Our History of Homeschooling (the story continues)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

So, there were families in my past that I observed and decided that homeschooling appeared to shape them in a way that I liked.  There was a closeness in siblings that I liked.  There was a sense of community and respect in the families.  Some of it I can't put my finger on--but the way the parents related to kids, and vice versa was just...different.  Maybe it was because the parents had more time to study and understand their kids.
There was alot of freedom in these families.  Freedom to go off on a long trip or even a year long exchange without having to worry about what school the kids would go to.  I remember reading an adventure blog of such a family a few years ago.  I liked that.
 When I was in high school, I became intensely interested in Creationism and Evolution.  For a least a year or more I studied it at length, even choosing it as a presentation topic in my OAC (grade thirteen) Geography class (much to the dismay of my teacher, I'm sure, especially when I went twenty minutes over the twenty minute maximum time required).
There are alot of topics that Christian parents would probably rather their kids would just not know about.  For me, evolution is one of those topics.  But this is just not reasonable, nor is it wise!  Our kids are not going to be able to stand strong in their faith if they are unaware of the attacks upon it.  Instead of being scared of my children being exposed to the idea of evolution, I've realized that I can be the key influence on this topic.  Instead of shying away from the history book that begins with "billions of years ago", I can balance this presentation with information from one of my creationism books.
Over the years I've seen many "wake up you parents" type articles that claim that _______ media source or ______ pop/movie star is influencing kids these days far more than their parents.  ( *friends**music**movies*).
I am jealous for my childrens' attentions!  I want my husband and I to be their prime influences.  These were the things that I explored throughout my late teens and into my twenties, as I learned more about homeschooling.

Then, Jairus was born.

I didn't focus on much except his O2 sats, pumping every 3 hours and getting that piped into his little tummy for a very long time.  Then at 1 year of age, speech therapy began.  A couple years later, his therapists were recommending preschool so that he'd be around other talking children to boost his own speech.  Looking back, I can't say that this goal was reached.  It sounds logical, I'm sure SLP's would still recommend something like that, but Jairus doesn't 'not speak' for lack of exposure.  Apraxia is a physical inability to coordinate the muscles to create speech.  He has language, he has communication.  Watching other people speak doesn't help worth a hill of beans.  But of course, when he was 3 or 4 years old, we only had desperate hopes that what the therapists said would come true.  In any case, I gave fleeting thought to my homeschool hopes at this time and decided that preschool was acceptable.  He had a very fun couple of years at a place in Brantford and then one year at a co-op preschool in Hamilton, which Honour joined him for.  She has fond memories of that, and screeches in delight every time we pass the church that it was held in.  When she was tested at the end that year, the teachers confidently told me that Honour was completely ready for JK; she'd have NO problem.  I smiled, thanked them, went home and ordered my first homeschool curriculum: Little Hands to Heaven.

Haha, no actually, I liked how that sounded so I just wanted to write it.  I actually started homeschooling about halfway through that year.  The preschool was only 1/2 days 2-3 days a week so on the off days, we would do 'school at home'.

I cleaned up the basement, stuck up some posters and laminated resources from my local ASKE, set up a table and we began homeschooling in February of 2007.  I probably would have started sooner, but 2006 had us selling our Brantford house, buying our Hamilton house, moving, getting pregnant and then burying our son.  I think I did pretty good to get started only a couple months after that.

It was lotsa fun, the Little Hands to Heaven program.  My older three now each have a thick binder with dollar store report covers, stuffed full of all their finger painting, letter practice, number learning, cutting, pasting and macaroni creations that they love to pull out and look through.  So proud they are of their homepreschool!

Homeschooling, Take Two

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

You may have noticed that I pulled my first homeschooling post.  I realized over the last few days that it wasn't the start I wanted to make.  It had been impulsive, stemming from emotion instead of a rational plan for what I still hope will be a series.  It was also a mere straw in the haystack of our reasons for homeschooling--one that I'm not even sure should be considered in the light that I portrayed it in.  I'll be honest, it was a knee-jerk reaction after viewing the video.  I may repost it later, depending on whether it seems a suitable accompaniment to my homeschooling topics.

Another reason I took that post off was because I neglected a very important aspect of any discussion of homeschooling; essentially, a disclaimer.

I'm fond of Ann Voskamps way of putting it: "This is descriptive of our lives, not prescriptive for anyone else".  Another blogger I read recently put it this way, "We know the path we are on is the path created for us -- we are no better or less than those who choose public or private school".

This is soo very important. I struggle with and question many aspects of my life...just like (I assume) you do. The last thing I have is it all figured out!  However, I do often have an awesome feeling of contentment and peace that I'm doing what the Lord is requiring of me--especially since Jairus came home.   My intentions for a series on homeschooling are the following:
  • To express my own feelings and thoughts on homeschooling and why we're doing it.
  • To perhaps debunk a few myths about homeschooling.
  • To gather some of the evidences I've run across in the past few years on the above two points, and give them a home here.
  • To encourage someone thinking about homeschooling and give some basic information and instruction.
  • To offer some practical ideas and advice on homeschooling, which would obviously be more for actual homeschoolers!
So I decided that the aspect I was going to start with was those thoughts and feelings.  Start at the beginning, I say!

I don't recall exactly which was my first exposure to homeschooling.  I know when my mom decided to homeschool two of my now eight siblings (there weren't eight when she did that...I think only about five or six) it wasn't the first time I'd ever heard of it.  I was...hmmm, at the end of highschool, working my interim year or starting Moody when my mom decided that one of my sisters and one of my brothers would be homeschooled for a bit.  I believe it ended up being two years.  I didn't have alot (hardly any, really) of hands on experience with this new endeavour.  I was in my late teens and as I said, was finishing up my last year of highschool (the victory lap, I believe they call it now, grade thirteen), working my year at Subway Sandwiches, raising money to go to school, or beginning that first year of university in Chicago.  I heard reports from my mom and saw some of the work being done here and there.  I know that she was using a homeschooling "school" called G.R.A.C.E.  I don't know if she ordered curriculum from them or what, but it was at the very least an association.
Around the same time, I met a family up at Fair Havens Bible Conference with a whole mess of kids they were homeschooling.  They were an extremely lovely family and their kids (while not perfect, of course) were....somehow a little different.  In a good way.  It was my observation and conviction that homeschooling had something to do with this.
Over the next few years I took note of other homeschooling families.  There was a often a common....difference in those families.  I liked it.  One family in particular was a very large one from Chicago.  They attended the church James and I worked at and were a part of.  They had at that time at least eight children, the littlest a baby and the oldest a preteen.  One weekend they were going away and had lined up a series of babysitters to come out and tag team throughout the three days.  James and I took one shift, as the family had a couple kids in my children's choir, so they were comfortable with us.  I don't remember if we were married yet.
I have a vivid memory of sitting with the kids in a large family room.  Their house was a perfectly massive older house with a second and probably even third floor and many, many rooms.  High ceilings, classic decor; it was quite impressive.  The room we were sitting in had likely originally been a parlour.  There was an armoire over in one corner with a TV and VCR hidden inside and a collection of movies, but the kids weren't watching it.  Instead, two or three of the boys were playing a game of some type--it might have been a board game, or just creative play with some small toys or action figures.  They squabbled from time to time but generally played well with each other.
The oldest, the preteen girl arrived home from some activity--piano lesson or sports practice of some kind.  The littlest remaining sibling, a sister probably around two years old was delighted to see her come home.   She came running and jumped into her big sisters arms.  They sat on the floor and for the next fifteen or so minutes, played.  Like, just, played.  With an elastic (rubber band for you Americans).  The little one sat on her sisters lap and stretched the elastic over her hands and balanced it on her nose, pretended it was an earring and hooked it over the bigger girl's ear.  The older girl was clearly content to spend fifteen minutes playing with her little sister, with nothing more entertaining than a thin piece of rubber.
A couple years later I was making a little extra money on campus by babysitting for the  Married Students Fellowship.  One day we had a gym activity time and took the kids over to Moody's athletic building, the Solheim Center. We had a few things planned, but ran out of activities before the parents were due to pick up their kids.  Casting about for ideas, we headed up to the aerobics room, a large, spacious hardwood floored room with one wall of mirrors and mounted TV's for watching exercise videos. We popped in one to give the kids something to jump around to.

Now, you can imagine that Moody Bible Institute would not have in their exercise video collection anything objectionable.  However, there are amongst us, those whose tastes are more stringent and sensitive than others.  And those with such tastes would likely choose to allow different media options in their homes and to which to expose their children.  
One little girl, probably about five or six took one look at the spandex-clad, perfectly proportioned aerobics models in the video and decided that this was not appropriate for her two younger brothers to be viewing.  She quickly gathered these two boys to either side of her, turned her back to the TV and held her hands and arms around them in such a way that their eyes were shielded from the offending video.  Then she appealed to me to shut it off, explaining that her parents would not want her or her brothers to see it.
In surprise, I marched over the VCR and hit the stop button.  How could you argue with that?
I was deeply affected by this; I had never seen a child take such an action to protect her younger siblings before.  The issue of the reasonableness of her actions, as obviously instilled by her parents aside, I was highly impressed that such a young one would be so concerned for the welfare of her brothers.  
How do you raise kids with such awareness?  Was homeschooling the key?

(to be continued :-)

Verity's Turn

Friday, March 1, 2013

You may remember about a year and a half ago, give or take a month, I was excited to report on my eldest daughters foray into highland dancing.  Well, now it's Verity's turn.

As I spoke of just a week or so ago, Verity has been training in gymnastics since she was three years old.  Last year was a bit of a pill to swallow for her as she was training with a slightly older group of girls who were all of age to compete....but Verity was not.  So she had to listen to the coaches constantly talking about competition etiquette, competition expectations, etc.  Finally, she's old enough.  She is entered in 3 competitions this season, one each month, the first one being today.

It was in Niagara Falls and being one of the littlest gymnasts, her registration time was 7:30am.  Which meant we have to leave the house by 6:00am.  Which meant we had to get up at 5:00am.  Grooaaan.

It was all well and good though.  Ever conscious of our budget, I made sandwiches and muffins last night after getting the kids into bed early.  Which meant we got them into bed by their bedtime, [snort].  This was after having stopped for sponge curlers on the way home from teaching to put Verity's hair up because our clubs hairdo expectation involves copious curls.  She's got her momma's fine hair, so curly she was this morning!

We actually got into Niagara Falls early so had plenty of time to bathroom everybody up, get registered, stamped and secure spots on the bleachers.

We quickly spotted some of Verity's teammates, and also 2 girls and a coach from her old gym.  It was nice to see some familiar faces.

Then came the official 'march-in', with each team being announced and holding placards with their gym name.  There were about a dozen gyms represented.

The kids all ran around and warmed up after this, and at 8:30 sharp, the events began.  Verity was on beam first.

I've been really impressed with how much more polished Verity looks this year.  Before this she never seemed to pay as much attention to her feet, or hands.  When she 'presented', it always looked less....impressive than what I was used to seeing at gymnastics events on TV.  Now she's got that little bit of showy.

Here she is starting her floor routine.  We've seen alot of this the last couple weeks because her routine was to the theme song to 'The Fairy OddParents' (kids show).  Every time it was on, she would jump to the floor.

Next was vault, which she was too fast to actually catch doing it.  Here she is waiting for her turn.

...and ready to start...love her on-the-toes take off.

I think she had fun.  Maybe just a little.

Last was the bars.  At first we were a little confused because all the girls did their practice runs, but Verity sat on the bench against the wall.  It turned out that her coach had to adjust the bars.  I guess she was the only one using the bars at that particular setting, so they let all the other girls go first, then shifted the bars for Verity. 

This was actually her practice run.  I was finding that trying to take pictures meant that I was missing the jist of each of her events.  Photographing her warm up seemed to be a good way to get good pics and still watch her do her thing.

After this, she was done!  

We all filed down the hall to the presentation room.  With 43 girls in this "flight", it was alot of people to fit into a room not quite designed to fit that many.  We didn't mind standing--after 4 hours of sitting on a hard bleacher, I was good with a change of position.  We had to wait about 10-15 minutes for all the marks to be tallied.
I'm just starting to learn about the world of competitive gymnastics.  Highland dance, I'm completely familiar with now.  Gymnastics Ontario does things a little differently.  In Highland dance, Honour started out in Beginner level.  Within Beginner, they split the competitors into age groups.  This means that Honour wouldn't be competing against a kid who was way older or younger than her, and had roughly the same amount of training as her.  At a competition, there's typically 12-18 girls in her group.  For each of four dances, they award 6 medals.  The top three get a stamp on their dance card.  Once they get 6 stamps, they move on to the next level (Novice, Intermediate, Premier).  Still, she would be with those the same age as her, within the level.
In Gymnastics, Verity's coaches decided what level she should compete at a few months ago.  We were pleased to find out it was level 3---we had figured she would begin at level 2.  I believe that there are certain skill sets that once a gymnast has mastered, they move on to another level, so it's completely up to the discretion of the coach.  As I said, there were 43 girls in her flight, all 7 years old, but 35 of them were in level 2.  This meant that she was one of only 8 girls in her level.  Thinking Highland dance, I figured this meant for sure she'd come home with a ribbon or medal, or whatever they were presenting.

That's not quite how it happened, but don't think I mean it was a negative thing.  On one hand, I'm one of these parents who is somewhat opposed to kids being awarded for doing nothing of consequence.  I think that when kids are rewarded for every little thing they do, this brings down the standard they are reaching for.  On the other hand, I've agonized through a number of competitions with Honour now, when she has brought nothing home.  Sure, it's good for kids to experience disappointment, but it's awful hard as parents to watch it, especially when they've worked hard.
Gymnastics Ontario however, has got a different system.  If I'm understanding it correctly, each child is marked in each event they presented.  That mark determines what standing they receive--I think the parameters of each medal standing is predetermined: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Merit.  Once each of the four events are completed, the marks are added up, and an overall medal standing is awarded.  This means that each child gets up on the podium and is presented their certificate with five stickers--one for each event, and the overall standing.  A nice bonus today was that each gymnast got a medal as well--I was relieved for this, as Verity has watched big sister bring home numerous medals and I know she's wanted one too!

We watched all 35 girls from level 2 get up on the podiums and receive their certificates and medals.  Then it was Verity's level.


She received Silver for Floor and Beam, Bronze for Bars and Merit for Vault.  Honestly, I can't figure that Merit level out, as I thought she was amazing on that (and her coach seemed to think so too) so I might just ask next week if that seemed accurate, but overall, she was immensely pleased...as were we!  A very good first gymnastics competition experience!
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