Friday, August 29, 2014

The Blog in Which I Talk About School

Last year, we began homeschooling our 2 older kids.  Friends have asked why and I haven't really gotten into the why primarily because the topic of school, regardless of which type you choose, is an emotionally loaded topic full of strong opinions.

Foremost, I am not anti-public school.  M went there for 2 years and had an amazing kindergarten year and an ok to good first grade year.  I know many phenomenal public school teachers who are doing an insane amount for their students with awesome results.  I am not anti private school either although right now our family budget is very anti private school.  There are pros and cons to every type of schooling.  One does not trump the others as "the best."  Lay that mommy guilt down and just educate your kids in some manner.

I am also not pro-homeschool.  If it was illegal, if I had to work, if it made me insane every day, or if it wasn't working for my child's best, I wouldn't do it or stress about it.  I am not your stereotypical homeschooler.  I have not even for one day worn a denim dress with appliques, done my hair in a long braid, or driven a 15 passenger van.  Not that there is anything wrong with that! We did not choose to take our kids out of public school to shield them from secularism or Evolution or to protect them from the world.   We chose to homeschool because we wanted a say in our children's education beyond dropping them off and signing some papers each evening.   We chose to homeschool them because we love hanging out with our kids and Hubs unusual work schedule allows us to spend more time as a family this way.  We homeschool because our 7 year olds love of learning grew dim after long days of getting on the bus at 7:20am and sitting in class till 3:15pm everyday with only one short recess each day.   No seven year old should be so disenchanted with learning.  We chose to homeschool because I got sick of being called up to the school at 10:01am to pick up my not even the slightest bit ill child because he now was qualified as there for the day (and therefore they got their $$) but then reprimanded when I kept him home because he was actually sick yet again with a germ going around his classroom.

I don't plan on being a homeschooler forever.  For these 2 kids, for this year, for this family, it's a good choice....most days. Next year, it might not be.  For now, our districted school is NOT an option for our family as it's in a state of chaos after losing dozens of teachers in the past 2 years, including the 2 teachers M had.  That school might get it's act together and be an option in the future. Other public schools could be/ will probably be in our future in the next couple years.

Homeschooling is not all sunshine and rainbows, folks.  I know many mamas who have visions of taking their youngs ones and jumping in an rv and traipsing across the country while homeschooling their perfectly behaved brood of children.  I have had exactly 1 day like that, maybe only a half day like that. There are moments of amazing discoveries and perfect harmony when everyone is doing their work and completely understanding it.  There are many more moments of sheer determination and some of wanting to slam your head repeatedly against a wall.  For example when your child slowly sounds out the exact same word wrong 100 times in a row.  The picture we imagine and the reality are often very different from each other, for better or worse.

I don't care if you agree with me or not on whether you think it's a good idea to home school or a bad idea. I also give you full permission to change your mind a dozen times with no I told you so.  I am open to always hearing others opinions on the topic.  Last year I had a friend say something about how all homeschool students out achieved public school kids and a public school teacher had the audacity to politely share his experience of home schooled kids and was promptly vilified by 2 dozen homeschool parents. My thoughts on education changed drastically once I had a child of school age and I enjoy hearing how other parents are dealing with the same challenges.  Choosing how to educate our kids is complex emotionally, practically, and fiscally.  It's a great privilege to have a choice in how we educate our kids when others have no school at all.   I"ll say it again, there are pros and cons to every type of schooling. One does not trump the others as "the best."




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caprock Canyons State Park

Photobucket We have gone camping a few times over the last couple months and it has been really hard to find the kind of information I was seeking about campgrounds.  Specifically, the kids friendliness and practicality of the campgrounds.   This one is a short drive from our house and and beautiful but the website is less than helpful when planning your trip there.  So, things we learned about camping at Caprock Canyons State Park.

First of all, there are 5 campgrounds plus backwoods camping.  The most expensive site is $20 a night and that is with full electric and water hookups.  There is a lot of info left off the website that is nice to know if you are traveling with little kiddos.

1. Lake Theo Campground
These are tent campsites along a small lake.  They have shared water spigots, restrooms, and picnic tables BUT they are walk-in sites.  You have to haul in all your stuff from a near by parking lot, 100 yards or so away.  Not so little kid friendly.  If I were in college, or sans kids these would be a good option.

Photobucket 2. Honea Flat Campground (also listed as Honey Flat Campground)
This is where you want to stay with little kids.  Tent, trailer, pop-up... whatever gear you have.  This the only option for pop-up, rvs and trailers.  Nice large grassy sites, all with electricity (a nice bonus), and their own water spigots.  The sites are all large, relatively private, and have grass.  There are bathhouses with showers and a playground in this campground.  This is where we stayed the first weekend we camped at Caprock Canyons.  Until our kids are way bigger, this is the only one we will stay at again.  You could easily share these sites with another family, maximum campsite occupancy is 8 though.  RESERVE THESE SITES BEFORE YOU GO, ESPECIALLY ON WEEKENDS.  My kids are partial to sites 13 and 15 as they back up to the playground.  And the bathrooms.  There are raccoon a plenty in the park, so pack all food into your car or trailer at night.  Unless you want to see a raccoon ;)  The above photo of Mr. Shock with the wild sunflowers is from Honea Flats.

3. Wild Horse Campground
Uh, you can camp there with your horse.  If you have a horse and would want to do that. I do not have a horse and desire to never have a horse.  I think these sites have stables... but don't quote me on it!

Photobucket 4. Little Red Tent Campground
This is where we stayed on our second trip to Caprock Canyons.  It is farther up in the canyon and the views are great.  This was not ideal for camping with little kids.   First, these are walk in sites.  It was maybe 150 feet from our car to where our site was.  Our older kids were amazing and carried all kinds of stuff back and forth.  With our twins still being little, I was useless for anything other than toddler duty during set-up and tear down.  Second, and this was a big one for me, there is no water in the entire campground.  Not a single spigot.  And the closest water supply is maybe a ten minute drive back through the park.  Third, the campsite was entirely red dirt.  This really isn't a problem other than with no water everything gets really dirty really fast.  The campsites were pretty small and close together although they did each have their own picnic table and shade structure.  The photo of Miss Awe and her sonic cup is in the Little Red Tent Campground.

5. South Prong Tent Campground
Basically the same as Little Red Tent except for farther up the canyon and therefore farther from any source of water.  The sites were closer to the parking lot so less carrying stuff but no picnic tables or shade structures.  There would be very little shade here, I imagine it gets HOT in the afternoons in spring and fall and is unbearable in the summer.

6. Backcountry Camping
Not happening with kids.  Good luck to you if you decide to try it out :)

Other assorted tips:
1. We took the kids on a short hike from behind campsite 56 in the Little Red Tent Campground down to the spring and the river.  It was a tiny, gentle stream and the kids enjoyed walking in it until the girls got muddy and then they went all princess crazy on us.  But we would do it again.  It was doable for us to each carry a one-year old the whole distance in our arms, so not long at all.
2. It was terrifyingly windy the first time we camped there, so windy our tent collapsed several times before we packed up at 3am and came home.  That was a tornado watch night though, definitely not typical.  The second time was still quite windy and cooler than we expected.  Our tent held up fine the second weekend but we didn't sleep very well.
3. There is another playground down in the day use area by the lake.  Our kids really liked that one and it was more toddler friendly than the one in the campground.  It is also right by the dock over the lake. There is also a Children's nature center that Hubs took the older kids too.  They seemed to enjoy it, but I don't think you could spend more than half an hour there.  Pretty tiny.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Moo goes to Kindergarten.

Moo is just days away from finishing his kindergarten year at our local public school.   No one is more surprised by this fact than me.

Deciding where to send Moo to school was a really, really difficult decision for me and Hubs.  I had dreaded it pretty much since he was officially diagnosed with a Class 5 Peanut Allergy at age 2.  I wondered how this kid that had an asthma attack just driving past a peanut plant would ever function in a classroom.  If our own friends and family struggled with understanding the severity of his allergy, how would complete strangers keep my baby safe?  This probably sounds irrational to the average person, but this the fear of every parent whose kid has a severe food allergy.  Something as innocent has a PB&J can kill my kid in a matter of minutes.

When we bought our house out in the middle of nowhere nearly 3 years ago, it was with the intention that we would homeschool Moo and Ella Bella until Moo was at least capable of managing his own allergy, age 10ish.  Our new house had the perfect setup for it and it would be great with Hubs's wacky work schedule.  We never did preschool once I quit working, we just integrated letters and numbers into our daily life at home.  We had some success but overall he just wasn't ready for a lot of the concepts but I was confident he would catch on at age 5-6.  Moo also seemed really immature on some socialization things, umm, mainly potty issues.  Ugh.

There was one major hurdle to homeschooling that we never saw coming until a fateful sonogram on July 13, 2010.  Enter Shock and Awe :)   Even with the addition of twinfants we still planned on homeschooling but went ahead and researched all our options, including the local elementary school.  We met with the principal and nurse about Moo's allergy and general education questions.  We visited classrooms and talked to other parents with kid's enrolled there.  The principal seemed wonderful, very attentive and knew every kid by name and what they were struggling or excelling at.  The nurse is on campus 100% of the time and experienced with a full range of medical issues.  The principal and nurse basically agreed to let us write the peanut allergy protocol and they were 100% onboard with every concern/solution we had.  That kind of flexibility is basically unheard of with food allergies.  Class sizes were pretty small and we were pretty sure we would at least try him in public school the next fall.  I was still pretty sure that he would be missing 1-2 days a week because of allergy induced asthma attacks.

Over the summer, the school's budget was cut to the bone.  The principal moved to another school in a neighboring town and no outgoing teachers were replaced.  So class size would be going up (way up!) and we would be back to square one with the principal scenario.  And while we had a specific teacher that had been recommended to us several times, we couldn't enroll him in ANY class until 2 weeks before school started.  We wouldn't know what class he was actually in until 4 days before school.   I went and enrolled him in the public school against everything my heart was yelling at me.  Somewhere in this time frame, we decided we would homeschool.  Our fears too great, the cost to our flexible lifestyle too high. We consulted friends who had homeschooled and picked curriculum.  I enrolled Moo and Ella Bella in a homeschool co-op.  We were good to go and were excited to learn with our son.

Until the Thursday before public school started that is.  Being the glutton for guilt that I am, I told hubs I could not homeschool Moo until I knew I had all information at my disposal. It had been a particularly long day of 2 fussy, nursing babies never napping at the same time and 2 preschoolers demanding attention.  I was completely overwhelmed at adding one more thing to my overflowing plate.  So we dragged all 4 kids up the school's open house and sat awkwardly on the front row with 2 fussy babies while they introduced teachers and the new principal talked about how effective corporal punishment was.  It wasn't looking good for Moo being a student there.

I finally made my way out in the hall and found the list with Moo's real name on it.   In the class we wanted him to be in!  This teacher that had been recommended from as far away as Papua New Guinea ;)  The teacher who many had been recommended to us so randomly time and time again.  I grabbed Moo's hand and pushing a giant double stroller we walked into this classroom.  I still didn't think we could do it.  Not our firstborn, not the vulnerable one.  We would just not show up Monday morning, happens all the time at this school.

And then everything changed with 2 sentences.

A slight glance down at the stroller and immediate recognition.

"You must be Moo!  I am so glad you are in my class. My friend told me all about you and what a cool kid you are!"  And then to me, " My nephew has a peanut allergy and I carry and know how to use an epipen.  I know how serious it is."

Sold.  Sign this kid up for school!  Instant relief.  I have not worried about his safety for one minute this year when he has been in her classroom.  In addition to being an awesome and incredibly patient teacher, she gave us the great gift of being able to enjoy all our kids more and worrying less.  Only God could have ordained such an ideal match for his very first teacher.  Moo is usually beyond excited to go to school and we are always so glad to have him home at the end of the day.  It hasn't all been golden, Moo has been sent to nurse often.  But thankfully, (or not?) it's usually to change his clothes and he only missed one day all year due to allergy/asthma. His parents have sometimes been less than on the ball when it comes to getting him + his lunch + other stuff to school.  We got a note from the principal for excessive absences, that will probably happen every year.  He has learned to read, to write, to add, to be a friend, to give grace, to be thankful, to be responsible.  For the big lessons and the little lessons, it's been a great year!

We are so thankful for Moo's teacher.

So that's the story of how we got our first kid through his first year of school.  I wanted to write this out because, 1.  It's a milestone marker of how God provided for our family.  And 2. the more my kids grow and the faster they change the more the details of their stories run together.  3.  Maybe it will encourage another family that is struggling with a how to educate their kids.  I don't think one way is inherently better than another but have found that we give ourselves so little grace on this and so many other parenting decisions. I also thought his teacher deserves to know the whole story :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

family photo wall

This a photo wall we have right inside our front door and it gets comments from pretty much every guest to our home and several have asked how it was done.  These are all cheapo hobby lobby and dollar store boring frames hung about an inch apart, I used a yardstick to keep the distances the same.  2 16x20 frames, 16 11x14 frames, 5 8x10 frames, and 10 5x7 frames.  The letters in the middle are also from hobby lobby and will probably get recovered soon as nothing else in our living room is pinkish.