October 1 is almost here!

If you have a senior, you should know how important October 1 is these days.  It’s opening day for FASFA filing!  I recently listened to a couple of great podcasts about preparing for the FASFA over at Ultimate Homeschool Radio, and I highly recommend you check them!  FASFA Equals Free Money, and FASFA 12 Best Kept Secrets were very informative.  For instance, I had no idea that I needed an FSA ID to digitally sign the FASFA!  But thanks to the advice from Jean Burk, we applied for our IDs today, so we will have them ready by October 1.

One thing that I believe Ms. Burk got wrong is the tax information needed to file.  She mentions repeatedly in both shows about using the 2015 tax return to file.  That is the information printed on the form I downloaded, however that was last year’s form.  My research shows that will change come this October 1.  Yes, you would be using the prior-prior year’s return, however, come October 1, 2017, you will be filing for the 2018 school year.  That means that anyone filing for the 2018 school year should be using 2016 tax information.

But other than that, the podcasts were very informative.  I really appreciate Ms. Burk and Ms. Felice Gerwitz for putting together this great resource for folks like me.

The pissing match ends here.

Several more lies listed this week that I can so identify with.

“Everyone is more disciplined then you and way more spiritual.”
“Everyone else can do it all.”
“Everyone else is more capable than you.”
“You are the only one who is falling apart and feels this way.”

Homeschooling can be wonderful. But it is also very stressful. If you send your child to a school, and they can’t add or read “on time”, you can blame the teacher. But now… Now you are the teacher. If your kids don’t meet the standards, you have no one to blame but yourself. No one wants their child to be stupid. No one wants to be the lowest rung on the ladder. But just exactly what standard do we use to measure ourselves and our kids against? There really is no set what and when. For example, reading. Most schools want the kids reading at least by the time they hit first grade, if not earlier. But studies have shown that not every kid is ready to read by then. I’ve met some homeschoolers (old pros who’ve been doing this for more then 10-15 years) who admit that their kid didn’t start reading until well after the school-appropriate age, and yet their kids turned out just fine, some with college degrees even. So really, there is no set standard. The result, many of us wind up silently comparing our kids to the other kids at the Co-op meetings or support groups e-lists or park days.

Thus homeschooling is turned into a sort of pissing match among the moms. If Mom1’s kids are beating your kids in math, you are really hoping that your kids are beating hers in science or something, just to equalize things. We tend to brag about our children’s accomplishments, and hide the areas where we are falling short. We want the accolades, the oohs and ahhs, the “Wow, I need to try that,” from other moms. We don’t have a roomful of parents and kids ready to declare our wondrous teaching talents. We don’t have anyone giving us awards for being the best teacher. Most of us don’t even get a thank you for making dinner (In the interest of honesty, I do. My DH has made it a habit to thank me for things like that so the kids understand, and I of course reciprocate when he cooks) or doing the laundry. Our talents – be it cleaning, cooking, or getting those little light bulbs in our kids heads to click on – are often taken for granted by those around us. If we don’t proclaim our successes, who will?

I just love this little comic from Todd Wilson on this:

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How many times do we feel like Marci? That feeling of inadequacy, that is what drives us to find something, anything that our kid does better than Betty’s kids.  So we accentuate the positives, and ignore the negatives.  We pretend that everyday is kittens and sunshine, while our children hang on our every word.  We ignore the days we spend more time yelling then teaching.  We don’t mention the fact that we let them play computer games all day, or that we had a Mythbusters marathon and considered it Science class.  We act like we have a giant chip on our shoulder and feel the need to prove that we are doing just as well as Betty and her brood.  We want the affirmation.  We want someone to say that we are their best inspiration.  Then we feel guilty because it’s not the full story.  So we swear to make the changes that will have us fulfilling that vision we’ve put out there of the perfect family, with the perfect lessons, and the perfect everything, only to fail miserably.  Then we feel even worse because not only can we not achieve what we think Betty has, but we feel like a fraud for portraying that we do.

So how can we, as a homeschool community, fix this?  It won’t be easy.  But if we recognize that even Betty has bad days, and be more honest with ourselves and those around us, it would be a great start.

Homeschooling is not easy.  As Todd says on page 45,  “No one homeschools because it is easy.  Most do it because they think it is best.  That should comfort you because the best things are almost always the hardest things. …  Homeschooling must be really really good, because it’s really really hard.”  It is not always a bed of roses.  There are days when you will pop in a movie and pray for just 5 minutes alone in the bathroom to regain your sanity.  There are times when those days will out number anything else.  But as Todd says, we are God’s Plan A for our kids, and the best is yet to come.

Lies.

I’ve joined this study, with the rest of the women over at Heart of the Matter. Boy oh boy do I ever need this now.

So, at the end of chapter one, Todd Wilson asks, what are some of the lies that I might be believing about my kids and our homeschool journey?

Lie #1: They ain’t learning nuttin’. I mean, seriously, the proof is in the pudding, or the assessment test. GeekBoy is doing 3rd grade level Math, reads at a 5th/6th grade level, and he just finished his 2nd grade level Language workbook. He passed his CAT test with a 98% overall. thePinkDiva may not seem to be doing much, but she can read far more than she lets on. She also passed her Kindergarten CAT test, with a 64%. Not bad for my Pre-K kid. So, obviously, they are learning. The whole “unschooling” thing throws me for a loop. And then I here about others who are doing music lessons, and science fairs, and all that, and that leads to lie # 2.

Lie #2: I’m failing them. When I here about those in the area who are involved in co-ops and doing science fairs and running all over the state for lessons… I start to wonder. Am I doing enough with them? Should I be doing more? I grew up in a traditional system. so it’s hard for me to accept that not sitting at the table for even an hour, they can still be learning.

There are other lies… but those are the big two.

Teach your kid about the Internet before the Internet does

Recently, a parent on the home school support e-group asked us all, what do you do, what routines/products/procedures do you use to keep your kids safe online? The answers were astoundingly underwhelming.

The number one way parents were “keeping the kids safe online” was to simply limit their access to not just the internet, but computers in general. After that, several different filters were named, a fisher price computer accessory that limits access was another option for smaller kids, but only one parent mentioned teaching their kid about internet safety.

My kids are already pretty computer savvy. Up till now though, they have been content to stick to the websites I’ve given them, like NickJr.com, Starfall, and Sesame Street. But, the time has come. Geek Boy is living up to his name. He found HotWheels.com and Lego.com months ago, and he’s been noticing URLs all over. The little guy, BigBoy, likes all the racing games and Lego games, and wants to play too. What’s a Mama to do?

Teach them.

Teach them about the good and bad of the internet. Teach them how to protect themselves online. You wouldn’t send your kid into a football game without the right equipment, or without making sure he knows the rules. These are our top three, SafeKids has a more comprehensive list of rules.

Rules

  1. Never give out your password. Ever.
  2. Never ever give out personal information. This means your name, birthday, address, where you live, etc. Believe it or not, this includes your email address!
  3. If something doesn’t feel right, tell a grown-up!

There are several resources for parents, to educate ourselves so we can educate our children. CurrClick (formerly Homeschool Estore) has a great lesson book by HomeSchool Learning Network called Internet Safety. It’s a good read with lots of links to place online. I love that it explains marketing online, and teaches about how to recognize marketing traps, and avoid them. I also like the the segment on Internet Law. Parents need to stay on their toes though! While it is a great jumping off point, the Net changes at the snap of a finger. Parents need to do their own research and find how things have changed since this lesson booklet was put out in 2007. Primarily, HTML, while still used, is no longer the dominant force it once was. PHP and Flash are the new languages of choice for most web designers. Laws change constantly. The book says there are 50 Internet related laws being considered by congress. A quick search at the provided link to Thomas reveals 938. The book is definitely a good resource, but use it as a jumping off point, don’t think you are done once you’ve read it.

Internet Safety is important for our kids to learn at a young age. The state of Virginia just made Internet Safety Training mandatory for all students. The DOE website has some great tools and ideas for teaching internet safety. The Virginia Internet Safety Guidelines Resource PDF has a wealth of great information as well as links to awesome sites, such as the the PBS Internet License Test for munchkins, or the Microsoft Age-By-Age Guide to Internet Saftey. In fact, the Microsoft website has some great resources, even for family & gamer safety. The Virginia DOE site points to I-Safe, the Government funded internet safety educational resource. I-Safe is supposed to be a free online resource. While I haven’t yet tested this one myself, you can check out their I-Learn programs for yourself and see if they would be useful to you. They offer kids & teens, as well as courses for parents, and older adults, mentor programs, and law enforcement courses. The FBI has a great Parent’s Guide publication, which gives tips to help to minimize your child’s chances of become a victim online. ParentsTV.org offers articles about MySpace and Internet TV. CommonSense.com offers some good information on everything from IMs to Social Networking, to downloading to MMPOG (massive multiplayer online games).

My kids love games, especially internet games. I’ve found several Internet Safety themed game sites, including NetSmartz Kidz – which teaches kids about rules, safety, and netiquette. Media-Awareness has some fun games involving the 3 Little Pigs who learn about Net safety, Big Bad Wolves, and flaming. SafetyLand, while I have not tried it personally, looks to be a fun game about helping an Internet superhero defeat the bad guy who’s messing up Safety Land, and is run by AT&T.

We need to teach our kids these lessons before they get big enough to find Social Networking sites and chat rooms. As a parent, I want to stay informed of all the latest WEB2.0 innovations, internet jokes, etc., so that I will know what my kid is into. When they are old enough for Social networking, you can be sure that I will be their number one friend. Filters and keyloggers have their place for sure, but nothing beats an involved parent for keeping your kid safe.

Organization? Who needs it?

Truthfully, me. I need it. I used to be the most disorganized mass of humanity on the face of the earth. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was in the top ten. Then I found Flylady, and things have never been the same. I became organized, semi-efficient, and my house was never 15 minutes from messy, even if I didn’t do everything Marla said. Marla gave me the gift of routines, and it has saved my home.

So naturally I would apply those routines to homeschooling. Oh, I tried. I truly did. Our first 6 months in this crazy journey were highly scheduled and incredibly… painful. The enforcer in me brought out nothing but tears and fights in my son. Poor guy, he will most likely always be our guinea pig.

So what happened? How did we go from a scheduled, classical approach to our current unschool-ish eclectic approach?

Life.

Six months after we started, December hit. December is a rough month for me. While I had only planned on a week or two break for Christmas vacation, the depression that hit me at the begining of the month made it nigh onto impossible for me to continue the daily fight school had become. I needed a break, so we took one. For the whole month.

Then January rolled in, and brought with it a house hunting trip, and preparations to PCS (Permanent Change of Station for you non-military types. With all that packing, and traveling, and whatnot,we really didn’t get a chance to do a whole lot of “school,” and that was just fine by my son.

February brought a big move. We had bought our very own house for the first time ever, and were still stuck in the old place until the end of the month. Weekends were spent dropping the kids off at Gramma & Grampa’s house so we could come down for three day weekend and do as much of the renovations as possible before the kids and the household goods got here. Plus, there was a seemingly endless set of inspections and the never ending packing and decluttering to be sure that we didn’t move boxes of crap. Again, official “school” got kicked to the back burner.

March saw us happily settled in to our new home.  Just as we were ready to settle into a groove, life threw us a curveball.  And if that wasn’t enough, we got the double whammy.  After that April and May were a blur.  We literally just clung to each other in hopes of getting through the valley and back into the light.  Forget “school”, forget anything.  As long as everyone was clothed and fed, it was good day.

But somehow, through it all, my kids flourished.  By the time I was ready to start looking at school again, I retested him, figuring I’d have to find out where he was, and fill in the gaps.  The gap was not in what he hadn’t learned yet but should have, but rather, how far ahead of where he was “supposed to be” that he actually was!  It was eye opening to me!  After a few glitches with our curriculum order, we decided, screw it!  He did so well when we weren’t using the stuff…  why should we spend the thousand or so dollars?  So we sent it all back, got our money back, and have been flying by the seat of our pants ever since.  It’s been a nerve-wrackingly awesome ride.  But the results are clear.  Whatever we have, or haven’t been doing, it’s working.

I still need some semblance of organization though.   Hence the basket system.  Work books, and whatever they might want to play around with, available at their fingertips throughout the day.

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Even though we are big advocates of learning though teachable moments found everywhere and anywhere.   It does help to have a system in place for when they feel like “doing school.”

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

Home Education Week!

April Fools!

I’d love to say that every day here in Casa de Yuriar is all sunshine and roses, and happiness abounds.  Don’t be fooled by the pleasant front we put forth when we venture out from these four walls.

We have our fits, tempers, and frustrations.  There are days when we all wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  Days when momma is hormonal, and flingin’ dishes.   I don’t write about those days here, though I do often blow off steam on my personal blog.  I tend to not write about 30 minute screaming fits from thePinkDiva (there is a reason I nicknamed her Diva!), or the fact that BigBoy has hit the terrible twos a year late, and seems to think he can talk back and tell momma “no” to just about everything.  I tend to avoid blogging the times the big guy lashes out instead of thinking rationally, esp since it’s a daily occurrence.

I don’t like reliving the downside.  It only feeds my sense of failure.  So often, I gloss over the difficulties inherent with spending 24-7-365 with my brood.  Sure, there are times when I wish I could rent a hotel room for a weekend and just sleep.  But truth is, I would miss the little crumb-crunchers too much to spend all that much time away from them.

Although, things may be changing soon.  for a big announcement, check out my personal blog here.

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

Home Education Week!

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?”