Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Our Homeschool Journey, Part 2

Try as I might, I couldn't find the original picture of a 14-year-old me and a 16-year-old him in the homeschool co-op where we met.  But here is a very smudgy picture of our wedding slideshow that featured the original.  It's the best I can do.  I'm the one in overalls and Jeremy's in the totally awesome chambray button-up.  Look, we match.
We weren't remotely interested in each other until three years later.

Fast-forwarding 16 years later, this is what the kids and I worked on yesterday.
They decorated the outsides, I filled the insides with bank lesson plans waiting to be filled.  Protected against time, we'll keep monthly "work samples" (or pictures of work samples, if it's not in paper form) from this year.  Sure, they will work as record-keeping files, but I like to see it as more like memory books.  Portfolios.  Treasure chests.  More on present day tomorrow.  And that's one of the most erroneous sentences I've ever written.  I are a home-schooling mom...

So starting from where I left off yesterday, after two years with CAVA and living, pretty much in isolation for two years, we moved a few hours up north to where we are now.  Home.  Happy.  Happy home.  We love where we are.  We fit where we are.  Last year, when school time rolled around again, we were still meeting our new community, and several families from our church enrolled their kids in a charter school that was a bit of a hybrid.  The kids went to a classroom twice a week for half a day and were educated at home for the rest of the time.  It sounded like a great way to meet more homeschooling families and presented opportunities for my kids to make new friends.

My daughter is the most extraverted person I have ever met in my entire life.  She loved the social aspect of the classroom setting.  My son dreaded it.  They were both enraptured my experiencing two field trips where they got to ride in a school bus.  An actual school bus.  In fact, when I informed them this year that we weren't reenrolling with the charter school, they both said they'd miss the school bus trips (all two of them) most of all.  They both gagged down the curriculum, as did I.  I really wanted to supplement the curriculum more, but fulfilling our commitments with the charter school's requirements was important to me and by the time we had done that, we were all ready for the school day to end.  All-in-all, there were many great experiences and lots of learning situations we worked through on the social side of things.  But... I still wasn't the one deciding what and how my children would learn, and that had been burning in my heart from the beginning.

Now, as we enter into our fourth year of homeschooling, we are in a healthy, stable enough place to do what's been in our hearts all along.  More on that next time...

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Homeschool Journey with a Happy Ending (Beginning?) Part 1

Guess what? Our homeschool journey began when Jeremy and I were kids.  Guess what else?  We met when I was 14 and he was 16 in a homeschool co-op, and I have the picture to prove it.  Guess what again?  Despite my better judgement and self-protection, I'm going to post it tomorrow.

This is a very happy picture.
It means that after three years of homeschooling my children through state-run programs, I have gained the confidence to actually choose what and how my children learn.  I've wanted to do this since my oldest was kindergarten-aged, but it has taken this long to realize not only is it possible for my kids to thrive academically under my guidance, but we can all actually enjoy it (most of the time).  Honesty.

Don't get me wrong, realizing every family has different situations, I can get behind any method of learning, from traditional to unschooling, as long as the family is loving on each other and the children are learning.  That being said, the reason we chose to homeschool our kids in the first place was to instill the love of learning and to nourish our relationship as a family.  After we relocated our family nine hours north from where I spent the first 27 years of life, I found CAVA and decided we'd go that route for our fist dive into homeschooling.  I was tired from the move and thankful for everything being done for me.  For free.  We received ten plus boxes in the mail, including a computer, printer, many math and science manipulatives, and curriculum galore.  It was amazing. And overwhelming.  After a couple months, I got the hang of it and even enjoyed some of it. 

So many of the required books we read aloud together just wasn't the literature I'd have chosen, and I could already see agendas trying to be instilled in my little five-year-old.  It was all an opportunity to discuss why we agree/disagree with what the characters in the books were doing and saying, but I realized my daughter was learning more about what we weren't about instead of what we were about.

However, we were in a very big transitional time in our lives, and life got pretty hard for a couple of years, so I was thankful for being handed a no-prep, legit method of homeschooling, and we continued with CAVA for two years.  All-in-all, for where we were in that season of our lives, we were very thankful for CAVA, but at the end of kindergarten, my daughter already decided she "hated" school, and that made my heart sink.  Something needed to change.

And now, my kids have finished cleaning up their messes so as promised, it's time to play in my parents' pool together.  Tomorrow, I'll share about our Charter School experience and the aforementioned picture, as promised.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summertime Finds

In some parts of the world, people stay indoors during the extreme weather that comes with the winter chill.  Folks around here cloister away inside during the triple-digit summertime heat.  Like today.  It's currently a balmy 105 degrees where we live.  We've escaped five of those degrees while our visit with my parents continues.  You know it's hot when you're jumping into an unheated pool at 8:30 in the morning and it feels good.  Ah, summer...

So as I sit here, enjoying my folks' air conditioning, I thought I'd share with you a few new fun finds.

Presently, there's a double-batch of sourdough English muffins proofing in the kitchen.  This would be the third double-batch I've made in two weeks.  This amazing recipe found on Gnowfglins is prefect to make in the summer because it's cooked on the stove top.  I get to keep my no-oven-use-in-the-summertime challenge and my family adores these whole-grain treats.  The healthiest part is, all the flour used has been lacto-fermented, making the bread easy for your body to digest.  Take a look at the English Muffin recipe here.  While you're at it, you might want to spend some time on that blog; my lacto-fermenting-loving heart finds great joy in it.

It's that time of year when I start thinking about Christmas.  You read right.  Christmas.  In late July.  Yep.  It's okay, I'm used to the odd expressions.  The frugal, artsy side gets so excited to play with materials, learn new things, and make special treasures to give loved ones at Christmastime.  A friend recently introduced me to this blog.  Be careful of it's potential life-consuming powers.  It's called Design Sponge and it will change your life.  Or at least make it an even prettier one.  And what better a thing to do than enjoy crafty time in the coolest place you can find, thinking of everything you love about the people you're making gifts for during the heat of the summer?  Happy.

Between these two sites and preparing to home school a 2, 4, 6, and 8-year-old, I can easily say there is plenty to do while I hide from the summer heat.  I can't say I mind it a bit.  And about homeschooling...  I have some news. Well, that's a whole other post that will have to wait until next time.  Until then, dear friends...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Happenings & Family Thoughts

Hi, remember me?   5th-wheel-dweller?  Squatter on a beautiful mountain property with a musical husband and four home-schooling children? Lover of gardens and coffee and food?  Used-to-be avid blogger who disappeared for two years? Slight exaggerator because it's been more like three weeks?  Hello, my name is Katie.  It's good to be back.

I might have overwhelmed myself with all the thoughts, activities, and pictures I thought I needed to post over the past few weeks.  Instead of breaking everything up into cute little bite-sized pieces, I vacationed from beloved blogland in self-imposed exasperation.  Really, I'm only hoping to remember the art of forming complete sentences.

Do you want to see something Amish?  I knew you did.
Oh, and a little souvenir for myself:
But what I really wanted to take home was
That house up there?  That's where we stayed for the week.  You can rent it, too, if you want (click here). :)  We stayed there with Jer's brother and his sweet family, aka some of our best friends.  And that yarn? It was hand-woven and dyed right there in Lancaster, PA.  It's time for me to learn how to knit, I guess.

In case you didn't hear (you can if you want here), we were gifted six plane tickets to Lancaster County, PA to meet up with a lot of Riddles for a family reunion and to celebrate Jeremy's grandparents' 60th anniversary.  60 years or marriage, folks!  There's just too much to talk about when 43 Riddles gather, but I will tell you there were lots of stories shared, sweet moments, and 500 water balloons filled and deployed in less than an hour.  It was an unforgettable 5 days, and I am so thankful we were able to be apart of it.

Being in Amish country was an added treat.  We even had an Amish-served dinner one night.  It was eye-opening in two ways.  First, this old-order Amish family served us delicious food.  We tasted the best peanut butter we've ever experienced, and the woman of the house told us she added marshmallow cream and pancake syrup to make it so irresistible.  I was thankful for the tip, but I must admit the ingredients didn't seem very... Amishy.  And then,  on top of the apple pie... Plop, plop. Cool Whip.  I got a little woozy.  I must admit some personal assumptions of Amish eating were crushed.  But when Eli (who couldn't have been older than five) dragged a bench seat to the kitchen sink and started washing dishes,  my heart was refilled with sweet affection for this culture.  I also realized my kids have been holding out on me.

Family reunions and Amish families and (currently) visiting my amazing parents has got me thinking about, well, family.  Because I've just overwhelmed myself with what I've already written, I'm a'goin' bullet point my thoughts on family.
  • I love it when families share life together.
  • There's a lot to learn from the Amish about being interdependent on family and community.
  • Working and playing together as a family just needs to happen more for us.
Also, I think I discovered a major mental block that has kept me from incorporating my children in more of my daily life: my goal is to impart to my kids what I've learned and not to get my to-do list completed as quickly as possible.  You know?  I could do all the daily chores as fast as I can and never have time to enjoy my kids (short-term thinking that I've been stuck in), or I could take extra time to teach and incorporate my kids in more daily chores so we can all get the work done and have time to play (happy, long-term thinking).  I'm taking this new concept to more than just chores.  It's finding it's way in our spiritual and educational growth as a family.

This is all so simple but so new.  All I have left to say is I'm excited about our future as a family.  New vision and good examples go a long way.  Thank you, Amish folks.  You've always been my heroes in so many aspects of life.


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