Sunday, February 27, 2011

YOP #8 and #9 - Family

I skipped a YOP last week, mainly because I was in a horrendous mood and couldn't think of anything that made me happy at that moment. But, family is such a big pleasure that I feel they can take up two slots!

My aunt and uncle live just outside of Albany, NY. But they have decided to winter here in Tucson, and they will be here for a couple of months total. We're planning a nice dinner at their house tonight with my parents, my siblings and all of our kids.

Family dinners are lovely. Cecilia loves being around other kids so much, especially her cousins. She has such a blast! And there's nowhere else I'm more comfortable than surrounded by family. Even if I've had a rough day or week (or even month), I get a break from my mental angst when I'm with my kin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Jen

Next up is Jen, mother of two! She uses her kids' adorable nicknames in her answers.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

Nugget is 3.5 years and Sprout is 10 months

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

Since Nugget was born! We've been doing "official" school times since she turned 3, but she learns way more in daily life.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

We want learning to flow naturally throughout our kids' lives. We want to maintain their curiosity. Young kids learn as easily as they breathe, but the restrictions that school places on what and when they learn can kill that. I firmly believe in the idea of "sensitive periods" -- times that a child is more receptive to learning (even driven to learn) a particular thing. With the flexibility of homeschooling, we can help our kids to remain attuned to that and can encourage and enable them in their interest.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

We've "Montessori-inspired". We started out very traditionally Montessori (hence beginning at age 3, the start of the 3-6 year old Primary cycle). As we've gone along, we've found things that translate well from a Montessori classroom environment and things that don't. We've had to deal with the interruptions that a curious and mobile baby bring. :) So we have -- and continue to -- adapt our method to find what works for our family at each particular moment.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

We plan to homeschool through high school. I can't say that's what will happen; life's too fluid. But that's the assumption we're running on right now.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

Traditional school is as far from the real world as you can possibly get. A large group of children of the same age, sequestered in one room and lead by a single adult, all taught the same thing at the same pace. School prepares you for school, nothing else.

Even at 3 years old, my daughter attends homeschool groups that allow her to interact with kids of varying ages. She takes classes or attends gatherings where she takes direction from different adults. She spends her day asking questions about the "real world" (At the grocery store: Why are some things in cans? At the post office: Where do the letters go?) and learning how to maneuver through it (how to pay for something, how to read a map, how to ask for help). My daughter can let her interests drive what we study. She can spend little time on something if she picks it up quickly, or keep working on something that's more difficult until she masters it. That's the "real world" I've lived in since I left school.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

My biggest worry is balancing family life and learning time. Of course, going to school would take away even more from family time!

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

All we have to do (when the kids are 5 or 6) is tell the state we're homeschooling and have a yearly meeting with an advisor who looks over our work for the year. Many advisors homeschool their own kids, so it's a pretty relaxed thing. If you don't even want to do that, you can join an umbrella school, some of which don't require anything but telling them how many days a year you did school work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Ivory

Last week, the spotlight was on Chance. This week, it's her sister's turn! Ivory is the mother of three precious girls.

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

My kids are 5, 3, and 10 months. We are just starting on our homeschool journey, but we are lucky to have my sister, Chance, blazing the trail for us.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

Informally we started homeschooling when Ella turned two and, without prompting, came to me and said "Look, I can write my name!" She's always loved to sit and devourer any knowledge we can feed her, so I've been following her lead ever since.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

This is such a large question, and one I've been trying to formalize lately in writing out our homeschooling goals.

I believe parent-led schooling has so many benefits, not the least of which being that education is not separate from family, charity and discipline, but a integral part of it. This idea that we send our children away for eight hours a day to be influenced by strangers, just so they can gain facts about the world and how they fit into it, has never set well with me. In the past, even twenty years ago when I was in elementary school, schools had the monopoly on education, because that was where the books, resources, and teachers were. Today, our children have access not only to the great wealth of knowledge of the internet, but there are also so many opportunities for the homeschooled child to attend music classes, museum events, physical education courses, and artistic events during the school day.

My area has not only a homeschool enrichment center (run by the school district, offering classes in everything from rock climbing, to flash animation, to Civil War reenactments), but also homeschool co-ops, run by educators who were disenchanted with the public school system. Homeschooling will give my children a freedom to explore their community, and their potential, that they would not otherwise have.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

At this point, with them being so small and porous, I guess you could say we are unschooling, though I do not see us following that path indefinitely. We have a handful of daily, weekly, and yearly goals we hope to achieve, but many are focused more on daily life skills than academics. We write letters to family, the kids help me cook (measuring and following directions), we take a lot of walks (they keep a nature journal where we talk about the seasons), listen to music (my husband is a classical music geek and will gladly discuss tempo and tone with them for hours) and do research on topics that catch their eyes (Ella, the oldest, is very into the periodic table
lately, which her sister Alice is more interested in sharks). What I think is important right now is to get them excited about all the possibilities, the grandness and wonder that is knowledge.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

I have no idea. That is one of the freedoms of homeschooling though-- we change our course if things are not working.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

One of our main goals with homeschooling is to prepare our children for the real world, rather than ask them to conform to this idea that the "real world" is 8 hours in a desk, being asked to do mediocre work at the same pace as their peers. Our children are lucky enough to live in a community that has numerous opportunities for them to interact with people of all ages, cultures, beliefs and lifestyles, which is the type of socialization I value above the socialization offered in middle school lunchrooms.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

I really do not know what our days will look like in a few years, with a 10, 8, and 5 year old (assuming we haven't had another baby by then...), and I am worried that I will find the limits of my patience, enthusiasm and creativity. I worry that I will need to go back to work. I worry that my own social unease will limit my children's opportunities in the community. I worry that my children will resent not getting to go "to school", and that they will struggle with their identity as homeschoolers. None of these worries outweighs my beliefs that, for my children, this is the best choice for now, but I worry that someday i will have to eat all of these words.

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)

A concise summary of Washington's homeschooling laws are here:
http://www.washhomeschool.org/homeschooling/law.html

Monday, February 14, 2011

YOP #7 - Blog Love

In honor of Valentine's Day, my YOP for this week is about love. Blog love, specifically.

I have a pretty big blog roll, which you can see if you look to your right. I really do read each and every one, and comment fairly often.

From several of these blogs, I really look forward to and get all delighted when I see new posts. I'm not going to name names, because I don't want to make anyone feel badly, but just know this:

At least one person is reading and loving your blog. Please don't stop posting!! I will miss you too much if you do!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Chance

Chance is the sister of one of the women in my online support group. I am thrilled that she agreed to participate in my series!!

1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

My boys are 9 and 10.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

Since birth! Neither of my boys have ever been in a brick and mortar school, so 5 years.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

When we moved to Arizona Aug of '05 I went to sign my oldest up for kindergarten only to learn that he missed the cut off date by 5 days. I decided to start schooling him at home. The next year, when he was finally eligible for kindergarten, we toured the school and decided that he would be better off at home. In the city we lived the system was extremely taxed, especially in the younger grades. Teachers were dealing with extreme over crowding. Other mothers that I met had pulled their child out after first grade either to homeschool or send their kids to private schools, so I opted to just never send my boys to the local schools.

We have continued homeschooling even after moving out of AZ because when the economy tanked my husband had to take a job that keeps him away from home 10+ months out of the year. Homeschooling gives us the flexibility to visit him when it it right for us. If we had to work around the public school schedule we would rarely get to see him! We can bring school with us or take a break whenever we like. We school year 'round so getting in the required number of days of instruction in Colorado is easy.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

Eclectic. Our style is always changing. We started with a child based learning style, then unit studies, then a curriculum (Oak Meadow) and now we practice a "school at home" style.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

We keep jumping back and forth on this one. If my husband starts working from home again I think I would try to convince them to go to our local public schools. If at anytime the boys would like to join public school I will sign them up and we will learn to work around their schedule. As it is now, it is totally their choice. As they get older I start to doubt my ability to teach some subjects so I have been looking into the online public schools for my oldest, who will be in 5th grade next year.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

I just avoid that question. :) Truthfully though, I moved every year of my childhood and went to a dozen different schools and no one worried about my socialization. The boys have friends, they know our neighbors, they participate in community programs, strangers regularly comment on their manners and ability to communicate with anyone in spite of their age. I cannot see how pigeonholing a child in a group of kids, only their age, for 13 years helps socialize them any better than what we do.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

That they will someday resent it. But we all wish we had what we don't and did what we didn't, so one way or another we will have "did it wrong" in their eyes at some point in their lives. :) Hopefully they know it has all been out of love!

8. Briefly, what are your state's guidelines for homeschooling families? (If you feel comfortable saying it, feel free to indicate what state you're in)


In Colorado, the main requirements are to register a notice of intent to homeschool with the district every fall. Starting at the end of 3rd grade, you also need to give a standardized test every odd year. We are required to complete 172 days of instruction, averaging 4 hours a day, but a ledger is not required. I do make note of the starting dates and breaks we take on my calendar just in case it is ever needed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

YOP #6 - 10 Months

Today, my girl is ten months old. Ten months. How did this happen? How is it possible that nearly a year ago, I was giving birth to the single most joyful thing my world has ever seen? I'm actually a bit scared that a year is only two months away.

Cecilia at ten months...where do I begin? We've had some frustrating times lately. I think that a huge component of her frustration is communication based. I think she is a thinker, this one, and it really annoys her that she can't communicate the way she wants to. It leaves both of us irked and often drained.

That's really the only negative I can think of. As far as these things go, Cecilia is so amazing and sweet and joyous. She is big on physical affection and will dive-bomb me to give me kisses all over my face (her kisses often include teeth, but I refuse to do anything to discourage her from kissing me because it's seriously the best thing ever). She has a goofy little sense of humor, and she really is a sweet child. She adores people, and now waves at everyone with a huge grin on her face. She adores our cats, even if they run from her. One of them, though, is so sweet with her, and she snuggles right on him all the time. Her cousins are still in her list of top favorite people, and she loves playing with them as much as they love playing with her. Physically speaking, she's finally starting to outgrow 6 month clothing and is moving into 9 month stuff. And her hair is coming in a lot thicker in the front/top (still short in the back), and is beautifully wavy, so far.

What I really hope she is working on: Clapping (she loves it when we do it, but doesn't seem to want to do it herself), more words, and standing and walking.

I'm still amazed at how much of a little person she is now. The infancy stage is long gone, and baby even seems like it's coming to a close. It's so hard to believe I will soon have a toddler.



adorable sprout



with her favorite kitty, the one who actually likes her


enjoying some puffies (organic puffed brown rice)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spotlight on Homeschooling Series: Denise

Denise is the mother of three kids, and is a part of my online mom's group.


1. How old is/are your kid(s)?

Anna-Lee is 5, Reese is 3, and Lucy is 9.5 months.

2. How long have you been homeschooling?

We've been doing a very non-structured unschooling approach for the last year and a half.

3. What made you choose to homeschool?

We've chose to homeschool mainly because I see a lot of the same learning styles I had as a kid in Anna-Lee. I excelled in elementary school, but was fortunate enough to have had amazing teachers who saw my unique abilities and who were able to work with them instead of against them. With class sizes in our area schools having almost doubled since then, we don't want our kids to get lost in the crowd.

As they get older, we also see homeschooling as a way to help foster their individual interests and learning goals.

4. Is there a particular style you use (e.g. Montessori, spiritual, etc) and why?

Right now, with the kids being so young, we mainly use an unschooling approach. We use her interests to inspire what we learn. She is very interested in space, in dinosaurs, and all things science. Or we turn buying a box of ice cream bars into a lesson in math (if we each get an ice cream but Lucy, that's 4. This box has six. How many extras will we have?). Its been the best approach for us over the past 18 months because a difficult pregnancy, whiplash, working, and family circumstances has made carving out daily time for a structured school approach difficult.

5. Do you believe you will homeschool for your child(ren)'s entire academic life, or do you plan on using public, private or charter schools at some point?

Until recently, I would've said we will be homeschooling her entire academic life. But, Anna-Lee needs speech therapy. We can get it through our local public school even while teaching her at home. When we were at the school for the evaluation, I was told I'd need to have her there 2-3x/week. As we were leaving we ran into the kindergarten teachers, who was one of those teachers that I was very fortunate to have. I decided that for this semester, we'll send her to kindergarten. Anna-Lee and I have difficulty with learning to read and get frustrated with one another. I think adding a different adult into the mix will help. And if I'm sending her to school, there isn't a teacher out there that I'd feel more comfortable with.

6. How do you respond to claims that homeschooling children leads to socialization issues and doesn't prepare children for the 'real world'?

I think it's silly to suggest spending 8 hrs a day with a group of people all the same age is real world preparation. My friends' vary in age from 20 to 65 (I'm 26), and I rarely work with people my own age. While homeschooling, the girls are going to appointments with me, to stores, to restaurants, and seeing my friends. They can take dance lessons and go visit family members. They are exposed to the real world and to many different people, just as adults are.

I do think parents need to make sure kids have access to other kids. Whether its through a homeschool group, a playgroup, meeting a group of mom's and their kids at the zoo weekly, a dance karate type lesson, etc. Otherwise its very easy for kids to get plenty of interaction, but no opportunities to really develop relationships.

7. What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?

I worry that Anna-Lee will grow up resenting being homeschooled. Which is a big part of why I plan to let her guide a lot of her studies, as long as she's meeting the state requirements. A big part of this is that I have a friend who hated being homeschooled and wishes she would've gone to a public or private school instead. Then again, I went to public school and in 9th grade spend two weeks refusing to speak to my parents because they wouldn't pull me out to let me homeschool! So, I guess really the biggest worry is that we'll lose the communication we need to have to make her education an enriching, FUN experience rather than something she drudges through, regardless of location.