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Our Top 5 Reasons for Homeschooling Our Kids

If you had told me a year ago, or even 6 months aFresh Blog (4)go that we would be homeschooling all five of our kids, I would have told you that you are riding the crazy train.  It always comes back to this simple thought, We do what we gotta do for our kids.

I first began to see homeschooling in action about 6 years ago when I joined a beautiful circle of women who were mostly all homeschooling their children. These mamas I count among the best, loving, patient, fierce and present. I was in awe of their love and dedication, but thought “Oh I could never do that”. To spite having taught  several freshmen courses on World Religion at San Diego State University, and loving it. I imagined homeschooling to to be completely different than teaching a University class.

But alas, here we are. Although we have only begun to dip our toes in, and not all of our children have left their traditional school yet, we are loving it. We are breathing easier and soaking in the love and learning.

So what lead us to this journey? Here are just a few reasons;

  1. BULLYING When I have mentioned that my kids are being bullied, I have had several parents jump in and share:  “Oh I was bullied, everyone gets picked on, it builds resilience” or “I just teach my kids to handle it, or fight back”. I even had the Head of School tell us that her grandsons get bullied and she just tells them to ignore it . These words are not helpful, our kids are still working on recovering from their histories. Our kids were in a collective 15 homes before becoming a forever family. We are working very hard to build their confidence and instill sold self identities. When they experience bulling, it sets them back in their healing process. We understand that they will encounter bullies in life (I even encountered another mom bulling me online when I stated in a forum that my daughter was being bullied). It is not a level playing field, our children didn’t start out with the same advantages as most of their peers.
  2. TRAUMA INFORMED SCHOOLS Most schools are not trauma informed. Ours was no different. If you are lucky you may find a trauma sensitive school, but a school like the one Oprah talked about in a segment on trauma she hosted for 60 Minutes.  is rare. We have had some great teachers that ‘get us’ and then we have encountered others that don’t. There were the teachers that let my children get away with everything because they didn’t want to trigger them, or because they ‘felt sorry’ for them, knowing that they were in fostercare. On the other side of this, we have had teachers blame my children for everything, and labeled them as a problem. When a child acts out, a trauma informed person asks “What is going on behind this behavior? What does this baby need?” This is not letting them off the hook, but examining the root of the problem. With a trauma informed/sensitive school the needs of all children are considered. Fire, tornado, and lock down drills can be triggers for kids that have experienced trauma. Safety is always at the front of their minds, many exist in a fight, flight or freeze state. When their perceived safety is at risk, they will be triggered and go into FFF. To completely overlook and dismiss the needs of these children is a huge oversight.
  3. LET THEM BE KIDS With the emphasis on Common Core it has taken much of the creativity and flexibility away from teachers, and causes them to teach to the test. Here in NC we have House Bill 950 (Read to Achieve). This is the test of all tests for our third graders. They are told “Pass it you don’t move on to 4th grade”.  I had 3 children not pass this test (luckily it was resolved in a week with two of our kids, and overlooked with one because he has an IEP). This test is stressful for kids, especially for those with anxiety. What are we doing to these littles? One of my children sited for a reason to wanting to be home schooled as not feeling so much pressure anymore. Being pulled out for IEP work puts unnecessary attention on them. When they return to class they feel rushed to catch up with the lesson plan that their classmates have already been working on. Most kids feel the struggle to keep up from time to time, but our kids with IEP’s the struggle can create severe anxiety.
  4. SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE I am pretty sure that everyone is in agreement that the atmosphere in schools has changed. The Everytown website reports that since 2013 (Sandy Hook) there have been 308 school shootings. If you examine the data, many of these did not include injury, but that’s really not my point. It’s the atmosphere that’s being created in our schools. Our school had 3 threats in one week. This created an atmosphere of elevated stress, caution and frustration on the part of the parents to know the details of what was going on with these investigations. The kids felt it. They felt it from their parents, from their teachers and from their peers. There was no escaping these conversations when a police car is parked out in front of the school. Many parents agreed that it made them/their children more comfortable knowing that the police were on campus. Here’s that trauma reminder: Not all children associate police with safety. Their histories have proved to them that police equal problems.
  5. WE ARE IN CONTROL OF CURRICULUM I have to give praise to our school for offering a very diverse and inclusive curriculum. My children never once came home with the white-washed history of Columbus Day. The curriculum emphasized POC in history, and their music and art class was full of multicultural activities and songs. But, schools have limited resources, and there are still times when reading lists or histories miss the mark on being inclusive. So for our 5 year old we get to pick Zooey and Sassafras for our read-aloud and science. She sees herself in Zooey, and representation is so powerful. For our older children, we will not brush over the tough parts of history, we will not make heroes out the men that caused pain and devastation in our dark history. Will will celebrate the great achievements and contributions of the men and women that have made this country great.

These are OUR reasons for turning to home education. This is where our hearts are leading us. Every parent needs to make the decisions that are right for their families, and at the right time. When my kids were first entering school, my circle of friend included more HS families than not, but we had very specific reasons for choosing our school.  I also know that it is a huge privilege for us to have the ability for me to stay home with our kids. We do sacrifice a lot, but the fact that not everyone is in the position to make this choice is not lost on me, and I am absolutely grateful for this.

Next week…Dancing in Joy, and other things we have learned about homeschooling.

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How to Talk With Your Children About Adoption: LOVE Makes a Real Family

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We have spent a lot of time guiding our children through their adoption stories. This includes unwanted questions from their peers, and even adults. We empower them to use their words, and remember they have the strength of their entire family behind them when they are confronted with these uncomfortable and intrusive questions. We recently learned the W.I.S.E method, and I frequently remind them of this tool.

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How many of you that have biological children have sat down and talked to your children about adoption? If your not educating them, just know that they are having these conversations on the playground, or just leaving the details up to their imaginations. Here are a few comments and questions my kids have been confronted with:

  • Why didn’t your REAL mom want you?
  • My mom told me your parents were bad, and that’s why you had to get new parents.
  • How much did it cost?
  • Why are you brown and your mom is white?
  • Is THAT your brother/sister?
  • Do you know your REAL mom?

You can imagine how painful and uncomfortable these questions can be. I encourage you to please take the time to have this conversation with your children. There are many great children’s books on the subject of adoption (I caution you, every adoption story is as unique as the child, so the books are not a one size fits all).  Here are some basic points to help start the conversation:

All families are different, but the one thing they have in common is that the parents LOVE their children very much! Some families look alike, and some look very different from each other, but inside their hearts are the same.

Sometimes families with adopted children look different, because the children grew in another person’s belly, and may look more like that person.

Many children grow in their mommies bellies, but adopted children grow in someone else’s belly, while they grow in their Mommy and Daddy’s hearts.

The other person who’s Belly they grew in is called a Birth Mother, or Belly Mom.

Their REAL Mom and Dad are the ones that they call Mom and Dad and who love them. Their brothers and sisters are the ones they love, and call brother and sister.  This makes a REAL forever family.

There are lots of reasons birth moms aren’t able to care for their children and decide to give them up for adoption. This is a very difficult decision for birth moms because they love their children. Ultimately, they decide adoption is the best, most loving choice for their children.

Adopted children have another set of parents called birth parents, but this is private information, and adopted children don’t always know their birth parents or want to talk about them. Please know it is rude and potentially hurtful to adopted children to ask them about their birth parents.

Families being different is what makes us special! Let’s celebrate our differences! Can you think of other ways families are different? (This could lead to a discussion of single-parent families, grandparents as parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, etc.)

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If you would like me to talk to your family, church group or classroom, and you live in the Raleigh-Durham area,  I welcome the opportunity to help educate about adoption!

Please share this with your friends, school, and moms groups! Please do your part to educate others Thank you!

**Special thanks to my fellow adoptive Mom, Kathryn for letting me borrow some of this text!

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Why Black History Month is Important

I have heard criticism regarding Black History month, and why it exists. I have also heard the argument that how come there isn’t a White History month. Well, there is a White History month, and it lasts all year, it’s called History. We learn about famous inventors like Thomas Edison, politicians like Benjamin Frankiln, and even Ely Whitney that created the cotton gin. Not once speaking of those that fought for the rights of those that were forced to toil in the fields picking that cotton beaten, raped and often killed, but always treated like property. Black history is US history, and until everyone can describe the important achievements of these great African Americans  it is necessary to dedicate a month highlighting their achievements. How many do you know?

Langston Hughes

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Charles Hamilton Houston

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Nat Turner

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Mary McLeod Bethune

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Booker T. Washington

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Ida B. Wells

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Frederick Douglass

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Black History is important, because it is dangerous to omit facts and people from history. It is important for our society to know that African Americans have made equally great contributions to this country, and deserve a place in our history books. Lastly, it is important to me as a mother of three African American children that they know about these great achievements, that the history of African American greatness isn’t just sports figures, actors and musicians. They deserve to learn about these achievements in the classroom along side their White counterparts, and experience what it’s like to be proud, and be able to relate to the heroes and role models that look like them. Omissions in histor make a profound effect on our children and how they measure their self worth. When every person they read about in history is white, it can be easy for them to come to the conclusion that African Americans are not capable of greatness. This is crap! So I urge you to learn about these great leaders and their accomplishments, if you have children I urge you to share this history with them, so they too know the greatness that ALL human beings are capable of, regardless of skinskin color.color.

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Mittens & Mittens all Hung in a Row.

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I posted a few years ago about our Mitten tradition. When Lola & Diego were about 3 or 4 I felt so bad, becuase the house was all decorated for Christmas, and every morning they would wake up and ask “Is it Christmas yet?” So I came up with the idea to hang Christmas stockings with a fun surprise inside, and take one down everyday. This way they could see for themselves how many mittens were left, and how many day before Christmas!

Since this will be our 4th or 5th year now doing this, t really is  a tradition! I have learned that since I actually put memory makers in the mittens that it takes a little planning. I thought I would share this years Memory Mitten ideas. You can follow us on Instagram @CincoDeMami

Dec 1: Make Bird Feeders  for the Kindness Elves

Dec 2: Write Letters to Santa

Dec 3rd: Start a new holiday chapter book, and continue to read it all month

Dec 4th: Watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus”  (1974 version) and have popcorn and a cocoa bar

Dec 5th: Make gingerbread houses

Dec 6th: Winterfest

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Dec 7th: Messiah @ Cary Westwood Baptist

Dec 8th: Watch “Elf” and have pancakes for dinner! (special occasion meal 🙂

Dec 9th: Make a reindeer craft and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Dec 10th: Skype Santa with Portable North Pole

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Dec 11th: Make candy cane reindeer for the Kindness Elves

Dec 12th: We will be out of town, but I found this great Virginia Beach light show 

Dec 13th: We will still be in Virginia Beach, so tonight we plan to go to the Parade!

Dec 14th: Oakwood Candle Light Tour. We went on this home tour before we had kids. We have continued the tradition every year since. No, don’t worry, we don’t drag our small tribe into peoples meticulously decorated homes. the great thing is that the homes are decorated just as much on the outside, so we stop and get Krispy Kremes and walk the neighborhood enjoying all the outside decorations and the music playing!

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Dec 15: Decorate Placemats for the Kindness Elves

Dec 16th: Get our tree at the Jordan Tree farm, where we get to pick out and chop down our own tree!

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Dec 17th: Decorate the Christmas tree, and have hot coco and listen to Christmas music

Dec 18th: Make no-sew fleece caps for the Kindness Elves!

Dec 19th: Watch “Home Alone” and make Santa Pizzas

Dec 20th: Visit the Tanglewood Festival of Lights!

Dec 21st Bake and decorate cookies!

Dec 22nd: Benson Meadow Lights!

Dec 23rd: Wendell Wonderland!

Dec 24th Christmas Eve! We have Fondue for dinner and everyone gets to open new PJ’s, we then play a new family board game.

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If you noticed, most of the this list is free activities, but the great thing is the memories that they will create will last a lifetime and are priceless!

 

 

 

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Move Over Elf on the Shelf! The Kindness Elves are Here!

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I have not gotten on board with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. I don’t have anything against him, it just seems like a lot of work, for little return. What I mean by that is that there is no real lesson in Elf on the Shelf…as a matter of fact, he’s quite a naughty little elf.  When I came across the idea for Kindness Elves, I thought ‘now this is a tradition I can get behind! Yea, it’s probably even more work, but I will get behind anything that helps instill kindness and compassion in my children.  With this said, tomorrow our little elves will appear. We happened to have these sweet little elves tucked away already. I think they will make perfect Kindness Elves.  You can use any elves…you can even use the real Elf on the Shelf, and just rehabilitate his ornery habits.

Beginning tomorrow morning…these sweet little elves will appear with an act of kindness for my children to complete. Every night they will return to the North Pole to share with Santa these compassionate deeds.

I have compiled a tentative itinerary forall 24 days leading up to Christmas..here it is!

Day 1: The Elves will return the Santa sacks from last year. The kids will fill these sacks with underused and unwanted toys to be donated back to Santa (local shelter). Santa will return these bags Christmas morning full of Christmas goodness.

Day 2: Write letters and drawings to send to the military

Day3: Draw pictures for Color A Smile. Color A Smile is a nonprofit organization that collects cheerful drawings from volunteers of all ages.  Every month they distribute thousands of these colorful drawings to Senior Citizens, Our Troops Overseas, and anyone in need of a smile.

Day 4: The kids will make birdfeeders for our feathered friends.

Day 5: Donate to KIVA , a non-profit microlending organization with a mission to alleviate poverty

Day 6: Tape quarters to parking meters.

Day 7:Make salt-dough Christmas ornaments to deliver to friends, family, and our neighborhood.

Day 8: Decorate oven mitts that will be used by Meals on Wheels delivery drivers.

Day 9: Log onto Rice.org and log some rice points. For every answer the kids get right, The United Nations World Program donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger.

Day 10: Sweep the leaves off our neighbor’s porches.

Day 11: Build fuzzy-sock care packages for the homeless (make a dollar store run for these)

Day 12: Nominate a family to be their secret Santa, or give them a 12 days of Christmas. You can follow this on Instagram @CincodeMami

Day 13: Make reindeer out of candy canes to pass out.

Day 14: Pass out the reindeer candy canes to kids at a Christmas Parade we will be going to!

Day 15: Pass out ornaments to homes that are part of a Christmas home tour we are going to

Day 16: Make placemats and  lunch bags for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Day 17: Write letters to VA. Recovering American Soldier C/o Walter Reed Army American Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington DC, 20307

Day 18: Make no-sew fleece caps for children going through chemotherapy

Day 19: Volunteer to clean our schools classrooms before the winter break

Day 20: Bake Cookies and deliver to police officers, fire departments and nurses

Day 21: Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes

Day 22: Collect used towels to donate to the local animal shelter or make pet toys for them.

Day 23: Make no-sewew fleece scarves for the homeless

Day 24: Adopt a “grandfriend” and make regularly scheduled visits just to offer company….

Follow our Kindness Elves on instagram @CincodeMami

While looking for service projects I came across this great site.

http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/

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Today I am Thankful

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Today I am thankful for :

Lost socks

Random sharpie artwork on floors, ceilings and furniture

Early morning wake ups (and late night, and any other time I am trying to sleep)

Not being able to make 4 different school lunches without at least one complaint.

Nonstop talking and questions before I can get through my first cup of coffee

A bathtub full of toys

Not being able to pee, shower or dress in private

Hours of homework help

Boy Bands, Taylor Swift and Tween Music

Cooking for what seems to be like a small army, all with different likes and dislikes

Sitting through hours of theater performances and soccer games

Naked kids that refuse to wear clothes

Potty training

Broken windows, furniture and doors

Wet beds

Forgoing any enjoyable music for Disney Pandora and Kids Bop

Having to escort a child to the bathroom, just when my dinner arrives at a restaurant

Piles and Piles of laundry that never ends

Are we there yet?

Tattle-tales

Throwing 5 Birthday parties within 3 months

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Hours of being stuck in the car, taxing kids to soccer, dance and theater

The words MINE! I didn’t do it! and the famous Not Me!

5am weekend wake-ups, yet having to force them out of bed at 7a on school days

10 minute intervals of potty stops while on long trips

Five kids screaming at once!

For all this I am thankful. Because one day my children will be grown, moved out, and I know that I will miss this, and long for these memories!

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My White Privilege Does Not Apply To My Children

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Before adopting I didn’t really know about ‘white privilege”. Maybe I did, but honestly, I really didn’t give it much thought. But now that my heart is intertwined within several cultures/races I am hyper aware of how races, other than whites are treated in the United States.

I would be doing my children a huge disservice if I did not try to ‘walk a mile’ in their shoes, if I did not help to prepare them for their futures, as Black-Americans and as Latino-Americans.

We (Whites) don’t like talking about race. It makes us uncomfortable, mainly because we are afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. But the conversations need to begin and continue, and not stop until the ignorance, fear and misunderstandings are replaced with love and acceptance . I have found that my children have helped me bridge those uncomfortable conversations. When it comes to our children,  we are often forced out of our comfort zone to act on behalf of them. We often do for them things we would have never done for ourselves.

The conversations I have had with my children  so far, are very generic and have just begun to scratch the surface of topics like Martin Luther King, Slavery, and the injustices against the Maya in Guatemala.  As they mature, so will our conversations. My hope is that I can stay at least 2 steps ahead of the stupidity and racism, preparing them in an age appropriate and realistic way for the future.

I don’t know what happened to Michael Brown on that evening in Ferguson, MO, but he deserves the same due-diligence we would give any one of our teenage sons gunned down in their youth.   Every time I see in the news that another Black teenager has been gunned down I think of the conversations I will have to have with my sons. They are not allowed the privilege of throwing on a sweatshirt and looking ‘sloppy’, for fear of being labeled a ‘thug’, or pulled over and asked for their ‘papers’.

Until we join hands and become that “One World, One Love” Bob Marley sang about almost 40 years ago, I will continue to weep with the Mother’s of the sons that are unnecessarily judged, harassed and yes sometimes killed because they did not posses the privilege of being white in America.