Roses in the Desert

As a child, it didn’t occur to me that roses pushing through the cracked, dry soil might somehow be incongruous. I never thought then about what difficult work it was to sustain such beauty in the midst of our austere surroundings. We moved houses several times in my childhood, but the yard and flowers were priorities that were dealt with soon after getting settled into the new place.

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we're here!

After a strange week, we are finally here in Hawaii. We had some delays due to Hurricane Sandy, but I don't even want to complain because others have suffered so much, while our impact was simply inconvenience.

At any rate, we have arrived in the Land of Aloha! Even though it's only been a year, I'd forgotten the blueness of the sky and water, the sweetness of the air, and the beauty everywhere. I'm just breathing for a bit.

Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box and another giveaway!

Welcome to week 3 of Home Educating Family's Blog Hop! This week's topic is "Homeschooling Outside the [Curriculum] Box." Be sure to leave a comment after this post for a chance to win this week's prize--a beautiful On the Go Planner! Click the box below to read more posts from HEF's Review Team members and for even more chances to win!

So...what does homeschooling outside the box mean to me?

Well, for our family, the needs of the military dictate much of our lives, which then affects our schooling. We move often. In fact, we are moving this fall, for the third year in a row. If I was committed to getting a curriculum completely done the way it was written, following a certain way of doing things, or worrying about how I feel school “ought to” look, I should just give up.
Schooling outside the box has meant being flexible with our learning wherever we’re stationed (this will be our 11th geographical move as a family—NOT counting houses!) and making the most of whatever situation we’re in. We've lived for months out of suitcases, schooling using only the library and math workbooks while we waited for household goods to go from literally one side of the globe to the other. We've homeschooled through major medical problems far from family help, and during Dad’s long deployments to scary places.
But it’s not only been working through the challenging aspects of life! Homeschooling outside the box has meant recognizing opportunities around us. It’s been visiting tidal pools, hiking through rain forests, skiing the Alps, and viewing the art of the Vatican with our own eyes.
I have to believe that if I was so wedded to someone else’s schedule,those things simply wouldn't happen. We have a seemingly constant amount of upheaval in our lives, and it would be easy to focus on how ‘behind’ on book work we may be getting and think we need to forge ahead vs. enjoying our present circumstances. Of course, it’s important to work hard and foster discipline, but I hope our eyes are always wide open to the wonders right around us. Our main goal is to teach our children how to learn, isn't it? And that isn't always best done with a stack of workbooks. I've heard many experienced homeschoolers say that the actual curriculum you use matters little, if the atmosphere is warm and the parent is involved (probably not good news to the curriculum companies!).
I’m inclined to agree. Legos and library books will get you through a lot of bad times.
And while our children need to learn to pass tests and prepare for college as they grow older, much of our schooling is about letting them show me how much they've learned, vs. “catching them out” with trick test questions. My experience has shown they seem to actually learn more this way.

Some other things we do to learn “outside the box” that anyone can do:
     
  • Find movies, games, or DVDs on a particular subject, and let that be “school” for the day (anything from a  historical movie to a geography game to a documentary on cranberry harvesting). If you’re interested, they will be.
  • Rather than always completing end-of-chapter questions, let your kids make a video about it! This was especially fun when my kids studied the Industrial Revolution and immigration. One played the role of “talk show host,” and the other was an immigrant whom she interviewed. They set it in the early 1900s, complete with accents and costumes. It was hilarious, but they learned so much!
  • If you have an artistic child, once in a while switch it up and let her draw her favorite part of a chapter vs. doing the questions.
  • While studying a country or culture, cook meals, do art, listen to music from that country. I promise this will cement the experience for your kids. AND it’s a lot of fun!
  • Read aloud together. Read and read and read some more. That is, hands down, our favorite ‘school’ thing to do. We have laughed and cried through hundreds of books together. They know now when it’s getting to a sad part, because I start having that “crying voice.” And yes, I still read together with my high schoolers. 
  • Do your book work somewhere different, like outside, laying on the trampoline, under the table...

Learning “outside the box” doesn’t have to be elaborate. It’s simple, really. Have fun!!

(they're gonna kill me...my cute little girls about 10 years ago!)

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win this week's gift from Home Educating Family: a beautiful, versatile On the Go Planner. This purse-sized planner is not just for homeschoolers! Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for U.S. entrants only. This giveaway is not tied to any social media site. All prizes must be claimed within 8 weeks. Congratulations to last week's winner of the Wall Calendar, Vonda Skelton!

visit to Gettysburg

As my friend Jenny at Many Hats Mommy so aptly describes, for the past year or so, my blog has been neglected and pouting in a corner. With all the other writing deadlines I have, I tend to put my personal writing aside.

I'm trying to be better about that.

We are down to about our last month in D.C., which, yes was a surprise (thought we'd be here longer). And yes, we are headed back to HAWAII, so I am happy about that! But it's reminded us to hurry up and do some of the local trips we've put off.

So this weekend we decided to take the 2-hour drive to Gettysburg. Steve attended a leadership course there this month, which meant they toured and walked all over the battlefields and learned real-life lessons. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but they took away lessons from the good AND bad decisions.Things like, don't think just because something worked once, it will always work. Be willing to take risks and change it up, when you need to. And how much it meant for the generals to actually be out fighting with their men--never forget where you came from. Great leadership principles.

Basically, we had our own very knowledgeable tour guide, who took us from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3 of the battles. We heard about strategy and which general did what. We stood on hills that were defended and lost, and took in the sobering realization that 15,000 men died in one day. The plaques described the boulders there as having "puddles of blood." Wow.

I memorized the Gettysburg Address in school, but the full impact of what it meant did not hit me until I stood on the battlegrounds of Gettysburg. If you haven't, take some time to research how the Civil War completely reshaped American society--from the roles of women to societal and cultural changes to political, and of course the most obvious one, the end of slavery. And it was only about 150 years ago. Which seems like a long time, but in reality is just a blip. I'll share more photos later, but for now I'll leave you with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.