lisa

Stuff We Like :: 8.5.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

around the web

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Roald Dahl’s contributions to the world of food.

Finally, a fashion “get the look” I can get behind.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve been running around gloating about passing The Strand’s new hire book test, but some of the people I live with might. (You should take it, too!)

Maybe it is all the Hamilton, but this article about the secret language of colonial handwriting was fascinating.

 And speaking of history, this was kind of depressing.

This article about the Olympics Refugee Team made me want to cry, hug my children, and cheer these guys on. (I would love to see them earn a medal.)

 

at home | school | life

on the website: So I always want to share good book deals when I see them, but I also stress about cluttering up people’s feeds with stuff they don’t want to see. I finally bit the bullet and set up a page on the website where we can highlight notable books on sale. (Don’t worry — this isn’t one of those crazy every-book-that’s-cheap lists — we’re only listing books we genuinely recommend for your reading list. And if you’re not interested in book sales, you never have to see it!) 

on the blog: Sometimes you just want to look at pretty school supplies and imagine how they could make your homeschool so shiny and organized.

in the classroom: Registration for fall classes is open!

on the podcast: I brag a little about getting my AP U.S. History syllabus approved this week, but it was all very exciting.

in the magazine: We’re starting the (months-long!) process of collecting data to update our Best Cities for Homeschool Families, and we’d love to hear from other homeschoolers about their favorite places to homeschool.

 

reading list

on my night table: All the Birds in the Sky (our next podcast read pick), The Memoirs of Aaron Burr (resistance was futile), Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children’s Literature, The House of the Seven Gables

on my 14-year-old’s night table: A Separate Peace (I encouraged her to pick this one up, but she’s really not digging it), The House on Mango Street, The Princess Bride

on my 8-year-old’s night table: Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School, The Complete Brambly Hedge

together: The Blood of Olympus (we have successfully binged this whole series over the summer), The BFG

 

at home

watching: Like everyone else in the world, we binged Stranger Things. #bringbackbarb

eating: I made a giant batch of blueberry jam to give as favors at my sis-in-law’s baby shower.

knitting: My daughter and I have teamed up on a project: I’m knitting the Snug as a Bug sleep sack, and she’s making a matching pea shoot hat to make a sweet pea baby sleep set.

listening: Invisibilia


Carving Out Time For Yourself as a Homeschool Mom: Writers Group

On Tuesday I mentioned to a friend that I’d gone back to a new-to-me writers group on the previous night. She smiled broadly and said, “Congratulations!”

The word, “congratulations,” normally reserved for engagements, wedding anniversaries, promotions and the arrival of a new baby, might seem inappropriate in this situation. But you and I both know that I deserved that congratulations from my friend. She, a seasoned mother of five children and a fellow home educator, knows that it can take a military-style operation to get out of the house alone. She would also know that it takes a huge amount of bravery and derring-do to step outside one’s comfort zone and go into a new situation, especially when you half expect that there are toddler-snot trails on your shoulder and your most recent conversations center around the prize in a Kinder egg, rather than the latest literary prize.

The first time I went to the group, I changed into my pajamas, lay down with my youngest child (as usual) and waited for him to go to sleep. Then I got up, re-dressed into my jeans and fleece pullover, and drove across town to the group. If my son had known I was going, I doubt he would have gone to sleep. There would have been too many questions, tears about unmet expectations, and his need, ever-present need, for me.

The next morning we talked about it, and it turns out he’s okay with my going out to the group. The next Monday I gave him a kiss goodbye and walked out the door, and his dad lay down with him instead. That was the day I got caught in construction traffic, then drove round and round the patchwork of streets near the group’s venue, couldn’t find parking and after 45 minutes drove home. On the downside, I didn’t get to go to the group. On the upside, 45 minutes alone was rather a novelty.

(As an aside, did you know there are programs on the radio that are specifically aimed at adults? Yeah, crazy. Oddly, none of them feature “The Wheels on the Bus.”)

This week, I made it to the group, struck up a conversation with the person sitting beside me, and even shared something I wrote without running panic-stricken from the room. On reflection, I realize that I struggled to make eye contact with my fellow writers because for me, writing can be like a dirty little secret—something I do alone and rarely discuss with others. Talking about it somehow feels like uttering a profanity. It’s just not the done thing. Certainly not in mixed company.

I suspect that going to the group is going to be good for me, even if it does take a lot of organization and effort to get there. It’s stretching my skills and taking me out of my comfort zone. It helped me realize that maybe my son is ready to be left with his dad and have a change of routine now and again. It’s reminded me that I am an adult with many gifts and roles: mother and home educator being only two. And it’s reminded me what it’s like to be a learner again.

So when you congratulate me, I’ll say just smile and say, “thanks.” Because we both know there’s a lot more to it than just going to writers group.


Homeschooling Isn't Always Easy—So Why Do We Do It?

why, exactly, am I doing this?

Today has been one of those days when I feel like a tragic hero. Nothing I’ve laid my hands to seems to come out right. I open my mouth and the wrong words come out. I lift my hand and I break a glass. My children resist all of my suggestions; I’m at odds with everyone. I put a dishwasher tablet into my mug instead of a teabag. We’re having one of those days. And it’s not even a Monday.

Some days as a home educator are absolutely fantastic. We are going with the flow, bouncing off each other, getting our projects done, learning from one another, finding new things out together. On those days I’m striding along with confidence and feeling on top of the world. What’s more, I feel at one with my children, like we are flowing in the same direction. They’re enthusiastic and excited about what we’re doing, I can see their progress and we are all having fun. If you could make a commercial about home schooling, we’d have a starring role, but my hair would be a bit tidier and my clothes would be ironed. (You’ll have to imagine that.)

But today, like “those” days when things don’t seem to be going my way, has been hard. It started with arguments and bad feeling, moved onto irritation and resistance, and finished up with some yelling, resignation, and my head firmly resting in my hands. Ugh.

On days like this I wonder whether we are doing the right thing. Would they be better off in school? Wouldn’t my life be easier if they went off in the morning and returned in the afternoon? Then I could apply myself to pursuits where people actually value (and pay!) me.

When I feel the resentment building and I’m feeling bad more than I’m feeling good, I know I need to change something. I either need to make a change in what I’m doing or in what I am thinking. Or both. Let me explain.

On days like this I wonder whether we are doing the right thing. Would they be better off in school? Wouldn’t my life be easier if they went off in the morning and returned in the afternoon?

At the end of the day I will sit down and evaluate how it went. I’ll write in my journal, note down what I am grateful for and consider what could have made things better for all of us. The most common causes of difficult days in my house are too little sleep, too little nourishment, too little quiet time, and too much rushing around. Oh, and I’ll be honest: one of the things that really consigns our day to the dustbin is if I get into a bad mood at the start of the day, wallow in victim thoughts and can’t snap out of it. There, I said it.

What could I be doing differently? Could I rush less and make more space in our day for connection, snuggles on the sofa, read aloud stories, art? Could I commit myself to ten minutes (or possibly—hopefully—more) of quiet time after lunch in which I could journal, read a book, sit in meditation or simply lie down? Could we all go to bed a little earlier?

How could I be thinking differently? When things aren’t going very well, it’s so easy to feel like a victim (“Why am I doing this?” “This isn’t what I expected.” “Why are they doing this to me?” “How did we end up like this?”). It’s tempting to let the grey cloud expand, to let The Nothing absorb us and give in to desolation. For me, it helps so much to step back and find my agency in each day. I remind myself that I made these choices. I recall that they are good choices and that we are just stuck in a moment, but we will find a way out, as we always do. I practice compassion and try to see life through my children’s eyes. I meditate and allow unhelpful debris in the mind to dissipate.

I remember when my children were in school several years ago. We’d start the day on the wrong foot, then I’d wave them into the school and that would be it. For the whole day. There would be no opportunity until the end of the school day to rebuild connection, to try again, to say sorry, to hug. I try to recall how bad that felt, how I couldn’t wait to see them in the afternoon and start over, how hard it was to focus on anything in the day with that pall of bad feeling hanging over me. Now I’m lucky, because when life is dishing out moldy leftovers at 7 a.m., I have a chance at 7.01 to chuck it all in the bin and start over. I can say sorry NOW. I can hug my child NOW. We can start over NOW.

Why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I love it and believe in it. And even things we love can be challenging. That’s actually part of their allure.

But take it from me, tea made with dishwasher tablets is definitely to be avoided.


Welcome to My Salon: A Different Approach to Everyday Learning

Everyday Homeschool: Welcome to My Salon

Today at 2 o’clock, I found myself lying down and having my toe nails painted. My eight year old daughter, donning a shower cap for the full spa-lady treatment, polished my toenails, teal on the left, hot pink on the right. As I lay there, I wondered what a fly on the wall might think about this snapshot of our day.

Some might wonder how painting toenails is in any way “educational.” It doesn’t look like school, so in what way does it benefit my daughter? Was it just a sneaky way for me to have a lie down and a spa treatment after lunch? I admit it was very nice (that is, until the five year old started jumping on my stomach), but it was so much more than a pedicure.

We have a wonderful picture book on our shelves that tells a story backwards, using the word previously to lead the reader through preceding events right back to the start of the story. If you want to know how painting toenails benefits my daughter, you’d have to look at the whole picture, tracing our day back to the beginning.

Before painting my toenails, my daughter arranged her bedroom to resemble a beauty therapist’s office. She changed the lighting, donned a costume (the shower cap, remember?), set up chairs and blankets, bowls of warm water and wash cloths, bottles of unguents and colorful polishes. Pretending games and role play are still a huge part of her life at this age.

Previous to this, she asked if she could make a homemade face mask in the kitchen. She used the stove independently, set up a double boiler, measured ingredients with weighing scales, read the recipe, then cleaned up after herself when she was finished. All the while, she narrated what she was doing, as though making a YouTube video. When she’s ready to write a description of what she did, she will have all the necessary elements in place: beginning, middle and end, all the important details and the step-by-step instructions.

Previous to this, she spent a good hour reading through the homemade natural beauty products book she’d just checked out from the library. My reluctant reader (“reading’s boooooring”) actually read. She decided what to make, she made a convincing case for what ingredients she would substitute, I agreed and she got to work.

Earlier in the day we took our scooters to the library for some fresh air and exercise, where she used the library computers to find books about interests. She used the library catalogue to find her book on the shelf, and checked out the book without help.

If you want to tick boxes, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all ticked. But one of the many things I love about home/school/life magazine is the life part. Education isn’t just about worksheets. It’s about life. It’s about having the tools to figure out what you want to do, how to do it and to be equipped with the confidence, independence and wherewithal to actually do it.

Maybe the principle way my daughter benefitted from painting my toenails was all the work that went into getting there. But don’t forget about the home part to home/school/life. I love having my children at home because we have so many opportunities to connect as mother and child. As I approached her room today, my daughter welcomed me like a real beautician. She made small talk about the weather and upcoming vacations. She rubbed my feet and we laughed together. Her little brother came in the room and climbed over the top of me as she tried to paint my nails. Afterwards she said, “Will you recommend me to the rest of the family?” Of course I would. We hugged.

Connecting with my daughter, building a strong relationship with her and showing her that I trust her—all of these things matter so much to me. To me they are just as important to her education as all the stuff that happened previously.