Why We Homeschool

For those of you that don’t know we chose to homeschool Alexis long before she was even born. I had the idea brewing in my head before Jamison and I even met and luckily he agreed with my assessment. There are many reasons, but the main reason was the deteriorating state of our school system’s actual educating processes and the increased amount of violence. I simply wanted to make sure that Alexis got a well rounded education in all subjects, most importantly science and math, which have been watered down to practically nothing in some cases, and was able to do so in a relatively stress and violence free environment on a consistent basis.

When you tell people that you homeschool there are two reactions that you normally elicit, most people think it’s really cool and ask a lot of positive questions or the other reaction you get is where people give you a terse “Oh!” and look at you as if to say “You’re one of THOSE people! Bet you have your kid locked up in the basement unsocialized!” The first group are fun to talk to, the other group I’ve found it best to ignore them and move on. Some people just will not be pleased no matter what you do.

There is a misconception for some that all homeschooled children are kept sheltered, have no friends, don’t participate in any activities outside of the home, etc. This isn’t true in most cases. For instance Alexis is in a local Girl Scout Brownie troop, does various programs with other kids her age in arts, science, physical activities, etc. She attended several day camps during the summer along these lines and she is also very involved with our church’s youth program.

We go out and do activities often. We’re out and about all the time and Alexis is a very social child. She’s never met a stranger and will talk to most anyone, unless they are mean toward her. Around our community people know Alexis and call her by name. She has that type of personality that makes it easy for her to like and be liked by anyone, and she has several very close friends she spends time with, along with acquaintances as well. Last Saturday she did an art class at the local library. This Saturday she will be working on her Science badge with some of her fellow Brownies. She’s quite the little social butterfly!

There are also a lot of collaborative homeschool groups out there if you’re interested. We don’t utilize these groups, because it isn’t our thing, but it is a good resource for those who might not feel comfortable with one subject, and excel at another. While someone in the group is helping the children with math, you might teach another group story writing. Most of these groups are called “Co-ops” and you can usually find one in your community or one nearby. These groups can meet once a week, once a month, etc. It depends on the group itself. Some are religious based, some are not. You can usually find one that fits your needs if you are interested in such things.

A lot of people assume that religion factors into the decision to homeschool and for us that is not the case. I let Alexis get her religious education at church on Sunday and we leave it at that. She knows the basic principles that are important in life and that’s all that matters to me. She knows to treat others as she wants to be treated, she knows to help those who might need help, she knows that she is a very lucky girl and not all children are. She also knows not to make fun of people and not to be mean. She is one of the most empathetic people I have ever met, if you’re sad she’s sad with you, if you’re happy, she’ll be happy as well, if you’re in pain it upsets her and she wants to help you alleviate that pain. She worries about people. She has a huge heart. I have friends that do fit religious education into their homeschool classes and that works for them and that is how it should be…Your program should fit your needs. For us though religion in class isn’t a factor.

This year we’re going further in depth in many branches of science, including chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, botany, marine biology and geology. We are continuing our study of French and Spanish which is a lot of fun. We also are reading kid’s versions of literary classics, along with some of these stories just straight up. We’re doing more indepth story writing, art and music, history, geography, money, time, nutrition, anatomy, critical thinking, note taking skills, etc. Alexis is also learning to type. To round out each day Alexis writes a daily journal entry that tells about her day, something she’d like to do, something she just did, etc.

I also am a firm believer in hands on, on site, learning. If you’re studying sharks, why not go to the aquarium and take a look at an actual shark? Studying George Washington? We’re lucky enough to live near a lot of history surrounding Washington DC, Baltimore and New York isn’t really that far away either. So for Mr. Washington we went to Mount Vernon. What better place to learn about one our founding fathers than his own home? Scientific experiments are easily done at home, or out in nature, or whenever you can observe or touch what you’re studying. Reading about something is great, and it’s part of the overall whole, but seeing it in action is in my opinion an imperative tool as well.

But homeschooling is expensive some argue. I disagree with you there. I will admit I buy a lot of books each year, because we are very much book people, but I find a lot of material for free online too. You would be amazed what is out there. Of course you have to look at these sources with a critical eye to ensure the information they are presenting is indeed true or factual, but it isn’t too hard to distinguish the ones that are what they should be, and those that are not.

This year, though I hated to see it close, Borders going out of business was a rare opportunity for me to afford some of the books I had always wanted to use in our schooling. I also like to give Alexis computer and Wii games that are fun, yet educational. Kids can learn a lot while having fun without even realizing that they are learning, which in some cases is a good thing.

Is homeschooling for everyone? No, it isn’t. In order to homeschool you have to have a lot of patience, a lot of preparation and will power to go the distance. Are there bad days homeschooling? You betcha! But most days are good, or at least that is how it is for us. Alexis is comfortable enough with me, as I am her Mom, to test her boundaries some days, so it’s important to ensure you stick to what needs to be done. Homeschooling also gives you the flexibility to move on when your child is ready to go to the next step and to take a little extra time on certain things that your child might have a bit harder time understanding. Homeschooling is a perfect way for you to allow your child to learn at their own pace.

In short? Homeschooling works for us. Will it work for you? That is up to you to decide.

Originally posted at Daffodil Lane.

Murphy’s Law in the Morning

Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and boy this morning was that ever true!

I had an appointment this morning at 8:15 on the other side of the county to get some yearly physical tests run. I set my alarm to go off at 6:30 with that new Joe Jonas song that I equally despise and can’t stop listening to all at the same time. Somehow my iPod came unconnected from the dock during the night and said alarm never rang. I woke up at 7:30, which was actually the time I needed to LEAVE not wake up! Somehow I got up, got dressed, brushed my teeth and hair, put myself together, even threw on a little makeup, and got out the door in 7 minutes. Yay me!

I hate the feeling of running late. I’m an early bird in terms of arriving somewhere. I always have been. The stress of knowing you’re going to be late is something I can’t handle. The stress of knowing I am leaving someone waiting really bothers me. I’m too OCD and I like to do things on my own terms, and my terms so happen to be arriving on time or early if possible. So that feeling of dread settled on my shoulders and pressed down with malicious glee.

I was driving (Very fast!) down the interstate, luckily coming across no cops along the way, listening and singing along to that stupid Joe Jonas song on loop, because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment (Damn catchy tune!), happy with the time I was making, when I had to switch roads. The road that was the next path on my little morning jaunt was a standstill parking lot. Hello Murphy! I’m not pleased to see you and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!

I took the first exit off of this road and immediately called Jamison to find a way across country that would allow me to make it there without having to get back on to the parking lot extraordinaire. I knew of one short cut, but it would make me have to get back on parking lot road and I knew there had to be another path. He found one and luckily I walked in the door at 8:14. I had an overwhelming sense of relief!

After my first appointment I had a second one that I needed to go to, which luckily was two buildings up from the building I was currently in. Unfortunately Murphy decided to come back and sit on my shoulder again because they didn’t call me back until 15 minutes AFTER my appointment was supposed to be, so that crushing feeling of stress moved back on in. Lovely. Murphy was on my last nerve at this point.

Somehow she managed to finish my appointment and I walked in to my next meeting with yet another minute to spare. I heaved another sigh of relief, signed in and sat down to wait for my 9:15 appointment. Murphy being ever the “helpful” little law that it thinks it is came back in terms of them running behind. I wasn’t as overwhelmed by this because I had no where specific to be after that other than running by the store and then returning home to do school, and neither of those expected me to be there at a specific time.

After a few minutes of playing Crazy Quilt Solitaire on my iPod to help me ignore the really bad programming they had on their waiting room TV, I realized that the poor woman next to me was shaking. She was 7 months pregnant and had just taken her blood glucose test. The test wasn’t settling well and she was trying not to throw up. With this one I just wanted to flip Murphy the bird. I mean come on! This poor woman was already miserably pregnant, still having day long nausea from her little bundle of joy and then Murphy comes in and throws her a curve ball. Murphy kindly go home!

I began talking to the lady next to me to distract her a bit. She was a fabulously nice lady, who simply felt like dirt and my heart went out to her. We had a nice little conversation, despite the fact she really just wanted to hurl. It was one of those things I like to call a drive by friendship, because you’ll most likely never meet again, but you are there in the moment, and I hope I helped her in some way, though I know she really felt miserable, but I really do think I helped a bit. A bit is better than nothing. I wish I could have done more for her. She went back right before I did to have her blood work done. I felt joyous for a moment because I wanted to smirk at Murphy and yell “Is that all you’ve got? Come on!”

I was called back several minutes later to do my blood work and I took a sip of water from a bottle in my purse not realizing it was “strictly forbidden” by the facility. I wanted to roll my eyes at the woman, but I simply put the lid back on my bottle and told her I hadn’t realized that was the fact and the incident passed without drama. Murphy rearing his ugly little head again, but I nipped him in the bud. That’ll teach Murphy to mess with me!

Luckily my blood tests went off without a hitch and I made my way out to the parking lot about 2 minutes later. When I got in my car, I saw the poor woman that I had spoken with hunched over in the parking lot trying not to hurl. Her mother was easing her toward the car, and you could see the nausea had definitely not left her. At this point I wanted to run Murphy over with my car. Murphy I have decided should be banned before noon at least, if not all together!

Lesson learned? Murphy sucks and you shouldn’t tempt him once he gets rolling or he’ll only make it worse.

What I really want to say to Murphy? Eff you, you vile monster! Go back to the hole you crawled out of and stay there!

Maryland is a Hopping Place!

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In the past week we’ve had an earthquake AND a hurricane. I don’t know about you, but that’s a little too hopping for me! This is the second earthquake we’ve had in a year or so, though this one was more what I always imagined (and feared) a quake to be. We get hurricanes and tropical storms from time to time, so it’s not unheard of, but it was a bit nerve wracking to say the least, especially within mere days of each other.

The earthquake flat out terrified Alexis. Jamison was working away at his desk, I was working out and she was doing her own little thing upstairs by herself. I felt the hairs on the back of my arm stand up and I was confused because I couldn’t figure out why exactly that was happening. As I was studying my arm I felt/heard a small rumbling and thought Alexis was jumping around upstairs so I sent Jamison up to check on her since he was closer. I decided to go examine the issue too and was halfway across the floor when the house started to shake in earnest. We’re talking full out walls moving, floor bouncing, light fixtures swaying, pictures moving around on the wall quake here. Surprisingly I wasn’t scared. The last one freaked me out, but this one I was calm. I was however worried about Alexis because I knew this wasn’t going to be her cup of tea. I called to Jamison and told him to keep going to get to Alexis and he did.

After our little quake it took about an hour or so to calm Alexis down…She was that scared. She is still a little twitchy about the whole thing. She asks me several times a day if I can feel the floor moving or the ground shaking because she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. I keep assuring her she’s fine, and while I can’t promise her that we won’t have another earthquake, she needs to stop worrying about it so much because I’ll take care of her. She gives me one of those looks that clearly indicates she thinks I’m nuts, but she settles down and goes on about her day.

In Lex’s mind earthquake equals unmitigated horror. Bring on a hurricane/tropical storm however and after a little explanation of what is happening and how it works the kid kicks in to all out explore mode!

At first she was uneasy about the storm especially when I started moving things in to the garage from the patio so they wouldn’t blow around. I quipped on Twitter that I wouldn’t resent battening down the hatches as much if I had an ocean view to go along with the trouble, but Alexis wasn’t quite sure why I was moving all of the things. I kept telling her we were far enough inland that we would get a lot of wind and rain, but the big stuff would happen on the coast, but that we still needed to be prepared just in case.

On Saturday she wasn’t too sure about this, equating hurricanes with tornadoes, especially as the wind picked up. She thought we were going to have to sit in the basement all day Saturday in to early Sunday morning. She kept fretting, something that Alexis is exceptionally good at much like her father, but finally she calmed. Saturday afternoon, after reassuring her quite a bit, Jamison finally showed her a weather map and explained how the storm worked. Once he was finished with that I took her outside and showed her how the clouds were swirling. From that point on she was hooked!

As you can see in the picture above she’s a happy little “weather girl” with her head covered from the sprinkles. She decided to stay on the patio for a while and I was ok with that. All we had was a lot of wind at that point so I let her be and explore.

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She ran around on the patio testing the wind speed and direction for about an hour. I finally had to make her come in and put on rain boots when it started raining and then she headed back out with her wellies, sweater and umbrella and kept up her little exploration.

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We never had any thunder or lightening, just wind and rain. When it got dark I made her come in for good. She was disappointed that the storm passed during the night. By the time she got up on Sunday morning we had a few sprinkles and light wind. The worst of Irene had passed on up the coast to wreak her havoc there. Luckily we were spared any damage despite the wind being a little fierce here and there.

I love that Alexis looks at all this stuff as a learning opportunity and it amuses me that she seems as drawn to the ocean, its power and all things aquatic just as I am. I’ve sat through Isabel back in 2003 when we lived closer to the Chesapeake Bay and that was enough for me, but the experience is there. Alexis doesn’t remember that storm, or the tropical storm that blew through a few years ago either, but I have a feeling she’ll remember Irene for a while and if not I’ll be happy to share the the pictures with her and tell her about her windy/rainy adventures when she gets older.

She is so my child.

Goodbye Papaw

I’ve been writing this entry in my head since shortly after my grandfather passed away on January 7th. I just can’t seem to give him the justice he deserves in my mind, but I will try none the less.

As a child I was lucky to have not only all four grandparents still alive, but my mom’s grandmother as well. “Nana” as we called her, passed away first. I remember her as a small, lovely woman who we visited in her home and then in the nursing home where she ended up passing away. This was my first real brush with death and given I was a child it scared and intrigued me both, though I didn’t really understand the whole situation at that age. To this day I slightly panic in nursing homes because of this experience.

My next brush with death came when my grandfather, who we called “Dad”, passed away in 1987. He was my father’s father and I was in the 8th grade when he passed. This time I understood the implications of what had happened. Dad was one of my favorite people of all time. He was such a kindred spirit and this death hit me really hard. Now, even 24 years later, I still miss him in ways that are hard to describe.

My other three grandparents held on for 20 more years or so. Not many people in their mid thirties can say that they had three surviving grandparents. My Mamaw went 1st. I always liked her. She was eccentric and a little weird at times, but she definitely was her own person. She was funny and warm and I really enjoyed knowing her. Her death was sad, but a blessing in a way. She was in pain and she was ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease. While Dad’s death in 1987 was a big surprise at least he never suffered. He didn’t get to the stage where he couldn’t fend for himself. He never had to be put into a nursing home or an assisted living facility. My other three grandparents were not that lucky.

The next to pass away was my father’s mother. She had to go into an assisted living facility when she started having problems with falling. Her mind also went and she traveled the path of dementia. In all honesty I had many problems with “Mother” as we called her. She was very harsh and very critical of me, and not in any means in a way that could be considered even slightly helpful. In short looking back she was verbally abusive and most of this abuse she saved to dole out to me and my Mom, who she never wanted to marry my father and she never let her forget that fact. I forgave her before she passed away, and while I was sad about her death in some ways, for the most part it was a relief as harsh as that may sound. No one deserves to suffer though and she most definitely suffered as well.

Papaw held on until just a few weeks ago. He would have been 94 on June the 7th of this year. I always seemed to be closer to my grandfathers than my grandmothers. Papaw to me was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. He always had a smile on his face and he would tell you how pretty you were and tease you about taking you home with him. Every time I saw him, save at Mamaw’s funeral where he was utterly devastated, I came away with a smile. He was the kind of person who just made you not only feel good, but to feel better about yourself too. He was very special.

Papaw worked for the Forest Service when I was a child and he would bring us things with Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl on them, like notebooks and pencils. He often wore his Forest Service uniform even after he retired and when we arrived at the funeral home seeing him in a Forest Service uniform to be buried was a blast from the past! It was such an appropriate tribute to who he was. He was an outdoor type of person through and through and loved nature in a way that many do not.

Alexis met Papaw twice. Alexis was not a traveling sort of kid as a young child. She never slept in the car. In fact she’s fallen asleep in a car exactly 6 times in her entire life and 3 of those times she was very ill at the time. When she was a baby we’d sometimes drive over to eat lunch with Jamison in the town where he worked. It was a 20-30 minute drive depending on traffic and she literally would scream the whole way. It was not fun. So needless to say traveling with her was out of the question until she got a little older and could be distracted with a portable DVD player.

The first time Alexis met Papaw was at Mamaw’s funeral. I call Alexis “My Little Empath” because she is one of the most empathetic people I have ever been around. If you’re sad, she’s going to be sad for/with you. If you’re crying she’s going to cry as long as you do. As I mentioned above Papaw was devastated when his wife of a little over 60 years passed away. Alexis sensed this sadness and was wary of getting too close to him because she thought he was in physical pain and she didn’t want to make it worse. So the first time she met him she didn’t have much interaction with him.

The second time Alexis met Papaw was this past spring and he was so sweet with her. He started having problems with memory and things by this point as well, but he was in awe of her, even though he didn’t know who she was the entire time. He floated between knowing who we were and not. He told her, and me, many times how sweet and pretty she was and he gave us both big hugs. It was heartwarming to see them together and for me to get to spend time with him. It was also a bit heartbreaking too when he would fade in and out, but I’m so glad that Alexis got to spend that time with him and now has a fond memory of him, along with pictures of the two of them together.

I have so many happy memories of Papaw. One that always sticks out in my mind is his spring water. He would go up to the mountains where my mom grew up, near the old “homestead” and fill a container with spring water. He carried this container of spring water around with him in a cooler and it was always ice cold. We thought it was such a treat to get to drink his water. Funnily enough the source of his water is now bottled and sold after the bottled water trend took off. Papaw was before his time, and environmentally conscious by using his own container to boot!

Papaw was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in the past few years and it slowly took its toll on him. He had many bouts of pneumonia as fluid settled in his lungs and as I mentioned his memory faded in and out as dementia began to wreak havoc on his mind. At the end he was miserable, and he told my mom as much several times. He was ready to go. That doesn’t make it any less sad that he’s gone, but I can appreciate that he is no longer in pain and that puts my mind more at ease.

I’ll miss Papaw. I missed not seeing him as much after we moved to Maryland. I hope now he’s at peace and he’s back with Mamaw who he missed so much. I will always remember him and his fabulous smile!

Things I Like About Fall and Things I Could Leave Behind

I love fall. It’s one of my all time favorite seasons. The cool crisp air, the beautiful leaves that create a canvass of color across the landscape, big pumpkins, steaming apple cider and fresh apples oh my! It’s just a really fabulous time of the year!

But you know what I miss?

Flips flops and no shoes! I hate shoes, I’m a barefoot kind of girl and always have been. So now that the weather has grown cooler and it’s time to pull out real shoes again I’m not so happy about that part of the season. I have had on real shoes exactly zero times since late April/early May! I slid on flip flops if I was going out and if I was at home I was barefoot.

Now this doesn’t make me like Fall any less, the good of the season more than outweighs the bad, and I actually like cold weather much better than hot, which some people think is odd, but I really will miss my flips flops and bare toes!

What Did You Do Today?

I got a tattoo, or in other words this was my birthday present to myself!

My Tattoo: Otherwise Know As My Birthday Present to Myself

My Tattoo: Otherwise Know As My Birthday Present to Myself

I’m very pleased with the results!

This is the pewter button it is designed around:

Pewter Button My Tattoo Is Designed Around

If you live in Maryland and want a tattoo I highly recommend Alfie at Marks of the Spark Tattoos in Frederick! He’s awesome!

Thanks to my friend Leann for spending the day with me and being my tattoo buddy! I’ve had an awesome birthday!

We Had a Little Earthquake This Morning

We had a little earthquake this morning compared to West coast standards, but oh my! Color me unimpressed! I woke up about five minutes before it hit for some reason and was wide awake for the event. I honestly thought that a plane had crashed in to the side of the mountain! There was a ripple, then a rumble, then a boom and then the whole house shook! It woke Jamison and Alexis when the boom happened. I found out via Twitter from other DC area folks that we had indeed had an early morning visit from an earthquake.

Alexis thought this earthquake was the coolest thing ever and has been asking questions about earthquakes all day. I guess it’s a good learning experience if nothing else. We did not feel the aftershock, just the initial quake. I’m saying that her excitement about the quake makes her Jamison’s child…MY child would be more of the “Oh my god that was horrible!” line of thinking. ;oP

I’ve always said that only reason I wouldn’t live in California was the earthquakes, otherwise I think I’d like California just fine. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. Hmmmm……

Originally posted on Daffodil Lane.

I Love This Time Of Year!

Orchard Hauls

I love this time of year, or well more truthfully I love the produce that is available! The hot weather, snakes and bugs I could do without, but the blueberries, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables are pure heaven!

Yesterday Alexis, Grams, Pop and I set off to go on a little adventure. We went to lunch and then I wanted to go over to the orchard and see if they had any peas since mine didn’t really do much this year. They had peas, but more importantly they had tomatoes and peaches! I was thrilled!

After we went to the orchard we cut across country to pick up some charcoal on the way home. My mom brought me our old charcoal grill that we used to use when we were camping at the lake and I wanted to break it in so to speak! Along the way we came across another orchard and they still had some strawberries! They also had blueberries so I was really thrilled given they are my favorite fruit and all!

We ended up with Swiss chard, peppermint, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, orange cherry tomatoes, cherries, raspberries (for Alexis), cabbage, peas and broccoli! Not bad at all!

This morning we had fruit for breakfast:

Local Berries

I had berries with granola and cocoa nibs. I had planned to have some Greek yogurt too, but my yogurt had gone the way of the Dodo bird!

For lunch we sliced the tomatoes and enjoyed them on sandwiches. Have I mentioned I love this time of year?

Now if I can just find some garlic scapes!

So what’s available where you live?