Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are your kids friends?

Lately I've been noticing one of the biggest blessings of homeschooling. My children's relationship with each other. Last night, Cassie announced something about going to the library to read a book and I looked up to see her, Eric and big sister Stephanie walking out to the extension of our new house where our "library" and my craft room are located.

I looked over at my husband and raised my eyebrows.
"Apparently she's reading them a book." he replied.

Ah! As Les and I walked past the library window to spend some much needed quiet time in our outside garden spot, I looked in to see three blond heads, of various shades, leaning together over a book while Stephanie animatedly read to her siblings. Though I couldn't hear her voice, by her facial expressions and the little one's rapt attention I knew she had a gift for story telling.
I really wish I could capture these moments forever in time.

It occurred to me that not all families get along as well as my children seem to. At least not those portrayed in movies, books and t.v.shows. Nor do most parents want to spend as much time with their kids as we do. (When I say "we" I'm not implying that we are better than other parents, but I'm using the collective "we" that refers to most homeschooling families). In fact on a facebook comment one of my friends was looking forward to school beginning again so that she could get her life back. When I commented that my kids were with me all the time her reply was "I'd rather pour hot sauce in my eye." Now I realize she was probably being funny, but the sentiment is loud and clear. Parents actually look forward to having no kids around when school starts up.

I cannot imagine. I love being around my kids. And for the most part my kids like being around each other. They are normal though, so fights do occur. But they don't last long, and they are best friends when they are over.

Is this a product of homeschooling? Or would my children be as close if they were in public school all day? I imagine that full time school, where siblings are separated into age-segregated classrooms, will find their time so absorbed in school, homework and friends that brothers and sisters will be ignored or forgotten.

In a magazine from my hometown of Powell River, Powell River Living, they talked about an innovative program that took place in the public schools. "Roots of Empathy" families visit a classroom and allow the children to interact with a baby assigned to their class throughout the school year. The idea is to help teach the students empathy for others as they watch the child develop over the year and learn to interact and care for the baby during his visits. As soon as I read this article my thought was "they are trying to bring the home back into the classroom". Homeschoolers have it all figured out already! My older kids were intimately involved in the care of their younger siblings, so the closeness and bonds that have developed are strong.

Cassie loves to comment every time I do something she considers "normal". Like when I told her to have a bath and brush her teeth before going to bed, she commented "like they do in a normal family?" Implication is that we are abnormal. If so, I like it. If abnormal means happy and contented. With my kids as each others' best friends.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A few weeks ago I met a woman who was using Time4Learning with her 12 year old son. The name of the program sounded familiar and I realized I had seen several email ads for this over the summer. Curious, as I always am about new learning programs, I checked it out. At first I wasn't interested in shelling out $19.95 a month for a "homeschool curriculum". After all, I'm an unschooler and we don't use "curriculum". However, in my pursuit of my new venture, the Guam Home School Resource Center, I felt it was in my best interest to thoroughly check out any educational option that crosses my path so that I could give a recommendation to those that come through my doors and ask questions.

So, Cassie, 6, became my guinea pig. I signed up for the 2 week free trial version (which unfortunately you pay for in advance and then can be refunded if you decide to quit after the two weeks are up). We are entering our second week of the trial. So far Cassie loves it. In fact she is very funny because she will come up to me and say "I'm bored" and then look at me with her big blue eyes without telling me what will solve this boredom. After several suggestions of things she could do to become "un-bored" I'll finally hit on what is her desire. To go on Time4Learning.

I'm not a typical homeschool parent. I have not gone into the system and set up a lesson plan for her to follow. I have allowed her complete freedom to choose what activities to do and what lessons to follow. When you first log in you are required to answer some basic questions about your child's learning in order for them to place them in the correct grade level. Since Cassie is 1st grade and not a reader she is doing some kindergarten level and some 1st grade level. She knows her letters and sounds and can read simple words but hasn't quite got the "click" that will bring reading together for her. The program does read to her, so our new headphones come in handy. It also highlights the words it is reading on the screen so that she can follow along. I know that will help her recognize words and increase her sight word list. Already after the first week I have seen evidence of an increase in her reading vocabulary.

Math she is right on level for. Our work with Math-U-See last year has really helped her and she understands math concepts easily. I've noticed that those are the lessons she follows in a systematic fashion, completing them to the end and moving to the next one. With the reading and science ones, she jumps around as her interest leads. She loves the science section the best and even though her reading isn't up to par her comprehension level is excellent. Language Arts extensions are great too, as stories are read to her and she has to answer questions based on the stories. She is scoring well in that section too.

I have a feeling that once this two weeks is up we will continue this until her interest wanes. It has been a great tool to use to keep her happy when mom is too busy to entertain an inquisitive 6 year old.