Speak

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about speaking our truth. Setting current events aside, I want to dive into this more general topic, but as it relates to homeschool moms like us. There seems to be an incredible amount of pressure and forces at work that want to keep people silent. I imagine all people experience this from time to time, but in my experience women seem to feel it the most, and I think homeschool moms have particular truths we hesitate to speak.

I recall a time about 16 years ago when I was absolutely drowning with the realities of my life, and I was so depleted I had almost no internal resources to try to help myself. When sharing about my situation in an online group I was in at the time, I was cautioned by a woman in the group that whatever I did, I must not tell my husband how I was struggling. If he knew, she told me, he might want us to not have any more babies. He might say that we should put the children in school. In short, knowing the reality of my suffering and despair might upset the ideological apple cart, and for some reason it was more important to uphold those ideals than to make sure I was healthy, whole, and happy.

(Thankfully, that poisonous advice was enough to wake me up. And I told my husband. And we did make some changes in our life. And know what? It was the right thing.)

Why do we do this? Why do we send messages that if others speak up about their truth that steps on someone else’s toes, they must be silenced? Why do we allow others to try to shame us into a box and stay there alone, unsupported, and afraid?

How often have you had thoughts like these?

I feel like I’m failing.

I’m lonely.

The pressure of homeschooling feels like too much.

There isn’t enough of me to go around.

My husband is not supportive.

My children are so far behind, I don’t think we will ever catch up.

I’m not happy with my life.

And how often have you felt you had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, no right to voice these things, because there might be people that say things like, “HEY! If you didn’t want to deal with all this, why’d ya have so many kids in the first place? Why did you decide to be a stay at home mom? Why did you think you could homeschool in the first place? Weren’t YOU a dope to not pursue a career?”

Just like every other type of cold blame, we are often told we did this to ourselves. “So now sit there and suffer the fate that you picked.” No room for our truth. No room to voice our experience. No room to spare for empathy, or to honor the paths we’ve chosen, though every path comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties.

Sister, I want to tell you something. You have one beautiful, precious life to live. And believe it or not, you matter. Your well-being matters. Your happiness matters. Your health matters. It’s true.

You and I are not born to be upholders of ideologies. We are more than ambassadors for our beliefs and practices or educational philosophies. We are meant to travel through this life in the best ways we know how, and to love and be loved for who we truly are.

When we stay hidden, and when our truth stays hidden, we are not fully known, and we prevent people from fully loving us. If we are hidden, how can we be known or found?

If we push others into hiding and silence with our rejection and blame, we let them know that the biggest thing that matters about them is their compliance. We don’t want their humanity.

Instead of being agents of silence and shame, let’s work to each be a conduit for truth. Let’s be a safe place for friends to tell us what’s really going on. And let’s be willing to be vulnerable and take a chance on telling someone else what truths are going on within us. This is the path forward for ourselves, and for our children, and our children’s children.

I don’t know how to change the world, except to start with myself. You can, too. Even as a busy homeschool mom at home with her children.

What do you think?



Take Time for Art: History+Art Projects for Homeschool Families

One of the very best ways to help our kids get excited about history and remember what they’ve learned is by making meaningful connections.  Take Time for Art does an awesome job of doing just that, by bringing together audio, video, visuals, and really cool art projects into one fabulous program that makes history study so exciting and accessible!

About a year ago I got to meet Take Time for Art founder Penny Mayes, and I was so excited to hear about the way she has combined art and history into a program that I know other homeschool families will love.

My teenage sons and I got to work through the Ancient Greece program at Take Time for Art.  (They also offer Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome)  In this program we got to watch 15 different well-done streaming videos that taught us about various aspects of Ancient Greece, such as the ancient Minoans, the Mycenean civilization, the dark ages, Athens, the Hellenistic period, and several forms of art such as metal tooling, fresco paintings,  pottery, wartime clothing, and more.  Each section of history is followed by an art project that’s inspired by that era.  The video walks you through each step of the process of creating the art, and the convenient art supplies pack contained all the materials we needed in order to complete the projects.  (except for a few basic items that you would be sure to have on hand)

For the Ancient Greece program we got to make the following projects:


  • a color wheel (which is referred back to in later projects–a great starting point for understanding the relationships between colors!)

  • a watercolor fresco painting of an octopus 

  • a metal tooling landscape project  (the other option was to make a Mask of Agamemnon, which was also super cool.  But we fell in love with these textures and all selected the landscape project.  They are so pretty in person!)



  • a Greek warrior helmet (we had the option to make it with or without a crest and other adornments.  It is really cool, and yes, you can even wear your finished helmet!)

  • a terra cotta tile art project that I really enjoyed!  I have never worked with terra cotta tiles, and I liked the surface and the way the marker color sinks into the surface.  We could have chosen a horse image for the tile as well.  Bonus fun was that we were able to heat this in our oven for 30 minutes, which makes the artwork on it longer-lasting!

 

One of the things I really like about this program is the variety of projects available.  Within this one program we got to learn a lot of history while also trying out several completely different types of art that we would not have thought up on our own.  Even better, within each project there are choices, sometimes an either-or option, sometimes an easier/more difficult option.  I love it that this gives the kids options and allows them to choose the thing they are most excited about.  This is also great because the program will work for the typical homeschool family that has many different ages of children represented in their family.  Middle elementary kids could certainly do these projects with some assistance, but there is definitely enough challenge for high schoolers and parents to participate as well!  I personally enjoyed doing some of the projects myself, and got to learn about art materials that I had never worked with before.

The other thing I love about this is that the projects are guided.  Sure, total creativity is exciting and cool, but not everybody’s mind works like that.  Participating in a guided art activity gives us the opportunity to work with materials and techniques that we may not be familiar with, and offers a jumping off point for future creative endeavors.  I am solidly in the camp of believing that BOTH guided art experiences AND free time to create art are valuable.  (for parents and kids alike!)

These are not fluff projects.  Each one is meaty, involved, takes several hours to complete (some are done over the course of more than one day), and produces a very nice piece of finished work for you to enjoy.  Your kids will be proud of their art work!

 

Budget-conscious moms may be tempted to wonder if they really need a separate art supply pack for each child.  You will definitely want to get one per person.  Sure, there are a couple items included that could possibly be shared between kids, but for the most part each person will need all the supplies provided, and it will be less confusing and complicated when everybody has all the materials they need.  I really appreciated how organized the art supplies kit was, how carefully the bendable items were packaged and protected, and that having all of it together made it possible for us to actually do these projects.  If I had needed to track down all the materials from the store, or worry about dividing them up between several children, that would probably have been enough of a barrier to make me not get it done.  Take Time for Art has made it about a simple as possible to watch the streaming videos and complete the projects!  Perfect for busy homeschool families.

I can see Take Time for Art being a wonderful addition to your more formal studies about the coordinating time period.  I think it would work well as a once-a-week or twice a month supplement and reinforcement where you would watch one of the history videos, and then work on the next art project.  Your kids will love the change of pace, plus they’ll have some really cool finished projects to display in their bedrooms or in your home that will also help them recall the time period and historical information related to the piece.

 

Click here to visit Take Time for Art and check out their programs!

 



Letters from Afar

Imagine how excited your children would be to receive a beautiful, hand-illustrated letter from a far-away land each month!  This is what the wonderful program at Letters from Afar offers, and it is perfect for homeschool families.  My kids and I have been subscribers to this engaging program for about a year, and each time one of these cool envelopes shows up in our mailbox, we get excited to see what’s inside.  I’m so happy to have the opportunity today to tell you about it, thanks to our sponsor, Letters from Afar!

Each Letter from Afar arrives in an air mail envelope adorned with cool vintage stamps, so the excitement is immediate when you see it!  The letters are written on parchment-type paper, and are penned by Isabelle, a world traveler.  Each personally hand-written message tells about her recent explorations in exotic destinations like Morocco, Thailand, or Germany, and Isabelle shares about the sights, sounds, unique experiences, and history of the place.  Also included is some really terrific watercolor illustrations that typically include a map of the area or some scenes from the place.  It’s like getting a peek inside Isabelle’s travel/nature journal.  Really cool, and it’s inspiring for those of us that want to create journals of our own adventures, too.

Letters from Afar is one of those wonderful opportunities to infuse a spark of joy and excitement into your home while also offering a natural jumping off point for digging deeper and learning about something that you are now curious about.  Just imagine–the mail arrives and one of the kids brings it in.  There’s a Letter from Afar!  Your children gather round and you read the letter together, taking time to examine the illustrations and ooh and aah at the interesting things mentioned and shown.  The kids run to the globe to try to locate the place they just read about, and that naturally leads to a mention of what continent it’s on, what bodies of water are nearby, what else is near, and how far is it from where we are?  You never know which places will get the kids interested in learning more about the geography, culture, religions, politics, animals, or ways of life in other places.  The possibilities for learning are limitless!

Plus, I love it that these letters are keepsakes that can go right into a Letters from Afar notebook so your children can continue to revisit the places and people of lands far away, and draw connections between the places you’re learning about in history, geography, and literature and the letters you’ve received.

Priced at a modest $6 a month, this is a learning treat that is easy on the wallet and offers a lot of possibilities!  Click here to visit them and learn more.



UGears: Fun STEM models for your family!

I’m pretty sure that it’s a commonality among homeschool moms that when we’re shopping for Christmas, birthdays, and other gift giving times, we love to find items that are both fun AND educational! (Can I get a witness?!) Well, I hit the jackpot when I found out about UGears last Christmas, and boy-oh-boy, I’m so excited to tell you about this company and the cool stuff they’ve got.

Originally from the Ukraine, UGears specializes in creating mechanical model kits.  So, think of something like model airplanes or a ship in a bottle, except way cooler, because there are working parts and things that go!

UGears are made from quality wooden materials and go together without any glue.  Clear step-by-step instructions walk you through the assembly process.  One part puzzle, one part engineering marvel, each UGears model offers the fun and challenge of creating a moving item that is fun to play with and makes an interesting decorative piece as well.  These 3D models are really interesting to put together because you get to see the inner workings of the piece, often including gears, pendulums, and other machinery parts.

UGears offers a wide range of models, ranging from items simple enough for younger kids on up to items that would be challenging for adults, or perfect for dad to put together with the kids!

We have several UGears pieces in our home now, so I wanted to share with you our experience with them.


UGears U-Fidget Tribiks
This is one of the sets that I purchased for Christmas last year.  There are four different miniature models that are fun for holding in your hand and spinning around a bit.  They were pretty easy for my 14 year old son to put together in a short amount of time.  They are a good starter project for kids (recommended age is 14+ but my son and I both think younger kids could make these) and make a cool little display on a shelf.  They don’t do a whole lot, but it is fun to see the gears move and work together.

UGears Dynamometer

This is the other model that I got for my son for Christmas.  I selected this because it looked interesting but not too difficult for assembly.  (It is rated Easy and is recommended for ages 14+) The Dynamometer uses the same principle as a pneumatic engine, and includes a lot of gears and the mechanical junction known as a Geneva drive.  Pretty neat!


UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car
We were excited to get the Grand Prix Car from UGears recently, and my son (now 15 years old) had fun putting together this more complex model.  The inner assembly of this car is really interesting, with a 16 valve V8 engine and fan, a transmission that can switch between gears, and many more fascinating features!  The wheels are rubberized to give it extra grip as it rolls along, too.  It’s a beautiful and eye-catching piece to have on display, and after spending nearly 10 hours assembling it, it is something my son enjoys and feels a sense of pride and accomplishment about.

All of our models have been fairly sturdy, but of course they are not meant for rough play.  While they all do “go,” the ones we have are not self-propelled.  You can definitely enjoy and appreciate the movement of the working parts, and the nicely-designed finished product to have on display.

To us, the assembly process has been a really fun experience.  If your kids can follow Lego instructions, they can work with UGears, while gaining valuable perspective on the way gears and other mechanical pieces can work together to make things do what they do.  To end up with an attractive keepsake at the end makes it even better!  I think UGears would be wonderful for homeschool families because it’s one of those fun-while-learning items that you can provide for your children as a true delight-directed educational opportunity.  I also think the more complex models would make great gifts for dads that would enjoy working with the kids on a project like this in the evenings or weekends.

Overall, I highly recommend UGears as a wonderful option for educational fun and gift-giving!

Here’s a great video showing off some other great UGears products:

 

This review and giveaway have been sponsored by UGears.  Opinions expressed in the review are my own.



51 Benefits of Art Education for Kids

I’m sure you’ve heard how arts education is being cut from school budgets all over the US. For many home educators, this is one of the things they appreciate so much about the freedom they have to prioritize educational and enrichment opportunities for their children. I was contacted by Neve Spicer, founder of We The Parents, and she was kind enough to share this short article and her infographic with us.
~Erica

Arts Education in schools is being backed towards a cliff edge.

In a bid to save the Arts, educators are trying to demonstrate that they enhance outcomes in non-art subjects. Yet, while it seems they do, studies rarely prove this beyond all reasonable doubt. The upshot is that, under pressure to funnel dwindling resources into core “academic” subjects (ie, math, literacy, and science), many schools are positioning Arts Education on the chopping block.

It’s time to take a stand!

Firstly, there is growing evidence that learning arts does improve academic achievement. But more importantly, the question must be asked: is the purpose of the Arts Education simply to boost academic results?

Emphatically, no!

Immersed in arts, kids experience the world and themselves in a different way. They often discover a lifelong passion, develop a sense of self and identity, grow in confidence, and envision a world beyond their immediate environment.

It’s vital that we reframe the case for Arts Education.

This visual guide by We The Parents helps to do this by highlighting 51 diverse ways in which Arts Education rewards children. It is clear that learning arts cultivates cognitive abilities, nurtures positive character traits, and fosters critical thinking. As you’ll see, many of the benefits span ages, genders, and socio-economic divides; some last a lifetime; and all are backed up by studies.

There’s never been a more important time to communicate the importance of Arts Education. Scientific studies struggle to capture the subtle yet profound ways in which the arts transform lives. And so, the impetus is on us – we who experience the positive impact first-hand – to share our story and to shout about it even louder.

 

~Neve Spicer, founder of We The Parents



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