Friday, November 18, 2016

The Struggle to Become a Hands Off Parent

JT has been out of the public brick and mortar school system for nine years now. The first two years at home we used a public cyber school, switching over to traditional homeschooling when he entered 5th grade. We are now about 1/3 of the way through his junior year in high school. Things have mostly gotten easier as the years have gone by. But now there is a new problem I am encountering; I have to learn to step back and let him take the lead.

All those years ago when JT first came home to learn, I needed to plan and arrange things to make it possible. Using the cyber school, we had curriculum we needed to follow and I was the one to make that happen. Switching over to homeschooling, I had even more control over the things we did for learning. I rarely used package curriculum, instead choosing to develop my own plans using a variety of materials. In all of this, I was the one always saying, "Get your work done." Not much different than moms of public school students, except in my case, I was also assigning the work. Now that JT is taking classes at the community college, my role is changing. The only subjects at home this year are geography and algebra 2. Everything else is being outsourced either to the community college or private lessons. Where do I fit in as homeschooling mom?

My number one role appears to be transportation. I've tried to work on helping JT with his time management skills as he learns to juggle his classwork. Unfortunately this is turning into more nagging than teaching. It's just so hard to stop telling him to do his work when it has been my primary role for nine years. Up until now, I was expected to lay out the daily plan and require things be finished before we moved on to fun things. I am no longer the one giving the assignments so I don't even know everything he needs to do at home. The fact that he is a chronic procrastinator makes it stressful for me to see him not working when I know there are things that need to be done.

My husband told me I need to let him do this on his own so that he can learn from his mistakes while he's still at home taking classes with relatively small risks. I'm trying, but it's been a difficult transition. This week JT and I had a bit of a blow up over his work and I finally decided to go completely hands off. He had his final in English comp on Tuesday and a quiz in music theory and I knew he was not doing much prep work. Tuesday night he came home from the final happy. He said, "I just sat down and started writing and out came a great essay." No prep. Once again, his procrastination and lack of preparation had not caused him to suffer any consequences. Granted, we don't have the results yet, but I know how this always goes. The music theory quiz was yesterday. After some cramming in the car on the way to the lesson, he pulled off a 100%.

So what have I learned? Nagging is not necessary because JT will somehow manage to pull success from nowhere? I guess that's not it... Nagging is not necessary because all it does is bring stress to all of us. If he works best with the deadline looming, maybe that's how he has to work. I just can't watch and everyone will be happy.

Friday, November 11, 2016

College Visit

On Saturday we made our first college visit with JT. He has been taking classes at a satellite location for this community college since August and wanted to check out the main campus. When we received the email inviting him to attend an open house, we decided to take advantage of the offer.

The main campus is about an hour and fifteen minutes from our home. We had a nice drive and arrived about twenty minutes before the event was to begin. There were tables set up from each department so we spoke with the people from Communication Arts and found out where we should go later to see the recording department.

We heard the mandatory talk by the president of the university first. The school seems to have a great focus on making the school affordable by skimping on the non-essentials so they can instead spend it on the technology needed to provide a meaningful education in the classroom. JT doesn't care if he goes to a school with a beautiful campus or other things that are just extra frills. He wants an education that will allow him to learn something that will help him grow as a person as well as provide a career path.

After the talk, we went to a short talk on financial aid, then waited our turn to take a campus tour. Most of the other tours had already left, so we ended up in the last tour of the day that happened to be a bilingual tour for Spanish speakers. I had a great time brushing up on my nearly dormant Spanish. Unfortunately the tour skipped a building - the one we wanted to see. When we returned from the tour we headed over to the technology building to talk with someone about what we really came there to see.

We were some of the few people left on campus, since the open house was wrapping up at noon. Because of that, we were able to have a nice long talk with the chairman of the communication arts department about their music recording technology program. The school is in the process of building a brand new recording studio to update their program so we got to see the work in progress. It looks like it's going to be impressive when completed. We had the chance to ask questions about the things that we have been wondering ever since we learned about this program. We found out that the majority of students pursuing a music recording associates are musicians. We asked if commuting would be doable; if the schedule could be limited to classes two days a week. He said that many do commute from quite a long way away and they keep the schedule tight for that reason. We also found out that Bloomsburg University, a school closer to us, has a dual admission agreement with them and that JT could transfer into their 4 year program as a junior when he completes his associate degree with LCCC.

As we were leaving to come home, my husband asked JT if he was excited yet. He said he had already been thinking he would go to school there, but now he was certain. I'm guessing we'll do a few more visits to other schools, but JT is the kind of person who makes up his mind, and sticks with it. Maybe we'll visit Bloomsburg to talk about the dual admission and see if that would be the best path to pursue. Overall, I'm feeling good about the plan. Things are finally falling into place. And that's a great feeling.

Monday, October 31, 2016

My Nemesis

So... math. As I have pointed out in the past, math has never been my strongest skill. I can balance my checkbook, calculate interest, determine a discount on a sale item, figure out my gas mileage. All of these things are math, and are essential in my life, but the more challenging concepts in math escape me. This has led to many different methods of helping my boys learn the math they have needed over the years. This year it's a bit of a hodgepodge again.

JT's math has not started out as a defined course this year. We did a lot of prep work for the PSAT on Khan Academy. Now that he has taken the test, we are working with an algebra 2 text until the test results are accessible to link with Khan Academy to allow him to prep for the SAT in the spring. I am not equipped to teach algebra 2. JT has elected to work independently, using the textbook and online codes to learn the material. The codes include access to homework help videos, graded quizzes, and graded chapter tests. Nice for me so I don't have to grade any work. We'll see how this goes for the next month or so before I declare it a successful venture.

EM is working his way through the algebra 1 texts with dad instruction. EM and my husband share the same style of math thinking, so they work well together. He seems to catch on to most concepts fairly quickly. The only issue is that he hates doing repetitious work, but it's not always easy to determine what he knows without the practice. So, I get to listen to some whining about the number of problems he gets assigned.

This will be the last year JT will be doing any math at home. Next year he plans to take a budgeting math class through the community college. He thinks that will be more practical and fit his future plans better than continuing with a higher level math class. And if he changes his mind, he can always go back and take a course in the future if needed.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sharing Homeschooling

The weather couldn't have been better for our trip to the shore. It was really just what I needed for a renewal of my energy.

We arrived right at sunset Friday night, so we didn't get to do much that evening. The next morning, we headed to the boardwalk to do a little walking. We discovered how gorgeous the weather was and decided after lunch we'd hit the beach.

There had been a beautiful sunset on Friday as we were arriving and I wanted to go back out to the visitor center on Saturday to take pictures at sunset. We were in luck to get some good pictures of the super moon over Ocean City too.

My husband had been doing some research on other things to do in the area and found the Cape May County Zoo that we had never visited before. We took a quick drive down the coast Sunday to check it out.

We were thrilled to find they had a great collection of animals and admission was free! We were especially impressed with the snow leopards and this amur leopard. It was a nice day to visit the zoo, not too crowded, not too hot. After another quick walk on the beach, we ate our dinner and hit the road. It was a quick but great trip.

JT had a big week ahead of him when we got home. He had a midterm Tuesday evening in his English Comp class and the PSATs on Wednesday. He took the PSAT at a local school district, not our own, but a closer one. While I was waiting in the guidance office, one of the secretaries asked me about unschooling. Her daughter is homebound this year dealing with a chronic illness. The daughter was asking her mom if she could homeschool instead of use the homebound instruction from the school. She felt she was getting behind since they expected her to do all the work the students in class were doing, instead of customizing it to her situation. We talked for a long time and the mom realized her daughter would have a better experience as a homeschooler. When I got home, I sent her a bunch of links to do some research. It's always nice to have the opportunity to help someone get their start in homeschooling. I know I am thankful for the friends and strangers who helped encourage me to pull my son from school and start this journey.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Can't Stay Home

Today was a crazy day on our schedule. Because we are going to the shore this weekend, it was extra crazy because I had to do laundry and pack for the trip. I know it will be all worth it when I step on the boardwalk and get my first look at the ocean, but until then things will be running at a high level of stress.

Our busy day started with getting the boys out the door for a 40 minute ride to our evaluator's home. EM had his 8th grade testing required by the state scheduled for today. He did well, scoring above grade level in everything except spelling. Because of his auditory processing disorder, he will probably continue to struggle with spelling. Thankfully this deficit is easy to make up for by using spell check.

JT went with us to the testing because his music theory class was scheduled for the same time frame. His teacher lives only a block away from the evaluator so he was able to have his lesson while EM did his testing. After both were finished, JT had a quick lunch in the car while I drove him to the library for his volunteer work.

By the time I was able to be home today, I felt like I had very little time to get everything together for the trip. Luckily my husband has offered to take EM to gym class tomorrow morning so I can finish my packing then. When they get home at noon, we will hit the road. This will be our last trip away from home until spring. JT's classes are starting to get more involved and I don't want to cause him more stress by pulling him away from home when he needs to be working. His spring semester will add an extra class to his schedule; but will still be just a three day week. As soon as his finals are finished in May, we will be hitting the road for another vacation. I know it may seem like we are always heading out for another trip, but I know our time with the boys at home is slipping away and I want to enjoy every minute we can.

Friday, October 7, 2016

60 Days

I think of our 180 required days of schooling in three 60 day chunks. This week we completed the first chunk. Sometimes it feels like we've already been at this year for a really long time and sometimes it feels like we've barely started.

JT's college classes are approaching their midterms. He has a midterm exam in his English comp class on Tuesday. He just completed a paper for his chemistry class. He seems to be doing very well in both subjects. It was a nerve-wracking time for me as we discovered whether or not I had properly prepared him for this challenge. When his first writing assignment was returned with an A, I felt like the success was mine as much as his. This week we were able to send in the paperwork to register for his spring classes. He's going to be taking music appreciation, World War II, and fundamentals of speech. The only work he will continue at home in the spring will be algebra 2 and his music composition work. The one downside of this schedule is that he will not be able to participate in fencing for the spring session since the history class runs the same night.

In September I had called our local school district guidance office to register JT to take the PSAT. Our high school is located about 40 minutes from our home because we live at the furthest end of the district. I was dreading the super early morning we would be doing to get him there on time the day of the test. Plus, the school is in a very rural location and I would have nothing to keep me busy while he was there. While talking with a friend, I realized he could test at another school instead. I called their guidance office yesterday and they still have room for him. Now we'll only have a 20 minute drive and the school is near stores and restaurants so I'll have something to do while I wait. Another bonus is that their school day starts later. Win for me!

One other thing happened this week that made me feel more confident about our homeschooling life. As I mentioned above, JT had a paper to write for chemistry. After struggling to put it together for two weeks, he took it into to class to turn in and found out it wasn't due until the next class. Instead of turning it in the way it was, he decided to bring it home and make improvements on his work. Now, it is important to understand that JT HATES revising his work and always argues with me when I want him to make changes on his writing at home. I was blown away by the obvious signs of maturity and care for the quality of his work for this class evident in his actions. Another win!

We've had a pretty stressful couple of weeks due to some other things in life. As a result, my husband and I decided we should all have a spontaneous beach trip next weekend. I found a great deal at our usual hotel in Ocean City so we'll be hitting the road next Friday. JT knows he will probably need to take school work on the trip, but he was okay with that plan. EM, who is a real homebody, is not thrilled, but willing to indulge us.

Have I said enough times how much I love this life of home schooling?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Teaching and Politics

Four years ago the boys and I watched all of the presidential debates, spent time discussing the issues, and followed the election closely. This time around things are a little different. JT is old enough now to really understand what is at stake and he is very good at arguing his opinion on the candidates.

Perhaps we are more open to thinking outside the box because we are homeschoolers, so we look at ALL candidates, not just the two mainstream parties. I think it's interesting that so many of my homeschooling friends fall into the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties. But what do I expect from those who already reject conformity for conformity's sake?

Our homeschool evaluator has a Facebook page where she shares educational materials. Last week she shared some links for things related to watching the debates. Here are two links I found helpful:

Debate Discussion Questions

Debate Question Record

I also had JT take this quiz to see who he lines up with as far as political beliefs go. There are loads of resources out there to help teach this topic. My biggest concern this time around is keeping the boys from getting too jaded about politics when they see the circus this election has become. Both have studied American government and every president up to Jimmy Carter (so far). They often compare the candidates to previous presidents. It's good to see them putting their knowledge into action to make informed decisions. I just hope the voting citizens will do the same.