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Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Must we Label Everything

I have always had a dislike for labels. Labels to me seem to either build you up or tear you down. It has just always gotten under my skin. Maybe it was because for the most part as a child I was usually on the tear you down list of labeling.  To me labels were a way for people to look down on you. It was a way they could excuse themselves from getting to know the real you. I wonder why we as a society are so dependent on labels to define who we are or what we think. I finally grew up enough to be at a point in my life where the labels people may use for me just don't bother me any more. I don't let others define my self worth I define it myself. Yet I realize some people must need these labels. It is there way of placing all those aspects of life and interaction with others in to neat little boxes in the mind.

I also realized that me the girl that hates labels had been attempting to label what my style of homeschooling is using the  labels of others. I am structured , relaxed, interested led, even unschooled. Why did I need to label how we choose to homeschool our children? Was I subconsciously doing this because I wanted people who might happen across my blog to understand me? or understand how we homeschool? Why did I need a label ?  It isn't like I have all the homeschooling answers or even know at this point in our journey how we will homeschool three years from now? I try to always be completely honest with others and with myself and to be honest I just don't know what we will end up doing. My children are still pretty young and I am still just learning how to meet their needs the best I can. I am still experimenting with different styles of homeschooling so that I can see what works and what doesn't work. I take note of it all because even our failures have something to teaches us.

I see so many homeschool families say we are Christian, Secular, Unit Based, or Unschoolers. I wonder what makes us decide yep that is our label. We will call our style this or that. I chose to homeschool because I wanted mainly for my kids to learn at their own pace and be able to use resources that worked for them. My kids are completely different people what works for one may very well not work for the other. So why am I spending so much time on labels when I really don't even like them? Why can't I say we homeschool ? No matter what label you do or do not use it seems to me that each and every homeschool family is different. These labels still only give the person learning about your style of homeschooling a very general idea of what goes on in your lives daily. I could say we are secular eclectic homeschoolers, But does that really tell you much. Other than we choose to not use curriculum that is bible based and that we use a wide variety of resources. What are these resources? See it doesn't tell you that. What does a normal day look like using this style? See again it doesn't tell you that. So why do we try to label these styles. Maybe it is because what we really want is acceptance. Acceptance into these tight nit homeschooling communities that have these labels attached. yet the real acceptance should be you accepting that you are perfectly fine in this moment right where you are. That true acceptance comes from those who do not care what label you use. They accept you based on the person you show the world you are.

I really love how the things in my life always seems to make me think about homeschooling and how homeschooling makes me think about other areas of my life,lol I guess that is because I don't separate the two very often. It is all just my life right now.  I am just like every other person learning and growing  ,doing the best I can today, and hoping to be better at it tomorrow. I think this whole train of thought on labels has made me realize I don't need to label what we are doing. That it is fine if we don't fit into any of the homeschool boxes. That if we choose to be relaxed one day and structured the next that it doesn't effect anyone but us so who cares what we call it. No matter how we homeschool, what we use, or how we compare our journey to others my personal end goal is simply that my children love learning, love life, and love themselves. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Want to Scream It Works it Really Works

If you have made it this far and are still following my blog you have watched me go from extreme structured homeschooling, With my lessons planned and my school room all decked out like a school room should look to my releasing the fear and my new found openness to unschooling. So many wonderful people have influenced me on this journey. I have read countless books and blogs. I joined numerous facebook groups geared toward unschooling. For three years now I have felt the pull more and more. That feeling that there definitely is something to unschooling that so many are talking about. So here we are and I have decided to make a one year leap. It will either work or we can change it up again until we find that perfect fit but I wanted to see if it would have such a profound effect on our family as I have seen it have on others. I figured the kids are both ahead of where they should be and still young enough that if it didn't work out for us that no major damage would come from us giving this experiment a chance.

This week was our first week unschooling. It has been good we went on a nature hike, came across some interesting videos and watch baby sea turtle hatch. That one was really interesting and the kids got a real kick out of it. Today though today was something extra special. I seen an post on Atlanta events saying The Children's Museum of Atlanta need kids for a news segment this morning. You could come visit the museum for free but were not guaranteed to be on the news. I figured what the hell we have never been and if one of the kids got to be on t.v. it would just be a bonus. I got up at 5a.m. dragged the kids out of bed around 6 and we hit the road at 6:30. Got to Atlanta right in time for morning rush hour traffic yet we didn't let it ruin our adventure. We were at the museum by 8:30 and the news crew was already there setting up. The museum staff said go on back and explore. I didn't really know what to expect but museum is not how I would describe this place. It is really just a huge room broke into different areas to explore different things like the grocery store, or a farm, science machines, acting, building, even a huge lego center. All in all I would say this is a place you would take kids from about ages 7 down. There were only a hand full of kids and most around the age of my 4 yr old son. At 9:00 the museum staff asked us to go back and explore the science of sound area because that is where the news would be taping from. We were to just explore unless they asked us to directly be involved. Well I guess for my ten yr old daughter who is full of questions she just couldn't help but to ask the crew about their equipment and how it works. They were great to explain it to her as they worked. When they started rolling she was asked to get into the sound booth with the news lady and show the t.v. audience how it worked. That meant she had to scream,lol. After they finished the News lady who's name is Rebekka Schram took some time to talk to Alyssa. It was all a really great experience to her. So great that by 2 this afternoon she was asking if it was possible for a ten yr old to have a news channel.

I couldn't believe that this had effected her so much that she was already think WOW how cool would it be to be a news anchor. She was running ideas of what she could talk about and place she could go and record live shows. Maybe even interview some people she meet. I was just floored by this. Up until now my daughter has had three passions in her life. They are animals, My Little Pony, and Minecraft. She had never expressed any interest in t.v. ever. Yet there I was seeing first hand what all these unschool families had been talking about. They didn't push interest on their children but they exposed them to adventures that could blossom into a interest for the child and I was having one of those experiences right now. I didn't think she would run with it like she did. I just thought today would be something different we never done and by next week she wouldn't even talk about it much. I told her she could have a youtube channel and that we would look into getting a video recorder as soon as we had the funds to do so. Secretly in my bed room I was doing the happy dance and I wanted to scream it really works.  I had exposed her to something that as of right now seems to be something she is interested in.  I am sitting here typing this and just tickled over the whole experience. So watch out youtube News by Alyssa is coming to you soon.
Here is Alyssa with Rebekka Schram from CBS46 in Atlanta. If you are interested in seeing the segment here is a link the segment is called Science of Sound  http://www.cbsatlanta.com/category/209315/bettermornings  I look forward to seeing where this interest might lead her and I am proud I stepped out of my comfort zone to allow for this experience to manifest in our lives.

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I Refuse to Fear Any Longer

I have read those words over and over through out my life. There are only two real emotions fear and love all others are just aspects of these two. I have asked myself many times which of them are most present in my life. We fear failure. We fear governments. We fear loneliness. We fear let down. But what about love how many of us set out mindfully to make love the most present in our lives?

As I thought about this I realized that me the girl next door who often calls herself that country , hippies, peace and love spreading light being still has a lot of fear. I remember when I first started researching homeschooling I was totally filled with fear. How could I possibly do a better job than the countless teachers who have gone to school and been trained to educate the young beings of this world? I feared I wouldn't have the patients  or the know how. I feared my children would not learn and would have gaps in their education. I feared they wouldn't make friends or would turn out weird. I finally got the courage to take the leap to be a homeschooling momma. I set out with my structured little school room full of textbooks, computers, lesson plans, and posters on every inch of the wall. Little desk set up just like any public school room you would walk into today. I look back on that first year and giggle at how we tackled schooling at home. Boy I was clueless.

If we are honest with ourselves we would have said to Hell with the fear I couldn't do any worse than those countless beings who were educated to be the educators. Yes, I totally just said that. Just take a look at the educational system in America. The test scores have not changed much in over 30 yrs. Look back on what your own personal experience was when you were in school. If it was anything like mine  you will see you have gaps in your education. There is no way you remember everything you ever covered in school. How many of you actually remember all that algebra or what about about the names and dates to every battle fought???? That is what I thought, you don't. Do you look in the mirror everyday and feel you are a failure because that algebra has some how been lost to the neither region of facts in your brain? Do you feel you miss them? If so well google free algebra course and reteach yourself. If not carry on as you are. My point is there would never be any such thing as homeschooling or even private schools for that matter if public school education was so perfect in it's system of educating the young minds of this world. In the 3 years of homeschooling my children I have come across so many useless lessons that in my opinion have no use in the lives of the avg. person. So why do we worry, why do we fear are children will be lost and become failures without them? I started to reassess all those reasons why I made the leap in the first place. I didn't do it for religious reasons. I did it because I wanted my children to be able to learn at their own pace. I wanted them to be able to follow their own interest. I wanted them to be in an environment that was safe and loving. I wanted them to learn more than math or reading , I also wanted them to learn real world skills. I wanted them to have a life that was focused on the world around them and what it has to teach them not one focused on making it through lunch without the school bully stealing their lunch money. I wanted them to learn that a connection to nature was more important than those $100 shoes everyone is wearing. I wanted them to have the freedom to grow and discover their own passions without the influence of society, schools, and even their peers. Most of all I wanted them to have a life they loved.


This year I have learned to let go of the fear of what if's. This year I have learned that I don't want fear to control mine nor their life paths. I have learned that textbooks do not have the key to all knowledge and wisdom,.That these beautiful beings I call my children can learn from just about anything. That they are learning 24 hrs a day. Yes even in their dreams they are discovering magical worlds that are helping create who they are and who they will become. I never realized just how much learning happens from just simple everyday things like watching tv. How many of us have set down and watched a history channel episode and thought wow I learned more from that one hr. episode than I ever did from history class. Well if not ok maybe I am the odd man out. Because I sure do. Think about how much children are learning when they are walking through nature observing the plants and insects. Their little minds are like sponges soaking it all up. You know which thing was the hardest for me to loose the fear over? Video games. Yes I am a very nongamer momma. I have no clue about video games. Personally I do not enjoy them,but my children do. My 4 yr old who plays minecraft has learned different plants and trees, 3 d shapes, rocks and minerals and he completely blows me away when he comes to me and explains all these things. I sit back and say to my self how on earth is he getting all this from a video game at four. So yes I think there is something to this unschooling way of educating children. I think that if you just trust that they are spiritual beings and completely connected to source then they have at some level the full ability to follow their life path. That they will learn everything they need to know to become what their soul came here to be. We never look at the baby and say I need to teach her to roll over do we? No, we trust that in her own time she will learn this on her own. Through trial and error she will learn everything she needs to get to the next step the next level of her personal development.

Through my own journey of learning and growing I have learned to make this my motto" I Refuse to Fear Any Longer". I will trust that how ever our lives turn out and where ever they lead us is just where we were meant to be. I will trust that the spark of source that is infinitely knowing within us will guide us and will lead us to the educational experience that we need to learn be it algebra or not. I will trust that my children have their own path and I am only here to help make that path a little less bumpy for them. I will trust that the LOVE of learning will be stronger in all of us than the FEAR of not learning. I will accept that my children are not something I own but should have the freedoms of any other human being on earth. The freedom to live as stress free as possible. The freedom to enjoy the world they were born into. The freedom to discover who they are and what they want to become. The freedom to fail and the freedom to succeed. The freedom to experience and to explore. The freedom to take as much time as they need to just breath and be in the moment. The freedom to liberty, safety, and happiness. The freedom to have their voice heard when it comes to things that effect their lives. The freedom of choices. I will teach my children two things to love life and to not fear.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Growing My Self

I'm a member of many homeschool and spiritual groups on facebook. I find that reading about others journey and how they live helps me to grow as well. There is one really special group called Radical Unschooling Support Group that has truly touched me on a deeper level. These families are so different than mine yet they have helped me grow leaps and bounds as mother and as a person. Up until a few years ago I had no idea what unschool was much less radical unschooling. If you know me you know I am an extremely curious person so I joined a few unschooling groups to try an figure out what was the difference between unschooling and traditional homeschooling. Some of the groups were out right rude to those new to the idea. I don't know if that is because they feel they are always being attacked for their views or not but boy did I learn real quick not to add my two cents into those conversations. I felt I was not learning much from them but The Radical Unschooling support group was different. These parents expressed such mindfulness not just with education but with parenting and the world at large. They truly have worn off on me and I have seen so many changes in myself over the last few yrs. Some of these changes I directly relate back to my interaction with this group.

Life, parenting, and education do not come with a easy how to handbook. There just simply isn't one perfect way. It is all trial and error learning and growing. That is because every single person learns in a different way, parents in a different way, and even their life paths are different. Yet you can learn much from others. I have been a mother now for 17 yrs and I can tell you I don't think I started to be a good mother for at least 7 yrs. I was completely clueless and started out following in the footsteps of the adults/parents before me. I was very schedule/ discipline/ do it my way or else mind frame. Even though it never felt right. I always had a sense of guilt like not only was I a bad mother, but I was harming my child emotionally through my need to control everything about their life from what he ate to how he behaved. No one tells you ,by the way that first kid you are going to totally screw it up with them over and over. Like my mother my first reaction to many situations was to yell. That left both me and my child stressed, scared, and in tears. It breaks my heart to even write this and say yes that was me that was how I was raised and how I started out raising my own. Can we say product of your environment. They say you get better with age and I tend to agree because by time baby number two came into the world. I had learned for the most part not to yell but to calmly address the situations that arose in our lives. I learned to not sweat the small stuff and that children learn as much through their mistakes as they do when they do something right.

Over the last ten yrs so many changes in me has happened. I was close to death which started me on a spiritual journey of searching for answers to the bigger questions in life. That path taught me more about love, compassion, and understanding than I could ever truly express in words. I started to enjoy a much less materialistic way of life and to really be in the moment with the experiences life was laying in my path. I don't really know when or how it happened but I was lead to homeschooling. I had never even thought of it as an option but now I can't even imagine life any other way. For us homeschooling isn't just an educational option it has become a way of life. On my journey to be the best homeschooling momma I could be and to truly enjoy this journey with my children I discovered unschooling. Now I have said it before and I will say it again we are not what most would call unschoolers but we are perfectly where and what we should be at this moment on our journey. I call us relaxed interest led life learners.

I became fascinated by the unschooling books, blogs, and groups. These wonderful people who experienced life so differently than anything I had ever known or imagined. Their families have no schedules/ no chore charts/ no rules per say. These children were free to learn what they wanted when they wanted to. They slept when they wanted, ate what they wanted and so much more. There was no hashed out time set aside for math, reading, spelling ect. They learned and lived through completely emerging themselves and their children in the world around them.It truly effected how I seen the world and how I seen our family. I started to wonder not could I add another label to our lives to describe us but could I gain some kind of wisdom from the experience these people were sharing on this facebook group. Could I then turn around and use this wisdom to better mine and my families life. We already have a very laid back, calm, and loving home now through my own growth over the years but could it be better? Would it be better? I spent countless hours devouring the post these wonderful people wrote and expressing what I thought to my husband. We talked about the aspects we felt were great and the ones we felt just really would not work for us as a family. Some of these things we have now called our own and we are learning from the experience of implementing them in our lives. For example we have let go of the need to control of children's life path. We guide but we do not control. The saying " You are a child of light and only you can decide your path" is used often in our home.Yes I still point out when they do something that is either physically or emotionally harmful to them or someone else. But I do it from a much more nurturing way. I try my best to express it from their level of understanding not from an adults level. I have let go of the you must eat what is on your plate mind set. As long as they are eating and it is mostly healthy I allow them to eat what they please when the please. I let go over the fear that to much technology was going to rot their brains. This was hard for me because I am a huge book lover and I wanted so badly for my kids to be as well. I let go of the need for their personal areas to be perfect. I realized that they need their own space to be truly theirs. I let go of the fear that they have to be on a level that society says they should be own. I realized that it is better to let them take their time learning concepts than to force it on them. Through these small changes in our home I started to see my children blossom on their own. I started to truly experience a deeper more meaningful connection with each of them.


Like I said earlier there is no handbook. There is no right or wrong way to live. There is only what is working right now. There is only learning and growing from day to day always changing always striving to be better than you were the day before. I'm no perfect mother nor am I a perfect person but I am thankful for those on my journey that have helped me grow and for me to blossom into a much more loving, compassionate, and mindful person. I don't try to be them but I do try to learn from them the things I feel will benefit me and my family into living a more joy filled life together. I too hope that on your journey through life when you encounter people who are so radically different than you be it educationally , spiritually , or even politically you will not judge but take the time to try and see through their eyes the world or the issue. See if their point of view could influence you to be a better person some how. Life is always about learning and even when we are so different we can still take away something that will change us to be better.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Planning Ahead for High School

I wrote a blog last week on why I tell my kids they do not have to go to college.You can read the here if you are interested. http://shininglightacademy.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-i-tell-my-kids-you-dont-have-to-go.html  Now even though I feel college is not a must in some cases I also believe it is up to the child on what their path will be. My daughter who is only in 4th grade has said for years now she wants to go to college and she wants to study animals. Even though I know this may change I as her parent and the person taking responsibility for her education must then say ok what is it going to take to help her reach this goal. Having one child graduating this year from homeschool who had no desire to attend college is totally different ball game than one who's goal is to attend college. For the most part my older son has taught me a good bit about what courses we may or may not use for her. I have spent countless hrs researching the different programs and options available for someone who might want to go the college route.

One thing I have learned about are called Dantes and CLEP test. You can find information on CLEP test here http://www.free-clep-prep.com/clep-exams.html and Dantes Exams here http://www.free-clep-prep.com/dantes-exams.html These are test that correlate to a course that you use in high school years but you not only get high school credit you can get 3-6 college credits. Upside to this option are that the child doesn't have to spend as much time taking their basic lower level college course because the CLEP counts toward those. College also will cost way less and the time spent in college will be more focused on their major. The downside is that some colleges will not except these test and each test cost around $100. More on CLEP testing here http://education-portal.com/academy/get-credit.html#clepExam

Another option I ran across was the Education-Portal.com which you can find here http://education-portal.com/academy/how-it-works.html This is a free online resources. How it works is you create an account you can take either high school or college level courses. When you pass the course exam you get a credit that can be transferred to thousands of colleges. All the courses are video lesson course which are great for visual learners like my daughter. They offer a clear path to college credit. Our courses are paired with credit-granting exams to help students earn transferable college credit by testing out of their general education requirements.  Courses have an intended sequence of lessons, but students can easily skip lessons and move around the courses as they desire. Each lesson stands alone, and the courses are completely self navigable. Each lesson includes a quiz. Incorrect answers link the student back to the exact point of the video where the question was covered. This may very well be a great option for my daughter especially if we lack funds at the time she reaches high school.

Now what I really want to use if funds are available at the time of high school is the Global Student Network found here https://www.globalstudentnetwork.com/index.php This option is for all levels K-12th and has multiple different program options to choose from. They even have an option that follows are more Christian Educational path. That is not the option we would choose because we are secular homeschoolers . They offer demo lessons for all their options so that you can find the one that fits your child's need best. Here are the different options they offer.
A+ Courseware-$450 a year
Christian Curriculum-$550 a year
Gradpoint Courseware- $675 a year
Apex Learning Curriculum- $550 a year
Plato Courseware- $395 a year
Odyssey Curriculum- $550 a year
 Honors Curriculum- $ 550
ACT/SAT Prep- $95
Study Island- $39-$69 depending on if you pick one or two subject areas
Rosetta Stone-$200
GED Program-$99


BENEFITS FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS

Benefit to Students:

Education
  • Designed to teach required subjects for graduation
  • Student’s learning experience is enhanced via flexible approaches to learning, teaching, and assessment, developed to meet the needs of students.
  • View progress at anytime
  • Tailored to fit all learning styles, interests, and needs of students and families
  • Lessons enhanced by graphics and multimedia pictures
  • Virtual courses allow students to study at a time and location that suits them.
  • GSN's Courseware have shown improvement in student motivation and engagement, development of higher learning styles, and increased independent learning skills.
  • Responsibility for learning placed with the student – essential ingredient for lifelong learning.
  • Integrated feedback tools provide increased learning opportunities, build learning skills, and enhance student’s ability to think critically.
  • Our programs provide opportunity for students who may have fallen behind.
  • Individualized element of Virtual Learning ensures students do not fall through the cracks amidst a crowd of students.
  • Students have more control over how and when they work
  • Students find the work “easier and quicker to do,” despite the fact it is the same work they previously did with pen and paper.
  • Students like the fact that they cannot forget to bring their work in, or lose it.
  • User-friendly, comprehensive, and equitable access to high-quality Virtual Curriculum for students who need it most
  • GSN's programs benefit students who cannot spend their days on campus when most classes are offered

Benefit to Parents:

  • Parents can customize curriculum to meet student’s needs
  • Parents can easily monitor their student’s progress in real-time.
  • No textbooks to carry around
  • 90% of work scored by computer
  • Parents can view all assessment results
  • Printable detailed student progress reports
  • Access to online content supports homework studies out of school hours.
As a homeschool parent I love that they have the resources to help me fill out a high school transcript. I am able to easily make a homeschool portfolio. They not only have a clear and defined course description for every course that you can add to your child's portfolio they also have  Course Academic Achievement that you can print out and add to their portfolio. Schools can better award credits when they understand the academic equivalency of courses completed using GSN’s Online Homeschool Curriculum . They have everything that you need to easily set up your child's  portfolio which is one thing that tends to scare many homeschoolers into putting their children back in public school for those high school years. Some other benefits I really like are that they offer academic counseling and you can use the program any time of day.

My plan it to use the Global Student Network program for her core classes and we will use others for her electives and volunteer organizations to build a very well rounded high school portfolio. First let me talk her volunteer plans. Since working with animals is her passion I have looked into options near us here in Ga. I contacted veterinarians I know from my years of pet grooming and they have offered her to start volunteering on Sat. and Sun. once she is 13. She is already a member of 4H and will be taking their courses on Veterinarian Science. She will start raising chickens this spring. There is a local Nature Center called Cochran Mill Nature Center found here http://www.cochranmillnaturecenter.org/index.html where she can start volunteering at 12 and will also attend there week long day camp this summer. The Atlanta Zoo has a teen volunteer program that starts at the age of 14 and we are hoping at that time she will be excepted into that program as well. Once she reaches 18 she can volunteer as well at the animal rehabilitation center called Noah's Ark here in Georgia. That would give her 4-6 animal related organizations/programs to add to her transcripts. Outside of animal related programs she plans to volunteer 2-3 days a week after hrs helping to clean up the senior center here in Newnan , GA and she will volunteer at the local library. Any other options that come along we will see what can fit into her schedule and she can make a decision at that time on whether it is a good option for her or not.  As for electives at this point we know of a view she has shown interest in but I will keep in mind these may change over the next few years and that they are options.

Electives:
Alternative History Theories - this will be pieced together using the work of authors such as Graham Handcock
Culinary arts- there are many online options and local cooking classes she could take
Photography- many online options and classes locally
Performing Arts- there is a local performing arts studio in our town that offers classes
World Religions- many free online options to choose from
Metaphysical Science- she can earn a B.A. from home through the University of Sedona
Veterinarian Science- there is a study from home course through Stratford Career Institute found herehttp://www.scitraining.com/Veterinary_Assistant  another option is a train at home vet tech program through Pennfoster found here http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/veterinary-studies/veterinary-technician-associate-degree
Early Childhood Education- many online options to choose from
Art- Local classes

I think I have come up with a decent plan of action if her interest stay somewhat in the same area but knowing that as children grow these interest can change I will address those as the develop.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Whales Giants of the Deep

We started of Marine life unit off with a unit study on whales. Our local museum just happen to have a whale exhibit going on at this time. The down side way they wouldn't allow picture taking. If you live in or around Atlanta, GA here is a link to the exhibit at Fernbank Museum of Natural History.https://www.fernbankmuseum.org/explore-exhibits/special-exhibitions/whales-giants-of-the-deep/. Not only did they have two different movies. The kids got to hear whale sounds and learned about how toothed whales use echolocation to find prey just like bats do. That tied in nicely to our trip we took on Monday to Crochran Mill Nature Center to learn about bats. They got to crawl inside a life size model of a blue whale's heart and see a life size sperm whale skeleton. We watched a sperm whale hunt for a giant squid and learned how whales have evolved over millions of years. There was a big focus on the North Atlantic Right whales which happens to be Georgia's State marine mammal. After our trip we came home and read the following books to find out more whale facts.


Books
DK Whales and Dolphins
Who Would Win Whale vs. Giant Squid
Magic School Bus: The Wild Whale Watch
Baby Whales Drink Milk
Amazing Whales
The Life Cycle of a Whale
Great Migration Whales

Alyssa put together the whale lapbook off of homeschool share found here http://www.homeschoolshare.com/whales.php

Some interesting  whales facts can be found here http://www.defenders.org/whales/basic-facts and here http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/blue-whale/ . We  watched this video : Discovery Channel Killer Whales off netflix. 

She also made a Whale fact poster using mixed medium art of marker, watercolor, and stickers



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Swimming with Marine Animals

We have ten weeks of school left in our school year before we reach our required 180 days. I plan to take a three week vacation after this year is over and before we switch over to year round schooling. That means we will have three weeks before we start the next school year. It falls perfectly around the time we take our yearly camping trip to Jekyll Island. My ten year old daughter stated last week that she would like to do a unit on Marine Animals. So I figured there is so much we could cover in ten weeks and still not even begin to uncover the mysteries of the oceans why not finish out the year doing just that. Plus to top it off we can plan our camping trip to the ocean which will really bring what we have learned to life.


As always I like to build my own unit studies using books, websites, movies, and any curriculum I can find. Boy did I find some goodies. Since I am covering two grade levels in this unit study I had to find enough material to keep both my K4 son and my 4th grade daughter engaged.

For my K4 son I remembered http://www.learningpage.com/pages/menu_wkshts/fact_oceans.html had a whole unit on ocean with fact files, worksheets, projects, teacher lesson plans. So I figured that would be great to use for him. He is still pretty young and so keeping with age oriented material is a must.  He will join in when I read books or we watch movies so this should be plenty for him.

Now for my 4th grade daughter who is extremely a visual learner I knew I needed more than the Amanda Bennett Ocean Unit study I had bought on sale. I knew I was going to have to find some colorful interactive websites as well.Homeschool share has a lapbook that goes along with the Amanda Bennett Unit here  http://www.homeschoolshare.com/amanada_bennett_oceans_lapbook.php Homeschool share also  has a great lab book for Ocean unit that is more for the younger kids here http://www.homeschoolshare.com/hello_ocean_lapbook.php 

















I have created a few resources that anyone is more than welcome to use as well.

Pinterest
http://www.pinterest.com/tonacater/ocean-units/

Youtube playlist
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLDHKQUBNhrmei_X_MzvkLnuiGmCWvU6H

Link to my Symbaloo Ocean unit board where you will find links to numerous websites
http://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/13eP26VZJF  

Printable resources
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com/worksheets/animals/ocean/ocean-life-worksheet.asp
http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.net/2011/07/ocean-life-august-calendar-connections/http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Under-the-Sea-Theme-Paper-Elementary-or-Middle-425538http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/lc/activities/critter_cards.asp
http://thehappyhousewife.com/homeschool/ocean-unit-study-worksheets-and-printables/
http://www.scholastic.com/browse/unitplan.jsp?id=339
http://www.marine.usf.edu/pjocean/packets/f98/f98u1le1.pdf
http://www.homeschoolshare.com/connections__oceans.php
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/Cupofish.shtml
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/lc/activities/https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/ocean-life-teachers-guide-and-unit-plan
http://www.teachingheart.net/literatureactivocean.html
http://eclecticeducation.squidoo.com/ocean-lapbook
http://www.firstpalette.com/tool_box/printables/seaanimals.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/coloring/oceanlife.shtml
http://www.sparklebox.co.uk/topic/living/ocean-life.html#.UwXy0c5ngwA
http://www.akidsheart.com/animals/sea/seas.htm
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com/worksheets/animals/ocean/
http://homeschoolcreations.com/oceanpreschoolpack.htmlhttp://3dinosaurs.com/wordpress/index.php/free-ocean-pack/

Other resource links
http://www.teachoceanscience.net/teaching_resources/ocean_science_curriculum/
http://www2.vims.edu/bridge/search/bridge1output_menu.cfm?q=lesson&Audience=school
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/lesson_plans/ocean/main.html
http://www.pbs.org/kqed/oceanadventures/educators/
http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/free-lesson-plans/understanding-oceans.cfm
http://mjksciteachingideas.com/oceans.html




Suggested book List

Eye Wonder: Ocean
Ocean Life A to Z book and interactive DVD
Awesome Ocean Science
Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef
What Lives in a Shell
National Geographic Weird Sea Creatures
DK eyewitness Books Oceans
Wish for a Fish
DK eyewitness Books Whales & Dolphins
Hello Ocean
You Can Be a Women Marine Biologist
A Whale is Not a Fish
Magic School Bus The Great Shark Escape
Magic School Bus The Wild Whale Watch
Who Would Win Hammerhead vs. Bull Shark
Who Would Win Whale Vs. Giant Squid
Hungry Hungry SharksMarine Biology by Ellen Doris
Invertebrate Zoology by Ellen Doris


Kindle books

An Octopus in a Strange Land
Children's Book About Fish
20 Questions:Ocean Life
Kids Look and Learn Jellyfish
Kids Look and Learn Dolphins
Meet the Seahorse

 I look forward as we swim with Marine Animals to post our adventures, art, and projects. I really hope others can use the resources to make their job just a little bit easier.




 


Why I Tell My Kids You Don't Have to Go to College

I grew up in a time when kids were told if you want to be anything worth being in life you have to go to college. I had assume by what I was told that college meant success and no college meant you were a failure. I found out that simply isn't true. There are millions of people who have only a high school education who live extremely happy lives. I guess it boils down to two things in my opinion. One how do you define a successful life and two do you need college to get there?


For me a successful life is not defined by the amount of money you make. I have seen way to many celebrities who make millions turn to drugs. They can't buy their happiness. I have also known Doctors and lawyers who spend more time at work than they do with their families. Now that might be the life you want and if so by all means go to college. However if you are like me and you define a successful life by how happy it has been then you will need to also define what that means as far as career choices.



I am going to use my husband and myself as examples. What better way to show your own kids what you mean than your own life. Both of us were high school drop outs. We came from extremely broken homes and jumped head first into the adult world way before we were even adults. I did however go back and get my diploma. My husband loved cars it was his passion and here he is working in the automotive field, working the same job for 20 yrs, and get this he makes 6 figures a yr. He worked his way from the ground floor up and learned as he went. Can you imagine that a man who dropped out of high school is actually making 6 figures a yr. I on the other hand loved animals. I knew that going to school to be a vet. was not an option because I had two young kids at the time and the nearest school was 4 hrs away. So I decided to in my opinion do the next best thing. I became a pet groomer. I studied at a grooming school part time while also working part time a pet grooming and boarding. In other words I learned a trade. The pet industry is a multi million dollar business. After finishing my training I opened up my own business were I brought home $1,000 a week after over head. That means I was making about $52,000 a yr. When my 3nd child was born we decided it was more important for one of us to be home with the kids. I made less money so I closed my business down and became a full time SAHM.

Ok so we are two people who just happen to luck up and have great jobs without college?? I say look at the numbers and the data of reports. The center for College Affordability says 37 percent of college graduates  are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma. The number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest figures. As of 2012, 284,000 college graduates were working at or below the minimum wage, up from 167,000 in 2002 and more than two times the pre-recession low of 127,000 in 2006. The cohort includes an estimated 30,000 people with masters' degrees, a figure that is more than twice as high as it was in 2002 and three times as high as in 2006. These are just a few reports you can google many more if you choose to. What I am saying is when it comes to careers in this day it is not a diploma that is getting people jobs it is a trade/skill. If you are going to end up working for minimum wage then what is the point in going thousands of dollars in debt before you even get your feet wet in life?

I have always told my children they are the ones who get to decide what their life will be. My job as a parent is to guide them and help them find the information they will need to get there. I tell them to first decide what a successful life means to them. Then find out what type of career they would really enjoy doing as an adult. Key word enjoy. You don't want to wake up to a job that you can not stand just to put food on the table. Once you have narrowed it down then decide what it will take to do that job or that career. If that means college then they know they have to do the work to get into college. If that means learning a trade then I help them find the resources, apprenticeships, or trade schools to get them on their way. My goal for my children is not that they make millions but that they live happy, joy filled, lives. I want them also to know that nothing stands in their way but themselves. In our society we base so much on material items. We let the size of our house or how new our cars are define happiness and success. We forget to stop and enjoy the little things in life. Like nature, adventure, traveling, and family. One word defines success for me and that word is HAPPINESS. Are you truly happy in your life? Do you enjoy waking up everyday? Do you take the time to enjoy the journey? Did you wake up and it was twenty years later and you missed your kids growing up, you haven't had an adventure in years? Then change it.



Lastly  I would like to add some resources for those who might be a bit more worried about no college than I am.

Books
The uncollege Alternative
http://www.amazon.com/The-UnCollege-Alternative-Incredible-Adventures/dp/0060393084

Hacking Your Education
http://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Your-Education-Lectures-Thousands-ebook/dp/B0099CUNIO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1392471403&sr=8-2&keywords=uncollege

Better Than College
http://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-College-Successful-Four-Year-ebook/dp/B0088C1YFW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1392471403&sr=8-3&keywords=uncollege

Trade schools
Trade schools.net
http://www.trade-schools.net/

The Best Trade schools.com
http://thebesttradeschools.com/

Career Colleges.com
http://www.careercolleges.com/

Trade Schools Adviser
http://www.tradeschooladvisor.com/


I also wanted to say that in today's information age it is never to late to learn something new and in most cases you can even learn for free. Many colleges have access to free courses.  Many skilled tradesman will allow you to apprentice with them. The world is out there for you to decide the direction and path that is meant just for you.

Free college courses

Coursera
https://www.coursera.org/

MIT open courseware
http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Open Course Library
http://opencourselibrary.org/course/

Education Portal
http://education-portal.com/academy/course/index.html



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chaos Can Be a Blessing

I got the call late Sunday night that my Daddy had a heart attack. Now, I am the only family member that lives states away. He is in Ohio and I am in Georgia. As I tried to register what his girlfriend was telling me and I felt the walls closing in around my reality that is usually very calm, I was barely able to keep it together on the phone. In a few seconds chaos had exploded into my world. I know full well what it feels like to lose a parent having lost my mother 9 yrs ago. When I called the next day to check on him I learned my brother who has been MIA for a few yrs was there and that they had made up. I hate it took such an event but I am thankful that relationship is now on the road to recovery. As I read my father's facebook page and the hundreds of people who were posting get well wishes and prayers, it really hit home how blessed my Daddy truly is. He has 6 children that love him a family that loves him and tons of friends that care that he was down . It is an amazing thing to find blessings when your life has been turned up side down.

It got me thinking about all the times in my life where I just felt things couldn't get any worse. Times when you just want to throw in the towel. Like when I was a single teenage mother working two jobs. The time when I had no car, no house, no babysitter but a friend opened her home for me and my oldest son to live. The time when my mom died or even worse when my grandma who was my rock in life passed away. Those times seemed to me so dark and hopeless but now as I look back on them I can see all the blessings that would not have been had these things never happened. The is something in the human ability to over come those mountains in life.

As a homeschooling family this is usually that first yr. That first year you may find your self curled up in a ball crying because you can not for the life of you get your 9 yr old to grasp multiplications. Those voices of you are failing them will creep in and bite you on the A**. You will ask yourself what was I thinking what if they never learn anything. I am here to say that chaos too will pass. They will grasp multiplications and so much more and you will look back on those days of crying and feeling like a failure and think boy was I wrong.

For must of us homeschooling is more than educating your children. It is more than making sure they learn in a safe environment. It is a way of life. It seeps into all other aspects from how you parent them to how you view the world at large. I want to say that even in days when your world seems to be crashing down around you that you will look back and find blessings in the mix. I want to remind you to not just educate your children but enjoy the journey of living. Look for the blessings even on the chaotic days. Those blessings could be curling up on the couch with your kids. Or the message the movie you put on had. It could be the smile across your 5 yr olds face. You will one day look back and they will be grown and out in the world and your heart will ache for just one more day with them homeschooling. Just one more time of seeing their eyes light up when they finally grasp a concept. One more day pushing them in 100 degree heat just so they can feed the ducks in the pond at the back of the park. Live is full of ups and downs. It is full of times that will try you to your very core but homeschooling doesn't have to be one of those times. Look at it as the most wonderful times you may ever spend with your children. Don't forget to just live and enjoy that time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pics from 2013-2014 school yr

Thought it would be nice to add a few pics from our adventures this yr.














Ancient Greece Sure Sounds Dirty To Me

The last month we have been covering Ancient Greece and boy has it been interesting. Mythology has always been a huge interest of mine so it was great to explore that with my kids as well. As we worked our way through Ancient Greek Mythology I explained to the kids that what we today call mythology was in fact the religious beliefs at that time. I think this might be one of my favorite topics thus far homeschooling the kids. I love it because it really got there imagination flowing. We pretended to be the Gods/Goddess looking down from Mt. Olympus effecting the nature and the lives of the mere humans. I have come across so many wonderful resources to use while learning about Ancient Greece that I believe you could very well spend a full year and never even put a real dent in the resources available. I have to tell you that while learning about every day life in the Ancient Greek world my daughter continued to crack me up saying things like" Ancient Greece sure sounds dirty to me" and " Oh No, stay far away from the baths." We have spent the month reading countless books, visiting websites, playing games, making Greek Art projects. It has been truly exciting.




Even I have learned a few things along the way, like did you know Ancient Greeks did not call them selves Greeks? They called them selves Hellens. I'm pretty sure we will continue on for another week or so just because they are enjoying the topic so much. I thought I would add some of the books and resources we have used in the hope it will help others.

Books:
Tools of Ancient Greeks
DK Eyewitness Books Ancient Greece
Magic tree house Ancient Greece and the Olympics
Spend the Day in Ancient Greece: Projects and Activities
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
Treasury of Greek Mythology
Curious Kids Guides Ancient Greece
Usborne Internet Linked First Encyclopedia of History
Dover's Children Classics Favorite Greek Myths


Websites:

 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/ancient_greeks/

http://www.storynory.com/category/educational-and-entertaining-stories/greek-myths/

http://greece.mrdonn.org/

http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/

http://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_greece.php

http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/ancient-greece

http://www.neok12.com/Ancient-Greece.htm


Movies
Link to youtube playlist for Ancient Greece
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLDHKQUBNhrnZXIlWcyQOmWCtwVSWLGv7

Link to youtube playlist for Mythic Warriors a cartoon about Greek Gods
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLDHKQUBNhrlJLSenfe0vVn4p_2yG3iAp

Curriculum
Evan Moor History Pockets Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece from Scholastics
Story of the World Vol 1
Simple Schooling Ancient Greece

Where the journey is going

It has been months since I wrote but you know how it is when life keeps you busy. We have made it past the half way mark of the yr and as usual this is when most homeschoolers start to think about next yrs curriculum. As I spent the last month combing through all the books and all the e-book curriculum I have attempting to decide what would be best to use next year for each of my children I had this pulling feeling that still something on our journey was missing.

I spent the next few days going over with myself all the reasons I made this choice to homeschool. Of course I want my kids to have a superior education than what I felt they would get in public school. Of course I wanted them to be in the most loving safe environment possible. Of course I wanted to actually experience my children growing and learning for more than 4 hrs a day. But why else did I choose this path? What else inspired me to make that leap.I realized it was freedom and liberty I really wanted for my children. Liberty is the quality  an individual has to control their own actions. I wanted my children to know they are the masters of their own destiny, that they are the ones who will actually manifest the life they live. I wanted them to have the freedom to truly explore all the possibilities that run through their imaginations of what could be. I didn't want them to be just another number or test score. I wanted to give them a real true since of being a free human not one that society has placed inside a box.

It truly is a balancing act this experience we call parenting. Most parents want the best for their children. They want to give them the opportunity to have more than they did. Yet, I wondered to myself where do we parents draw the line between what we want for them and what our children as a free human being want for themselves. Being a part of multiple homeschooling communities both online and in person I have see the parents that say my kids has to go to college. That statement has for my entire life made my skin crawl. It really bothers me when we define a persons self worth by a degree that hangs on the wall. The true facts are sure your kid could go to college earn a degree and go on to obtain a very well paying job. Also the fact is your child could go to college earn a degree, rack up thousands of dollars in college loans and end up working for next to nothing because well look out the state of the world today. 50% of college graduates can't even find a job. So who I'm I to say that is the path they must take. My number one hope for my kids is not a high paying job but a life that they truly enjoy, a job that brings them a sense of meaning. I want them to wake up at 25 years old head of to work happy because they enjoy what they do.

So I ask myself if a college degree is not my goal and a life that is truly happy is then how do I as a parent make sure that is the path we take? How do I find that happy medium between what I hope for my children and what they want in life? What changes should I make as a homeschooling parent to help facilitate  this goal?  I realized that what I needed to do was not teach my children but to show my children how to learn on their own and to help them truly experience the world around them. That a true education is not so much the act of learning those academic subjects like math, reading, writing but it is the act of knowing how to learn anything that you as a free person desire to know. I thought back on my own years in school and how much of that I did and did not retain. Then I thought about the years outside of school and all I have learned. I know hands down I have learned and retained 100 fold outside of school than I ever did in. I thought about how we really do live in the information age and how easy it is to learn just about anything on any subject from the internet. Not only do you have access to countless books but there are videos and websites. Just do a simple google search on any topic will give you thousands of options to learn from.

Let me say here this is not a post about unschooling, at least not in the way any unschooler would most likely describe unschooling.As much as I love and truly respect the philosophy that unschoolers go by I know it is not completely how I see our journey going. I think a real foundation in math and reading or highly important in a child becoming a self learner. I say that because I feel it makes those topics of interest easier to learn if they already have this foundation. All the other subjects like grammar, writing, history, science ect ect. can in my opinion 100% be learned by a child with a good foundation in math and reading. As much as I agree with the unschoolers on the freedom to learn and the true connection to family and the world I still can not get past the since I feel they need a true foundation in these two subject areas. Let me also be clear that I in no way think that my thoughts on parenting or education is better than or less than any others. I think that is a decision that each individual family has to make on their own. What is the right path for one may not be the right path for the other and all forms of education should be honored. We all have to trust in our own intuition on what we as parents feel is the right journey to take. Remember parenting doesn't come with a handbook.

This journey and the conclusions I have made has lead me to what I call relaxed homeschooling. My new goal is to give my children a strong foundation in math and reading, to facilitate helping them to learn what interest them, to engage them in the world around them, and to give them a since that everything in life is a learning experience. I won't be throwing out the books because I feel that make for good resource but I will be attempting to engage my children's learning through a more hands on real life since of experiencing the topic. I will be paying closer attention to what they want to learn not what society expects them to learn. I will be doing everything in my power to show them that they have the ability to learn anything with or without me. To instill in them a love for learning and adventure. Most of all I will continue to feel blessed to be on this journey along side my children, to enjoy all the wonderful memories we are making, and to remember that they are the masters of their own destiny.  Until then much love and light to all of you and may you be blessed on your journey as well.