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Where have I been? To the land of More!

I’ve been in the land of high school homeschool. More books, more ideas, more complaints, more laughs. This academic year my younger son joined the older in high school, only in number of grade though. In truth, Owen has been doing high school level work for three grades now- including the 9th grade he is currently in. On a recent bus trip he asked about this.

Owen question: “Mom, have I always been ahead of grade level and Gene at grade level or am I doing what Gene did at my age?’

I had to mull the issue over because what he asked was not clear. It was clear to me but it was not what I thought he thought he was asking. So I asked it back- always the reflective listener.

Mom question: “Owen, are you asking me if are ahead, if you are working at Gene’s level?”

Owen: “Yes and ….” ( I held up my hand to stop him there.)

Mom: “Yes. You are working at the same level as your brother. You always have. ”

Owen: “So I am working ahead of the grade I would be in.”

Mom: “For the most part yes. In high school it doesn’t really change a lot. You are just doing things in a different order than Gene is.”

The conversation went on but that was main concept. Owen was unsure because he, like many younger kids, wanted to do what his older sibling was doing from the beginning. When we started at the Independent Study, Owen would come along with and  “play around” with stuff while Gene has his “class time” with his teacher. Owen caught on early to the alphabet, reading, writing, and numbers. For him, it provided yet another way that he could interact with his older brother. Owen was all about being included at that age.

I let him do what every he wanted. Write, draw, build. I figured that Owen would do what he wanted anyway. I might as well get out of his way. This is a common theme in my writing and talking about homeschooling- getting out of the way. I figured Owen would change when he couldn’t do it or didn’t want to any more. It took a long time but I was right.

Now, in high school, Owen is very differentiated from his brother. He likes to draw representational items as well as his Pokemon and fantasy creatures. He longs to learn a foreign language. He loves to cook. He wants to own a dog but can’t decided between a American Cocker Spaniel or a Poodle. He loves to watch curling.

There is a natural flow to sameness and then a divergence of self. I bring this up because once again, I didn’t trust it. They were so much alike at times, they did appear to be twins- two years apart. I feared Owen would never be different, or be himself. He always had to do what his brother did, when his brother did it. Would he ever be more? Yes.

There is so much more to learning than timing and sequence. There is learning about how we measure up to those around us. Where do we fit in to the peer group on a scale of this or measure of that? Being so far removed form that time of my life I forgot how important it was to know that.  Owen just wanted to see where he fell in the grand scheme of things. Gene never really cared about that and still doesn’t. For Owen it matters. For Owen there is an air of importance around knowing the biggest picture he can fathom. Owen always wants to know more.

In that thought, I see myself, the more-er of my family. I can relate to Owen and his thoughts of scale. Back to our conversation on the bus. I confirm to Owen that he was the keep-up kid. That he has what it takes. Then, like always, he goes Little Buddha on me. “Mom” he says, “it’s for me but it’s not for everyone.”

More deep thoughts too.




A-G for you and me

A recent issue that came up in our household were the infamous A-G requirements. These are preparatory classes that a student takes in high school that are recognized by four year universities. A student must have so many units of math, English, science, foreign language, etc. to meet university acceptance requirements. These were always on the hazy out reaches of my brain. 

When I was in school, this didn’t come up. If it did, I never heard about it. When I went to the local junior college I heard about this and understood it to be the distinction between classes that transferred to universities and  classes that didn’t. It wasn’t a big deal. Now it is this huge looming spectre in the dark shadows of getting things done.

My husband and I saw these in two very different ways. I saw them as optional. These were things that could be handled later in junior college or maybe they didn’t need to happen at all. My husband saw these as essential. These must be met or the kids would most likely not go college at all. For my husband, this is not significant.

We took turns discussing this with our supervising teacher. She was full of suggestions. This muddied the water even more. What was the best option for the y guys? Should we push for A-G classes? Maybe they should take junior college classes until they make up the classes they missed? I want my kids to succeed but sometimes these added requirements seem like busy, money and time sink holes.

Then things calmed down. We’d talked about all sorts of ways to get this done. Things weren’t as heated or urgent. There was a light or two at the end of the tunnel, maybe there was even another tunnel too. The dust seemed to have settled and we had a working plan.  I went back to business as usual. 

Several days later my husband asked when the kids were going to take the classes that met this requirement. What?! In my mind, we had decided not to worry about it. We would do some junior college and get classes done that fit into out schedule.

My husband understood things to be different. More than different. More like the exact opposite. We went from letting things go on as they were to, cramming every darn class they could. Time to get back to the table and iron this flat out, really flat.

After a long and specific discussion, we came to an understanding. I almost made us both say it out loud to be sure we were thinking the same thing. It turns out that wasn’t needed. We are going to get done what we can now and do what we can later. Deep I know but getting us on the same page was essential to moving forward.

When it comes down to it, for homeschoolers, there are not hard and fast rules. Know that A-G requirements are out there and that someone may ask about them. The education system isn’t so fixed that you can’t do things the way that best fits your situation. Honor your learner and your self, do it your way!

When things go wrong

So far our homeschooling journey has been without major incidence. We’ve hit all the major developmental milestones within the normal timelines. The kids, now teenagers, can read, write, and do math. I feel pretty secure in their abilities. However, there are somethings that are required by the charter school we are in. They are the same things one encounters in public school and most independent study programs. These are the required courses- for us the issues are with biology and mathematics.

Our charter school offers several ways to meet these requirements. We can take the kids to the local junior college. Courses are available online via an virtual high school. They can work with a tutor, if they don’t mind not meeting the A-G preparatory guidelines set up by the four year universities. In our case this means the University of California and California State University systems. 

We chose the online high school. This seemed like the most efficient and streamlined way to go. The boys both like computers and are pretty savvy about them. They both like math and science too. Going in it looked like this was a no brainer. It started out that way too. It didn’t stay that way. 

My older son took the first semester of biology before the younger one. The class worked with an online book, power point lectures, and websites. He dug right in and had fun. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. There were a few glitches but they got handled quickly. 

When my younger son started, it was different. The class units were numbered. However, when my son went to work, he found the links for unit work took him to units that were later in the sequence. They even had other unit numbers on their labels. The URLs he was directed to use went to pages with fancy titles and no text. Forms had the wrong number of charts. He reported these shortcoming to me on the verge of tears.

I wondered what had changed from one semester to the next to create this all to real online mess. I decided to take a look for myself. So I sat with my son as he worked on reading unit texts, and watching the lectures. The interactive images were very cool but information was missing. He would go to do the worksheet only to find the sheet was about something else. We ended up doing our own web searches to find the answers.

I felt his frustration ten fold. I’ve taken online classes and never encountered this many problems in a single class. I wrote an email to the administrator of the program and related to her the obstacles and errors in this class and the math they were taking too. It appeared to me to a bigger issue since the math class was little better. 

I was so enthralled about my own success with online learning, that I didn’t consider that my kids may not have the same experience. Granted user error is only part of what is going on, it is a big part when my son’s get ramped up, angry, frustrated, and depressed. We chose to homeschool in part to let learning be a natural and rewarding process with as little stress as possible. This is not the case with out current situation.

The wig-out factor is really high. I spazzed to the max on this. I was pretty hard on myself. What are we going to do? They are ruined for sure!  It felt so desperate to me. What if my kids can’t get into a four year school because of this? 

WHAM! It hit me right in the forebrain. I’d become the high scope pushy parent I never wanted to be. I didn’t want super kids who graduate from college at age 12. I didn’t want kids who felt a constant pressure to succeed academically at all cost. How did I fall back into that old way of thinking? It didn’t matter how I got there. It mattered that I saw it for what it was.

In the calm that follows a significant showing of emotion, I remembered. We are homeschoolers. There is always a new way to do something. We have the ability to change whenever we need to. We can also let go, forgive our mistakes and move on. I spoke to my husband, our kids, and our charter teacher. We came up with a new plan that fits our kids, our choices, and our lives. 

When things go wrong don’t worry. Look at the situation, really see it. Come to a consensus on a solution. Put that solution to work and let go of the rest. Be sure to forgive yourself and anyone else who you feel you need to, then move on. Wrong isn’t bad, it’s just something that isn’t working for us. Nothing more, nothing less.

Failing, falling, growing, and time travel

I hate to see my kids fail. I feel crushed, with my sails cut from the mast, flying away and leaving my ship to drift uselessly on whatever current it may find itself in. That was probably a run-on sentence. The important thing here is that all those feelings are mine. I have noticed over and over how my kids just get, dust off, and move on. What a great skill!

I’m not saying that they don’t learn from mistakes. My neurosis about falling behind drives the discussion of what didn’t work and why for longer than interest dictates. So I know they get what happened. They are forever willing to do the next great thing on their minds. Taking ideas of the last iteration and weaving them into the next. 

Each story they write is more complex. The characters have increased depth. The plot thickens in ways that never would occur to me. I become riveted to thoughts of going to other realms or times or celestial locations. Then out of nowhere they are done. The move on and make another newer version.

I am writing about this because I am the opposite. I am so enamored with what is in my hand leftover from yesterday, the last coolest line I wrote. I am so afraid about letting go of what I think is “good” to get to what is truly great. It could be writing a story, changing the garden, the time of day I get up. I hold on.

How did I stop? More importantly, how can I help my kids keep going or knowing that there is a time and place to fail or let go of something and a time to keep what was good and save that. I want them to have the rich mix of past, present, and future, rather than just past and present- like me.

Who am I kidding? I want to know that for myself. I want to see them and raise them to a behavior I can observe and adopt for myself. I want to know this before they are grown up the rest of the way and they move on. I want that carefree part of them to be a part of me. Then I will have that part of them forever and part of me for the future.

Thin is for pizza crust and body weight

Have you ever spread yourself a little too thin? I recently did a bit to much and failed at most of it. I spend the last month or two looking for a job, doing laundry, walking dogs, writing a novella, two blogs,teaching ESL to my neighbors, gardening, and so much more. Yes is good but too much yes is bad.

The danger is that I have Fibromyalgia and chronic pain (resulting form arthritis, and spin things). I did very well going to classes in pain management. Then like with many other things, I stopped doing my routine. I didn’t need to pace myself. I was feeling great! I could a few more things. The few more things turned into a lot more. 

I was so thin I tore apart. Great holes in my energy level developed. I ended up with pain so bad I spent three days in bed. This was not good and not necessary. I know what makes me feel good and stay on track. It occureed to me that I do the same with homeschooling.

We would get into these trends of doing things every day. High energy learning weeks followed by weeks of blah. Pacing is for more than chronic pain treatment. It is for life and living fully. I know what I need to add to our curriculum, spreading out the work not the person. For now, I’m thinking thin about pizza crust and body weight.

The Kits and I

I have two sons. We started homeschooling them at the beginning. They are now 12 and 14. I call them kits because they love  cats and the Warriors book series. My name is Catherine and some call me Cat. I thought the whole idea was pretty clever.

The kits are now in 7th and 9th grade. I am proud of the young men they are becomming. I love that they are following thier own loves and passions. That was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to homeschool.

Several key events in my life changed how I saw myself and the world around me. I didn’t like these changes, but like so  many other things didn’t notice them until much later in life.

In junior high my parents got a divorce. My mother had taken me to lunch, a rare occasion after she moved out of our house. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I said, boldly, that I wanted to be a dog trainer. Her response nearly verbatum “People who work with dogs are people who can’t get along with other people.”

In high school I decided to be a veteranairan. It satisfied my mother and my father just wanted me to learn to use comptuers. This was 1981, computers were just coming into the mainstream. I earned a C in biology and was told by the teacher that I was not smart enough for chemestry.

 I’d spent year trying to please people and do what I thought they wanted. I was years getting back to writing, making art, and being with my dogs, the three things I loved the most as a kid. When my first son was born, I knew that I never wanted those kinds of statements to stop them from doing what they loved.

The kits and I have changed my husband too. We are all doing what we love. Now he as the freedom to do what he loves too! Everyone wins!

Why did you choose to homeschool? Think about it.

Hello world! It’s CAT!

THis is my first blog on A2Z. I hope you all enjoy reading it. You can check out my other blogs and websites at: