Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rambling Thoughts from a Homeschool Momma Before 7am

We've been doing this homeschooling thing since August and I finally feel like I have a partial handle on things. It's definitely a process that is continually being refined, rethought and revamped.

We went into this very eager, but very naive and blind. Sure, we have friends who homeschool (more now that we're involved in a homeschool group) and they were fabulous at giving pointers, but it's still largely your show. Part of my special ops team is Delinda, a constant source of encouragement and support and "Girl, I have SO been there!" and "It's okay, next week will be better". We try to get her crew and my crew together every six weeks or so and it's like a party when we do. The kids immediately begin doing very rowdy, loud things (Well, except Abby who is so above loud and rowdy) and Delinda and I just sit back and watch while we visit. I'd be lost without her.

We're involved in a homeschool group, too, and these ladies are amazing. Support, resources, and just being there -- they're pros at all of that. Back before Christmas we had a kids bowling day and we moms literally pulled our chairs into a semi-circle and just vented. It was hilarious and cathartic. Bug (Yes, my youngest is blogging!) (And yes, we call our child Bug. There is a plethora of Katie/Kady/Kaity's at church and Kadybug got shortened to Bug and stuck.) (Oh and please know that we are diligently working on grammar and spelling, although her blog wouldn't show that) looks forward to homeschool group every Friday because she has made a friend. (I know, homeschoolers have friends?!? Who knew?) And she went out and made that friend on her own. Socialization WIN! She and her new friend, Alex, have figured out each other's daily schedule, and lunch break usually involves at least a phone call and about 700 text messages in the 45 minutes we're taking a break. Abby and Sam usually dread homeschool group day, but last week, although I heard all the way to town, "Can't I just sit in the car?" and "Do I HAVE to go?" by the time we got into a few icebreaker games with the other teens and tweens, they were fine. I just know that Momma needs to see other human adults occasionally, so we go. Whether they're kicking and screaming, pouting or busting through the door to see their BFF, we go. Because if no one else needs it, Momma needs socialization.

We abandoned Abby's English/Grammar before the first semester ended because as she put it, "If I didn't already know what an adjective was, I sure wouldn't now -- this book would have me so confused." I admit, it was very....wordy. (in an English book?! The horror!) And confusing. The child has a grasp on grammar and sentence formation and can even get commas in the right place, so taking a cue from what she'd be doing in public school, we dropped Grammar and are focusing on writing and literature. My very favorite writing exercise for the two bigger kids to do is a 100 to 6 word essay. They write an essay containing 100 words, no more, no less.  Then they have to cut it down to 50 words without losing the concept of the original essay. Then they have to cut it to 25. Then to six. Abby's last one was about how badly she wanted Sonic that day. Her six word essay was "SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE ME TO SONIC!" Which was essentially what she had said in 100 words originally. Speaking of I'm hungry. It's 7am and I need a steak Toaster and tots. ANyway....

Bug and Sam are doing Grammar using curriculum written by the Amish. They loathe it with the white, hot passion of a thousand fiery suns. I think it's phenomenal curriculum and plan to continue it at least through Sam's 9th grade year next year. It's very old school, lots of sentence diagramming and repetition and review. What cracks us up, though, are the names. Instead of seeing folks like Suzie, Jimmy and Bobby going to the fair or the zoo in sample sentences, we see  Brother Ezekiel, Sister Martha and Pastor Hezekiah saving lost souls and going to the pie supper -- sometimes all in one fell swoop. It's a total crack up for our twisted minds. Kady's Reading book is also Amish. The last story she read was about a judge who killed a whole bunch of Anabaptists by burning them at the stake. She was horrified. I gotta say, it did seem a little intense for a 5th grade book. Of course, by 5th grade, most Amish girls are on their way to the alter to be married off to Brother Jedediah, so I guess they consider a good cautionary tale of stake-burning to be part of growing up.

Science has gotten better now that they're on the Biology part of the book. Gotta admit, we skipped the chapters on fossils. None of us were quite feeling it. So if they both bomb the fossil section of the ACT, I take complete responsibility. Today our science experiment is a classic: putting a chicken bone in a jar of vinegar and seeing what happens over the next seven days. Last week we watched yeast decompose a slice of banana. After five days Paul made us throw it out -- he said it had gone far past educational to possible biohazard or flesh-eating zombie banana. Spoil sport. Kady's on the second chapter of Ungulates in her Zoology book. Last chapter dealt with horses, rhinos, mules and the like. This one is starting out with cows. She is less than thrilled. Soon we'll move onto dinosaurs. Hopefully. I gotta say, cows are less than stimulating for me as well. Her sister, who has two years of Ag under her belt, has been helping her along with it.

Bug is nearly done with her math book. She has positively whizzed through it. We'll finish it up probably next week or halfway into the week after that. Abby and Sam are slowly plodding through Saxon Algebra I. Since Abby took it in public school last year, she wanted to do it this year as a review. For Sam it's been more of Pre-Algebra. We didn't get too far into the book before I discovered they were seriously lacking some basic math skills, so we have done a lot of review, going back to Algebra, then breaking for some review again. Next year Abby is doing Accounting and Bookkeeping and Sam will do Algebra fo' realz using a totally different curriculum which practically guarantees success. Each lesson has a video to watch and again uses repetition and review to really teach to learn. Our experience with the curriculum for Bug this year has been phenomenal.

The history book I got for Abby and Sam was utterly HORRIBLE and college-level dry. We made it to chapter 15 before we just stopped. They hated it, I hated teaching it, no one was getting a thing from it and it was torture. We're now doing more Social Studies/Current Events type lessons. Since I had never really found a curriculum I liked (and could afford) for Bug, she's been doing that type Social Studies all year. We've done unit studies on Harriet Tubman, the 13 original colonies, a big unit on the election and electoral college, the Bill of Rights, etc and just kind of whatever interests her at the time. It's a subject we are kind of relaxed on. For instance, last week the big kids had to make Facebook "profiles" for two famous/historical figures. Sam chose Napoleon Bonaparte and Christopher Columbus. Abby researched Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson (Note to self: Remind 16 year old that culture and pop culture aren't exactly the same). They really got into it and the pages turned out neat. I struggle with interest in history/government and the kids do as well, so I try to keep it as interesting and exciting as I can. For all of us.

And now the public school bus has just rumbled by and the sun is fully up. I'm pretty sure there is a pot of coffee just begging to be consumed by me, and the hamsters (We now have FOUR! EEK!) are all scritching around in their cages which means it's time for their hamster parents to get their rears up and pay attention to them. Time for another day of homeschooler awesomeness which generally includes pajamas, PE for Hamsters 101, a nutritious lunch which more often than not includes macaroni and cheese and oh yeah....learning.

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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...