Tag Archives: home school

Healing Our Brains, Day 8

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we just started on a neurological reorganization (NR) program with three of our four children. Their ages are 12, 10, and 7, and they all have multiple ADHD-type symptoms and two of them seem to have ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). I haven’t had them formally diagnosed because I’m not interested in medication, but I read a ton and think I have a pretty good idea of what their issues are. Also, we homeschool, so I am with them all the time.

Eight days into our program and here are my observations:

  1. NR is a big change in lifestyle, and therefore stressful and time-consuming to implement at first.
  2. As difficult as my children typically are, they have not offered much resistance so far to doing the program–I think this is because I have made it our #1 priority and don’t really care what else we get done outside of it at this point.
  3. The patterns (ours are similar to swim strokes and dancer poses on the floor) are the hardest thing for us, but we’ve already made huge progress in how well the kids are doing them. They have a definite improved sense of where their bodies are and can move more symmetrically (if that makes sense).
  4. My older two, especially my daughter, who have been less affectionate and cuddly for the past couple years, are really enjoying the body presses and bear hugs we do as part of the program. I also enjoy these and feel more relaxed after we do them. Also, interspersing them in between the more difficult/tiresome parts of the program helps to diffuse tension and stress.
  5. It really has helped to begin slowly with the program and build up to the number of reps and activities assigned. This is definitely a marathon and not a sprint.
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What is equality? A Thought from The Count of Monte Cristo

I’m reading classics to discuss with my 12-year-old son as part of our lifelong home-based education (homeschool), and the first book we’ve selected for this school year is The Count of Monte Cristo. As my son’s mentor, I have to model the example of lifelong learning and self-educating. In this case that means not only reading along with him but also writing daily about what we are reading.

For today the nugget that stands out to me from the book is this description, referring to the difference, in one character’s mind, between Napoleon and Robespierre: “The only difference consists in the opposite character of the equality supported by these two men; the one advocates the equality that elevates, the other professes the equality that depresses; the one brings a king within reach of the guillotine, the other elevates the people to a level with the throne.”

Quite a powerful contemplation, especially in thinking about our current political climate in the U.S. Many of us say we want equality, but yet we want our own priorities elevated and dissenting voices depressed. Be honest now. I wonder if we will ever approximate an equality that truly elevates every one of us human beings to our very best selves. What a world that would be. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I desperately want to believe that it is. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic again in future posts.

Back to Education

It’s “Back to School” time for many students around the world, and even in our homeschool we use this time of year to make a fresh start. I’m always excited to start a new “school year” because I love to learn and I love the opportunity to change things up and hopefully inspire my 4 students to become avid readers and lifelong learners. I am currently enthralled with a new book called A Thomas Jefferson Education and all that it means for our homeschool journey.

As the book explains, there are often major differences between modern schooling and classical education–the latter being accomplished through mentors and study of the classics. It asserts that the only true education is self-education and that it comes about when great mentors inspire their students by their example. I am all over that! My favorite thing about homeschooling, which absolutely has its challenges, is how much I get to learn myself, and that my kids automatically absorb so much just by being around me as I struggle and persevere along my own path.

I am far from a perfect parent. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And I can honestly say that I have had a pretty great Catholic school and liberal arts education with some amazing mentors all along the way–I shudder to think what would have been if I had not! I feel I have much to live up to. And I believe that’s what makes me the ideal mentor for my kids. I have to pass on the lessons I have learned and the character I have developed–and I need a lot of time and opportunity to do that. True education can never be forced or rushed. It must be willingly received… patiently and passionately pursued. So that is what I will do, and I’ll trust that my children will follow my example, and eventually surpass it.

Thoughts going into year 6 of home schooling…

We’re about to officially begin our sixth year of home schooling next week, the day after Labor Day. All four of my kids and I will be part of a new co-op that meets once a week. Our home school style has gone from strictly classical to much more eclectic over the years, and this new co-op encourages self-directed learning and unschooling. Kids and parents are invited to submit proposals for classes, group studies, and independent studies with mentors. I joined the programming committee so I get to help decide which classes/studies are held when, for how long, and with what facilitators or teachers. There have been so many creative and interesting proposals submitted already–everything from building Leprechaun traps to Entomology to Coding to Philosophy to Claymation. I’m completely confident that we will enjoy many rich learning experiences together as we connect with this new community.

That’s a nice segue into my latest meditations on why I am home schooling and what my priorities are: the #1 answer to both is community, which is just another name for extended family. I’m reading a great book called A Thomas Jefferson Education and it brings up some excellent points about socialization that remind me why I started on this whole journey in the first place. Unlike most people, who worry about socialization when they think of home schooling (which is worth noting and pondering – why do they immediately think of socializing and never worry about academics when it comes to schooling?), I was actually very impressed with the social skills and overall character and poise of the home schooled children I had known prior to making the decision to home school. I noticed that these children seemed much more articulate and comfortable communicating and interacting with all ages than their peers in public and private schools. They had a strong sense of self, close relationships with their family members, and were less vulnerable to peer pressure.

When I then had my own children and it was time to send my first born off to Kindergarten, I did so with some serious reservations, even though we were in a “very good” school district. It was a full day program, and I worried it would be too big of an adjustment for him. Still, I was hopeful that all would go well and my child would thrive, and he did, mostly. He had a truly wonderful, loving, and capable teacher who gave him an excellent start, socially and academically. He did have a lot of energy to burn once the school day was over, and the homework assignments seemed pretty robust for such a young child, but we managed, and all was well.

Then came first grade, and things began to decline gradually throughout the year. My happy, extremely confident and creative boy began to doubt himself, just a little. He started to think school was “boring” and he just HAD to have the latest, coolest toys that his classmates loved to play with (even though, he admitted, he didn’t think they were really that cool). He would come home from a full day with sometimes 15 minutes of recess or less, and turn into Taz from Looney Tunes, bouncing off the walls and spitting gibberish. His teacher said he took too long on classroom assignments. That was her only feedback about him when we met for parent-teacher conferences. She didn’t love him — he was just another kid in her class. And that was all it took for me to be convinced: I needed to at least try to home school. I didn’t want my child to learn how to sit in a classroom all day and hurry to finish his assignments “on time” regardless of whether he had learned anything. I didn’t want him to learn how to fit in with “the cool kids”, who were all his age and lived in the same small town. I didn’t see what any of this had to do with a good education — and even though I loved my traditional Catholic school education growing up — I was over it in a heartbeat.

I hope that none of this comes across as judgmental or condemning. I know that there are some really great schools out there, and I would never presume to tell another parent what educational choices they should make for their child/ren. I am simply sharing my experiences and my reasons for home schooling my own kids, for consideration by myself and anyone else interested.

I am doing my best to ensure that my kids know how to interact and engage with people of all ages and backgrounds.

I am trying to teach them the discipline of working out their differences with each other productively (all strong personalities together all day long often equals fireworks) and then how to apply those same principles and techniques to be able to get along with other challenging personalities and situations they come across.

I want them to know themselves — what they genuinely love to do and learn about — and be confident enough to lead by example in the communities and interest areas that are important to them.

I want them to be free to explore and open to learn, but not waste time trying to bend and twist into anything that doesn’t resonate for them.

I want them to be fully connected, which for me right now means that I need to be fully connected to myself and my own progress, as well as to how each of them are growing and developing, so that I can lead the way.

I’m sure there will come a day when I entrust that responsibility to someone else or to my kids themselves, but for now it needs to be me. I admit, I’m a little weary and a little leery at this point. But mostly I’m excited. We are finding our groove. We are doing the heavy lifting, and it’s starting to get lighter. We are forging our path, and some will follow. Others will be inspired to forge their own. Still others will think we’re wacko, and that’s okay. As I frequently tell my kids, “Do what you think is right, and do the best you can, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.”

 

 

 

 

#FridayFavorite: Duolingo

duolingoI am so very happy that I discovered Duolingo at the end of last year. As a home schooler and life long learner, I am always looking to try new things, pick up new skills, and spark interests in my kids. This amazing site allows you to learn a host of new languages absolutely FREE, and the quality is very comparable to Rosetta Stone, which we’ve also tried. Thanks to Duolingo, my husband, 8- and 9-year-old, and I are all learning German and Spanish (in my case brushing up on the Spanish, which I had been meaning to do forever) this year.

The site offers brief lessons that are easy to keep up with, and you can select the pace at which you’d like to learn so that you receive reminder e-mails at the right frequency for you. Besides the regular lessons, you can engage in discussions with other language learners, and practice translating documents, so you get a pretty well rounded language experience.

I love, love, love this site and highly recommend you check it out if you’re interested in studying other languages.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

“I don’t want my children’s education to be so fast-paced and so abstract that there is not time to meditate on the fantastical. I do not want them to treat glorious facts as mundane.”
–Leigh Bortins, The Question

I was just meditating today on the concept of slowing down to speed up, and then I got this quote in a Classical Conversations e-mail, validating my thoughts. The slowing down/speeding up concept is that if you stop and think about what is really important to you and just focus on that one thing… or maybe one or two simple goals related to that thing, you’ll soon end up leaps and bounds ahead of where you’d be if you had a checklist of 10-50 things you’re trying to accomplish all at once. It’s so easy to get distracted and over-schedule these days, yet this “busy-ness” is getting us nowhere.

To share a personal example, last year all I really wanted to focus on was home schooling my children well. I just wanted to be a good mom, and a good teacher, and in a good mood, more often than not. Pretty simple conceptually, although all moms know that this is far easier said than done for nearly all of us. As I focused on just this one main goal–whereas I normally have a minimum of 6-7 challenging goals going simultaneously–I started to feel so light and unencumbered. I actually had time to think, and read for pleasure (!), and just sit and enjoy my kids. I was so unaccustomed to these luxuries that I kept feeling guilty or lost at first. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was forgetting something and that my bubble would be burst at any moment. But instead, what happened was that eventually other goals that I had not previously been able to accomplish when I tackled them more directly and distractedly, began to come to fruition as well. Consequently, not only are my kids and I now enjoying home schooling immensely, I am also in my best physical shape in more than a decade, and I have my own business that is actually bringing in money! And those are just two of the bonus goals–there are several other “lesser” goals that would never even have made my top ten list in the past that I am also making progress on.  WOO. HOO.

Slowing down is such an important thing to do. As much as we like to identify ourselves by our occupations or bodies or reputations, we are in fact vibrant, creative spirits that long for beauty and truth and love. In a world that constantly tries to suck the meaning out of everything, we are yearning to make our lives meaningful. For most of us, I’m willing to bet that our dreams are pretty much just sitting there beside us, waiting for us to turn and pick them up, but we’re just flying by, too oblivious to notice. If you think things are moving too fast, or you’re frustrated that you haven’t been able to accomplish things despite putting them on your “list” for years, try slowing down for awhile. Breathe, and assess your values and priorities. And then if you’re really feeling courageous, try organizing your life to actually support those top priorities, at the expense of lesser ones if necessary. I can almost guarantee it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Classical Conversations Practicum & Foundations Tutor Training

It’s been a while since I’ve written about home schooling, so I thought I’d give an update on the latest. We’re just winding down to our summer schedule, which includes reading more great books at our leisure, practicing Spanish conversation, and lots of time in nature. We also just attended a Classical Conversations Practicum, which is a fabulous three-day, free training for parents (kids’ camps available at a very reasonable price) on classical education as well as the CC theme for the year. This year’s theme is rhetoric. I love these events because they are so encouraging and thought provoking, and I meet the most wonderful people. I can’t resist giving a little plug here, so if you’re interested in attending one near you, check out this link for more details, times, and dates: http://parentpracticum.com.

For CC tutors and directors, there are afternoon trainings during the Practicum for Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge. I attended the Foundations training at this Practicum, and I was really impressed. The trainer had brought a posse of extremely talented, close knit tutors from her community and incorporated lots of demonstrations of ways to present the content in the classroom. Even with a year of tutoring already under my belt, I learned so much from them! It was inspiring to see what good friends these tutors have become. They’re obviously helping to elevate one another to the highest standards of excellence while keeping it lots of fun. I hope to foster this same kind of environment as I direct my own community this year.

Another great thing about the Foundations tutor training was that issues like discipline and classroom management were brought to the forefront and plenty of ideas shared from experienced tutors. I hadn’t had any experience leading a classroom when I started tutoring, and I was primarily focused on creativity in presenting the content rather than setting classroom expectations and having a plan of action for disciplinary issues. I thought that since parents are usually in the classroom with their children, I could leave that entirely up to them, but I’ve since realized that every classroom needs clear expectations and some form of discipline in order to run smoothly. I later found lots of great classroom management ideas on Pinterest, but I wish I would have used them from day one. If you are going to be a CC tutor in the coming year, be sure to spend some time thinking about your strategy for maintaining order. The kids quickly become good friends and are excited to see each other every week, so it’s normal for them to be energetic and chatty when they come together. It’s important to keep things fun, but also to emphasize the importance of respect for others, respect for the property, following instructions, etc. for the benefit of everyone participating.

Review games was another topic we spent a good deal of time on, including more great demonstrations. This was an area I hadn’t anticipated spending so much prep time on as a tutor. Every week, I’d agonize over finding the perfect review game, and I felt like I had to come up with a new one every week (at least for the first half of our year). There was a lot of trial and error. Again, I found tons of stuff on Pinterest, but it was hard to gauge what would work with my kids until I actually tried it. I had kids who were very competitive, and kids who were not at all. I had a couple kids who rarely wanted to play any game, no matter what it was. I was tempted to take it personally when a game didn’t work out. At the training I found out that most of the tutors struggled with these very same issues. It would have been great to hear this last year just so I’d know I wasn’t alone or doing something wrong. Turns out I really only needed 4-5 good games for my class and there was one they requested almost every week. I had a fantastic first year as a tutor and I LOVED my class dearly — these are just little things I wish I’d anticipated to make the year even more amazing. I have no complaints — I just mention these things here to help others who may be preparing to tutor for the first time.

Our new community is growing nicely and I’m excited to see who the Lord brings to join us over the year. We have more Info Meetings to hold over the coming months, and it seems that more and more people are hearing about CC all the time. We had 70,000+ students nationwide last year! It’s really exciting to be part of this dynamic community, which is stretching my whole family on so many levels. I look forward to reporting more as our journey continues to unfold.