Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
Welcome! I'm glad to have you aboard.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reflections: Our Extended Family Delivers Lessons for Life


Before the rush to Sacramento to help my aunt, we had planned to join my mom's sister and brother and other family members at the park to celebrate Carmichael's 100th Birthday. A big deal for them as she was born and the family was raised in this lovely suburb near Sacramento.

I treasure the times when my mom can see her brother, his wife, his kids and my aunt and her husband; when they can come together to talk about old times (and new ones).  The event proved to be a great opportunity for them to do that. Just like the old days, the geezers got to sit around in lawn chairs in the warm evening after dinner and chit chat while we waited for the fireworks to begin.

Katie is the only child when we have these get togethers. Sometimes my cousin's grand kids come along, but they are really young. What is truly amazing to me is how well Katie relates to the elders. With the exception of my cousins, they are all well over 70, in fact, four of them are in their 80s. They are in varying states of health but still quick-witted and delightful.

What I appreciate about my daughter is her ability to be so comfortable around seniors. She is amazing as she moves slowly, speaks clearly, offers all kinds of help (she completely cleaned my aunt's kitchen - which she hasn't managed to do at home!) and looks for ways to make them comfortable. She shows amazing patience and compassion. My uncle has dementia and tends to tell Katie the same stories over and over and over, and yet Katie smiles and acknowledges him every time.

I believe she is learning skills that will last her a lifetime. 

When she went to camp, she was naturally attracted to a woman who "reminded her of Gramma." She turned out to be a trusted counselor that Katie relied on for coaching as she struggled with home sickness. At our home school program office, Katie is delighted that the "principal" is this lovely woman named Priscilla who reminds her of Pat at camp!


Most of Katie's friends aren't exposed to old people. They aren't around their grandparents or older aunts and uncles and therefore aren't learning how to be around the elderly. As a society, I think we owe it to our children to teach them to honor these incredible people and to help kids feel comfortable and even responsible for helping our seniors when they can.

I have fond memories of being a care giver when I was just 10 and "Gramma Watson" was 96. She taught me to crochet and I made sure she was safe while her daughter ran errands. I learned so much from her. And of course, my favorite person in the whole world was my grandmother who lived to 101. I would do anything for her.

I am so thrilled my daughter feels the same way about her grandmother.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gramma Teaching? It's all about Grocery Ads!

When we found out we had to rush up to Sacramento to help an ailing relative, of course I threw all our home school stuff in a bag and brought it with us. One of the assignments had to do with looking at grocery store ads.

It was a great, practical lesson and since I had an expert in the house - my mom - I put her to work. My mom is a shopping wizard. She studies the ads every week and knows just where to get the best bargains. So who better to teach how to compare prices, calculate cost based on weight or figure out unit cost?

It was great eavesdropping on them.

There's only one problem. My mom gets frustrated fast. Thankfully Katie knows that. She had a lot of fun lighting my mom's fuse.



The good news? They did get the assignment done.

Home School POV: I absolutely LOVE the book we are using that had the grocery store ad assignment. It's called Score Boosters and it supposedly is used to help improve test scores, but I like it because it has a range of cool exercises that rely on an interdisciplinary approach - like following directions or using a phone book. Too cool. We have the Grade Five edition.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Steve Wozniak Danced Into Our Lives and I Missed It!


I totally blew it. I could have had the coolest “home school” experience for Katie and I choked because I just don’t have my brain completely around the concept yet. She could have met Steve Wozniak! I am such an idiot.

My awesome client booked him for a presentation – I will post a link to it when it is available on Tuesday – he talked about education, technology and creativity. I was responsible for promoting it via social media and tweeting the event. I never realized he was actually going to be onsite (I live too much in my virtual world) and that I could have taken my daughter in to meet him. I also never realized just how incredibly cool he is.

He spoke about education and the things he’s done to inspire creativity in kids. His passion and enthusiam was absolutely contagious. I think his talk is especially compelling for the home school crowd because his arguments support many of the reasons we home school.

From his feelings about standardized tests (doesn’t like them) to his appreciation for individual learning differences, he’s truly an advocate of finding a child’s inner “spark” and then fueling that desire to learn. And while he’s focused on the kids, he’s a huge supporter of educators – especially those commited to inspiring the desire to learn and create. I consider myself to be that kind of teacher!

As it turned out, it was fortunate I didn’t take Katie to the presentation, because during it, I got a call that my aunt was being rushed to the emergency room. I am responsible for her and her husband (they were the victims of elder abuse, robbed blind by their grandchildren). So we needed to get packed and head north to see what the heck was going on.

We had to make about a three hour drive, laced with a dinner stop and then another for a post-dinner pit stop. It was dark for most of the drive and Katie was getting pretty bored. But then she said, “let’s do some home school!” and we started a game to work on her spelling. It was pretty fun and did make the time go by faster.

We arrived at 10:20 and drove straight to the ER. When we got there we found my aunt standing on the sidewalk, looking exhausted. They had just discharged her! Her husband was looking for a cab to get them home! What amazing timing. We got them piled in the car, took them home and got them settled. It felt good to know they were both okay and we can figure things out tomorrow morning.

So I blew an opportunity, but it all turned out kind of the way it was supposed to. Figuring out all the things I needed to do in rapid order nearly brought me to my knees but piece by piece, it came together. And thankfully, at least by now, I know every morning brings a fresh new day and I always survive, somehow!
  

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Insomnia Sucks: Still Struggling to Find the Balance

It’s five in the morning. I have been awake for over an hour. I can’t sleep – maybe it’s some hormonal thing or maybe there’s too much on my mind. I decided to get up because I have way too much to do for work and all I really want to do it spend some quality time with my daughter today helping her with her school work.

I am so afraid, no matter how hard I try, that’s not going to happen.

I went to the parent support group yesterday for home school. What a wonderful, diverse (yet oddly similar) group of people. I don’t think I have met so many passionate, committed people in one place in quite awhile.

The experienced people were so “Zen” about home school; they weren’t worried that their children might be falling behind or particularly stressed about how they were balancing everything.

The virgins, the ones like me, sat there wide-eyed, spitting out our questions that were both specific and unformed. Questions like “how have you taught math with manipulatives?” and “how many hours a day do you teach?” to “how to you do home school and work full time?” Like I said, we were all over the place.

I left feeling a little better about not having to do things “right.” But I still panic. Katie is still unhappy about friends. She isn’t meeting anyone new yet – anyone she feels like she could be friends with – and she’s missing that daily hit of kids that she got from regular school. I don’t think she’s missing anything else.

She’s getting way more sleep, we don’t watch TV at night anymore (or fight over homework deadlines), we are engrossed in a book we are reading together. She’s had more opportunities to do many more things like field trips, babysitting, more elaborate play at home (because we aren’t rushing around all the time). But she’s lonely. And that’s something that a mother can’t really fix.

So I am up early, trying to get work done – okay, after I finish blogging to get all this out of my head – trying to get work done so I can spend some quality time with Katie today.

Maybe, just maybe, by putting it down in writing, I can make it happen.
 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reflections: I am Struggling with Work/Life Balance

My whole goal of this blog is to help me remember what we did and our experience of home school. So I guess I need to admit the hard stuff along with the good. With a few exceptions, this week pretty much sucked for me.

I love working.
I really do. I am the kind of person who would work even if I was retired. I work as a hobby. Not all of it pays, but I like to be busy and engaged. But this week, my work work - the stuff I get paid for - finally brought me to my knees. I am way over committed and as a result, I made two mistakes that painfully reminded me things are out of whack. I am not brave enough to confess to the mistakes in this blog but don't worry - they have burned a path in my brain. I got the message. I need to get a grip.

I think I am over-planning.
Okay, so now that I have confessed I am a work-junkie, this next part makes sense. I think I have been "over planning" Katie's home school work for the week. I realized this was going to be a learning curve, but I am truly starting to appreciate how "life" serves up a number of unexpected opportunities to teach.

I knew we were going to the fair, but when we were there, we started to notice the things that are vital to the local economy - so we took pictures. Ta Da! Learning! Gramma had Katie on Thursday (while I was at the client's) and they got totally hands on about ounces, cups, pints, quarters, teaspoons, tablespoons and how many freaking tablespoons are in a barrel! Apparently they had a blast! And the information stuck.

So many outside resources.
The home school Activity Days started this week and that got Katie really excited. A chance to go somewhere, hang with kids and learn in a creative way (they are studying geology) felt more "normal" to her. I am so grateful to have that start so she has something to look forward to.

We also started with a weekly tutor focusing on math and science. It turns out Dee is a PhD candidate in Atmospheric Physics (are you kidding me?!) and Katie was so worried she was going to be an uber geek. But when she pulled up, out walked this smokin', cool, dressed as a totally Santa Cruz-hip woman who was not only brilliant but funny and engaging. What a role model! They spent the first 10 minutes talking about getting a doctorate. Holy smokes. Awesome.

So what have I learned?
To slow down. Do less. Let life do some of the heavy-lifting. I know this is wisdom experienced home school folks have already acquired. Hopefully, one day, I will join your ranks!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scarier than Dying? "Public Speaking" at the Fair? 10-Year Old Style

In a rather cool move by our local County Fair, winners in the poetry contest are asked to come and read their poem to the crowd. Katie won first place. And of course her mom said, "She'd love to!" when she was invited.

Okay - maybe that was a little stretch.

But isn't the point of doing home school to grab every opportunity and turn it into a learning opportunity? And this one had learning written all over it!

I love public speaking. If you ask me, I don't get to do it enough. And I understand a lot of people get nervous about it, but thankfully, for me, it comes so easily. So of course I want that for my kid. She's naturally funny, has good stories and all she needs to do is speak slowly, clearly and persuasively. Apparently my enthusiasm was not all that contagious. She assured me she had it handled. I backed off.

Frightening Noises
We got to the fair on time and arrived at the Fine Arts Building to find one of Katie's friends on site! It was a total coincidence and couldn't have been better. We sat down and waited for the reading to begin. Right on time, 3pm, Steve Banks got things started and surprise(!), Katie was the first one up!

I'll let the "tale of the tape" take it from here. Needless to say, I am a proud mom! It couldn't have gone better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fair Update: Her Veggie Creature Won!


Just a quick follow-up to our veggie art story - we went to the fair today and she won! A first place blue ribbon and special honors (they didn't have enough ribbons so it's not there but she'll be getting a big yellow ribbon too!).

The families pulled together a list of all the kids in our home school group who entered items and I was so impressed. So that is who's been entering all this time! It made the fair even more personal to look work that belonged to our new friends.

When we got to the fine arts building, we learned Katie's poem also won first place. She'll be reading it on Saturday - so I will post more about that then - in the meantime, she needs to brush up her public speaking.

All in all, a great day at the fair!



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fighting at "Home" School - With an Amazing Resolution


I know this is probably a familiar story to any parent who home schools. The big fight(s) about getting the actual work done. We had a lovely one today. But we also ended up with an amazing save driven by Katie. I am still in awe.

I'll admit it. 
Today was awful. I started with work at 6am and it didn't really stop until 6pm. Katie had her first day of "school" - an activity day with kids at our home school base - and while it was good, she's still struggling to make new friends. So we both were together for a half hour to share a snack and talk before I had to get back on phone calls. We agreed she could watch a little TV to unwind and rest and then she'd get started on the school work she had totally ignored on Monday.

My call went very long and I came out 90 minutes later to find her still watching television. And needless to say, I was chapped. We ended up fighting about two things - me working too much and her not working at all. It wasn't pretty and while I was trying to listen to her about why she hated what she was doing (which right now is anything that involves reading. period. the end.), I took things personally because one reason I was working so much was so I could take the day off tomorrow to go to the fair. I was disappointed she couldn't understand that.

So we both stormed off mad. Yep, I had to get on yet another call and she grabbed her books and pounded out the work - punctuated by the one-by-one plunking down of said work right in the middle of my desk! I got off my last call at 6pm and pulled together dinner (thankfully we had invited my mom over to eat so she kind of broke the tension). And I asked my best friend for help.

Thank goodness my old college roommate has been in Katie's life since the get go. And her energy is completely different from mine (in a really good way). So I asked her to check in with Katie, confidentially, and the result couldn't have been better. Katie got to talk about her side of things, my friend offered sage advice (damn! who knew!) and Katie came off the call inspired.

"Mom, we are writing a contract."
She told me we needed a set of agreements so we wouldn't get in a mess anymore. First was her agreement that she wouldn't get mad about me working. That she understood I often didn't have a lot of control and that it wasn't fair to me if she got mad at me about it.

Holy cow. Out of the mouths of babes.

On my part, I had to agree not to yell. This is a delicate dance because in Katie's head firm words are yelling but I heard her and I agreed. We added to the list and decided to keep it as a "work in progress" that we could adjust at anytime.

So will it work?
I don't know. But I feel like we got to a new place today. Painful, exhausting but moving forward. I would love to hear how other families have negotiated the work/school/feelings balance. It's an interesting process and I am sure we still have miles to go!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best "School Work" Ever: Art Project for the County Fair

When Katie had a fever of 103.5 yesterday, I figured there was no way she was going to be able to create her "Veggie Art" project for the fair today. But at 6:30pm, the fever broke and she started to get a little spunky. So I crossed my fingers and got her to bed at a reasonable time.

Thankfully, this morning she woke up mostly great (you'll still detect some less-than-perky eyes on her) and she wanted to create a project for the County Fair. It's kind of a family tradition and she's placed every year she's had a submission. So I think a little competitiveness was also at play.

She explained her vision to me and for the first time, I had to do the veggie shopping on my own (we were trying to keep her energy level from tanking - she's not 100%). I kind of spazzed out about shopping alone because I realized a lot of the creative process comes from actually touching the various materials. And without her, I was a little lost. But I bought some stuff and brought it home.

Two Rabbits? Seriously? If you say so..

That was her vision. Two rabbits eating carrots. And at first it was clear - on her part - that I had not purchased the right materials. But after we got over arguing, she got started. It took her about two hours but the result is pretty darn cool. [PS: the hardest part of the whole thing? Driving to the fairgrounds without taking out the sculpture due to bumpy roads! I get a stomach ache every time!]

I have no idea how it will do in the competition - we'll know later this week - but are so happy she has an entry and will be part of the event. If you have never created anything with produce - try it! It absolutely changes your relationship with the stuff!

Home School POV
As we worked with the different veggies, some she doesn't eat, I had her taste them and imagine how we might prepare them. She got mired in the smells and textures and it's always a great way to expose her to a bunch of new things she might not yet eat.
 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reflections: Week Two - It's So About Me!

Woohoo! We wrapped up the second week of home school and it was better than the first. Well, at least from a "getting actual work done" perspective.

We got some great workbooks and that helped Katie get a bit more excited about doing the work. I think the workbooks feel more familiar to her - more like "real school" as she would say. [And like "real school" if you notice in the photo, she does have one of her favorite deskmates to help her study. That's Lulu the wonder cat - as in we are always wondering what the heck she's getting into.]

I am trying to keep track of what we do during the week based on a form the school gave us - of course I had to customize it to work for me. Story of my life - always making things "better!" That's helping me see how we do across different categories. And as I suspected, I need to beef things up in math and science.

Laundry, Work, Teach, Cook
But the big "wow" I got this week is that this process is a lot about me. I kind of knew this was going to be about me because I was going to have to adapt work a lot to allow for home school. And what we study has to interest me or I am likely to disengage. So the changes I have noticed in my behavior is I now view everything I (or we) do as a "teachable moment." I was already kind of like that - I come from a family of know-it-alls - but now I approach it less from that perspective and more from a why/how point of view.

Another surprise, I didn't expect to enjoy pulling together the curriculum for the coming week so much. I look at what's happening in politics, current events, holidays, local events and celebrations and then work to tie-in where we are with what's going on. I kind of get my rocks off being clever! (Shhh, don't tell Katie, I like her to think she's "discovering" things I kind of leave out.)

I find reviewing her work to be similarly self-satisfying. It's so intimate. And it lets me look for new ways to help her learn where's she struggling.

Here's an example: she's a terrible speller. No secret. I think this because she doesn't read enough. She knows the words - she has a huge vocabulary - but she doesn't see them spelled enough to get the patterns. So now I have the challenge - which I take very personally - to find ways to expose her to more things in writing (without having a fight about reading). Check back for my diabolical plans.

Week Three: Expect the Unexpected
As Katie began this weekend with a huge fever, I realized even my best laid plans will have to remain flexible and adaptable. I am sure the experienced home schoolers out there have written entire chapters about the need for flexibility. I am getting it!

And I can't wait for week three!
 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Must be Doing Something Wrong, This is Too Much Fun

A year ago I was dealing with a total remodel (which means we moved out), a pair of seniors whom I love but were facing both bankruptcy and ill-health, a busy workload and I was losing my mind.

I can't get health insurance so I have to be very proactive about my own health and after paying for a set of tests to see how I was doing, my doc said my blood pressure was out of control. I knew I was taking a huge risk doing too much. Add to that a fourth grade teacher that really needed to be in therapy rather than the classroom and it was a formula for a complete breakdown.

One year later, we are back home, the elders are on the mend (and I manage their money), and we walked away from the bad school. And oh yeah - we are having a blast!

Why are those kids here?
We have the good fortune to have a very robust home school program through our local school district. As you might expect, it's not because of the district (not really, they graciously leave us alone), but it's the direct result of a group of talented people who understand what "support" means when it comes to home school. One of the things they do is plan family activities to bring us together so kids can play and (I am convinced) so mom's can talk and share ideas. There are a few dads there, but very few on the weekday events.

We went to the pool today where all the kids - from the little ones (Kindergarten) to the big ones (eighth graders) splished, splashed and played. It was awesome. I brought a pile of school work to grade while Katie practiced her underwater handstand. While I was stashing some stuff in the car, a tourist couple walked up to me and asked, "Why aren't those kids in school? Why are they here?" I smiled and said, "That is school! It's home school." They thought that was pretty cool.

At the pool, I was grading Katie's work (grading is a weird word, I guess reviewing, circling, commenting, questioning), and I got a little thrill. I felt so close to her. For the first time (maybe ever), I was truly understanding how she was thinking and how she made mistakes. I decided not to mark things wrong but rather simply circle them to try to understand why she answered the way she did. When we reviewed her answers later in the day, I found she sometimes goes too fast and doesn't get the whole question.

In one case, we realized her answer was correct even though it differed from the answer key.

The result was Katie felt way better about her work as she understood why she made the mistakes she made and that she could have a "right" answer even though the book said it was wrong. Very empowering. Overall, I have to say the process is truly powerful and by having us work together to review her work has put us on the same team.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Discuss: Where Will Education be in Five Years?

I was at an all-day offsite today and that was one of the questions we tried to answer.

I have my own company that works to understand how young people use technology and then we share that information with Silicon Valley companies. Today, we were trying to map the future of a new product and in an effort to inform our visioning, the VP asked us where we though education would be in five years. Sometimes I answer from the perspective of my teens and sometimes I use my own experiences.

Had you asked me this even six months ago, I think I would have had a different answer. But now that I have become a "home schooler," I have to say my opinion was influenced by a new point of view.

How do we get what we need?
I believe the Internet is a great equalizer. Provided people have access, it does democratize information - allowing anyone to gather whatever information they need and then use their brain power to determine the value of that information. It goes hand in glove with the migration to "self-service" that has permeated the last decade. And I think that's what's happening with education as well.

Remember when we used to have someone pump our gas? Swipe our credit cards? Help us find what we need in a store or library? Now we are on our own. We have to do it ourselves. And as a result, I think we make different choices about where and how we spend our time (e.g. I spend way more time shopping on the Internet because I want information I can't get at the store anymore).

Just think, if you get it yourself, you can have free refills!
Now that I have tasted home school, I think this is also how education is evolving. A broader group of parents are starting to embrace the "self-serve model" on an individual level. Sure, schools will continue but more and more they are about meeting basic requirements. Socializing the masses. But big picture, if you really want to teach your child something more, you have to take the initiative and do it. And you can customize the experience to meet you child's individual needs - or strengths - or preferences.

I am just beginning to think about this but I am surprised by how much making the shift to home school has already influenced my thinking. I am wondering, has it influenced you? What do you think the future of education is - in just the next five years? Leave me a comment, I would love to know!

What are others thinking? Here are a few links to get you started...
The Future of Education
The Future of Education: Technology and How People Learn
2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lesson Plan: Using Obama's Speech to Teach, er um, Learn

Setting the (insane) controversy aside, I am going to have Katie watch and listen to Obama's speech tomorrow. We won't be realtime because I have to work all day, but we will watch the recording together and then we'll do a little bit more.

Typically, during any show, we pause the action a lot (thank you TiVo) and talk about what we are watching. I expect this will be no exception. But afterward, I want to take things a bit further. Here's what I have planned:

First: Taking Action on His "Call to Action"
Obama's asking the kids "what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?" I am going to have her answer those questions - even if we just do make believe. Getting her imagination going is key - and goodness knows, we have no idea what jobs our kids will be doing twenty years from now. 

Second: The Fine Art of Persuasion
I have dusted off my old rhetoric knowledge (my major, doncha know) and we are going to review his written speech. I want her to use a highlighter and hit his main points. Then I want her to tell me his "calls to action" (what he wants people to do) and finally, I want her to identify what he says to "prove" his points (e.g. citing real world examples). My goal here is mostly to start teaching her how to think; how to persuade and how important it is that you include proof in any argument.

Finally (or third): Watching How it Got Baked!
We will watch the Nickelodeon special: Get Schooled: You Have the Right. I think you can grab it on Tivo here. Again, we'll record this and watch/talk during the day. Hopefully listening to the life of a Whitehouse speech writer - especially after spending so much time reviewing the speech - will be inspiring. 

So that's my plan.
It might be too much. I don't want to over do it but I do want to bring it to life and make it meaningful. It's hard to lead people - it takes a lot of work, thought, persuasion, passion and commitment. If I can show her how that all comes together in one speech aimed at kids, I will feel good about this "lesson."
 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reflections: The First "Real" Week of Home School

We gave it our best shot this week - our first real week of  home school. We strove to get work done, prove we could work on our own and I looked for signs of autonomy in Katie. Alas, I am WAY too optimistic.

Our consultant, Joy, we great about telling me public school kids need to deprogram. She gave me permission to lighten up and kind of follow Katie's lead. Our contract meeting went really well and I finally felt like I had the structure I needed to shepherd her through the process. Boy am I insane.

Um, kids are kids. DOH!
What the hell was I thinking? Katie was the same kid this week as she has been every other week I have known her. Absolutely distracted by life, into anything that didn't require focus or concentration (unless it was Littlest Pet Shops all over the dining room table) and every time I said, "I want you to sit down and get to work," she had a quick, "just a sec, I just need to...[fill in the blank with anything except school work here]."

By Friday, we were also getting ready to host a big family get together. The first one in probably two years because I am so incredibly bad at hosting parties. So the stress level was high. Everything had to be cleaned - yard, house - food had to be bought and prepared. I was just a little on edge (please read that with intense sarcasm...family members have threatened to leave me by the side of the road because of my intensity around these kinds of events).

And that's when I lost it.

I flipped out and yelled at Katie to get to work. "I mean it this time," I screamed. And then I dropped a whole stack of books on the floor to make my point. Things got very quiet. Katie picked up her work and went into the closet. (No, I am not horrible, she had made a little study nook in there and had yet to use it. Suddenly it became a haven.) And out poured the work. Writing, reading, thinking. Holy cow.

I was tempted to howl with relief. The work had been done. But I checked myself. Completing the work was fine but actually, it really wasn't the point. Neither was my losing it. The point was, she had found a process that worked for her.

In fact, when I asked her why she was able to get it done this time and not before, she pointed out the workspace (yep, the closet) helped her focus. I bet it did. So I congratulated her on discovering a process that helped her be successful (Uncle Gary had sent me this article on praise earlier in the week - while I was already on board with the "don't over praise" it was helpful to refresh my memory on what to do). Then I asked her to consider using that space in the future to help her hunker down and get the work done. She agreed it might make sense.

So, my reflections on the first week? It's not going to be easy. There are a bunch of reasons I am loving home school. The stress relief for me is off the charts - no lunches, no homework battles, no morning fights to hurry up and get moving. And we can do fun stuff any day of the week - letting me work on the weekend of that makes sense and play on a Thursday!

But yep, it's also going to be hard.

Home School POV: 

At the family party - which was also a bit of a late bday celebration for Katie - I asked folks to bring something home schoolish. I wanted them to share something they love with her so we could extend our home school reach and involve the whole family. The results were delightful.

One aunt and uncle bought two books - one for them and one for us - and have proposed a family book club. We will go hang with them in October to share our impressions. Another aunt and uncle got her a gift certificate to Michaels so Katie can get some crafts for upcoming projects. Another relative is sending us links to cool content and has offered up some language lessons. Those are just a few examples of the creative ways family and friends reached out. I am glad they are so willing to participate and share!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Outing: Home School River Rats Have a Blast!

Another school day, another day at a State Park. Our home school scheduled a river swim today and it was awesome!

We have always loved Henry Cowell State Park. It's in Felton and simply gorgeous. We typically go up for nature walks and to look for banana slugs. But today we went with friends to simply have a good time.

A Little Positive Reinforcement
I can't tell you how satisfying it is to enjoy nature on a great sunny day knowing tons of other kids are stuck in a classroom. The satisfaction doesn't come from knowing the other kids are missing out, but rather from getting the positive reinforcement that what I am doing for my kid is actually making her so incredibly happy.

The river was perfect, the temperature warm and the beach large and accommodating. The parents were on the bank (and some in the water) as the kids explored, swam and fell from a great swing that dumped them into the water.

Fishing of a Different Sort
I am so grateful that I am able to manage my workload in a way that I can shift things around to attend these events. Sure, I checked email, but it was quietly and I don't think Katie ever noticed. I also helped catch rock fish, leaf fish, twig fish and root fish with the little kids who were trying to catch all the fish they could (um get it? They weren't real fish!).

We came home, collapsed and focused on just getting some reading done for the school work portion of our day. We can't wait to go back.

Could a Little Innovation Save our Parks (and Schools)?!?
Now, if we could just figure out a way to leverage the State Parks and our schools, maybe we wouldn't need to cut budgets and close the parks. The parks seem like the perfect classroom to me!
  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We Meet our Consultant and Write our Contract

To "do" home school via the district, we have to create an agreement that says what we will be doing in the next six weeks to keep Katie on track. So today we met with our consultant - a teacher - who helped us set goals, identify resources and get us moving forward.

It was a long meeting but really helpful. We have a few large subject areas - kind of what you would expect - and we have to work within each one: language arts, social studies, math, science, art/music and PE. Katie and I had already made a list of trips we want to go on in the next couple months and figured out some activities related to those trips.

During the meeting, Katie could hear the kids from her old school come out for recess. That nearly killed her. She knew her friends were right there, just on the other side of the fence, without her. She managed pretty well but we finally let her go to say, "hello." It seemed to do the trick and her recovery was much faster.

Wilder Ranch. Totally Awesome.
We spent the afternoon investigating a volunteer activity. We thought we would be a good fit at Wilder Ranch, [that's a photo of the barn!] but as we learned more about the commitment, it's bigger than us. The job, feeding and putting up the sheep and goats once a week in the evening, it not bad at all. It's actually pretty cool. But the 3pm time requirement and the year commitment is more than we can handle. I just don't think I can get back from work in time on those days I have to be on site with the client. Don't even get me started on the summer camp conflict. Bummer.

Update: In today's paper, there's a very depressing article about our State Parks and how our local parks, including Wilder, may possibly be closed. What a shame. The one comfort we had with our decision not to do the volunteering, is that we could still go there and simply hang out. I so hope we don't lose this park.

We didn't do much actual teaching (beyond what we learned at the ranch). Our smoke detectors woke us at 5:20am so we have been exhausted all day. So glad it's almost over!

Update: We ended up working late into the evening cleaning the yard for an upcoming family party and at 8pm, Katie mentioned she never had dinner. So we ran out to grab a bite and when we were done and jumped back in the car, we were surprised by a loud explosion! It was fireworks! Capitola's Birthday celebration was concluding with a huge fireworks show. We parked the car and watched with delight. It was completely unexpected and so cool.

Home School POV: Because home school has given us this incredible new flexibility (no looming bedtimes because I don't have to roust Katie at the crack of dawn, no pressing homework deadlines), I was willing to go out and grab food at 8pm. Something I would never have done in the old days. As a result, we got to see the fireworks and share a moment we'll always remember.