Tag Archives: education

Homeschool, Year 1: Thus Far

4 Jan

When we initially made the decision to homeschool eight-year-old Phoenix this year, I did what I always do: I researched everything I could get my hands on.  I checked out almost every how-to-homeschool book that was on the shelf at the library, I read piles of homeschooling blogs, joined a local Yahoo group, Googled curriculum choices, unschooling,  deschooling, reschooling, homeschool laws, and on, and on.

When I had reached the million word mark, I really felt more confused than confident about how to homeschool.  I was certainly more knowledgeable about all the different possibilities of method, but which one was right for me? More importantly, which method was right for my child?

As the beginning of the new school year drew closer, I enrolled her in a one-day-a-week enrichment school that is chartered in a local school district. Because they are a publicly funded school, they provide curriculum at no charge to the parents. Better yet, because the program is purely complimentary to the families’ homeschooling choices, and they serve many families with differing opinions, they provide a large variety of curriculum options to choose from. The coordinator cautioned new-comers against ordering more than the children could handle in one year, so I went to the curriculum book fair with that in mind. I came away feeling I had ordered just enough.

It all began according to plan. I planned lessons based on the books, organized days around the lessons, scheduled field trips to support learning, wrote daily assignments in Phoenix’s planner…

Two and a half months in, we had used only half the curriculum, given up on lesson plans, disorganized the days around what had been planned. We were frustrated. We were exhausted. Phoenix resisted every effort I was making to teach her.

So I stopped.

It was a convenient time to pause. Phoenix had been taking ballet for over three years, and this year, she had auditioned to be in a professional production of  “The Nutcracker”.  She got cast in two parts (exciting!), and was scheduled to rehearse/perform multiple times per week during the last part of November, and the entire month of December (crazy!). We decided that, because this was very time consuming, and took a lot of hard-work and dedication, that she would focus on ballet.  We would temporarily stop “schooling”. I figured we could call it unschooling.

It is now January, and let me tell you, it has been wonderful. We quit arguing (about school, anyway), and have been able to simply enjoy each other’s company. We have talked to one another. We have listened. We have read books to each other, just because; gone to the library to check-out books on whatever piqued her interest; watched movies next to each other on the couch, and then discussed them over tea. Unschooling is awesome.

But the nagging voices in the back of my head won’t shut-up.

So for this, the second half of the school year, I need to find a happy medium (that sweet spot that is oh so hard to find sometimes). I cannot teach her directly–we tried that, and it doesn’t work well. She is a work-at-her-own-pace kind of gal, and really loves learning (which public school seemed to crush at times). I am not worried about her skill levels in any subject, but I also would like her to continue to learn new skills that she probably won’t find in a novel, and maybe not in everyday life. I’m going to have to get sneaky–like chopped-up-kale-in-spaghetti-sauce sneaky.

Phoenix loves kale now. Perhaps if she gets enough chopped-up multiplication and division in cookie recipes, she will love math too.

(By the way, seeing Phoenix perform in “The Nutcracker” with all the pros was an amazing thing.  My big girl looked so tiny up on that stage).

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I Love You Denver!

21 Jun

Denver Skyline and MountainsI grew up in a small town. We did not have museums, or zoos, or even a shopping mall. My mom didn’t plan outings or activities during the summer months–there just weren’t a lot of resources, especially for poor families. Moslty we just played out in the yard, or at the elementary school playground that was directly behind our townhome.

We took family “vacations” to Denver once every year or so. It was about a four hour drive, give or take depending on the road construction, but I absolutely loved those trips. My favorite part was that first glimpse of the skyline. My little brother and I would squeal with delight at that sight. We would usually stay a couple of nights at the Holiday Inn, and do a couple of touristy things, or go to Elich Gardens Amusement Park. I remember going to the Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science) during a few of our stays. I loved it there–my dad always knew what everything was, and that amazed me.

When I made the decision to move to Denver, when Phoenix was a year and a half, I knew it was the right one. I wanted her to experience all that living in a city has to offer–and she has (she’s eight now). She trains for ballet at The Colorado Ballet Academy (on scholarship), there are a ton of school choices (Denver Public Schools has a “choice-in” option if your neighborhood school is not a good fit–I had one choice growing up), we frequently visit the Denver Zoo, The Children’s Museum, The Butterfly Pavilion, The Denver Botanic Gardens, and of course, the Denver Museum Of Nature and Science (DMPS). We purchase at least two different memberships to these places per year because we get much more than our money’s worth.

I love how excited the girls still get when we go to the DMNS, even though we go almost once a week. There is so much to see and learn! The photos are from our trip yesterday. The first stop was Space Odyssey where we watched an interactive digital image projection of the universe. We looked at a few of the planets, asked some questions, and gawked the amazing technology in front of us. The girls were really into it:

looking at the solar system

Listening to the volunteer in Space Odyssey.

In response to my decision to move to Denver seven years ago, one of my best friends said to me, “I could never let my child live somewhere where they can’t see the stars at night”.  To be honest, I do miss the pitch-black sky with that mind-boggling spray of stars that we can only see far from the city’s glow. But I guess we all need to make sacrifices, sometimes, in order to have those things which we feel are important.

We have traded the clear night sky for a glimpse of the sun.

Looking at solar flares through the BIG telescope

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