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.
  • 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.
  • 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)
    •'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
    • 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
    •'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
    •'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

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Support System

This has been an interesting topic as I investigate the actualities of Home Schooling Lorelei while working. A little context for you, I am graduating from USF with my BA in Psychology in exactly two months. I have worked for the same company for nearly three years (another May milestone) and my career in Project Management looks even more promising now that I have earned my Certified Associate in Project Management certificate. I've finally gotten to a place where I can support our little family of two on one income and monthly support from Lorelei's natural father. It's been a long, tenuous few years but we've come out better than ever.

All of that being said and my daughter quickly approaching school age, I have decided to take on Home Schooling. Sheer madness I tell you. My searches online have been vaguely promising. There a hundreds of working single moms and dads as well as dual income households that boast home schooled children. Unfortunately, after reading dozens of accounts they most seem to have the same few points in common
  • One or both parents work from home
  • Single parents work odd hours (second and third shift) or part-time positions
  • The "home schooled" children attend co-op classes while the parent(s) are at work which basically turns itself into a labor-intensive private school experience
As you can probably tell, none of these are great options for me.
While I may be able to work from home in the future, it's not likely given my job responsibilities. And while it would be wonderful to go out and find the perfect position that allows me to work from home, times are tough out there and as any single parent can attest, income security trumps almost everything else.
As for the second option, I have a lot invested in my current career and it's not just vanity that makes me value this. If I'm it for Lorelei and me, I have to prioritize our well-being...and start getting creative. I'll just say it, I'm not a fan of the co-op yet because I haven't found one I liked. If I do, check for an update.
Take Charge
I refuse to give up. If Home Schooling means I can turn the educational process on its ear by taking matters into my own hands, that must mean I can do what I love best; control everything! Let's turn the clock around, learn year-round and double up studies whenever possible.
The Plan
  • New lessons on nights and weekends
  • Practice and homework during the days (see below)
This might not sound revolutionary but trust me, it's going to take a complete reconfiguration of our schedules to make sure to get about 20 hours of learning time into each week.
The Support
  • In home day care provider (find one in Florida) - Lorelei and I were lucky enough to find an exceptional in home day care provider when we returned to Tampa Bay. She is amazingly committed to the children she watches and has jumped on board with our Home School mission. She has offered to work with Lorelei one-on-one while the younger children nap for approximately an hour a day on worksheets I provide. Lorelei is thrilled to do her "homework" and our inaugural week proved a smashing success. Bottom line: Lorelei is away from the school setting (as planned) while still learning and I keep my full-time hours at work.
  • Grandma - one day a week Lorelei gets to spend the day with Grandma. My mother has been 100% supportive of my decision to Home School and has agreed to work with Lorelei during the day (a little longer than the day care provider) on worksheets and computer programs.
  • Online resources - I mentioned them on the Home School page and I'll keep updating as I can. Specifically, Nick Jr. Boost (a paid site within has proven itself to be one of the best learning sites. While I don't rely on it solely for curriculum, it's an excellent way to keep Lorelei learning while I'm making dinner or doing laundry. The laptop goes wherever I am so we are always together; so I can monitor her activity and give the appropriate encouragement or troubleshooting.
  • The State of Floria - No joke. Our tax dollars pay for research, development and implamentation of countless resources and most if not all are posted in the internet, just sitting there...waiting...seriously. Get Googling!
  • The Library - I can't believe I have to say this one but it's amazing how many out there forget what an amazing resource this can be. Through the online databases and requesting site, I can search and request thousands of book, video, Wii and computer titles. They're delivered to my home library in a reasonable amount of time. We can experiment with what works and what doesn't with zero out of pocket (save the occasional late fee).
  • Been-there-done-that Parents - The first rule of parenting? Everyone else knows more than you do. It's just a fact. A parent with one kid knows more than someone who is expecting their first. A parent with three older kids can lecture a parent of one toddler and the toddler mom should just shut up and listen. You may not always agree, and you may walk away with a list of things you'll never do but it's a free fount of knowledge and the proof is sitting right in front of you. Before investing one cent in anything else, start talking. Even if they've never Home Schooled, even if they think you are crazy for doing it, keep talking!
There are so many more places and people available to assist and for State and Non-Profit resources I'll need a whole other Blog post but we can leave it at this. After some hand-wringing and serious doubt, I think I've figured out how to have it all. Mind you, I won't have a social life for the next however many years, but on the great priority list of life, it just didn't rank.

Good luck from Bat Country

Thursday, March 3, 2011

About the 100 Thing Challenge | A Guy Named Dave

Just because I have my own blog doesn't mean I've stopped reading others. Here's a fun experiment to find out what really matters. Even if you don't actually limit yourself to 100 things. Could you identify the 100 things you can't live without. We are not talking about being on a desert island and you have to eat and such. This is more if you moved to a 500 sq. ft. apartment and had no storage, what would you need day-to-day.

Once you get to that point, could you be happy living a minimalist lifestyle? Don't ask me, I've never tried, and as long as there is a TJ Maxx near me, I may never succeed, but it's an interesting concept and one I'm going to give a whirl. What the hey, we'll call it my Lenten goal.
About the 100 Thing Challenge A Guy Named Dave

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Making everything a learning experience

One of the first fears I had about embarking on the Home Schooling of my poor unsuspecting little girl was that I was going to somehow warp her mind and stunt her growth by not teaching her whatever it is they teach in school. After reading countless blogs and books and articles and well-meaning posts I'm a little more comfortable with the "world as a classroom".

Turns out, everything we as adults take for granted is brand-spanking new to the little monster. All of a sudden, every little errand becomes a field trip and every mundane chore a lesson. Now I'm not saying every day is a picnic or I've turned into a Duggar, I'm just saying I think I'm really going to like spending time with my daughter that doesn't revolve around taking turns on who gets to pick the TV show.

A comparison of Kindergarten Math (30 minutes)

In school: Lorelei would be given a worksheet of triangles and squares, something akin to "square, square, triangle, square, square, ______" what comes next? Lorelei walks away with a gold star and secure in the knowledge that she can keep up with the rest of the class.

At home: While making lasagna, we discuss what our favorite ingredients are, Lorelei mixes learns the names of and mixes three different kinds of cheese, pick our fresh herbs from the garden, and determine a pattern of Noodles, Cheese, Vegetables, Sauce. While the lasagna cooks, we go on a little nature walk, learn about mushroom, read street signs, identify and pick flowers and discuss her day at the baby sitter's. At the table we decide squash is better the zucchini because yellow is prettier than green but both are good because they are healthy vegetables.

Home: 1 - School: 0

Farewell from Bat Country

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Because I can...

Hello world. Not that any one's reading this yet but you will. I suppose I'll start with introductions.

My name is Amanda and I have no idea how I got here. Scratch that, I have a very good idea as to how I got here but I can't remember sitting down and plotting out my course to end up here. In fact, I don't remember plotting any course. Yesterday I was ditching Spanish II to walk down to McD's and today I'm writing curriculum notes to home school my daughter.

That about sums it up I suppose. But for those of you who like a little more information. I am a single (okay divorced but I hate saying it) mom of an amazing little girl who some days I want to drop kick. I work too hard for a national TV network (don't want to say who because I'm not really sure about legality and such).

Why am I blogging? Because after weeks of searching I have yet to find a truly helpful resource in single-parenting, fully-employed home schooling. Then there's the strange yet hard-won lessons of living 40 years in the span of 25 (I get a lot done in a day). That and I love to write but don't have the attention span (or time) for the Great American Novel.

So the hope is to a get a little something started. Some insights from the front line on what it's like to raise, support and teach a child while investing in your body, mind, soul and career.

If I haven't scared you away yet, welcome to the Great American Experiment. The new generation of movers and shakers.

Welcome to Bat Country