Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chinese Boat Races

Yesterday we took the kids downtown where there were some Chinese Boat Races going on.  The races were kind of hard to watch and figure out what was going on, but the boats were really cool, and it was fun to see how they do it.  
We also had a fun walk.  












Guy found what he calls a baby pineapple.  I am guessing it is a palm of some kind.  He wanted to bring it home and see if we can plant it.  I guess that will be one of our science experiments.





 Scooter thought the gravel was a great snack.


Homeschooling update

As you might expect, I have been very busy, and somewhat overwhelmed getting into the homeschooling groove.  However just a catch up for those who don't follow me on facebook.  About a week and a half ago I decided that yes, homeschooling was the path I wanted to pursue.  I went and pulled my kids out of public school.  However, I still had no clue what I was going to do, or how I was going to go about teaching my children.

I know that sometimes I will have the best of intentions, planning all kinds of things I want to do, then I get overwhelmed and don't follow through.  However, I knew if I pulled the kids out of school, I needed to follow through.  I don't think I would have had the emotional strength or willpower to do it, if I hadn't felt the hand of the Lord guiding me in this endeavor.

I have been doing some research and thanks to some resources some friends directed me to, I think that the unschooling method is the direction I need to go.   For those of you who have no idea what that means, it generally means allowing your children to be self directed learners.  They study the areas that they are interested in, with some guidance/ direction from the parent/mentor.  And through doing this it covers all of the subjects out there.  I am still doing research into this, and because this wasn't the way I was taught I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

That being said, I feel like, at least for now, I need some form of a curriculum that doesn't take everything out of me, and lets me know my children are at least learning the basics.  I have had people say, just take a "break" from school while you figure things out.  While we are doing that to an extent, I find that it is much easier to study out curriculum possibilities if my children are busy.  And busy in a worth while and productive way, not just wanting me to entertain them all of the time.  For that reason I started looking for things we could do right now, without having to do a lot of research or busywork for me, but will keep them busy in an educational kind of way.

My first path that I took was just using what free software, and online games I could find, telling myself that the kids were having fun, and learning.  However, after a day of this, when they couldn't tell me what they had learned, and frankly I couldn't really see what they were learning either, I knew we needed more than this.

I also have the concern that if I ever choose to put my children back into the public school system that I want them to not be terribly behind, due to me neglecting something out of ignorance.  My sister suggested that I look up the state education standards.  In doing this I found a website called ixl.com.  It would cost me something, but came with a 30 day guarantee.  I figured we could try it.  The program here seemed very textbook driven.  We only tried the math portion of the curriculum, so I don't know how the language arts side runs.  Cinderella and Aurora seemed to do OK with what this website offered.  Guy on the other hand wasn't doing so hot.

I think Guy is a kinesthetic learner, and doesn't do  well with textbook style learning.  I know that in homeschooling we can work with this and make some progress, however we aren't there yet.  After two days of trying this software I could tell it wouldn't work for Guy.   Guy was working on his math and there was a problem that showed a dot and then asked how many dots there were.  Guy hit the decimal key and told me there were two dots, then another hit, three dots and so forth.  Later we came to a problem that had a couple of rectangles with a question of how many rectangles are there.  His answer, 3. "There are the 2 up there, and the one I am supposed to type in."  He knew in both cases that his answers weren't what they were asking, however he also knew I couldn't dispute his answers because they were right as well.  This is just and example of how Guy thinks.  He likes to think outside the box.  The website would then penalize the student by giving them more questions to answer, when they answered a question incorrectly.  I knew this would just end up frustrating both him and me.  So I started looking some more.

I came across a website called time4learning.com.  I think this one will work better for Guy, because the material (at least in the younger grades) is presented in a much more entertaining form.  I don't think this will work for him in the long run, however it may work until I can find something else.

My frustrations have been accentuated by a lack of schedule.  In pulling the kids out of school, we decided to let our bodies catch up on a lot of lost sleep.  This was good for us in a way, however it was also bad in that there was no consistency.  I have been trying to figure out a schedule and have a rough one to try starting tomorrow.

My other element that I still need to figure out in the near or immediate future is how to occupy the other children (particularly the little ones) while I am giving one on one attention when needed to the older ones.  I would like to get to a point that our curriculum involves all of us, with some different levels of activities for different individuals.  But I am not there yet.

Anyhow, that is my update for those who are interested, and for my benefit, because it gets it all out, and just might help me think through things better.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Frustrations

I just need to get this out.  I am really frustrated with my children's school. I have now met with one of the teachers in person, and had another teacher tell me all is going well  and that I don't need to meet with her.
However I feel a very distinct lack of communication here.  Guy came home from school today with a huge workbook, some pages are ripped out, because it has the work sheets that they have done for homework, pulled from it.  He tells me he is supposed to do the whole work book.  However there is nothing else that says this is the case.  Also in his homework for today there are no worksheets on this subject, and the assigned sheets aren't in the book either.  OK I will send a note back and ask the teacher about it.  That is what she told me to do if I had questions.

He is continuing to have behavior issues, but he either won't or can't tell me what he did to get marked down.

Then there is a form telling me I need to complete their school registration on-line.  However the form was written pertaining to the beginning of the school year, and so finding the link I need, is impossible.

Then they tell me that they want emergency contact info for preferably family members.  HELLO, we don't have any family around here.  I don't think contacting any of our extended family is going to really help in an emergency.


I know I am probably making a bigger deal out of things than I need to, but I am feeling stressed, and so I just wanted to get that out.  Now I need to get back to helping them do their homework.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Home schooling?

I have always said home schooling was something I can't do.  Not because I have a negative opinion of it in general, but because I often feel overwhelmed when I have all of my kids home for an extended period of time.  Also I am afraid that I will overload myself and find I can't keep up with the pace I set.

When we lived in Utah I was really happy with the school that my kids went to, and had no desire to change things.  I want to do what is best for my children, all of them, and what is best for me.

I know we haven't been in TX very long, and in moving during the middle of a school year can be a hard transition.  I haven't met my children's teachers, and would really like to.  I feel a serious lack in communication between them and me.  Shortly after our first week of school report cards came home.  I wasn't expecting anything, because I knew that my children had barely been included in that term.  I looked at their report cards, and did nothing else with them.  Well, unknown to me, I was supposed to sign Cinderella's report card and send it back.  That was not communicated to me or her.  So I didn't do it.  She then ended up having to miss recess until we got it turned in.

Because TX isn't a common core state, the things they are studying here are different, and at a different pace than their old school.  We knew this would be the case, but Cinderella is having a hard time with it.  She gets frustrated when she gets extra homework, because the class is having a hard time grasping what is a new concept to them, but one she has already mastered.   She has also had times that she had to miss out on recess, due to having not completed something, that she wasn't even there when the item was assigned.

Guy is struggling in his own way.  I think he is testing his boundaries and trying to see what he can get away with.  However this is just a guess on my side.  All I have is a paper that the teacher sends home daily that has a colored dot that correlates with classroom behavior, and maybe a brief description of a few words.  I then have to ask Guy what he did, and he doesn't always know, or if he does he doesn't want to admit it to me.  He claims everything are accidents.  Stepping on the back of the shoes of the person in front of him in line, poking someone with a pencil while handing it to them.  I can see how these can be accidents, I can also see why the teacher feels the need to discipline for them, I just wish I had a way to better understand what is happening when I am not there.


Then there is Aurora.  She will start kindergarten next school year.  However she has some serious separation issues.  I think in some ways it would be good for her to learn to be away from me.  I don't want to compound the issue, and in some ways I am afraid that sending her to school will make things better, because she will have to make that adjustment.  However I thought that this last year with preschool as well, and it wasn't happening.  Probably about 90% of the time I would drop her off at preschool (which happened every Tues/Thurs morning) she would cling to me, and scream about me leaving.  I would have to hand her to the teacher and walk away.  She would fight with the teacher so she could come after me, screaming the whole time.  I never gave in, I tried to be firm, and consistent.  Finally when we knew we would be moving, so I knew she wouldn't finish out the school year anyway, and she was really struggling with the idea of moving, I pulled her out of preschool.  I am not sure if that was the right choice or not, but it isn't one I can change.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who home schools her daughter.  I had a thought that maybe I could home school Aurora, if this continues to be a problem once she starts school.  However it may also just compound her struggles.  Well then when my older kids came home from school Guy told me, "Look what I got."  and held up a gigantic shiny black belt.  I asked where he got it, and he told me the school nurse gave it to him.  And that his teacher told him he needs to wear a belt every day.  OK so I know his pants fall down, and kids make fun of him.  I will put belts on him, and maybe he has changed shape enough in the last  bit that it will help, but  I don't know.  Also in his homework folder, I find that he has earned a red dot for the day, which means he had very poor behavior.  I then had the thought that maybe I should home school all of my kids.  I don't want to make a rash decision.  I don't want to coddle my children.

However since I have started pondering on this subject, I have had thoughts about how home schooling could improve my ability to teach them some things, like doing chores around the house, and life skills.  I try to do these things anyway, however with school being 7 hours of the day, I find that I have a hard time fitting in chores for my school children.  I find that the constant struggle and battle of  just doing homework (which I think is mostly busywork) wears me down enough, I don't have the energy to fight about chores, which is what it turns into at that point.  Maybe I am just seeing things through rose colored glasses, and thinking everything would be easier if the kids were home all day.

But the thing is, I don't really think that.  I think having them home would be stressful in some ways.  I think trying to get them to do school work could be a constant battle in some ways.  I think that I would have an  emotionally trying time having all of my children underfoot all the time.  I think it could still be really hard to get them to do chores, and with me trying to be their teacher, I won't have as much time available to keep the house clean and so the house will turn into a pig sty.  I think that I might wish I had some place to send the children (like school) on a regular basis just to get a little bit of down time.


As you can probably tell, I am really not sure what the best solution is.  But it is what I am thinking about right now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A few rooms done

Well I have the kids rooms pretty much set up now, and I cleaned them this morning, and took pictures (in part to prove that they were once clean, and maybe use them as a guide of "this is how I want your room to look.")  The benefit for you is you get a few more house pictures to look at.

So first, the boys room.




And the girls room