best part of homeschooling is knowing what our children are learning and can work at a pace that gives them the best chance at success and mastering skills. We work at a slower pace because of the special needs in our home but we have fun, attend a co-op where they have friends, go on fieldtrips that would not normally be done in public school. While they are doing their school I also do mine. I am working on my masters degree and they see this weekly and it helps to inspire them to work and they have already begun talking about college.

Questions asked of me is why I have all 3 at home when only one has special needs. My response is why would I want to show favoritism to one child when they are all my favorite. This way I know that our other 2 not in therapy will not be left behind at school waiting because of me being stuck in traffic and they will not be upset that they did not get to go on the fieldtrip their sibling went on. Socialization? This is the biggest one we get. Well, we have a child with autism who needs daily practice on socializing so she plays outside, goes into stores with me and is required to ask questions to others and interact. When they visit their grandparents they are surrounded by elderly people, some who are homebound or in nursing homes and they go with their grandfather to do these visits. These are life skills that our children learn and do daily and could not do in public school. Public school is great for some but homeschooling works really well for us.

Please ask questions, post comments, keep them G-rated though please. Homeschooling is not for everyone just as homeschoolers are not all the typical stereotype.
Thanks for reading!
Blessings,
General Mom

Stereotypes

We have really good friends that we have known for years now and he has always said we are the only homeschoolers that he has ever met and liked because we seemed so normal. This always makes me laugh! Homeschoolers ARE normal normally normal!

Okay so yes, we all know some homeschooling family that has like 50 million kids and all the girls have hairstyles from the 50’s and the boys all wear matching clothes with fanny packs who are ridiculously sheltered and conservative and kind of creepy in their own way. However, I assure you most homeschoolers in 2014 are not like that… in fact, out of my dozens of homeschooling friends none of them fit those descriptions!

Recently I was reading a friend’s Facebook page and somebody was shocked that her homeschooled twelve year old needed a cellphone because they blindly assumed that he was with her 24/7. This knocks out three big homeschool stereotypes that I find often. People often assume that homeschooled children are anti-social kids with no friends and that their families believe that technology is the devil. I can assure you that homeschooled children have more than just their siblings for playmates. Homeschooled kids are just like other kids in that they want to go outside, play with their friends and just hang out away from mom and dad for a bit. These kids often thrive in social situations just as much as other children their ages if not more so because they are frequently exposed to people of all ages. (In fact, if I am being brutally honest, I often wish my kids were not so social so we could get through one, just one, shopping trip without talking to some random stranger, or ten, about the daily happenings in our lives thanks to one of my crazy little people feeling the need to talk to everybody they lay eyes on!) The third thing being technology; not a single one of my friends is anti-technology. In fact, a lot of people have a mini conniption fit when they realize we homeschool AND I have an iPhone or that my oldest has a Kindle Fire. Not all homeschoolers are living in the Dark Ages, in fact, in all actuality I think most of us embrace technology. Sure, my kids do not watch all the latest shows or even half of them but that is normally because they are too busy being awesome to waste all their time watching TV (not to mention it is not allowed during the school week). That being said, on the weekends electronics are huge in our house as our kids make mad dashes for their video games and movies!

Several months ago I was having a debate with a family member over the topic of sheltering our children. She informed me that my children were sheltered because I would not allow them to watch a certain war movie and something kind of flipped in me. Now one reason for this instantaneous anger/frustration is that all but my youngest were born while their dad was serving in the Navy. My children have gone through deployments missing their Daddy, they know about war and the realities of war that most adults have no clue about. Some of their closest adult friends are suffering through PTSD and have severe TBI’s that they deal with on a daily basis. They have seen and met men with missing limbs due to war. They heard a reference on television about 9/11 and we once again sat down and talked about that fateful day and a hush passed over my children because they knew what I meant from previous discussions. When my husband deployed for the first time after having kids my oldest was two and wanted to know where Daddy went and we told him as best as a two year old could understand and obviously as he left again we had to explain it to him again. War has been an unavoidable reality for our children. However, just because they have been exposed to war and we are very frank with them on most topics that does not mean I want them to watch some movie where it depicts men and women being blown to pieces or some TV show where the children are sassy and disrespectful to their parents and everybody else in sight. I want my children to learn that speaking to anybody like that is far from acceptable. So yes, maybe we shelter them because we will not let them watch horror movies, or movies where kids are little brats, but my kids know and have experienced more in their short lives than a lot of adults do in their lifetime! If that makes them sheltered then so be it! This being said, most of my friends are military homeschoolers so their children are in very similar situations. I have met the occasional kid that was homeschooled and truly sheltered but they are few and far between.

And the fifth (and a bonus sixth) one, homeschool kids just sit around all day long and never accomplish anything thus causing uneducated kids that are not going to do well in society. I have been messaged so many times from people saying that they are so shocked that I actually make my kids do their lessons and that they are so impressed by this subject or that subject that my kids are in. I just chuckle. Again, yes, there are those parents out there that “homeschool” but do not really make their kids do anything but the vast majority of homeschoolers are NOT like that at all. Most homeschooled kids cover all required topics every day and usually more! Granted, maybe since school doesn’t take 8 hours per day because we are not dealing with the interruptions kids in public/private school deal with it seems like we just sit around. They work hard Monday through Friday on their lessons and are highly expected to go to college as young adults. I assure you that though my oldest has quite some time before adulthood I am fairly confident he will be fully capable of functioning in society when he is on his own!

So, let me hear it… what are the most off the wall stereotypes/myths/misconceptions that you have heard about homeschoolers?

Mondays

Okay, so I am fully aware of the fact that I may be completely alone on this one…but unlike most I do not dread Monday morning. I would even venture as far as to say I kind of like them. My children, like most, really thrive on structure and routine. On the weekends it is great because we get our down time but there is also less structure so they also run rampant screaming and chasing each other like a bunch of wild monsters because well… well, I am not sure why other than the simple fact that they can and they are children so why not!

Now, I am not a fan of actually getting out of my bed come Monday any morning but once I am up and going I love our routine. The children get breakfast and I sit down with my coffee and I plan out their week, we discuss our week, and then we start on our group subjects.

In our home we do Bible, geography, certain sciences, nature study, art study, hymn and folksong per month and poetry work together after breakfast at the table (normally with dirty breakfast dishes still sitting there).
I LOVE this routine and it only happens during the week. During the weekends we do other things but this part of our day I find really sets the tone for the day. Not to mention there is something so great about watching your children, all around a table, talking and discussing hymns, nature and the Bible. I love seeing the people they are molding into and thanks to homeschooling I can watch that change happening every morning around my dining room table.

Have any of you ever had that dream where you are standing at the bottom of a big herculean mountain and you have to somehow figure out how to get to the top of the hill before you can get the massive chest of gold just sitting there for you? Okay, so maybe it is just me but let’s just go with it and pretend you have been there as well. You stand there utterly bewildered as to how in the world you could possibly get up to the top without falling off. You stand there for a long time just contemplating your next move, worrying if your hiking technique is okay or if you are going to come across this massive bear somewhere along the path of this enormous mountain and get gobbled up before you ever get to reach the top.

Now, in my dream there is one of two outcomes. In the first outcome, I worry myself to pieces and I never go anywhere. I stand there wanting to go up the mountain to reap the reward that awaits me but I give in to my fear and I end up never going anywhere despite the fact that reaching the top would be a highly rewarding accomplishment for a multitude of reasons. At night, from then forth, I live in a state of sheer disappointment and self-loathing because my fears overcame me and I did not even try to reach the goal.

The second outcome of this dream starts much the same as the previous outcome. I worry myself to pieces and I stand there wanting to go up the mountain. But, somewhere, in the back of my brain I hear a still calm voice of reassurance that worse comes to worse I only have to take one step forward and equally I can always turn around if it gets too scary. One small step after one small step and before I know it I look down and see that I am halfway up the colossal mountain. Sure, I stumble at times and want to give up at others but I press on and at the end of the dream I am standing on the mountain in complete awe of my own perseverance and dedication and my own strength.

When you make the decision to homeschool it equates to standing at the bottom of that monumental mountain and feeling so tiny that the weight of your upcoming trek almost seems too heavy to bear. It almost feels like Christian in the classic novel Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan when he first read the good book and felt like his burden was too heavy to carry any longer. If you are homeschooling for the long haul then it seems tedious and overwhelming. There are so many things that you have to plan before you can even begin to homeschool and even then once you have started on that journey there are dozens of uphill climbs; the struggle doesn’t go away just because you become fully dedicated to this journey. One of the things that I always keep in mind is that though I may slide here or there or stumble in another place that is okay. I can always get up, dust off my pants, and start climbing again. When my kids struggle with something it frustrates us both and if it gets bad enough we will take a break and come back refreshed – sometimes that day but often times another day when we both have clear heads. That is okay. It is okay to step back, take a short break, and then come back to it. It is okay to admit defeat and try to find somebody else, be it the dad or a friend, who can connect with the kid’s learning style better and finally make that connection for the child. The success of our children is the ultimate goal and no matter how we get there, as long as we do, we have conquered that mountain!

Howdy out there!

When you are in a room with a bunch of adults one thing that is bound to come up is children. As parents, we are so proud of the accomplishments our children are making be it in sports, music, academics… you name it and we parents are proud of our little people. Everybody wants their Jack to be the fastest, their Jill to be the prettiest and because of this competition to have produced the best possible robots children, academics ALWAYS, and I do mean always, comes up.

Now, when Bob from three doors down mentions that Junior just won his classroom Math-a-thon you start to shift in your seat a bit, or if Janet from across the street mentions that Annie is by far the BEST speller in her grade you start to sweat…not because your child is inadequate or lacking but because you know they are going to start debating which school is the best and then, THEN you are going to have to bring up the fact that your kids play video games all day are homeschooled.

Much like the famous book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, where it states that if you give a mouse a cookie, then he will probably want milk, then he will probably want a straw to drink it with, and then a napkin to wipe his face and so on and so forth telling people you homeschool is the exact same way! In the homeschool world…if you tell somebody you homeschool they will want to know why and once they know why they will want to know if it is even legal, then once they know it is legal they will probably want to quiz YOUR academic aptitude and once your aptitude has been fairly tested they will probably want to critique your method/curriculum/children’s aptitudes and so forth… and after they do ALL of that they will probably want to know why you homeschool!

This blog, hopefully, will help explain some of that. We are not all homeschooling for the same reasons, very few of us are crazy most of us aren’t crazy, we love spending time with our kids and no, this is not something we do lightly! So please, sit back and enjoy the ride with me as I venture into a world vastly different than what most people live and try to explain everything.