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Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Category

If you were reading this blog about four years ago, you would have seen a lot of posts about homeschooling.  It was my first year teaching Lorelei at home, and I was full of plans and eager to share them.

Lorelei spent her first four years of schooling at a parochial school.  It’s an excellent school, and her former classmates seem to have been very happy there.  But Lorelei was showing signs of stress and anxiety from the ever-increasing amount of homework, even in the summer time.  And I wanted to spend more time with my last baby.

Lorelei First Grade

Lorelei’s first day of first grade

Sending her back to “real” school eventually was always my plan:  when we would do it and where she would go were left TBD by needs and circumstances.  All I was sure of was that the transition would occur before high school.

I’ve homeschooled four of my five children for varying amounts of time, and it’s been a different experience with each of them.  I’ve come to realize that homeschooling does not provide the best learning environment for every child.

I am not sorry that I removed Lorelei from an environment that was stressful for her.  At home, we were able to recognize that she suffers from anxiety and take steps to combat that.  I was able to get to know her very well, and to spend time with her, and we are very close.  And she was able to devote extended time to non-academic pursuits.  Lorelei has always loved art, and I’ve been amazed to watch the changes in her pictures over the years.  She also became involved in an online group devoted to making music videos, and I was beyond impressed to see how she navigated the online community and taught herself skills both online and off.  I learned (and I think she did too) how very capable she is.

She also played outside a lot, as children should.  And remained a little girl longer than it seems most girls are allowed to these days.

Lorelei on the rock

Lorelei playing outside

Lorelei 13

Lorelei on her 13th birthday

But the academic side of homeschool was a real struggle.  Part of that was my change in circumstance from the last time I did this. I’m at home, but I’m working several hours each day, and I have to get things done.  But part of it was Lorelei herself.  When I taught Teddy at home, for example, I could read off a list of assignments and he would do them on his own.  Lorelei would complain and resist and insist that she couldn’t understand; she would freak out about possibly putting down the wrong answer even though her mother was the teacher and there were no grades; or she would go off to work and never return for her next assignment, and I wouldn’t even notice because I was so busy.  Every day, every subject, every assignment was fraught.  There were many days when we didn’t even attempt school, and we both felt guilty about it.

I’ve always known Lorelei was smart, of course.  She made high grades when she was enrolled in school.  But I had about decided that although she was a very capable person, she just wasn’t academic.  We all worried about what would happen when she returned to school.

Lorelei started eighth grade at the local public middle school in early August.  And she is thriving.  The transformation has been remarkable.  First progress reports are in and she has straight A’s.  Her Language Arts teacher has commented more than once that Lorelei should be teaching the class.  Her Social Studies teacher asked her if she would like to be in the Honors class.  Her art teacher invited her to apply for Art Club membership.  She joined the Book Club.  She comes home chattering animatedly about her classmates.  She stays on top of her homework without prompting.  And she joined the Youth Group at church to continue her religious education without complaint, and is enjoying that too.

So what happened?  Where did this motivated, happy, energetic, self-directed, intellectually curious student come from?

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Right after her getting-ready-for-school haircut

The answer, I believe, is that Lorelei is an extrovert.  She is drawing energy from the school environment and applying it to her studies.  It never would have occurred to me that this could be a factor–she wasn’t pining for school by any means; she was happy to have been removed and enjoyed being with me.  But the evidence is clear:  Homeschooling was not an academically good fit for Lorelei; traditional schooling is.

Again, I have no regrets about removing Lorelei from school.  The homeschooling experience may not have been an academic success, but it was valuable in other ways.  And she is quickly making up any ground she may have lost.  But I also have no regrets about putting her back in!

Some people–I was one of them once–are very tied to a certain way of educating their children.  “This is how our family does things,” they think.  For me, it was the ideal of having all my kids graduate from the parochial school attended by my sisters and me, and then going on the be members of the third generation of our family to attended Knoxville Catholic High School.  Family circumstances and the individual needs of my children forced me to rethink and relinquish plans I thought were set in stone, and my kids are the better for it.

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Y’all, it is HOT.  And our access to a swimming pool is gone.  It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.

I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway.  Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.

I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all!  This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.

Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us.  We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.

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Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).

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Friday was really exciting.  Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge.  There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before.  Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park.  On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.

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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!

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Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it.  The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres.  We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!

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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!

That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!

For more summer fun, read on:

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

The Summer Fun Continues . . .

More Summer Fun

Summer Fun Update

Summer Fun:  Vacation

That 70s Summer

In Which I Grow Lazy

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Remember back at the beginning of the year when I was participating in the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and making all kinds of progress, and posting impressive updates?

Well, along about week three, we got the flu.  For the second time.  As you might expect, that derailed basically everything except survival.

But a new challenge started last week, and I jumped at the chance to pick up where I left off.

Week One is supposed to be the Master Bedroom, which I did thoroughly in January.  In addition, I have kept up with it in the months since, and have even gotten rid of more things.  So I only needed to devote one day.  I went through the closet and drawers, and got rid of two small bags of clothes and a stack of books.  I did not go through all the jewelry and the sentimental things–I think once a year is enough for that.

I don’t have any pictures from the first day as there just isn’t that much change to show.  For the rest of the week, I worked on the hallway outside my office  I was SO EXCITED to tackle this area!  Here’s before:

 

What a mess, right?  Things were constantly getting knocked off  the top and on to the floor, and every time I walked by all that mess it made me sad.

This was the perfect time to tackle this area, because most of this is homeschooling material, and my homeschooling days have ended.  Lorelei will enter 8th grade at the local public school in August.

So I went through all of the homeschooling books, and got rid of some of them.  I probably should get rid of a lot more, and I admit that putting them in boxes and moving them into the garage, which will be the VERY LAST THING that ever gets minimalized, is just punting the problem down the road.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right?

Lorelei is spending some time dog-sitting for my sister with Emily, so I did not have her much-needed assistance with this project.  Therefore there is another box filled with things that she will need to go through.  Not my box, not my problem!

I’ll show you what it looks like now, and then I will explain what I’ve put there.

 

This shelf and this area now mostly belong to me.  I am feeling happy that as my children grow and sort of leave, I am able to claim more space in this house for myself.

I love that the top is currently bare.  I hope it can stay that way.  I might consider putting some pictures or decorative items there, but the space is crowded and things might get knocked off.

The top shelf is primarily books I have received in exchange for my honest review thereof, or have won via social media giveaways.  I probably don’t need to keep them all; that’s something I will revisit next time I go through the challenge.  At least I want to keep a list of them.  I am also keeping whatever books I am currently reading on that shelf, and my extra journals.  Most of these books were previously stacked in a dusty heap on the bottom shelf, and some were sitting in a cardboard box in my office, a space that has now been freed up!

Second shelf are Catholic project items.  For example, I have a binder for the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and it lives there.  My prayer journal is there.  My binder with various Advent and Lent and other liturgical year tools is there.

The bottom shelf is a work in progress.  It currently contains homeschool materials that I borrowed from others and need to return, and extra folders, notebooks, and such that may be needed when school begins.  I’m thinking that we will need space for extra paper and school supplies for use in doing homework and I am willing to use the bottom shelf for that if need be.  I will have a better idea how I will use that space by the next Challenge.

Finally, in the corner you will see a couple of totes.  Yes, I found a use for some of the many totes that were taking up space in my bedroom!  One of them is holding a lot of prayer journaling supplies–scissors, glue stick, colored pens and pencils and markers, Catholic coloring book, prayers, prayer cards.  The tote keeps them contained, and if I want to go elsewhere to journal everything is ready!  The other tote is holding a special Christmas gift from my husband–a monthly subscription to a mystery to solve.  It’s really fun but also takes time we don’t seem to have, so I am keeping it all organized here so that when we devote an evening to working on it, everything is ready to go.

So there you have it! Next week is bathrooms.  Again I expect to spend one day on them, and then I am planning on working on the laundry room and the upstairs hallway for the rest of the week.

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I haven’t written a post on homeschooling in a while, probably because I’m too busy doing it to write about it–or about anything.  Last time I homeschooled, John worked in an office and had a full-time staff.  This time, the office is the house and the staff is me.  Mostly this works out fine, with me getting Lorelei started on a task, which she can work on here in the office with me while I attend to my own work.  But sometimes, involved in whatever I am doing, I lose track of her and how long (very very long) it is taking to do her math or whatever.  She has been known to even wander away while I am otherwise occupied.  So I need to work on that. [This was an ongoing problem that I am happy to say has improved a lot in this, our last homeschooling year.]

Another challenge is that I have had to leave the house during the school day more frequently lately.  Jake’s injury [A tendon in his pinky severed by a box cutter while cutting drywall to patch a hole in our basement] means twice weekly therapy appointments as well as doctor visits.  If Emily isn’t home, Lorelei has to come along.  We don’t do well with disruptions to the routine.

Still, at the moment I would call homeschooling a qualified success.  Lorelei is certainly happy!  She has no desire to go back to school (judging from how she acts when I threaten her with it when she is bad!).  I’ve already written about some of the fringe benefits of homeschooling.

Here’s what’s going well:

We are going to Mass once a week, on Wednesday mornings.  There’s a 9:00 a.m. Mass at All Saints, just five minutes away from us.  Lorelei looks forward to going, and that makes me happy.  She actually suggested we should go on First Fridays too, so we are going to start doing that this month.   After Mass we walk on the walking trail and Lorelei plays on the playground.

We are on track with our spelling program, and Lorelei never misses more than one word.  She’s never going to be a spelling bee champ and thank God for that.

We’ve finished two reading books already!

We’ve memorized the Beatitudes and the Corporal Works of Mercy and are almost finished with the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

We are exactly where we should be in the English book.

We went on a great field trip to the symphony last week.

Here’s where we could use improvement:

Lorelei does not like math, and since we were doing it toward the end of our day, it sometimes got skipped.  In the second quarter, we’ve moved it earlier in our school day to combat that tendency. [Math remains a struggle.]

We need to move faster in Social Studies.  We’ve only done half the states, and I want to have the whole state part of Social Studies finished by Christmas so that we can do Presidents the second half of the year.

Another thing Lorelei hates is Penmanship.  I’m trying not to stress out about this too much–I still want her to learn cursive, but my goal of doing all work in cursive isn’t going to happen this year. [Never happened, never will.]

I want to incorporate more field trips.  Originally I had hoped to take one every week, or at least every other week, but all the interruptions for doctor appointments have made that difficult.

So that’s where we are, almost three months in.  And having written it out, as so often happens, I feel even better about it. 🙂

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When I told everyone I wanted to homeschool Lorelei this year, they said, “How will you possibly find the time to do that?”

See, even though I am at home, I am not strictly what the internets call a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), terminology which implies that I don’t work.  (LOL.  No one works harder than a stay-at-home-mom.)  I am a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) only since what I do is act as my husband’s legal assistant/secretary/office manager, I don’t even get paid!

Over the past four years, what started out as me answering the phone while I went about my usual business has morphed into a job that keeps me at my desk from 8:30 to 1:30 or so most days, and let’s not even discuss nights and weekends.  I’m not complaining about this sweet deal which allows me to pretty much structure my own time and take care of my family the way I want to, but I guess it was reasonable for people to wonder how I was going to fit teaching school into that.

But it hasn’t been difficult at all, really.  We start by reading about the saint of the day and saying a prayer around 8:30, and then I get her started on her first assignment and I start on my work.  When she finishes we take a minute to talk about the next thing she’s doing, and then we both return to our solitary labors.  She sits right in the office with me at John’s desk, since he’s usually at court.  By 1:30 p.m., she’s done.

Instead of making my life harder, homeschooling has made it easier.  Last year, I had to get up around 6:00 a.m., wake up two kids, fix two breakfasts and two lunches, and make sure two kids were dressed and ready to leave the house on time.  This year, I get to sleep until 7:00 a.m., probably what John and I would both agree is the number one best change homeschooling has occasioned.  It is daylight when we wake up and getting out of bed is easy.  No more that awful first-day-of-school feeling where you think, “Oh my God, do I really have to do this every day for the next nine months?”  And the effects last all day–I rarely feel like I need to nap in the afternoon, and I always felt that way last year whether there was time to do so or not.

Last year, I had to get dressed every morning and drive William to school while John took Lorelei.  This year, I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want, because John takes William and Lorelei stays right here.

Last year, I had to stop working no later than 2:00 p.m. to shower and dress for the school pick up odyssey, which started with the 20-minute drive to Sacred Heart, followed by the drive back to Cedar Bluff to get William.  With one thing or another, I was in the car for about 1.5 hours, and I was usually struggling to stay awake.  It was miserable, and I dreaded it.  This year, we pop out at 3:30 p.m. to get William from school five minutes down the road.  Lorelei doesn’t even have to come along if she doesn’t want to.  And there have been many days when pickup time coincides with John’s return from court, so I don’t have to leave the house all day!

Last year, while fighting over homework with William, I also had to deal with Lorelei’s chronic homework stress.  I had to discipline her when she didn’t start her work until close to bedtime.  I had to help with awful torturous activities like constructing dioramas and making saints out of Pepsi bottles and styrofoam balls.  No more.  This year, I choose the school work around here, and there is no homework at all.

Last year, there were school meetings to attend, and folders to sign, and papers to review and return.  This year, we still have these things, but only for one child and one school.  We have more free time and more family time in the evenings.

Last year we were stressed out.  This year we are still stressed out, but not about school.  Lorelei is happy, and so am I.

All Saints 10

 

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Did you think I’d given up writing about my home-made homeschool curriculum?  Think again!  It’s just that I’ve been busy actually DOING homeschooling, as school began last week.  And so far it is going pretty well.  Today I want to write on our Reading curriculum.

I did have to order some new textbooks because some of mine were lost in the fire.  That makes me really sad because a few of them had been around a long time–they were discarded textbooks from St. Joseph that they were giving away back when I was younger than Lorelei.  It’s a sad commentary on  . . . something . . . that Catholic textbooks are no longer used in Catholic schools.  One of the best aspects of Catholic education is that the faith can be woven throughout the day and not confined to religion class.  How much more true that would be if Catholic texts were still available!

But the Internet being the marvel that it is, I managed to find what I was looking for:  fourth grade Catholic Readers from the 1940s and 50s.  I have a mixture of New Cathedral Readers and Faith and Freedom Readers, and I have a few secular readers I’ve collected over the years as well that we can use if we finish the ones we have.

Right now we are reading New Times and Places, and Lorelei is enjoying the stories, most of which teach Catholicism by showing Catholic people doing Catholic things in the course of their regular lives.  Most days of the week somewhere in the middle of our school day I just tell her to start reading and after about 30 minutes I tell her to stop, and then she tells me about the stories, which she is always eager to do.

reading book

 

As you can see, there is nothing NEW about this book.  But that’s why I like it.

reading book 5

reading book 4

reading book 3

reading book 2

I love the old-fashioned pictures, the innocence, the simple piety of these books.  I love that Lorelei is learning about living the faith even as she does her reading lesson, but in an organic way, not a preachy way.

On Fridays, we switch gears and I have her read and do some exercises from a workbook I bought somewhere, which includes short segments on Guinness Book of World Record Winners.  I just thought that looked fun. 🙂

When she finishes this first reader, she already has a chapter book picked out to read.  I’m going to have her read that and then do a book report.  Then we will start on the next reader.  And we will just keep going until we run out of year.

Jake and William were not confident readers, so I started them in the third reader, and we would take turns reading aloud to each other.  Lorelei, like Teddy, is fine to read on her own at grade level, and I expect we will move into 5th grade readers later in the year.   The problem with Lorelei is that she’s not that into reading.  She likes to read once she gets started, but unlike Emily (and me) it’s not the first thing she thinks of when she has free time–that would be t.v.  That’s why it’s important to me to make extended and interesting reading part of our curriculum this year, and why I’m going to concentrate for now on READING, not talking about it, or answering questions about it, or doing lessons based on it. [Update:  Reading continues to be a less-than-favored pastime for Lorelei.  We spent most of last year reading chapter books instead of readers, because she expressed enthusiasm about a series of books and I wanted to encourage that.]

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Just a quick Five Favorites post today because 1) I’m late and 2) I’ve got too much to do today!

five favorites

I’ve got homeschooling on the brain these days, what with school starting (UGH!) on Monday, so today I’ll share five favorite things about homeschooling.  Not necessarily THE favorites, but the ones that rise to mind at this time of year when I am only having to get one kid ready for school instead of two.

1.  No uniforms.

Don’t misunderstand–I’m all for uniforms.  But normally this time of year would involve trips to Educational Outfitters to check sizes, and then a trip to the school Swap Shop to check what used things are available (and also trying them all on because sizes vary), and then a trip BACK to the uniform store to supplement the cheap stuff, and then possibly the agony of finding someone to hem things.  And of course I didn’t mention lots and lots of money.  This year, the only uniform rule will be no pajamas.

Lorelei at Target

2.  Pajamas

Didn’t I just say no pajamas?  Well, that rule is for Lorelei, not for me.  This year John will be taking William to school (which used to be my job while he took Lorelei).  So I don’t have to go out of the house and I plan to take full advantage of that by continuing my lazy summer habit of working in my pajamas until noon.  Or even later.

3.  I pick the school supplies.

I am not subject to the tyranny of the supply list, with its strange requirement for green pens which I can never find and its endless demands for things like scissors which ought to stay at school and be reused from year to year.  I won’t have to brave the madding crowds at Wal-Mart!  Lorelei’s supply list this year included pencils, markers, paper, and folders.  And I ordered it (along with William’s) online so that 1) I wouldn’t have to go to Wal-Mart and 2) so I could use my PayPal balance!

4.  No meetings.

I am a firm believer that even when meetings at school are stupid or boring or when you’ve heard it all a thousand times before (and if you have five kids, that goes without saying) it’s important to attend them.  So we go to them all, and the novelty wore off long ago.  I won’t miss them this year.

5.  No homework or projects.

Believe me, having to supervise William’s homework is cross enough to bear.  Not having to deal with Lorelei’s stressed out meltdowns is going to be sooooo nice.  And the projects?  Last year for All Saints we had to make a saint out of a two-liter Coke bottle.  The year before that we had to dress up a pumpkin.  I kid you not.  This year, maybe I’ll have her write a paragraph about her favorite saint.  If I feel like it.  Last year, book reports involved things like dioramas.  This year, they will involve writing a report.  Maybe drawing a picture too.

Umm . . . there are other reasons for homeschooling, of course.  Reasons that benefit Lorelei and not just me. 🙂  But y’all knew that already, right?

For more favorites, visit the linkup at Mama Knows, Honeychild.

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