Monday, June 30, 2014

The End of our Homeschooling Journey

It's hard to put into words all the reasons I've decided to stop homeschooling. I'm very emotional thinking about it. But, weighing all the pros & cons & doing what my gut is leaning towards has lead me down the path to send my children to public school.

I have enjoyed teaching my children very much. We have made great memories & I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to school them.


I'm overwhelmed. I am going in so many directions that I don't feel like I'm being the best teacher or mom my kids deserve.

My hope is that if I give up being their school teacher, I can focus more on being the mom I want to be. Maybe it's wishful thinking. Right now, though, the majority of my time is spent schooling them, cooking for them & toting them to various activities. Those are all good things & we spend most of our days together - which I like. But, I want to play games & color & build forts with them. I don't have time for the fun stuff. I've turned into Teacher Mom who's too busy to actually enjoy my kids.

After July I'm also done being a scout leader. I would like to be done teaching Sunday School, too. Although, we'll see if that works out.

Last year I had decided that if I was going to homeschool again that I would have to schedule in "me days." I put a couple days each month on the calendar, but when it came down to it I never actually got to squeeze in those me days. My me time has turned into those couple hours I'm off running a race, which over the course of this school year I've done 3 races kid free. I don't work, the kids don't go out to school & that amounts to a lot of "Mom, can I have this?" or "Mom, so & so is bugging me!" or "Mom, watch my handstands." I know very well that one day I'm going to miss that. But, I need a breather from it. And, I don't get it.

Here's a good example: I have spent well over an hour simply trying to write these last few paragraphs. I just can't get it done. I'm continually getting interrupted. Not only do I need a break once in a while, they need to figure out how to do things without needing my attention every ten minutes.

I feel horrible having to say, "not right now" so often. I can see it breaking their little heart every time. I know it's ok to say it. I just feel like I say it all the time. Sending them to school means they will be out of the house & away from me for several hours a day - certainly more hours than I would like. But, in the time they are away I can do chores around the house, run those boring errands & I won't be spending who knows how many hours getting stuff ready for school. With those changes, I'm hoping I won't need to say, "not right now," as much & our time together will become more about quality, not quantity.

Mr. T is a very smart kid, but very hard to teach. I know he can try harder than he does & I know he would if he had anybody but me teaching him. He gets irritated at me when I point out something he has done is wrong. I tell him that he is learning something new, so of course he might get it wrong. But, it doesn't help & I'm the bad guy. We just don't mesh with the teacher/mom/child combination. It breaks my heart, but it's just not working. If he gets mad at a teacher I want to be the one to help him work through it, not be the reason he's mad. When he grows up I don't want him looking back and remembering being mad at me all the time.

Princess K is smart, too, but she's not nearly at the level my boys were at the end of kindergarten. Does it matter? Probably not. But, it weighs on me. I know the reason she's not as good at reading & math as they were at this age is because I didn't work with her much in a casual, every day manner before she started kindergarten. My boys knew all their letters & sounds before stepping foot in their kindergarten classroom, so of course they picked up reading quicker. By the time she was of age to learn the alphabet, I was already homeschooling Capt. N & that took way more time than I anticipated. I just didn't have the time or want to to teach more in a day. I'm very happy with her success & how far she has come this year. But, I just feel like she could be further along had I taken the time to teach her years ago. This bothers me because if I don't have the time to teach my kindergartner like she deserves, how can I teach 3 kids, especially as they get older.

The reason I began homeschooling originally was because Capt. N all of a sudden in 2nd grade started struggling in public school. It was hard for him & the school wasn't able to figure out the problem. I was worried that my son, who had always been a curious learner, would soon start hating school & learning. I decided to try homeschooling, even though it was so far out of my comfort zone. I still believe this was the best decision I could have made. We learned that his eyes didn't track correctly & he went to vision therapy. He did that for a year, then the next year I wanted to keep him home to work on his reading skills now that his eyes were working better. Having him home these 3 years have been invaluable in getting a deeper understanding about how he learns. I never would have figured him out had he been out of the house at school every day. All that being said, I think he's ready to go back to school. I think he will still struggle a little bit, but not so much that it will deter him from accomplishing his goals.

I hate to bring this up because there is such a stigma with it. And, I certainly don't think this is an issue for homeschooler's in general. But, I must throw in the "S word" as it has been part of my decision. Socializing. Eek!

My kids are involved in so many activities that they see plenty of people. They are not socially awkward. They have friends. Unfortunately, they don't get to see their friends often. Part of me is actually ok with that. But, there are problems with it, as well. Mr. T & Princess K are very social & want to spend time with others. We live in a rural area & don't have neighbor kids. So, any time spent with friends has to be planned. Between school, activities & friends schedules, it just doesn't happen as much as it should. As important as family is & as much as I want my children to be close with each other, they also need time with friends.

This year was the first year I home schooled all 3 of my kids. Last year I debated sending them to school, but opted to try homeschooling them all to see how it goes. Part of me feels like a quitter & I have my doubts on whether this is the best decision. I know people who school far more than 3 children & it works for them. I just don't feel like it's working for us. It's too much. My house is always a mess, there's always more yard work to be done that I can't get to, I can't make home cooked meals as often as I would like, I don't feel like I'm being the best mom I'm capable of & I don't feel like they're getting that much better of an education than they would get if they went to public school. I'm giving all I've got, but it just isn't enough. Something's got to change & this is the change I've decided to make.

I'm guessing my kids going back to school will be tougher on me than them. Since becoming a mom 11+ years ago, I've always had at least one kid home with me. It's going to be a huge adjustment having all 3 of my kids gone all day. This alone brings me to tears. It's very hard to think about.

I took down the school posters & info I had on this wall. Honestly, a lot of it was falling down anyway. Frog tape just isn't meant to adhere for long periods of time. I didn't have a problem taking down the stuff. Actually, it was kind of fun. But, a couple days later I walked in the room to the big empty wall & lost it. What in the world was I thinking? Why would I send my kids off to school all day?

I still plan on doing awesome crafts with my kids & taking them fun places, so I will continue to blog about those things. Life with my kids isn't stopping, it's just changing.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

4th Quarter Wrap Up

We did things a little differently this quarter.

I have decided to send my kids to public school next year. So, I wanted to spend our last quarter as a homeschooling family in the way I wish our homeschooling could have always been. My homeschooling dream would be spent learning through hands on activities, unit studies, lots of crafts & lots of field trips.

Unfortunately, I just haven't figured out how to make that work as our normal. By the time I get through doing reading, writing & arithmetic with 3 different learning levels, there just isn't much time left in the day for fun activities.

At some point during the third quarter I had decided they would most likely be going to public school next year, so I pushed them harder to finish their curriculum early so we could spend as much of our last 2 homeschooling months doing fun stuff.

• Finishing Up Curriculum
It is such a fabulous feeling of accomplishment when we finish curriculum. The kids finished up their All About Spelling, Saxon Math, Geography, Literature Pockets, & various Language Arts assignments.


• Learning About Other Cultures
We spent a couple weeks learning about Japan this quarter.
Throughout the year we had been learning about Native Americans, & we spent a few weeks at the end of the year finishing up our unit.
Also, off & on throughout the year, we learned about holidays & the culture of Mexico. We finished up by celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

• Celebrating Holidays
We didn't spend a lot of time celebrating holidays this quarter, but we enjoyed the little bit that we did celebrate.

Mr. T created this leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day
Dying eggs for Easter
Capt. N helped me make pink rice krispie treats for Easter.

• Crafts
Most of the crafts we did this term were related to Japan, Mexico or the Native Americans. But, Mr. T always finds time to come up with his own crafts.
Night time silhouette by Mr. T.

Mr. T made this large paper version of me.

• Out & About
My goal was to go on a field trip at least once a week this last quarter. We completed that goal & sometimes even went somewhere twice in one week.

We started letterboxing.
We went on a number of outings, including to the library when a rock museum brought many hands on activities. The photo on the left is showing the varying velocities of different types of lava. The top right is a puzzle of Pangaea. And, the bottom right is testing the hardness of various rocks.

• Springtime at Home
I didn't teach a formal science unit this term. But, we got to experience lots of sciency things on our outings & everyday life.

We've been hatching lots of chicks.

We got 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats. They are small & cute & fun. And, I love watching my children play with them.

Mr. T & Princess K have been helping plant the garden & Capt. N has been helping set up the aquaponics system.

On one of the first warm days the kids got out the hose, which ended up created small mud pit. Apparently, they couldn't resist the fun of mud.

Well, that's a wrap.

My final homeschooling wrap up completed. There are a lot of emotions flowing through this mind of mine right now. But, I'm choosing to focus on the positives about sending them off to school. This really is a new chapter in our lives. Hopefully, it ends with ...and they lived happily ever after.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cinco de Mayo Celebration

On the 5th of May the kids did not work on their regular curriculum. Instead, we had a Mexican themed party day.

I took the items in the pocket chart out & replaced them with Mexico related things. My mom gave me the map with info on it, which was a placemat at a restaurant. The photos, money & dress up dolls came out of our North American Continent Box.

I read Tomie dePaola's Adelita to the kids. It is a Mexican Cinderella story.
As a comparison, I also read Cinders by Jan Brett. This book was a Chicken Cinderella story, which of course, we loved. We also discussed Disney's version of Cinderella.

This was a win, win & win conversation. I love Jan Brett, I love Tomie dePaola & I love Disney.

Spanish Bingo has been a huge hit on our Mexico days, so we played it again.

Bingo prizes were leftover pencils & erasers.

For lunch we had chicken tacos, Spanish rice & beans. I even pulled out the hand painted dishes we bought in Mexico many moons ago.

Mmmm... So good! One of my favorite meals.

We ate homemade churros after lunch.

The kids also made a few crafts that day.

It's a lot of work to put together a theme day, but they are so much fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Literature Pockets

As part of our curriculum this year, we worked with Evan-Moor's Literature Pockets. I can make the History Pockets work for all my children and their varying academic levels. So, we work on those as a group. But, that seemed more difficult with the Literature Pockets. So, they each had their own Evan-Moor book.

Folktales & Fairy Tales, Grades K-1
for Princess K

To make these books & pockets I used 12" x 18" construction paper. The cover I cut to 12" x 12". The pocket pages were created by folding up the bottom 6" of the 18" side of the paper and stapling the sides. Then all the pages, including the cover, were hole punched and held together with yarn.

Each story had its own pocket. The pocket was used to hold all the goodies that came with the story. There was a book of the story, a character sheet,  a couple age appropriate language activities & a craft. Some of the activities Princess K did was trace words, sequence a story & answer comprehension questions.

Gingerbread Man craft
Funny story... Princess K just came over to me & saw this photo. She said, "Uck, did I make that?" Yep, she did - at the beginning of the school year. She responded with, "I didn't do a very good job." I find it interesting that she thought that. Let's be honest, she's right. It's not great. Even when she was doing it I knew she could do better, but I didn't say anything. She's one of those kids that when she feels like taking her time, she does, & she does a nice job. But, most often she likes to hurry through and has results like this. Maybe she's getting to where she cares more about the work she's creating. This is one of those fun times I get to watch the changes in one of my kids.

Goldilocks & the Three Bears craft

Folktales & Fairy Tales, Grades 2-3
for Mr. T

Mr. T's book was made in the same way as Princess K's.

His work was similar to Princess K's in that each pocket had the story, a character sheet, a couple language activities & a craft. His language activities included writing activities & learning about adjectives, verbs & dialogue.

Henny Penny craft

Caldecott Winners, Grades 4-6
for Capt. N

Capt. N's book was a little different. Instead of fairy tales, he learned about Caldecott Winners. I loved this. We got to check out some great picture books from the library & learn about award winning illustrators.

Capt. N's book was made in the same way as the other two. But, his pockets did not contain the story itself since we were reading hard bound books. His did have a biography of each of the illustrators. Often the illustrator was the same as the author, but not always.

Capt. N's language activities included many writing assignments, a venn diagram & a simile assignment.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses craft

Mirette on the High Wire craft

I would say I picked the right book for each of my kids. The grade level listed on the Evan-Moor books seemed to be right on with the academic levels of my kids.

Although, looking back, I probably could have skipped Mr. T's book & let him do the same one as Capt. N. I think he really would have enjoyed the stories we read & the more challenging crafts.

All three books were a hit with my kids. They were a fun way to add Language Arts to our day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crafts Inspired by Mexico

Throughout this school year we've been celebrating Mexican holidays & doing crafts to go along with them. Recently we celebrated Cinco de Mayo.

I was really hoping we'd be able to finish off our year with a trip to Mexico. I'd love to see Chichen Itza & other Mayan ruins. But, that didn't happen. Bummer.

But, we did create some fun crafts.

:: Sombrero ::
I saw a photo on Flickr and loved the craft. So, we put together our own version.

I created a hat template out of index paper. Then, the kids traced the template onto old file folders & cut them out.

I got out a pile of crafting goodies for the kids use as they wanted.

Capt. N decided to use the shavings of a colored pencil for decoration.

They stuck pretty well with clear Elmer's glue.

Then they cut out an oval & drew on a nose & mouth. I love that the eyes are covered.

3 Sombreros

:: Papel Picado ::
I checked this book out from the library to look at for our papel picado craft.

We used tissue paper and scissors to create designs from the book.

A few designs didn't turn out well, but most did.

We strung them all together on string & hung them in our house.

:: Double Headed Serpent Mosaic ::
Years ago we went on a cruise through the Mexican Riviera. On the ship was a version of the Double Headed Serpent. So when I saw the mosaic craft at That Artist Woman, I knew it was one we were going to do.

Capt. N & The Double Headed Serpent on our 2007 Royal Caribbean cruise.

I cut the serpent shapes out of stiff cardboard. The kids used tempera paint to look like grout on their mosaic.

They used watered down clear Elmer's glue to adhere the colored egg shells.

I must admit the other thing that drew me to this craft was that it required egg shells. I'm always on the lookout for ways to use eggs. I had recently colored eggs to place in the background of a few photos of our new chicks. This was a perfect way to use up those shells.

Princess K & Capt. N chose to use buttons as their eyes. Mr. T cut out circles from index paper.
The mouth & teeth were cut from white index paper.

Fun Crafts = Fun Times
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