Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homeschooling As A Constant Work In Progress

So things are going well. The kids' lessons are great, they are improving steadily and quickly with each day. E, in particular, has become really engaged with what we're working on - he's diligent, and works hard, and his confidence and pride grows with each lesson. A is also working very hard, and I couldn't be more proud of how far she's come. 

But, something is missing. This past Monday, we had by far the best and most productive homeschooling day yet in this entire journey so far. Lessons got completed, with smiles and giggles all around. I managed to do a pretty decent tidying up, got dinner prepped, and no one lost their shit. Not once. It was the kind of day that gives you the hope you hang on to as a homeschooling Momma, where you think "yes, this is working!"

And still, at the end of the day when the kids were in bed, I sat down and was overwhelmed with the sense that SOMETHING is missing in our homeschool. Maybe that day the only thing that was truly missing was the chaos that I usually feel by the end of the day. But nonetheless, something was nagging at me and I couldn't put my finger on it. 

I've been chewing on this for a couple of days, thinking about what we could add or change. For someone like me, who hates change with a fiery passion, the homeschooling journey has been a lesson in adapting. So I'm gradually starting to embrace change, and grow as we move along our path, finding our way. 

Fast forward to last night - a conversation occurred with E and I in our bedtime routine, regarding the privilege of education. He was moaning and griping that now that he could read he'd have to read "ALL. THE. TIME. uggggg" (his dramatics, not mine). I sat quiet for a few moments, and wondered if he was ready to hear how I felt about this, and decided that yes he was. And so I told him that sometimes it hurts me to hear him complain SO much about getting a good education. It hurts me because there are children, on this very day, fighting with their lives to be able to go to school and get an education. That there are children, right now, whose sole purpose is to survive their day and live to see the next sunrise - nevermind the luxury of sitting in a school learning to read. That getting an education, learning to read, and especially doing so in the comfort of a safe home - these things are a privilege not granted to everyone, that I wish he could see how truly blessed we are in our family that we can do this. Learning to read is not a burden, or a plight on your life. 

I was worried, that I had gone to far or that I would wound him with my words - he is a deeply empathetic little guy, and he tends to take things into his heart and hold on to them. He feels very strongly about social justice already at a young age, so after I shared my thoughts I was scared that he'd end up having nightmares or being heartbroken. 

But, I saw the flash of understanding across his face, and I could see in the change of his expression that he got it. And at that, I left it - and the kids and I snuggled into the bed and read a few chapters from a read aloud we're doing right now. I felt him snuggle a little closer, and could tell he was focused and engaged on what he was hearing. After we were done, and had said our goodnights E asked me "Mom can I read something tomorrow by myself, a chapter book?" I just smiled and said he would never need permission to read in this family - I would never say no. 

After they were fast asleep, and I was tucking them in and making sure all was well before I headed to bed too, it hit me. My conversation with E reminded me of what seems to have been missing lately. Joy. The kind of excitement and joy you feel when you learn and discover. We've been going about our lessons, and everyone doing exceptionally well. But that spark, that little fire, has just been kind of dull these past few weeks. 

I was reminded through that conversation with E, that I too had been taking this opportunity for granted. And so now, my purpose is to find ways (even if they are small) to maintain the joy and gratitude in our days. To remind ourselves that we are truly lucky in this life. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On Mourning The Education *I* Never Had

Most days, homeschooling is the most natural thing in the world - just a simple extension of parenting, really. Sharing knowledge with my kids, talking and having wonderful discussions, and working through the tough stuff to get to that "spark" moment when they connect what they are learning and 'get it'.

Then there are the other days. The days where the immensity of this job I've taken on, and the pressure of "will I do this right?" nearly suffocates me. Here I have these two incredibly bright children looking to me to guide them through their education. Which sounds great, until I stop to think that MY own education failed me. How do I impart on them a reverence for education, when my own is incomplete. 

I was a gifted child, I was reading at 2 and at a high school level when I entered kindergarten. For me, reading was like breathing, I can't remember a single moment in my life when I couldn't read or when I couldn't understand something. My early elementary years in Newfoundland were great - they tried their best to work with this peculiar little child that I was, crafted me a wonderful individualized language arts program - and I enjoyed those first few years of my schooling. However, the move to Ontario devastated me. And I was placed in a school board system that did not want to (or maybe didn't have the capabilities to) support any specialized language programs for me. So I was forced to learn at the same level as my peers - and I will never forget one particular language arts teacher I had in 7th grade who, along with her TA, said these words to me "Nadine, we know you are a great reader and a gifted speller, but your spelling dictation tests are making your classmates feel bad - so we won't count it against you if you allow yourself a few mistakes once in a while to help them feel better". 

WHAT! I mean, I knew this wasn't right. I wasn't a small child, and I was pretty intelligent. But I was a child, who already felt weird and awkward about my 'giftedness' and this laid the foundation for the rest of my schooling here in Ontario. I got lazy, I didn't think I had to work to get through school, I didn't know how to challenge MYSELF. And eventually, that love of learning and the thirst for knowledge were all but stamped out. I ended up spending a big part of my life kind of just wandering aimlessly - after high school I did a year of college, then on a whim I moved to Ottawa to teach ballroom dancing. On another whim I left Ottawa for Southern Ontario and just kind of coasted along with the idea I may return home and finish school. But life kept happening. Life kept getting in the way, and I never did complete my post-sec education. 

So here I sit, today, thinking about this undertaking. This decision to educate my children. We've all heard the platitude "I just want to give my kids more than I had". But in order to do that, one has to first acknowledge that what they had was incomplete, or not enough. So, I find myself mourning. I find myself aching and longing for an education I never received, for all that I could have done. I complain that being publicly schooled was my downfall, but I have an onus in this also. I allowed myself to 'check out' and just coast through my schooling years. I allowed myself to let life stop me from following my passion and my gift. 

But again, here I sit. With two beautiful, bright, and wonderful little people who are capable of all that I was, who have the same bright future ahead of them that I did. I have the privilege and the blessing of helping them discover THEIR talents and THEIR passions. And I have to not only let go of this grief I have over my OWN education, but overcome it and learn from it in order to truly give them more than I had. I want them to love learning, and feel the pride and energy you feel when you WORK at figuring something out. I want to help fan the flames of wonder in them and show them that the world is at their fingertips. I want to give them more than I had. And in doing so, I will give MYSELF the education I never had. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Well. Two entries and I went AWOL. 
This past few weeks have been R.O.U.G.H.
I was dealing with some health issues, which left me thinking about a few things:

1 - Why hasn't someone started a service that could provide homeschooling families with supply teachers? Seriously. I offered my kids "hey Mom isn't feeling well, what about some good books or a few episodes of Magic Schoolbus" - and this was met with a resounding "NO!" My kids wanted to do their lessons, but I was feeling like crap - so I had to dig deep down inside myself and find the will and the desire to teach. I didn't have a cold or even a flu, and as of yet still have no concrete answers about what was/is happening with my health. I couldn't bring myself to tell them no when they were consciously asking for and requesting lessonwork. When I win the big lotto, I think I'll find a way to make this happen - sometimes, we need downtime and sometimes it's not possible to let lessons go for 3 weeks+ 

2 - Sheer and utter panic at the thought of something serious happening to me, health-wise, while I am home alone with two children who are still quite young. My oldest is 8, and I was left wondering if he would be able to cope should something happen - I was quite faint a few days, and easily could have fainted or become disoriented. So I spent quite a few days talking to him about how to get help, and who to go to. I showed him how to tell if a person was unconscious vs dead (sure, it may be morbid but this could be important one day). I am not dying, but it really did make me realize that if my kids were at a brick and mortar public school, they would know the emergency procedures and safety plans - so it's definitely something I'm trying to put into place here in our homeschool life. 

Although the last few weeks have been hard, physically and emotionally, it's made me incredibly happy that I am blessed to be able to homeschool, to spend these moments and this time with my kids. And despite my health issues, we had a great month in February. I've been working on trying to get some plans in place for next "school year". We will be schooling year-round so the idea of when this year transitions into 'next' year is kind of vague, but we're using Fall as our 'start of a new year' time. 

I'll do a post soon about these plans - not that they've been set yet, but the thinking process has started. I will say this - there is SO much out there, so many resources - it can be truly overwhelming to decide which curricula/programs/etc one is going to use, and which will wait for later. Overwhelming, but also incredibly exciting! This is the best part of homeschooling, getting to offer educational options to my kids that they would NEVER get in a brick and mortar school. 

More to come... 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One of the coolest things about homeschooling so far, for me, has been how differently we are doing things than how we had first thought we would. The plan I had when I first pulled them from school, has changed so dramatically in the time that we've been home. It's been a learning process - for all of us. I gave them some time to shake off the public school mindset, and I also had to do that. I had to give myself space to stop, see them for the little people that they really are, and figure out what they needed. I also had to take time to learn what kind of teacher I would be. 

I always assumed we would be pretty "unschooly". No curriculum, lots of natural opportunities to learn, all self-directed. But as we've started this whole process, I've come to see that my kids LOVE structure, and more importantly - so do I. Our initial homeschooling months were spent not "doing school" in any form, just getting back on track, reconnecting, and enjoying a bit of a break before we made any schooling decisions. We still made time for a lot of learning opportunities, got together whenever we could with the homeschooling community here in our town, and while it was a really great couple of months - it wasn't 'enough'. For me, or for them. 

E, when he came out of 2nd grade in public school, was really behind in a lot of skills that I thought were necessary - phonemic awareness, reading, writing, thinking creatively. None of these things were being taught in his school. And while he was always getting brilliant reports from his teachers, saying that he was a wonderful student and was excelling in all areas, the fact was - he WAS doing well. But he still came out of 2nd grade unable to read, his math skills were piecemeal and there was no mastery of ANY area of math at this point. 

So - we felt like for the time being we needed to really start at the beginning and get him to where he should be based on his abilities. So we've chosen a curiculum for the kids to use for language arts - a very comprehensive phonics-based program called Logic Of English. I WILL write more on that one later, to be sure. I am a complete fangirl of that curriculum. 

We also chose a math curriculum that is mastery-based (Math Mammoth) . So we don't move forward until the skill we are working on has been mastered. 

I, in my own time, was reading a lot of homeschooling theory books. A lot of unschooling based writing, John Holt, etc. And it never was resonating with me. I have dearest friends who unschool and it's such a beautiful life and they have absolutely the coolest kids I think I have ever met. 

But. It wasn't speaking to me. So, just to 'balance the books' a little, I picked up a friend's copy of The Well Trained Mind. My life was ever-changed from that moment on. I remember the first read-through, it was in the evening and K was playing a video game. I kept shutting the book and rattling off cool things I just read to K at machine-gun speed. I was excited, I was exhilarated and felt like this book was talking TO ME. It had gotten into my brain and spat out exactly HOW I wanted to homeschool. 

So, here we are. Still very much in 'catch up mode' with E in language arts and math, but he is soaring through the work. My general goal for the next few months is to get him up to a certain level and then we will start adding in more Classical Education elements - science is coming soon in a 'real' curriculum way,  latin will be added in the fall, art and music history coming soon, literature studies in the fall, and a few others I've got up my sleeves. 

Currently, we do language arts and math every day. Then depending on how we're feeling that day we will also add in some history (Story Of The World: Ancients), some science experiments, vocabulary work, and some days we just make a fun snack and watch Bill Nye or some other docu show. 

I look back at what I thought I wanted to do, and find it funny to then see where we ended up. But the great thing about this homeschooling journey is that we tailor it to US. No two homeschools look alike, no two homeschooling students look alike. And the magic in it, is that we can truly do whatever it is that feels right to our family.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Well then. Here we are - brand new blog.
I guess I can start with the introductory post - and at this point, this blog is SO brand new I'm basically talking to myself.


So I'm Nadine and I'm the lucky mama to two really great kids. I am also a lucky partner to the coolest guy ever. This blog is really just starting out as a way for me to keep track of our journey through homeschooling. I hope people read it, I hope people enjoy it, but most of all it's a way to share with family and friends, all of the things we're up to. 

I haven't always homeschooled, we're still pretty new to this journey. I always WANTED to, but when the kids father and I decided to divorce, I couldn't figure out the logistics of homeschooling as a single parent. That time in my life and the lives of my kids, was not the best. And definitely not conducive to homelearning (maybe I'll post about those times, likely I won't - the point is, we went through some pretty harrowing times, my kids and I). So... they went to public school. I was never truly comfortable with that choice, but was always an involved school-parent, and was proud of my kids as they did well in their classes. 

When K and I met, life changed. As we decided to join our lives together, we became a family. My kids had stability and so did I. The four of us have so much fun together, and honestly now to look back at where we were a few short years ago, to now - it's surreal how different life is. 

I was working a crazy job (crazypants kind of crazy!) and needed a breather, so I quit. I started to work from home (more on that another time) and found myself this past September thinking "wait. WHY are they going off to school every day?" I was noticing some changes in both kids - things I was not happy about. So...the subject came up with K, and then with the bio-dad. And with the kids. And we decided on one beautiful late September day that yes we were going to try this homeschooling thing. I submitted the letter of intent to our school board the next day on a Friday, and they were home for good that following Monday. 

I have never felt as good about any decision I have ever made. Looking back at a life full of regrets and poor choices, this is one I know in my heart was right and good. My kids are not only changing back into the bright, articulate, hilarious kids they once were - they are going beyond that. The changes in them have been drastic, and instant, and I am SO excited we are taking this journey together. 

So that's how we decided to do this. 
I'll post more about what we're doing each day, and what our days look like, in another post. 
For now, it's go time!