Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And the children were nessled all snug in their beds....

I have to say I'm a total sucker for this time of year....the lights, the hype, the gifts, the carols....YUP I love it all! And I get the commercialism of it & am not thrilled with that part - but the beauty of the season is how it tends to bring us all together.....

Yes I'm a total sucker for the Christmas season. I'll admit it. But I think this time of year, regardless of what you celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whathaveyou...) brings out the best in all of us. Yes you can choose to see how it brings out the worst in us....the crazy shoppers on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, the extra holiday traffic and angry drivers, the stressed out families trying to 'get everything done.'

But what I see is my family and my friends trying to get together with the ones that they love and celebrate each other. The impromptu parties, the caroling at a nursing home, collecting for the families who have so little, the cookie swaps, the piggy bank bazaars.....

So I hope for everyone all around the world, that we take the time to love our families and friends, to call that special person, to send 1 more Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa) card, to take a few minutes of your time to help someone else out...amidst the craziness of the season, is an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude.

Be grateful for what you have and for the people in your life. Take time to reflect on all the good in your life. Hug your loved ones extra tight, tell that person how much they mean to you. Life is too short and things happen so fast. We blink and it's over. Slow down and enjoy every minute.....

To those of you in my life, I hope you know how much I love and appreciate each and every one of you. I wish that we all find peace and love this holiday season & in the coming new year. I am thankful for all of the good in my life (and there's a lot of it) and I pray for those suffering this holiday season. I am thankful for all of my readers and all of the insight and support you have given me this past year, It is invaluable.

Take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy your loved ones, cherish every moment....for it is only a moment. There are plenty of 'things' to be had.....but only a few special people and moments in this life. Cherish them and enjoy them. Forget the things. The best things in life are not things, but memories and cherished people who nourish your soul.

Happy Holidays & wishes for a peaceful new year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What do you DO all day?!

So, inevitably, we have come across soooooo many questions about our homeschooling experience. The number one question has to be "What do you do with your day?" I have to say, most people have asked this with true curiosity, not the negativity that many who homeschool encounter. They genuinely want to know. They also want to know if I set up my home like a school - with math at 10, art at 11 etc. And another biggie is "How do you know what to teach?"

To answer the latter first, the simplest way is to go to the NY state website for core curriculum standards. It's spelled out, in excruciating detail, what each grade level should know, examples of how to teach it, and when to teach it (I have to say as a teacher I find this highly insulting but that's another matter). Many homeschool families turn to curriculums that they buy. There are many great resources out there. We aren't following a curriculum per se. However, I know what to teach because I know my kids. I know what they can and can't do, what they are interested in and I have a basic idea of what a kindergartener and second grader should know (granted, I do have 15 years teaching experience). But I don't really think that's why. Think about when you had a toddler or preschooler. Did you question your ability to teach your children? I would say in most cases, the answer is no. So why is it that parents feel so apprehensive when it comes to teaching their school age kids? (This is what I hear anyway). Is it because school has told you that you don't have the tools or resources to do this? Nonsense!

You absolutely are equipped to teach your school-age children and probably in a better way than anyone else. YOU know them BEST. Some kids thrive on structure, others fail to thrive in structure, some kids are super creative, others are very logical.....This leads into the next question "do I structure my day like school?" The answer for our family is NO. For us, the whole reason to homeschool is to NOT follow a typical school routine. We are letting it happen organically. For instance, we read the book Poor Pluto recently. After reading it, we discussed how 3rd graders in California are the authors and illustrators of that book. This instantly sparked a book writing extravaganza for 3 days! My 7 year old wrote and illustrated a book on her own. My 5 year old drew the pictures and needed help spelling the words. I did not dictate book structure, story structure, we did not discuss characters, plot, setting, problems, solutions.....all the usual lessons that go along with writing. And guess what? The story had a cover with a title & author. It was well sequenced, had a problem and a solution. It had a main character, setting and supporting characters. So you will say that we HAD to have had lessons about this beforehand. NOPE. So then how do they know to do this? Because they've been read to their entire lives. They've been shown titles, authors, illustrators. They know all books tend to have a problem and end with a solution. Encourage your kid to write a book and give no other direction than that. I bet they will do it too.

Finally, What do we DO all day?  Hmmmmmmmmmm let me see........Yes we have a lot more downtime and playtime than school kids. We are outdoors a lot, and with that comes learning (we have a new pet salamander from our last camping trip). We occasionally sit down and work on math or writing, but most of our learning is experiential. We go to the children's museum, go camping, hiking, go to the park, go to the Mohonk Mountain house, go apple picking, bake, cook, write our own books, we have cheerleading practice, girl scouts, art class, we meet twice a week with homeschool groups where a TON of things go on, we have playdates with friends, visit grandparents, we participate in school activities like the science fair, go to the Bronx zoo, we take care of our pets, and explore whatever strikes out fancy. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Homeschooling looks different for every family. This is the beauty of it! The individualization, the relaxed nature of learning, the ability to blow it off at will and then realize that in blowing it off, we learned a ton about something not planned!

So, what did YOU do all day?