Parents Get to do Whatever They Want

MOM, I WISH I WAS A PARENT…

…exclaims my oldest son. “Parents get to do everything they want.”

SIGH.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that phrase. Okay…now that you’re standing there with BOTH of your hands raised, you totally get my drift. When we ask our boys to participate in, um, life, we often get a disgruntled retort¬†about how unfair their lives are and an auditory phrase that sounds something like:

“I can’t wait to be a grown up!”

Well, I CAN wait and I’d prefer to enjoy my boys’ childhood rather than watch them race into adulthood. So when I hear them complain, I explain that being an adult isn’t about getting to do what you want. Being an adult it about looking into the future and making choices that will provide the best possible outcome.

I recently had this conversation with my oldest son.

He was upset because he felt that some kids ganged up on him at the park and he wanted to retaliate. I get it. When we feel belittled or diminished by others, it’s humiliating. When we feel humiliated, we want to lash out in a poor attempt to diminish our anguish.

Retaliation is certainly a strategy, it’s just not a very effective strategy.

So my son and I talked about this.

As an adult, I can see the future effects of retaliation and the future effect is even worse.

Retaliation = short term emotional fix, but it also means living with the guilt of hurting others and also potentially losing friends.

Kids cannot always see that. And it’s our job as parents to help them understand. As my son and I discussed this, I told him this is what it means to be an adult. He can certainly choose to retaliate, but in the long term, he would feel even greater pain for both the hurt he will cause others and the loss of friendships. We then talked about alternate strategies. Like walking away when kids are hurtful. Choosing new friends. Telling the kids that they are hurting his feelings or asking an adult to help mediate. We talked about each of those strategies and what the long term effects might be to really drive home the freedom future-driven actions give us.

He liked what I had to say. Mostly because I didn’t tell him what to do. I helped him navigate a decision that would work best for him and his long-term needs. My son still got to choose which strategy he wanted and gave him full latitude to choose retaliation, if indeed he still wanted to.

My goal as a parent isn’t to train my sons to do as I say. My duty as a parent is to help my sons to learn how to make the most effective decisions possible for their life. Children learn how to become effective decision makers by…well, by making their own decisions.

This means, we also have to stand by and allow our children to make mistakes.

As a parent, that’s hard to do. Yet, it’s critical if our children are to grow into confident, secure, and empathetic adults.

ASPARAGUS IS STUPID…

“Mom, why do I have to eat my asparagus? Why can’t we just eat what we like?”

Ever hear this? I hear it A LOT. Our family eats really clean and that means my boys spend a lot of time jonesing for the junk food snacks they see other kids eat at the park.

Sorry boys. Junk food doesn’t fly in our family.

Yet, rather than just tell my kids “No!” I tell them why.

My job as their parent is to look into the future and prepare my sons for a life of good health. If they grow up on junk food, it’s going to be really hard for them to change their habits as an adult. And if they grow up on junk food, I’m not helping them develop the cells they need for long-term health and longevity.

So instead, I ask my kids to join me in eating healthy (with an occasional sweet splurge) knowing that by eating healthy we are creating the best chance possible to ward off disease, ill health, and poor energy both now and down the road.

My boys aren’t especially fond of this particular long-term strategy, but they at least understand it.

NO, NOT THE GROCERY STORE!

My boys constantly complain about going to the grocery store. I don’t blame them. I hate grocery shopping, too. Yet, here is another great example of the glamorous life of parents. When my boys start to squirm about the grocery trip, we always give them an option to help us choose when, and what time, we go. However, we are quick to point out that bare pantry shelves and a gleaming empty fridge probably isn’t a good thing for long. We empathize with their frustration, but help them see another reality that as adults we understand the long-term effect of not doing the shopping

No shopping=short term contentment. Possibly an extra 15 minutes playing Minecraft ūüôā

Shopping = yummy snacks that ward off will power drain, food to give us energy, lack of hungry stomachs, and possibility for long-term survival.

After looking at the various strategies before us, the boys start to realize that going to the grocery store is not some amazing free-for-all act of freedom of choice by two crazy parents. It’s a strategy for maintaining willpower, energy, and ultimately survival; and a strategy that is certainly a lot easier than hunting for or growing our own food! Sheesh!

Is All of THis Chit Chat Really Worth It

Does all of this explaining and philosophizing help our boys complain less and contribute more? Yes! While not fool-proof (they are kids after all), for the most part both our boys are pretty helpful around the house and willingly participate when asked. When faced with difficult decisions, it really helps them to visualize the future rather than simply have mom and dad tell them what they should do.

As a homeschool family, our focus has always been on growing our values, not just educational facts and figures. By taking the time to help our boys understand that our role as parents is to care for their future-selves, as well as the present, and by giving our boys the gift of making their own choices and learn from those mistakes Рwe are not only growing kids who can act with wisdom and confidence, but also making our present-day journey a whole lot more enjoyable and connected as a family.

How do you help your children grow their wisdom? Leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other!

Happy homeschooling,
Kate

PS: The image for this article is me hanging out at my private pool surfing the web doing whatever I want…NOT!

 

Homeschool Portfolio Ideas

From Simple to Sublime: Check Out These Homeschool Portfolios!

I find homeschool portfolios to be a subject that is rather polarizing among homeschool families. Some homeschool parents rave about compiling their kid’s portfolios and others dismiss the idea altogether. My family falls somewhere in between. We unschool, so keeping track of our kids progress isn’t our main priority. However, I am learning that portfolios are important outside the obvious state law requirement.

Before you fall in love or lament the portfolio process, I urge you to consider WHY you’ll be compiling a homeschool portfolio in the first place. If you define how you’ll be using a portfolio, it will then become so much easier to choose a process that suits your needs and that you will stick with.

COMPLY WITH STATE LAW: The most obvious reason to keep a homeschool portfolio s that you have to. According to Florida ¬†Home Education Statute 1002.10(1)(b): “The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials.¬†The portfolio shall consist of the following:

  • A log of educational activities that is made contemporaneously with the instruction and that designates by title any reading materials used.
  • Samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student.¬† Statute 1002.41(1)(b)¬†

If the only motivation you have is to simply comply with state law, then you ¬†might consider one of the simpler methods below such as jotting down activities on a calendar or uploading pics to a Facebook page. Of course, if keeping a portfolio is super-arduous you can always elect to homeschool under an umbrella school and then you’ll no longer have to bother with portfolio record-keeping.

DEMONSTRATE PROGRESS FOR AN EVALUATOR: Another reason to keep a homeschool portfolio is to demonstrate progress to your child’s evaluator at the end of the school year. An evaluator is supposed to evaluate your child based on their¬†progress, not wealth of knowledge. It may be difficult for your evaluator to determine progress, if you’ve not kept very good records. This is especially important when working with a new homeschool evaluator who hasn’t had the opportunity to meet with your child year after year.

I know some homeschool families keep a private Facebook page and give their homeschool evaluator access so the evaluator can see the child’s progress during the year. I’ve never felt comfortable asking our homeschool evaluator to get involved with our Facebook page because it seems like a lot of added work on her part, but if your evaluator doesn’t mind this¬†could be a really neat option for some.

HELP KIDS SEE THEIR OWN PROGRESS. Beyond compliance, homeschool portfolios are a fantastic “storybook” of your child’s learning each year. Our portfolio is filled with stories the boys have written and it’s fun to see how their creativity, and language, evolves over time. We fill our portolio with videos of the boys’ reading, too. From “Go Dog Go” to “Germonimo Stilton Saves the Day” it is fascinating to go back and watch how the kids reading has developed. Beyond my own misty-eyed emotion for my fast-growing boys, reviewing a portfolio with your children from time to time really helps the kids see their own progress.

Our eldest son has a fixed mindset, which means it is difficult for him to overcome learning road blocks. I am finding it increasingly helpful to gently remind him of how far his learning has come. Reviewing the portfolio helps children see learning as a life-long process rather than a final destination.

PREPARE FOR COLLEGE APPLICATION. Once your child reaches middle-to-high school age, it might be a good idea to get a little more serious about portfolio record keeping. Of course, compiling a portfolio for college is different than simply complying with Florida State Law.

Whether the college your child applies to requires a portfolio or not, having a portfolio ready will help your child:

  • keep track of how close they are to their goals
  • encourages them to achieve more as they see the entries in their portfolios building up year after year
  • keeps information needed for scholarship applications organized and handy

A quick Google search turned up this great blog article on things to include in a child’s college portfolio: Marianne Sunderland


With a clear goal in mind, let’s take a look at some fantastic portfolio ideas submitted to us by local Gainesville homeschool families. Big thanks to everyone who volunteered their ideas!

FLVS

My son is homeschooled with FLVS Flex curriculum for a majority of his coursework. Since we’re classified with the county as a homeschooling family, I played it safe and stuck to the FL statues regarding what to track. Basically, I provided a list of the FLVS lessons he completed by week. I also included information about the activities he completed that my husband and I organized outside of FLVS. The FLVS information is easy to track – the lessons, dates complete and grades are on the website. ‚Äď Sara Sartain Walters

MOTHER OF MULTIPLES (High School age to Toddler)

Homeschool portfolio Alaric Loftus

Submitted by Laura Lan Loftus

Homeschool portfolio Alaric Loftus

Submitted by Laura Lan Loftus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are old school.¬†I keep notes in a paper planner and work samples in three ring binders. We do annual IOWA or Stanford tests as well. You don’t have to report the scores to the county, your evaluator can just let them know they were administered and your child is making adequate progress. –¬† Laura Lan Loftus

PRO PHOTOGRAPHER MOM OF TWINS

¬†I used to take pics throughout the week and make a weekly collage using the Photogrid app. At the end of the year I had over 50 pages for a yearbook that doubled as a portfolio. Now to that we are members of an umbrella school we aren’t required to keep a portfolio but I still take lots of pics to make a yearbook. ‚Äď Laura Coffey

Coffey Girls Portfolio Example

Submitted by Laura Coffey

Coffey Girls Homeschool Portfolio Example

Submitted by Laura Coffey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOM TO TWO BOYS

I use Homeschool Tracker. You can make lesson plans for the year or add lessons as you go, keep track of resources used, make transcripts, track attendance, keep grades, report cards…whatever works for you. I print out reports at the end of our school year (completed assignments, field trips, resources). I put the reports in a binder along with samples of school work. I keep an accordion file with art work, special projects that the boys want to show the evaluator. I keep student workbooks & take them with me for the evaluation in case our homeschool evaluator wants to look at them.¬†

Homeschool Tracker Sample

Homeschool Tracker

 

Homeschool Tracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use Goodreads to keep track of books the boys have read. I have the app & they think it’s fun to scan their books. I print out their book list & include that in the portfolio binder.¬†I also take pictures along the way & keep them on a Shutterfly share site in case the evaluator needs/wants to see them.

Good reads exports the bookshelf to a printable list, too.

Good reads exports the bookshelf to a printable list, too.

Smith homeschool portfolio

Shutterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I used Homeschool Planet and I will switch back to Homeschool Planet when my year is up with Homeschool Tracker.¬†I liked Homeschool Planet because you could add books, resources, ¬†pdfs, websites & videos to the lesson. It also synced up to Google Calendar, sent reminder emails of supplies or books needed & you could access it on your mobile/tablet.¬†I like Homeschool Tracker, but Homeschool Planet is more user friendly & keeps adding features that make it more appealing.¬†‚Äď Summer Smith

Summer Smith Homeschool Portfolio Example

Field Trip Report (Homeschool Planet)

Smith Portfolio Example

Lesson Plan Report (Homeschool Planet)

 

Smith Homeschool Portfolio Example

Resource list (Homeschool Planet)

MOM TO PRETEEN DAUGHTER

¬†I put samples of work in a a 3-ring binder, and write up summaries of what we do in subjects that don’t produce much written work, and also include a section for field trips, books we read to her, books she listens to on audio, and books she reads. ‚Äď Tonya Becker

BRAND NEW HOMESCHOOL MOM TO KINDERGARTNER

The teacher I work with actually took my portfolio last year to show everyone an example. She loved it. It was my first and ¬†it’s so simple. I make tabs for Reading, Writing, Math, Crafts, Field Trips, Physical Education & Extra Curricular. Then to prove he actually does crafts, physical education, and field trips I take photos and label them.¬†I also get a binder that has slots on the sides so I can include color pictures and I even made a diploma.¬†– Noreen Garret Haff

This is the table of contents. After kindergarten it should include science, and social studies as well.

haff haff2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the pages I include to show his reading math and writing. If you do things on the computer just print the summary to show his progress.

Haff Homeschool Portfolio haff6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I make tabs for Reading, Writing, Math, Crafts, Field, Physical Education & Extra Curricular. Then to prove he actually does crafts, phys educ, and he does field trips I take photos and label them.

haff 33

haff4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOM OF TWO BOYS WHO FEARS BITS OF PAPER

I’m not fond of clutter, nor am I very crafty at pulling together photo albums and those sorts of things. We simply take pictures on our iPhones and upload what the boys are doing as we go. We also keep samples of the boys’ writing in Google docs and keep track of progress of various programs such as Brainzy, Filament Games, and Khan Academy via the provided online-dashboards. – Kate Byars

Facebook Private Group Homeschool Portfolio

Screenshot (497)Screenshot (496)Khan Academy Progress Report Homeschool Portfolio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


So what do you think? Did you find some inspiration in these portfolio samples? At minimum, I hope you are reassured that whatever you do, do what is right for you and your child. As you see from the examples above, compiling a portfolio doesn’t have to be fancy, nor uber-creative although some of these certainly are amazing!

Do you have a great portfolio idea, app, or tool? Please share with us in the comments below!

Happy homeschooling,

Kate

 

 

Life is IMPOSSIBLE!

Who Knew that Being a Kid was so Daunting…

Did you know that life is impossible? I had no idea.

  • Life is impossible when Dad asks you to practice multiplication tables.
  • Life is impossible when you have to put your own shoes on.
  • Life is impossible when the seat belt doesn’t buckle on the first try.
  • Life is impossible when your shorts are inside out.
  • Life is impossible when the cheese melts outside the square perimeter of your grilled cheese sandwich and requires removal.

Geez.

So what does one do when life is impossible?

Apparently you drop to the floor, curl up in the fetal position, and scream “LIFE IS IMPOSSIBLE!”¬†At least that’s what my boys do. Sigh.

Scott and I tried to cajole the boys back to reality by helping them. It didn’t work.

Next, we tried reasoning with them and explaining logically how all of these challenges could be overcomed. Fail.

We tried screaming “life is impossible” at the top of our lungs and simply join the chaos. That just made our heads hurt more.

After months of hearing how difficult our children’s lives are, we finally did what any rational, self-interested parent would do.

WE SWITCHED PLACES WITH THE KIDS!

Brilliant. You see, not only did Jack and Eli feel that their lives were impossible, they also saw Scott and my life as perfect.

Parents get to do whatever we want.

Really? I must have missed that memo.

So Scott and I began switching roles with the kids. We got up in the morning, sat on the couch in our underpants, screamed across the room asking if we could play Minecraft, and demanded breakfast.

It was awesome.

We went to the bathroom and screamed for someone to wipe our hineys or run to the cupboard and bring a new roll of toilet paper.

The boys were repulsed.

We begged for new iPods, iPads, Legos, and games. We complained that it was too hot to go outside and too boring to stay inside. We refused to do math, refused to eat veggies, and demanded an endless stream of band-aids for artificial boo-boos that were life threatening.

Gawd it was epic.

Meanwhile, Jack and Eli had to figure out how to make food, do the dishes, wash underpants, pay bills and mow the lawn. Oh, and also where the spare toilet paper is located.

I’m not sure if you ever saw this video before, but when it came across my Facebook feed a year or so ago and I fell out!

So how did Jack and Eli experience this? With some amount of grumpiness and chagrin. They certainly began to appreciate that life for adults is not¬†absolute freedom. Adults don’t hop out of bed every morning and do whatever they want to do. Far from it!

I had a lightbulb moment and realized that as adults we rarely complain about the tasks we take on each day. I never say a word when I’m grinding through Tony Horton’s P90X workout while the kids play Legos. I rarely roll my eyes at the ninth grocery visit for the week or the fact the bed needs to be made and the kitchen needs to be cleaned once again.

I just handle up on all that non-fun stuff and keep moving.

Until now. This experience taught me that my kids need more transparency. Life isn’t about overcoming the challenge of multiplication tables or clothes with multiple buttons. Life is about keeping your focus on what matters most – meeting your needs. I want to be fit and live a long life, therefore I’m willing to exercise daily and eat a healthy diet. I would rather eat chocolate cake on the couch, but that won’t help me meet my needs.

Jack wants to chat with his friends on the Minecraft server. So that means he has to learn how to type and spell. Otherwise, he won’t get his need for online socialization met.

Eli wants to be capable. He wants to be big and perceived as a big kid. Well, that’s not going to happen if putting your shoes on incapacitates you and wiping your own tush is a monumental effort.

The bottom line is that life has always been challenging. It was hard to learn how to hold a sippy cup, crawl, walk, chew, talk, run, etc. We fail over and over again until we eventually learn how to do what we want to do with more skill. Yet, what motivates us is that we want that outcome. Babies want to feed themselves. Toddlers want to walk. Preschoolers want to run. And so on.

Beyond helping my kids see that an adult life is full of challenges and compromises, we’ve also worked on helping the kids find value in the various activities they find frustrating. For example, Jack wants to be a famous archaeologist. Yet, if I tell him he needs to know his multiplication tables to become an archaeologist he won’t really see the value. The reward is too far off.

However, Jack also wants to do things independently like earn money for new Lego sets or run errands in the grocery store. So now I take those multiplication tables and ask Jack questions that directly relate to shopping like “How much money should I give you to get five boxes of salami for $3.00 each?” Then I give him the amount of money he tells me he needs and he goes off to buy the salami. If he doesn’t have enough, then he doesn’t get to complete his task. When he finds a new Lego set he want to buy, I ask him how many $5 chores he will need to do to earn enough money.

BINGO! The reward is now in sight and Jack understands the value of multiplication.

Pretty cool, huh?

So far it’s been working. I’m sure we have more impossible life moments ahead of us, but for now I have to say that the din of our household is every slightly quieter right now. Score!

Happy homeschooling,

Kate

Online vs. Offline: How to find the right balance

Computer time is quite popular in our home, but it does have its limits.

My husband bought me my first iPhone when Jack was two. I was pregnant with Eli and I have to admit that toddler apps downloaded onto my phone were an awfully easy way to entertain my two-year old at my OB appointments that invariably always ran long because someone was delivering a baby. Lol.

Jack’s pudgy hands deftly worked the touch screen buttons and I was fascinated at how quickly he figured out the various learning games. My husband bestowed an iPad on me next – intended to help me quickly answer office emails whilst trying to work at home with two kids under the age of three. Jack confiscated the iPad and given his passion for Legos, by age four he was playing Minecraft in creative mode.

Around this time I came across a Facebook meme one Christmas where moms were berating themselves for letting another year go by without making applehead dolls, for buying the kids gifts rather than whittling them from wood, and for failing to hike a portion of the AT.

I am not making fun. I am serious. Mom’s were sweating it out because they bought their kids a Barbie instead of an applehead doll. I happen to think applehead dolls are creepy, but I do understand what these moms were concerned about.

I hear the same concerns when  it comes to electronics. Our kids should be outdoors playing in the mud, not gaming online with their friends, right?

I think they should be doing both.

I’m fairly certain that Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates spent a considerable amount of time in dark rooms tinkering with computers. I’m okay with that. Although Steve ¬†Jobs famously stated that kids shouldn’t engage with computers until age 10, that was his parenting choice, which is just fine for him, but I disagree. Computers are our future as well as our present. I’m not going to pretend that we live on Little House on the Prarie because we don’t.

At the same time, I don’t hand my kids a PS3 controller with their morning Wheaties. My kids are outside a ton and we spend most of our day creating stuff out of nothing. Right now, the boys are building some fantastical world in the living room using Duplos, Jenga, wood blocks, and Scott’s tool box. No idea, but they’re into it.

So if it’s helpful at all, here is how our family ¬†has learned to navigate the electronic jungle. I would love to know how your family handles electronics, so please leave a comment below!

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RULE #1: Challenging apps, not games of luck

You won’t find Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies on our iPads. We tried that for awhile, but it only brought meltdowns and frustration. Instead, our kids iPads are loaded with educational apps that are challenging and fun. Our top favorites:

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RULE #2: Challenging PC games, not games of luck

Same story, different device. My kids spend most of their time exploring in Minecraft, Spore, Filament Games or PBS Go. We also love Brainzy, Teach Your Monster to Read, and Jack and Daddy play a few strategy survival games that are about skill and not dark or scary at all. Both the boys are learning to code on One Hour of Code.

At one point, Eli was playing a Lego Star Wars game that was all about luck and shooting. He would go absolutely INSANE every time he played. That one has gone to the wayside along with Angry Birds (which is designed to make you angry, right?)

RULE #3: No PS3

My sister’s teen age boys play a lot of PS3 and she graciously gave my boys one a few birthdays ago. I’ll have to admit that when everyone was able to keep emotions in check, Lego Indiana Jones was a pretty fun game. The downside is that it’s very hard to keep emotions in check and the PS3 games seem to get everyone in our family entirely frustrated and angry. Our PS3 broke last year and we didn’t bother replacing it. Maybe someday in the future, but for now this is one electronic device that doesn’t hold very strong value in our home.

RULE #4: It’s all fun and games until somebody explodes

Jack has the demeanor to play on his computer all day long. It rarely frustrates him and when he is in one of his creative modes, I just let him play as much as he wants. Eli, however, can’t handle that much electronic stimulation. He starts to get edgy, then frustrated, and finally he’s crying for no reason at all. Every child is different and this is probably the hardest area for us to balance. If Jack is playing on his computer, Eli wants to play, too. Yet, Eli can’t handle that much e-time.

How we balance this is by asking the boys to play in the afternoon, with Jack getting some morning time to work on a project or Minecraft homeschool assignment if he’s got that going on. Between 2-4 every afternoon the boys can play as much or as little as they want.

In the beginning all we heard ¬†was “When will it be 2 o’clock?” as if that time would magically bring happiness and pink frosted donuts. However, as time worn on two o’clock comes and goes and the boys don’t always notice. Or they will play for an hour and then go read on the couch. I think the reason for this is simple: they aren’t told they can’t. We always work to meet their needs and our family works best when we all get our needs met. If we didn’t allow the kids to game at all, they would want to game even more. We simply ask the boys to do their gaming in the afternoon when “it makes more sense to sit still.” Morning times are active times so that’s when we do active stuff.

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Realization #5: Gaming is social

Both our boys play Minecraft Realms online with their friends. We connect them up to Skype so they can chat while they play. Our boys also play on a family-friendly server called The Sandlot and take classes with GamEdAcademy. All of these are opportunities for socialization, cooperative play, co-creation and compromise. Best of all, they get to play with  kids from all over the world.

I never really thought of this as a benefit until Jack started socializing with other homeschool kids across the pond and I saw how gracious and sweet he was about sharing his tools, resources, and other goodies with new kids who had just entered the game.

CONCLUSION

Do we have the perfect mix of electronics and non-electronic play? Probably not. I am sure there is a study out there somewhere that states the 2 hours of gaming my kids get each day is burning up precious brain cells. I’m open to that and I’m open to change. Yet for now, this works really well for our boys and I’m excited that they are excited about learning through gaming.

Sometimes the boys complain and want more computer time. That’s cool. We always tell them they can have as much time as they want as long as they can self-regulate and find balance with other activities. I’ve often found that if I help my children meet their needs, even if it makes me a bit squeamish to watch them play for hours on end, they are much happier when their needs are met¬†because they know I value their needs. Plus, they usually burn out pretty quickly as soon as they’ve satiated whatever curiosity they had¬†and return to a life of outdoor play, non-electronic creativity and some digital time sprinkled in the mix.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Kate

Mindset, The New Psychology for Success

Does Your Homeschooler Have a Fixed or Growth Mindset?

In December I began running again. It’s been years since I ran consistently and I’m enjoying it. Mostly because the boys go with me.

My eldest, Jack, remarkably runs with me. On longer runs, Jack takes breaks to walk and then catches back up. My youngest, Eli, rides his scooter alongside us.

Except when he doesn’t. Like last week, when Eli disappeared.

PeaboWe had reached our half-way point when a pack of loose dogs came galloping toward us off a side street. Our French bulldog, Mr. Peabody, was free-ranging that day and it startled me to see these dogs barreling down upon us. I thought they might eat Peabo. Or maybe one of us. I like dogs, but not wild packs of  them.

Apparently, the dogs startled Eli.

As neighbors, kids, dogs and strangers all worked together to sort out the melee of animals, Eli took off for home.

By the time I noticed, Eli was a tiny speck on the horizon.

Yikes.

Fortunately, our neighborhood is filled with folks we know and doesn’t get much traffic. I wasn’t panicked, but I also wasn’t comfortable.

Jack and I picked up our pace and ran quickly for home in an effort to catch up with little brother.

When we arrived, I expected to find Eli sitting on the front porch petting our cat. I had the house key, so there was no way he could get inside.

Eli wasn’t on the front porch.¬†OMG. Where was Eli?

Now I was panicked. Jack and I began screaming Eli’s name at the top of our lungs.

Our front door opened and Eli stepped outside. “Yeah?” he asked.

Stupefied, I stared at my 5 year old son.

“How did you get in the house?” I blurted.

“Well, when I got home the front door was locked so I parked my scooter on the front porch and climbed over the back fence. Then I went to see if the back door was unlocked. It was. So I went inside, unlocked the front door, hung my helmet on my scooter and sat down to play Minecraft,” Eli stated, as if this happens every day.

Satchels-Loves-KidsWOW. Okay, this kid is going to be just fine in life, eh?

Jack and I stepped inside and began taking off our running sweats. I turned around to find Jack LOSING HIS MIND as he screamed inaudibly from inside his half-zip sweater that was turned inside-out on top of his head. Jack had forgotten to unzip it and his head was stuck inside. “I can’t breathe, someone help me!” Jack cried.

WOW. Anyone see a difference here?

Eli managed to figure out how to get into a locked house using a method none of us have ever used before.

Jack was stuck inside his zipped-up half-zip and couldn’t figure out how to get out.

Clearly, my boys have two completely different learning styles.

Let me put this into perspective.

When Jack was 5 months old, he was trying to sit up. I would help prop him into a tripod position and sit with my legs on either side of him watching the magic. Each time Jack tried to sit up, he would slowly melt back to the floor as his body was not yet strong enough to hold him steady. And each time, Jack would howl and scream in fits of frustration that he couldn’t do what he wanted to do. Jack was not curious why his body wouldn’t abide his mind. Jack did not think of alternate methods to prop himself up. Jack just got mad and gave up.

This is a fixed mindset. We are born with either a fixed or growth mindset. Jack’s is fixed. He seeks answers and believes if you don’t find an answer you have failed. It’s tough rolling that rock up hill, right?

When Eli was 10 months old he wanted to run naked across the living room alongside his brother. It was a toddler tradition in our home after bath time. Daddy and I would shriek in mock-dismay as Jack escaped the after-bath towel and shot naked across the house as fast as his chubby legs could carry him. It was fun. Eli wanted to do it, too.

So Eli taught himself to walk. He fell down a lot, but each time he fell he grinned. Or he just got back up and tried again. Within a week, Eli was not only walking, but running with Jack after bath time.

Eli has a growth mindset. Folks with growth mindsets looks at problems with curiousity. When Eli fails, he asks “Why” and tries again. He doesn’t see his failure as a reflection upon him, he sees failure as an opportunity to learn.

This doesn’t mean that those with fixed mindsets don’t learn. It just means that those with fixed mindsets learn best when they are internally motivated to learn. You help a fixed mindset learning by allowing them to learn¬†about something that¬†they care about – not what a well-meaning adult has told them to learn. Fixed mindset learners need strong internal incentive to overcome the feelings of failure and despair when they are presented with a challenge.

Growth-v-Fixed

While Jack loves math, reading, history and science, he cares nothing for writing, art, or telling time. Things that seem to “go hand-in-hand” with his grade level he’s not too keen on. Give the kid a pen, pencil, crayon, or marker and he is on the floor wailing in tears. Ask him to tell you what time it is and he might throw something at you. Seriously. Jack has yet to¬†care about these things¬†so the task of learning to write or telling time appear to be a huge mountains to him. These mountains are currently absolutely insurmountable in his mind.

Meanwhile, give Eli a crayon and he’ll draw his own kiddish creations with glee. He’s not all the great at math, but he tries and doesn’t sweat it if he gets an answer wrong. And if you ask Eli what time it is, he grins and says “it’s two freckles past a hair.” You see, Eli doesn’t care about telling time, but it doesn’t upset him. He just turns his disinterest into humor and moves on. In Eli’s growth mindset world, things you don’t know about are simply choices to be made, not failures to be surmounted.

So what’s the difference between these two mindsets?¬†Recently, my husband read the book, “Mindset, The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. Her research explains the differences and also how a¬†fixed mindset can learn to become a growth mindset.

My husband immediately set about teaching some of Dweck’s theories to Jack. The gist is presenting Jack with learning what he doesn’t enjoy – for example, telling time – and encouraging Jack to fail. Each time Jack fails, my husband congratulates Jack on his¬†effort and never mentions the end result. My husband also validates Jack’s feelings. ‘Wow, it must be frustrating to try so hard and not yet see the result you want. I understand. I am impressed that you are working hard.”

That’s a paradigm shift to how we often communicate with children. We tend to either say, “What’s the big deal? Don’t make such a fuss, of course you can do this…it’s easy,” or “Why do YOU may everything so difficult. If you would just stop wailing, you’d already be finished!” Although we mean well, this type of communication focuses on the end result…getting an answer…and also invalidates the child’s feelings. We’re not helping our children move that mountain. Instead we are making them feel bad about their feelings – which results in damage to their self-confidence and ultimately, their belief in their own abilities. Another misstep, and one that I am guilty of, is try to sit alongside and help. This again focuses on the end result with a softer “let’s get the answer together.”

Dweck advises that we forget the answer. It’s the process that should be the focus. Applaud the effort, the trial and error, the focus and determination. If it takes your child six months to figure out how to get the answer, you just might have the next Einstein on your hands!

If you’ve got some time to add a new book to the pile (or a spouse that has time to read and will summarize the concept in cliff notes for you!), check out Mindset. Knowing what type of learner your child is, is a gift. I arrived home from work the other day and Jack came running to the door to announce that he had failed five times at Khan Academy. I was amazed. Jack typically won’t go near Khan Academy and the fact that he was excited about failing¬†was truly remarkable.

Happy homeschooling!

Kate

NOTE: This page contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. This means at no additional cost to you I earn a small commission on those links where you click and purchase. Thank you for your support in this small way!

The Homeschool Working Mom

Breadwinning Mom

For as long as I can remember I have worked outside the home. In fact, I raised my daughter while working full-time. It stunk. I missed her. I swore I’d never do it again.

Yet, starting Monday, I’ll once again be entering the full-time professional world.

My boys are ages seven and five. I’m gonna miss them.

The decision of me returning to full time employ has been on our family discussion plate for a couple of years. I’ve always worked, and been fortunate to do so from home, hiring a nanny for only a few hours per week and doing the rest of ¬†my work in the evening or early mornings when the boys were asleep.

This scenario worked like a charm for me. I got the best of both worlds. Long, lazy days playing blocks or hiking with the boys peppered with short bursts of adult creativity and intellectual stimulation from my work. Nice!

Not that it was easy. There were plenty of times when my workload exceeded the number of waking hours I had available and during those times I was stressed, grouchy, and certainly less available to the boys. Nuts.

Yet, overall, typing a few emails with a bouncing toddler on my lap was much preferred to working full time. In fact, at this very instant I have a warm and cuddly five year old snuggled on top of me. Sigh. To me, this is bliss.

So what changed? Why can’t this perfect scenario go on forever! Why am I returning to work and leaving my bambinos behind?

Because it’s my turn.

Huh?

Yep. It’s my turn. My amazing husband has been away for too long and it’s his turn to homeschool. His turn to lie on the floor all day building Legos. His turn to lead nature hikes and planetarium visits. He’s an awesome dad and he’ll do great.

My husband and I have always agreed that we’ll do whatever it takes to balance the needs of our family and stay true to our family values. One of those values is that the boys are homeschooled. The other is that we strive to be together as much as possible. We don’t want one parent gone all the time working while the other stays home and raises the kids. We BOTH want to raise our kids and be as much a part of their lives as possible during these few, short years of youth.

As a corporate marketer, I have the ability to work on a consulting basis and satisfy our families income needs, while also maintaining a flexible schedule. My husband’s job no longer provided that flexibility. Flexibility is¬†crucial for us.

Flexibility allows us to hike during the week when everyone else is at school. We can kayak the rivers in the early morning and stay up late into the night star gazing. We can travel to foreign countries or far away states without scheduling a two-week vacation.

Flexibility is a gift and a part of our lifestyle we work hard to maintain.

So off I go, with some sadness, to work on Monday. It’s not all hard knocks though. As this last week of full-time mothering comes to a close I had this revelation:

My willingness to work and provide for my family is a gift. I am giving my husband the gift of full time fatherhood; a rare glimpse into the lives of his sons that he has yet to experience. To my boys I am giving them a full-time father. Which means fantastical, fun days filled with testosterone-laden activities like building a chicken coop or running sprints up and down our street. It’s pillow fights and knock-knock fart jokes and grilling pork shanks on the barbeque.

When I realized that this transition isn’t about what I’ll lose, but about what my boys will gain, I smiled. I’m not leaving anyone behind. I’m creating a more¬†balanced and more satisfying life for all of us.

So here we go world. Time for another life change. That’s okay. I’ve got this. We’ll do just fine.

Kate

PS: If you run into Scott and the boys on the homeschool trails, please stop and say hello! Scott would appreciate the welcome and you’ll find a super, easy-going homeschool co-parent.

 

Gainesville Homeschoolers Fight Policy Change

Gainesville Homeschool Families Present a Unified Voice

Today’s blog post is a gigantic, virtual hug to the amazing Gainesville Homeschool community. I was completely awe-struck by the showing of homeschool families at the July 21st¬†Alachua County School Board meeting and I am grateful that Superintendent Owen Roberts and the School Board of Alachua County was willing to listen to our concerns.

I am also confident that our united presence, along with the support of HEF President, Brenda Dickinson, HSLDA Attorney, TJ Schmidt, and FPEA District Director, Susan Nunn, helped Superintendent Roberts, along with the School Board of Alachua County to overturn the proposed homeschool policy changes.

It all began innocently enough. The Alachua County Homeschool Office began requesting proof of residency and proof of guardianship along with the Florida State-mandated Homeschool Letter of Intent. ¬†Many of us complied. I have to admit, I didn’t think twice to sending in that documentation. After all, I had to send a copy of ¬†my marriage certificate to Paypal in order for them to change my last name!

Yet, the request for those two pieces of paper led to threats and intimidating phone calls from the Alachua County Homeschool Office to those homeschool parents who did not comply.

A slippery slope had begun.

Alachua County is concerned about issues of truancy and proper education. I understand that. Click the link embedded here and fast forward to 2:22:10 to see School Board Attorney, Brian Moore, presenting the proposed policy changes to school board members:

June 1, 2015 SBAC Rule Development Workshop

However,¬†what the county failed to recognize¬†is that the¬†revised policy is in direct conflict with Florida State Law (1003.21). It’s intent is to monitor the misbehavior of the few, yet¬†in offense to many.

Under¬†Florida Statute 1002.41, parents who teach and direct the education of their own children at home must notify their district school superintendent. Period. That’s it.

What really got me, and most homeschool parents, was the revised language to the homeschool policy. In the proposed amendment, parents were asked to “request permission” to homeschool and that the Superintendent would¬†need to “approve” the request.

Here’s a copy of the proposed amendments: Alachua School Board Proposed Homeschool Policy Changes¬†You’ll want to forward to page 252.

What was shocking and hurtful to many of us in the Gainesville homeschool community is that not one of us had been made aware that a new policy was up for review.

As the Facebook comments became more heated and the days leading up to the Tuesday, July 21st Alachua County School Board meeting became shorter, I started to worry. Would people show up for the meeting? Would we have strength in numbers? Was the Facebook chatter simply the vocal minority?

I shouldn’t have worried.

The Gainesville Homeschool Community is amazing. Although, we all homeschool in different ways and for different reasons, we came together over the course of five short days to stand up for home education rights. I have never been a part of any grass roots effort, nor directly involved in political change.

It felt good.

Emails were sent to Alachua County School Board members,¬†I couldn’t find a parking spot at the HSLDA lunch meeting and at least forty of us were not able to enter the Kirby Smith meeting room for the school board meeting; we were escorted to a separate room upstairs where we watched the meeting on television until it was our time to speak.

HEF leader, Brenda Dickinson, wrote to the school board detailing point for point the errors in the proposed policy. This made an immediate impact and SBAC attorney, Brian Moore, responded with some retractions. Thank you, Brenda! Your experience and willingness to step in made a huge difference.¬†Here’s Brenda’s letter with Brian Moore’s comments, if you haven’t seen it:

HEF Alachua School Board Policy Ltr_Brian Moore Comments

HSLDA Attorney, TJ Schmidt, also wrote to the school board and organized a meeting at lunch break during the Classical Conversations Practicum. I think that lunch meeting really motivated¬†our homeschool community¬†as it helped us realized we weren’t alone in our beliefs. Thank you, Mr. Schmidt and CC for sharing your time and space!

And while I am in the mode of thanking these professionally talented individuals, a big hug to Suzanne Nunn, from FPEA District 5. She drove up to speak at the Tuesday night school board meeting as well. Wowsa, thank you so much!

Alachua County School Board Homeschool Policy Meeting

Many families had to sit upstairs and watch the school board meeting on TV.

If you weren’t in attendance for the meeting, please take a few minutes to listen to the awesome¬†homeschool parents and homeschool children who spoke. They represented us all so well! ¬†Click the link embedded here to watch:

July 21, 2015 Alachua School Board Proposed Homeschool Policy Change

The result was phenomenal and we couldn’t be happier to hear Superintendent Roberts state “Alachua County Schools will follow Florida law.” Yes! He also went on to suggest a task force between the homeschool office and homeschool families. That is wonderful and deeply appreciated. Thank you, Superintendent Roberts.

I write this blog post because I want to document what transpired. You see, as I walked to my car after the school board meeting, Brenda Dickinson walked beside me. I thanked her for her sage advice, her phenomenal support and for simply lending her experience. She smiled and said knowingly, “Kate, this won’t be the first time you’ll have to speak up for homeschooling. Just keep that in mind.”

Dope.

I thought it was over. I thought I could peacefully crawl back under my little homeschool rock and live comfortably once again. Yet, that’s not reality. You see, the work is just beginning. Our homeschool community needs to strengthen our relationship with the Alachua County Homeschool Office. We need to continue to represent homeschoolers at school board meetings and events. After all, someday there will be new school board members and new school board attorneys, who will also need our help understanding our¬†community.

The freedom to homeschool is a path that was blazed for all of us and it’s a path that¬†we need to keep alive for those who will follow.

Lest we not forget.

Kate

PS: The HEF and HSLDA are nonprofit organizations who depend on our support. Please show them some gratitude with a small donation! FPEA is a membership organization that our family joined earlier this year. They have a wealth of resources and motivation.

PPS: Gainesville Sun article: Homeschool policy change withdrawn  |  HEF article: Unfriendly school board policy withdrawn  | HSLDA article: District seeks approval authority

 

How I Ruined Summer Reading

I Forgot Why My Kids Love To Read

Every three or four months my kids and I choose a few themes to help focus our learning. We practice unschooling, so I use themes to help me stay alert to various resources that my kids might enjoy. Our summer themes are sea turtles, video production and swimming. Based on the boys’ request, we are also starting to learn about commerce.

The boys, ages seven and almost five, are both reading now so when the Alachua County Library Summer Reading Program was announced, I thought this program would be a cool activity for us to add to the pile.

The gist of the program is to challenge¬†kids to read different genres of books, listen to audio books and read magazines under the umbrella theme of Superheroes. As the kids accomplish the various tasks, they get to check off a tile on a¬†game-board-style brochure. At the end there is a reward. It’s a lovely program full of color, fun and an honorable purpose: motivate summer reading.

Yet it bombed in my house. Here’s how I goofed this whole thing up.

Not thinking, I outsourced this lovely library adventure to the babysitter who took the kids to sign up. They came home and dumped two envelopes into my lap containing their game-board brochures, some bookmarks, program announcements and other various bits of paper. Paper. I dislike paper.

I sorted through the bits of paper, stuffed it all back in the envelopes and stuck them into a corner of my kitchen counter. The envelopes sat there for two weeks taunting me. Every time I looked at those darn papers I felt guilty.

Guilty I wasn’t filling the¬†papers¬†out, guilty I wasn’t coaxing the boys to engage in the program, guilty I was such a slacker mom…

Guilt, guilt, guilt!

Finally, I got the dang envelopes out and sat down with Jack to fill¬†his out. We looked at how many books he had read that day and checked them off the list. ¬†The audio-book arena posed some challenges for us because my younger son shoved a bunch of coins in our mini-van CD player, so we haven’t listened to an audio book in awhile.

So I put an audio book into the living room Blu-Ray player and Jack listened to it. Then he checked the box and left all the papers, plus the marker in the middle of the living room floor.

Sigh. I dislike paper.

A few days later, I asked the boys if they wanted to work on their Summer Reading Program. They ignored me.

The next night, I tried to pick out some new books from the bookshelf and told the boys it would be a good idea to read something new so they could check off more boxes on their Summer Reading Program gameboard. They ignored me.

Then I gave up.

You see, what I had failed to realize (once again) is that kids don’t need external motivation to learn.¬†My kids read all the time. They read in the car, in the hallway, during bath time, at breakfast and whenever they¬†feel like it. Books are strewn about our house on every surface. We visit the library at least once a week to play (and read).

What I was inadvertently doing was making reading a chore. Reading became a box that had to be checked, instead of an activity that was simply fun.

Also, the particular format of the Superheroes reading program didn’t work for our family.

Doh.

Did I give up on summer reading? No way! In fact, I incorporated the lovely Alachua County Library Summer Reading Program into our style of learning.

I simply modified the program to meet our family’s needs. We took their game boards to the library, along with a few cool stamps, and the boys raced around the library finding various books, and reading them, so they could complete their game board. Yay!

You see, my kids love passport-style programs where you go from one activity to the next and stamp your passport at each activity station.¬†The catch is, that for our family, the passport game has to happen all at once. We aren’t good at keeping track of papers (grrr…I dislike paper) and we aren’t good at¬†keeping up with programs that require consistency over a long period of time.

So our “one afternoon and done” summer reading program worked out really well! The boys had a blast, I was happy with¬†my parenting choices, and we all felt good that we completed the program in a way that fit our needs.

Ah, smell the homeschool success!

My summer reading¬†goof freshened my resolve to keep stepping back and evaluating what works and what doesn’t within our homeschool family.

I’m not sure if this post is helpful to you at all, but if so I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

Happy homeschooling,
Kate

 

FPEA Homeschool Convention: Is It Worth It?

Impressions from a FPEA Noob

This past weekend I enjoyed a Saturday jaunt down to the FPEA Homeschool Convention held in Orlando, Florida with fellow Gainesville Homeschool mom, Carol Stride. Carol has been to the FPEA conference a bazillion times. Last Saturday was my first visit to the FPEA event. I was a FPEA Homeschool Convention newbie.

Everyone keeps asking me what I thought and if it was worth it and should they go next year. So dear Gainesville Homeschool friends, here is what I recommend:

REALIZE WHAT IT’S ABOUT

FPEA Convention ButtonMost of the homeschool friends I spoke with pre-convention chatted excitedly about browsing curriculum in the exhibit hall. Yet, what the FPEA Convention is really about is recharging your battery, becoming inspired and getting motivated. I think there is a strategic reason the FPEA hosts the convention on Memorial Day Weekend at the end of the homeschool year Рthey know we are all burnt out and ready for a break.

Why else would you spend your holiday weekend in a decadent hotel dashing from one ballroom to the next to cram in as many speakers possible all the while towing a heavy load of newly minted curriculum? LOL

While curriculum shopping IS a part of the experience, the reason to go to the FPEA Homeschool Convention is to surround yourself with like-minded families and gain new insight and ideas for your homeschool journey.

I have to admit that one day isn’t enough to do that so next year I plan to stay longer.

REFLECT ON WHAT KIND OF MOTIVATION YOU NEED

The FPEA Convention has a wide variety of speakers on topics ranging from curriculum to parenting to marriage counseling to special education and legal-eze. Take a moment to think about what your needs are and don’t be shy about attending several workshops.

Carol had pegged the Raddish Kids workshop as a seminar¬†high on her list and I’m glad she cajoled me into attending. As an unschooler, I didn’t think the workshops would be very appealing, but I was wrong. Raddish is a kids cooking club where you sign up to receive thematic cooking kits delivered in your mailbox each month. Now I’m the first to admit that any of us could come up with a cooking theme each month, but the point here is that we often don’t because we have too many other themes and projects and field trips mulling about our over-taxed-homeschool-parent heads.Raddish Kids Kids Cooking Club Large Box

I enjoyed listening to the ideas that Raddish founder, Samantha Barnes shared. With a mission of empowering healthy living, Samantha gave¬†some uber-cool ideas on how to incorporate history, math, science, art and a host of other subjects into cooking. She’s not talking about¬†reading an encyclopedia at meal time…she is talking about taking a food item like corn and investigating the physics behind popping it, the value it held in ancient history, estimating and calculating how many kernels fit into a geometric shape and on and on and on…

Wow. As an unschooler I totally appreciated Raddish Kids’ approach and can easily see how valuable getting all that well-thought out learning in my mailbox each month would be.

HAVE A CURRICULUM PLAN BEFORE YOU GO

There is A LOT of homeschool curriculum to see on the exhibit hall floor. Just like you don’t go to the grocery store hungry, you don’t want to go to the FPEA Convention without a list of what you need to buy.

Yowza! Quite frankly, everything looks appealing and awesome and wonderful sitting on display. Yet, with thousands of families bumping and jostling into you, you simply can’t take the time to review curriculum properly. Investigate potential curriculum online in the quiet of your own home¬†(like browsing our¬†parent reviewed curriculum¬†right here on the Homeschool Helpdesk website!).

Then use the FPEA convention as a chance to touch and feel the curriculum, so to speak, and make a final decision. Otherwise, you might end up quickly buying what looks appealing at the moment and end up with buyer’s remorse.

Also, don’t assume the curriculum provider you want to see is going to be at the FPEA. I wanted to look at two math programs and neither were in attendance. Dope!

Read the FPEA program guide in advance and jot down the booth numbers of those folks you want to visit. This will also help you when you get tired. You can make sure to zip by the booths you really want to see and then experience the rest of the exhibit floor at your leisure without the pressure of walking up and down every aisle.

TAKE WHEELS AND WALKING SHOES

If there is one piece of advice you might glean from this blog post it is this: take a bag on wheels! Or wheeled luggage. Or a Pack-N-Roll. Or a Radio Flyer wagon. Or a pallet on skids. Whatever it takes to haul all those glorious, heavy, HEAVY books around the exhibit hall. Geez, my arms were tired.

We love the Usborne books and I bought quite a few, plus a half dozen geography placemats, a few educational toys and more Usborne books. Hello! My shoulders were killing me by the end of the day.

Carol had even more to deal with as she bought a 50lb bag of granular honey! Fortunately, Bread Beckers Kitchen Store delivered the sugar to my car. However, if you are buying an entire year’s worth of curriculum many of the vendors will ship directly to your home.

Pack N RollStill you are going to need a pair of cozy shoes and something on wheels to make your stay more comfortable. Also, take a pad of paper to jot down ideas and notes. You’ll have so many sideline conversations with vendors, homeschool parents and speakers that you’ll forget your own name by the end of each day.

I tried to type all that stuff into my iPhone and promptly ran out of battery power! Old fashion pencil and paper will do just fine.

BRING THE FAMILY

I plan on taking my entire family to the 2016 FPEA Convention. The Gaylord Palms Resort is g-g-g-gorgeous and has an outrageously cool pool where my husband can chill with the boys while I scurry about. The FPEA also has child care available, similar to a Kids Club, if you and your hubs want to attend the convention together.

I want to attend our District 3 meeting next year and get in line for the workshops on Friday. There were quite a few Friday workshops I wanted to attend, but didn’t since I only attended the Saturday portion.Gaylord Palms Resort pool

Bottom line…join the party and check out the FPEA Homeschool Convention at least once.¬†You’ll get your money’s worth in ideas, inspiration and also some pretty good curriculum deals.

Happy homeschooling!

Kate

PS: If you attended the FPEA conference, share your thoughts and experience in the comment section below!

 

 

 

Rated G Is So Hard to Find

Finding Appropriate Media for Your Child

I took the boys to see the DreamWorks¬ģ film, Home, this past Monday. They hated it. I don’t blame them.

We’ve been watching Home¬†previews for an entire YEAR and every preview has depicted the calamity of the Boov aliens trying to find a new home. Oh, and also there is a cat. Cat’s are always funny.

However, that is NOT what the movie is about. The Boov take over planet earth and in doing so they relocate all the humans. In the process, the Boov separate a young girl from her mother and the girl goes through a harrowing experience to reunite with her mom.

My boys were terrified.

Oh, and did I mention the star Boov sacrifices his life to save the planet? This happens after you’ve fallen head over heels in love with him and think he is the cutest little Boov ever. The thought of his death had me in tears.

Geez.

In the end everything turns out alright, but by that time my children were so agitated by near-death experience, parental separation and the thought that some other species could quite possibly ruin their lives that the lesson of compassion and family connection was completely lost.

Sigh…

Home¬†is rated “PG.” I should have known better…

As I’ve mentioned in previous¬†blog posts, our family spends a considerable amount of focus on practicing empathy. We use NVC to communicate. We watch movies and read books whose characters¬†display empathy,¬†and when we are faced with a story that lacks empathy or uses coercion to right the injustices of the world, we talk about it and how the¬†story could be different.

And before I jump up on an imaginary soap box or give the impression that we are somehow inculcated from mainstream media, let me tell you that my kids have watched some doozies in their young lives. We are far from perfect. Just the other day, my four year old proudly told me he knew what a swimsuit model was. He had learned about swimsuit models on the show Uncle Grampa. Whoops! Netflix is now deleted from the iPads!

A few days after seeing Home, I noticed a Facepost from fellow homeschool mama, Sunshine M., looking for Level 2 and Level 3 readers that were wholesome stories for her young son who is an advanced reader.

As she so aptly noted, even the wildly popular Magic Treehouse series uses language like “I’m going to kill you, Sally!” and “That’s so dumb!”

And when you have an advanced reader, like a five or six year old who is reading at a third grade level, that type of content can be challenging. Younger kids do not yet possess the skills to comprehend exaggeration and sarcasm (nor do they have the ability to process a happy ending to a movie after 90 minutes of terror).

In the process of building our own home library, I have been really surprised at how many “classics” are terribly cruel and how often authors create a good guy vs. bad guy theme.

We have noticed that many¬†classics depict life in harsher times, which can be scary. My kids aren’t ready to get wrapped up in a character who loses a parent before the invention of penicillin or whose home is burned to the ground by evil Indians (!!) or whose best friend is crippled by polio. Good grief.

And while there is historical value in all of these stories, and it’s true life can be quite harsh, there is a time and place to experience this knowledge. My kids aren’t there yet. After watching the first two Harry Potter movies, my eldest son continues to reassure me that Harry Potter’s parents will be alright…see what I mean? The forever-ness of losing a parent is too big for him. Harry Potter is way beyond his years and we need to put Harry Potter on hold¬†until he is ready.

Which is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Kids can be kids a whole lot longer. I embrace that innocence.

So in case you, like us, are looking for those story books or movies that celebrate curiosity, empathy and kindness as well as provide a captivating story, here are a few of our favorites for consideration.

Young Kids (Ages 0-5)

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

OTIS

PLATYPUS

 

Younglings (Ages 6-9)

ELEPHANT AND THE ANT

HENRY & MUDGE

MR. PUTTER

FROG & TOAD

 

A Few Favorite Movies

WALL-E

SCHOLASTIC STORYBOOK

MILO AND OTIS

THE LEGO MOVIE

What about your home library? What movies and books do your kids enjoy and how do you incorporate age-appropriate content into your homeschool journey?

Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Kate

NOTE: This page contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. This means at no additional cost to you I earn a small commission on those links where you click and purchase. Thank you for your support in this small way!