Wow! I admire you. I could NEVER do that.

Yes, you could.

Homeschooling isn’t rocket science.

I hear this all the time. Don’t get me wrong. I am not offended in the least, and I do indeed take it for the compliment it is meant to be.

But I just feel like there are some common misconceptions about homeschooling that keep a lot of people in the dark about what it is and what it is not.

  1. It is NOT school at home. Not the school that our culture is used to, at least. It is, though, education at home. If all the  homeschoolers just brought home a white board, desks, saluted the flag every morning, and had scheduled 20 minutes recesses and a set lunch time every day, we would all go crazy. (Many newbies try this and find that although there are some benefits, it is just not sustainable.) Homeschool is not school at home.
  2. It does NOT require a teaching degree. Why? Because it isn’t teaching in a public school or traditional classroom setting. Teaching at school and teaching at home share some similar skills, yet they are very, very different. Whereas a teaching degree is generally required for those planning on teaching at a school with classrooms, recess, a principal, assemblies, state and fed testing, and whatever else they do at the public schools, there is no need (although I can see a definite benefit, obviously) to even having any college degree of any kind to teach and raise your children. Being their parent, being willing and determined, and being able to learn yourself is what you need. (See first quote at the very bottom of this post.)
  3. It IS just raising your children. Don’t you teach your children everyday anyway? Didn’t you teach them how to talk, how to walk, how to tie their shoes, how to get dressed, how to take care of their bodies, how to eat appropriately in public, how to treat people, etc., etc., etc.? You are teaching them all the time whether consciously or not. At my house – and so I generalize to all generic homeschoolers’ houses – I teach my children to be honest and tell the truth the same way I teach them to do their math and understand sentence structure. I teach them to clean their rooms and do their chores the same way I teach them to appreciate and recognize classical music and understand how a lightbulb works. Homeschooling is parenting, but in all aspects of life, the social, spiritual, physical, musical, AND academic. It is parenting without outsourcing (or very little).

That’s enough of that, because technically I didn’t write this post to make THAT checklist.

I wanted, actually, to write THIS checklist. What you DO need in order to successfully homeschool. Like I said at the beginning, just because you DO NOT homeschool, does not mean you CANNOT homeschool. Obviously not everyone wants to homeschool, which is just fine. And Obviously there are some people who really, just really no matter what, cannot homeschool whether or not they want to. That is also just fine (unless they actually DO want to homeschool. In their case, I have no good suggestions. Sorry.)

So not as a slam at all, but as just as much a compliment as you have given me, Yes, you can homeschool, too. I know  you could if you had the desire. If you are a loving, caring, and conscientious parent, you can successfully homeschool your children.

Do I need to throw in a little He-Man?

Do I?

Ok. here you go.

He-man

YOU HAVE THE POWER!!!

Ok, back on subject. There are things that I think are required, however, to successfully homeschool (and I think the word successfully is interpreted differently for every homeschool, yet these skills/principles still apply.)

You need to have a desire. A lot of people don’t want to homeschool. In fact MOST people do not want to homeschool. That’s just fine. People who don’t want to homeschool, should really just not homeschool. Those who do homeschool, and who do it well, however, stick with it because they feel driven to. Some do it for spiritual and religious reasons. Some do it for social reasons. Some do it for academic reasons. Nowadays more and more people are doing it for political reasons. And I’ve heard of some who did it purely for logistical reasons. But the bottom line is the parents are doing it because there is a need and desire. It would be hard to homeschool just because you thought it was trendy (as if it were!) or because you knew some awesome people who did it (and we all do.) Homeschooling is indeed hard – in almost all ways harder than outsourcing education and sending the kids off for 6 hours a day (although personally that would be harder for me). When times get really hard, you have to fall back on your why. If your why is strong (your need and desire) you will have the strength to keep going at the pace and intensity your kids need.

My why encompasses all of those mentioned above, except maybe logistics. But the deeper reason I do it is because I feel called to do it. I feel it is what God wants ME to do with MY children. It has nothing to do with you or your children, or my neighbors and their children. And the more homeschooling moms I talk to, the more I see they have had this same experience as well, this overwhelming sense of calling. There have been only a few times in my life I have felt called to do things, but this is definitely one of them. If I know God has got my back in this endeavor, I can make it through all those hard times. Following God’s plan for me and my family is my ultimate why.

You need to have discipline. But it is also helpful to remember that discipline is not the same thing as punishment. Your house cannot be a dictatorship. But at the same time, it won’t work as a democracy either.  If you are trying to work with your child on x, y, or z, but they just ignore you and do a, b, or c instead, I’m sorry to say it, but you are just going to have a pretty crappy day. I think what we are all going for is some sort of benevolent authoritarian home government. (A monarchy might be nice, too! Jk. Probably not.)

I wish I had some magic rule or strategy for establishing a well disciplined house. I do feel like my house is pretty well disciplined, but I also feel that many times I fail as a disciplinarian. Sometimes I am too soft and give in easily, and yet sometimes I fly into a rampage and children are threatened with no presents for Christmas, no dessert for a year, and bathroom duty every day until they are 20. (Less effective threats, let me just tell you right now – well, the present denial one did get a good reaction out of them.)

In any case, maybe my advice is that whatever method of discipline you take (just pick a few books off the library shelf or ask your Facebook friends or something) you have to be patient with yourself and do your best. In my (limited) experience, consistency, fairness, and calmness are the best companions to disciplining children. You are the parent. They are the child. You are in charge. They DO NOT get whatever they want and that is just final. Sometimes they just have to do things without whining and complaining because “mom said so.” Disciplining is really hard work, BUT if you have the desire, you will do it because it matters more to you than getting off the “easier” way.

I will put in my plug right now for Nicholeen Peck and Teaching Self-Government. I’ve heard her speak more than once, I bought her book, and I really like what she teaches and does. Very awesome and very inspiring. I can’t say that in real life I actually do everything she does, but I love that she does it and I think she is spot on. Teaching Self-Government. You are welcome!

You need to have PATIENCE! This is the major reason (expressed to me, at least) why people believe they can’t homeschool their kids. (Well, besides discipline “my kids never listen to me now as it is!”) I have heard actual teachers say that they are fine teaching other people’s children, but they could never teach their own because they don’t have the patience. That is kind of sad thought, isn’t it. We don’t have patience for the very children we have brought into the world and have promised to nurture, raise, and care for?

Flashback 3 paragraphs. The “No Christmas Presents, Desserts, and Everlasting Toilet Duty” paragraph. I lose my patience, too.

Now flashback 3 1/2  years ago to when I first started homeschooling. I lost my patience, A LOT!

Now flashback to when I had only one child. I lost my patience with him all the time. And for stupid and embarrassing reasons that I really don’t need to go into right now.

But then I had two children. And shortly after I had three. My level of patience went up because of my love for them and my desire to be the best mother I could be. God trusted me with these little babies because he knew, even if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I could do it, and He would help me. So, no matter how bad I was at keeping my patience, I was determined to get better. My love for my children was my why.

So jump up to when I decided not to send my son back to school for first grade. There was a lot to learn about patience. But we had a lot of time to do it. The family and home was my laboratory for life and even though I failed many, many times, I just kept trying. Because of my original why – my deep and unyielding love for those precious, though sometimes really obnoxious and stubborn,  beautiful babies of mine – but also because now I had another why. Homeschooling was important enough to me that I was determined to develop whatever skill I needed to make it work and make it work well.

I remember meeting homeschooling families and just being in awe of the love, kindness, and respect the children and parents all had for one another. They were just regular families, but at the same time, they weren’t normal families. They were more. They were the family we all aspire to be – at least I aspired to be. The common factor, besides being religious which I believe doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor, was that they homeschooled. The mother loved, respected, valued, and had patience with her children. I believe this is what made the difference. In fact, children often feel our love, respect, and that we value them THROUGH the patience we give them.

Think about that for a moment.

Now tell me it isn’t worth it for you to work on developing more patience in your family.

I think (and I could be wrong) that patience is not something we are born with, but something we have to learn and practice and practice some more. Being an “impatient person” or not having any patience is not a life sentence unless you choose it to be.

I think homeschoolers, because of the nature of their lifestyle choice, either develop lots of patience, or they don’t and end up sending their kids back to public school.

YOU HAVE THE POWER!!

heman

I read an excellent article the other day about being a teacher. The title was ” ‘I’m only a Primary teacher.’ ”  The article focused mainly on those people in my church who are asked to teach the little children during church instead of going to Sunday School and the other adult doctrinal classes with the rest of the congregation. A lot of times people feel like just being one of the many teachers for the little ones isn’t as glamorous or as important as being the head of one of the auxiliary organizations of the church. So as you read these quotes, although they talk about mainly doctrinal and spiritual truths, I feel they equally apply to all truths. (All truth comes from God anyway.)

“[Parents] should not worry that we are not professionally trained gospel teachers…The Spirit will lead you along. I promise you: the calling to be a parent includes the gift to teach in the ways that are right for you and for your children. Remember, God’s power to influence us righteously is His love.” – Elder Robert D. Hales.

“A teacher speaks and acts in love. Love is the most important element in effective teaching. Our teaching skills may not yet be well developed, but when a child feels loved, he or she will internalize the gospel principles that are presented. Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, provided the perfect example of teaching with love. He taught in the language of and at the level of understanding of His hearers, using stories and illustrations that came from their own environment.” -Sister Jean B. Bingham

“Often we think that teachers are “born, not made.” However, one of the gifts of the spirit is to “teach the word of knowledge,” (Moroni 10:10), and we are encouraged to seek for and develop those gifts. Through personal experience, mentoring by seasoned teachers and observing the examples of others, each of us can increase our talent and capacity to teach.” – Sister Jean B. Bingham

I know you love your children. I know, if you had the desire, you could develop the discipline and the patience needed to homeschool your kids. Homeschooling is maybe not what you thought it was. No homeschool mom is a super mom, or a “better than” mom, or anything other than a regular mom. She just has a certain why that drives her to do things a little counter culture.

So I say to all you regular moms out there, homeschooling or not, don’t sell yourself short! You love your children and you are amazing and you sacrifice and do wonderful things for them every single day. When you feel a desire or need to act for their safety, wellbeing, and benefit, you do it, and you do your best!

And that is what God asks of all of us.

(However, if you do feel the desire to homeschool, but feel you can’t, I have a very, very large homeschooling community that will help you realize that you can!)

IT’S ALIVE!!!

Well, actually it’s just an electroscope. But we made it, and it WORKS!!

Can you tell I haven’t had much science success lately? I haven’t felt this awesome about a science experiment since our marbles, tennis balls, and Newton’s Second Law of Motion!

(Now I am just sounding like a science geek.)

I’m totally ok with that.

We have started discussing electricity and in doing so have gone back quickly to atoms and electrons. One of the things we reviewed is that electrons repel each other.

Well, in generating static electricity (by helping “loose” electrons jump from the shells of their atoms of one material to welcoming atomic shells of another material) we were able to negatively charge up a balloon and then actually send the electrons from our balloon down an aluminum foil conductor. Once the build up of electrons hit the two ends of the foil… well, I’ll just let you see for yourself.

 

Here’s all the nitty-gritty science for you. Just imagine all those little +s are actually little -s.

And technically we didn’t have a charged rod… just a leftover blue balloon.

And also we used plain old aluminum foil. I save the gold foil for special occasions. 😉

But basically I feel like we are full fledged physicists now seeing as we have successfully manipulated the very essence of electricity!!! Mwaaa Ha Ha!

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Chalk up a few more points on the blackboard for me!

Homeschooling Moments: March 5th – 11th

Some of these may or may not be events/scenarios exclusive to homeschoolers… well, I don’t know. You can judge for yourself. But they are all actual events/scenarios recorded by myself in my house this last week.

Behold! I present to you Real Moments from My Crazy, Wonderful, Joyful, and Sometimes Overwhelming Week as a Homeschooling Mom, March 5th through the 11th edition.

  • Watching my kids run around like maniacs throughout the house first thing in the morning pretending to be electrons – always repelling each other and always in motion. This was accompanied by many screams and much laughter.
  • Then watching them pretend to be magnets. Our heads had to all be opposite poles of the various magnets so as to attract and stick to each other. (Is this not sounding fun to you? It was fun for about 3 seconds.)
  • Listening to the kids discuss which one of them would get to teach the preschooler how to read.
  • Getting done with all of our kindergarten “work” in 15 minutes. (There must have been some kind of magical motivation going on there.)
  • Enduring the kids begging me to check out the entire opera “The Magic Flute” on DVD from the library because they really like the song (retitled by them as) “Gonna Catch a Girlfriend.” (Papageno’s opening song in Act I.)
  • Having a discussion with my 4th grader about crossbreeding fruits and vegetables and plant genetics just because he had read something about it and wanted to know more.
  • Having that discussion about what happens to our food when we eat it, how the nutrients get into our blood and then into our cells, and then what happens to the waste. The Kindergartener was LOVING it! And the 4th grader felt sick and had to leave the room. (Ok, people, if you are going to ask me a question, I am just going to come out and tell you the answer, whether you really want it or not.)
  • Turning the car radio on to hear “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and hearing the kids squeal with excitement because “We know this one!!!!”
  • Hearing my 4th grader retelling the story of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot to his younger siblings. We haven’t talked about this is 3 years, and I had forgotten all about it. (I had to look it up on Wikipedia to even make sure I got the name right.)
  • Realizing we are going to get done with “school” early again this year and getting excited about planning in a field trip or two every week just so we don’t have 5 months of summer. (Too much of even a good thing…)
  • Planning next week’s camping trip to the awesome red rocks of Arches National Park while everyone else gets to sit in a desk at school.
  • NOT having to make a leprechaun trap!!!!! (Oh, how I love this one. Because I am a quasi St. Patrick’s Day grinch, too.)
  • Realizing my chid is a sentence diagramming GENIUS! (or at least it looks like that to me!)

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Ask me again what I love about homeschooling. 🙂

The Preschool that Almost Never Was… And then Surpassed All Expectations.

We all got strep.

Well… Three out of seven of us got strep, two of us just felt like we had strep. The other two felt great! (But there is always tomorrow, I suppose.)

But because we were diagnosed the day before preschool was scheduled, we had to cancel. The sound of a the week was long O and the theme was “ocean.” I was a little less enthusiastic about the theme since we already talked about underwater animals last time I was up to teach and the sound was short U. I could have just switched the theme to “snow” considering the the weather outside…

But we are all so sick of snow over here that nobody wants to really acknowledge it besides a grumble here and there. I didn’t even shovel. If you ignore it long enough, it really actually does just go away. 🙂 (5 days later and it’s practically gone!)

But oh, the wonderful activities I came up with for “ocean!” So fun!

And I was so disappointed when we had to cancel. It was a sad, sad day.

However, since I had already bought the goldfish crackers, Swedish fish, fruit loops, sea shells, and borrowed some beach sand already, we just had preschool at home by ourselves. And besides the whole being sick thing, it was wonderful.

I’ve never before simultaneously had pseudo-strep and felt so happy and at peace.

(Ok, ok. The peace and joy may not have had anything to do with the books, and shells, and sand, and goldfish crackers… but the Swedish fish may have had something to do with it.)

First, all curled up and warm on my bed, we read our ocean books. One beautiful, interesting, and educational, and the other one cute and silly. (I highly recommend both of these!)

Then, after making our beach sand play dough, we made some beaches! I was anticipating something simple with just sand shells, like this! (The shells came from the dollar store, the sand came from California via my kindergarten teaching neighbor – everyone should have one of those! – and the play dough recipe will be added at the bottom of this post.)dsc07275

But, after about 2 hours of molding, shaping, creating, laughing, sharing, and helping each other out, we found ourselves face to face with these beauties!!

Seahorses, crabs, clown fish, rays, sharks, squids, octopuses, jelly fish, star fish, electric eels, tuna fish, regular generic fish, and snakes! All hiding in shells, tunnels, caves, seaweed, and in plain sight!

We had so much fun trying to remember the different kinds of ocean animals we had seen at last week’s aquarium field trip so we could put them in our ocean scenes, that we decided to watch “Oceans.” We received this movie in a Christmas gift box from my husband’s office years ago (when they did Christmas gift boxes) and I love it. It is worth checking out at the library.  My oldest printed off an ocean life coloring page for everyone, and when they saw a different animal in the film, they would find it on their page and color it in. (I so love it when the kids plan and implement school for themselves.)

Obviously I wouldn’t have had the preschool kids watch that movie – not because they wouldn’t think it was interesting (but when I think about it, probably many of them wouldn’t actually find it interesting), but because there isn’t enough time and nobody sends their kids to preschool to have them just sit in front of someone else’s TV.

But we were all home sick, so we could do whatever we wanted.

Our post movie snack was goldfish crackers and Swedish fish swimming in ocean jello. I’m sure this did not help us get any healthier. And the Swedish fish get slimy after soaking in blue jello for a few hours so nobody really liked them after that… but it does make them seem a little more authentic. Fish are pretty slimy if I remember right. Although not fruit punch or cherry flavored. (Apparently the actual flavor of Swedish Fish is quite controversial, while the company maintains it is a unique fruit flavor all it’s own! I had to look that up, but now you know!)

The kids made graphs out of their goldfish to determine which colors show up more frequently. (This was another kid led activity. I feel like a winner!) The second picture is a model of a food chain, so she says. 🙂

I did have another fun little activity for the preschoolers that I think they would have loved. I bought generic fruit loops, and the kids and I made patterns out of the different colored O’s and strung them onto pipe cleaners to make Fish-Os. I hot glued some googly eyes, rounded up some sticks, string, and paper clips and made ourselves a little fishing game! Fishing for Fish-Os. I told myself this was at least semi-educational since the idea was to create repeating patterns out of our fruit loops, but honestly it was more for the fishing experience. Every little kids like catching a fish. (Especially when they fish is made out of sugar cereal!) It’s just a given.  dsc07317

We did most all of this on a Tuesday. But some of it started to spill over into Wednesday. And by then the kids had this fabulous idea to turn the entire downstairs into an aquarium in anticipation of the grandparents coming over and staying at our house the next weekend. (Strep and out-of-town company. I was a little worried. I’m pretty sure we didn’t pass on any nasty germs, just the regular kid ones.)

But we did have a wonderful little aquarium downstairs to surprise Grandma and Grandpa with. They used left over streamers from birthday parties 2 years ago as a waterfall to walk through at the entrance. You had to pass big Costco packages of water bottles to get into the aquarium also (this was their water feature!) All the underwater scenes we had made with play dough were set up nicely with little “do not touch” signs. (I also noticed an roped off area with a “employe’s only” sign!) There was a model of a whale on the floor made out of lined notebook paper. Aquason made an appearance. (This is how they placated the actual preschooler who they wouldn’t let participate in some of the other displays. He became a mix between Aquaman and Poseidon and was an exhibit all by himself!) They used the books we had read, opened up to preplanned pictures, and propped up as little fish tanks. They even created a little song about the Fish-Os. And the aquarium experience ended with a little game of fishing, after which you got to eat whatever fruit loop fish you caught.

Imagine 5 little delighted children showing off all their hard work (made especially hard because they had to somehow keep the 2 year old out of the playroom for 3 days!!) to their beloved Grandma and Grandpa while munching on dry sugar cereal!

They were so happy.

It was a lot of fun to not have “school” but still have “school.” Next week we are back to the old schedule… plus 2 extra classes I now teach for two different groups of students… which is a topic for another blog post… or two.

I guess we don’t actually have normal routine weeks around here. There is always something.

But it is always full of love, learning, and worth it.

Sand Play Dough

4 cups flour

1/2 C salt

1 1/2 C fine sand

4 C water

8 TBSP vegetable oil

4 tsp cream of tartar

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl (I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that and just dumped everything in together, dry first, wet second) Add together in a saucepan. Cook on low unit the dough thickens to play dough consistency. (Also I have a hard time waiting for anything to cook on low so I’m pretty sure I did medium-high and just stirred like crazy to keep it from burning.)

 

 

Writing Sampler

I know my kids are doing just fine in math, reading, science, grammar, Latin, and whatever else we are doing. But I’ve been worried about spelling for a long time. So I took some of the kids’ most recent written pieces and posted them to Facebook to see what the crowds there had to say about it. And it is unanimous that, although their writing stinks compared to an adult, it is pretty much at grade/developmental level, so I can go ahead and stop worrying about it.

Still, as homeschoolers, sometimes we worry because we can’t compare with others in similar cohorts (age/development/grade/etc.). Many of us have gotten past that and are ok with just meeting our kids where they are at and moving at their pace to consistently improve (I’m getting to that point, but obviously not quite there yet) and that seems to me to be the better way to do it.

One of the great things about homeschooling is you don’t have to fit into any certain box except the one you and your children make together.

But…. if you are curious as to what my kids’ writing looks like… and you need a good laugh (because some of these are full of such attitude it is hilarious) then please sit back and enjoy our little writing sampler. (Edited for spelling and punctuation versions of the text are provided under the images. You’ll probably have to click on the images to make them big enough to read, too.)

The War on Pants – Part One (2nd grader)war-on-pants-1

This one is good enough you don’t need a translation. But here is a tip: wonets = once, iskeptobeol = acceptable.

 War on Pants – Part 2 (2nd grader)war-on-pants-2

This one is actually ok too, but again: wore = war, aregu ments = arguments, seeryus = serious.

This Press is Sensational and Biased  (2nd grader – are you picking up on all that sass!?! I titled this and all the previous writing pieces as well by myself, just FYI.)

OK, this requires translation. “Papa says that Markus will wash the dishes by himself when he is four! Joshua says that it is totally silly! Anonymous thinks it is a silly, crazy idea, and Papa must have been totally out of his mind! Papa sometimes thinks of crazy things, but never something so ridiculous has ever occurred! Papa does not like the news company, and it looks like he does not like being written of in public and of being in the newspaper. Abby says that it is a crazy idea and that Papa should start making sense! Markus says that he thinks it is a not a good idea. Kaleb thinks that Markus will be too young to do dishes by himself at only age four! Lukas things that Markus will be too young and that Papa is wrong! And that Papa is out of his mind! Mama thinks that’s not what he meant. She thinks we misunderstood him.”

Talk on Agency (4th grader)

Translation: “You all know that we have the right to choose. That special gift is called agency. All choices come with a consequence. A consequence can be good or bad. If we make a good choice, we get a good consequence. If we make a bad choice, we get a bad consequence. If we hit our brother, we get in trouble. If we clean the house, nobody will get so stressed out. In 2nd Nephi it says “Therefore, cheer up your hearts and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves–to choose the way of everlasting death or the way to eternal life.” This scripture explains to cheer up your hearts and to be happy that we have the gift to choose. I know that if we use our agency well we will be blessed. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (This is one proud mama, right here!)

The Legend of How the Stars Came (4th grader – he’s having fun with the clip art gallery! This legend fulfilled a cub scout requirement.)the-legend-of-how-the-stars-came

Ungeheuer  (Kindergartener – This is in German, and being a kindergartener I didn’t ask him to write a lot, I just told him to write some words down on a paper, and I would help him spell the words. Then he had to illustrate it. I really like this. I kind of want to frame it, actually.)ungeheuerThis obviously requires a literal translation. Ungeheuer = monster, Katze = cat, Pferd = horse, Fisch = fish, Schwein = pig, Rore!!! (not German) = roar.

And for your reading pleasure I am going to add a little story my 2nd grader wrote during symposium a few weeks back. I’m pretty sure we were working on Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. This story is what that concerto makes her think of.

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OK – big breath – here we go…

The Pigeon

Once there was a pigeon. He lived under a tree. He liked to sing in the summer, get ready for winter in the fall, and, not like other birds, hibernated in the winter. One fall he decided to stay awake for the winter. He said goodbye to his friends. He told them he was staying awake for the winter. He watched when they left. Then he went to his home and took a nap. It was an extra long nap because he was used to hibernating! He woke up on the first day of winter. It was snowing. He squeezed into  ball to keep warm, but he fell asleep again. When he woke up, his tree began to shake. He went out of his hole to find out what was going on. A poor man was chopping down his tree for fire wood! He hopped out just before it fell. The man put the tree on a sled. The pigeon watched as his tree got pulled away. Just then a cold wind blew. The pigeon shivered. He curled up into a ball. A wolf thought he was dead. The wolf was hungry and cold, but when he opened his mouth, the pigeon heard breathing. He jumped up. Then he saw the wolf. He flew up. The wolf jumped at him. The pigeon flew away. He flew to a branch in a tree. He fell asleep. When he woke up it had snowed ten feet high! And he was lying in the snow. He tried to fly, but he was stuck! He managed to get on the top of the snow. His feet acted like snow shoes. He hopped until he could not hop anymore. He curled up in the snow. Where he had curled up was right in front of a house. He did not notice because of the ten feet of snow. Inside the house lived a family. A girl and a boy were getting on snow clothes to play in the snow. They did not know that there was ten feet of snow. The pigeon had fallen asleep again. When the girl opened the door tons of snow flowed in. Including the pigeon. The pigeon was still asleep. The girl noticed a small white ball in the snow. She picked it up and then noticed feathers. She uncurled the ball. “Mathew!” she shouted. “Look what I found!” The boy came running. Just then the pigeon woke up. He froze with fright when he saw a girl and a boy staring at him. They put him in a box with a towel in it, too. Then they ran to tell their mother. When the pigeon opened his eyes the family was shoveling the snow that had come in. He stood up and tried to get out of the box. He scratched a hole in the box and hopped out. Without the family looking, he hopped from room to room. He was so excited that he had something to explore that he forgot his hunger. But when he hopped into the kitchen he remembered he was hungry. He hopped onto the stool, then to a chair, then on to the table. He ate some fruit from a fruit bowl. But just then the girl noticed the pigeon was missing. “Mother! Father! Mathew!” she said. “The bird is not here!” They ran around the house. They finally found him in the kitchen. Father picked him up and put him in another box, and they kept on shoveling. When they were done, mother went to the kitchen to make lunch. The rest went downstairs. A long time passed while the pigeon tried to get out. When they came up, their father had a large cage in his hand.

This is a very long story for a 2nd grader to write. But, Grieg’s Piano Concerto is a very long song. And she had 5 days to work on it.

Apparently, though, the song isn’t long enough to finish the story.

What will happen to our poor pigeon!

Now we will probably never know.

Random Field Trip Two Years in the Making

Two years or so ago, when the aquarium was brand new, I promised the children we would go there someday when it was too cold and rainy or snowy to play outside. And then we just never went. For two years. Until, obviously, just recently.

Yes, it was fun.

Yes, my husband got to go with us. Yay!

Yes, my toddler ran EVERYWHERE and it was my husband who chased him down so the kids and I could see the fish.

Yes, I have an awesome husband.

Yes, I took more pictures of my kids than I did of any of the aquarium animals.

Because my kids are animal enough!

And WAY cuter than fish. 🙂

Here are all those cuties… and the toddler in the beginning stages of escaping.

Here we have a poison dart frog and a kindergartener making… a poison dart frog face? I don’t really know, but he sure is cute.

Aforementioned kindergartener racing the penguins as they swam by, and the more relaxed penguins taking a break.

A lizard and a leopard. I never really understood why they put animals like those in aquariums… except maybe to keep the kids’ attention. Because really, no matter how colorful and funny looking they may be, how long can you walk around looking at just fish?

Unless you look at them like this?

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My daughter and I could probably have spent quite a while looking at fish like that.

(Throw in a little underwater meditation music… now we are all set.)

I could watch this for a long time… if I had nothing else to do, of course.

And you are welcome! With that little meditation/video link I just saved you a trip to the aquarium! (But if you do go, make sure you check out the sharks!!)

Discouragement

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This is me.

Have you ever looked out into the great big internet world and realized that everyone else is already doing everything you are trying to do, but they are doing it better? They’ve already found all the great resources. They’ve already done the amazing projects. Their science experiments actually turn out! They are incredible! And everything you wanted to say and all the help and encouragement you wanted to offer? They’ve already given it.

And their blogs look really cute and professional, too.

I was trying to put together a little unit on World War II and it was stressing me out to no end. (Still is, by the way.) What books should we read? What should we NOT read? Are there any documentaries we can watch that are age appropriate for little kids? All of it just seemed so overwhelming. How do you even do a project on the Holocaust?

So, of course, I went to the internet.

Now maybe it was because I was already kind of stressed out. (I have been, and will be for the next few weeks, suffering from an extreme bought of overwhelming busyness – which is a subject for another blog post.) So already I was feeling a little guilty for not writing on MY own blog for some time. But looking at everyone else’s perfect little blogs/lesson plans/photos/homeschools/lives actually just made me feel worse.

Have you ever had that happen?

Ok, maybe not with homeschooling blogs. But how about just life in general?

They say Facebook is not only addicting, but also harmful to your mental health and leads to depression. Everyone else’s life looks so rosy and peachy. You know, never ending vacations, adventures, cute kids, big life events, beautiful and obviously-not-posed-and-taken-over-and-over-again-until-each-strand-of-hair-is-in-the-right-place-and-my-face-doesn’t-look-so-fat selfies. (That’s sarcasm if you missed it… unless of course, they all actually DO look like supermodels all the time. *sigh*) Somehow Facebook even makes someone else’s sometimes naughty and misbehaving kids look cuter and destined to be more popular than your own sometimes naughty and misbehaving kids.

(So actually, I don’t have this particular Facebook problem. I know that my sometimes naughty kids have the same potential as everyone else’s.)

But apparently I have this problem big time when I look at other people’s homeschools via the perfecting filter of the internet. They’re just all doing it better. I love that they share all these great ideas and resources and suggestions, but sometimes I wonder what I have to offer and what my place is? Do I even have a place?

Here is the obvious irony in this entire scenario.

I KNOW they do not have perfect lives. I KNOW that they do not have perfect homeschools. Rationally, I understand that while they have more knowledge in some areas or access to certain resources, I, just by the virtue of being a different person with a different background and in a different part of the country, have knowledge and access to resources that they don’t. It all probably just evens out, as far as that goes. Plus, resources (a.k.a. money) don’t really equate to educational and academic ability as shown through public education practices. It is the teacher, the approach, and the environment of the “classroom,” whatever that may be. And I KNOW that my kids are getting the best education and upbringing available to them, even if I can’t figure out how to make a “sound wave detector,” which was our most recent flop.

The entire reason I started a blog of my own, besides recording our homeschool for myself, was to show that we make a lot of mistakes and things often don’t turn out. It is to show that I am not perfect, I am not some sort of super human, or supermom, or a super teacher in anyway whatsoever.  I’m just a regular mother who loves her kids and has made specific sacrifices in order to give them what I feel God wants them to have.

So in the grand scheme of things, the point I am trying to make on my blog is that if a person has the desire, and is not absolutely required to work outside the home, they can offer their children a loving homeschool experience, too. Not a “perfect” or “flawless” homeschool, but a loving, life changing, nurturing, educating, supporting, and strengthening homeschool as an alternative to what our culture has, for so long, told us is “the only actual way” to be a successful human being. (It still kind of teaches us that.)

Even if you never figure out how to make half of your chemistry experiments work like the book says they should. And even if your kids talk all through symposium instead of listening to the music. And even if your kindergartener is in a new phase where he throws a tantrum every single day at the mere mention of getting out his math books.

Yes, every day.

(It’s just a phase, right? right?)

But the other night, I, being imperfect and mortal and subject to weakness and foibles like everyone, really just felt like crumpling up and crying and giving up a little. The pervading feeling and thought was, “Who am I kidding? I have nothing to add. I’m just not good enough.”

And then God said, “Do you mean you aren’t good enough? Or do you mean you aren’t as good as? And if you mean you aren’t as good as and are trying to compare yourself with someone else, well, then you already know how I feel about that.”

I teach children now at church (after 4 years of teaching adult women) and our lesson last Sunday was about recognizing the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit of God does not leave us feeling discouraged. It just doesn’t.

Furthermore, God warns us against being concerned about what other people think of us more than worrying or being concerned about how He thinks of us. Our job is to build up and enrich and enlighten as best we can. Not to be more popular than the next blogger/person down the street. To judge and compare sets us at odds with others, which in turn just results in pulling down, degrading, and shaming or discouraging each other.

And sometimes it really just results in pulling down and discouraging ourselves.

So I had to ask myself, is the purpose of this blog to make myself look good and perfect and receive the praise of the world for being just out-of-this-world incredible and worthy of emulation and adoration? Or is it to be honest – even when unflatteringly so – and to build others up, enrich, and encourage as best I can? Even if my sphere of influence is so very, very small.

What if it is just one person?

Well, if it helps just one, then I have done something good. And all good things come from God.

And what if that one person is just little old me?

Well, God says that is good, too.

And that is enough to make me feel encouraged to keep going.

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Is that too cheesy? How about this one?

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(And, just for the record, I AM going to use that woman’s stuff on her blog because it was AWESOME and it is going to make my life so much easier! Thanks awesome homeschool blogger!)