29 September 2010

Look out across the fields, see me returning....

Hello everyone! I have been in a tornado of change with teaching, and packing lunches, and being away from the home until 5:00 in the evening. We then rush to soccer practice (see below) or dinner with friends and family. Or sleeping.

Or adopting a new doggie.
Or selling hoola-hoops with an awesome mama friend at a music festival.

Or standing in awe of marigolds that are growing taller than the house.
We've been busy making a Just My Mommy and Me book written and illustrated by Eli.
He painted a picture of me. See above. Don't I look happy?
We also attended a fall festival wherein the kids played laser tag (which I HATED, but they loved) and got to put on a Velcro suit and jump up and stick on it in crazy ways..
They also got crazy hair. Eli pretended this week that he had blue skin, too.

You know that big tree in the backyard with the tire swing? Well, part of it fell and we now have TONS of firewood to burn in the fire pit. What perfect fall timing!

And still, our time is spent at the soccer field with three of my boys playing now, we are at the field full time.

And, I turned 34 with an amazing night of music in our quaint city.

29 August 2010

You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely....

Well, now, here I am, and please excuse my absence. We are all adjusting to our fall schedules that look the same every day, basically with little new or exciting thing to post. We do LOVE our new rolls, but they do leave me brain dead by the end of the day. I miss my playdates, laundry hanging, bread baking, and back yard schooling. However, I really, really love being a teacher again.

I feel like my experience as a homeschooler has deeply affected my attitude about learning, teaching, and education- for the better. I now have a deep respect for the individual learner, whereas before, that respect was just an idea that I did not know how to activate in the classroom. I have become more lenient and seek intently to discover where the child is in their learning progression and build from there. I realize the idiocy of trying to make sure that every child must know the same thing in the same way to recognize results. I realize that these young people 11-13 year olds are cooped up in a cement building for 8 hours a day with little more than seconds to whisper to friends, run around, or even breath fresh air. I understand, more than just theoretically, that taking away things that their bodies physically needs (friendship, movement, imagination, and fresh air-let alone freedom of choice and ownership) can be devastating to their ability to learn. I am positive that each child I teach has parents that not only know their child best, but also that 99.9% of parents are extremely concerned about what and how their child learns. I know how far a child can soar with one- on- one attention and instruction and the ability to learn at their own pace rather than by Friday at 3 PM. I am learning new lessons every.day. about kids and myself and teaching and learning. This is a journey that I relish, and I am able to approach this year more confidently than I ever have before. I am also more calm, more willing to listen to my students and their parents. I am less likely to freak out when my lesson plan doesn't get executed perfectly. My paradigm has shifted and it is no longer "my" classroom, but theirs, and I am just a steward of the students' classroom. I am there to support and encourage, not to run the show - my way of the highway.

By the way, this approach is not one that I was taught in teacher school. "They" emphasize in teacher school to come out strong and hard, to lay down the rules, and take charge immediately. But this year, I didn't. This year, I started with kindness, fairness, and lots of opportunities for the kids to be themselves. I sprinkled that with fun, games, music, and hid enough Spanish language to allow them to ask for more. The students are kind back, they are asking questions, they have positive attitudes, and so far they are learning and speaking Spanish.

Love it.

18 August 2010

With the lunch bucket filled every season...

First day of first grade.
He loves it with all of his nerdy heart. He has lots of friends already, plenty of homework, and a wonderful, smart, warm teacher. He looks big, and so do the marigolds in the background.
Our days of lounging around doing lessons in the backyard on a picnic blanket have been traded for a strict regiment of lunch box packing, school, soccer, and homework. Was last year a dream? Must have been...

07 August 2010

He's a-riding down in Alabama with the rodeo...

We went to a real rodeo recently at Daddio's..

Bull riding and roping..
And rodeo clowns..

And real cowboys...

And real rodeo horses..

And tired buckaroos..
And a couple of horses rear ends....

06 August 2010

You looked for work and money...

And, on the flip side, the positive side of our upcoming changes.. (I'll be teaching middle school Spanish, Evan will return to MTSU, Ollie will be attending a local magnet school, and Eli will be home with Dad and at Mother's Day Out 10 hours a week.)

1..I will have vacation. As a homeschool mom, I rarely, was "off." A friend mentioned that when they went to the beach, she still cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and really didn't get a break from her routine. So, away from home 40+ hours a week, will allow me to feel relaxed and "off" when home and with the family.

2..I will have quiet alone time daily. I will drive in the car 30 minutes a day by myself each way. I love this time, which for the past two years I have missed. I can listen to my beloved NPR or music of my choice. It will be lovely.

3..I will have less home chores. As a work at home mom, I took on most of the household chores, that Evan will now take more of an active role in. I won't have to unload the dishwasher 3 times a day or have to cut the grass or cook diner EVERY night.

4..I will not be solely responsible for maintaining friendships for my children. They will meet kids at their school and will not have to depend on me to set up time for them to enjoy other people their own age.

5..Everyone needs a routine shake-up. Our routine is about to drastically change, and I think this is a refreshing necessity of life-the changing of the season..

6..We will all have time apart from one another. I will no longer be responsible for every food, drink, poop, clothing, and educational experience. I will enjoy them, relish them when I am able, but they will be less likely to irk me after a day away. I will appreciate the opportunity to care for my children.

7..Ollie and Eli are stoked for the first day of school. The excitement and anticipation is not the same for homeschooling. They got new hair cuts and new clothes and we are counting down the days. It is almost as exciting as Christmas, and I can tell that Ollie is stoked.

8..Ollie will LOVE school. He thrives on routine and predictability. He loves friends, and he loves learning. He said he's most looking forward to doing math. I am not as into routines and math as he is..

9..Ollie and Eli will have time apart. They will have experiences to talk about separate from one another, and I think too, that this will be positive.

10..For the past 2 years, I have owned and operated a business from home leaving me to feel at times scattered and distracted around the home. I always have 10 million things going on and my schedule is a collage of various appointments. I am away most evenings which prohibits lengthy, enjoyable dinners and family bike rides or games of kickball. Now, when I am home, my work will not be here. I will be home in the evenings. With everyone else...

This is going to be fine. This is going to be fine. This is going to be fine....Wash. Rinse. Repeat..

05 August 2010

Is just equality in school...

I know that most of you know both how awesome homeschooling is and how much we love it, but allow me to count the ways that I have fallen in deep, earth shattering love with this way of learning. Actually, I can't count them, but I have thought of 10 reasons.

1..I am a teacher by heart and by nature. I have been able this year to share learning with my children. I have had the privilege that I am so afraid another adult would take for granted to watch my children learn, grow, and explore. I have been able to give them time to speak and to listen and figure things out. And, it has been magical.

2..I have met the most amazing women. My faith in humanity and in myself has been restored this year. I have found kindred spirits and formed friendships that I hope are long lasting. Homeschool moms rock my world. They do so much weighing what in life really IS important. Smart, funny, loving, and kind. I never really liked girls too much until I met them. Now I know, they are out there, and I don't feel so alone or unique.

3..The kids got to do so many fun things, so many field trips and co-ops. I have documented them all here, just click on homeschooling. We had a year 100 times better than making my inquisitive child learn how to stand in a straight line and identify the abcs, only because that's what you do in kindergarten..

4..We owned our experience. We owned our day.. No one else.. Now that is freedom. No bells or punch cards, but rather a natural ebb and flow of our own chosen activities. Our year was ours, and we had what we made..

5..Our home was our responsibility, and learning was up to us. We learned that to eat, we had to cook, and grow food, and plan. We found out how to make learning happen. The way we experienced life and learned was our job.

6..We got to demonstrate to our kids that family and home were of utmost importance instead of just paying lip service to our principals and core beliefs. Evan and I got to be THE examples for our children. We got to choose our acquaintances based on folks who saw things pretty close to the way we did.

7.. My kids got to learn at their own pace. We based our lessons and field trips on things they thought were interesting and cool. And, then, they didn't have to learn something by a certain time and date or else. Ollie didn't have to color, unless he wanted to. Eli got to act silly without a parent teacher conference about said silliness. Self-paced, individualized learning is a buzz word in education right now, but that is much easier to do with two kids that you know extremely well.

8...We got to be flexible. We got to travel without "missing" school. We got to sleep late and read on the floor in our pajamas. We got to change plans, get lost driving, or be bummed because something didn't play out as planned. All, very, very important lessons and experiences for adults, too..

9..I had time to be a homemaker. I had time to cook, and clean, and garden, and hang laundry out, and wear my apron. I loved it.

10..(Last one..) We got to buck the system. We got to question the why behind our public education system both in practice and philosophy. We began to ponder the importance of methods and curriculum. We began to evaluate our own lives in light of this discovery that life doesn't have to be a hamster wheel of work, buy, sleep, work, buy, sleep. We can teach our children so much more about life than a school that is preparing them to join the workforce and be a productive citizen. Our goal contridicted school districts that are forced to try to get every kid know the exact same thing and demonstrate that in the exact same way. Our kids didn't have to think about or know the "standard". We can teach them about learning for learning, to pursue dreams and inquisitions, and to ask questions.

03 August 2010

Ev’rybody’s building the big ships and the boats...

A couple of Saturdays ago, we tried out a class at Lowe's, and loved it. The kids got an apron and goggles to keep (Eli wears his EVERYWHERE to protect his eyeballs). They built a UFO using real tools and a little kit. When we first got there, the line was ca-ra-zy, but they started right on time, zipped us through, and everything moved quickly..Fun little Saturday project, and free.

02 August 2010

Remember this day?
Our good friend, Hunter, has been diagnosed with Leukemia.
Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family this week.

30 July 2010

Washin’ them dishes, feedin’ them swine...

We have ditched the dishwashing detergent and with it phosphates, plastic bottles, bleach, other crazy chemiclas, and expense and instead have opted for our own simple concoction of one part borax to one part baking soda and white vinegar in the rinse. We also make sure ther is hot water in the tap before running the washer. One of my friends used this, but wasn't happy with it because of her dishwasher. There are many recipes out there, but this one works well in our dishwasher and is so very simple to make. I know some of you have been doing this for a while, but I am amazed when I go this long without know that I could have been making this all along. I've been duped!

29 July 2010

Watch waterfalls of pity roar...

We finally took a hike that was not ALL sunshine and waterfalls and rainbows. This one was hard. We hiked about 6 miles round trip with the hopes that the falls would be glorious. They were not.

Eli is literally the toughest 4 year old I know.
He hiked pretty much the entire time with high spirits. Pretty much the entire time. But not all of it. We did have a freak out session in a particularly rocky spot that we dubbed "boulder alley" wherein he sat down, had a cry, and proclaimed that he could not, would not, hike any further. We carried him. Cheered him up, slowed down, and will probably pack chocolate next time. We are learning how to hike with a four year old, going a little further each time, so I guess this was inevitable.
Pictured above, a "fall". Another lesson learned about a rainless July..

"Skull mountain"
Nice pants..
O's new quaff compliments of his proud pops who exclaimed, "I should have been a barber."
The top of the falls..
See them a bit more spectacularly here..

25 July 2010

I gaze into the doorway..

Today we continued our exploration of a great park about an hour and a quarter from our home, South Cumberland State park. The pictures from earlier this week were taken at Foster Falls and Grundy Forest. Today we stomped around Greeter Falls and the Stone Door.

Greeter Falls was fun to swim in, but because it hasn't rained much lately, the falls don't look as impressive as they feel when you are swimming on your back looking up at them. All of these shots are of the Stone Door. This hike was partially paved, one mile in and one mile back, and very easy hiking with spectacular vistas and a walkway reportedly used by Native Americans many moons ago.