Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Baby is So Grown Up!

Sometimes its hard to believe I'm the mom to 3 awesome kids, and then I remember my oldest is turning 14. And then its extremely difficult to believe that I'm old enough to have a teenager! (One look in the mirror usually brings me back to reality pretty quick)

Yes, my baby boy who made me a mom for the first time, is turning 14 today. (*sniff*)
Happy Birthday Mr. T!

Last night I booked the flight to Florida for Mr. T and DivaGirl at the end of June. We thought it would be easier to send them to grammy's house ahead of time and let Mr. S, who was a little bent out of joint that big brother got to travel across country in November, travel with us in the moving van. Can I just say that airfare is getting ridiculous?! Last night I was logged in to the airline and figured I'd just book round trip tickets since we will need to get back to CA in the near future for ortho appts. While I was logged in, my first search brought up $439 pp rt. A little high, but okay, book...alas, in the time it took me to decide to click 'book now' I get an alert that says "This fare has gone up. The lowest fare is now $480 pp rt." Well, crap. Let's do a little more research...da da dah...okay, still the best deal, let's book it. What??? Another alert: "The lowest fare is now $509 per person..." Are you kidding me?! The price hiked twice in the 2 hours I spent making reservations. So I changed my strategy and booked a one-way for each and total for 2 passengers my total came to $509. Blarg.

A little note about unaccompanied minors traveling by plane, it can be easy-peasy or it can be very challenging depending on the airline. Obviously you will be limited by the airlines that fly into your closest airport. For us we had a decent selection as we fly San Francisco to Orlando. We also have the equally close options of San Jose or Oakland. So here's a breakdown of policies by airline with the best, IMO, at the top.

1. Alaska  ages 5-12 pay $25 fee, non-stop flights only; age 13-17 service fee is optional (Flights are generally on time and crew members are pleasant)
2. Virgin  ages 5-14 traveling without an adult who is at least 15 years old, $75-125 fee; ages 15-17 service is optional, non-stop flights only, includes a complimentary snack. Children under 4 years old are not allowed to travel unless accompanied by an adult who is at least 15 years old. (Awesome flying experience)
3. United  ages 5-11 pay $99 service fee, non-stop flights; 12-17 service optional or can travel as an adult. (Not my favorite carrier, flights are often late)
4. Southwest  ages 5-11 pay $50 service fee each way, non-stop flights only. (Would be ranked higher, but never fly to where we want to go)
5. Delta  ages 5-7 non-stop flights only, $100 service fee each way; ages 8-14 non-stop or connecting flights, $100 service fee each way; ages 15-18 service is optional.
6. American Airlines  ages 5-7 non-stop flights only, $100 service fee each way; ages 8-11 non-stop or connecting flights, $100 service fee each way; ages 12-18 service is optional.

These are the top 6 that I would consider. If you have had experience flying unaccompanied minors I'd love to hear about it.

In our case they kids won't technically be considered unaccompanied minors since Mr. T is 14.  I actually had to call the airline to figure out how to book him and they told me to check him in as an adult. That means that DivaGirl, being 6 at travel time, is accompanied by a guardian. Either way, we can still approach the counter and pick up gate check passes for the rest of us to see them to the gate and through security. Being well flown kids, they will not need grammy to do the same when they arrive, they will just follow the signs to baggage claim and be met at the end of security.  Mr. T has flown unaccompanied before and has been at this airport before so navigation shouldn't be very difficult.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Socializing the Kiddos

The first thing a non-homeschooler asks a homeschooler is "What about socialization??" (gasp!) And whenever I'm asked that I know in my head the answer, but I'm usually so busy or distracted with other things that it comes out all mixed up like I'm defending it as I go along. Or, if I'm having a bad day the comment may be more on the snarky side like "Of course public schools socialize better, just look at all the bullies and standardized testing that will help them succeed in the real world if one of their suicidal peers doesn't shoot them first." Yeah, probably shouldn't use that one too much.

All kidding aside, homeschooled children are more real-world socialized than those in a traditional school setting. I think the question that people are meaning to ask is usually "How will your kids meet new people?" But I'll get back to that, let's start with the definition of socialization.



1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
2. the act or process of making socialistic. the socialization of industry.

When you put 24 five year olds of varying backgrounds in a room together do you think that each child will seek out the most polite and respectful child to emulate their behavior or do you think they will pick the child that is doing something new to them or is gaining attention (positive or negative) from the adults and kids around them? You better believe that they are going to emulate the kids with the grossest, loudest or most demanding behaviors! These kids aren't "socialized" to society's standards yet, however we expect that putting them in the same setting is going to end up with positive results. The schools make an attempt at teaching positive behavior but with demands for higher test standards and shorter class days, character development is an afterthought.

Now to draw a parallel to the real world, how many of you have friends and co-workers that are all exactly the same age as you and have had exactly the same education as you? I would venture to guess NONE. But if I am mistaken I would love to hear all about it. It is more likely that you have wide variety of friends, co-workers, acquaintances and family that you choose to hang out with. The age ranges and backgrounds could be staggering! Yet, somehow, you all get along and enjoy each other's company. How can that be?? (insert sarcasm)

My best friend growing up was a year younger than me, not in the same grade, not even at the same school, but we were neighbors and spent practically every waking moment together. We live on opposite sides of the country now and have very different lifestyles and even though 6 months can slip away between phone calls we can pick up as if it was yesterday.

You don't need to have friends your same age. You just need to have one true friend that understands you and will support you for who you are.

One of the drawbacks of having introverted children is that many extroverts would consider them anti-social. That's not the case at all. And to be honest, public school (and private school) did nothing positive to encourage them to "come out of their shell," in fact it tended to do the opposite since classroom teaching is developed for short attention spans. By the time my kids had observed the situation, made a decision to engage, the class had moved on to something else and the cycle started all over again. My daughter had the opposite problem. She was eager to jump in feet first without completely listening to what was required of her and then got royally bent out of joint when she'd have to redo her work according to the teacher's requirements. She was also easily distracted by the other 24 bodies in the class making a simple task take forever to complete.

I really find the second definition intriguing. The process of making socialistic. Isn't that exactly what our current president is getting lambasted for? His supposedly hidden socialist agenda. Yet, this is what is expected of our children.

Back to the intended question of "How will your kids meet new people?" My answer is simple, the same way you meet people everyday. When we homeschool out of a house you meet your neighbors who are out when kids are typically at school, like the little old lady with the lovely roses or the chatty neighbor who is raising chickens. When we go on field trips and really, nearly everything is a field trip! When we visit our own friends who love helping kids learn. When we volunteer at the Food Bank. When we participate in homeschool co-ops or go to playdates at the park. When we road school it will be meeting the people that are temporarily living next to you or the family you meet at the laundromat. When we visit National Parks it will be docents, volunteers or Park Rangers. We will also be visiting all our friends that we've left behind over the years including the kids' friends. I feel that having the ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger is a very important life skill to have. What if you need to ask directions, most likely that person will be a stranger. What if you need to pay for your groceries, another stranger. Get separated from the family in a big store, ask an employee for help, who is a stranger to you. Can't find a book in the library, ask the librarian, another stranger. Stranger Danger is dividing our nation and making everyone think the worst of everyone else. You have street smarts and instincts to help you discern a safe situation from a potentially life threatening one. And sadly, many of the potentially life threatening situations revolve around people who weren't strangers to the child. :( But its difficult for a child to develop instincts if their parents never give them the opportunity to be responsible for themselves and possibly make mistakes.

My kids will also be keeping in touch with their friends the same way we will, by face time, texting, phone calls, emails and letters (and for Mr. T, facebook as well). They will also be making new friends along the way.

So did I answer the question? Probably not and kudos to you if you read through to the end! (Aren't you glad you didn't ask me in person!?)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Roadschooling Curriculum

I've only managed to pack 3 boxes to keep in storage, cleaned out the outgrown clothes in Divagirl's closet (4 paper bags full!), and start on the boys' closet. But I've made progress on next year's curriculum!

I must admit, I'm a planner. I get a thrill planning, organizing and researching.

Mr T will be in 9th grade, albeit an advanced Freshman. He'll be studying...
Core Subjects:
Math-Geometry and Trigonometry via khanacademy.com
Language Arts-Most of this will be correspondence through a private tutor
Social Studies-US History & Biographies, US Geography, Current Events
Foreign Language-French
Music-Acoustic Guitar
Art-Great Artists, Design Principles, Nature Study
Computers-Maya programming
Life Skills-Teen studies, finding oneself, Compassion
PE-This will be more of a daily activity including options such as circuit training, body weight exercises, hiking, swimming, biking, etc. depending on where we are and what's available to us.

Mr. S will be starting 6th grade and he'll be studying...
Core Subjects:
Math-Pre-Algebra via khanacademy.com
Language Arts-Some of this will be correspondence through a private tutor the rest will be First Language Lessons 3+, All About Spelling, and Wordly Wise 3000
Social Studies-US History, US Geography, American Presidents
Foreign Language-French
Music-Piano/Keyboard & Theory
Art-Great Artists, Design Principles, Nature Study
Life Skills-Public speaking, Patience, Tolerance
PE-Same as above only he'll also be doing parkour and hip hop dancing.

Divagirl will technically be going into 1st grade however we are currently homeschooling Kindergarten and its been a lot of 2 steps forward one step back so we will be taking it slow and moving at a pace that she's comfortable with.
Core Subjects:
Math-Addition, Subtraction, Skip counting, Fractions, Time to quarter hour
Language Arts-First Language Lessons 1, All About Spelling, Cursive First, The Reading Lesson
Science-Animals, Nature, Anatomy, Sensory (similar to the biology subjects the boys will study but more hands on depending on what's around us)
Social Studies-US History, US Geography, American Presidents
Foreign Language-French
Music-Piano/Keyboard & Theory
Art-Great Artists, Design Principles, Nature Study
Life Skills-Patience, Resourcefulness, Caring, Perseverance, Truthfulness, Organization, Helpfulness (I'm currently the leader of her Daisy Troop and we plan on staying a Daisy while we travel, which will help with the character study and life skills)
PE-Hiking, Running, Swimming, Biking, Jump Rope, Ballet...again, dependent on where we are

There was some discussion about the foreign language. Mr. T wanted Japanese, Mr. S wanted French and Divagirl wanted Chinese. Later Mr. T denied wanting Japanese and Divagirl refused to learn Chinese so it was agreed that we'd learn French. I took 3 years of HS French and was fluent, *ahem* 25 years ago, so it would much easier for me if we all learned something I had a prayer at teaching. Perhaps the following year I'll be brave and offer another language. I am excited though, I ordered some resources that two-thirds of them can work through. Easy French Reader and Le Petit Prince (en francais) will be introduced when they are ready to decipher written word. For Divagirl I got Let's Learn French Coloring Book because she loves to color. She also loves Fancy Nancy so she knows a few French words already.

There's an art lesson book that looks promising called Art Lab for Kids but I'd like to see it in real life first before I commit. I am an artist by education but sometimes its much nicer to just turn your brain off and follow the directions, provided its a quality lesson. And considering I'll be home schooling 3 kids at 3 levels, a little brain "off" time would be nice.

The boys will be doing some of their Language Arts lessons via a private tutor. They happen to have a grandmother who has a Masters in English and Reading and she retired from teaching Junior High kids. Perfect!

I'm also planning a bunch of reading material but I haven't finalized my lists yet, partly due to format issues. Space will be a premium and I'd rather not have all of their books in print, so I'm trying to whittle the list down to include a multitude of eBooks. Basically their literature will consist of several classics, myths and books about the US or written by American authors. I'm sure that will be another post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let the Simplifying Begin!

The countdown has begun. All the friends and relatives who planned to visit us have come and gone. Which leaves us 3 months to sort through our belongings and sell, donate or store what we don't want to bring on the RV with us. Emphasis on the sell or donate portions. I have stealthily been pulling things from here or there and sold some things on craigslist, had one garage sale and donated what didn't sell. But there is so much more to go.

Some time ago I taped little labels on the big furniture that said "SELL", "KEEP" or "RV". Unfortunately, the pieces that are labeled to sell are used everyday (hint: Sofa sectional, dining room chairs, computer desk) so I won't be able to sell them until June. :(

So I'm back to stealth packing. That's when you remove things from the house that nobody ever knew were there to begin with. LOL I just get so excited that I overdo it one day and then burn myself out for the rest of the week. Must learn to pace myself.