Yep, Still Homeschooling

So, we're now 4th grade and 6th grade, and in our 4th year of homeschooling. We've had some discussions recently about going back to public school, but my guess is it won't be until high school. I think it's mostly a curiosity for the younger one (she was pulled out in 1st grade), and an interest in peers and talking to boys for the older one
(you did not hear that from me).
But when we sit down to really discuss what that would mean (ie you'd have to wear something besides pajamas all day, you'd have homework everyday, and you'd have to get up before noon - yes, I have lazy children, but they are indeed children) they quickly abandon the idea.
So, they're stuck with me for a few more years.
We recently fixed up our homeschool 'room' - which is mostly just a sectioned off part of the upstairs gameroom - the rest of the gameroom is 'Barbie World' - which is just that - a WORLD of Barbies (more on that later).
It functions much better this way (I realize you have no idea what it looked like the other way, but trust me, this is a huge improvement). I have my desk, and they have their individual workstations. It's bright and cheerful with lots of books and art supplies. I'm not sure what more a itty bitty school room needs. We're moving again soon anyway, hopefully for good this time, but until we are settled in something other than a rental it's hard to claim a space entirely. So, we make do.

One thing I've noticed recently with our schooling at home, is how much more relaxed I am now after 4 years, than I was the first few. The first year in particular was quite stressful and difficult. We gave ourselves plenty of time to adjust, but I don't think I allowed myself time to just breathe.
The first few years of homeschooling you feel like you have so much to prove. Not just to yourself, your spouse, or even your kids, but to the world outside. The unsupportive extended family, the school system you left behind, the mom friends you made with kids still in public school, the ladies in the grocery store asking why your kids aren't in school today...there's this pressure to account for your ruinous choice at every corner.
At least in your mind there is. I can't say for sure it's really there. Could be just another of the perceived burdens us moms like to stack on our shoulders.
Yeah, pile it on! Let's do this!
But, in year four, I'm over it. I've interviewed so many homeschooling moms at this point, and read so many books, articles, blogs, etc, that the only conclusion I can come to is this: they're gonna be OK. They will probably even THRIVE. And even if they don't, it's still OK. Because the alternative is unacceptable at this point in our journey.
Yes, I still worry. I worry that we should be doing more. I worry we should be testing. I worry they don't have enough friends. I worry they're not going to get into college. I worry they are not reaching their full potential (if they were in public school would they be in band, or cheerleading, or in some sort of leadership group?) Are they missing out? Can I really farm all that out and still give them something similar at home?
I recently hired a young girl to work in my vintage shop. She's 17 and homeschooled (finishing up her senior year). She's bright, clever, crafty, responsible, mature. She loves to travel and learn from other cultures. She's independent. She's a Young Life leader. She stops at the corner grocery on her way to work some days to buy food to pass out to homeless people she sees on the street. She's compassion and generous. She wants to fly airplanes. She's normal, and yet, not typical. After a few months of working in my shop, she's practically running the place. Did I mention, she's only 17?
I'm so thankful for her. Her parents must be so proud. I have grilled her to no end about her homeschool experience. I even had her talk to my daughters. You see, this young girl wanted to go to public school and even begged her parents to put her back in school. They finally gave in when she was 9th grade and she went to high school one year. After a few months, she says she was over it and quickly realized she wasn't missing out. She had plenty of friends, missed being in her pajamas all day, could do sports or other activities on the side, had very little in common with the public school kids, hated the testing, and well, was much happier learning at home.
I've met so many other young adults who were homeschooled recently. As well as moms who homeschooled 2, 3, 4, and in some cases 5 kiddos at the same time. I love talking to them and hearing their stories. They're always encouraging and supportive and so willing to share information or groups or co-ops. It is truly a wonderful community, and I'm so thankful for them.
So, at this point, despite my worrying, we're doing good with our homeschooling. The hardest part is staying motivated. I think next year we may try a different approach to curriculum and workbooks. I haven't quite decided what that is yet. Something in between un-schooling and self-directed learning. But that's one of the glorious things about this whole experience: we can make it up as we go. There really is no right or wrong way.
It's your journey with your kids. Claim it and make it your own.
They will be OK! 

Dissection 101: Part 2

OK, so we finished up our dissection 'class' this past weekend. In this round we dissected a pig heart, a perch, and a snake.

The heart was difficult to cut into and wasn't quite what we were expecting in terms of well, the amount of muscle and difficulty in operating and identifying. Also, the simple, small, if not plastic dissection kit that comes with these specimens made the project all the more difficult as it wasn't up to the task of cutting into preserved muscle tissue. Next time we'll know to buy the upgraded kit.

But, it's still interesting to peer inside things you might not otherwise ever peer inside of. Since we have girly girls who don't enjoy fish or fishing or really, anything fish related, the opportunity for them to gut a fish fresh off their rod just wasn't going to present itself anytime soon. My brothers fished and hunted, still do, and I used to know how to gut a catfish, but alas, our girls are different and have little interest in such we purchased a perch to peer into. So be it.

All in the name of science, right? I'm just thankful they at least enjoy the science aspect of it. And feel compassion for the critters on the table.

The snake was the most interesting of the critters we dissected. I have a unhealthy fear of snakes that I'm afraid I might have passed along to my girls at some point in our journey together. I feel bad about this, and thought maybe if we all held one in our hands (um, deceased of course) and cut it open, it wouldn't seem so 'scary.' I think there's some truth in this. I still think they're creepy, but I'm hoping maybe now they're not so panic attack creepy.

And, ironically, the snake had a dead fish in its belly. Circle of life.
In conclusion, my science/nature loving kids have informed me they will NOT be pursuing degrees having anything to do with mammals, fish, reptiles, or anything that involves slicing open living or dead things, smelly things, things with guts, things that eat other things, things that pump blood, or things that slither, or swim.
At least we've ruled something out.

Dissection 101

So, we did some dissection recently. I have one kiddo who finds this sort of thing freakishly interesting.
Not sure if I should be worried or excited about that. 
The other kiddo stands as far back as she can. From all forms of schooling really, but in particular from anything 'sciency.'
First up was Mr. Worm. He wasn't very interesting until we discovered his 5 hearts. Why a critter this small and seemingly inconsequential has 5 hearts is beyond me. But, there it be.

Next up was Mr. Cricket (yes, they were all Misters - we don't cut up girls).

Really, he was a mess. This is what having only one heart can get cha.

And then came Mr. Crayfish (in Texas we call them crawdads).

Yep, that's his poop-a-majig

Mr. Frog was by far the most interesting, as well as the easiest to complete our seek and find on. He also garnered the most sympathy as he seemed rather sweet and peaceful.

For the most part.


Sorry Mr. Frog!! But thank you for teaching us!
Our last dissect on this particular day was Mr. Shark Dude.

Even the squeamish kiddo was excited to see what was on the inside of this one, as we were told you might find some of its last meal still left in its belly. And, well, it's not every day you get to touch and feel (and cut open) a shark.
But, alas...I got this particular critter from a different source than the others, and as you can see, he wasn't nearly as well preserved. He looked like a weathered old grandpa shark.

He was so dried out it was like trying to cut into jerky. By the time we got him open, the kids were off climbing trees.

So much for science!
Still left to dissect: a heart, a snake, and a perch! Stay tuned!

Girly Scouts

We joined a homeschool Girl Scout troop this past fall. It's been one of the best decisions we've made since we started homeschooling. Just a wonderful group of moms and daughters. We've made such good friends, and love having a like-minded community to brain-storm, explore, and be creative with.

I made the girls some sit-upons shortly after we joined this new troop. When I was a troop leader a few years ago I had the girls make sit-upons at the start of our Brownie year, but unfortunately, I didn't pick durable enough material and they didn't last very long. Since I had some scrap jean squares leftover from the quilt I made a few months ago, I decided to use those this time instead of the, ahem, shower curtain material we used last time. I cut up some old Girl Scout shirts we no longer wore, and added a few fun patches.

Hopefully these will last a little longer.

Here are a few highlights of our year. One Brownie, one Junior...