Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October Happenings--It's all about the outdoors!

The weather is beginning to change, bringing cooler temperatures to us--which means we are spending more and more time outdoors.  We are most definitely a family that loves the outdoors, and in central Texas, it's hard not to want to spend 100% of the day outside from October through May!   Here are some photos from some of our time spent outdoor this month.

We have been seeing so many butterflies in our yard lately--and they are all so gorgeous in a variety of colors--orange, yellow, white, blue, and black.  But none were as pretty as this one that I found recently...

There is a beautiful park and trail behind our home, and we spend a lot of time there.

We decided to bring our horseshoes to the park this past Friday night to teach the kids how to play.  They loved it and both were determined to get the horseshoe around the post.

We have been spending a lot of time hiking as well.

On Saturday--it was a rare occasion where Abbey led the way for a bit.  

And, we've had fun just exploring our town.

and swinging...

Luke has been really enjoying his first baseball season.  And the weather has been very nice for it.

Abbey enjoys frolicking through our yard being a girly girl.

We visited a pumpkin patch last week with some of our homeschool friends.

The kids learned how to remove the corn kernels using an old tool.  

They found it was very difficult and took a lot of muscles.  
Abbey found out pumping water for this little race took lots of muscles too.  One of our mom friends exclaimed during the race, "Abbey you are going to have some big guns after this."  After this activity, Abbey asked me, "I wonder what activity we are going to do next.  I think it has something to do with shooting.  Bella's mom told me I was going to have some bigs guns after that race I just did."  Ha!   So, I had to explain to Abbey what "having big guns" meant.

We have been having lots of meals outside on our picnic table.

And we have been spending lots of time at the creek....walking or biking there.

family bike ride to the creek.

climbing near the creek with friends

While Drew and Luke attended a fun monster truck rally near our home over his birthday weekend, Abbey and I went to a park and played together.

We participated in a fun "Country Run" 5k near our home too recently.  

We had a blast and I was surprised at how much of the race Abbey ran.  She said she wanted to "win".  We had to break it to her that we weren't going to win.

fun on the trampoline.

Our neighbor let the kids ride some of their ponies.

One day while Luke was practicing baseball in our backyard, Abbey decided she wanted some turns hitting.  Perhaps she will sign up for tee ball.  

We have been enjoying doing science experiments with friends outside. 

And the month is just halfway finished.  We have lots more outdoor fun planned for the rest of the month as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Top 3 Questions I often receive about Homeschooling

I am so thankful that God directed me towards homeschooling.  It has been such a blessing in our lives.  We are so entrenched in homeschooling, that I often forget there are folks who don't understand it.  We recently have run into several folks who have found out we are homeschooling and ask many questions about it.  So, I thought it was time for a blog post that includes a few of the most frequently asked questions we receive and how we respond to them.  Since homeschooling has been such a huge blessing in our lives, I want others to fully understand it, so they may at least include it as an option for their children's schooling.  Isn't it always good to have all of the options and information at hand when making an important decision such as our children's education?

learning about some of the properties of water with our friends

Please know that we did not just decide to homeschool randomly.  After I felt God's leading and calling, I researched homeschooling like crazy to find out everything I could about it.  After doing so, discussing in depth with Drew and talking to lots of moms who have done it for years, it was abundantly clear that it was the best educational option for our family.

reading to cats at the local animal shelter's rescue readers program

Question #1 that I received often:  Do you have to have your kids tested or anything?   In some states, the homeschooling laws are much more strict than in Texas.  Texas is probably one of the most relaxed homeschooling states, in that it does not require our homeschooled children to take standardized tests.  We also don't have to submit anything to the state.   To homeschool legally in Texas, you must follow three state law requirements:
  • The instruction must be bona fide (i.e., not a sham).
  • The curriculum must be in visual form (e.g., books, workbooks, video monitor).
  • The curriculum must include the five basic subjects of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.
That's it.  Pretty simple, right?  Where do I think folks are coming from when they ask this question?  I think they are asking how do we know our kids are learning what they are "supposed" to without testing?  My response after answering the question is about testing is as follows:  "Testing isn't necessary, as I am providing my child one-on-one instruction daily and know exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are.  Besides, some of the curricula we use provide pre-tests and post-tests as well.  The whole purpose of testing is to determine strengths and weaknesses and to compare the child to their peers in the same "grade."  None of this is necessary in homeschooling since I know my childrens' strengths and weaknesses at all times.    In our schooling, we can get through so much learning in a much shorter time than the kids at school because of the extremely low teacher to student ratio.  We move at the kids' pace, not just to the average kid in the class's pace as in traditional schooling.  Although we only spend a couple of hours a day on "schoolwork", Luke (who would be in first grade in traditional school based on his age) is doing 4th grade phonics and 2nd/3rd grade mathwork and Abbey, who is 4.5 is reading extremely fluently and is able to do first grade math."  I would probably add that there are countless studies that show the home-educated outperform traditionally schooled children on standardized academic achievement tests (remember, some states require standardized tests for homeschooled children).  In addition, they score higher on the SAT and ACT on average.   

playing with circuits and completing them

Luke is building something fun with his friends here.

I also often hear a follow up comment that goes something like this, "So, parents could homeschool and not really provide any instruction and do a poor job of 'schooling'?"  My response would be as follows:  "Yes, they could.  But, I don't understand why someone would want to pull their child out of their free educational option (and free childcare all day also, basically) with a motivation of just to have the child home all day and not provide any education.  If most homeschooling parents are like me, I homeschool my children in order to give them what I feel is the best education.  It is a big sacrifice for me--alternatively, I could have my kids at school all day for free and have all of that free time to get stuff done or get a job to make more money for our family.   Instead, I am going to do my best to provide the best education.  If I felt at any time that our kids would get a better education elsewhere, that is the education we would give them."

Luke is completing a fun crossword puzzle for his reading assignment--such a fun way to work on spelling, reading and vocabulary

Question #2:  But what about "socialization?"  I think most folks think that homeschooled kids just sit at home all day with no clue how to interact with others.  I will tell you that for about 100% of the homeschooling families that I know (and I know a LOT of homeschooling families), we are providing our children more time "socializing" with other children and adults than other kids get at traditional school.  Sitting in a classroom, being still and quiet is not "socializing".  Our social calendar is pretty busy.  But, I believe it is important and part of our "learning".  Take a look at our calendar this week for example:

Monday:  They kids attend a one day enrichment academy in a Christian environment that provides instruction in Science, Spanish, Art, Theater, Martial arts/P.E., and Character Building.   Both kids LOVE this program.

Tuesday: We complete our schoolwork in the morning and then head to our weekly Christian Choir class.  This class is amazing.  The kids are getting a very rich musical education and having a blast!  Abbey raises her little hand every time the teacher asks for a volunteer.  Here are a couple of short little videos to show some of the fun they have in choir.

Here is Abbey giving "do re me" signs and having the class follow her lead based upon her hand sign.  

 Here is Abbey driving the car on the roller coaster at the speed she chooses--the class then goes up or down in notes as she moves the car along.


They also play so many fun games!  I could post so many videos, because I take a lot and am so in awe of how good this teacher is!  It is awesome that there are so many great programs like this out there for homeschooled kids.  It allows me to completely tailor their education.  I teach the core subjects at home and then am able to find so many enrichment opportunities for them. 

Wednesday:  This is usually our free day.  We get our schoolwork done early and then schedule field trips, fun and playdates.  We can play pretty much all afternoon with friends rather than just at a 20 minute recess.  However, this Wednesday we are going to "fossil day" at a local museum.  There will be lots of hands on learning that day!

Thursday:  Abbey has a homeschool gymnastics class in the morning and Luke completes schoolwork while she is in class.  Another perk to homeschooling is that extracurricular activities can be completed during the day, so we can enjoy family time together at night.  Also this Thursday afternoon we are headed to a farm's pumpkin patch.   We will participate in tons of fun with other kids, as well as take part in some educational opportunities.  On other Thursdays, we have Lego Club and Science Club with friends, depending on which week it is.

Friday:  We almost always have a field trip scheduled for Fridays.  We call these our "fun Fridays."  There is tons of hands-on learning happening on these days.  We usually complete our schoolwork at home as well.  But, I believe the field trips are the best opportunities for learning. 

Creating art

launching a homemade rocket and learning about air pressure

building something amazing!

homeschool day at the zoo--playing with DJ equipment

more hands-on learning at the Zoo's homeschool day

observing the lego mindstorms robots at the zoo that have been programmed to be animals.  The goals was to observe and take notes of their behavior.

Homeschool hiking with friends

Also, I feel it is a parent's job to teach their children social rules and how to interact with others.  I am with my children all day everyday and can provide guidance and correction as necessary, because I see it all.  This is what I believe "socialization" is.  Socialization is defined as referring to the general process of acquiring culture.  I can spend all day teaching them cultural rules that I believe are most important rather than having them learn these rules from their peers in the classroom.  

In addition to our school calendar being full of opportunities for the kids to gets social interaction with other kids and adults, they also get those opportunities through participation in team sports (Luke is currently playing baseball), church, and AWANAs.  

Question #3: But do you have a teaching degree?   To explain this, I need to first try to explain that a home education does not look like public school.  The beauty of it is that it doesn't have to since I don't have a classroom of 20 plus kids.  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.  But, I do have a TON of education and a HUGE love of learning.  I believe I can learn anything I desire to learn and I believe our children can as well.   It just takes the desire, time and hard work.   

My parents, sister and I after my Masters degree graduation ceremony.  I love education and learning!
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.  As I have mentioned before, 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), or just by tinkering.  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.  And there are SO many awesome tools available today at our fingertips.  You can pretty much learn anything you want on the internet.  If you are struggling with a math concept, for example, just go to Khan academy's website and find a plethora of instructional videos.  Or, just download an application/game to your ipad that reinforces and teaches those particular concepts in a fun way.  So, to answer the question in short, "No I do not have one, but I feel it is completely unnecessary for how I am teaching our kids." 

I totally understand that homeschooling doesn't work for everyone though.  And, thankfully we do have some great schools (with some amazing teachers) available as educational options.  For us though, homeschooling is such a blessing and we are thoroughly loving it!

Have any more questions?  I would love to answer them.  Just email me via the "contact me" link on this blog!