Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Joy of Homeschooling--Just 10 of the reasons I love it!

Today has just been one of those day where I feel completely thankful God guided me towards homeschooling.  While homeschooling can, at times, be difficult, the joys of it far outweigh these "little difficulties."  I am not sure why it happened today, but I have just been filled with so much joy.  God has highlighted all of the "little moments" today that bring me so much joy---and these happen to be little moments that I would never get to experience if I sent my kids away to school outside the home.  (Side note:  While I believe homeschooling is the best for our family, I totally understand it may not be the best for all, and it is not the only way to get an excellent education.  Also, after homeschooling my own 2 kids these past couple of years,  my respect for teachers has increased significantly.  I believe they have one of the hardest jobs in America.  They are awesome!)

My thoughts today have been lingering on how many of these precious joyful moments I get every day, leading my heart to significant gratitude.  This feeling today has been so overwhelming, that God has led me to write about it in the form of a blog post.  Who knows, perhaps there is someone who may stumble upon this post and eventually be led to homeschool their children as well.  Or, perhaps God will put this post on my heart sometime later, when my day is more difficult and I need to be reminded of the joy inherent in homeschooling.  Nonetheless, I feel led to share the many reasons I cherish homeschooling.  Without further adieu, here are just 10 reasons I love homeschooling. 

1.  I am on my very own schedule.  Okay, perhaps I have a little bit of a need to control things.  Although God has shown me there is so much outside my control, and He has often had to remind me to rely on His sovereignty and not on myself, I still get much satisfaction out of controlling the things within my control.  And, our family's schedule is one of them.  If the kids want to stay up really late one night during the week to check out a fun band with Drew and me, we don't hesitate.  We say, "yes," knowing that they can sleep in as long as they want the next morning.  Now, of course, we don't make it a habit every day, as I firmly believe children thrive when they have a routine.  But, at the same time, I want my kids get to experience as much as possible--and some of those things happen to push their bedtimes later at times.  Also, I believe there needs to be a balance between routine and spontaneity/adventure.  This morning, one of the joyful moments came as I sat on the couch snuggling with both of my kids.  The house was quiet.  Drew had just left for work.  There was no tv on.  I sat on the couch and both kids ran over to me.  I embraced Luke in my left arm and Abbey was snatched in my right arm.  I took turns squeezing them and smothering them with kisses.  As I was having this moment at 8:15 this morning with my kiddos, I realized most kids would already be at school, seated in their chairs doing schoolwork.   We had plenty of time to spend snuggling.  Don't get me wrong--we fit a whole lot into today's school schedule.  Before I move on to the rest of the reasons I love homeschooling, perhaps I should share what today looked like for us--"school-wise".

7:30ish Abbey wakes up and comes into our bedroom, joyful and extremely talkative as usual.  Abbey is my alarm clock.  When she awakes, so do I.  I soon realize Luke is up already as well (he usually sleeps until at least 8am).  I get up and make their breakfast.  We all eat at the table together and talk about the day's plans.  After we eat, we snuggled for a bit on the couch.  Then, we start right into some schoolwork at the kitchen table.  Luke completes 3 pages of his reading, writing and phonics lesson, reads a book to me and then begins his creative writing assignment while I get myself ready for the day.  Abbey wants to do some pretend play in her room while I get ready.

9:15a:  the kids begin getting their clothes on for the day, brush their hair, brush their teeth, make sure their rooms are tidy and make their beds.

9:30a:  we left the house to head to a beautiful park to meet other homeschooling friends for book club.  The kids and I read "The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis over this past month or so.  Today, Luke and Abbey got to have an awesome discussion with their friends led by another homeschooling mom.  (Before they discussed the book, there was plenty of time to play.)  It was so fun to sit in on this and hear all of the very deep answers from all the kiddos.  These kids were speaking straight from their hearts on topics from the book, as well as on the symbolism within the book (e.g., sin, Satan, Jesus, etc).  This was another of those many joyful moments today.  What precious hearts these kids have and they let us, parents, peek into them today. 

11:30a:  we headed to Whole Foods to get a smoothie (a treat for their participation in the discussion at book club) and to meet Drew for lunch. (hooray for extra family time)

1pm:  We arrived back home and Luke finished up his creative writing, while Abbey practiced some handwriting.  Then, we did a fun science experiment together:  we created a compass using a bowl of water, a magnet with the poles (N and S) marked, and another floating plastic dish.  I enjoyed this maybe even more than the kids.  It was so COOL! With the weather as gorgeous as it was today, we decided to move our school outside for the rest of the afternoon.  We sat a blanket out front beneath the huge shade trees and completed our math work (read our Life of Fred book and completed the math problems).  Then, we played the game, "Go Fish" together.  The kids have never played this game and they thought it was just so much fun.  They were giggling the entire time and those giggles just warm my heart.  This was another of those moments where I just felt so joyful.  What precious times!  Then, we ready some Beverly Cleary ("Beezus and Ramona") followed by one of our favorite stories, "Ferdinand."

3pm:  Playtime--Luke and I played soccer while Abbey blew bubbles.  We played, played, played.

4:45pm--the kids and I ate dinner, as Luke has soccer practice at 6pm.  (The kids left with Drew, and I am typing this post now before I go work out).

While we always try to get our school completed in the morning, I love the flexibility that I have with homeschooling.  If we want to go explore Austin in the morning and do our schoolwork in the afternoon, we can.  But, really, we are learning all day--whether we are sitting and doing "schoolwork" or exploring around town.  Learning happens anywhere and everywhere.  If we want to take the week off to do just field trips--we can.  If we want to take a vacation in the middle of February, we can.  I love it!!

2.  I think free time is important!  Our homeschooling "schoolwork" only takes a couple of hours each day.  This gives the kids a ton of time to explore their passions.  Free time is so important to foster creativity.  Actually, it is not only good for its ability to foster creativity, but it also allows the kids to do the creating.  You can do a search on the web and read countless articles on how important free play is for kids.  So many school systems keep taking away all of the things that foster creativity and help kids academically--like the arts and play (recess).

3.  We get to have LOTS of family time.  We make sure that when Drew arrives home from work, we have all of our schoolwork complete and can just spend quality time with him.  The kids don't have to work on homework at night.  If Drew's schedule changed for some reason, we could easily adjust our schedule to maximize family time.  (And there are even times like today, where we can meet daddy for lunch).

4.  Things are pretty simple.  In the public school system, things can get pretty complicated.  If the weather is nice and we wake up and want to take a hike, we can do that.  If we decide it is Spring Break, it is Spring Break.  If the kids are interested in a particular subject and we decide to explore it further by taking a field trip, we can do it.  We aren't locked into a specific schedule.  Our schedule is fluid.  We can fluidly switch from one "grade" level in a particular subject, to the next--in the middle of the year.  We can school year-round.  We can do whatever works for us, based on our lives, the kids' learning style, etc.  We don't have to attend a board meeting, attend parent-teacher conferences, submit forms, attend committee meetings, etc.

5.   My kids are learning to be independent learners/thinkers and efficient.  In the public school setting, kids have to be in school "x" number of hours every day, regardless of how efficient they are.  My kids know that when their schoolwork is done, they can play and have free time the rest of the day. It also works in reversal--if they don't manage their time well, that means less play time.  I think time management is a good skill to learn.  This definitely promotes efficiency.  Also, our homeschool is very much student-led and encouraging of independent learning.  If the kids want to learn about something, we go learn about it.  Homeschooling is great about instilling a love for learning--and the ability to learn independently.  People who aren't familiar with homeschooling often ask if I have a teacher background, or a teaching certification.  I do not.  I recently read a great blog post from a homeschooling mom who does have a teaching background and an active teaching certification.  Here is what she said in her post:  "The education a public school teacher possesses equips her (or him) for the classroom where she has to deal with managing many children, adhering to state laws as it pertains to public school, and communicating with parents. You do not need any of these skills to teach your own child."   Later she says, "Homeschooling is not about bringing a public school classroom into your home, although for many years I thought it was and if you start out that way, that’s ok. After all that’s all most of us know." No teacher could ever know my children as well as I do.  I have been with them since they were born.  I know their strengths and weaknesses.  I know their learning styles and character traits.  I believe one of my main goals as a teacher of my children is to instill a love of learning.  And, I certainly don't need a teaching certificate to do that with my kids.  Those who love to learn will enjoy figuring things out on their own.  Homeschooled children figure a lot of things out by reading about it in a book or on the internet (with mom available when they get stuck).  Did you know Abraham Lincoln only had one year of formal education and achieved the rest of his education simply by reading?  I want my kids to be able to find answers on their own.  I don't want them to wait for someone to have to show them how to do something.  If they want to know something, I want them to go after it eagerly to learn about it.  I think this is a skill missing from the some of the younger generations these days.

6.  I want my kids to be well educated!  A lot of folks unfamiliar with homeschooling don't understand just how academically successful homeschoolers are.  But universities certainly realize it!   A recent article I read titled, "Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide" stated, "College recruiters from the best schools in the United States aren’t slow to recognize homeschoolers’ achievements. Those from non-traditional education environments matriculate in colleges and attain a four-year degree at much higher rates than their counterparts from public and even private schools. Homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Duke."  Also, a recent study published in The Journal of College Admission suggests that homeschool students enjoy higher ACT scores, grade point averages and graduation rates compared with other college students.

7.  I want to choose how and what they learn.  I know--there's that control thing again! But, you know what?  They are my and Drew's children.  They aren't the state's children.  They don't learn the same as the other kids.  The curriculum should line up with their learning styles.  And, by the way, Luke and Abbey learn completely differently.  So, if they were in the same classroom, they would be taught the same way, using the same curriculum.  I want them to be taught the Bible, which has pretty much been completely removed from the Public school system.  I want them to focus more time where their passions are.  We can do all of that in our school.

8.  I have a lot of say in who influences my children.  We have a co-op that the mothers pretty much handpicked.  We also have some other groups that we are a part of in which the mothers and I have handpicked.  We have chosen the group of people that our kids are around.  Folks, we do a TON of socializing with friends each week, and these are all friends who we know well.  Our kids get to be around a variety of ages (not just all within the same year of age).  Luke and Abbey get to spend a lot of time with each other, other adults, and kids of various ages.  We go out and about during the day while other kids are at school, and the kids get to interact with a variety of ages of adults.  We even recently built legos with senior adults at an assisted living facility.  

And, this could totally be a separate big reason on why we love homeschooling, but my kids get AMPLE time socializing with friends.  We are part of so many groups, clubs and activities.  Just this week so far, for example, we met friends at the Science and Nature Center (Tuesday), Luke attended his one-day-per week weekly homeschool enrichment classes (Wednesday), Abbey attended dance class (Monday), Luke and Abbey met friends at the park and had book discussion group(Thursday), and Luke attended soccer practice (Thursday night).  We laugh at the myth of homeschoolers not having time for "socialization."  That is a whole other subject I will cover sometime!

Some of our homeschool friends during a recent play day at Bull Creek
Hiking and learning with friends

more learning with friends

9.  I can discipline and train my children up all day/every day.  Being home with the kids all day gives me plenty of time to see negative character traits developing and be able to nip those in the bud.  Also, I can encourage the positive character traits/behaviors.  And, since I am the one disciplining them, I can bring Jesus into our discipline.  We can talk about what God would want of us, and we can pray together to ask God to help us grow in certain ways.  

10.  We don't have to wait in long lines.  Okay, y'all.  This one is huge!   Everyone who knows me knows I do not like waiting in line.  We choose to take our field trips and do things during the week on off-peak times (e.g., when other kids are in school).  And, we have found if we go places in the early afternoons, we usually have the places to ourselves (while the littles nap and the big kids are in school).  It is pretty awesome.   

I literally could go on and on here.  I have received so much joy in homeschooling that I just had to share some of it.  If you are interested in homeshooling and have any questions about our journey, please don't hesitate to contact me through the blog contact tool. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring Adventures--a blog post to catch you up on what we've been up to lately

It is officially springtime (although the weather has been teasing us with spring-like temperatures for months now).  I love Spring here in Central Texas.   Everything begins to get really green and tons of wildflowers begin popping up everywhere.  We have been busy enjoying the weather and beauty of God's creation lately.  I have taken a ton of pictures with my phone and our dslr camera, but haven't had much time to blog about it or share them.  So, this may just be a long post about what we've been up to lately.  Here we go...

Hikes and Exploration!
We have done tons of this.   Hiking and exploring are great passions of mine.  I am determined to have this rub off on the kids as well.

Abbey and her friend, Grace, at a recent hike.

Abbey and some of her friends feeling the moss that was growing on a rock along one of our recent hikes.

Some of our homeschool hiking buddies

Abbey and friends in a homemade "teepee"

More homeschool hiking

Throwing rocks in bull creek

hiking with daddy at great hills park

We found a geocache off the great hills park trail.

It had lots of goodies inside.

Abbey and her friend, Kinsey, at a recent hike.

Abbey and Colton at a hike at Balcones Canyonland.

We had a guided hike here with lots of our homeschool friends.

Luke is ready to hike!

We also had very informative, educational presentations before the hike at Balcones Canyonland.  Here, the kids were learning about beneficial insects.

At this presentation, the kids were learning about social insects--specifically pollinators like honey bees.

Our hiking group.

We also had out of town family guests.   My brother, Jeremy, and his family, along with my dad visited us on their spring break.  We had tons of fun!  We went to the children's museum (The Thinkery),  SXSW Create, we went fishing, shopping and just hung out at the house.

We caught a few little bass.

teeny tiny baby bass

The kids enjoyed each others' company while fishing.  Our neighbors joined us at the fishing hole.
Abbey enjoyed coloring her free bandana at SXSW Create

The kids carved designs into leather luggage tags at SXSW Create using Dremel tools.

They enjoyed coloring little flashing robots at SXSW Create too.

the Create Lego wall.

Making music by pushing buttons

With R2D2 at create

Cousin, Traber, enjoyed the wind tunnel at the Thinkery.

The water exploration room at the Thinkery

Abbey and Grandpa
We also had a short but fun visit from Drew's sister, Erica, and kids (our nieces Audrey and Lauren, and nephew Mitchell).  We loved spending some time with them exploring a little bit of Austin.

Exploring with Audrey and Lauren at Bull Creek

Abbey and Lauren

Luke and Abbey with their cousins, Mitchell, Audrey and Lauren

Audrey, Abbey and Lauren at the downtown Austin

We have enjoyed attending our town's Music on Main on Wednesday nights.  It has been so much fun hearing the different bands, dancing, enjoying the company of friends, along with enjoying the gorgeous weather.   The kids even had their faces painted for the first time at one of these events.  And, the artist did a phenomenal job within a couple of minutes.

Abbey is a rainbow tiger

Luke and Abbey with our neighbor friends

Luke was a dragon.

The kids enjoyed singing and dancing.

They even got to go on stage, since the artists were kid-oriented for Spring Break.

Luke even went on stage. 
We have been loving the wildflowers around here.  Our favorites are in our own yard.

We have pulled off the road a couple of times when we saw some beautiful bluebonnets so we could snap a quick pic with my phone.

We joined with our neighbors on the Thursday before Good Friday to have our first annual Flashlight Egg hunt.   It was so much fun!    There were 30-40 kiddos and their parents who attended (at one time, we counted that 72 people had RSVP'd.)  Unfortunately, I was busy hosting and didn't really take any photos.
Watching the Veggie Tales Easter movie after the egg hunt.

Abbey recently had her first dance performance.  This is Abbey's first year of participating in dance class (tap and ballet) and she absolutely loves it!!!  I am looking forward to seeing her first recital performance.

Luke had his first soccer game this past Saturday.  He has moved up to the 6-7 year old league and it is significantly more competitive than his last division.  All of the boys are motivated to play, we have a great coach, and Luke is even on the same team as a couple of his homeschool friends.  Luke is #20 this year.

Luke and his team receiving some pre-game instruction from coach Aaron.

There have been precious random moments as well.  Like this recent one where I captured a glimpse through our kitchen bay window of the kids enjoying a snack at our picnic table.  They were having sweet conversations with each other.

Easter Sunday was just awesome.  We didn't travel this year, with Luke having his first soccer game the day before, and having so many things going on at home this year.  But, it was so nice and special to be able to enjoy Easter Day at our own home.  We went to church, worshipped our Lord and heard an Awesome Sermon; ate a yummy Easter Lunch; took a family Easter picture at home after lunch; hid and hunted for Easter Eggs in our yard; took a bike ride to our downtown, stopping at a couple of our favorite parks along the way; enjoyed a snow cone in our downtown; headed back home; had Easter dinner at home, and even took a little walk afterwards.  We were so excited to worship our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate His resurrection and conquering of death!!

Family Easter photo

Luke at a Park on Easter

And this week, we have already had several adventures.  Most recently, we visited the science and nature center with some of our homeschool friends.  Their favorite spot of this park is the huge sand area, where you can dig for dinosaur bones.

And tonight, we fit in a family walk along Brushy Creek in this gorgeous weather: