Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Fallacy of School Choice Programs

I wish to exercise my freedom of choice in how my daughter is educated. I ask the government to kindly allow me to determine the best use of my earned income by my own judgment, particularly where it concerns those under my care. The current systems in place in the State of Florida are unacceptable to meet these ends. In order to qualify for Tax Credit Scholarships (corporations and individuals may make a state tax credited contribution that the State of Florida then awards according to eligibility standards), our family must not exceed certain income criteria. Information on Vouchers is so difficult to find, I am beginning to believe they are an urban myth.

It is my desire that this contradiction that forces a parent to act against his or her own judgment be resolved. The State of Florida and all government bodies must remove themselves from the role of parent so that I may raise my daughter in the manner that I see fit; a responsibility that, as her mother and sole guardian, falls to me and me alone.

It is my understanding that I do not qualify for (i.e. do not deserve) the opportunity to express and act upon my own judgment for my own purposes. I must therefore compromise one set of values to uphold another. Particularly, I must not work to the best of my ability thereby garnering a paycheck that would disqualify me. I can either patronize the institutions of my choice (a private school with a proven record of excellence) through value-generating effort (a paycheck that reflects my work and worth) while also paying for system that I do not use or approve of (public schools throughout the community); or take advantage of a social program (School Choice Scholarships) that, by the very act of qualifying (i.e. earning below income standards for my household size), I do not financially support (i.e. decreased income results in decreased contribution through taxes and therefore a decreased contribution to the scholarship fund). Only children currently attending heinously below average schools qualify for an Opportunity Scholarship. This requires a student to experience poor education first-hand before being offered the opportunity to improve his or her situation. There is no mention of remediation from the qualifying experience of attending a "D" or "F" rated school. Of course, there is always the option of allowing my daughter to attend the public school against my wishes and judgment however as I must act according to my own sets of values, this is an unacceptable option. 

It is with this contradiction that I must come to terms that in order to remain a law-abiding citizen (i.e. dutifully pay my taxes on the income that I generate) or forgo my own judgment and accept the government rationed education that is the public school system. 

Toodles from Bat Country

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I never give up; I just change my mind

Adapting the Goal
The past few months have been a whirlwind of change. Changing jobs, changing homes, changing Lorelei’s school- wait did she just say? Yes, I did. School. But, wasn’t the whole point to keep Lorelei out of the masochistic institution that grinds out semi-literate neophytes and engage in a bohemian, offbeat lifestyle that will breed an amazing, objectivist freethinker? Why, yes, so kind of you to remember! So what’s the deal?

Work Happened
The year began with me happily situated in a Production Coordinator position at a national TV network. While the work was good and the people were fabulous, I outgrew the job and searched the big, wide world over for a new opportunity. I had interviews in New York, Philadelphia and Pinellas Park (now there’s a spread) and finally settled in as a Project Manager for a marketing solutions company working with a humongous financial institution. Now, when I say, “settled”, I mean “slumped”. Full on, weight-gaining misery that sucked my soul dry on a daily basis. After 88 whole days I found myself a brand=spanking-new job as Program Manager at a boutique marketing agency based in Ybor City. Please note the double promotion in the span of 4 months; pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Goodbye corporate soul-suckers, hello 90-minute commute and awesome work environment.

With the additional miles and hours required in my new gig and my Tarpon Springs home base, I could no longer keep Lorelei at her amazing babysitter’s. Two months of hand wringing and option-trying I:
  • Interviewed nine nannies
  • Tried to negotiate flexible work hours
  • Worked through lunch
  • Rushed through traffic
  • Emailed from the car
  • Pieced together a four-person child care team
  • Desperately tried to homeschool in the hour between getting home, dinner time, bath time, bed time and back on the road again before the sun had risen
  • Induced separation anxiety in Lorelei so she would no longer sleep in her own bed and develop tummy trouble
  • Stopped even trying to keep a clean house or cook homemade meals

If you think life was unbearable, you’re right. Something had to give. The job? The sitter? The home? My sanity?

But I Hate Schools!
I visited several schools close to my work. My generous mother visited every Montessori school in the Tampa Bay Area. And while so many of them had positive points, there was always some detraction that I couldn’t overcome. The hours, the reputation, the staff. Something was always just a little off. Let’s not even talk about trying to fund this little venture. On a whim I put Lorelei on the waiting list at Christ the King School. Alumni of this school include, my sister, my aunt, my cousins, my mother and myself. Talk about a recommendation! Within days of my throwing in the towel the secretary, the same secretary that used to take my temperature when I was in Kindergarten called to say CKS had an opening. Finally! A school I can trust! For crying out loud, my 1st, 4th, 6th and 8th grade teachers were still there. People who knew me and watched my sister and I grow up were still there. They remembered us; the school hadn’t changed. Best of all, they are 15 minutes from work!

How is it different than that nightmare scenario I was trying to avoid?
I can be a part of Lorelei’s day
  • Guest Reader
  • Volunteer
  • Constant communication with the teaching staff
  • Family events nearly every other weekend
  • The opportunity to stop in whenever I want

Private Schools make their own rules
  • Input in curriculum
  • Standards set by the parents
  • A firm expectation that parents stay involved

Providing a foundation
  • I am not religious but I’m glad Lorelei is getting that foundation that I am familiar with. It gives us a jumping off point to tackle questions of faith and theology
  • I encourage individuality at every turn but I’m not very good about encouraging cooperation with the outside world. CKS encourages more cooperative interactions and while the groupthink is a little much for me, again, a balance.

So what? You’re just giving up?
Absolutely not! Bat Country is in full swing. We learn French in the car through audiobooks (j’taime bebe), read novels instead of slumping in front of the TV, work through our homeschool books and complete CKS homework with our own personal twist. We’re moving to Tampa to be closer to work and school and cutting expenses to move our learning experience from the living room to great big world. We’re minimizing the superfluous and focusing on the substantial. You thought we were going to stay on the same straight and narrow? Have you met us?

Remember kids…we can’t stop here, this is Bat Country.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Objectivist Homeschooling

I must share this amazing website http://strongbrains.com/

It contains reading lists centered around an objectivist philosophy for all ages. And not simply philosophy books; history and literature and math and science and technology.

I've been searching high and low for like-minded materials. Finally!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ayn Rand for Preschoolers

At the end of the day, I want to know that I've left it all out on the field. I need to use every ounce of my ability or else I've failed. If I can go to sleep with my muscles sore and my mind exhausted, I will be happy.

Moving Up and Out
With head held high, I left my job at HSN for better opportunities. In truth, I'm at the wonderful 'striving' stage in my career when I'm always looking for something that will get me closer to the ultimate goal. What, may you ask is that? Well read the last few months of post and you'll have a clue. Independence. Homeschooling, Minimalism, Vegabonding; they all share a common theme, loose those bonds and claim your life. So here I sit, one month into my new job and one step closer to the big "I". Of course, if you sit around waiting for your life to start, you'll find yourself waiting indefinitely.

Independence doesn't begin when all physical encumbrances are gone, rather when you free your mind and will. With that in mind, we here in Bat Country do so declare our Independence from:
  • Slavery: Financial debt is something we walk into and forget that there is ever a way out. 
  • Tyranny: We are all individuals and have the responsibility to think and act as such.
  • Pressure to conform: Free speech is a right, so is the ability not to listen.
  • Stress: I know my best, and will give it freely as I see fit.
Who is John Galt?
I am. I had heard of Atlas Shrugged since high school, but only in the context of an essay contest for a scholarship. Out of the thousands of books declared "classics" it just never made my reading list. Until a few months ago, I only knew The Fountainhead  as an old Gary Cooper movie. Then, I was encouraged to see the new Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 the day it came out. With my ice cream cone and free afternoon, I sat in a movie theater, the youngest by 20+ years out of the whole audience. What I saw was something I had been struggling with for years. Self-reliance and true accountability were things spoken of but never seem to jive with what was being done. The movie ends with Wyatt's Torch for those of you who know the story and a voice-over ending in "I'm on strike". The audience erupted in applause and I with it.

I'm on strike
After the movie, I had to read the book. Read it? I devoured it! And then another and another until I was beginning my own home-schooling on political philosophy. During that time, Lorelei began peaking over my shoulder and reading aloud. To hear the words, "I am the man who loves his life" come from a four-year old, it is difficult not to be moved. This is not merely a philosophy, this is our life. And as Rand said, "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine."

Toodles from Bat Country

Friday, May 13, 2011

Minimalism: Step One

Inspired by blogs such as zen habits, Exile Lifestyle, The Minimalists, Marc and Angel Hack Life, and of course the desire to look at an immaculate house, I've decided to see how much I can "minimize" and truly embrace the minimal lifestyle. I mean, let's face it, if Lorelei and I are ever to become the truly counter-culture world travelers, we're not going to be able to drag along the large amount of crap- I mean belongings currently filling our 1,400 sq. ft. apartment. I knew it would be challenging, but I've been working on this list (some people have gotten their possessions down to less than 100 things) for a few days now and I've reached 400 and that's only off of the top of my head. Forget the things in drawers, in boxes and shelves I'm too short to see without a boost. I wasn't hoping to get down to 100 or even 200 but seriously, I cannot complain about money...ever! I keep a relatively clean apartment (some have called it sterile, but the OCD in me knows this to be a fallacy). Lorelei and I tidy up when needed and the dog knows better than to make more work for me so all in all, I've got it under control. So how did I end up with so much stuff?
Three years ago I became a divorcee. Neither my happiest time nor my most financially secure. With Grim determination, I found a job and a furnished apartment and packed up a sedan-worth of stuff to start my new life with my then one year old bundle of giggles. Towards the end of the lease and as Florida's snow bird season was kicking into high gear, I needed to find a new place and fast and the furnished places sky-rocketed in rent. I was in no position to turn up my nose at charity:
·         Church friends: kitchen setup and dining room table
·         Work colleagues: couch
·         Friends: queen size bed (shared with my daughter for the first several months)
·         Family: various tables, my TV from my first apartment out of high school that somehow made it back to my mother’s and a toddler bed from my sister
·         Myself: clothes and a few photos and albums
Making Something Out of Very Little
That was it: my little palace for me and the princess. Back then I didn’t call it minimalism; I called it poverty. But slowly I worked and saved and spent. Tax refunds, child support, over time; it all went to making our apartment a home. TJ Maxx, NY & Co., Target; I could afford to get another TV with my HSN discount. Lorelei got books and toys and I got sheets that weren’t hand-me-downs (I just tried not to think about it really). Present day – quite a comfortable little setup if I do say so myself. I still have some of the donations, some of which I donated myself to other people in need. My sister came through with a bigger bed for Lorelei when she outgrew the toddler bed and now we only sleep together when she wants to cuddle. I’ve managed to acquire more then I’ve dumped. And this bothers me.
I never want Lorelei to go without, but all of this stuff- we don’t need it. What we need is the cash that went into acquiring it. What we need is the peace of mind of knowing where everything is and that we are not living in a wasteful manner but a sustainable (not quite hemp crazy but) healthy way. Seriously! What do you say to a little girl who looks around a store and says, “Mommy, let’s get more stuff!” From the mouths of babes, right?
Step One: No More Stuff!
I love to shop. Especially for “useful” stuff like school supplies, kitchen gadgets and storage boxes. Anything promising organization – I want 10! But no more. Family and friends out there, “No more stuff please!” Unless it is going to replace something I already have that doesn’t work anymore, take that money and donate it in my name. Lorelei? Well, she’s a kid; and a darn cute one if I must say so I won’t deprive ya’ll of getting her fun stuff, just have mercy on the one who has to pick up after her.
Step Two: Purge, Baby, Purge!
I will not bore you nor embarrass myself by publishing my ever-growing list of stuff. I will however let you know of things I have deemed superfluous. Like sundresses I would never leave the house in or shoes with the heel worn off. Or five down comforters (not making that one up). Never fear, it will all go to a good place. No trash dumps. And the goal is not to replace it with more stuff. I may never get to 100 things or even 200 but let’s start investing and stop spending.
A few places to unload your stuff for a good cause
  • Freecycle - a network of local groups that post anything and everything from coupons to couches; all you have to do is call the poster (a normal yocal just like yourself) and come pick it up. The only requirement: it has to be free
  • National Furniture Bank - unwanted furniture for those in need
  • Salvation Army - heard of 'em?
  • Pick Up Please - they'll come to your house and take your unwanted clothes
  • any local church or charity - you don't want me to do all of the work for you, do you? Get Googling!
Or sell it
Happy Hunting from Bat Country

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If by Rudyard Kipling

If I can live my life with these words in mind and teach my daughter to do the same, I'll know I've succeeded. For a truly wonderful interpretation click through.

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


I forget what little mirrors these critters can be. Until I hear a sarcastic tone I didn't realize was in my voice echoed from my little monster. Or when Lorelei brings me a cool cloth for my head because she knows I'm not feeling well. Or when she sits at her desk studiously writing in her workbooks because she saw my working on countless spreadsheets. Of course I try not to cuss around her and I save the keggers for when she's sleeping over somewhere else (joking Nana), but I've come to realize that my good and bad habits are reflected through her in almost real time.

Routines are Flexible
Not too long ago we would come home and each plop in front of a TV; she watching cartoons and I HGTV. We ate somewhere in there and made our way to bed eventually. However, a couple of weeks ago, we came home and I forgot to turn the TV on. We had to walk the dog and get something out of the car and it just never came up. While taking trips outside, Lorelei made a dinner request, so we cooked together. When that was over it was bath time then bedtime and lo and behold we had completely missed Dora, Glee, Backyardigans, everything! And the Earth continued to turn. I didn't want to make a big thing of it so the next day I "forgot" to turn on the TV and plop and sure enough, we walked to the local beach and Lorelei splashed in the waves while I read my Kindle. A few more days of "forgetfullness" and we've completely changed our routine. We're eating better because I can focus on the task of preparing dinner while she takes care of the puppy and settles in (comfy clothes and all). The house is cleaner because I can do productive chores rather than my TV chores (I mean honestly, how many House Hunters must I watch?) Turns out, those ruts aren't so hard to break.

Gradulation (typo intentional)
I graduated from University of South Florida last Thursday with a BA in Psychology. I began courses in the Fall of 2003 and now, May of 2011 I finally made it to the cap and gown, traipse across the stage bit. I sat amidst kids who still thought it the ultimate rebellion to show up to graduation drunk or high. I posed for pictures with the college president whom I'd never met before but congratulated me as if she had been at my first grade pageant. And afterwards, my family and friends gathered to celebrate. The whole process was a bit surreal. As I walked across the stage, I looked up and could see Lorelei waving from a balcony. Truth be told, I spent most of the ceremony reading on my Kindle while the other 1,400 graduates each got their hands shaken. But when I saw her jumping up and down and waving, I lost it. My little girl. My baby who has her own duster so she can "clean like Mommy" and her own pots and pans so she can "cook like Mommy" and even had me cut her hair "short like Mommy" just saw Mommy graduate. Over the past 4 years Lorelei has watched Mommy do homework, study, take exams and go to classes. Now she wants to "gradulate just like Mommy".

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why "Bat Country"?

After several inquisitive and not so indirect comments about the title of my blog, I feel obliged to let ya'll in on a little secret. What is Bat Country and why would I name a blog about Home Schooling it?

We can't stop here...
Hunter S. Thompson. Granted not the role model most mothers have and I'm certainly not having Lorelei learn grammar from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but there is a point to the quote I've chosen for this crazy mixed-up lifestyle. "We can't stop here, this is bat country". As Dr. Gonzo and Raul Duke are careening towards Las Vegas in Thompson's story-turned-Johnny Depp-movie, they are loaded up on so many mind-altering substances and drugs most of us have never before heard of, Duke starts to hallucinate. Hundreds of flying bats fill the sky while his "lawyer" tans himself in the passenger seat of their convertible. It's madness. It's hilarious, truer than most of us like to admit madness.

...this is bat country!
We all have our stories. Let's face it, we're all the star of our own movies. So I'm not going to claim that I've had a better or worse life than anyone else. I can say, though, that for me, it's been quite a ride and I'm just beginning. At this pace, God help me at 50. Life, parenthood, career, school, family, friends, love - very little of it is simple, none of it is easy and the best plan is to keep going. Keep moving, keep growing and improving and learning and failing and succeeding and traveling. I don't want to stop! Not here. Not when there is so much to do and see.
This isn't just a blog about Home Schooling. It's about living a life like no other. If that means freeing ourselves from regimented curriculum and arbitrary school calendars, then rock on. Lorelei is already getting a education beyond what VPK can give her. Let's learn by doing! Let's learn by trying and exploring.
Lorelei and I. This is our life. A life like no other; one that is constantly in motion and filled with love and adventure.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Juggling Life and Learning

I keep hearing and seeing these commercials about supermoms. There's the TBO.com one where the mom sings about all the different practices and pets and demands on her time. There's the one with the air freshener that freshens while you take care of kids and meet with your friends and watch movies. There's even one where the mom freezes time to enjoy her cup of coffee while her children dump juice on her pristine carpet and her husband thoughtlessly wrecks the living room with his neanderthal friends.
I can relate to none of these!

Life for me is much more like that Family Guy commercial with Stewie pestering Lois. After a long day of being pecked to death by chickens (or what you call "work") I go home to the woodepecker extraordinaire. And I must admit there are evenings when I'd rather turn on Cat and the Hat and escape to my nice, quiet room than drill Lorelei on how to say "Hello" in four langauges. (Believe it or not she can actually differentiate 'Bonjour' as 'French' and "Hola' as 'Spanish')

For all of you moms out there wringing your hands and straining your sanity, it's okay. Being Super Woman sometimes means getting the kids fed and not drop-kicking them out of the window. Then again, there are days when they surprise you.

Last night, my little learner structured her very own home school experience...for both of us. As I was dragging my tired, pecked-out rear home, she chirpily demanded to go to the YMCA. "But, honey, wouldn't you rather go home and order a pizza and watch Tinker Bell?" "Maybe later, Mommy" Who is this child and where did she come from? So, fine, we'll go but I'm not going to like it.

Once there, she promptly took over the game of toss in the Kid Zone and I felt obligated to memorize some of my favorite poems in French while treadmilling (it's a word now!). I felt better and learned the first stanza to Kipling's If in French. Score one for the little monster.

Finally home, I go to plop my sweatiness on the couch and little Miss L directs me to her desk where she insists on doing 10 workbook pages of Color by Number, Letters, Basic Addition and all other sorts of goodies. Seriously, what four year old chooses schoolwork over TV? Mine! And of course, I feel like a heel loafing in front of House Crashers so I guess I could get caught up on my own homework...

Of course we finally get to the point where it bed time and can you believe that little monster wants to cuddle? I mean, what's with cuteness? Here I am, totally set on having a meaningless waste of a night and she goes and ruins it with exercise and learning and family time. Moral of the story (oh yes, there is one): Being a family sometimes means dragging each other kicking and screaming in the right direction. Did I teach her that or did she teach me?

Now if only I could remind her of that when I prying her out of bed in the morning...

Toodles from Bat Country

Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Recently I finished an amazing book by Arnold Bennett (1867 - 1931) called How to Live on 24 a Day. While some may lower its status by referring to it as a mere 'self-help' book, I found it to be an astute satire on the most common of human complaints, there's never enough time.
Of course you should read it yourself, I mean it's free on Kindle for crying out loud. But I love reading bullet points or numbered lists (7 Fat Burning Foods, Do's and Don'ts of Job Hunting) so here's some clever wisdom from the 101 year old text.
  • Every person in the world is equal - seriously. No one gets more time in their day than anyone else. Michelle Obama, Lindsey Lohan and I all get 24 hours. That's it! There's no bonus or penalty. 24 hours. How you spend it is your own business, but they are yours to spend. Which brings me to...
  • Take your time back - all of that time spent waiting can be better spent on yourself. This doesn't mean giving yourself a manicure a stop light, although I have been known to sneak in a touch-up if time allows. It means rather than giving away your time to bad music or trite talk-show hosts, focus on accomplishing something. Even if that accomplishment is to relax yourself. Those precious moments when you are literally tied to a chair and forced to be still can be put to good use.
  • Claim your time at home - find that time that seems to disappear between work and bed and do something with it. Improve yourself one way or another which takes us to...
  • Classic Literature is no the only way to improve yourself - improvement comes in all forms. Sure you could take your time to learn a language or study quantum physics but if that's not what makes you a better person you've just given yourself to another obligation to dread
  • Take it in stride - if this week you forget to relax or reclaim your time. Cool it! You can try again next week. Or tomorrow. Or in a few minutes. The absolute goal is one you will never achieve.
Now, these are not new theories by any means but they are said in such a way that makes you feel quite silly for ever forgetting them. Many of the concepts are the basis of Cognitive Psychology or many other forms of self-exploration.

The take away: It's your life! You're not living it for anyone else, so why are you following their rules? Live like no other.
Happy trails from Bat Country

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Field Trip

Home School Field Trips
Establishments like Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo have done an amazing job of introducing field trips and events targeted to Home Schoolers. It's a chance to meet other families as well as let your child experience a 'class field trip', a highlight for any kid. To find home school field trips at a park or venue near you, simply Google "(place name) home school". Most have a web page specifically designated for Home Schoolers.

What makes a home school field trip different then just visiting?
  • A guided tour.
  • A preset itinerary.
  • A group experience.
  • Relaxed attendance requirements (you don't need a minimum number of students).
  • It's cheaper (We paid $15 for both of us when it normally costs about $50 each)
I took Lorelei on her first field trip this past Monday. Zoo School at Busch Gardens, Tampa. Needless to say, I was thrilled to pieces to take my little princess on her first honest to goodness field trip. So excited was I that I even fudged her age a bit (she can pass for a Kindergartner) what's the harm? Famous...last...words...

  • Serengeti Express
    • A train ride through the animal habitat (antelope, giraffe, rhino, ostrich, zebras)with brief facts on each and some shout-out-your-answer games
  • Conservation Video @ Timbuktu's 4-D Theater
    • The video was a bit obtuse but the baby animals were cute and we got a brief geography lesson traveling from Africa to Australia to Florida (yeah, I didn't think they quite equated either). Afterwards they brought out a few animals (llama, mini-cheetah, monkey), all of which Lorelei wanted to pet. But alas, no petting to be had.
  • Feeding the Meerkats
    • They are so stinking cute! The instructor explained habitats and social structure. The kids threw worms over the fence to feed the meerkats. Overall, good fun.
  • Lunchtime
    • Bring your own or sneak off to the snack stand
  • Turtle Time
    • A little origami activity that gave the kids a time to interact with each other and a few lessons on the structure of a shell
  • Animal Encounter
    • A classroom setting where kids get to meet and discuss a baby alligator, lemur and I think a bird but we had to leave before that.
  • Lions and Hyenas
    • Don't pet the kitty, honey. Hanging out in the "den" with protective glass between us and the animals. Another fact-finding game that was way over Lorelei's head
  • Go Home
    • Thank the Lord I'm free!
Age Ranges
When they say "K-12" they mean "sure, you could bring a 5 year old and an 18 year old." Guess what kids? While little Lo' can read way beyond her peers and has some pretty witty banter, she cannot sit still in a room with a fuzzy animal and listen to an instructor. Ain't happenin'. In fact, doing so may result in a meltdown of cataclysmic proportions and no one to blame but dear old mom who thought, "How different is 4 and 5, really?" Turns out, there is a big difference and even 5 would be pushing it. My rush to try "big kid" activities resulted in both of us in tears. This event was better suited for the 8 - 12 age range.

I don't blame Lorelei for her tantrum although we did have a little chatty about "good girl" vs. "bad girl" on the drive home. This one falls on me. Turns out, at this age, calm and controlled isn't so bad. We would have done better on our own, at our own pace. Next time, I'll take some cues from the established itinerary and tailor it to what is appropriate for Lorelei's age and maturity. Oh wait, that's why I chose Home Schooling in the first place!

Recovering in Bat Country

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Start Here

Staring down the barrel of your child's education is a daunting task to say the least. I keep searching for the step by step guide that says, "Buy this" "Say that" *poof* you have a college grad. It doesn't work like that. Seriously what does? Much like anything else, it's all theory until you jump in an try it. So for my sake and those who need to hear it; this is the first step. The harmless way of getting your feet wet without committing yourself one we or another.

I'm not a huge fan of it. I think with a little creativity you can exhaust any subject without investing in cumbersome textbooks (I'm being green about it, yeah, that's it). But that being said, I'm not against workbooks and things you can find with just a modicum of digging (or in most cases Googling).

Identify a Subject
I'm not insulting your intelligence here, I'm honestly saying, 'Pick a topic any topic'
  • Language - a natural starting point and I think the easiest place to begin
  • Math - another obvious one, but explaining it is a lot harder than I thought
  • Science - content really depends on age, but look around nature and ask "why" or "how" and you've got the basis for science lesson...and of course there's the zoo!
  • Social Studies - the ultimate dumping ground of everything sociological. I recommend starting with Geography (your address, street, etc.) plus the Animaniacs have some awesome songs to learn the States and Capitals and Presidents (through Clinton)
  • Health - again, the age dictates the lessons, but nutrition, fitness and anatomy can be wrapped up in this
  • Philosophy - I want Lorelei to learn about the great philosophers and faiths not just her own so I'm holding off on this one until her frame of reference is a little broader
Teachers Shop at the Same Stores you Do
Long before I ever considered this Home Schooling thing, I went down to the Office Depot (a favorite haunt) and nosed around the teachers' supplies. Something about all of those flash cards and Cat in the Hat job chart and all of those gold stars just gets me giddy. I picked out two workbooks (Preschool and Kindergarten) and a new crayon box and in four months we did about six pages. Not that Lorelei wasn't interested, they just ended up in the drawer is all. But I love a good coloring book, so they made re-appearance every once in a while and went back to the drawer when they got too...wait for it...schooly.

Once I wrapped my head around Eclectic Home Schooling, I realized how many materials I already had in desk drawers, on book shelves and already loaded on the computer. We actually haven't purchased any new books yet!

My Foray into Online Education
Imagine dipping your picky toe into the Pacific. That's what we did when I entertained the idea of online education. We did buy the Nick Jr. Boost program online which I think has been a pretty good investment so far. It grows with her and the characters are familiar. I'm a little under-impressed with the creativity of it. Mainly, it's the same games as the free site but it tracks progress and rewards successes. All in all, I think I'll stick to renting CD programs from the library. At least I can do a little more research on the developers and software instead of trusting the glowing "testimonials" featured on the web pages.

They're Watching You
Of course, let's not forget all that big brother has to offer. 
  • USDA website offers free learning resources (print and online) for health and conservation lesson.
  • Kids.gov has resources for every subject (although I found the only useful ones to be American Studies, go figure) and breaks it up by grade section (K-5, and so on).
  • Federal Resources for Education Excellence (try saying that with a straight face) offers the same sorts of resources but doesn't differentiate by grade.
  • USA.gov focuses on Government but it couldn't hurt I suppose.
Our tax dollars pay for this stuff so before you go and raid Staples or Amazon or the insanely expensive "private" home schools, take a look at what you have already purchased!

Try a little at a time at first to see what suits you and your family. It's all out there and home school or no you might as well take advantage of it.

Happy Sunday from Bat Country

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Learning Styles

My first misconception about home schooling was that there was only one or two learning styles. And of course we all know what happens when you assume...

So before I launch into the whole to-do, I'll break them down:
  • Traditional School at Home
    • Home Schooling Unlimted's definition:  Traditional homeschoolers usually purchase a complete curriculum which includes textbooks, teacher’s guides, tests, schedules, and grading and record keeping materials.
    • My definition: It's what you think would happen if you removed the building but kept everything else the same. You have specific schedules and curriculum for each subject. You're tied to the same constraints and (in Pinellas County) can even register your child in their zoned school so the technically "attend" public school.
  • Classical
    • The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child's definition: The classical method is based on a revival of the educational approach called the trivium, a three-part process of literally training a child's mind.
    • My definition: The first stage is sheer memorization; cramming as much knowledge in as possible. The second stage is logic; who, what, when, where, why. The third any final stage is rhetoric; processing information on a refined level.
  • Charlotte Mason (a whole style named after a person)
    • SimplyCharlotteMason.com's definition:  Children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits
    • My definition: A pretty free flowing way of doing things. Reading literature instead of textbooks, describing and discussing instead of straight Q&A. This method really focuses on the environment of the child.
  • Unit Studies
    • Dummies.com definition: Find a unit study on that topic, and take a week or two to teach it. Do your kids find black holes fascinating, and does the science text cover them in a paragraph or two? Looks like a unit on astronomy may be in order.
    • My definition: Find something you love and do it till it kills you! (another Hunter S. Thompson quote snuck its way in) Basically whatever it is that captures the interest find everything (book, movie, field trip) you can and study it exhaustively.
  • Eclectic
    • Homeschool.com's definition:  Basically, eclectic homeschoolers use a little of this and a little of that, using workbooks for math, reading, and spelling, and taking an unschooling approach for the other subjects.
    • My definition: Welcome to the catch-all of homeschooling. It's flexible, fun and can be made to suite the family's needs.
  • Unschooling
    • Wikipedia's definition: Parents who unschool their children act as "facilitators," providing a wide range of resources, helping their children access, navigate, and make sense of the world, and aiding them in making and implementing goals and plans for both the distant and immediate future.
    • My definition: No more pencils, no more books... The inmates are running the prison. Okay that's an overstatement. This method embraces the fact that children are natural little sponges and it's our jobs as parents to immerse them in as much as possible.
  • The Co-op (Cooperative Learning)
    • The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child's definition: Free of government regulation, free to be whatever those who create and utilize them want to be.
    • My definition: "It takes a village..." Here you get to network with your community and decide as an independent PTA, if you will, what and how your children will learn. These can be "Private" schools or simply a support group who hires tutors to come in and teach a class or two.
  • Online
    • K12.com's definition: More flexible and customized than traditional school, yet more structured than typical home school.
    • My definition: Just like regular school, you have grades and schedules and curriculum and textbooks yet you're free to study in your PJ's and it can cost a bundle. However for those who aren't quite sure where to begin, this can provide an excellent framework.
Now you have my (very) abbreviated explanations here's where I've landed (that is for the moment). My initial thought was the online or school-at-home. It was the most familiar to me since I've taken online courses at USF for my BA and familiar is safe. It also appeared to be the least likely way to screw up my child's learning experience. After all, if I did exactly as I was told, then it would all work out.

That defeats the whole point!

I wanted to take charge of her education. She was going to have this wide variety of opportunities and here I was subscribing to someone else's ideas of what she should learn. Take two!

The co-op seemed like an interesting option. Community, friends, that all sounds like good stuff. Of course, I have yet to find one that caters to working parents. You'll find that that tends to be a sticking point. And again we have the "someone else at the helm" issue. Yes, I am that much of a control freak.

So, to make a long story short (too late), we've settled on Eclectic/Unit Studies. Didn't see that one coming, did you? Of course you can combine methods, this is home school; you can do anything you want! You can spend every day on a new roller coaster, feeding gummy bears to a chimp on its birthday. Find what works and go from there. Reach out to your community, but trust your instincts. Google away, but remember, as the parent, you're the one seeing this through so don't break yourself trying to conform to someone else's view or method. Or find what doesn't work and avoid it like the plague, but be open to the possibility that you just haven't found the right one...yet.

"Never say you know the last word about any human heart"
~Henry James

Happy hunting from Bat Country