Monday, January 25, 2010


It has been almost a month of homeschooling. Some highlights:

  • so many new friends- Lilah now has at least seven new friends who are also learning at home
  • six playdates, a field trip, two trips to playgroup, several trips to the library and lunch with her new friends at IKEA
  • attended a gymnastics birthday party for a public school friend
  • checked out a geography bee
  • picked out yarn for her blanket
  • started new swimming class
  • started new pottery class
  • joined a homeschool Brownie Troop
  • was given a Mozart piece by her piano teacher to compliment our composer study
  • likes math for the first time, choosing it over television at night
  • completed three lapbooks: Family History, Squirrels, and Frogs
  • knows the difference between a vertebrate and an invertebrate
  • has memorized the poem The Caterpillar and is working on her second poem
  • knows the definition of a noun
  • enjoys mixing watercolor paint
  • is participating in a Chinese New Year festival
  • able to read past her bedtime and picks books about Egypt to read!
  • now eats three meals a day
  • not one nightmare....not one!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Very Cool

Wednesday we made our first field trip to the Peabody Museum at Yale University. We have been studying ancient history and are currently exploring ancient Egypt. We have read about the flood plains of the Nile, the battle between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt and the birth of Egyptian Mythology. She has drawn ancient symbols in her sketchbook, read books like Tomie DePaola’s Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile and inquired about practice of mummification, which she read about on her own.

Taking her to the Peabody this week connected this learning to the artifacts at the museum. She ran her hands over the relief tiles commenting to herself how very cool it was to see the things she has been reading about in person.

I told her that the Metropolitan Museum of Art also has an Ancient Egyptian wing and that she will find it amazing too. “Oh Mom....I don’t need any more coolness! This is so cool, it is all I need!”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tipping the Balance

We are entering into testing season in public school. G gets tested repeatedly throughout the school year. However, after Christmas vacation, the district kicks into high gear. Now not only are CMT groups meeting after school for those students who the district has deemed in need of extra help, they are now meeting during school for all students. I find it so frustrating that our district cannot find time to sing a 20 second patriotic song (a tradition that was cut from the day this year due to needing more “instructional time”) yet they can manage to reschedule teachers and students to create CMT Study Groups; groups of children in grades three through six who meet at least weekly focusing on one area of the CMT test. There is an increase in district mandated testing, and this is all piled on top of grade level work that is required. Add to this, no outdoor recess as long as there is snow on the ground and I have a recipe for one very stressed unhappy child.

The red flags of her sensory processing disorder are up. G’s ankle hurts. Pain is a sure signal of stress in her body. She had a nightmare about having her behavior clip moved from the green zone to the yellow zone. She does not want to shower, she does not want her hair brushed. She is extremely tired despite sleeping 11 hours. I try my best to balance her. I give her outlets for exercise through basketball. I try to schedule more playdates. Most importantly I talk to her. I get her to talk to me. As long as we are communicating I can help to manage her stress.

I know G is a tough kid. I know she got three staples in her head and the next day threw her helmet on and had a skating lesson with her coach. I know she can score almost perfectly on the CMT despite being on neurological medication for a pain disorder that I strongly feel was brought about by the damn test she was scoring so well on. So what is the price for having a tough kid. Is it stress? Is it unhappiness? Are the positives still outweighing the negatives? I don’t want to be anti-school. But I see what it is doing to my two children, one I have been fortunate enough to get out before the stress of testing truly impacted her emotionally. But what about G? She chose to remain in school. She is choosing to handle the stress of her school day. Even with trying to make our home as stress free as possible, life has stress. How much is a nine year old supposed to handle before my “tough” kid needs more help than I can give her?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Lapbook

Yesterday I learned something important. Part of homeschooling is learning to let go. When L was crabby and needed time to just hang out and relax, I gave it to her. Part of me was screaming “what about science, what about the Mozart webcast I wanted to listen to, what about our schedule??” Another smaller part of me said “just wait”. And so I did. I gave her the time to lay down on the couch with her Barbie dolls and snuggle with her two dogs, Jake and Daphne. Having Daphne curl up on your lap is a sure fire cure to any bad mood. It did not take long, about a half hour before she said, okay mom, I’m ready. And ready she was. I pulled up a YouTube video of a boy, perhaps 5 years old, sharing his All About Me lapbook. There were samples of his writing, stickers, things he liked, things he learned about God and his religion and samples of his art. I have been trying to get L to work on a lapbook to document her learning about squirrels, the first animal she choose in her animal classification study. Apparently, I was not doing a good job communicating the concept of a lapbook because after watching the 5 minute video, she looked at me and said incredulously, “I can do that?” All it took was a smile from me for encouragement and off she went. Two hours into her lapbook, she wanted to go to Staples for supplies. After we returned, she spent another hour or so on her project, bringing her time invested in this project to close to three hours. Three hours. Her project is meaningful. It is relevant to her learning. She answered the five questions I demanded of her research (what family does the animal belong to, where does it live, what does it eat, what does it look like and what do you find interesting about this animal). I reflected on how this project compared to the numerous others she has worked on in public school, where her emotional investment was minimal. It does not compare. This is something she is proud of. This is not busy work. This is important. This is learning.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I have read that it is recommended to allow for a period of “deschooling” when a child comes out of public school. For every year they have been in school, take one month off and do nothing. That would have been nice had I withdrew L at the end of the school year. We could have allowed for deschooling over the natural summer break and began with lessons in September. However, with one child remaining in public school it would seem pretty unfair to her and quite frankly, a little nerve racking to me to allow for two months of nothingness during January and February.

Last week we jumped right into lessons and much was accomplished. She completed her History of My Family project, which coincided with the introduction to ancient history. She started a lapbook about squirrels for her animal classification study. She took two math placement tests. She memorized a poem. She painted a beautiful watercolor painting. She began a composer study by listening daily to Mozart. Whew. That would knock any kid out. But she forged ahead smiling every day.

Today, not so much! She is whiny and tired and much more interested in playing with her Barbies than reading about the first nomads. But she read. She did not feel like doing grammar. But she edited her history project and corrected the capitalization for proper nouns. Today has not been full of enthusiasm and passion for learning at home. She looks tired. I let her rest. She said she feels like she needs to learn. I explained that I feel most comfortable when we move through our lessons with little breaks of 5-10 minutes in between. However, the beauty of learning at home is we don’t always have to do that. She has no outside lessons today. No playdates are scheduled. To accomplish everything on my plan, we have to listen to a 5 minute podcast about Mozart, work on the squirrel lapbook, and she needs to do her personal reading. The lapbook can be done during Grace’s homework time. The personal reading can be done in the car when Grace is having her piano lesson. The podcast is only 5 minutes and if that is not accomplished today, I can move it to tomorrow’s schedule.

This is a lesson for me also. I am her mother. I am also now her teacher. I want her to do her lessons but this is only our second week together. If she were in school and did not finish her work, it would become homework. If she is home and does not finish her work, she is choosing to finish it at another time. It will be added to the task list. Her natural consequence may be having to finish the outstanding work before swimming or before going to her friend’s house. This is hard for me as I am a planner and like structure. For now, I need to slow down, listen to L’s cues as she adjusts to this new way of learning. Some days may be robust and lively. Others may be painstaking and tedious. That is okay. Life is like that. We work around natural deadlines. How we choose to accomplish our tasks teaches us all about how to handle life as an adult.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Week In Review

I am still processing my thoughts and feelings about this week. There are so many things I want to say about it but my brain jumps from one topic to the next too quickly to write coherently right now.

Here are some quotes from Lilah I jotted down in my journal throughout the week:

Jessica: “What do mammals do when they are in a group?”

L: “Date?”

“Grammar is my best part of the day!”

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a noun!” This led us to jumping ahead to discuss proper nouns since it could not be added to our web of common nouns.

“Math is so much more fun now....just to let you know”

“It’s fun having school with my dogs!”

“I learned that up to 10 in one place is okay. After that you have to regroup.”

Perhaps my best memory of this week was during the night last night. Because of an spontaneous sleep over for G, L slept in bed with me. About 5:00am I heard L tossing and turning. I despaired because I thought she was crying in her sleep, a sound I am much to used to hearing. I immediately thought, “oh no, not again." I thought she was getting better since I have not heard crying for awhile now.

I was thrilled when I realized the sounds she was making as she lie asleep dreaming were not sobs, she was laughing in her sleep! Sweet dreams L.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thank Goodness for Library Cards!

The four of us just returned from a two hour trip to the library. I don’t think we have taken a family trip to the library since the girls were toddlers. I was on a mission: to supplement L’s curriculum. She needs Bible stories for Ancient History, non-fiction books about squirrels for her animal classification unit for science, a few good picture books to go with some math lessons from Marilyn Burns’ unit on place value and a few short books on cd for when we are on the go but still need to use the time for learning. Two hours and two stuffed tote bags later, I feel ready to delve into this adventure of learning at home.

Our library has three floors, the main for circulation, young adult and research, the third is children's and the lower is a quiet study area filled with young adult/adult non fiction books. After discovering three books about squirrels I neglected to add to my bag, I made a dash back to the third floor leaving my girls with my husband in the quiet area. I returned a few minutes later to the three of them sitting at a circular table surrounded by books. Each was reading silently. Because we are all so different, it can be a challenge to find one activity that is capable of pulling us in and holding our attention simultaneously. My husband looked at me and said it looks like we have begun a new Saturday morning tradition!

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...