Category Archives: #education

A Crazy What If

Exploring the question of homeschooling Kepler is not something I have considered for more than ten minutes his entire school career, which began two days after he turned three years old. His teams at school have always been filled with loving, experienced, knowledgeable professionals. Why would I even consider this? Because I am, that’s why.

As with most kids with Down syndrome, he is delayed in many ways. The gap between the typical kids and Kepler just gets wider and wider every day. I have great confidence in his team to help him reach his IEP goals, and indeed they are, but there continues to be this nagging question for me of what he and I might accomplish together at home.

First, I think of the field trips we might do. Going to the aquarium time and time again, touching the animals in the touching pool, learning about what we see. Visiting the zoo with books about elephants and giraffes and zebras and penguins and reading the books right in front of those animals. Going to the park and exploring. Climbing, wading, running, walking, examining, looking, learning.

I think of trips to the forty-one branches of the public library, where every branch is chockers with books and puzzles, librarians, time to browse and explore and learn.

I imagine trips to the grocery store, Whole Foods, hardware stores, hat stores, toy stores, antique shops.

Museums. Art museums. The Natural History museum. The Children’s Museum.

Lessons. Art, music, martial arts, drama, dance.

Sports. Swimming, baseball, Special Olympics, tennis, ice skating.

And the academics themselves. Creating collages, reading, spelling, writing, learning to add and subtract, fractions by cooking, games upon games upon games. And no school calendar to work around!

Yet, I imagine that the school system can give him way more than I can. That they are equipped in a way that I am not. That the socialization he gets there outweighs the benefits he might get at home.

Most days, I can’t wait for that school bus to arrive and transport him to school. Yesterday, the bus didn’t come, since it was Presidents Day. Having been sick last week slowed me wa-a-a-a-ay down, enough to be willing to say yes to Kepler when he asked me to play some games with him. The child is delightful. He is hilarious. He is playful. He’s engaging and engaged. I have more educational resources than some third world villages.

I wonder what it would be like to actually dive into parenting him by assuming the role of educating him. What would it be like to take responsibility for that portion of his life? Well, apparently, I have a lot of ideas.

What if he could learn at home, but go to school most days for recess and specials? How would I ever get breaks? What if I’m really equipped to teach him what he needs to know to become independent? What if he never becomes independent? What might the two of us experience together that bonds  us even closer? What would he miss? What would he gain? What if I tried it without being attached to a particular outcome? What if I failed? What if I succeeded?

When I homeschooled the big kids, I was doing FOUR grades at once. And I thought I had to do and be everything to and for each kid. Turns out, I gave them some amazing stuff. Turns out, I missed some big things. Although, my experience homeschooling the big kids doesn’t  have to really be related much at all to homeschooling Kepler, if I were to try it.

The biggest challenge I imagine is being isolated. I already am pretty isolated, and that suits me pretty well most of the time. But I do get lonely and I would like to be more connected to people. What if homeschooling him actually led to more connection and less isolation?

What if?

My Humble Questions about Public Education

Non-Humble Beginnings with Public Education

With threee small children and a fourth on the way in 1998, we chose to send our eldest to public kindergarten, even though we ultimately intended to homeschool. As I have mentioned elsewhere, my know-it-all score was off the charts back then, which explains my righteous indignation as well as deep consternation when the kindergarten teacher told me she couldn’t work with Valerie and her advanced reading skills lest Val be “bored” next year at school.

The next 16 years saw every combination of schooling known to man, save boarding school, and I surely wished that had been an option a few times.

Changing my Mind about Public Education

When Kepler was born in 2006, it wasn’t long before I realized that the public school system was going to be able to give him a whole host of things I wouldn’t be able to provide. So in spite of Mary Hood’s “seminal” tome, Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell, (real title), we sent Kepler off to pre-school two days after his third birthday. Public school and Kepler are so far a match made in heaven.

Meanwhile, the “fourth on the way” grew from a bean to a young woman on the cusp of getting her drivers license and we decided that public high school would be a great adventure for this young thespian and musician.

But What About High School

Now into her second semester, here is my main question.

What is the value of these four classes she is taking, in the way they are being taught? History, English, Geometry, Biology. There is obvious value from a liberal arts point of view and I wholeheartedly support her education in these areas.

But the reality is that the geometry teacher reviews the problems for one particular worksheet for five straight 90-minute classes but does not teach geometry?

More than one of the teachers provide class time for homework, as well as overnight or over several nights, plus additional class time for an assignment that can easily be completed in the first class period.

Thus My Humble Questions

I’m certain that these teachers have twenty times the experience I have, but I am struggling to come up with how to encourage my child to care about her schoolwork when the pace seems glacial, homework is most often checked for completeness only so there is rampant cheating/copying, and my student is not enthusiastic about STEM classes anyway.

I often overlook the obvious, so the answer may be staring me in the face, but teachers, if you do not seem to care about inspiring your students, what are you hoping will inspire them?

Three Weeks Down — 33 to Go

Or, Sleep-Teaching — I Recommend It.

So, we’ve completed another week of homeschooling here at Siouxsie’s house. Things were not QUITE as smooth this week. People had questions about why they have to learn grammar if they are going to be professional skateboarders. “To raise the perception of the intellectual level of the sport” growled Daddy in response. People cried when they had to figure out how many pounds and ounces the zucchini in the picture weighed. They cried even harder when I suggested they figure out the difference in their birth weight (11 lb 7 oz) and their little brother’s birth weight (8 lb 12 oz), even when I made a mistake and said “their” birth weight was 11 lb 12 oz). We had people telling me they can’t do the program I selected for their language class this year. We had people making humorous videos of homeschooling with lots of photos of their own face making bored looks and emitting huge sighs. And we had small people unloading every shelf/box/container they could get their little two-year-old hands on. And then there were the people who felt very poorly treated for having a long day of school in spite of the fact that there are days when we do almost no school — they just didn’t see that it isn’t possible to have an exact 5-hour day every day. And they didn’t like that.

Ah, but we read some great stuff and really did make some progress. And my students made some awesome connections — one of them listened to me read about being optimistic and later commented during a read-aloud that a particular character was very optimistic. I love stuff like that. I’m reminded of how much I like the curriculum I am using this week. I’m reminded of how much I love teaching my own children and what a privilege it is to do this. And how great are kids who will continue on with their work when their tired mother just HAS to have a nap right now? Pretty great, I’d say.

Ever onward, always improving. Looking forward to next week.

Two Weeks Down — 34 to Go

Just finished up our second four-day week of school (Labor Day). I am happy to report that it was an excellent week, with many solid hours of instruction and work put in by all of us.

Some highlights of the week:

A science experiment that worked!(photo of the kids’ feet demonstrating how our skin lets off water vapor)
Another wonderful poem written by Eli.
More good readings from “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – for Teens”
Happy, engaged students.
A positive outcome to the tragedy of running out of printer ink right at the wrong time.
Two whole weeks of homeschooling using the same methods and not thinking I need to make any major changes.

Adjustments next week include having Anna-Jessie tackle math earlier in the day since she tends to do everything else first. Also, I want to help her get more organized with her reading. And, lastly, continue to adjust how I give out assignments to students who are in two completely different grades, but doing mostly the same curriculum.

My Organizophobe’s New Organizational Tool

I’m happy to report that Joel’s new planner is being USED and it is helping him GET THINGS DONE. I can see how helpful it is for him to have one place to write down things that he needs to do. I work with him every day to create and prioritize the list and then he works to complete the list.

I think it probably helps that he chose the planner himself and he really likes it. It’s just a thrill to see this boy completing things that need to be done. Thank you Franklin Covey.

One Week of Homeschooling Down – 35 to Go

So, we just finished up week one yesterday and I would have to say it gets a big thumbs up. I had two extra long days with my two at-home-full-time kiddos and both days were fun, enjoyable for all of us, and stress-free. Even having Kepler toddling around was pretty easy to handle.

Seems like the difficulties last year helped me figure out what might work better this year, in terms of curriculum and scheduling. And the fact that I don’t have to drive to football, soccer, and/or basketball practice at all is making things pretty nice at home.

I was reminded of Stephen Covey’s concept of putting the “big rocks” into the schedule first and then fitting other things in as they fit. Defining what the “big rocks” are this year has gone a long way this first week to making sure they actually get covered.

Now that I have gotten a taste of being able to focus on the big stuff, I will jealously guard my schedule from fluff and important things that want to crowd out the most important stuff. Stay tuned!

Partly Sunny with a Chance of School Starting

I’m trying to figure out how school is going to work this year. I have four kids I’m homeschooling. Two go to the homeschool program two days a week. The other two will be home full time. I have also chosen to have my older two kids do their math at home, and the science outside of the homeschool program. The only catch is this makes ME responsible for the whole kit and caboodle. I know, I know, I AM responsible for the whole kit and caboodle. The kit and caboodle are just a little intimidating right now. My brilliant 14-year-old son, who truly is not one iota less than brilliant, has a mind that works very differently from mine. Therefore, some of the questions I ask him are taken by him as evidence that I do not trust him. Questions like, can I see that website where the list is? He is able to make decisions on a dime and seems to have almost computer-like abilities to process information quickly. I, on the other hand, can make different types of decisions quickly, and I have my own computer abilities. The types of things we process quickly are pretty much opposite from each other. I am not frustrated or angry or disappointed with him — I see the process of working with him as a very good challenge, one that I enjoy because he DOES think so differently than I do. I’m still trying to figure out how best to frame my questions, encourage him, etc.

The current struggle is over the chemistry assignment he has to complete before the first day of class. I want him to do it well, to have the finished product show clearly his writing ability, his grasp of the material and evidence that he spent some good time researching, thinking and processing the info. I came upon him this afternoon, switching from window to window — first the info site, reading a few sentences, distilling the points, then back to the essay page, where he would insert his thoughts. To me, that seems like a lazy way to do the work. Lazy is a pejorative word — maybe efficient is a better word. Ultimately, though, I don’t see that method as requiring much of him. And with the capabilities he has, I want him to use his brain and heart and mind to do hard things well.

He has the ability to see the bigger picture, and the connections he makes are often pretty cool. But those connections come when he really cares about what he is talking about. I don’t think he really cares about this essay.

So, after he made his case for doing his way, I said ok. Go ahead. Do it the way you think you should. Two minutes later, he tells me he thinks the way I was suggesting is better and he’s planning to work on it as soon as he has some toast. Go figure.

Senior Info – Yearbook – Dilemma

So, the seniors have, to one degree or another, completed this questionnaire about some of their favorites. All of them except for one are what you would expect from young Christian men and women. The last one, though, may have filled this one when he was in a snit about school. One of his favorite memories was making a particular teacher angry. I know, because I know the teacher, that his unwillingness to cooperate just about did her in. She cares deeply for the students and didn’t know what to do with a student who obviously did not want to do the work. Also, he lists his favorite books and sayings and quite a few have a theme of rebellion. Perhaps he is just messing around, but I’m not so sure that’s it. So, now I’m wondering — do I censor what he has written? I’m putting in the other students’ questionnaires in their entirety. But even if he would like to be immortalized (I can’t imagine there will be more than 20 copies!) this way, is it fair to everyone else to put this info in? My inclination is to leave out the items that I think will be hurtful to others. And, yes, I would have to make some judgment calls here if I decide to leave something out.

Here are his actual answers:

Likes: music, cars, revolution
Dislikes: school, liberals, country music, snobs
Advice: Stand up for yourself
Favorite sayings: “Take what you can, give nothing back” “Revolution gains freedom”
Favorite teachers: Mr. Z, Miss M, Mr. G
Friends: My bro, S, T, E G, B, J
Favorite songs: [removed after I read the lyrics!]
Favorite Foods: protein shakes, malts, seafood
Favorite Time at the homeschool program: Making Mrs. H mad
Things I want to remember about this year: nothing about school
Favorite color: Turquoise
Favorite restaurant: Maggianos
Favorite books: Communist Manifesto, Frankenstein
Favorite activities: working on cars, golfing, playing music with my friends, conspiring against the Brethen!

Stewing here.

I’m on the Yearbook Committee.

Oh, wait. I AM the yearbook committee. See, last summer, I had this great idea that we should do a yearbook for the homeschool group we are a part of. My daughter and I were going to head it up and make it happen. Never mind that I already had a full, yea verily, overflowing plate. It was a new idea and I am always quite enthusiastic about new ideas! Yes! I can do it! It will fit in! Somehow!

So, we started sending out emails to students saying things like, “Join the yearbook committee! Students needed to do photography, layout, [and other really cool things].” Soon we had a LIST of people! People who said Yes! I can do it! I am interested! Week after week went by and we didn’t get ANYwhere. Mostly, I suppose, I don’t really know how to let it be up to the students.

Later in the year, when we hadn’t gotten beyond sporadic emails, I finally admitted I couldn’t make it happen. I gave the whole kit and caboodle to another student who really wanted to have a yearbook for her senior year. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to make it happen either.

Did I just say ok well we won’t have a yearbook, just like every other year, and that will be ok. ?? Did I? No, I did not. I said, ok I can do it. But there weren’t exclamation marks anymore, just lower case letter and very slow typing. yes. i can do it. i think.

So, today I am going to make this yearbook. {grits teeth} I am going to get this thing done. {grinds teeth and grimaces}.

My FINE husband yesterday reminded me that this is a good thing I am doing and that the kids will have this yearbook for years. So, I really did change my attitude. All the gritting and grimacing is just for effect for my readers. Oh, how I long for Microsoft Publisher, no doubt a totally outdated program, but boy could I use it. Right now I am trying to use Adobe CS InDesign. It doesn’t work the way my brain works. So, I’m going to give it one more chance to shape up. If it doesn’t come around, me and MS Word are going to finish the job.

Oh, by the way. Will you sign my yearbook? Or at least my yearbook post?

Another Post!

There’s probably some official blog word for clustering posts. But, hey, at least I am actually posting, unlike the rest of my family who all started blogs and are hardly EVER posting (hint, hint).

I have learned much about the process of writing this year. I am thankful to have had some help teaching my kids about writing because I found out this year that there were a FEW things I didn’t even know to be looking for. I think I am a better editor of their work now. I don’t remember ever learning this stuff in school or college, but surely I must have learned some of it sometime. I had my freshman composition course at Bob Jones University, and I am completely oblivious to anything that I ever learned or heard in that class. Such an important course should never be relegated to the first semester at such an extreme place. I was culture-shocked and was so worried about making sure I didn’t break any rules (why, oh why) that I didn’t have any brain space to care about whatever that composition teacher might have been saying.

So, one good thing about homeschooling is the mom gets to learn right along with the kids. And I love that.