How I Roll

I just heard the school bus drive by my house.  My kiddos are still snoozing.  The house is completely silent and dark.  The sound of that school bus reminds me of how blessed I am to home school.  What a privilege it is. What a responsibility.

Truth is, I've been having one of those freak-out-about-everything weeks.
Not good.  Way too much ranting and raving going on around here.  Not screaming and yelling, just constant correcting and disciplining and threatening.  Sortof like a drill sergeant.

 Except that these poor kiddos didn't sign up for that.  So, I really need to get it together.

And that sound of the school bus helps.

Because homeschooling is a privilege.  And it is very messy.  And loud.  And imperfect...

  Exactly the way it should be.

And if I wanted to, I could send them all away on that big yellow bus to who-knows-where to be taught who-knows-what by who-knows-who.  And then I would have my house all to myself to do whatever I wanted... all day long.


No thank you.

I'll take the mess and noise and imperfection any day.

Because I'm a little bit crazy.

And my kiddos are the best thing about my life. 

And that's just how I roll.

Thank you, big yellow bus, for reminding me.

What to Do With Toddlers

 Thanks for all the great responses to the homeschool question, "What do I do with the baby/toddler while I'm trying to teach school?"  You can read other mom's great ideas in the comments of the last post.  I'm hoping to get a few more on there pretty soon.

 While we're waiting...
I thought I'd show you a little snapshot of the last five years or so of our life.  Since Benjamin is the seventh baby, of course we've got lots more little helpers to choose from.  But we've also got lots more students in our school!  Six, to be exact.  This past school year ranged from preschool to a Senior in high school!  And to be perfectly honest with you, it has been totally do-able!

So, here we go...

  I am a firm believer in the playpen.  OK, you're right, it's called a pack-n-play.  But it's also a pen.  And that is what makes it so wonderful!

It's easiest if you start out young with this.  And only use it when you really need to.  Keep special toys in there that only stay in there.  And rotate them often so they don't get boring.

  Be sure to check every time for random things that might have gotten thrown in there by munchkins.  (Ben choked on a nickel once!)  Yikes!

I also advocate snacks... Lots of snacks!

And safe, hard-to-pick-up snacks that take a long time are best.

 And also teach hand-eye coordination.  So, it's sortof like schoolwork!

 Either hard-to-eat or delicious.  Both are good.

Keep in mind, your sanity is at stake here.

Take full advantage of the highchair.   Do school at the table.  That way baby doesn't feel left out.

Use lots of unconventional "toys."

They are cheaper.

They don't get boring as fast.

When they do, you can put them back where they belong.

Oh my gosh!  Is he cute or what??

           Back to the highchair.

Back to the playpen.

 Keep it in the "schoolroom,"  which at this house was in the dining room.  Include books for "school time."  That way baby feels included.

Praise God for nap time! 

Use that time for the main part of your school with the older kids.  Do not take a nap!  (Unless you're pregnant... in that case it's pretty much unavoidable.)  Babies sleep at least 3-4 hours during the day.  Toddlers, 2-3.  Even my 5 year old takes a 1-2 hour nap.  Naps are a Godsend!

And here's that suggestion that really helps when all else fails...

Assign a bigger kid to babysit.

They learn lots of responsibility.  And have a break from their own schoolwork.
We usually did this in 30 min. "shifts" during quiet school time.  Big kids usually play outside or upstairs or read to the little one.  Puzzles or phonics games are great for this time, too.

Give "schoolwork" to toddlers.
Nothing hard or annoying.  Nothing that takes time for you to teach.  Just "busy work."  It's called that for a reason.  And little kids are so proud to have their "schoolwork" displayed on the fridge with everyone else's!

And when all else fails, and you're at the end of your rope... Last but not least...
Get an iPad.

Just kidding.  We were at the apple store.  But, dude, that thing was amazing!

OK, hope that helps...

Feel free to add any other suggestions that you come up with.

Just remember... you're not alone.  You can do this!  Homeschooling with toddlers running around is totally natural and part of the beauty of schooling at home.  Enjoy it!  They'll be grown before you know what happened!

Permission to Change

Final stretch, y'all!

How was your school year?  For me, it's been a pretty darn good year.  But there's definitely a few things that are going to need more of my attention next year.

Since we're close to the end, it's a good time to evaluate...while we're still in the thick of it.  If I wait until after summer break to plan for next year, I might forget the things that bug me right now, not make any changes and possibly be doomed to repeat it.  Remember that verse in the Bible that says that it's the little foxes that spoil the vineyard?  Sometimes it's like that in homeschooling, too. The good news is that a lot of them can be fixed!

The thing that's unique about home school is that it is different every single year.  You might have added a new baby to the mix.  Or just started junior high.  Or high school.  Or preschool. You might have moved to a different house or state or country.  Or changed jobs or income.  Or a hundred other things.  And just because your original curriculum or schedule was wonderful two years ago, doesn't mean that it will work next year.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO CHANGE.

Yep.  And it might even be necessary!

Even if you spent a whole bunch of money getting set up.  And you spent tons of time on that plan.

You might need to re-think it.

Here's an example:
Back in the day, when I was young, and had only a few students... I remember going to a homeschool convention where the speaker was saying this very thing.  I'm glad that my husband was with me to hear it.  He actually told the husbands to give their wives permission to change! We had already invested in a curriculum that we liked and it was working just fine for several years.  We planned to stick with it.  But you know how plans are.  I felt like all I was doing was grading papers.  And never had time to teach or read books or enjoy my kids.  Soooo... back to the drawing board!  We stuck that stuff back on the shelf and found something new.   I found a curriculum that I actually LOVED!  We did that for a few years.  But when we sold our house and moved several times, I needed something that would "get done."  You know what I mean.  It's not the best, but it gets done.  And on with the story...  things settled down for us.  Praise God!  And it's time for a new schedule.  And a new way to do school.  And it turns out that I'm constantly going back to that shelf full of old books and finding stuff that fits again.  And that curriculum that I LOVED is gonna get re-used next year with a whole new batch of kids.

Disclaimer:  I used to have a friend who changed everything every year.  Please don't do that.  There's no magic formula that will make this thing painless!  Sorry.  But sometimes we are trying to fit into something that is more painful than it actually needs to be.  Like high heels, for example.

Remember, this is a very long process.  This homeschooling endeavor.  If you want to stick with it, you're gonna have to like it.  Or at least be able to tolerate it without pulling your hair out too often.
And what worked for me or your best friend, may not work for you.  Hey! Ask around. Sometimes you can even trade with your friends to figure out something that fits better.  Like shoes.  They've just got to feel right.

So, what I'm usually doing around this time of the year, besides looking for a new pair of flip-flops, is thinking through what I liked and didn't like about this past school year.  What kept getting on my nerves?  Where should we keep the school stuff?  How did that schedule work?  What were the hang-ups?  How will I make time for this new student who's joining us next year?

Time to make some lists.

That way we have all summer to morph this thing into something that we can all work with.  And possibly enjoy.  That's really the goal, right?

If you find something that you're excited about, your kids will be excited, too.  Don't be afraid to change.  Change is good for the soul.

Just like new shoes.  : )

Why You Shouldn't Homeschool

On my fridge there's a list of the Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool Your Children.  It's been there for years and I read it almost every day.  They are very good, important reasons.
There's also a bazillion books and articles out there telling you about all the joys and benefits of homeschooling. So, just to be fair, I thought I'd tell you why you shouldn't do it.
Yep, you heard right.
Brace yourself.

Do not homeschool if you think it will make your children moral.  Your children are sinners.  Mine are, too.  It's a sad fact.  If you think that keeping them away from sinful children will keep them from sinning, then you're wasting your time.  They can sin all by themselves.  Without any outside influence.  On a deserted island.  In a monastery.  In fact, they are born sinning and will continue sinning regardless of circumstances.  That's why we all need a savior, right?  If we just needed homeschooled to be good people, then God could have just sent an Educational Reformer rather than a Perfect Sacrifice.
Homeschoolers just have DIFFERENT ways of sinning.  They are often more religious and self-righteous.  Judgmental.  Sneaky.  My kids tell me that being homeschooled actually makes it EASIER to cheat.  They know that from experience, I'm guessing.  It may come as a surprise to you, but once you've been around the homeschool block a few times, you'll see what I mean.

Do not homeschool if you think it will be quality bonding time.  This is hard work.  H-A-R-D W-O-R-K!  There are definitely some bonding moments mixed in, but you can still have those if you send your kids to public school.  You can even have warm cookies and milk ready for them when they get home!  Homeschooling your kids is a full-time occupation.  Not part time.  It's a ginormous undertaking.  Your house will be messier.  Your kids will annoy you more.  You will not be able to do what you want.  You will sometimes want to run away.

Do not homeschool if you can't be the bad guy.  Although I get along GREAT with my kids and they are pretty much my best friends... being your kid's teacher CREATES tension in a relationship, rather than relieves it.  Instead of your kids coming home and telling you what a big jerk their teacher is, they'll be thinking that about YOU!  Of course, not all the time.  But it does happen. You're the teacher.  Principal.  Taskmaster.  Judge.  Policeman.  Drill Sergeant.  You get the idea.  There's no one else doing your dirty work.  You've got to be the bad guy.  If you can't do that, then don't homeschool.

Do not homeschool if you think your kids will be smarter.   I used to think that, too.  It is true, maybe in the first few years, because of all your effort and attention.  But this is a looooong race.  You will get tired.  You may even settle for average smartness.  A lot of homeschoolers are amazing, stunning scholars.  But your kid may not be.  He might just be average.  Or below.  No matter how hard you try.  And life has a way of cutting in on the school time.  That makes it extremely challenging to keep up that impressive pace.  The public school is more like the post office.  It doesn't really matter what's going on in your family, the mail's coming and the school is open.  So those kids have the advantage of the consistency that homeschools sometimes lack.

Do not homeschool if you think that you can work a job from home at the same time.   You may be able to pull it off for the short term, in an emergency.  But for the long haul, you'll be spreading yourself too thin.  And something's got to give.  Most likely it will be your children's education that suffers first, not your job.  If you're going to try to do both, just swallow your pride and let someone else teach your kids.  Or get help at home.

Do not homeschool if you're doing it because someone else thinks you should.  Unless it's your husband and he knows best  ; )  and you already know in your heart that it is what you're supposed to do.  Otherwise, ignore everybody else.  It's too personal of a decision.  It's WAAAAY to much work for somebody else to put on your plate if you don't have the gumption for it.  Don't do it because of a guilt trip.  Not from your mother.  Your sister.  Your neighbor.  Your preacher.  Nobody!  The only one who ought to be telling you what to do is God.  You've got to answer to Him.  So, don't homeschool unless YOU know you should.

There, have I talked you out of it?  I hope not.  But I think it's only fair to offer you the other side of the story so you can make a better decision and know what you're getting into.  Hopefully you already know that I believe in homeschooling.  So much so that I have made it my sole career.  With no end in sight.  I love my job.  It drives me crazy sometimes, but I believe it is worth it.  My precious students are turning out to be very imperfect, despite my efforts (or, as a result of them).  And they are in need of a Savior just as much as I am.  Regardless of their education.  I just thought you should know.

With love,

Mama's Secret Weapon; Intuition

A good friend of mine just recently decided to take her children out of public school and begin homeschooling.  I know that's not very uncommon, but what makes her situation unique is the fact that both parents are professional teachers in the public school.  Not only that, but they are both excellent teachers who have been at it for many years.  They have tons of experience teaching a classroom full of other people's kids.

It's funny how some friends of these teachers say that they wish they had the patience and education necessary to homeschool. Like "real" teachers are the only ones who can really handle it.  Huh?  I guess it seems logical that a professional teacher would somehow be more qualified for the task of home educating than a plain ol' mommy. But, not necessarily.

Mommies have a secret weapon....and it's not a college degree in education.

It is intuition.

I know that effective professional teachers use it, too, but it really works best on your own kids.  Intuition is that gut feeling you get that tells you what you need to do.  It lets you know when you're pushing too hard.  Or being lazy.  It helps you find a way to explain something so it makes sense.  It gives you that edge.  My kids say I'm psychic.  Of course, I don't believe that.  I think it's just God's gift to mommies.  : )

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is this:  When a mama decides to teach her children, she has qualifications that the board of education knows nothing about.  She has the greatest vested interest in her own child's success.  She LOVES her student.  She has intuition.  She knows her student inside and out.  She can practically read minds!  That's some serious stuff, girlfriend.

But, as a disclaimer, I must warn you that this secret weapon only works under certain circumstances.  There is kryptonite to watch out for...  Fear.  And its result, Control.  If you try too hard to be somebody you're not, and run your home school like a public school you'll get off track.  A lot of that striving comes from fear.  We always try to control the things we fear.  If you're too worried about what other people think, you'll sabotage yourself.  Don't worry about "knowing everything."  That's what the curriculum is for.  Your job is just knowing how to communicate with YOUR child.  You've been doing that all along!  Relax.  Ask God how to handle it. You need to do what works for you and your family, and ignore the rest.  And be very patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint.  See, what I've found is that God has given me everything I need in order to do the job that He's given me to do.  That's just how He is.  But, if I start comparing myself or my students with other families, I'll feel discouraged, like I'm falling short.  Then I freak out, try to change everybody, and feel like quitting. Bummer.  But, if I relax, trust God, ask for help and then just follow my God-given intuition... things work out so much better.  And my kids learn.  Amazing, right?

So, whether you're all-out homeschooling a crew or just teaching ABC's to your three year old, you are a teacher.  You may not have gone to college for training, but you are qualified.  Homeschooling is a completely different animal than public school. Therefore, the handler must have a completely different skill set.  It doesn't come from college classes.  It comes from your heart.  Relax.  Can I say that too many times?  Relax. Take advantage of your intuition, Mama.  My guess is, you've already got what it takes.

I just found  this discussion on  blog I like.  It's a heated debate between certified teachers and other homeschooling moms.  The question started out with "what do credentialed teachers know that I should know in order to homeschool my kids?"  Then it kindof snowballed.  Very Interesting...

What "Real" Teachers Think of Homeschoolers

OK, so here's another question from a mama getting ready to embark on homeschooling...
Question: How do you tell family you are actually homeschooling? My family seems to think its a faze and I will get over it. They keep asking me about pre school for my daughter and my aunt and mother-in-law work in schools and just think they are the best thing since sliced bread.
Oh Man.  I'm really on a roll here.  For some strange reason this topic keeps appearing lately.  Maybe I should just rant for a few minutes and get it over with.  I just got done reading a very heated discussion between certified public school teachers and their arch nemesis, homeschool moms here.  A mom wrote in with a simple enough question..."What advice can you credentialed teachers give me in order to help me homeschool better?"    One certified teacher wrote in stating that she didn't really learn anything in college that would be relevant to a home school scenario.  Well, that was just the pop to the top of the can of worms that everybody needed.   Look out!  The "teachers" came out in force.  Spouting lots of lingo like "classroom management" and "learning hooks" and "scaffolding."  Yeah, right, whatever!

 Here's a little sample of how some teachers think.  Obviously there's lots of differing opinions out there, but I was a little shocked by this one, and she's not the only one.
She's questioning an "uneducated" homeschooling mom...

"Have you spent time in a classroom as a teacher (for more than a day)? Have you written the lesson plans from start to finish using the core curriculum of your state and broken it down into daily objectives which build on each other to reach a unit objective, all while differentiating the instruction for the 25 different learners in your classroom (and multiplying that out by several classes if you teach high school)? Have you worked in concert with the other content teachers to make sure you are reinforcing concepts learned in other classes, while dealing with students who have no support at home, just broke up with a boy/girlfriend and didn’t have enough money for lunch? And, at the end of the year, have you looked back on all that you and they worked together to achieve DESPITE the overwhelming odds that it could work, and realized that you are able to bring your students to success BECAUSE you have the skills, education and background to be a teacher?"
See??  That's crazy, right?  Actually, Miss Teacher, Yes, I have done those things.  As well as cook the lunch, clean the cafeteria, clothe the students and DRIVE THE BUS!  Top that!
OK, I'll chill.  Just gotta smooth my feathers back down... Alright, maybe I haven't done ALL those things.  I didn't need to.  That's why I chose an excellent, well-planned out curriculum to use in my homeschool.  And I only teach seven students.  And none of them have boy/girlfriend issues because they don't date.  And I'm the only teacher, period.  So, what I'm trying to say is that homeschooling is DIFFERENT than public school teaching.  If you go to college to learn classroom management techniques, they're only going to frustrate the crap out of you when you try to homeschool.  Home is not an institution.  The desks are not in a row. And the teacher does not get a planning period, or the summer off for that matter.  Teachers that teach in a public school SHOULD be proud of what they do.  It is an honorable profession.  A much needed profession.  Good public school teachers are so important.  But, dare I say that they are not BETTER than home school teachers?  
It's like this.   Is managing a restaurant the same thing as cooking for your family?  Exactly.  Is one better than the other?  No.  They each require different skills,  even though they both involve cooking, and inventory and customers.  I am well aware that I do not posses the skills necessary to run a restaurant.  But I am proficient at feeding my family.  I'm glad that restaurants exist, but I don't want to run one.  A public school teacher suggesting that a mom is not qualified to teach her own children because she hasn't been trained for the classroom is like a restaurant manager telling me that I don't know enough about restaurant management to cook for my family!
OK, I think I'm done back to the question.  How do you tell your family that you're actually homeschooling?  Just tell them.  They already raised their own kids the way they wanted to.  Now it's your turn.  You do not owe them an explanation.  But if you'd like to give them one, I'd suggest the facts.  Show them the statistics.  Explain to them that you're pretty sure that you can handle teaching the ABC's and finger painting.  Heck, you might want to look up the qualifications that a pre-school teacher actually needs.  You might be surprised.  My guess is that you're gonna do fantastic.  But remember that you don't need to prove anything to them.  Homeschooling is a marathon.  The end result is what matters, and that's a long way off.  Just take it one day at a time.  That way you can make an evaluation each year and adjust as needed.  I'd say, Just go for it!
Besides....  whoever said that sliced bread is the best?    : )

Socializing Them Home Learnt Kids

Today is homeschool co-op day.  It is also the most hairy morning of the week because everyone must wear socks and a reasonably normal-looking outfit.  Thankfully, we don't leave the house until 10:30!
It really doesn't matter much though because most of the kids there are really nice and would never think of teasing someone over their outfit. (Probably because they had just as much trouble deciding what to wear as my kids do.)
If you are homeschooling a gang or just one, a co-op group is a great place for life lessons in small doses. In our particular group all the moms participate.  We all teach or aid another mom in teaching a class. I get to teach an art class, Benjamin gets to finger paint with the preschoolers and Noah's biology experiments actually get done! It's really helpful for my kids to experience sitting quietly, raising their hands to speak, getting assignments done on time, and getting positive feed back from someone other than their own momma.
They also get to experience peer-pressure and gossip and drama.  All the fun stuff that life is made of!  They get to play games in a gym with kids close to their own age, which is a totally different thing than playing kick ball with a three year old who runs all the bases backwards.  It is true that homeschoolers will turn out just fine without knowing how to play parachute, but getting along with a big group and following directions is a very useful life skill.  Besides, even my three highschoolers loooove playing parachute!
And back to the drama part...drama is, unfortunately, a part of life.  Learning how to deal with it gracefully and not get all caught up in it is immeasurably helpful.  Since co-op is only one half-day a week, we have plenty of chances to talk about what's going on and then we can work on it together.  It's such a great learning experience.  Character building, too. 
I almost forgot one of the most important aspects of homeschool co-op...BRIBERY.  Yep, it's sad, but we homeschool moms need all the help we can get!  So, if you do not stay caught up on your math you'll be sitting with me during gym, and we don't want that, do we??
Happy Socializing,

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