Nazca Lines

We’re using Story of the World for our family history lessons. Story of the World is a chronological history text, beginning with the Fertile Crescent. The girls enjoy using the Story of the World text, the activity book coloring pages, and then YouTube videos of documentaries and stories as supplementation. Obviously, the girls enjoyed the ancient Greeks, and reading the myths and stories of the gods. What I didn’t expect was how enthralled they’d be with the chapter on the Nazca Lines in Peru. I guess I didn’t expect it because I didn’t even know they existed.

This is my top favorite thing about homeschooling. As we go through these quality textbooks I am exposed to all sorts of information that I never knew before. And if it was something I knew about, I have a great excuse to learn even more about it for the sake of educating my girls. It’s a win/win.

Our Village

This post is a big shout out to my village. I couldn’t be the homeschooling mom I am without it. Somehow I moved and within a year I found a fantastic group of families to help get the day-to-day done.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

Some citizens of our village at the beach.

On a typical week, I find myself in need of help getting from point A to point B with these 3 girls with me at all times. By far the most challenging thing about homeschooling is the lack of alone time. There is no time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. No quick run to the store without finding 4 pair of shoes before you go. It’s exhausting. And sometimes it’s impossible.

When I find myself in a bind, I have a handful of women I can text saying, “hey when we see each other at Lego class today, can you keep the kids for a half hour while I go to the Chiropractor?” Recently, I dropped my kids off with one family for a few hours so I could drive another family to the airport in the middle of the day. On my way back I picked stuff up at the store for a third family we were all going to see in the afternoon. All the kids got some extra play time, no one’s family was put out, and all the work got done.

Now that I’ve found myself in a group like this, I can’t think of living without it. I’m happy to bring anyone’s kids back to my house from a class we share because I know the favor will be returned at some point in the future. No one is keeping track, and no one is abusing the privilege.

A large representation of our village's children.

A large representation of our village’s children.

If you don’t have a village like this, I recommend finding one quick. It starts with making time to get together on purpose. If you get along with someone, and your kids happen to get along too, sit together on purpose at the activities you share. Soon, your friend will say something like, “I’m really not looking forward to taking the kids with me to get the oil changed on the way home.” This is your chance.

Offer to bring her kids to your house so she can do the oil change on her own. Don’t worry if your house is a mess. You just saved her day, she’s not going to judge the dishes in your sink, I promise. When the chance to help arrises again, offer again.

The next part is even harder. Now that you and your friend have some report, it’s time for you to unashamedly ask for help the next time you need it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just ask. You know you’d be happy to help her, so believe that she’s happy to help you. The worst that can happen is she is not able to, and she says no. Big deal. You can ask another time and it will probably work out. After a while, you’ll have an extra set of eyes and hands when you need it most, and this sometimes lonely job of parenting just won’t feel so big anymore.

Thoughts on Charter Schools

We’re three weeks into the school year so far. Not really long enough to know the routine instinctively yet, but long enough to have tested the routine. So far things are going great. The biggest change to our homeschool is that we’ve joined a local public charter school called Vista Oaks, which provides us with curriculum reimbursement for materials which reach the State benchmarks for Common Core and are non-religious. They also provide free and optional on-site Enrichment Days once a week in 4 subjects: Physical Ed., Science, Language Arts, and Art. I signed the girls up for these classes because I could really use the few hours off each week. Another bonus is that they can remember what it’s like to have a teacher, to listen in class, and have classroom friends. At the end of the year everyone over 2nd grade will have to take a standardized test for Common Core. That’s one of our charter school requirements since technically we’re in a public school. I was afraid that this would be a big stumbling block for the girls, but they’ve jumped into the Enrichment classes so smoothly that I’m not as nervous to bring them to the testing. I’m honestly not very concerned about their score as much as I am about protecting their confidence in their ability to learn.

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Since joining the charter, I must admit we’ve sorta abandoned traditional homeschooling and begun a more “alternative school” approach. I am still responsible for math, science, reading, writing and history which is done “at home,” but a lot of this is outsourced to others and reimbursed by the charter. I do spend a lot of time in the car getting here and there. But so far the trade-off is all for the positive. My kids love their classes I’ve found in the community. They’re taking academic co-op classes, engineering classes through Playwell Tek, guitar lessons with a private teacher, gymnastics and swimming. We bring our curriculum along with us and work on the road on our busy days. We see our friends in class and fit afternoons at the park and hikes in between classes.

This balance is kinda the best of both worlds. I feel very in control of the education our girls are receiving. We can give more focus to the subjects which they are drawn to and still have time to get the rest done. The girls are developing very strong friendships with a core group of kids, but still have the opportunity to meet new people in their classes and at neighborhood events. But the pressure to be social is not overlapping with the pressure to learn. We can focus on academics in the comfort of our own home or on the road, in our own time, when we are most likely to be successful. But once a week, they are expected to accommodate the social requirements of being in a classroom. They need to wake up and get dressed. They need to prepare in advance, and fit into a larger community. They need to show respect to their teachers and the other students in their classes. And they are very happy in both settings.