Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Creative Genius

I've never been that good at make-believe.  I never made up stories with my Barbies, ponies, dolls, etc.  The few times I've played with my kids, THEY have to come up with a story line.

Today I was cleaning out some junk drawers in my pantry and came across some books that I had made in 3rd and 4th grade.  My teacher must have been a genius, because she actually had us MAKING our own books with a cover and everything.  Although there were a few original stories, most of the books I wrote were patterned after a favorite book of mine.  For example, this work of creative genius: The Giving Boy (patterned after Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree).  I read it and laughed so hard I just had to share the joy...

Once upon a time there was this boy who loved this little seed.  The seed was happy, but not happy enough.

One day the seed said, "Boy, plant me so I will grow into a big tree."  "Okay," said the boy and he did. 

And the seed was happy, but not for long.  One day he said, "Boy, water me so I will grow."  And he did and the tree (that used to be a seed) was happy.

But not for long.  One day the seed said, "Boy (who is now a man) climb me."  The man wanted the tree to be happy so he did, and the tree was happy.

But pretty soon he was bored with just the man climbing him and he said, "Boy, get married and have some kids so they can climb me, too."

So the boy did.  And the tree was happy, but not for long.

And the tree said, "Boy, kill your wife and kids so I can be alone with you."  And the boy said, "No!" and he killed the tree by cutting him down.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To Homeschool, or Not To Homeschool?

I often get comments about the fact that I homeschool.  Usually it's something like "Oh, I'd do that but my kids would drive me crazy!" or maybe "Good for you, but I don't think I ever could."  Sometimes I get a crazy eyeball look that says "Looneybins!" or something like that, but by and large people are supportive of our decision.

I guess this might be a good time to mention that I tend to have a "do what you think is best" attitude towards how parents choose to education their children.  I don't assume that homeschool is the best for everyone, and I don't assume that kids can't thrive in public schools.  I do, however, feel like it's a parent's responsibility to choose what is best for their kids.  When we started homeschooling a year and a half ago, it was the right choice for us and we didn't look back.  However, I have always said that I would have an open mind if my kids came to me and asked to go back to public school.

Well, the other day it happened.  Olivia asked me if she could go to middle school in the fall.  I asked her why she wanted to go.  Her answer?  She wanted to see what it was like, and go through the whole "having a locker" bit.  And you know what?  I considered it.  In fact, for about 2 hours I was seriously considering it.  In some ways it would have been  relief to get her out the door and in the hands of "trained professionals".  It would be one less thing on my plate, and she could take art, band, languages, etc. and all at little or no cost to our family.  Less stress and money for me, right?

So I started talking to people about it, asking questions, seeing what they thought about the middle schools around here.  I was surprised to find out that despite the "great-schools-in-Edmond" hype, most didn't have a good opinion.  Apparently there is a big problem with bullying, beating up, and even inappropriate sexual behaviors among the girls in the bathrooms at the middle schools, including the school Olivia would be attending.  Attend middle school in the fall?  Ummm... no.  Definitely not without an established group of good friends to help support her in the middle of all of that trash.

However, one really good thing came out of all this consideration and question-asking.  I had to stop and ask myself why I was homeschooling in the first place.  What was it that has made it such a great thing for us to be doing these past couple of years?  And what kind of benefits had I already seen in my girls from their time spent with me at home?

So here we go... a top ten list!

The Top Ten Reasons We Like To Homeschool

1. Inquiring minds want to know.  And now, my daughter Kelsey has an inquiring mind.  She used to want to spend most of her time at home either on the computer, TV, or being entertained by someone else - usually me.  Now?  She'll go exploring all over the backyard with a "fag-ni-mying" glass (aka magnifying glass) and a "nature basket" so she can find cool plants and bugs to study.  Today she came and asked me if she could use the bird's nest I found the other day as a hospital bed for a ladybug with a broken leg that she found.   

2. Free child labor.  Don't worry, I am mostly kidding on this one.  However, my girls are learning to take care of their home.  They actually have time to do chores like laundry, cleaning their bathroom, and pooper-scooping the yard.  It's worth it just to have them scoop the yard.  When they were in school I didn't have the heart to assign too many extra chores to do after school and homework were done
Our lovely chore chart!  Doing their chores earns them "coupons" for TV and computer privileges.
3. I like them more.  Looking back I wonder how well I really knew my kids before.  Because of the demands on our lives and my "go-go" personality, we spent so much time running around getting things done that I never really took the time to just hang out with my girls and have fun.  Sometimes it feels like we are still spending a lot of time trying to get things done, but at least these things involve me sitting down and having a conversation with them.
This was taken on our "camping day".  We set up the tent and did school work outside till it got too hot (which was about 5 minutes later).
4. Lifelong learning.  Everything is about learning now.  Not in the write-me-a-paper-on-government-taxation way, but in the what-kind-of-rhino-is-that way.  We know that Indian rhinos look like they are wearing armor, and that white rhinos have wider mouths than black ones.  Because we are in the learning mindset, we pay closer attention to everything we experience.
Picture from Wikipedia
    5. I've got the power!  I know this makes me sound like a control freak - and I might be a little - but this isn't really about that.  It's simply that I can decide when my kids have mastered one concept and are ready to move on to another.  We don't have to waste a lot of time in busy work while the rest of the class catches up.  This is the great benefit of having a class of one.

    6. No homework.  I think one of the most stressful things to me as a parent was when my elementary age kids had homework.  When teachers assign homework to young kids, they are really assigning it to the parents.  If I didn't make sure it got done, it didn't get done.  That included studying for tests like the state capitols and Spanish.  We spent most of our afternoons and evenings during the week on home work, dinner, and baths.  Stressful, to say the least.

    7. No fundraisers.  It seemed like every month there was something at the school - chili supper, fall festival, etc.  And the fundraisers they sent home?  My kids came home excited about the prizes they would win.  Are you kidding me?  Those things ALWAYS went in the trash.

    8. No sick days.  Oh, you're not feeling well?  So sorry to hear it... let's read.  Or do math.  Oh wait, you puked?  Okay, you can lay on the couch and watch a movie with your bowl and your cup.  See?  No pressure.  I'm not getting any one else's kid sick.

    9. Vacations.  We can take a family vacation whenever we want.  We don't have to go on spring break with a bajillion other families.  We don't have to wait for school to be out.  We take our vacations when we want to.
    Picture from our vacation to South Carolina in February!
    10. Field trips. The kids and I love to go places together.  Parks, bike rides, the zoo, children's museums, and more.  Most of these are free, and some of them we have to pay for.  We have discovered that most places around here are more than happy to have a family of homeschoolers come in for a tour.  The coolest field trip I think we got to go on like that was to the Edmond Animal Shelter.  One of their animal control officers gave us a tour and the girls got to go in and pet some of the cats.  Now that Maddox is getting older, we expect to do a lot more of these types of trips, and they are a great, great way to learn about our community and the way things work in the "real" world.
    Kelsey & Olivia working hard in a one-room school house at Harn Homestead.  If you look really closely, you can see Kelsey's tongue sticking out.  She's thinking really, really hard!