Good News, Great News

With over two weeks of public school under our belts – I wanted to update everyone on how things have been, and how both Em, Dave and I are adjusting to our new norm.

A Seventh Grade Reading Level?!

Recently Em took an online reading test. As her homeroom teacher, Ms. L. explained, the more the student knows, the more questions they are asked. Em scored high, a 212, which equaled out to mean she is reading at a 7th-grade level. Considering she is in 5th grade, and that it took until she was eight before she felt comfortable reading, I thought this was a fabulous score.

I’ve beaten myself up a lot about not reading enough with her – but I think just the exposure alone to books and an advanced vocabulary has helped enormously.

Embracing Science

Yesterday I was on the phone when Em came home and instead of coming upstairs, she went straight to the kitchen. I finished with my call and headed down to see her.

I expected that she hadn’t liked lunch and was grabbing a snack – which in a sense she was – but her mind was fully on reproducing a science experiment that her science teacher, Ms. G., had shown them. She had taken the basic recipe for salt dough, and substituted sugar for a majority of the salt (“But not all sugar, because that would have made it too sweet, Mama”) and was busy chowing down on a flour, water, sugar and small amount of salt mixture.

I took these photos and emailed them to her teacher. Props to Ms. G, you are an awesome science teacher!

Our New Rituals

Each morning during the week, Em wakes up at around 7 a.m. Since her school provides breakfast and lunch free of charge, there is only a handful of duties in the morning before she has to leave: make sure Sugar has food and water, brush hair, and get dressed. She often does this as I do stretching exercises on the floor of our workout room.

She likes it when I walk her to school so we walk together to the end of the block and then a kiss and hug and she is off with the crossing guard across and then down the street to the back doors of the school.

In the afternoon, she runs home and barrels into my arms, smiling and happy (except for one day when she didn’t have enough lunch and showed that she is as prone to hypoglycemic attacks as I am).

In the evening, at around 8 p.m. we begin bedtime rituals. A bath first. Then afterward we brush our teeth together and then snuggle up in my king-size bed for a half hour of reading.

Last night, the time got away from us both and it was 8:52 when she asked for us to read together. “I know I need to be in bed, but this is my favorite time of the day with you, Mama.”

And how could I say “no” to that? We read until 9:20 in Mary Poppins.

I’m Finally Okay With This

I will admit it. When I first decided to do it, to put her in school and let go of the reins, I was frustrated, overwhelmed, and very depressed. It felt like a failure like I was giving up.

And in a perfect world, I would be independently wealthy, possess the perfect blend of Mary Poppins and the mom from Leave it To Beaver, and be able to spend my days feeding her curiosity.

But for now, in this time and space and with these teachers (yes, even Ms. W has come round and seems to really like Em), Em has what she needs. And that is such an incredible relief for me. It means that I can focus on work and make things run smoother here in the house and in our renovation projects. It means that at the end of the day I haven’t struggled to get her to do what she needs to do. I’m not worn out from educating and parenting all day long and I really, REALLY love being able to lie down with her and read each night.

All of this has brought us closer – and we are all a lot happier with the results.

A month or two ago, I could never have imagined that it could be this good. I guess I did better than I initially thought and Em is responding better than I could have hoped – both combining into a huge WIN for this little family.

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Fits and Starts

Today Em will be back at Whittier. I slept poorly for the second night in a row, my thoughts occupied with running through our options…

  • try again with Kauffman
  • return to Whittier
  • augment Whittier with a touch of homeschool during our mom/daughter time

And every time I thought of returning for a second or third day with Kauffman, I flashed onto the memory of Em’s tear-filled eyes beseeching me to tell them the truth, that we had agreed to one day, and one day only.

She was scared, intimidated, and was also tired, hungry and suffering from her fall allergies. It wasn’t a perfect test, but I have to live with the results and agree that, for now, Whittier is our best choice.

A Catastrophic Day

We received an acceptance offer to Kauffman Charter School on Wednesday, and despite having “made up our minds to attend Whittier” I couldn’t help but wonder if we should at least give it a chance.

Em was not excited. She was also beginning to get the sniffles – a sure sign of fall allergies setting in – but she agreed to “try out Kauffman for one day.”

On Wednesday night she was quite nervous, and slept in our room, tossing and turning, talking in her sleep. Dave, who had ear plugs in, was the only who got a full night’s sleep.

Combine that with the early hour, not enough breakfast, and a full immersion into the school’s unique way of educating children and we had nothing less than catastrophe.

Worse, I was told by the staff member to pick her up at 4:30, but Kauffman has an early release all this week at 1:30! So Em waited for half an hour, dissolving into tears, The phone rang at 2pm, “Come get me, school let out at 1:30.” She couldn’t manage to say anything more and I ran for the door and drove there as quickly as I could.

I finally got there, went to the wrong gate, then parked when I should have pulled forward to some invisible place I knew nothing about and went to the front office which was the incorrect place to go. They were kind and walked her over to the office where she appeared, face and eyes swollen from crying, and buried her face in my chest.

“We will see you tomorrow, Emily!” the staff member chirped brightly and Em stared up at me, her eyes brimming with unshed tears, silently beseeching me to set them right.

This morning I called them and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is going to work out this year. Frankly, she was terrified and overwhelmed.”

Reading Adventures – Full Steam Ahead!

A few days ago I was watching Curiosity Stream “The Real Mary Poppins” and I felt a huge twinge of sadness. On our bookshelves in our library are four of the Mary Poppins books in hardcover, purchased when Em was a baby or I was pregnant with her. We began to read the first book years ago, but never finished.

My heart twanged with sadness. Was it too late? Had I missed our window?

Years ago, struggling as a single mom, I had wanted to buy all of the Oz books, in hardcover when I discovered them coming out at the local Barnes and Noble. I had wanted to read each one to Dee, but time, energy, finances and more had meant that we never did, something I regretted immensely over the years.

I have come to believe that parenting is made up of 25% interactions and 75% guilt.

I checked on Amazon for the age range, realized it was ages 10-12, and immediately proposed we read the first Mary Poppins book after we finished When A Monster Calls. By the way, this was an excellent, if grim book. Fair warning, it will make you cry!And now I’m trying to figure out how to shove the Oz books, of which I have all of the first 14 and possibly half of the next 14 (written by Ruth Plumly Thompson), as well as Little House on the Prairie collection, Anne of Green Gables collection, and Lemony Snicket’s books all into our reading repertoire.One chapter a night, at least 4-5 nights per week. That’s my goal.Now that the onus of homeschooling is off of my plate, reading isn’t “an activity to shove in before bedtime in addition to all of the other gotta do’s” – it’s time with Em to cuddle close and enjoy her presence. It also means a limit to her screen time each evening, but in a way that she will enjoy.

The Trio of Fairies Continues

It occurred to me that I have not updated on our continued fairy journal. And I will predicate this by saying that we do not write often. This is because I forget to…constantly…despite having several obscure notes on my desk reminding me to do so (they kind of get buried under other papers).

In any case, Em is enjoying her interactions with Whip,Snap and Per, limited as they are. It provides a nice note of levity to our days, and Em responds so well to the pretense that I cannot help but continue.

Here are the last few interactions…

In case this is hard to read it says:”Dear Whip, Snap and Per – We haven’t talked in a while so here’s an update today. I [hurt] a lot and it feels like I [might] have burned myself on a firework but the pain started this morning but I’m not [sure] please write me back I miss you three bye – Em-Lee”

The fairies call her “Em-Lee” which she finds amusing, so they have continued to do this. Here is how the responded…

Em wrote back rather quickly…

And my response back (finally) yesterday…

She had a good giggle this morning as she read the entry and immediately noticed it was from Whip. She enjoys it, and we both pretend that I am merely a bystander in all of this. I regularly comment that fairies “are rather unreliable, flighty things” to explain my inability to remember to write back regularly.

She takes it in stride. When she is tired of waiting she comes to me and says, “Mama, the fairies STILL haven’t written back.”

And then I try desperately to remember while she is still asleep in the morning.

It’s all about timing, after all. The little shits are nocturnal.

Internal Struggles

It isn’t PC to post about your emotional turmoil – to speak frankly, or worse to continue to repeat what your pain feels like. We live in a society that admonishes us to “buck up” and “put on a brave face” after all.

But six weeks after what felt like the final blow in Dee’s and my relationship and I’m still reeling, still floundering about and trying to define who I am in the face of a diatribe of labels. I am also trying to match her words with the person I had spent 18 months peaceably living with from May 2015 to December 2016 (not to mention her first 18 years of existence).  The years we had spent working out our issues, and the past 18 months of not only living together but often working together – having such a different, starkly negative outlook from her, it continues to shake me.

I look at Em and think of how much I love her. How much I loved her sister. I think about how I put off college when Dee was struggling in school. Because to work full-time AND go to college meant I wasn’t there and present for her. And she came first. I had no idea at the time the gravity of the situation affecting her, no inkling that my second husband was not the man I thought he was, but still. I was willing to wait, to put off college and focus on what was important, her.

And with Em, the decision on whether to homeschool or not was an exquisitely painful one. Was I neglecting her by working? Had I condemned her to a sub-par education because I was concerning myself with retirement and money issues?

Not a single one of my decisions as of late have been easy. The decision to not argue, not post a blistering response to the fallacies uttered by my eldest, to not defend myself in any way – that was really hard. It’s still hard. Of all the people in the world, the ones we love have the greatest capacity to hurt us. They know our secret fears, they know just how and where to twist that knife.

Accepting that I could not give Em the best educational experience, due to needing to work, write and more – that was really hard. I look at her and remember Dee at her age. I was desperate to slow down time, to extend each minute, each hour, and truly enjoy my time with them. I was, and still am, painfully aware of how quickly our children grow into adults.

These fears, these moments of sheer misery reach out and smack me regularly. They wake me up in the middle of the night and will not let go for hours.

I say this, not because I need sympathy, kind words, or advice. Honestly? They won’t help. I just need to experience it, and hopefully make it to the other side. I need to accept that my eldest will no longer be in my life and that there is nothing to do or say to change that. She does not want me.

I say it because I know there are others out there going through painful moments. They may not be the same, the circumstances tweaked in a far different way. But it is there. Hold strong. Allow yourself to grieve, to question yourself (and to create new answers) about the person that you truly are.

I doubt I will ever understand why this has happened now, after all of these years and effort, sacrifice and love. But I know that I have to accept it and move on. I have a child who loves me and needs me – and she is who I am going to focus on. Because in the end, that is really all that is left to do.

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Engaged Parents, Engaged Teachers

Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day comes to us thanks to Merriam-Webster’s automatic email…

perfunctory – routine or mechanical in nature

It is from the Latin word perfunctorius and the Latin root perfungi (to accomplish)

Em liked the word and wrote it down along with the definition and other info.

Engaged Parents, Engaged Teachers

I took some time yesterday to send emails to the principal, Em’s science teacher and math teacher. I knew their names, but could not remember the others.

I heard back from the math teacher Mr. G within a few hours. His answer was short and rather “perfunctory” to quote our Word of the Day.

Thank you for contacting me.  I will be working with her on those specific skills. You should see growth in her math by mid quarter.  Feel free to contact me anytime.

I had asked if there were any skills building we needed to address at home, but it sounds like he definitely wants to handle it himself. That was a little disappointing.

The science teacher, Ms. G, responded late last night and included a picture!

I can tell she loves science!  She seems to love school.  You have a lovely child that has a want t o learn.  Here is a picture of her making NON NEWTONIAN FLUID today.  She was super excited because she has made it before.  I hope she came home and told you about it 🙂

 

And this morning, after Em reminded me of her Social Studies teacher’s name Ms. J, I sent her an email and received this back:

Hello Ms. Shuck!

Thank you so much for reaching out and getting me your email, definitely easiest to reach me by as well! She is definitely already a great part of the classroom, and seems to be adjusting to travelling all over the school well.

So far not much else to tell, early days yet. Just as a sneak peek into what we are doing right now: map skills and map making. Started yesterday with North East South and West, moving to by the end of the week or start of the next maping out our own classroom!

Again thanks for reaching out, and hope you stay dry today!

~Ms. J

I’m feeling better about it all with each teacher I hear back from.

I want each teacher to know that, even if I have stepped down from a role educating her in core curriculum, I am still her teacher and mentor and I will be involved and interested.

Second Day Went Well

Em reported that her second day went quite well and that gave me hope. She had positive interactions with all of her teachers, and even got a high five from Mrs. W, along with making the teacher laugh over something Em had written.

She is making friends, and told me she had helped others make the ooblek or “Non-Newtonian Liquid” in Science class.

More importantly, her fears seem to have disappeared. She knows her way around the school and feels comfortable with most of her teachers. Fingers crossed, my girl is doing well!

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The Official First Day of School

Overall, Em’s first day of school went well, except for one concern, and it is a big one. At least for me.

Em has two Language Arts teachers, Ms. L, who is her homeroom teacher, and Mrs. W. As I understand it, one teacher handles reading (Mrs. W) and the other (Ms. L) writing, although I am unsure on this and will be getting clarification later.

Em had a good connection with each of her teachers, except for Mrs. W. It started off with a practice of getting up from their seats without making scraping noises. She had them practice and Em thought she had done well, but Mrs. W singled her out for special attention.

This unnerved Em, but the issue later in the day was the one I took exception to.

If Em is reporting it correctly, Mrs. W said, “Well over here,” she gestured to a group at the back of the room, “we have our excellent readers, mmhm.” Then she waved her hands at another area, “And over here we have our good readers, mmhmm. And over here we have our poor readers.” And with that last designation, she turned to Emily’s table and just looked at her and the other children seated there.

Mrs. W is the room we were in during “meet your teacher” night when the principal came in and asked Em to step out of the room and then said, “Could you give us an idea of where Emily stands academically?”

I think he was half-convinced that she could not read. I gave an honest assessment as I saw it, “I think you will find her at grade level or above for reading, a little behind with spelling although I do have rather high standards, and at grade level or slightly below for math.”

He asked if we could have her read a paragraph or two to assess her reading and turned to Mrs. W, “Would you mind grabbing something for her to read?”

Mrs. W returned with a first-grade reader. I raised my eyebrows at that, but let the short test continue. Em came in, read the paragraph with little hesitation and the principal looked rather relieved. “She will do fine,” he said.

But now I am wondering what exactly that meant. Also, Mrs. W has had no other examples of Em’s reading skills since she has not heard her read aloud beyond that one small example.

So…

I’ve got a message in to Ms. L to better understand exactly what each teacher handles. I have also discussed with Em the idea that there may be preconceived notions at play here. After all, there are plenty of myths associated with homeschoolers. That they are behind academically can be one of them. I suggested to her that we help change Mrs. W’s mind about that.

“I think we need to help her understand how broad your vocabulary is, and that you are continuing to learn each day at home as well as school,” I said. “So why don’t I share the Word of the Day email I get with you each morning? We can talk about the definition and use it in a sentence. Perhaps if she sees you understand bigger words that might help.”

After I understand better the two teachers’ roles, I plan on reaching out to the principal and asking for a basic assessment/placement test. That way we have a clear understanding of where she is grade level-wise and I will take steps at home to help augment her learning in school so that her understanding rises to a level that is in line with grade expectations or better.

And finally, if the problems with Mrs. W continue, I will not tolerate my child being made to feel insufficient or stupid in anyone’s class. I will take the step of insisting she attend Mrs. L’s classes only OR remove her from this school.

One thing is for sure, I’m not going to repeat the mistake I made with Danielle’s education – that of allowing any school, principal, counselor or teacher to run slip-shod over me or my child in order to fulfill their own script of how education should be.

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Changes – Here, There and Everywhere

 

You may have read the last entry and thought “end of an era.” And you may have figured there would be no more entries.

And perhaps it is. And perhaps there won’t be. But I doubt it.

For now, for this school year and perhaps permanently, I have stepped down from my role of teaching core subjects and being my daughter’s primary educator. However, I remain her teacher, her mentor, in so many things that I already find myself with things to say.

For one, it is the first day of school for Emily. Her first day of public school, that is.

This morning, as we cuddled close she whispered, “I’m scared.”

I hugged her close and kissed her hair. I didn’t whisper reassurances, I didn’t tell her it would be easy peasy and that she would be a-okay. Instead I said,

“It’s okay to be scared. Just like it is okay to be excited. During this school year, you will probably feel everything from ‘why did I ever want to go to public school” to “I wish I could have been here since kindergarten.’ And all of that is okay and expected.” She nestled closer. “There will be kids who are mean, and kids who are nice. You will meet some who you can’t wait to be friends with and others who will probably never be okay. You will have teachers that you love, and teachers who you might wish you don’t have. There will be times when you are bored and times when you are fascinated by what you are learning. Just remember, to be yourself, sweetheart. Because you are wonderful. And I love you.”

Later, after I had walked her around the school, said hello to her homeroom teacher and hugged her goodbye at the door to the cafeteria, I walked home to fix breakfast for my dad.

I thought about this blog and decided a slight change in name would be appropriate. In fact, it is far more accurate. I am, and always have been an advocate of learning, in whatever form that takes. I can’t do much about the domain name for now, and I don’t know how much I will be posting here even still, but for now, the title reflects where I am, where we are.

I’ve come to some measure of peace with our decision. I made it for several reasons:

  • have to work. For our future, for our now, we must have the additional income.
  • Balancing so much, I have felt scattered, unprepared, and insufficient as Em’s teacher
  • The schism between my eldest, specifically her memories, however inaccurate they were, has caused me to question everything (my parenting, my teaching skills, even who I am as a human being) all over again and has put me in a mental space that adds to my fears of being less of the teacher Em needs.

While I continue to recover from that last reason, I don’t feel it is fair for Em to be caught in the middle. She deserves me to be steadfast, reliable and loving – something I cannot be when I am constantly questioning myself. It doesn’t make for a good learning experience.

I look forward to seeing her smiling face as she exits school today. I hope she will have a skip in her step, I hope she will have made a friend, or even a handful, and I hope she will tell me about each and every one of her teachers. I’ll be waiting on the corner for her, knowing I have done something right if she is happy and less scared and at peace with this new dynamic.

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And This is Where I Cry “Uncle”

Before 1997, I hadn’t even heard of the word “homeschooling.”

I moved back home to Kansas City, Missouri when I was 27, with my almost nine-year-old in tow. Down the street from us was an odd-shaped house full of children. “They homeschool,” my mother said it quietly, under her breath, almost as if it were an affliction.

“Is that legal?” I asked.

It was, of course. And slowly, as I watched problem after problem surface during Danielle’s path from Kindergarten through eighth grade, I dreamed of homeschooling her. I was scared though. What did I know about teaching my child? And working full-time, how could I possibly do it?

Every bump in the road. Every mean kid, bad teacher, or poor grade – it would remind me of my own difficulties in school and I was desperate to change the paradigm.

And less than five years later, I would join the homeschooling ranks, pulling my child out of school and doing my best to homeschool her.

I would like to tell you that it was just hard at first, that I got my sea legs and grew confident in my homeschooling abilities. But, honestly? That never happened.

I had some extremely high points with Danielle – she studied politics, women’s history, and wrote papers. It was, by far, the most rewarding homeschool experience I have had. I still felt a little adrift, so I encouraged her to go to community college once she had her driver’s license. After all, she would get a start on her agemates, heck, maybe even have an Associates degree when they were still kicking it in high school.

It didn’t work out that way.

And when I was pregnant with Emily, my mind was made up. I was going to do it right, all the way through, from start to end. I was going to be a homeschool mom from the word “go!”

When Em was four, nearly five, I spent more than a month gathering materials, designing a curriculum, and planning our days.

That curriculum and those meticulous plans were thrown out of the window in less than two weeks. And that was because I was stubborn, it had really been over within the first two hours.

And over the next six years there have been various renditions of that – rinse and repeat – try something new, give up, try something else, have limited success, move on to the next thing.

And Em has learned many things along the way. She learned to read, print, write in cursive, spell, add/subtract, multiply/divide…mostly. She loved science classes with LEARN Math and Science, playing with friends, and art.

She squirmed through social studies and yawned a lot. And her personality, always kind and loving, has florished. She is popular, well-spoken, and kids and adults both are drawn to her.

And we have lumbered on with homeschooling, in fits and starts, for six years.

Me feeling more or less incompetent, her mostly bored, and homeschool hanging on by a thread.

And then last month happened. And in the midst of dealing with what is, hands down, the worst pain I have ever felt in my years as a mother, I realized today that there is nothing that escapes the feelings of self-doubt and questioning that have risen like a flood in response to Danielle’s post.

I’ve certainly had these questions before…

Am I continuing to homeschool out of some ego/pride thing?

Would she be better off in a school?

Does she need more structure than I am providing?

Are my own personal experiences with public school coloring my outlook?

Em is so outgoing, so at home with new people and new experiences. She’s different than me, or her sister. I would go as far as to say that she is most surely an extrovert, where we are very firmly introverts.

And of either of my two children, I would point to her and say that she has the most chance of success in a public setting.

These feelings of inadequacy that I have, coupled with the devastating pain I have felt in the past month, have collided. I am left feeling insufficient and full of shortcomings. And Em, my outgoing kiddo, who squirms in her seat and voluntarily takes a dreaded bath just to get out of homeschooling for a few extra minutes, is being her normal self.

In a public school setting, she will knock the socks off of the other kids in terms of good behavior. Part of me looks forward to meeting with her teachers. It will be a bright light of happiness, meeting them and hearing how well-behaved she is. But my decision to send her to public school tastes like failure. It is full of bitterness and disappointed dreams.

Nothing is set in stone, but it is looking more and more like we will be enrolling her in public school this year. Kauffman Charter School if we are really lucky, and nearby Whittier if we are not.

I’ve been standing on the edge of the cliff for a very long time. And my eldest’s words stirred up the hornet’s nest of self-hatred, insecurity, and uncertainty bred by decades of betrayal that I try so desperately to push away. I realized that I need a break – possibly a permanent one. I need time to grieve the loss of my eldest. Whether there is reconciliation or not in our future, she is someone I can never trust again. And that is a loss that has rocked my understanding of the world. I still struggle to accept it.

I need to bury myself in work and let teachers handle the job of teaching.

So this may be the last post on this website. Then again, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

But for now? I am crying “uncle.”

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First Day of Fifth Grade

First Day of Fifth Grade

The “first” day of school is rather a misnomer around here. After all, we school year-round, so I consider the 4th grade school year to officially end on July 31st, followed by the “first” day of fifth grade beginning the very next day.

That said, welcome to fifth grade my little sleeping beauty!

A Frantic Summer

It feels as if we have the opposite schedules of conventionally schooled children. In the summer it is a rolling ball of day camps, Harmony Project, and sleepovers. I barely get to see the kiddo at all!

And now that the summer camps are all officially over, I can relax, sort of.

She will have Harmony Project starting up in a couple of weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday from 4-5:30 pm. In September, both LEARN and soccer will start up.

And although we will miss it, I breathed a sigh of relief that I would not have to take Em to Peace Quest on Monday nights. It was just too much in addition to all of the other things we were doing. We were very lucky to have it for years, but I need my Monday evenings back!

Our Curriculum, Such As It Is

I’ve been honing in more on our starting curriculum. I say “starting” because, if it follows anything of a pattern, it will change, significantly, over the school year.

Not everything I try works, and that is fine. If the knowledge goes in, and the thinking occurs, I’m good with that!

Language Arts

As usual, I will be pushing reading, writing, and spelling. We use the weekly spelling lists through K-12 Reader. For writing, I will be using one of the Complete the Story books I picked up, along with intermittent entries back and forth with the Fairies journal. And I will be encouraging her to write to friends on a weekly or monthly basis. We will continue to read together and I will work with her to find books in our home library or buy more for her own independent reading adventures.

Mathematics

I continue to reinforce the basics – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. She can learn more about fractions through cooking, and this will actually be a responsibility of hers each Wednesday. More on that below. We might sprinkle in Life of Fred and Khan Academy, but she isn’t particularly excited about either of them. Mainly we do Real World Math and I don’t sweat it too much. In a few years, she can take a remedial math class at a community college and catch up quickly.

Science

I’m still trying to work out my schedule right now for fall. Fridays may have dual cleanings, which would interfere with me dropping Em off for LEARN Math & Science Club at Rockhurst Community Center. I’m trying to find a parent whose child is going to the afternoon class and structure it so that Em has a half day play date and then goes to LEARN Math and Science with the child.

I’m also working on finding some cool weekly science experiments from the Totally Irresponsible Science book.

Social Studies

I’m running with a cartoon theme for now. Em really enjoys graphic novels, so I found some that deal with non-fiction topics. The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part 1: From Columbus to the Constitution seemed a good place to start. I also purchased the Cartoon History of the United States. We will also use the internet to look up questions we have from what we have read.

When it comes to geography, I think she is finally ready for the Scrambled States of America game. This will help with U.S. geography and we will expand from there.

Critical Thinking and Philosophy

I really hope to guide Em down the road of critical thinking and building those skills now. I’m considering buying Comprehension and Critical Thinking for Grade 5 and The Fallacy Detective. That last book does say it is for ages 12 and up, and Em is just 11 years old, but what is one year?

Following on that same “cartoon” theme, I have two books – Heretics and The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy. We started in on Heretics towards the end of the school year, so we didn’t get far. I’ll resume with that and then use the other book to start some interesting conversations with the kiddo. Eventually we will study/read together Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy, but I looked over the book and I think Em will be bored/confused right now with it.

Music/Arts

This past year, Em made noise about not wanting to continue with Harmony Project. A program designed specifically for at risk inner-city youth, it teaches students how to read music, sing in a choir, and play a musical instrument. Em has been studying the cello for the past two years and she has done quite well in the program.

I told her that I wanted her to stick with it one more year. And this is the deciding year. In May, she will have the choice of either sticking with it or dropping out.

She has mentioned that she wants to be an artist, so we are exploring that as well and she is especially interested in sketching right now. That’s something she can do while I read to her or we watch documentaries and more.

Health/Living Skills

We will continue to read from What’s Happening to My Body for Girls, This book discusses in depth girls bodies, changes during puberty, and more.

I mentioned above that Em will be cooking one meal per week on Wednesdays. This will help with her math skills, since she will be cooking different meals, planning them in advance, and preparing them entirely on her own. I hope this will give her a sense of accomplishment, along with a much-needed skill.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Time to get to homeschooling!

Posted in Homeschool - Fine (and not so fine) Arts, Homeschool - General, Homeschool - Geography, Homeschool - History, Homeschool - Language Arts, Homeschool - Life Skills, Homeschool - Mathematics, Homeschool - Music | Comments Off on First Day of Fifth Grade

Word Nerds! (and other stories)

Word Nerds!

The call went out for class proposals with my local homeschool co-op and I immediately responded with the class I’ve been planning and talking about for several months.

Word Nerds is part spelling bee, part etymology, part writing and all words. I’m really looking forward to the class. We will:

  • Conduct weekly spelling tests (with the end goal of participating in our own spelling bee at the end of the following semester).
  • Dig into the origins of words. Where do they come from? What do all of those little parts mean?
  • Have fun with Mad Libs
  • Confound Christine (find a word I don’t know, spell it and define it for everyone, and you can add it to my Word Nerd lab coat)
  • Create art with words
  • Creative writing using word prompts

This will be on Wednesdays at LEARN at the Brush Creek Community Center location.

Lesson Planning for Fall

It suddenly dawned on me that it was mid-July and I haven’t done ANY planning for Em’s homeschool curriculum. We homeschool year-round, but the rest of this month is taken up with day camps and then a week of simply reading and a little journaling before we resume a “full” class load on August 1st.

So far, it is looking like this:

  • Spelling – 5th grade list that I downloaded from K-12 Reader
  • Math – Life of Fred and Khan Academy coupled with Real World Math
  • History – I’m running with a cartoon theme for now. Em really enjoys graphic novels, so I found some that deal with non-fiction topics. The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part 1: From Columbus to the Constitution seemed a good place to start. There is also the Cartoon History of the United States that I may buy if the first book is a success.
  • Philosophy – following on that same “cartoon” theme, I have two books – Heretics and The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy. We started in on Heretics towards the end of the school year, so we didn’t get far. I’ll resume with that and then use the other book to start some interesting conversations with the kiddo.
  • Reading and Writing – These continue to be challenging. In the age of computers and Minecraft, reading from a book or writing more than a few words at a time seem to be quite challenging and, according to Em, BORING. I expect her to give a new book a full 20 pages before setting it down and finding something else if she isn’t interested. And as for writing, well we have several options – Complete the Story, write in the Fairies journal, send a letter to a friend, or write in her journal.
  • Science will be handled by her attending LEARN Math and Science and also through Nature and Space documentaries as well as “How it’s Made” type videos.

There will be other things – such as more reading from What’s Happening to My Body for Girls, discussions about articles from Futurism, and possibly some field trips. Recently, Em went with a friend to the observatory in Atchison, Kansas and was able to see Uranus and her rings.

We remain eclectic in our curriculum planning and choices. Given the option, I am sure my munchkin would happily watch videos and play Minecraft all day. But that is not in the game plan.

Looking Ahead

When it comes to homeschooling high school, which is several years away, I’m hoping to wait until Em is 14, or nearly there, and then I will enroll her in a couple of college classes to augment her home studies. I won’t be worrying about that until Fall 2020.

My game plan is to start with 1-2 classes, then increase it to a max of 3 classes per semester. She could attend in the fall and spring semesters and then use the summers as an opportunity to work and make some money.

The nice thing about this is that by age 18, she may well have accumulated enough credits to graduate with an Associate’s.

I hope that I will be able to pay for her to go to a four-year college after that to get her Bachelor’s degree IF that is something she is interested in. The idea of paying for her schooling is a big step for me. I didn’t get that help from my parents, and I know how expensive it can be. But I have some ideas on how it could work. More on that another time.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this to ponder…

Posted in Community, Homeschool - General | Comments Off on Word Nerds! (and other stories)

Tackling Spelling – Through a New Approach

Image result for spelling meme

Last week, last Thursday to be exact, I was in a lot of pain. My back, which had been threatening to do it for weeks, and finally seized up. It was down low, on the left side, and I felt pretty useless.

At the same time as I was laying on a yoga mat, wishing the pain would go away, Em was gnashing her teeth over her spelling list for the week.

I get the spelling lists here by the way. They have them for First through Fifth grade and then High School and they have worked well for us. Well, usually.

As I said, Em was wailing and moaning about the spelling list. On Tuesday she had missed nine out of 21, on Wednesday she missed six, and she was not motivated to try for yet another day in a row.

“Come here,” I said and reached an arm out to her.

“Why?”

“Because I want to cuddle with you and I have an idea.”

If there is anything that wins this girl over, it’s cuddling with mom. She might be a tween and chomping at the bit to find her way through into her teen years, but she still loves to nestle her body against mine. As far as I’m concerned that can happily never end!

She scooted down to the floor, put her head on my outstretched arm and nestled close.

“Now, close your eyes, relax your body and take some deep breaths in and out.” She did this as I explained, “When I was your age and a little older, whenever I would take a spelling test I would imagine the word hanging before me, crisp black letters on a white background. I would visualize it, and then I would spell it.”

“Are you ready to try?” I asked her.

She nodded and I gave her the first word, “Spell ‘irrelevant.'”

She spelled it perfectly the first time through. Both times before it had been a mangled mess of letters and she had wailed at the long list of marked words.

We worked our way through the list and with any that she had trouble on or spelled incorrectly I would pause and ask her to re-spell it, thinking of how it might be spelled differently.

It was a phenomenal success. Even more so because she was happy curled up by my side, my arm around her.

This week, we tried it again and first time out of the gate she spelled all but three words correctly. I asked her to then practice those three words by printing them and writing them in cursive both while spelling them out loud.

I had tried getting her to visualize the words before, early on, but not in quite the same circumstances. There on the floor, close to me, and armed with the skills she has learned over the past two years of spelling tests, she was able to fully embrace the concept.

Go on, give it a try. And let me know how it works out for you!

Posted in Bonding, Homeschool - Language Arts | Comments Off on Tackling Spelling – Through a New Approach

A Trio of Fairies

I mentioned in my last post that I was considering reviving a practice I had with my eldest daughter – that of writing under a supernormal persona.

With Dee, it was an elfling. I briefly considered using Iliana again, but she was special and really for my eldest. For Em, I needed a whole new persona.

In the original stories back and forth, Iliana had three fairy friends (they always come in threes, in case you didn’t know) named Pip, Squee, and K. Two sisters, and a brother. I decided to create a similar trio for Emily. And after googling Pipsqueak, I found the word Whippersnapper. Which I shortened to Whip, Snap, and Per – also two girls and a boy.

But where to put the first note? I finally settled on putting it, rolled up, on top of her new satin pillowcase last night.

Hooman Girl NAMED EM-LEE

Find us in the room of books.

W-S-P

“Mama! Look at this!” Emily was bubbling over with excitement. “The room of books, that has to be the library!” A moment later, “I found it! I found it!” She eagerly unrolled the slip of paper that had been tucked into a box of books…

Hooman Girl-

We have been watching you from time to time.

We wish to understand you, and all hoomankind better.

Here in this room of books, is safety, luck, and more.

Will you speak with us of the hooman world? We have heard of other hooman child friendships and you seem nice, but can we trust you? Are you a friend of the fey?

Our name is Whip, Snap, and Per.

WE ARE FEY

“Oh wow,” Em breathed, her eyes dancing, “Oh, this is sooo exciting! I have to write them back this minute!”

She told me later that she had tears in her eyes, she was so excited about this adventure.

She asked a bunch of questions in her next note back, which I now cannot find (yet another reason to have all of them in one centralized spot), and I responded:

Dear Em-Lee Hoouman-

Most excellent and advantageous yet prompt is your response.

Yes, we are fairies.

Whip – female, green hair, green eyes

Snap – female, red hair, greenish blue eyes

Per – male, black hair, blue eyes

Fairies come in threes. Did you ever meet Pip, Squee, or K? They live near the shed in your old house.

We are cousins.

We have questions for you:

Have you ever participated in a ritual war? Did you win?

What is your favorite food?

W-S-P

There was a shout of glee this morning at the discovery of this third note.

A Dose of Reality

Of course she knows it is me. Despite this, we both speak of them as if they are real. I can’t help but feel that this is our last chance at pretend, at a fantasy world that the two of us can create together, visit from time to time, and giggle over.

There are moments when I wish I had been able to have more children. A whole passel of kids, honestly. When I was just six years old I met a baby who shared my middle name – Danielle – and I could not wait to grow up and have a baby I would give that name to.

As much as she may wish to convince herself otherwise, I have always loved her and wanted the best for her. I will admit, it was very, very hard playing second fiddle to her dad for all of those years. He loved to dig at me and tell me how much she liked him and how little she liked me. It was hard.

But I did what I could, I tried to be a better parent than I had seen modeled, and to connect with her and love her. And with little Em, it is the same. How can I be a better parent? How can I be kind, yet firm, loving, yet disciplined? How do I raise another human being to be independent, introspective, action-oriented and more?

I don’t parent in a fog – every day since a few months after my 18th birthday has been filled with those questions. Each day I try and answer them as best I can.

Why Fairies?

So, why fairies? I dunno, it sounded like a good idea at the time!

Honestly, though, judging from Em’s reaction, this is JUST what she needs from me. An odd and whimsical combination of practice writing letters, fun fantasy, intrigue, adventure, bonding, learning about another race (albeit an imaginary one), and I’m sure I’ll manage to throw in some ecological and historical info into the fray as well.

A Proper Book

“I think we need to go and get a proper journal for communicating with your fairies,” I told Em this morning. The joyful look on her face said it all.

It took us some time to find the right one. We wanted a combination of leather journal, unlined pages, and the proper paper feel. It took a while. In the end, she found one she was happy with.

She drew a picture, wrote TWO letters, and has placed the book near the spot where she found the second note. I have explained to her that most fairies are nocturnal. She was disappointed to hear this, but at least now I can be sure I have the ability to retrieve, write in, and return any of her missives while she sleeps in each morning.

And who knows? As a friend on FB pointed out, “This is how JK Rowling started out!”

Posted in Bonding, Homeschool - Language Arts | Comments Off on A Trio of Fairies