Why People Don’t Homeschool

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A Romanian blogger detailed recently how she decided to enroll her child in fifth grade this year, after looking at three possibilities: private school, middle school attached to a high school (which implies the teachers would be infinitely better than in a regular ol’ middle school, since they are qualified to teach secondary education), or a five-day homeschool co-op (if you will, a homeschool school where all the teachers are parents who hold university degrees in their subject).

Funny education comic

Today’s classrooms focus on testing and less on art.

The blog post is titled, “Why We Feel Threatened by Homeschooling” and yes, it is in Romanian. The link above will take you there if you can read that language.  Continue reading »

Now homeschooling is not exactly legal in Romania, but it can be done if one enrolls in a school abroad, in the UK or the US for instance. In that case, it is called correspondence school and should you get inquiries from the authorities you will be left alone.

She ended up choosing a fourth possibility: staying within the same K-8 school her daughter has attended so far. Her post is long, but in short she said, “I did not have the courage to homeschool. I did not have the courage to assume the responsibility of my child’s education. It’s easier to have somebody else to blame if something goes wrong.”

She was perfectly honest about this. She admires her friends who homeschool, but she says she prefers to leave the responsibility in somebody else’s lap. Then, she said, it will be easier to blame the classmates or the teacher or the principal or the government for whatever goes wrong in her child’s education.

There you have it, my friends, straight from the heart of a very honest person. Most people do not homeschool because they would rather blame somebody else than themselves if something should go wrong.


Tuesday Tome Week 28 – The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye is not only a classic, it is a controversial classic. At some point, it was the most required and the most banished book in America’s classrooms. Published in 1941, it has sparked controversy among teachers of English literature and also among critics, who struggle to decide which genre this book belongs to. Is it a novel? Is it a memoir? Is it an autobiography? Is it something else altogether?

The Catcher in the Rye

I read portions of it in my English class growing up in Romania and, of course, I read the plot online, but have never read it word for word. Its language, I really dislike. That’s probably why I have stayed away from it all these years. Plus, once you have solved your own adolescent angst, it is so hard to go through it all over again even vicariously.  Continue reading »

It took me 150 pages (about half way through the book) to finally be able to ignore the bad language. Which says a lot about the power of adaptation, right? It was about that time that I started seeing all kinds of things in the book beyond the obvious.

The most important thing for me was to realize that Holden Caulfield wanted to grow up and start a family in the country. Growing up in New York City, surrounded by “phonies” all along, simply taught him the biggest lesson any person can learn: living in the country keeps things real. Not only that. He wants to be a homesteader AND – wait for it – a homeschooling parent. That’s right. This kid who went to all sorts of expensive, private schools wants to homeschool his own children.

His description of these private boarding schools is enough to turn one completely against them. This one kid got bullied so much, he preferred to jump out the window and die than continue with the status quo. Premarital sex and underage drinking run rampant. The teachers are boring and obnoxious. Some care, here and there, but even the one teacher Holden likes seems to make a pass at him one night.

The book never really clarifies if the teacher’s gesture was a sexual one, but Holden felt weird about it and just took off. He planned on never seeing this teacher again. As a homeschooling mom, this book spoke to me on so many levels. This kid is totally disconnected from his parents. His father is a lawyer who makes a lot of money but has no emotional availability for his children. His mother – poor thing – is mourning the loss of one of her sons and so she is a nervous wreck.

At one point, Holden says all mothers are slightly insane – to me, the best quote in the book. He is right, too. Once you become a mom, all your focus is on your children’s survival, not your own anymore. Which can seem insane to most people who do not have children of their own.

Holden himself seems to be in a post traumatic stress himself. Still mourning the loss of Allie, his younger brother, still in shock after one of his friends in school threw himself out the window to escape bullies, still completely disinterested in school activities. Holden is depressed and lacks any kind of compass to know how to govern himself. He just wants to talk – to anybody that would listen. The trouble is, nobody in his life wants to listen.

He also wants to catch kids playing in a rye field. He wants to catch them before they grow up, before they hit themselves against the stones of reality and adulthood. He wants to keep others from hurting the way he is. How noble! This kid has a bleeding heart and nobody is paying attention.

His sister and this one teacher – before the sexual gesture – seem to be the only ones Holden can turn to. My heart goes out to Holden. He needed a strong bond with his parents and they just would not give it to him. Note to self: don’t be like Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield.


Knitting

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My mom is a Master Knitter, i.e. she has always knitted pretty scarves, sweaters, cardigans, and dresses. She made me several matching mother-and-child sweaters and cardigans, which we wore with pride and joy. As the kids outgrew theirs, I kept wearing mine, having fond memories.

She taught me how to knit when I was maybe 10. Now that I have children, I am motivated to pick this hobby back up, polish my skills, and make a few things for my children to inspire them.

Children wearing red knitted socks

My kids wearing the socks I made

The first thing I needed to do though was to learn knitting vocabulary in English. As all my stories of exploration start, I went to my local library… The librarian planted several knitting books in my hands. Continue reading »

The pictures did the trick. Stockinette vs. garter stitch, purl vs. knit – got it! Those were the words I needed to learn to decipher American knitting patterns. Now I am in business.

I went to Jo-Ann’s and got a few needles, different sizes, and a beginner’s book. I figured I should start there and build from it. I have made a pillow cover, a change purse, and many, many socks, for different members of my family. Handmade things make wonderful Christmas gifts, by the way.

Of course, the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy speaks very highly of knitting and other handicrafts. My kids are fascinated with my knitting, as humble as it is. I tried teaching my son, but he gave up after trying a few stitches. We will persevere and try again when he shows an interest again When he gets older, things will make more sense to him.


Thoughtful Thursday Week 7 – Getting the Flu

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My son got the flu last week. We don’t know where, of course. But we had been out almost every day of the week for different activities. The doctor told us to keep him out of school through Thursday. I told her he was homeschooled. She said, “The question is, where did he get the flu?”

I informed her that we had seen people virtually every day of the week before: group violin lesson, Adventurer Club, Library Story Time, church, The Muse… She took it all in. She was going through a paradigm shift in her mind and it was visible on her face.

Homeschooled kids do get out… And they do get the flu… But even if you did not have all these activities, they would be accompanying their parents to the grocery store, at the very minimum, or to church…

Thoughtful Thursday

Oh well. Some things don’t change. People will always discover new things about homeschooling which change their perspective 180 degrees.  Continue reading »

So we cancelled LEGO Club, craft time, violin lesson, piano lesson, and all the other things we had going on this week, and stayed home. We actually did quite a few activities which counted as school. I read to them several pages in the animal encyclopedia and then asked them to tell me a few interesting things. We worked on history crafts and activities. We re-read the readers (all 40 of them) we used for my son’s reading lessons one year ago. My daughter has now claimed them as her own, as she knows she will start kindergarten next fall and she will use them.

We re-visited Petra Lingua, which we have sort of abandoned a few months ago when we canceled French Play Group. We brought our account from 25% complete to 40%. Not bad for two sickly kids (my daughter did get some flu-like symptoms as well later in the week).

We read quite a bit more than we usually do, because they had no energy to do much and I had to entertain them somehow. We keep screen time to a maximum of 30 minutes per day. What else was I to do but read to them, right?

So even in the case of the flu, homeschooling comes out a winner. We spend more time together, read more, and continue to study. There’s no need to worry about the number of sick days taken or getting behind in our lessons.


Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 – Stop Learning

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Last year, I published a series of weekly devotional posts for homeschooling moms called Mom Monday. Fifty-two weeks later, it is time for a new series. A new series for a new year. Introducing Thoughtful Thursday, a collection of essays about homeschooling and how it forces everybody to think outside the box. In some cases, it forces people to think. Period.

It’s sad, I know, but some people go through life without thinking, simply accepting the status quo, just believing everything that is handed down to them by the previous generation, and feeling scared and challenged when someone comes along doing a new thing.

Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 - Stop learning

When I started this blog, I knew I was going to focus on homeschooling. I also knew that homeschooling touches so many aspects of our lives – because it is a lifestyle – that it inevitably brings about some basic questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Which is why a personal friend unfriended me on Facebook and declared herself “highly offended” by one of my posts on socialization, for instance. She chooses to put her children in public school and once told me, “I believe in public school.”  Continue reading »

Well, I believe in God. And when God called me to homeschool my kids, I listened. I wish I could say that I accepted the calling right away. As some of you may know, it was a struggle and I bothered quite a few homeschooling moms online with my questions. But, finally, the Holy Spirit prevailed and I surrendered.

Homeschooling brings about a revolution of ideas and concepts which people take for granted. Revolutions aren’t pretty. People get hurt.

Warren Buffet is quoted to say that “simple is not always easy.” While homeschooling is a simple concept to grasp – parents taking responsibility for their children’s education – it is not easy to accept and execute.

Which is why I love homeschooled kids doing TED talks, like Logan LaPlante or Jacob Barnett. They fly in the face of traditional school options and prove school psychologists wrong. Take, for instance, Jacob Barnett’s case. He was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told he would never speak or amount to much. A few years later, he taught himself advanced math in two weeks so he could sit in this one particular calculus class.

One day, when a particular theorem bothered him, he started working on it obsessively. His mom brought a Princeton professor to look at his calculations and try to prove him wrong. The professor told his mom, “Your son is right in everything he put forth.”

In a nutshell, his talk encourages us to do three things, in this order:

1. Stop learning

2. Start thinking

3. Start creating

We will look at these three steps for the first three weeks of Thoughtful Thursdays. This first week is an invitation to stop learning. That’s right. This home educator is asking you to stop learning.

Once thinking starts, the creative process starts. And once you create, you fulfill God’s desire for you, because He made you in His image and He is the Creator.

Unless you forget what you know, you will never be able to advance past the generation that just handed you the knowledge they have. Jacob Barnett gives poignant examples of geniuses like Newton and Einstein following the above three steps. And that’s how science was pushed further. No doubt, Jacob Barnett is a genius. All homeschool kids do not have to be like him or revolutionize science or be interviewed by Glenn Beck.

But there is something to be said about forgetting what we know and looking for a new path. A thoughtful path. A homeschooling path.

I invite you to stop learning, start thinking, and start creating this year. Forget what you know and open yourself up to new thoughts and ideas. Join me here on Thursdays for a thoughtful discussion about what education means.


Wonderful Wednesday – Summer Cattail Study

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A few weeks ago, we headed back to our cattail patch for a summer nature study. By “our” I mean a cattail patch about five minutes from our house, where we did our spring cattail nature study.

I printed out the toppers from Handbook of Nature Study – a blog we follow loosely for our nature observations.

Summer Cattail Notebooking Pages

I glued the toppers to white paper and divided it into four parts, so they could draw four objects.

 

While there, I asked the kids to walk around and get as close to the cattails as possible.  Continue reading »

Cattail Nature Walk

Walking to get the best view of the cattails

 

“Look, mom! A snake hole!” exclaimed my son.

Noticing A Snake Hole

Look, mom!

 

Not sure if this was a snake hole, but it was a hole indeed.

Maybe a snake hole

Maybe a snake hole

 

I asked them to draw four things they saw. They did – their drawings were in pencil, so they don’t photograph well. They drew rocks, trees, the creek, and the bridge.

 

The pretty covered bridge where our cattail patch lies

The pretty covered bridge where our cattail patch lies

 

I also asked them to listen to the sounds of the area. At first, they could hear only man-made sounds: the air conditioning of the apartment buildings nearby, car engines driving by. I asked them to close their eyes and see if they could hear insects. They could. Also, the breeze through the cattails. Yes, they heard that, too.

Then, I allowed them to frolic around the creek.

Boy and girl are having fun in the sun, around a cattail area, jumping over creek

Fun in the sun, around the cattail area

 

It was fun and easier than the first time we headed over there. Maybe because they are older, e.g. my daughter could now jump over the creek without actually falling in. Maybe because I knew what to expect. I can’t wait for our fall cattail study.


Wonderful Wednesday – Ad-Hoc Science

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My plan was to spend at least two hours outside today. We are playing catch-up with time outside.

It has been raining lately and I have been busy with different projects, so I did not make outdoorsy time a priority. My children play so well indoors, away from screens, and I did not want to deal with bugs and/or DEET and sunscreen (there, I said it!) – it was easy to forget how important it is for them to be outside.

Well, we ended up spending five hours. We left after two hours because I had a planning meeting with other Sevier County Homeschooling Group moms, then they had swims lessons. On the way back from swim lessons, we stopped at the park again, for almost three hours.  Continue reading »

It’s called Mills Park and it has a playground, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, several benches, a creek running by, a disc golf course, restrooms, outdoor sinks, grills and a wonderful grassy hill, perfect for rolling down on.

Children rolling down the grassy hill at Mills Park

My children rolling down the grassy hill at Mills Park

I don’t know why we don’t go to Mills Park every day. We should.

Oh, I know why. Because I used to be really bothered by their getting wet in the creek or muddy in the puddles around the playground.

I have since transcended that. The more I read about how time spent outside helps children reverse myopia or not develop it at all, the more I want them to spend time outside – no matter what the cost. That’s why we do laundry, right?

The more I read about how time spent outside helps children do better in science, the more I want them to explore and dig and analyze and take note of bugs, bees, trees, birds and everything in between.

Today I heard a mother scold her toddler rather harshly about his getting in the muddy area. I cringed but looked down at my shoes because that mother used to be me. My kids could not help but notice the scene. It was rather embarrassing for all parties involved, but the mother was relentless. I said a quick prayer for her, that she may allow her little boy to get a little dirty – it’s good for him.

Here’s what I have observed about kids in nature: they don’t need toys. The playground gets them started, but they use it differently after a while. Instead of going down the covered slide, for instance, they straddle it. They go up and down on top of the cover. I try not to panic. The ground is soft.

I did bring a soccer ball and it helped break the ice with one boy in the morning and another one in the afternoon. But the ball got put up after the second boy brought his puppy out. The kids let the puppy chase them and ran around on the grassy hill for almost an hour.

Little bird in a cage - my kids observed it and played with it for an hour

Little bird in a cage – my kids observed it and played with it for an hour

Through it all, they learned some science. They observed “small fishes” in the creek. I told them they were tadpoles.

My son came to the bench where I was sitting with my book and grabbed the water bottle. After he quenched his thirst, he tilted the bottle and took a good look at it. “Mommy, why does the water stay flat even though I tilted the bottle?” I explained about gravity and the state of being liquid.

We noticed a cardinal on a power line. He was busy singing and we could see him open his beak and hear him at the same time – always a special treat.

During my planning meeting, which happened at the Sevierville library, somebody brought a small bird in a cage. My children observed it and played with it the way you can play from just outside the cage. I asked them how many “fingers” the bird has. My son said, “Three.” A few minutes later, “Mommy, I was wrong. There are three in the front and one in the back.” I congratulated him for good observation skills.

They should sleep well tonight after this day spent mostly outside.


Wonderful Wednesday – Veggie Garden Update

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I have a small garden where I play “Farmer.” It’s only 4’x8′ and I don’t expect to feed my family from it. But if we can get some veggies every year while the children experience the cycle of sowing, weeding, watering and harvesting, I am happy.

This year, we already learned some lessons from it. Now, I’m back with an update.  Continue reading »

It has been raining almost every day for the past three weeks. I have not had to water my garden. Yeah!

I did have to clean up after our cat, who had been using our garden patch as a litter box. Yuck!

My husband came up with a solution: plastic fencing that can be wrapped around the four poles of the garden bed. I knew those poles would come in handy one day…

So here’s my veggie garden in full swing, with the new fencing around it.

Veggie Garden - Summer

My small garden is producing a lot this year.

 

Our one and only blackberry bush

Blackberry bush - almost ripe

We picked about 15 blackberries today and, from the looks of it, we will have more

 

Our one and only grape vine

Green grapes on the vine

This would be the first year we would enjoy grapes from our backyard

 

One of our blueberry bushes

Green Blueberries

We always get lots and lots of blueberries

 

A baby cucumber

Tiny cucumber

I showed this baby cucumber to my son. He touched it, got hurt and blurted, “It’s prickly!” all before I could warn him.

 

Tiny tomatoes

Green tomatoes on the plant

It looks like we will get some tomatoes this year.

 

Tiny peppers

Tiny green peppers on the plant

We love green peppers and grow them every year. They are so sweet compared to grocery store peppers.

 

These pictures are quite the metaphor for children. Growing, developing, not yet fully matured, but perfect in every way. And cute.


Wonderful Wednesday – Mosquitoes

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The Handbook of Nature Study blog challenged us to study mosquitoes. I hesitated because I really dislike mosquitoes. But how long can I keep avoiding Ms. Barbara’s challenges?

We live in a heavily wooded neighborhood and, as such, mosquitoes abound. One morning I got bitten 10 times on my legs while watering my small garden. Not fun.

Another day I wore long pants and long sleeves for protection, in 88F weather, and I still got bitten, through clothing.

Meanwhile, I am trying to rise to the challenge of spending at least two hours outside with the kids, every day. I have been spraying our clothes with repellents of the “deep woods” variety and mosquitoes still bite us.  Continue reading »

My husband finally found a solution that has minimized them drastically though. Thank God for my husband. He sprays the gutters with an outdoor bug spray he picked up at Lowe’s. With all the rain we have had lately, there is some standing water inside the gutters and that’s where the eggs must be.

I have also noticed that this measure has cut back on gnats.

Another observation: to have a bug-free experience outside, it seems that early afternoon works the best.

I printed out a mosquito coloring page and let the children decorate it. I also asked them if they like mosquitoes or not. They said “no” immediately and then added, “because they bite.”

I have talked to experts in essential oils and, in all honesty, they told me their oils do not work 100% either.

After I get bitten, I immediately apply hydrocortisone cream and it helps.

As I read more about mosquitoes, I was reminded that it is only the females that bite. Hmmm… I’m not sure how I feel about that… I realize they are busy mothers looking for quick meals, but do I really have to be the one providing it?


Wonderful Wednesday – 4 Facts on Rhododendrons

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Back in April, our rhododendrons were putting on a show. Their explosion of color soothed our eyes, tired after a long winter.

We have several rhododendron bushes around the yard, mostly purple, my favorite color.

Our neighborhood has many of these flowers, too. My eyes feast on them as I take my morning walks.

They finished showing off for the year though. The leathery leaves will stay with us through the winter, but the flowers are gone for now.

Rhododendron flowers

Some of the showy rhododendron flowers in our yard, plus a bee

Here are four facts on rhododendrons:  Continue reading »

1. Rhododendron means “rose tree” in Greek.

2. It’s an evergreen.

3. Its wood is poisonous. Animals stay away from it. So should people. I have some friends who camped a few years ago and burned rhododendron wood. The smoke made them so sick, they thought they were going to die.

4. The rhododendron leaves will tell you how cold it is outside. The more folded into themselves they are, the colder it is. No need to spend money on an outside thermometer if you have a rhododendron bush outside your window.

And there you have it, a quick nature study on rhododendrons.