Tag Archives: parenting

Curriculum, unschool, charter online…..?!?!?!

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We are getting closer to the end of our first year of homeschool. I have learned more than thought I would. Such as, teaching on only 3-4 hours average sleep per night is not a good idea, makes me a little less patient and a little more grumpy. Anyways, I’m learning a lot of really good things, too. I’ve learned to pay attention to what the girls are actually interested in. I’ve learned to let go a little more. Starting the day with what we are thankful for puts our focus in the right place. And that diffusing the right blend of essential oils in the room keeps us all calmer.

I never thought I would homeschool. It was a terrifying idea to me. Yet, here I am. And I am willing to continue. Not only continue, but the idea of unschooling is more appealing by the day. I still don’t quite get it, but I’m learning and reading. What matters most to me is that they learn because they want to, that they have the chance to pursue the things that are interesting to them. Because it no longer makes sense to teach a subject for the sake of teaching it. And because they don’t really retain it anyways. We are doing some early state history and my 4th grader is bored out of her mind with it-she hates it, she doesn’t want to learn about Oklahoma. She wants to learn about Africa, Asia and Europe. She wants to be a world traveller. She also has no desire to read the assigned books-they’re not particularly entertaining to her. She likes books that are funny. So, rather than keep forcing her to learn what bores her-I’m letting her set the pace and pick what she prefers. Does is really matter as long as she is reading? I don’t think it does. And honestly the state history of OK is pretty depressing. We had a discussion about Native Americans being forced from their homes and moved to OK. She gets it, that it was political and wrong. She has the makings of an activist. She also wants to learn code, film-making, creating mine craft mods, etc. And she wants to play an instrument.  Looks like we’re already on our way to unschool.

This entire year we’ve been connected to an online public charter school. I won’t be using this post to discuss in-depth how arbitrary and unnecessary I think state testing is, but let’s just say I hate it and I’m not doing it again after this year. It’s inefficient and tells me nothing really. Good-bye public education.

Then there’s my 2nd grader. She loves to move. She loves to be read to and her reading skills have really expanded this year. She is interested in aerial dance, horseback riding and wants to play cello. She cannot sit still without her attention totally captured. And as much as I like Oak Meadow’s curriculum that we’ve been using through this charter school-it isn’t quite cutting it. There’s a lot of second-guessing myself, am I making this interesting enough? Are we doing this “right”? I am the student that mastered the school system, but I left it still not knowing what really motivated me, what was interesting to me, what I wanted to do. It took until I was 29/30 to realize that I love science-specifically how the body works and what it needs to really flourish. It fascinates me. I feel like a sponge. I want my girls to have that opportunity now, not when they’re 30. Being well-rounded isn’t necessarily good. Learning to suffer through learning something you don’t care about isn’t really learning. (looks like I’ve talked myself into an unschooled after all)

Homeschool Adventures

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This year was our first attempt at homeschool. We ended up doing Oak Meadow through an online charter school. I had read in various places that other homeschoolers do not feel that charter schools online are “real” homeschool. I didn’t understand at the time, but I do now. Being tied to the state, having to deal with the stress of testing and the results, and being given extra work on top of what we are already doing is stressful. And it’s not particularly productive. These tests are not an accurate assessment of what my daughter knows. She completely freezes during the tests and loses all ability to comprehend. Her posture changes drastically and she looks so dejected, just from having to answer questions. It doesn’t help that it’s also timed. How ridiculous! Next year we will not be doing the charter school thing-even if it does have perks (like free curriculum and a learning fund to pay for horseback riding lessons). I would rather find a way to come up with the money myself to pay for all of these things than to subject her to this inefficient and inaccurate system of testing. No wonder people get up in arms over education. Thank God we are able to homeschool and she doesn’t have to go to a public school that would focus on testing and where she fits in that system. She doesn’t fit in their system.

This would have never have been a problem if we hadn’t been forced to test out of first grade into second grade simply to get the curriculum that best suited her learning. The first grade testing she flew through and did very well. She felt proud of herself. Now with the second grade testing (which is a very different test than first grade) she acts as though she has somehow failed. I know I am part of that problem as well because I am putting pressure on her to pay attention, click on the right answer and do well. We are now doing practice work that is formatted like the state tests everyday until the next round of testing in April. Oh joy. At least maybe it will help ease the unfamiliarity she faces every time we do a test. Ugh.

I am so over it. It looks like I will be heading down the unschool path. Because I would much rather have her discover which work is meaningful to her and do that. I want her to be free to pursue what she is actually interested in, rather than what a curriculum or state standard tells her is important. That to me is the inefficiency of the educational system in general. A bunch of students learning a lot of things that don’t appear to be relevant. Even in college-how much time/money did I waste taking a bunch of general education classes that had nothing at all to do with my major or my interests. I didn’t discover my true passions until I was nearly 30. I have a business degree, but I could care less about business-in fact, I hate it. It’s mind-numbing to me. But I love nutrition, love health and wellness, love learning about the way the body works together, love discovering natural remedies that strengthen the body and help it to heal. It’s fascinating. The body is so intricate and complex, this whole system working together to keep you alive. I could literally go on and on. That’s what I want for my children-to find what it is that makes them come alive, that captures their personal interest and then to find a way to do it, be it, etc. That is success, that is living life with purpose.

Memories are a funny thing…

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So I read this book awhile back….Pain and Pretending by Rich Buehler. It is not for the weak constitution. (I’ve also been reading a lot of Jane Austen recently-can you tell?) The book is about exactly what it sounds like-the pain we experience in childhood and the pretending that follows in order for us to survive. One of the things he addresses are memories and how you view your childhood. Some people remember everything rather well-plays almost like a movie in their head, others remember pieces and can tell you but can’t necessarily “see” their memories and then other people have whole sections blacked out. This last group remembers very little…usually in those areas where there was significant pain, they literally cannot remember.

Personally, I’ve always landed in the first group. My childhood plays out like a movie in my head-full color, sound, feelings, etc. It starts around age 3. But there was one section that was black. As if the movie suddenly cut out. And I could not bring up that memory no matter how hard I tried. I never took it seriously or thought of it as significant until I read this book. And then I knew this blank spot held some keys for me in areas that I didn’t understand about myself. I won’t go into what the memory was or what surrounded it. Suffice it to say that it was as significant as my intuition led me to believe. Asking Jesus to help me, desperately, get this memory back has been liberating. I am still in the midst of it, but I guess my reason for sharing is that I know so many of us are walking around with these blank, black gaps in our memories. The mind can be forced to forget in order to survive, but the body never forgets and it will come out in some way or other until faced. If you have these blank memories, I encourage you to get the book. You may not like everything in it, but I assure you the help in those pages is invaluable. If you have a trusted counselor-talk to them about this specifically. Let’s face our black areas, and allow healing to come. Especially as parents. Our children need parents who are whole and not living out a pretend version of ourselves.

Taken In…

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Narnia….my daughter requested we start The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. This book is more profound and more heartbreaking to me than any other in the series. Maybe it’s knowing that it’s the very last book and the end. Maybe it’s because of how it ends. Maybe. But really I think it’s this…..the Narnians get taken in. They are completely snowed by Shift the Ape. This particular generation of Narnian creatures have never seen Aslan in person. Most have never seen a regular lion. Not even the king. They doubt the character of the one who sang their world into existence, the one who saved all of Narnia with his very own life. They doubt that he is good, kind, loving, gracious, approachable. They believe that he really is ordering all of these dreadful things to happen-murder of talking trees, selling the beasts into slavery to their enemies, etc. And they believe he is doing it as punishment. A punishment for no apparent crime. That is what breaks my heart. That because they don’t understand his true nature from all of the available stories about their history and are deceived.

But is it the story in and of itself that has me sad? No…it’s that this is our story. Here and now on this earth. We don’t really get the true nature of our God. I think this is especially true of believers. We are quick to accept guilt, punishment, retribution, and evil as being deserved. The best example I can come up with is corporal punishment. Spanking. Many, many evangelical Christian parents believe that God has required that they cause physical harm to their very young children in order for those young children to grow up well and be able to serve God. Hmm. This particular issue is a huge turn-off to many nonbelievers. “Why does your ‘loving God’ demand obedience and beating of children?” Good question. He doesn’t. Not really. Not at all. It’s as outrageous as a donkey parading around in a lion-skin. His character has been distorted, his true nature has been obscured and thus, many are taken in by something that was never intended. Even the stories about “our history” with God have been taken out of context and used for personal gain in some fashion. The scope of how to parent well is to guide them, correct them verbally, give direction, rescue when needed, love and love some more, give grace. I try to imagine Aslan beating one of the Narnians for a mistake. It’s ridiculous. He didn’t even do that to Edmund, who was a traitor for the White Witch. They had a deep conversation about it instead. Did he smack Digory in book 6 for bringing the evil witch to his new world? No, he showed him what he must do to correct the problem. What’s my point? Before we do something in “the name of God” let’s stop and think if this is actually true to his real nature. Is it love without condition? Is it grace when least deserved? Otherwise, let’s own our actions as ours and not blame God for our mistakes. Back to the spanking example-if you want to beat your children in the hopes they will wind up to be wonderful people-own it as your own doing. Not God’s directions.

Time and again I return to this series of books because even after 24 years of reading, I am still learning, still discovering and finding myself in the story. I pray that I will be brave, that I can do the task in front of me well, that I can love to the end, that I will shy away from cynicism.

A Thought

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I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to my daughter at bedtime. Right now we are nearly through The Magician’s Nephew. So many things strike me in this story. But just tonight, as Aslan was giving Digory his instructions to undo the wrong, I was taken with how true to life this book feels. Digory has no idea how he shall carry out this task. But Aslan tells him that he shall have help. It’s beautiful. It actually brought me to tears. Here is this rather weighty task he has to accomplish, given directly by Aslan and the lion already has his help in mind. He doesn’t expect the boy to do it by himself. It’s true in every story of Narnia. Aslan always provides the help and a way to accomplish the task. That’s a powerful realization for me. My task right now is motherhood, and it is not for the faint of heart. I feel failure or a disappointment in myself often, especially when I’m looking to myself to do it all. There is a way and there is help. Breathe. Trust. Feel the warm, golden breath of the Lion and take heart.

Dear Parents

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This letter is a reminder. Not just to everyone else, but to myself as well.

Dear Parents,

Please ask yourself the following questions. Do you have a range of emotions on any particular day? Do you always get enough rest or food? Do you always behave and act appropriately in each and every situation you encounter? Do you always have a good attitude? Even about things you’d rather not do? Do you say things you wish you could take back? Do you always exercise self-control? Always? Especially when it’s something you really want? Do you make bad decisions sometimes? Do you give of your things selflessly? To people you don’t know? Do you greet each and every person pleasantly? Do you ever spill things or break things accidentally? Do you make mistakes?

So, now that you’ve answered these questions? Are you asking too much of your children? Are your expectations for their actions and behavior unreasonable? I mean, if you as a grown adult can’t act perfectly all of the time, in front of everyone in every situation-then why on earth do we expect this of our children? They are young-they haven’t been in the world that long and they are learning. Learning means that they are not going to do things perfectly every time, they aren’t going to always do it the way you want on the first time. And to expect them to is ridiculous.

It is OK if your child has a bad day, gets grumpy, doesn’t want to do something, forgets, has an accident, makes a mess, is inefficient, is not always articulate, gets angry, cries, throws a fit, has a meltdown, etc. Children are human beings and have the whole range of emotions that adults have-they just don’t understand it as well. Not all adults understand their emotions either. Give your child the opportunity to just be. To have their feelings, wants, needs, space, time, etc without having to structure and monitor every single second. It’s not a reflection on you as a parent if your 4 year-old doesn’t like the lunch you made and proceeds to cry. It’s really ok. This parenting thing isn’t really all about you anyway. You have the job of being selfless, sacrificial, laying your life down and no longer being a selfish narcissist. It’s not about your magazine-worthy or pinterest-worthy living room or their neatly organized perfect little room. Life is messy, people are messy and children are especially messy. Learn to laugh-especially at yourself, especially when you are acting like an ogre because YOU are not getting YOUR way. I think if we are honest with ourselves-there is very little difference between the parent and the 4 year-old. Quit expecting your children to be convenient. If parenting has taught you anything, it’s that children are not convenient. Ever. At all. Neither should they be. They are people. Parenting is not about how you look to other parents, how your children make you look in public or at the play group. Parenting is not about you. It’s about helping these children blossom, helping to show them about the joy and the good in life, about living what we want them to be, about appreciating who they already are. Parenting is one of the most humbling adventures. It is holy work. Often thankless. But let’s not make it harder than it has to be. Be kind. Be warm. Be the parent you would want to have. Show love. Always show love. Ask yourself what love looks like in the moments when your inner ogre shows itself. As a guide-love is patient, kind, not boastful or proud, not envious, not slanderous, doesn’t rejoice in evil, takes delight in the good, doesn’t get angry easily, keeps no track of wrong, believes the best, hopes, trusts, protects, perseveres. Because if you don’t live out that love for your child to feel…all the words you have will be meaningless.

Sincerely,

a mom who needs to be reminded too 🙂

Saying the wrong thing…

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Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. I can be so passionate about my opinions and even though I know my intentions…others do not. And big thanks to facebook for giving me the opportunity to really stick my foot in my mouth more often-and more publicly. Just last night, there was a post in a mom’s group about whether or not children are manipulators at a young age (according to the article 15 months) and how parents need to meet this challenge head on before it becomes a serious character flaw. I happen to have an opinion on this that doesn’t necessarily go along with the rest of the group and I made a couple statements. Sigh. I also made the comments as I was going to bed and I was being too hasty about it. So, this morning I wake up to find that I have very unintentionally hurt another mother’s feelings by what I’d said. I still stand by what I said, in regards to my own experience and observations, but should have better qualified my statements. So, I apologized.

I wonder about altering my approach sometimes, though. I get really intense about certain subjects-food, health, nutrition, raising children, not spanking. And apparently I come across like I am yelling. Not all the time, but often enough. Except I’m really not yelling. Not even in my head. (well every now and then I am). Mostly, I just want to inform. There were so many things that I was unaware of and I am trying to pass along what I’ve information I’ve gathered. So many things hinge on just not knowing, that I feel obligated to educate. I guess I will have to take being misunderstood in stride. And seek to understand others, listen actively and move along.