Why the Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative?

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There are some revelations I have had in homeschooling my children.  Concepts, that as a public school parent following public school philosophies, I was unaware existed.  And today is the day I would like to share them with the world.  (They directly relate to the title.)

  1. I am more than capable of teaching my own children.  Because I am the expert on my child, and I am a capable and resourceful adult, I do not need to be the expert on specific subjects.
  2. Other families are not homeschooling for the same reason I am.
  3.  Homeschoolers are what I affectionately call “Fringe People” because they are on the fringes of society for WAY more reasons than homeschooling. (Relates back to #2)
  4. There are subjects I love facilitating.  Writing and math and art and history are some that come to mind.  And I hated history in high school.  
  5. There are subjects I’d rather pay someone else to teach.  For me this includes science and banjo.  I have no clue how to teach banjo.  
  6. The evolution and creation debate is a real thing.  
  7. I am in the minority as a homeschooler living here in the deep south by taking the Bible symbolically.
  8. Right before I started homeschooling someone asked me if I was on the “hippie” or “Christian” side of homeschooling. I didn’t understand the question.  Now I do.
  9. I have rediscovered who I am by giving up my daily ME time and instead keeping my kids with ME.  This is not to say that I don’t still need ME time….
  10. The relationships within our family unit have grown stronger, and I know my kids in a way I never knew I was even missing.
  11. 4-H is for all types of kids.  Not just the farm kids.
  12. Technology is creative.
  13. Screen time is important.
  14. My kids are motivated.  To learn.  Without my interference.  Saturday afternoons while I nap provide weekly proof.

Which brings me to: Why the Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative?

Our family has embraced homeschooling and looks forward to continuing.  Yet as my children get older, there are certain subjects I do not feel confident in teaching to a degree that would truly challenge my boys’ potential.  Knowing that AP Chemistry wouldn’t be my strong suit from the onset of this adventure, I have been researching options that homeschoolers use to teach higher level courses.

What I have found is lots of co-ops.  Co-ops are groups that meet weekly or more to study and socialize.  Most written work is still done at home, but students can work in groups and/ or receive the benefits of having various parents that ARE experts in some particular subject.

Unfortunately, the co-ops I have found do not fully align with my personal beliefs or are too far from where we live or are specifically secular or only meet one child’s needs.  Now, we have friends that participate in these co-ops and are thriving.  The ones I have considered are well run and offer some intriguing options.  These could be viable choices.

But.

In my heart there is not a creation debate.  My God’s creativity never ceases to amaze me, and it also does not cause conflict with evolutionary theory for me.  So when we talk about high school science courses, this becomes a conflict with some of my best co-op choices.

We really don’t want to drive an hour and a half.  My favorite co-op would require travelling to our state capital weekly.  This is just too much.  I also cannot handle two different co-ops in order to cover both children.  I need one, cohesive environment.

We are not secular people.  Religion and spirituality and faith and an idea of a being larger than ourselves fascinates more than just Christians.  Some of my most enriching experiences in life come from stepping out of my familiar and into another person’s reality.  Eating dinner with our Hindu friends and my father’s description of an African wedding ceremony and a Seder meal led by a Rabbi and the funeral spoken completely in Spanish for a sweet friend (complete with a Mariachi band) are cherished memories.  I want more than “secular” for my children.  If they mention faith or discuss spirituality in co-op, I consider that a rich blessing.

Because of these challenges, one day I started discussing with friends what I would love to see for my children in my “dream co-op”.  This included collaborative learning techniques and collaboration in the planning of courses among teachers and students, friendships, SCIENCE! classes, flexible structure, academic rigor, help in incorporating technology, stability, and accountability.  That day was the start of Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative.

Learn Bravely encompasses what I want for my children.  (See my list of revelations.)

It’s mission statement is as follows:

Learn Bravely seeks to encourage interests and develop friendships through a collaborative and structured learning environment for our children. We offer interactive classes using inquiry-based, student-focused techniques. Our online component allows students to continue exploring and collaborating between class sessions. We ultimately want our children to have the courage to pursue learning passionately and to think critically along the way.

By starting Learn Bravely Inclusive Cooperative, we embrace a new path for educating our children. Hopefully we can also help bridge gaps others may have also experienced through homeschooling their children.   For me personally, the title Learn Bravely embraces what it feels like to start such a venture, and we are very excited to see Learn Bravely grow through both the students and the families it serves.

Lent and Shopping

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I gave up Walmart.  Not that hard, seemingly.  Four days in, and I realized why I like Walmart.  It takes some of the work out of making decisions and it means less in and out of a car when running errands.

My first challenge came on the second day of Lent when I needed to buy underwear and socks.  I ended up at a local favorite, The Big Deal.  This is the equivalent of a small Big Lots.  If Big Lots was local.  And low and behold, there they carry underwear.  Sadly, the socks were for me and they didn’t have what I need, so as of yet, I haven’t bought socks.  Those would be at Walmart.  Where I am not going.

Next challenge came on four days in.  We ended up driving over to the next town to do our shopping.  Both boys needed “dress” shoes.  Let’s use this word loosely, since what I mean by “dress” is “not caked in mud” and “not athletic wear”.  Kelly and I headed east about twenty miles and started at the local shoe store, Lebo’s.  We found Kelly some fantastic cowboy boots with leather toes and camo shafts.  Perfect for my little banjo player.  They also had a selection of Tom’s and a small selection of boy’s shoes, including some great Merrill’s for little people.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have what my older, preppy child wanted.  They had the Sperry’s, just not in his size.  Next was grocery shopping at Publix, where I had to make way too many decisions and read too many labels to make sure I bought the reasonably healthy choices.  Exhausting.  But, we don’t have a fancy grocery store like Publix in my town, and therefore we enjoyed the pleasant ambiance.  So finally, we ended up at Shoe Carnival.  Quickly found the shoes my older boy could be seen in around town.  At which point, I was asked if I didn’t want to go ahead and buy one more pair since it was a sale.  The second pair of shoes would be half.  Y’all, I wandered around the women’s shoes unable to focus.  Too many choices.  I hadn’t come for myself, and shoes for me weren’t on my list, and I could not concentrate.  No more decisions could be made.  We left with just that one pair.  No sale shoes.  No more choices.

And this is why I think I enjoy Walmart.  I can wander around one big place, but really, for each item I need, there aren’t a whole lot of options.  We eat good, healthy, not so processed food.  Walmart only has little pockets of that.  So decisions are made by simple lack of choice.  Their shoes are not all that fantastic.  Only one or two pairs in the boys section would I allow my children to be seen in around town.  Done.  Not that the older would wear shoes from Walmart anymore, but still.

I am not a shopper.

This is the reason it has taken Lent to make me try another way.  It requires making choices.  And it is tiring.  Is this why we have abandoned our mom and pop stores?  It required getting in and out of the car and they gave us too many quality choices?  Not judging here.  I already told you yesterday wore me out.  Just pondering.

Now, for those that are curious, so far I have bought items at:

Watson Farms – http://www.watsonfarmsbeef.com  This is where I get our meat, and I drive to their farm monthly.  Just over the county line, but actually closer than the next town for me.

Publix – I had to go to another town for this one.  Groceries

Lebo’s – Local shoe store in the next town over.  Fun place for those that like western wear and the nicer brand western or hippy/ hiking/ ergonomic shoes.  Insanely cool boots!

Shoe Carnival – Shoe store chain in the other town.

The Big Deal – A Big Lots with a local flair.  Right here in town.

Life of Fred Mathematics

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There are certain math curriculums that make learning miserable.  Kill joy.  Take the smiles and turn those suckers upside down.

And then there is Life of Fred.

Life of Fred is written by an old math teacher, Stanley Schmidt.  It is the ongoing story of Fred, a mathematics professor at Kittens University.  Fred is also five years old.  Kid genius.  Sleeps under his desk.  Gets himself into ridiculous situations.  Constantly needs mathematics in order to extricate himself from said situations.  Oh, and Fred doesn’t have parents.

Each chapter is a lesson.  At the end of each chapter is a your turn to play.  Every day, my kids grab Life of Fred first.  Can’t wait to get started on math.  When the new books arrive in the mail, they sit at the kitchen table to have a ceremonious opening of the package.  Math is THAT exciting.

We discovered Life of Fred after suffering through two months of another popular homeschool math curriculum.  We all sighed audibly when it was time for math, and each day a little bit of happiness died in all of us.  Math can be THAT miserable.  Even to me, and I love mathematics.  But one day, a sweet savior, another homeschool mom, recommended we order just one book from Mr. Schmidt.  We jumped on an opportunity to do any. thing. else.

This coming week, we have friends coming over to the house for a Life of Fred Day.  We are introducing our fifth family in two years to Life of Fred.  We love mathematics enough to actually have a play day centered around it.   Fred really is that much fun.

So, looking for a mathematics curriculum?  I recommend Life of Fred, by Stanley Schmidt.  To preview and order his books, visit

http://www.stanleyschmidt.com/FredGauss/index2.html

 

Ash Wednesday

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The season of Lent in the liturgical calendar has always stood out as important in my book.  As a child, it was the dreaded time we were forced to give up something we valued, such as candy.  It was a terrible season, and I tried my best to make it through by giving up brussel sprouts instead.  Frozen, out of the bag, straight into boiling water, style brussel sprouts.  They were hideous, and my mother served them for dinner.  So I quite piously refused them on my plate for 46 days each and every year.  Lent is technically 40 days, which allows one to exclude Sundays, but I always felt that was cheating, taking a break each week, especially when it involved olive balls of sludge.

Fast forward to today, and my family has been practicing Lent for several years.  Amazingly, the simple act of practicing Lent as a child translated into a deeper connection with my faith as an adult.  And even though I dreaded the season as a girl, saved only by the ability to escape slimy vegetables, as a woman and mother I cherish this time to refocus on my faith and refocus our guidance with our children.  Some years have been more meaningful than others, some easier, some incredibly difficult, but always important even in some small way.

Last year was the only year I remember not participating.  Looking Ash Wednesday in the face and refusing to try.  But I was also helping to nurse my dying mother and giving her up was more than I could handle.   Watching her deteriorate and my father lose his sole mate was more sacrifice than I had signed on for ever.  Even the simple act of refusing meat on Fridays was too much.  More than I could remember.  Losing my mother was an experience in drowning from grief and resilience and joy all tumbled together.  I spent time with and saw people I missed dearly, death bringing those together near and far, and yet I lost one of my rocks.  So while I didn’t get angry at God, I figured He understood my apathy towards that particular Lenten season.  Besides, He and I were on close speaking terms.  He was good with me.

And so now, here we are.  Ash Wednesday.  It is that time to give up and give outwardly; focus on our relationship with Christ, with God, with our Holy Spirit residing in us.  The kids have been involved in planning each Lenten season, oftentimes being the deepest thinkers and most diligent in their Lenten practice.  This amazes me, given my childhood track record. As a family, we’ve given up meat on Fridays, inhumanely raised meat completely, just pork, unnecessary shopping, and anger towards each other.  We have practiced disciplines, such as writing, drawing out daily prayers, making stations of the cross, and on and on.

This year is no different, except that the boys are getting older.  Each wants to dictate his own Lenten exercise.  For Key, we are to eat at the table as a family once daily.  Time where we talk to each other, discuss issues, debate thoughts, is valuable to him and he misses it.  Truth be told, we all miss it, and I am grateful to him in claiming this one.  For Kelly, and also Key, he is to practice his banjo each day.  Kelly’s music brings him joy, and he wants to focus on it.  Key has agreed that practicing violin each day would benefit him as well.  All of these disciplines are worthy Lenten exercises.

And for me?  Well, I am giving up Walmart.  I am giving up the big box super giant that makes me feel the need to shower after shopping.  Local businesses will be seeing me more often as I try to accomplish tasks, such as oil changes and buying Triscuits, without Walmart as a crutch.  Walmart stirs up emotions that I cannot clarify, such as guilt and stress and yet relief of its convenience.  Is it all bad?  Does it serve a purpose in a small town community?  Is it the evil cause for downtown’s current demise?  Can I find everyday items elsewhere without driving thirty minutes to the next town over? These are the questions Huffpost articles regularly tackle, and I will be researching answers for the York community for the next 46 days.  By ignoring Walmart, I can readjust my lens in search of local sources for my everyday needs.

How does this relate to my spiritual practice and my relationship with Christ?

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31“The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:31

This is my humble attempt at loving my community.  Care to join me?

Community Action and Twelve Year Olds

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I took the kids to their first ever community action meeting.  I cared to go, and since the husband was working, the boys got to see people come together to try to talk about and make a plan for an issue.  Now here is the deal with community action groups.  All the people in attendance are probably passionate about said issue.  But they don’t agree.  At all.  Some are local politicians trying to smoothly explain how they love their peeps, have no money, can’t vote for, but definitely support current issue.  Others are newbies to the community action arena, such as myself, and find the whole process fascinating and mildly amusing.  A few think they are in charge.  May have even called the meeting in the first place; want to be the peacemakers and delegators.  There are, of course, the local listeners scattered about that read about the whole meeting in the local paper two days prior. (These are the ones that pull in the newbies.)  And then there are the vocals.  Vocals have been spending YEARS on such issue, are P.Oed, defensive, sure its a done disaster, want smooth politicians to fix it or stuff it, and yet, despite the certain failure, Can’t. Let. Go.  These are my fascination.  The Vocals.

In this particular situation, said issue is agritourism.  The vocals are the horse peeps.  The politicians are the southern men in suits.  The rest are farmers, townies, landowners, and a few employees with city relations.

Anyway, back to the whole story.  The boys took tablets and books and sat off to the side, while I listened.  From what I gather, back about eight years ago the vocals worked long hours and several seasonal rotations to bring an agricultural tourism center to York County.  According to them, they cooperated with county council, found land, got estimates for a building council wanted, and then got turned down cold at the last minute.  County council refused to pay for it in the end, and those vocals felt deeply cheated, having done all the research and leg work.  Problem was, the center was set to operate at a million dollar loss yearly.  Now, I don’t have to be the financial whiz in town to tell you we are a relatively poor county.  We have some rich segments, but the half of the county I live in is rural.  And rural doesn’t pour money in the pot.

Well, here we are again, eight years later, and my peeps still want that agritourism center.  And frankly, they are right.  It is a great idea.  Agriculture, farming, horses, cattle, pullets, is what we got and what our county is good at.  So why not capitalize on the opportunity to bring in supporters of the local farming movement and provide our regionally renowned horse peeps and 4-H kiddos a place to show off the goods?  A centralized farmer’s market would be fabulous.  I would be so, so happy.  But.  It cannot cost millions to build and millions to run.  It cannot operate at a loss.  It has to be self supporting.  Otherwise, it is just another government project, and county council doesn’t want another project, and Dear Lord we all know government in general doesn’t need more projects.  So this new group called this meeting to discuss revamping a plan.  My local representative made lots of us laugh when he got quoted in the Herald for suggesting the Eagle Scouts build us the first shed.  But in truth, that’s about right.  I finally spoke up suggesting a list of farmers and agricultural products in the county might be a good place to start before we call in the Eagle Scouts and the land surveyors.  Maybe a web page might be cheaper right off the bat.  You know, get somewhat organized before we agree to host an equestrian show.  But again, I am one of the newbies.

Well, all the while this went on, the boys were reading books and playing on tablets.  So afterwards I asked if they’d heard any bit of that meeting.  My twelve year old, he looked up from his book.

This is where it just takes the cake.  The whole picture, from the eyes of a twelve year old.  If only adults were so smart sometimes.

And he said, “I didn’t pay attention the whole time.  But it seemed like these people want this big building on some farmland, and they want to have the council pay for it.  But the council was nice enough to show up and tell them from the start they aren’t going to.  They don’t have the money.  Well, all that did was make the horse people angry, but truthfully, he did them a favor.  If they want the place, they are going to have to figure out how to make it without council’s money.”  I pointed out that to the vocals, it felt like a door slammed in their faces once again, and that politician brought up old resentment.  But again, my boy just replied, “I know.  I feel sorry for those people.  But it isn’t that man’s fault council doesn’t have the money to build their center.  What they really need to do is make some committees, put people from the farms and people from the council together so they can learn to work together, and then figure out what we have already.  I mean, that’s where I’d start.”

I am thinking my twelve year old should take over delegations.

We’ll let you know how this issue progresses, if we hear from anyone again….