Profiling Aprendemos Academy

Aprendemos Academy is a small, multi-grade school. Our campus is located in a modest 4 bedroom home on the east coast, though classes have been known to take place just about anywhere.  Including, but not limited to, the local Outback restaurant, where dinner turned into a geography lesson.

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Our student body consists of three active, energetic children, GeekBoy, thePinkDiva, and BigBoy.

GeekBoy is a hands-on kind of kid.  He loves experiments and building things with his legos.  He is also very much a gamer with his current favorites being Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and Zoo Tycoon 2.  He is into Mythbusters, and love to replicate any experiment the teacher will let him try.  (Diet Coke and Mentos anyone?)  He does have his challenges, like dsygraphia, and prefers to draw rather than write.  As such, his curriculum has been adjusted to allow him to dictate or type any written reports.  He even has his own blog, which he uses to write some of his reports.  Overall, he is a very sweet, very bright kid whether he knows it or not.  This first grader has both challenged and amazed his teacher by his abilities.  The teacher is constantly scrambling to find age appropriate, yet challenging reading material for this child, who reads a good 4 to 5 grade levels above his age.

thePinkDiva is very auditory/visual.  Bored easily, this one wants everyone around her to entertain her all the time.  She continually tests the norms, often refusing to give correct answers despite her knowledge just to see how the teacher reacts.  She is an adventurous spirit, locked inside a porcelain doll.  Fragile, yet strong.  This preschooler loves writing.  She thrives on work books where her brother despises them.  Don’t let her grade level fool you, this preschooler is doing kindergarten math.  She knows her letter sounds and how to read, but would rather give wrong answers and watch her teacher’s head turn purple and explode.  Somehow she thinks this is funny.

BigBoy is a laid back, yet fearless 3 year old.  Technically too young, and although not doing any official schooling, this little guy loves to tag along with his older siblings.  As a result, this 3 year old is not only reaching his physical milestones ahead of schedule, and speaking clearer then most high schoolers in D.C. (so said his grandfather), he is also learning simple math (can tell how many wore cookies he needs to equal three) and knows his colors, body parts, positional words, and is often meeting and in some cases surpassing the developmental milestones for a 5 year old.

So what kind of teacher could possibly meet all the challenges these three students present?  Surely it would take a certified teacher with years of college and possibly even a master’s degree to be able to meet each of the challenges presented by these students.  It couldn’t possibly be their college-dropout mom.  No.  It couldn’t possibly be their high-school graduate, 19 years of military training, yet uncertified father.  No.  Surely, they must hire a certified tutor to be able to know how to teach these children.  Right?  I mean after all, the college-dropout who spends every free moment researching ideas and theories online, the woman who has made Google and Wiki-pedia her best friends in this effort, the woman who spends hours trying to find the best strategies, and new ways to challenge her students.  This woman couldn’t possibly be the one responsible for the advanced knowledge of these challenging students.  No.  They must hire someone.

Wrong.  The “teacher” of this small, home-based school is none other than their college drop-out mother.  A woman who loves her children so much, she has given up the illusions of a grand career in digital scrapbook design, and instead focuses that creative energy on her three children and their education.  Despite their teacher’s lack of credentials, the kids are flourishing because of the love their teacher/mother has for them.  The same love which drives her to spend her free time researching, creating studies, finding fun field trips, and learning more about everything and anything her kids might want to know.

“As a mother, I want the best for my children.  I want them to have the best education possible to be sure that they can accomplish whatever they want in life.  As a teacher, it’s my job to not only meet the challenges each of my children present me with, but to also challenge them.  It’s not a rose garden.  The road of the Home Educator is riddled with self-doubt, worry, and stress.  This is not a path for the faint of heart. ” – Lorraine Yuriar, teacher and mother

This post brought to you as part of Home Education Week at Principled Discovery. Join the fun!

Home Education Week!

A Look Back

I can not really look back at life “before I was a Home Educator.” I have always been a Home Educator. After all, I taught these children to walk, and talk. Why is it any different to be the one who taught them to read and write?

We began officially homeschooling when GeekBoy was due to enter Kindergarten. He had done a brief two year stint in a part-time, church-run preschool, but we just could not afford the full-time Kindergarten class, and there was absolutely no way I could send my son, and his gentle spirit, off to the wolves in public school. That left us with homeschool.

So what do I miss of life “before homeschool”? Well, every once in a great while, when the kids are fighting non-stop and everything seems to be going wrong, I miss the dream. The dream that one day my days would be my own again. The dream of the bright yellow bus that would come and whisk my offspring off to school leaving me free to pursue my design career, or actually get some housework done, or even just go to the bathroom at least once a day without having someone bang on the door wailing, “Mo-o-om!!!” Yes. The dream.

Reality is, public school, or any school for that matter, is not the utopian answer to my dream that my dream makes it out to be. I’ve met families who wind up basically homeschooling their children every night because the schools are not doing what they consider to be a good enough job. Dinner and the short time after wouldn’t be as enjoyable if there were nightly fights about homework, and oh how there would be, I know from my own school experience. Not to mention all the time we would have to spend de-programming the bad “stuff” they would bring home (curse words, propaganda, etc).

When you get right down to it though, I just wouldn’t miss this for the world! The light in GeekBoy’s smile as throughout the day he randomly pops out math facts that have popped in his head, only to discover he is right! The twinkle in thePinkDiva’s eye when she reads a word correctly the first time she tries. BigBoy’s laughter as he discovers a new trick he can do. (IE: stand on one foot, hop, jump from the couch to the pile of pillows without getting hurt, climb the end of his bed and throw himself to the mattress – yea. he’s my fearless one. *S*)

Although we started this journey primarily because we don’t have the money for private school, even if I won a million dollars tomorrow, there is no way I could bear to put these kids into a school, and miss all those moments. The more I’ve learned about home schooling, about my kids, and about myself… The more I feel that this is truly God’s calling for me.

This post brought to you as part of Home Education Week at Principled Discovery. Join the fun!

Home Education Week!

Sheltered is not always bad…

Heart of the Matter asks us today for our thoughts on the quote: “Clearly there is an appropriate kind of sheltering. When those who are opposed to homeschooling accuse me of sheltering my children, my reply is always, ‘What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?” ~R.C. Sproul Jr

Shelter is defined as “protection: the condition of being protected.”  My children are a gift from God. (Ps. 127:3)  God promises to provide refuge, aka shelter, for His children.  (Prov. 14:26)  Can I do no less for my own children?

We grown-ups need to stop putting adult problems on our children.  There is no reason for a 7 or 8 year old child to need s-x education.  Children that age don’t need to be taught about “Heather’s two mommies” or anything like that.  They need freedom to be a child.

So what if I choose to protect that kind, gentle spirit within my son, instead of throwing him to the wolves that inhabit public school.  That’s my prerogative, nay, that’s my calling from the Lord.  I am the mother, I am called to protect my children.  Love them, nurture them, and keep them safe from harm, both physical and mental.

In the words of Anthony Biddle,  “What’s wrong with that?”

What I wish I had known…

The Friday Meme over at Heart of the Matter, What I wish I had known my first year of homeschooling.

I wish I had known…

To relax.  That school doesn’t have to be school at home.  That if he isn’t grasping the concept, we can give it a few days and try again in a different way.  That TV and Computer games can indeed be useful.  That my own attitudes about a subject would be projected until my kid, whether I told him how I felt about it or not.  That it’s perfectly ok to not just think outside the box, but to throw the box in the trash altogether.

Our first year out, we tried a big box type curriculum.   Actually, I think everyone needs something like that their first year out.  This homeschool thing can be scary.  Especially when the one who is trying to implement it is one who was raised in the “Sit down! Shut up! Listen here!  Do your workbook!” type school environment.  You can find lots of information about allowing your child to “deschool,” but mom and dad need to “deschool” also.

Homeschooling is fun.  But scary.  Trust me when I say you are not the only one who fears failing your children.  you are not the only one who wonders if everything truly will come out right in the end.  You are not the only one tempted by the big yellow bus.  You are not the only one asking yourself, “Am I doing enough?”  or “What grade level is this for?  Is he ready for it yet?”  “How do I teach this?” And you are definitely not the only one thinking, “I can’t do this!”

You can.  And you can do “it” better then some stranger who doesn’t know your kid from Adam.

Teachable moments are everywhere.

You just have learn to recognize them when you see them.  For example, fingernail cutting time.  In our house, this can be a big deal.  Our children are known for their over dramatic reactions, and clipping fingernails can turn into Emmy award winning performances involving the pain of cut nail.  *Side note – They are not really in any pain, as evidenced in the fact that distraction techniques work to stop the drama.  We do not cut fingernails to the quick.  They are just being over dramatic.*  A few nights ago, Daddy was cutting GeekBoy’s fingernails, and began to quiz him on multiplication facts.  It worked as a distractor until they got to one that GeekBoy did not know how to work out in his head.  I was passing through the room, and heard what was going on, so I pulled out the white board, and helped GeekBoy work through the problem.  Then we did several others.  He completely forgot what his father was doing.

Next up!  BigBoy.  He is too little from something like multiplication, but we are working on letter recognition.  So I started to write letters on the board and before he even knew Daddy had started, his fingernails were all cut.

Last, but most assuredly not least, thePinkDiva, our newly crowned 5 year old.   We’ve been working on simple math and reading, so I started of with some 1+1, and then we finished with a series of “_AT” words.  Finally, she read the sentence, “Fat cat sat on rat.”  all by herself.  And again, Daddy was done with her fingers before she even realized he had started.

A teachable moment can be anything.  It can be a lesson in morality brought on by a movie or tv show.  It can be a conversation over the dinner table.  Even a tick bite can be teachable.  When BigBoy got bit last Saturday, after killing the tick, we – the mom and dad – learned more about ticks in the area and the possible diseases and what to watch for.  Then when I found a tick crawling on my leg, I managed to capture it (after throwing it into the bathtub, recovering my wits, checking the kids for more ticks, and taking a picture so it could be more easily identified).  I plan to use it to let GeekBoy do his own tick research.  Even though I’ve identified it, I will let him take a stab at ID’ing it and see if he can figure it out too.  We will learn how to identify species of bugs, and how to research bugs to learn more about their habitat.  We will also learn about what to do if he finds one on him (call mom or dad!) and what not to do to.

It should be fun.  A science lesson from a tick.  Teachable moments.

Like Mother, like son

So, I found this link to a Reading Level Assessment Test, and had Geek Boy take the “San Diego Quick Assessment” this morning. The idea is, you miss one, your good, miss 2 words and this is your instruction level, 3 words tells you this level would be too hard.

GeekBoy breezed through levels 1-4, missed 2 words in level 5, and 2 words in level 6. Then he didn’t want to read anymore because, silly boy, he wanted breakfast. So I told him he’s reading at a 5th & 6th grade level. Yup. My first grader is not only doing 3rd grade math, he’s reading on a 5th/6th grade level. Wow.

Guess that explains why he can rip through the Magic Treehouse books so fast – one book in a few hours.

**In case you were wondering, he gets it from me. *S* I was reading at or above high school level when I was in 5th and 6th grade.

You can get invovled!

I know. I know I just posted about not worrying. And I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to act when given the chance. So I’m cross posting this one everywhere I can, bear with me.

HSLDA has given us a chance to sign a petition. The petition requests that the California Courts “depublish” the recent ruling against homeschooling. This means that the ruling would apply only to that specific family, and not to the whole state. Please. Go. Sign it. You do not have to be a member of HSLDA. You do not even have to be a homeschooler. But if you value parental rights, please, sign it.

I’m also not the only one who has made the link between this ruling and S.B. 777. Dr. James Dobson has joined the fight on the side of parents, and his team also made the connection. You can listen to his broadcast about this battle here.

Please, help the parents of California stem the erosion of parental rights. Sign the petition.

Thanks.

As goes California, so goes the Nation.

You know it’s true. California is one of the biggest states in the Union, but because it’s heart and soul are tied up in Hollywood, it’s influence over the Nation is tremendous.

So the recent ruling that homeschooling is not protected by the constitution and therefore illegal, is very troubling. The Law in California stated that parents who were “capable of teaching” could either apply to be qualified as a private school, or enroll their children in an umbrella or virtual school as part of an “independent study program,” or they could hire a private, certified tutor. Then came the ruling that effectively takes away all options but the private tutor option.

The fact that this ruling comes on the heels of S.B. 777, a bill that promotes the teaching of alternative sexual lifestyles as well as forces schools to allow boys into the girls locker rooms (and vis-versa) if they say they “feel like a girl.” Teaching marriage as man and woman has been effectively banned, unless the alternatives of same-sex marriages and bisexual, open relationships are also discussed – with kids as young as Kindergarten!

Do not make the mistake of thinking that this does not affect private schools. With the addition of A.B. 14, California law now makes it clear that any daycare, social program (including but not limited to – soup kitchens to gang preventions to jobs programs), even privately owned, religious hospitals must now accept the new standards or face being cut off from public funding. As for schools, well. Part of S.B. 777 states that an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance, or that enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid” must comply with the new alternative sexual education law. That means if even one child in your school is there on a school voucher, you have to comply, no matter your religious beliefs.

So what does this mean for low-income families, like us, who would not be able to afford a private tutor or the tuition at a private school not taking government funding? Public school, with it’s forced sexualization of children at young ages, or move. At the moment, I can not express just how glad I am that we do not live in California.

But how long? How long until homeschooling becomes illegal nationwide and families are forced to either go underground or deal with a government system that thinks it knows what is best for your kids? Make no mistake, this latest ruling is an attempt by the state of California to strike back at the thousands of parents who are pulling their kids out of school in response to S.B. 777.

If Hillary wins the Presidency, it won’t be long. As noted by blogger Jaque Dixon, Hil supports the UN’s Convention on the Rights of a Child which declares homeschooling to be child-endangerment, and would force all private and charter schools to conform to UN standards. Spunky has the video that proves that Hillary also does not believe that parents are capable of spending their own money in regards to the education of their children.

If Barack Obama wins, he wants to start putting infants into school settings, and begin educating infants to prepare them for kindergarten. Whatever happened to letting kids be kids?

If McCain wins, the future of homeschooling is not clear. He does support parental choice. He says, “parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children.” The only question in my mind is, does he allow for homeschooling as an option when he says students should be allowed to “change schools”?

For me, the argument boils down to this – They are my children, not the state’s. God gave them to me and my husband. (Ps 127:3) We are the ones charged with their wellbeing and upbringing. The Biblical case is laid out quite well over here, just ignore the junky background, and focus on the Scriptures. Last time I checked, the United States Constitution, in Article I of the Bill of Rights, still guarantees me the right to Freedom of Religion. While Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” people, especially those in governments trying to force their opinions and ways on Christians, often forget the last half of the verse is, “and unto God the things that are God’s.” Since my children are a gift from God, and because God considers them His (Isaiah 29:23), I am obligated to care for these kids, not turn them over to the state.

If that makes me a rebel, so be it.

“I don’t want to fire him. Let’s get him some training!”

Recently, I’ve been reading Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning by Marc Prensky.  It’s been eye opening.  Obviously I recognize the importance and value of games and computers to learning.  My kids love Starfall, Seasame Workshop, and NickJr.  But GeekBoy is quickly outgrowing the games on those sites.  He still loves to play around there occasionally, but it’s really below his skill level.  So what’s a momma to do?

I called my little sister Nani.  Nani loves games.  She had a few lying around that she wasn’t using anymore, so she sent GeekBoy a box with RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and some others that he is wholly uninterested in at the moment.   Lately he’s been learning about Park Management, Finances, Customer Service, and Personnel Management.  All things that will help him in the business world.

But the Tycoon series isn’t the only set of fun, yet educational games.  Try Civilization III, or World of Warcraft (learn to manage a guild, and co operate with others), even Grand Theft Auto (a lesson in what NOT to do).  Just about any computer or video game out has educational merit.  You just have to look for it.

Even seemingly mindless games like Zuma can be learning tools.   Critical thinking and split second decisions are needed to win at Zuma.  Both are skills needed to survive in the business world and in life.  So the hour or so spent playing Zuma was really life lessons in decision making.  Interesting.

I’m telling you.  Read the book.  It will so change your thinking about video/computer games.