Rejecting the Pressure of a Perfect Home School

The entire United States is in a trajectory towards the return of the next academic school year. If the kids havent started school yet, they will soon. By September 6th, the whole country will be back on public school districts academic calendars. Football games will start. Christmas break will emerge. Spring break will be wanton. And the countdown to summer will begin. Students will graduate and move on to college life. And …. I haven’t even picked out our curriculum for this year yet. The choices are many and the overwhelming sense of duty to find the PERFECT academic material is intense. I can feel my old, over-achieving home school program kicking into gear. I start to feel a little panicky. And so, I have been actively avoiding the issue all together.

Against better judgment, I found myself prowling around on a homeschool mom blog this afternoon. It’s a typical blog about how this one family home schools their 5 kids. She offers an overview of the curriculum they use. Gives away lots of free and very useable and solid material to augment programs. Offers advice on organization, life training for kids, Christian values, and tells you why you should do things this way or that. And she’s good….she definitely knows how to write titles and suck you into her personal opinions about stuff. Being easily sucked into such useless knowledge, I found myself sitting with my mouth ajar at what all she was doing with her kids and feeling an immediate sense of failure since, as I have said, I haven’t even decided on curriculum for my 4 kiddos. I’m already “behind” and we haven’t even started yet.

Then I noted something really important that I hope other home school families will clue into: most of the online home school blogs that look impressive and make you want to do more and be more and have more for your kids usually are not full-time home schooling families living on a budget of Zero. The children from this one family are involved in several online schools (that are quite expensive) and are using several DVD-based instructional programs to knock out the work that goes into home schooling older kids. In fact, 90% of her children’s curriculum was made up primarily of DVD instruction for science, math, language, history, etc. This is a huge help to the home schooling family, but it not something that all families can afford to do. DVD instructional courses can be quite costly. Personally, I cannot afford to order DVD material for 4 kids. Nor do I really want to.

And here is where ones personal views of home education start to divide up the home school community. I home school the kids because I want to be with them, not necessarily because I feel a strong desire to give them the most advanced, rigorous (and expensive) academic work. (And I’m really not presuming that the mom who writes the blog I was reading has a different opinion. I’m sure she home schools b/c she wants to be with her kids, too. But she clearly has a lot of strong, clear, academic goals for her and her kids. Which I don’t. And I know a lot of other families who specifically do not home school rigorously.) When the boys were younger, yes, we did things like Latin and spent time memorizing entire chapters of the Bible. When Ean was 3 he could recite the entire story of Jesus’ birth from Luke, Chapter 2, in unison, with Adri. They both knew several Latin Christian prayers and songs and could sing/recite them out loud. Adri knew his times table by the time he was 6 because we drilled in Ray’s Math daily. Their favorite outings consisted of nature walks and note-booking. I was ever the proud Christian home school mom.

And then baby #3 got bigger and baby #4 came along and all forms of formal academic work went out the window.

For a few years the kids all have toggled in and out of public school. And I in and out of college. Enter, 2011/12 school year. At present I find myself home, again, with 4 children full time. I have no job or college work to distract me from their studies. And I find myself reveling in the idea that I have absolute complete control over my entire schedule and over everything the kids will be involved in this next year. I have so many ideas for how this year might play out – but I’ve resisted setting any goals or expectations. I want the children to ENJOY this next academic year. In fact, I want them to transition fully back into the “home school mindset” where family is a fun place to be and where we can all learn along side each other without the need to “divide and conquer” academic material.There is time for that yet. This year, I feel, is about resolidifying the family unit.

And so, I reject the temptation to put pressure on all of us to have a “perfect home school” experience via lofty academic goals, expensive instructional material, or “godly” pursuits in character development. I just want to have fun with the kids again and learn a little along the way. I invite all other home schoolers who feel the same way to join in the fun! Put the books away and take the kids to the beach. Everyday. If that’s what you want to do!

This morning, the kids and I spent 2 hours at the kitchen table. (Note, I actually have a really cool “home school room” but we always end up doing school work at the kitchen table together!) We spent time talking about what the kids “Perfect Home School Day” would be like. Here’s a picture of them writing out what they thought would make home schooling fun. We talked about and lined out different routines and they helped me set up our weekly calendar. This gave them an idea of what the weeks will be like as we venture into the school year. They were really great about it all and we had fun just talking together and working towards an ameniable goal. I actually learned a few things about my kids that I hadn’t known before! I guess the question may be: who is home schooling who here!?!

So, cheers to the next academic year. And now I need to go yell at some kids who are supposed to be folding laundry but are rolling around on the floor like puppy dogs. I’m sure you can imagine who I’m talking about…

Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom…Need I Say More?

630am:

Mom
Mom
Mom
Mom
Mom
He took that thing I wanted
Make her be nice to me.
Make him be nice to her.
I’m hungry.
I’m mad.
Fix it.
Fix me.
Fix … something!
Mom look at this.
Mom look at that.
Mom come look at this thing that I found on that website on your computer.
Mom come watch this on TV.
Mom come read this book!
Mom … Mom… Mom…Mom……
But Mom…
I don’t want to clean.
I don’t want to take a shower.
I don’t want to put on clean clothes.
REALLY???  We’re going to have to eat that for dinner???
Can you take me somewhere?
Can you buy me something?
Can we go do SOMETHING?
I’m SOO bored!
We haven’t done anything today…
all week…
all month…
my whole life…
Mom.
Please.

Fine.

I’ll go find Dad.
Five minutes later
Dad said to ask you, Mom….

1135pm
They have all finally shut up.
They are all asleep.
The house is finally quiet.
I can finally get some of MY work done.
Research.
Internet dependent.
Tedious.
Time consuming.
But doable if the kids are all asleep and my thoughts are uninterrupted.
Subject typed into Google.
Sites found.
One looks promising.

And the internet fails.

Ahhh…. I’ve patiently waited ALL day long to get to this point of the night… patiently waited for the opportunity to stay up late… so I can outline a class I have to teach in the morning… stay up late so I can work on something that isn’t directly related to the bane of my existence: marriage and motherhood.

Only to find myself staring at a dead end…

Failure.
Defeat.

Sabatoged by 14yo son downloading videos and 42 yr old husband uploading large photography files. What’s important to them. No one has considered that I might actually NEED to be awake …. working…. I’m fairly sure no one has considered anything I might need today….or this past week..or this past year… or for my whole life…

Well.
Ahem.
Cough cough.
Temporary tantrum over.

I surrender.
Feeling a bit defeated.

Until I remember what the 7yr old said just before she fell asleep at 1135pm: “This has been one of the best days of my life. I love you, Mom.”

Success.
I win.
And good night.

But first: set alarm for 4am.

So much has (not) changed: 2005 vs. 2011

In decluttering this past weekend I ran across an old notebook that I used for recording home school work with the children. It was from 2005. Claire was a baby, Hannah was 2.5, Ean was 6 and Adri was 8. It seems like AGES ago. The kids are now 14, 11, 9 and 7. The notes included in the book were rather lame and read like this: “Monday – art, latin, memory verse, phonics, math, music, nature walk, etc.”  There really wasn’t any journaling worth keeping. Though in reading through the list of subjects we covered when Ean and Adri were 6 and 8, I’m impressed at the home schooling mom I used to be. That is not the case anymore. Latin… with a 6 and 8yo??  Are you kidding me?  What was I thinking?? Well no worse for the wear really, and especially since I don’t remember any of the latin lessons. Oddly enough Latin is still Adri’s favorite language. I guess that’s good b/c we are grooming him for law school (retirement plan) and Latin will be useful for him in that endeavor. (Kind of joking but not really….)

I felt a little sad looking through the journal and thinking about all the “what ifs” but quickly stopped myeslf. I think it’s natural, when considering life, to wonder “what if” … you just can’t allow yourself to get sucked into a place of regret … and you can’t ponder, “What if?” too much!  Life sure has changed a lot for me, personally, since 2005. And obviously as the kids have grown up and changed, motherhood has changed. And as we’ve toggled between public school and home schooling, educational goals and modes have changed. And as I went back to school and sporadic bouts of employment outside of the home  here and there over the past couple of years, my interest in domestic life has changed. And life is so different today than it was in 2005.

Then I turned the page and saw a “To Do” list for 1/28/2005.

It read:  McD’s, Suzanne’s, Co-op,  Feast, Kinkos, Post Office, Gas, HEB.

And it made laugh as I realized that in the middle of all that change (chaos) some things have remained a stable and steady reality to my life:  the errands I run. My To Do list from last Friday read: McD’s, Gas, HEB, Feast, Kinkos and Post Office. You  might find this entire blog post ridiculously stupid… but it’s been very enlightening to me!  Ha!

Downsizing: From Bookcases to Spiritual Baggage

Yesterday I cleaned off my book cases. We have 2 large book cases and 4 short book cases full of books, magazines, curriculum and more.I realized a few things while downsizing our book collection yesterday: 1) my children have outgrown a majority of the books I own, 2) they have no interest in the books that are at their reading level and 3) my personal opinion of the worth of certain books has declined tremendously in the past 3 years. Books I once thought were crucial to a home now offer absolutely no meaning whatsoever. I kept a handful of books and the rest have gone into the “yard sale” or “ebay” box. Getting rid of 90% of the literature in the house is a little weird because I LOVE BOOKS!  And any half-brained home schooling mom knows that a home school is not a home school with out a well stocked home library. Well, personally I’m tired of looking at all the clutter and we do live near libraries for a reason – so – out the door the junk goes.

What I did keep were the books that the kids wanted, some unusual books that aren’t easily replaced, and a handful of books that have shaped my worldview through the years and that I reference time and again. Alongside my Bible that my Mom gave me when I was in high school were two books of supreme importance: Domestic Tranquility and The Journey of Desire.  I have written about both of those books before. Graglia’s book (Domestic Tranquility) was the foundational piece that helped shape my worldview regarding women’s struggle in this modern/post-modern/post-post-modern era. It is difficult to come to terms with what 99% of Christians preach as a Biblical mandate towards “godly” womanhood and couple that with what the world (and passive men) demands from women today. The two are, usually, completely juxtaposed. Graglia’s dissertation on the state of feminsim and it’s indelible harm to society was paramount in me being able to embrace a Biblical defense against both secular feminism and it’s alter-ego “The Doormat Wife.” It’s a powerful book, but you have to read it with an open mind.

Ha! So true! **Yes, I blocked out the offensive curse word...Sorry artist... Otherwise it's 100% funny!

Equally influential was Eldredge’s book for the struggling (suffocating, oppressed, repressed, depressed… interject whatever negative adjective here) Christian. I read that book while going through a personal metamorphosis. The Journey of Desire  puts into words everything I believe about what a relationship with God is really about…and what it isn’t. Here is my review on the book from 2008.  I left the institutional church in 2007 and had all but completely walked away from God. I was hanging onto that lifeline with one pinky finger & I found myself once again struggling to make the religious view of God sync up with what I had learned outside of the Sunday morning lofty pontifications on orthodoxy & orthopraxy (nutshell definition: what IS righteous and how you must go about being righteous.) For me, things have to make sense or I can’t function. Things have to be “in sync” and apparent chasms have to show an actual relationship. It’s hard to articulate but I could not come to terms with the idea of what the Church said God wanted from me and the reality of what was going on in my own life. It just didn’t make any sense and if the church was right then God was a bit of a jerk. Ergo: the church must be wrong. In the end I found God to be perfectly Just, that life would never make any sense, and that I was OK because I didn’t fit inside a box.

I think I’m going to read Eldredge’s book again. I need to gain some perspective on a problem I can’t get to fit inside of a box. If you cleared off your book cases and kept only 2-3 books, which ones would they be?

2011 Cactus Pear Music Festival

If you are a lover of classical music and enjoy experiencing it with your kids at your side, then you’ll want to make note of the following free performances that the Cactus Pear Music Festival offers to the local kiddos every summer.

All information below can be found on the Cactus Pear Music Festival website at: http://www.cpmf.us/pages/education.htm

YOUNG PEOPLE’S CONCERTS [YPCs]
These concerts are free and open to the public every summer! Three of the four festival concert programs are presented in shortened form by the festival artists who make the performances fun and educational for children. During our festival season, RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR GROUPS OF SIX OR MORE! Please call (210) 838-2218 for group reservations.

THE 2011 YPC SCHEDULE
July 6 • ZEPHYR WIND
@ First United Methodist Church, Boerne, 2 PM
. . . works by Mozart, Kodaly and Fibich
First United Methodist Church
205 James Street, Boerne
A violin COOKIE from Bear Moon Bakery is waiting for each child after the concert to decorate and take home as
a reminder of a great time compliments of Paula Hayward and Bear Moon Bakery.

July 8 • ORIENT EXPRESS
@ McKenna Event Center, New Braunfels, 3 PM
. . . selections from masters such as Brahms, Arensky, Glazunov and Dohnanyi
McKenna Event Center
801 W. San Antonio Street
New Braunfels, TX 78130

July 13 • BURIED TREASURES
@ St. Mary’s Hall, San Antonio, 3 PM
. . . little known masterpieces by Puccini, Mahler, Bizet, Foot and Dohnanyi
St. Mary’s Hall, Coates-Seeligson Theater/Chapel
9401 Starcrest Drive, San Antonio

The following programs are performed by student musicians. I do not know much about these performances. I’m sure they are fantastic though since most of the kids performing with the Young Artist Program are also members of the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio.

YOUNG ARTISTS PROGRAM PERFORMANCES
When July arrives, inspire your students as they experience the joy of chamber music performed by a group of very talented young artists who have trained and studied with the Festival professionals! Our YAP student musicians perform in public throughout the 2 weeks of the festival.

2011 YAP SCHEDULE
Sunday, July 10 • 8:30, 9:30 and 11 AM services
First Presbyterian Church
404 North Alamo Street, San Antonio

Tuesday, July 12 • 2 – 3 PM
Army Retirement Residence, San Antonio
7400 Crestway Drive, San Antonio

Wednesday, July 13
9:30-Noon
YAP in residence at YOSA String Camp
Church of Reconciliation campus
8900 Starcrest Drive, San Antonio
3 – 4 PM
The Meadows Retirement Community
730 Babcock Road, San Antonio
Friday, July 15 • 11 AM – Noon
Haven for Hope
1 Haven for Hope Way, San Antonio

Saturday, July 16 • 7:30 PM
Cactus Pear Music Festival concert

Sunday, July 17 • 9:30 and 11 AM services
Coker United Methodist Church
231 East North Loop Road, San Antonio

FREE COMMUNITY CONCERT 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2:30 – 4 pm
McNay Art Museum • Leeper Auditorium
6000 North New Braunfels
San Antonio, Texas 78209
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED.
No admission before 3 pm.
You must mention you are there for the CPMF concert.

Let The Summer Fun Begin!

Today is the first day of summer vacation for my children who have been long-suffering in their plight towards the end of the academic year. Three were in the local elementary school and 2 were at home this year. Next year 1 will be in the elementary school and 4 will be at home. Yay for me. (Personally, I take the Sherri Hein mentality to home schooling: it simply must be done, and I’m not required to be excited about it. HAHAHA… ahem..anyway….)

But summer is here and that means a few things for us:

  1. Children exasperated by the VBS Shuffle. You know what this is!  There are other readers out there who have done it. You know. Thrown your kids into as many VBS programs as you can find. This year I found SIX that are all different in theme!  Woot woot!!  I figure my kids will either be completely sick of VBS and totally turned off to God all together or they will be basking in the glow of the Holy Spirit from all that glorious indoctrination! Either way, I’m sure God can deal with it and the most important thing is that we get through summer…
  2. AMPLE pool time. The best thing about summer is the swimming pool. This year I will be taking full advantage of as many free pools I can find!
  3. A few road trips to surrounding locations like The Blue Hole in Wimberly, Landa Park in New Braunfels, the super fun pool in San Marcos... note… they all involve water. Ha!
  4. A family vacation to the mountains in late July to escape the Texas Heat. We will spend 5 days playing in the mountains and come home refreshed and ready for the August Dog Days!
  5. Barreling through Apologia Biology with Alaina this summer. No rest for the home schooled high schooler!
  6. LIBRARY TRIPS!!!  We go to the library so much during the summer it’s ridiculous!
  7. Morning walks before Mandy’s little boys come over everyday.
  8. As many free activities as possible such as Shakespeare in the Park (going on NOW!), using our free passes to Six Flags (thank you reading club!) and the local free summer movie program put on by Santikos!
  9. Oh and we can’t forget $5.50 days at Inflatable Wonderland for when it’s just too hot to play outside!
  10. This year we are also adding in regularly scheduled family soccer practice at a local park!  I think that’s going to be super fun for everyone. Well, saying “super fun” might be a bit of a stretch…but … it’ll be good. Yeah, I’m sure of it. Ha!

Summer is 11 weeks long and I really hope we find a way to pack in as much fun as possibe, however – amazingly enough – there are a few things I will no longer attempt to do during the summer:

  1. Camping. After mid-May through the end of August, camping is completely out of the question.
  2. Beach runs:  living only 2.5 hrs from the coast of Texas makes the beach relatively easy to get to and summer seems like the best time to go. But, no thanks. It’s crowded, hot, and always windy on the beach. I don’t like it. At all. Beach trips are reserved for September – October and March – May. Ha!
  3. Trips to the Zoo. Why?  It’s Texas and it’s hot. While the heat doesn’t really bother me, it does affect the animals and other little kids (and not to mention their parents) at the zoo. There is nothing more unpleasant than getting to the zoo only to have the kids be cranky, the animals lethargic, and the general public grouchy as ever. We’ve done this a few times and have definitely learned our lesson!

And lastly, the thing I really really want to do but don’t know if I’ll get to it or not this summer, is to get my Dad’s really cool kayak that he can no longer use and learn how to work that sucker. The only big problems I can forsee right now are

  1. I don’t know anything about kayaks.
  2. I don’t really like being out in open water such as lakes.
  3. I have an intense and ridiculous fear of animals that live in bodies of water. (Thank you, Gramma.)
  4. I have a husband who has no desire to learn how to use a kayak nor teach me how to use the kayak.
  5. So for this, I may be getting involved in Texas State’s outdoor program that teaches people basic whitewater/kayak skills in their indoor pool. Which means this may have to wait until next spring….

What’s on everyone else’s list of things to do, things they won’t do, and things that probably won’t happen but would be super cool if they did?!?!

Free Math Curriculum for Elementary K-5th

Free Online Math Textbooks Grade K-5

enVisions Math is a curriculum published by Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley. It is the math curriculum all my kids have utilized in their local public school. I will be home schooling a 2nd grader next year and I want to keep using the same curriculum she’s already used to using, so I did a little research tonight and found that for a small investment I will totally be able to pull that off!

Granbury ISD makes available on it’s website the online text for the enVisions Math curriculum. CLICK HERE to open a new window. (This link has grades K-5. Texas does not use enVision Math for 6th grade and I did not find a viable link for that curriculum. Though if you do some searching you might be able to find it.) You can peruse through the math text books for Kinder through 5th grade. The book is written in a way that makes teaching the concepts fairly simple and in the lower elementary grades I don’t see why you’d need a teacher guide. The e-book is complete with an interactive glossary explaining all the math vocabulary and e-Tools that make learning the math more interactive.

I will be using this program for Claire’s 2nd grade math curriculum, but I also want her to be able to have a math workbook to work in as that is obviously a key element of math: actually doing the work on your own. So, I did a little more digging and found where I can purchase the student workbooks. The site does not allow parents to purchase the actual printed textbook or the manipulatives that go with the curriculum, however it does list out, in detail, what is included in the manipulatives set and therefore it’d be easy enough to pick up the few things we’ll need at Wal-Mart, etc. *Note: I didn’t see anything in the e-book that looked like I would necessarily NEED to have the exact manipulatives on hand, it’s just always fun when you do. But you can improvise and use beans instead of math blocks, etc.  CLICK HERE to go to another window where you can purchase student books, etc, for the grade level. Aside from picking up a few manipulatives, I’m going to spend $7.47 on the student workbook and use the online version of the text book to teach from. Since this is for 2nd grade math, you could actually get away with not even buying a workbook and just making up your own

I thought this was pretty affordable and I was excited to be able to link it all up on the blog here for you!  I don’t like spending loads of money on home schooling curriculum. I just don’t even think it’s necessary to do so and situations like this is why: almost everything you need to home educate your children from Kinder through graduation can be found online for free or almost free.

Enjoy!

Swimsuit Season and the End of the 5k2h Program

It’s basically summer here in South Texas and that means one thing:  pool time!!  And pool time means one thing:  swimsuit season. And swimsuit season means one thing:  the end of the hammock program I was working on. Notice the lack of exclamation points with the last two sentences.

Available for a mere $160 at Recollections Online Vintage Clothing Shop!!

And here’s why I am not excited about pool time: the 5k2h program that I officially started a few weeks ago has done absolutely nothing to prepare me for the horrific experience that is walking around the pool in what might as well be my birthday suit. I’m sorry but there’s just nothing modest about swimming attire. Quite frankly I’m all for the old swim suits that were more modest than even today’s workout clothes. Why, don’t you all think I could rock this look at the pool/beach/etc?

Yeah, ok, maybe that outfit with the parasol is a bit over the top. But the truth is, even when I am in fantastic shape, I still don’t care for walking around a pool, etc, with cleavage and crotch exposed. I always feel completely naked and I don’t like that feeling. You laugh, but it’s the truth.

Now, I tell you, there is only one way a person like me gets through something like this last year of my life:  carbs, beer, prayer and sleep. If you think that such a lifestyle results in some miraculous physical state of being, well, all I can say is you must have the genetic makeup of Atlas!  For me this past year has resulted in a stronger relationship with God and… fat rolls. HAHAHAHAHA  Ah… you know it’s true so don’t deny it. And you know what, it’s OK!! Lord have mercy we can’t all be marathon runners at the same time! Seasons come and go. Hence why I just succumbed to the weight of the universe and plopped myself in the hammock for ungodly amounts of time. But that has come at a physical cost as I have truly gained weight for the first time in my adult life without being pregnant and I am totally out of shape.  I actually worked out for the first time Sunday night. The whole family went on a fitness hike and then me and Alaina stretched for an hour and I’m actually sore. I can feel muscles!!  Which means….I STILL HAVE THEM!!! There is hope still.

And so ends the 5k2h program, and begins a modified P90X program (still recovering a bum knee and aggravated ulnar nerve) with a carb-curbed diet. Fun times. Fun times. But it’ll be fine. I’ve dropped weight before – it just actually takes work, oversight, planning, attention to detail, etc. All the things I’m tired of. LOL!  There are other motivations, too. I resume ballet teacher training in August and the thought of donning tights/leotard isn’t appealing at this point either. It’s the professional intermediate level I’m working on. Some things are just not really doable when you have fat rolls in the way. Consider the penché. There is a reason dancers need to be thin and flexible. And that move is required in my next level. I did it in my teens, and was pretty close at the end of my last year of training. Taking 18 months off from ballet was good for me, but not for my penché. :)

Um yeah, that's me... in about 4 months.... totally....

So moving on….do you want to see the swimsuit I bought today???  I actually really love it. I’m going to have fun shrinking out of it and will miss it when it’s too big next year!! I love the bold colors and the cut. I am not a fan of “shirred fabric” but I get why it works. Though I always wonder why a skinny chic is modeling a suit meant for, ahem, out of shape hammock loving folks… clearly this lady has not been following my 5k2h program at all!!!!  Maybe if I just buy a floppy hat and some bangle bracelets it’ll cover up the cleavage and crotch exposure issue.

Hey at least there's a snazzy design across THE BOOBS!!! How Immodest!!!

Ah well, we can dream, right?  I really do think it’s time for me to get over the cleavage/crotch exposure issue. Don’t you all?  I mean if I can walk around the pool overweight and out of shape and not care, why should I care about the other issue???  It’s kind of an irrational worry/fear that’s probably rooted in unhealthy thinking patterns from childhood issues. But I really do wonder – any other women out there feel totally exposed in normal modest swimwear?  (Not talking about Burqini’s either folks and yes, there’s such a thing for modern day Muslims and yes…ok…here’s a small photo just for fun!)

Anyone else want to share your 2011 swimsuit stories??

Lame Home Schooling…can it produce effective learners?

Let me introduce you to the Lame Home Schooling Method For Academic Endeavors… it’s my newest line of thinking where home schooling is concerned.

It looks a little like this… if you can extrapolate an idea from a conversation:

  • Adri, age 14:  “Mom, can I see the movie PRIEST this weekend with my friends?”
  • Me: “Well I don’t know let’s look at the online reviews.”
  • Both of us reading a parental review website…. reading… .reading… ok… profanity but not excessive….graphic violence…. no sexuality…no nudity… just lots of blood and gore… good priest vs. evil vampires and zombies… more graphic violence…. not really for little kids … blah blah blah…
  • Me:  “Hmmmm…..”
  • Adri: “Mom, come on, it’s my birthday weekend!  I really want to see it.”
  • Me, thinking to myself:  Well it’s not my cup of tea but it isn’t anything he hasn’t seen already… and at least good vs. evil story with a good wins ending… so…
  • Me, to Adri, “Ok here’s the deal… you are going to research the movie and write me a 3 paragraph essay on why you should get to see it.”
  • Adri, “What?!?!  OH My Gosh!!! Mom that is SOOOO LAME.”
  • Me: “Well, do you want to see the movie or not?”
  • Adri: “Yes but I don’t want to write a stupid essay on it!!”
  • Me: “Then I guess you don’t want to see it bad enough, end of conversation. You have to do a writing assignment today and I’m sorry that I naturally assumed you would enjoy writing about something that was important to you versus making you write an essay explaining to me the purpose of a cat’s whiskers. Whatever! Have it your way!”
  • Adri storms off into his bedroom mumbling and grumbling.

A few minutes go by and Adri comes into my office area and says, “OK I’ll write the essay…”  I turn on my heel (I was standing), gently put my arms on his shoulders and say, “OK, and now you are going to turn around, leave my room, and when you are ready to speak to me with some respect we can continue the conversation.” And I send him on his way.

He found this amusing so he walks out and then walks back in to say, “Mom, I’m sorry I was so disrespectful towards you. I’m happy to complete the assignment. Please forgive me.”Ok now we can get to the assignment…. Adri takes off to write his essay and he comes back in 30 minutes with it typed up on my computer.  I print off his copy, google the topic “steps for editing a paper,” find a site that basically has a condensed list of steps to follow for essay revision, I printed that off, handed everything to Adri and said, “Great now go make your first set of revisions.”

Grammar Training for Home Schoolers?

Little does he know that he is going to have to edit the paper 3 times and make necessary corrections to style, structure and grammar. Compile a bibliography with properly cited material and a glossary for the essay and then finish the project off by creating a power point presentation and present the information to his father and I tomorrow afternoon.

So what do you think?  Effective learning experience for Adri or am I just being a little obnoxious?  How many of you have home schooled your kids through such unschooling and somewhat LAME (as Adri described it) methods?

Will Brain Training Work?

Last night I sat through a parent information session at the local LearningRx Center.  LearningRx is a leading educational support business that targets academic development from a new angle: cognitive brain function. This has become an interesting topic in our home because I have a 3rd grade student who is struggling to keep up in her classroom. Long story short: she has been diagnosed with a couple of learning/developmental disorders and my overriding question has been, “What is the root cause of this issue?”  No one has been able to give me a concise answer, until last night’s session on cognitive brain function. Based on the LearningRx methodologies, the testing offered finds the cognitive brain deficits and then the patient is placed with a Brain Trainer  and the patient then spends 8-36 weeks progressing through a program designed to retrain the patient’s brain so that new neuropathways are developed and strengthened. Instead of tutoring Hannah in, say, comprehension, the program would train her in attention, processing, auditory processing, memory, etc. It’s kind of fascinating.

The question is: will it work?  Will it be the key to unlocking what seems to be bundled up in Hannah’s fascinating mind. Additionally, it got me thinking about my other students. I have one who doesn’t concern me right now, one who is very impulsive, one who has a lot of trouble with math, and one who has a lot of trouble with grammar and math. I’m thinking all 5 children would benefit from going through the LearningRx program. Except… it’s kind of pricey!  Well it’s not unreasonably priced, but when you consider putting 5 kids through the program(s)…it adds up fast!

I started researching online brain training and found a lot of resources – too many actually, if you ask me. And while I really think the online option makes for a fun way to waste an afternoon, I am not sure it’s something I’d want to do for the kids. When I was at the Learning Rx center, what I enjoyed most was watching the interraction between the Brain Trainer and the parent-student volunteer. There’s just something tangible, valid….of real intrinsic value…when the training takes place between a trainer and a student. I think the relationship that is built between the two is not something I would want to trade for an online, cold, calculated computer program. Here is what LearningRx had to say about the availability of online processes – Online Brain Training: Is It the Right Choice?

But, even then, curiosity got the better of me and I started researching brain training programs that you can do at home. I found a few website and thought I’d share them with you all:

You can google for more options but those are just a few to get you started.

There are also numerous games that you can purchase to play with your kids to build cognitive skills. I find this aspect of the information really interesting. As an early home schooler I learned that the best advantage you could give your kids, academically, was to never educate and ONLY play educational games with them to build their academic skill base. It didn’t make sense then – but it makes sense now!  Wish I had really listened back then!

If you home school or are interested in workbooks to do with your kids you can check out The Critical Thinking Co., for deductive, critical thinking skills. And if you have a Wii or a Nintendo DS there are actually some video games for brain training. I might have to rethink my “No Video Game” policy and replace it with, “Brain Training Videos All Day!!” policy. Ha!  Just kidding….  Like I said, I don’t think there is anything that can replace the one-on-one program of a student working alongside/with a trainer. However, some online activities might be fun to incorporate into the day if your kids ask to play on the computer a lot!

Anyway, has anyone else had any experience with brain training as used for educational advancement and/or overcoming learning disabilities?