Monday, February 13, 2017

When You're Already Offering The Best

Recently, my family and I moved across the country to a new state.  Every state has its own requirements for Homeschoolers, of course, so when we knew we'd be moving, I plunged in to the new laws for our new state.  It was a tad intimidating, even for a formerly credentialed ex-classroom teacher.  I wondered, to be honest, could I offering my kids the best?  Were they being short-changed in any way by me keeping them at home for their schooling?

Colorado (where we came from), has so many options for homeschooling kids and we worked with several Charter Schools that also offered programming for Home-schoolers.   We've had the wonderful opportunity to work with other Homeschooled kids in classroom settings, and for music, formal PE, and other extra curriculars.  And, we have had fabulous and creative teachers with classroom management skills who still knew how to keep it fun...we've been spoiled!

In this new state, where Charter Schools are not available to us yet and "Montessori" is hardly even heard of, I wondered, "Would some supplemented time in "real school" be better for my munchkins?  But the public schools weren't open to working out something with me and my homeschooled kids.  For the public schools, it's either all day every day or you're just not welcome.  That's kinda what I was expecting, so, I reached out to a local private school in our area, thinking maybe I could work with them to supplement some of our education.  Maybe, I thought, private school would be offering "the best" to my kids.

Now, I always respect and admire traditional classroom teachers.  I know what it is like to have limited resources and somehow work miracles daily to keep children engaged and excited about learning.  Private school teachers are like any other classroom teacher.  They have limited resources, an administration to jump through hoops for, and the added pressure of keeping everybody happy, lest (God forbid) a parent leaves the school and takes their private school income with them.  There are many private schools and they are as varied as the people who run them.

But, as I looked around at the Kindergarten class I was observing in, with one rows of windows and the children in their little uniforms, stuck behind their desks with narrow rows between, I felt a little tremor of horror.  A room full of kindergartners, big eyes on me, far more fascinated with me than they were in the lesson that their sweet teacher was trying to offer them by reading a book with small pictures in the front of the class.

It might be a fabulous private school!  It might have teachers that are the salt of the earth.  But I cannot assign my little ones to a full day of sitting still behind a desk.  It's not the teacher's fault:  there was no room in that classroom for anything else.

Now, understand, in our homeschool world, I like to require seat-work for my kids.   We don't just use manipulatives and make up science experiments.  We have our formal computer time, our math time, and our writing time and phonics and these all involve sitting at the kitchen table or on barstools at the counter.  I also greatly appreciate yearly (standardized) tests so I can double-check that I am not forgetting any of the essentials. So, I'm not hating on the idea of seat-work or worksheets, or even sitting at desks for some time. 

I just gained a new appreciation, I guess, for what I am offering my children in our own home.  Where we can cuddle up together on the couch to practice our reading.  Where we can study our fractions by creating a recipe in the kitchen.  Where we can do PE at the beach or I can send them outside to run around on their bikes.  Where we use Lego's to demonstrate the history models we're studying. 

And that was my take-away:  I'm already offering my kids the very best. 

And so are you, fellow Homeschooler, with what you do.  The world is your classroom, along with your home.  You're already offering the best. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Release Box: For When Emotions Are Too Much

Recently, our family went through a minor yet emotional upset. 

This is Blue Rock, my son's very first pet, a Betta Fish.  Blue Rock unexpectedly died.  This event brought up new and unfamiliar emotions for my six year old.

The event also started conversations we haven't had before, such as how people express grief and why we have ceremonies.   We talked about how ceremonies help us all to process our emotions.  They are important to help us share our grief and express what is going on inside.

Then, we talked about the ceremonies that are called funerals and the sorts of things that people do at them.  It was an emotional little conversation.  And then I gave my son an action plan:  I told him he could choose if he wanted to give Blue Rock a funeral.  And he could choose how that funeral went, and he could perform some ceremonies if he wished. 

My son chose to have a funeral for his pet.  First, he lovingly crafted a little box for his fish.  Then, he made a grave marker with a stone and dug a little hole outside in the dirt.

We stood as a family with him as he thanked God for the opportunity to have Blue Rock for a little while.  He laid a sprig of holly on the grave.  And that was all.  

A few tears and red eyes later, he was out playing with his sisters.  He had found a way to process his grief and could move on.

I took note that my son needed to express his grief.  This simple ceremony allowed him to do that. 

How many children are experiencing deep, heavy emotions and have no way to express them or do something about them?

Out of this, came "The Release Box", a free packet from Glimmercat Education for anyone to use, but specifically made for teachers and parents of children, age 5 to 12.

This is a single lesson, perhaps enough to cover 30 to 45 minutes in a classroom, if you take the time to do the Release Box Ceremony.  It is easy yet complex in what it deals with.

To clarify, I am no psychiatrist.  But like Mr. Rogers, I am very aware that children need a safe place to express grief and fear and anger.  Here is what is included in this seven page packet.



The HANDOUT for the child:

The EMOTICONS or WORDS of emotions to release (With a Note regarding a Release Ceremony):


Remember, there are many challenging emotions that we adults are dealing with these days.  And unfortunately, even with the best of intentions our fears and concerns, anger and frustration, can sometimes spill over onto our kids.  For some children, that is just too much.  Too heavy.  Too intense.

If you find yourself having difficult conversations, walk with your child through a Releasing ceremony.  Give them the opportunity to talk about their feelings.  Let them share about their hurts or heavy burdens.  Affirm them in those feelings.  It's important that they know that every feeling has an important purpose.  And then, give them the opportunity to release the heavier ones.  They don't need to carry them.

To download this free packet, go here.  Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reviewing Gareth Hinds' "The Odyssey" for Homeschool

Reviews are not commonly my thing, but I am sharing what we have done to supplement our history study of Story of the World, Volume 1, and this post is a review for using this book as a supplement:  Gareth Hinds' graphic novel, "The Odyssey".  My son is aged 6 and he really enjoyed this book.  But as a parent, there are some things you will want to be aware of, before buying this one for homeschooling younger here's an explanation of how we used it and my pros, and cons.

Any time you cover other civilizations, there is the potential to also come across information you may have wanted to shield your kid from.  For instance, the rape of Europa or the necrophilia of Isis will be held back for a number of years.  A big number.  Shoot, I'm not even sure I want to delve into the details of those, myself!

"The Rape of Europa" by Carl Maratta
How We Used It:  When I purchased "The Odyssey" by Gareth Hinds, I read it first myself privately and took careful note of the pictures I wouldn't be showing my son.   Then, I read it out loud and he looked at the pictures, but when we got to some pages, I shielded the images from him and he simply listened while I read and narrated (with some omitions) what was going on in the pictures.

Pros:  This graphic novel of Homer's ancient epic is breath-taking and a very well-written translation to how I remember the story.  Using it to explain the idea of Odysseus' long journey home is very helpful to getting the gist of what the tale is about. 

The beautiful drawings also help to establish a picture of what it would be like to live in the time period and the nation.  For one thing, you discover that Greece was heavily dependent on ships and the various parts of Greece were spread about on islands and land separated by the ocean.

You also can recognize how the Greeks were subject to the will and whimsies of scores of gods, goddesses, demi-gods, nymphs and a slew of half-beings. While the world appears to be a beautiful one, it was certainly risky, as well, especially if you ran foul of one or more of the gods. 
 Visually, this graphic novel brings the story alive in a whole new dimension.  While reading it, we also gained an understanding of the social interaction and war of the time period.   We get a sense of Greek clothing style, what mattered to them, and how their religious belief systems ruled their lives. 
Gareth Hinds is obviously a gifted artist and I really admire the way he utilizes color in his paintings.  I love the soft watercolor feel and it seems to fit the subject matter perfectly. 

I'm glad we had the opportunity to use it for supplementing our homeschool study of Greece.  

Cons:   I don't know if these are "Cons" considering the subject matter Gareth Hinds is working with.  Homer's "The Odyssey" is a story full of violence, lust, and ill-timed passion.  My cons list is more for you to be aware the imagery that is included with the story.  Some of it was a bit too well-illustrated.   By the way, all the pages I display here are pages that I did not show my son, but orally narrated, instead.

If you remember any snippets of "The Odyssey" from High School English, you will likely remember the tale of the Cyclops.  The story is gory, but essential, as it is the catalyst for Odysseus' years long return home, based on angering Poseidon.   Possible moral here:  whatever you do, don't tick off Poseidon.

Some of these pictures were just a little to intense and graphic for us.  And the picture of the Cyclops glaring down at the men is also on the back of the book, so I kept that one covered at my son's request. 

Odysseus gets it on with two gorgeous Nymphs or Goddesses (I can't keep them all straight!) on two different islands.  While I applaud the artist's use of a beautiful African looking gal for Calypso, I am not crazy about attempting to explain our hero's choices in this arena to my six year old.  Especially not when we keep seeing his wife Penelope waiting faithfully for him at home. 

Odysseus' tryst with the tricky Circe is also very clearly displayed, along with most of her lovely form.  And really, though I could almost forgive him for his unfaithfulness with Calypso (How do you turn down a goddess if you're a Greek?), he has absolutely no excuse for these interludes on Circe's island.  No excuse whatsoever. 

Once Odysseus finally does get back to his house, there is no shortage of violence as he brings bloody revenge to the houseful of his wife's suitors.  This was just a bit too much blood for us, realistic as it might be. 

It gets quite graphic and horrifying until Athena finally stops him from more bloodshed.  Again, tells the story very accurately, but we didn't need all of that at age six.

So, make your own choices.  Hopefully, you are geared with more information to make your choice.  We were able to use the book with great success and while we were reading the end of the story where Odysseus shoots his arrow through the twelve axe-heads, we remembered a studio logo that now makes a lot more sense to us.  It's kinda fun to rewatch, too.  I'll leave you with this.