My Path to Home Schooling by Teresa Robeson

The paths that different families take to homeschooling are varied and unique. Even within a single family, the decision to home school each child can be drastically dissimilar, as was the case with us.

Our older son was precocious. He knew the alphabet around the age of one and was reading by two.  

One time when Son1 was about three years old, while watching my husband garden, a strange worm wriggled out of the soil. My husband wondered aloud what it could be. Our son replied that it was a wire worm. Hubby naturally thought he was making it up and so, as adults do, nodded indulgently and said, “Oh, is that right?” After returning to the house, hubby looked it up in the “The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insects and Disease Control” book and sure enough, that’s what it was.  

Son1 had been perusing the book and we assumed he was only looking at the pictures but he was actually reading the text.                              

By the time kindergarten rolled around, he was reading proficiently and counting up to 100, doing simple adding and subtracting. We figured that he would be incredibly bored with kindergarten and decided to keep him home for the year, putting him in grade one after that. We didn’t want to skip him up to grade one at that point since, in maturity, he was more like his kindergarten peers.

My younger son, on the other hand, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. He had language delay and exhibited symptoms on the autism spectrum (he has since been tested and is determined to be not autistic though he has a learning disability). He attended a public school speech preschool program and blossomed under their tutelage, but he had sensory integration issues that made him highly sensitive to noise and chaos. Since most kindergarten classes are the epitome of noise and chaos, we decided that the best option for him was to not send him to kindergarten, but to home school him until he outgrew his aversions and to take him to occupational and speech therapy on our own.

When each of them arrived at the stage where we thought they could happily integrate into the school system–around grade two for Son1 and fifth grade for Son2–we gave them the option every year of going to public school or continuing to home school. They always chose to continue with homeschooling.

Thanks to a wonderful, large, and diverse home school support group in our town, we were able to have the kids participate in group activities–everything from music to art to language lessons–in addition to doing lessons at home on our own. The support group, by holding parties and playgroups as well as the more academic offerings, also ensured that the kids interacted with other children in multi-age gatherings rather than just a narrow subset of their same age peers.

We’re nearing the end of homeschooling. A few years ago, Son1 won a National Merit Scholarship and entered university with nearly perfect SAT scores. He is currently in his junior year and plans to go to graduate school. Son2 is finishing up the twelfth grade and plans to take a gap year to assess his interests.

We have been pleased with our homeschooling journey. It’s not an educational path suited to everyone but it worked out for us and we’re happy we could provide it for our children, both with their own special needs. 

Teresa’s family has been homeschooling since 2000. This is their last year of home-learning and she’ll have more free time to write, do art, knit, make soap, bake, and can jams and jellies in the future. She can be found online at teresarobeson.com

 

 

Three Cheers for SPRING!!!

The Inspiration Called Spring.

After painting my thoughts from a grey pallet with a cold winter brush, I pick up the same brush and find it changes color like a chameleon. The words coming from its tip are filled with sensory images that wake up the dormant muse. There is no doubt that spring has entered into the picture to spread its influence on my thoughts. How can I stay grey when yellow and purple crocuses wave their tongues as I pass by? How can I be cold when the earth feels warm in my hands? How can I take a breath of air without bringing the scent of grass and hyacinth to my nostrils? Spring is the season of poetry; it is the feast promised after the famine passed. It is the reason birds sing, and the sun shines. It is the reason I pick up a fresh piece of paper and a newly sharpened pencil and bare my soul in words.                    crocus

Get your children outside on a SPRING SCAVENGER HUNT. Make a list of things to look for as you take a walk through the neighborhood or park. Some possible things to include on your list are: flowers of various colors, different kinds of birds, different kinds of trees/leaves, insects, things popping out of the ground, nests, etc. Or, make it a sensory hunt and try to identify various bird songs, nature sounds, smells from blossoming trees and flowers, taste of newly sprouted asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries.


Celebrate all things spring!

This Makes Sense by Beth Ferry

I recently flew home to NJ from Dallas, TX.

With a sore throat.  In a storm.

As a result, the hearing in my right ear was compromised.

Like I have a cotton ball tucked snugly and constantly in my ear.

Nothing permanent, but pretty darn annoying.

Most people, especially me, take their senses for granted.

Our senses are like five little superheroes to whom we don’t pay much attention, but who really rule our world.

Not being able to hear as I usually do made me think about how our senses affect our writing.

Do we use our senses as we write?

Interesting question.  Our senses surely inspire us.

I know the smell of the salt air at the beach makes me dream of whales and mermaids and deep sea stories.

The feel of the sand gives me ideas about sand castles and buried treasure.

The sight and sound of the crashing waves makes me write about pirates and seagulls and starfish wishes.

But do we use these senses during the writing process?   During the typing and reading and thinking and revising?

The answer is most definitely yes!

And even though you’ve probably heard this advice before, because of my current auditory predicament, I am going to focus on the sense of hearing.

Write your stories.

Read your stories.

Hear your stories.

Reading your stories aloud is critical to the writing and revising process.

When you read your stories aloud and float your words in the air, you are able to perceive them in a completely different way.

You can almost taste them!

Those spicy verbs.                          hjn010212lifespice           

The bland run-on sentences.

The juicy adjectives.

The past-their-expiration-date adverbs.

Something that looks fine on your computer screen and sounds fine in your head, doesn’t always work quite the same way when heard by your ears.

Your ears will pick up the rhythm of your sentence.

The power of your word choices.   The flow of the story.

The mistakes.  The successes.

It is the single most important thing you can do as a writer – read your stories aloud.

It’s how children will hear them.

It makes complete sense!            sbw-cover

 

A Small Blue Whale is releasing in October and is illustrated by Lisa Mundorff.

It is about a whale who sets out to find a friend, but along the way uses his senses to ponder the meaning of friendship.

Have you ever thought about what friendship looks like?

Tastes like?   What it sounds like?   Or feels like?

Probably not, but it is a pretty fun idea to explore.

I like to think that friendship tastes like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

That it sounds like those waves crashing on the sand and smells like that salty air.

That it feels like soft, fluffy cotton balls.

An image that I love.

Only not in my ear!

bethFerry Headshot 500Beth Ferry lives and writes by the beach in New Jersey where she is influenced by the sea and the sand and the salt. She is the author of Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and A Small Blue Whale which swims into print on October 24, 2017. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

 

 

Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints

Shake Off the Winter Blahs.

 I recently visited the Art Museum on the Princeton University campus. It was great for three reasons. First of all, it’s free. There aren’t many places of culture and enlightenment nowadays that can boast that. And, the collection has something for everyone.  There are sculptures and pottery over 4,000 years old, paintings done by ANDY WARHOL, and everything in between.

The third reason it was a great visit is because where else but an art museum provides peace, quiet, and contemplation along with some magnificent objects of beauty? Being in such an environment frees the mind and allows all sorts of creative energy to enter. Writers who are struggling with writer’s block might find inspiration looking at any painting or sculpture, and stories begin to spring into mind. WHY did the artist choose such a subject? WHAT IF the subject were alive today? WHAT would she/he have to say?  The possibilities for story are endless.

Let the kids go on a SCAVENGER HUNT, searching for specific art pieces throughout the day.  Many museums have programs geared specifically for children.

So, if you feel as if you’re in a rut and need some CHANGE to jump start the muse, visit the Princeton University Art Museum – or ANY art museum and let your imagination run wild. Take notes, snap photos and just doodle in a notebook. You never know, it may be the start of something wonderful. artmuseum.princeton.edu

Didn’t someone say “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

In Service to Others.

Tomorrow is a day we’ve set aside to remember a great man: Martin Luther King Jr.  What better way to remember him and honor his memory than to do our own “good deeds” of service.  To quote King: “I have decided to stick with Love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”           martin_luther_king_jr_nywtsTo discover service opportunities in your community visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday

Scholastic has lesson plans for teachers in grades 3-12 as well as service opportunities for children.  http://www.scholastic.com/mlkday

2017: A Year to Be Kind.

According to a poll by Kindness USA, only 25 percent of Americans believe we live in a kind society.  In another survey of 10,000 teens, 4 out of 5 said their parents are more interested in achievement and personal happiness than in caring for others.  There is definitely less kindness in public life.

With so much harshness, negativity, hatred and meanness that seems to populate discourse in our society, it was very encouraging to see a recent article about BEING KIND.  The article, by Paula Spencer Scott in PARADE MAGAZINE, lists ways we can change this discourse and make kindness a priority in our lives.

1.You can join PARADE and the RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS FOUNDATION in this year’s challenge: Write 52 Thank You Notes – one each week to a different person for a year.  Besides bringing kindness and joy to the recipient, this gratitude boosts happiness and well-being in the “doer” as well.  You can find a template for a simple thank you  note at: http://www.Parade.com/note.

2. Read Orly Wahba’s KINDNESS BOMERANG: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD (AND YOURSELF) THROUGH 365 DAILY ACTS for simple suggestions on how to pass on kindness such as sharing a cup of tea with grandma and reminiscing about times shared.

3. TEACHERS can find downloadable lesson plans on teaching kindness at: http://www.randomactsofkindness.org

4. Looking for a way to acknowledge good deeds or inspire someone to “pay it forward”? Go to: http://www.Parade.com/cards    to print out free kindness cards to pass out to those who do good deeds.

Even the folks at SESAME STREET know the importance of kindness.  It needs to be taught and modeled. The new – 47th – season of the program will focus on modeling kind behaviors and explicitly labeling kindness when it happens.

If you need more of an incentive to practice kindness on a daily basis, here are some proven benefits:

Being kind feels good.  Not only do you and the other person get a lift, but so do witnesses.  Each person involved is then motivated to “Pass on the kindness”.

Kindness leads to a less isolated, more connected world.

Strong social-emotional skills in young people predict success later in life better than IQ scores.  It is also seen as a key to anti-bullying programs.  To learn more about these programs visit the Girls Scouts of the USA BE A FRIEND PROGRAM, Lady Gaga’s BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION, and the KIND CAMPAIGN started by 2 graduates of Pepperdine University.

To see how cities across America are spreading kindness, visit: http://www.cityofkindness.org

Kindness is one condition worth spreading and sharing with the world. What acts of kindness will you do today, tomorrow and throughout the year?  I’ll be checking back here periodically with an update on my own “kindness project”.