Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dusting Off and Starting Fresh

Yet again Grace asked me when I am going to blog.  I struggle with this blog space.  Is it a homeschool blog?  Should I take it to the next level and really try to make a go of it for a little side income?  Is it a family blog?  One of my favorite bloggers, 71toes, has been able to keep blogging through the teen years and build a lovely collection of moments for her children to look back on.  
Gathering chive flowers to infuse in vinegar

I do read a few homeschool blogs, quite a few actually, and I don’t want to to be the mom who is always complaining that her kids don’t do anything, slack off, and continually disappoint her.  I also don’t want to be the mom that gives the impression that what I am doing is not hard, very hard in fact.  In no way do I want to be a martyr for homeschooling.  Yes it is hard.  Yes I consider it equivalent to a full time job.  Homeschooling and life are synonymous for us.  At this point you just can’t separate the two.  We live as if there is no school.  How we learn and how we live are completely intertwined.  
Exploring the neighborhood with a friend.

I used to love blogging.  It was my hobby.  I look back on the moments we had, the trips we took, the snow days, the beach days, the vacations, the museums, the park days, the baking days, the sports days, and it all brings back feelings of joy and love.  Lately though, our lives have become a bit dull by comparison.  Too much book work.  Too few trips.  Too little time with friends.  Too little excitement over learning.  Too much bickering.  Too much worry over what we will do and how we will do it.  
dirty feet = happy day

Having middle school and high school age children and being responsible for their education and ultimately their ability to follow through on their goals and dreams is a bit daunting at times.  The past few weeks I have been really digging deep on how I want the next few years to be.  Will homeschooling continue to work?  Will the need to be around other children more frequently persuade them to return to school?  Is what we are doing enough?  Can I truly tune out the constant barrage of “look at me” posts of children taking full loads of AP classes and scoring perfectly on SAT, SATII, ACT, PSAT and God only knows what other test is out there?  Can we find the joy we once had in our homeschool?  
Yes.  I think we can.  I know we can.
First I have to find new material for us.  We are going to stick with what works, like Teaching Textbooks for math and Writing Strands for writing.  When we were engrossed in Story of the World the girls were fired up about learning.  They were keeping notebooks and learning songs from The History Teachers.  They were taking field trips and doing projects.  This was the spine of our curriculum.  This year we took a break so the girls could plan their own course of study for history and we learned amazing things and discovered amazing people but it is time to return to a more structured plan for history.  We are going to work with Diana Waring’s History Revealed which to me is very similar to Story of the World, but for older students.  I like that like SOTW, it is chronological and the girls will get deeper exposure to periods in history they are already familiar with.  We are going to start with The Ancients for grade 9, Middle Ages for grade 10 and Modern Age for grade 11 (grade 7 through 9 for Lilah).  This will be the majority of what we do.  This will be our spine that pulls in literature, writing and researching and project based learning.  We have already gone back to our Book of Centuries, and we will load up our Netflix account and Amazon Prime with quality videos that correspond to what we are learning.  
And there you have it.  Our 2014-2015 (July 1 through June 30) year mostly planned.
Math: TT
History: History Revealed: Ancients
Language Arts: Writing Strands, Wordly Wise, History Revealed plus book club, reading for pleasure and audio book selections.
Arts: Outside class at local art school supplemented by 6-8 week studies at home and local museum trips 
Returning to once we week trip taking 
Horseback Riding
Foreign Language: ASL II with outside teacher
Music lessons: at home for Lilah and Hartt School of Music for Grace
Science: To be determined: Possibly the 101 Series: Biology 101
*this is a tentative curriculum list which allows time for classes as they come up and time to dig deep and explore areas of interest.  
This year we are going to incorporate Notebooking into our day.  Very often Lilah will ask me what the point is to do certain things when there is no real outcome, no place to display, no award to be won.  She does not see the point in doing beautiful work and then just sticking it in a binder to be forgotten.  I have to agree.  My Lilah is always looking at the big picture.  I hope to join in on monthly get togethers that are organized by a homeschooling group that give the kids the opportunity to share something of their choice.  It can be a project, a piece of music they are working on, a poem they have memorized or... a notebook they are building.  

Notebooking will give them the opportunity to summarize their studies and build a comprehensive book that they can reflect back on as they get older.  We began yesterday with a poetry entry which we made a duplicate copy of for our Book of Centuries (W.B. Yeats), who we were introduced to in our latest audio book, Andrew Clements, Things Hoped For.
This is where I am at right now.  Family, learning, life.  All rolled into one.   Since Grace and Lilah are so fond of this blog and my thoughts about how we are living our lives, I pledge to you to do better with recording our adventures here.  This is our story.  You are not only reading it, you are creating it.


Cassie said...


I have recently found your blog while searching for homeschool high school blogs and I've really, really enjoyed reading thus far! I do hope you keep blogging about your homeschool adventures! I also have a daughter who will begin high school in the fall and am trying to avoid the feeling of anxiety that seems my constant companion each time I venture into the realm that is homeschool high school. I keep vacillating between interest-led, relaxed, project-based, literature-based approaches and when I think I've landed on one, something interesting catches my eye about the other and I'm back where I began.

I could have written your post myself, almost word for word, especially this:

"Having middle school and high school age children and being responsible for their education and ultimately their ability to follow through on their goals and dreams is a bit daunting at times. The past few weeks I have been really digging deep on how I want the next few years to be. Will homeschooling continue to work? Will the need to be around other children more frequently persuade them to return to school? Is what we are doing enough?"

I think at the root of it all for me is fear. I fear that if we choose to take the path less traveled, I will ruin my daughters's chances at higher education, should they choose it. I know it isn't so but the fear of failure can easily grab hold and tighten its grip! And yet, we are adamant against traveling down the road of convention. Why not veer off the path and see where it leads us? I think I may be leaning that way, I just have to find my courage along the way.

All the best to you and your family.


Sandra said...

I do hope you keep blogging. Blogs like yours - a relaxed yet not dumbed-down approach to high school - are sorely needed in my opinion. Have you considered linking up to something like Finishing Strong ( I can think of several of your posts that deserve a wider audience and would be perfect there.

I too struggle with blogging (what exactly is its purpose?) but it is a good way for me to preserve memories (I fail to keep a journal but blogging I've stuck to) and sometimes someone might read something I've written and find it helpful. It is hard to get the balance right though - being real enough without being discouraging, or violating our kids' privacy. And then there is the time balance - getting more readers would result in more feedback and connections for me (one of the reasons I started blogging was to try and connect with like-minded people online since I don't have much of a real-life support group) but that would take more time and I don't want blogging to become a big time commitment. Still trying to figure it our I guess. Looking forward to reading your high school adventures. I'm sure you'll do a great job of getting the balance right for you and your girls and keeping it (mostly) joyful.

Jessica said...

Thank you for your comment. Are you currently homeschooling or making the decision to homeschool for high school? That must be a difficult choice to make. We began when the girls were in 2nd and 5th grades so I have had some time to think and prepare for high school. It just snuck up on me and we consider learning a year-round process and I count "school" years July 1- June 30 which means in less than a month I will have both a middle school child (7th grade) and a high school age child (9th grade).

I want to slow down and savor the moments. I don't want to look back and just remember a blur of bookwork, and running from this place to that place. I want to make it special but I more importantly I want THEM to make it special. I need to provide the guidance and they need to put in the effort.

I don't know where you live but here in CT there are many high stakes homeschoolers. Kids that are homeschooling for Ivy League acceptance. That is not our track. My girls do want to go to college, or culinary art school, or art school, but I do not want to place them on the track of competitive high stakes homeschooling. It can be hard here when Mom's sign their emails with what colleges their kids are currently attending. Seriously. Every email they send is a broadcast "look how well I did! Look where my kids are now! Pat me on my back please." It literally gives me an upset stomach every time I see it. Not because I feel compelled to do the same or to do the same kinds of programs and activities, but because I don't want to be that parent who feels their child's accomplishments are their own because we homeschool.

I will keep blogging. I need to find my focus and find some inspiration. Every time I see my daughters reading through my blog books, I know how important this record of their history is to them.

I am so glad this post spoke to you. I wish you the best in your family's decision making process!


Jessica said...

Sandra, Thank you for your comments. I truly appreciate the time you take and the thoughts you share with me. I will keep blogging and like I told Cassie above, I need to find my focus and discover some new inspiration. Blogging for me is mostly about recording our family history so when I print off my blog at the end of the year, my girls have a book of our year to flip through and remember the little moments that get sucked up by the big ones. I may have stopped blogging if it were not for my daughter Grace, who pulls the books off the shelf at least once a week and reads through and smiles and asks me if I remember certain things we did or places we went.

Homeschooling High school seems like such a huge thing sometimes and at other times it seems perfectly normal, just an extension of what we have been doing all along. In my head I get hung up on the word "equivalent". Is what we are doing enough? Is it equivalent to a high school class? Are the hours the same? Is the content similar? But what I have realized looking back over this past year, is that it is not about textbooks, Carnegie Hours, and making sure you are doing the same things. It is about learning. Deep, true learning and understanding. It is about discovering new interests, and adding a new layer of understanding to things you thought you already knew. Using a certain textbook will not necessarily give you that. 90 hours vs 120 hours may not give you that. Only experiences will give you that. My goal is to fill up our lives with great learning experiences and record our discoveries here on this blog and live up to the name I gave it so many years ago, Our Teachable Moments.

Thank you so much Sandra. I will look into the sites you mentioned. I am not familiar with them.

Karen said...

I think we all struggle with this. I know I do and have more lately. The 'let them learn like they want to' vs. "Oh my GOSH it's High School so let's replicate public school". I go back and forth. I read the 'requirements for Alabama graduation and know that Keilee would just wither and die if she had to do textbooks for all subjects for 4 years. I have such a hard time finding good high school homeschool blogs. When you go to any "Top 100 homeschool blogs' they are ALL younger kids. Please keep blogging. If you only knew how much you inspire me and so many others!!!!

Jessica said...

I'm not going to stop....I just needed to think about why I am blogging. Yes, this is our story but our story and homeschooling are intertwined. I would love to know the % of families that return to school for high school. We know several families that are returning to school or plan to in the next year or so.

I feel the same way about the requirements. I truly honestly deeply feel that they can have this experience without textbooks, which are great for imparting information to lots of kids at once but not really that practical for one or two kids.....I have to keep reading and rereading Blake Bowles and Grace Llewelyn and keep books like Do Hard Things nearby and constantly be finding sources of inspiration. I cannot even tell you how grateful I am to be able to share this experience with you. Our conversations mean the world to me.

dstb said...

I find your blog very helpful because I know I tend too much toward the "school at home" approach. That works for some things like Math, but I'd like to make other things, like history, more interesting than textbook learning provides.

Just FYI on who goes back to public school and who doesn't. I have 2 boys. I took them out of school when the older was going into 5th and the younger into 3rd grade. The older went back to public school for high school (his choice) and has done well. He is about to finish his junior year and we are in the college search process. He knows he wants to go to school for creative writing and that is completely due to a writing coach he had when he was homeschooled. His brother has decided to stay home for high school and is a freshman. Sophomore year, we will continue at home and then maybe junior year, we will look into some community college classes.

We did too much textbook learning this year and I want to change it for next year. I still have much planning to do, but this is what I am thinking for sophomore year:
Math - Saxon Advanced Math (part of the book this year, then part his Jr. year)
English - writing class with the coach the kids love/literary analysis with me of books that coordinate with the time period we are covering in history
World History - 1600-present - I am thinking of a "turning points in history" approach. I already have some DVDs from the Great Courses and have been looking at a few similarly themed books. Maybe pick out some movies that also highlight certain events. I am trying to let go of the need to cover every.single.thing.
Biology - science has always been a struggle. I want it to be fun, but the kids never seemed to think it was. I am thinking of using the free resources from the ck-12 foundation with an e-reader (he likes to read from my husband's nook) and then use the All Lab No Lecture from the Home Scientist.
Spanish - we have a tutor now, but I am not sure where that will stand next year. We are also using the free duoLingo (I am relearning German! It's kind of fun!)
Those are the core classes. We haven't really discussed what he would like to do for electives. I am thinking maybe photography since he loves to take 9 million pictures when we go on vacation!
Music - I'm hoping he will continue with the homeschool orchestra (he plays cello), but we'll have to see. He'll probably continue with guitar lessons.

I wish I could let go of the "required" courses, but I just can't. I still try to follow the framework of classes that a public school would, but I would like to change how we approach these topics so that he finds them interesting and really wants to dig in.

I am also contemplating what I'll call a block approach. Do one subject until we are done. Like, do Bio the first couple months, then move on to history, maybe separate them by one of the novels we are reading. This approach appeals to both of us, but I wonder if it is practical. The idea would be to do math everyday, but all the remainder of the time would be spent on one other subject like Bio. Of course, things never work out like that because then there are cello lessons, guitar lessons, "oh, this looks like fun, we should do that" and pretty soon, the plan to do just one subject goes out the window!

What are your thoughts on SATs? You may have mentioned it before, but I forget. There are plenty of SAT optional schools, but I think using the SAT including the subject tests to back up the grades we moms have given may be worthwhile. Just curious about what you think.

You always give me lots to think about, so I appreciate when you blog!

Diane Knecht said...

As always you write thought provoking blog posts. I would so miss reading your posts if you were to ever stop. This year was our first for high school and in some ways it was tough. Trying to meet the state's requirements but forging our own path as well. I'm glad you were able to make the decision about using Diana Waring's books for history. I think you will like them. I poured over the books at the last homeschool convention and really liked them. I would have ordered one of the sets if I weren't tutoring some other children in my home next year. I needed something Grace could do more on her own so we are going with Streams of Civilization. Looking forward to some more posts from you.

Sandra said...

Mentioning children's achievements or not is another tough one in terms of getting the balance right. When I do my aim is more to reassure than to brag/discourage. Recently my 21 year old won a nationwide Excellence in Universities Award. Although I'm proud of him, when I mentioned it on my blog the aim wasn't to brag or to claim his achievements as my own . I struggle to understand exactly what it is he does these days! Rather it was to reassure that homeschooling doesn't spoil our kids chances in higher education. His area is chemistry and it is hard to do higher level labs at home. We did hardly any as a result and I was duly worried that his academic life would be ruined as a result! However, he's now in the 2nd year of a PhD and winning funding so those fears didn't come to fruition. I certainly wouldn't use it as a signature line on all my emails though!

Jessica said...


I completely understand. I have felt that way about my girls too. It is extremely reassuring to those of us with young teens to know that there are families who have come before us, who went the distance with homeschooling and have children who are successful. It gives me peace of mind to know that.

Jessica said...

It was because of one of your previous comments that I decided to return to a more structured history program and make it once again the backbone of what we do. I realized that with our book club, reading for pleasure and the recommended reading from each period of history, I can accomplish literature studies at the same time as history. And from previous experience, I know this is a format that my girls love. Thank you again for taking the time to write such thoughtful comments.

I have not given much thought to SAT/ACT testing. I abhore it. I think the College Board is a sham. I am 100% against Common Core, which now affects higher level standardized testing. The reality is the girls may have to succumb to testing to get where they want to be. I have to look into the subject testing (SATII?) Grace is working on Algebra I and when she competes the course, it would make sense to take the test and consider it like a final. Test while fresh. As far as the SATs, she will probably do a test prep course through a local rec department or summer school program but not until her Junior year, when we have a clearer understanding of what she wants and where she has to go to get what she wants. I refuse to pay thousands of dollars to a test prep company and just take the test. However, we do not want to rely on testing. She will have her portfolio. She will take Community College courses. I need them both to know they are more than a test score.

Your comments always give me much to think about. Thank you again!

Jessica said...

I am taking more time for myself to write again. For awhile I was just throwing pictures up but I felt like what I had to say was not really that important. This is the first time in a few months I feel like writing again. I realized I miss it and it was my time to connect with myself. Writing has always helped me stay centered and evaluate my life choices. I think it is no coincidence that our homeschooling got a bit off track around the same time I stopped writing.

You have such a rich, fulfilling homeschool. I love the peak you give us into all you do. My girls are not interested in theater so I love seeing what Grace is up to. I am in awe of kids with that much creativity.

I look forward to seeing what your summer has in store!

Sandra said...

We opted to have my oldest son do the SAT reasoning test (at least I think that is what it is called). It is neither formally required nor officially recognised where we are. Son was headed to university and we felt (for him) sitting a test/exam for the first time at that level wasn't desireable. Since he scored reasonably well it also gave him that reassurance that he was ready for the next step. We'd told him he was but I'm sure he felt we were just saying that since we were his parents and parents are meant to think their kids are great! Long story just to say that while I'm not a fan of testing (and the SAT "industry"does sound worrying) it can have some benefits.

Diane Knecht said...

Wow, that is very sweet of you to say. It is funny how each of us bloggers look at other families and what their homeschooling lives look like. I always feel like you are the one with the rich, fulfilling homeschool and ours is just ho hum. lol. This summer me and Grace are performing in the King and I. New experience for me and something she is kind of an old pro at. Performance dates will be at the end of the summer. Thanks for being a homeschooling inspiration for me.

Jenn said...

I understand your thoughts and your struggle with regard to blogging. I am right there with you!
But you said it so, learning, life- all rolled into one.
I love it.
And I am going to commit to doing a better job of blogging about our journey as well:)
Thanks for sharing this.

Cassie said...

Yes, we are in our fourth year of homeschooling although my older daughter did go back to school for a semester last school year (she really wanted to go and wanting to respect her wishes, we let her, but for personal reasons we ended pulling her out mid-way). The more we homeschool, the more relaxed we’ve become mostly because our girls just do not, cannot, will not learn in a mandated, coerced environment. And also the more time we stray from the mainstream, homeschooling and life mingle and mix with each other and it becomes difficult to identify where learning ends and life begins or vice versa. Since the beginning of our homeschool journey, one of our main goals has been to preserve the love of learning beyond these “schooling” years. Sometimes (often) that means dropping “schooly” subjects for the time being or for when they become necessary for a specific goal.

I too feel that the high school years have snuck up on me! And now I also feel sort of pulled to reign in the learning to prepare for the “just in case she goes to college” scenario. So no more of this loosey goosey stuff, time to get to work! But then I go back to my Teenage Liberation Handbook and take comfort in reading all about the freedom my daughter can have to choose her own learning path and I really want that for her, for me, and for all of us. So while it may sound like I’m new to this, no, I’m just having a mini crisis in confidence. My head tells me to follow the path laid before me, but my heart tells me to go completely off course.

In speaking to my daughter, she would like guidance on how to structure her days to allow for academics and interest-driven activities. She wants carve out time to read literature, biographies, historical fiction, to learn Spanish fluently (my mother tongue), and to improve her skills on the piano while also allowing time to continue to teach her piano students, make and edit videos, blog, volunteer, stick to an exercise routine, bake, read some more, explore, meet with friends…

In our neck of the woods, NJ, there are no specific requirements for homeschoolers. I have not experienced the push to “Ivy” here even though we live within a few miles of one. That is not our track either. We would like our girls to find happiness, do what they love and find unique ways to financially support themselves. In a lifetime, that will most likely change and look differently many times and it may or may not include college. I think that having the ability to reinvent themselves will be the ultimate 21st century skill.

Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with us. It really helps to know there are others like you out there, looking out for their children’s best interest and seeking out the best opportunities and possibilities, even if things gets difficult and muddy along the way.


Post a Comment

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...