Saturday, February 18, 2017

School Day BLUES

Image result for mr popper's penguins book

Most days we spend about 4 hours total doing school-ish stuff. Each kid has a notebook of core subjects (math, reading, writing, language arts, science, geography) and we read Story of the World with cookies at bed time for our history. We also watch all kinds of documentary's and shows like Cupcake Wars and Good Eats. School days start around 10 (because mornings suck) and there is usually not too much kvetching.

Until there is. Griping, that is. It starts small, building over the weeks until I hate calling them all to the table for school because I know bad attitudes are coming along.

It usually takes a week or two of this before I remember that one of the reasons we homeschool our kids and so we can enjoy learning together. When that stops happening it is usually because I have managed to suck ALL the fun out of learning and made home school look way to much like "real school". I can be a little slow on the uptake.

We were in the grumpy phase of school last week and it was time for a change. This week we did a unit study on the book Mr Poppers Penguins. It was awesome. We had fun together, we learned, we enjoyed a great story, and it was everything I started homeschooling for in the first place!

We read how the Popper family was short on money for groceries and used the adds to make menus, adding up the cost for a day, week and year of food. We practiced writing letters to people like Mr. Popper did to Admiral Drake. We each chose a different type of penguin to become experts on and figured out what kind of penguin was in the book. We used maps to find out where penguins live, what they eat and how they nest. We wrote newspaper articles about the Popper family, asking who, what, when, where and why questions. We used venn diagrams to see how all they types of penguins were alike. We took a field trip to the museum to see the penguin dioramas. We read countless penguin books and did a ton of penguin crafts!

This week reminded me why I love to homeschool my kids. Its fun! It also reminded me that a big part of parenting is figuring out when something STOPS working and being flexible enough to make a change. Maybe I will remember quicker next time learning has stopped being fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What is love?

"Baby, don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more..."

Maybe the rest of the world doesn't think in song lyrics, but I do.

Valentines Day. The haters call it the "Halmark Holiday" and while I am usually the first to be skeptical about all the things, this is a holiday I enjoy. Actually, I believe we should have MORE days that focus on love and making other people feel special.

My kids love Valentines day. Maybe it it the cherry coffee cake cut into heart shapes (a tradition I have continued from my mother) or the little boxes of chocolates or the little gifts from grandparents. It could be the party at school and the extra games and treats. But I chose to believe its more than that.

My kids are good at loving. Most kids are. Us adults have all these ideas about the "right" way to love someone, about the "correct" path to romance. Kids just like to love. My kiddos have been creating handmade Valentines for their family and friends for the past several weeks. My oldest wrote something she loved about each of us, along with a picture she thought we would enjoy, in each card. On Valentines day we delivered homemade cookies and card to friends and neighbors, with a special focus on those who might feel extra alone.

I got my love spicy almonds and dark chocolate and spent the day texting him poorly written, naughty poetry. He spent a bunch of time making me a book with pictures and things he loved about me. We ate an amazing dinner as a family, even Grandma joined in.

I love love. I love reasons to celebrate people I love. I learn (daily sometimes!) from my children on how to love better, richer, and more authentically.  They are never shy to ask to be snuggled, or to say they need kisses and hugs. They are willing to be the first to love, embracing the vulnerability it takes to toss your heart at someone elses feet and hope for the best. When I grow up, I want to be like that. I want to be brave in my love, I want to be willing to ask for love and give it with no strings attached.

So here is to the haters, I won't wish you a happy valentines day, I will only say that I hope you took the time to truly love somebody and be loved in return.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mama Fail

I have anxiety about homeschooling. I have been told by public school parents it isn't any less stressful to send a kid to school that to school them yourself and I have to agree. We all wonder "am I doing enough" or "is my kid really learning what they need to know?".

Some day, most even, I feel like we are doing pretty good. My kids all learn differently and are good at different thing and we do our best to encourage them to take on hard tasks with integrity even if they will never be the very best.

Sometimes I am pretty sure I suck at all the things, schooling my children included.

This is a story of a big, fat fail.

Addilyn has always been a reluctant reader. Learning to read takes focus, which comes hard for her. It also takes attention to detail (n is a different letter than m) which isn't her strong suit. She has performed at grade level-ish, but has no love for reading, which KILLS me. This year she has struggled. As a 3ed grader, she is beyond "reader" style books and firmly in the chapter book camp. It hasn't gone well.

The other day, after frustration and tears on both our parts, I sat down for a pow-wow and trouble shoot session with the hubby. We came to 2 conclusions: the first is Addilyn had to up her game and stop doing half-ass work and the second was that we needed to go back to basics and figure out what the kid had missed that kept her from progressing.

The next day we told Addilyn our plan of attack, she was on board and promised to work hard. We started with sight words flash cards. We did the kindergarten ones, the first grade ones, the second grade ones....

To my great surprise, she didn't struggle with a one. She knew them all, most without sounding out, and the ones that stumped her she decoded. I asked her why she did so well on the flash cards but struggled with the book we were reading.

Her, "The cards are EASY, I can see them"

Me, " can't SEE the words in the books?!"

Her, "No, the words are small in the chapter books and the letters look alike"


Off to the eye doctor, who confirmed the child needed reading glasses. Off to the "therapist" (some people call it the liquor store) for the crappy mama who didn't realize that the kid didn't have a READING problem, she had a SEEING problem. Oy vey.

We now have some catching up to do. Not being able to see her work has lead to lousy handwriting and an even lousy-er attitude about reading. At least now she can see the flipin' words.