Unsocialized Homeschooler?

One of the things I remember hearing about (and I still do hear it) is that homeschooled children need to be socialized.

Hmmmm…  I wonder just what that means, sometimes.  I read a recent post on The Pioneer Woman about socializing and homeschooled children and the comments (current count around 260) were eye-opening about the differing opinions and thoughts on these children and their social behaviors.

There are threads about it all over different homeschool forums; How do you socialize your child?  Where does your child interact with other children?  How does he/she do in public?  I’m guessing each family knows their child and what they need best.  That’s certainly true in our case.

Monkey is a social machine.  She loves being around other children – as long as it’s not her brother.  Don’t get me wrong, she does love her brother, but they do fight as siblings do (and it makes a momma crazy, for sure).  Being homeschooled, though, hasn’t changed that.  Thankfully, with my job and our family activities, she’s still around other children almost every day.

Just last week, she had her standardized testing for three days.  She met a girl and made a friend on day one.  On day two, that friend invited her to a birthday party on the weekend.  On day three, her friend is introducing Monkey to her mom and making sure it’s ok that Monkey can come to the party.

The party was on Saturday and we went (and it was about 30 minutes away – one way), not knowing a single person there but the birthday girl.  Monkey was a little shy at first, but her friend took her to each girl and introduced her and within a little while, all the girls were dancing and playing around (it was at a karaoke cafe; a unique torture for the parent that will be written about later).

There’s no unsocialized homeschooler in this house.


Sleeping with the Sharks

No, I haven’t come into any contact with mobsters out to get me even though “sleeping with the sharks” seems to happen to those that cross mafia dons.  Nope, a few weekends ago, Monkey and I participated in a Sleeping with the Sharks Girl Scout overnight activity at Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies along with about 15 other girl scouts and a few other moms.

I have to say that their program is very well run but don’t expect to get any sleep – at least not if you’re an adult.  I think the kids slept pretty well by the time they got to sleep (which was about 12:30 am – yes, I said 12:30 AM!) but I did not.

The program started around 8:00 pm Saturday evening with a game in one of their two classrooms (there was another Girl Scout troop in the other class room).  It was set up like Jeopardy with the girls divided into two teams.  They had to answer different questions about marine life, oceans, water, that sort of thing and the girls did so well!  The teams were within 100 points of each other by the end of the game.

At 9:00 was the sea ray show complete with a diver in the tank feeding the sea rays.  I tried to take pictures, but the lighting wasn’t great for taking photos.

After the presentation with the diver, everyone ran upstairs to the top of the tank to touch the sea rays.  The diver brought the rays over to the edge with food so the kids could reach them.

After that, the girls had a late night snack of pizza and juice.  This was about 9:30 or so.  Then they went back and did fish printing on t-shirts.  There’s an interesting story the aquarium staff member shared about how fish printing began.  It has to do with a fisherman in Japan catching large fish but once the fish go to market, no one believes him when he says he caught a fish that was “THIS BIG”.  So he took a roll of rice paper on a fishing trip and once he caught the fish, he’d lay it out on the paper and the water, scales and such from the fish would imprint on the paper, thus “proving” that the fish he caught was indeed “THIS BIG”.

After the fish printing (done with a rubber fish, not a real one), the kids went off in pairs for a scavenger hunt that lead them all through the aquarium.  The scavenger hunt was designed to get the children looking at and reading about almost all the exhibits they had in the aquarium.  It was pretty cool but the girls went so quickly, I really questioned how much they were actually learning.

By the time the hunt was over, it was time to get ready for bed.  They set us up on one side of the tunnel (the other group there slept on the other side) and told us “lights out at 12:30”.  Yeah, right.  It’s what they call “moon lighting” and it’s not completely dark.  They still have lights on for the fish.  Oh, did I mention we couldn’t have anything electronic in the tunnels with us?  I thought this was interesting and the reason is that since the sharks sense electrical currents, they wouldn’t get a restful night if we had our cell phones, cameras, ipods, whatever with us in the tunnel.  Even though sharks don’t actually sleep, they do need to rest.

But there was no resting for me.  Or any of the other moms, I don’t believe.  We heard snoring and the cleaning crew with their vacuums and moving the chairs around.  We had lights shining in our eyes.  Next time (if there will be a next time), I’ll be bringing one of those sleep masks and some ear plugs.

Try sleeping under this guy all night long.  Creepy.

Wake up was at 7:00 with breakfast and then a “creature feature” where the poor sleep deprived parents and children learned more about sharks and was able to touch a baby one in a tank.  Me being the prankster that I can be sometimes wanted to grab Monkey and say “GOTCHA” just as she was touching the shark.  It would have made me laugh but I don’t think she would have liked it much.  The apprehension, though, of some of the girls touching the shark was pretty obvious.  I think I would have made everyone scream.  After the end of the Sleeping with the Sharks program, we were given tickets to stay in the aquarium for the rest of the day, but after some time in the gift shop and one more round through the aquarium, we were done.

That was our weekend.  While it was not restful, by any stretch, it was a lot of fun.  We’ll do it again, only next time, I won’t go.  I’ll send Monkey on with the other moms.

earning Girl Scout patches

Monkey has had a very active year this year in Girl Scouts.  I’m drowning in patches.  It’s a good thing, though, because she’s been getting out and doing things that she wouldn’t normally do because, well, because I’m sometimes a lazy parent and don’t really feel like doing things.  There.  I said it.  Don’t get me wrong, we do fun things together but often “maybe next time” comes out instead of “sure!”

Hey, at least I’m honest, right?  But I digress.

She’s having a great time, too.  They meet on Tuesday afternoons at 4:00.  Starting this past January, I’ve been working Tuesday mornings until 1:00 and if Monkey doesn’t get her school work done while I work, it makes for a long afternoon between work and Girl Scouts.

One Tuesday – I think it might have been last Tuesday – Monkey chose to leave her backpack at home that morning and couldn’t get her work done.  On the way home from work, I explained to her that she would have to finish her school work before we left for Girl Scouts or we wouldn’t go.  Time would be short and we still had to do the other lessons that we normally save for after I get home from work.

She didn’t like that much.  She got upset and started apologizing for leaving her backpack at home.  I understood where she was coming from and told her as much but school still needed to be done before Girl Scouts.  We went back and forth with this and tears started to flow.

“But what if I miss a patch?”

Little Man had remained quiet during all this but then he says,  “I guess you’ll earn a crying patch.”

My expression must have been priceless because when I glanced back behind me, Monkey started laughing.

A crafty Valentine idea

Monkey and I decided to get a little crafty this year for her valentines.  Her homeschool enrichment program meets on Mondays and Wednesday and they are exchanging valentines this week.  Her teacher encouraged the kids to get a little creative with their valentines and so Monkey and I looked around online to see what we could find.  We discovered Valentine’s Day Fortune Cookies on a blog I visit (thanks, Brandi over at Not Your Average Ordinary) and they were ridiculously easy to make.

First, you find some craft felt at your local craft store.  We tested the idea with paper but it just didn’t turn out so well.  Trace a circle on the felt and cut it out.  We used a bowl and it worked out nicely for size.

Take some pipe-cleaners and cut them to the same length as the diameter of the circle.  Glue with tacky glue or fabric glue.  I guess you can use a hot glue gun, too, but this is what we had on hand.

Then place the pipe-cleaner along the center of the circle.

Glue a small section across one half of the circle…

… then fold over like a taco.

We made lots of tacos.

Then Monkey spent some time hand writing her own messages on little strips of paper.  She even came up with “You’re a “dog”gone good friend” all on her own.  It was for a friend who really likes dogs.  Can you believe it?  I giggled about that all afternoon.

Then she used fancy cutting scissors to make them look neat.

We slid the strips of paper inside our little “tacos” after they dried, then we folded them back over the middle and made our little fortune cookies!  And a pipe-cleaner heart just because we could.

And there you have a basket full of red Valentine Fortune Cookies.

Homeschool update – half way done!

It’s January and remarkably close to February.  I’ve been a homeschooling mom for about 5 months now.  I don’t think I’ve ruined Monkey yet, but there’s still time.

I have learned a few things about myself during this time.  I’m not very good at following through on some things.  My lesson plans aren’t so much plans as they are just the idea of something I want to get done at some time or another.

Thankfully, the enrichment program that Monkey is attending handles many of the tougher subjects for me like music, science and yes – art.  Ironic, I know.  I have a degree in art.  I should be able to teach art, but I’m no so good at it.  So, I’m thankful that part of her education is taken care of at the enrichment program.

Monkey is a voracious reader.  I’ve been keeping a list of all the different books she has read since we started school back in August.  Admittedly, I have missed a few and didn’t write them down, but I have listed over 125 books.  The cool thing is that these are not simple books.  These are articulate chapter books and non-fiction books.  I love that she loves to read.

She’s getting a very strong math and language arts base, learning about ancient world history and we practice a little writing.  Right now, we’re using the Writing With Ease curriculum, but I’ll be honest, people.  I’m not completely sold on how this program will teach Monkey to be a creative writer.  She wrote better stories last year with her original first grade teacher.

We’ve started a new ongoing project, though, that I’m kindof proud of.  I’m sure it’s not original, but it’s getting her to read biographies and remembering some of what she reads.  She reads a book then writes in her notebook 5 facts she remembers about that person.  In my mind, it’s helping her learn about important people in history and teaching her to glean important information from what she reads.  Whether or not it’s actually working that way remains to be seen.

I still worry, though, about gaps in her education.  Is she learning everything that she’s supposed to be learning right now?  How will she perform on her scholastic test in 2 months?  Is she really comprehending all that she is reading?

I guess we’ll find out in a couple of months, huh?  Like I said at the beginning, there’s still time yet for me to ruin her.

It’s cookie time again!

Yes, it’s Girl Scout cookie time again.  It’s the time of year when moms, dads and daughters bumrush family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, and complete strangers begging them to buy a little piece of heaven known as the Girl Scout Cookie.

Prizes for selling large amounts of cookies are dangled like carrots in front of young idealistic (and not so realistic) young girls.  Unrealistic goals are set by these over-eager daughters of the moms and dads who are the ones that, generally, are behind the collecting of orders.  It becomes the responsibility of the parent to dash the hopes and dreams of their daughter who wants to sell 300 boxes (300 BOXES!), when EVERY OTHER girl friend of said daughter is also selling cookies.

Order forms hitch a ride with daddy to work in the hopes that his coworkers will suddenly need two or three times the “normal” amount of cookies, inching ever closer to the goal line of 300 boxes.  (300 BOXES!)

Plans and schemes are hatched involving businesses and neighborhoods and the meaning of “no soliciting” is explained in earnest.  But surely that doesn’t apply to Girl Scout Cookies because EVERYONE loves Girl Scout Cookies, right?

So, yeah, we’re selling Girl Scout Cookies, and Monkey has a goal of selling 300 boxes (300 BOXES!) just so she can earn a cute little Panda bear.  Because she’s 7 and needs an adult with her while out collecting orders, the burden of selling said cookies falls to me, so if you have any ideas of where to go and who to ask, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Just know that, just like last year, I won’t be selling them before January 15th, nor will they be delivered before February 22nd.

The Devil Wears Prada, or at least a doggie costume

Monkey has an idea – a little venture, shall we say.  I’m not sure where the idea originated from but she came home talking about it on Monday from her enrichment class.  Several of the kids in her class, including her and her good friend, C, are designing dog costumes to sell.  Nevermind that the pet stores are chock-full of doggie costumes, but she started working on her drawings and her “business plan” on Monday.

Being the loving mom that I am, fully supportive of all my children’s ventures, I thought – nay, hoped – that she’d be “over it” by Tuesday.

Nope.  She continued to draw and plan out her costumes.  Actually, I loved that she was drawing them.  I’m all about drawing on paper because that doesn’t really involve that much involvement from me other than a “that’s nice, honey” every once in a while.  Wednesday, she returned from her enrichment program with even bigger plans and more accomplices.  Now they’re planning on selling the costumes in the driveway and asking people to measure their dogs so the costumes can be a custom fit.

Hmmmm…..  so it’s not going away, is it?

Wednesday night, at church during drop off, Monkey wanted to approach a friend of mine and ask if she had dogs and if she would like to buy a costume.  I know this mom and she’s very sweet and sincere and told Monkey as she looked at her drawings that she would think about it.  I know it doesn’t sound like it because intonations can’t really be interpreted over the monitor, but I promise, she was sincere.

Ok, let me stop here and explain something.  I’m a crafty person.  I like to scrapbook, make cards, make jewelry, knit – I really should open up my own little etsy shop, but I also have a streak of laziness.  Sometimes I don’t WANT to be creative.  This is where my quandary lies.  I don’t want to discourage Monkey with this idea.  She’s really into it!  But I really don’t want to have to “deal” with it, you know?  I’m not a good mom that way.  Last year, she wanted to have a dog show.  She was so excited about it and wanted to invite people and such, but I dragged my feet until she forgot about it.  Yay me, great mommy award there, right?

So, after dropping Monkey off to her class, I approached another friend who was asking me what Monkey was selling.  I explained to my friend, D, what Monkey was doing and how she was so enthusiastic about it.  I told her my issue and she, very gently, I might add, scolded me.  “You have to support her on this – come on!”  And she was right.  So, Wednesday night, after picking up Monkey, we talked about some logistics with her idea.  Maybe designing them for live dogs wasn’t the best idea.  What about Webkinz?  All her friends have those while not everyone has a live dog.  Also, dogs can be really big and making a costume for one big dog would be, cost-wise and effort-wise, as much as two or three little ones.  Webkinz are all close to the same size.  We also talked about how successful she was at pre-selling her costumes to her friends and that it might be easier to just sell them to her friends instead of setting up a “garage sale” for them.

Monkey pondered those ideas.

Yesterday, she got her money together and asked me to take her to the fabric store.  She’s ready to start making some of her designs.  She’s going to use some of her Webkinz and other stuffed animals as models.  We got fabric for a mummy, a fairy and a vampire.

I’m guessing we’re gonna get creative today.