Monday, August 19, 2013

Kicking things off cross country

So we just got back from a 10 day trip to the left coast. San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, & Yosemite National Park. Such an amazing trip! But traveling that far with 2 young kids can be an adventure in itself! Yes we saw so many beautiful things. Yes we had endless learning adventures. Yes we had valuable time with family. All great stuff for sure! But what I really learned on this trip, is what NOT to do when traveling this far with young ones!

1. ALL bags that fly MUST zipper closed!

I totally underestimated the importance of the zipper until my daughter's carry on bag spilled out in the x-ray machine! Yeah, it's not fun picking up 75 zoobles & polly pockets with angry faces grumbling behind you at JFK! In fact, just ban Zoobles altogether.

2. Spend the extra $10 on a mid-size car dammit!

I am always looking for a bargain & to keep costs down. But a compact car for 4 people & all of our luggage is just ridiculous. We looked like a clown car! I drove over 500 miles with my knees in my teeth. And really? It probably saved me $10! WooHoo! Fail!

3.  Candy is your new best friend

Usually I'm not about the bribery (not above it, just not something I usually do) but on this trip, it was a total necessity! Especially on day 1! We had to leave our house at 4:30am to get to JFK for our early flight. We landed in San Fran 12:30 their time. So we hit the town. Great planning on my part considering the kids at 3 hours of sleep the night before, just spent 8-9 hours in transit & now I want to drag them around a city?! (Sounded reasonable when I planned it). Well Willy Wonka to the rescue! Nothing perks up cranky, tired kids like an over-abundance of sugar!

4. Different climates are nice, but I wouldn't want to live there

West coast people are always talking about the dry heat. 'It's dry heat so it's not that bad' they say. Yes I agree that when it's 96 degrees out, it's a nice option to step into the shade and be 15-20 degrees cooler. BUT the fact that I felt like beef jerky (to quote my favorite person) for 10 days was not so much fun. And the dust! I camp all the time but we have never been dirtier than in California. Dust and dirt are everywhere! I've never appreciated humidity more in all my life. Travel tip: Bring Moisturizer and Wipes! or go to Florida instead.

5. The name MOM should be changed to SHERPA

Being a mom, I have always been in charge of everyone's stuff and I am always holding this or packing away that. But when you travel, this is amplified tenfold! I spent 10 days carrying this, setting up that, finding this, cooking that, holding this, putting away that.......'Here mom, I know you are already carrying my backpack, sweatshirt and shoes, but can you just hold my doll and headphones too (while we squeeze into the clown car)?" 

With that all said and done, it was all worth it. Nothing will beat the first time they laid eyes on Lake Tahoe, the first time they saw snow on mountain tops in August when it's 90 degrees out, seeing the Perseid meteor shower in one of the darkest places in America, meeting and spending time with extended family, seeing trees larger than skyscrapers and wider than cars are long. So don't let my little rant scare you. Traveling with kids can be challenging, but so rewarding. And the learning that happens is priceless!

So I just suggest you rent a suburban, bring a 5 gallon bucket of moisturizer and bring an enormous bag with you. If you can figure out how to grow 2 more hands, that might help too!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Truth about Homeschoolers

So what I have realized in this past year is that many non-homeschoolers believe that homeschoolers are super-organized, genius, go-getters. There is this idea that homeschoolers are teaching their 8 year olds Theoretical Physics, Euclid's Mathematical Proofs, and reading Plato. That little girl from the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin comes to mind (when she's offering he square root of dots on a card). I think they also think we live with constant sibling war - our children beating each other with broomsticks and stabbing each other in the head with a fork (OK I've done that but I wasn't homeschooled). Why else would the universal response to "we homeschool" be "I could NEVER do THAT!"

Well I'm here to shed some light on this. While I'm sure there are homeschool parents out there teaching their 8 year olds Shakespeare and Rocket Science, I can assure you that is NOT what goes on around here. (The kid with the bucket on his head comes to mind) And I think what we do might be pretty common amongst other homeschoolers. So the next time you meet a homeschooler and feel the need to express shock and awe, remember this:

1. Yes we DO sometimes  stay in our pajamas ALL DAY!

I mean, don't you? We are normal families, with normal needs, and sometimes the need is to veg out in front of the TV in our PJ's eating junk food all day. The only difference is that we can do this on a Tuesday if we want!

2. Our science curriculum begins and ends with caring for our fish.

OK, OK I'm exaggerating here. We do a bit more than just feed our fish for science. However there is a lot to be said for raising and caring for pets as a science curriculum. Did you ever notice that many classrooms have pets? My point is, we can learn through regular, real life experiences. For example, once I read the book Poor Pluto to my children. Well they quickly learned that other children had written and published that book. This turned into a 3 day book writing frenzy and weeks of solar system research and interest! Yes it can be that easy, if you let it.

3. I can barely add, so what is this about MATH?

So it is true I can barely add. Ask my Mathelete husband! (Yes that apparently IS a real thing!). However we use math in our everyday lives. My kids love to earn their own money and go shopping. Well this leads to addition, subtraction, decimals, money knowledge.......and for some reason, my children LOVE math games in the car. They are always asking us to give them problems they can do in their head. Yeah, SO MUCH FUN! (note sarcasm here) That does NOT come from me!

4. When my kids read cereal boxes and road signs, that counts towards our 15 minutes a day       right?

ABSOLUTELY! Reading is Reading. It does not have to happen in an approved reader or in a classroom to count! Whatever motivates your child to read is great. Same with writing. I was struggling with writing lessons with my girls. A dear friend asked me WHY I was fighting them. WHY did I want them to write? Of course I gave all the usual answers & she replied, "Why do they have to do it that way?" Then she suggested Pen Pals! GENIUS! We now have several pen pals and my kids are more motivated than ever to write! Sometimes venting to a friend leads to greatness. Thanks friend!

5. Geography is easy, play the license plate game in the car!!!

You laugh but you can learn a lot from the license plate game. We took a trip to Ocean City, MD last September. On the way we saw 19 different state license plates. This resulted in finding those states on a map, learning about their state capitals, finding out how many miles each state was from our home, learning interesting facts about each state.Then they started asking about the other states. Kids are innately curious about their world. Offer a simple spark and BOOM! Magic happens!

6. In all seriousness, we are not super heroes. 

So as you can see, in our home we are not sitting at a table for 5 hours a day working out of a workbook. This method does work for some people, but not for us. We also do not have child prodigies running around getting private piano lessons from Bach himself! We have 2 pretty normal kids, learning what they need to know, in a child-centered, hands-on, experiential kind of way. We are also VERY lucky to have found some local homeschool groups that we see regularly and keep me sane! 

The point is, Yes you CAN  do this. You do NOT need to be a teacher or a genius or a saint to make it work. Yes it gets frustrating and yes it can be stressful. But it can be so rewarding and fun too! I once was the person who said, "I could NEVER do THAT!" But guess what? Here I am doing it!