I tripped again.

It happened again. You would think after all this time I would be better at walking. Nope. I tripped again. I fell for it. I compared my homeschool to another’s homeschool.

ugh.

Why do I do this? I know better. I was listening to another mom talk of the great stuff her son was doing. I was happy for her. Really! Yet, the little doubts started tugging at the edge of my overworked and underpaid brain. Maybe I am doing it wrong. Maybe the work I assign isn’t rigorous  enough.

I spent the night in self-doubt. I am sure you have been there too. We are all there some days. In tears or not, it hurts. We homeschool because we want the best for our kids, but the shadow of uncertainty sometimes covers us. It covered me that night. It is so unpleasant.

Fortunately, I was able to pick myself up again. I needed to remind myself that I have devised a homeschool plan that is good and right for my son. It fits our family. It works and is enough.

Oh, those doubting thoughts still creep in some days. I just need to remember to beat them back with coffee and chocolate. Anyone want a cup?

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No, seriously. They are fine.

You guys. I was asked again. “So how did your kids do going to college after being homeschooled?” Here I thought he was worried about their academics, so I made the standard comment. You know the one. “Oh, homeschooling is very student led, so they had no trouble managing their academics. Or anymore than any other student would.”

“Oh, I don’t mean the academics. I mean socially.” 

Oh for heaven’s sake. Are you kidding me? Why am I still having this discussion with people? For crying in the night as my mother (God rest her soul) used to say. I think I made some comment about how they are fine and mature. How college is just the next stage blah, blah, blah.

But the best part came when I texted my daughter and asked her how she was coping socially at college.  She texted me back.

My daughter: Well, you know at first I was blind from the sun since living under rocks is fairly dark. Lack of sun and all. Then I had to learn English because I still spoke caveman.

She continued: Emojiis were incredible easy to understand since every day from 2-3 was arts and crafts. I used that time to draw on the walls.

She asked: Who even asks that kind of question?

I texted: I don’t even know. What did he think I was going to say? “Oh, it was terrible. She really didn’t know how to talk to people. But she finally learned how to live!”

My daughter: oh, my daughter was so antisocial that all her friends were still imaginary.

Now we were on a roll.

I said: Before she left for college, I took her to the grocery store in order for her to talk to the lady behind the cash register.

She continued my story: She hid behind me the whole time. Tugging  on my jean skirt. Begging me to let her be silent. I was so furious with her I made her drive the horse and carriage back home.

All right. So this is incredibly snarky, but I am so tired of this question. I have been answering this question for 17 years. YES! 17 years, people. The answer hasn’t changed. Theu are fine. FINE! And she is right. Who even asks this kind of question anymore?

One of these days maybe I will find the guts to ask, “How are your kids doing in public school? You know, socially?”

The PSAT looms.. encouraging your child.

The PSAT is coming to a high school near you. If you have a 10th or 11th grader it may be a good idea for him to take the test. It is the test that qualifies a student for the National Merit Scholarships. I am sure you have a pretty good idea by this point whether or not your student has a shot at being a finalist.

Remember that less than 1% of students will qualify as Semi-finalists. I am not saying it is impossible. It is possible for some, but don’t bang your child over the head with a practice book if it just isn’t going to happen for him.

However, my son has to practice. The PSAT and also the SAT are tests that can be learned. They are tricky tests that are more logic based than they are knowledge based. In fact, the math section isn’t that hard, but your child is going to have to learn how to read the question and understand what it is asking. Many times there is a lot of useless information in the question. It is frustrating.

If your child is like my child, they see how many they miss and get discouraged. It is important to remind them that the test is not written like their other math tests. They are not given a percentage based on how many they answered correctly. Their score is based on how many everyone else answered correctly. Sometimes questions are even thrown out. They aren’t meant to score 100%. There are some who do, but it is a very small percentage.

I was explaining this to my son today after he took his practice test. He was frustrated because he missed a fair number. After I explained that he is really being compared to everyone else he exclaimed, “Well,  that is just messed up!” I told him the trick is to learn how to answer the hard questions. Many gets the easy ones right. Some get most of the medium ones right, but the hard ones are where the points are. Now that he knows that he does get the easy ones right, he was encouraged. We can focus on some of the trickier questions. How do we tackle those?

In the grand scheme of things, the PSAT is not that big of a deal. It does get your child’s name out there, and I encourage you to tell them to check the box that allows schools to see their score. My daughter did fairly well on the test, and she was contacted by a few schools and encouraged to apply. Mostly small schools, but hey, it feels good. Even if your child doesn’t score well, it is a good experience. He can see what kind of problems he needs to work on and get direction. Khan Academy has teamed up with the College Board and will develop a study program for your child based on their PSAT score. (Yeah, it troubles me too, but it is free and helpful.)

I have calmed down a lot since my oldest took his first PSAT. I thought that this score would be a reflection of our homeschool. It wasn’t and still isn’t. Although, I do find it necessary and helpful. I have just learned to chill out. Study for the test. Be prepared. Encourage your child. Above all remember that it does not define him.

 

 

 

Why are you homeschooling?

As people find out that I am nearing the end of my homeschool nightmare journey, they tend to ask me a lot of questions. When they find out that I have kids in college (one graduated, praise God!), I get even more questions. I jokingly tell them that they might not want to talk to me about homeschooling, but I am half serious. My views are a bit tainted now that I have come this far. Maybe tainted isn’t the right word. Realistic is maybe a better word. Who wants to be realistic? No one  I have met on Pinterest, that is for sure. But if you have ever read anything by me, you know that I don’t like pretending. It has been eating at me for awhile, so I am coming to you today to ask you, “Why are you homeschooling?”

It seems like such a general question. When people ask me about transcripts, it is the question that I ask them. When people ask me if they are using the right curriculum, I ask them this question. They look at me a little funny, but I truly believe that is the root of all homeschooling questions. Why are you homeschooling?

As the years pass, I think homeschoolers tend to lose their vision. We get caught up into the hype of scholarships, applying to “good” colleges, or  an important extra curricular  that will look good on a transcript. None of these are bad things, but they can cloud our vision. In the grand scheme of things, sometimes the things that cloud our vision are the least important things.

I am going to be unpopular for a moment. I would be willing to bet that you didn’t begin homeschooling your children because you wanted them to get good scholarships. I didn’t. I started homeschooling because the public school was not meeting the needs of my son. They also had some policies that reduced my rights a parent. We pulled my kids to meet their needs. It wasn’t until my son started getting into his middle school years that the lure of the big scholarships enticed me. We were out to get one of those, and as homeschoolers we could do it. It changed the focus of my homeschool not necessarily with positive results. So, my unpopular thought is to stop chasing the big money. Why are you homeschooling? Because if it is to get the big money, they can do that just as well in public school. In fact, it is probably easier to get the big money when they go to public school. Ok. ok. Yes, I know homeschoolers personally who have received the big money. It happens. My hat is off to them. They worked their tails off for that money. And let’s face it, there is something special about their child that made it possible. For the majority of us, the money is there, but it probably isn’t going to be the big money you hope it is.

I know that people don’t want to hear this. You have invested hundreds maybe even thousands of dollars into activities for your child only to find out that the college didn’t care that they took 10 years of piano lessons.  Unless your child is planning on majoring in music, they really don’t care. (Very unpopular thought) I am not saying forget about piano lessons. I am REALLY not saying that. What I am saying is redirect your thinking. Instead of wondering how it will look on a transcript, make piano lessons about giving your child the gift of music. It is after all a gift that goes all the way into adulthood. If your child loves debate, by all means continue in debate. It is a wonderful skill that will serve them well. Just keep at it because they love it. Maybe a scholarship will come and maybe it won’t, but you will know that it was good for them. Keep your expectations realistic. Colleges want to see a good SAT score especially for homeschoolers. This is a hard truth for us. If you think they are looking the multiple extra activities you had your child in, you may want to think again. Thousands of public and private school kids have multiple extra activities too. We aren’t special. I am not trying to be mean. I am being honest. I ask you again. Why are you homeschooling?

What about getting into a good college? (The word “good” here is subjective.) This seems to be the number one question that I get from moms. They want their kids to get into college.  Why are you homeschooling? Are you homeschooling because you have a very bright child that was exceedingly bored in school? Maybe the school wasn’t meeting their needs, so you brought them home. They love academics so much that you can’t keep up with them. Don’t worry. They will get into the college that is right for them. The only reason they might not is because it is hard work for you. (Yeah, I know. It hurts sometimes.) What if your answer is that you are homeschooling because it fits your family lifestyle. You believe that the school teaches things that undermine your faith. You have an average child who would rather play video games. What about college for them? Our society has made college pretty much available for everyone. This idea that your child will never get into college is silly. Community college is a fine option for many people. Even if you struggled teaching your kids all through high school, they will still have opportunities available to them. If you want them to jump right into a four year college, there are many Division III schools, that would love to have your children. This idea that they have to get into a good school (still subjective) is one our society has placed on us. It makes things harder than they need to be.  If we are honest with ourselves, don’t we make this more about ourselves than our children? We can finally have vindication to all the naysayers when our child gets into MIT with a scholarship.

One last word about scholarships. My state has made it more difficult for homeschoolers to get the lottery scholarships that are available to all kids in the state. They have done this by changing the grading scale and by making three levels of course work- college prep, honors and AP.  The schools make homeschoolers jump through multiple hoops to prove their course work is honors or AP level. Because I am lazy and I refuse to jump their hoops, my high school son is at a disadvantage. Am I worried? Not really. It shows the hypocrisy of the education system. It IS all about the money. This change in the grading system is to make the scholarships available to more students, but it only inflates grade point averages. Instead of playing their game, I will explore other avenues. I am not homeschooling for the big money. I played that game before. I homeschool because I know that I can provide my son an education tailored for his needs. An education that gives him time to try other things. An education that focuses around family and faith. I finally found my vision. Only took me 17 years. Sheesh.

Why are you homeschooling?

 

 

 

A word about homeschooling and maturity.

Yes, it has been awhile since I last wrote. I don’t even remember what this blog looks like anymore. I am busy. I will just leave it at that.

However, some things have come to my attention that I just need to get off my chest. I am going to do it here. Because I can.

Lately, I have been dealing with some verbiage from people who state that because my children are/have been homeschooled they lack the maturity of their peers. First of all before we discuss this, I think we should define our term. What is meant by the word maturity? According to Wikipedia, which I tell my children never to use, maturity is defined by a person’s ability to respond to their environment in an appropriate matter.

Ok. There we go. That is my definition.

Now let’s ask the question. Are homeschooled children mature? Do they respond to their environment in an appropriate matter? Yes, I would say that my children do. They respect people in positions of authority. They obey the traffic laws. When they go to the store, they are polite to the people behind the counter. And when one of my young adult children ran into an unpleasant situation that required a backbone, they had one. Ostracized by their friends, they made a very mature and adult decision at a young age.

Now, if by maturity you mean have my kids been in relationships that lead no where in order to play act, then no. If by maturity you mean that they are able to “play along” in an environment that is the survival of the fittest, then no. If by maturity you mean that they tolerate and understand belittling. Then no, my kids are not mature. My kids seemed to have bypassed that section of maturity where we have to treat each other like garbage in order to establish some kind of pecking order.  They have a very low tolerance for people who are unkind. Sue me for homeschooling them and raising them that way.

Not all homeschoolers are kind just as not all public schoolers are unkind. But, for some reason we paint homeschoolers with a broad brush, and I am tired of it. The funny thing is that I am not all that invested in homeschooling anymore. I just don’t care how anyone chooses to educate their kids. Honestly, I am too tired to care. Do I still believe that homeschooling is a superior choice? For the most part, yes,  but how you choose to educate your kids is up to you.

The even more funny thing is that now that I have graduated two kids from homeschooling and one is graduated from college, I see how trivial the whole thing is. Education is so much more than getting a good SAT score or into a good college. (What is a “good” college anyway?)  It is so much more than what math curriculum you choose to use.  It is about the people living in your house. The relationships that you are forming with your children and that they are forming with each other.  It is about critical thinking and asking questions in a world that doesn’t want to do that anymore.  It is about learning how  to work with people with whom you don’t get along. It is about preparing them for a world that is unkind and teaching them how to respond with kindness. Do I believe homeschooling does all these things? Yes, I do. And it does it better than other schooling methods. Are kids are still going to be stupid sometimes? Yes, even the homeschooled ones.

So to all of you that are so very worried about the maturity of the homeschooled children around you,  I ask that you turn your attention to more important matters. Like what you are going to have for dinner.

 

 

Sometimes a girl just misses her mom.

Two years ago, I was at home taking care of my mom. I thought this year would be easier, but it isn’t. I think the coming wedding of my son is making it difficult.  My mom loved weddings. She would go to a wedding, and tell me every detail even down to the napkins. I want to discuss the wedding with her. 

I made a comment to my husband about how I wish my mom was here. I think he doesn’t understand. He was pretty quick to change the subject. I wanted to talk about her. Sometimes I feel like I am not allowed to talk about her. Everyone is quick to say, “well, she has it better in heaven”. Of course she does, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t miss her. 

Sometimes I still have nightmares about her last days, but I don’t tell anyone. Well, I suppose I am telling you now. I am writing to you now because I saw a picture of the singer who is dying of cancer. Is her name Joey? It broke my heart. I don’t want to say that these kinds of pictures shouldn’t be shared because I think we Americans try to ignore death as much as possible. We don’t want to know about it. We certainly don’t want to talk about it. We drink green shakes in order that we can put it off as long as possible. Honestly, I don’t think our avoidance of the dying and of death is healthy. We are all going to do it eventually.

Anyway, the picture brought back some memories to the front that have already been taking more space than they should. I thought, maybe I am ready to write about those last days. Maybe I should. I came here and started typing. As I have been typing I realized that my mom would be very unhappy with me if I told the world what her last days were like. I wonder what people 500 years ago did?  People that saw this more often than we do. I wonder how many people go through what we went through. Do some people talk about it? I have read one or two blog posts of people who have, but I know it was worse than what they wrote.

I want to talk to my mom. I know she is in heaven, but dang it, I  miss her. I should be able to say that I miss her without people telling me that she is in heaven. Don’t negate my feelings. Oh my gosh, I miss her. I just think it is funny (not haha funny) how there is their feeling that we are not allowed to talk of our loved one after they die. Funeral is over. Moving on. I want to talk about her. I need to talk about her. She was my mom, and sometimes a girl just misses her mom.

How do you grade math?

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I have been asked this question a lot lately. How do I grade math? I find it interesting that people ask me this question since math is one of the most straight-forward subjects to grade. I love grading math because it is objective. The answer is either right or it is wrong.

After I thought about it for a bit, I realize that people are really asking me how they can be more lenient when they are grading math. This is if we are really honest with ourselves, and you know that I am all about being honest over here. Parents want to know if they really have to give them that low score the  kids really deserve. Maybe there is a way to manipulate the numbers to give them a better grade.

I get it. Is that trig problem really only worth one point? It took a half a page to complete. How can I judge the problem? Maybe this math grading is subjective after all? How important is it that their problem is exactly right? What can I do to make this less painful?

Let’s face it. Math is painful for some kids. They don’t enjoy it and don’t quite grasp the concepts. Maybe they do well enough, but they enjoy it as much as a trip to the dentist. Some kids have convinced themselves that they are terrible at math. What can we as parents do to make it easier on all of us?

Over the years, I have changed the way that I teach and grade math. When I first started homeschooling I graded their daily assignments every day (you should be doing this too).  I would write in red pen at the top of the page how many problems they missed. It was fine when they were little because they usually only missed one or two, but as the difficulty of the problems increased so did their errors. How defeating it was to see how many they missed every day.

I changed the way I looked at their daily assignments after one of my piano lessons. I realized that I was practicing all week long to perform my song for my instructor. I would correct my errors (and there were lots of them) and master the section before I saw her. That is exactly what math daily assignments are. Practice. They are not a test. The kids shouldn’t have to prove anything on their daily assignments. So why was I turning every daily assignment into a test?

Daily assignments are practice. Students are trying to master the concepts taught in the lessons. Very rarely does this come on the day they learn the new concept. It takes lots of practice. Days of practice. Why was I making my child feel bad for not grasping the concept after the first day? The light bulb eventually turns on. Sometimes it takes a week. Sometimes it takes longer.

How do I grade the daily assignment? I grade it complete or incomplete. That is it. A complete grade means they finished the assignment. I corrected it. And finally, we review all the problems they missed that day. Yes, I know this means that you have to work. You know me. I try to find the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, for math this is the path. I hear of parents who grade a week at a time or even two weeks at a time. This isn’t good for anyone. What happens when your child has been performing an operation wrong for the last two weeks? I will tell you. Tears happen. If you have a bad day, you can skip a day, but don’t let it go longer.

Okay. Daily assignments? Complete or incomplete. Easy.

I grade tests differently based upon the grade level. Through Pre-Algebra each problem on the test is one point. You get it all right or all wrong. When my kids start Algebra, I look at different things. How complex is the problem? Is it something that only measures one concept or are multiple concepts required to find the answer? Problems with multiple concepts are worth more. What about a problem that is only one concept but require several lines to simplify?  I usually make these worth a couple of  points. It is so easy to drop one negative and end up with the wrong answer. As the problems increase in complexity, I start to grade on details. Did my child skip a couple of steps and then mess up? Wrong. I want to see line by line details of the problem. To me, this is just as important as the right answer. (A complex math problem should resemble an upside-down triangle.) How am I supposed to see where my child is messing up if I can’t see their work? Showing all the work is important, and I give credit for that. I eye the problem and decide a point value to the problem. It is usually somewhere between 1 and 5. You should know, however, the 5 point problems don’t usually show up until late Algebra 2.  Story problems are always 2 points. One point for setting the problem up correctly, and one point for getting the right answer.

I don’t ever, ever, ever, make my kids write a paragraph to tell me how they came to the right answer. Just no.

To make an overall grade, I weigh the daily work and the test scores. Test scores should receive more weight because it is proof of their knowledge, but you can do whatever you want. Just don’t make the daily assignments worth more than the tests, but you can make them equal weights.

And that is how I grade math. Do it every day. Grade their assignments every day. Unfortunately, in math there are no short cuts. Wish I had better news for you.

Hope this helps! Happy simplifying!

 

 

 

 

Monday’s Musings

20151109_221641Here it is. The project that I have been working on for almost a year. There were still a few spots that needed some attention when I took this picture, but I filled those in. All that is left is the highlighting and the outlining. I worked on it yesterday a bit while Scott watched football. I have decided that I am not much a fan of the outlining. I asked him if he could see what I had done. “Things are popping,” he said. I guess that means I have to highlight it. I am hoping to have it finished in the next week or two because I would love to have it on the wall for Christmas.

Last week we spent most of the week playing catch up. We had a lot of ground to cover after the debate tournament. I think we have caught up. He wrote a pretty good essay on the theme of hospitality in the Odyssey. Homeschool cheater mom alert. I looked at Cliff Notes to find out what the themes were. Then did a bit of research on the topic. I did not read The Odyssey with him because…boring. He liked it, and thanks to the maker of Cliff Notes for making me look like I know what I am talking about. I am not sure what we are going to read next. If life was fair, I would make him read The Illiad next because the other kids had to do it. I don’t know. I will think on it. He is reading The Martian right now. Have you read it? He read the first sentence and came to me and said, “uh, Mom? Are you sure you want me reading this?” I laughed. The language is not exactly G rated. Oh, well. It isn’t like it isn’t anything he has heard from his friends. He couldn’t deny that. Plus, he isn’t a reader. There is a good mix of science and interesting stuff in that book to keep a 14-year-old, non-reader engaged.

Speaking of reading, I am reading “Longbourn”. It is basically a Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. I like it so far. I had to take a break from the epic fantasy I was reading. You can follow me on Goodreads. I love that website.

What else? Oh! Oh! My sister is coming to visit. I am so excited to see her! We have not been together since my mom died. We are going to have a girls’ weekend, and it will be fabulous. We chose a hotel that mom would have liked. It is pretty fancy and ornate. We were a little sad that we couldn’t tell her about it, but then we remembered she is living in fancy and ornate right now. It is all good. We will just think of her while we are there. We will be eating good food and will be “making a memory” (as mom used to say).

I also have a friend who will be helping me with the design of this blog. I am going to start working on my Chemistry helps again, and she is going to help me make this place look more attractive. I am excited about that.

I suppose I should get to my Greek. Someone remind me why I agreed to Greek. Next year he is getting an online class. My brain can’t take this anymore. Ah, who am I kidding? I am too cheap. I will just suck it up and do it. A little part of me likes it, but I wish that it wasn’t so hard. I will just remember what my piano teacher used to tell me. “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”  You know, I still don’t really know how that helps.

Have a great week! Happy homeschooling!

It is important to be real.

I think some of us are better at it than others. I also think that we are better in some areas than we are in others. For example, I don’t mind so much if women know that I am not a perfect homeschooler, but I really want people to believe that I live in an immaculate house.

Of course, as any homeschool mom will tell you, an immaculate house isn’t going to happen while you are homeschooling. Now that my husband is home too, it is never, ever going to happen. We are living in our house all day, every day. Is that what our house is for, anyway? Still, I want people to think that I have that part of my life together.

Isn’t it refreshing to talk to someone and be able to let your guard down a little bit? I was talking to a few moms the other day, and I could tell that we were all having a day. I made some comment about the battle we had had that day and how we got nothing accomplished. The other moms threw their hands in the air and said, “yes! Us too.” It must have been going around that day. We all felt a little better when we admitted that we weren’t having a banner day, and our teens were moody as they tend to be sometimes.

I love it so much when a mom that I admire walks in frazzled and says something like “Look at this. I have lunch down my shirt.” She has become real. We all have days. Every single one of us. No one has it together perfectly all of the time.

I forgot to tell you that I wore blue socks to the debate tournament. I had on my nice black slacks with a pretty blouse. All the parents were chatting in the parents’ lounge waiting for the first ballots to come out. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable at this point. I wasn’t chatting with anyone. I bent over to grab something out of my bag and saw my feet. BLUE SOCKS! This is what happens when you get dressed in the dark. It seems so silly, but I was pretty embarrassed. As I tend to do when I am nervous, I made a joke about it to the other ladies sitting next to me. One of them laughed and said, “At least you managed to get socks on!” She wasn’t wearing any with her black slacks.

This is life. A life where we are swimming upstream half the time looking for familiar landmarks. I love it when we are real with each other. When we admit that we are battling similar currents, and we help each other over the next ladder. Isn’t that what friendship and fellowship is? Instead of trying to out-do each other on Pinterest, maybe we should just lift each other up? I am going to try that instead. Be real. Be who I am. Love one another.