Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Homeschool


"I just like to know," said Pooh humbly.

Have you ever had a quote that really resonated with you? This line from "Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne has always stuck with me because it summarizes how I approach life. For me, the knowing involves a constant state of learning. And even in the busier phases of my life, I find myself itching to learn more about everything. So I devour more books than most adults (mostly of the non-fiction variety), I scour the internet, I read blogs and listen to podcasts, and I constantly stretch myself to learn all manner of subjects. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.

I hadn't planned on homeschooling. One of the reasons we moved to where we live is the excellent school system. But, here we are, on the brink of homeschool.


Last year I experimented with getting my kids outside daily and I also happened to read a book called "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. This book got my wheels turning. Why are kids expected to start spending so much time inside at an early age? Why were we in such a hurry to speed childhood along? Why this diversion from play-based learning and more of an emphasis on medicating kids that have trouble sitting still in school? I couldn't shake the thoughts.

Then all of a sudden we were in the middle of kindergarten readiness activities (it creeps up on you!). These activities included attending a parent-teacher conference with Jack's preschool teacher, going to a kindergarten readiness meeting, and taking a tour of the school we are zoned for. While we checked these items off our list of things to do to prepare for kindergarten, I happened to read the book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" by Diane Ravitch.


If you don't want to question how school is being done in America, don't read this book. But I did read it, and my doubts about public school, especially in regards to kindergarten, grew.

I was torn because we have excellent schools without having to pay for private, but I have strong feelings about the requirement of a seven-hour school day for kindergarten. Can Jack attend school for that long each day? Sure, he's capable. But what would he actually gain from that amount of time in a classroom? When I look at my child and his capabilities and the things he loves, I don't know that a classroom setting with 20+ kids and one teacher is the right fit.


Am I worried about his socialization? Nope. Jack does not meet a stranger and we have constant exposure to other families and kids that I think will provide enough so-called socialization.

Do I want to homeschool for religious reasons? Sure, we can instill our family values and beliefs in our children through homeschool, but we would do that regardless of where they attended school.

What if he gets behind? Based on the things Jack has already learned from us (with minimal effort), I am confident that formal education at home will allow him to blossom further with the added benefit of us being able to tailor his studies to topics he loves.


A third book that I recently finished was "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education" by is an internationally recognized leader in the development of innovation and human resources who shared a TED talk about education in 2006. He inspired so many people, he has gone on to share his knowledge and inspire even more through books he has written. 

I have not watched his TED talk, but his book Creative Schools is chock full of observations and recommendations from professionals that emphasize rethinking how education is currently done. I could have highlighted the entire book! The book is engaging and informative and gave me a lot to think about in regards to how homeschooling will look for our family (in light of the ways it needs to change in the public school sector). Here are a few of the passages that especially resonated with me:

When standardized tests are the primary factor in accountability, the temptation is to use tests to define curriculum and focus instruction.


In my view, a balanced curriculum should give equal status and resources to the following: the arts, humanities, language arts, mathematics, physical education, and science. Each addresses major areas of intelligence, cultural knowledge, and personal development.

"Failure is an important part of the process... This critical part of the learning experience– the learning that comes from failure– is far too often programmed out of the academic curriculum." – Larry Rosenstock, High Tech High

"The world economy no longer pays for what you know, Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know." – Andreas Schleicher, Secretary General, OECO

In national and global surveys, employers don't complain about applicants lacking specific knowledge or technical skills, which are easy to test and express in a letter grade; they want employees who can analyze critically, collaborate, communicate, solve problems, and think critically." – Joe Bower, science/language teacher in Alberta, Canada


...in most respects, individuals are most like themselves with their own temperatures, interests, talents and dispositions. You can help your children by treating them as individuals and not by assuming that they should follow the same paths or be judged by the same criteria at school.

...the greatest argument for homeschooling: that it allows you to push your children where your child needs pushing... while also letting you give your child enormous room for improvisation and discovery.

Effective education is always a balance between rigor and freedom, tradition and innovation, the individual and the group, theory and practice, the inner and the outer world.


It has always been my belief that no matter where our kids attended school, we would supplement their education at home. I still believe this, but for the time being, supplementing will actually be teaching. I don't believe it is possible to teach everything there is to know, but I can teach them how to learn and equip them with the desire to learn. With that ability and desire, the world will be at their fingertips.

Here are a few podcast series about homeschooling that have really resonated with me and shaped how I think our homeschool will work:
The Homeschool Sisters
Wild and Free Children
Brave Writer

Monday, April 24, 2017

Baby Hulk │Isaac's 2nd Birthday Party

On Isaac's actual birthday, he was happy to stomp in puddles and we decided to take him to our favorite local Mexican place, El Metate, for dinner. Isaac LOVES salsa.


At age two we thought he might still be a little young to be sung to at the restaurant, so we skipped the official birthday festivities there (they smash whip cream into your face). We still enjoyed our meal (and I didn't have to cook). Plus, salsa!


It was probably a good thing we skipped the singing, because on Saturday we celebrated his birthday with our small group. This meant singing to him and enjoying cake with friends. He was incredibly bashful for the singing part (see above video).


We must be settling comfortably into parenting two children if Isaac's official birthday party is any indication. While we love him dearly, due to this busy season of life, there was very little planning for this party.


Instead of an invitation, there was a last minute email sent to family 10 days beforehand.


Instead of Pinterest worthy-(ish) decorations, there were window stickers from the Target $1 bins.


We continued with my family's traditional Pistachio cake, to make the party sort-of themed, I stuck Jack's Hulk figurine in the middle of the cake and added pulverized Oreos and Reese's to make it look like Hulk was smashing his way out of the cake.


Our family brought Isaac some delightful gifts – everything was a hit, especially the costumes! Isaac and Jack have been playing with all of the goodies non-stop since everyone left.


For lunch I made grilled chicken and pulled pork carnitas. My philosophy is: you can't go wrong with Tex-Mex. And it's fairly easy to pull together for a crowd.


Isaac was still a bit bashful for round two of the Happy Birthday song with family...


We are grateful for everyone that was able to make the drive (in torrential rain no less) to celebrate our youngest boy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Isaac is TWO!

 

Another year has passed and Isaac is as endearing as ever. While Jack is a lot like Daniel and I in personality, Isaac has his own unique to him personality (Jack is unique too, just a lot more like us). And he really completes our family.


Isaac is full of laughter and personality. I know that he will grow into the comedian in our household. I can see him being the one who will tell the funniest stories, pull the biggest pranks, and keep us all on our toes.


He is incredibly lovable, but also seems to innately know how to be a little pest. A true little brother.


When he is going to do something he shouldn't or wants to annoy Jack, he will make sure whoever is on the receiving end of his pestering is paying attention. If we ignore him he won't follow through. For example, he likes to drop the remote control behind the couch, but only when we are watching.


Most of his pestering antics involve Jack. One time we watched Isaac walk over to a tower of blocks that Jack had been building. Isaac got a glint in his eye, marched up and put his hands on the tower, looked around, saw that Jack wasn't paying attention, and proceeded to walk away from the blocks. If Jack had been paying attention, the blocks would have been pushed over and Isaac would have gleefully run away.


It's a good thing he is cute because he knows how to push our buttons when he wants to! But he also has a sweet side and gives sweet hugs and kisses and wants to be with all of us. Even if that means wrestling with his big brother (a favorite past time in our home).


Isaac is a great climber and has mastered stairs and ladders and pretty much anything he thinks he can climb. He will be in the tops of trees with his brother as soon as he grows a bit more. With all of his climbing (and lack of caution), we have to keep a watchful eye on him (more than we ever had to with Jack)!


As a second child, Isaac is not particularly interested in language. He communicates just fine with us and hasn't made great strides to broaden his vocabulary. Though he does say about 40 words including:

Daddy/Dada, Mommy/Mama (also daddy's and mommy's), Jack, So (sophie), bike, ball, truck, dump truck, side (outside), shoe, boots, nana (banana), ap-ble (apple), oge (orange), doc (dog), WALMART! (translates to roll down the car window), dis (this), dat (that), mo (more), mel (milk), bear (he has a beloved stuffed bear that he carries around and sleeps with), read, book, ride bike, Y, buckle (he likes to help buckle his seat belt now), blocks, car, wa wa (water), bath, diaper, box (we get a lot of UPS deliveries), Baba (grandpa), Grammy, Nana, bible (any book that isn't a kid's book), bye bye, hi, night night, please, baby, teeth, eyes, mouth, ears, nose, belly, wipe (toilet paper/baby wipe), egg, Wow!, NO! He also points out squirrels and birds to us but we haven't figured out what his actual word is for these animals.


He recently quit sitting in his high chair and refuses a booster seat. This makes dinner time a bit more challenging because he likes to wander when he finishes. Interestingly, it is easiest for us to keep him at the table when we eat at a restaurant. Mexican is his favorite and he loves salsa. He uses the chips as a scoop to shovel in as much salsa as possible.


After meals he likes to clear his plate and will set it down on the floor for Sophie to lick. Speaking of Sophie, he loves her (and all dogs). He follows her around and laughs hysterically. Thankfully he is fairly respectful of her and they have a good relationship.


He loves to do whatever Jack is doing. Whether riding bikes, riding in the gator or just playing with whatever toys Jack wants to play with. He is great at independent play and will rarely sit in front of the television (though he recently discovered Elmo).


A recent thing is that he wants to help me cook, so he stands on a chair next to me, a safe distance from the stove, and "helps" or I put him on the ground with a bowl and spoon.


He is so ready to go to preschool. He is always sad when we drop Jack off, but loves to wear Jack's backpack home when I let him. He also loves to run around in just a diaper and wear this back pack! Unfortunately he had a recent (late) onset of separation anxiety. Thankfully it is mild and will hopefully resolve soon.


Isaac recently started showing interest in the potty. He wants to sit on it fully clothed and then practices wiping and throwing the TP away. I'm not ready to start potty training, but it may be sooner than later?


There is so much I could share, but I will close now. We are so blessed by our funny little guy who loves to pester his big brother, make messes, and sneak food from the pantry!


Lock Flock Family Reunion, 2017

When I was growing up, my family didn't take vacations in the traditional sense. We never went to the beach. We never visited Dis...