Saturday, June 18, 2011

Show and Tell time

This week's post is just for fun!  I thought we'd show off a little bit of what life is like around a home schooling house.  These photos are not really a "day in the life;" they span quite a period of time.

In this first photo, we get the best of both worlds; although we don't have to miss school for snow days like our public school counterparts, we get to play with our friends who are home from school during play time!  And unlike our local school, we get to go OUTSIDE and play in the snow!  Hooray!
Here is DS#1's favorite way to spend time reading-- with a cat in his lap.  I happen to love this shot, because he's reading, "I Am Spartapuss," a book as full of terrible feline puns as the title suggests, which kept him laughing all the way through, but which also inspired him to head to the library to begin researching the real Spartacus while we were studying the ancient Romans this winter and spring.

DS#2 is preparing our timeline, part of which you can see here.  He's drawing the lines for some of the cultures we plan to study in the coming year.  This timeline now dominates one wall of our family room, and we add to it every time we encounter important dates in our history lessons.  It's a pretty neat visual on when different cultures rose to prominence and then ebbed!

Sleepover time!  Kids woke up before I did, and decided it was a nice morning, so they dug out "Life" and set it up on the back porch.  Homeschool kids have sleepovers and do normal social activities just like any other kids!

Son #2 has been appointing himself to assist in the kitchen lately; he decided to make brownies the other night.  Despite the upside-down directions, the brownies came out right side up and tasted pretty good!

Son #1 jots down his observations during a NOEO Chemistry experiment (are gas molecules very far apart compared to liquid molecules?  If we coax the gas out of the soda, will the liquid level change in that bottle of Coke?)

Son #2 returns to cooking-- time to make the french toast!  It came out just as well as the brownies did!

How do we open Khufu's pyramid?  First we have to decipher these hieroglyphs to find the secret entrance!

Success!  Now with archaeologist's tools, we excavate the inside of the pyramid, looking for the sarcophagus and canoptic jars, and even a mummy wrapped in linen!  We want to get back to doing some more of those hieroglyphs.  The excavation took a really long time.

Somehow, when he reads, he always ends up with a cat in his lap.  Greek and Roman mythology . . . again.  This is free time after school was done.

1,2, . . . 3?  It's not unusual to end up with an afterschooler joining us in our house unofficially.  Chemistry experiments are just so cool, it's no problem to come and do them with us after school, even if NittanyJen makes you write up a lab report for it!  Today we're watching how food coloring dissipates differently in hot vs cold glasses of water . . . why does it go faster in the hot water?

We just wanted to share some of the fun we've been having, and of course help homeschoolers answer  that ever-present question:  What do you do all day??  Of course, we don't have any action shots of our math or grammar texts :).  But we hope you enjoyed seeing some of the fun side of things!

--Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 3, 2011

What to expect when you're live with homeschoolers

Please welcome guest blogger, my husband, who makes home schooling the way we do it in our house possible!

Switching to homeschooling is a big deal. It's a life change on par
with moving to another state or starting a new job, but most of us
have some similar experiences to draw on for those milestones. Nothing
prepared me for what homeschooling would be like. Yet as I look back
over the transition our family has made, I realize that the event in
my life that most closely matches it was the process of expecting and
having our first child with my wife. Indeed, I see now that I should
have expected...

...TO DISCOVER A HIDDEN WORLD. Like many dads, I stumbled about in
shock most of the time in the months leading to my first son's birth.
I had been blissfully clueless about the distinction between a
bassinet and a crib, the sectarian splits formed around brands of baby
bottles, and, yes, even Elmo. As revelations about coneheads and
bilirubin counts and night terrors and LeapPads continued to spool out
over the months and years, I came to adopt a near-Zen state of
humility towards the major matters of this world which I know nothing

When it comes to homeschooling, you soon learn that there are multiple
curricula, support groups, message boards, state officials, classes at
local institutions, and many, many items for sale, all revolving
around this world which previously you never noticed. You find out
about religious fervor regarding, well, religion, but also less sacred
items like math textbooks--all of which to me resembles nothing so
much as the constant controversy that seems to swirl around

The cool part is that once you break through the hoopla and actually
begin the experience, you feel a bit as though you've been inducted
into an elite society. I mean, lots of other people have done this
before you, and people who don't go through this experience aren't
really any poorer for it...aww hell, it's hard not to feel smug pity
once in a while for the saps who continue to lead their little,
unenlightened lives.

...TO BE POORER. Oh, yes, did I mention all those items for sale? You
may naively think that God, or His prophet the Internet, will shower
down upon your family everything it needs for a first-class education.
Then you will remember that in the US of A, value is measured in
dollars. There will be books, software programs, and chemistry sets to
buy and store. Plus, maps, posters, private lessons, and more books.
As in the case of having a child, I remain skeptical that all of this
stuff is really necessary, and, as then, I try to keep my own counsel
as my wife wears out the credit card.

...TO BE A ROLE PLAYER. Keeping your own counsel is a big part of the
pregnancy gig, as veteran dads know. You have a role on this team, and
it is not the star. (This rule is not so relevant to actual
childrearing, except on TV.) When there are 7 seconds left and your
team needs to sink a 3-pointer to win, the ball is not coming your
way. You are Robin, not Batman: in theory, you are needed, but they
could make the movie without you.

As a (college) teacher myself, I know that insecurity comes with the
job, because so much is hard to measure and out of your control
anyway. So, my newly homeschooling wife wants to talk a lot about what
she's learning and teaching and planning for our kids. She seeks my
opinion on many things, but I think what she's really looking for is
reassurance. I know she's smart and thorough and a natural teacher, so
I'm not often inclined to weigh in, but she may need to have a
conversation anyhow. That's my job. But I can't get insistent about my
way of looking at things, because I am not the one delivering the

...TO PINCH-HIT. Everyone who's been partner to a pregnancy knows that
there are meltdown days. True, to some extent these are
physiologically driven. But daily exposure to whining, inquiring,
resisting, lollygagging, interrupting, clarifying, complaining,
daydreaming, and general wall-bouncing takes a physical as well as a
psychological toll. You won't believe it unless you try it, but
teaching is exhausting.

No doubt your job is hard too, but at the end of the day your clients
aren't still expecting you to make them dinner and play War with them.
(Unless you are a Michelin-rated arms dealer, I guess.) You need to
step up your game on some days and take one for the team. It's not
about what's fair, it's about long-range sanity.

...TO SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY. Bringing a child into the world
changes your perspective. Long-term problems like wars and economic
collapses and environmental degradation take on new personal
importance. At the same time, you gain a renewed sense of wonder at
how even the most mundane things are often miraculous.

As a product of public schools and a public university, I have always
wanted to disregard the perennial Chicken Little cries about the
American educational system. They've been going on since I was in
school myself. Those cries are often still exaggerated. But I finally
had to concede that our local public elementary school wasn't working
for us.

Now I have watched my formerly bored sons become passionate learners
of history, chemistry, and languages. They devour books for pleasure.
We conduct dinner table conversations in which I can't consult
Wikipedia fast enough to answer all of the questions. Their old school
starts to sound more like a prison every day. (Seriously. Our state's
schools became infamous for trying to send a first grader to reform
school for using a Cub Scout pocket tool to eat his pudding.)

I'm glad we didn't wait to make things better for our kids and our
family. Really, I'm envious of the education they're getting. As it
was with bringing them into the world in the first place, my concern
for our ability to care for them properly has evaporated. Instead--and
this was completely unexpected--my worries are for the world and
country we're bringing them into.

I have come to believe that it's time to rethink the school model at a
deep level. The system was shaped by and for the industrial
revolution, when a high school diploma meant a decent job that could
support a family. Those days are never coming back. Schools are not
producing the citizens we need, as you can tell from the rampant
irrationality and magical thinking that surrounds all public
discourse. We need a new model for the Information Age. I cheerfully
admit that I don't know what that model should be--after all,
homeschooling won't scale up to national size. But I'm sure it's going
to take creative, critical, and informed leaders to make this happen,
and I feel like we're doing our part. From our kids, I expect great

--Thanks for reading!