Homeschooling: Is It Right for Your Family?

Homeschooling is a topic that has been debated for years. Studies have been done to determine how well those who have completed school in this way have functioned in society emotionally and academically.

Parents choose this for a number of reasons- they may have children with special needs that aren’t reasonably accommodated by the school system near them, bullying, religious, not liking the school system near them, along with other reasons.

A Friendly Story

I happen to have a friend that homeschools. Madonna (yes, everyone, that is her real name, but these days she goes by Dawn) has five kids. FIVE. She’s a stay a home mom and homeschools all five of her kids, which has to earn her some sort of medal.

Her kids vary in age from 15 to 4 and even the youngest is in school. She decided to homeschool after she decided that she didn’t like the school system of the county that she lived in (at one point she lived in a different county than me, and now we live in the same county, but she still homeschools).

Her oldest did attend public school for kindergarten but both she and her daughter absolutely hated it. One of her kids had leukemia a few years later, so her oldest was placed in private school while Dawn cared for the son that had leukemia. I’m happy to say that he’s in remission.

Once he was better, everyone went back to homeschool. Her kids are happy and doing well in school. They have been involved in outside activities so that they are able to meet other kids their age- her oldest daughter was heavily involved in cheerleading until ankle injuries stopped her. In fact, our kids get along pretty well. Our boys are very happy playing video games and riding bikes together and Lily loves her younger girls.

The point of this story is that homeschooling can be great if it is done correctly. Dawn is part of a whole community of families that homeschool. Per Kentucky law, she had to write a letter to the county’s board of education stating her intent to homeschool. She then had to create a curriculum, which she goes by very closely.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This information is from Education Corner

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Some of them include:

  • Strengthening the bond between you and your child.
  • Flexible scheduling for education. For example, Dawn and her kids went to Florida to visit a family friend right after my kids went back to school after Winter Break. There isn’t a strict timeline for their education.
  • The ability to streamline their child’s education to their needs- this can come in handy with special needs.
  • Developing special talents- musical, artistic, or other areas.
  • Parents can touch on controversial topics in their own time and in their own way with their children.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • My personal struggle- the patience factor. Being around your kids all day and trying to educate them? That’s a lot.
  • Explaining your choice to homeschool to people who don’t understand and/or approve
  • The cost of materials, books, etc.
  • The social factor- trying to find other kids for your child to socialize with, especially if you move around a lot or live in a rural area. This can be easier if, like myself and Dawn, you live in a city.
  • Constantly having to adapt to new teaching methods

What Do I Think?

I’m a very open-minded person. Every parent has the right to choose how to educate their kids. If you want to homeschool, go for it. It’s not my thing and my kids are sitting in a public school as I type. I don’t have the patience to teach my kids. I would entirely lose it.

Public schools aren’t perfect, especially not in Kentucky. I live in Louisville, home of the biggest school district in the state. There’s a lot of changes that our school district could make.

As long as you’re homeschooling the way your state designates, then I’m okay with it. Kids need to be educated to be able to make it on their own as adults, and this can be done in various ways.

Education is the key to the future- kids need the tools we give them to succeed.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Leave them in the comments!

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

Snowball pic

Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!

Making Your House the “Fun” House

Kids make friends. It’s a part of growing up. Things get interesting when they want to start having friends over. That’s when you have to talk to the other child’s parents and make arrangements and stock up on food and patience.

Depending on your kid’s noise level, you may want to grab a set of earbuds. Speaking of those, if there’s a bunch of kids coming, it might be a good time for a podcast or Netflix (with a break or two, of course).

Game

Ingredients For Fun

Most of us want to make our hones a nice place for our kids’ friends to come to so maybe they’ll come back. Right?

To do this, start with thinking back to your favorite hangouts. Which friend had a home that you loved hanging out at?

In my case, this would be a tie between Ashley’s and our other (now former) friend Stacy’s homes. Ashley’s apartment was very close to a mall and a new grocery store so we often walked to both. We stayed up late on sleepovers and her parents were somewhat laid back. Ashley’s mom is like a second mom to me- I love her.

Stacy lived with her grandfather and he basically let her (and us) do whatever we wanted. Lots of freedom.

This doesn’t mean to not set rules, because the 1990s and now are way different times. It might help if you give the kids space to have fun but maybe peek in every so often to make sure no disasters are occurring. Make rules with your child and enforce them.

Pizza pic

Food is a necessity. Kids eat a lot- but you can feed them for cheap. It’s amazing what you can do with some popcorn, bread, peanut butter and jelly. I’ve done this and not a complaint was heard.

Do you need an activity? Maybe not like you did when your child had playdates in their younger years. Sometimes kids are good with unstructured play or hanging out- this is good. If they’re content playing video games or playing in makeup and watching tutorials, let them be. If there is something in particular, like cooking or sports- related, this is also great. I think it depends on the kid.

Let The Fun Unfold

Kids will have fun with their friends and hopefully, they prefer your home. This cuts down on anxiety about what’s happening without you being there.

Platypus

Every house and family is different. Rules will also vary. We are pretty open around here- just don’t tear up the house or be mean to my cats. Pantry’s open. I do appreciate manners, however. I still get weirded out when a kid calls me “Mrs. Sanders”.

Who’s that? My MIL isn’t that anymore- well, not legally. (My inlaws are divorced, but she kept the last name.)

Open the door and let the fun roll in.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Pexels

Information courtesy of Kars 4 Kids

What are your rules for your children having friends over?

The College Mental Health Strain

College is a time of huge transformation- many freshmen have never lived away from home. If your child is going to a college/university far away from home, it can be an intense change. This is to be expected. Everyone looks forward to this move but not many anticipate the feelings that may appear when it happens.

I am years away from sending a kid to college, but Cameron starts high school in August. I AM NOT READY.

The Big Move

College does have its good points- so much freedom! You can pick the time of your classes (kinda), when you come in at night (let’s get real if you come in) and many other choices. I loved not having classes before 11 am.

This was fantastic until I transferred universities and the only classes left towards my major (Clinical Psychology) were all at 8 AM at the new university.

UGH. Throw in two toddlers and things get outrageously fun.

The Factors Add Up

However, things can get stressful. There’s a lot of pressure. Grades are a thing. Scholarships depend on grades, as does most of the financial aid. Many college students work. Working plus studying can create stress. If you have other factors adding to it- kids, issues with parents, etc, things can seem almost unbearable.

Another factor is coming into college with a mental health condition, either diagnosed or not. The extra stress can exacerbate these illnesses and contribute to “breaks”, in which someone loses touch with reality and almost always needs hospitalization. Many of those with severe mental illness (SMI) have the first break around college age. A break can also mean a severe depressive episode.

This is just a short list of mental health conditions that are seen in many college-age students:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • ADHD
  • Addiction/other Substance Abuse Disorders

This information can be found at: Affordable Colleges Online

Colleges and Universities Have Options for Care

Your child has an option right on campus- may have an office for mental health care. It’s usually free or very low cost. Some take insurance, some don’t, depending on the school.

They are run by graduate-level psychology students and faculty. The major downside is that they can only offer so much help due to their limited training, hours and other factors. These offices can, however, refer patients out to local therapists or other locations like the ER in case of emergency.

Another option is a more difficult one- reducing hours or even taking a semester off. This can mean a loss of financial aid in many cases. Nobody wants that. Many don’t want to take time off, even a semester, especially not for mental health issues. It makes the condition come out in the spotlight.

Some colleges and universities are seeing the issue and doing more to help- therapy dogs during finals week, encouraging students to seek help earlier instead of waiting. They are also encouraging students to look out for their friends. This can be a huge help. Some are including self-care topics in their freshmen seminars.

From (Not So) Far Away

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child. Ask how things are really going. Let them know it’s okay to struggle a bit. It doesn’t have to be easy all the time.
  • Encourage your child to look out for their friends- not like they already don’t. This is a different kind of looking out.
  • Remind them they can come to you if they don’t feel okay. You’re here to help them.

College can be a great experience. It’s full of change, fun and sometimes really dumb things. Growth is scary. That’s why our baby birds need to know they can always come back to us.

Pictures courtesy of Pixels

Unsplash

For further reading: Learning and Performing Under Pressure

Have you had a child go off to college? How was it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Going into the Wild: Volunteering at Your Child’s School

My kids are in elementary and middle school. Over the years, I’ve volunteered as much as my health, career, and schedule have allowed. I’ve gone on numerous field trips, helped with a bunch of class parties and probably more things that I don’t remember as I’m typing this.

Cameron started kindergarten in 2010 and it’s all kind of a blur from there. One of my favorite things was helping at Lily’s Valentine’s Day parties because her birthday is right after.

Julian at the Louisville Bats game- 5th grade

Why do I like volunteering at my kids’ schools?

  • It allows me to get in some quality time with my kids. There’s three of them, one of me, and not nearly enough time in the day. Going on a field trip with them creates fun memories that’s just with us. Cameron still laughs about the bowling field trip in which both of us ended up with migraines. We had a very quiet evening at home afterward.
  • I have fun doing it. I don’t go on all the field trips I am able to- some of them just aren’t my thing. Lily’s class went on a trip to see a play that I knew I would basically fall asleep on so I sat that one out. If I know I can go and have fun doing it, I’ll sign up. Otherwise, nope.
  • It forces me to socialize. When I was in therapy, Rachel had me work on this a bit. I wasn’t a recluse or anything, but I didn’t like being around people very much and I would spend days in my house. Going on a field trip helps break that up a bit. I actually wear something besides sweats.

Heading Into the Wild

There are many ways you can volunteer at your child’s school. I just find field trips and the occasional class party the most fun and easiest way to do so. Some parents love organizing class parties, helping readers, coordinating festivals and so on. I just don’t have the time.

Volunteering is a good way to get to know your child’s teacher a bit. I’ve been able to become a lot more friendly with my kids’ teachers this way- in fact, my boys’ 4th-grade teacher now lives a few houses away from us. We became friends after she taught Julian. She was a special ed teacher for years before going mainstream. She loved working with him and helped us a lot with getting his IEP. Allison is a blast to talk to and we were thrilled to hear she was moving in the neighborhood. Julian won’t admit it, but he thinks it’s cool.

It’s also helped me meet some of my kids’ friends that I might not get to meet otherwise. Lily and her friend Alex don’t see each other much outside school but they are always together in school- I got to meet him on a field trip in which all of us were freezing. He’s a nice kid. He even said he wished his mom could come on field trips.

I’m not a fan of people, but I have made a mom friend while going on field trips over the years. Tiffany’s sons, Jordan and Connor, have been friends with Cameron and Lily. She and I have emailed and hung out with our kids often. She even follows my somewhat unfiltered Twitter. They are moving to a different county after this school year and I will be so sad to see them go. It can be fun to make mom friends, especially if you’re on a not-so-fun field trip or other situation. You might be able to make a stinky situation better.

These ideas were partially from A Life In Balance

Lily field trip pic

Your child might look at you sideways the first few times that you show up. This is okay. They’ll get used to it.

A Word:

My mom worked a lot when I was a kid- usually in the afternoons and/or at night, so she was usually sleeping when I was at school. She didn’t get to go on a lot of my field trips or help out a lot in my classes. She did make it to the big things, so I wanted to be able to do more for my kids. (No worries, Mom. I’m not mad. You did what you needed to do- take care of us.) I have missed a lot of things but my kids get the idea that I had to work, so now that I’m working differently, I’m able to do more. I know not all parents can, and that sucks. Don’t feel bad for what you can’t do, but feel good about what you can do.

If your schedule is a bit wonky, ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help. There is most likely something you can do, even if it’s making copies, making packets, or something else like that. Teachers love volunteers. I have friends that are teachers, and I hear this a lot.

Most school activities are meant to be fun in some capacity. Have all the fun you can and treasure the memories with your child.

Do you volunteer at your child’s school? Why or why not? What kind of experiences have you had?

Twin Mummy and Daddy