Welcome Back…. You do strictly homeschool, right?! Uh… Uh…

This summer has been a whirlwind. We have been here there and everywhere trying to make as much out of the summer as we could. While summer isn’t over, we do have to start getting back to our regular schedule.

I’ve met alot of people this summer and had alot of conversations about homeschooling and what that means. Since so many people concern themselves with labels I thought I would clear up how we run our school at home.

I have a Master’s Degree in Post Secondary Education and spent alot of time writing and auditing curriculum. This included developing mixed media classes where a portion of the classes were online and on ground. As I took my conversations from this summer and compared it to what we do in our own home I had an aha moment. While obviously our children are still in primary school; in our home we do what could be considered a mixed media learning environment. We are enrolled full time at K12 and like the structure, curriculum and support of the teachers and staff. However, I also choose to supplement with my own lessons – generated from a variety of resources. I would say that we teach our kids mixed media via virtual and home school. (Whew! There! I said it! Now we have a label too…..)

What I find interesting is that people are so quick to label the type of education without taking the time to understand the format of it; and how it applies to what the child truly needs. Our kids need opportunities to explore subjects more (for example last year we started a virtual Science lesson about the layers of the oceans and what animals are in them; then we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about all those creepy critters on the very very very very bottom of the ocean. How did they get there? How do they see? What do they eat? Do they get cold down there? How can they make that blue light glow?) On and on the questions went, we kept looking up information. This is called understanding a child’s curiosity to learn; and NOT ignoring it. The love of learning is like a fire which must be stoked; and never squelched because of a label or particular predetermined view you have of a delivery style/type of education. Questions are the fire; the fuel is the way you respond.

Please don’t let the label of the educational delivery style deter the way you teach your children, please allow the children’s curiosity and love for learning to drive the path of the education. Ask yourself this, if you were at my home and we were doing a K12/Virtual lesson on triple digit addition – would you not allow your child to participate because it isn’t pure homeschooling? If the answer is Yes, wow – guess what all kids have to learn triple digit addition, does it matter if it comes from K12 or pure homeschooling? If the answer is NO, bravo your an open minded educator.

Be open and understand that every child learns differently, it’s all hard work but if mixed media works – don’t judge others, support others – everyone’s is on a path to educate their children and help them become strong, smart, free thinking, open, well-educated and successful adults. (And success doesn’t always mean marrying a billionaire, having a Stanford education, developing the next successful IPO and wearing a perfect Prada suit to work. For some it means virtual/homeschooling, climbing Mt. Everest and calling home for money because you’re trying to decide if you want to be a fashionista or a famous rock star).

Hope everyone has an amazing school year!! 🙂

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

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Parent/Teacher Role in Home Schooling

While I love the fact that we home school, being new to this I have struggled with the boundaries between the parent and teacher role. I want to be an excellent parent and when I think of that I think of someone who is compassionate, caring, encouraging, loving, kind, and supportive; challenges their children, supports growth, requires respect and good manners, but allows freedom and independence while encouraging alternative thinking. Aren’t those the very same qualities I would look for in an excellent teacher? Yes.

Over the last seven months of home schooling, I’ve learned that there is a blurred line between teacher and mother. I always thought they would be well defined. Prior to becoming aware of this I allowed myself to go over without transition into the role of teacher. Murphy’s Law number one, without a bit of a defined change there is chaos. I would feel overwhelmed by wanting to answer every question, pay attention to every whim, listen to every story, read every emotional queue and sometimes that just isn’t reality. Now I say to the girls, we are starting school, I need you to put on your student hat, raise your hand, wait for others to speak and we will address each need one at a time. This I feel is a teacher role, not a parent role. As a parent, I juggle 100 balls up in the air and deal with them all at once and hope not one falls. As a teacher, I must recognize the difference between vying for Mom’s attention and true needs for assistance and support. I find by explaining to them that we are now in a student/teacher situation eases their transition as well. It generates a verbal definition of transition and helps them to respect each others learning boundaries. As my daughter says “no questions are bad questions” and I agree, but learners need to encourage each others growth – not have  a competition to see who can speak the loudest to get the attention first.

Some naysayer will say ‘don’t you provide that same time and attention as a mother?” The answer is yes, I do, but defining boundaries during school makes all of us more successful. As with life; work, home, education, family – everyone has boundaries and transition it’s part of life and it gives us room and energy to evolve.

“Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home School Lesson: Water & Energy Conservation

Recently in Science we started talking about the continents and the oceans. While we’ve got the seven continents down, the oceans are a bit of a struggle and there were many questions about how water gets to the oceans. So we backed it all the way up to our house and tied in water conservation.

Talking about water conservation with your kids is so important. We even came up with a jingle to remind our selves: no more water (clap/clap/clap – no more earth (clap/clap/clap) – no more us.  While that may seem extreme to teach to 6 year olds – that is the harsh reality of their future. The Earth and its dependent’s survival are solely dependent on water. Did you know that roughly 70% of our bodies are made up of water and up to 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water*, but only 1% is actually accessible to us**?  97% of water is salt water, 2% is in glacier*** and that leaves the 1% we can use to be distributed for agriculture, consumption and other tasks. At the rate we use water it is estimated that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will have to find alternative sources, but there really is no alternative.

While that may seem far off to you, when I look at my kids I can envision their kids and their kid’s kids and what we can do now to help the future. So I asked the girls to come up with ways to conserve energy. They came up with a lot of standard ones: don’t leave the front door open, close the refrigerator, turn the heat down, shut the lights off, etc… but it was the water ones I found to be most impacting.

We thought about every time we turned on a faucet we saw water – which could have been saved for use going down the drain. Kayla came up with a test – while one of them brushed their teeth the other tookDixiecups and filled them with the water that would have been left on while brushing their teeth. They came up with 10 medium sized paper cups full of water – that’s a lot of water. They took that water and rinsed out their mouth and their tooth brush when done, wash their face and watered all the plants twice. That’s a lot of uses for that water. 

The other lesson was the bath tub. Most young kids take baths, but Emma asked what about that water that runs before it gets hot? She took one of my stock pots and turned on the water and when the water had gotten hot for the bath – she had filled one stock pot with water. We took that water and used it to boil spaghetti for dinner and the remainder we used to wash a few small dishes after. They both agreed its one thing to talk about it, but entirely another to see it in actual action. It is much more important to drive the point home.

Now, that’s conservation and it’s a lesson we can all take in. Teaching our kids about conservation – or in this case our kids teaching me, was a valuable lesson in protecting their future and their children’s future with actions today.






Online Learning vs. Pure Home Schooling

While waiting for my daughter I was inundated with verbal opinions from teachers and a home school Mom (who used to be a teacher, but left because the school was “restricting the curriculum”) about their thoughts on online learning and its affects on their schools budgeting. I used this as an observation opportunity to see what people really think about online learning. What an eye opener of a conversation!

There really is a hush-hush segregation amongst some home schooling families. Segregation can be defined as “the action or state of setting someone or something from other people or things or being set apart/ the enforced separation of different racial groups in a country, community, or establishment” (via dictionary.com). As parents I thought we were hypothetical teaching our kids to be better adults? Guess I was wide of the mark because this is complete contrary to what I’ve observed.

In my opinion, there are “pure” home school parents who would never, short of the penalty of death, NEVER, use an online program to sustain their curricula. These people are so stern that I’ve witnessed them actually steering their children away from others who do online learning. They believe in being in complete control and totally off the grid.  There is another group who feel they could never do with out the support an online learning experience brings. The community provides them with a great sense of resources and relationships which can not be replaced. Then there is our family which is somewhere in between those two worlds.

So, incase there are some of those “pure” home school parents reading this, I’d like to take this occasion to speak up for those of us who do online learning. Don’t be anxious, we won’t bite, our children won’t revolutionize your children and we are just like you – we decide our children’s education, we want an enhanced education for our kids and we want more control over the learning environment.   So here are some of the hundreds of reasons why our family does online learning:

Online schools:

Provide federally based curriculum and courses already designed.

Provide a built in network of other students in the classes and chat rooms.

Provides contact with a state certified teacher who can help guide and share their experience.

Freedom (and actually we have been encouraged) to add topics and lessons and expand upon what is provided.

Tuition Free (if state funded)

Opportunities to socialize at school gatherings and through online classes

Major flexibility in scheduling the schooling day – even allowance for block scheduling.

How does this compare to a “pure” home school occurrence? For  our school the distinction is we have a one class 30 minute seat time which can be done with a multitude of class choices anytime between Monday and Thursday and we communicate with our teacher once a week through an email question/answer.

Now here’s my disclaimer: NOT all ONLINE programs are the same. We only use those that are approved by our state and have passed the riggers the OSPI has provided.  We are not in favor of diploma mills, but are for superiority in educational choice. And we have several friends who are “pure” home schooling who support our decision and see no difference.

When you think my kids and all other online learners are taking away a state certified teachers job because we go to school online, make sure your research is accurate. That is a false statement and we are fighting for the same funding you are. We are all in the same vessel – we want educational alternatives and quality education for our children. The examples I provided above are not some whimsical ideas, they are instances which have actually happened to our children and I.

Next time as parents we teach our children about empathy, honesty and not participating in segregation – maybe we should mention including not only all sexes, sexual preferences and races – but also all forms of education – What else should we add next? Music people listen to, movies watched, jobs people do, pets people own, clothes people wear….you get my point right?