Saying “Whatever” As You Home School. It’s A Thing.

I don’t know about you, but if you’ve been home schooling as long as I have (ten and a half years and counting) and if you’re really honest with yourself, you have to admit there’s more now you DON’T know than what you do know about this process.  Back in the day I thought by now I’d know more and I’d have more technical skills when it came to teaching both my kids (a boy and a girl, both of whom have special needs, and for the most part this post will be about our journey with our daughter). If YOU know all the answers, please contact me immediately. We need to be friends. What I mean is how do you know how to keep your child/student actively learning through all their developmental and academic stages? How do we decide what to teach and when?

So far in our wacky home school adventures (which started with great fear and trepidation, like many other home schoolers) we’ve used the classical method, mainly using the book “The Well Trained Mind” as a foundation, and as a jumping-off point (we started when my daughter was five and we’re currently only at the American Revolution, so ya, we’re not killing any speed records) as we gallivant through history, literature, science, and geography. But now that our daughter is older and way more vocal AND opinionated (about everything) than she used to be, she recently aired a litany of complaints against my husband and me (which included not giving her an iPhone and us not letting her play the drums back when she was five), and also included the charge of not letting her study what she wants to: psychology. It’s not that we’re consciously NOT letting her study any one particular subject per se, it’s just that there are so many other things to study first (in my humble opinion) and I haven’t felt that she possesses the necessary pre-requisites. I tend to be a very linear thinker, very ordered, very measured and I’ve wanted to lay a much more solid science-based foundation before turning her over to the murky, nearly unquantifiable subject of human psychology.  My daughter however, is much more creative, much more circular in her thinking and processing, and she’s at the age where the world truly IS her oyster, so she has a wide variety of academic interests, from string theory, to black holes, to criminal justice, and to currently, psychology.

So I’m changing my tune. I’m saying, Whatever, go for it”. But not in a sarcastic, passive aggressive tone, it’s more like from a place of setting her free so she doesn’t lose interest in home schooling entirely. Until now, we haven’t done a lot of what’s called “child directed” learning, mainly because our daughter does have some significant learning challenges, and the area of executive function is one of the biggest. So allowing her to self direct and follow any ol’ whim she’s wanted has not been in her best interest because that whim can change from minute to minute and we’re trying to build concentration, attention, and follow-through in all we do in our home schooling. Up until now.  I do admire the concept of “unschooling” and I see it work marvelously in a quite a few families, just not ours.

But I’ve changed my tune and I’ve turned her loose on the whole “Open Culture”free web-based learning platform, where many major American universities are putting their lecture content on line for free. Now at least some of her home school education is coming from MIT, or Yale, or Harvard, or other universities that are offering lectures in the subjects in which she’s interested. It’s a great taste of higher education and can be awesome for people who want to learn more about virtually everything, and for kids like mine who can’t wait for their parents to drop the knowledge in their laps.

One of the major aspects of our home schooling journey has been to emphasize being “possibility thinkers” and being creative problem solvers. Trying new things and doing things differently sets us up to do just that even if it doesn’t always feel comfortable.

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Systems Check: Why Are We Doing This?

Someone on one of the home schooling forums I belonged to asked this morning why it is we home school.  A few people made it really clear that “religious reasons” were NOT among those of why they chose this for their kids’ educations.  Two had chosen religion as their primary reason.  Which got me to thinking…….WHY did WE start home schooling in the first place?

1)  There Is Something Rotten In Denmark

    Our son, who has Down syndrome, had almost completed his first year of Kindergarten when we took a “vacation” up to my hometown near Seattle, WA.  The teacher had dropped some comments about our son throughout the school year, there were some things that felt “off” to me about his one-on-one para professional aid, and the work she would send home in his name, but we knew she had done the coloring and shape finding.  But our son was our first born and I had NO idea what to expect when it came to the educational process for him.  He had profound delays and had he been born a different era, he would have most certainly been institutionalized as an infant.  So there was a part of me that was just happy that he was in a public school classroom.  But still, comments like “He’s oblivious” didn’t seem fair or right.  And we knew he wasn’t oblivious.  We lived with him.  We knew he was “all there”, and that he was capable of learning, but it was just going to be on HIS terms, in HIS timing.

2)  String Theory and Comets vs. Astroids

    Not so long after our two week “vacation” began, we realized that we were staying up in the NW.  My husband began restoring an old house for some friends of one of my family members and that work was going to last awhile.  So we began to settle in and got ourselves a library card.  Soon we were checking out all kinds of fun books and materials, including lots of “Bill Nye The Science Guy” videos.  Our daughter who had just turned five, watched them, ingested them, and then replicated the experiments as fast as she could (much to my engineer-father’s delight, as we were staying with him at his house).  About that time (mid Summer) my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Do they teach Bill Nye The Science Guy in Kindergarten?  Is she going to get to make models and do experiments in Kindergarten?”  A resounding “NO WAY!” was the silent answer that passed between us.

3) What If?……..

   That became our question.  “What if we didn’t put our daughter in Kindergarten in the Fall?  What if we didn’t find a local public school for our son to continue?”  The only answer that came to me terrified me.  This feeling deep in my gut began to talk to me.  It haunted me.  It woke me up in the early hours of the morning.  I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind or heart and I was rattled. To the CORE.  I had NEVER in a MILLION YEARS entertained the thought of homeschooling our children; one of whom had a solid diagnosis (or a few diagnoses!), and the other who had some pretty challenging sensory issues that, while we weren’t sure would be able to accommodated in a typical public school Kindergarten classroom, I sure as HECK didn’t want to deal with in my home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Thank you very much.

4) Well, How DO Children Learn?

  Again, I give the credit to our son for helping me answer this question.  Up until this point in both our kids’ lives, we had had the benefit of two of the best occupational therapists in the state working with our kids in our home two and three days a week.  We were unbelievably fortunate and blessed.  These two women have forgotten more about sensory integration theory, how children learn, neo-natal brain development, and neuro-science than I’ll never know.  But at the heart of it all was that both our kids did GREAT in the one on one tutorial model of learning.  Our son, who was born profoundly deaf, contracted a devastating seizure disorder as a four month old baby which wiped out his development completely, and who oh ya, had been born with Down syndrome, was learning ALL THE TIME when we had O.T. & Speech therapy in our home.  So that said to me that 1) He WAS learning and 2) He had great attention and focus when he had something sitting right there with him.  By the time our daughter was three we knew she was smart.  Scary smart.  We sent her to public preschool hoping that being in a small class with other toddlers would help her sensory issues.  Epic fail.  She would flail and tantrum most afternoons and I was completely clueless as to what was the cause.  So the answer to the question of how our kids learned best became, “In the one on one tutorial model”. And they just don’t offer that in public school for extended periods of time.

5)  It’s About Us, Not Them

  Sometimes without knowing it, when you say you home school your kids, you’ve entered an invisible gladiator-esque arena in which you’re pitted against an unknown adversary, or certainly one you didn’t ask for, and that is the public school system in general and anyone who has their kids in the public school system.  I always try to make it as clear as possible that what lead us to enter the home schooling journey (and believe me, it’s a journey, NOT a place) was because we believed our children could learn best in the one on one tutorial model of the home learning environment.  I try to keep the focus on my kids’ learning styles and their brains, not what I think about the public school system.  Quite frankly, I support the public school system.  Home schooling is NOT for everyone and it’s self-righteous, arrogant and elitist to think that it is.  There are probably as many good reasons to have your child in public school as there are to home school them.  I’m not here to judge.  Do I think that ALL kids can benefit from the home schooling model of in-depth study, long discussions, working at the child’s pace and taking as much time as possible to learn a concept?  You bet.  We’ve now being doing this long enough (since April ’05), that I can say I absolutely see the benefits of small classes, being able to adjust learning paths on-the-fly, and the freedom to be creative in how we attack each subject.  I LOVE the freedom!!  I think it’s addictive.  I LOVE being able to tap into how my daughter learns and go with her flow.  To me that so much more conducive to brain function as opposed to being able to only teach things a certain way, and hoping that some of the kids in the crowded classroom get it. So I’m a grateful home schooler, and I do truly wish every student could experience the liberty and freedom of learning the JOY of learning, but I don’t for a minute look down upon those for which this is not a viable option. 

If you want to explore your options, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Remind Me……..

This one goes out to all the “me’s” out there, everyone who, like me, often forget how valuable all the little things that make up “home schooling” are.  I often forget (hence this post) just how much we do every minute of the day, throughout the week or in a month.  If you’re a homeschooling parent of a child with special needs, of ANY kind, this especially goes out to you, because we do experience life and certainly homeschooling differently.  Doesn’t make us better, or sainted, but our days do look different.  And I don’t know about you, but I know I am often not mindful of how much my kids are learning throughout the day, even when it seems like nothing is going on.

 

Remind Me………

*that every time I ask my son (who is deaf, has verbal apraxia, Down syndrome and massive global delays due to infant seizures) to “use his words”, or his signs, we are in fact working on language arts and speech therapy

*that when I encourage my daughter to help in the kitchen with a meal, or I ask her to help set the table, even though she grumbles throughout the entire process, I  really am telling her that she has something to contribute to her family and that she has worth.  I’m also teaching her that there is a community around her to whom she is connected and I’m teaching her that that community is important.

*that when we get “off topic” in our various discussions throughout the day, my daughter is learning through all portals, and that satisfying her curiosity is an elemental piece of the joy of learning that I’m trying so hard to instill in her soul.

*that even on the days when my son doesn’t seem to remember his sight words (or his colors, shapes, etc……..) it’s still valuable that he hears me reading to him and spending time with him pointing out his world around him and that I will never, EVER give up on him.  EVER.

*that when I see my friends spending their days skiing, mountain biking and golfing while their children are in public school and they are essentially enjoy seven hours of “free” childcare everyday, my day will come.  I will get some time to myself someday.  *that my son is learning, even through the seemingly mundane tasks like setting the table, or brushing his hair, and that counts as home schooling.

*that teaching my daughter how to look up a word like “air”, or “daughter” in the dictionary (a word that all the typical kids her age already know)  is no less important than her understanding string theory.

*that my daughter IS learning “social skills” by playing with kids in the neighborhood.  Sitting in a classroom at a desk with 25 other kids with whom she has NOTHING in common with will not teach her how to act appropriately. It will only reinforce that she doesn’t fit into the herd of the middle bell curve and perpetuate her feelings of not fitting in or belonging.  Organic relationships like playing with neighborhood kids IS valid and it is certainly learning.

*When my daughter takes naps during the day, it may be that we need to change her night time routine, but it also may be biologically driven—that her brain truly needs rest in the middle of the day, due to the enormous stress she experiences.

Feeling Lost This Christmas?

I’ve got to be really honest here:  on most days I don’t know if either one of my kids, but especially my daughter (who has special needs including Asperger’s, sensory integration dysfunction, enough anxiety to choke a small farm animal, and many other labels) is really “learning” anything in being home schooled.  We’ve got some challenges.  While other home schooled kids are entering their Lego creations in regional competitions and others are up at 5am to get all their chores done in order to play a game of chess with the national champion from Latvia at 6am, I’m happy on most days if we can just get through the day with no meltdowns or sassy talk.

And then this happens:  the BEST Christmas present ever!  A hand written, then hand typed original story by none other than our daughter.  Seriously could NOT have been prouder of her.   I AM so proud of her!!  It was the FIRST thing she wanted me to open on Christmas Day.  So THAT’S why I’ve been leaving her with her occupational therapist for two and a half hours every week for the past month!!  She was sitting there at the keyboard typing out her story, for two and a half hours each time!

And what a story!  There’s a family who has a dog, who through the twists and turns of this very well written story (complete with lots of dialogue and interesting sentence structure) turns out to be a hero by exposing a back-yard breeding business.  No dogs were injured in the making of this wonderful tale and the bad guys go to jail!  What more can you ask?

image    I don’t know what’s going on with your home schooling journey this year, but I just want to encourage you to hang on.  Keep reading TONS of interesting books and lots of classic literature to them where the protagonists have to be clever and smart to solve their problems.  Create big chunks of time in your day for them to be creative on their own (building, writing, drawing, whatever).  Don’t grow weary in doing a good thing.  God’s got this.  Somehow He’s got the whole world in His hands, including a dog named Dug.

Have You Read It?

The title of this post is probably my all time favorite “Portlandia” episode.  Epic.  HILL-arious.  My husband and I quote it ALL the time.  And because I know you care (after having stumbled upon this blog as the result of a great cosmic accident), I’ll tell you I think this episode did a great job of capturing the Northwest spirit, well-read as it is, or not-as-well-read, as the case may be.  (I can say this because I’m from the PNW and love every little quirk about it, including our 87 different names for water falling from the sky and the love-hate relationship with the great grey mist that often envelopes us).  At any rate, the title also has the dual purpose for those of us who home school. How many conversations have you had with other home schooling parents where the conversation inevitably (as if being controlled by some military drone operator in a non-descript building in beautiful downtown Culver City, CA), turns to the home schooling books you have read?  Not that every conversation is laced with a spirit of one-ups-manship (trust me you’ll get it after you watch “Portlandia”), but the topic does come up a lot, and why wouldn’t it?  I think at last count there are 9,458,752 books on the subject of home schooling out there.  Crazy.  I mean it’s great to live in a free market and all, but there’s just no way you can read everything out there AND home school your child(ren) in their lifetime.  Unless you want them living with you till they’re 35.  Ewwww.  No doubt I am probably the LEAST well-read home schooler out there, but I was fortunate enough to have that “veteran homeschool mom” front and center in my life early on and she some books put in front of me that I’m really grateful to have read.  (more on that priceless veteran home school mom here: https://theneversayneverhomeschooler.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/the-new-homeschoolers-top-ten-list/    Have you read it?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Okay, in no particular order, here are the few books I read when I was coming to grips with the fact that we were about to do something I never, ever, in a GAZILLION years thought I would EVER do:
1) The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, by Ray & Dorothy Moore
  >This book did WONDERS for setting my mind at ease on issues like brain development, when kids can actually learn to read, and how to create a rich learning environment without buying stacks of curricula.  I was scared spitless that I was going to have to be the end-all for my kids and that if they didn’t “get something” it was come down on me.  The Moores have forgotten more about brain development and how children actually learn, so this book did a lot to calm my jitters.
2) The Well Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer
  >This book completely rearranged my thinking about how kids acquire learning and how the brain is actually positioned at various places along the developmental path.  It is a book that promotes the classical trivium approach of learning (the Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetorical phases), but you don’t have to teach from a classical approach, or frankly even be a home schooler to appreciate this book and come away with a deeper understanding of just how much every child is capable of learning, from day one.  I found the book quite energizing and invigorating and after reading it I felt like home schooling was going to be a fun and very interesting journey; anything but my first fear of the whole thing being dry and monotonous.  In fact I remember distinctly after reading the “Grammar” phase that I went out and found a stack of Shakespeare-for-kids books and Bill Nye-The-Science-Guy science videos (before he went off the rails and publicly accused Christian home schoolers of child abuse and said we all should be arrested) and my daughter went nuts for them.  It’s like WTM said, “all children are GENIUSES, they’re sponges.  Don’t bore them with Disney drivel–satisfy their hunger with REAL literature, REAL knowledge, REAL exploration”–my paraphrase).  Anyway, I think one of the best things about that book is that at the end of each chapter there are book lists, most of which are easily found at your local public library, so The Well Trained Mind also taught me that home school does NOT have to be expensive.  At all.  Like ever.  Like since reading that book in the Spring of 2005, I’ve maybe spent $300 in books.  And those have been the much older, classic books that are sometimes hard to find at the library.
3) To Train Up A Child, Michael & Debi Pearl
  >I recommend this book with an important caveat.  You MUST be operating in spiritual freedom in order to implement the teachings of this book in a positive, character building, and nurturing way.  If not, and you’re still carrying woundings, curses spoken against you, and other unhealed emotional pain, you’re going to read this book from a place of religiosity, demagoguery, and legalism.  That’s just a spiritual truth.  You will crush your children’s spirits and continue your own dysfunctional patterns in their lives.  In short, it won’t be pretty.  So, get Freedom in Christ, get deliverance from all the ways the enemy has made your life his personal playground, ask God to reveal His original design for your life and start walking in it.  There are a lot of big ideas in this book, so read it slowly, pray about the principles that are discussed and ask God how He would have you proceed.
  >When I started reading this book I realized I had NO CLUE what being a “family” actually meant.  It started me on a L O N G, God-directed journey on just what it meant to a) be a family and then b) really disciple and teach my kids 24 hours a day.  It’s a very meaty book and I’ve learned a lot from it.
4)  The Socialization Trap, by Rick Boyer
  >To say this book goes against the grain of modern society doesn’t even BEGIN to describe some of the stuff in here.  I am SO GLAD I read this book early on in our home schooling journey because as I said above, I really had NO IDEA what it meant to be a family and I honestly had NO IDEA that the Bible had quite a few specific things to say about “being” a family.  Like, it’s more than just having kids.  If you’re a home schooling family it’s WAY MORE than teaching your kids Bible study, even if you do it everyday.  This book just really helped settle some big issues for me and set my feet on solid ground.  After reading this, I had a much clearer perspective on what our days were going to look like and I stopped apologizing for being on our path.  My best friend told me the other week that she’s just recently picked up the book again after not reading it for years, and I think I’m due for a refresher too.  It’s amazing how insidious and invasive the world’s message is in our daily routines, in our churches, and definitely within our home schooling circles.
Those are my gems, what are some of yours?

I Wish

This morning I read a comment on an on-line homeschool group I belong to.  It went something like this, “My 6 year old Johnny got a hold of his older sister’s subtraction work for the day, and even though he’s not doing subtraction yet, he’s trying to do it as addition.  Should I let him work the problems, even though that’s not at his level or what he’s supposed to be doing for the day?  Should I let him follow this tangent?”

I just had to shake my head an laugh to myself, not in mockery to the mom, who had a legitimate question, but to my own “aloneness” in the middle of this on-line home school “support” group.  I WISH my child were even REMOTELY interested in doing anything other than what’s required.  I WISH my child wanted to challenge herself in ANY way.  I WISH my child had that kind of self initiative.  I WISH my child WANTED to learn……ANYthing.  I WISH our days were filled with embracing the learning opportunitie that surround us and were not filled with the fantastically difficult tug-of-wars of me trying to pull her out of her emotional and psychological lethargy.

Alone in a crowded room.  Realizing once again that no one can POSSIBLY understand what our life is like.

The New Homeschooler’s Top Ten List

Dear Homeschool Newbie,
The idea for this post came to me when I found out a friend of mine on FB decided to home school her kids this year. When she announced it she didn’t ask for any tips, pointers or advice, and in an effort to have healthy boundaries, I didn’t offer any. Well, that’s not quite true, I did strongly suggest that she be in constant contact with at least one home schooler who has five + years experience, just so she’s not out there alone. But, beyond that I haven’t said a word. (And yes, I’m exploding at the seams, which is why it’s handy to have a blog.) Even if no one reads this, at least it’s out of my head, temporarily!! I know my friend Brooke (I changed her name to save her embarrassment of knowing me) isn’t the only new home schooler this year, so I thought I’d write down a list of ten things that I wish every new home schooler would do.
(Editor’s note: The reason I feel so strongly about having a veteran home schooler in your corner who you can talk to day or night, is that I did have a veteran home schooling mom in my corner when I started. And not just a veteran home schooling mom, a mom of a kiddo with Down syndrome (our oldest child has DS), and someone who was (and is) MUCH wiser, much more emotionally healthy than I was when we first began home schooling. That made ALL the difference in the world. ALL the difference. So strongly do I feel about this, that I’m SURE we wouldn’t have survived our early home schooling years without her. Lucky for me, she’s never once changed her phone number or moved without telling me where she was going, and we’ve been great friends ever since. I’m by FAR a better person for having her in my life and it’s with her great counsel and patience in mind that I have these pointers for the next home schooling newbie down the line…..)
1) After you’ve made your decision to teach your kids at home, be it the beginning of the public school year, or the middle of the year, whatever, TAKE SIX MONTHS OFF FROM SCHOOL. You heard me right. I KNOW you’re excited to get started on your new adventure! I KNOW you can’t wait to dive in and either do better than what you feel your public or private school has done with your kids, or fix the damage that you’ve seen. I can FEEL your excitement from here, really I can, because I get all excited about home schooling too, even eight years into it!! But, for the next six months force yourself to NOT DO ANYTHING in terms of formal schooling with your kids. Do you need to go get a brown paper bag to breathe into? It’s okay, I’ll wait…………..
Okay, feel better? A little? Let’s move on and I’ll tell you why I think this is important that you take these first six months off (at least six months):
A) First of all, your kids NEED a break. Think of this as your family’s reset button. Your kids will be FINE academically if you don’t crack a book open. Yes, they will, just trust me on this.
B) You don’t know what you’re doing yet and YOU need time to wrap your brain around your new life course. “But I’M a teacher myself!”, you yell at your laptop as you’re reading this, “You don’t know anything about me! You don’t know what I know and what I don’t know!! I KNOW how to teach!!”, or “I have a college degree!”, or “I’m a chemical engineer for crying out loud, I think I can teach a six year old how to read!!” Calm down for a minute. I’m not insulting your intelligence, I’m just saying that when it comes to teaching your kids at home, right this second, you don’t have a clear handle on what you’re doing because you don’t know exactly how they learn as individuals, because up until now they’ve been in public/private school and the few hours you get with them after school and after their after-school activities is not an accurate indication of how their brains best function (notice I said, “BEST function”–I know you know them as people, but taking the six months off will give you more information). Much of what you’re going to do with your six months “off” from highly structured, “formal” education is to BE with your kids to learn WHO they are and HOW they learn. Yes, even if you only have one kid. To that end, you’re going to use this time to read up on different learning styles (Cynthia Tobias’ book “How They Learn” http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Cynthia+Tobias), and to read about home schooling in general. I’m a HUGE fan of anything that Ray & Dorothy Moore have written on the subject, in part because I think they held (both are deceased by now, I believe) a very accurate view of how young brains learn. Ray & Dorothy Moore are Christians, and I add this, just so you know ahead of time that you will read in their books Biblically based wisdom and teaching. But you don’t have to be a Christian to be really encouraged and empowered after reading their material (I think together they’ve authored more than 30 books on learning, early childhood development & home schooling). I was terrified and ADAMANTLY against home schooling just minutes before deciding to give it a try, and I know that reading just a few of their books really helped empower my husband and myself.
C) You’re going to use this time to strengthen your bond with your child(ren), or if you’re like many North American families whose kids have been in school all day for any length of time, you’re going to learn HOW to make a connection with your kids. (I know I was completely clueless, due much in part to my own spiritual bankruptcy).
If you’re anything like me as I was coming to grips with the fact that yes indeedy, we were going to become one of “those” families….(you know, those nut-jobs who keep their kids home with them all day?), I was TERRIFIED that we would all be BORED out of our gourds and that both my kids would be begging me to go back to school within a matter of weeks (well, our youngest hadn’t been to school yet, but I was sure she would be begging me to take her to that big magical building so she could be with other little people all day to get away from me). This is another issue you’re just going to have to trust me on; you WON’T be bored: You will do “life” together with your kids. Your kids will be a part of YOUR day and you will be flat-out amazed at how quickly 4pm comes around everyday and you’ve got to start thinking about dinner, AND that on most days you WON’T be clinically insane by the time it’s time to start dinner. (Don’t misunderstand me, you DO absolutely need to make time for yourself. See point #5) During this time “off” from formal “schooling” your kids will begin to learn how to entertain themselves (if they weren’t already expected to), they will learn how to become contributing members of the family by not only taking care of their personal space, but they’ll be more active with you in taking care of the entire house (the common areas, the bathrooms, the yard, cars, etc…..) They will learn that food doesn’t just magically appear in the cupboards and refrigerator, but that lists have to be made, dinner ideas must be thought of, and supplies must be inventoried, and then shopped for. They will become a much more integral part of your process. They will learn how to be helpful in a variety of ways and they will, in as many ways as you allow, become an integral part of your family’s process. This will happen incrementally, one day at a time. When you’re not doing home-keeping chores, you’re going to have FUN with your kids!! Really, you will! You’re going to play board games, go to museums that interest them, play video games with them (WITH them….not sitting on the couch next to them), you’re going to read WITH them, you’re going to go on “outings” with your kids….in the MIDDLE OF THE WEEK!!! It’s going to be SO GREAT!! And by the way, during all this fun, your kids are going to be learning plenty. TRULY.
2) Hey, one point down, only NINE to go!! Go drink some Gatorade, and meet me back here…….. Okay, so when you ARE ready to start whatever it is that you’re going to do for your home-based learning, DO NOT THROW UP A PUBLIC SCHOOL in your home. No, no and NO. If your child learns best at a desk (and there are times when little bottoms need to planted in a good chair, with their feet resting firmly on a stepstool underneath them or the floor), then get a desk, that’s great. Let your kiddo decorate it and arrange all his/her supplies the way he/she likes them so there’s some ownership there. But the desk needs to be just one of the MANY, MANY places your child is using as a learning space. Encourage your kids to read, play, and create in homemade forts, outside on the back patio, on their beds, at the kitchen table, in the playroom, wherever. I know lots of families who save their “reading time” together and go to the park; they let the kids burn some energy playing and then they read for awhile (whatever length of time is developmentally appropriate for your kids) on a blanket. Easy peasy. Then you go home for quiet time. Just do ANYthing OTHER than making your home learning environment look like a public school.
3) DO ADOPT THE BELIEF THAT ALL CHILDREN ARE LEARNING ALL TIME and begin to look at how you live as a process that offers your children millions of learning opportunities all day long. Here’s a super simple and universal task which covers at least three areas. It serves the family, teaches personal responsibility, and helps develop executive function Sorting laundry; that regular activity that often seems like the bane of our existence, but let’s look at how kids learn by doing laundry WITH you, instead of you being the family laundry slave and doing it all by yourself. 1) Like I just stated, doing everyone’s laundry helps teach serving others. Nothin’ like folding your dad’s boxer’s to make you realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. 2) Sorting. Developing executive function. 3) Following directions on the washing machine/dryer 4) Learning everything we do in life can be broken down into smaller steps and doing each step the way it needs to be done so you get the outcome you want (i.e.: first you get all the dirty laundry in a pile, then you sort, then you decide what temperature water you need, then you put in the detergent, and so on….). In other words, STOP thinking that your kids are ONLY learning when they’re doing workbooks or reading textbook-like materials. This took me YEARS to get through my thick skull, but I’m glad it finally did.
4) DON’T BUY THE WORLD’S LIE THAT “HOME SCHOOLED KIDS AREN’T SOCIALIZED” FOR ONE SECOND. It seems where ever we go everyone’s drinking this kool-aid (and don’t for a minute think that if you go to church you won’t find your fellow parishioners drinking the same thing. I mean it’s EVERYWHERE). Chances are, even if you JUST decided five minutes ago to begin home schooling, your phone just rang with some well-meaning person asking you about “socialization”. If I had a dime. Seriously. And the beauty is, before we began home schooling, I was CONVINCED that all home schooled kids lived lives of social isolation and were completely awkward (sorry for talking with my mouth full, I was eating more crow). It’s completely the opposite of course, but I had to learn that for myself by watching my little kids (both of whom have disabilities and social/emotional delays) blossom into confident and self-assured little people. All of us in the home schooling community have to field this question at least three times a week. Mostly the question comes from ignorance, but the ignorance comes from the indoctrination of the world that says only children who spend all of their time in a classroom, sitting in chairs next to same-age peers, have friends. But if you remember back to your public school days (or private school), your teacher made it very clear to everyone everyday that talking was not allowed and that you weren’t in school to make friends, you were in school to learn. We as home schoolers need to have in our arsenal quick, succinct replies ready for this never-ending question. I’ve heard things like, “Oh ya, socialization, we really need to cut back on that!”, or, “My kids have plenty of time to develop and keep good friends because they get their studies done early and are out in the community making friends and volunteering in the fields they’re interested in.” Whatever your reply is, just make sure it’s NOT defensive, because as a home schooler you have nothing to defend in the area of socialization. In fact there are NUMEROUS scholarly papers out there saying just the opposite. Here’s just one of a number of articles that are readily accessible. This is from The Home School Legal Defense Association: http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000000/00000068.asp.
Speaking of the HSLDA, join it. Today. No, really. The HSLDA has been around since the inception of home schooling and it employs a LARGE team of attorneys & para-legals who have forgotten more about home schooling law in your area than most people will ever know (they have specialists for every state in the country). While it is a Christian organization in nature and its mission statement, it defends the rights of ALL families of ALL faiths and ALL cultural backgrounds to educate their children at home. My best friend made me join right after we began home schooling (well, she didn’t “make” me, but it was becoming really clear that at some point in every conversation we had that she was going to ask me if we had joined yet….so we did) and I’m very glad we did. Not only does the HSLDA defend the rights of home schooling families in the United States, they really educate you as to why it’s important to even HAVE the right to educate your children in the manner you see fit. For about $100/year you have complete legal backing and defense for nearly every possible situation that may arise in your home schooling journey.
5) SCHEDULE ALONE TIME FOR YOURSELF One of my biggest concerns before I took the plunge to home school both our kids (who have special needs, which means that our days can be a little more intense and demanding of me), was that I would go stark-raving mad being with them all day. I said, “There’s NO WAY I CAN DO THAT”. I hear that A LOT from non-home schooling parents. On the other side of that “I-can’t-spend-all-day-with-my-kids” coin is the misnomer that we who DO spend our days with our kids do it because we just LOVE being with them every waking moment and can’t imagine sending them off to the big, bad, scary school. Okay, people, no we don’t. We don’t “just love to be with our little Johnny every second of the day”. Home schooling parents are first and foremost human beings. And human beings need “down time”. Chances are if you’ve been home schooling any length of time, you really DO enjoy spending more time with your kids than you used to. (If you’re honest with yourself, you’re probably a little pleasantly surprised with how far you’ve come in that department, and that’s great!!) Pat yourself on the back. But at the same time, it’s critically important that you take time FOR yourself and WITH yourself. Get a hobby or resurrect a hobby. TAKE A WALK—get those endorphins going at least once a day. Take a class at an adult community center completely unrelated to anything you do in your homeschooling life (i.e. learn Japanese). The point is, do something on a regular basis that is just FOR you and BY you. It might be God’s plan that you educate your children at home, but it’s definitely NOT his plan that you sacrifice healthy boundaries in the process (and yes, getting exercise and meeting a friend for coffee on a regular basis is part of having healthy boundaries that say, “I’m worth the effort to put on regular clothes and I need to have other relationships and friendships outside my family”).
6) BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR DAILY LEARNING SCHEDULE. Every live-long day. Not that having some sort of structure is a bad thing, just be able to let go of your own ideas and plans on how things “should” go when the situation arises (and boy will it arise). In other words, don’t be like me six, seven, eight years ago and have conjured “the perfect home schooling day” in your precious little brain, complete with children skipping through open meadows of flowers thanking you for spending your every waking hour pouring your heart into their education. Ya, not gonna happen. Be prepared for math on some days to take five times as long as you thought, and for their little brains to be too sizzled to do much else that day. Call it a day; put on some soothing music and break out the Legos. Let it go. LET IT GO. Tomorrow’s a brand new day (plus, they’re learning tons when they’re doing their own “chilling out” activity; Legos, coloring, reading, biking outside, building a fort, etc….).
7) DON’T JOIN A HOME SCHOOL CO-OP RIGHT AWAY. Notice I didn’t say “don’t go out and meet other home schooling families in your community”, or “don’t get your kids involved in home school play dates at the park”, I just said don’t run out and join the closest co-op right away. Not yet. Give yourself some time to get your feet wet (remember your “six months off”?). Get to know the parents in your area who are involved in those co-ops, see if they have any classes or topics that are vitally important to your child’s education this minute, and then evaluate if you want your kids hanging around their kids. Just because a family home schools doesn’t mean their kids will be positive influences on your child. And just because an organization calls themselves a “home school co-op” it doesn’t mean that their teaching style or skill set is going to match your child’s learning needs or learning style, or most importantly, your schedule. In fact, many co-ops are run exactly like schools and have many of the same cliques and general UNfriendliness that permeates the corporate education model.
8) DON’T EXPECT YOUR FAMILY TO SUPPORT YOUR DECISION. I’m not saying they won’t, and I’m not saying you should expect a fight from them, just don’t expect them to throw you a party the day the word gets out you’re bringing little Johnny & Susie home for their education. Remember that part of having a home-school veteran as your mentor? Ya, you’re TOTALLY going to need him/her here. Even IF your parents, your in-law’s, your siblings, your husband’s siblings, your friends, and your former third grade Sunday school teacher, thinks it’s fabu that you’re teaching your kids at home, you’re going to need that veteran mom in your corner keeping you sane and focused, especially during those early months……or in my case, eight YEARS into this!! Along with not expecting everyone to support you, DO have at the ready a “pat answer” as to why you’re doing this. People WILL have questions, and that’s only natural: perhaps you’re bringing your kids home after being in private/public school. You’re changing the course of your life and people WILL be curious. If you’re deciding from the get-go to keep your kids at home, be ready for curiosity. You don’t have to engage anyone in a long philosophical debate/discussion on the validity of corporate education or how you feel about the success/failure of public school as a whole, it can be something as simple as, “I think his learning style and learning needs will be better matched at home where he can get more attention”. Save your philosophical issues with mass education for your close friends and spouse.
9) DON’T LET ANYONE CAUSE YOU TO DOUBT YOUR DECISION Human beings, including some pretty famous ones like Alexander the Great, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, George Mason, George Washington, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Sandra Day O’Connor, George Washington Carver, Joan of Arc, Hudson Taylor, John & Charles Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, and many more, all learned at home. Some had private tutors, some didn’t, but ALL learned the vitally important skill of taking responsibility for their own educations at a very young age. Your children will be in good company. Home schooling is NOT a new thing in the course of humanity. It’s just that in North America we have such a short memory that’s been so indoctrinated that the ONLY WAY kids can learn is in classrooms with same-age peers, sitting in desks in straight rows, all facing the front of the classroom, that we forget that it’s only been the last one hundred years on planet earth that we’ve required children to learn in a corporate setting (the United States specifically; MA was the first state to pass a law of compulsory public school attendance in the late 1800’s). Furthermore, regardless of what anyone tells you, YOU don’t have to be an expert in ALL the areas of study you plan to cover with your children. YOU don’t have to know it all. (Now take a deep breath in. Hold it for ten seconds and release. Tell yourself over and over “I don’t have to know it all” over and over and practice your breathing until it takes hold in your brain). Think of yourself as more of a learning “coordinator” rather than someone who has to be 100% responsible for all the knowledge you want your children to acquire. Ever have your child take a piano lesson, or taekwando, gymnastics, ballet, art, golf, etc…….? That’s an example of being an education coordinator. You’ve already done it in other areas of your child’s life, you are just now going to start broadening that scope. There may come a time when your child really wants to learn Spanish. An education coordinator would find the resources available to you in your area (the library, splitting the cost of a “Rosetta Stone” program, going to a local home school co-op, etc….). It’s not rocket science and YOU don’t have to be the rocket scientist in order to coordinate your child’s education. You just have to help create an atmosphere rich with learning opportunities.
10) HAVE FUN. “Seriously?”, you say, “This is your last little nugget of information for me? Something I couldn’t figure out on my own?” I think you could have figured this out, I just want to save you some time in getting there and tell you that it’s really important that you make having fun a PRIORITY in your daily home schooling life. Not that everyday has to be Disneyland, that’s not what I’m saying. Home schooling, while the education your children (and you) earn is super important, the process of homeschooling isn’t life and death. Despite what my twisted mind & heart told me before we ventured down this road, life is NOT meant to be hard and painstaking, and full of drudgery. Fun is GOOD!! And we need to model having fun AS we learn WITH our kids!! And trust me, it seems MORE than a little ridiculous that I feel the need to even make this point, but after being on this home schooling journey for some time now (all the while being in almost-constant contact with other home schoolers, both with and without kids with special needs), I’m seeing all kinds of parents sucking the enjoyment out of learning in general, so I do think this is a VERY important to all of our children’s educations to spend some time here on this last, and in my opinion, vitally important point. Dear Home school newbie: the world is OUR oyster!! We’re on a mission to show our kids just how AWESOME & FUN life can be!! Yes, it’s absolutely important for them to learn how to write, how to solve certain math equations and how to think for themselves in order to have success in this world, but AS we’re giving them the instructions, let’s show them WHY and HOW they’re going to use all these skills they’re learning!! They’re going to use this stuff in our awesome world!! Play games with your kids, sometimes for NO “learning” reason at all (oooh, that’s a tough one for me). Go to the park OFTEN. Let them explore their worlds WITHOUT using the words “careful” (unless you have a daughter like mine who literally doesn’t recognize danger, which is directly related to her special needs). Take a bike ride with your kids, just to spend time with them. Ask them what THEY think would be fun to do, and then go DO it.

An open letter to Christian home schooling families

Dear Christian Homeschooler,
There’s something I’ve wanted to talk to you about for some time now.  This won’t be an easy letter for you to read, and it’s been very difficult for me to write, so bear with me.  I’ve been home schooling for seven years now and our two children have special needs.  Since beginning this very unlikely journey of teaching our kids at home, I have bore witness to a disturbing attitude and way-of-being among homeschooling families in the Christian community, and it’s that of  complete ignorance of children with special needs.  No, I take that back, it’s more than an ignorance of children with special needs, it’s a disregard and a refusal to acknowledge, accept, and include families who are home schooling who have kids with special needs in your club, your social circles, your churches, your home schooling co-ops.  This is not a good path and you need to stop it now.
First of all you need to accept the fact that more and more Christian families are choosing to teach their children who have special needs at home.  And because we are teaching our kids at home, you are going to see us more and more at your home school co-ops, home school outings, 4H meetings, and home school-friendly activities in the community.  Get use to us.
So as a public service to you (because I care) I’m going to list some very basic things that you need to know about kids with special needs so you can feel more comfortable around them.  Feel free to learn these truths and tips for yourself and then teach them and model them for your children who, as you know very well by now, are watching every single thing you do and they pick up on EVERY attitude and feeling you have toward your neighbors, your church, your government, and most certainly people who are different than you.
*Whatever the child with special needs has (CP, autism, Down syndrome, et al……) you can NOT catch it.  Please don’t treat that child like he/she has a contagious disease when you meet him/her and then later when you’re at the same birthday parties, home school co-op choir concerts, and weddings of mutual friends.  I have seen you recoil, stare, and just generally gawk at him/her with open mouths (I’m not exaggerating here).  I have also witnessed your children openly rejecting, mocking, shunning, and ridiculing children with special needs (you know exactly who you are, so don’t make me name names).  It’s extraordinarily rude and hurtful and it only makes YOU look like a bigoted ignoramus.  Yes, I know it was your child pointing and saying those hurtful things as you were chatting up your friends by the punchbowl, but YOU are responsible for how your son made fun of that little girl with Down syndrome because you laid the foundation with his heart.  Seriously, I will call you out on this, so just deal with yourself right now.
*Do not ask the parents of said child if he/she has “always been that way”.  Been what way?  Cute, short, tall, always had brown eyes…..?  (yet another example drawn from real life)
*Your children NEED to grow up with an acute awareness that the world is NOT homogenous.  Not everyone is going to look like them, talk like them, or have the same shade of skin color.  And just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean there’s anything WRONG with them.  It’s called DIVERSITY within God’s creation and it’s a GOOD thing.  (yes, the fact there are people with “dis”abilities is a very GOOD thing)
*Teach your kids from the get-go that people who use wheelchairs are NOT by ANY means “bound to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”.   Unless someone has chained them to the wheelchair, and then by all means get some chain cutters and then call the police.  A person who uses a wheelchair is only disabled if their chair is broken and they’re stuck on the couch all day.  Now THAT’S a disability.
*Also teach them from an early age that some people are born with eyes, ears, legs, arms, etc…. that work just fine, and others aren’t.  So some people wear glasses, other people have plastic legs.  No big deal.  Some people have arms, some people don’t.  It’s NEVER okay to stare at a child who’s using a wheelchair or a walker or a prosthetic leg to get around.
*Some kids don’t talk, but it doesn’t mean they don’t understand EVERYTHING you are saying or that they can’t read your expressions of horror, disdain or rejection.  My 14 year old son is non-verbal but he loves to be around other kids.  Teach your kids that talking with words is but one of a MILLION ways that we communicate with each other every day.  Teach your kids to reach out to kids like mine who can’t talk and ask if they can sing a song with them, or guide them by the hand to go play a game, or sit down right where they’re at and play patty-cake.  Just having another child WANT to engage with my non-verbal son shows me that your child is confident and not threatened by someone who’s different.  It shows me that you’ve taken the time and effort to expose your child to a variety of situations and that you’re not afraid of people with disabilities.
*Start opening up your home school co-ops to families with kids with disabilities and make it truly “family friendly” and not just like a public school that meets once a week at a nearby church.  Seek out home schooling families with kids with disabilities and ask them to join your group.  Find ways to include kids with all kinds of disabilities in your learning groups and co-op activities.  Make sure all your learning centers are wheelchair friendly.  Offer to pair up a child with a disability with a typically developing peer to make sure that the child with special needs is fully included in his co-op class and activity (be sure to ask a mature and kind young person who has the character qualities necessary to befriend a child with special needs).  Ask the parents of that child how the child learns best (is he a visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner?).  Ask the parent how the co-op can modify the curriculum in a way that the child could still be learning along side his peers, but in a way that’s best suited to his learning style/speed.
*Go to a church where families with special needs are welcome and encouraged to attend.  No, seriously.  Get out of your homogenous country club where everyone looks the same and comes from the same background and find a place where Jesus would want to hang out; you know with the homeless people, the former streetwalkers, the tax-cheats and people with blended families with rainbow colors.  When was the last time you saw a family with a child with autism in church? Do you even KNOW a family with a child with autism?  The rate of autism is now less than 1 in 100 children these days, so chances are there’s either a child in your church with autism or there’s one who lives within half a mile of you.  Even if the family doesn’t home school their child (with autism, or any other disability), get to know them.  Befriend them.  Offer to take them out to a super fancy-schmancy after-church dinner at Taco Bell and just spend time with them.  By doing this you’ll 1) be teaching your kids that everyone is worth getting to know and 2) you will discover that families of kids with special needs are more like you than we are different:  we all have laundry, bills, we all struggle with being consistent in the discipline of our kids, and we all wonder what’s for dinner at 4:30 every afternoon.
*Stop being afraid of families with kids with special needs.  We’re not scary.  We are sometimes scared.  We are often exhausted, but we’re not very scary.  Our home schooling journeys probably look quite different than yours, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it together.
*Finally and most importantly, settle the issue right now that there’s nothing WRONG with our kids.  Truly.  I’ll give you a few minutes to wrap your brain around that.  Done?  Okay, we’ll continue.  There’s a pretty strong possibility at this point in the game that our son may never utter a complete sentence.  He’s never ONCE said the words “Mommy” or “Mom” or “I love you”, but he’s NOT broken.  Sure, I’d love to hear those words, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with him because he can’t verbalize that.  Our daughter struggles mightily with all levels of social interaction, but she’s not broken.  We work very hard with her and on her behalf to make the world a less complicated maze for her, but she’s not broken and doesn’t need to be “cured”.
     Here’s the other bombshell:  Kids with challenges or disabilities (whatever you want to call it) are also created in GOD’S image.  “WHAT?!!!”, you exclaim.  “NO WAY, JOSE!”, you shout.  No really, every single child is a reflection of God’s character and infinite BEAUTY, working arms or legs or not, hearing or not, with or without the extra chromosome.  And we are teaching them at home to the best of our abilities, just as you are with your kids.  Give your kids an extra advantage over typical public school kids (who rarely get to get to know kids with special needs) and give their home education an extra boost by befriending, embracing, and fully including those with special needs as friends in your home schooling community.
Thanks for reading this letter.  I hope we can still be friends.  I know it was a big pill to swallow but I think you can handle it because like Bob says, “God made you special and He loves you very much”.  (ya know, Bob……from Veggie Tales….hello???  Are you with me?)
Your friend,
The home schooling mom down the street

Not Your Mama’s Home School

I’m learning to give myself permission.  We are in our seventh year of homeschooling, and I have come LIGHT YEARS from where I started, but I have a ways to go.  If you have a personal history of second guessing yourself, seeking the approval of others, and never really knowing how YOU truly feel in any given situation, you will be able to relate.  The rest of you are wondering why I’m not on prescription meds.  Me too, on some days.

Homeschooling, for those of you who are on the same path, are probably acutely aware of how revealing the teaching-your-kids-at-home-process is of your own emotional, spiritual and psychological health.  I did not come into this life style a healthy person, but thanks be to God (and I am NOT being flippant or casual) His patience and grace has brought me SO far.  But still I struggle in various areas because I’m human and have come nowhere near arriving.
So today I am giving myself permission to parent and teach my kids at home to the best of my ability and I am freeing myself of the need to apologize for:
*letting my kids watch “Martha Speaks” & “Word Girl” on PBS as part of their education at home, as both of them struggle mightily with language:  one is deaf/hh, has verbal apraxia and low muscle tone, and the other child is on the autism spectrum and often doesn’t know HOW to use language appropriately in conversations.  So today, as both of them are in various stages of respiratory sickness (the official dx is “the crud”), I free myself from the Homeschool Mommy Guilt of letting them watch tv and calling that “school”.
*spending a lot of time reading TO my 13 year old daughter.  I know most 13 year olds who are as bright and engaging as my child are usually shoulder-deep in all kinds of books, but mine isn’t yet reading for herself at a level that is commiserate with her core intelligence.  Does that make sense?  Do you have a child who’s crazy-bright, but doesn’t have the patience/visual processing skills to soak in books for themselves?  That’s where we’re at, and I OFTEN feel “guilty” for doing most of her reading to her.  Today I give that up.  So what if she only reads a handful of paragraphs from The Hobbit for herself?  Does that make me a bad teacher?  A bad mom?  Nope
*not finishing a curriculum we bought.  I come from parents who taught me to ALWAYS finish something you start.  ALWAYS.  There’s a lot to be said for that.  But my daughter and I just finished part of a Bible curriculum that at times was a little heady and intellectual for me.  Who knew you could pick apart the Psalms and diagram the poetry by type?  Not me!  And certainly NOT when I was 12/13 years old, and I didn’t even have “special needs”.  So even though we completed the book of Psalms section of the curriculum and were ready to move onto another part of the Bible using the same workbooks, my daughter had had enough.  So today I give myself permission to find something more suited to her.  After all, I’m not trying to cram theology down her throat, I’m trying to guide her through the greatest love story our world has ever known.  I want her to know how much God loves her and has a plan for her life.  It’s okay if we give that curriculum to another family.
*letting my son learn in developmentally appropriate ways.  And by developmentally appropriate, I mean that I don’t regularly sit my son down at a table for prolonged periods of time to do “school work”.  We do puzzles, we color, we do sorting, sight words, fine motor activities and other learning related “tasks” throughout the week, but not often sitting at the same table for three and four hours.  So today I give myself permission to see that having him set the table (even if it’s hand-over-hand because he’s protesting and throwing a fit), and put his clothes away in his drawer is also a very important part of “school”.
Maybe you’re out there somewhere with kids with emotional/behavioral or sensory challenges.  Maybe you have a child with Down syndrome, dyslexia, or auditory processing dysfunction and you too come from a storied past of “shoulds” and “why aren’t you doing this?”‘s.  Maybe you’re the wackadoo in your family and everyone has written you off as a complete slacker when it comes to home schooling, or worse yet, you’re an “UN-schooler” (“Bob, I tell you she just lets those kids do WHATEVER they want ALL DAY long!  How are they EVER going to learn ANY thing and how are they EVER going to get into a decent college and then get a job??”). I don’t know how you give yourself permission to be “you” everyday, but I think it’s important for all of us that we do just that.  After all, every child IS a unique learner, and despite what you hear at all the home school conventions, there isn’t a “best way” to teach anything, it just comes down to the right fit at the right time.

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The One Where I Try To Figure Out What This Is Going To Be About (or the one where I end the title with a preposition)

Time To Get Real

I haven’t written a whole lot on this home schooling blog. To be honest with you, it’s not because I don’t have a gazillion ideas or thoughts to put down. I do. I think of stuff all the time. I think the reason I’ve been stalled is that I’ve not wanted to appear like a bunch of other tweets and pictures on Instagram that look like (to me, anyway) that their kids are virtuosos of learning and are hard at it every minute of the day, when they’re not outside milking the goats to make their homemade goat milk soap that they sell at the farmer’s market every week in order to fund their annual trip to Suriname to work with destitute orphans. Ya, I’ve been a little overwhelmed by own, no doubt, MISconceptions, of other home schoolers and I don’t want to put anyone off by my own accounts of what fills our days here.

But I’m throwing caution to the wind and put something up here anyway, mainly because I’m procrastinating making dinner.

I feel like I’m kind of starting over with this blog, so I’ll just reintroduce myself. I’m Gigi and my husband Jeff and I came into the home schooling world kicking and screaming. We NEVER in a MILLION YEARS ever intended to have our kids home with us ALL DAY LONG EVERY DAY with me being the primary teacher. But here we are, seven years later and we’re still chugging along, pretty happily on most days. (I think I covered that whole story of how we came to home schooling in a previous blog). Both of our kids are unique and special: our son LIVES for music, loves to clap, sing and dance and adores YoGabbaGabba. Our daughter can play things on her violin by just listening to something, has recently asked to join the adult worship band at our church, loves to figure out how things work and has recently started building (on her own) robots, circuits, clocks, you know, the stuff of science kits. She is a good friend and gets along great with younger kids.

Both of our kids have special learning needs so I don’t have a “pat answer” when someone asks what curriculum we use to teach our kids. Our oldest, our son (14), lives with the devastating effects of Infantile Spasms as the result of an infant vaccination. He also has moderate/severe hearing loss and has Down syndrome. His learning style is hands on and we work on communication, physical therapy, core strengthening, sensory integration, and preschool-type activities with him. Our daughter has sensory challenges and has Asperger’s, which effects her ability to read social cues, understand the complexities of language and conversations between people, and process large amounts of information. (Some days are very tough when we have misunderstandings) For our daughter’s home schooling path we follow (more or less) a classical model based on “The Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer. Our daughter has a love for ancient history, has read The Odyssey multiple times in multiple formats, loves Shakespeare, adores the story of Beowulf, and is currently gobbling up The Hobbit. She LOVES adventure stories and has an almost photographic memory for things she hears. She also loves science and is a kinesthetic learner, so we try to keep her in the “hands on learning” camp as much as possible.

I’ll to get fancy here with my blogging skills and post some photos of some recent activities we’ve done: