Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts on the Election...

Well, ironically yesterday I sat the playground with Lexi and Katie while waiting for Brianna and Chase to finish guitar lessons - and it happened that the Township building was where the voting was taking place for our town. As I watched people walk in and out I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I have never voted. I had this sudden urge to join the masses. I contemplated who I would vote for. I like to read about things and have sat reading the candidates voting records and found that neither one voted as I would on all matters. So the question then becomes, what are the really important issues for me?

Education: I feel very strongly about the parents role in educating their children. I respect and admires public school teachers as it must be a difficult job, especially when faced with families whose children don't come from optimal learning environments. But who really supports Home Education? The Democrats really don't - even though one would think they should. The Republicans may - but there isn't any government group that I think really understands the whole crux of the problem. And throwing more money at it won't help- but maybe it can't hurt.

Environment - ANWAR drilling! That one is a no for me. However, if we are worrying about energy sufficiency - let's take those steps to make alternative energy more of a reality! I do appreciate National Parks and saving farmland - so I venture that the Obama side is more favorable to my views on this.

Heath Care - This is a hot one for me. I don't know if any of the plans will fix the underlying problem of cost. I have found personally that not having insurance and paying as I go has saved us money. It would be scary and tragic however, if someone needed hospitalization - but then again - having insurance I found that I paid for everything anyway because the company always rejected things and tried to make it difficult to get any bills paid - for routine things! I don't think having people buy more insurance is the answer.

Economy - the government has a limited role in what it can do to fix this. If we all learn to support our local economies, use resources more wisely, buy less, Freecycle, use thrift stores, libraries etc. we can overcome some of these problems. However, this still does not help if you simply don't have a job - but learning more skills to make one self-sufficient is something we all can do.

So - overall I am happy with the results and believe it is really all in God's hands. I hope to see change - but know that really all is working towards God's plan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sometimes I can't figure people out...

At this juncture of the journey, I am used to people thinking I am weird - not quite understanding where I am coming from. I am way beyond all those comments like "I could never stay with my children all day". I have come to realize that I am different and the choices my family has made are different from mainstream - but I am happy with them. I have for the most part found like-minded people and groups here and there that remind me that it's ok to be different. Then you get to the homeschooling community. One would think that we would have an inherent boud because homeschooling is so different from what is going on with society - but there are some stark differences that I am experiencing right now. I am not sure whether it is religion - because although one could call me a Christian - in that I follow Christ, I do not adhere to the mainstream Christian perspective on things. I am not a MCCain voter - I am not a voter period. If I were a voter I would vote for the "other" - and my "other" does not appear on the ticket. This is a digression - it is not about politics. Perhaps it is about the fact that the Christian group requires one to sign a "statement of faith" - which I do not agree with and will not sign. For them - I am a scary influence on their children.

I think it is more than this. I think it is school-st-home versus whatever one wants to call what I do. What I do know is that by supporting my children and letting them follow their passions - they have become very good at certain things. Brianna is extremely talented in all things musical and theatre. I know that if I had, had the same chance to pursue it I would be way ahead of where I am now - but alas school and the "have-to's" get in the way. So could this be it? My experiences of late of other homeschoolers - who just are a bit snarky and not very nice - is it because of a jealousy thing - or because the way we do things are so different from them?

I am far from the perfect mother - but I am learning as I go. I know that I don't want to be yelling at my child or correcting other people's children in public. I do know that if I knew my child was making mean remarks about some other child, I would address it.

I know that this is something others have had to face within the homeschooling community. We are a diverse group and don't always get along or see things the same way. But what really gets to me is that often the meanness comes from those professing a Christian faith. The exclusion comes from those supposedly wanting to spread the Gospel. I realize we are all only human - but some are quick to pick-apart others without seeing the hypocrisy of their actions.

I haven't been able to sleep well as I try to figure out how to handle the situation. I probably should just come out and say something - get it off my chest. Maybe I can phrase it as a "let's unify" and get over the issues speech. I will have to give it some thought.

What I do know is that I will continue to be myself and let my children develop their talents and I am proud that they are unique - that we are unique as a family. I never know where life will take us - and it does bother me when people you think would support you and you would have camaraderie with, turn out to be not very nice. John thinks I should just quit - if I am not enjoying the play - however it is not the play - and I am not willing to give up support of the theatre because of people that I may not encounter all that often after this. I guess they call it "acting" for a reason ;-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Homeschooling has changed me.

The other day it dawned on me, how much I have changed since beginning to homeschool. In the very beginning I was not all the confident in my ability to home educate my child. Having read David and Miki Colfax's book "Homeschooling for Excellence" I was thoroughly inspired to provide an alternative than the average school education for my child. She was already reading - and so creative before even entering school, that I though "I can do this" and I would take it a year at a time. Years following, I read a lot of John Holt and spent a lot of time reading about Unschooling. I watched my children develop their abilities based upon their interests - learning all the time. Here I sit, with 14, 11 & 9 year old children. All educated at home, none ever having been to school - and it has changed me.

I no longer think I believe in the All- Powerful education system of this country. I don't see that it is preparing our children adequately. It certainly is preparing them for the corporate world - ever working, ever reaching higher, ever making more money and getting more and more things, more and more debt. What I have found for myself is that all those visions I had of myself being some executive have kind of died out as I realized that is not who I want to be - nor what I want my kids to strive for. I want them to be independent thinkers. I want them to be able to earn their living, by pursuing their passion.

I used to worry that I would be bored being home, that I could not conceive of what I would do with myself if I didn't work. Now I have no idea how to fit work into my life - that is full of teaching children and volunteering everywhere. I used to define myself by what I would do for a job - or how "educated" I was. Now I realize that, while it is important to be educated there are so many ways to get there. Some of the things I learned best where the things I really wanted to know about and learned them outside of school.

This year, my oldest child wanted to do a "cyber Charter School" and although it has the promise of being flexible and letting children work at their own pace, through interesting courses - the school is still kept to the stupid, standardized tests and you can see the "teach to the test" mentality slipping in. They have these "cram: courses in 10th and 11th grade - so that they can get students to score well on these tests. Regardless of whether this is the best method for teaching, or helps students " learn". The Director - who of course has a PhD basically says this is the way it is - so deal with it. So, who know how long this school will last for her. She likes most of her classes - but I don't see that she is enjoying all the dumb, rote, work. She loves Biology - and her teacher uses all kinds of websites and interesting articles. Her history teacher sticks with the boring text book. If the subject is relevant and interesting - children will learn. If it is meaningless to them - it becomes no longer education, but rather getting through the next test and then forgetting the material and moving on.

I love the freedom homeschooling provides. The funny thing was that when Brianna went into this school - she is doing great - including taking Honors classes. She was not held back by homeschooling - if anything it made her a proactive student. She doesn't view education as the "teacher's" job - but takes full ownership that it is in her hands. Her guitar teacher today, told me how talented and gifted she is. If it wasn't for homeschooling - would I have been able to let her sit and play piano all day - or stay up until midnight playing guitar? I know there are lots of schooled children that excel in the arts and music as well - but I think I had the same talent and it went to the wayside - because I didn't take the time to practice and play- I didn't have all that free time to figure out what I wanted to learn. I remember even through college - waiting for the semester to be over so that I could read the books I wanted to read. While my college experiences where pretty positive and I had some great teachers - there were of course those classes that just didn't do anything for me - whose information I have never used.

I have also been changed in that I no longer have any doubts or embarrassment that I am not doing the best job by homeschooling - or that my children are receiving an inferior education. They are doing great- and I think that my "education" is working enormously in supporting their learning efforts. I wish more people recognized the importance that homeschooling mother's provide to our society. It is dedication and sacrifice - but this is the best job that I ever could have asked for.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lexi's Pumpkin Rescue

Sometimes I find these kids so interesting. Certain moments just make me feel that what I am doing is working and creating very unique, individuals. Today, I was starting to till the garden to plant our seedlings and found there were lots of little pumpkin plants coming up from the compost that we put in there earlier. Knowing that I did not have room to grow all these pumpkins and all the other things I had to plant, I started to pull them up. Lexi did not like this and was mad that we were "wasting" these good seedlings. So, she convinced me to pot them and she and Chase dragged a table and made signs to sell them in the front yard. Before you know it, lots of neighborhood kids come over to "help". Chase and a couple other boys started going door-to-door to sell them and some people even gave them extra to plant them for them. The kids added lemonade to their stand as well. It always amazes me the nice people that stop and buy from children. One guy, who looked a bit like a hippy, bought two even though it was toward the end of the afternoon and they were looking a bit sad and droopy.

I learned something important. Always buy stuff from children! They are these budding entrepreneurs! They believe that anything is possible.

Now the true issue came out at the end of the afternoon when it was time to go in. Lexi was stressed that she still had plants left and knew that if they did not get planted, they would die. So she and two of her friends worked tirelessly to take them around and "give" them to people, instructing them on how to plant and make sure to water them. It was so funny. People were receptive and I think our neighborhood will be populated with pumpkins. Lexi's stubbornness and persistence really is some of her key qualities. She just does not give up when she believes in something. She manages these other kids, all who had different ideas and she delegated different tasks. She is really a leader in the making.

So often, I don't really want to associate with the neighbors. I just feel so different and get irritated at their lawn spraying, and George Bush signs ;-) But it was really nice to see them being kind to these crazy children, trying to save the world - one pumpkin at a time. And of course you have to throw in the capitalism, with the selling of product - marketed on cuteness alone ;-)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sometimes it isn't always easy...

I am writing this blog tonight for therapeutic purposes. Today was a tough day. It ended really rough. My kids are constantly bickering, my house was full of neighborhood kids in and out. They ate all my food, played horrible music, and had tantrums. And yet my kids want to play with them. I want to be the nice mother. In reality I would rather have them all here than have my kids all over the neighborhood. I am dreading the end of school when all the school kids are around all the time. I think maybe we are all tired and overstimulated. I think a lot of times I overreact to things, like bickering and crying. I am supposed to be the parent who figures out how to find solutions to a problem - and yet I find myself in these circular conversations about whose right and wrong, and they I find I am in some way taking sides.

I am not sure if it is a teen thing - and I can't really complain because my teen is quite wonderful. However, this constant struggle between respecting their independence, and keeping them safe - or even respecting their independence versus keeping everyone else in the family just drives me crazy. My younger daughter is sad because her older sister wants to always be on the computer, on the phone, or IM-ing her friends. I get that this is kind of what happens at this age. But I feel for my younger daughter too. I understand that she wants her sister to be her buddy.

It has been several weeks since I last wrote the above post. I was going to delete it, but I thought I would write about some of our solutions. We have started making a list each night of what each one wants to do/accomplish. If Music lessons are scheduled, or they want to work on something, they write it down. I am trying to do the same thing. What I have found is that we accomplish more, that they tend to want to finish things on the list, and then my teen will IM, but if she has written that she wants to continue to learn a song on the guitar, she writes this down. Just this morning Brianna was playing a game with Lexi - and I guess it just goes in cycles. We do tend to have lots of neighborhood children here, but I am trying to limit it to certain times of the day - or for certain periods of time. I guess I would rather have them all here, then have my kids off somewhere else. I am still working on this as some of these kids can be downright annoying - two of them are constantly fighting over my daughters attention, and it gets a little old after awhile. I have been pleasantly suprised at how well she handles them. She just says it like it is. The other day I finally said if a person yelled or name-called another person, they were going to be asked to go home. And it seemed to work.

All in all I guess it is just working through things as a family and trying to balance life - as Dr. Suess would say "Life is a Great Balancing Act"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Praying Mantis

The kids and I have been trying to hatch praying mantis. We ordered the egg case and set up a habitat - and have since waited about three weeks. Finally, we saw that they had hatched and we were so excited. The only wierd thing was that only a few seemed to have hatched and about five or so seemed to have died and turned brown. One was still doing ok for awhile, and we released the wingless fuitflies into the habitat. The little guy is hard to find now, and I am wondering if he has died as well. I haven't found any research to suggest that they would have more than one hatching period. A science teacher told me that it might be that the temperature in my home is too warm, or that they had too much direct sunlight.

In any case, I guess that is what science is all about - trying things and seeing what happens! Perhaps I will order or try and find another egg case and see if we have better luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Whose Job is it to Educate the Children?

I have read all the flurry of emails over this case in California... and I guess what I don't understand with this country is why do people feel that it is the Governments job to educate our children and not the parents? Apparently educating ones own children is not *technically* a Constitutional Right. Why? Because I think our Founding Fathers thought this was a given. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, it was the parent’s job to see that their child was educated. Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution, governments wanted to keep immigrant children out of the factories and keep developing new cogs for the wheel.

So, here we are with our whole society believing that it is the Governments job - and when kids are aren't educated, it is now the teachers fault, and the school needs more money. In my district, it cost $13,000 per child to educate them. I understand overhead and all that - but I am doing it with way less than that. In addition, why don't people question the growth and net profit of all those places like Sylvan Learning Center? So, not only does the district spend $30,000 for my children - but then parents pay again when the system isn't working for them.

I am not saying that schools are bad - and that we should banish them - because they are important in the goal of educating children - but what irritates me is that if the parents choose an alternative method - such as homeschooling, why is it the governments job to regulate and make sure parents are doing their "job", when everyone is crying at what a sad state the schools are in.

Which brings up the child abuse issue. That argument that says, children being in public school are screened for abuse. Hello!! I know many children that have faced sexual abuse and bullying in the public school - and no one is dragging the school into court. Well perhaps they are, but it is not as well publicized. I am in no means wishing to protect child abusers. But in most cases where this in the family that is called into question about homeschooling, it is that they were already having issues, social services dropped the ball and then when the children are starved and murdered, the headlines all say "Homeschooled Mother kills her children". I don't believe in these cases that the parents were really "homeschooling" and even if they were making their kid do sit down school, if they were abusive and controlling, they would have been this way regardless of whether the child was in school or not.

So, really I am not panicking about this California thing. Chase says we can just move to Canada ;-) But perhaps if it came down to it, I could get a teaching certificate and add it to my degree collection.

But the crux of the matter as I see it is - Who do we really think is responsible for the education of our children? Why do we insist on letting the government control us and let them serve the people rather than the other way around? I understand all the social implications of an educated vs. non-educated population, and I understand the Bell Curve. But in theory educational institutions should be in place, should we wish to utilize them. They should not be forced on us.

Monday, March 10, 2008

How I Love Theater....

We have had such a busy month and a half. Brianna has been in the play The Three Musketeers at York Little Theater. It has been a great experience for her and this particular play has had rehearsals every night and Saturday for the past 6 weeks. She has had to learn stage combat, a bit of fencing and an Old English low-class dialect for her character.

I have had to learn a lot of new things as a mother ;-) I guess the biggest thing is the social part. Brianna has always been very social. I remember as a child she was happiest if I took her out somewhere - even to the store. So with this play she has met all kinds of new kids and adults - and has spent a lot of time on IM and email. Sometimes, it seems that she spends all day doing this. Then she'll be on the phone with a friend, reading the IM's from other friends, to the friend on the phone. And she has a million windows open and is flipping back between them, listening to Sirius radio on-line, updating her Facebook, etc. I am sure that many other Mothers experience this at this age - but I am just in awe at the pace of everything. Some of the kids she is IM-ing are in school using IM from their phones. I am amused as I am sure they are sitting in class - doing something other than what they are supposed to - as I was at that age.

I find myself worrying that she really is doing something worthwhile. I will say that she is working on her spelling and typing by using the IM...I am amazed at how well, what your peers think of your spelling matters way more than any spelling "test".

Many of the other kids use rather bad language. One of those "socialization" issues that you kind of miss by not being in school is the language. I guess that depends on what your household is like. We don't really use it - and I always tell my kids we have so many words in the English language that we can find one that is appropriate for any situation - that is clever and doesn't make you sound like an idiot. Ah - but then again, some people would suggest that peppering your phrases with the "F" word is the appropriate expression. Who knows... I just know that she has been exposed to many new and different things. I wonder sometimes how other parents are when their kid is in school. One of the things that I found shocking was how many parents will just let some strange woman (i.e. me) who they have never met or talked to, take their kid home at midnight. My daughter is always saying that this certain teenage boy has offered to bring her home - and I am thinking ....uh yeah - NO! It is a whole new world. Teenage boys who drive...

So, from my experience the whole socialization issue is ridiculous. I think people envision that we sit in our house at the kitchen table and never get out. Its crazy. I am almost feeling that we are always surrounded by people.

And on another note - I was impressed with Brianna giving a Bible Basics book to one of the other kids who she thought might enjoy reading it. I still sometimes stress at suggesting a certain book, or sharing my faith with people. She was so unabashed by it. She was sharing who she is. I am so jaded by experience. I feel a bit uncertain about what I think and feel- that I often don't just come out and say what I think. And yet, here my 13 year old daughter is confident in who she and and what she thinks - and it makes me happy to see it. She doens't have the hang ups caused by the "socialization" and bullying you can find in school. She has been able to develop in her own way, at her own pace.

So, I think what it really is that worries me is that I am afraid of all the ugliness out there. The meanness of other kids, the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with adolescence and the beginning of relationships with boys... I want to be able to talk honestly and openly - but not freak her out with too much information - or saying the wrong thing. I just want to be a good Mom.

Beyond that I do love theater. It just inspires my spirit somehow...