For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What we've been doing.

So it's been almost a month since I last posted.  Shame on me!

Overall, things have been pretty routine.  There's been one major issue that is affecting our schedules.  Dh's back suddenly wonked out on him, badly.  If that wasn't enough on its own, he had a sciatic attack on top of it.  He was on medical leave for a while, then hobbled back to work rather than extend the leave further.  Walking is one of the things that is recommended - one of the few things he can actually do - to help his back out, so he's been walking to work pretty much every morning.

Lately, Youngest has been getting up early to walk to work with him, then she walks home on her own after they part ways.  That last part bothered him quite a bit at first - she's still his baby, after all!  She's also 15 years old, for crying out loud, and I think she can navigate a straight path for 20 minutes! *L*  Okay, so yeah, the walk *does* involve navigating aggressive panhandlers along the way.  They tend to be out in greater force early in the morning.  I have more concerns about them than the prison up the block from our place.  About the only thing to worry about there is the sweet medicinal smoke wafting through the windows of the healing centre.  Sweetgrass, I think.  That's only in the evenings, though.  At least that we've noticed.

Eldest has a lot on her plate these days.  She's working hard to get the first few chapters of her web comic done before she goes live.  She also wants to get a few paintings done to replenish her inventory.  There has been some delay in all that, as we had a hot spell.  Working with pen, paper, ink, watercolour paints and markers does not go well when one has sweaty hands.  We moved the portable air conditioner upstairs, which made it livable up there, but that was about it.  It's cooled down a bit since, and she's finally getting a bit of work done.

One of the things she likes to do while working is listen to lectures from the Great Courses.  Here's a sampling of what she's been listening too.

The History of the English Language (in several parts - and Youngest has been listening to this one, too)
Consciousness and its Implications
Popes and the Papacy: a history
Skeptics and Believers: religious debate in the Western intellectual tradition

That's on top of the books and movies she's been taking out.  I really ought to bring back the library lists.  They have been remarkably eclectic!  We've been doing a monthy movie night with our co-op, so she's always on the lookout for some rare gem.

Youngest has spent the summer plowing her way through the library's mythology and manga collections.  She avoids Greek and Roman mythology in favour of Nordic and other Northwest European tales.  At the moment she has several different versions and translations of Beowulf, which Eldest is finding fascinating as well.  The use of language is quite refreshing to them, I think. Quite the contrast with the manga series she's been reading, like Fruits Basket, Ouran High School, Nausica (the books are better than the movie), Death Note, Rurouni Kenshin, and so on.

Youngest's guitar lessons have undergone a bit of a change up.  Her instructor has been having a hard time finding a balance between lessons and his job.  It's a long bus right and, buses being what they are, he would sometimes arrive late.  Not that we noticed much.  I always bring my crochet project bag and Youngest keeps a book of word searches in her purse, which she does while listening to music on headphones, so we don't even notice the time much.  Still, he was having problems, so he's reworked his schedule to have days just for teaching.  We're pretty flexible with our schedule, so when he asked if we were good to change days, we were okay with that (the alternative was to have the same day, but a couple of hours later).  So starting today, her lessons will now be on Mondays, and a bit later in the afternoon.

I'm glad she's interested enough to keep going for another year.  It's been quite different from her voice lessons.  She started those off very eagerly, but by the end of the year, she wanted to move on.  She's also interested in adding piano and has asked me to each her.  I can teach her to read music, but I'm trained in organ, not piano.  We do have a piano - a 200 yr old upright grand (they don't even make those anymore) and family heirloom - so the option is there.  I picked up a book for beginner piano that is aimed at adults that will be very useful.  Every now and then, after she practices her guitar, she'll head downstairs and work on the piano.  Unfortunately, the piano is like all flat surfaces in the household.  It doesn't take long before it's covered in stuff.  My fault for a lot of it, as I look at my committee binder, paperwork, file folders and other stuff scattered all over the bench and front of the piano.  :-(

This piano is a fascinating instrument.  Being an upright grand, it has a number of removable parts.  When the keyboard cover is lifted, there's a front panel that tilts open at the bottom, as usual.  The front half of the top is hinged, so you can open that up, which allows the front panel to be removed completely.  Then there's the panel under the keyboard, above the foot petals.  That can be removed, too.  Take those out, and the that grand piano sound is in its full force!  It's a beautiful instrument, too, with it's carved panels, trim and columns, in a deep, rich dark colour. It's an honour to have inherited it (it was supposed to go to the eldest of the family, but they didn't want it).  On the down side it's 1000 pounds and, on its own, cost about $1500 to have it brought out here.  The movers had a heck of a time getting it up the stairs.  When they were done, the owner told me that if we move, don't call them! *L*

So that's a bit of what we've been doing for the last while.

Pretty boring.

I'm good with that. ;-)

Monday, September 05, 2011

So you're thinking of home schooling, part two: How much?

Ah, yes.  "It's the most wonderful time of the year" again, as that gawdawful Staples commercial tells us.  That time of year when parents joyously send their miserable kids off to school.

Or not.

For those crazy enough to actually want to keep their kids at home and *gasp* spend more time with them, home schooling is another option.

Time to write another post for those who are thinking about it, but not quite sure they're ready for it.  The first post was, Can you?

Let's now go to another question I often hear from parents.

How much does it cost?

Short answer?

As much as you're willing, or able, to spend.

It all depends on how you do it, and what's available where you live.

In one sense, home schooling can potentially be very expensive.  There are so many home school curricula out there, so many neat educational tools and toys, and so many things out there to do.  It would be so easy to blow great wads of cash on all this stuff.


First off, check things out where you live and see what's available.  In Canada, for the most part, you're on  your own.  Even for some provinces that technically are supposed to offer resources to home schooling families, like in BC, that doesn't mean the board you're registered with will.  Or perhaps you live in a province like Manitoba, where all home schoolers are registered in one office, where you can also access grade level correspondence course (though they haven't called them that in many years), for varying costs.  Or you might live in Alberta, which actually passes on school funding to registered home schoolers, either through purchase orders or by reimbursing receipts.  Be wary of funding, though.  Funding tends to come with strings attached and government bureaucrats wanting to tell you how you can or can't teach your own kids.

Some home school support groups have a number of things available, ranging from group field trips at reduced cost to lending libraries, and even some that have equipment and resources that can be borrowed, such as scientific equipment or courses on CD or DVD.

Public libraries can have all sorts of resources as well.  My own kids have started up The Great Courses again.  These are pretty awesome.  Along with a plethora of books, audio/visual resources and software, many also have organized events and classes, book readings, lectures and so on.

If you're just starting out and not confident that you can teach to your legal requirements, packaged curricula can be useful.  Especially if home schooling is going to be a temporary thing, due to health problems or other extenuating circumstances.  They can be ridiculously expensive, though.  I've heard from way too many home schoolers who started out with visions of their kids happily at the kitchen table, working on some fantastic curriculum they bought that they just knew their kids would love, only ... it just didn't work out.  Sometimes, the curriculum didn't fit their children.  Sometimes it didn't fit the entire family.  They regretted spending all that money on curriculum, wishing instead that they'd spent the money on museum passes or whatever their kids turned out to be into.  On the other hand, I have also heard of families who found a purchased curriculum that fit their families perfectly (FIAR is one a lot of families have spoken highly of).

When it comes to packaged curricula, I would advise waiting before buying.  Especially if you're pulling your kids out of school.  Give your family some time to figure things out, then decide if a packaged curriculum is worth spending the money on.

There's one expense I would hope you don't have to shirk on, though.


Yes, I know, electronic books are all the rage right now.  They're cheaper and you can fit many hundreds into a single reader.  That's probably quite useful.  Even so, nothing is quite the same as books. I'd still recommend getting lots of real, printed books.  Haunt the second hand stores for unique finds, or get to know a local book seller who can order the more esoteric stuff in for you.  Yes, I know you can order books online, but aside from supporting your local book store (yay, capitalism!), a real person knowledgeable in the trade is a gold  mine.  A lot of local book stores also have interesting events available, too.  Take advantage of them.

And for crying out loud, don't go using up their time to find a book, then go order it online.  That's just tacky and rude.  Very bad form.

Other things I would recommend spending money on if you can.  Family passes at museums, nature centres, science centres, art galleries, recreation centres, etc.  Some cities offer passes that include a number of facilities.  These often give you discounts in any shops they might have.  There are even national passes available. If you are low-income, you may qualify for some of these passes for free or at highly discounted prices.

Join a local support group.  Any memberships fees tend to be nominal.  Aside from networking opportunities, activities and social support, some group membership cards will also be honoured by some businesses for a teacher's discount.

Join trading or exchange groups.  Many places have freecycle groups and it's amazing what you can get through them.  Some groups have book exchanges, clothing exchanges, or other types of exchanges (our group has had yarn and fabric exchanges).  For these, everyone brings stuff to contribute that are still good, but their own families have grown out of.  These get set out for everyone else to look at.  People pick what they will find useful.  Anything left over either gets taken back by their owners or donated to charity.  The big challenge with this is to not come back with more than you brought! *L*

Then there are lessons and classes. Music lessons (with the accompanying cost of buying or renting instruments), voice lessons, art classes, dance classes, cooking classes, language classes, craft lessons, and even tutoring for any areas your child might need some extra help on.  Don't forget sports - team sports, solo sports, martial arts classes, and all the necessary equipment they need, too.  It would be way too easy to spend huge amounts of money on such things.

Be very selective and creative.  If money is tight, some teachers are willing to barter for lessons (be generous with what you are offering; the teachers of these classes would be giving up income for this, so make sure it's worth it for them).  There may be programs available to cover the cost of them.  Perhaps there are family members who have skills they can pass on (and it can be a great way to get doubting family members engaged).

With our days no longer controlled by the school schedule, it can be very tempting to fill that time with all those cool things we can sign our kids up for.  Resist and be selective.  It is not beneficial to burn out the entire family, trying to get to all these lessons and classes.  You may want to try one thing per child one year, then give them the option to try something else the next.

For us, when we did take part in such things, we had one rule.  If we were going to spend money on these things and take the time out of our day to get them to and from their lessons, the girls knew they had to finish it.  Unless there was something drastically wrong, they couldn't just decide to stop in the middle of something that we've agreed to pay for for the entire year, or however long it might be.  These were things they told us they wanted to try, and sure they might decide they didn't like it as much as they thought they would.  They still had to finish.  They knew from the start that they were making a commitment for X amount of time, and part of the deal was that they'd keep that commitment.  We expected them to take full advantage of what was being offered, and not blow it off.  Sadly, this has sometimes meant that our kids were the only ones actually engaged in the class they were taking, while others in the class wasted their time.  Perhaps I can convince Eldest to add a blurb about just how "fun" the one art class she ever took turned out to be.

Aside from such things, however, the basic stuff required for home schooling can be very cheap.  After all, you are no longer required to buy a years worth of pencils, pencil crayons, binders, notebooks, glue sticks and even facial tissue (I was shocked to see that on an old neighbour's school list; each of their kids had to bring 6 boxes of facial tissue for the classroom supply cupboard), and so on.  There are no more extra fees sprung at you or fundraising events.  Oh, and you can buy your kids new clothes when they're needed, rather than because it's the start of school and they just HAVE to have the same things all their friends are getting.

Most of what you'll need, you probably already have, and what you do need to get, you can get little by little as you need them and can afford them, rather than all at once.

As you can see, there is no simple answer to how much it costs to home school our kids.  Some people manage to do it while spending almost no money at all.  Others spend thousands of dollars.

Take a bit of time to figure it out.  Get to know what's available, what your kids need, and what they want.  See what fits for the entire family.  What works for your own family is likely to be quite different from others.  That's just fine.  There are no hard and fast rules.

Instead of having a school system telling you and your family what you have to pay for, you get to take control and decide for yourselves.

Which can be pretty exciting!!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

First concert

Thanks to a friend, we got some tickets to a local radio station's music festival. It just occurred to me that this is the first rock concert the girls have been to! I haven't been to one in so long, I was surprised by the police bag check.

I am happy to note that, in spite of the crowd and deafening volume, they are both actually enjoying this. I just wish the friend who got us the tickets had not had to bow out at the last minute because she wasn't feeling well.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Not Back to School

I ended up taking an inadvertent break from this blog over the summer.  Time to get back into action.

Today was our local Not Back to School picnic.  The girls still have no interest in taking part in the park days, but Youngest came along with me for the picnic.  We spent most of the time chatting with a good friend, so we had ourselves a great time.

It was a rather odd picnic this year.  So many new faces! There seemed to be fewer old faces, too.  Youngest saw some kids she knew, but barely recognised anymore.  The local paper had done a very positive story on the picnic yesterday, which may have brought some curious families out to join us.  Perhaps some will go on to join the group, too.  There are always some who take in the picnic and pretty much nothing else with the group throughout the year, too.  Whatever works. ;-)

Now that we're officially up and running for the school year, plus the summer activities have started to die down, posts should be more regular again.