Archive | October 2016

What is Homeschooling like?

There are many ways to homeschool, but it’s really important to understand that it’s not “schooling at home”. Far from it. At least for me, if I wanted my child chained to a desk for 4-6 hours a day (metaphorically of course!)I would send them to a public or private school. Yes, they would learn what the establishment deems important, but it’s very rare for a child or teenager to really love learning with this kind of education.

For me, Homeschooling means fun. Homeschooling means following your passions. Homeschooling means moving at a different pace. If Peanut flies through Kindergarten math in 6 months, I can let him. We can begin grade 1 math, no reason to slow him down for the rest of the class. If he is struggling with reading, we can take our time, there is no rush to have Peanut read early since unlike a teacher who has 30 or more kids in her Kindergarten class, so she can’t take the time to read instructions in workbooks to each child, I can. If it takes Peanut until age 9 to read, I’m okay with that. Plus if something like reading isn’t forced on the child, but introduced when the child is ready and wanting to do it,it fosters a life long love of reading. How many “school” kids dread reading assignments? I know I did!

Is there a routine? Yes and no. Unlike “traditional” school, we don’t have that early morning rush to get out the door. We don’t have the problems of busses, school bells, lining up, head counts, etc. We don’t have to schedule in breaks for recess or lunch. We don’t spend most of our day listening to lectures, lining up, shuffling from class to class, choosing between eating a snack or going out to play, and having to do mindless, useless busy work, knowing there will be an hour or two of homework too!

Our routine is to sleep in as long as we want. Mornings are slow, lazy, and relaxed. By 11 or noon, we may begin our school. Since Peanut is in Kindergarten (for the most part) we do no more than 90 minutes a day of work. He does handwriting practice, reading practice, phonics, math, geography, science, fine motor skills, thinking skills, art, and STEM. If Peanut seems distracted or extra “wiggly” we take a break. Sometimes an hour or two makes all the difference in if we struggle through or enjoy our learning experiences.

Learning happens almost everywhere for us. At home, we sit at a table, cuddle on the couch, jump on the bed, or even lay on the floor with the dog, it doesn’t matter as long as our work gets done! We can move it outside, and even learning experiences happen when we’re having fun at the beach, grocery shopping, or just driving around! We aren’t tied to a desk, to a clock, to a rigid schedule. The only thing I insist on is that our work is done by the end of the week, and we can say we had a great time learning.

Rearrange or change…

Rearrange

Is my life perfect? Hahaha! far from it. I have been alive 50 years now, and I still have so much to learn, to do, to change. Sometimes things get so overwhelming that I feel like I can’t breathe. That’s when I need to either accept it, rearrange it, or change it.

I was in a bad relationship for many years. I can’t say I regret it, since out of that abuse and all those tears, I also had extreme joy and elation with the birth of four of my children. But as with all things, time moves on, and life got rearranged. Changed. I left that bad relationship when my kids were all grown up. It was in this state of rearranging my life that I found my one true love, but this also meant another change. Another of my life’s stable truths being rearranged.

You see, my love lives in the Caribbean. For us to be together meant I’d be leaving everything and everyone I knew behind. I would be leaving all the people I held dear, I loved, and although I didn’t know it at the time, allmost my possessions too, and it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Yes, there is Skype, Facebook, email,  snail mail, and the like, but that can’t take the place of a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a kiss on the cheek.

I took the leap of faith, left my world behind, and landed in the arms of the man I would soon call my husband. I didn’t just rearrange my life, I completely changed it. I lost a few precious things, but I gained other, much more valuable things in return. Some priceless things I exchanged were fear for happiness, despair for hope, tears for laughter, and despair for love. I found the person who brought out the best in me, who took my heart and held it gently in his hand and made my soul free.

 

Remembering mom

It was a chilly Saturday morning 13 years ago today my mom died.

My mom didn’t have an easy life. She had manic depression, and had OCD, and most of my childhood was spent with a mother who was either crying or sad, and usually obsessing over keeping everything spotlessly clean. She would clean tile floors with a toothbrush. She scrubbed the kitchen backsplash so furiously that she took the tile glaze right off it. She insisted on everything being immaculate and dirt was banned from our home.

Through my eyes as a child, this meant no childish simple pleasures for me. Jumping in puddles after a rain? nope! Playing in the sandbox? Big no! Mud pies? forget it. If my white shoes got dirty, I would be punished. It was hard being a kid, wanting to fit in, but just standing on the sidelines while everyone else had fun.

It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized how hard my mom had it. Mental illness was something we never discussed back then. It was hidden behind closed doors and lots of pills. Mom’s anti-depression pills gave her a bit of relief, letting her cope with her demons, and in her last few years on earth, gave her an almost normal life. She was a fantastic grandmother to my two sets of twins. She adored them, spoiled them rotten. She was everything I wished she would have been when I was young.

Then it happened. She began having a pain in her back, between her shoulder blades, and it wouldn’t go away. Her doctor ignored her plea for help for three years, telling my mom it was just stress, and probably just “all in her head”. Finally after nagging her doctor one too many times, she was sent for some tests.

The cat scan showed a tumor wrapped around her spine, 5 inches long. The surgeon said this type of tumor was benign 99% of the time. Just before Thanksgiving, she had the delicate surgery. Our worse nightmare came true – it was cancer, and even though he removed it, it had spread to her lungs, her brain, her kidneys, her liver.

She began slipping in and out of consciousness over the next couple of weeks. My home became the ICU waiting room. I slept on that leather couch and spent my days sitting by my mom’s bedside as the doctors prepared us for the end. Thanksgiving day, I brought my older children to visit her in ICU. She had been unconscious for a few days. When she heard her beloved granddaughter’s voices, she woke up. “My angels are here, Grannie’s little angels are here!” She chatted with them for about 15 minutes, then slipped back into her dreams. That was the last time she ever spoke, the last time she ever was conscious again.

We had stopped all life support the Thursday before she died. She was already gone, but her body hadn’t caught up with her spirit yet. I held her hand, shed tears in the waiting room, then came back to her room and held her hand again. That was my routine for three days. I was oblivious to life going on around me, except that a little pigeon sat outside on the window sill. It was there morning, noon, and night. I think if the window could have opened, it would have perched on my mom’s bed.

The sun was shining through the hospital window as her body finally gave up the long hard fight, as she took her very last breath. The pigeon that had stayed on her windowsill for the past few days seemed to know. Within a few moments of her last breath, it finally flew away. I like to think that maybe this innocuous little bird was perhaps a guardian to help her soul find it’s new destination, and that maybe, wherever she is, she is happy and smiling.

“30 lists” Challenge

I love taking some time every day to write. I have been journaling off and on since I was a child. Something about the stationary aisles draw me in. Seeing a new, blank journal, fresh new pens, colored pencils, markers, even Washi tape sets off my need to get my thoughts and dreams onto paper.

With all the changes in my life over the past 10 years, my inspiration and will to do any writing has taken a back seat. In fact I think it may have jumped out of the car while it was still moving, ran away to live with the wild things, but it’s found it’s way back to me and it wants to stay.

Here on the Island, there are no Staples, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Walmart. I can’t just run out and get lost in the aisles of blank journals and colorful stickers. Sigh…  So I make do. I printed out some dotted grid paper, punched holes in it, and put them in a binder. It worked “okay” but it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. Somehow, having the right tools makes it more personal.

I’m going to transition over to a plain spiral student notebook for now. Yep, the kind that has 3 subjects, complete with blue lined paper. If I don’t like it, I’ll just rip the pages out and put them in the binder I started, and call it a learning lesson.

To get me back into the writing habit, I began using the daily inspirational writing prompts and journal prompts.  I’m also starting with the 30 lists in 30 days challenge so all these will get my writing kick started again.

I already keep a planner for Peanut’s homeschool, writing in what we did each day, how it went, what works, what doesn’t. Ideas for change. It’s my homeschooling brain dump. I also use the Pretty Pretty Planner to keep track of my own day. I use it to plan meals, cleaning, appointments, and other life events, but it’s basically a planner, not a journal of my thoughts and dreams.

So now, as my coffee mug is begging for a refill, Peanut is waking up, and my new “journal” is begging me to put pen to paper again.

Homeschool weeks 8 to 10

We finally finished week 10 of school, and it seemed to fly by. More things changed, some stayed the same. Most of all, we had fun.

October brought us a Gastro virus, so Peanut was pretty sick during week 8. I decided that we’d put off school for a week, maybe two, but Peanut had other plans. Sick as he was, he was begging for school.

I gave in, and on week 8 we did reading and math. Peanut loves math, and even though we only did one page a day (we usually do between 4 and 6), he really had fun. We use Math U See Primer, and it comes with manipulative blocks. He loves building stuff, so of course during math he builds rocket ships, tanks, cars, and whatever else he thinks of. Week 8 was no different, and he spent probably an hour each day that week just playing with those blocks.

This past month, Peanut began to learn to add up to 10, and count up to 20. Since Math U See Primer is just a gentle introduction to math, he doesn’t have to master the concepts or even get the answers right in order to move on. He just has to become comfortable with the manipulatives, and get used to hearing terms like “add”,”plus”, “equals”, etc.

I break Language arts up into handwriting, reading, phonics,spelling, and read-alouds.

For handwriting we are still plugging away with Getty Dubay’s Italic Handwriting A. I also suppliment with Scholastic’s alphabet packets, and a few printouts found free online. Peanut’s fine motor skills still aren’t developed enough to hold a pencil properly, but he’s still trying. He even wrote his first independent word without any prompts or help this month – “DAD”! Yay!!!!!!

Reading. Oh reading. We use The Reading Lesson and we began lesson 3. We also use Alphabetti Phonics, a free and very effective reading program. With Alphabetti, Peanut has mastered 18 sight words already! We also suppliment with Bob Books. They seem to go well with both Alphabetti and The Reading lesson.

Phonics is a tricky one. At first we didn’t have a phonics curriculum, but after hearing such good things about Explode the Code we began using it. So far, Get Ready for the Code is gentle, fun, and we do 4 pages a week. I think i’ll bump it up to 2 to 4 pages a day, Peanut is flying through it fast.Although it’s technically phonics, it does teach handwriting and reading too.

Spelling is harder. Peanut doesn’t have the handwriting skill yet, so we use letter tiles from The Measured Mom. A totally free download, all you need is a printer, some cardstock and a laminator (I just use clear packing tape instead). Using the tiles, I ask Peanut to spell out the words we use from Alphabetti or The Reading Lesson. This month he learned a few more words.

All together, he has learned to read and write the words: at, hat, cat, rat, sat, mat, dad, sad, bad, can, nan, man, ran, am, sam, hen, men, ten,bed, red, had.

Geography is not one of Peanut’s favorites. We did all we could from Beginning Geography and will pick up where we left off next year. Now we’re using Daily Geography grade 1 and it’s working well. We  do about 2 plus weeks per week right now, and we finished week 7 last thursday. It’s pretty much learning about the four directions, pretty easy and gentle.

We also continued with Kumon Amazing Mazes and Kumon Cutting Skills for more fine motor practice. I also made some home made play dough. Gotta work those little finger muscles!

Art isn’t a huge hit, Peanut doesn’t like coloring too much. I offer him a coloring book to work on every day, but he isn’t a fan. I try to alternate between crayons, colored pencils, and even markers, but he really doesn’t like to color much. He does like sticker books though, and books like Sticker Dressing and Sticker Activity books are a HUGE hit! Peanut also did the fish from Djeco Light Clay and it turned out so cute!14702331_10157627718235068_6544428303498452816_n

 

Evening bliss

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Peanut is sound asleep, the house is empty save for the dog at my feet and the kittens busily pouncing on each other. The house is finally cooling off, one more day come and gone.

There are lots of things I *should* do; dishes, sweep, mop, maybe even write out tomorrow’s lessons in the planner. I should, but I won’t. Having alone time, late in the evening, is a very very rare gift.

I’m spending time tonight listening to the crickets chirping outside, and just savoring the moment. My tea is perfect, the best ending to a very stressing day. The only thing that would make it better would be to be sitting under the stars with Hubby, chatting about everything and nothing.

So before I get too immersed in blogging, I’m going to hit ‘publish’, log out, then gracefully slide my computer chair away from the desk and go relax the rest of this glorious evening.

Till next time…

Life, as I know it…

Today was one of those strange days. I woke up to a quiet house. Hubby and Peanut were still gloriously dreaming away, snuggled up under the warm blanket. The cat and her kittens danced around my feet as I shuffled into the kitchen to put the kettle on for my morning coffee. My stepson was already gone, he is in college and has a very long commute.

After feeding the mama cat and her brood, I let the dog out and set out his food. The morning air was still and the sun was saying good morning. I could tell already that it was going to be another brutally hot day. I watered our pepper plants and quietly came back inside. Ahhhh, coffee is ready.

Usually the first hour or so when I get up is my time. No kids, no pressures of the day yet. Just time to let myself be myself. First thing I do while sipping on my coffee is check Facebook to see how my (adult) kids are back home. See if anything is new, and just make sure they are okay. Then I take some time to read through anything interesting there, and maybe even read a few blogs I like. Today was no different.

Life kicks into gear when Peanut wakes up. There’s cuddles and hot chocolate. Then he gets a while to cool off and wake up, usually by getting on the computer and watching a few youtube videos. Today it was leap frog, Super Why, and a few science shows.Yes, I said a few. It was just too hot today to do any work in the day. Once it started cooling down, we did our homeschooling. We were all done by 4:45 and Peanut did wonderfully.

Normally Peanut spends the evenings playing with his trucks, or driving the dog bonkers. Tonight, that was different. Hubby’s dad needed to go to the hospital, so as we waited for the ambulance (Hubby’s parents live right next door to us), Peanut played in our front yard. Although having an ambulance come to your home is never a good thing since it means someone is very sick, it really made Peanut’s night. Peanut is truck crazy. His favorite trucks are construction trucks and emergency vehicles. He even got to show the EMT his ambulance truck. How exciting for Peanut.

Hubby called a while ago, they managed to stabilize his dad. I’m so glad he’ll be okay. I love that man so much. He reminds me of a gentler time. Knowing my husband, and the kind of man he is, I know his dad and his mom had a lot to do with shaping this amazing person he has become.