Homeschooling

Hi there, guys!

I’m super-excited that Aimee invited me by to chat with you guys today because she is one of my all-time favorite bloggy friends, and I know that means I’ll love all of her fabulous readers just as much as I do her!

My name is Abbie from Five days…5 ways

And I was homeschooled.

I was not, however, a homeschooler.

At least that’s what I always told myself growing up…even though there might have been a pair or two of culottes in my closet that would have told a different story.

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This is me, ca. 1995, rocking quite the set of choppy bangs and 90’s grunge plaid (which I’m sure I actually loved… a lot).

And here I am 16 years later at an “ugly sweater” Christmas party where I decided to take it one step further and pay homage to the “homeschool mom uniform” that my mother and most others that I knew donned faithfully:

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(The male half of our host couple thought my outfit was so convincing that he later told his wife that he was embarrassed for me. SCORE! And no, I don’t usually carry around large Samurai swords. I “won” it in a Round Robin gift exchange).

I even wrote a post about jeans jumpers for one of my Wardrobe Wednesday posts on my blog (which, yes, does mean that I now, ironically enough, devote an entire day each week to fashion).

But just so you don’t think I pull out the jeans jumper for anything but very special occasions, this is more like what I’m likely to be wearing these days:

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Lest you think that this post is all about clothes (it’s not) instead of homeschooling (it is), let me get on with my dissertation story.

It goes a little something like this:

My mom taught me to read on her lap when I was 4, and I graduated from a small homeschool coop group that she also taught when I was 15.

I attended community college for two years and then graduated from a university with a Double BA in English and Spanish and a 4-year GPA of 4.0.

I started teaching high school Spanish, grades 9-12, when I was 19-years-old.

And all of that was possible because I was homeschooled.

BOOM.

There you go.

My story.

Oh wait.

Did I leave some stuff out?

Okay, let me go back a bit.

First off, let me say that, regardless of the fact that I was aware of and wanted to avoid the stigmas associated with “dorky homeschoolers” growing up, I loved being homeschooled.

I loved the flexibility (I can remember getting permission from my mom to get up at 5 AM to get all my work done by 7:30 AM, so I could spend the rest of the day playing with my best friend who had also gotten up early to get all her work done. I think we were 8).

I loved the friends.

I loved the field trips.

I loved the musical groups, the sports, the community theater—most of which weren’t specifically related to homeschooling but all of which I was able to participate in, sometimes all at once, because I had the time available for them thanks to being homeschooled.

Was it all just roses and butterflies?

I’m sure it wasn’t, but I don’t really remember anything bad.

And that’s the honest truth.

I mean, sure, just like every other kid, there were days I wanted to do something other than a spelling test or another math lesson, but really, when you know you’ll be done in a few hours, what’s the big deal?

I’m definitely a self-starter and a bit of a nerd when it comes to learning (I actually like grammar if that tells you something), but more than anything, I have my amazing mom to thank for giving me such a positive outlook on education at home and in general.

She is such an intelligent, and godly woman who has degrees and teaching certifications in English and History and is the most dedicated teacher I know.

But, even without her degrees, I think she would have been a fantastic homeschool mom because she cared about me and my brother so much.

Every day, she poured herself out selflessly to show us how much she loved us and wanted the best for us, and I think our favorable opinion of the process (my brother, Shae, also enjoyed his homeschooling years) was a natural outflowing of her sacrifice.

So, what does all this mean for me now?

Well, as a 29-year-old mama to three littles under 6 (my oldest will be 6 this month, my second will be 4 1/2, and my toddler will be 18 months), it means that I am nearing the end of my first year of being a true homeschoolER.

As in, I do the homeschooling now.

And let me tell you this:

I liked being homeschooled a whole lot better than I like homeschooling! : )

It’s a lot of hard work (even though my mom made it look easy).

With three small children and another on the way (yup, I’m doing my part to perpetuate the Duggar stereotype!), a blog to write, a house to clean, exercise classes to teach (my hobby/”job” three days a week), an amazing husband I love spending time with, and now homeschooling, each hour in the day feels much too short and much too full all at once.

And my children are learning everything from scratch, which means I get very little opportunity to say, “Go over there and practice your vocab words while I help your brother, and then come back, and I’ll quiz you.” (Man, I’m looking forward to those days!)

Instead, it’s a lot painstaking explanation and constant repetition.

Which is hard on a girl who taught high school (public and private) for 6 years, loved it, and always said she’d rather be thrown to the lions than be forced to teach kindergartners…unless they were her own, of course.

Hmm…turns out your own kindergartners can be just as challenging as the ones you imagined/swore you’d never touch with a 1,000 foot pole (lest that sound too harsh, I’ve heard many a kindergarten teacher express the same vehement objections to ever teaching highschoolers).

Now, mind you, I’m no expert (at all) at this homeschooling business.

In fact, there are days when I feel like an utter failure.

But the good news is that I see improvement—sometimes tiny, sometimes significant—almost every day, and I realize that it won’t always be like this.

It will get easier (please, Lord!).

And so, I thought I’d share with you 3 simple tips that I’ve picked up from my first year of homeschooling very small children:

1) Keep the multitasking to a minimum.

For the longest time, I was determined to make the most of those three homeschooling hours every morning. I would do dishes, sweep floors, answer emails, fold laundry, edit pictures—anything I could do that kept me in close proximity to the boys while they “worked.”

But the problem is, they’re 4 and 5-years-old.

They have the attention span of a gnat who’s hyped up on a glazed donuts sugar high.

And so, almost always, my biggest returns on my efforts at productivity were a lot of frustration and a huge headache (if you want to know how many times the word “Mama” can be uttered in the space of two minutes, just try to finish an email while your little boy wants you to explain something that he already knows how to do…I double-dog dare you).

So, now, I spend a lot more time sitting or standing very near them. Yes, I still get some small things done, but my focus is on them, and they sense that, and it calms and helps them to focus.

2) If something isn’t working, try a little change first.

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest, who is very bright and usually loves to learn, was giving me fits when it came time for homeschooling each morning.

He whined, complained, and dragged his feet, so much so, that despite multiple punishments or possible rewards, at the end of 2 1/2 hours, he would have completed only 2 pages from his reading workbook and nothing else.

It was driving all of us bonkers, until I came up with one tiny switch that has practically cured the whininess issue.

So, what was this magical solution?

I let him do math first.

His reading exercises had gotten more difficult, and he was getting discouraged at the very beginning of each lesson by words he didn’t know or how many words he had to write.

But math is still much shorter and more straightforward, so by starting with it, he is able to do something at which he feels successful so that by the time he gets to “dreaded reading,” he’s forgotten that he dreaded it and just gets it done.

3) Give yourself some slack.

I’m a guilt-monger. A lot of the time, I feel bad if I don’t do things the “way I should.”

But with very small children, especially, life is very unpredictable.

Yes, routine is good, and yes, we do shoot for doing several hours of school every weekday morning.

But I’ve learned to be a little flexible both about our schedule and about our approach.

If the morning is just a disaster, and everybody’s falling apart, then sometimes we’ll just go out in the sunshine and take a break or even put school away altogether for that day, knowing full-well it will be there for us tomorrow and that we have no obligation to follow anyone else’s schedule (we did school during most days of Spring Break and on Good Friday when other kids were off, and my kids never knew the difference).

Believe it or not, taking a day off, or shifting things around will not bring about the Apocalypse. I’ve tested that for you, so we’re good. : )

So, there you have it—what I’ve learned from my first year of homeschooling.

If it doesn’t seem like much, I agree.

I’ve still got a ton of growing to do.

But the good news is that there really aren’t any deadlines—at least not yet.

When they’re this young, there’s no specter of worry perched on your shoulder about “What will I do if he’s not reading as well as he should be by such and such date?”

Who cares? School doesn’t let out until you say it does. You can keep working with him all summer long if you can stand it want.

It’s actually pretty freeing when you think about it.

And you know what else it is?

It’s worth it!

Thanks again, Aimee, for having me by to share with your sweet readers.

I would love it if you guys stopped by for a visit to say hi at Five days…5 ways!

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

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Decoupage Broom + Dustpan

Hi there, folks!

I’m super excited that Beth invited me over to meet you guys today!

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My name is Abbie from Five days…5 ways, and, while I dabble in a bit of everything over in my corner of blogland (I have a theme for each day of the week: Move-it Monday—Fitness, Try-it Tuesday—Tutorials, Wardrobe Wednesday—Fashion, 5 Things Thursday, and so on), I love, love, love home design (which means, of course, that I’m a big fan of Beth’s blog and all the inspiration that she shares with us).

But what I love even more than decorating is decorating on the cheap.

Which is why I spend waaaay more time at Goodwill and other bargain haunts than a woman with three kids under six and another one on the way (yep, that’s me) should if she values her sanity.

That ottoman in the above pic was originally a $40 Craigslist coffee table, which I transformed because I wasn’t willing to pay 10-15 times as much for something similar from a furniture store.

And since I like to keep things consistent, most other things in my living room are either thrifted, DIYed, or majorly discounted.

What can I say? I adore a great deal!

What I don’t adore?

Cleaning the rooms I’ve decorated.

But since sweeping is right up there with death and taxes as far as life’s certainties go, I was actually pretty tickled when I saw these fun broom/dustpan combos at Marshall’s the other day.

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That is…until I actually thought about paying $15 for something that I had a perfectly good pair of at home.

But it got my wheels turning, so I headed home and started digging through my stash of spray paint, scrapbook paper, and glue—which is about all it takes to transform some ordinary cleaning tools from this:

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{Blech, right?}

…to this!

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As it turned out, I had everything I needed lying around the house, so that means that my entire transformation = $0!

My favorite price-tag of all time!

So, how did I do it?

Well, first I taped off the bristles of my sad little broom…

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…wrapped them in a plastic grocery bag…

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…and then taped off the handle as well (what can I say?—canary yellow wasn’t doing it for me).

spray paint

I’m always a fan of aqua spray paint, though!

Then I took a little of these (including my secret cheapie weapon: homemade Mod Podge):

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…and got to spray-painting, gluing, and wrapping.

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Once everything dried for the first round, I sealed it all with another layer of glue goop.

And once that one dried, I was done!

This really is a no-brainer little project—I did it outside in the gorgeous Spring weather with all three of the kiddos running around in the grass—and, even with the distractions, it took all of an hour.

So…

From this:

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to this:

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…in an hour for zero money?

Yes, please!

Actually, it occurs to me that I have a history of sprucing up household items in attempt to make the mundane a little more manageable.

In this case?

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Laundry.

Beth was actually sweet enough to feature that transformation, and, while I can’t say that I actually think laundry is fun even with polka dots involved, it’s a lot easier to swallow than when my machines looked like this:

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Wanna see what other bargain-friendly transformations I have coming up?

Well, it just so happens that I’m sharing an inspiration board for my daughter’s new big girl room over on my blog for 5 Things Thursday today, and I would be pretty much thrilled if you stopped by for a visit!

Thanks again, Beth, for having me by to chat and to meet your awesome readers!

I look forward to getting to know you guys better!

~Abbie

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