Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thank god we homeschool.

Reason #387 homeschooling rocks: When life happens, your family can stay together. A week ago, my husband went to the hospital in the tiny northern town he was working near. He felt flu-ish & wasn't recovering from it. Test results looked odd so he was flown home, into a major hospital in the nearby city. All of a sudden our lives were flipped upside down: my young, healthy, tough, hardworking husband had a condition that he would die from, soon, if he did not have a life saving & life changing surgery. It was instantly clear how serious it was; over the past week, he repeatedly lost his heart beat & required resuscitation.

I kept thinking: thank god we homeschool. The kids were at home with me, instead of getting ready to start the school year with the rest of the province. They could visit their dad in the hospital as much as we needed them to. They had the space to act out on their confusion & their worry. We could stay up late talking about what was going on, reading online to start the steep trek up the learning curve of what was happening to my husband. There were no activities that couldn't be abandoned & no worry about meeting any external expectations of where they should be.

Today, the surgery has happened & we're all home together again, looking at a month of recovery time. The boys will be able to spend all that time with their dad, who they came so close to losing. This is a life change that is shocking and I am so grateful that our kids can be with us while we all process what's happened, figuring out how we are going to live with the change.

A friend of ours told us about SARA, the process of emotion people experience during a serious illness. It stands for Sadness, Anger, Resentment & Acceptance. I'm already seeing signs of these stages in each of our kids. I wonder how they'd fare if we couldn't help them as we noticed these emotions in them. How would someone who doesn't know & love my 4 year old respond to his raging?

Homeschooling works so, so well for our family- for our wonky schedules that are everything but 9-5, for days off work that we can enjoy together as a family, for late nights stargazing thanks to the fact that we have no need to be up early the next day. And now, more than anything else, for the chance to be together as a family of 5 when we came so very close to never being that again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ask a Hippie: The intimidation of starting

Dear Happy Homeschool Hippies,

My twins are turning 3 next week, and starting preschool the next day. I'm sending them to at least one year, maybe 2? But then would really want to homeschool (it's either that or Private school, and I'd imagine homeschooling to be MUCH cheaper!). I'm glad it's a ways away, so I have time to decide on what to do, use, and get organized...but it's very intimidating and makes me anxious!


Dear Ashli,

First of all, deep cleansing breaths. There is lots of time later to be anxious.
Feeling calmer? Good. Have you considered NOT sending the twins to preschool? This may be the perfect time to take homeschooling for a trial run. There are many fun preschool resources available in a broad range of prices including FREE. Not only will you see how you relate to each other in a learning situation, but also give you some time to experiment with learning style before they are school age.
If you do decide to send them to preschool, my advice is to stay closely involved with what they are learning. When I sent my older children to school, I found that there became a disconnect. I went from knowing everything they were exposed to and learning, to just a summary at the end of the day. When I brought them back home, it took me time to figure it out again. With my younger children who have never been to school, there was never that missing piece, we just continued right on learning from walking and talking to algebra and beyond.

Heather (East Coast Hippie)
 ***Want to Ask a Hippie? Email us!)

Top 5 reasons I love virtual schooling

Howdy hippies!
(I'm from Idaho, I get to use the word "howdy" in whatever manner I please. It is a birthright.)

Our little family has been schooling year round since we started school at home a year ago. I'm still really new to schooling at home, but I'm starting to get the hang of virtual schooling and wanted to share a little bit of what I have learned.

1. Some people will not acknowledge us as true homeschoolers. That makes me feel like we are uber on the edge of home education! (I may be a bit of a rebel on occasion.)
I use public school curriculum from a state sponsored public charter school that happens to come to my house through the internet and through the mail. My lovely state of Idaho sees me as a public schooling family and I get the feeling many homeschool families in my area see me as "cheating" since I don't make my own curriculum. I'm kind of straddling two worlds and it isn't always comfortable. But at the end of the day we do school at home and I add my own curriculum while still doing the state curriculum so I call my family and homeschool family and we're all happy with that label.

2. It is really nice to have curriculum handed to you. I am so in awe of homeschoolers who create their own curriculum. Even people who buy a "school in a box" set every year... wow. It takes a lot to find what to use for each family and even each kid! I won't lie, that overwhelms me. That is one main reason I like having a set curriculum that I can enrich from. I also really like the fact that it is free.

3. It is really nice to have a teacher who helps you. I feel completely capable of being in charge of my kiddo's education. However, I also really like having a teacher who is willing to look over my shoulder and pat me on the back or give me suggestions if I am not certain my kid is catching onto a subject. The teacher and the built in curriculum are currently my training wheels for my homeschool bike I'm on. They give me a great sense of security and sometimes a mama needs that while she is venturing down a new road.

4. I like state testing and knowing where my kids rate. Yes, I'm one of those annoying people. I also really dig gold stars on my forehead. You can laugh at (really with) me, shrug your shoulders at me or even not get me. But don't judge me. Different strokes...
Really though, the sense of pride I have when my kid does well on a test and I remember the difficulties we had on some of the areas and I KNOW we got through it together and we earned that scored, or even if the score isn't great but I can clearly see where we need to work together... I love it. 

5. Time management can be a lot easier. Really it can. After the initial first few weeks and the "Aaaahhhhhh! I have a billion subjects to get through and I am freaked out!" subsides, I find real comfort in the routine of waking up, eating, doing school, eating more food, doing something fun with the kids, eating a snack... routine. Like a fuzzy pink slanket (I own one and I love it). The consistency comforts me.

Oh and here is a bonus reason:
I love feeling like my family is moving through the future of learning. Makes me feel all "Back to the Future" without the hair and the stonewashed jeans.

There it is!

**Have a question on virtual learning? Ask a Hippie!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When life gets in the way

The 2010-2011 school year was a trying one for us. The Reader's Digest version is that we dealt with most of the stressful major life events during one year, including pregnancy, illness, a new job, job loss, and wedding planning. Considering that we have a large family so already deal with the day to day stress of busy schedules and inadequate cash flow, let's just say it was a hard year. Of course trials often travel hand in hand with blessing so we had some of those as well.

Shortly before school started last fall, we found out we were pregnant with baby number 8. Within a week, I started experiencing difficulties and the Friday prior to labor day I began bleeding heavily and assumed we miscarried. We typically begin school the day after labor day and this year would be no different. We broke out our new books and pencils and life continued on. We participated in our local homeschool co-op, Jayson had the lead in our local theaters production of Hansel and Gretel, we stayed as busy as usual. In mid October we again found out we were pregnant. Not pregnant AGAIN however, but STILL pregnant. That's right, I could have starred on "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant".
Our surprise turned to shock and then to prayers as I went on to be diagnosed with complete placenta previa, then a thinning cervix, placenta accreta, and finally placenta percreta. I was put on bedrest in December, and then delivered our son four weeks and one day early in March. He was born via a scary and messy cesarean, which kept me in the OR for more than 5 hours while the doctors repaired the damage the placenta caused, followed by a day and a half in the ICU on a ventilator. Sterling spent two days in the NICU being treated for hypoglycemia.
Six weeks after Sterling was born, my husband Brad was laid off from his job but luckily found another and didn't miss a day of work. The downside was that the new job was four states away. This left me barely recovered from life threatening surgery, with a brand new baby, running my home and family without my husband. This new job lasted four weeks before he was laid off a second time, this time with no job prospects. Around this same time, we put the proverbial cherry on the top when our only daughter became engaged. The wedding date was set for August 6, and wedding planning commenced with her in Idaho carrying a full load at school, and us in Delaware with no job.

So why did I tell you my life story of the last year? "What does this have to do with homeschooling?", you may be asking. Everything! Homeschooling is just another facet of our life. We don't just stop learning or stop teaching because life gets hard. The honest truth, once I was put on bedrest, those shiny books didn't get much attention. The older kids would pull theirs out for a lesson here or there, but we certainly didn't finish the books. All of them were allowed much more television than is typical. Some of it was educational, some not so much. We missed all but a couple of field trips that friends volunteered to drive them to, and most of the park days. The kids were able to attend co-op in the spring thanks to the help of family and friends, and little
league season was able to go on as normal.
My kids learned some valuable lessons last year. They may have fallen a bit "behind" (whatever that means) in their math books, but they grew as human beings. They learned about service, both as they served their own family and as they watched others serve all of us. They learned about teamwork, and keeping the family running, even when it was hard. They learned about sacrifice of time and of money. We all learned about faith, and about hope. There were mini science lessons involved with the pregnancy and new baby. Many books were read to pass the time. Our family definitely has learned perspective, what is important and what is not in the grand scheme of things.

As far as formal schooling goes, we are starting fresh this fall. It is too overwhelming to me to try to make up that much book work, and unnecessary in my opinion. My oldest school aged child is going into 8th grade. That means he still has five years left to be ready for college and he is bright. I am not worried. This choice is not the right one for everyone though. My friend Cynthia also had a trying year. Her mother lives in another state and has been ill and facing major surgery. Cynthia made several road trips with her three children to be with her mother. Between these trips, her children had some medical needs of their own. Due to the homeschooling method they use, it was important that the kids finished this years curriculum, so they just continued right on through summer. Of course her children also learned important life lessons similar to those we learned, as well as "living geography" during their road trips. They also were provided the wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with their extended family.

I think most families who homeschool will experience some period of time when life just gets in the way of school. That may be a week here and there, or even a month or year. Some things to consider if (when?) it happens to you:
  • Look for the lessons in the experience.
  • Squeeze in academics when you can, dvd's, books on tape in the car, family games and stories.
  • Adjust your schedule outside of the box, school in the evenings, on weekends, or in the summer.
  • Adjust your educational method if possible. Switch to more child led, or more workbooks, or even to a more structured program if time for planning is the issue.
  • Remember that there is still time left to learn what must be learned before they are grown.
Remember I mentioned blessings? Here are a few
of ours this year :)

Our miracle baby on the day he was born

Little League season signaled the beginning of a return to normalcy

Sister got married and it was beautiful :)
(photo courtesy of Kelly Lisk Photography)

~Heather (East Coast Hippie)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Desert Hippie: Meet The Chanse Family

Hey there! I'm Susan, married to Andrew and mama of four boys 8 and under (Atticus-8, Creeley-5, Townsyn-3, and Dempsey-6 months). We live in the crazy, hot desert of Arizona in a town called Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix.

This picture of the boys and I was taken by my husband just last week when we were exploring southern California. I love how it captures my boys' personalities...Creeley the goofy joker, Townsyn the playful mischievous child, Atticus the sweet thinker, and Dempsey (in the wrap sleeping) the easy-going, good-natured far.

As soon as I began to think about having kids, homeschooling was something I considered doing. When Andrew and I settled down in Arizona and began having children, it became a reality. Up until 2007, we owned a retail story specializing in breastfeeding and other natural-living products. It was important to us that one parent was able to be with the children during their early years, and running the store, while difficult to manage, did allow the boys to be with one of us all the time. As we settled into the hectic schedule of a full-time job for Andrew and a full-time business to run for me, we agreed that getting the boys to and from school would be a hassle, most likely depending on others for some sort of care and missing a lot of the kids' daily life due to our schedules. We knew that keeping them home and teaching them ourselves was the answer for our family.

True to my hippie tendencies, my original leanings were toward an easy-going, self-directed education, or even radical unschooling. We eased through Atticus's Kindergarten year with a lot of games, manipulatives, and art projects. When he reached first grade age, however, we realized we needed to make some changes. Atticus craved structure, and as both his parents and teachers, we knew we needed to provide it. Through research we had come across The Well-Trained Mind a few years earlier and we remembered liking many of the ideas and resources listed. We revisited Susan Wise Bauer's book and decided that classical education was the way to go for our family. We also work Nature Study into our package, as well as some Waldorf ideas, especially in the early years. I guess you might say we are nature-focused classical educators with a twist of Waldorf.

We have recently added Creeley into the homeschooling mix as a old Kindergartener/young first grader. It is amazing to watch his learning blossom, showing a completely different style and drive than his older brother. It makes me feel even luckier to be able to keep them home and direct their learning toward their individual needs. I really believe they will get an excellent education because of this.

At first I thought I could throw everything together for our homeschooling day, but quickly realized that there were curriculum out there that would do this for me. I became a curriculum junkie, reading for hours on end about each program available. I narrowed my choices down to secular curriculum that is fairly teacher intensive, mostly open and go, and with very few workbooks for the grammar stage of learning. I believe we have found the main framework for our boys education, but we will continue to tweak it to fit their individual needs. It is structured enough to make me feel organized, but open enough to allow for extra time whenever the boys find something they want to explore in further depth.

We homeschool year round, really bunkering down in the dreadful heat of the summer so that we can ease up when the beautiful fall, winter, and spring weather is here. Our family enjoys our time together, and I am enjoying the journey of relearning through my childrens' eyes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Canadian Hippie: Meet Arie Brentnall-Compton

Canadian. Hippie. Throw in redneck & you have most of me covered!! I'm Arie Brentnall-Compton, with too many titles to name. I owned Tadpoles & Butterflies, a babywearing superstore, with my BFF for 4 years. I sold the store, but I still work very closely with it on a daily basis. I operate the Canadian Babywearing School in partnership with another friend. I'm a public speaker, traveling to workshops & conferences. I'm a freelance writer, writing copy for babywearing industry sites, a little ghostwriting here & there & a little bit of activist blogging too. I'm a lactation consultant & doula in private practice. I sit on several industry boards.

And I'm a homeschooling mama to 3. Our boys are 9, 6 & 4, in grades 4, 2 & kindergarten.

We live in the country in the rural Canadian west. We're an 8 minute drive from our province's capital and about the same distance from half a dozen other towns & cities, but our neighborhood's as country as it gets. I married my cowboy husband when I was 20 and we've lived rurally for most of our life together. Our province is well off, with amazing opportunities for wealth if you're willing to work. It's also a hotbed of homeschooling, with one of the largest concentrations of homeschoolers & the best legally entrenched, funded HSing system in North America.

I was raised to question authority, to speak up when I saw wrongdoings, choose my own path and to value education. I've always made choices that flew in the face of the mainstream. My children were born at home, exclusively breastfed. We never seriously considered the public school system for our kids; homeschooling was a natural choice made early on.

We're unschoolers, or life learners. We all have interests we pursue, from classic cars, aquariums, dirtbiking, archery and history to Lego. I've seen how, by focusing our attention on how to learn instead of on what to learn, our children's growth has been ensured.

We live in & for the outdoors, with our animals being central to our lives. We have 2 horses, 2 large-breed dogs, 2 cats, 2 guinea pigs & a tank full of fish & snails. We ride, train, hike, camp, shoot, wildcraft herbs, gather fruits, chop wood and enjoy our land.

I'm a total foodie and an apprentice herbalist. When I'm not online I'm in my kitchen, preparing the from scratch traditional & decadent foods & medicines my family eats. We mill our own flours, preserve fruits & vegetables in many ways, make kefir & kombucha and cook huge meals for our family & friends in cast iron dutch ovens. I drink for the unbridled love of good booze and my kitchen door is always open for a party. Hospitality is a virtue I want my children to embody.

I'm often of the impression that I was simply born in the wrong century.

I'm pleased to meet you, I hope you'll stick around and let us support & inspire your own homeschooling journey.

Ask a Homeschool Hippie: How do I decide what method of homeschooling to use?

Dear Homeschool Hippies,

We have decided to try homeschooling. There are so many choices out there and my head is spinning. How do I decide?


Dear Overwhelmed,

I've been there and you are right, it can be overwhelming. Here are a few ideas:
  • Ask a few homeschooling friends for advice. What have they tried and liked? Why did they like it?
  • Check the laws in your state or country and determine what the minimum requirements for your child's education must be (your friends may know this too, take advantage of their experiences).
  • Decide if you want to create the school yourself or if you want a "school in a box" experience for your first year. I consider a "school in a box" program to be a great set of training wheels for people who are trying to wean off of public school without their kids getting "behind" (we'll talk about that another day).
  • Don't lock yourself into a method. If you start one method and it doesn't work, switch. You are learning too and it will be okay if you have to test drive a few different styles.
  • Maybe your method will be no method. Hey, nothing wrong with that plan, embrace it!
  • If your child is learning something wonderful every day then you don't need to stress. Just keep swimming and don't compare your kid to anyone else's kid. We're all on different paths anyhow.
  • When I get overwhelmed I use the "knee jerk reaction" method. I have someone ask me what I want to do and then I don't think I just blurt and whatever I say is what I do. Works great for big life decisions, less for dinner choices.
  • Once you pick, don't doubt yourself. Put on a pretty set of blinders and just move forward. Remember you can change what you are doing later, but if you keep going back and forth you won't make any progress. 
You can do this. Don't feel overwhelmed because you are very capable and you are going to do amazing! We're rooting for you!

With hope,
(Mountain Hippie)

Monday, August 8, 2011

West Coast Hippie Philosophy/Principles of Education

For the sake of getting to know me I thought I'd port this in from my blog. :) This should help you understand where we are coming from.

A little about my educational background. My mother is a Montessori teacher. She currently teaches 1st and 2nd grade. So I was raised Montessori. She was a SAHM until I was 5 and was making a lot of her materials at the time. So I got to play with them. This is how I learned to read :). I went to Montessori schools from preschool until 5th grade when I was transferred to public school. I got bored with that fairly quickly and didn't really go to high school. I was enrolled for 4 years, but ditched a lot and really only showed up to what I was interested in. I got my GED the same year I completed my AA. I used to be embarrassed about that until I started reading about educational theory and unschooling and realized that it was the school system that failed me, not the other way around. I'm sure I'll write a whole post about that someday.

So fast-forward a few years and I have babies now! Decisions must be made. I assumed they would go to Montessori preschool, which they have, and after that I wanted to find a charter school. I didn't like the idea of private school because of the lack of diversity. I don't want my kids growing up with all wealthy kids, but want them exposed to lots of people. Eventually, as described in a previous post I decided to homeschool. So now what? Do we do Montessori at home? Jump on the Classical bandwagon or what? We decided to remain eclectic and find our way over the first year. We signed up with a wonderful charter homeschool here in our area and charged ahead with an eclectic curriculum I had picked out after cruising around the internet for awhile. We bought Young Scientist Club science kits, Shiller Math, Explode the Code, All About Spelling etc. Insert active, rebellious child --> yelling mother --> breakdown. Suddenly my previously excited child who loved school and learning and was excited about reading etc hates reading, hates writing and we're pissed at each other. Ugh. What is happening here? So, we took a break - deschooled a bit. He watched a lot of tv and played on and I started reading about homeschool philosophy. I read a lot online, enough to know that the hard-core academic and core type curricula need not apply here! No TWTM for us.

I picked up a copy of Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. And wow was my mind blown! If I was attracted to homeschooling before, now I knew I could never put my children in school. (Warning - do not read this book if you don't want to be talked out of schooling!) Then I read How Children Fail by John Holt and was fascinated. My mom has been bouncing ideas off me and generally venting about miscellaneous children and problems in her classroom for years. I saw so many of those children represented in this book! And hers is a forward thinking Montessori based private school, these things shouldn't be happening there. So I became convinced that the nature of the school environment forces wonderful, well-meaning teachers to treat children in certain ways that are not helpful to the learning process at all.

So I started reading about Unschooling. I cruised the blogs, watched the youtube videos and joined a couple discussion groups. I was immediately turned off by some of the more dogmatic folks out there and decided unschooling wasn't for us. (I'm not much of a joiner). So I started trying to find our own way. (I've since then found some much less fundamentalist unschool groups and have the utmost respect for this way of life.) And this is what I've come up with. :)

Our Family Principles of Education:

1. All Principles are in fact guidelines and are of course flexible -lol

2. Parents and family should matter more than friends or so called "socialization".

3. Always question authority - even me!

4. Learning is most effective when child directed.

5. A child's interests should never be put down, but adults should seek to understand them.

6. A child's primary method of learning (whether behavior lessons or "educational" ones) is through play. Play should be actively encouraged - even if I don't "like" it or think he should be doing something "more important".

7. Children don't know what they don't know.

8. Therefore, an educators job is to expose children to a variety of age appropriate topics to encourage active learning. This should, however, be done gently and without coercion. Do not be offended if your child has no interest in learning about Egypt this week. Keep your book/craft/website available for when he or she comes back to it.

9. Math and Reading will be learnt naturally when the child is ready if resources are made available. However:

10. A child's natural curiosity and desire to learn will not be squashed by a few minutes of directed activity a day.

11. Children have the right to say, "No, Thank you." to directed activity.

12. Treat children the way you would treat an adult whose opinion you value.

13. Long term feelings about a subject are far more important that short term obedience. Brushing teeth in a forced, argumentative, fighting way is far more damaging than a cavity. Staying up late but feeling good about going to bed is better than fighting and threatening. Memorization of math facts is far less important than enjoying math and seeing it's practical applications. Early reading is less important than enjoying the magic of books.

So I was going to write ten, but like I said not much for rules around here - and I've always like the number 13. What can I say, I'm a rebel ;).

So that's our philosophy in a nutshell. We have ended up calling ourselves Relaxed Homeschoolers. I'll write about what that looks like in a practical day to day way soon. For now, these are my ideas. :)

West Coast Hippie - Meet the Tunnells

We are a homeschooling family living in San Diego, Ca. Our family consists of me (mama) a attachment parenting, full-term breastfeeding, wanna-be natural mom. I teach Hypnobabies® Childbirth Hypnosis classes and soon breastfeeding classes as well as lead our local babywearing group. Gamer Dad is a salesman and proud geek. Grandma is a Montessori elementary teacher and we keep her in the back room ;). Bouncy Boy is my current homeschooler and he is entering First Grade. Dancing girl is 4 and attends 3 day Montessori preschool. Godzilla Baby is two and is unschooled ;). We are a secular family and are almost unschoolers. My blog about our family and homeschool adventures can be found at That's us in a nutshell.

~~The Southern Hippie~~ Meet the Garrett Gang

Nice to meet y'all. I am Robin, the Southern Hippie. My southern roots are buried in Alabama but I reside in the Sunshine State. My family has been in Florida for 4 years and we love it!

HMMM, about me? Southern born and Southern raised. Hippie from way back . I am a foodie and believe whole heartily in food for healing and proper nourishment. I am a runner, cyclist and swimmer making me a NUT for doing anything like that in our heat ! I love being outdoors. Does anyone want to date me now? just kidding......I am happily married.

I am a homeschooling mother of 4 kiddos. My oldest is 15 (10th grade), almost 12 (8th), 11 (6th) and almost 6 (1st). And, boy does our life keep us moving and going all the time.

All four of my kiddos are completely different. My oldest, Delanie, is one of the most avid readers you will ever know. She always has her head in a book. Now, she does get the love of reading honestly. Both my husband and I can be found at night piled up somewhere reading. Delanie is a bubbly and positive girl. Her heart and soul is seen in all she does (can you tell she is right beside me telling me what to type?). She is as laid back as they come and a delight to be around!

And, our youngest daughter, Rosie. Well, her talents are she can run faster, talk more and sleep less than any of my other children thought about ! And, gets a gorgeous tan! A true miracle to Pat and I. We say if she had been #1 there would be no other Garrett children...nuf' said.

Then come our boys(they are in the middle of sibling sequence).

Jon Tyler is the child who can work as hard or sometimes harder than I can. He has no problem cutting grass, washing cars, rounding up cows, and working up a sweat! He is an avid baseball player and good in school!

And, then comes my Nathan. I wish every parent could have a child as him. I love the moments he has given me when I can look through his eyes at the world. My Nate has dyslexia and medical issues. Life with him has not been easy but has been the most rewarding part of my life!

You have met me and the kids . Now, I give you a chance to meet my main man! 21 years ago we were married. I married my cowboy! I am more in love with him today than all those years ago. He supports me and all I do(bless his heart), even if he has to grin and bear it! He goes by many titles in the Garrett Home but our favorite title for him (as we reap the benefits) is the Pizza Man! He makes the best homemade pizzas in the world. AND, the best gluten free pizza EVER!

What does a southern hippie bring to the blog? Not much in real value of schooling(just kidding again ) but a lot in living in the real world with challenges! And, A LOT in humor as my life pretty much resembles a funny farm.

Ya'll sit back and enjoy. Take your shoes off and pull up chair. Life with the Garrett Gang is never dull!