Happy Hearts Homeschool

Homeschooling at home and abroad

ABC Picture Book Project

My son made this cute abc picture book during his first year homeschooling. This project was very inexpensive because we used supplies we already had on hand, and it wasn’t overwhelming because he created one page a day until it was complete.

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Here are the supplies we used:

White or light colored cardstock

Sheet protectors

2-3 individual binder rings (yarn or ribbon would work also)

Magazines, clip art, pictures (anything your child is allowed to cut up)

Alphabet stickers (optional)

Crayons, colored pencils or markers

Kid safe scissors

Glue stick

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Each page has the alphabet letter somewhere on the page.

 I had him write in a few words to give him some writing practice. He drew some of the pictures instead of finding them.

Your child could also make a cover page for their book.

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Dune Buggy Fun

Our last adventure in Peru for a while. It was so much fun to visit Ica and the Huacachina Oasis, surrounded by sand dunes. We rode in a dune buggy and went sand boarding. Here are some of the pictures-

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How We Became a Homeschooling Family

This is a reposting, but I added in some details that I think are important to our story.

It’s important to note that before our youngest came along, my husband and I had always sent our children off to public schools without question. That was all we knew and that was what was expected of us.

Our homeschooling journey began in Ontario, Canada. We had just moved from Arizona and it was the first day of school for our four children. Our oldest was enrolled in the public high school and our other three were enrolled in the combined elementary/middle school. Our youngest was 6 and this was to be his Kindergarten year. But as we stood in the school office, imagine our surprised to hear that our little boy was already placed in a first-grade class because, while he’d been too young for Kindergarten in Arizona, due to his late birthday, he was suddenly too old for Kindergarten in Canada.

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I was deeply upset, knowing that my son was not ready for 1st grade. He was still learning the sounds of his letters. We tried to explain this to the office staff, but they were unsympathetic and impatient with us. We politely requested to speak with the vice principal or principal, and we were promptly refused. Dejectedly, we followed a staff member to our son’s classroom and I left the building with tears in my eyes.

So, we rolled with it because what choice did we have? We told ourselves that our bright little boy would be just fine. My husband even bragged to his co-workers that his son was skipping a grade. It did bother us that he was considered to be “behind” his Canadian peers from the get-go. We told ourselves we’d just have to catch him up. We’d work with him after school. We also asked his teacher for extra help, which never came.

Four months later our sweet little boy was completely miserable, and so was I. One day he even ran away from the school yard in the direction of home. Luckily his sister saw him and caught up to him. She was so upset by what had happened that the office phoned me. They acted like it was no big deal, but my boy was demonstrating how unhappy he was at school.  The whole novelty of going to school with his big sisters had worn off and reality had set in. His teacher had given him D’s on his first report card. It had gotten to the point that every morning was a battle to get him up and ready for school. He’d cling to me in the school yard and I’d literally be pushing him inside the door when the bell rang. And trying to work with him at home was a joke. He was so worn down and discouraged from 6 hours of forced learning that he shut down at home.

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And that’s when I realized that something had to change. The first year of school should be FUN. It shouldn’t be torture. But, what to do? I was at a loss until a friend of mine gave me the inspiration to homeschool. She was a homeschooling mom herself and she assured me that it was not rocket science. So, I talked it over with my husband and I prayed about it and then I did something I’d never done before. I went against tradition and I pulled my son out of the public system and I took complete control over his education.

In Canada, homeschooling is a protected right, just like in the states, and in Ontario all that was required of us was to notify the school in writing. I told my son’s teacher what I was doing, and she was supportive of my decision. As far as the school was concerned, she was the only one supporting us. When I turned in my notification to the office, I was requested to stay in the office until the vice-principal could meet with me. He saw me right away. (Now I could see him!) He sat down across from me and proceeded to tell me that I was making a huge mistake and was about to ruin my son’s life. He even used our moving as one of his reasons, saying I’d already uprooted him to a different home and now I was going to confuse him even more by pulling him out of school. He continued by claiming I was overly-attached to my son, and he even said that surely I had better things to do with my time! By the end of our meeting, I felt so belittled by him that I was in tears. I remember stating that I had every right to homeschool my child as I stumbled out of the room.

I went home and collapsed. I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing, but the vice-principal had really upset me. I listened to a voice mail he left on my phone a couple of hours later (there was no way I was picking up to talk to him again) promising me that my son would now receive help from the school twice a week, in order to catch him up! I think that message only fortified my resolve. I sent my husband to pick up our son from school that afternoon. It was Valentine’s Day because we had decided we’d make the class Valentine’s party my son’s last day. My husband ended up speaking to the vice-principal who called me an “over-emotional” mother. My husband told him a thing or two! And when the principal once again brought up the help the school was suddenly willing to offer our son, my husband replied that it was “too little, too late” and added, “My wife will give my son all the attention he needs every day now.”

And then he marched out of that school, hand in hand with our son.

Within a couple of months afterwards, my son was writing his letters and beginning to read. All he needed was SPACE and TIME to breathe and just be a little boy. Most importantly, he was happy again.

It turned out to be a life changing decision, definitely for the best, and we have never looked back. Why would we? My baby boy and I were having too much fun together. Homeschooling has truly been a rewarding experience for us and that is why I want to share our experiences and give encouragement to others who are also braving this less-traveled, often-ridiculed path. I want to say to you, “It’s so worth it!” Because it truly is.

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Don’t let homeschool critics ruin your sunny outlook!

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5 years ago, my husband and I made what some of our friends and extended family (and acquaintances, neighbors, church members and complete strangers) saw as a radical parenting choice.

We pulled our 6-year old son out of public school to homeschool him.

Oh the horror!  Of all the crazy things we could’ve done, this one seemed to top them all.

You can read our story HERE. It turned out to be one of our best parenting decisions ever, which of course is only our opinion.

Of course, our opinion is the only one that matters.

But that hasn’t stopped all the homeschool critics from expressing their 2 cents nonetheless. I think they just can’t help themselves.

Soon after we started homeschooling our young son, a few well-meaning members of our church expressed their “concerns” for his welfare. They were certain homeschooling would mean that he would grow up in a bubble, over-protected from the world. How would he know to say no to drugs? How would he stand up to bullies? How would he know how to interact with his peers? How would he (fill in the blank).

Oh, there have been no shortage of concerns about our homeschooling over the years. I had to laugh (to myself) the other day when a friend of mine said, “I know the socialization thing has been debunked, but……” And then she went on to share one of her other fears about homeschooling.

To these concerned homeschool critics, some of which are cherished family and friends, we have learned to politely listen (trying not to roll our eyes), smile, and then walk away. It doesn’t change our opinion of homeschooling, but hopefully they feel better after airing their unfound worries with us. And most of the time they drop the subject afterwards.

We used to feel the need to justify our choice to homeschool, but now we simply let it go at, “We are doing what is best for our family.” There is no need to explain why homeschooling is best for our family unless they ask. Then we list off one of the many benefits in as few words as possible. For example, I have often said, “Homeschooling stabilizes our family with all the moving around we do.” I love that particular reason because people don’t know how to respond to it. Most of our family and friends think our moving around is just as crazy as homeschooling our children. *grin*

Sometimes we come across another kind of homeschool critic. These are the naysayers who do it for sport. They are easily recognized, especially in comment sections of education-related articles. They claim parents are not smart enough to teach their own children, homeschooling is the lazy approach to education which is best left to the professionals, and there is going to be a whole generation of homeschooled adults who can’t get jobs or function in the “real world”. These homeschool critics are simply not worth our time and effort. Nothing we say in return is going to change their narrow minds about homeschooling, no matter how stupid their comments. As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” As my husband says, “You can’t change stupid.”

It used to bug me to no end to come across a homeschool critic, especially when it was a close friend or family member questioning my parenting because I’ve chosen to homeschool. I used to stay awake at night thinking up clever responses to their uninvited critiques. Then one day I remembered the wise council my father always gave me when I was a teenager convinced the world was against me. He told me that it doesn’t matter what others think of me. In the end, my opinion of myself is the only thing that counts.

Thanks, Dad. And, thanks for never being one of my homeschool critics.

I will never let the homeschool critics out there ruin my sunny outlook on homeschooling. I’m doing something different than the norm, and I love it. Homeschooling rocks!

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Logan Canyon meadow

Logan Canyon meadow

I took this picture while on vacation in Utah.

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Weekend in Arequipa, Peru

We once lived in Arequipa, Peru, when Marcus was 2 and 3-years old, and we hadn’t been back since, until this weekend. Marcus and I visited some Canadian friends who are living there now. Here are some highlights from our weekend trip:

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The view from our friend’s balcony.

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A shaggy alpaca that was tied up in a park.

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Marcus enjoyed feeding pigeons in Plaza de Armas.

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We gave money to this blind man and watched him say a prayer aloud.

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Then a parade went by! There were dancers in traditional costumes.

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And the Peruvian flag.

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In Plaza de Armas.

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Walking along a side street filled with shops.

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My 1st Visit to Westfalia

On Friday, Marcus and I joined Darcie and her friend, Laura, on one of their regular visits to Westfalia Orphanage. Darcie has been volunteering there for several months now, every Wednesday and Friday. You can read about her experiences HERE.

When we arrived we were greeted by Alejandro. First he gave Darcie a hug and then he asked who I was and gave me a hug. He should be in school, but I guess his paperwork is not yet completed so he just sticks around the orphanage all day long. Marcus and Alejandro played together.
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Darcie showed me around. I got to see their animals.
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They have one pig, two bunnies (one was hiding), a rooster or two, chickens and geese and guinea pigs. Did you know Peruvians eat guinea pigs? They are a delicacy here.

After visiting the animal pens, we visited the Kindergarten. It’s like a little daycare center. Most of the kids live at the orphanage, but others walk in from the surrounding area and stay while their parents work. We interacted with these little cuties and also served them a lunch which Darcie and Laura provided. Laura made the sandwiches and Darcie brought chocolate milk boxes and tangerines. This was more food than they usually eat for lunch, which is their main meal.
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The little girl playing with Darcie’s camera was 6 and too old for Kindergarten, but for whatever reason, she had stayed back from school that day. Darcie gave her a chocolate milk box and a tangerine which made her happy. We also gave out milk boxes and tangerines to the older kids who were hanging around. The children wished me a Happy Mother’s Day which was sweet. Before we left, I got a tour of one of their casas (houses where the children live in groups of 12 I think).
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Darcie has seen other casas and she said this one is the nicest because it’s recently been remodeled. She said some aren’t as nice. But you can see that their couches are made of stone with a thin foam seat and their beds are just a thin foam mattress which can’t be very supportive. I guess this is one of the better orphanages here, and it does get public support so these kids are lucky. But these kids cannot be adopted. Ever. Their parents still retain their rights.

Darcie is going back to the states at the end of this month and these children are really going to miss her. I could see how much she loves them and how much they love her. Marcus and I plan to take her place this summer, and Laura plans to continue visiting with us, which is good because Laura speaks Spanish.
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The last picture I took was of this sweet little guy, who wanted to see the picture of himself. Darcie and Laura are currently putting together hygiene kits for each child. Please visit Darcie’s beautiful blog to see more pictures of Westfalia and the special children who live there.

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Westfalia Kindergarten

Westfalia Kindergarten

Aren’t they adorable? These are some of the Kindergarteners at Westfalia orphanage, which is where my amazing daughter, Darcie, gives of herself every week. Click on this picture to visit her beautiful blog.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Wishing all you moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day.

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One of My Favorite Blogs

Homeschooling is a journey, and one of the great things about it is that we are not alone. There are a lot of other moms and dads out there who are also homeschooling their children. One of my favorite homeschooling resources is a blog called Latter-day homeschooling.  I can’t remember how I first came across this blog, but I loved it from the start, and it’s a favorite to visit often. There is an amazing team of homeschooling moms who contribute to it, and they are from all walks of life. There is something on this site for everyone. If you need motivation or encouragement, if you need a new perspective, or a fresh idea, this is the blog for you!

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