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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.

 



It's All Learning

Rethinking the Schedule

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The longer we homeschool (and it hasn’t even been very long), the more these little advantages keep revealing themselves to us. One advantage that I adore is the flexibility of our time. When I was teaching, time was in short supply. Our days were highly schedule driven, as most people’s are. Waking the girls early, rushing around to get out the door, scrambling to get last minute things done before the school bell, kissing my girls goodbye as they ran out the classroom door to get to their own classrooms. After school, it was meetings, clean up, prep materials, update data, contact parents, catch up on emails from the day, lesson planning... all while my girls did their homework, had a snack, and tried to keep busy and entertained while Mommy worked. Once we got home, it was all about (a usually late) dinner, baths, preparing for the next day, and bed. Weekends became about running errands, cleaning the house, completing those little necessary tasks that needed attention, and trying to squeeze some fun in there with the family if at all possible. Sometimes it wasn’t. Life was hectic and rushed-feeling, all the time. I hated it. Both my husband and I are more laid-back types who prefer to indulge whims once in awhile and keep things open ended when we can. We were doing our level best with this traditionally fast paced, culturally accepted approach to life, but it was definitely like jamming a square peg into a round hole.

With our decision to homeschool, one giant benefit we’ve discovered is just how much time we have to do not only the necessary things, but also to pursue passions, try new things or places out, and just see where life takes us a bit. We are still busy, and certainly we have errands and schedules to keep with clubs, classes, and meetups. But with only two students in the family, both of whom usually work quickly and effectively, we can get more done academically in two and a half or three hours of school than I could get done in an entire school day when I was teaching a full class. This leaves us time for all the fun stuff (and chores). And there is an endless supply of fun stuff (and chores)! Some of these include:

Learning to sew

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Snacking outside in the fresh air and sunshine
Learning to use the stove
Tons of art projects
Reading in a laundry basket

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Learning how to make homemade apple pie
Collecting acorns for a wildlife center
Playing in the rain
Swinging on a rope in a hay barn
Volunteering and finding ways to help those in need
Crafting
The occasional lunch date out

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Leaf piling
Tree climbing
Teaching oneself Chinese

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Picnicking
Stitching projects

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Learning about the voting process
Learning how to do chores
LOADS of field trips

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My whole life I have lived by a schedule. We pretty much all do. And I am a reasonable enough person to know there is value in schedules. But I just can’t help but be thankful that ours is no longer so rigid!

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Spring (Cleaning) Break

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My daughter asked me if we were going to have a spring break now that we are homeschooling. At first I didn’t have an answer for her, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized we didn’t really have a need for one. We had no vacation plans, and homeschool is not as demanding on a child’s time as traditional school is. My girls have lots of time to play, explore, read, pursue interests at will, and relax. So I told her I didn’t see a need for a spring break.

It was met with an “awww” whine at first but when I asked why she felt that way, she wasn’t really sure. Then she decided it was because she wanted to take a vacation during spring break. Join the club, kid.

A couple days later, I was on my weekly “I can’t take the clutter anymore” tirade and I decided to repurpose our Friday (Fridays are usually used as either make up time if we are behind or free-form learning anyway) and use it to clean out the girls’ own personal Barnes & Noble store they continually have going on in their room. Most people call this a “bookshelf,” and indeed somewhere behind sliding-over stacks of unorganized books, journals, scraps of string, Lottie dolls, and Valentine’s-themed pencils there is, indeed, a bookshelf. We took literally three hours to have each girl go through each book, sorting them into “keep” or “adios” piles. If either kid wanted to keep it, it stayed. We then sorted the ‘keeps’ into picture books (which would be kept in bins, a.k.a. dishpans from the Dollar Tree), chapter books, and magazines. We further sorted the chapter books into series and non-series and shelved them accordingly. The most popular and oft-chosen got a coveted space on top of the shelf between painted bookends. Magazines and catalogs (are my kids the only ones who love catalogs?) were sorted by date and put in another bin. I tried to cultivate commitment to keeping it organized by adding a dollar store string of lights at the top for fun.

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My kids did a great job of sticking with the painstaking process (I bailed and returned several times). In the end we culled the collection to just the best of the best and had a giant pile of books left over to show for it.

Naturally, this gratified me enormously but only fed my desire for order and space in our small house. I thought it over for like ninety seconds and backtracked on my decision to not have a spring break. Oh, we’d have a spring break, alright. A spring CLEANING break. Much to their probable dismay, my children will use time typically spent swimming in a hotel pool, eating ice cream cones, bouncing on trampolines, riding bikes, and watching movies cleaning, sorting and organizing! After all, it is 90% their stuff. And doubtless they’d prefer a mom who is not suffering from a maniacal, clutter-induced nervous breakdown, so we are all going to pitch in to ensure that does not happen. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Five Common Homeschooling Myths

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These days, humans attempt to evaluate situations quickly and with minimal background information. This is helpful for decision making in a world where an overabundance of information can both confuse and overwhelm us. Because of this, it can be tempting to form opinions about topics we know fairly little about from sound bites, headlines, or from the opinions of others. Hence: the myth. I have to admit I had some preconceptions about homeschooling before joining the club, and I can positively say I would see school-aged children out and about on a Tuesday and think, “why is that child not in school?” Well, they probably were in school, and little did I know they were just on one of many field trips! Here are some of the more common misconceptions about homeschooling:

1. Homeschooled kids (and their families) are totally weird.

This has to be the biggest one I had heard before coming to homeschooling myself. Some people have a picture in their mind of a homeschooling family with eleven kids that all live in some sort of compound, make all their own clothes, churn their own butter, and plot against the government. Let’s just say that homeschooled kids (and their families) are not necessarily weird. I have indeed met some weird ones. But I have met some weird public schooled kids, too. And I have met some very normal, otherwise-traditional homeschooled kids. Besides... what is weird, anyway? We are all a little weird in our own, often wonderful way. No one wants to be boring!

2. Homeschooled kids are anti-social.

This one is just plain ‘no.’ In any circumstance, there are kids that lack social skills. But I actually see less of that with homeschooled children! Many times, they are easy conversation starters, great at engaging the shy kids, flawless at chatting with adults, and are strong-but-flexible leaders. So many of the homeschooled children I have encountered have shown themselves to have a level of maturity that surprised me. While I do attest that socialization is a definite consideration for homeschooling families (especially those who instruct at home), I think it comes down to a quantity vs. quality debate; while the quantity of social incidents may be fewer, they do tend to be of a high quality. Working together on long-term projects, learning alongside other like-minded kids in co-ops, furthering interests together in clubs, coming together for instruction in a field trip setting, or just blowing off some steam at a playground are experiences that are common in the homeschool world. In these scenarios, the kids have elected to be there, making the experiences they share very meaningful. This enriches their connections with one another and builds strong friendships... the very opposite of anti-social.

3. Homeschool families are all super religious.

This one is another not necessarily. In my travels thus far, I have met some very religious families who absolutely infuse their faith into every aspect of their homeschooling. I have also met families who either are not particularly religious, or who are regular church-goers but keep their homeschooling secular. Additionally, recent surveys have indicated that more and more secular families are coming to homeschooling each year. There are so many reasons why families choose to homeschool: social, academic, medical, situational, and yes, religious. It’s a mixed bag, so it is definitely a myth to say homeschoolers are all very religious.

4. Homeschool families have lots of extra income.

I think because typically one parent stays home full-time and tends to the schooling, it is assumed that homeschool families must have a very comfortable income with tons of wiggle room. I’m sure some do. But in my experience, homeschool families run the range from financially comfortable to downright strapped. I’ll tell you one thing, many homeschooling families know how to get creative and stretch a dollar, and I am guessing it has more to do with the need for it rather than for the fun of it. Having extra income may help, but a lack of it is by no means a barrier to homeschooling.

5. Homeschooled kids can’t get into college.

Oh my gosh, so not true! In fact, homeschooled kids are just as likely to go to college as their traditionally-schooled counterparts. About 85% of colleges have specific policies in place to facilitate the admittance of homeschoolers, and several recent studies have indicated that homeschoolers are very well-prepared to take on the responsibilities of college, both because of the type and range of academic skills and content they have mastered as well as the level of independence they acquire while homeschooling. College is just as much on the radar of homeschooling families as it is public schooling families, and those parents care just as much about the process. So while paths may differ, they can all lead to college!

My grandmother used to say there was more than one way to skin a cat. Maybe not a pretty image, but the message resonated with me. Homeschooling is not for every family, but for those who desire it, choose it, and commit to the ideals they have associated with it, it can be very fruitful, meaningful, and successful. When my husband and I made the jump to homeschooling our kids, we were shocked to realize that so many people we met in “regular” life also homeschooled their kids... that mom at soccer... the checkout guy at the grocery... several librarians we encountered... our new neighbor down the street... the list went on and on! So homeschooling families are everywhere! Get to know a few and you’ll likely find that they will bust these and other myths we have come to believe about homeschooling.

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Shifting Gears

Life changes and makes the coolest twists and turns sometimes. It was yet another life change that brings me back here to Fredericksburg Parent & Family, writing a new blog that reflects our current place in life! Hopefully many of you can relate as you read along, or can at least take this opportunity to point and laugh at our family’s mistakes and missteps.

My family and I have embarked on a new journey this year in the form of homeschooling. Actually, I prefer the term “home learning” since I want my kids’ school experience at home to be crafted from their point of view as students rather than from mine as their educator, but it’s really just semantics and I don’t want to be that annoying person who insists people say “home learning.” It’s more just a reminder for me to keep our goals in mind.

Having been a classroom teacher for seven years, I do still feel stuck in classroom mode sometimes. It’s like when you shift your car into third but it keeps slipping back into second, and you have to jam it back and then keep an eye on it to make sure it stays. I struggle with guilt that we don’t stick to a tight schedule, because my schedule was quite literally to-the-minute in traditional school. I worry when I don’t have written proof that my kids have mastered something, because written proof was all-important in traditional school. And sometimes I forget that learning has no need for walls or desks or often even pencils, because those things are part of a format so deeply ingrained in my psyche, both as a student in and later as a teacher of traditional school, that I have to fight it back a lot. Our school is always experimenting, adapting, and evolving. But there is one thread that remains constant and never seems to fray along with my nerves, and it is this: it is all learning. This is why I used this idea for the name of this blog. It is truly all learning.

I’m not talking about forcing it. Forcing it would be letting your kids spend an hour of school time bouncing balloons off each other’s heads in their underwear while you played Candy Crush on your phone and then later bragging to your husband that you all studied deflection in physics in school this morning. Technically, yes, deflection happened. But, did you discuss it? Define it? Find other examples? Were any of you wearing pants? If not, I am going to go ahead and say you were probably forcing it.

But I keep finding opportunities where my kids learn a ton and there is no paper, no test, no chairs or desks involved (generally pants are involved; I’m not that laid back). When we make banana chocolate chip muffins together in the kitchen, it’s surprising what our kids are truly learning if we all pay attention. They are learning life skills, like how to operate the mixer and oven, kitchen safety, how not to waste. They are learning chemistry when you observe and investigate how and why ingredients react with each other to change the form of the batter to bread. They are learning culinary arts when you experiment with different combinations of flavors and textures. They are learning measurement of volume when you practice using measuring cups and spoons and comparing their sizes. They are learning about forms of matter when you talk about the need for different types of measuring instruments for your oil and your flour. They are learning about health when you talk about substituting applesauce for the oil and wheat flour for the white flour. A simple activity like baking banana bread can turn into multiple lessons across many disciplines for your little ones whose minds are so ready to take it all in.

making cookies

A while ago, my kids were playing outside after school. I spied on them and they were using sticks and rocks to build a lean-to for their stuffed animals. They were pretending they were Native Americans who had gotten lost from their tribe and had to fend for themselves, and their stuffed animals were their “children.” They had ground a pile of corn meal (dirt) between two rocks to make cakes for their children; they had made a ring of stones for a fire pit with an invisible fire inside. One was working on the lean-to, balancing the sticks against the fence and when they all fell, trying again with a new plan involving driving stronger sticks down into the earth to use as anchors. The other was dressed in what I think was her version of ceremonial dress, wearing a cape made out of a large scarf and leaves strategically placed in her sweater pockets and under her headband, performing a dance and chant using two sticks and the bumper of my car as a drum to ask the gods for directions back to their tribe. At one point, they couldn’t decide what to do next and the younger one wished aloud that they could ask the tribe elders for help. All of this play told me that they were applying some of the concepts we had recently learned in science and history, and the seriousness with which it was all carried out hinted that they understood the significance of these ideas. It warmed my heart and made me hope that maybe, indeed, we are doing the right thing.

exploring outside

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Pouches' Community Corner

St Baldrick’s Foundation began in 2000 over a simple idea – shave a colleague’s beautiful hair while also raising money for kids with cancer. And now this Foundation has funded over $200 million worth of research to cure pediatric
cancer. In 2015, the FDA approved a treatment that offers a higher chance of a cure for high-risk neuroblastoma patients because of that research.

Pouches St Baldricks

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