Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cabin Fever

So you don't have to be a homeschooler to experience the joys of cabin fever. I'm kinda worried with the forecast this week of highs in the low 20's and lows in the single digits!! So I decided to make a list of fun things to do to keep you sane in the winter months. Most of this will pertain to the Hudson Valley, but you can find alternatives in your area!

1. Go to a Children's Museum! If you have not found the Mid-Hudson Children's Museum, you are missing out! Great place to go on those cold snowy days. A family membership is $70 for a year of unlimited use. Plus half of it is a tax write-off to a charitable cause. If you just want to test the waters though, you can get free passes at Adriance Library in the city of Poughkeepsie.;jsessionid=FE6E92D5B712EC2FFA7B9133C45C42F2

2. And speaking of Adriance, our local libraries offer so many free programs for kids. Go to their websites & see what they have to offer!  Best part, they are FREE!

3. An indoor playspace. In this area we have 3 - Jumpin Jakes in Fishkill, Jumpin Jakes Discovery in Poughkeepsie and Kids Kingdom. There are particularly great when they need to RUN! They can be a little pricey, but many have discount days or cards that give you a free visit after you visit so many times. Plus, many of them have free wifi so the kids can play and so can you!! If you have little ones, I suggest going during the school day. Those places can get a bit crazy when the big kids are there.

4.  The Bronx Zoo. I know, I know, it's outdoors. But there are so many indoor spaces at the Bronx Zoo that you can keep warm. The Bird House, the Mouse House and the Reptile House are just a few. And I bet if you've been there before on a nice day, you really haven't spent much time in the indoor spaces. So bundle up, bring some hot cocoa with you & check out all the cool indoor spaces the zoo has to offer!

5. Ice skating or rollerskating. In this area McCann Ice Rink at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center or Ice Time in Newburgh are great for ice skating. Hyde Park Rollermagic in Hyde Park is open for rollerskating. Check them out!

6. Go to an Aquarium. The closest around here is the Norwalk Aquarium, but it's only about an hour drive. See the seal feeding, pet a stingray or a shark, do a craft or watch an IMAX movie. Lots of fun things to do! PLUS if you get a reciprocal membership to OUR Children's museum, you could go to the Norwalk Children's Museum across the street for FREE!

7. Looking for something FREE? For Free is for ME! Both Home Depot and Lowes offer free classes on weekends for kids. They let the kids get down and dirty with tools and build something very cool. Check their websites for dates, times and if reservations are needed. Also, if you get a group together, places like AC Moore and Michael's will give the kids a tour and a craft to do for FREE! Call to find out details.

8. CHEAP movies are right around the corner at Silver Cinemas 8 in the South Hills Plaza. Movies are $3 and $2 on Tuesdays!! Can't Beat That!!!

9. Finally, get creative! Have playdates, have a crafting party, movie night with friends, create a mall scavenger hunt, build a fort or an obstacle course, a day of baking......the ideas are endless!

And, if you are brave, you could always bundle up and go OUTSIDE to play! Brrrrrrrrrrr     Good luck! Only 56 days till Spring!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Warning: Side Effects of Homeschooling

When I started this adventure, I admit, I was scared, TERRIFIED, at the thought of my girls home all day, EVERYDAY with me! I would have bet my car that they would be at each other's throats every 5 minutes! In preparation for this, I separated them as much as possible to give them their own spaces. They were sharing a room, so I moved them into separate rooms. I signed them up for different activities (one is in gymnastics, the other dance), I had a plan for when Frank was home, to do (what I call) divide and conquer activities. This is when we each take 1 to do something alone with them.

How wrong I was! My girls have never played so nicely together! Don't get me wrong, they were pretty good to start with. But for the last 2 years, my older child was increasingly getting annoyed with her younger sister, wanting alone time, snapping at her, not wanting to include her, calling her a baby......Sounds familiar right? I assumed this was all normal, sibling rivalry and that the older child was becoming more independent and didn't want her little sister tagging along. I remember feeling that way about my younger brothers.

Well I'm here to tell you that this does NOT have to be considered normal behavior! In fact, it seems (in our case) to be a direct side effect to being a part of the competitive, sometimes harsh, stress-inducing school phenomenon. I didn't see it right away. All summer we went about our regular routine and slowly Thing 1 became less and less harsh towards her sister. This was typical of summer. I used to say "I'm going to get her back for a while!" in reference to Thing 1 and summer. Maybe you have noticed this in your kids too?

When it became blazingly clear was when school started and we didn't go, but participated in sports with school peers. Now, to my friends (and others) who I continue to see on a regular basis with my kids, I am NOT talking about your kids in particular, I'm actually not talking about ANY kids in particular. The phenomenon is not about the individual kids, or what individual kids may or may not do, it's about the kids together in an organized setting and the pretense it creates. It was almost like Thing 1 had to put on her game face for those encounters! And then it took several hours for her to let go of the game face once she was home! I was dumbfounded!

But it makes sense. Think about going to middle school. For most, this was a stressful time, filled with worries about what your peers might say or do to you. Did I wear the right outfit? Am I in the right club? Did I join the right sport? Am I sitting at the right lunch table? Did I say the right thing? And many of you might say 'But that is middle school, not first or second grade." But I beg to differ. I don't think those sort of social parameters just crop up out of nowhere in 6th grade. They develop slowly over years of being together.

I can tell you that in our homeschool co-ops, there's almost none of this. And it's not because it's 4 best friends playing together. One of our co-ops has around 30 kids, the other group has about 14 kids. They range in age from 4 through teenagers. The kids are pretty cooperative, helpful to each other, and I've never seen a fight. Now I'm not saying there isn't a snippy comment here and there, but overall, I have yet to see any real excluding, or the negativity toward one another that you see frequently in school settings. It could be a by product of like-minded parents and their children, but we are all from different backgrounds, with different beliefs about parenting, so I don't think so. I truly think it is the facade school produces, that increases kids' stress and creates a situation where they all need to put on their GAME FACE!

So if a major reason you are NOT considering homeschooling is because you think your children with have a bloody, fight to the death, cage match on week 2, I am here to tell you they won't. There will be adjustments and what people call 'deschooling' but my kids have never got along better! And although Thing 1 has her own room now, she has yet to spend a night in it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Getting Started - A How To

So I figure that after a holiday break, there are 2 camps. The first is screaming HOORAY!!!!! and the bus can't get here early enough. And I get this, I do. I've had those days & continue to have those days! However this is a blog about homeschooling. The second is saying to themselves 'I wish we had a few more days together.'  This was always my thought following a school break (yes we did public school for a bit). But many feel that homeschooling is very radical, difficult, and they may feel like they are not qualified, etc. etc. I am here to tell you that YOU ARE MORE THAN QUALIFIED!!! You can do this. It's not as daunting as it seems. Sure it's not all fun and games, but what in life is? The payoff far outweighs any negatives. So if that little voice in your head has you considering homeschooling, but you feel overwhelmed at the thought, here are some things that might help you get started.

The thought of starting homeschooling can be downright scary. Even for me and all my 'teacher knowledge' it was a bit un-nerving - but the key is baby steps. When I start something new, I become quite OCD about it and want to know everything YESTERDAY. I had to take a deep breath and think about what was most important.

There were a lot of steps to follow just to get started. Maybe this will help those of you thinking about homeschooling but are left feeling overwhelmed.

Clearly first is what are the requirements by your state? There are so many websites out there with information to help.I will list them at the bottom. As always for me, anticipation is the worst part. When I started looking into it, I realized that this is totally doable. Yes there are forms & requirements, but take it step by step. It's not as daunting as it seems. Next, I looked into homeschooling groups and contacted friends who have homeschooled. I needed to know first hand if this was something I wanted to tackle. I also had to find local comrades, because I will go crazy home all day, everyday by myself (well, yeah the kids will be there too).

Next we went to visit a local homeschool co-op. I needed to see how this worked and if me & my kids would 'fit.'  They were all so welcoming and friendly. I wanted to pull my kids out of school that day & start immediately. It totally fit my idea of how children should be educated and spend their days. The kids ranged in ages from 3 1/2 to I'd guess 12. They were all friendly, sweet, helpful and welcoming. There were no weird stares or comments about the 'new kids' at all. Ages did not seem to matter, as they all worked and played together equally. The older kids helped the younger kids. It flowed very easily, very uncontrived. It was fantastic!

So next is to prepare for the school year. This is the fun part. Collecting ideas, looking up lessons, creating my own lessons, figuring out how the structure will go. I love doing this. This is why I became a teacher.  Sadly, public school teachers are rarely given the opportunity to do this anymore. Curriculums are plopped in their laps. These curriculums are so restrictive they even offer scripts! I don't know why they bother hiring teachers with masters degrees to teach. They aren't given the freedom or time to use their knowledge or expertise. Ok rant over. If creating curriculum seems scary, there are tons of free or very affordable curriculums available online.

So what's left? The official part: writing my letter of intent to the district. In New York, you should have it in by July 1st. Then the IHIP. Again, this seems daunting but it is pretty clear cut and basic. There are TONS of resources online to help you through it. But I highly recommend linking up with local homeschoolers. Nothing beats the advice from those who have 'been there, done that.'

Really that is about it. There will be quarterly reports, but by the time you get to that, you'll be a pro already. If your children are older, some states require testing. The links at the bottom can help you find information on that.

Take it one step at a time, it is quite simple really. I cannot emphasize enough how great it has been for us to link up with other homeschooling families. They are such a great network of support, information and friendship. I could do this without them but it is so much better with them. I found local groups through yahoo groups and facebook.

Good Luck!! It's the best journey you'll ever take!


and check out google groups for local homeschoolers near you