Moving onto bigger, brighter, better

Hello there!

You may have noticed that I rarely post on this blog anymore. I tried juggling 3 different blogs for 3 different reasons, but since they are all about learning, I’ve decided to fuse them into ONE BIG BEAUTIFUL BLOG. I really do hope you’ll follow me on over to

ATLAS EDUCATIONAL @ WordPress

Here’s a link to see what it’s all about.
Hidden Learning- A Summer Guide

I can’t wait for you to join the party!

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Oops, I did it again!

Oops
Oops: Courtesy of Gratisography.com

 

 

And again, and again…..

Sometimes, it takes us a really long time to learn a lesson. How many of us have started and restarted a diet, planned to take that leap into the unknown only to back down, or set out on the right track only to find that we’ve doubled back to right where we started?

 

 

It’s called life and living. It’s how we learn.

 

1. Think about something.

2. Make a choice.

                          3a. If it’s right….end.                   3b. If it’s wrong, make another choice.

 

It’s funny how we fall off the diet and exercise wagon again and again and again, yet when our kids don’t learn a lesson, we may not be so forgiving.
Give yourself and your kid a break.

 

 

Don’t be surprised the next time your kid says,

                                                                                     “Oops! I did it again.” 

 

It’s all about the learning.

 
I’m still working on that lesson.

 

 

Riding the roller coaster

Roller Coaster Life

 

It has been so long since I’ve visited my little cyberspace here. I have been busy; but haven’t we all? Honestly, working a full time job and neglecting my own children was much easier (though not preferable). Plenty of money (I never realized at the time), health insurance to cover everything, no worries about whether or not I was successful that day, and a family to visit at night. Easy. Yes, it was a pressure cooker, but it was all laid out and all I had to do was ride the ride.

 

Rides get old, people need new challenges, life becomes dull or worse-chaotic and overwhelming and then the roller coaster ride begins.

 

Leaving teaching wasn’t a safe bet.

Though I wasn’t worried about my new role homeschooling, I didn’t think much about the role of my student-my own child. He didn’t conform to his role in the classroom, what made me think he would at home? Homeschooling wasn’t the fix. Adapting to how he learns is the fix and I gotta’ tell you, mama, he’s the toughest student I’ve ever had.

 

It’s SO much easier to tell a kid what to do, throw some work at him, and keep riding that roller coaster.

 

Up and down, but it never ends and everyone on the ride knows it. Ride until you stop and show up the next day to get right back on. Every day. Predictable and on track.

 

Not anymore.

 

Predictable flew off the track as soon as we started homeschooling.

 

Trying to recreate school at home never jived; even after deschooling. Part of it may have to do with a diagnosis I’m investigating, but on the other hand it just may be the smell of freedom. How to you reign in freedom and control it? Yikes. Even as I type that my mostly Libertarian self is cringing at the thought.
How much freedom is too much in this society?

Will this phase ever pass?

It is a phase at all?

 

How do you convince someone to follow your path when you’re not even sure which ride to jump on next?

 

How do you make this work?

For now, I’m gonna’ have to live with a little nausea and find a way to get this ride pointed in a direction that works for both of us. 

In the meantime, I guess all I can do is hang on and see where this ride takes us.

 

Wish me luck!

Welcome to Big Boy Land


Photo credit:
MagCindy from morguefile.com

 

“Welcome to Big Boy Land”

…..is a phrase I often used with my 4th/5th graders back when I was teaching at school. New responsibilities means that you’re growing up; becoming “big boys and girls”. Kids realize around this age that they’re the ones who are taking hold of their own education (and are able to start that process) and with that comes the responsibility of following through on your word, hitting deadlines, working through problems, and more.

 

Today, my son had a different kind of learning experience, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Welcome to Big Boy Land.” My oldest still attends his private school. Though he knows he has the same choice as his brother who homeschools, he’s comfortable (mostly) in his current situation. But, he’s beginning to realize that life in traditional schooling comes with different responsibilities than homeschooling. Though my homeschooler doesn’t have to worry about clothing, hair length, deadlines, and homework, he has different responsibilities. They’re both learning not only academics, but also life learning.

 

This morning, my son found out that staying up late with his tablet watching videos on the internet meant he had a hard time getting up in the morning. While I usually monitor/semi-handle their devices/internet usage, my oldest is 12 and I think it’s a pretty good age to mess up and learn to control the beast that the demands attention-the internet. Today, he learned a lot…. I hope. If not, the lesson will happen again until he does. Life has a funny way of taking care of things all on its own.

 

Today was a late rising, no time for breakfast, oh no I didn’t finish my homework, it’s pouring down rain outside, it’s cold outside, I only got 4 hours of sleep, traffic is bad kind of day. Whew….Yes, one of those kinds of days that can bring an adult to his needs and make him cry like a baby. No tears; but the 25 minute drive was full of naps, angst, and a general feeling of “uncomfortableness”. Do we need to be uncomfortable to learn? Often, yes.

 

I have a bit of an advantage with my kids. I learned a lot about children, their limits, their abilities, and their learning while I was teaching. That’s why I can allow my own children to struggle a bit more knowing that they’re learning.

 

 

 

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.       Brian Tracy

Scripted Heart

Scripted Heart

Photo credit: Prawny from morguefile.com

 

I received a letter from my oldest son last week. It was a letter that began, “Dear Parents”. It was written in his best handwriting and went on to tell me how how wants to thank his “parents for raising me” and “protecting me for my 12 years of my life so far”. It broke my heart, but not in the way you probably think.

It goes on to talk about a time when we protected him from going in the pool after eating. It continues with appreciative compliments over the years and thankfulness for driving him to school and helping him to spell for class assignments.

The letter ended with thankfulness for popcorn bought at movies and visits to restaurants.

 

It was a very sad letter for me. Not that I don’t think he appreciates what we, as parents do for him (as much as any kid really does), but I hate this kind of phoniness. I believe my son was sincere to a point (mostly in the last line which I found endearing), but I find scripted lessons like these disheartening. It bothers me that this was an effort in sincerity from the school (and probably a grade). Scripted heartfelt; an oxymoron in the making, but isn’t so much of education these days?

 

Education is becoming an oxymoron. Teaching children not how to think, but HOW WE THINK you should think. UGH. As a teacher, I avoided these kinds of writings while others parents gushed over how “sweet” they were (that a teacher forced your child to write). I saw right through it. I’m not saying that if a student CHOSE to write on a heartfelt topic, I hated it. Not at all. Heartfelt should come from a heart; not an assignment.

 

I can tell after teaching writing for many years that much of what he wrote were scripted ideas written on the board and gently altered by someone who doesn’t write about his own thoughts; but instead someone else’s.

I could tell that my son expected some kind of gushing from his mother as he handed me the letter (as I’m sure the teachers promised). Instead, I smiled and said that while I’m glad he appreciates what we do for him, we do it because we love him and don’t need letters to know it. I also told him I loved the last line. Kind of a letdown, I know, but I’ve never been good at phoniness.

 

I want my child to think and to feel because it’s right for him, not because it’s an assignment.

 

Meanwhile, I won’t be expecting a letter like this from my homeschooled child for a really long time.

And I’m okay with that.

 

How do you find the perfect curriculum ?

Learning is universal and much simpler than it’s sometimes made out to be. Learning comes in the form of plans for the day as we rise, revising those plans and making connections as the day goes by, and reflections while drifting off to sleep. Learning happens in all languages and in the minds of those who cannot speak nor read. Learning happens regardless of instructor, methods, and differences of opinion or evidence presented.

 

Learning happens with or without a curriculum, yet I often hear homeschoolers struggle when selecting a curriculum to fit the needs of their children. It becomes one of the biggest struggles to getting started in homeschooling; yet it needn’t be.

 

Curriculum has become the formal approach to learning, yet it’s much more simple than you think. It doesn’t take a brainiac to invent or create a curriculum. As in the examples below, let me help you read between the lines. I hope I can also alleviate some of your concerns that your child isn’t learning when he isn’t doing his curriculum book work. Learning just happens.

 

Curriculum? Oh my!

 

Breaking down curricula:

The following are actual standards (ideas for learning) taken from explicit curricula which coincide with school systems or boxed curricula familiar to seasoned homeschoolers.

My biggest hurdle in deciphering curricula in all of the boxed homeschool curricula is that it either references Common Core (if you dig enough) or they seem to have no written curriculum- only ideas that they deem important. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as the ideas seem to increase in conceptual understanding, or depth as the child develops and makes more connections.

 

Standard Curriculum Speak:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.1  (Grade 3)
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
(I have yet to see a curriculum that doesn’t include this standard in one form or another.)

 

Teacher version of the same standard:

The student can use evidence from the text to ask and answer questions.

 

Homeschooler application of standard:

Homeschool educator: “Hey, I see you’re reading that game guide. What does it say you need to get to beat the boss?”
Possible child response: “Mom, it says that I need the Dominion Rod and I need to get it in the next room. I wonder how I find the rod? Oh, it says here that I need to defeat the Armos first by hitting them.” 

 

Guess what? This child can successfully use text to ask and answer questions! Does this mean your child can do it all of the time? No, use different types of text to assess (assure yourself) that your child is able to do this. Use a recipe, a fiction book at his level, or one slightly higher than his level. Use a familiar text and an unfamiliar text. This standard should take place at every level of learning. It’s pretty universal and easy to accommodate and associate with learning.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with using a game guide to teach this skill. I’d do it in a classroom if I’d had enough to go around and I do this all of the time with my own child at home. PLUS, it’s engaging and so a child will try harder since the text focuses on something important to him. Using a biography or almanac or Scientific American article isn’t any better (just different). Keep in mind the FOCUS of what you’re trying to teach.

 

What happens if your child can’t answer your questions or doesn’t ask any that can be referenced with the text? Encourage him. An exchange may go something like this.

 

Homeschooler application of standard:

Homeschool educator: “Hey, I see you’re reading that game guide. What does it say you need to get to beat the boss?”
Possible child response: “Dad, it says that I need to beat him.”
Homeschool educator: “Wow. You mean they don’t even tell you “how” in the guide? That sounds like it’s not very helpful. Where are you in the game (in reference to the guide)?”
Possible child response: “I don’t know. Oh, I’m passed this section, I see by this picture (yes, that’s still referencing text) that I’m in this room. Oh, it says I need the Dominion Rod first.” 
Homeschool educator: “Do they tell you where to get it?”

Possible child response: “No, I’ll figure it out for myself.”

 

At this point, he may. If he struggles, you’ve already planted the answer in his mind that it’s in there to help him more efficiently solve his problem. If not, you could casually pick it up and comment how you can’t wait to see how it turns out (after reading all about the details in the guide) because it looks like it’s going to be fun!

 

Let’s try another taken from a school system website:

 

Standard Curriculum Speak:

Biodiversity and Change –Adaptations & Natural Selection (Grade 8)
SPI 0807.5.2 Analyze structural,behavioral, and physiological adaptations to predict which populations are likely to survive in a particular environment.

 

Teacher version of the same standard:
(This is misleading since the student “I can” statements are produced by teachers in an effort to clarify the skills/understandings involved for students; but they also are there to clarify for parents and teachers.)

  •  I can differentiate between structural, behavioral, and physiological adaptations.
    The following are supportive links why the teachers (and/or curriculum experts) chose to interpret the standard as they did: (Hint: CCSS= Common Core State Standards) 

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4          CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2
  • I can compare and contrast the ability of an organism to survive under different environmental conditions.
    CCSS.ELALiteracy.RST.6-8.4   CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2
  • I can develop a logical argument for a population’s chance of survival in a given environment based on adaptations.
    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.1
  • I can research the similarities and differences of natural adaptions to man-made adaptive/assistive technologies.
    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.7

 

Homeschooler application of standard:

Homeschool educator: “Why do some animals survive in certain environments and others don’t? 
Possible child response: “Because they’ve learned to adapt to their surroundings.”
(Probe for examples.)
Homeschool educator: “So you’ve given me examples of physiological (or ask which kind) adaptations, but what about behavioral; structural adaptations?” 
Possible child response: “I’m not sure what those mean.”
Homeschool educator: “Hmmm….which environment would you like to investigate? Would you prefer to find a reputable resource online, via video, or book to answer your question?” “What did you learn?” 
Possible child response: “It says here….(citing evidence from text again)….”

 

 

Math is no different. History is no different. All curriculum is a compilation of standards. Standards are a way to synthesize all of the skills/knowledge in an area of study and include it in a succinct encompassing statement. Sometimes the standard is so encompassing it needs further clarity. Other times, extending the clarity forces the standard onto more arbitrary tangents instead of focusing on the big idea. The reason for standards is so that everyone (in a classroom or purchasing a boxed curriculum) is studying, and by extension learning, the same thing.

 

Most curricula is totally arbitrary. While most curricula includes fractions, understandings of plants’ and animals’ survival, information about historically significant leaders (by someone’s definition), and reading for comprehension, the rest of it is just popular, interesting, or relates to other subjects (which encourages reinforcement of conceptual understanding and connections). It’s a list of skills and understandings that some people deem important to know and it’s ever-evolving.

 

I’ve never had the same curriculum while teaching for more than a year or two and even then, I never taught my classes the same way. You can’t. They’re different kids and they come with different understandings and supports needed. It’s a constant revision process- kind of like how we handle our own children.

 

As we learn more about them and reconsider what’s important for our kids to learn (outside of academics), we evolve our expectations for their lives, their rules or guidelines, and how much independence or structure we define for them. There’s no clear cut answer. It just evolves and changes as our needs and desires change. It really is quite arbitrary just like learning. Going with the flow, considering expectations for the future, and involving a lot of reflection gives you the answers or avenues to pursue.

 

 

So, for those of you looking for the perfect curriculum, you’re probably actually looking for the perfect method or approach to reach your specific child. That’s a post for another day! Be sure to check back or follow my posts so you don’t miss it!

 

 

Doing School with Cartoons, Video Games, and Comic Strips

Video games help learning?

 

I am one of those people who succumbs to worries influenced by mainstream media, but some days I really push away those naysayers when learning connections make themselves transparent through the use of cartoons or video games. Today, science rocked our morning through a tv show and a video game.

 

My son usually opts for more adult-like science content, but this week he seems to be vegging in front of educational cartoons as a way to transition into the holidays. While I’m working on blogging, tweeting, and posting, he’s watching Magic School Bus on Netflix. The Butterfly and the Bog Beast episode proved to be especially exciting and yielded several connections today.

 

While learning about camouflage, my son made the comment that “butterflies can change their color”. Though it seemed preposterous to me, we turned to Google to verify our claims. National Geographic seemed reliable, so we read the article and it turns out he was correct (well, sort of)! That was news to me at first, but as I read the article aloud to my son it all made sense. We had a good conversation about how and why that happens (especially when comparing it to his big brother’s heredity project). But, it didn’t stop there.

 

Luckily, I’m one of those moms who pays attention to the #1 video game for 8-? year olds. I’ve learned a lot (mostly about screaming while being killed in survival mode), but I’m also quick to jump on the connections to real life studies (and traditional content standards). We discussed camouflage (which my son already understood), but we also added another key concept that we’ve dabbled with the past year and Minecraft entered the conversation for support.

 

Minecraft has this cool little element of surprise where the precious storage chests in the game aren’t so precious anymore. The chest doesn’t actually open, but instead impersonates a real chest. It’s called a mimic. As we watched the section detailing how animals can take on the qualities of another creature or plant, I asked if there was something like that in one of his video games. He immediately perked up out of his lazy lay in blanket heaven and went on to explain in detail all about mimicry. Connect the dots. Thank you, Minecraft and Magic School Bus for science class today.

 

 

Doing my best

Busy as a bee
Photo credit: rosevita from morguefile.com

 

Stay at home moms deserve more kudos.
(We are also privy to secrets that working moms just don’t know.)

 

As a working mom during most of my children’s lives, I still feel a tug of self doubt creeping in now and then asking me, “Is this all I’m going to be doing?” Since leaving the workforce recently, I’m not sure how to handle down time. I usually compensate for my downtime by throwing myself into my new business for several days proclaiming, “Mission Accomplished.”. Whew. .. Then, I feel worthy again.

 

The truth is, yes, this really is it for now. Most days I am happy to be supporting my unique learner and advocating for unique learners who don’t have access to the world like my son does right now. Other days, I stew.

 

Why the constant drive? Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my life these days and I’ve left behind a bureaucracy that tore out my soul, but often I’m left wondering what more SHOULD I, or could I be doing?

 

Why is it when I increase the amount of stuff I complete, I feel accomplished and yet helping my son navigate his way in the world seems trivial? I always said I could never be a stay- at- home mom because I’d be bored and often I am. Other days, I remember the constant rush, push for more, nonsensical bureaucracy, and frustrating mandates and I’m thankful that part of my life is over and vow never to return. I do cherish my inner peace.

 

Have you ever felt the same way? Whether you’re new to the stay at home thing or you’ve never been in the workforce, do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough? What exactly is “enough”? Is this society adding the pressure or is it self-imposed? Are you the kind of mom who cooks elaborate dinners, decorates the house like a Macy’s Day Parade, or cleans to perfection? Do you feel better when you’re busy or are you satisfied with your plate of duties for the family? I’m still learning.

 

I know more is not always “more”, but some habits are hard to break. 

 

In my former life (yes, I almost feel like two different people), I shopped almost every day, my kids had clothes they barely wore, and when I got tired of an outfit, I went out that day and bought a new one. I laughed, saying that sometimes I felt my job was to keep the economy going. (Little did I realize…) We ate in restaurants several times a week and were comfy in our middle class lives. We knew we didn’t have money to buy a new car or re-carpet the house (though we probably could have had we not eaten out almost nightly), so we considered ourselves not well off at all. In retrospect, I wish I’d carpeted the house when I had the money.

 

Summers meant we, as a family, we were all off school and so we were lucky enough to get to know each other over those months (in between preparation for the upcoming school year). That was when I’d take the time to get to know my own kids again. Summer was a blessing. I don’t know how parents who work full time year round do it. I always felt like I was letting my kids down, but what could I do? I was there as much as I could. There’s no way we could make it on one income; right? Actually, wrong.

 

Once the school year started back up, gone were the relaxed days of summer and hectic-hectic ran the show. I never had time for breakfast, I dropped my kids off at morning care an hour before school started and picked them up 2 hours after school ended. I considered myself a pretty attentive mom. Yes, I paid attention to other people’s children all day, but by night I was there for my kids (to help with homework) and to read to them at night. Of course, then I was off to do my schoolwork in the evenings while vegetating in front of the tv.

 

Everything was a race. May was my finish line and I worked ahead as much as possible to make the lives of my students better. Sounds admirable; huh? Yes, it was. But, what about my own kids? I always thought, “If I could only get ahead…”

 

It was a constant hamster treadmill and I never could catch up.

 

My life was filled with stuff. Stuff I bought, stuff to buy, stuff to do, stuff to accomplish, stuff to think about for tomorrow, and stuff to worry about- SO MUCH STUFF.

 

I bought into the American Dream years ago. Not the Ozzie & Harriet dream, but the modern day version where mom works, the family makes enough money to go out to dinner most nights, buys trinkets on a whim, and contributes $20 like it’s pocket change. I lived it. At times I loved the freedom I had with money living in the moment and it’s easy to forget that most of the time I was overwhelmed, frustrated, and utterly exhausted. I barely knew my own children. Yet sometimes I want to go back. It was easier in some ways. I was my own person. I knew my job and I was my job. I had been doing it for so long and had successes. I was comfortable in my personal expectations. I had it all and was doing it all. It was fun, but…. Damn, it was exhausting. Then, I left and overnight my world changed. … drastically.

 

I went from having TONS to do, to having nothing to do. I shouldn’t say, “Nothing.” I started a business, attended classes to help me learn about business, I started a blog (and write for 3 now), I Tweet, I have a business Facebook page, I write (almost) daily, I research for the book I’m writing, I support my child in his self-directed homeschool learning, I volunteer teach 3 events for my oldest’s Science Olympiad, and yet, I feel like I’m not doing enough….most days. I think I should actually write it all out some days. It might help me realize how much I really do.

 

These days I have transient stuff. It comes and goes. I no longer buy books online and from the bookstores. Instead, I download or read via computer articles and the library and I are good friends again. My clothes are from a full closet from my “money days” and a $10 outfit is a splurge. Wow….what a change! Did your life change as drastically as mine when you decided to stay home and homeschool? My life is much more about my children and less about me. I thought I knew it would be a big change, but I hadn’t imagined it would be so long lasting.

 

I’ve traded a lot. I traded money and a comfortable, material life for getting to know my children, peaceful sleeps, and calming yoga. I now curl up with a book and a cup of tea in my free time; instead of working on schoolwork. I now have time to sit back, breathe, and watch life’s lessons unfold for my kids. I watch them make mistakes and sit back and wait for them to come to me for late night talks about life and learning; instead of intervening prior to mistakes so I can have alone time at night. I now feel my children’s struggles because I’m part of their world these days-not merely running parallel to them.

 

I now notice nature, bask in the sunshine, don’t mind the rain as much, and have time to think. I don’t feel rushed most of the time and that calmness affects my family every day.

 

You know the old saying, ” When momma aint happy, ain’t nobody happy” ?

Well, momma is happier these days.

 

These days I’m able to give my youngest son the gift of homeschooling. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but I have the patience and time to make it count these days. I can devote time to help him learn his way.

 

My oldest opted to stay at his school, but he doesn’t cry in frustration like he used to. Mom is is here, available to help with the dreaded Vocabulary Workshop and keep the burden of schoolwork in context. Schoolwork isn’t life. It’s supposed to be preparing you for life, though most if the time the process, not the content is the real preparation. Doing your best is all anyone can ask. Doing your best doesn’t mean sacrificing your peace of mind in place of a good grade or to please a teacher.

 

Doing your best is delivering crappy work some days. It’s about acceptance and moving on too. Doing your best is about being content with life, watching it unfold before your very eyes, and savoring both the good days and the learning situations that present themselves through our struggles.

 

Now, I’m doing my best and reminding myself that it all really does count.

 

Thanks for listening.

 

It will never be enough

Your chance at a starring role
Photo credit: clem from morguefile.com

 

Know that as your mind lies awake at night rolling through the cinema of your life,  it will never be enough.

 

Life isn’t about achievement.  It’s about the dreams,  the struggle,  the learning.  It’s about working towards a goal.  That moment of triumph after achievement is fleeting.  That feeling of accomplishment that you reach for will be temporary.  Once you’ve achieved one goal, your mind will send you searching for another.  It’s an endless journey…  until one day it’s not.  One day it will end.  It will probably not end as neat and tidy as we all hope and imagine.   There won’t be a tearing across the finish line in exaltation that ends the cinema of our lives while the credits roll and the audience erupts in applause.  We may go out satisfied as we look back on our lives, or we may die full of regrets and “should haves”.

 

Triumph rolls in and out, yet life goes on planning the next scene; preparing for a plot twist here and there guaranteed to make you question your decisions and re- evaluate your life.   Your life unfolds in ways you hadn’t planned, down avenues you never dreamed you’d travel, but it’s all okay. You’re along for the ride. Enjoy the scenery. Look around and take it all in. Expect there to be troubles, struggles, and growth, but there will also be routines and unexpected beauty. Cherish it all.

 

Yours is a story in the making-the ultimate screenplay with you as the starring role. Your role is a role of motion,  contemplation, and hopefully acceptance; full of bit players that enhance your character along the way. Yours is the role of a lifetime-your own. You’ll find yourself plummeting to the depths of despair. What good movie doesn’t? But like all good movies, hopefully you’ll rise up in the end.

 

Just don’t take it all too seriously. Even Academy Award winning movies are not loved by all. Be your best. Know that you’ll never be perfect and it will never be enough.

 

And that’s okay.