Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Homeschooling... One Semester Down

Tomorrow,  Cameron comes home from a week of overnight camp and then we're set for mellow time until the beginning of seventh grade... and shall it be homeschooling? Our travel to Atlanta went beautifully as far as homeschooling goes. He read in the airport and completed everything he needed to for his curriculum.  The bumps were the same, but doable so I was still 50/50 about continuing.



Then the last two weeks of school were so unpleasant. He was clear that he wanted 100% to do homeschooling and that he 100% didn't want to be even slightly polite to me as part of that. It was two weeks of sullenness and snottiness and I was tipped significantly toward ending this experiment for both our sakes. It was getting worse and home was feeling tense and unhappy.

My child was adamant that he could treat me with basic respect (the way he treats other teachers). He said he'd make it a point over the summer. The first month was more of the same and he kept insisting that he'd work on it before the start of the school year, but that he "had time". We weren't making progress. After lots of father son conversations and some intense family meetings, we found that he needed more of a motivation. He wanted help caring about alienating us. So, his dad created this program which links screen time to behavior with + and - options. It feels very reward/punish-y to us, but he wanted the help and so far it's been amazing. It's not used a ton and the focus is on the feedback / motivation that my son has asked for... we'll see.

Here's his straight A report card; the issue has never been being able to succeed.
"Cameron worked very hard and made good progress. Understanding how the online school platform works ensures that he will be able to make even greater progress next year. I have high hopes for Cameron as he is an excellent student. LB"
The summer has improved with play dates and much more pleasant down time.


He loves the time he spends working through the belts in his martial arts; he's about to become a two stripe orange belt.


I loved watching him dive again at Monterey Bay aquarium. He's really able to push himself and try things with love nudges (he wanted to back out last minute).


We've taken more walks together. He helped me see the dragon head in the far left tree root and thus we named this one Smaug and friends (because he saw more monsters too).


He was able to keep a growth mindset in his master's chess camp even though most of the kids were well beyond his level. He was able to see it just like his martial art... you seek to improve and you don't worry that you're not already a black belt. He grew.


So, the interactions around home feel more normal. It's the regular tween bumps and stumbles and  grumbles and I'm ready to give it a try. This year, the involvement of the teachers is supposed to change in that they'll be doing more direct grading and offering of feedback... which should be great for me staying more on the side-lines when he doesn't want to hear from Mom.  While I'm not 100% certain it's the best for us, like he is, I'm ready to give it 100% and we'll see how things go this fall with having a seventh grader in the house... wish us luck (and patience)!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Two Months into Homeschooling

We have had some awesome times and some, um, lava pits of despair!  I'm now pretty evenly divided about the experience and I'd give it a 50/50 chance that we'll homeschool next year (while it's pretty much 100% that we'll finish 6th grade at home).

The goal of this trial was to see if we could handle homeschooling as a setting. The curriculum is one of an online charter school, so we have not tested coming up with a tailored curriculum. That would be a moot point if we can't find a way to make the logistics a net positive.

California Virtual Academy (CAVA) has been mostly a pleasure to deal with and I think we are conducting a fair trial.

Pros:

Soooooooo much flexibility! It's true that we could make it even more flexible by making our own curriculum, but he loves that he can press fast-forward on the teacher if he already understands something and that he can start when he wants and take breaks when he wants and pick the order of the subjects and do a double day of one and skip another and... lots of other tweaking.

Comfort. This is an awesome set up for academic work and for PE (and the fridge is close for as many snacks as he desires, he used to refuse to eat anything at school).



Time. Not only can he pick when he starts, he also doesn't have to wait for a classroom of kids to all get on the same page. His total academic time is roughly 3.5 hours each day and 40 minutes of PE. He usually starts around 9am and is done by 12:30p. That leaves so much more time for other interests. I've seen a reawakening of his interest in chess and reading comics and an intensifying of his love for vegging out with favorite audiobooks.

Cons:

The biggest con is hard to summarize in a word or two. We've found that he finds it hard to believe what I say as a teacher. For example, he had decided that writing a research paper meant that you take whatever the first source says and put that in the paper. He didn't believe me and he didn't believe the instructions from the online curriculum. In his mind, we were making it harder; we were wrong. Lots of yelling, crying, distress. Full meltdowns of distress have only happened a handful of times, but mini-battles of the same I-know-better-how-x-works happen a few times a week. I find myself never knowing if my pleasant day is going to turn into a thunderstorm flying at me. I'm really good at keeping my cool, but I said from the beginning that sacrificing our warm, friendly home-life for homeschooling (if he decided, parent teacher = dictator bad guy) would not be an acceptable trade. We knew that he found it hard to learn from us and that could happen. My kiddo has done a bunch of introspecting and has figured out that he finds it easy to accept directions from his martial arts teacher or the teachers at the middle school because he feels like they should be setting the rules. He doesn't know why he doesn't feel that way about his parents, but we're working on figuring out how he can learn from us effectively.

My time: I miss my blocks of me-time. At first, it felt like it was never a good time to leave. Over the two months, we've worked out most of the kinks. I'm fine with having less private time because I still get enough and he is old enough to give me more on those days where I just need space.  So, this is a mild con right now; finding the best educational option for our family is a much higher value.

Organization: As his learning coach, I'm painfully aware of his lack of organizational skills. Much of that falls to me right now in teaching and helping until he learns. Again, this is a mild con because I want him to gain the skills and that is a much higher value than the annoyance of reminding him every time to put away his supplies or water his plants for his science experiment.


So, my net evaluation is... we'll see. My kiddo is growing all the time and if he can figure out a way to learn from me smoothly, I'm glad to offer him this option and more. We have other resources to explore too for helping in that process. If it turns out that the process of homeschooling hurts our family more than it helps, we'll return to the wonderful middle school that was doing such an awesome job of helping him grow!

Sometimes, eating plantain pancakes together and figuring out a geography question is just awesome though, so we won't toss the experiment lightly!







Saturday, March 5, 2016

First Week of Homeschooling

It's been a wild week!!! The entire family has had the flu and it's lasted all week... that is not good soil for beginning a new project!  It's been an exhausting week of crankies and learning-bumps and we're all tired.  I'm hoping next week has more smiles to report!



This is the online homeschool we're trying: http://cava.k12start.com

This is the letter I wrote to his teachers to start his withdrawal from the local middle school (written 2/17/2016, last day on campus 2/19/16):

Big Change. Cameron Miner.

Cameron has wanted to homeschool for a long time and I’ve always put it off seeing the huge benefits he gains from the physical school setting.  Our plan was to give homeschooling a try for seventh grade so he could get a real sense of what SVMS is like this year and have a fair comparison when judging the pros / cons of homeschool next year.  A week ago, when I was looking into the program of doing public school at home, I found out that you can transfer mid year.  I thought that might be even better because we could make a shorter trial, and just return to SVMS next year if it didn’t work out.

I started filling out the paperwork so that he could do the third trimester of sixth grade at home, via online public school.  Today I found out that he was accepted and that the last possible starting date is February 29th!  All my plans for this smooth transition evaporated. I realized this would mean that instead of staying through the end of the trimester, he'd leave the week before it ends. I’d need to bring his Yosemite journal to the school and the smooth wrapping up of assignments of that week following Yosemite would be lost.

I’ve spoken with the central administration for all the California online schools and explained how much better March 7th would be as a transition date both for starting with them and ending with SVMS.  There is no budging the date later (only earlier), based on required days for their quarterly system.  If we don’t start on February 29th, we don’t start this school year.

We’ve been having some difficult discussions here tonight. Cameron loves SVMS, but he does want to try this and, for all the reasons listed, we think this is the best time to give him that opportunity.  February 26th will be his last day as an SVMS student, but this Friday will be his last day on campus because of the Yosemite trip. I will do everything I can to smooth this transition which I realize is not convenient for anyone. I am so grateful for the teaching and nurturing Cameron has received as a new middle-schooler at SVMS. Again, I want to thank each of you for all the kindnesses you have shown him. If this trial is a total flop, we’ll see you in September!  Either way, Cameron will have had an opportunity that he has deeply desired for years.

Rachel Miner



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Trip to Connecticut... One of My Weekly Updates

1/7/16

Hello everyone,

We’re back!!! Pictures and good things… here we go:

Shuttle from the longterm parking to airport… journey started 4am December 24th

Pretty flying above the clouds

Tracker tucked himself into the bulkhead area and flew like a pro!
Christmas in Connecticut… happy boy starting on his presents
Tracker thought the remote control lego was super scary
   
Lots of cousin love :)

And Franklin love (Andrew’s parents’ dog)
Tracker approved of Franklin too
Off to visit Brooklyn with GG (Great Grandma)

Manhattan from the Whitestone Bridge… we had a NY diner lunch on our way and I discovered that I severely dislike calves liver!

Heading into the city

Subway smooth for all too
Museum of Natural History was an all day affair
Except that I took a quick walk across central park on my own...
to see this painting at the MET!  Sooooo wonderful!!!

Sleepy subway time home

I did a couple adult colorings as gifts and cozy time with my mother-in-law.  We enjoyed manicure / pedicures too!
    

We also played lots of games!  A new one, “Spot It”, was a favorite… Cameron made us laugh when he saw the red maple leaf and called it a “Canadian Feather”!!!  We also played “Castle” which takes as long as Monopoly but is sooooo much more fun!

We watched Star Wars 4/5/6 in the evenings and then the new movie in the theatre. Dogs weren’t interested.
More cousin love :)  Andrew’s Dad made an AMAZING Chicken Marsala!  We also had lots of other foodie goodies over the visit including filet mignon this particular night.  I also made one of my all-day cheesecakes to add to the pampering :)
Time with my best friend and her family, including her toddler who likes to take selfies and say “Cheese, cheese, cheese…"
Kids have fun in odd ways sometimes!



Cameron didn’t quite get his grandma’s job of a speech pathologist right, he called her a “Speech Psychiatrist”!

We took Andrew’s aunt Kathy out to a yummy breakfast :)
Flying home we had lots of delays and I was amazed that Tracker didn’t pop… he made it and so did we in the wee hours of morning January 5th.  
Back to routines, Cameron is working to get his flips more smooth, but he’s pretty snazzy to watch!
    

It’s been solid rainy and we’ve had lots of fires to keep us warm :)

And I made it to the ocean this morning for the first time since I got back and it was the most feisty I’ve ever seen it!  Rows and rows of cascading waves crashing into the cliffs!




Here’s to beauties both at home and with family everywhere!


Rachel

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Cheer and 2015 Year-in-Review

Instead of the annual holiday letter and a day full of addressing cards, this year we're presenting a year-in-review!  We'll still send out a few cards, but our goal this year is a more lovely recap of the year with lots of photos that will be a double win, sharing a more vivid update with friends / family and saving us the intense time of sending cards to almost everyone we care about (there are a lot of you)! We think this will be more fun for everyone. Thus, on with the show!

This year....

We've continued to love our home among the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains.  I'm also still a huge fan of visiting the ocean with every grocery visit because I find it so breathtakingly beautiful.



Tracker came back from guide dog school.  He flunked at the end of training for a fluke which left him beautifully trained to be a private service animal. He became Cameron's autism service dog.

We visited LegoLand as a family, plus Cameron's best friend, Nat.


Andrew's parents and niece visited us.  Cameron and Cousin Emma are wonderful together.


Andrew started work at Looker, a company based in Santa Cruz.  He's loving it and we had fun together at their holiday party!
WWW.Looker.Com


He's also continuing work on his Minecraft site in spare time and getting lots of traffic so that it supports itself!
http://crafting-guide.com

My beautiful niece was born and grew!



We visited Atlanta as a family and enjoyed a wonderful conference! Cameron met his online literature teacher.


Andrew and I started clarinet lessons together and Andrew has become enthralled.  He's joined a symphonic band and loves the instrument.


Cameron graduated 5th grade which is the end of elementary school here. (Year book page and hugging the principal at graduation)




Throughout 2015, Cameron did many more studies with Stanford. He's an expert at the fMRI machine and we've got soooo many colorful pictures of his brain!


Over the summer, Cameron house sat for neighbors with farm animals. He liked the goats. It was his first paid job outside of the studies.


He went to two camps and almost three.  He had his first experience of home sickness and decided that two was enough. (OVY camp, Camp Altitude... he loved the counselors)




My best friend visited with her family and we explored lots of local attraction.  So wonderful to have friend time :)


We went to Sea Ranch for a visit with my parents.  They dealt with a serious health challenge this year and it was wonderful to spend quality time together. We played lots of games together and apart and brought the clarinets too.



I started singing in a local chorus that does barbershop and is stretching my skills!  I've made my first recording with them and been coached by famous international directors.  Exciting!


Cameron started at Scotts Valley Middle School. He also changed from doing intermediate gymnastics every week to doing it only monthly.  He began a new martial art called YAMA.



My aunt and uncle visited from Vermont.  We explored and visited the Winchester Mystery House.


Cameron turned twelve and had a birthday at the park again. It was just what he wanted.


My mom and I visited Safari West for our birthday and enjoyed all the exotic animals!


We spend the Thanksgiving holiday at my parents' house for the annual Chanukah / Thanksgiving / Family Photo tradition.  Lots of smiles :)


The fall is hear and we're all doing well.  We've enjoyed many fires in our wood stove and are looking forward to a cozy season!


May your holiday season be filled with warmth and cheer!

Rachel, Andrew, and Cameron