Friday, May 23, 2014

Always Organizing Something

The Homeschool Cooperative, the hen house, the lessons, the kitchen cabinets, the bookshelves, the entire schoolhouse, the closet, my drawers, the toys, the linen closet, the laundry room, and the space under the bathroom sink.  That is my list of constant reorganization projects.  Mind you, I do not like to feel organized.  I actually thrive better on the spur of the moment snapshots in life. My house in general is so disorganized that it is always in need of a good cleaning.  Still, I find that I do indeed spend too much of my time getting things in order. 

The kitchen seemed to implode and so I began to tackle it.  I looked at it for days.  I kept the dishes going in and out of the dishwasher but did little with the rest of the disaster.  The time came that is had to be tackled.  I could have just cleaned it up but instead I ended up emptying the cabinets and decided they needed a scrubbing (not done in years) and reorganized everything that I have on the shelves. I even have great plans in the next several days to move the plastic storage containers to a new area of the kitchen.  One that will not have it all fall on my head when I open the cabinet. 

My role with the cooperative group is "class coordinator".  I have been encouraging people to think ahead for the fall since the second day of spring semester.  I know that time will pass quickly and the classes will need to be approved, assigned a class hour, assigned a room and hope that it will flow well for the children who will go from room to room.  Yesterday the coordinator group met for four hours to adjust some of this year's plans.  When seven people sit at a table, mostly strangers, on a July afternoon and conceive an idea, somebody should stop them.  As it turned out the cooperative group was unbelievable, especially for the first year.  Now we face a little growing pains and have had to make some pretty business like choices to assure it's success.  I am thrilled with the results and envision great things in the fall.  Yet, it was another case of reorganization that had to take place.

Let us not forget the horrible part of the house that I call "break your back alley".  It is the narrow opening to the area under the bathroom sink.  Items tend to dance around in there at night and so it is a never ending project so that when somebody needs to reach under the sink they do not have to call for me to be present.  They can find what they need without me. 

The schoolhouse is the part that surprises me.  As we try to set it up to be efficient I also want it to feel warm and inviting.  It was OK but not really set up the way I liked it.  Then a wonderful thing happened in the room.  The two girl rabbits had babies.  I guess somebody made an error.  I had noticed for several months that we seemed to always having to clean around their pen much more. That areas of something spraying looked possible.  Needless to say I have found a new spacious home for the rabbits.  They now live in the hen house.  They seem to love it there.  I do not like rabbit hutches unless you are raising the rabbits as a source of food. 

As it turns out the two year old also tends to hit and run.  When Kelley drops off the girls he will play.  He will pull out items.  He will explore them.  He will not pick them up and Kelley is out the door while we are faced with a mess.  Combine the rabbit issue with the Owen issue then surround it with the final weeks of cooperative classes and teaching Grace and Faith.  It becomes a room that is impassable.  It no longer is conducive to a positive learning environment. 

Remember however that I really did not like the room set up as much as I had expected.  So, all items. YES all items were removed from the schoolhouse today and set on the deck.  I cleaned the wall that had be soiled by the male rabbit and I had to clean a carpet that had also been victim to the incorrect gender identification.  Then in it came.  First to go were the bean bags that I had in the reading corner.  Turns out it was not as comfy as I had expected and the bags were very cheap items purchased at Big Lots store.  Desk no longer angled to the girl's design but place directly in front of their large white board.  Then I took the Melissa and Doug easel that I have and put it in the reading corner. I made an area that will better fit Owen for the brief time he is in the schoolhouse.  The easel will be his white board for a while.  Until now, it has been a primary items used for each girl for four years.  I moved the display table. I moved my table. I moved the printer and organized the bookshelves. 

I kid you not, I never have cleaning energy.  Today it became one of those moments that something had to be done so lets start at the beginning.  As my husband came home tonight he checked in on us.  He really liked the new layout as well. Most of all he liked the mess to be gone.  I forgot to mention that after the rabbit issue I got new chicks.  They were in their tub and doing well until spent two days at work.  Upon my arrival home I found that they were now able to jump from their bin.  Just another, not so pretty sight.

So here it is:  The reorganized schoolhouse.  After today I hope that the reorganization comes to an end for a while.  I have tons of things that have been building as we tried to juggle everything the past three months.  OH YES.... that is another item I now need to reorganize.  We must adjust our activities.  OK you know that will not happen. Perhaps we can reorganize what we do with the rest of the day when all the craziness is done.  So here is the schoolhouse as it looks tonight.  You many notice a large structure with exhaust tubes.  I am getting ready to set up the air conditioner.

Now, if you look close out the door you will notice the large trash can.  Believe it or not, only one small trash bag came out of the room but I was prepared.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day Craft

I so rarely do crafts.  Art projects are the one part of our classroom that is left to their mother to teach. This year we did a project with paint and feet.  Each one is on a canvas and marked with their initial.  Each child got to choose the colors they wanted on their butterfly (feet). 

I think it turned out nice but glad I do not manage the art projects on a routine basis.

Feeling Successful

This has been a week of great accomplishments.  Math is no longer Grace's enemy.  Faith overcame a fear and finding pleasure in bike riding. Owen taking traits of the big kids.

Now that math is not feared we are moving forward. She is not fast but she is accurate. She is not crying but feeling great success in her ability to do long division without a single verbal cue. 

Faith has been afraid to ride a bike but managed to do it well enough the moment I sent her on her way that she kept at it all afternoon. She can now get the bike started and go a good distance before leaning it over. Her falls are controlled.  All she needs to do now it to hold her head up and guide it better.  Grace is excited in this accomplishment, she will have somebody to ride along with her.

Owen is acting more like the bigger kids. When Faith was working on the bike her figured out how to make the tricycle go forward.  He is quick to tell his mother to go and plans to be with me instead. However, he is still too disruptive to be left with me when teaching. 

Plans for the morning will include making a gift for their mother.  Continuation of our lessons plans is mandatory.  I do not want to conduct formal lessons all summer but will do math all summer long or Grace would need to restart. She seems to be OK with this idea.  Grace has begun an online computer programming class too.  She is doing well and enjoys very much.

I know this post lacks a humorous flare but I can't be cute all of the time.

On a personal note, this evening I ate dinner with my mother and my sister.  I would like to say that I enjoyed it very much but truth be told it would have been a better night had I just spent it with my big sister.  I am not sure what makes a person get old and become a complainer.  Being a nurse I meet tons of geriatrics. I know crabby does not come with age due to my extensive interaction with the elderly.  I also know that a fair amount of people become chronic complainers.  I tried a new food and enjoyed it. Nothing about the meal was right for my mother.  My sister tried really hard to encourage mom to indulge in the experience.  It was her treat.  She was even thoughtful, giving me a card and flower in recognition of Nurse's Week.  I find that people do not understand my big sister very well.  I wish they could see her heart the way I do. 

On  final note, my oldest grandson turned 15 years old this week.  Hard to imagine.  He is a good kid, gentle natured, faithful and a great student.  I hope he stays on course.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How I Keep Learning Positive

It is that time of year again.  The typical school year winds down and people begin to investigate the possibility of homeschooling their children in the upcoming year.  As they begin to seek information I am sure they are experiencing the same thing that Kelley and I discovered. 

Tons of articles that compare scores of homeschooled children to those in public schools. Articles about institutes of higher learning that are beginning to seek the homeschooled student.  Finally, they are reading pro-homeschooling articles about the age old argument about socialization.   We are ending our fourth year so of course I have come to some conclusions myself about these issues and others.  Oddly, there are tons of methods to learn but in all of the methods I have not seen any reference to the need to keep the atmosphere positive.  It has to be positive all of the time. 

Even the best Charlotte Mason style blogs don't address the importance of positive attitude while teaching.  I try to tell new moms that they need be on stage during lesson times. It is important that teacher at home performs at the level of perfection that they expect from a public school teacher.  I expect a teacher to smile all the time. I expect a teacher to hand out compliments every day to every child. I expect a teacher to establish an environment in which a child wants to achieve to their best ability. I expect a teacher to meet each and every child's specific need and accommodate to their learning style without the need for IEP paperwork.  I expect a teacher to be like Mary Poppins.

So when I enter our learning environment I feel like breaking out in a song about flying kites and a spoonful of sugar. (OK that is a bit much) Not only does it foster a relaxed lesson time, it also tends to separate me from my roll as their grandmother.  I am not the kind of grandmother that says yes to everything.  Particularly because I am with them so much, it is important to instill discipline and not undermine the efforts of my daughter and her husband. Therefore, I have a stage and a performance.

If you happen to come across this blog in your search about how to homeschool, let me encourage you to be Mary Poppins.  You child deserves the best experience you can give them.  They deserve to have you perform each and every day.  You expect this in your public school teacher.  Why shouldn't you expect it of yourself? 

Everybody has a bad day. I have discovered that when I cannot be positive that it is best that I do not attempt to do much teaching. Not that we do not still have school.  I will give them a little seatwork to complete and then find other activities to accomplish. Some days that means tending to the barn or the house.  It may mean an impromptu field trip. Even a trip to the grocery store where we can plan meals and manage a budget.  I just hate to introduce information about math, history or language in our curriculum when I am clearly not able to keep in character. 

The result to this approach has been amazing. Some days it is initially difficult to get the kiddos on track. They tend to dream of flying kites and jumping chimney tops. Today I had to tell them I was serious. They looked at my face and were not so convinced but as I began writing on the boards they knew it was time to settle in and begin the day. 

I encourage those who seek information about homeschooling to avoid the fancy articles about how much smarter your children will become. It simply still depends on the effort from you and from them.  Do not worry about how you are going to socialize them.  Unless you are living under a rock they will interact with a wide variety of people in their years and as they age they will learn how to effectively socialize with a diverse group.  AVOID the traps about how perfect homeschooling is and remember that it is only as perfect as you make it.  So in conclusion try to be practically perfect in every way.  Of course you will not succeed every day but if that is your goal then you cannot fail.  If you can keep up the performance during lessons then you will encourage a love for learning, a positive approach to the difficult situations in their lives. 


Hopes for Deep Understanding and Solid Foundation

The title of today's posting refers to the type of adults that I hope the grandchildren can achieve.  Today I see  another person make a comment on Facebook about how devastated their child is for missing the red moon.  I have seen this same person tell me about the Kleenex box that they have next to them as they watch the final show called the "Bachelor".  Let me be clear.  Grace and Faith have participated in the birth of kittens, puppies and foals.  Without understanding the how, they know that to get chicks you must have a rooster in the hen house.

Why would a person who shelters their child in a protective homeschool world permit them to watch such a show?  How do we come to let reality television become so real to us that we cry together if they do not choose the one we want or to cry in joy if they do choose the one we want?  So the same child attends a group activity and discovers that there was a special lunar event that others saw and she did not.  The mother actually post how this child cried all the way home.  Oh my gosh, how superficial can we become?  I simply would not have permitted such conduct, even thougth I am a grandmother.  Fortunately, I have not seen these traits in my grandchildren.

That is not to say that they do not have wants in life. They are children.  They have wants. I also know that they have be taught and reinforced not to covet thy neighbor.  Part of what we teach as a homeschool involve Biblical principles.  That means translating to the young children what is meant by the laws laid down to us by God.   Teaching commandments does not mean memorizing them but learning how to put them to your own life now.  As we grow we come to apply those lessons differently. NEVER in a million years would I post something that would so clearly demonstrate the shallowness of a moment.  I believe those moments are best kept within a private moment and used for better education and preparation of the future.

Oh my goodness, that sure sounds judgmental but the intent is to simply state that when we choose to homeschool then we are choosing a life that is generally outside of the norm.  Today as Grace went outside she had pulled her hair up in a ponytail and proudly announced, "We country girls don't require fancy styles."  I am not afraid that they are not comfortable with their body image.

Finally, let me say that Grace has experienced an bad outbreak of her eczema.  People will ask about it and draw attention to it.  She tells them what the rash is.  One would that that would be the end of it but generally it is not.  The worst offenders are adults.  I cannot imagine what to expect from the children of this generation when the parents are so poorly equipped to handle themselves with some level of etiquette.

IT is my hope that the girls discover a deeper understanding of things in this world and with a solid education of God's laws they have a solid foundation for their lives as adults and perhaps a parent some day.