Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fun with Friends - 3 Different Activities

These are pictures from 3 different activities:

1. Yet another playdate with Thing 2's really good buddy.

(We love where we live. People here aren't very transient. They're here to stay. As are we. So, we can already see our kids' childhood friends being friends forever and that's pretty neat). Oh, and reason #389 to homeschool--15-minute recess? Neh. You can spend entire days playing with your friends who also homeschool. Oh, and you often get playgrounds completely to yourselves and your friends! (Several friends have been asking us to post about homeschooling and I've been meaning to write a homeschool post and I promise I'm getting to it. That's where these homeschool tidbits are coming from--little hints at how much we love it. We mainly love what it does for our family--it suits us. It's very "us" -- we live, learn, and have fun together. There are many other reasons as well. So, as I work on getting to that post, I'm posting tidbit sneak peeks into the joys of homescooling for us).

2. Group Games at our homeschool co-op. This particular day, we split the school-age kids into 2 mixed groups for cooperative group games in one room and really fun math games in the other room. The babies and toddlers also play together during this. It's SO MUCH FUN! The people in our group are really amazing--we love them.

Our homeschool co-op is AWESOME. I know I say it a lot, but it's true! Homeschooling is not like it used to be in the 70s. It's becoming more and more popular and people don't do it by isolating themselves in their homes. Homeschoolers have a nice blend of quiet, down time at home as families and are also VERY involved in the community, with one another, and in many other ways. We have about 60+ in attendance (and growing) on average. We have all ages--babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kids of all ages, teens, adults . . . reason # 93 to homeschool--you learn to interact with and get along with ALL ages, not just 30 kids your exact same age, which many argue is a lot like how life is. No other time in life are you spending entire days with 30 people your exact same age--not in jobs, not in church, not in the community. (But to be clear, Mark and I have had very good experiences in school and don't regret them at all! We think schools have A LOT of wonderful things to offer. So it's not that we don't like schools. It's simply that homeschooling is so right for our family--it really fits our style.

And I'll get to this in the homeschooling post, but a lot of people always question their own patience as parents. Well, we all do. And I have to be honest--I was nervous about that, too. But, and here's the truth--homeschooling makes me a better mom. I'm MUCH more patient, MUCH less frustrated, MUCH more involved. We're a team in all we do and while I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and we all have our moments, I find that I totally exceed my expectations when it comes to this. We have fun together. We learn together. And I'm not grumpy all the time at all! It's almost magical--it really does make me a better mom).

One of my favorite short articles on the "selfish reasons" to homeschool is here. She's so right that there are all kinds of altruistic reasons, but the selfish reasons are awesome, too. :)

Anyway! I'm getting ahead of myself!

Our group meets at least once a week and often more than that (we have a lot of extra-curricular groups like knitting club, chess club, soccer, Spanish, writing, Newbery Award book club, religious studies, nature hikes, theater, etc.). It's very "one room schoolhouse"-like with the diversity of ages and it totally works. We have A LOT of fun.

3. Our annual homeschool picnic. Every year we have a big picnic in September. We are in our third year as a group and we are steadily growing. Our group is an inclusive one, which means all are welcome (all religions, cultures, learning styles, etc.). None are excluded. It adds a very nice diversity to the group and invites a general open-mindedness that is incredibly refreshing. We love that we all learn so much from one another. It also comes in handy for our Religious Studies extra-curricular group--we have Mormons, Quakers, Catholics, and more among us, so we have our own built-in instructors and churches to visit as we study faiths of the world. We also all pitch in sharing our various talents--sewing, baking, knitting, computers, cooking, math, physics, chess, writing woodwork, sports, you name it. Lots of fun.

Anyway, it rained the BIG TIME at our picnic this year. We didn't let that stop us. We had an Olympic theme and all brought international foods and played a whole bunch of fun games. Since the games did get rained out, we did those another time after one of our monthly outings to the local wildlife preserve for our classes and hikes. But the rain really didn't stop the kids from playing their own games--I think the kids played "Red Rover" for well over an hour in the pouring rain. Reason #459 to homeschool--kids get to play for hours on end and don't necessarily need toys or videos or programs to be entertained, they get along extremely well, and are remarkably creative (this isn't in any way exclusive to homeschooling, but we have A LOT of opportunities for this kind of play, every day if we want to). We played at the park in the rain for about 6 hours without complaint. So crazy. So fun.

And as if playing in the rain ALL DAY wasn't enough . . . Mark and the kids and a few other families in our homeschool group went to our friend Peggy's house (also in our group) for a Rounds Party. Basically, people bring instruments if they so choose and everyone sings rounds and eats food all evening. It's GREAT fun! I love them, but I did pass on this one to spend an evening out with Rebecca. She came over around 6 and then we talked for a while here and then we went to a local restaurant until 2AM (the specialty there is a CRAB PRETZEL--a pretzel the size of your plate smothered in crab and melted cheese) and then we kept talking until 3:30 AM.

Yeah, late night. Especially since I got in and talked with Mark until about 4:30. Crazy! And we had clients the next morning! All this to say . . . a very full, fun day.


terahreu said...

Wow, that is awesome you have such a network of people. Fantastic. I hear you about how it makes you a better mother. I have to agree. There is nothing funner than having a common interest with your children and exploring all the possiblities. So fun!

I am anxious to see your official homeschool post! Thanks for sharing.

kristenhcubed said...

My hat is off to you for homeschooling and being a better mom for it. As for me, Reason #48 for Public School: My kids don't listen to or learn from me, reason # 73: My life is far more calm when my kids are elsewhere, reason # 112: They obey the school rules better than mine and it's good for them to obey rules, reason #218: They like me better when they've been away for a while and nothing makes me feel better than when my children are happy to see me, reason #245: Recess for mommy from 8:15 to 3:45 Monday through Friday.

D'Arcy said...

You live a magical life Boquinha!

Lena said...

Ah, the joys of homeschooling! My favorite thing about homeschooling and my primary reason for it is that I feel like it brings us so much closer together. I love to watch my kids learn on all levels and I am so glad I get to be there when that lightbulb goes on and they get a concept that they have struggled with. What a reward! I feel like as a mother of a few children it fits us to be able to be flexible and work around naps and other family quirks. I have the experience of public school through the 8th grade and was homeschooled after that. I would havedone just fine in public school and I'm sure my kids would as well. However- I noticed even as a teenager that my relationship with my parents was strengthened simply by spending so much time with them. I have a child that doesn't want to sit and "do school" all the time but we are learning how to work with each other- I'm hoping that will come in handy when he is a teenager! We will have all this experience of problem solving and communicating that will be to our benefit. I, like Stacy, don't mean to say that it is the best choice for everyone. But it is totally the best choice for us! I know so many parents that think they could never do it. You sure can! If you want to. It is a sacrifice at times (I know my house would be cleaner if I could just have it alone once in a while) but it is a small sacrifice and one only noticed once in a while because it is drowned out by the many rewards. Stacy- I want to come up there and join your group!!

-Sorry if this reply is disjointed, I had to keep leaving to do things and come back and try to find my train of thought again, lol.

Chelle said...

I love the contentment that comes from making decisions that are right for the family. It's so obvious to see in your posts that your family is right at the top of your priorities.

I'd be interested to know what sacrifices you feel like you have to make in order to homeschool. If I homeschooled I'm not sure I'd be as social as you are. It's a good thing there are options out there! We've been blessed to get our girls enrolled in a school that provides a lot of opportunities and a great environment. Hopefully when we move we'll be as satisfied.

Jill O said...

TO homeschool or not to homeschool. I have been asking myself this question over and over lately. I love the idea of it. I think that when it is done right, it is amazing. I really, really like what you are doing.
But I am scared of it too. It is a HUGE commitment and I don't want to mess my kids up. Plus my mom and mother-in-law work in public schools and while they would be so nice about it, I know they would think I was insane.
Agghhhh!!!! I wish I could just make up my mind! I am anxious for your other post as well.

Lena said...

Hey Chelle- As far as sacrifices go, I'll tell you what goes through my head on bad days. I still have 3 that wouldn't be in school full time yet so a lot of these wouldn't happen for me at this point anyway. This is looking to the time when they could ALL be in school.

"My house would be cleaner if I could just have it to myself for a few hours"

Going to lunch with a group of friends without children would be nice. (I don't often feel comfortable leaving all 5 of my kids with someone else- it's just a little overwhelming to a lot of people)

More quiet "me" time.

Um, I thought there were more but that's all I can really think of right now! All of those are sacrifices I've already made by having a larger family as well and will all go away as my kids get older (and have less messy "stuff"). I DO need to make sure I get "me" time because I totally need it- sometimes badly- but my sweet husband makes sure I get it.

The happiness I get from seeing them learn and knowing that we are going to have SO many memories together and know how to communicate because we HAVE to or we will go crazy are a comfort to me and far outweigh those measly little sacrifices I feel once in a while.

Is it hard? Sometimes. Sometimes it's MUCH easier than interrupting the day to drop off and pick up kids from all different schools and at different times. Now (well, if we ever have enough $!) if my kids ever want to get into sports or another hobby that takes up a bit of time, I don't have to worry that they are not getting enough time with their family. It totally opens up your options!

You can be as active in a group as you want to be. I am not very active in my homeschool group right now because I get overwhelmed taking them all out to places for a long stretch of time. My 3 year old runs away from me and my 18 month old is a daredevil and well, between the two of them I'd rather just stay close to home for a little bit longer. But, there are book clubs for my older 2 and we do like to go to park days when we can make it. Our group is nothing like Stacy's awesome group! I'm hoping as the kids get older that we will be more active and not so nap dependent ;) We never get bored for long though. There's always something to do if you just go outside and look around.

Did that help to answer your questions at all?

Anonymous said...

First of all, Stacy, I continue to be incredibly jealous of your homeschool group and would move where you are in a heartbeat, were it possible. :-)

As for some of the reasons I love and choose to homeschool: This may seem small and silly to some, but I love that my kids get as much sleep as they need. I do not have to pry them out of bed before the sun is up to get them to school. There will plenty of years (college, young parenthood) when they will do without sleep. I am happy to allow them to sleep in now while they are young, if they need it. Just one of the many benefits in my family. :-)

Chelle said...

Lena - I really enjoyed reading your comments. Homeschooling has never been on my list of possible things to try some day, but I am a bit fascinated by parents who choose to do it. I'm curious to know people's motivations for homeschooling and I'm wondering why more and more people are doing it these days (Stacy probably has a lot of ideas as to WHY, seeing as we read a lot about "reasons #468, #35, #167... to homeschool").

I am sure I could make it work if it were ever my choice, but I'm not willing to make the sacrifices. Instead, I have to try really hard to fit quality time for both of my school-aged girls into 4 1/2 hours a day. That's a challenge when most of that time is spent getting homework and reading done, taking care of a baby, and getting dinner ready followed by clean up. We probably average about one hour of family time a day and it really takes a concerted effort to make that hour count for something.

I sure admire those of you who do homeschool your children and Lena, I really can't imagine how you can homeschool your older children while taking care of preschoolers and toddlers/babies at the same time! I do know, however, that nothing is more important than dedicating ourselves to our families, and however we choose to do that, God will magnify our efforts.

Barney6 - I hear ya on the sleep! I hate getting my kids up at 6:30 every morning when it's still dark outside. It's especially challenging on nights when they get to bed late for whatever reason.

I quickly visited both of your blogs and I'm curious as to how you know Mark and Stacy.

Lena said...

Well, I "met" Stacy through a mutual friend. I haven't actually met her yet but would love to one day!

Well, my primary reason has to be just family togetherness I guess. I loved taking vacations in the off season with my family and look forward to that with my kids as well. There were a couple of catalysts that brought the decision on however. My oldest daughter had terrible asthma as a child and when she would get even the tiniest runny nose she would be unable to breath without numerous breathing treatments per day and any kind of activity would just make it worse. She went to PRe-k and missed over 30 days that year. We were told she would not be able to miss that many days once she started Kindergarten. Well, I wasn't going to send her to school when her asthma wasn't under control either.

The other thing was my son. He was about 4 when we started homeschooling. I know that there are some GREAT teachers out there. I've had plenty of them. I've also had the other kind. In Sarah's pre-k class I saw how little patience she had for boys who wouldn't sit still. It came down to me knowing that no one can love my kid like I can and even if I was to send him to school later in life- I wanted those tender years to be with me so I could be sure he knew his worth. I just knew him and knew that he would be one of those kids who always had to go put his head on the table for talking or tapping his pencil or whatever other silly thing that active boys and girls do at that age. Here he can excel in math and be as wiggly as he pleases. There are times that he has to practice being still and he is in situations where he has to show proper behavior but u usn't for such a long period of time. This style suits him.

So those were the two things that finally made us jump into homeschool. While Sarah is growing out of her asthma, the others are right in the middle of the problem so we are very glad that we don't have to worry about them missing so much school.

Schooling with young children around can be challenging at times. The hardest times have been when I'm sick during a pregnancy or just after the baby is born and we are all adjusting. We pretty much just stop regular schooling at those times or just do what we can and don't worry about the rest. Really, as long as they are learning the basics those first few years, it's enough. They catch up SO fast! We try to go all year long with our school work so that we can stop whenever something comes up and not worry. The little ones get used to it too though and usually end up wanting to join in with their own "school." Or they just play with each other or with something I've taken out for them to do. My oldest is a great reader and she will often just read her book and go on without me until she has a question or doesn't understand something. That's her though- and my younger daughter. Robert, 7, won't do that, lol. He would just play all day long if he could get away with it. But then, so would I!

Sorry- I'm so long winded sometimes!!!

Stacy- we're all waiting for that post, lol.

Em said...

Stacy I love reading your little homeschool tidbits. Your group sounds great! We just started homeschooling this year. I have a son who was going into 5th grade and a daughter that was going into 3rd grade. I also have a kindergardner and a toddler. Before this year I never even considered homeschooling. Because of some issues at school I started thinking about it. I was nervous, but once I felt that it was the right thing for us to do I was excited. I am so impressed by what you are doing with your kids. They are obviously doing well academically. (K reads and writes beautifully) I also love all the others things you are involved with. I love how my family feels now. We are around each other much of the time, but the kids actually get along better and are more helpful etc. My older kids are in activities like gymanstics and soccer with friends from school and church. I am still learning how to make it all work and worry about the kids progress sometimes, but I wonder why I haven't been doing this all along. I guess it wasn't the time or season for me. Thanks for the good example!

Anonymous said...

lena, I met Stacy through cyberspace, of course. We've developed a friendship via the computer. :-)

As for not being willing to make the sacrifice to homeschool, I really do hear you. Before my oldest was in school, I was constantly mentally figuring how many years before I would be free and all my children were in school. I just observed some things in my daughter's kindergarten class that caused me to wonder if there was a better/different way. I tried homeschooling and I have alternately loved/haven't loved it in the five years since.

Generally the good I see in my family from our homeschooling lifestyle makes it worth the sacrifice for me, that's why we're still doing it. One of the reasons I would never look down on someone for their school choices is because there are often times when I feel like I'm about an inch from popping their butts into school. :-) I think that's normal for a lot of homeschooling moms, as far as my experience goes.

The bottom line is that we're all doing the best we can as parents and keeping our fingers crossed. :-) I am constantly second-guessng what I do as a mother, wondering what things I'm doing to my children that they are going to be complaining to a psychiatrist about someday. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, meant to address that last comment to chelle, not lena! :-)

Chelle said...

Lena, barney6--

What great comments from both of you. I love learning about other families and why/how they do the things they do. I think it's great that homeschooling has been such a positive thing for so many of your families.

barney6 - I think it's just part of the nature of mothers to question and second-guess everything they do. I actually think it's a healthy thing if the second-guessing is channeled correctly. Sometimes my motivation to do more comes from asking myself if I'm giving my best to my girls.

I love this discussion.

I'm off to spend some quality time with my girls...I think I'll try to catch a quick snooze on the sofa while they watch a movie. I wish I were joking.

Boquinha said...

All I have to add is that I really love this discussion and am amazed at our friends!! We're very grateful for such good friends. I promise I'll get more into this in the post, but I just want to mention really fast two things as background:

1. I *love* being together as a family. I've not ever yearned to stick the kids in nursery or with sitters or anything like that like a lot of moms do. Again, NOT a slam. Not one bit. I promise. Everyone is different and that's fine. But for me, I would ache a little inside when I'd hear a bunch of moms in the church hall saying they couldn't wait to get their kids into nursery because I didn't feel I fit in . . . I didn't feel that way and didn't want to come across as judgmental--I wasn't. I just didn't relate. And I sometimes even wondered what was "wrong" with me since it seemed that most everyone else felt that way! So, I should mention that the "break" doesn't appeal to me and hasn't ever (and yet I do understand that it's a BIG draw for many others and is, therefore, definitely something to consider), but I just thought I'd throw it out there so you know where I'm coming from and so you know that maybe I'm weird that way.

When I was a kid, from the age of 4 on up, I was in school from 7:30 to after 5 every day because both of my parents worked. I don't hold it against them at all--they were doing the best they could. But I'm a homebody and desperately wanted to be HOME. I dealt with horrific separation anxiety and didn't like after-school care. I simply wanted to be home. I'm more grateful than I can say that we have this option and that we love it.

2. I have an incredibly supportive husband who is VERY involved, flexible with his work, helps with the home education aspect, does a lot around here, and helps with the keeping-me-sane aspect, too. Now let me say that not all homeschooling moms have this and they still do phenomenally. But I feel, to be fair, that I ought to mention that my best friend and husband and partner is those things on ALL levels and is wonderful to me and I feel this helps me in homeschooling. A LOT.

He TOTALLY encourages me and supports me and recognizes how much a night out does for me once in a while. I get out several times a month with friends . . . either for dinner out, talking at the coffeehouse until the wee hours, a movie, whatever. These ocassional outings help keep me sane. And he and I enjoy every evening together, too. I know what I said in #1 and it's true, but a night out here and there/a night in does wonders for me and I'm grateful to have a husband who is so intuitive, insightful, and supportive in this. And I know this helps me with homeschooling as well--how could it not? I'm very grateful.

And again, we're very grateful for our good friends--fabulous discussion here. Thanks, guys.