Homeschool Week 4 | August 24

I am pleased to announce that I am writing this post the day after our classes, meaning I’m all caught up! 

Soon, I will be exploring how to upload videos, as we have also recorded our experience for those who prefer to watch a squirmy kid show off. 😉

We had a BUSY week between catching up and participating in the classes we chose for this week. Next week, we’re going to be taking it easy. But hey, that’s the beauty of homeschool life – we have that freedom. 

We did finish Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before it had to be returned, and immediately jumped into The Prisoner of Azkaban. 

We’ve had a different experience with theater each week, so I was curious what this one would bring. 

Instead of being up and moving as much as previous weeks, they were introduced to more information such as theater layout, scripts, and how to create a setting for the theater stage. One of the days, a few students were chosen to read through a script of The Three Little Pigs. The next day they used a character wheel to identify and write out features like the traits, appearance, feelings, relationships, and changes of the wolf in the story.

Myles and I talked about how we could use the character wheel in the future to create interesting characters for our own stories we’ve been talking about writing together. 

We signed up for two sessions of Magical Potions to see which one would work best for us since we were already a bit overbooked this week. We ended up not staying in either one, but we may explore them again in the future. 

Fun Fairytales may be the best class we’ve experienced, so when it was available again, Myles jumped enthusiastically while begging me to sign him up! Who cares if you’re “too busy” when you’re doing what you love?

 Many of the stories and content were the same, but it seemed to further enhance his understanding of the ingredients to make a good story. This theme has flowed throughout many of his classes, and I can see it creating an interest in writing. 

His teacher is incredibly fun while encouraging a structure for story creation. She also suggests and encourages some very silly interpretations, and really leaves it open for them to use imagination. 

As I’ve mentioned previously, we don’t follow a curriculum with pre-made lessons towards grammar and math. We certainly use these tools in daily life, but we don’t often stop to name them – what’s the point, really? Until there is one, and then we use the example we come across to learn!

I was curious how Myles would fare in a class suited for first and second grade students, so I signed him up for a 2 day writing skills class that was intended as a refresher for school. He got to identify parts of speech; when to use some vs any, less vs fewer, a vs an; and had a lesson on homophones. The next class, they identified mistakes in sentences, like misplaced capitalization or punctuation, as well as improper agreement.  

He was immediately pleased at how quickly he knew the answers, and was just as quickly bored with how slowly other students answered the questions. 

It was encouraging to see how quickly he picked up the labels and rules for these concepts he’s previously used without analyzing. I feel satisfied in our exploration without feeling the need to skip grade levels ahead to keep him studying why English works the way it does. 

If your learner needs more help with reading and writing skills, there are classes (that we haven’t taken) that are likely helpful. 

I really encourage letting each kid learn these at their own pace instead of stressing that your child is “behind”. Myles wasn’t reading when some believed he was supposed to, but now he’s years ahead of an assessment at his supposed grade level. 

Another perk to homeschool – your pace, your goals, your trust in the process. 

On that note, Myles had blazed through early math on Khan Academy at a younger age but hadn’t been ready for multiplication. He seems to enjoy doing math when it’s at his pace, so I wanted to give him an introduction to multiplication skills in a way that he might enjoy. I was relieved to rely on someone else to help him learn this topic because I cannot imagine being able to teach multiplication in a way that doesn’t stress us both out!

I was impressed with how the instructor showed multiplication facts on a 12×12 grid table while also pointing out the squares of numbers and their patterns. If you remember being bored with how math was taught, this was definitely an improvement. There were times the class was a bit fast paced, but I encouraged Myles to stop writing and just make sure he could follow along and understand. We may repeat this class again later to strengthen these skills. 

Primates class continued this week, and I encouraged Myles to use it as a time to relax and wind down from his busy day. After a review of last week and an introduction into the next primate, they read stories and watched some videos on each. 

We also created video interviews for each of the previous weeks, for those who prefer watching or listening to reading! I’ll make those available as soon as I can. 

We are tired, our brains are full, and we’re looking forward to a change of pace! Check back next week. 

Homeschool Week 3 | August 17

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m working hard to catch up on our first month, so I can bring you a view of our homeschool week right after it’s happened. 

I want to offer an example of what homeschool looks like for us, from week to week, as we pursue our interests and live life!

With extra work on my plate, it’s been extremely useful to have engaging classes with Varsity Tutors.  

We will be sharing more ideas beyond these online classes soon, but this has helped us get the semester started and transition into our new roles. It’s also a great example of how homeschool can adapt to your needs as you allow life to flow. 

After months of waiting, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets became available on audiobook through our local library, so we made sure to create time to listen to all of it before it was due back. 

This week, we also tried another acting class, Encore! Students were encouraged to visualize scenes like swimming in the ocean, walking on a sandy beach, playing at a park or in an arcade. They also did stretches and followed the instructor through some dance exercises each day. They talked about body language, creating moods, and showing emotion. 

Primates Across the Globe Class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a couple weeks instead of meeting daily. Unfortunately there was a technical issue with Thursday’s class. 

On Tuesday, they talked about the different types of Primates and how they fit into being mammals. Each class would focus on a different category of primate, over the next two weeks. The instructor kept the class flowing with informational slides, stories, videos, and singing 5 little monkeys at the end of class.

Myles had shown an interest in drawing his own comics last year, so we jumped into Comic Book Hero when we saw it was available. Each class started with an instructional video for a simple drawing such as a penguin, panda, a cute cup with a face. Then each day had a larger drawing project with attention to line depth and shading. They drew a man’s face, using a line down the middle to think about symmetry and placement. They also drew a “cool guy,” a man making a cool pose with his arms and legs, and worked on coloring him. 

There were times Myles got frustrated because he didn’t instantly get the results he expected. We talked about how we’re not always good at everything on the first try, and that’s okay. We get to decide if we want to commit our time and energy to improving, or if it’s a skill we don’t want or need to invest in. With the pressure off, he decided to try again. The experience was more significant than the drawing. 

The perspectives we offer our kids shape the way they see and interact with the world. 

What are your shared experiences showing them?

Homeschool Week 2 | August 10

Bear with me as I catch up on these first few weeks of summaries.

Not only are we adjusting to this year’s homeschool, I’m trying to record four weeks’ worth in one week – in both written and video form, so you can choose which media is best for you! Soon, I will be all caught up and posting each week as it happens!

For now, here’s a quick look back to the week of August 10-14th. 

Can I say again how grateful I am for Varsity Tutors offering such interesting classes that enrich learning while being interesting to my learner. Minecraft, legos, comic books…for school?!  

Minecraft – Yes, again! This may be the sixth time Myles has participated. This week his instructor was much more informative, while adding her own twist to the theme – Create Your Own Storyland Using Minecraft Camp: Treehouse Resort Edition!  

Before they jumped into building, they talked about some key elements to consider when creating a new project: location and scale. How big or small did they want it to be? How much time did they want to spend to be able to complete their goal? 

I’m a big believer in prioritizing skills and concepts over focusing on remembering factual information, especially when we live in a world where information can be so easily accessed. 

Learning how to think about a new project and some useful points to consider is beyond valuable and can be applied to life well beyond Minecraft.  

Myles still talks about learning those concepts. He speaks about them with ease and clarity now. I asked him why they were useful, and we discussed other times we would consider the scale of a project. Discussion also improves memory and helps us save information in our brains in a more accessible way. 

But how can we trust that we’ll learn things without a curriculum?! 

Well, there’s an example for you. I personally believe the value from this class will extend well beyond the week of lessons. 

They also considered the location, color, and lighting for their resorts. Where did they want it to be? How close to other resources or far away from undesirable things? How did they want it to look and what could they do to create it? Great questions to consider in starting any project – not too far off from decisions I’ve made starting this project! 

Myles had time between classes this week to continue building and also read some of the books we moved into his room. He read about sharks and dinosaurs, and he filled in some math and language workbook pages. He was excited about being able to read the directions and choose which pages he wanted to do. A few weeks later, the novelty has worn off, and he is coming up with new ideas to pursue. Stay tuned!

Later in the day, he had his first experience with acting, in Theater for Young Performers. His teacher was an actor who had worked in multiple theater jobs, with her specialties being in voice acting and singing.  

She started class with the banana dance, and introduced how to act out a scene like a snowball fight. They did voice exercises all week, the last day specifically focusing on volume. Students were encouraged to stand in front of an object and introduce themselves, then take a few steps away and introduce themselves again. Did they get louder? They continued to move back to notice how far away they would be from the audience in a theater and consider how loudly they may need to speak to be heard.  

One day, they focused on how to create a story, which connected wonderfully with our previous fairytales class last week. They used a fun method to choose a character, setting, and problem for the story they would create. Everyone was encouraged to make suggestions in the group chat. Six of each category were chosen and then a die was rolled to choose one at random. They ended up with a giraffe at the pool who was cursed. Now that they knew the main parts of their story, they learned how to use improv to create it. This was a fun refresher for me as well! I don’t always listen to the full class period, but this one was so fun, I found some gardening to do while listening in. 

These classes have added fun and informative interaction to our week. I couldn’t have guessed they would provide as much value as they did. Play promotes learning, and this week was a great example. 

Expectations vs Reality

What I noticed setting up our homeschool structure this year:

I didn’t set a start date weeks in advance and try to set things up perfectly for when it officially started. In fact, if you read how we set up our homeschool stucture, you saw that on our first day, we had a surprise change of plans. 

We leapt in with some good ideas and we let it be. 

We talk about what works and what we like. We make adjustments. 

We naturally have different schedules some weeks. Some weeks just FEEL different than others. Some feel rushed. Some feel simple. Some are more fun. Some are more playful. 

We don’t try to manufacture a consistent environment in an always moving world. 

We try our best to embrace where we are. Sometimes we get grumpy. Sometimes we adapt smoothly, sometimes we have to stop and figure out how we are going to adapt. 

Sometimes we get frustrated. We don’t count negative feelings as failure and give up. We figure it out by asking – what do I need, why do I feel this way, how do I want to feel, what would make me feel that way, how can I give myself that, what’s possible immediately, and what can I look forward to?

There are times the enthusiasm has turned into dread. This is caused by EXPECTATION.

Expectation can be a dangerous thing. It tells you what something you can only imagine should be in reality, and when that reality doesn’t match, expectation tells you it’s wrong. It’s already brainwashed your emotions into believing it should be a different way, and emotions don’t usually change as quickly as some plans do.

Expectation alone isn’t bad, but it can be tricky and harmful if it’s too rigid. 

In contrast, our expectations can be a powerful tool to guide us toward creating what we want in life. 

I try to set our expectations toward curiosity and adaptation because these are flexible and encompass possibilities.

If you’ve ever taken an improv class, or maybe even just watched a show where a character takes one, you may have come across the concept, “Yes, and…”

Isn’t life basically improv, anyway?

“Yes, and…” is a concept used in improv that continues to build the story by accepting what has already happened and adding to it. 

This relates so well to life because you can’t go back and change what’s already happened, but you can choose to accept it and add what’s next. 

So you’re always moving forward and creating the next part of the story, or your life!

We had a rough day, – yes, we did, it’s frustrating, sigh – AND we created a relaxing evening.

or

We had a rough day, and we were mad at each other the rest of the day.

or 

We had a rough day, and we figured out how to make the next one smoother. 

The second part of those statements could be expressed in multiple ways. We do have to accept the first part has already happened, but we get to choose where to go next. We have the power to create the future. 

We can accept the less enjoyable moments without being defeated by them. 

I’ll never encourage you to blaze past your emotions without feeling them. When it’s hard and doesn’t feel good, that’s your nudge to examine and adapt. 

Feeling bad doesn’t mean you failed, it means you need to adjust. I encourage you to explore. It’s not over, keep going.

Our expectations can be a powerful tool to guide us toward creating what we want in life. I have to remind myself that what I want is enjoyment and fulfillment, not manufactured perfection. 

If your expectations are a burden, what adjustments need to be made?

What do you want? Really?

What would you want if you believed you could have it that way? 

Are your expectations overburdening you?

What would you have left if you set down everything you don’t want to keep carrying with you?

We started homeschool (yes, and…) we created a messily ever after – sometimes we were happy and sometimes we were sad, and we learned that all emotions are valid and can be useful tools. 

Homeschool Week 1 | August 3

Let’s take a look at our first week!

Remember, we had a last minute change in expectations? I knew we had upcoming classes, but I didn’t have them organized into our schedule. 

We’ve been using Varsity Tutors since Miyam Bialik did a neuroscience presentation for kids.

They’ve been wonderful about setting up engaging summer camps, and now they have extended classes to support the Fall semester. Typically, these classes run for a week, though some classes are spread out over a 3 week period.

If you want to check them out, please use our referral link!

Many of the classes they offer are free, with the option to pay for tutoring if your child needs more one on one support. You’ll get 3 free hours of tutoring for clicking on the link above!

Here are the classes we took the week of August 3-7

Create Your Own Storyland using Minecraft 

Myles had taken this class several times over the summer and kept signing up for more sessions.  Some were more informative than others, and some were pretty disappointing as far as any instruction went. But hey, it was an hour a day to play Minecraft! This particular week, the instructor showed what he was building, but didn’t speak or explain much. 

Earlier in the summer, Myles created “classworld”, where he would build his storyland theme: a huge farm homestead. He even made his mom a bed! Since there was little instruction, Myles continued to build on. It’s a great way to get the creativity flowing. 

Fun Fairytales Camp 

Myles had an excellent teacher for this class. She kept the kiddos engaged with a fairytale or two each day, while also explaining the ingredients to a good dramatic story. They talked about how to make an interesting character and how the character needed to have something he or she wanted more than anything else, among other elements. 

Sometimes they would watch videos of several different versions of the same story and talk about the differences in style, showing how the same characters and problems could be presented in a different way. 

They were encouraged to draw pictures of something that happened in the story. 

Each day, they took a dance break to a music video of Happy by Pharrell Williams. One day minions were dancing, another day it was 3 old ladies (this was definitely his favorite). 

If you have the opportunity to take this class, I would 1000% recommend it! I even cleared my schedule for that hour to listen in. The instructor and content were captivating!

Make your own LEGO Movie!

If I hadn’t already hit the jackpot with Minecraft and the most fun storytelling class we could find, queue the next buzz word: LEGOS

Myles got to learn how to make a stop motion video using legos. The instructor started simple with teaching them how to make their lego characters walk – they have multiple strategies for this because, of course, legos don’t have knee joints! They also learned how to use a program to make their characters appear like they’re talking, and how to make their facial expressions match. They made lego props for the setting as well. 

Myles decided he didn’t want to try to create a video. It would be a lot of work, and he wasn’t committed. He was happy to watch and learn while playing with legos. 

It was neat to go from learning about the elements of a good story to how a character might act them out. Spoiler since we’re already a few weeks ahead now: these themes keep tying in beautifully. I couldn’t have created a curriculum that picked these things apart to “teach” them better than them recurring naturally through pursuing our interests. 

Outside of classes, Myles read to me, watched the Dr Binocs show, and completed some worksheet pages he chose. 

Overall, it was a busy and fun week!

In a few days, I’ll share some words of encouragement around setting expectations.

How we set up our 2020 homeschool

We started our homeschool at the beginning of August. 

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t plan ahead for months and prepare to start at that time. 

I realized when I updated our Intent to Homeschool that it was set for August 1st, and frankly I didn’t feel like thinking about a better start date, so without any extra clicks, I approved it and agreed that’s when we were starting!

As I realized August was approaching, and I was starting two blogs and raising chicks in my bathroom while parts of my garden were growing over my head; I decided I better come up with something simple, and I wasn’t going to stress too much about how to put it together.

If you’ve read my welcome post, you’ll see how far this is from my initial expectations when I first started homeschooling. I will continue to share with you what’s changed over time. Don’t worry if you’re still where I was. It’s a process and we learn along the way.  

So what was going to work this year?

What did we need? What were our goals? How much time and energy did we want to spend? What else did we need – or want – to leave room for? 

What did I personally need? You know as well as I do that waiting until you see what’s left for yourself gets you nothing, or much less than you need, often with frustration and tears

 I needed to plan for myself to be successful instead of hoping it came about from what could be squeezed into the cracks.

I have my clearest thoughts first thing in the morning before my brain starts feeling scrambled. If I make a plan early, I can follow it throughout the day as my decision-making functioning declines. I usually set an intention around my priorities the night before, and then I formulate the plan in the morning when I’m fresh. 

I’d need to have time to concentrate and be creative, things you can’t do while fighting an unhappy student, trying to multitask, answering the millionth why, or listening to 79 fun facts they just learned – and yes, I want to know, just not at the same moment I’m hoping my brain will continue flowing out thoughts for me to share. 

If I was going to have that time, what was Myles going to do? Just let him sleep in? What if he got up? Then what was I going to do?

What can he do?

He can read now. He has many educational books. He was given some workbooks around his grade level. He’s always enjoyed YouTube for learning – though how do we stay on task? (I’ll answer this!)

It seems he could do quite a bit of self-directed learning while also being trusted with independence and learning how to regulate his time. 

I didn’t choose a curriculum. (yes, on purpose)

So now suddenly from a flow of questions, I’ve answered and created a rough idea of our homeschool in a short time. No stress or struggle. It was basically a strategy session where I identified any “problems” and found a solution for them.

I wonder how Myles will feel about this…let’s ask!

I explain that he needs time to learn and I need time to work, so why don’t we spend our mornings taking care of those goals and then see where our day goes after. 

I wasn’t expecting him to be as excited as he was. “I can’t wait for tomorrow so I can start!” 

That was the week before August, so I happily agreed and encouraged getting a feel for it, seeing if he had any questions, and meeting up to chat about it. 

The next Monday, we would “officially” start our plans. He would continue to choose which topics he would learn about and share with me what he had learned – in a vlog he would record daily. 

Monday morning, we had just reviewed our plans when all of the class reminder emails started popping up – oops, we signed up and forgot which weeks had which things going on.

“Okay kiddo, you have 3 classes today, each an hour long with a half hour break between. Your day is going to look a little different than we planned. Oh, but your first class is Creating your own Storyland using Minecraft!”

“Oh no, change of plans, I have to play video games?!” – haha, nope!

He agreed he wanted to try the classes and we moved forward. 

First day and we already had a complete overhaul of our expectations. 

So let’s talk about that in another post soon.  

Each week, I’ll show you what our week looked like, so you’ll have an example of one way it can be done. You’re welcome to try out some of our ideas or use them as inspiration to find your own.

Every month, I’ll also share my perspective on homeschooling or parenting, with encouragement toward creating a peaceful lifestyle for your family, in and outside of homeschooling. 

Welcome to Encouraging Curiosity!

I’ve always known I wanted to homeschool, but what homeschool has become for us has taken a different form than I could have ever imagined.

You know that feeling of new school supplies and excitement for a new year?

We would sit at a table, full of hope and wonder, with neatly stacked workbooks and pencils; new boxes of crayons; fun, interactive games. My child, behaving “perfectly,” ready to learn from me and appreciate the opportunity he’s been given.

If you’ve ever tried to homeschool or even just help your child with homework, you probably know how far this expectation falls from reality.

Some days my kid is an enthusiastic learner who finishes his work in mind-blowing time, with accuracy and understanding.

But some days – most days – it’s a fight and a struggle.

I didn’t want the fights at the table, the extended time struggling over work he could do one day but not the next, trying to force focus or the correct answer so we could move on.

I didn’t want the frustration and explosions or silently dying inside because of holding it in.

I didn’t want resentment or trauma.

So what to do?

My child is brilliant and capable, but I’m trying to get him to perform on my terms to appease some other curriculum schedule.

But why?

It’s not like our school system is highly admired or succeeding. Statistically speaking, this system isn’t working at a rate I’m willing to accept for my family.

But homeschool is hard too. And now I’m responsible? Now I’m the one messing it up?

Maybe I should leave this to someone else. After all, they are the ones “qualified” to do it.

At least society readily accepts this position, so it won’t be my fault if they don’t do any better than I could, and I get to avoid the stress, guilt, and hurt feelings.

While I could have doubts and explore feeling that way, I couldn’t accept it

I AM responsible for my child’s life, and I want to be.

I want the best for my child. I want him to learn in an environment best suited to him. I want him to have freedom and flexibility, to learn what he’s interested in, and to pursue more than a structure created to serve everyone can personalize for one individual.

So how do I reconcile those wants with the challenges homeschooling brings?

I knew struggling more wasn’t going to produce better results, so that’s out.

School still didn’t suit my desires.

Being more flexible while expecting the same results just left things unfinished.

Being more rigid took away the freedom we set out to achieve.

It has been a process, and I’m not going to pretend I’ve taken each step of our journey with grace and ease, though I have learned to be much more graceful and forgiving of myself and my child through the process.

What’s changed is my mindset and my expectations.

If these are the kinds of thoughts you’re sorting through, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to feel that way.

I remember asking all the questions, like a toddler who constantly wants to know why, but even once those were answered, I was still very unsure about the HOW.

You’re likely to ask:

“Am I doing this right?”

“What are other people doing?”

“Why do I feel so lost?”

While it’s easy to say, “Don’t compare yourself to others!”

– and long-term, I wouldn’t encourage you to precisely mimic someone else –

It can be useful to see what someone else is doing.

Sometimes it shows you what’s not for you.

Sometimes it gives you ideas.

Sometimes it feels like community or builds confidence.

That’s what I’ll aim to do here.

For the times I wished I had a clearer map, knew what I’ve learned ahead of the struggles that got me there, or screamed to myself, “why can’t this be easier?!” …

I want to create a space that is encouraging, thought-provoking, and supportive for your journey through these experiences.

I’ll show you each week what homeschooling looked like for us that week, so you can see a real life example as it unfolds.

I’ll also give you my perspective on different aspects of homeschooling happy, kids who benefit and grow without sacrificing our own peace.

Because we all need peace in our lives.

I can’t tell you how to homeschool for your family. I don’t believe there is one correct way.

I hope to offer ideas and encouragement. Please take what fits and let it empower you to start creating the learning environment you want to experience with your family.