School’s Out!!

  • A surprising number of people had this question throughout the years…”Do you even have a summer vacation”?!? Haha! We did indeed have a real summer vacation – every single time our school year was done!  This post inspired by my dear cousin who is homeschooling her two youngest, while her oldest tries a year in public school- their summer breaks don’t start at the same time so she, and the kids baked a chocolate ‘summer cake’ to kick off the season in a sweet way!

Honestly, there are many ways to answer that question…I knew homeschool families who did not take a traditional summer break- they did school-work two, or three days a week all year long. People can choose to work through the summer to get ahead- graduate early. I even knew a family who did minimal classwork during the regular school year- choosing to do most of it during the summer months.

The bottom line is that learning does not have to occur only between September and June…learning that learning can happen at any time is a valuable lesson- personally, I remember feeling that if summer vacation didn’t get here ASAP I could possibly drop dead right there at my desk, and I would never have chosen to do anything remotely resembling school until I had to go back.

Here at the Smiley Academy we used a program that had us on a set schedule- we could work ahead or behind if we needed to, but we had a definite start/finish date. When my kids were younger, I had them complete a summer workbook each year…15 minutes a day every day till it was done – I started doing this just in case they weren’t learning enough during the school year, but the many benefits became clear quickly- they were more than ready for the next grade when school resumed in the Fall. I’ll admit that at first- I had to resort to bribery, but my kids soon began to see the good for themselves – even choosing to do a summer class here and there at our local Jr. college as they got older.

Not because I’m amazing, but rather because I had so many doubts and worries about potentially turning my boys into weirdos, I found academic/career oriented college summer camps for them to attend once they’d reached high school. I could write pages and pages about how beneficial these turned out to be- actually, I did! You can read all about it the book!!

No matter how it gets done- enjoy your summer!!! 😊

 

Graduation!

Happy graduation! One of the bigger misconceptions I’ve come across throughout our school at home adventures: “How sad…those poor kids don’t get to have a graduation ceremony”!

Yes, they do! At least, my kids did- complete with all the pomp and circumstance associated with ‘normal’ high school graduation. In our case, the online virtual school we’d used rounded up all the graduating seniors from throughout the state – grouping them by location to gather for real graduation ceremonies complete with caps and gowns, honors regalia- each kids accomplishments proudly displayed – the announcer telling the crowd the university and intended major, trade school, branch of the military, or new job of each graduate as they walked accross the stage to receive their diploma.

The speaker talked about how important their accomplishment was- the amount of discipline and perseverance it took to do school at home and succeed at this level – asking us- me, the ‘learning coaches’ to stand and be recognized- thanking us for our commitment to our children. It was wonderful. We were SO proud. I cried practically the entire time- for both our 2015, and 2017 graduation ceremonies 😊

So, yes…kids who do school at home can participate in normal high school stuff like graduation. I knew groups who did their own proms, senior nights and trips etc.. But honestly, ‘normal’ isn’t necessarily best- you can tailor your whole schooling experience to fit your kids/family – I know families who chose to opt out of all that stuff – those kids went on to do their post high school lives none the worse for wear- just as happy and successful and excited for their futures as those who donned the cap and gown.

So, happy graduation to all- however the schooling was done! It comes up all too fast – poof! On to the next phase – congratulations!

 

 

Mom❤️

Happy Mother’s Day to all! This is my mom😊 I love her with all my heart…today’s post is about her initial reaction to my decision to take the boys out of public school, and do it at home…unbeknownst to me it was not a happy positive thing! She kept it all to herself- I only found out about her true feelings well after the fact.

We had worked out all the kinks, and our successes were becoming constant – school at home was working wonderfully. Good things were happening all over the place at the Smiley Acaemy, so I guess my mom felt safe enough to let me know how she really felt back at the beginning- not good at all!

She told me her initial gut reaction was, “OH NO!! This can’t possibly work! What is she (me) thinking”?!? I’ll be honest- if she’d said that out loud to me it’s quite possible I would’ve reacted badly- been discouraged and upset at the very least. I’ve heard many, many stories about family members and close friends – folks who were normally your biggest supporters- get downright angry about a decision to homeschool. Like relationship ending levels of anger. “You’re destroying your kids lives, how can you so selfishly choose to do this to them”?

Just know that if you feel in your heart you’re doing the right thing you probably are. It’s just that much more added incentive to succeed – prove the naysayers wrong with your kids coming out the clear winners😊 I’m thankful for my mom’s support throughout all my life- and for outwardly supporting my decision to do school at home, while inwardly feeling completely terrified I was going to ruin her grandchildren 😉

Learning to love learning :-)

Make it fun – make it practical. When we first came out of the public system there was a fairly long decompression time. That time was mainly about me learning how to figure out ways to keep my kids from going straight to the default of, “I hate that”.

Getting Jake and Joe to write anything was torturous – as if I was asking them to eat snakes, gouge their eyes out with spoons…walk on hot coals. Seriously, it was rough – I know many of you can relate regarding one subject or another. So, rather than force them to fill in the lines of a workbook I asked each boy to write a story – they didn’t need to worry about it being perfect, or graded – just write…every day. Add to your story. Make it interesting and fun – something you love. They both decided to write a book – my oldest wrote about a boy who, after miles and miles swum at swim practice, began to turn into a dolphin. My youngest wrote about a war on an alien world based off of a favorite video game, no less. I loved every word…still have them in a drawer somewhere. This idea turned out to be a game changer for us.

Writing and grammar never became a favorite at The Smiley Academy, but they did become less hated – the torture sessions faded away as both boys moved up through the grades – the “I hate that” default disappeared making way for the ability to buckle down and get it done – both kids eventually becoming quite proficient if not the excellent college-level writers they are today.

With this post, I bring to you a dear friends solution…writing a good old-fashioned letter! I’m blessed to be the recipient of this sweet six-year-old girl’s pen pal letters! (and a wonderful bonus drawing from little sister too) She’s finishing up her kindergarten year – the first year of doing school at home (good job, mom!). Let’s write some letters! Give information, ask questions…learning to communicate – get thoughts down on the paper…skills they will need later in life – at this age, there’s no reason at all you can’t make it fun! I sure had fun answering her this morning 🙂

Failed and Forgotten: can’t stuff ’em all into the same box

At this time of year there is a hard truth playing out at schools everywhere: Failure. As the end of year approaches, there are kids who are being told, “Sorry,  you’ve failed”. At being eight years old. Understanding that failure is part of life, and can be used to learn and grow…the tragedy lies in the fact that many of these kids will be told they’ve failed, then moved on through the system – essentially set up for continual failure.

This topic brought to you by my sister-in-law who has a degree in communicative disorders, and works in the public school system as a speech-language pathology assistant. Down in the trenches – she sees this occur…citing a third-grader she worked with this year who has been failed, yet moved up to fourth-grade to continue “with limited help and resources, leagues behind her peers”. She says, “I love this kid and my heart breaks for her. Not able to read and moving on to fourth-grade is NOT OK. What is being reinforced is that she doesn’t need to try or work hard because she’ll be moved along regardless”.

I’ll tell ya…this is the same thing that started to happen to my own kids…same thing, different reasons – I talk about exactly this in the beginning chapters of the book – it’s a big part of my decision to yank ’em out of the public system.

Doing school at home is NOT a magical cure-all. However, it can be a way to focus all the attention needed – all the resources and effort poured into your kid so he can LEARN from the failure, and move forward only when ready. Set up for future success – just at a different pace 🙂

The end is near :-)

You thought it was tough getting kids to focus on homework, and to keep at bay the dreaded ‘spring fever’ and ‘summeritis’ when they were in regular school. Take that level of difficulty and times it by a million when you do school at home! You’ve battled through almost an entire school year – fought valiantly through everything homeschooling could throw at you…now, there’s a month to go – you’ve almost made it to the finish line, and ugh…you. can’t. take. another. day. Help! The weather is perfect, the kids can’t sit still, or focus on even the most simple tasks. Yep, we’ve all felt this pain, and if you are that wonderful homeschool family who never experiences this – who never yells, cries, threatens or bribes during this trying ‘end of year’ time…then you are my hero, and this post is not for you. It is for the rest of us who are at the proverbial end of our ropes.

My solution? Go outside and play. Run around, walk the dogs – maybe do some school under an umbrella by the pool. “Hey guys, if you get everything finished up quickly we can spend the rest of the day at the beach!” You can change things up so you’re essentially starting summer vacation early – we just have to get some work done first, then we can…..(insert your special trip or treat here). As my guys got older, and our Smiley Academy became better at doing school at home in general, these end of the year doldrums became fewer, and farther between. To think that things are always going to go smoothly and perfectly is a dangerous trap – don’t do that to yourself, please. There will be times when you feel like this was all a big mistake – this is way too hard.

But it wasn’t – we did it – it was completely worth it. You’ll find your own solutions, and it will all work out. And if all else fails…start a homeschool mom support group that gets together to drink wine. 😉

New to this… :-)

This is my first attempt! I thought about all the things I could say – to hopefully impart a huge helping of wisdom to all of you…blank. I’m drawing a gaping blank haha! So, this – these words are the bottom line when it comes to deciding to pull that scary trigger, and begin to do school at home. No matter who you are, what you do, your level of education – if doing school at home has been placed on your heart…no one on the planet loves your children more than you do. You can do this, and you are not alone.