Friday, May 29, 2009

Why do you homeschool?

Last weekend when I attended the FLorida Parent Education Assocation's Annual Homeschool Convention I was overwhelmed with a spirit of unity as I looked out over the halls at 15,000 homeschoolers. I would focus in on specific families as they would walk by and wonder how they came to home educate their children.

When I began back in 1998 I was a full time nurse supervisor and was still in the beginning of my medical career. My oldest was in Kindergarten at a wonderful public school. I had no idea that by the end of that first year my life would change forever.

It all started when we were over halfway done with his school year. I still remember my Brandon's teacher coming to me to tell me that he was struggling to understand letters and their sounds and this was at the END of the school year. I went home and saw an infomercial for a popular phonics program and in just a few days he learned all of them. That was the beginning of our homeschool journey. I realized that my son learned best one on one.

However, I find that what made me start homeschooling is not what's KEPT me going. I love the relationships I've built with my children. I love the opportunity I've had to nuture their friendships with one another. I love being their biggest cheerleader, but none of those are the reasons why I continue to homeschool. I continue for two specific purposes.

The first reason is because our family has a strong biblical worldview and though we plan to teach different views as they get older we don't want them introduced until later in their life. The second reason I've just recently discovered and it has given me such deep purpose. I homeschool because I want to manage my children in their nuetral and weak area's and I want to focus and concentrate on their STRENGTH'S. I don't want a cookie cutter education, but one that is personalized to each of my sons specific giftings.

What does your home look like? Do you homeschool or school outside the home? What are your goals for your children's education? I find it facinating to peek into each other's reasons. None are right or wrong, just what's right for our children, our homes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Well Rounded Children?

This past weekend I attended our annual homeschool convention. I love this time every year where we come together to attend workshops that challenge us to think outside of ourselves and to consider new idea's. One of the speakers I felt inspired by, was a woman by the name of Linda Werner. Linda spoke on Strength's Defined which talks about changing the way you think about education. She highly recommended that we test our children using the Clifton Strengthfinder Test ourselves to find out what our Strength's are and then do the same for our children. Once that is done we then allow our educational programs to revolve around those strength's, instead of spending all of our time trying to strengthen our weaknesses. I liked that she didn't say we should ignore weak areas, but her philosophy is that you manage your weaker/nuetral area's and invest in your passions and strengths.

The defining moment in her talk was when she introduced us to a 10 year old little boy who had spent the past five years trying to work on his weaknesses so he could better fit the classroom. You see, this little boy had ADD/ADHD as well as Aspergers and all they saw was how disruptive he was. However, Linda owns a private umbrella school and when the parents brought their little Matthew to her she immediate administered the strength finder test to figure out what made Matthew unique. She then asked us if we could figure out what his strength was as he took the stage dressed up as an indian.

As that little boy took the microphone and began to speak over one thousand mouths hit the floor. You did not see autism or aspergers, all you saw was an incredibly gifted young man. When he closed we jumped to our feet with thunderous applause. I personally had tears streaming down my face.

I began to think of all the years I invested in big academic programs trying to make responsible well rounded children. As I listened to Linda speak I realized I don't want well-rounded! I want incredibly passionate people who work in fields they love and that love them. Careers that will use their gifts and talents to the fullest.

It made me begin to re-evaluate what I would be using for curriculum next year. I want to manage my children's nuetral or weak areas and engage in their stregnths. My oldest is an excellent public speaker and I am considering entering him into speech and debate. My #2 son LOVES Piano and I would like to spend most of our time investing in his musical gifting. My #3 and #4 boys are still young and we are learning what their passions are. But one thing I am sure of is that we will stick with our core math and language arts program that allows my children to make steady progress in the important core subjects while investing in their strengths. I will continue to use our library and to check out books and to read a loud, we will spend time doing this together as a family.

How about you? What do you think? Do you find yourself teaching to strengthen your children's weaknesses or do you teach to the strenghts? After hearing what Linda shared does that change your perspective at all?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Summer School or NOT to Summer School, THAT is the question!

What are YOU going to do this summer?

This has been one crazy year. It started last summer when I found out I had some blood pressure issue's. Shortly after that my sweet daddy went through a second bout with cancer and we did a lot of traveling back and forth. (he lives four hours away) Add to that the responsibility of homeschooling my four sons, taking them on field trips, plugging into co-op's, running to park days and the truth is, I'm just POOPED!

Yet, I hate to take the summer off because then I end up spending the whole month of August reviewing what they've forgotten on their time off. Not to mention the chaos of no structure at all. But the thought of having to pull out a curriculum sends shimmers up this Mama's arms. So I have found a wonderful balance!

I have decided this year that we are going to do a simplified Summer School. It's the best of both worlds. The boys will stay on top of their basic core subjects (Math and Language Arts) using Time4Learning and I can relax and be available, but no big lesson plans to worry about.
I look forward to simply spending our mornings working on Math and Language Arts using our beloved On-Line Time4Learning curriculum.

On the other hand, I have a close girlfriend who doesn't even want to hear the word school and covets her summers off. As I've been pondering my conversation with this friend and the deep discussion we had trying to figure out what was best for our children, our homes, it made me wonder what others are planning?

Whether you homeschool or go to school, do you take the summer off or do you work on academics? Do you do just the basics or go for it and do EVERYTHING? Enquiring minds want to know!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Pro's And Con's Of Being On-Line

I was sitting here tonight remembering back to when my husband and I first began homeschooling our children. The year was 1998 and we did not even own a computer. (gasp) That just seems shocking since my whole life seems to revolve around this beautiful white machine sitting on top of my counter. I love the freedom it has given me!

Do you remember life without your computer? Everything had to take place by phone, mail or in person. Simple things we do in our home today were not so simple back then. Checking out books in the old days meant driving to my local library and going through a card catalog to find specific subjects. If a book was checked out I could put it on hold and hope that it was in the next time I visited. Now I can go on-line and check out my books ahead of time. If they’re not in, I can reserve them and it will notify me via e-mail when they arrive at my local branch.

I remember in the early days of our homeschool, having to purchase curriculum and hope for the best. Today I can go to a vendor’s website and print off samples to preview before making a decision. One of my favorite aspects of on-line living is on-line learning. My children use an on-line curriculum called Time4Learning Inc,that allows them to simply go to the website, type in their password and do their work. It keeps all their records and scores for me so that I am able to take care of my home, run errands and live my life without being bogged down in details.

When my boys were young I believe that on-line discussion forums and cyber communities saved my life. In the midst of diapers and algebra I could go online to talk with other moms who were in the same season of life I was. It wasn’t easy to get out with little ones, but my computer allowed me to leave for short breaks during the day and talk with other adults.

Lastly, I have found e-mail to be the BEST part of being on-line. With four growing boys and a busy life I cannot always take calls when they come in and then when I try to return a phone call I will end up having to leave a message as well. E-mail allows me the freedom to communicate at any hour during the day. It allows me time to stop and thing through my communication which frees me up to live my life.

Now in the title I said, “Pro’s and CON’S”. There are con’s to being on-line. I do think sometimes it’s easy to get in such a habit of sending thing via e-mail that I forget the personalization of a phone call or hand written letter. It is possible to open your home and invite people in that you don’t really know. But with both of these examples it is simply taking the time to evaluate personal attention in relationships as well as personal safety for your home. How about YOU? What do you love or dislike about being on-line?