Monday, July 21, 2008

Squeeze out the goodness

Go and read this post at Poohsticks, especially the last two paragraphs. That is so what I want to say, except she says it so much better.

It reminds me of making jelly. When it's all said and done, just keep the nectar of the day.

Today I am a model

For one hour, I sit for make-up and have a stylist choose my clothes.
The photographer adjusts the lights, the photo on the back of the gray cubicle wall, calls for wardrobe to remove a wrinkle from around my waist.
With an upward glance, he exchanges looks with the art director and then goes back to dressing the set.
For one minute (and another and another, until my smile is frozen in place), I think of how my children make me glow when they laugh.
I think to myself, "Make the eyes smile too."
The assistant holds my jump rope made of ethernet cable and gives my tired, aching hands a break from holding the heavy prop.
I am like the molded plastic chair in the corner, serving a purpose, telling a story.
A story without words, a story from within.
For one day, I am a model.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Homeschool Survey - Dispelling the stereotypes

While reading Tammy's blog at Just Enough and Nothing More, I found this questionnaire about homeschooling. In an effort to help dispel homeschooling stereotypes, I thought I'd add my own answers below.
  • Why do you home school? It's so hard to answer this question because there are many reasons. I home school so that my children can learn at their own pace and not feel either rushed or held back. I home school so that they can spend enough time with adults to learn social skills, rather than primarily from their peers. I home school so they can develop their own identities apart from the pressure cooker conformity that is prevalent in bricks and mortar schools.

  • What technique or curriculum do you use? We use a mixture of different things. This year, we've been using RightStart math curriculum, together with suitable living math books ( and games. We use a handwriting practice book and the oldest sometimes does some copywork. We do unit studies for social studies and science. We read a lot everyday, everything from picture books to chapter books. We spend as much time outside as the weather and our schedule allows. And they play. A lot.

  • Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)? Both, it depends on the area. What is designated as "grade level" by the various Departments of Education is rather arbitrary, so we just learn things at the pace that works for us.

  • What is your educational level? I have a Master's degree in Educational Psychology and my husband has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology.

  • Do you feel this has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities)? I think it gives me a very healthy skepticism about what "should" be required. There is an amazing difference between what is taught at the graduate level in Education and what is actually practiced in most schools. Educational psychology has a lot of powerful things to say about how individuals learn. Unfortunately, schools can not implement most of it, because each class is a herd, and the teacher can't spend much time with each individual. I find it interesting that what educational psychologist would term "best learning practices" can be very effectively implemented by home schoolers because of our very low student-teacher/mentor ratio.

  • What does your daily schedule look like? The kids get up and then get me up. We pile onto the sofa and read books for about a half hour. Then comes breakfast and dishes clean-up. After that, no two days are the same. Sometimes they play for a long time after breakfast, while I do house chores. Sometimes we set up the math manipulatives on the living room floor and do some of that for a while. Sometimes I'll pull out a craft or the paints and they will get creative for a while. Once a week, I teach a science class to my kids and a small group of other homeschoolers. Some days we'll take a country and learn about the culture and work on our mapping skills. No two days are alike. Afternoons are reserved for out of the house stuff (park days, play dates, field trips, classes, etc)

  • Are your kids always polite and ready to learn? (*snicker*) Well...not always polite to each other, since one has a short fuse, but always ready to learn. 95% of what I teach, I'm highly enthused about. When Mamma's fired up about something, the kids tend to get excited about it too. Learning isn't something you "should" do, it just "is".

  • Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated? I get frustrated with the bickering and they get frustrated with each other sometimes when they play. Which is the same with all families, homeschooling or not. The only difference is that we spent much more time together than a brick 'n mortar school family, with just _that_ much more opportunity to drive each other crazy. The other main frustration for us at the moment is that I have one kid who loves one-on-one instructional time with me and the other who isn't ready for much direct instruction yet. It gets frustrating for the little one to wait for her sister to finish up what she's learning, so she can get her playmate back!

  • How has this affected your parenting? Sometimes it brings out the cranky in me and sometimes it makes me reach deeper inside to find some patience. And other days I just reach for the chocolate instead.

  • How much free time do they have? Depends on the day. Some days are pretty full with outside activities (soccer/gymnastics/library visits/field trips/park days) while others are much more laid-back, at-home days. It just depends on our other commitments and how much they want to play vs. how much to they want me to teach them something new.

  • What do they do during their free time? Play. Play. Play. Create plays, songs, dances. Play with stuffed animals, move the furniture around and create imaginary worlds, etc. I heavily limit the amount of TV/video time to car trips and the occasional pre-dinner change of pace, so they have lots of time Sometimes they play computer games for about an hour, couple times a month.

  • What hobbies do they have? It's hard for me to make a separation between hobbies and everything else they do. They are still young (one just finished first grade and one is "preschool"), so they love almost everything they do, including lessons. Other than picking up their messes and putting away their toys. That they hate.

  • What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling? Keeping the younger one happy while I do a focused lesson with the older one. Keeping up with the housework, which results in our house having a very "lived-in" look.

  • What makes homeschooling enjoyable? Helping them learn stuff. Seeing the progress they make in different areas, some of which are important to them, some of which are important to me. Seeing how much they have blossomed and how much having a positive social climate has helped my anxious child come out of her shell.

  • How do you get involved in the community? In terms of the homeschool community: I found some like-minded families through home school classes offered in my area. I found some people through our statewide support group. Others have been friends since our kids were babies and we've all taken the homeschooling path when our kids got old enough. In terms of the larger community: I joined a local Mom's club for playdates, I became the Team Mom for my daughter's soccer team (which my husband also coaches).

  • When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children? Primarily through our participation in gymnastics, community soccer and swimming, where my kids are the only home schooled kids (that I know of). They also play with kids in our neighborhood, all of whom go to public school (or will in a year when they start kindy).

  • Would you like more of these opportunities? I think we get enough opportunities to hang out with other kids, both home schooled and bricks and mortar schooled.

  • How can they be created? n/a

  • What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype? :-) That we're all religious. Some of us are very happy freethinkers :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Seven Interesting Things About Me

I was tagged by Sandra at On Living by Learning to play this meme game. So I' The idea is to list seven interesting things about yourself. Not sure if anyone else would find this interesting, but here's the flotsam that makes me,

1) I hate wet socks. If a certain someone (who shall remain nameless) drips his wet feet over the floor after a shower and even the teeny, tiniest bit of it gets my socks wet, they have to come off.

2) Pancakes are at their best with with peanut butter and maple syrup. Just syrup seems half-dressed to me.

3) I work in cycles, that without some effort on my part, resemble the boom/bust economy of the Gold Rush. What that translates into is that my office resembles a walk-in closet more than a room where anyone could get any work done. I love projects (in my former paid life, I was a Project Manager and it fit me perfectly), but have a tendency to start too many simultaneous projects at once. So, the, has about 4 ongoing projects in it, along with all my curriculum stuff. Which leads to:

4) I collect curriculum and books. Over many moves, I've had to purge my books many times, but the collection only diminushes for a short time. Just as a falling rock gains speed until it reaches terminal velocity, my bookshelves fill up quickly and any empty spaces are a temporary thing.

Hmmm. Gack...I'm at four things and I need to think of three more. Let's see.

5) My favorite show is Mythbusters. Adam and Jamie rock! I'm such a builder geek. I think the trebuchet on Little People, Big World is awesome and I used to love Junkyard Wars when it was on. For those who missed it, two teams would be given a real world problem to solve and then free reign in the junkyard to cobble a machine together from junkyard parts. They built some of the best stuff.

6) I'm not the most patient person in the world. Many of my friends and extended family think I am, but just ask my kids, they'll give you the straight goods. I have to work at it. Like, really work at it. My natural inclination is to just tell everyone to get at it and stop dawdling already.

7) I hold fairly strong opinions on things, but at the same time am always open to new information that may change the way I think. I'm all about following the muse and seeing where she leads.

And that's all folks :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Any job worth doing.... worth doing right. Or so my grandfather used to say. He drilled it into his children and my mother, with a slight roll of her eyes, passed this chestnut on to me. Not with the certainty and fervor that my grandfather used when he intoned it, but with a firm resolve that we should always do our best.

I've always thought that his words and then hers had a logic about them. After all, why set about to do something if you don't intend to take it seriously? Tonight, as I sat down to edit my NaNo novel (read: cut and slash huge amounts out before painstakingly (and painfully) trying to piece the decent bits back together), I wondered if perhaps that nugget of wisdom only really applies to bankers and accountants and others of that ilk. After all, in certain professions there IS a RIGHT answer. My bank account had better not fluctuate for any other reason than my spending. But for those of us that pursue art and creativity and well....the muse...getting it right the first time is counter-productive to getting it done at all.

I see so many creative people get bogged down because their efforts don't match their excessively high expectations. When I wrote in the distant past, I expected my first draft to be as wonderful as the books I had read. Never mind that those authors first drafts didn't look like their finished works. None of the paintings or sculptures that have moved me in museums were the artists first works. Why is it so hard for me to remember that they messed around a lot before becoming the masters that we revere today?

To those who have let "getting it right" stand in the way of messing around, do what I did and send your Inner Critic on a nice vacation to the Fijian Islands. I hear they're beautiful; maybe she'll forget about you and never come home. To be so lucky...