Tag Archives: P.E.

NGHS Journal: Unexpected gifts on an atypical schooling day

10 Oct

Gotcher Family Homeschool — Day 28 — October 9, 2012

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because it was “ideal” in terms of schedule, flow, and checking off a lot of boxes on the “to do” list. But God was in charge, and I believe a lot was accomplished today for His greater glory!

We didn’t get off to a great start. The girls decided to have a “slumber party” last night and sleep together in the full-size bottom bunk. Despite many “go to bed” calls from our bedroom, I heard their giggles and voices well past 1:30am. I found out tonight that they were actually up past 3am… Needless to say, everyone was sleepy and we didn’t get going with our day until about 10am.

Because my two youngest girls had Worship Dance class at noon, that didn’t give us much time to accomplish anything before we had to be out the door for the 20-minute drive to class. With this in mind, I told my eldest two that they could independently work on their presentations for tomorrow’s Elementary Presentation Day with our local homeschool group. Breakfast was eaten at the school table today, and somehow I also managed to squeeze in a shower before we were out the door.

But not before I spent at least 15 minutes doing my personal devotion time and bible reading. This has become a non-negotiable for me. No matter how off schedule I am going to be due to sleep issues, missed alarms, or simply not being disciplined enough to wake up early, I spend the first 15-20 minutes of my day filling my mind with God’s truth and talking to Him. I read from a daily devotional downloaded to my iPhone, highlight key scriptures, tap in some personal notes, recite some key verses several times to get memorization started, pray and wait on the Lord.

It might not seem like a very big deal for those who are disciplined in a daily morning devotional hour, but for someone like me who used to jump (literally) out of bed after hitting snooze several times and immediately hit the ground running — and not stop until I hit the sheets exhausted at night — this shift in gears was a huge change that took a lot of retraining.

No longer am I hitting the to-do list with a pit in my stomach that is further exacerbated by the two-plus cups of coffee that I would call “breakfast” and send my day into hyperdrive. Instead, I receive my energy for the day from God’s presence and words of truth, and I rise with a sense of peace and purpose received from time spent in prayer and praise.

I’ve also substituted those two cups of breakfast coffee for an energy-boosting smoothie: Greek yogurt, a banana, and a few ounces of “Blue Goodness” juice quickly whipped together with an immersion hand blender. There’s still some coffee involved after that, but it’s no longer all that sustains me until noon.

Back to today: We made it to the first of two back-t0-back dance classes, but we were about 10 minutes late. I had sacrificed my post-breakfast coffee to get there on time, so after dropping my 5-year-old Elise off in her class, I swung right back out of the parking lot to the nearest drive-through Starbucks. When I returned to the church where the worship dance classes are held, I settled down in the lobby couches with the other homeschooling moms passing time during the first session of classes while my two eldest got some school reading done.

This week, I was also suited up to participate in a fitness walk that one of the moms offered to lead during the second session of dance classes starting at 1pm. Last week, I had waved off the opportunity so I could get some lesson planning done on my laptop, but when the moms returned sweaty and panting, I realized this wasn’t just a leisurely walk — those mamas got a workout! Today, I couldn’t wait to join in and get some much-needed exercise.

The fitness walk was fabulous! The mother who led it has some experience with leading this style of interval training, so our walk was infused with interval stops of sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, and more — even the infamous fat-burning “burpee” move! Sharing this invigorating workout with other time-crunched homeschooling moms added another layer of support and fun to the experience. I found myself wishing we had dance class twice a week just so I could get another workout in with these inspiring ladies!

Those squeezed-in conversations with other moms in my shoes are such a blessing and a gift. This time, it was sharing ideas on how to get out more with our kids and encourage some family fitness along with all the extracurricular “PE” the kids do through all the wonderful programs out there like CMA’s Worship Dance. It was discussing how we deal with the Halloween “dilemma” in our families and what God has revealed to us personally on this topic. It was laughing about who was sweating more, panting louder and cheating on her push-ups. It was nourishing in all the ways we need to be fed as a community of homeschooling mamas.

After both Elise and my 10-year-old Claire were done with their dance classes, we headed back home for lunch, after-lunch chores, and one more hour of schoolwork before the girls would be “excused” to play outside with the neighbor friends who would be home from school by about that time. Once the girls were outside, I turned to getting all of my “computer” work done: Checking email, updating Facebook for the NextGen Homeschool blog, handling updates for the local homeschool group Web site (which is my board member responsibility), updating our family’s online homeschooling planner/tracker, etc. My awesome chef of a hubby was making chili tonight, so I had extra time to get all my to-do’s accomplished before dinner.

Tonight I was really motivated to clear my plate because it was time for our local homeschool group’s twice-a-month mom’s prayer meeting. This is something new to our group’s calendar, and it has quickly become one of the things I look forward to most every month. It’s informal, open to all, and it’s been awesome to see how God has drawn certain moms consistently to participate in a couple of hours of honest sharing and focused prayer for our families, our group, our community, and more. In just two months, we’ve already seen a lot of answered prayers and God working in miraculous ways through our prayer time.

Although there were just four of us there tonight, I believe God knew exactly who needed to be there and why. We discovered that there were more than a few common themes challenging all four of our families — and that by bringing us together, God revealed His wisdom and solutions throughout our prayer time. God also spoke to me directly through a scriptural truth He had placed on another mom’s heart to share with me. It was so undeniably for me in this very moment in time that I am still in awe of how clearly God chose to speak to me, and it was a message I desperately needed to hear.

Today was a great homeschooling day. Not because of what we did, but because of what HE did. Tonight I am thankful for God’s many, many gracious gifts today. Thankful that He was ever-present with me and my family today. For providing fellowship. Even time for fitness. Lots of fun! Friends. Fruitfulness. Family. Forgiveness. Faith-building. Fear-banishing. Filled hearts. Freedom! Freshness.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” — 2 Cor. 3:18

Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She and her family currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: What about “co-op” schooling?

14 Sep

Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!

This week’s question is: What about cooperative — aka “co-op” — homeschooling? The “co-op” homeschooling landscape has changed significantly since we were all homeschooled. Back then, we were fortunate to have occasional park days and group field trips with other homeschooling families. Today, “co-op” opportunities are more prevalent than ever as the homeschooling community has grown — especially in populated areas. With so much available, what do NextGen Homeschoolers choose to utilize and why?

NextGen Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010: Son (6) and daughter (4)

After attending two different co-ops in the past two years and learning about how several others work, here are my personal opinions regarding incorporating a “co-op” into your homeschool plans:

1) Decide if you are joining the co-op for social or academic reasons. Ask yourself: Am I joining because I’d like my children to learn how to interact with other kids? Or am I joining because I feel like I could really use some more support in a particular academic area?

If it’s a social reason, be ready to train. There are great Christian moms out there — myself included — who still don’t have their children’s behavior down to a science. Be prepared for many learning experiences alongside your kids in loving, forgiving and saying “no” when necessary.

If it’s an academic reason, just make sure you are aware of the responsibilities and expectations of the group. There be a lot more work than you are ready to take on. Or it might be the push you needed to get some science experiments done!

2) Establish common goals. A co-op can be anything from meeting for a park day once a week to meeting twice a week to cover history and Spanish in a group setting. The most important thing is that you and the other moms are on the same page as to what you’d like (or not like) to accomplish. When more moms start to join your group, be prepared for more ideas — which could help or hinder your co-op. Keep your co-op goals in focus.

3) Lay the foundation first. Whether you are starting a co-op or joining an existing co-op, it’s important to know things like, “will this be a Christian co-op or open to all homeschoolers?” Again, you might think this is a given, but it’s not. And there’s no right answer, only the one that works best for you. Do you want to be a part of a mixed group or do you feel spiritual agreement is important to the education of your child? If these questions aren’t addressed from the beginning, they will likely play a role later when subjects are brought to the table on which you have different worldview perspectives, and this can cause division in the group.

4) Smaller is better. Large co-ops are great, as long as you are breaking up into smaller groups at some point — not more than three or four children per adult for most teaching situations. There should be clear parameters as to how many kids and what ages you’d like to join. Not to be exclusive, but to ensure the time is productive and organized — accomplishing what was expected to be accomplished. I think there has to be a really strong leadership group with a vision to pull off seven or more family groups without details falling through the cracks.

One-on-one groups are still my favorite. Find one family whose kids’ ages are in common with yours and take turns covering subjects such as art, art history, science projects, etc., and meet once a week or every other week. The ideas are endless — and it gives your kids something to look forward to during the week.

5) Seasons in your life change. What was a great idea one year may not be the next. Don’t feel bad about changing course: Do what’s right for you and for your kids.

I am the first to say “yes” to everything. I like meeting new people and getting in on what’s good to get in on. But there comes a point that it truly does more damage than good. You are tired by the end of the week, your kids are tired of you yelling at them to get in the car because you’re late once again, and you find your whole goal of homeschooling — to establish good character, consistent rhythms and routines in your home, and reading all those great books — has gone out the window.

I can say that being a part of a co-op has never failed to allow me to be in touch with other great moms. But once you meet some families that work well with yours, joining a co-op simply to hang out with them is not your only answer, though it might be a good start. Impromptu visits to share curriculum and drink coffee once a month or fun picnics will do just as well — and sometimes save your sanity.

NextGen Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010: Three daughters ages 11 1/2, 10 and 5

Back when my mom started homeschooling in the late 80s, I only had two years left of high school. Most of my college requirements (especially in math and science) were completed already, so I don’t remember my mom looking for co-op educational opportunities as much as social ones. We did attend park days and field trips with other families, and our support group even had a “promotion night” at the end of the year to celebrate graduates at all ages.

When I started homeschooling, I was really excited to learn about the vast opportunities available now. In fact, the support group I joined was offering weekly co-op classes for elementary ages & teens taught at a classroom-like location, covering subjects such as art, language, music, geography and writing. I dove in right away, because in my mind this was the perfect blend between the mostly solo homeschooling I had experienced and the traditional school atmosphere. Even though it was nice to have subjects like art and music covered by parents who excelled in these areas, I was really looking to fill our social needs more than anything.

However, our support group had grown so much that year, the formal weekly co-op wasn’t going to be sustainable for the future without a major shift in the group’s mission and administration. So in our second year of homeschooling, I had to look outside our group for existing co-ops other than the field trips and monthly activities provided by my group. In the end, our only weekly co-op was an organized homeschool PE program, and once a month we did elementary presentation day with our support group. We also did weekly AWANA at our church, and the girls had lots of friends they enjoyed spending time with there.

It was an easier schedule to maintain, for sure, but I found that I really did miss the regular social interaction with the other homeschooling moms. Plus, my eldest two daughters were entering the “tween” phase, and I could tell that they needed more opportunities to develop healthy friendships. The final straw that broke this mama’s back was when the homeschooling family around the corner — who also had three daughters of similar ages to mine, making playdates and impromptu social times a snap — moved to Wyoming in the spring. All three of my girls were losing a close friend, and I was losing a mama friend too!

This year, our homeschool support group decided to hold a co-op workshop over the summer to introduce the idea of establishing small co-ops on our own within the group. We currently have more than 70 families in membership, and the idea was that if we could help connect families with common goals and children of common ages with one another, co-ops could flourish in a more organic way. I knew I really wanted a co-op for myself and my girls, so I was really excited about this idea.

At the same time, I had been feeling a nudge from the Lord to do a tween girls book club, both to give my girls a good social opportunity and turn them on to books with Godly character focus. I shared the idea at our co-op workshop, and before I knew it, I had a handful of moms of tween girls interested in starting the book club with me! God is awesome that way: He really brought a wonderful group of moms and girls together with a common mission and focus. Getting the logistics into place has been a breeze because we’re all on the same page.

The co-op is a little larger than I had planned: We have 13 moms, and more than a few have more than one daughter participating. At our first mixer yesterday, I counted 33 total moms and daughters chatting up a storm in my house — and that wasn’t everyone! We decided to split up the girls into three small discussion groups by age, and every meeting will conclude with at least an hour of social time and snacking. Moms will be taking turns providing snacks, supervising the younger siblings during discussion time, and hosting at their home. We’re reading the “Secret Keeper Girl” fictional series by Dannah Gresh first, and many of the moms will also be doing the group activities from Gresh’s “8 Great Dates for Moms & Daughters” together as well.

I completely agree with the advice my sister Cristina shared. Co-ops can be such a blessing when they meet the needs of your family! But they can also get you off track, keep you too busy, or distract from what you personally want to accomplish as a homeschooling parent. I do think that it’s vital to find some form of support with other homeschoolers in your community, though. Pray about it, and I believe that God will open the right doors for you to find the support you need.

NextGen Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005: Two homeschool graduate daughters & two sons (7, 1)

In the past, I have been a minimal homeschool group participant and never did formal co-ops (unless you count the days we school with my sister and her girls). My girls were middle-school age when we started homeschooling, and they didn’t really like going to new things. They had their neighborhood friends and church friends already, so they didn’t feel the need for anything else.

We did participate in one small support group, but we barely met once a month and did about three field trips a year together. I enjoyed the fellowship with a few other moms, and the girls got to spend some time making new friends. But that group disbanded years ago, and we never bothered to try again. We were busy and hanging out with my sister’s family — along with weekly PE class, a random homeschool skate day and some family field trips —  and that was enough to get us through.

But this year, I felt a major change was in order. Joel is the only one I am schooling at this time. He is in 2nd grade work, and he needs lots of activity to stay busy or else he just wants to play video games and watch cartoons on Netflix. We already meet with my sister’s family twice a week for joint schooling and go to a weekly PE class, but I felt that wasn’t enough this year.

So we signed up for soccer and piano. So far so good. So I decided I’d also join the Victory Homeschool Group and enroll Joel in their Monday co-op classes. He will be taking art and science, as well as participating in a Lego Club, on Mondays. And I must admit, I am feeling isolated and in need of friendship.

Already I am starting to feel too busy. Monday is co-op from 1:00-4:00pm. Tuesday is soccer practice. Wednesday my toddler Leif is at Mother’s Day Out. Thursday Leif is at MDO again, and from 10:00am-2:00pm my sister Liz comes over here, plus we have 2:00pm PE, 4:30pm piano lesson, and a 7:00pm soccer practice. Friday we are at Liz’s house from 10:00am-2:00pm. Saturday there are soccer games. At least soccer is over at the end of October!

Joel is loving it all right now. He has also had a chance to go skating twice since school started. We went to Homeschool Skate Day a couple of weeks ago, and a week ago we went to the Victory Group Kick-off Party at a skating rink inside a large church.

Yeah… So attending that kick-off party reminded me why I didn’t like joining groups in the past. It is excruciatingly painful trying to meet new people — for me anyway. I’m not exactly shy, but I’m not very outgoing and I just felt very awkward all night. The boys played and made new friends, but I just stood on the sidelines watching and trying to find someone I thought I could start a conversation with.

The biggest problem I realized right away was that I was pretty much the only one there without her spouse (and it wasn’t publicized that this was a bring-your-spouse event). Add that to the fact that most of the people already knew each other and had things to talk about. I’m not saying people weren’t nice: They said “hi” and welcome, but then they moved on.

At one point I went to the bathroom and checked the mirror to make sure my clothes were straight and that Leif hadn’t left stains on my clothes, my hair was still in place (somewhat), and that I still had makeup on — so that wasn’t the problem. I tried to smile friendly and I even stepped outside my comfort zone (even more) when at one point I started a conversation with someone who I thought might have a friend in common with me. Nope — that conversation lasted about two minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not judging the people there for not inviting me in or being more friendly. I have been where they are, with all my friends around me and so much to talk about and catch up on that I totally didn’t realize there was a new, nervous person in the room. It is hard to think about drawing new people in when you are in your comfort group. Especially if that new person looks awkward and you aren’t sure how to approach them. I just hope that once Joel starts class and we are around the parents a little more, things will get easier. Because I don’t think I can handle another night like last night.

We attended our first co-op day this past Monday afternoon. I took Leif to the childcare, then found Joel’s art class. After taking care of that, I ran a quick errand. I was back by second hour, when Joel had science class. I had a conversation with a couple of moms about curriculum before I picked up Leif, and that was enjoyable.

During the third hour, there is no childcare available so Leif and I tried hanging out in the cafe. After chasing Leif around for 30 minutes, I finally gave up and went to Joel’s third hour class, which was Lego Club. He was having fun and I discovered there were other moms sitting in the back of the room talking, so Leif and I joined them. I talked for a bit with a mom I somewhat knew. By now, the fact that Leif hadn’t had a nap and had eaten very little lunch was quite apparent so we left as soon as class was over.

Overall a good first day, and I will be better prepared with lunch and activities for Leif next week to help make it a more enjoyable experience.  🙂

_________

How do you view co-op homeschooling opportunities? What do you utilize and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic!

We are also taking NEW questions for upcoming “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler” features. Send your questions to nextgenhomeschool@gmail.com or post them as comments to this article (and let us know if it’s OK to quote you if we use your question). We look forward to responding to your homeschooling questions!

My, How Times Have Changed!

20 Oct

By Renée Gotcher

“When I was a kid, I had to walk five miles to school… uphill… in the snow!”

We’ve all heard that one before — Grandpa’s way of saying, “Stop complaining! You’ve got it pretty good, kid!” And even though he didn’t actually walk five miles uphill, in the snow, to get to school everyday, we know he’s right: Things are better (or at least easier) for us now than they were back then. And soon, we find ourselves telling our kids the same thing.

As a NextGen Homeschooler, I find myself feeling like Grandpa when it comes to the modern conveniences of homeschooling. For example, when my daughters complain about missing the weekly cooperative classes our local homeschool group used to offer last year, my typical response goes something like this: “Yes, co-ops are fun and I can see why you miss them, but when I was homeschooled, we had to drive more than an hour away from home just to be around other homeschooling families, let alone try to do classes together. I was just happy to have a field trip every now and then!”

My girls love playing team sports like volleyball at PE Plus.

Another common whimper: “I wish PE Plus was more than once a week!” To that, I reply: “At least you have a homeschool PE class, and there are homeschool sports teams you can join. When I was homeschooled, I was just happy to get a park day every once in a while and be outside with other kids besides my six sisters and baby brother!”

You get the picture. Times have certainly changed since I was a homeschooled high school student, mourning the loss of team sports, cheerleading, student council, the school newspaper, and five days a week with my peers — away from home, away from my six sisters and baby brother. Those two years of homeschool were an adjustment for me in more ways than one. We didn’t have weekly cooperative classes, homeschool PE, or other local programs to enrich our homeschooling experience with some of the extras I was missing. It took every ounce of obedience still left in my teenage know-it-all brain to go with the flow of homeschooling and leave all that behind.

So when I decided to homeschool my own children 21 years later, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the wealth of opportunities available to homeschoolers today. Curriculum is now so widespread and diverse, you can fill up a whole convention center hall with booths and tables selling it. Local supplemental programs offer homeschoolers everything from weekly PE, team sports, art, music (bands, orchestras, and choirs), drama, dance, debate, science labs, presentations, competitions, cooperative electives, and even cooperative curriculum (ie. Classical Conversations). On top of all the local offerings, you hop onto the Internet and the list grows exponentially. You name it, you can have it — in spades!

In other words, many of the challenges (and children’s complaints) that my parents faced a generation ago as pioneering homeschoolers have long since been addressed. Today’s homeschooling parents have “got it pretty good” compared to their predecessors. From the local support groups, legal defense organizations and state independent umbrella schools that provide a great foundation, to the in-person and online programs that can supplement or even completely cover your homeschool curriculum, homeschooling success has never been easier to achieve.

My 5th grader Audrey plans for our homeschool group's monthly Presentation Day weeks in advance.

At first, I was thrilled to pour through the lists of local resources. All of my fears about pulling my social, physically active girls out of a school they enjoyed started to fade. I felt confident that no matter what the girls were “missing,” I could easily replace with an excellent homeschool alternative. Problem solved!

It didn’t take long for that excitement to become an overwhelming sense of confusion. The more I asked other moms what they used, the more offerings I discovered. The list went on and on, and I found myself paralyzed by options. How many hours of outside education was I willing to commit to on a regular basis? How much driving across the Denver metro-area sprawl would I have time for? How much additional parental involvement would be required? And how would I keep up with the structured daily schedule of the curriculum I had chosen?

Before you know it, your schedule could easily be filled with more activities, programs, and cooperative classes than when your kids were actually in school seven hours a day. At that point, what are you really accomplishing? And what kind of message are you sending your children about the purpose of homeschooling?

I found myself longing for the “simple” days of my own homeschooling experience, when my mom would give me lectures at the local fast food restaurant using the back of paper napkins as her white board, while my youngest siblings unleashed their energy on the outdoor playground. Although at the time I was missing some of the more fun, social aspects of school, I really absorbed a lot during those two years at home under a very loose and simple educational approach. And most of what I learned would have never been a part of any traditional high school curriculum, though it’s the stuff I draw from most in my life today.

It was wisdom. And in my mom’s simple homeschool, gaining Godly wisdom was front and center. I had to remind myself that the reason my husband and I chose to homeschool in the first place was not to replicate or improve upon the traditional school experience — and fill our days with “better” versions of the same activities — but to replace it with a learning environment that would cultivate a desire for Godly wisdom in our children. It’s my turn to “pass it on,” to give my own children the best of what I’d received from my mom during those “no-frills” early years of homeschooling.

This year, a switch in curriculum was my first step to get my homeschool back on track. At the same time, I wholeheartedly appreciate the fact that there are vast resources available for homeschooling families to take advantage of. In fact, the ever-increasing menu of homeschool support programs should be a great comfort to those parents who are still unsure about homeschooling, are concerned about teaching upper-level courses or certain subjects, or have limited time or resources to provide a complete curriculum on their own.

My 3rd grader Claire's speaking skills have significantly improved thanks to our homeschool group's Presentation Day.

I have just learned that I need to carefully pick and choose those things which best complement what I want to accomplish, rather than take away from it. For us, that’s things like weekly PE, monthly presentation days, fine arts like ballet and piano lessons, and several field trips each month. After all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

Another mom in my local homeschool group brought up this very issue with me today over coffee. She’d decided to try a new charter school for her 12-year-old daughter that offers middle/high school homeschoolers a chance to plug in for classes like science labs, advanced math, and even AP courses, a couple of days a week. It’s only October, and already she is doubting how long she will continue. For starters, once you’re used to being 100-percent in charge of your homeschool program, it’s hard to give away one or two days a week of your agenda so your kids can be part of someone else’s agenda. Especially when decisions like curriculum and scheduling are out of your hands. Then there’s driving across town, reworking the rest of your schedule to fit the program’s schedule, the reintroduction of homework, and you can imagine where the conversation went from there.

At the end of our discussion, we came to the conclusion that the absolute best part about homeschooling is that you never have to be stuck with something that isn’t working for you. Whether it’s curriculum, scheduling, supplemental programs, extracurricular activities, or even the fact that you’re homeschooling at all, you can always change your mind! You’re in charge, and the ability to wake up tomorrow and say, “I’m doing something different today” is priceless.

Hopefully, that part of homeschooling will never change!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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