Thursday, November 1, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal 11/2/12

In My Life This Week:  I have been praying for a week where my crazy, busy life just slows down a bit and this week was it!  We actually have been home every day to just do school. We have had very few places to go so most school days this past week were done in our jammies!
I have even been able to carve out some much needed scrapbook therapy time for myself as well as time for an an evening bubble bath or two! 

One of the more exciting things I'm working on is updating my passport! I plan to join one of our church's mission teams to Africa next summer!  My passport expired years ago so I have to get a new one.
In Our Homeschool This Week:  We have gotten so much done!  Every other Monday when Caleb (14) goes to work for one of the neighboring farmers, the two other kids and I decided to set the regular books aside and focus on some unit studies.  Josh (11) is working on making a book of states, capitals and facts. 
He got all the states that begin with "A" done this past week!
Carolyn (9) is just like I was at her age...a terrible speller!  She made this lapbook into a poster that we have kept close by to use when she is stuck on a word.

Even though Caleb missed the unit study day on Monday, he just finished a chapter on the Revolutionary war, so he is making a poster out of an American Revolution lapbook. (We LOVE turning lapbooks into posters as well as books!) He plans to spend all day tomorrow (Friday) finishing it while he finishes watching Patriot!

Here are some of our favorite places to get lapbooks, notebooking materials and unit studies. Click on the pics to go to their sites!
I love all of the free lapbooks at Homeschoolshare! We have even used some in our Co-Op classes! 
The Notebooking Fairy is also one of my favorite places for high quality notebooking pages!
Notebooking Success eBook

I also wish I could afford everything that is not free from!

Helpful Advice or tips to Share Ask: How do you keep from running out of printer ink when you love to print so much stuff for your homeschool? And how do you afford all the ink if you love to print?! I feel like I need to buy a copier with a never ending supply of toner!  :O)

I Am Inspired By:  The "sacrifices" made by all of the homeschooling moms in my area ~ and all of my cyber homeschooling friends too ~ who "give up" alone time, money and a clean house to give their children the best possible education they can!  Why did I ever think my house would stay cleaner if I stayed home?!  I have to admit, the laundry is more kept up and the kids do help with household chores more but at the end of the day, my house looks (almost) just like it did when we were all off going our own ways during the day.

Places We're Going and People We're Seeing: Tomorrow Caleb (14) and I are joining a few friends and their daughters to go to the "Follow The North Star" program at Conner Prarie a few hours away!  We will actually become runaway slaves on the underground railroad at night!  I can't wait to blog about the experience!

My Favorite Thing This Week Was: having a few afternoons to myself and a much less hurried pace!

What's Working for Us:  I was delighted when one of the neighbors offered Caleb a job.  He is not your typical 8th grader.  His Asperger's can make some days down right unbearable.  He can be a delighful, eager learner one minute and throwing things the next.  Letting him learn valuable life skills from his new boss is priceless!  He has helped load hogs as well as clean out grain bins!  He always comes home exhausted, smelling like pigs and ready for a shower!  One of the other perks is that he is getting paid $10 an hour so we now go to the bank once a week to deposit his check.  Its been a great way to reinforce spending habits with him!

Questions / Thoughts I Have:  A few nights ago I posted on my blog about the things I've learned since we started homeschooling.  I thought  thatI had thought of everything the evening I typed it but have to add a few more thoughts...
  • I have learned that homeschooling families have to change the tiolet paper more often!
  • There are NEVER enough snacks in the house!
  • We are always running out of printer ink!
I'm reading: a book I found at our church library called "Torches of Joy: A Stone Age Tribe's Encounter With the Gospel," by John Dekker.  GREAT READ!

I'm Praying For: A wonderful friend of mine who is a single mom of 6 kiddos who may have to/ wants to start homeschooling her special needs daughter.  I pray that God leads her to do what He has planned for her!

A fun pic of my kiddos from the costume party we had at church last night!

Caleb (left) won 3rd place for his Gilligan costume!  He even had the show's theme song playing from his Fanny Pack!  Josh's (middle) age group did not have a costume contest so he decided not to bother with a costume! Carolyn's age had Wacky Hair Night!  She recycled her costume from last year and added almost every hair bow from the drawer to embellish her indian braids!
Today I've linked up with:


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Homeschooling has Taught me About Myself, My family, My Children, and Education in General

That's the Longest Blog Title I've ever seen!  You don't have to guess what this post is going to be about!

I've been asked by many people recently how homeschooling is going for us "now that we have a few years under our belts."  This repeated question has led me to ponder about the "State of the Ivins' Academy." And, since I'm sure I won't be giving any television addresses to our community or nation in January, I will make my speech right here. :O)

The process we went through as a family to take our kids out of public education has taught me many life lessons, probably the greatest of which was to trust God No matter what He asks us to do.  Many moms tell me that they are so glad that we decided to homeschool, but that they could never do it themselves.  What I have learned is that when God asks you to do something He WILL provide a way.   Even if you have special children with special needs.  I don't recall ever being blatantly abusive toward home educators, but as a public educator, I "knew" that public education was best for most kids.  I had no intentions of quitting my job and really no intentions of ever being a homeschool family.  Isn't it funny what we say we will never do as parents...before we have kids!  :O)   When God first started to whisper his plans to me, like many moms, I didn't really listen.  No that we have been doing this homeschool gig for a few years, I wonder why I ever didn't trust him in the first place.  That's a wee bit embarrassing to me now.  If you feel a call from God to do something that is not on your radar, my  advice to you is to trust right away.  God knows what's best for your family.

Another thing I have learned about myself is that I really do know what's best for my kids.  Despite what the world says, what some well intentioned friends have said, the school system said, and what I often tell myself when I second guess our decision, No one really knows the needs of my kids and God's plan for me like I do myself.The school did what they thought was best. My friends tell me what they think is best, but by listening to God, I really do know what's best.  My kids are flourishing in ways we never imagined!

I have learned much about my family as well as myself.  I have learned so much about us as a whole as well as many little gems about each of us individually.  My middle man really loves to read and loves to snuggle while we read together!  My little princess is a math whiz!  My oldest "little" man is an amazing fluent reader who loves to "ad lib" his own sentences into any book, "just to make it more interesting!"  The middle man told me he learned more grammar in one school year last year than he ever planned on learning in his life!  My daughter is delighted whenever she gets to read a name like "Amerigo Vespucci!"  We have giggled a lot this year while reading history!  My oldest is thrilled to read about God's involvement in our nation's history and told me he really appreciates the textx and books we have chosen for him.  There's a lot to learn from your kids when you have get to spend hours learning with them each day.  

Because the question of "socialization" always comes up when "debating" homeschool versus public school, I can tell you that the conclusion I have come to is that social skills are taught in the home first no matter where your kiddo is educated. Whether kids leave on the bus in the morning or do school in their jammies at the kitchen table, the social skills they take with them were either taught or not taught at home first.   Kids don't go to school to learn social skills (even though they may bring some learned behaviors home with them...good or bad...)but take what has been fostered at home with them each morning. People who think they learn all their social skills at school should never spend much time in a school cafeteria!  When that many children are gathered together even the kids from the most socially responsible parents loose a few manners IQ points!    In our homeschool there are days when I wonder what skills have really sunk in with my kids as they eat lunch together and there are only 3 of them!  Then I remember the school cafeterias I have worked in and am reminded that this is just how kids act when 2 or more are gathered together.  Then there are other days when my kids thrill me in public by acting like they just graduated from "Manners R Us!"  So no matter what your opinion is of "unsocialized" homeschoolers is, just remember that social skills are learned in the home and practiced wherever else we go.  And no matter where your kiddo is educated hopefully they are leading by example no matter where they are or who they are with.

Our family has made the discovery that we like being less involved in massive extra curricular "stuff."  We have enjoyed many evenings laughing over board games, biking, hiking and just hanging out.  We actually enjoy each others company.  We enjoyed each other before we homeschooled, we just have more time for it now and we like that.   I have also noticed our kids' faith growing as they've watched us take this leap of faith.  We have more time for intentionally working the teachings of Dueteronomy 6 into our family.  We now work the command that we "teach them when we sit and when we rise..." into more areas of our day simply because we are together more.

I would never have claimed to be "the best" or most educated teacher, but I did feel confident in my profession.  I enjoyed nearly every day that I had the privilege educating lots of young people in the schools around my area.  I never dreamed that homeschooling would have so much more to teach me!  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids' learning flourish through methods that were previously unknown to me.  There is just soooo much you can do to extend a child's learning in a classroom of 3! We are constantly immersed in topical studies to extend and deepen what we learn in our textbooks.  When the kids are really enjoying a topic or subject I like to extend their learning for a while and just let them "run with it." If we are not finished with our textbooks in 180 days, so what? We'll keep at 'em 'till they're done at our own pace.  

Another thing I have learned, especially when special needs come into play is that homeschooling offers us so many more interventions that really work to assist with both behavioral and academic struggles.  Mowing the lawn for a while IS good therapy for an overwhelmed nervous system! So is snuggling with a cat while reading.  Eating three Oreos in the bathroom is great therapy for the stressed out teacher-mom!  So is just leaving for a walk once in a while in the middle of a hard day.  Allowing our 14 year old to work one day every other week for  a neighbor farmer is a great way to help him learn job skills and let the rest of us have a more emotionally balanced day once in a while!  Reading one on one with my struggling reader has done GREAT things to boost his confidence!  Every lesson I prepare is completely tiered and differentiated (to coin a trendy current educational phrase) to meet each of the kids right where they are at that day and sometimes even right in the moment.

Another thing I've learned is that when God asks, God Provides! From the outside looking in was deciding to homeschool the best financial and emotional decision for our family? Probably not!  We were not rich or completely emotionally stable in the first place! How could reducing our income and spending even more time in a potentially emotionally draining situation be good for us UNLESS God asked us to do it? We are still not rich.  We are still occasionally emotionally fragile.  BUT God has blessed us richly in both of these areas beyond what we could have ever imagined!  The bills still get paid...somehow! And the most emotionally unstable among us is actually much more stable now that the pressures of public school academics and social situations have been replaced with one on one instruction and an occasional ride in the neighbor's combine for an hour or two on a rough afternoon!

Above all else, homeschooling has taught me that there is no "one size fits all" educational approach.  What works for my daughter doesn't always work with the boys and vice versa. What is working for my family may not work for yours. There is no better way to meet my family's emotional, social and academic needs than doing what God has asked us to do.  I pray that anyone who reads this can take a moment to listen to what God has for you and your family.  Then, if it is different to what you are presently doing, pray some more and maybe even "throw all caution to the wind" and let God do a mighty work in your family like he has mine!

So, after 2 years of homeschooling, how is the Ivins family doing?  Overall, GREAT!  We have our moments of family insanity just like any other not perfect family out there! But overall, I would say that we are at a place of contentment! I am so glad I finally listened AND obeyed and took that leap of faith like God asked me to!  

Now, it's time to go to bed and read a good book...because all of my planning and prepping for tomorrow has already been done!  (Another benefit of a classroom of 3!)