Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Take What Works

I’m the type of person who loves Pinterest. I love the flood of ideas waiting to be explored. I see it as inspirational and motivating and it often spurs me on to creativity and adventure in big ways and in small.

But some don’t see it that way. For them, comparison and doubt set in. They can feel frantic about all of the things they “should” be doing or all of the things they’re missing out on. Depression and anxiety swoop in and before they know it they’re just plain overwhelmed.

This happens a lot with homeschooling. First, you have to sort through how you want to educate your child. Public school, private school, hybrid school, homeschool, unschool? Once you’ve settled on home education you move on to style suits your family best. Montessori, Waldorf, classical, eclectic, Moore, unit studies, Charlotte Mason. Then comes curriculum. You can spend a lot of time trying to choose just the right thing for each child. Once the curriculum is in your hands, the choices just continue. You are inundated with all sorts of worksheets, coloring pages, vocab and spelling lists, quizzes, tests, papers, experiments, projects, and field trip suggestions galore! It’s enough to make your head spin.

The beautiful truth is that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing and you don’t have to do it all. When you’re starting out, try to focus on how your child learns best and use that as your foundation. As you’re trying to navigate how much to actually do each day, focus on comprehension and retention. Does your child understand what they’re being taught? Can they remember it? If they are strong in one area, then you can drop some of the worksheets, projects, etc, because it just becomes busy work. If they’re struggling, then you can pick and choose what to incorporate into your day based on how they learn.

I love ideas and I love potential. It’s fun to read about vacation spots and things we can explore or do. But that doesn’t mean that we can or will do them all. And neither should you. I’ll be posting a lot and I hope that you are more inspired than overwhelmed. Because it’s better to do a few well-chosen activities than it is to cram our days with a bunch of unnecessary busy work that leaves us depleted and exhausted.

So, visit often and take what works for you and your family and leave the rest. Rest secure in the vision and goals you have for your educational journey and rest easy in the fact that you don’t have to do it all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Branson, MO: Sight and Sound Theater

Our most recent mini-trip was to Branson, MO. Branson is just a few hours from us which makes it a convenient destination for a long weekend.

If you're not familiar with Branson, it's a popular tourist destination in Southwestern Missouri. It used to feature mainly Country Music shows, but has a growing selection of diverse entertainment and is quickly becoming a favorite of our family.

The location is beautiful and is also a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. A lot of people are choosing to do large family reunions there because it's a central location. No matter what age or interest, you're bound to find something that excites and entertains you.

Now, I'll be honest, there are a ton of shows and attractions that are very well known and are probably considered "must sees." I'm sure some will read my Branson posts and be appalled that we didn't visit Dixie Stampede, the Ducks, or Silver Dollar City.


It can be really tempting to go on vacation and stick to the "must sees." And sometimes those are awesome experiences. And sometimes not so much. I learned that the best vacation you take is the vacation that is best for your family. So, if you don't like Country Music, or a popular restaurant doesn't serve food you can eat, or whatever the case may be, then you have permission to skip that and find something that makes sense for your family! So we did a lot of research, listened to the advice of some friends, and created a trip that was perfect for us!

 We had a slow start and arrived just in time for lunch at Vaskin's Deli where they had some gluten-free options for us. We try to stick to our diet when we travel, with the exception of a few intentional indulgences.

After lunch, we had just enough time to check into our hotel and then it was time to head over to the Sight and Sound Theater. If you aren't familiar with Sight and Sound, I highly recommend you check it out! The shows are very high quality productions and are one of our personal "must sees!"

At the last show we attended, we had balcony seats and we really enjoyed those because we could see the side stages really well. This year we ended up with aisle seats down at the very front and they were so awesome! Our youngest, Gabe, was able to sit on the end so he had better visibility and he got to see the animals and actors up close whenever they'd come and go down the aisle. It was so fun!

I wasn't sure what to expect from the story because Samson is not who I think of when I think of great Bible heroes. But it was very, very well done. Inspiring and brought us to tears at the end. I love seeing the Bible brought to life!

We ate a delicious dinner at Center Stage where live music was playing and then we finished with a coffee at the attached cafe. After that we went back to the hotel to wind down and tuck in for the night.

Our first day in Branson was perfect: good show, good food, and in bed early!

What you need to know:

Tours are available an hour prior to your show, for a minimal charge! We've yet to experience this, but it sounds amazing and would add a lot to the experience so plan ahead for that.

Shows fill up fast so be sure to nab your tickets as soon as you can. Aisle seats can be really fun to smaller children - as long as they can be trusted to stay seated and keep hands and legs to themselves.

There is an intermission and drinks and snacks are sold in the lobby.

It takes a while to park. Plan to arrive with 30 minutes to spare, if not taking the tour. You'll want time to park, visit the restroom, and find your seat.

Because of the nature of the show, they are particular about not allowing guests to be in and out during show times. Also, while the shows are engaging and entertaining, it's not geared to children, per say. Be sure it's a good fit for the youngest members of your family.

Monday, January 28, 2019

But...I’m Not a Homeschooler

Not everyone can or wants to homeschool and you may think that there’s no place for you at The Wandering Homeschooler. Not so! 

In my opinion, a child’s education is the responsibility of their parents. Moms and Dads, the buck stops with you. BUT, how you choose to go about that and who you choose to partner with is in your hands. There's public school, private school, hybrid school, homeschool, unschool, or some mix thereof. In the end, what really matters is that you take responsibility for and you’re an active participant in whatever they’re learning.

So, even if you aren’t a homeschooler, there are opportunities for you to either supplement what your child is learning in school or teach them things they aren’t being taught in school but are important to you.

Not only is this a great way to bond, but it’s so important to instill in them the idea that learning is lifelong and isn’t confined to the walls of a building. Education isn’t just about textbooks, facts, and stats, but includes relationships, morals, good character, and more. We don’t want them to just read about the world, we want them to explore and experience it for themselves!

No matter where you are in your education journey, I hope you’re encouraged to make the most of it. Be proactive and intentional and make time for adventure. Your kids will love you for it and you might just have some fun along the way. ;)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Welcome to the Wandering Homeschooler!

When I was a homeschooled kid in the 90s, homeschoolers tended to look a lot alike. Now, 30 years later, I’m overjoyed to see such rich diversity among home educators. It’s inspiring and refreshing. Meeting and learning from other homeschoolers gave me the courage and confidence to make our journey our own and it’s been a huge blessing to our family.

The way that I was schooled, and the way I began schooling my boys, was the “school-at-home-approach.” This is when the the classroom setting is recreated in the home and the traditional school environment is closely emulated. Sometimes complete with chalkboards and old-timey desks!

While this approach works well for some families, it didn’t work for my boys. It took me an embarrassing number of years to finally figure that out and let it go, but live and learn, right? Since then, we’ve cut back on the amount of time we spend on textbooks and have ventured out more into the real world. Turns out, there’s a lot to be learned out there!

In addition to getting out and about more, we’ve also made traveling a priority. We go on a big, two-week road trip every year, with the goal of seeing all 50 states before our oldest goes off to college, and a couple of smaller trips on the side. It’s a big world and there’s a lot to see and experience!
Watching homeschooling evolve has been amazing. One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it affords, so why not make the most of it?

I’m glad you dropped by and I hope that this blog encourages you to make your educational journey truly and authentically your own and to enjoy every minute of it. See you again, soon!