You should WANT your kids

I don’t understand why people bother to have children if they don’t want to spend time with them. Listening to one of the mothers at my son’s gymnastics class, you’d think her daughter was some huge inconvenience. You’d think she just appeared, unasked for, like a puppy on the doorstep. No lady. In fact, you and your husband created your child. You chose to carry her and give her life. Now, treating her like you can’t stand to be around her; talking to the other mothers in gymnastics, telling them how much you can’t stand to have her at the house for the summer—that is something I can’t understand.

This all came about because another mother and I were discussing our homeschooling plans for the upcoming school year. The other mother is homeschooling her daughter for the first time- kindergarten. My son is now in first grade, and we’ve now spent over a year homeschooling. She is from another country. So, she was getting advice and tips. Hearing this, the mother of the other poor little girl began her put downs. “I just don’t understand how you can deal with your kids all day every day without a break.” “I couldn’t be home that much.” “I have to get out of the house, I have to get her out of the house.” “I love my daughter but I just couldn’t deal with her full time. I can’t wait for her to go back to school.”

I looked at her sweet little toe-headed five year old and thought of how it must make her feel to have her mother tell strangers that she doesn’t want to deal with or be around her all the time. That can’t do much for a child’s confidence. Children experience enough judgment and criticism from the world around them. At least their parents should want to spend time with them, feel compelled to do better for their kids. If you don’t want more for your kids—and not just want more but be willing to provide it—who will?

This is not an incitement on parents who public school. People send their kids to public, private and charter schools for many reasons. They also homeschool for many reasons. Sometimes those choices boil down to a “this is the best we can do for now” situation and many times it boils down to “this is what I think is best.” All of those are perfectly acceptable. What I am baffled at, are the parents who say things like “I couldn’t deal with her full time.” If you can’t stand to be around your kid, its because YOU did something wrong. Children are a reflection of their parent’s parenting skills. All children deserve to feel loved and wanted, no matter their parent’s choice of schools.

Ain’t nobody got time for that….

Just a random point of interest… shouldn’t homeschooling actually involve being at home?
My son is only six, but it has already begun. The day to day scheduling of “Mom, I want to do/go….” For anyone who thinks that homeschooled children are weird and lack thorough socialization, you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. While, yes, there are some weird homeschooled kids out there, most homeschooled children are perfectly normal kids. And anyway, little Timmy eats paste at his “perfectly social” roomof25ofhispeers public school. Some kids are just weird. The trench coat mafia certainly did not begin in a homeschool co-op, though I am certain there are some homicidal maniac teenaged homeschool kids out there too.
But I digress.
My son had me sitting in an auditorium for hours on end today while he auditioned for a play. He got a part—a whirlybird in Hansel and Gretel—that I admittedly have no idea what it is or what it does. But, I guess I will find out at rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday and the two shows on Friday. And he will be able to tell me all about how he loves it on the way to his gymnastics class, also on Thursday morning.
Lessons? Like bookwork? Oh yeah, we do have to find time to accomplish that. We do have Tuesday and we did try to get through some of it this weekend. However, we didn’t get as much done as I would have liked due to my son’s desire to participate in a study at George Washington University about how children hear and speak; A study that earned him $100; A study that also tested his vocabulary and gave it an age equivalency. I found another reason to homeschool—apparently my son would be a curve killer. His vocabulary ranked in the 19+ age range. Did I mention he was 6? Yeah, that is absolutely going into his portfolio.
Of course, one cannot be in Washington DC and resist the temptation to visit at least a few of the museums. So, we went to gawk at the Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s at the National Gallery of Art. And, we dipped in at the Museum of the American Indian. Who could resist lunch at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and an IMAX movie? And of course, while we were right there we had to check out the children’s area.
Yeah, homeschooling is a tough life.
The part that blows my mind? Traditionally schooled children often do the same kind of activities as my son. How do their parents cope? I don’t think I could handle it. I lack the patience. And the energy. You homeschooling Moms know what I’m talking about? ;o)

The bane of technology

The invention of the cell phone is not necessarily a good thing.

One of my pet peeves in life is incessant calling. Not as in someone calls you once for three or four days in a row, though I have to admit this is not my favorite thing either. No, I mean calls the house phone, no one answers and they call the cell phone, no one answers. So what do they do? Wait about 3 minutes and start the whole cycle over again. This can go on for HOURS.

This is bad enough for that pesky friend who just really wants to tell you what dress her mortal enemy was wearing with which shoes (or whatever it is shallow girls with no bookshelves talk about), but it is even worse when it is your family.

Let me give a little background here for those that don’t know; My son is six and homeschooled. I also work a full time job that keeps me away from home from about 1330 to 2230 Monday through Friday (that’s 1:30pm-10:30pm for you civies out there ;o)) Therefore, my son’s school work typically takes place from about 1000-1300 every day. My family all knows this. I have emphasized this point to them (particularly to my Mother) on many occasions. The neighborhood knows this and even the neighborhood kids know not to come by until after 1500 (3pm). Despite this, I received no fewer than six calls between 10 am and 1130 from my Mother. No voicemails. No texts. Just the constant ringing of the phone.

All I want to ask is WHY??!!!! Someone had better be dead, missing appendages or worse. I want to pick up the phone and yell. I don’t, because the fallout would be far worse than the initial distraction of the phone call at hand and the point is, WE ARE BUSY!! It is hard enough to get my energy filled little peanut to sit still to get his work done for the short bursts that we do sit down work. When the phone rings off the hook, he knows what’s up. He knew it was Grandma and he wanted to stop and talk. The entire focus that we had worked hard to achieve was lost. His mind was no longer on the plight of the ancient Mesopotamians and imagining what life would be like for a child in the cities we were reading about. His mind was on talks of cookies and bear spotting.

Thanks Mom. Do you really think I was incapable of seeing the caller ID and calling you back when we had finished our school work? I know it’s you, and when we are ready, willing, and able we will return your phone call. The constant ringing of the phone does little more than cause me to turn off the ringer all together… maybe for days.

It’s this kind of blatant disrespect for another person’s time and priorities that make me loathe phones, social media and other forms of communication that allow others to have almost constant contact and information on our life’s goings on. But by the same token, what would I ever do without my BuzzFeed “Top ten” lists??

Because you should read more… I should write more

It’s time.

I have done quite a bit of soul searching over the last few months, and I have come to the conclusion that it is time that I get back to writing– Something more and more meaningful than 121 characters of a tweet or facebook post. You can’t get better at writing unless you practice.
So, I intend to do just that. Not only will I make a whole hearted effort to keep my blog actually up to date, but I also intend to start a book. Yes, a book. I know, some of you are asking, “if she can’t keep up with a simple blog, how will she ever get to writing an entire book?” Well, the answer is simple. I have no idea.

I just intend to do it. Those of you who have known me for years know that when I get set in my mind to do something, do it I shall. But, there is no hard and fast rule for how long I expect it to take. Nor is there anything that says somewhere down the road I might not change my mind. But for now, I will write.
I have done a bit of soul searching in many arenas the last few months. My job, namely, has given me much to be introspective about. I love what I do and the interesting people I get to meet and work with. The politics, backstabbing and maliciousness, these are not things I enjoy. I have lived much of my life in a sort of optimism; Optimism that life had certain rules and that they would be followed. That injustices would be righted, eventually. Life taught me a very hard lesson about optimism before but clearly I did not learn it well enough. So man’s world has reached out again to remind me that power rules the world, not law or justice. A lesson that has sunk in deeper this time around, despite the stakes being decidedly lower and the injustice more to my pride than my person. I am at a crossroads, where optimism and pessimism meet naiveté and disillusionment. I am standing at the center, and have not yet decided which road is my path.

Second, my son. My child is six and a shining star in an otherwise darkened sky. His homeschooling is going swimmingly. We have been at odds, the volcanoes versus the raging sea; One spewing hot ash and smoke, the other beating the rocks in an attempt to smash them to sand. In the end, the magma is cooled by the sea and the sea is tamed by the rising earth. Together, we have created a landscape neither of us recognize as being completely our own. I have found patience, and a surrendering of will. He has found focus, and a love for bookwork. We spend fewer hours in our household classroom but we accomplish much more than we did before. He gets to pick the topics and the order of the day, and I arrange the lessons and the key points. And we discover together. Bach, Van Gogh, dinosaurs, an (odd) love of flashcards (his—not mine). He is reading now, full books with complicated words. Signs in stores, on streets and on videogames.

My child is unique. Sensitive and bold. And he is learning, not in my way- but in HIS way. Today, he delighted the folks on our Meals on Wheels route telling them that he loved the “haunting” music of Johann Sebastian Bach but his favorite was still “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg (a song he learned last year while studying Norway prior to our Disney trip). And, he tickled and somewhat confounded his mama by turning down cupcakes, ice cream and candy from those folks but happily accepting freshly picked snap peas from the garden.

Oh the tricks life will throw your way. Some days, I feel like someone is studying me. Throwing odd tasks my way just to study how I will react. Perhaps as a story for a novel. The real question- am I the villain, or the heroine?

Welcome to the New Year!!

2013, where did you go oh so quickly?

Well, welcome to 2014 everyone. I hope the New Year has started off well for you! For us, we had a great family day visiting ICE at the Gaylord, checking out the National Harbor and just being together on the first day of the year.

This year, I intend to do a better job with my writing. Let’s face it, I slacked. Somewhere around middle of the year I completely stopped writing. School work (for me and my son) took on a life of its own and started running around my life like a herd of zombies headed for Rick’s prison. (yes, I can’t wait until February 9th!!)

So a quick recap of the last six months—we went to Disney. We had a fantastic time although I’d second guess traveling with my folks in the future. Halloween was a success with my son being Rick and getting a nice pumpkin full of candy he still hasn’t eaten. Turkey day was a family affair, with only three of us in attendance. We couldn’t travel this year due to work requirements but enjoyed the time off together. We got a greenhouse which is working well with the cold weather plants. We traveled to the Smokies for Christmas and left a day early due to fatigue (who knew having a 5 year old at the grandparents’ house could be so exhausting?)

So there you have it. My life in seven sentences.

We have our first homeschool portfolio review next month. I’ll keep everyone updated as to how that goes.

Now on to the good stuff: New Year’s Resolutions.

Mine:
1. Work on getting closer to being debt free. This is a biggie for lots of folks. Between car loans, student loans and Christmas presents, there is room for improvement. And accomplishing this goal will help to lead to the next.

2. Paris 2015!! Our goal is to hit Paris in the fall of 2015. We will have 8 days, not including travel days. I am working on my Delta sky miles so I can get good plane tickets for Air France (they are better with kids than many airlines). I have those 8 days planned already but with lots of wiggle room. I haven’t looked too hard into restaurants yet and I don’t have it planned down to times. Mostly, just three or so things per day and the knowledge that we will absolutely be renting an apartment and taking the Roisy Bus as opposed to the RER from the airport to the apartment.

3. Cutting down on the soda. This one goes without saying.

4. Get the dishwasher set up this year. Yes, I have lived in my house for almost four years without a dishwasher. So what? It’s all good.

5. New doors for the house. We need ‘em. This one isn’t all that exciting, but hey.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Looking ahead not behind.

Looking ahead not behind.

Fjords, Vikings and Stave Churches

Norway flag.

Norway flag.

Teaching Norway was easy. My son immediately got into the idea of ancient Vikings, adventures and a God of Thunder. Norway was the second country on our “Around the World” lesson plan which is designed to cover every nation on Epcot’s world showcase before our trip in the fall. Once Mexico was wrapped up, we went to our local library and checked out a number of books about Norway. The materials I used to teach Norway include: The “Countries Around the World: Norway” DVD, Leif Erikson: Norwegian Explorer by Cynthia Amoroso and Robert Nayed, The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Ellen Appleby, What do we Know about the Vikings? By Hazel Martell, Why, Why Why were the Vikings so Fierce and Other Powerful  Questions by Mason Crest Publishers, The Annotated Hans Christian Anderson, How to Train Your Dragon: The Misadventures of Hiccup the Viking by Cressida Crowell and the Disney movie by the same name. Also used were numerous internet resources including Time for Kids and National Geographic.

Each day, we read a chapter or three in How to Train Your Dragon and once we had finished, we watched the Disney version. We discussed the differences between the book and the movie and why Disney changed so much. We also read the Three Billy Goats Gruff and discussed trolls. We even made our own puppets and acted out the story. We also read various stories from Hans Christian Anderson, including The Little Mermaid.

We loved making a troll mask and acting out the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

We loved making a troll mask and acting out the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

As we did for Mexico, we collected the weather for Oslo and our home and graphed them for comparison. We discussed the different animals found in the climate of Norway and even adopted an Arctic Fox from the World Wildlife Foundation. We used the internet to look at pictures of the geography and my son learned about fjords.

From iTunes, I was able to purchase Norwegian classical music from Edvard Grieg and a band called Frigg. We listened to them daily while completing quiet work like printing practice or coloring Viking ships. We made the Norwegian flag from construction paper and completed a Norwegian heart basket craft. We also discussed the history of stave churches and looked at pictures of them online. We discussed how stave churches are very rare and were even built from Viking ships.

My son really enjoyed learning about the Vikings. He made a Viking shield and we wrote his name on the shield in a Viking writing called Runes. Then, we ventured to the backyard to make a homemade Viking catapult which we then used to shoot water balloons at each other on a particularly hot day.

image

To end our studies, we tied a sampling of traditional Norwegian foods. We tried smoked salmon, made our own Grogg, and made Norwegian puff pastry. Norway is going to be hard to beat since Vikings are such a natural draw for a young boy. But China will prove worthy with her dragons, I’m sure.

Lox, pastry and grogg.

Lox, pastry and grogg.

Teaching Mexico, Epcot Style

Mexico was the first nation we studied on the World Showcase. Since this was our first country, it was a little more disorganized than the countries going forward. Mexico was our learning curve.

Teaching Mexico was a lot of fun with my kindergartner. We started with the basics. My son has a large Discovery Kids world map on the wall in our classroom. The first thing we did was find our country and our home. This was the easy part, since we had done it before. Then, I showed him where Mexico was. We labeled it with the Velcro country labels that came with the map and discussed the continent. The DK map shows each continent in a different color but it does not have state lines drawn on it. So, we went to our globe and discussed the exact country location.

We had gone to the library and checked out various books relevant to Mexico and a DVD from Marathon Films Productions from a series called “Countries Around the World.” We watched the video and discussed what we saw. These videos serve as a wonderful introduction to the countries we are studying. Usually, they feature a child telling a little about the country, their lives, culture, foods, etc.

Next, I went to Google and found pictures of Mexico. I specifically got pictures for each environment type (beaches, deserts, mountains) different cultural depictions (dress, musical instruments, religious figures, and fiestas). I then used those pictures and traditional Mexican music I purchased from iTunes to make a slide show. My son and I sat down and looked at each of those pictures and discussed what they meant in terms of the country. We used National Geographic Kids to help supplement some of the information.

Then, using construction paper, my son made a flag of Mexico. This was accomplished by using a white sheet of construction paper and 1/3 of both green and red. He then drew the eagle/serpent/cactus part in the middle. This was one of many art projects that carry over into the Social Studies realm as well. Prior to making the flag, we had heard the Aztec story that founded Mexico City from the “Countries of the World” video. The Aztecs believed that when they saw an eagle sitting on a cactus eating a serpent that is where their city should be founded. They saw this in the area that is now Mexico City and the flag’s center shows the picture of an eagle, sitting on a cactus, eating a serpent on an island.

Flag of Mexico

Flag of Mexico

Using Google again and Time for Kids I was able to learn a few simple phrases in Spanish to teach my son. We practiced those phrases as well as pointing the country out on the map, the continent and the flag recognition every day of our 10 day lesson. We also looked at famous places, including Chechen Itza and Tulum.

We downloaded the GeoWalk app on my iPad which gave some nice pictures and facts about some animals unique to Mexico. We ordered Mexican jumping beans online. This was the basis of our science/biology area of our Mexico studies. Using fact sheets from online resources and from the retailer, my son learned about the moths inside the jumping beans, their lifecycle and habitat. We are still eagerly awaiting their hatching.

We also used a scientific article on Jaguars and their habitats for both scientific exploration and reading comprehension. The worksheet was located on superteacherworksheets.com which provided both the article describing the cat’s habitat, eating and living habits but also followed the article with reading comprehension questions.

Another scientific area we studied was the climate differences between Mexico’s capital city and our home. We took the weather readings daily from weather.com, gathering temperature and precipitation. At the end of our Mexico studies, we graphed the results and discussed how Mexico compared to home. This crossed into the math studies as well.

For additional math studies, I created a homemade “Souvenir buying” worksheets. I used pictures of the types of souvenirs which may be purchased at the Mexico pavilion and gave them whole-dollar price tags. From this, I created math problems involving adding and subtracting money (prices and change) that help him not only understand math concepts, but concepts of money.

For the English/Language Arts we focused on two areas. The first, writing. I created a worksheet for writing “M-E-X-I-C-O” with the use of Microsoft Word. This worksheet listed each letter and an elementary style lining for him to copy the letters. He also practiced writing on the reading comprehension worksheets and weather worksheets.

For reading, we checked out a number of books from the library that covered various areas of Mexico and its culture. Those books varied in reading levels, some being very simple and read by him and others more complex and read to him.

Art is always a pretty easy subject to teach. Other than completing the Mexico flag, we also made an “eye of God” craft, homemade maracas, and a homemade piñata. To top it all off, we created a suitcase from cardstock which houses postcards he creates depicting scenes from each country. It is decorated with flags from the various countries. We have also created a passport which has space for each nation’s flag, various information about each of the nations and a place for each of the pages to be stamped at Epcot.

To end our study of Mexico, we had a Mexican fiesta, which included various Mexican foods, drinks and snacks , Mexican music and the breaking of the piñata.

Making the pinata.

Making the pinata.

The finished product.

The finished product.

We also watch The Three Cabilleros to end our study of Mexico and tie Disney back into our trip. For those who have not yet been to the Mexican pavilion at Epcot, the ride has scenes from the movie. It also features a large Aztec/Mayan style pyramid which is a architectural feature that my son is now very familiar with. I can’t wait to take him to Epcot. I plan to quiz him as we enter each pavilion to see if he can determine which country we are in.

Breaking the pinata.

Breaking the pinata.

So, that’s it…. Until Norway.