Thursday, May 26, 2016

Homeschool to Public School: End of Year Review

Today is day 179.

This morning the boys will head out the door for the last time this school year.

(More about the decision to switch to public school this year HERE, first day of school HERE, and our mid-year update HERE.)

I have so many thoughts about this past year that there's no way I'll even attempt to document most of them.  We had likes and dislikes and since I am a questioner,  I've analyzed everything you could possible analyze.

The quick version: It's been good. Really good.

Anyway, here's the long version.  

on mom (my thoughts)
Obviously having your kids go to school full time affects the mama a lot too, right?  This was totally new territory for me.  I've had kids around me all day, every day for 9 years leading up to this.

It was really weird in the beginning and I felt a bit of boredom and dissatisfaction.  There was a distinct sense of loss I was experiencing, not just having the boys gone but also having part of my identity stripped.  So much of my time revolved around homeschooling, who was I now that that was removed?

After a few weeks, I fell into a solid routine that included working from home, gym visits, library trips, errands, household stuff, and hanging out with my little ones. 

I've had all sorts of thoughts swirl through my mind over this year, here are a few of them.
  • School is 180 days a year, which means my kids are home all day for 185 days and part time for 180.   
  • The homeschooling activities that we loved (and that come naturally to me) we can still do!  So we did.  (More on that in a minute.)
  • I was really worried about feeling like we wouldn't have enough time together.  That's a criticism you often hear---life in public school is rushed.  There were individual days that felt like that, but collectively that wasn't the feeling.  The kids' days are about 14 hours long.  6 1/4 hours of that is spent at school, plus thirty-ish minutes going to and from.  That leaves us with 7 1/4 hours each day to still be together!  We can (and did) do a lot in that time!
    • And it was really nice to have some time to focus on my little two.  We had a great time together. 

    on tracks
    One of the best things we did was change "tracks".  Because schools are so full where we live, children start and end at different times.  We began the year with the 8:00 a.m. start time, which meant the boys finished at 2:15 (1:15 on Mondays).  Right around March, we started dragging.  Emotions and moods were affected and then the time change occurred and left us really dragging.  I thought we needed to switch and get on the later track and see if that would be a better fit.  The boys then began at 9:15 and finished at 3:30 (2:30 on Mondays).

    It's so interesting because you can talk to many parents and you'll hear all sorts of reasons why they love the early track and dislike the later and vice versa.  I was really interested to see what we'd think and we ended up preferring it.  Moods improved and productivity increased.  So for us, it was good.  We were able to stay up later (which means we had more time to read, play games, and hang out), we were able to sleep in if we had an activity that ran late the night before.  (And by sleep in, I mean sleep till 7:30--but not the baby.  Homegirl hasn't slept past 6:45 a day in her recent life.)

    The boys were able to complete piano practice, flashcards, reading, ride scooters, do family scriptures and prayer, play games, have an occasional dance party, and play at the park before school began (certainly not all on the same morning!) and I feel like our evenings weren't as harried because it's okay if a shower didn't happen that evening or something else was left unfinished, because we had time in the morning.

    And lastly, we were also able to be waaaaay more consistent with taking home lunch on the later track.  We started the year strong then I really started sucking at it right around winter, when it was dark and cold and no one wants to get out of bed till the very laaaaaast minute and we were racing out the door. 

    Only one of my favorite lunch containers made it through the entire year. 

    I told my sister repeatedly, "I feel like I have more time with the kids on this later schedule."
    on homework
    I viewed homework as a way for me to know what was being taught and whether the boys understood it.  There were some occasions that I wrote a note on the homework that we did something else in place of the homework worksheet to practice the concept.  And reading logs?  I am just not going to do reading logs or force my 7 year old to document everything he reads either.  I felt like it was just one more thing to do that didn't add much value.  I was probably seen as quite annoying and rebellious with my "child reads aloud to parent most days of the week and child is read aloud to most days of the week" comments--annoying enough that reading logs stopped coming home.  Ha!  (Seriously though, Bud's teacher and I had a fantastic relationship and she knew how much we were reading at home--which is the point of reading logs.)  Also, I didn't feel like they had a tremendous or unreasonable amount of homework and the projects they were assigned to complete at home were worthwhile.

    on testing, location, and volunteering
    I loved that the school is within walking distance.  I really think this adds to our quality of life.  I know not everyone would feel this way, but for us, I loved that the boys got to start their day with fresh air, vitamin D, and exercise as they rode their bikes or scooters to school.  I also liked being able to walk to the school with them or when I needed to drop something off, attend an event, or volunteer.  This is something I've thought about quite a bit as we considered a school farther away.

    • I loved that they literally had a lunch hour.  (58 minutes to be exact.)  Plenty of time to eat and get sweaty.  
    • I loved volunteering in their classes.  I was able to spend 2 hours a month in Bud's classroom and help with a couple of their class parties and activities. 

    • We opted Mowgli out of the state testing.  I had no idea going in that there would be so many days of testing (I wrongly assumed it was a 1-2 day thing) so it got a little tricky keeping track of it all, but his teacher was excellent at communicating with me, which I really appreciated.  There were days I picked him up, days I took him late, days I kept him home and we homeschooled, and days I just made sure he had a good book tucked in his bag.
    • I loved that Bud (2nd grade) was able to sit on an exercise ball and is something I would request in the future, if not offered.  
    on reading
    The parts of homeschooling that I loved doing with the kids and that we highly value, we made sure to keep up on, like reading aloud to the kids.  The baby (totally not a baby anymore, I know) goes to bed hours before the boys and so we have some quiet(ish) and calm(ish) hours at bedtime that have led to some great opportunities to read and discuss.  We also enjoyed reading in the car on vacation and on ski trips.  

    The books we read this year: 
    Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Phenomenal book!  So much to discuss here!)
    The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman
    The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
    James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    The BFG by Roald Dahl
    The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    Esio Trot by Roald Dahl
    Encycolpedia Brown Cracks the Case by Donald J. Sobol {audio}

    And we are currently working our way through Ida B. (I had no idea going in that it was about a homeschooled girl going to public school.)

    on adventure
    One of my concerns back in the beginning was about having time for adventures and experiences.  We certainly weren't flippant about missing days of school, but we also didn't hesitate to pull the kids out if it meant we could participate in a great adventure or experience.

    We played hooky a couple of days for this:

    And this.  (Museum of Natural Curiosity)

    And pulled them out an hour early for a free trip to The Natural History Museum:

    and The Compassion Experience:

    And we took full advantage of school breaks for more adventures and put Mowgli's Every Kid in a Park Pass to good use.  We learned that things are VERY busy during spring break, which really made us miss the old days of swimming in an empty pool!

    Hoover Dam 2009 and 2016!

    Zion National Park

    Coming out of a lava tube in Snow Canyon State Park.

     Attending a sting ray feeding.  (So cool!) 

    Grand Teton National Park during Fall Break. 

    on what's next
    We have discussed many options from homeschooling to distance learning to a charter school to public school and part time public school.  If it exists, we've considered it.   But, friends, it's all up in the air right now.  We'll see what the summer brings.   

    I think there's three main lessons I've learned this year:

    1. Homeschooling doesn't take as long.  When it's just one kid working on a math assignment, it's a pretty quick thing.  But if you've got to teach 35 kids (Mowgli's class size!) and then wait for 35 kids to finish the assignment, it's obviously going to take more time.  Lots of people told me this, but now I know it for myself and if we find ourselves homeschooling again, this knowledge will be tremendously helpful in the stop-freaking-out-department.

    2.  It's okay to try new things--even scary things! (Oh boy was I scared 9 months ago.)  And those boys were such good sports.  They didn't want to go and then we talked and encouraged and then they got excited and then they went and then they flourished


    After this year, I'm left feeling like these two worlds of public school and homeschooling can fuse and become a great thing for our family.

    That's a wrap friends.

    We did it!       


    Monday, May 23, 2016

    Raising Awareness for Child-Sex Trafficking with Go Jane Give

    Six weeks ago I sat on a train bound for the city alongside my sister.

    I stared out the window, lost in my thoughts. I turned to her, "I can't stop thinking about all the suffering. The pain. The needs. Do you realize children as young as four are being sold for sex? Some are sold by their own parents. But what can I do?"

    I had just recently listened to a podcast (episode 24) about a family that up and moved to Cambodia to help prevent child sex trafficking. I so admired their efforts and contribution.

    I continued, "I should be doing something. I can't just sit in my comfortable home in the suburbs, running kids here and there and continue ignoring the needs of so many. But it's so overwhelming. I have no idea where to start."  

    A couple of weeks later, on a Friday morning, I posted this after visiting a friend of mine in the assisted living center in which she resides:  

    "Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the needs in the world and I feel heavy with burden wondering what I can do to make a difference. I especially worry about the mistreatment of women and children.  I am trying to recognize the good I can do in my own community and the light that can be given to those around me who are suffering. I may not be able to rescue on a large scale (right now) but I can offer some relief that matters to one."

    Hours after that post, I sat at my computer and came across Go Jane Give and I marveled at the timing.

    Go Jane Give is a new and amazing platform for lifestyle giving that inspires women to use their talents, interests, and everyday tasks to raise money for causes that are near and dear to them.  You'll find women donating photo shoots, homemade baby food, baked goods, lessons, or even hours of silence in exchange for donations and to raise awareness. 

    I didn't even finish reading the blog post about Go Jane Give, before I clicked over and started my own fundraiser.  (I really should have thought through my fundraiser a bit further, but I was soooooo excited to have found a way to be able to help!)

    I chose to raise awareness and funds for Prajwala:

    "20 million women and children are trafficked and tortured every year in the sex trade. Prajwala, an internationally recognized nonprofit, has rescued and rehabilitated over 15,600 survivors of sex trafficking and prevented more than 8,000 others from entering the sex trade. When you support Prajwala, you provide educational opportunities, housing, vocational support and recovery tools for sex trade survivors. You also help prevent children from being sold into sex slavery in the most hard-hit areas of India."

    I offered fresh-baked bread to anyone who donated $15 or more and two hours of decluttering and organizational services to anyone who donated $50 or more.

    Because of incredible friends and family (and a couple of strangers), the $500 goal was met three days later.

    I am still offering fresh bread to anyone who makes a $15 donation (if you live in my area.)  You can find my Go Jane Give fundraiser HERE.

    And an article about my experience HERE.  

    What an incredible thing Go Jane Give has provided, to be able to offer direct support and relief from our own little corner of the world!

    "Helping is helping even when it feels like a drop in the ocean."

    Monday, March 14, 2016

    Celebrating Easter and Holy Week

    We began celebrating Holy Week along with Easter several years ago and oh how we love it!  This year we're a bit behind as we haven't planted our resurrection garden yet.  I had great plans of doing it last night, but as we got going I realized we used the rest of the grass seed to fill in a gap in the yard last year.  Hopefully we can get the ball rolling and get to it tonight. 

    If you're interested, you can click HERE for the day-by-day outline of our Christ Centered Easter and Holy Week from rice krispy tombs, to Palm Sunday, reading scriptures by candlelight, flat bread recipe, an Easter Tree printable and more.

    Here's what our Easter Tree looked like at the end of the week.  There are two pages of images you can print, cut, punch, and hang.  Each image depicts what happened that day of Christ's last week.  The full outline includes scripture verses, videos, activities and ideas for each day of Holy Week.



    Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    A Fifth Birthday

    Last night I tucked my sweet, little boy in bed for the final time, as a four year old.  I told him he couldn't turn 5.  I begged him not to.  He said, "I have to do it.  It's the ways Jesus made me." 

    He's been so anxious for this day and was careful to put a bold square around his big day on the calendar he has hanging at his bedside.

    We woke him up with our beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday." Ha!  Then we all climbed into our bed and opened presents (a scalp massager, ABC Spot It!, and a soccer ball--we're pretty simple around here.)  He is such a great receiver and we got to playing ABC Spot It right away and played a few rounds before it was time for all of us to get up and going.  I think he may love the scalp massager more than anything (I've been enjoying it too!) 

    Later in the afternoon, we whipped up some cupcakes.  

    And while we did that, Tigerlily did this: 

    She was not one bit pleased that she wasn't front and center of the baking process.  

    Hawk had a friend come over to play for a few hours.  Here he is showing the drawing his friend drew for him.  So cute. 

    No birthday is complete without costumes! 

    Hawk chose the same birthday dinner he chose last year: nachos.  

    During dinner we all took turns telling something we love about Hawk.  I loved hearing the heartfelt and thoughtful comments from the kids.   

    We wrapped up the day with a bedtime story, "Happy Birthday To You!" by Dr. Seuss. 

    5 things about this birthday boy:

    1.  He tells me randomly and often he loves me.  He may be playing across the room and he'll shout, "I love you, mom."   (I don't ever want to forget this.)

    2.  He is a good friend.  He doesn't leave people out and he plays nicely.  I don't think he's got a mean bone in his body. 

    3. I love how he tries to teach his baby sister good things.  He wants her to say "please" and "thank you" and he's so good at helping her. 

    4.  His imagination is so fun to see in action.  His head is chock-full of interesting things.  

    5.  He loves boiled eggs, yogurt, and cooking his own egg sandwiches, and he's become obsessed with soccer. 

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