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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cool week!

This week was supposed to be SCIENCE WEEK...but in true unschooling form...other things took our attention but I still say it was an awesome week. What I tend to do with my daughter, Qwyn, is introduce her to various things and if she is game we run with it...if I get the "meh" response then I pull back and let it go...and at least I put it out there. Qwyn is a naturally curious kid...yes I know most kids are...but she likes to look up things on her IPhone and then randomly share what she's learned in some conversation along the way(could be 1 day later or months). But there are days when I want to see if we can do some learning together and I can appease my inner guilt that she should be doing something "schooly" on a daily. This is how we came up with SCIENCE WEEK. Lol. So I am always on Pintrest (http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=53612) and found this cool pin for fun science experiments that could be done with things you already have in your house. I presented the link to Qwyn and asked if there was anything she wanted to try...she came up with 7: Rock Candy (what kid passes up the opportunity to make camdy), Magic Plastic Bag, Gummy Bear Torture (do you see the theme here), Ivory Soap Monstor, Walking on Eggs(can't wait to do this one), Dancing Oobleck, Chain Reaction(involves wood sticks and building...love it already). So far we only did the rock candy which she said is growing daily (she is even doing a log!!!) and she did the Magic Plastic Bag which was fun and it was funny to see Qwyn challenge herself and add more skewers. The rest of them we might continue next week but we are off to a great start...more than we did last year. It was fun doing things with Qwyn this week especially with hubby in tow. We have a friend who is a performer who is willing to work with Qwyn on vocals, performing and piano and we all met with him yesterday for preliminary work. Hubby and I were in awe of how much Qwyn knew about music theory and she was able to follow him and he was amazed at how fast she was able to pick up. Many know that Qwyn is a songwriter and singer and he is going to help her fine tune thinga even though he said there wasn't much to do. He is going her help her learn how to transition her songs from guitar to piano as well as learn how to improvise on piano. He even invited her to come and practice with his band. Opportunities like this are wonderful and she loves it. She was so excited she actually played her guitar all the way home...in the car. I'll attach the video of a cover song called 20 Years by Bad Suns. This is why we unschool...she NEVER plays her guitar in the car. We turned off the radio and just let her go at it.  Our day and week ended with us exploring and learning how to Geocache. Boy did we learn many things during our very 1st two cache searches. 1. Make sure your phone is charged if you are going to use it as a GPS. 2. Qwyn only tolerates one search then you have to feed her. 3. If you don't find the next quickly enough, Qwyn will get totally bored and lay down in the middle of a baseball field and let her parents run around looking (will explain in a future blog) 4. Geocaching is addictive. Overall, we had a week of cool adventures and  learning...for all of us. 


Rock Candy

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our First Day of "Official" Learning

This is what our first day of defined learning looks like. Everything seems so much better when done in bed...#1. Qwyn loves my bed...she falls asleep in it ...often. So why not engage her in a discussion about her upcoming year in a place she feels most comfortable...my bed. It worked...we talked about things that I wanted to introduce her to, but also I was able to get her to give me ideas about places and things she wanted to learn about. I posted pics of things I jotted down in an old copybook (repurposed from past years English work...I hate wasting paper). I was able to turn everything into talking points and Qwyn actually seemed interested. There will be loads of writing opportunities this year and I gave Qwyn a creative reflection copybook (also repurposed...lol) to write her ideas and opinion about weekly Ted Talks we will watch together. We actually watched one today called Adults Can Learn From Kids....interesting and well presented. For the month of September I will choose the talks however I encouraged Qwyn to pick future ones. We talked about 3 reasons why she felt it would be a good idea for her to watch Ted Talks...she came up with good ones...1. To gain other people's perspective. 2. To develop her own opinion on the topics 3. Open her mind to new ideas (I helped with this answer). Last year she worked on researching facts about all 50 states and all the presidents. This year Qwyn is working on all 7 continents and she chose various countries to research(at least 2 on each continent) and decided to do a power point presentation on them, which will not only meet her geography requirements but also computer skills. Qwyn even helped me develop a 10 question worksheet of things she would like to know about each continent and country. To jumpstart English, we both downloaded a free pdf of The Alchemist (http://www.book4free.us/2013/10/the-alchemist-by-paulo-coelho-epub-mobi.html?m=1) so we can read it together. I'm going to use the Sparks Notes guide that I found online to foster discussion. As a writing aide, I reviewed a chapter in her writing guide which includes the format for writing a 3 paragraph opinion paper. She is going to use that guide for Ted Talks and there is a guide in there for research papers as well. Which leads to the next discussion which included the African American women in history. I explained why I wanted her to focus on that theme this year...she seemed ok with it....can never tell with 13 year olds. When I talked about potential field trips which might expand on those themes...she seemed a little more interested. We talked about the need to find a way to incorporate science experiments into cooking lessons...so that is something I will do. Pintrest might be chock full of ideas.  We went back and forth about her learning algebra this year...she wants to learn pre algebra....I'm trying to sell her on Algebra. We will see. What interested her even more was the final topic...what was for lunch....we are agreeing on cheese steak stromboli and are trying to persuade daddy to agree to pick it up...and pay...lol. I think our first day kickoff  was a success!

Now I'm sure some readers are asking the question about our unschooling process and how this looks more like defined homeschool agenda with carefully planned lessons...trust me there is lots of ideas but little organization; also there is no deadline for the work and there is much room for deviation. I still struggle with  giving the evaluator something tangible at the end of the year. What I'm looking forward to are the various opportunities to learn this year....for both of us.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Keep Calm!

It's been ages since I wrote a blog...boy have I had loads to share. So much has happened over the last year...thank God we ARE unschoolers because otherwise my kids lives would have been turned upside
down. Since November, I have gone into Congestive Heart Failure, been diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure (yup with dialysis) and somehow ended up with a Collaposed Lung all by May 1st.  In the midst of all of that...my kids still found a way to learn. The unschooling process allowed them to find their interests and tap into them on their own. I was with them in mind and spirit and always available for a bedside chat. Despite my journey through bodily dysfunction, I actually tried to return to work(2 jobs)...which kept me away from home (and blogging) as I tried to catch up. Still the kids continued to learn. Hardest part was end of the "school year" and encapsulizing their year into hours and portfolios...but we did it and my 17 yo daughter, Milan, graduated from high school and somehow managed to find a job and get her drivers license...and enroll in college for the fall. That's motivation...Qwyn got mega rest as she is still delivering newspapers (mentioned in previous blog) every morning at 3 am. However she still found time to write music and attend summer theater camp. I gave up on trying to work and decided to stay home and heal...which means Qwyn and I will have loads of fun...she might not agree. Hee hee...The summer is short and I knew I needed to decide what was on the learning menu for Qwyn...because she is so laid back and I felt that I would like to nurture her musical creativity while inspiring her with history of people whom are most like her...I think our general theme will be looking up and researching African (American or otherwise) women who have made an impact in the arts, music, science, history and so on. I felt it was really important to find women we don't normally hear about to hopefully inspire that "Ah Ha" moment in Qwyn. I will introduce 5 women then see who she can dig up. So far this is my list of women: Jackie Ormes, Daisy Bates, Marita Bonner, Jessie Redman Faust, Lil Hardin Armstrong...all of whom I have found lesson plans on. We are also going to do some jazz lesson plans which I found, that include women...and I think I want to cover the Harlem Renaissance...I think it's time. I have been spending so much time looking for potential lesson which I can introduce casually but I think I'm going overboard. Qwyn will learn regardless of what I lay in front of her. I am so glad to be back with her full time. But I have to remind myself to Keep Calm...it's called Unschooling...she's learning. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Process of Unschooling...ummm I mean Homeschooling.

    Because the movement of unschooling is still creeping into the mainstream and some folks feel unschooling is just an excuse to not do anything (despite that it actually the opposite) there is a need to conform to the state and local educational policies regarding homeschooling. Because I live in PA, the laws are fairly straightforward and not difficult to follow. Many areas in PA are traditionally farmland and farmers needed to keep their children home from school during harvest so homeschooling was the acceptable way to allow families to maintain income and education. PA has maintained an effortless process for homeschoolers. Thank goodness, we live in PA (despite the multiple pleas, to my mother,  to move to a warmer climate when I was younger). So this blog is to show the method to our madness and how I was able to combine the traditional requirements with our very creative and relaxed style of learning.

1. THE AFFIDAVIT: Before you get started, you should access your state department of education and determine what the laws are. My resource is the PA Dept of Education's Home Education Program Statute (24 P.S.§ 13-1327.1 Home education program - sections "a-e" are my guide)You need to contact your local school district and inform them of your intention to homeschool. Some states are different which is why I refer you to your state dept first. I learned that some school districts are not too savvy about homeschooling (which might work in your favor lol). So you obtain their packet and get their letter of intention notarized. Our is called an Affidavit. It asks the educator to swear that they do not fit the criteria of a hard criminal and that they themselves are educationally sound to teach their own children. 

2.  HEALTH FORMS: For some reason you might need to make sure your child has a physical and immunizations, which in my opinion is ludicrous because if you want to be sick in your own home and are not communing with other school children then what is the harm however...when in Rome:) 

3. THE OUTLINE OF PROPOSED STUDY: The statute should tell you which subjects and the hours of instruction,  required to educate your child, based on their grade level. This is where the creativity happens. PA does not allow the superintendent of the school district to use this outline to determine compliance as noted  "The required outline of proposed education objectives shall not be utilized by the superintendent in determining if the home education program is out of compliance with this section and section 1327." One might want to look for a clause like this in their own state's documentation. What this says to me is that I can provide them an overview of what we intend to do but can deviate as needed.  I have learned over the years to keep it simple. One of the ways which I keep it simple is to include a resource provided by the PA Dept of Ed called Standards of Aligned System (http://www.pdesas.org/), which has multiple resources according to grade level and subjects including a rubric for each. I feel that since it is a provision provided by the state I can't be challenged. I included examples of the curriculum which I wrote for Milan and Qwyn for this year. (Sorry the files are so large...I am not computer savvy) If it is hard for you to see, email me and I can send you a copy. 

4. THE PORTFOLIO: This is your proof that "SOMETHING" was done all year. When trying to identify methods to implement your lessons, if you want to go the formal homeschooling route, then find as many free resources as possible. Don't go spending loads of money on resources. Unless you have 6 kids like me and can save books and reuse them, don't do it.  In 2014, all you have to Google is "free worksheets for (inject your subject here)" and poof, there are multitudes of resources. I have found cool science packets and booklets on various things which I can print. YouTube, Scholastic, History Channel, Bio Channel, A&E Channel, Brainpop, Cool Math etc. are great resources for teaching. (in a future blog I will post some cool resources).  You can make your own worksheets as well by just coming up with follow up questions. (Below are worksheets I came up with for Qwyn's 50 state and President lessons).  For math, just get a workbook with removable pages and you have instant proof of work. As an unschooler, when going to an event, see what you can find as a supplemental resource to correlate with the experience. If you can't find one take some pics of the child at the event and have them write a quick essay about their experience and there is another page in the portfolio. Beware, I have found it difficult to determine which subject to put some items under. For example, we went to an outdoor Opera (Will post about that later too) and that experience could go under music but we did some prep about the composer, which could be history and if I have Qwyn write about her experience (shhh, she doesn't know yet), then it might go into English. You should see me at the end of the year trying to put things in piles. I drive myself crazy (or crazier) Oy Vey!. Wow, just writing about this and the world of possibilities made me get excited about the world of creativity. Oh, btw before going to a museum or national park, print out their student prep guides and have your child fill them out and that can go into the portfolio as well (I'll leave the decision of which subject  to put it under up to you, for practice purposes lol). I also include awards, playbills from theatrical productions the kids were in or went to, newspaper write ups etc...I have even included links of my kids' YouTube videos, which I recorded of them playing and singing their original songs (hmmm, it could go under music, art or English....see how this can get complicated). 

State Worksheet
President Worksheet

5. THE EVALUATION: You need to find an evaluator, who you go to by the end of school year. He /She will review and sign off that you have everything you need to give back to the school district. I can't imagine them charging more than 60$. This person will sign off that you met the requirements of the state. This person's word is bond and usually the school does not question their decision. My evaluator is wonderful, easy to access and is a wealth of knowledge. She was the one who reminded me that we were on track and my 17 yo could graduate at 11th grade, which she ended up doing; Julian is now attending the local community college. Prior to meeting with the evaluator make sure you have everything which you are required to hand in to the school district. In PA, we have to submit a log of hours, a list of books the kids read (I have the kids write their own) and the portfolio. That is it. I used to write an synopsis of what the kids did all year and found I was doing too much. Don't Do Too Much!!! In the state of PA, it is pretty simple.


How do I convert unschooling into homeschooling? Unshooling is a process in which you gear the learning around the child's interests. If you child likes cars (you develop some learning experiences around science (how they are made...look at engine function, how gas converts to energy etc), English and History (research, read and writing  what was the child learned about a specific make and model or inventor or era of cars) Math: (you are on your own here...lol), Art: (design your own car) Music: ( explore songs about cars)/ This could all be inserted into a portfolio. Of could you can expand on these topics and make them  6 months or a years worth of learning. This is where the creativity happens.

What about testing? In the state of PA, there is a requirements of certain grade levels to be tested HOWEVER, you are not required to send your child to school to be tested...We use Seton Testing Services(http://www.setontesting.com/cat/) and for 25 bucks we (our adult children will do it for us) give the child the test and send it back to them and get the results then send them into the school district. My husband and I, can't administer the test but we use our adult children to do it. Simple process. Beware, sometimes the school district will try to slip in an extra grade level for testing, please know your state law and go by that. For example, our letter from the school district says my 11th grader needed to be tested but the law says differently.

What about socialization? There are many opportunities for your child to interact with other children. We use the local Boy's and Girl's Club for at least 12 years. Here are some other suggestions: girl and boy scouts, 4H clubs, church youth groups, sports, dance classes, dance teams, gymnastics, local choir/children's chorale groups, homeschool events and groups to name a few. Even if your child is ultra shy, the lesson for the child might be about engaging with other kids as a life skills lesson. See there is always a lesson in all that we do.

What if child has a learning disability? Even if the child has a learning disability, the state is obligated to provide services for the child's needs. Write a letter to your school's psychologist requesting that your child be evaluated. In PA, they have 30 days to do it...I believe. It might be 60. I have just sadly learned that if the child is gifted then there is nothing to support them if the child is not attending the brick and mortar school. This just happened to Qwyn. She is no longer able to attend her REACH program (gifted) due to funding issues (my speculation).

What about SAT's? For me, the entire point of unschooling is nonconformity in education. We advise our children to attend the local community college for at least a year (no SAT's required, cheaper and they can catch the child up academically if needed) then transfer with good grade to the school of their choice.

Well this is our process in a nutshell. I apologize for the length but I really wanted to provide an understanding of what we do and how. I would like to begin a consulting business and curriculum writing business within the next year in order to assist others in getting started. No matter which state people live in. It think it would be a good support for parents who feel guilty in the middle of the transition and help them stay focused.

Please share, comment and ask questions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

                                                            It's Just Our Way

People often wonder how we homeschool, especially since I work many jobs...often. What I rarely tell them is that we are unschoolers because that is just another ball of wax which takes too much to explain via an elevator statement (30 seconds or less). The best way to explain what we do, at this point in our experience as unschoolers, is we mix and match our lessons in book work and life experience. I write my own curriculum every year and mix my own lessons plans with things I find online, especially with the assistance of the PA Dept of Ed's Standards Aligned System which offers loads of resources http://www.pdesas.org/. This year the overall focus is Black History in which I have combined literature (Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, WEB Du Boise, Richard Ellison and Richard Wright to name a few) and history (from slavery to present as per the era in the literary work explored)  as well a music (rap, jazz, blues)  and art (various mediums: dance, photography, paintings, poetry, dance), in order to explore the black experience.  Over the last two years, we have added more book work as each child transitions into high school. We try to encourage more academic study in order to get enough credits to be accepted into college. In Qwyn's middle school journey of learning, we are providing information which she might have a deficit or lack of knowledge in addition to the black history curriculum. We have been to many states (31) and countries (11) over the years, and Qwyn was growing as we traveled; even though we did some prep work before we traveled (I'll share one specific experience in another blog), Qwyn has difficulty figuring out where many states and countries are located. So this year, Geography is the focus. She was kicking and screaming a little but she is getting more interested as the days pass (I also took her cellphone lol) and  I review things that she might have worked on for the day. Right now, she is learning about the geology of PA (science...cool stuff...the Dept of Conservation and National Resources has some great educational manuals and fieldtrip ideas http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/publications/pgspub/educational/index.htm) and learning about each state, in alphabetical order (geography) by using a worksheet which I developed. So last night we talked about how PA was a glacier...very interesting..we were both fascinated. Qwyn also needs to constantly work on her multiplication tables so I had her make a game called Bang, which we played for the first time last night and it was a big hit. This is a game is used for sight words but I modified it to her needs and it worked beautifully and it was cool family time. Another special moment last night, was when we tried to learn Swahili for about 20 minutes.A unschooling group which I belong to shared the link (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NKPQ9WU/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o01_?ie=UTF8&psc=1).  It was interesting but hopefully we will get more serious with it. Daily chess game will be incorporated nightly as well...after I purchase a board. I want to learn to play and Qwyn needs a refresher.  We do ask Milan and Qwyn to do "something" with their days. It does not have to be heavy laden in book work. My assignments are monthly not daily. They have to learn how to organize their time...I give the deadline. I check in at least weekly to see if they have done anything and try to help where I can. Life experience is just as important as book work.  For example, Milan loves music and I would love to just let her go and write and play music all day. If I could take a vacation day at work (I am truly blessed that I can) I might take the kids to a Broadway matinee in NYC or go to see some type of musical symposium down at Univ. of  Penn, (which is where we got to see Wynton Marselis...for free, one year). One purpose of the unschooling is to hone in on the child's interests and allow them to flourish by providing opportunities. Back to Milan...she loves music. As I noted before, she is a singer/songwriter and loves to play her guitar which she only learned to play during group guitar lessons at the local Boy's and Girl's Club, over the last few years. She is now one of the performing group of kids which go out into the community and perform various gigs representing the guitar program. Milan expressed an interest in exposing her music to others, so hubby and I (with sister in tow) took her to her first open mic this past Sunday. Wow, what an experience for all of us. She had the opportunity to hear other artists and begin networking with folks that she might not have otherwise met. One lady would like to try to do some work with her and maintain a connection. Milan also began to work at McDonald's on Monday, so I found a financial curriculum (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/foreducators/lesson_plans/) which we will work on in order to assist her in understanding how to be financially savvy. Because Qwyn might be getting a paper route, I found a middle school version of the curriculum. Life experience rolls over into extracurricular activities, which gives them a world of  learning opportunities.
Milan continues her weekly violin lessons as well as orchestra rehearsals and guitar lesson, Qwyn has African Dance, Drama, and Guitar weekly. So this is our life in a nutshell...some days we have some good academic days and some days are full of learning in other ways. It's just our way...

Milan's performance at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem PA. You might have to copy and paste.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

                                                  Sharing the Wealth...of Knowlege

One of the things that unschoolers do is look for opportunites to enjoy adventures. It is my nature to share information that I have with the hopes that people will share with me as well. Here are two events (One which, I apologize, is only for PA natives (or I guess those willing to travel; and is counting down to the end of the season) which I feel are learning opps in their own fashion. I am a museum-aholic so I wanted to share this Free Museum Day (9/27/14only) sponsored by Smithosonian (the most amazing institution ever). http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/ 
You can look up musuems in your state to see if they are participating. We are choosing the African American Museum in Philadelphia...super excited since we haven't been there in years. If anyone is interested in joining us please give us a heads up and we would love to meet you there. 

The other fabulous experiencce is the Philadelphia Night Markets in which the Food Trust organization moves about the city of Philly and hosts a food van event with live music and lots of fun foods. We went earlier in the summer and had a blast. There is one tonight (sorry for late notice...my brights ideas need a little organizing). The Food Trust in itself is an intersting organization and I hope to become more involved with them this year and next summer as a volunteer with my daughter, Milan, who has an interest in Environmental Studies. http://thefoodtrust.org/night-market.
Pics of hubby and my younger three at the event we went to at Ogontz Ave.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Belt in the Room

I know everyone is waiting with bated breath for my next post which is due next Sunday (it will still come). I felt it was necessary to speak about the issues regarding discipline and spanking children in response to the most recent incident with Adrian Peterson. There is a myth that homeschoolers beat their kids and they homeschool so no one knows the horrors the kids go through, As an unschooling mother of 6 kids, who was a former child welfare worker, I do state right here and now that I was a spanker and still believe in spanking. Before I get into the "was"... let me say that I really wanted to post this because I am truly tired of people looking down on other people's choices to discipline. What works for some doesn't work for others. Parents need to know their children and use discipline accordingly. I recall a term used when I was younger: hardheaded...man on man did my mom think I was hardheaded. She always used to say "hard heads make soft behinds".  That's when I knew I needed to knock it off.  I am sure some people as gasping and ready to close this blog however please understand that I am only speaking for myself and not justifying what Peterson's intentions were. I am from a family which used physical discipline as a deterrent. I also used it as a deterrent. As an educated woman who takes what she learns and tries to apply lessons to the practice of living my life as a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, community member and social worker, I learned as a child welfare worker that there were other alternatives to spanking and used them...guess what... many times they worked and many times they don't. I have seen the difference in my kids who I no longer spank...they don't take me seriously until I put bass in my voice (yell). #1. My kids are too big to be spanking, so I don't. #2. As unschoolers there is not much to take away. #3, I have tried talking until I am blue in the face and my house, their rooms, their chores are no longer being done because I really don't have anything to restrict. (can't take cellphones, 2 of the kids pay for their own; the youngest doesn't talk to anyone on hers anyway...she just makes Vines on hers.). My house is a wreck. There are few consequences except for the word "no" or "if and then" statements. My kids do respect me and I respect them. They know mom doesn't play and they know when mom is not happy. There is a lot of prompting, but there are times when no one has time for all of the reminders."Git 'er done"... But they are kids and kids try to get away with EVERYTHING. That's their job. Now if you ask my kids when the last time I told them "good job", hugged them or told them that I loved them, I bet they would be able to tell you the time or day within the last 3-4 days when I did so. They are my everything and I enjoy spending time with them and watching them grow.  I believe my husband and I have a good balance and we enjoy our kids and they like being around us. For example, my feistiest child just went to Italy. She spoke so much about her positive relationship with us that the group leader made it a point to let us know as soon as the bus arrived that she has never heard a 16 year old talk about how much they love their parents.  We love her to pieces...when she gets up at 3 am with an attitude we don't like her so much,..but we love her lots. My husband and I have gotten to the place where we have been so angry that we had to be a support for each other to not to go there with the kids because we now understand that anger cannot be behind the spanking. We do know that we are the adults and we are not trying to show the kids we don't like them or want them so we have to chill out. Are we human, yup! Do we make mistakes, yup!. Do my kids think that I spanked them because I didn't love them, no!. I feel confident that I raised good kids who are respectful to others (constantly noted) and to each other. We are a family and this is the methods we used  to teach our children. I have seen people who were spanked and subsequently traumatized and others who think they deserved it most of the time and felt they came out fine.  I think if we as friends. family, community members feel a child is being abused and not disciplined, it should be reported. As I said earlier, I am not the judge or jury on the Peterson case, but maybe he needs some insight on parenting as well. That belt in the room is not going away and these are conversations which are needed to be had. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

                                                         Throwing My Kids to the Wind

      I was reading an article the other day about how birds learn how to fly. What surprised me was that based on how their baby acts determines what method the mother will use to help them learn how to fly. Some chicks need to be scaffolded (supported)/ reinforced, for a while, then eventually the mother will do things, such as leave the food a little further from the nest in order to encourage the chick to venture out of the nest and learn to use their wings. At other times, the mother just literally kicks the chick out of the nest...see where I am going with this???? What a great analogy. These birds are an example of how my husband and I have had to treat each child differently, based on their ability. Many times I have been questioned about my decision to allow my children to do specific things or people wonder what made us make that choice. Our kids did. For example, when Julian wanted to go overseas I was a little  hesitant because of many factors. Money, accessing the program (of course the trip she wanted to go on had a home group from NJ...3 hours away, which is where we trekked to, every month), money, commitment on my, hubby and her part and money. However nervous I was, I sat down with her, helped her develop a fundraising plan (part of which included her getting a job and holding a concert) and then we allowed her to implement it. Every once in a while, I had to check in to see how she progressed but I stood back, most of the time and allowed her efforts to expand. At times, my husband had to show Julian how to engage people in our community, but once Julian  got the first donation and  confirmation letter, she was able to take the reigns and became really excited. Julian ended up getting all of the money she needed (1/2 in fundraising efforts) and went on a awesome 21 day trip to 7 countries through the People to People Student Ambassador Program (http://www.peopletopeople.com/). It was not easy, I almost went broke lol,  but Julian learned lessons about community, family supports, reciprocity (she does so many good things within the community; thus people did so for her). She could really see what she could accomplish by persevering. I can't imagine having to prod her through another process, ever again. She can check in as much as she likes, but I trust her decisions. There were many different experiences that I knew my kids had interests in (a child wanting to go to college in NYC; a child wanting to join the Marines at age 17; a young adult contemplating moving away from family to start her own family; a child not wanting to go to college but explore theater (we are still working on her); a child who wanted a real job) but were hesitant to make that first step. We had to bait them with the eventual outcome, Almost as if we were sideline coaches: " You can do it...You Got This!!!!; You will do so well...what's the worst that can happen?" Of course they're fearful and prefer to remain close to home however our belief is that they have the ability to grow from so many experiences that at times, we need to just throw the kids to the wind,...and watch them fly.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


                                                   The Choices That One Makes

If I were ever asked the question, would I homeschool again now that I know what I know, would I? Absolutely, unequivocally, no doubt in my mind, heck to the yea, YES!!. We have been homeschooling in some capacity (cyberschool, formal homeschool, unschool, radical unschool) for 15 years. As stated in my profile I have 6 kids. 4 girls and 2 boys. My main goal was to do what I felt the school would not do...take an interest in my kids' learning ability and not group them with others. My kids are special, as I understand every mother feels about their child, as well. Why would I expect someone who sees my child (in addition to 30 other children) for approximately 6 hours a day, to be able to really draw out his/her likes, dislikes, capacity for learning and and learning style and then be expected meet each child's needs based on individuality. If the teacher,in school, had the chance to sit with each child individually, she would only be able to do so for 12 minutes a day. My decision to pull my kids was so that I could help nurture their individuality. Here are my kids:

This is my oldest daughter, Jacqui  (25). She is the main reason why I made the decision to pull the kids out of school. She is the most creative girl I know. She has developed a knack to style hair and do design nails as  not only to save money but also to make money. Self-taught by the way. She is industrious and eclectic. She learned that she likes journalism and is now interested in going back to school to pursue it. Jacqui is the first on the scene via cyber journalism and is the one who informs all of us of what is going on in the world. She loves the news.  Through homeschooling she learned and tap into her strengths, use her resources and learn whatever she wants to. Jacqui was our first world traveler. When she was 15 years old, I was afraid that she truly believed the only world that existed, was in Norristown PA. I found this organization, Windsor Mountain International (http://www.windsormountain.org/), which had a 30 day trip called European Travelling Theater. Jacqui went to Italy and learned about Italian comedy and how to walk on stilts. She and her group then conducted street theater performances as they migrated from Italy, to Spain then onto France. Jacqui was brave because when she went over as it was a few years after 9/11 and a few months after the Madrid subway bombings) and for some reason the day she went, there was high state of emergency in the states. I remember the day she flew over to Italy (by herself) and met her group she was a little nervous but met her fear, walked onto the plane (looking like a model) and encountered one of best journey's of her life.  

This is my oldest son, Vernell (24). He always had an interest in history. He was good in all academic subjects. When he was younger, we helped him nurture his interest in art by sending him to community art classes. He is really good. As a homeschooling teen he volunteered for local public service agencies and interned with local magistrates. Vernell even did artwork for a party my job was having. Oh I also forgot to mention, when my youngest was born, Vernell did the artwork in her room...at age 10. Vernell did make the decision to go back to brick and mortar school in senior year and he participated in JROTC and then went onto the Marine Reserves for 4 years. Now he is thinking of going into a career in drafting but in the meantime, he is working with youth who are living in a local teen shelter/behavioral setting. 

This is my youngest son, Austin (20). He was homeschooled from 1st grade to 8th. He decided to go back to brick and mortar school in 8th grade. Our school district is lacking, so I made sure he knew about and had access to all program which would make sure he had a chance to get to college. He participated in a Dale Carnegie program, Summers at Penn State under the Upward Bound Math and Science Program, Penn State FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) program and FBLA in school and the Museum Program (now defunct due to funding). Austin has always been a free spirit, so trust me all these activities caused arguments...however I know my son and he participated, did well and liked it. Austin graduated from high school and while once again, I wanted him to go to Morehouse or Howard...least of all Penn State; of course he chose CUNY: John Jay School of Criminal Justice and is a junior...yes he won that battle. Austin is working 2 jobs, paying his own rent (in Harlem) and is going to school full time for forensic psychology. He is also dabbling in rapping....he is pretty good, I must say.

Julian is my 17 year old activist. She was always the one who was shy and quiet but we learned that she liked to help out. when Julian was 5 she told me that she did not want to learn how to read. We ignored her :). When Julian was 7 she read an article in Time Magazine or Newsweek, about monkeys in the Congo and was adamant that we needed to do something to save them. for awhile she thought she wanted to be veterinarian.  Julian has developed leadership skills that have been astonishing. She has been an advocate for LGBTQ Teens, Domestic Violence issues and the drug and alcohol teen issues.  2 years ago, Julian won 6 awards in our community, one which included be presented a youth leadership award by our local senator. It was good for her self esteem. Julian paved the way for musical interest in her younger sisters. she was writing songs and performing them and then seemed to take more of an interest learning how to play better. Julian is the child that wants to explore the world. We counted and she has been to 21 different countries and 31 states. We are hoping she makes it to Brazil in December to participate in a leadership training for a month. Julian holds three jobs: staff at the local boys and girls club which she grew up (and holds the most recent title: Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls' Club), works for the district attorney's office and at the local grocery store. She enjoys being an unschooler and just entered her freshman year of college after graduating a year early. 

This is Milan, my 16 yo powerhouse songwriter/performer. She plays guitar (her passion), violin, and taught herself how to play the piano. She is in the local youth orchestra which is connected to our local symphony. This year she even went to Italy with the organization. For the last two years, Milan participated in the Camp Up With People Program (http://www.campupwithpeople.org/) and really developed her skills in performing. She is hoping that she can apply for junior staff next year. Milan is very smart, swift and has the ability to converse with anyone. She is one of those kids who can have a full conversation with an adult and they are amazed. Many times, when we go away on trips, Milan will befriend kids who have Autism spectrum disorders. It is something about her heart that makes these kids trust her and attach to her. Their parents recognize it immediately and thank her for being kind. Milan is industrious and just landed her second job with McDonald's. She is also a newspaper delivery person, who gets up every morning at 3 am.  Milan has a major interest in environmental studies and has been wanting to build a Aquaponic Farm in our home. Hopefully we will get it done this year. I will post Milan singing one of the songs she wrote. She has been talking about getting more exposure, so we are looking to put her in some open mics. 

This is Qwyn, my youngest who is 12 years old. She is our budding actress. She had an interest in performing, so we put her in a couple of local plays and she did real well. When Qwyn  was  in brick and mortar school she was tested and found that she was gifted. Even though we homeschool, she participates in the local school district's gifted program. In addition to acting, Qwyn is developing her interest in playing both the guitar and ukulele. She has been dabbling in songwriting and sings songs, which Milan writes and plays for her. Qwyn, Milan and Julian formed a group called Color Blind and perform in the community. 

We are the parents of these awesome kids. They are what fuel our drive for free learning. At times, we second guessed ourselves and at times we felt like the luckiest family in the world...this is a learning process but that's the choice that one makes.