Monday, April 16, 2012

Winding Down

It's always hard to stay motivated to keep going with school around this time of year, especially when we've finished what we planned to do with history and vocabulary two weeks ago, and my 4th grader is in the 6th grade grammar book and halfway through the 5th grade math book. You start thinking, "Yeah, smart enough!"

What makes it more difficult is that we leave next Tuesday for a 3 1/2 week trip to the States to attend a wedding and search for housing in Orlando. I've learned to keep my expectations for getting through anything while traveling low. Thank God for libraries.

The week after we get back I am coaching a week-long leadership development time so the kids are on their own. That takes us almost to June. So once again that elusive "36 week school year" will not happen. And that's OK.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Edge

I wonder if there are other homeschool moms who send their kids to their rooms to work on things independently, just to have a moment's peace. If not, well, they can pray for me, cause I've done that more than once in the last couple days. This week is a busy one - between Ethan's birthday, co-op, doing errands that take me into town (into town is kind of a big deal here), hosting a mom's time and a DVD/discussion group, I don't have much time to breathe (although I did still manage to find time - while walking on the treadmill this morning - to watch part of one more episode of Downton Abbey. A girl's gotta have her some British period drama).

As is usually the case, when I am feeling the strain, the kids do too. It seems like I can't leave the room for a minute or they bicker with each other until it ends in tears. Last night for family night we were going to make and decorate Ethan's dragon cake together. I envisioned a joyful time of us laughing, maybe even taking some fun pictures. Instead, I frosted the cake while the kids sat on separate couches in the living room and Erik tried to get them to stop talking long enough for him to dole out consequences. Oy.

And yet, I still find myself wanting to do this homeschooling thing. I must be crazy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Parent-Teacher Conference

Other than talking to myself, I have never been to a parent-teacher conference until today. I had to meet with our kids' Chinese teacher to see how they are doing. What she told me pretty much lines up with what is true at home - Ethan knows more than he gives himself credit for, but he could be doing even better if he slowed down and was more careful, and didn't let his fear of being wrong get in the way. Megan is extremely motivated to do well and works hard. She memorizes things easily, but she gets easily distracted, especially when she has a friend with her (and her best friend is in the class).

But over all, the teacher enjoys having them and thinks they're doing well. Yep, that sounds like what their homeschool teacher thinks too. :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Reason to Homeschool

Almost every day of the week, our kids get a phone call from a neighborhood friend asking them to play capture the flag at 3 or 3:30. There's a sunken tiled circle at the center of our neighborhood where 15-30 kids ages 6-15 will converge to play unsupervised until the sun goes down. They generally come home dirty, sometimes with scrapes, always with stories about triumphs and losses.

Contrast that with this article about a recent ban on balls at a school in Canada, and I'm on the side of "I'm so thankful I homeschool" today. Not only that, but I guess I should be thankful I homeschool in China! I hear more and more stories of schools in the U.S. banning anything that might injure a child. Tag? They could trip! Handstands? Head trauma! Monkey bars? Never!

It's sad that safety seems to be becoming the value that trumps others - play, creativity, freedom, independence, survival skills. So thankful that homeschool allows our kids to have fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All Kinds of Learning

"So, today school is cleaning?" asks Ethan.

It started as a consequence for fighting during school, actually. I decided they needed to do some manual labor instead of bickering with each other. Then Megan remembered that she has wanted to clean out her toys and sell some of them for awhile, so she tackled that project. We haven't seen Ethan's carpet in quite some time (don't worry, it's only a 1x2 meter piece - we don't let him get THAT messy) so he set about organizing everything I pushed off onto the floor while I vacuumed.

Ethan remarked that he wasn't going to finish his schoolwork as a result of all the cleaning. I told him that cleaning was taking the place of school, hence the comment.

I went on to tell him that cleaning teaches us to be responsible for our belongings, keeps our stuff from getting too dirty, and in the process helps us find those things we've been looking for.

Why am I telling you all this? Partly to remind myself that learning isn't just about school.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homeschooling vs the Dog

One of my greatest hesitations about continuing with our dog journey is whether or not it's feasible to homeschool. The problem? She's most active in the morning, and our schoolroom is upstairs. We haven't allowed her to go up there because she's not house trained yet and I value my carpet. Not to mention she's a distraction. She had down times when we put her in her crate, but she can't possibly stay in there from 8-12 every morning. The Dog Whisperer would disapprove.

We tried several options the first week and a half. We tried doing school in the living room. We tried the kids doing what they could upstairs with me watching Scout, then cramming in whatever we needed to do together while she was sleeping. It's all felt quite chaotic and frustrating, and a lot of things have been dropped.

This morning I wrote in detail on the board what they both needed to do. None of it was really anything I HAD to be there to do with them, although some of it (history) I normally do. I decided for our sanity and to keep a less stressful atmosphere in the house, it would be better to let them try to do it on theier own.

Three and a half hours later, they are done with their work. I'm not quite sure how to feel about this - Jubilant? Dispensable? Dubious? Relieved?

I know there will be days when it isn't this easy, but in addition to watching the dog, I was able to go get supplies for a baby shower and buy more Coke Zero (necessary for survival). So it seems that we might able to continue homeschooling after all. Lucky dog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mama Said There'd be Days like This

Actually, my mom doesn't really give me advice on homeschool, but she's a wise woman and a life-long educator, so I'm sure that if I skyped her right now she'd say, "Oh well. Tomorrow's another day." It started off pretty well - exercise, great talk with Erik, super yummy oatmeal with raw honey, flax seed and cinnamon (a daily joy), then it all kind of went wacky.

In between determining which kind of worms our new little pup has (finally nailed it after a discussion with the vet - roundworms. Bonus: I now know how to say different kinds of worms in Chinese), cleaning up to make sure we don't get the worms (he said don't worry), escorting a VPU from our office to a friend's house, and planning my teaching time for this afternoon's co-op, homeschooling my own children sort of went out the window. Occasionally I would throw a worksheet or a book at them like, "Here! Learn something!" Thankfully they are pretty independent learners, and they can recognize when mommy needs a little space. We didn't end up doing half of what we planned to do, but it'll all get done eventually.

Now I'm inhaling a salad while waiting for kids to show up at our house (one came 40 minutes early - it's her first time and her mom didn't know how long it would take to get her here) before I throw some stuff in the slow cooker for dinner and head off to teach.

Tomorrow is another day.