The Animal School…

I came across this Fable and it really resonated with me.  So often I get doubts about my ability to home school.  They sneak up and attack from behind on the days when I’m exhausted or emotionally spent.  Sometimes I think life would be so much easier if I just sent the kids to public school, and truthfully it would be.  Then I read something like The Animal School and our decision to home school is confirmed within me.  We are giving our children the gift of being themselves, excelling in their natural talents, while aiding them without judgement with the things they struggle in.  We are allowing them to pursue things that interest them while letting go of the unnecessary.  I know the path we’ve chosen is not always going to be easy but I strongly believe in what we are doing for our children and so far, the results speak for themselves!

 

The Animal School: A Fable

by George Reavis

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

Does this fable have a moral?

Note: This story was written when George Reavis was the Assistant Superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools back in the 1940s! This content is in the public domain and free to copy, duplicate, and distribute.

A Day of History…

Living in Massachusetts provides us with lots of interesting activities to do with our kids – most of them are great for learning, especially history.  Today was one of those outings.  With the Princess being sick, the Little Professor and Miss Fancy were getting cabin fever being cooped up in the house, so Nana J came over to stay with the two littles ones and I took the older two out for a tour of the John Adams homes.

The way the tour works is you take a trolley ride to the first two homes that John Adams lived in – one being the house he was born in, the other was the house he and Abigail Adams lived in for the first part of their marriage – after which, you take the trolley again to their third and last house, Peacefield.  Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the houses so we were not able to get any pictures, which wasn’t too disappointing until we arrived at Peacefield.  The first two homes were pretty empty inside and the little furniture that did occupy the space were not original to the home and I’m pretty sure not even the time.  At Peacefield, which is the home John and Abigail lived in after the war for those who are not history buffs – or watch HBO, all the furniture is original to the various generations the Adams family lived in the home.

   

The Little Professor and Miss Fancy enjoyed the tours, though near the end their enthusiasm for history started to wane.  It is a long tour and after 2 hours they were ready for it to end.  The Professor had exhausted his questions – as well as the tour guide, I’m sure! – and we were all getting hungry.  Two and half hours later we arrived back at the Visitors Center just in time to see a celebration for the Patriot Ledgers 175th year.  They had newsboys all dressed up and a horse drawn carriage carrying a John Adams  look a like – Personally, I thought he looked more like George Bush – pulling up to the Quincy city hall, which was a fun coincidence as we had just been touring the homes.  We bought a couple newspapers for a nickel and decided it was enough history for today and went to look for lunch!

We stumbled upon a new Indian restaurant and the kids begged me to let us eat there…it didn’t take much begging to get me to agree.  The food was delicious and the service was great – they even brought the kids some Mango drinks on the house.  The kids were thrilled!  We ate until we were full, then we ate a little bit more, as we always do with Indian food, then we sat and laughed and talked about all we had seen earlier over some yummy Masala Chai tea.  It was a great day!

 

A little update on the Princess:  She is feeling much better, she’s finally up and playing and is starting to look like her usual self.  We’re so happy to see her feeling better.  Thank you to everyone who inquired about her and sent us well wishes and an extra thank you to all who were praying!  We truly appreciate it!!

School Begins Again…

Today was the first day of Grade 1 and Grade 3 in our house.

No, the Professor and the Princess didn’t get dolled up in new outfits, they didn’t have new school supplies and they didn’t pose for pictures.

It was actually rather uneventful.

Aside from the amazing little Milk Monkey trying so hard to participate from the side lines!

School took place in our living room and we were all super comfy in our pj’s.

I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee as I began the journey of teaching my Princess to read and write.

The Professor easily fell back into his normal school routine.

It all feels so natural now.

Of course, there were the usual moments of holding back my frustration, especially while the Princess learned to write the letter “A a”.

Her tiny little fingers gripped the pencil as she tried to form the curved part and then connect the “stick” just right.

I wanted so badly to be able to help her do it perfect but instead I encouraged her gently “That’s it, you almost have it!  You’ll get it on the next  one!  Keep trying!  Remember it’s a lower case ‘a’ keep it between the lines.”

She was trying so hard her forehead had little wrinkles and her nose was scrunched,

her little freckles displaced – I love those freckles!

She blew through the math, at times losing patience with me “Mummy, I get it!” and she did get it!

She’s so smart!

The Professor and I came to an agreement, he’s now on summer work load.  It just made more sense.

He’s still 6 years old and he blew through Grade 2 in less than 8 months!

It’s time to slow down a bit.  We’ll supplement with lots of reading and some fun projects!

Today I added up his grade average for last year – 99.2%!

His response was “That’s it?!  I’ll have to try harder this year!”

I reassured him he did awesome this past year, he definitely doesn’t need to worry, just keep up the excellent work!

I’m a big fan of my Little Professor!!!

We made a pact – this year I’ll try to be more patient and he’ll keep on working as hard as usual!!

Just in case I haven’t mentioned it enough…

I absolutely adore my children!!!!

Daddy Says… Freedom

Freedom, I think that’s one of my favorite things about homeschooling with the kids.  It really gives us a lot of freedom.  Freedom to be flexible, to take field trips when we want, to bring the kids to exciting places where they can learn more in a day with their family than they could in a whole week of classroom time.

We have had the pleasure of taking them to the Children’s Museum, where they get all sorts of hands on lessons in a fun environment.  It’s all so much fun, they don’t even realize they are learning!

      

      

We have also brought them to the Science Museum.  They both really get into the various experiments and displays.  The Little Professor spent a good deal of time analyzing the exhibits, and the Mighty Princess has such a bright, inquisitive mind that they both had a lot of fun.

      

We also recently took them to Plimoth Plantation, where they were able to get a first hand history lesson.  They both had so many questions, and absorbed all the answers.  They really enjoyed interacting with the Wompanoag people, seeing how the tribe had lived in the 1600’s.  They also really liked the English Village, where people were roleplaying as members of the village as it was in 1627.  The Princess had a lengthy conversation with “Mrs. Bradford” – the Govenor’s wife, and the Little Professor spent some time learning from one of the mates of the Mayflower, learning about nautical navigation using the “Science of Triangles”. They were both also quite impressed with the cannons in the fort.

      

 Even our trip to Disney will be a learning experience.  They will be attending special classes put on by Disney to give them a behind the scenes look at the physics involved in some of the rides. And all of these things are made available by the freedom homeschooling gives us. Someday we will even be able to take them out on the road to learn and experience North America.  To travel to all sorts of different areas of this incredible and diverse continent we live on.

There are so many amazing things to see and do, it really gives me a thrill that our children will have these opportunities to grow and learn.

Graduation…

When our children graduate from one grade to the next we like to make a bit of a big deal about it.

After all, they’ve worked so hard and it’s nice to celebrate their progress at each milestone.

This past Saturday was graduation day in our house!

We ordered pizza and I made Strawberry Shortcake- menu chosen by the graduates of course.

We invited Nana J and Papa over to celebrate with us.  The Little Professor and the Princess love having their grandparents join in the festivities.

Grandparent praises are extra special!

       

    

There were plenty of gifts and lots of fun to be had!

Now my precious little students have their week off before starting next grade.

I’m so proud of them!

They study so hard and give school their full effort.

It amazes me!

I love them so much I just want to squeeze them forever!

I just can’t get enough of them.  I’m so thankful to be their mummy!

       

Fare Thee Well…

I love it when I can give my children the opportunity for some hands-on learning.  To say we had that chance this weekend is an understatement.  We took a visit to my favourite place – Plymouth.  I just love it there, it’s so beautiful by the ocean with it’s relaxed atmosphere and it’s significance in history.  Usually when we spend the day there it’s all about the scenery but this time we were there to visit Plimoth Plantation.  What an awesome place!

We started the day learning about the Wompanoag people.  We were warmly greeted at their homesite and they willingly answered all the questions the kids threw at them.  They explained how their people use to live back in the 1600’s.  All the information was so interesting and it was amazing to see my children eagerly learning the history of their country.

 

 

We learned about their Wetu’s, the Wompanoag homes and were invited in to experience what it was like.  The Princess wanted to know how the beds were made…she was fascinated by the animal furs spread out everywhere and wanted to feel each one.

We tried to guess which animal each fur belonged to.

The Little Professor was impressed by the process in which the mishoons (the Wompanoag word for boat) were made.  They used fire to hollow out a tree.  They would light a fire and let it burn then dig out the burnt wood and coals, then they’d restart the process over and over again.  We were told that if they were to work on the mishoon 24 hours a day, without stopping, they could have one completed in a week however it takes them about 3 months to complete one at the plantation.

                                    

The thing I found the most interesting at the Wompanoag homesite were their dolls.  They were made without faces for a few different reasons.   One being that the beauty in the doll was in the craftsmanship, the Wompanoag people did not feel they needed faces to be beautiful.  The other reason – the one I really loved – was that since the dolls did not have faces they couldn’t say that one doll was more beautiful than the other, they were all pretty because of what they were and not because of their faces.  The lesson to the children being that everyone is beautiful and not because of how they look but because of who they are.  It’s not our faces that make us special.  What a wonderful and important lesson for children to learn – so many adults need to learn that lesson too!!

 

We eventually made our way to the 17th-Century English Village to learn about the lives of the Plymouth Colonists.  This area was a lot of fun because it’s a re-creation of the small pilgrim community.  We were able to wander about the village, enter the houses and touch everything.  The kids really liked being able to sit in the chairs and handle different items while they talked to the various Pilgrims who responded to all their questions as though they really were the Colonists from 1627.  It helped the kids get lost in the history and really become a part of it.

                     

They asked many questions like:

What responsibilities would I have if I was part of the Colony?

How do you wash your clothes?

Do you make your own clothes?

Do you have a pet cat? – that one was the Princess of course!

Where do the children sleep?

What are you growing in your garden?

Can you read and does the average woman know how to read?

…and many, many others.  I was amazed the “Pilgrims” never broke character once, even with all the questions!

 

On our way out we stopped by the Patuxet Cafe and bought some uniquely prepared dishes from the 17th-century to try.  We shared Succotash, Indian Pudding, 17th-Century cheesecake and Stewed Pompion between us.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the meat in the Succotash was that of the rabbit we saw cooking over the fire at the Wampatoag Homesite.  Trying the foods made us want to try cooking some of the recipes found on their website.  Completely unrelated – it made me want to cook over the open fire next time we go camping!  It won’t be freshly caught rabbit!! 

It was amazing to watch the children thoroughly enjoying history.  It lit a fire in me to make a bigger effort towards the hands-on learning we wanted the kids to experience with their homeschooling.  We will be returning to the Plantation soon – we bought a membership for the year.  The Princess and the Professor have already thought up more questions they want to ask!

We need this pile of wood for camping!!

A picture to add to my Brave Birds of Plymouth collection!

Daddy says… Brilliant!

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.  That’s my kids.  Just brilliant, wonderful kids.

The little princess took a test today, a special test that’s part of the curriculum we use and it’s designed to see how ready she is to start a 12 week learn to read program. She aced it with a score of 94%.  I’m so proud of her! There were some math aspects to the test as well and I was surprised and pretty impressed to see she had no trouble with those at all.  She’s so smart!

And the Little Professor is just on the cusp of finishing Grade 2.  He’s pretty excited, planning his graduation dinner. There are long discussions of what he’d like for dinner, who might be there and, of course, what type of desert there might be.

And even the Milk Monkey has been impressing us this week.  No, he hasn’t started school yet, but he has been practicing his speaking, mimicking everything people say to him.  I’m so proud of our little ones, they are such smart little students it’s pretty incredible to see them learn and grow.

No Summer For You!

 

Exciting news flash!! The Little Professor is just a few weeks away from finishing Grade 2.  He’s been a busy little bee working hard in all his subjects.  We’ve all been cheering him on as he posts his stars to the chart that records his progress.  He’s super excited for his week break before continuing on with Grade 3.

I can practically hear the gasps coming through the computer!

What a task master HonestlyMummy is!  Doesn’t the Little Professor and the Princess get the summer off for vacation?”  

The answer to that is a firm and confident “no”.  In our house we have chosen to Year Round Educate.  When I tell people this I get a lot of disapproving looks and a few “well meaning” comments about over working my children.  Thankfully, the Professor has never been within ear shot or he’d be right there agreeing, hoping for some sympathy.  He never misses a chance to complain about his grueling work load and yet, his next sentence is usually about how easy his school is.  Six year old boys can be so fickle.

He has no idea what it’s like to wake up early for school, spend the whole day in a classroom, only to return with homework.  That’s not to say he doesn’t work hard, but while most other children are still sitting at a desk in the afternoons, my darling and sometimes dramatic son is packing up, finished for the day.  In the mornings, when he is doing school work, it’s usually at the kitchen table in the sunlight, or in the warmer seasons, out on the back patio under the shade of the tented gazebo.  One of these days he’ll be taking his school work on the road, sitting outside the trailer at the campgrounds.  Hardly, the picture of an overworked, stressed out child.

Homeschooling all year round is like having our cake and eating it too. (Mmm…cake!)  How is that, you ask?  Well, here are a couple reasons why we Year Round Educate…

  • We never have to review things we learned the year before – we never actually stop learning new things.
  • We can take more frequent breaks throughout the year in order to refresh and rejuvenate
  • We can get school finished in the mornings and have the afternoons for fun projects, crafts or just free play.
  • We can go on a lot of field trips.
  • We can go to popular places for vacation when it’s not busy and it’s less expensive – Disney in September anyone?
  • We do not shop for school supplies during the mad rush in August.
Year round education works well for our family.  We find it suits homeschooling well and gives us more flexibility with our schedules. It has been a great decision for our family.

 

 

 

“I think it’s great that you homeschool, but I could never do it.”

I think it’s great that you homeschool, but I could never do it.  It’s a phrase I hear often.  People are always curious about our life as a homeschooling family but they are quick to add that little tidbit of information  into our conversation.   It’s quickly accompanied by one of the following:

  • I wouldn’t have the patience for it
  • I would go crazy if my kids were home all day
  • I just don’t think I could ever do it
  • You have to have a lot of money to do it

I usually just smile and nod but what I’d really like to tell them is this:

  • At the beginning it’ll feel like you don’t have enough patience.  You will be frustrated, you will want to give up but with time your patience will grow and the things that were so trying will become easier.   Homeschooling makes you a more patient person.
  • Some days you will walk the fine line between sanity and lunacy but isn’t that how it is already?  You have to spend the day with someone wouldn’t you rather do it with the craziness that are your kids?
  •  You absolutely can do it!  You gave birth to those children, you taught them to eat, talk and walk.  You taught them how to use the potty and dress them selves.  You taught them to tie their shoes, button their shirts, zip up their coats.  You taught them to count, to write their names, to say the alphabet.  You could teach them if you really want to.
  • You do not need a lot of money to homeschool, but you do need to budget and sacrifice.  There will be times you’ll have to go without, get by with one car, or buy the smaller house but you’ll be investing in your children’s lives.
For those who do not want to homeschool their children or seriously can not, that is your decision and I fully respect it.   However,  if you are thinking about homeschooling, know this;  You are capable and even though it’s not always easy, be encouraged, anything of value takes effort and hard work.
Do I think homeschooling is better than conventional schooling…absolutely!  If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be homeschooling.