My third child, Jacob, graduated from our homeschool Friday night. It was my first homeschool group graduation, and it was really lovely. As soon as we got home, I did a facebook live chat to share about it, because I just wanted to encourage other homeschool parents in their journey. If you’d like to go watch (and cry along with me), click here to see that replay video.
What I want to talk about today, is something that happened last month. As Jacob and I were working on putting together some information for his graduation ceremony, we got talking about his feelings about homeschooling and what he feels home education has done for him.
Although we started out homeschooling in 1997 when our oldest child was a kindergartener, we diverged from our homeschooling path briefly in 2003 when babies 4, 5, and 6 had arrived in under 3 years, and there were simply too many needs and not enough of me or my sanity to go around. Our 3 oldest kids, Micah, Haley, and Jacob, went to school that fall, and the 3 babies and I stayed home.
Jacob did fine in kindergarten, and benefitted from the speech therapy at school. First grade got bumpier, as the strong emphasis to have all children reading was not a fit for him. His well-meaning teacher encouraged us to practice reading with him more and more, but it was no use. He was not learning to read. We knew something was off, but didn’t know how to help.
In second grade my sweet son continued to struggle. Reading just couldn’t unlock for him, and writing was really tough, too. His kind teacher told me that she felt we would eventually learn that Jacob had dyslexia, but at his age he was too young for an official diagnosis.
After that year, things had stabilized enough for me that I was able to have Jacob return to homeschooling. My feelings about his needs were that I could not leave him in an educational environment that was both subtly and overtly teaching him that he was not smart, and I knew that at home I could help him learn without making a big deal about his reading difficulties. I wanted to preserve my son’s sweetness and optimism, and nurture his love of learning, whatever that looked like for him.
Over the years since then we have utilized a number of different tools and approaches to learning, despite Jacob’s dyslexia. He eventually spent most of a year in a special cognitive therapy program that helped his brain overcome much of this learning challenge. (See my P.P.S. at the bottom for some info on this!) We built upon each opportunity and breakthrough naturally. His confidence grew and his interest in trying new things grew as well. He joined community theater, which capitalized on his ability to memorize, and overcame his awkward and nervous speech patterns, helping him become a much more confident public speaker, and helping him discover that he had a natural talent for acting. He periodically would decide to try out writing historical novels, theater scripts, and screen plays, just for fun! He has become an extremely proficient fitness expert, and his ability to set and achieve fitness goals inspires me continuously! (Recently, after about 5 months of working toward this goal, he was able to do a muscle up. Except he didn’t do just one. He did 5. In a row!)
We thought Jacob’s post-graduation plans were all set. He was planning to get his Personal Training certification, start working, and save up for his next big adventure that he hoped to begin in about a year. However, when he got a golden opportunity last week to jump into that adventure NOW, he had the confidence to say YES. So, he graduated on Friday, and is currently on his way to New York City where he’ll still be working and becoming a Personal Trainer, but also seeing what he can get into for theater opportunities and other creative pursuits. Whoosh—just like that I went from “I’ll still have this terrific guy around for another year or so” to the realization that everything is changing…..right. this. minute.*
When I look back at how I felt about Jacob’s needs as a second grader, I know we made the right choice, and it is incredibly satisfying to see that a home education allowed my son to grow into a confident, competent, caring young man that knows he has what it takes to go forward into his adult life and continue to learn and grow and rise to the challenges he faces. He and I agree that if he had remained in a typical school setting, the outcome on his mindset and feelings about his own abilities would probably have been much different, and less positive, for him.
It’s incredible, the amount of encouragement we can get from our kids! When my son shared with me his appreciation for the sacrifices his dad and I have made to provide a home education for him, and how he felt this changed his life for the better, it was the sweetest and most precious PAYDAY I’ve had in a long time. The areas in which I have felt inadequate and lacking in our homeschool journey are numerous, yet I see that even so, we have gotten exactly what we wanted out of this experience. What an amazing blessing!
Moms and dads: Get a vision for what your kids need from you, and find a way to provide it! Invest yourself deeply, fully, and with great love and reckless abandon into this incredible mission opportunity before you. Each and every one of your children is an amazing individual that has their own unique life to live. You are their guide, facilitator, cheerleader, teacher, and friend along the way! Homeschooling can be a powerful catalyst for your family. Keep finding ways to make the most of this opportunity.To all of us as we do our best for the things that matter most,Erica
P.S. I know that for so many of us, we are looking for ways to make homeschooling more affordable. That’s why I love to share about the incredible blessing that the Build Your Bundle Sale is for homeschool family budgets! This annual sale brings together top curriculum providers to bring you GIANT savings of up to 96% on high-quality courses, programs, and other materials for your homeschool. I am proud to be affiliated with the Build Your Bundle sale as a contributor and affiliate. The sale is going on now through May 30, 2017, so go see what they’ve got that can help meet your needs.
P.P.S. For those of you with kids that struggle with learning challenges like my son did, I want to invite you to come listen to my talk about the cognitive therapy approach that helped my kids, and can help yours, too! You can watch the replay here.
Fans of Impressionist art are going to be thrilled to see our new collection of works by famous French painter Berthe Morisot! Her timeless works are beloved around the world, and I trust your family will enjoy getting familiar with these paintings as well.
This month you can get this collection for FREE if you are a Subscriber Perks Member. Simply sign up to the right, or click here, and I’ll send you your coupon code right away! You’ll also receive my ebooklet How to Use Fine Art Pages in Your Home, which will help you get started with my best ideas right away.
Once upon a time, I was a weary homeschooling mom of many, with a husband just 6 weeks past having open heart surgery, and we were dealing with a lot of tough,exhausting, and difficult things. It was 2014, and it became known to me as the year where I got very comfortable with the concept of uncertainty. Things were hard.
Always aiming to do my best in spite of circumstances, I tend to teeter-totter between firm responsibility and indulging in whimsy. After all–both are important, and it’s not always clear which one is needed worse.
One day a friend of mine wrote on facebook that she had about 600 free used golf balls for anyone that wanted to get them. And for some reason, this struck a chord of interest for me. I don’t remember why. I honestly can’t think of any good reason to get hundred of golf balls as I look back on it. But at that time, it seemed like it might be a worthy adventure. Or, it was a form of insanity. I asked my friends on facebook for advice:
OK friends: Talk me down. I just found out about 600 free golf balls I could go get. I am currently frantically scanning pinterest to figure out what awesome thing I could make with them. Currently thinking of Christmas ornaments….. Help!
A short while later the kids had joined me in my interest:
Here is the fun already resulting in this crazy plan: Kids estimating how many golf balls could fit in each container that we have. Me starting to think about the cottage industry opportunities for the kidlets to turn these golf balls into money. This is the kind of homeschooling I really enjoy, and don’t get to do often enough.
I’m sure I had probably dozens or hundreds of other things I could have or “should have” been doing, but I have a motto that The Winds of Inspiration Must Not Be Denied, and so we went with it. Here’s how it went:
I’ll tell you what–today I am the poster mom for following whimsical bunny trails.
I smiled and laughed all the way to pick up the golf balls, while the kids and I brainstormed about what we might do with them, how we would divide them up, etc. , and I got to visit with a sweet friend during the pick up.
And then while driving home we discovered that a few spiders had been stowaways with the balls. Poor Isaac is extremely scared of spiders, and the ensuing shrieks of terror and panic went all the way past terrifying over to utterly comedic. We were all screaming KILL IT! KILL IT! while poor Isaac was having a heart attack. After the poor unassuming spider was dead (sorry spidey) the kids were leaping into the farther back areas of the van, and we were all laughing maniacally. (It was very fun. You’ll just have to trust me on that.) They were yelling “PULL THE CAR OVER! MAKE DAD COME PICK US UP FROM THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!” hahahahaha. We were two minutes from the house so we carried on.
Aidan had been in the seat where he was responsible for preventing the tall hampers full of golf balls from spilling. So….of course once he wasn’t sitting there any more. I went around a corner and there went hundreds of golf balls onto the floor of the van. We laughed even louder. Then we got home and the kids in the way back of the van let themselves out the back door instead of the side door so the balls wouldn’t fall out. Dave met us in the driveway and before we could tell him not to open the side door, he did it, and a zillion golf balls went pouring out in the driveway, so we laughed and screamed even louder.
After we picked up all the balls and deemed them spider-free (I’m sure the rest of the spiders are taking up a comfortable residence under the van seats right now), we commenced to have much, MUCH practice counting by twos as we counted and divided up our bounty. Each one of us has almost 300 balls to figure out what to do with. We discussed the pros and cons of selling quickly for a lower price, vs. taking time to create something and then having to market and sell it in order to get a bigger return. We will possibly still be trying to sell golf ball items for the next decade.
It is a beautiful day outside, the breeze was very relaxing, I got some exercise, and Aidan labeled my bucket of golf balls “Mom is Awesome!”
1565 used golf balls: free.
An afternoon full of smiles and gut-busting laughs and memories with my kids: priceless.
(And later on if I ask myself, “Why on earth did you go borrowing trouble and go get all these golf balls?!” I will even laugh then, because I do not take myself too seriously.)
That. was. an awesome day full of fun and memory-making. I think we ended up selling all of the balls within just a couple weeks, and each kid was pretty happy with the money they earned. But the real point here is that I was able to let go and do some crazy thing with my kids. I let go of my To Do list. I let go of having to know what the outcome would be. We just did a crazy thing and it ended up being a ton of fun that we still enjoyed talking about at dinner tonite.
There will always, always be more work to be done and more responsibilities to tend to, my friends. Know what there won’t always be? Children all around to make fun memories with. Take time to prioritize those opportunities! This matters more than you know.
Winter time is the perfect time to have your kids do some great artwork. The weather is nasty & you get all cooped up inside, so try this activity with them on one of those dreary days & see how it perks up everyone’s spirits! This is a mixed media piece that uses watercolor painting in addition to markers & the cutting of snowflakes, too.
What you will need: (affiliate links have been used)
1 piece thick white paper per child (the mixed media type of art paper is good, as it’s not as thick as watercolor paper so it handles the paint but also easier to cut out.)
Pencil, white crayon, red marker & black thin marker – 1 of each per child
Directions: 1. The outline: First you need to decide whether to pre-outline the person’s shape on the white paper for them yourself, or let them do it. This depends on their age and skill level.
Basically, there needs to be a round half-circle for the head, then the top half circle for the body, and then add arms and hands. No details otherwise need to be there, as they are painting over this anyway. Do this with the pencil and try to keep it as light as possible. 2. Painting the sweater: Start out by explaining how watercolor works and not to let it get too soggy wet, but they do have the freedom here to go outside the lines since they will be cutting this out, so you can tell them it’s ok to do that. I suggested bright colors for the sweater part and maybe even a pattern on the sweater to make the picture livelier.
In my example, I painted a blue stripe first, let it dry a minute, then went back and painted a pink one between all the blue, then I let that dry a couple minutes, and then added a darker blue thin stripe between the other colors.
3. Painting the skin: Getting the skin tone right can be tricky. Depending on the skin color you want, starting with pink, orange, or brown and then diluting it with water will help. Practice on the side of the paper to get the color you want. (We will be cutting out our figure, so the sides will be thrown away, so it’s a good place to practice your colors)
Once you get the tone you want, paint in the skin color on the head and the hands and if they choose, also a little pink on the cheeks. The eyes and mouth will be drawn on in marker after it’s dry, so that they are thinner and more legible.
4. Cutting out snowflakes: Now, set that aside and let it dry while they do the next part, which is cutting out snowflakes for their sky. Show them how to do it, even if they’ve done it before. I found that older kids were confident in it, but then didn’t remember how to fold the paper and in result, no snowflake. Make sure the paper is small to start with, as it has to fit on the background, around the person they painted and at least 3 of them looks best. Just a couple of inches square for the paper is good. Fold it in half diagonally, into a triangle, and then again into another triangle before cutting the shapes into the edges.
5. Cutting out the figure and adding details: Once the sweater and skin is dry, the children can cut out their watercolor figure, and glue it on to the background paper, making sure to put the flat bottom edge lined up with the bottom edge of the colored paper.
Using a marker, add facial features and hair. I prefer for the eyes to look closed so that it’s like they are in the snow, catching the snowflakes in their mouth, eyes closed. They can add eyelashes, and then draw an open mouth, with red tongue showing.
6. Snowflakes: Next, have them glue on the snowflakes where they choose. Then use the white crayon to draw falling snow. They can even put a few dots over the body too, to create some depth in the picture. I drew some solid dots and some little swirled circles as well for movement.