Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Homeschooling on Christmas Day :)

Even on Christmas Day, we were homeschooling :)  And we even had a cousin participating too :)  My LO received many educational gifts this year including many games, puzzles, and books.   He also got a Magic School Bus Science Kit about slime, gel, and goop :)   So, after all the presents were open and we had eatten dinner, the kiddos decided it was time for school :)  Here are some pictures of our experimenting with slime, gel, and goop!

And my husband also shot a short video of our science lesson :)

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Did my husband support the idea of homeschooling our son?

This is a follow-up from my last posting.  I posted my updated blog on a few forums and the question I got back on all of them was "Did my husband support the idea of homeschooling my son?"  

My response to the forum question was:
"No, my husband was not on board right away. He knew that I was looking into options but he had very stereotypical misconceptions about homeschooling. He was also very concerned about the possibility of our son not having a diploma and not being able to go to college. In order to disbunk those issues, I gave him many articles to read about successful homeschoolers and the statistics on homeschoolers going to college. I also showed him various program options like Classical Conversations, which has good information on high school options. Also, I explained the dual enrollment options that our local community college offers. I also made sure that he attended the homeschool convention that I went to in March for my state. He attended some of the sessions that were meant for dads and was very impressed. So, it did take some work, but now he is totally on board with homeschooling. I find him now constantly telling anyone who will listen about how great homeschooling is."

Communication is key to a good marriage.   My husband and I do discuss everything that is important to us.  Honestly, we probably share too much ;)  But it works for us.   So, like everything else, when I felt that I was frustrated with the current educational options, my husband was there to listen and show support.  He is a very compassionate man.  He offers great advice and usually thinks of things that I would not have thought of.   He is a good sounding board for my thoughts and frustrations.   So when I wanted to investigate homeschooling, he was not against it.  He encouraged me to read more and to find out more information.  He asked me lots of specific questions and set me on the road to researching for answers.   So now he is super supportive of homeschooling because he encouraged me to do a lot of research before just jumping into it.

With everything in a relationship, there is compromise involved.   I was personally not so concerned with my son having a high school diploma and having "credits" and such.  But it was something that mattered to my husband.  He wanted to have a "program" that was "structured".  My response to that concern was "I can work with that."  Honestly, I would probably be more structured anyway even though I definitely find "unschooling" highly appealing.   But my personality is definitely more type A and I thrive on structure, and so does my son.   So, that is why I decided to look for programs like Classical Conversations.  There is a plan for the entire education by using that program.  The "plan" aspect makes my husband happy and I am happy when my husband is happy. 

I would not jump into something as big as taking on my son's education without the support of my husband.   And I am very glad that I have been blessed with a very supportive husband.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why Homeschool?

Why homeschool my little one (LO)?

This is such a loaded question and really not easy to answer.  But I am going to try because it gets asked A LOT :)   I participate in multiple homeschooling blogs and the first question that most people ask of homeschoolers is "why?"   Homeschooling is not the norm (although it has grown substantially over the last few decades), therefore people are going to question the decision.

So, here we go with my personal response to the "Why?" question :)

First of all, we need a little background information about myself.  I am a public school teacher.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I honestly DO believe in public schools.  I believe in what public school COULD be.   I also believe that our current model for public school is inherently flawed.   I believe that it needs serious revamping.    I actually do believe in the concept of standards, but I do not believe how they are implemented nationwide.  I believe some schools and some districts are doing things well . . . and others are definitely not.   I have written my whole Master's thesis on the problems of public school and on the basic fact that our congressmen do not have a good plan on fixing those problems (and, honestly, not much "will" to actually go through with changes).  I could go on for pages about public schools but this blog is about why we have chosen to homeschool.  And we have chosen to homeschool our own son.

Where did I get the idea of homeschooling my own son?  Honestly, I was frustrated.  Very frustrated with my own school, my own school district, and the students that I was teaching.   It was one 7th period class that I will never forget.  The first day of school I had to call security.   The first half of the year was a constant battle between myself and the students I was trying to teach.  One student was an obvious bully.  He was truly bullying another student in the class every.single.day.  It was horrible.  I tried and tried to get the bully out of the class.  I told the counselors, the parents, the administration.  Nothing happened.  Until, in October, the student threatened my life by holding up a pair of scissors and telling me to get away from him.  Another student literally got out of his chair and told the bully "If you threaten my teacher, you will be dealing with me."  I went down to my assistant principal that day, crying, and said "I will NOT return to that class unless you get that student out of my class.  I am not negotiating and waiting for the 'system' to do something.  I do not care that there is a process.  Get him out NOW!"   Finally, the administration did something!  They removed the student and he finished the course online.   But it shouldn't have taken that long.  I had been complaining since the first day of school about this student.  What if the student HAD attacked me or another student?  And the worst part of the situation was that it took away from the other students' ability to learn.  I could not effectively teach the rest of the students because I had to deal with behavior issues like that.  That is simply not fair.   And I am a good teacher.  And I live in a good school district.  And I work in a good school.   My school is rated one of the top in the nation.  Yet, there are problems.   Big problems.   

What I see every day are that the students at the top (i.e. straight As, IB, AP, advanced, honors, etc.) get great resources and praise from the school.  And the students at the bottom (i.e. ESOL, SPED, etc.) also get great resources and support from the school.  And then there are the children in the middle.  The "average" student does not get either.  They do not get praise for doing what they are supposed to do.  They do not get "extras".  They are just there.  I find it so sad.  I personally try to reach out the most to those students in the "middle".    I do not want my son to go to public school and be the "average".  BUT I also do not want to put undo pressure on my son to be "the best!"  That is also problematic.  There are so many students that are pushed into the higher level courses mainly because their parents want them to be there.  It's really not healthy.  The students are stressed beyond their capabilities and I have seen countless burn-outs (some with very serious psychological damage).   It's really not good all the pressure that is put on "average" students to always be "the best."   

Going along with that concept, one of the big reasons that I seriously started to look at homeschooling was when my school district decided that all elementary schools would have all-day kindergarten.   That means those little 5 and 6 year olds were leaving for school early in the morning and not getting home into way into the afternoon/evening.   I just honestly cannot fathom having my son in school that long everyday.  The children must come home exhausted and there is definitely not much family time left over.   It's great for a working parent because it's basically all day free daycare.  But I am also not a fan of the daycare concept.   I had a child so that I could be with my child.   I want to spend as much time with him as possible.  They are only little for so long and I want to cherish all that time with him.    And, yes, I do still work.  I live in a high cost of living area and we need my paychecks.  BUT I now work part-time, in the mornings, when my LO is still asleep.   And then I work online at nights after my LO has gone to bed.

I started working part-time after that year with the 7th period bully.   That situation really put my life into perspective.  I really did want to be home with my son.  I wanted to see him as much as possible.   I wanted to cherish every possible minute.

I should probably mention here that my son was born with some physical disabilities that we have had to correct via surgery.  He had 5 surgeries in his first year of life.   So we have been through a lot and it has definitely made us appreciate every moment of being with him.

Another event that greatly impacted my view of homeschooling occurred in my own classroom.   I had a new student join my honors class that had been homeschooled his entire life.  His mother brought him by to meet me before the school year began.   She was incredibly distraught.  She could not stop crying.  I was truly shocked at how upset she was that he was going to be attending public school.   The reason he was coming to my school was because he needed to take a course in Chinese because they were State Department and being transferred to China.   In order to take the county Chinese course, he needed to take a few other classes at the school, and one of them was my class.  He was a wonderful student!  And he had no problem finding peers to relate to in the class.   He blended right in and I was sad to see him go when they moved to China.   His mother highly recommended a book for me to read called "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer.  That book totally changed my view of homeschooling.   Like many people, I had previously had very stereotypical negative views of homeschooling and homeschool education.   That book proved most of my fears totally wrong.   It clearly laid out curriculum options and theories of homeschooling.   I was very impressed with this "classical" approach to homeschooling.   I found that there were many curriculum options available, like learning Latin and reading classic books, that I had not thought of before.  The book got me excited!  I wanted to learn more about homeschooling and I wanted to investigate this new way of educating.    I wanted to TEACH this way!  I wished that I had LEARNED this way as a student myself.   I started to DREAM of the possibilities!  

So I started my homeschooling research.   I found that homeschoolers are successful on many levels and at many things.  I found that there were many options for homeschooling styles.  I read MANY theories that totally THRILLED me on many levels!  It was like I was a brand new teacher again!  It was like when I was in college and in that stage where I was super excited all the time about learning and about teaching!   I wanted to know more!   I picked up another great book called "101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" by Cathy Duffy.  Wow!  The possibilities! Needless to say, I was hooked on the concept of homeschooling my own son.

I also did a lot of research on homeschooling in Virginia via the Internet.   I quickly found VAHomeschoolers which has an amazing amount of information and a great annual conference.   I also started researching co-ops in my area (and WOW there are a lot of co-ops and classes available for homeschoolers in my area).   I found a Classical Conversations group in my area and attended a very informative presentation.  I was very impressed!   So, basically, I found that homeschooling had the ability to adapt curriculum to what my child likes, needs, and wants.   I also found that there were so many options that we would be busy all the time learning!  And that we could take field trips whenever we wanted to do them!  Wow!  What freedom!  And we were constantly learning!  I want to keep that love of learning alive in my LO.   The one-on-one educational setting definitely beats out on the large classroom of students bored out of their minds.   And there is SOOOO much opportunity for socializing with other homeschoolers that the "socialization" question is definitely a non-issue.  If you leave your house, you can find other homeschoolers to meet with and make good friends.  We have already gone to many parkdays and gone to many classes where my LO has made some great friendships.  I have found that we actually have to say "no" to many events because we simply do not have enough time to do everything.   I joined many homeschooling groups by a simple search for "homeschooling" in Yahoo groups and on Babycenter.   It is so helpful to find other people doing the same thing that I am doing.  

Another main reason that we have decided to homeschool our LO is because we want him to have a God-centered education.   I read a book that truly changed my perspective from a typical "secular" view of education to a "godly" view of education.  It is called "The Heart of Homeschooling" by Christopher Klicka.    After reading that book, I definitely knew that I wanted religion and the Bible to be central to my son's educational journey and life.   Obviously, that is not possible in the public school model.  And the religious private school options are expensive and a lot have similar problems like the public schools.   So I started to investigate religious preschool options and finally settled on "Catholic Icing".   I went with one of my good friends from college to a Catholic Homeschool Conference.  She decided to pull her own son from public school and to homeschool him along with his younger siblings.   We both thoroughly enjoyed the conference and came out convinced that God's intention truly is that we educate our own children.  

So, that is where I currently am with our educational journey.  We are homeschooling and we are excited every day to be doing so.   I am still teaching in public school because I do truly love teaching and reaching out to those students.  I figure that if parents choose to send their children to public schools that they should have teachers that are good and engaged like I am.  

Feel free to post comments!  I will try to address all questions and concerns :)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's been over a month . . .

It's been over a month since I have posted in my blog!  Wow!   November was crazy busy.   I realized today that I hadn't loaded pictures from my camera in a very long time.  Oops!  So, here I am. :) 

I like to record our lives via pictures - So here is our life in pictures :)

The picture above is of my LO using his dinosaur stamps.   He wanted to know where the dinosaurs lived, so I printed a blank map off the Internet of Pangea.   The other wooden object on the table is his plaster of paris fossils that we made.  Inside the plaster of paris are miniature dinosaurs that need to be dug out with the popsicle stick.

For Thanksgiving Day, we decided to make placemats to decorate the table.   We made 4 placemats with different prayers written on them.   LO and I decorated them together and then I laminated them.  We used watercolors and stickers for the decorating.

Here is a picture of LO learning how to use the Abacus that goes with his RightStart Math curriculum.  He figured it out pretty quick :)

Here is a picture of LO doing a PBS Dinosaur Train Lesson.  We learned about birds and feathers.  In the picture he is coloring a velociraptor.  He then glued feathers on the wings.

For Advent, we are doing daily lessons out of a book called "Getting Ready for Christmas."  The book has a daily verse, prayer, and activity.  In this activity, LO is coloring a sheep to put on our Christmas tree.  The sheep symbolizes that we are all sheep of Jesus and that He is our sheperd.

One of the other daily activities for Advent was to make an angel ornament for the Christmas tree.  This activity went with a reading on how the angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Lord.

Here is a shot of the inside of the book that we are using for Advent.  It shows the pages that went with the sheep and angel ornament activities.

This is our nativity this year.    It's a set of magnets.  The directions said to put it on the fridge but I thought it would be more homeschool friendly if I put it on a cookie sheet, so that we could take it to our dining table to use for lessons.  It also is supposed to be used as a countdown for Christmas, but I decided that we would just keep all the pieces out to use as a basic Nativity scene.

For our countdown to Christmas this year, we are doing a scripture reading every day.  I wrote the scripture down on pieces of construction paper.  I chose to use Luke 1 and 2.   And then I laminated the strips so that we can use them year-after-year. :)   We are then linking a new piece on our paper chain each day.

Here is another PBS Dinosaur Train Lesson that we did recently.  This one turned out super-cute! :)  It is a dragonfly :)   We used popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, glue, markers, glitter, construction paper, and googly eyes to make this :)  So much fun!

LO was quite proud of the finished dragonfly project :)

 Another Advent activity was to make a star ornament for the Christmas tree.  The authors of the book seem to really like ornaments ;)  LO cut this out all by himself :)  I drew the star and he cut it out.

And here is a picture of the wall of our dining room with LO's "letter of the week" activities from his Catholic Icing Preschool Curriculum.  We also have our daily prayers on the wall :)

And that is a collage of our homeschooling pictures for about a month's length of time! :)  Hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, November 9, 2012

"I don't want to do school today."

I'm sure this is not the last time I will hear that sentence from my LO.   Ahhh, but I am a sneaky mommy.  ;)  We still did school today.   He just did not realize it.  (evil laugh)  

My intention was to practice his math.   He did not want to do what I wanted to do.  So I suggested we play a game instead.  ;)   We started with "Toe-ga".  It's a Yoga game for kids.  So I am counting this activity as PE (physical education) and math.   The idea is that you pick up these little pom-poms with your feet and place them in cups.   It's a contest to see how many you can get in your cup.  So we practiced counting.  And sorting. :)  Hehehe.  Math skills totally built in.  Check out this picture of my son sorting his pom-poms.  https://www.facebook.com/cagannaway?ref=tn_tnmn#!/photo.php?fbid=10151163368916843&set=a.10150938835981843.419452.533871842&type=1&theater

Then we played a Discovery Toys color matching game called "Color Clowns."   LO wanted to play another game that "wasn't school."   Ok, darling.  Let's play a game and NOT use school skills.  (evil laugh again)   In "Color Clowns", you roll the dice to get a shape and a color.  Then you take a plastic colored disk of the appropriate shape and place it on the game board.  So it's a game of practicing colors and shapes.  Plus, it is teaching color blending.   The disks and game board shapes are different colors and the players have to make the appropriate blends.  (Pink and yellow make orange; blue and red make purple; and yellow and blue make green)   It really is a lot of fun to play.  Here is a picture of my son playing "Color Clowns".  https://www.facebook.com/cagannaway?ref=tn_tnmn#!/photo.php?fbid=10151163436536843&set=a.10151149693981843.449864.533871842&type=1&theater

We also did some math skills today when we decided to bake some cookies. :)   All that measuring really should count for "math".   Here is a picture of our cookies.  https://www.facebook.com/cagannaway?ref=tn_tnmn#!/photo.php?fbid=10151163365161843&set=a.10150251777686843.328464.533871842&type=1&theater

And finally we had a BLAST making a marble structure with our Discovery Toys "Marbleworks" set.  Talk about using our physics skills.  :)   LO said he wanted to "play, not do school".  Hehehe.   So we played and played and played.   We learned a lot about gravity and architecture.  We also had to count a lot to make the structure and we had to count all the marbles.   Pretty cool.  Here is a video link.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151163589436843&set=vb.533871842&type=3&theater

So-all-in-all, a very good "school" day that LO didn't even realize was a "school" day.  I love homeschooling!! :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Preparing for Advent

Hello!  Just a quick here that we are going to use "Getting Ready for Christmas: A Daily Advent Prayer and Activity Book for the Family" to prepare for Jesus' birth this year :)  My copy just came in the mail from Amazon.  We are excited to get started :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

This week we had a couple of days inside due to Hurricane Sandy's visit.  No going to work for mommy and daddy.  So we had plenty of time for homeschooling and for catching up on our homeschooling blog. :)

Starting with our homeschooling activities from last week:

Here is a picture of LO reading his science books and magazines.

Here is a picture of LO watching a video from the National Zoo app about animals.

Here is a picture of our little budding paleontologist excavating his baby dinosaurs out of plaster of paris.

And here is a picture of our Magic School Bus Dinosaur Kit.   We made the diorama and finished off the whole kit.  We have been working on the kit for a couple of months.  The diorama is the culminating activity for the kit.

We learned about the letter "E" last week using our CatholicIcing Preschool Curriculum.  Here is the letter "E".  LO traces the "E" with his fingers and we use this to discuss how to draw the letter "E".

After practicing with our finger with the "E" on the board, I had him practice writing the letter "E" on a lined dry erase board that I picked up from Target's $1 bins.

He drew the "E" on the bottom all by himself :)
Here is a picture of our craft for the letter "E".   He made it all by himself.  (I did the writing, of course.)

Here is a picture of LO at his Gymboree School Skills class.  He goes once a week for this drop-off class.  It's 90 minutes long and he loves to go.

When coming back from LO's School Skills class, we discovered 16 bees on the bushes in front of our house!  Yes, 16 (sixteen) bees!   Incredible!  I had never seen this before.  This was a homeschooling experience that we did not plan on.  We discussed bees and nectar and plants.  Very cool.  One of our neighbors are also homeschoolers.  They are teenagers and also came outside to study the bees.  It was like a little co-op activity for our two houses :)   It was very interesting to me that the teenagers and my preschooler could all learn about the bees together and converse about them. 

On Sunday I learned that my LO knows how to sing his ABCs :)   Here is a link to a video of my LO and his cousin singing their ABC's together :) https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?v=10151147861891843

On Monday we did our next Dinosaur Train PBS lesson.  http://www.pbs.org/teachers/dinosaurtrain/lessonplans/dinosaurssatoz/
We listened to the song and watched the video.  The lesson called for options of memorizing the song (which we have already done) and making notecards with the letters on it (which we had also already done).  So we decided to do the extension activity which involved making a book about dinosaurs.   The book is still in progress, so I will post pictures when it is completed.

Today (Tuesday), we focused on the Letter "F" and did the next lesson in our CatholicIcing Preschool Curriculum.

The craft was to make a sunburst to represent Our Lady of Fatima.  We put paint on the bottom of  a paper plan and then spun the plate on white paper to make the sunburst.  Pretty cool!

During our "hurricane" days we also played loads of board games, read tons of books, and practiced playing Hide and Seek.  I also learned that LO can count to 10 all by himself without error :)  

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Running like an Argentinasaurus

And here is LO running the length of an Argentinasaurus :)

Another "reading" video

Pre-Reading Skills :)

LO "reading" his alligator book :)

Running like a Spinosaurus

For some reason the blogger will not let me load multiple videos in the same blog.  Maybe there is a limit . . .

Here is LO running the length of a Spinosaurus. :)

Dinosaur Activities!

Hello!   Today we had a lot of fun with dinosaurs! :)  We started with a Dinosaur Train PBS Lesson that asked the question "How big are dinosaurs?"  We went outside and measured out approximately 40 feet (length of a T-rex), 60 feet (length of a Spinosaurus), and 100 feet (length of an Argentinasaurus).  Then LO ran each of the distances while I took videos :)  Check out the pictures and videos :)

After the outside activities we moved inside to make some dinosaur cookies!  :)  Yummy! :)   The recipe was in the back of one of LO's books.  He loved helping make the cookies!

And that was our awesome dinosaur homeschooling day :)

Our Rosary Board

Hello!  I got this idea from Catholic Icing :)  I think it turned out pretty awesome.  Thanks, Lacy!

Please go to Lacy's blog to read about the Rosary Board idea and for directions.  I modified the directions and used materials I already had around my house.   The circles are poster paper and the backing is a poster board (it's actually the back of my felt board).  I printed the pictures from the Internet.  I liked that it had the descriptions of each one so that everything I need to pray the rosary with LO is in one place.  I added the days of the week for each of the mysteries in glitter glue. 

Hope someone else find this activity useful :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Letter D, Felt Board Stories, Gymboree School Skills, Right Start Math, and George's Secret Key to the Universe

Hello!  We have been very busy homeschooling the last two days. :)   Here is what we have been up to:

Yesterday we worked on "Letter D" using our CatholicIcing.com Preschool Curriculum.  We focused on St. Denis and made a craft on Jesus' Divine Mercy.

We also spent quite a bit of time yesterday doing some new Felt Board Stories.   My mother-in-law (MIL) graciously ordered for us some of the classic felt board stories.  (Thanks, Gigi!  We love you!)  LO has been "telling" the stories over and over again using the pieces. 

Here is a picture of the dinosaur felt board set.  LO loves dinosaurs!

Here is our felt story for Old Macdonald had a Farm.  We also have a book and CD to go with each of these felt board sets.   I love how the sets included the word cards along with the pieces.

The next set we did was "The Wheels on the Bus".  The bus even beeps!  It has a squeaky toy in it :)

And one of my personal favorites from childhood was "There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly".  DH (Dear Husband) thinks it is a morbid song.  LO (Little One) thinks the song is hilarious :)

The coolest part of this set is that the pieces actually can be put in the "Old Lady's" mouth and into her stomach!  There is a piece of plastic keeping them in. :)

And our final storyboard is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", which has many more versus than just the first verse that we had song prior to getting this set.  So much fun! :)

Once acquiring these sets and putting them together, I quickly realized I needed a way to organize the numerous pieces.  I put each individual story set into a gallon ziploc baggie, labeled them using my label maker, and then placed them in this nice Longeberger basket. (Thanks to my BF [Best Friend] I have had this basket since my wedding 7 years ago and have used it for many awesome purposes.  Thanks Kim!)  Also, please note the cute basket next to the felt board stories that is housing our Spanish curriculum. :)

Today LO attended his Gymboree School Skills drop-off class.   They studied the "Letter U".  They always start with a show and tell.  LO took in a dinosaur encyclopedia with a picture of a "Utahraptor".   For his craft today he made a "Unicorn."

After his Gymboree class we came home to our Right Start Math lesson.  We worked on quantities 1 to 6.  We used craft sticks to learn tally marks for representing "5 and 1 is 6".  He also used the craft sticks to make Triangles and Quadrilaterals.   We also learned a new song called "Yellow is the Sun".  And we used color tiles to work on our groupings of numbers.

For our bedtime reading, we have started reading "George's Secret Key to the Universe" by Lucy and Stephen Hawking every night.   I don't remember where I picked up this book as a suggestion for science (I'm sure it was on some homeschooling blog or at a homeschooling conference.).  Anyway, it has definitely turned out to be a good idea!   We read a chapter a night and discuss the book and  science concepts.   LO constantly surprises me with his reading comprehension.  He understands and remembers way more than I thought he would!   After reading our chapter today, we decided to do a quick science experiment.  In Chapter 2 of the book, the characters take a ruler and rub it in the person's hair to make static electricity.  Then they take the ruler and put it near a stream of tap water.  The water goes from being straight down to moving over when the static electricity is near.   So LO and I decided to see if the book was accurate.  We tried it with a ruler and couldn't  get it to work.  We hypothesized that it was the ruler and static electricity that we could get going with the ruler that was the problem, not necessarily the experiment itself.   So we decided to use a balloon instead of a ruler.  It worked!  :)   LO was really impressed!  (And myself, I have to admit!)   I rubbed the balloon in LO's hair and then put it near the stream of tap water in his bathroom sink.  As soon as the balloon got close to the water, the stream of water bent!  Pretty cool :)

And that is what we have been up to :)  Hope you enjoyed reading!