Thursday, September 20, 2012


People keep asking me how homeschool is going, how I like it.  And, truthfully, what comes to mind is, "I am free!"  I feel so unburdened and light.  Not the answer many might expect.  I am not a martyr.  I like "me-time."  I like quiet.  But homeschooling, so far, is less stressful than driving the kids to school and keeping up with all of the classroom activities, homework, field trips, papers, playdates, and parent association responsibilities that schools generate.  I would rush around all day getting things done for the kids -- things like gathering photos to be sent in for projects, getting lunches packed, making parent-teacher meetings, answering parent emails (little things that, when added together, take all day long) -- and then I would fall into bed exhausted not having spent any real time with them that day.  I was stressed out getting them up and out the door in the morning, stressed out driving from one school to the next, stressed out picking them all up and getting to various after school activities, and then stressed out getting dinner made at the end of the day.  And, since Ellie is still only 2, I did not have that "me-time" in the middle of the day that others think I am giving up.

So, right now, homeschooling is just freeing.  We get up and, yes, we are busy all day long,  Yes, I am a little stressed as I juggle 4 different kids' needs (and sometimes those needs all arise at the same moment!).  But, for me, that stress is nothing compared to the anxiety that getting my children prepared and off to 4 separate spaces each day.  I suppose it is just a personality thing. 

I like the unity of our life right now.  There is one schedule, one home base, one set of standards.  Yes, the kids have separate after 'school' activities, because -- in moderation -- it is nice for the kids to have their own space, a little break from the family.  But, all in all, I know what is going on with each of my kids.  I don't constantly feel like I am trying to play catch-up with what is going on in their lives. 

I feel this newfound freedom in my bones.  I am just less tense, muscles less clenched.  I feel at peace with our decision.  THIS is what making an authentic decision feels like. 

PS I think the kids like it, too

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It has to go up from here... has been an interesting week!  I had meticulously planned out our homeschool day, even to the point of making each child his or her own daily to-do list.  Everything was off to a great start.

 We sat in our "classroom" and started to work on our portfolios.  The kids each have a 3 ring binder that will showcase bits and pieces of the work they have accomplished this year.  On the first day of school, I had them fill out a questionnaire (which I got here) and asked them to decorate the cover.

Even Ellie got in on the fun!

 They all sat nicely and got their first project done.  Phew!  This homeschooling thing is not going to be so bad, I thought.

 Then I sat down to do our individual lessons:  one-on-one time for math and reading.  I started with Nicholas, because he is the biggest morning person and tends to poop out earlier.  He is just starting to read, so every word takes a lot of concentration. 
After about 2 or 3 minutes of work, BOOM BOOM BOOM came from overhead.  Debris showered from the ceiling above.  (Did I mention that we are having our kitchen renovated?)

 I tried to rally through the noise, hoping it would stop soon...but, alas, it was not to be.  So we took it outside, for science.  I read to them on the front porch about rock formation;  about the differences between Igneous and Sedimentary rocks.  Then we went on a rock hunt, to see what we could find in our yard.
 The kids practiced their skills of observation.

 And recorded their findings in their science journals. All in all, it went okay.  I did not complete what I had planned, but at least I was flexible (and did not have a complete meltdown, as I have been known to do when things don't go my way).  I gave myself a gold star for that.

Unfortunately, the next day got worse.  As we were trying to get school going again, things started to smell really bad.  Yes, smell.  The staining and application of polyurathane on the floor above not only reeked, but gave us headaches.  We had to get out.

Long story short, we spent the remained of the week at a Staybridge Suites.  I tried to homeschool there -- we actually got a little bit done -- but it was far from ideal.

The best thing about homeschooling, is that we can just adjust.  I reworked our 34-week schedule back one week and we will start over again.  Deep breath in, deep breath out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Field Trip Continued: The Mayflower II

After visiting the 17th century village and the Wapanoag Homesite, we drove through the town of Plymouth to see the famous Plymouth Rock.  We had just read Jean Fritz's Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock?, so we were all very interested in seeing the legendary boulder upon which the pilgrims first stepped.

It really was quite underwhelming.

But we were prepared for that because Fritz' book had explained how the rock have been moved and broken multiple times, and that pieces has been chipped off by other visitors throughout the years.

Thank you, Papa, for carrying Ellie.  I had forgotten the stroller.

We listened to a guide tell us about the how the Pilgrims planned to pay off their debt to their London merchants who had invested in their colony -- with beaver pelts and other animal furs.  Here, Olivia is holding one.  Nicholas found it most interesting that the shipload of beaver furs sent back to London was stolen by pirates!  So, it took a try long time for the Pilgrims to pay off their debt (perhaps this is a lesson in history and money management??)

Then we got to board the Mayflower II.  This boat was constructed in the 1950's to be an exact replica of the original Mayflower. It even sailed the same route as the Pilgrims did in 1620.

As in the 17th century Village, we met actors playing the part of people from that time period.  Here are some sailors.

Papa interrogated this sailor about "rum rations."  Very important, indeed.

All in all, we really enjoyed Plimoth Plantation.  It was great to have some reference for when we begin reading about the pilgrims and their voyages.  To see with our own eyes, for example, how small the Mayflower was:  that was priceless.

Field Trip: Plymouth

We had our first official field trip, and the school year hasn't even begun yet.  Since we were so close, we decided to stop by Plymouth.  You know, the place the pilgrims first settled after sailing across the Atlantic on the Mayflower?  Because we are studying early American history this year, this was a perfect outing.

Plimoth Plantation  is a living history museum, where you get to "walk back in time" into the 17th century.  This is great for my more literal kids, who have a harder time imagining some of the descriptions in the history books and novels we read.

The first part of the museum is an English settlement.  It was surrounded by a wall to keep out the 'natives' and to define their turf.

Nicholas was so excited to visit the meeting house, because the top level of this structure was a lookout.  With canons! ("Do they work, Mom?"  "Are they real or just made like an art-project?")

The view from the look-out.

Then we got to visit many of the English settlers' homes.

And sit on their furniture.  Talk about making history real.

We listened to actors talk about their time on the Mayflower (oh, what an awful 2 months -- lots of seasickness!) and how they live in the New Land now.  I must say, these actors were superb.  Freaked me out a little, they seemed so real.  

The second part of our visit was the Native American settlement, called the Wapanoag Homesite.  It was cool to learn that this tribe had lived in what is now Massachusettes for 10,000 years!  The people we met here were not actors, but people of Native descent who were also very knowledgeable about their history.

Ellie stands outside the wigwam (these Native Americans did not live in teepees like those of the Great Plains) which is a great dome covered in tree bark.

We were able to see and to touch many animal pelts.  Peter is "petting" a fox pelt now, saying "poor Foxy."

Olivia outside of another wigwam.

We really had a great day, including lunch with Mema and Papa, and a visit to the Mayflower II.  More  on this tomorrow...