Which Kids Should I Read Aloud To?

Yes, I know. Grammarians would have me say “To which kids should I read aloud?” Tough. I’m a hillbilly, not a grammarian.

When one thinks about reading aloud, the image that immediately comes to mind is probably that of a small child curled up on his mother’s lap. I definitely recommend reading aloud to teeny tots who are unable to read for themselves. (I’ve already discussed the why of reading aloud here.) “Read me a story!” is one of the most often uttered phrases in our house. Little ones love to be read to.

getalonghomereadaloud

But what about older kids? Children who are able to read for themselves benefit from this time together, as well, and I don’t just mean grade-schoolers. I believe that even teenagers deserve a good read-aloud from time to time. Grown-ups, too! One of the things I love to do with my husband after the kids go to bed  is have him read aloud to me. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like (the last time was actually a few Christmases ago when he read Skipping Christmas to me), but it’s a wonderful way to share books with each other.

There’s a scene in Gone with the Wind where the women are all gathered together in a living room, waiting for their men to get back from some illegal doings, and in order to appear nonchalant—just another night, no nefarious activity going on in this household!—Melanie pulls out a copy of David Copperfield and begins reading: “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I was born…” I went searching for that book after seeing GWTW  just because the first sentence was so lovely to my ears! Some books were just meant to be read aloud, and David Copperfield is one of them. (By the way, is it just me, or would it make more sense to start in the middle of a book, rather than the first sentence, if you wanted to look like you’d been having a leisurely night at home just like any other night?)

That scene always struck me as odd, just because I’d had no experience of reading chapter books aloud. Obviously, in pre-radio and television times, this would have been the best way for a family to entertain themselves after dinner, but it just isn’t done very much these days. I think that’s a shame. Watching television together is nice, but it’s not the only—or even the best—way to share a story with your family.

It would be good to get into the habit of reading aloud before the kids are teens, of course. I imagine that if you just waltz into your fourteen year-old’s room after years of not reading anything to her and say “Honey, put down that smartphone and let me read The Hobbit to you.” you’re probably not going to get the most enthusiastic response. She will probably, in fact, think you are insane, because Hello, Mom, I’m not five anymore! You might have to use a sneak approach at dinner time or something if this is the case. If you find a way to skin that particular cat, let me know. Perhaps you can convince her (or him) by explaining that well-written books are so rich in meaning, plot, and character that they are much more satisfying than movies. Also, you’ll improve your SAT verbal score at the same time!

Read to your babies. Read to your toddlers and preschoolers. And then keep reading. Some of the best read-alouds are books that younger children can’t even begin to understand. You don’t have to stop just because they get too big to sit on your lap.

Why Read Aloud?

If there’s one thing practically everybody can agree on (and there are really very few things like that), it is that reading to your kids is really, really important.  Every time I’ve taken my preschoolers to the doctor for a well-child check-up, we’ve been presented with an age-appropriate book to take home, just to make the point that reading will keep your kid from getting measles is healthy.

Of course, I grew up without being read to very much at all, and still turned out to be a literary genius (shut up), so I’m a little bit skeptical about parent-led reading’s absolute importance to a person’s future literacy. In fact, some educators and home-educators don’t even believe it matters whether you read aloud in the early years or not. See what I mean about getting everybody to agree on something?

I think it’s a good thing to do, though, and for a lot of reasons.

getalonghomereadaloud

Why should I read to my kids?

Help for struggling readers. A struggling reader doesn’t have to be a struggling learner! Allow the child to hear his lessons instead of just reading them, so that reading difficulties don’t hold him back in other areas. I’m also a big fan of audiobooks for auditory learners. Sometimes Mommy’s voice just needs a rest. Besides helping him get the information he needs, reading aloud to a child introduces words on a page to him in a friendly, low-pressure way that can make even struggling readers want to try harder to read for themselves.

Reading aloud takes away some of the pressure to perform. The hardest thing about learning for some kids is the fear of getting something wrong. Perfectionism is an understandable tendency, but it needs to be dealt with. After several clashes with my oldest child over his unwillingness to read aloud to me I finally asked him why. “I feel silly! I might say it wrong.” he said. I admit, until that moment, I hadn’t really done a lot of reading to him just for fun. I was more like my own parents, and didn’t read aloud much unless I had to. Why? Because I felt silly. I might say something wrong in my worst hillbilly accent. See how that works? So I swallowed my pride, and started reading to him. Now that he sees someone else tripping over words, laughing it off, and enjoying it anyway, I have very little trouble getting him to read to me.

kidsreadaloud

Read aloud so your kids will learn to feel comfortable reading and speaking in front of others.

Reading for relationship. Reading isn’t just about what’s in the book; it’s about the readers. Reading aloud will certainly convey whatever lesson or story is in the book you’ve chosen, it’s true. But it also gives you a chance to get on the same figurative, as well as literal, page with your kids. You need to be connecting with your kids every day, but sometimes there don’t seem to be very many things to say. Books can provide the fodder for conversation. Parents who get into the habit of sitting down daily with their children and sharing thoughts in the early years will find it much easier to do so when the child is older and the discussion isn’t about The Little Lame Prince. I’m told it gets harder to connect when they’re teens. Practice togetherness (sans television) now!

Reading just feels good. I heard once that research has shown that reading produces brain wave patterns similar to those that occur when falling asleep or having a massage. It is a physically relaxing activity. What a nice thing! I could link to said research, but I’m too lazy to find it. I think it would be more fun to do your own research, anyway. All you have to do is head for the bathroom the next time nature calls. Go one day with a book, and one day without. Which is easier?

Often, young adults will leave their days of reading for pleasure behind after finishing school. What better way to rediscover (or just discover for the first time) the simple pleasure of letting words on a page hold your attention? Grab up your kid (or kids) and head for the library!.

Make Your Own: Baby Food

Once upon a time, a company had a really great idea. They dreamed up this awesome little machine that would first steam, then puree any food one might wish to feed a baby. It even doubled as a bottle warmer. Then they charged buyers $99.00 each to buy one. I wish that had been my idea, because there are apparently a whole lot of people out there with three conditions I wouldn’t have expected to be so prevalent in these troubled times: enough money to buy one, enough kitchen space to store it, and a sore lack of frugal habits to prevent them from wasting said money and space.

More power to the manufacturers, I guess, but they’re not getting their hands on my money that easily! Neither are the baby food pushers on aisle 7 at the local grocery store. I could waste just as much money buying baby food as I would if I bought the aforementioned appliance. The frugal way, and the healthier one, is to make your own baby food. Making your own baby food is so easy that I swore off it not too long after my first baby started solid foods. (I admit, I’ve had to buy baby food to get the jars before because nothing else would do for a craft, but otherwise, there’s just no good reason to waste your money on pureed green beans.)

What do I feed my baby?

Whatever you eat, of course! While you don’t want to start baby on spicy black beans or anything, it is usually easy to plan your meals to include something a baby can have. For first foods, I start them around six months, except for this last baby who didn’t want food until he was 7 months old. Nearly any vegetable or fruit will do. I even do chicken or fish occasionally! Bananas and avocado are two of my favorite first foods, because you don’t need to do anything but smash them with a fork. Remember to always use a strainer for peas, as the hulls are yucky and hard to swallow no matter how soft they get. My babies also get a lot of plain yogurt mixed with banana, prunes, or apples. Don’t buy flavored yogurt for them (or yourself!), as it has a lot of junk in it.

prunes

A few foods that simply do not work for baby food? Corn, rice, beans (really hard to digest for a baby under one year of age), tomatoes (too acidic), and potatoes (maybe that’s just me). Skip the rice and oatmeal cereals in the baby food aisle, even if your doctor says to start with them. They just constipate the baby, and he doesn’t need those carbs anyway! Follow the usual advice to space new foods out with a few days between trials so you can be aware of allergic reactions.

How do I do it?

I guess you could do it the old-fashioned way and just pre-chew your baby’s food yourself, but…well…no. We won’t go there. Technology is good.

Do you have a steamer basket? If not, that’s really the only tool you really need, so go buy one. A small metal colander will do just as well. Steamed foods retain color, flavor, and nutrients much better than boiled ones do. Carrots, broccoli, or sweet potatoes are some of my favorites. Some foods, like apples, are better peeled and cooked with a little water. Experiment with different ways for different foods. After steaming, you can strain your baby food through a fine sieve, or use an inexpensive stick blender to puree the food. If you want to do chicken or fish, you’ll have to use a stick blender. As baby gets a little bit older, you can easily add shredded cheese to many vegetables. Use your imagination.

For bigger babies (from 9 months on), all you need is to dice the foods very small and steam them enough for them to smash them. No pureeing required!

Make ahead.

Whether it’s because the meals I have planned aren’t going to be very good for a baby’s tummy or I have to travel and need convenient baby-sized portions, sometimes I need some fast baby food. I try to always have something in the fridge or freezer for those times. Bananas and avocado make perfect convenience baby foods. Just peel, smash, and serve. For veggies and other fruits, I steam and puree big batches and then store them in the freezer in single-serving sized plastic storage bowls.

What about prunes?

Babies can get constipated when they start solid foods, especially if there are a lot of bananas in their diet. First, lay off the bananas for a while. Then get some prunes! I had been in the habit of buying my prunes from the baby food aisle, because they were too sticky to blend. Then it occurred to me that the baby food factories didn’t have any special magic that I don’t have, so there must be a better way. I was right. You can steam those suckers and rehydrate them! A pack of baby food prunes costs about a dollar for two servings, and that’s not too bad. However, an 18 oz. canister of whole prunes only costs around three dollars, and you can get at least five times as many servings out of that. My homemade prunes are so much thicker that I think I must have been paying for a product that was mostly water! Steam whole prunes for 10 minutes, puree with enough water to make them the right consistency, and you’ve just saved yourself a few dollars a week. They taste better, too. I even put some on my own pancakes this morning. Almost as good as apple butter!

pancakes

Baby food makers like to let us think that there’s some unfathomable mystery about introducing foods to our babies, as if the human race has always had a Gerber plant right down the road. All it really requires is five or ten minutes a week (seriously) to give our babies foods that are as nutritious and fresh as the foods we eat.

Make Your Own: Potato Bread

Low-carb, paleo, gluten-free people, look away. I’m about to make you sad.

I’m no foodie. I make plain food, serve it on plain dishes, and rarely get fancy with the fixin’s. While I’m a good cook, I’m not an impressive one, so anything I can do, I suspect that you can do better. When Barb posted recently about her magical, never-ending store-bought loaf of bread, I went to the basket where I keep my own loaf of Nature’s Own, and down in the bottom of the basket was a bag with one heel of bread left in it. And you know what? She was right! This stuff is suspiciously healthy-looking after sitting in my fairly damp kitchen environment for probably two weeks. My bread doesn’t do that. My bread has to be eaten within 24 hours or frozen, or it starts to go stale.  My bread also costs a lot less. Naturally, I was inspired to jump back onto the…er…bread wagon. Does bread come on wagons?

It has been seven months since I made my own bread. New baby. You know how that is. (That is also, not coincidentally, how long it has been since my last post here at HCP.) We’re pretty well settled back into a normal sleep schedule, finally, so I have the energy to add some things back into our routine now. Last week, I got out my big batch recipe and made a few loaves for the family. This week, I pick back up this blogging habit. Who knows what we’ll do next week? Maybe I’ll take up scuba diving! In January. Right. Anyhow…

homemadebread

This is not a fancy bread, as I said, and it’s not even whole wheat, so I guess it gets no points for health, except that it has none of the zombie features of the forever bread we find on store shelves. It is very tasty, though, and not too hard to make. You can experiment with using whole wheat flour, and I have, but we just like the white stuff better. I adapted this recipe beyond all recognition from one that I found on someone else’s blog, but I can’t remember where, so I guess I can call it my own now.

 

Potato Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Bread
 
Easy sandwich bread.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1 Cup and 1 Tablespoon sugar (divided)
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 3 Cups hot water
  • 1 Cup instant potato flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • ¾ vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 lb bag of flour
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon water (optional)
Instructions
  1. Measure out all of your ingredients first, and put water on to boil while you work so it will be hot when you need it.
  2. Mix yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the cup of warm water.
  3. In a large bowl--I use my stock pot because it gives me plenty of room for splashing and stirring—whisk together the three cups of hot water, potato flakes, salt, 1 cup of sugar, milk, oil, and finally, the beaten egg. Make sure that water is no longer hot enough to cook the egg.
  4. Whisk in the yeast mixture, which should be nice and frothy by now.
  5. Add enough warm water to bring the volume of the liquid to 8 cups. (I eyeball it, but I think it’s about a cup.)
  6. Whisk in flour a few cups at a time until it starts to be too thick for the whisk to work, then switch to a spoon. Don’t ask me why. Just do it. It’s the Way.
  7. Continue adding all of the flour and mix it into an elastic, not-too-sticky, dough. At this point, you may need to add more water. I usually need a few tablespoons more.
  8. Knead the dough on a clean, floured counter until it is smooth and fun to play with, then dump it into an oiled container big enough to hold double that amount.
  9. Let rise for 90 minutes, then divide into 6 equal portions. You can get 6 loaves, or 6 dozen rolls, or a combination of the two from this recipe.
  10. Let rise in well-greased pans for another 30 minutes to an hour.
  11. Optional: Whisk together 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and brush over the tops of the loaves/rolls. You could get fancy here and sprinkle on some sesame seeds or something.
  12. Bake in 350 oven until golden brown for loaves, 400 for rolls.
Notes
Tips: After the first rise, cut the dough into roughly equal portions with a pastry blade, and work the dough as little as possible when you arrange it in your pans. You have to play with it a little bit to make it fit the bread pans, but be gentle. This will keep the bread light. Pop any bubbles in the top of the bread with a skewer before you put the loaves in the oven. If you plan to freeze the dough, do it after the first rise. Punch it down, shape it into rolls or loaves, and store it in greased plastic wrap. I prefer to freeze the finished product (no grease, just plastic wrap!), as I always forget to get the dough out in time to thaw. Rolls freeze and thaw better than loaves. Bread doesn’t like to be sliced until it is completely cooled. I don’t like to let it sit that long when there’s butter and honey to be eaten with it, so I ignore this fact and mangle the first loaf every time. Can’t help it. Don’t be like me.

Enjoy your freshly baked bread!

When Kids Need to be Mothered MORE…

One common response I get when I mention that I stay home with my kids is “I’d go crazy having my kids around all day!” My reply? “Yeah. Me, too.”  I’m not exactly built for this, myself. In fact, I’m pushing the curious hands of a toddler away from my keyboard as I type this. I’d really like him to go somewhere else for a moment, but that’s not happening. Which is the point of this post.

Unlike some homeschool bloggers I used to read, whose response was that you are a bad, bad parent for even thinking about needing a break, I can sympathize with that. Probably due to the mainstreaming of home education, the kind of internet mom who would say such a thing is now gone, or at least hiding—and good riddance!–and has been replaced with a kinder, gentler homeschool blogger. (Honestly, after reading some of them, it’s a miracle I ever decided to homeschool at all.)

There are plenty of practical ways to deal with children who need to entertain themselves for a while, and my favorite is to just tell them to go find something to do. Then I try not to fret too much about it when that something turns out to involve glitter, glue, feathers, and the cat. That’s the price you pay for peace.

But for moms of smaller children, practical solutions are few. You can’t tell a toddler to go put together a puzzle until you’re ready for him. (I mean, you can tell him anything you like, but he won’t do it.) With smaller kids, there’s simply a need for more hands-on attention. The reason my toddler was, until a few minutes ago, sitting on my lap and impeding my progress is because toddlers need physical touch. It’s just biological fact. This blog post might feel like the most important thing at the moment (since it is Friday, and that is what I do on Fridays), but little ones have a deep need to be mothered.

I’ve noticed something about my kids—even the bigger ones. No matter where I’m working, they immediately surround me.  Sometimes they bring toys and books and play quietly around me. Sometimes they sit right on top of me. They have absolutely no regard for what I’m doing. This is not because they are selfish or spoiled, despite what some of the older generations may have believed, but because they truly need to be close to me, and nobody else will do.

As my children get older, the radius of the circle they create around me grows larger and larger. Eventually, they won’t need to be anywhere near me anymore to function. That is healthy, and there are moments when I truly look forward to the peace and quiet of having nothing but older kids. Right now, though, I am what my little ones need. That’s not a burden. It’s a privilege, and one I’ve taken for granted too often.

The only way to stop my kids from driving me crazy is to mother them even more, not shoo them away like a bunch of annoying flies. It’s hard to put down the work that seems so urgent and pay attention to the kids—who will, after all, still be there when the deadline for this post has passed–but when I can remember to put them first, it makes for happier children and, eventually, a more productive mom.

(And yes, I stopped writing this post several times in order to take care of the needs of my 4 children, so if you notice any typos or weird phrasing, that’s my excuse. 😉 )

Slacker Mom Makes Peace with Being a Slacker

Have you ever had a mom tell you how imperfect she is while looking at right at you from perfectly rested, bright eyes, sitting in a perfectly clean house, while her perfectly behaved children are quietly completing their lessons (perfectly)? Said mom goes on to mention that she runs for an hour every morning instead of relying on the gallon of coffee you’re chugging every day, that she gets an hour of Bible time before that, does homeschool, bakes her bread from scratch, raises chickens, and gets a perfect 8.5 hours of sleep every night. Surely she’s exaggerating her accomplishments, you think! Alas, no. She really is all that and a bag of (kale) chips.

I have met this woman (details changed to protect the completely innocent, though maddeningly perfect mother). She exists, and she’s not lying about a thing. She really is doing it all. And I’m not. I have no desire to run for an hour every morning. Some of us are built for that, and some of us have to make do with a brisk walk. However, I’m not even doing half the things that I should be doing, let alone finding time for that sacrament of modern life without which none can be holy: exercise.

My friend Achiever Mom is not perfect. I know she isn’t. It’s not possible. In fact, I know her also to be something of a control freak and and worrier. However, she has an enviable ability to get all the things done that she has determined she should do. She has time with God. She has time to run. She’s taking care of all her responsibilities. She has a zillion neatly checked off lists to prove it. She does it all.

Every. Miserable. Day.

Frankly, it sounds awful. I’d be wound up tighter than the proverbial cat in a room full of rocking chairs if I had to live that way. Yesterday, I wished for Perfect Mom’s ability to get things done. Then I realized that I am simply not built to succeed in that way. I’m pretty sure I’ll succeed in my own way, though. Today, I’m really very happy to be a slacker mom with a preschooler on my lap during my “alone” time because I got up too late to sneak past him.

There’s no point whatsoever to this post. Just wanted to remind myself, and a lot of other moms, that we’re all very different in our needs and abilities, so there’s no point feeling like a failure if your bread came from the grocery store instead of your own (perfectly clean) oven. I’ll bet your kids don’t care that much if your hair is a mess, anyway.

Defying Gravity

Happy Friday, homeschoolers! It’s been a crazy week here, so I’m reposting this from my own blog. I have no idea how many HCP readers are following along over there, so forgive me if you’ve already read it! After you finish up here, be sure to drop by and enter the giveaways I’ve got going on. There’s a Patch the Pirate CD giveaway and a free registration to the Apologia Live Retreat. That second one ends tonight, so hurry! Now on to the feature:

In a recent post, I likened homeschooling to defying gravity. Leaving the accepted way of schooling behind is a tough thing to do, not just because of the social pressure to conform (if you don’t ever feel that, then congratulations, you’re a sociopath!), but because there is so much work involved—work that no one outside our own homes really even imagines, let alone appreciates—that in order to succeed, a homeschooling family has to have a firm conviction that they’re doing the best thing. Conviction is our jet fuel. If there isn’t enough of it, gravity will always win out.

In the aforementioned post, I was doing that thing convicted people often do to keep the peace: I told public school parents I wasn’t judging them, all the while making it clear that those judgments could be made, except that I’m just such a reasonable person that I’m happy to live and let live. (And I am, honest! I don’t care what you do! But I wouldn’t be homeschooling if I hadn’t come to some conclusions, aka judgments, about education and child-rearing. Anyway…)

However, there’s an unspoken fact that I left dangling to keep things on the light side: Every day, millions of American families are defying gravity! Homeschooling is better than possible. It’s the best way to go for a growing number of families!

contrails

If there isn’t something impressive about that, then it’s because we’ve become too accustomed to it, the same way we’re so accustomed to the miracle of flight that we don’t notice the dozens of contrails crisscrossing the sky above our heads every day. Most of us may remain earthbound, but there are hundreds of people just in the little patch of sky above my own head, every day, and they are miraculously not crashing down on my house! It’s so common that I look up at the sky and shrug my shoulders at it. Eh. Some planes. Whatever.

Why is that? Well, it’s because flying has never been impossible. It only seemed impossible because, before the brothers Wright figured it out, no one had seen it done yet. Now that it’s done every day, I can just take it for granted and go on with my life. But it’s still pretty wonderful when you stop to think about it.

In our generation, homeschooling has been proven to be possible, thanks to the work of the homeschooling pioneers who had a vision of home-centered childrearing that had been abandoned by their culture. Now we are, daily, doing the thing that must have seemed impossible to most parents of the previous generation. Not only are we keeping our kids home and teaching them to succeed in a more natural and fulfilling way, we’re doing it in huge numbers!

In the state of North Carolina alone, more than 7,000 homeschools are added to the Department of Non-Public Education records every year. Some of those families will run out of fuel pretty quickly and land with a thud, but many of them—maybe even most of them—are firm enough in their convictions that they’ll continue to homeschool until they run out of children. That’s exciting to me, but it’s not surprising.

We’ve always known that flight is possible. Birds and insects have testified to the fact long before humans figured it out. In the same way, homeschooling has always been possible. In fact, it was the norm for most of history, and it was well-accepted practice until the early twentieth century, for every kind of family from farmers to the wealthy elite. There’s nothing really surprising about educating children in the same place they sleep. Our society just forgot how.

I am extremely grateful to the parents of the previous homeschooling generation for rekindling the flame of do-it-yourself education. Their vision has made it possible for the rest of us to defy gravity with very little real trouble at all.

Image courtesy of emdot on Flickr.

Testing Jitters

As spring draws nearer, our oldest son is beginning to glance at me worriedly every time I pick up the phone. I’ll be calling in an outside tester to administer his first standardized test soon, and he is on high alert so he can create a diversion the moment that phone call takes place. Apparently, I failed to make the testing requirement known to my son early enough for him to get used to the idea, because he has a bad case of testing jitters. Naturally, he’ll be getting tested whether he likes it or not (it’s The Law, you know), but right now he still thinks he can thwart my evil plan.

He’s pretty anxious about the whole thing. For that matter, so am I.

We don’t do anything like standardized testing at home, nor are we doing things in the usual textbook-reliant way, so this is all completely foreign to him. Until now, I haven’t been concerned with his standardized test scores all that much. I don’t expect it to be a home-run, because it’s not really relevant to what we’re doing. Whatever happens, I’m certain that he is progressing as well as he can–way “ahead” in some things and with some challenges in other areas.

And yet, now that I’m forced to think about it, those numbers seem important to me. Possibly because I spent all of my own school years being categorized by test scores, I am on tenterhooks wondering how my boy is going to measure up.

I find myself falling into the comparison trap again–not against any other children I know (comparing individuals is something I’ve learned long ago not to do)–but against those cold, hard numbers. I like those numbers. I’ve been trained to think they mean something, even though I know many, many people whose successes and failures as adults prove that tests don’t predict anything of value.

This “99%” means I’m smart! And that 100 means I’m completely average! And how will we ever know where I fit in this world without those numbers? The public school testing model has left its mark on my psyche, apparently. Even though I know better, I’m still anxious to see “good” numbers at the end of all this.

And I haven’t even taught him how to take a test! What kind of mother am I?

But it’s just a number! It can’t tell me how well-behaved my child is, or what his future holds, or how creative he is, or even how good he is going to be at a particular subject next year!

Fortunately, I spent a lovely evening with some seasoned homeschool moms last night, and came away reassured that my child is not going to be permanently damaged by the fact that I haven’t taught him based on what’s “normal” at this age, or what the tests expect him to know, but on his own needs and aptitudes.

I’m not entirely anti-test. Measurements are useful, if you don’t give them the wrong amount of emphasis. I’m very interested in gaining insight into the kinds of things that tests are actually able to tell us. But I don’t want to make too much of the whole thing.

How about you? How much weight do you give to the results of standardized tests?

Homeschool Happenings

Happy February, homeschoolers! There are several things going on in and around the High Country for homeschoolers in the next few weeks and months. If I leave anything out, feel free to put it in the comments or email me with details so I can add it!

  • PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT (not just for homeschoolers!) is February 11, 6pm-9pm, Harvest House. Parents can enjoy a night out and support a great cause.  Proceeds will benefit efforts to build a classroom and buy textbooks for a school in Uganda. There will be fun activities and crafts. Snacks will be provided. As a bonus, parents will receive discounts at local businesses that they can use during their night out.  Cost is $10 per child/ $25 max per sibling group. For more information or to register, contact Tiffany Christian at tiffanychristian@charter.net.
  • The Apologia Live Retreat for homeschooling moms will be held in Atlanta, GA March 23-24. Not exactly local, is it? But I’m going, and Apologia Live will be giving away a free ticket to one Get Along Home reader! Keep an eye on the blog for details this week.
  • The North Carolinians for Home Education  Annual Conference and Book Fair will be held May 24-26, 2012. For parents of preschoolers who are considering beginning homeschooling, registration is FREE. Register by April 20 if your oldest child is four years old or younger to get in free and come see what homeschooling is all about!
  • Testing time will be rolling around soon. There are several ways of getting your homeschooled child tested in accordance with NC law. You can, of course, order tests online and administer them yourself. If you’re more comfortable getting someone else to do it, there are a couple of other options I’m aware of. Amy Schaffner, of High Country Educational Services, conducts individually administered Woodcock-Johnson tests. Visit the HCES website for more details. Also, Grace Academy will be administering Standford Achievement Tests for kindergarten through 8th grades during the week of April 30. For more information and to register, email Grace Academy.

 

 

 

Getting Dad Involved in Homeschooling

Daddy teachesProbably coincidentally, unless solar flares have some effect on fathers’ attitudes that I’m unaware of, I’ve noticed a recent uptick in the number of younger homeschooling moms asking (via social media) how to get their husbands more involved in their day-to-day routine. As homeschooling becomes a more mainstream lifestyle, I think we’re likely to see more families that have been led into homeschooling by unilateral decision of one parent or the other, rather than by the mutual and sober determination of both parents that it’s the best thing for their family.

While there isn’t anything wrong with it being Mom’s idea, when Dad isn’t as heavily invested in the idea as his wife, it does introduce some problems that earlier homeschooling families may not have faced. This article, of course, assumes that there are two parents present in the home. Homeschooling as a single parent is a whole ‘nother ball of wax that I don’t feel at all equipped to address. For those homeschools where dad stays home and mom works—and I know of a few—just reverse the pronouns.

In our own family, my husband is very much interested and aware of what our children are learning. I’m not sure he really knows how our day works but he does usually know what we’re studying and what our struggles are. He often leads (hilarious) discussions with the boys about history and science, and we feel like he’s very much a part of our homeschool.

But he has also suffered from debilitating migraines—nearly every day for the last 2.5 years–so I can easily relate to the mom whose husband doesn’t help out simply because he doesn’t want to, whether it be with the housework or the lessons. The difference is that there’s no bitterness in my having to do it all alone, because I know he’ll help when he can. It’s a lot harder when your husband simply doesn’t think he needs to be involved.

So, what to do when Mom is not only the primary caregiver and teacher, but also the only parent with a real investment in the idea of homeschooling, with Dad as only a passive observer?

Talk to him about your day. How are the kids doing? What are you studying? Did little Susie say something adorable during math lessons today? Don’t say “I wish you were involved.” or otherwise make him feel guilty. Just speak to him about what’s going on, the same way you talk to him about needing to change the tires on the car. Don’t dominate the conversation with it, unless it really is grabbing his interest, but do make sure you’re letting him know how you’re doing. If you make it more real by sharing what happens when he’s not there, he may begin to be more receptive to the idea of helping.

Ask him to share his passion. Maybe he’s not interested in homeschooling because he feels clueless about teaching small (or not-so-small) children, but chances are there’s something he can share with his kids. Whether he’s a car lover or a computer geek, there is something he can do to help raise his children beyond bringing home a paycheck. He doesn’t even have to call it a lesson. It’s just being a dad.

Tell him you need help. If you’re like me, asking for help just isn’t something you do. Do it anyway. And (I’ve learned this the hard way) do it when you’re in a good mood, not a bad one, or it will end in a fight. It could be that your husband thinks your being at home all day means you should be able to handle all the housework by yourself, but you are a working mom! You’re just working at teaching. You’re not “just” a housewife. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! See what I think of that here and here.) Be specific with your needs. “Sweetheart, it is so hard to do all these lessons and still keep the laundry under control. Could you either teach science on the weekends or fold a few loads of laundry while I do it?” Be creative. Don’t make it about how frustrated you are. Give him some simple steps he can take. Most men (not all, unfortunately) will be happy to help, but you have to give him an action item.

Work on your marriage. This may have less to do with your work-load or his interest than it has to do with the health of your relationship. Consider whether the two of you are growing apart, and affecting your children (not just their education) in the process. I’m not a relationship expert, so I’ll leave it at that.

Accept it. This is the route I’ve had to take, due to my husband’s chronic illness. Sometimes, it’s just going to feel like too much. Keep going, and you’ll learn how to prioritize and survive. It’s not optimal, but life rarely is.

Consider whether you should really be homeschooling. It is not often that I recommend a family give up homeschooling. I think that it is superior to public school and a great many private schools, and I’m glad it’s gaining such traction as an option. The assembly-line education model is being replaced by a decentralized, individualized approach that I whole-heartedly support. But if both parents aren’t on board, homeschooling can create marital strife. Homeschooling is not healthy if it is destroying your family. If your husband isn’t helping because he’s clueless, busy, or a bit lazy (hey, it happens), but he likes the idea, you can work on it! But if he’s actually just staging a sit-in protest because he doesn’t really want to do this, you need to seek other options unless and until he changes his mind. Notice that I said until he changes his mind, not until you change it for him. Sometimes you have to let it go for a while.

How about you, moms and dads? I know we’ve all struggled with delegating the duties of homeschooling at some point. What do you and your spouse do to make things run smoothly?