Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Response to the 5Rs for New Homeschoolers

First you have to go read Jen's wonderful blog and her post on the 5Rs for New Homeschoolers.

Now that you have read that, I thought I would write about how I implement this in my household.

1. Research: Now Jen was specifically talking about researching homeschooling itself, as a new homeschooler searches out what will work best for their family. Since I'm an "old" homeschooler (we won't say how old, LOL) I don't necessarily have to take time to research every school year about homeschooling in general. But I do do research. I'm constantly reading about different teaching strategies; useful websites for exploration; the latest and newest way to teach a subject. I believe in being well educated myself in order to make sure my kids become well educated. I also use the beginning of the year as a time to evaluate where each child is at, identify any weaknesses I may see, and strategize on how to overcome these in the new school year. For instance, last year's goal for Cassie was to get her reading more. Mission accomplished. She is currently devouring Trixie Belden books as fast as I can find them for her.

2. Relax: This is my mantra! And I think I pull it off pretty good. I often have people say to me "you are so relaxed when it comes to homeschooling. I never see you stress out." I wish I could say I never stress out, because I do have times when that happens. But I do put more emphasis on relaxing. When Eric was writing half the alphabet backwards at age 8, and couldn't spell the simplest words, I didn't freak out. I let him explore his creative spelling and letter writing. I didn't push him to practice and practice. I didn't want him to hate writing. I love writing. I want my kids to love writing. So I relaxed and let nature take it's course. Boys are often late bloomers when it comes to writing skills. When he was 10, suddenly it became very important for him to communicate through writing. He was creating comics and he needed people to get his jokes. So he took the time to really concentrate on his letter formation and his spelling and before I knew it all his little mistakes and issues corrected themselves. He's now a very good writer and has a wonderful sense of humor and poetry in his writings. Though he does prefer to do this all on computer now. Oh, and he taught himself to type too!

3. Remember that learning is everywhere.
As unschoolers this is our entire philosophy of education. Learning is all around us! From the moment my kids wake up in the morning there is something happening that sparks their brain cells and they begin to learn.  I give my children plenty of free time to explore their own interests. Mastery tends to happen when given enough free reign in an area. That is why Adam is now an accomplished composer and song writer. You can find Adam's music here.  Les and I  take every opportunity to find teachable moments throughout the day and to involve our children in daily life. This past week they've learned about plumbing as we've fixed sinks, toilets and shower heads. Cassie is exploring with textures in art on her art table. Eric is learning coding for computer games. Stephanie is learning the difference between theater acting and movie acting as she does a small part for a short film.

4. Respect your kids' individuality.
My comments in number 3 pretty much mirror what I could write in number 4. We have artists, singers, actors, musicians, and writers in our family. Every one has different talents and different learning styles. All of our kids are sensitive to noise or touch in one way or another. A lot of the things we do with our kids reflect these unique personalities. I think this is one of the joys of homeschooling. We can fit learning around who the child is and create a program that is unique for each member of the family. And we can really get to know our kids!

5. Rest and Restore.
Over the years I have learned that this is the critical part of being a homeschool parent. You are with your children 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. There is no "break" when the kids go off to school. So it is vitally important that you figure this out and create rest and restore time for you or you WILL burn out. Exercise is important to me but it is hard. I finally found the perfect exercise for me, water aerobics, and I plan my days and weeks around the times it is offered. I need this "me" time to rest my mind and to restore my body. My husband and I also take the time to rest and restore together. For the past 6 or 7 years we have created an area in our home that is "our area". At our beach house it was a very nice outside garden area that we retired to every evening to sit and relax in and catch up with each other's day. In our current house we have a nice outside balcony garden area we can relax in and also a nice living room area of our bedroom that is a "kid free zone" when the bedroom door is closed. Making sure to have these quiet moments and private reflection places really helps keep our marriage strong and our physical bodies healthy.

I hope this encourages any new homeschoolers that homeschooling doesn't need to be  daunting task full of schedules and lesson plans. Yes, those can be important for some families and if it works for you, by all means use them! But don't forget the other things that make homeschooling fun and enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here comes the music

For several years now, Adam, our second oldest son, has been composing and writing his own music. For the last two years, dad has stepped up to the plate to write lyrics and learn to sing these songs. At first he tried to get local musicians to help out with the projects, lending their voices to the songs. But it has become an exercise in futility trying to get someone outside of our family to commit to the music projects with as much enthusiasm that is necessary to bring these songs forward to the public eye.

So the burden fell on us. After much hard work, trial and error and many nights of singing, screeching, wailing or whatever you want to call it, The Desolation Sound is ready to be shared. This is the name Adam chose for his "band", after an area in BC, Canada where his dad used to work logging many years ago. There are other bands out there called "Desolation Sound". There is even a studio named Desolation Sound. But here we are on the other side of the world, wanting to bring a bit of our Canadian heritage into the music. So for now, this is the name that we want to use.

Here is a fifteen minute "suite" that portrays just a taste of what is to come from this collaboration effort of father and son. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Awesome Seminar Opportunity This Month

I want to take the time to post about an awesome opportunity homeschoolers on Guam will have this month. Author and Speaker Debra Bell (debrabell.com) will be coming to Guam and presenting a few seminars for homeschoolers and educators. Here are the details:

Plan to join us to be encouraged, inspired, and better equipped to teach your kids!  Homeschooling speaker and best-selling author of the award-winning Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens and Ultimate Planners  will be here soon to rejuvenate us in this challenging task we have to educate our kids! Tell your friends who are homeschoolers or educators!
May 23, 2012: Debra Bell Seminars!10:30 am -11:30 am (approx.) Faith Church, Mangilao. Celebrating the Journey in Awe and Wonder: Why a Love for Learning Glorifies God  (childcare provided) Debra has shared this talk at Apologia Live conferences and would like to share it with our group:
Description: God intends us to be wonderstruck by the glory and majesty of His creation for it is the irrefutable evidence that God exists and He is  worthy of our worship.  A honest thirst for knowledge is a longing to know the Creator. And a true love for learning at
its heart is a love for God.  This is the philosophy of education we should model for our children and infuse into our
homeschooling.  With Scripture to light our path, here’s how.
Break - Bring a sack lunch to eat together between seminars. Or, you can run to one of the nearby restaurants to pick up something. 

1:00 – 2:00 pm  "Raising an Independent Learner.  Faith Church, Mangilao. (next to Father Duenas School) (childcare provided)
Description:  Do you want an independent learner who initiates studies on his own? Then let go of the wheel  and start giving kids responsibility for their education.  Here are practical, inexpensive steps that will encourage kids to pursue their own learning, and prevent parent burnout as well.

May 24, 2012: Debra Bell on "Teaching Teens" with  Potluck Brunch!
9:30 am. Marianas Christian Fellowship. (255 E. Marine Corps Dr. in the Carl Rose Building, East Agana).Bring a dish to share

Cost will be:
GHSA members (as of May 5, 2012):   $10 for one session   $20 for two sessions  $25 for all three sessions
Nonmembers:  $15 per session.

Hope to see you there! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Most Fascinating Blog Award

Apparently my blog post “Musings of Late”  has been nominated for an award for The Most Fascinating Blog in 2011, Category: Teaching Blogs.

Wow, who’d have thought? The actual post was written in 2010, so makes me ponder. And 2011 was definitely not my year of blogging. It was more a year of reading rather than writing for me. It’s not like the year wasn’t fascinating or full of surprises, excitement and fun. It was a busy year.

One of our children attempted to spread his wings and explore the world, travelling from Guam to California for a few months then taking buses and trains across the US to live in Maryland for a few more months, until realizing Guam was a lot better place to be. That was Adam.

Another of our children decided that the theater life was for her and spent the year honing her acting and singing skills. She had a part in Guam’s GATE theater production of Camp Rock and was all geared up and ready to tackle the Phantom of the Opera (only to have the show cancelled for lack of interest, though certainly not MY daughter's lack of interest!). As a consolation prize, she joined a public high school Glee club and spent the remainder of the year learning what life was like on a public school campus (even if it was after school, only a few days a week). Now this year she has scored the role of “Anybodys” in West Side Story. That was Stephanie.

Our next child in the hierarchy, grew about 3 inches, learned how to skype and make online friends, created 100 worlds or more in Minecraft, and perfected his video game making skills. All the while entertaining us with his dry whit, endless chatter and crazy antics. That was Eric.

And finally our “baby” is no longer our baby. She also grew a few inches, enjoyed learning how to snorkel, build forts on the beach, expand her portfolio of artistic drawings and discovered the joy of reading. That was Cassie.

Not to leave out our biggest boy, Kevin has continued his career in the air force with a  move to Korea to oversee barracks of soldiers.  Our biggest joy will come in August this year when he will be stationed back on Guam!

So back to the nomination. I am honored, a little flabbergasted, but more than willing to pursue the bigger prize….so vote for my blog and I promise to bring more insightful unschooling teaching tips to you in 2012!

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Friday, July 15, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook

As the title says, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

I was first introduced to FB via my younger brother. It was probably 2004? I resisted the temptation to join at first but realized if I wanted to keep in touch with my sibling I’d better plunge in.

Soon I found myself finding old friends and relatives whom over time I had lost touch with. It was great! To reconnect with people I had almost forgotten about. But before I knew it, I had over 300 friends on my list and the messages and notes that appeared in the status bars started to overwhelm me.

Who cares if someone is playing Farmville? And really how many pictures of what you ate for dinner do we need to see? Not to pick on anyone in particular but this is how I began to feel.

I love email. I belong to a wonderful group of online ladies that have been corresponding through mailing lists since the days of E-groups and before. Some of them I’ve known for over 10 years now. Over time Facebook has been added to all our lives. It helped us connect even more. And it was great. But I still preferred the more personal and longer letters written via email.

Lately on FB you have to deal with hackers and spammers. Be wary of clicking on a strange looking video on your friend’s page, or you just may end up viewing something you wished you hadn’t and/or sent the same thing to everyone on your address list.  I check in maybe once a day and always have well over 300 new status updates I could scroll through. I get through maybe 20 a day. So I miss a lot. What exactly I miss I probably don’t want to know. 

Everywhere I turn I’m being told to “like this on FB”, join this fan page or that one. I’m told that if I want to be successful in any of my direct sales businesses, I need to have fan pages and business pages and this-n-that kind of pages. To be honest it overwhelms me. My hat is off to those who can do this. Sometimes I get myself into trouble by making flippant comments like “don’t they have a life?”.  Maybe it’s jealousy on my part. I wish I could figure it out and get into the groove. I wish I could just be assimilated and realize it’s the next wave of the future.  I wish it didn’t take time to have to learn it all.

Everyday I threaten to quit FB. Then, I get a request or see a picture of my best friend from 5th grade. Or my uncle says “hi” and my other friend from high school sends me pictures of her grandchild. And I see the benefits of FB. So I stick around.

And now there is Google+. I’m fighting hard not to be assimilated into that one. But my email box is not as full anymore. My friends are slowly drifting towards these other social networking sites, leaving me behind in the dust. If I want to stay in touch I just may have to succumb. No matter how much I want to stay in a simpler life.

I wonder if this is how our great- grandparents felt when the telephone came and letters were no longer the only way to communicate across the miles?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Leadership, What exactly does this mean?

Recently I have been thinking of what it means to be a leader. It seems that if you find yourself in a position of leadership you need to be someone who operates over and above what the average person would do. What do I mean by this?

Well, for example, I teach a weekly driving school class. As the "leader" or teacher of that class it is my responsibility to be prepared and ready to teach on the days that I have advertised. If for some reason I cannot teach (illness, etc.) then it is my responsibility to make sure that a substitute teacher is in place and is fully informed of their duties. And the duties must be performed regardless of how many students show up to class. If there is only one student, it is my obligation to give them the full service and attention that I would give a class of 10 or 20 students.

Now that can be hard at times and takes a bit of sacrifice. It is tempting to say "Oh, there are not enough students today for me to put much effort into teaching". That would be so wrong. It is not the fault of the one student who showed up and they should not be given lesser treatment because they were the only ones to come. It would make that student feel unimportant and "ripped off".

So a leader has to hold themselves to a higher standard.

The other day I found myself in the situation of the lone student. I attend a weekly women's bible study and this particular day the leader was sick and was unable to make it and the study was going to be canceled. Then at the last moment it was discovered that a substitute leader was available so the study was back on. Only I guess I was the only one who got that message. So I and the "sub" showed up at the meeting place. Now this "sub" did not know me at all, as I'm new to the group. And granted it was her last day in town and she was leaving for good the next day. So this was our one and only chance to connect and get to know one another. This was also a prime opportunity for her to minister to me. After all, I have a lot of baggage and issues I need to work out. Not many people know that, and most think I have my act together. How far wrong they are!

Anyway, what happened is the lady realized I was the only one that was going to show up, so after 20 minutes of trivial talk, she took her leave, claiming packing as her excuse. At first I was fine with this and graciously said my goodbyes. But then as I sat there by myself I started to feel very unimportant and unworthy. And I started to think about what I would have done if the situation was reversed. And you know what? I would have stayed. I would have taken that opportunity to pour into the life of the one soul who showed up. Because that is what a leader must do.

So I guess this post is a bit of a rant and a warning. If you are a leader in any capacity and you have an obligation to lead a group, make sure to give that group, no matter how many show up, 100% of what they deserve. That is the mark of a true leader.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Open Areas: Failure or Success?

Recently I was invited to join a facebook group that consists of graduates from Lord Byng highschool, class of ‘81. This was the first high school I attended in Vancouver, BC. I was only there for my 8th grade year, then my family moved up the coast to Powell River and I eventually graduated from Max Cameron Senior Secondary. When I accepted the invitation to join LB’s 30th reunion group I didn’t feel worthy. After all, I never really graduated from that school. But I was also curious. I had lost touch with all but a handful of people from those days. What were they up to? Do they remember me? It turns out they do! And many have been up to some very interesting things.

Lively discussions ensued where we shared old childhood memories and eventually someone brought up our Elementary school days at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School. Many of us were products of what is now considered a “failed” experiment. The Open Area Classroom model.

I had always known my elementary school days were unique. We did not attend a traditional classroom. For 1st thru 3rd grade I was part of the “pod” a group of four classrooms circled around an “open area”, with it’s own private art room, bathrooms and lunch room. We were kept separate from the rest of the school and only joined them for assemblies and special events. Children were grouped together by abilities so that often you would see kids working together in groups of mixed ages. In 4th grade I was moved to a “regular” classroom. I hated it. So when I was once again chosen to attend the open area class for 5th grade, I remember begging my mom to let me join. So for 5th, 6th and 7th grade I was once again in the “experimental” classroom.

Looking back on this now, I have come to realize that this educational model has shaped how I teach my children, and has been instrumental in my choice to homeschool and ultimately unschool my children.  And in discussing my experiences with former classmates there are many of us who were deeply impacted in a positive way. One former classmate says “When I look back at the Open Area, knowing what I now know about myself, I realize that I was able to thrive there because it was a less structured and more creative environment than sitting at a desk all day staring at the blackboard. Strange that it was considered a failed experiment from the seventies.”

So what did we do in an open area classroom? I remember a lot more group activities. We were always being divided up into groups. And it was easy to tell how the divisions were made. Badgers, Beavers and Bears. Badgers were the “smart” kids (I was in that group), Beavers were the “average” and Bears were the, well, ones that needed more help. I remember being placed in 5th grade in the same group as my brother who was in 7th grade. He was not happy. The implication was that we were on the same level of learning. But the truth was, it was all a peer mentoring experiment. The idea was the older kids in the groups were supposed to help out the younger kids. There was no distinction between age and grade levels. We were like one big happy family – reminiscent of the one room school house days, but with 4 teachers to control the group and with only 3 grade levels to deal with. Art and music were emphasized and writing was encouraged. I can honestly say that Mrs. B. was the teacher that got me interested in writing.

I researched why they think this classroom model was a failed experiment. The only research I could find centered on low income classrooms in large cities in Chicago and how the teachers had no control of the kids, and that the classroom environment was “loud and chaotic”. I don’t remember it being that way. But QE was not in a “low income” neighborhood but was decidedly middle class.  Maybe that was the difference. Or we just had a good team of teachers. And student teachers. We had a lot of them. 

Things changed when I headed off to high school. Classroom segregation, the mingling of several elementary schools into one very large high school, teen age drama as we entered our years of puberty. Bullying. Cliques. Mean girls. Indifferent boys. School was just never the same and I longed for the good old days of QE.

It’s been noted that there is a high number of teachers or people in the field of education that gradated from that class. I wonder if the freedom we had in learning in that environment, helped instill a love of teaching in us all? I know for me, the concept of allowing a child to pursue his/her talents came from those days. I was encouraged to write and to create in art and to explore my interests in science. We had a lot of hands on activities. I remember one teacher came across the skeleton of a deer and brought it back to the class and several of us were allowed to try to piece together the bones to recreate the deer. We had password competitions and talent shows. We sang and danced to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph”. We wrote our own version of the Canterbury Tales. We were encouraged to read and read and read. My favorite corner was a pile of beanbag chairs where one could snuggle with a book and read for what seemed like hours at a time.

Sadly “back to the basics” educational philosophy tore the Open Area classrooms down. Walls were put up and as far as I know QE no longer has this classroom style. Thankfully as an unschooler I don’t have to worry too much about it. But it saddens me to think that educators do not interview those of us who are products of this “experiment” to see how we have all turned out. I’d be very curious to interview all the “kids” from those days and find out just how many of us attribute who we are today to the benefits of this classroom model.