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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Field Trips

The best thing - or well one of the best things about homeschooling - is that you can do just about what you want.... when you want. There is more flexibility on schedules and where you go. Field trips can be a great way to switch up your lessons, enhance a chapter, of just for fun!

When I first started homeschooling, I had such a hard time thinking of things to do. But as we get the hang of it, I have come across a lot of different ideas about things to keep them occupied. Of course there is the normal or typical:

  • Museums - making museum trips for kids can be tough - but I have found using the scavenger hunt routine works well. This gives them a game to play while learning. Of course you can always get lucky and have one of those children enthralled with art or old relics - but for those that don't enjoy it quite so much (they will later, so it's worth it) a scavenger hunt can be helpful.
  • Outdoors - The great thing about home schooling is that you can do whatever you want with your kids - whether it's hiking, camping, going to the beach - and it is learning. Pre-packaged mother-nature :)
  • Theme-Parks - Who says roller coasters can't be learning. Talk about the velocity and speed of the roller coasters, calculate your walking distance, see who can throw up the farthest (just kidding.... sort of), and of course monetary values... theme parks add up!
  • Zoos - Animals - really enough said.
And there are dozens more of typical field trip ideas I could think of. But what happens when you have gone and done the zoo 15 times, spent all your money at your local theme park, or just are beyond the point with being enthralled with hiking (can that happen... seriously??).

Well there are great options that you can do on your own or with your homeschooling group. Just last week we went on one with our group to Petco. They did an hour and a half tour of all the animals, talked about care and feeding of the animals and showed them the ways to be responsible. It was really great! A lot of stores will do field trips, as will police stations, fire stations, even local courts and civic buildings! Use your imagination and the sky is the limit!

Here's another place to look for more information :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Introduction: Why We Home School

Hello there. To start off, I figure we should get situated with the idea of home schooling. First of all let me say that my husband and I have been home schooling for a year now. We began first in October of 2006 when we moved to Las Vegas and found the schools there shall we say... less desirable. However this wasn't the first time we had thought about home schooling our son. I had said I wanted to ever since he was a baby, but to be honest, I secretly questioned whether or not I ever would.

However viewing the bleak school in Las Vegas and the other issues that came up during the enrollment process, as well as the fact I just so happened to land an at home tarot reading job which really freed up my time and gave me flexibility that October we decided we would give it a try.

Home schooling in Vegas was a challenge. For me personally the biggest challenge for our son is socialization (something we will get to later on as it REPEATEDLY comes up). For me it's not so much the worry of HIM meeting other kids or becoming socially inept from home schooling... For anyone that has met my son, they know he is quite the social butterfly! However my issue is ME meeting with other people. I am nervous around people and it is a trait I fight with constantly so he doesn't pick upon it, and so I push myself to make sure he has friends. But this has been the biggest problem for us.

At home we started off at a kindergarten level and it was easy enough to teach the material. Tristan was resistant at first, so we began what some call "deschooling" which is a process where you allow your child the time they require to get used to the home schooling mode. Whether you pull your child out of school at kindergarten, 5th grade or 11th grade there is going to be SOME need for deschooling. Home schooling and public school can be quite different and there is always the trick of getting them to see you not only as mom or dad but as a teacher as well.

So that is what we did. We gave him a good 2 weeks off - let him have an extended summer. Then in mid November, we started working on easy projects, that involved learning and skills such as critical thinking, reading, math, writing etc. For the rest of the year, we began to do more and more projects.

In January Terry (my husband) went back to school to complete his degree as a massage therapist which meant that my cushy part time at home tarot gig was to become full time and he took over the home schooling. Once again we had to compress. His way of schooling and mine were VERY different. I have to admit, it was quite a struggle on us all.

However by the end of the year, Tristan tested right about at grade level 2 for both reading and math. Not that grades or testing really matter in this house - as we have no actual grades. We never even actually told Tristan what his testing score was. We just had him take it (it was done through the testing for the K12 program which is used by many states as the standard on line curriculum) and then simply told him he did well and not to worry. But it was nice to have some confirmation we seemed to be doing things correctly - without the regimen that is used in public and private schools nationally.

Our home schooling style is about 65% kid based - which is common with unschooling. This basically means Tristan gets to generally pick what he wants to learn about. If he wants to learn about dinosaurs (as he did for a few weeks last year) we focus his studies on Triceratops, Brontosauruses, and Pterodactyls - we get him books on them to practice reading, the sheets he practiced his letters on had dinosaurs, we learned about carnivores and omnivores and herbivores, learned about the paleolithic era, we calculated how fast a comet would go and theorized if this was what caused the dinosaurs to become extinct, we learned new words like extinct, we did art and talked about body parts.... basically we made sure he was learning but in a manner and about a subject he wanted to learn about. We let him pick the direction and focus, and keep a list of regular activities to do to keep his writing, math, and social studies on track.

We believe that this is his life and his education. So we give him the choice. We recently moved to the Denver area in Colorado and when he got here he asked if he could go to school. I was apprehensive about moving him back and forth, but he wanted to then I would support his educational decision. I told him he could try it for 2 weeks - and let me know what he thought but after that he would have to make a choice between home or school and remain in one or the other for the rest of the year. I explained to him that education, however you choose it needs to be somewhat constant and he had to decide. He agreed and just about at the end of 2 weeks something happened at school that he decided he didn't want to return.

So he is back home with me. I now work full time while my husband finishes up his last month and a half of school and also home school. We study or do learning activities 3 - 4 hours a day, get out to meet other home school families 1 - 3 times a week depending on the school, he has formal piano lessons, and will starting karate as well as a cooking class early December. We certainly have our hands full!

My husband has been understanding to a point. He still worries about the control issues, socialization, etc. However over the last year I think he has come around to see the brighter side of things. He has seen our son grow in leaps and bounds and has something in him that he didn't really have in public school... the honest DESIRE to learn. It's been a journey to get here, and I feel many many more are ahead. It's an adventure and we are loving every minute of it!