Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dealing with Negativity

So although I've really had a lot of support and positive responses to my homeschooling news, there has been some negativity. To be expected I guess. Dealing with this negativity is difficult because it usually comes from those closest to us. Why is that? Why are we hardest on the ones we love the most? Why do we tear our loved ones down instead of building them up sometimes?

I'm sure I am not completely without blame in this category, but I like to think that I am almost always very positive when loved ones share an idea, express creativity, or come to me with something important. Unless I was truly afraid for their welfare, I don't think I would be negative (not intentionally anyway). And maybe that's it. Maybe it is not intentional and they don't realize they are doing it?

For example, playing the 'Devil's advocate' role. I soooooooooooo don't get this at all. Unless you are asked to help brainstorm a problem or you are asked to weigh the pros and cons, WHY would anyone play Devil's advocate unsolicited? I find this highly insulting. AHEM, I am 38 years old, have a Master's degree, own a home, have a successful career, and have managed to raise my girls (with the hubbs of course) to be pretty awesome kids (if I do say so myself), I am generally a good person. Do I appear incompetent? OK rant over.

I know everyone deals with this negativity in their daily lives. The snide comments, the eye rolls, the doubt, the 'I'm saying something that sounds helpful but is really underhanded and negative.' I just don't understand it I guess. I get when it comes from people who are envious, or do not feel good enough about themselves to celebrate others' successes, but I don't understand when it comes from those closest to you. The ones that are supposed to love you unconditionally. The ones who are supposed to support you and help you along the way. If I have ever been negative to anyone in this way, I truly apologize and did not realize I was being negative.

So maybe we should all think before we speak next time. Is what we are saying REALLY helpful? Are we being positive, supportive, nurturing? Are we lifting our loved ones up or tearing them down? Just about every adult I love is a competent, smart, level-headed human being. Let's treat each other this way. Give each other the respect that we deserve. Realize that unless we ask for help, we are really just looking for support and praise. Ranting off a grocery list of 'what ifs' doesn't help anyone. Assume we have gone over that grocery list 100 times already. And even if there are negatives (which there are in every situation) support your loved ones ANYWAY. Because you love them and they deserve your support.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Home Sporting

So one of the responses I have received from a friend is quite interesting and got me thinking. He said that his family has boycotted all organized sports and are 'home sporting' their two boys. I love this idea! How many of us have been held hostage by the after school schedule?

Home from school by 4pm. Rush to get homework done, change into practice clothes, leotard, sport uniform, and race off to practice X or game Y. Event does not end until 6 or later and now it is too late to cook so race off to McGreasy King for the next best option. Shove that down your face while in the car because as soon as we get home, it's bath and bedtime. Just to wake up and repeat each day....

Sound familiar? It does to me anyway. We do this in the name of 'fun' for our kids. But let's think about much fun is it really? How do you feel when your day is rushed from one thing to the next and to the next? I know I get flustered, stressed and aggrevated on days like this. And yet, many of us fall victim to this schedule everyday. Many have more than one kid in more than one sport or activity, and this is daily life! Between sports, CCD or other religious events, clubs, Girl/Boy scouts, art/music classes etc. When is there ANY downtime?  It's no wonder our kids today have NO IDEA how to go outside and organize a game of kickball without adult intervention. That's pretty sad.

I have to admit, I have fallen victim to this exact schedule - no matter how hard I try not to. It's hard to say no to those pretty blue eyes, staring up at me with awe saying 'PLEASE MOMMY!" But that is our job isn't it? We are not supposed to be their friend, we are supposed to be their parent. And sometimes that means saying no, no matter how much that hurts, because it is what is GOOD for them.

People have responded numerous times about how well my children play - play together, play by themselves, with others.....I attribute this directly to down time. We spend a lot of time at home, in our backyard, unstructured. We are lucky enough to have a lot of kids on our street to play with, but usually they are alone or with only each other. We frequently say 'go outside and play' with no other direction than that. I don't know about you, but I grew up this way and I think I had the best childhood EVER! Yes I played sports or had music lessons or took dance, but it was once in a while. This very idea of home sporting came from my best friend, my neighborhood friend, who I've known basically since birth. We had a trio that was inseparable (still are best friends to this day). We spent everyday outside playing kickball, matchbox cars, riding bikes, playing manhunt, coming up with schemes to make money, digging the largest hole to get into the Guinness Book of World goes on and on. We made up games all the time - our favorite was vacuum (it's violent and painful, but so fun!). Our parents didn't participate in this, (they would've never allowed vacuum). The three of us, and our siblings were simply sent outside to play.

So as the summer months approach and the dread sets in, use the time for downtime. I hearby give you permission to ignore your kids, send them outside to play, when they whine, close the door. Eventually they'll give up and get creative. In that creativity blooms a real childhood. But seriously, go outside with them, play kickball, turn on the sprinkler, hang a hammock, have a water balloon fight, play wiffle ball, frisbee, ANYTHING.

Home Sporting - give it a try!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The outdoor classroom

So we went camping this past weekend, which we do all the time, so what? But with homeschooling on the brain, I am starting to look at everything a little differently. I realized how much learning occurs on a camping trip! We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days at a campground in the catskills that we have gone to for years. It is right on a stream and walking distance to town. In that short time, my girls learned:

How to build a campfire - what fire needs to start/grow
Money skills - counting money, identifying different coins,bills, paying for something
Identifying different trees & plants
Identifying different fish-they caught brown trout & rainbow trout
All about beavers - where they live, what they eat, what they build, how they build it
How streams can change/erode a landscape
Engineering - they built a bridge over a creek
Astronomy - it was the full moon, starts etc.

I am sure there is more. But this was what they learned in ONE WEEKEND. They learned it through experience, by doing, through participation, through natural events, and through their own interests. This kind of learning, which is self-motivated, is so much more meaningful than paper and pencil tasks.

This is something I tell the families I work with all the time (I am a special education teacher for early intervention). A young child learns through their senses and they learn best from the people they are most connected to. I frequently use the example of an apple. Sure, a child could learn about an apple from a book or the TV. However, think about how much MORE they learn by experiencing a REAL apple! They can see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and feel it. Think about all of the language learned, the concepts learned, and the knowledge that comes from picking an apple off a tree versus reading Ten Apples Up On Top. How would you describe an apple learned from a book? They can be red, green or yellow, they are round, they grow on trees. How can you describe an apple that you actually went and picked? Apples are round and hard, They grow on tree branches and hang from their stems. You have to twist and pull the apple to get it off the tree. Apples can be red, yellow or green or red and yellow, or yellow and green, or red, yellow and green. They smell sweet and can taste sweet or tart. They are hard to bite and are crisp. The skin is a different texture than the flesh. Apple orchards are huge with lots of different apple trees. The trees have flowers before the apples grow. There are lots of bees around....... Quite different eh?! This is true of everything. To experience things first hand offers so much more meaning and more knowledge than any learning a book could give you.

So I encourage you to get your children out into the world. Take them places, let them experience things first hand - whether it be apple picking, a farm, an aquarium, camping, or on a trip to the city. Let them learn through experience - grow a plant, hatch butterflies, get a pet, build a fort. Realize that kids of all ages (and adults for that matter) learn the most when they are fully engaged with who they are learning from/with and with what they are learning.

Unplug your family and go do something! It's the best education yet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

So Why Homeschool?

This is a question I am getting a lot. There are many options for educating our kids. Homeschooling seems extreme to some. Especially since my district FINALLY passed full day kindergarten. My youngest would be eligible for that if I send her. I could get my FREEDOM back. Actually full day kindergarten was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I think we live in a society where children are losing more and more of their childhood everyday. No I am not worried about the social pressures of school or the negative things they will learn. Actually I disagree with homeschooling for this reason (obviously not in extreme circumstances). I think learning social pressures a little bit each year from a young age, is a good thing. I feel that by sheltering our kids from the social negatives only hurts them in the long run. It would be like keeping a newborn in a bubble (excuse the bubble boy reference), letting that child grow unexposed to germs for her entire life, and then letting her out in high school. She will be decimated by the illnesses she has never been exposed to. She will have no immune system, that should have been built up over time, to help protect her from these germs. The germs will knock her on her (you know what) and she won't know what hit her. Therefore I plan to keep my kids as involved in school activities as possible. Keep them with their school friends, have them participate in clubs at the school, and have them attend school activities.

When I say children are losing more and more of their childhood, I am referring to the basic, daily experiences we all had as children: playing outside, learning through exploration, learning by doing, real socialization (not 15 minutes at a lunch table with kids you do not get to choose). Even when we went to public school, we had longer recess, we learned through hands-on experiences, we went on field tripS (I bold the S because they are lucky to get 1 trip these days). This is not what is happening in our public schools anymore. Even the best teachers are saddled with curriculum that is too rigorous and developmentally inappropriate for our children. In the name of state test scores, students are chained to their desks, pumping out worksheets and rote memorization of facts. That's not real learning.

If I have an opportunity to give my girls a childhood, I have to take it. We are in a place that financially we can handle it. We both have flexible jobs that will allow for this and lots of travel. I am mentally in a place that I can do this (this was a biggie). They get ONE childhood. They have the rest of their lives to sit at a desk and push papers. I want them to love learning, to be excited by learning, to WANT to learn. I see this dying in my 7 year old and it is very sad. A child who is curious, loves researching new things, is a sponge for knowledge is slowly losing the light in her eyes. She has lived in a home that has allowed her to be curious about her environment, to learn with no boundaries, to explore her world on her terms, to ask questions based on interest, not grade level. School is the antithesis of this. What I have realized is this:  we have been homeschooling all along! It's just time to stop letting school get in the way.