The Homeschool Mother’s Journal 2011-2012 — Weeks 8-10

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life the last three weeks… I’m not sure I can even verbalize the craziness of the last three weeks. The wheels are totally off. Short of a hurricane or pneumonia, I’m not sure how things could get more disorganized, more stressful, or more, well, chaotic. The only things on track right now are work and the side project I’m working on for work. I have a huge deadline looming for that side project, and then my part of it is done.

In our homeschool the last three weeks… After the unschooling chat on #hschat, I realized that my little resister might enjoy a bit more control in the area of academics. So, we’ve arrived at a point where the only “required” material right now is Life of Fred for math. We’ve been doing a lot of reading and some math and science is covered by us, zoo school, and so forth. It’s very hard for me to figure out how to document all of this, but I’m working on it.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… No idea is too crazy if you are committed to homeschooling. At this point, the only thing saving my sanity is that Ben is picking the topics that we’re working with.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… What a three weeks. Katie did some dance classes. Ben tried out homeschool gymnastics. Ben started soccer. We tried out the Glazer’s Children’s Museum and liked it enough that we got a membership. We tried the MOSI science class and Ben loved it. Katie will be old enough in December to take the class, so we’re going to get a membership to MOSI. I now have a dedicated pouch just for IDs for things. Katie will be getting her library card on her birthday and her zoo ID shortly thereafter and the little pouch will be close to bursting :). We had a great playdate with a friend of Ben’s (who Katie is very fond of, too) and Ben has tried, and decided he liked, singing with Mr. Matt at church, so he will be in his first official production of “something” this December.

My favorite thing this week was… Listening to Ben just bubbling over about his experiences at MOSI and how much he loved the class. Encouraged me to sign him up for more and to consider putting him in science camps there in the summer. If I can have a second, Ben singing me the chorus of a song we sing in church sometimes because I identified it as my favorite.

What’s working/not working for us… Dance doesn’t seem to be working for us. I don’t know what happened. She loved it the first few times, but the last few times, she’s just been a wreck and doesn’t want to do it. She’s almost three, and really doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t want to do, so we’re going to stop and let her try again when/if she expresses an interest. Also not working? Homeschool PE/gymnastics. We discovered that all three of us are much happier if we can just go to a park and play rather than go sit in the gym and be bored.

Things I’m working on… I’ve been working hard on course design and I have Katie’s number shirt to finish.

I’m reading… Sigh. Okay, I’m reading A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot; The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (I blame my best friend’s son for this, by the way); The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande; and Classroom Assessment Techniques: A handbook for College Teachers by K. Patricia Cross.

I’m cooking… I’ve cooked a few times over the last three weeks. I made pasta with special sauce. I made the Marlboro Man sandwich again. I think I made something else, but I don’t remember.

I’m grateful for… That we’re almost at the end of the wait. By next Tuesday we should know . . . something. I called and confirmed my labs are there, so now I wait until Tuesday. Patience and I will be friends  . . . soon.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Might have forgotten to mention someone I met in the last three weeks 🙂

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Books referenced in this post:

To find out what’s happening in other homeschools, check out The Homeschool Chick’s post and link list!

*Links to books are ALWAYS Amazon affiliate links.I make virtually nothing for linking there, but maybe someday I can buy one of my books that way :).

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal 2011-2012 — Week 7

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week… the wheels came off. I’m behind on grading. My cell phone decided to quit working at the worst possible time. It still works when it feels like it, but not when I would like it to. We’re running pretty close to the bone on the budget this week as we wait for me to get paid at the end of the week. We’re in the throws of planning Katie’s 3rd birthday party. Sam has an ear infection (another one, sigh). Ben has been even more challenging than usual.

In our homeschool this week… We released the butterflies after studying them for a few days. We expected Ben to be the one to do it, but he freaked out and refused, so Katie marched up to the pavilion and unzipped it herself. It was really an impressive display (see photo below). Ben had Zoo School — they studied bats and went to the bat exhibit, which he thought totally rocked. Ben also started homeschool gymnastics this week. We put him in for two days a week, but I think we’re going to switch to one day a week to make our lives a little easier. There’s nothing for Katie to do and she gets very frustrated with that. We did a lot of reading, but not a lot of the other school stuff that we usually do. We don’t have a useful, practical schedule for all of us, so that’s something to work on if I ever catch up with my grading.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… When you write a schedule in August, you have to be prepared for the fact that it won’t be working by October. It seems like it works for a bit and then it just falls off the rails.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… We did Zoo school and homeschool gymnastics, as I mentioned above. Katie had parent observation day in her dance class and we were told that she wants to move Katie up to level 2 in November. Now we have to figure out how to change the schedule to accommodate a dance class at a time that doesn’t really have a time for Ben to do things. Ben finished out this year’s swimming lessons with Miss T. They were not  his two best lessons, but at the end of the second one we could all see that he just needs a bit of polish and he’ll be able to pass the swim test next Spring. Woohoo, Ben!

My favorite thing this week was… Snuggling with Katie. She’s been very emotional for the last couple of weeks. On Friday, she stood in the middle of her bedroom sobbing uncontrollably and wouldn’t let P anywhere near her. I went in with her and within a couple of minutes, we were on the big bed together, snuggling, while she continued with those hiccupy sobs. Never did figure out why she was so upset, but upset she certainly was.

What’s working/not working for us… It’s not fair for me to say nothing, but very little is working right now. I’m finding that the two classes I’m teaching could easily absorb every single hour of my day. I have to work on this and set limits for that and find a way to make the homeschool also fit in here. I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, but I’m sure that I’m going to get there. This week has some time where I can plan and I am going to take advantage of that time.

Things I’m working on… grading is the main thing. I need to also work on the number shirts. My nephew’s birthday is coming quickly, so this has to get done. HAS. TO.

I’m reading… How Learning Works by Susan Ambrose et al, still. It’s not the fastest read in the world but it is interesting. I just got Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered in the mail and hope to start reading it this week. I’m also still working on One Bite at a Time.

I’m cooking… I made dinner one night this week. I know, I was shocked too. I made Marlboro Man’s Favorite Sandwich and it was a huge hit. P was doubtful when he saw me slicing cubed steak, but he LOVED it when he ate it. We used Northwood’s seasoning from Penzey’s Spices rather than seasoned salt, but we think it made the sandwiches even better.

I’m grateful for…
An incredibly patient husband. This has been an incredibly difficult week for me, and a hard one for him, but he’s managed to hold it together for both of us while we’re making sure that we figure out where we’re actually trying to go. We feel like we’re on hold until November 1. Once we have some answers, we’re hoping that we’ll be better able to plan for the future.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
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Books referenced in this post:

To find out what’s happening in other homeschools, check out The Homeschool Chick’s post and link list!

*Links to books are ALWAYS Amazon affiliate links.I make virtually nothing for linking there, but maybe someday I can buy one of my books that way :).

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal 2011-2012 — Week 6

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week… I’m one seminar down at school. I managed to stay on top of things and we’re now entering what’s know around here as “hell week.” This is the week that I spend a lot of time tutoring. Also? Ben has his first loose tooth. He is VERY excited.

In our homeschool this week… We have butterflies!!!!! All five of Ben’s chrysalids have become butterflies. We tried the tissue method of feeding and not surprisingly, they didn’t appreciate that. So fresh flowers were brought in and they’re feeding like champs. We did a couple of Chapters of Fred, lots of reading, some writing, and a drum lesson. Katie had a dance lesson and did the same science sheet that Ben did.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Those butterfly pavilions are not really designed well. P is determined to tweak ours before Katie does this in a few years.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Well, we had an adventure last weekend. We went down to the Florida Railroad Museum to celebrate the kids’ godfather’s birthday. We got to ride in the caboose. It was an historic meeting between the two Katies. Their godfather’s mother also happens to be named Katie so we have K1 and K2, and this was the first time the two met. I think they liked each other very much. And in huge news, P and I went out, by ourselves, on Sunday. I believe they call that a date . . . but it’s been so long, I’m not sure. Anyway, Ben’s swim teacher offered to babysit, and since both kids adore her, we took her up on it. It went so well the kids wanted to go home with her. Assuming they haven’t terrified her away, we’ll be doing that again.

My favorite thing this week was… Laughing ourselves silly last night while reading about Henry Huggins’ haircut in Henry and Ribsy. Ben LOVES these books by Beverly Cleary. I strongly recommend them for all kids everywhere. Seriously.

What’s working/not working for us… Amazingly, math has started to work. He finally got into it and we’re taking off. It’s awesome. Completely awesome. The only thing not working right now is mom working. We can’t seem to find a good balance between my homeschool students and my college students. I’m sure it will come. I keep reminding myself that we’re going to have to shift things around and rebalance every year and that this is just the start of a lifelong process of balancing needs.

Things I’m working on… grading. I’m nearly always grading. Also? Trying to figure out how to make the lesson for Sunday school work better next week. We were racing through trying to get it finished. Sigh.

I’m reading… How Learning Works by Susan Ambrose et al., it really fits in well with the book I finished earlier this week by Doyle. I can see what they’re trying to get across, too, and starting to see how it all fits together for my students.

I’m cooking… um, not much. We’ve even resorted to store bought cookies for the kids. That’s bad. I mean, that’s about as bad as it gets.

I’m grateful for…
Allergy testing. It was super-easy and I have an appointment on November 1 to find out the results and where we go from here. I’m really hoping that this gives us the answer that we need and helps us find a plan that moves us forward.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
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Books referenced in this post:

To find out what’s happening in other homeschools, check out The Homeschool Chick’s post and link list!

*Links to books are ALWAYS Amazon affiliate links.I make virtually nothing for linking there, but maybe someday I can buy one of my books that way :).

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal 2011-2012 — Week 5

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week… We’ve been continuing our battle with strep and we’ve WON!!!! Finally, both kids feel great and seem to be back to normal.

In our homeschool this week… Ben took his first ever test and scored fairly well. I had to explain the different kinds of questions and how they work. He doesn’t like that multiple choice questions only allow one answer because he really thought two of the answers could have been right for one question. He’s definitely my kid. I have made a profession out of arguing with multiple-choice questions. We also got the stand and bench for our keyboard. My very old, ancient keyboard. It looks so sad on the stand, but both kids are enthralled and enthusiastic, so music lessons will proceed apace. We also got Ben’s caterpillars, finally. Interestingly, they don’t follow the directions that we’re given, so they are in chrysalids all over the place and not just at the top of the cup as the instructions indicate they’ll do. I am assured that no one shook them or anything. P and I will be moving them to their temporary pavilion tomorrow.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… Remember that we plan and God laughs. I think that’s the most important thing. The plan isn’t what’s most important.

I am inspired by… my dog. Sam is 13 1/2 years old and is really struggling some mornings to get her get-along going, but she gets it every single morning. She is one determined dog and I will honor that determination for as long as she continues to feel that way.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… the kids have been in quarantine all week so they would be well for this weekend and they are. We are so glad to finally get to leave the house again. You can’t imagine.

My favorite thing this week was… catching up to Katie tonight after her hair was washed, and when she saw the little bottle she says, “ohhhh, product. Thank you, mama for putting product in my hair.”

What’s working/not working for us… As usual, our place of struggle is math. I’m not sure why we’re struggling with it at this point. I think he’s probably bored with where we’re starting, but I think he needs the reminder, so we’ll continue to plow on.

Things I’m working on… I’m working on Katie’s quilt, slowly. Once I finish this one, I think I’m going to bump up Ben’s quilt and do it next. I’ve also gone back to work, so the usual work of an adjunct is part of my life again.

I’m reading… Helping Students Learn in a Learner-Centered Environment by Terry Doyle. This was referenced several times at the conference I attended last week, so I bought it. He has a second book coming out in December that I have on pre-order. It is already having an impact on my teaching and I’m really pleased with the results even though we’re only a couple of days in.

I’m cooking… I did the set up for one of our favorite pasta dishes: Jo’s Sausage in Wine Sauce from On Top of Spaghetti. It’s the only sauced pasta my kids will eat consistently. We use a slightly sweet Florida white wine (San Sebastian) and it works really, really well.

I’m grateful for…
being one week away from taking the allergy tests and being able to set a foot on the road to answers about my health.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Today, it’s a link. If you haven’t checked out: Sam’s Noggin, you really should. She’s dangerous with the ideas. I’m jumping in on her One Bite at a Time challenge.

Books referenced in this post:

To find out what’s happening in other homeschools, check out The Homeschool Chick’s post and link list!

*Links to books are ALWAYS Amazon affiliate links.I make virtually nothing for linking there, but maybe someday I can buy one of my books that way :).

Mission Statement

One of my 3in30 goals for this month was to write a personal mission statement. I’ve felt, for a while, that having a touchstone of sorts that I can look to would help me better prioritize my days, my work, and my life. I used Mission Statements for Moms to help guide my process. I found her questions very logical and it helped me to get the ideas shaped up. Granted, this is a draft and it will likely change, but I came up with this as my mission statement:

I am a mother who creates a healthy, nurturing, fun environment for my children. I help them become their best selves and achieve their dreams.

I am a woman who strives to strengthen my relationship, who shares freely with others, and who works consistently to achieve my dreams and goals.

I am a wife who helps, encourages, and loves my husband. I remember our perspectives and experiences are different and appreciate those differences. I show love and affection for him daily.

I am a teacher who empowers my students to take charge of their own learning. I encourage students to do their best work and help them to succeed.

So, what do you think? Constructive feedback, observations, etc., are welcome. If you’re going to call me an idiot for doing this, just move along please.

The Best Laid Plans

Today is a day where a lot of plans are going topsy-turvy. The plan for the blog was to write a post about The Faculty Lounges by Naomi Schaefer Riley, but I don’t have the brain power to be all intellectual and marshal my arguments coherently. Why?

Well, I get migraines (among the other health challenges that I have) that make it really hard for me to think clearly. I’ve taken my meds (well, not the one that’s actually effective because it also knocks me out, and well, people frown on leaving a 6 year old in charge of the household). But I do teach like this. I do it all the time. The thing about being an online adjunct is that you teach regardless of how you feel or what’s going on around you (with some obvious exceptions: extended hospitalization; family death; etc.). But even with a family death, I’ve managed to teach my students. I was online from midnight to 3am every night handling things after my grandmother died in 2005. Why so late? Because I had to use dial-up and couldn’t connect during the day because I would tie up the phone lines and that wasn’t cool.

Also? My son is sick. The kind of sick where he’s sitting in chairs, refusing to eat because his tummy hurts, and taking naps. Remember, he’s six. He doesn’t take naps. He thinks naps are for babies (and mommies who are overworked) but not for him. So, he’s not really doing school, but I debuted the “new” thing for him last night and it worked to keep him quiet and resting. What new thing? Um, a stripped down, non-web accessing first generation iPod Touch. He hasn’t discovered that his music is on it yet. I’m waiting for him to get curious about that music note button. He also hasn’t discovered the videos that I put on it for him (a Word Girl, a Martha Speaks, an Arthur). He’s been obsessively playing TeachMe: 1st Grade. He gets frustrated with the handwriting portions because they expect him to be accurate with his letters, BUT I see a vast improvement in his handwriting after he plays (it’s also on the iPad), and it helps him with math and money management, so I consider it an all around win.

When you teach online there are certain things that you know you have to do every day. One of them is check in on the discussion boards. I try to do this a couple of times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If I can get the afternoon in, I consider it a bonus. On a day like today? I usually skip the morning check in. I have my work email forwarded to my home account, so if there’s a catastrophe, I’ll know about it from my inbox (which, of course, is on my phone, my iPad, and my computer). When the kids go to quiet time, I’d try to jam in a discussion board or two and then grade like the wind. At the school I currently work for, Monday is grade day. If I’m not done by Sunday, I’m way off schedule and usually panicking by this time. Of course, all of this is moot because I don’t teach the August session. Too many family obligations this month.

A day like today is a disaster from a planning and organization perspective. Kids who won’t eat. A mom who can’t really concentrate well. We have a dinner plan, but I don’t know for sure what it is. I think I’m supposed to be moving laundry around, but I’m not sure. Planning only covers us insofar as I can follow the plan.

I suspect this post doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m okay with that. It’s kind of what the day around here is like :).

Book mentioned in post:

As always: book links are Amazon affiliate links. I make practically nothing from those links, but if you want to buy something, you support my Amazon habit.

Finding a Planner . . . or three

The bane of my existence is the word planner. I have tried it all. I have tried every organizational/time management/household management system out there. I won’t link to them all, but, essentially, if you can think of a name in those fields I’ve either read their books, tried their programs, or used their products, or all of the above. And at different stages of my life, most of them have worked for me, but this new stage? This stage is beyond anything I’ve ever tried to use and trying to come up with a solution has nearly killed me.

I started the year using a new version of the planner that I used last year, but it didn’t work. When it was remade, they moved the weekend days to a separate page. While this would be ideal for a lot of people, my work week is really Thursday through Monday, so I need to be able to address that. Ideally, I need as much space on Saturday and Sunday as I have on the other days of the week, but realistically, I’m not going to find that.

I tried keeping a to-do list and a journal combined (in the vein described here by the amazing Karen Walrond. It is due to her that I do carry around a journal everywhere I go, but I can’t get the hang of the to-do list in the journal thing without feeling utterly disorganized. I even tried combining it with an electronic planner and that didn’t work either, but the journal goes with me and there are sermon notes, notes from discussions and lectures I’ve attended, children’s art, bible studies, you name it, you can find it in my journal. Except for the planning/organizing stuff. I bought the one month at a time moleskine planner thing thinking I could combine the two, but realized that probably won’t work. However, that planner does start until 2012, so my plan is to give it a try using the planner I settled on as a back-up. If it works, I’ll re-retire the other one. If it doesn’t, well, retirement was boring I suspect.

Among the things I used in the past, was a Dayrunner. Specifically, a Dayrunner pro. Last weekend, I sat on the floor of our local Office Depot in front of the planners and was practically in tears. A very helpful employee pointed out that the “current” pages in the planner were only one day off (I stopped using it in July of 2000, apparently), so I bought 2012 materials for it, came home, and made new stickers for the whole thing changing the dates on what is currently in the planner to match 2011, and that’s what I’m using. A week later and I feel a bit more in control of the personal stuff, the blogging stuff, and the school stuff.

But, you’ll notice that something is missing here. A big something. Yeah, the homeschooling stuff. Here again, I’ve tried several things. I was using Well-Planned Day, but it doesn’t fit the way we do things the way that we want it to. Using it, I was flying by the seat of my pants and that doesn’t bode well for times when P might have to take over schooling for a day or three or five. Here again, we found bloggers to be the biggest help. Sam’s brilliant post on planning opened my eyes to a completely different way of thinking about how we organize the physical material of our homeschool and it was only a small leap from there to an approach that better fits the way we do things in terms of how we talk about where we are with school. We’ve organized our materials into 36 folders or units. We work on each unit until it is finished. Ben learned with unit one that it is not a good idea to pull all the “fun” stuff out first because you still have to do the other stuff in the folder before the next round of “fun” stuff appears He loves science, logic, and bible study, but doesn’t like anything involving writing, but he’s learning, slowly, to think and plan and organize his school time so that there is a good mix of fun and “other.” For six, I think that’s pretty darned good.

But, how to document the units? How does someone else (read P) come in and pick up if I’m not right there to explain where we are what we’re supposed to be doing. Well-Planned Day doesn’t work for this. Trust me, it just doesn’t work. I think it’s a great planner, but for what I want it doesn’t work. Enter Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations and her planner. It’s about as perfect a fit to what we do as we can find and it makes organizational sense for us when we put the journaling pages on the back and fill them in as the week goes. It’s been really useful as we’ve started the year.

We’re using the preschool planning pages from Raising Rock Star Preschool even though Katie isn’t ready for that program yet. We’re using Cara’s Tot School ideas for this year and will use Raising Rock Stars next year when Katie is a bit older and more ready for it. We’ve added Jolanthe’s journaling pages to the back of the preschool planning page and that helps us capture Katie’s learning more accurately, too.

And that’s how my search for the perfect planner has turned into three planners and a journal and possibly a partridge in a pear tree :).