When do you say homeschool isn't working? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 10-10-2012, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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12/9/12 Update below in #17...

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One of my parents is dealing with an illness. While we do not know how long this will go on, we do know that I am the one that will be the main source of help/support during this time.  I am juggling my entire life (work, kids, husband, location) for chucnks of time each month.  Dc2 is currently homeschooled and in the 5th grade.  He is being juggled also in the midst of all this since dh works and can't take him to work with him, etc.  He came from a school situation that he was unable to handle, has a dx of adhd and anxiety, and has spent the last year working really hard not just on learning but also on his behavior.  His prior school experience was very damaging (things from earlier years with a teacher had come up after we pulled him that we did not realize had happened/affected him) and he spent so much time last year healing.  I don't want his experience this year to further damage him; I really want to be able to foster as much love and support for him as I can as I know the eventual end to the illness will result in the loss of one of his grandparents.

 

Dc2 is currently digging in heels majorly when it comes to work.  I have really worked to minimize the way I present it (way less detail oriented, etc, see my recent post- I overwhelmed him completely with my table style of planning).  He is however forever a reluctant learner.  He is great at memorizing facts, playing video games, and reading.  I am trying so hard to get him to write, but he does not like doing it.  I try to get him involved in vocabulary pages, he hates it.  Anything that requires holding a pencil. 

 

This wouldn't be so bad, but now it is various people helping him with his schooling.  I see him learning as he takes some neat outings, talks to different people, and interacts with each environment.  I also see him manipulate the situations when he can to avoid work.  We are dealing with that as it is a behavior issue, he does get consequences. I am wondering if there is some kind of free software online that would allow me to plan for him, and he could complete work online rather than in workbooks, I could reasonably keep track of it, and it wouldn't be every last nerve I have in the time I work with him.  Right now I play catch up, so he hates homeschool time with me.  He is falling behind and I am less and less able to cope with that because of my own stress and responsibilities.

 

Any ideas on stopping the spiral short of putting him in a school?  Is there anything online that would be free or of little cost that he can use to work and stay on track?

 

I already do some work with Kahn, Spelling City, Shepperds Software, and a few others.  I had tons of other links marked on my old computer, but that crashed.

Thank you for any ideas!

 

ETA- I have been thinking about this all day. When do you "give up" on homeschooling? If need be, I can quit my job and move in with my ill parent. I would keep dc2 with me and put him in the public school near my parent's home (I can not keep him at home and travel to parent's home regularly due to his anxiety).  I guess the enormity of everything on my shoulders has started to really sink in. :(  Just not sure how to get through this smoothly.

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#2 of 19 Old 10-11-2012, 08:46 PM
 
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Are you able to move your parent into your home? Is there another relative who can help you take care of them? What about options for home health nursing to give you some respite?

 

What state are you in? Do you have options for virtual schooling or charter schools?


Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds   10yo dd  8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds  
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#3 of 19 Old 10-11-2012, 08:48 PM
 
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We were homeschooling when my mom had cancer and died almost 2 years ago.  It was a hard time. We took some time off. It didn't really hamper dd's progress much in the long term.  We go year round so it is easier to go at our own pace.

 

It is okay to scrap what you had planned when you have to go into emergency or crisis mode. It isn't failing at homeschooling.

http://thesurvivalmom.com/2010/08/24/homeschool-survival-how-to-get-through-tough-times/

http://www.amblesideonline.org/HELP.shtml

 

 

Quote:

He came from a school situation that he was unable to handle, has a dx of adhd and anxiety, and has spent the last year working really hard not just on learning but also on his behavior.  His prior school experience was very damaging (things from earlier years with a teacher had come up after we pulled him that we did not realize had happened/affected him) and he spent so much time last year healing.  I don't want his experience this year to further damage him; I really want to be able to foster as much love and support for him as I can as I know the eventual end to the illness will result in the loss of one of his grandparents.

 

This is a stressful time for your family. Your ds is picking up on that and it will show up in his behavior. Shoving him in school would be another stressful adjustment and add more anxiety. I would just find a way to make sure he keeps up with math and reading and try not to stress about too much else for now. Over time things will get better.

 

Quote:
He is great at memorizing facts, playing video games, and reading.  I am trying so hard to get him to write, but he does not like doing it.  I try to get him involved in vocabulary pages, he hates it.  Anything that requires holding a pencil.

 

Can he type all his work, dictate to someone or just do it orally for the time being?

My dd was super resistant to writing by hand at one point and I backed off. Over time she became more willing to write things out.

 

Quote:
I see him learning as he takes some neat outings, talks to different people, and interacts with each environment.

 

These experiences are as important for learning as textbooks and written work. Maybe your ds could e-mail you, scrapbook or blog about what he does each day so you have a record.

 

Could you provide some details about what your ds is studying in each subject? I might be able to suggest more resources if I knew what was needed.

 

Lap books, unit studies, historical fiction, games and movies are great ways to learn.

 

Some activities from the Ambleside Online Crisis Curriculum page:

Quote:
Here are some free or almost-free things to do even if you don't have much on hand to work with: copywork (copying from books and other written material by hand), narration (telling back a story), guessing games, pencil games, dice games, card games, writing stories, writing letters, telling jokes, telling time, memory work, paper folding, listening to the radio, counting things, measuring things, fixing things, cleaning things, hopscotch, bug watching, bird watching, leaf collecting, sorting socks, acting things out, reading maps, making calendars, finger spelling, sprouting beans, drawing, cooking, walking, reading, singing, talking, listening, praying.

 

 

Is K12 or another virtual public school available in your area?

Time4Learning is not free but I think you can pay by the month so might be worth a try.


Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#4 of 19 Old 10-11-2012, 09:10 PM
 
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Unless you plan to put him back in school for some other reason, I would recommend an unschooling approach. You said you can see him learning. That's great!! Keep going with what's working. This is a time of change, and not everything needs to be covered this year. My son also hated holding a pencil. But let him work on a laptop and he flies! He types faster than anyone I know. He's older than your child, but the point is -- your child will learn, maybe just at a different time than his peers.

Take a look at the Reluctant Math Learner thread for ideas for teaching math.

After things have settled down, again, you can ger back to more school type activities, if you still think they're important. Remember, this is the only time in his life that he will get to spend time saying good-bye to this relative. Don't fill that time with fights about schoolwork.
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#5 of 19 Old 10-12-2012, 08:31 AM
 
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A few years ago my dad was dying of lymphoma. Our homeschooling was what allowed us to truly be there for him, and for the kids to build a deeper relationship with him in his final months. The kids were just there, being interesting lively little people, adding variety to his days, playing together in a corner of the room, watching a bit of TV with him, doing their stuff in an adjacent room. He was housebound a lot of the time, and eventually bedridden. He had the sense of still participating in life because my kids were part of his day-to-day sphere of awareness. It was an incredibly precious gift to him, and for them. We did almost no "homeschooling." At times we camped at his house. We cooked meals in his kitchen. We played games in his living room. We have lots of photos. They remember those months fondly. They know that what we did that year ranks as probably the most meaningful and important thing we've ever done as a family.

 

From my perspective several years later I will say that putting my kids in school that year in order to get the problem of their schooling off the table would have been a poor, short-sighted decision. It would have been a case of putting short-term shallow priorities for things like progress through a math book ahead of the sort of deep, lasting lessons they learned from "helping grandpa die." 

 

Of course, they learned many things. We just didn't do any "school-like work" unless it was something that they wanted to do self-directedly, and I didn't make any effort to nudge them in that direction. It was a very productive time from an educational standpoint: I was able to observe a lot about their natural learning and their learning styles, and they had plenty of fallow time in which to discover new interests and self-motivate. 

 

Miranda

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#6 of 19 Old 10-13-2012, 06:36 AM
 
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The best thing about homeschooling is that it can be flexible when life gets crazy. 

 

Why the emphasis on ds not falling behind and keeping on grade level?

 

Maybe keeping the same pace as school in all subjects really isn't the best approach for your ds right now. My own ds (11yo) is just finally showing more interest in writing (typing) instead of just dictating. His interest is due to wanting to interact with other kids while playing online games like Minecraft. His skills are all over the place, grade-wise. As kids grow and mature, things that used to be a struggle get easier. Backing off from some things doesn't mean they will never happen. IME, it just means they will happen more easily and quickly when they do.


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#7 of 19 Old 10-13-2012, 08:46 PM
 
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I sure wish we could sit together over a few cups of mint tea and really talk about all this instead of trying to communicate via a cold screen. I can certainly understand how you're feeling, but I want to say that it really doesn't have to be such a struggle. The questions you're asking are ones I've seen many times here and other places over the years, but I have seen people overcome the struggles and go on to a much more satisfying situation. hug.gif

I wince when I hear the term "reluctant learner," because it would be pretty unnatural for a child to be a reluctant learner - that's a term people tend to use when a child is not responding positively to traditional school work. And traditional school work truly is not necessary for learning. There comes a time when it's necessary to study in order to learn certain things, but a child of his age can learn an awful lot without having to do traditional work for it. Realistically, he isn't really in the 5th grade - because he isn't in a school in which they've had to divide children into separate rooms in order to teach them as a group from the curriculum assigned by the school/school board/county/state or whatever. Since he's learning at home, and he's only one person rather than a whole group, there's really no reason why it has to be thought of in as a tightly organized progression through a named/numbered set of blocks of curricula. It can be a lot more freeform and exploratory, and he can even end up learning a lot more than if he were to be led through the standard curriculum. 

You say:

He is great at memorizing facts, playing video games, and reading.  I am trying so hard to get him to write, but he does not like doing it.  I try to get him involved in vocabulary pages, he hates it.  Anything that requires holding a pencil.  

That means that he has the basic tools for learning things as they come along, and traditional school work is only one way of doing that. Reading interesting books, playing interesting video games, and finding things he has reason to want to memorize in his own way can all take him through lots of learning that will stick with him. It's not that unusual for a boy his age to have an aversion to writing - mine certainly did, but he grew into a pretty gifted writer as soon as he found things he wanted to write about in his early teens. And he learned lots of wonderful things from books he stared reading on his own when he was 12 - he became a voracious reader and especially loved books that introduced new things to think about. He aced the SAT - scored almost a perfect score in the vocabulary section without ever having formally studied vocabulary. That's because he learned so much vocabulary from being immersed in it through books and websites. This isn't to say that you can't cover a whole lot of ground in various subjects along the way, but there are a lot of ways to do that that don't feel like such work - learning can come in all sorts of ways for different people. You might look through the FUN-Books site for some ideas - it has some unusual creative resources.

A child like yours who is great at reading and learns facts easily will probably love reading all sorts of good books as he gets older, and he'll be learning vocabulary from those in a natural immersion way. He's been through a traumatic relationship with traditional schooling, and he probably hasn't had time to heal from all that. In fact, the first thing we should have asked is whether you allowed for some
decompression/deschooling time when he left school - because that's really important. I don't quite understand exactly why it's so crucial, but I've seen enough such stories over many years to know it is. And summer vacation between a school experience and the beginning of homeschooling, strangely enough, just very rarely is enough time.

Your son may even have some kind of physical problem (for lack of a better word) in regard to writing, and that's something that can change with time. My son at that age could write if he didn't have anything else he had to be thinking about at the same time - if he was just copying a poem or writing over my writing, for instance. I used to write a line or two with a light colored pencil and let him write on top of it with another color - simple things like captions underneath postcards or pictures we'd pasted or drawn on paper to tell a simple story. It looked nice and was a lot less stressful, but he was learning from it. We loved using the beautiful
Lyra colored pencils rather than regular pencils - they're not only beautiful, but the Ferbie type of Lyra are made to be comfortable in the child's hand. But it was a struggle for him to think about what to write while thinking about how to physically write it while thinking about how to spell it - and this is quite common. Those are all different skills that can eventually be brought together but may be very trying for your son to have to put together right now. Here's a great article on this very subject: Growing a Writer.

I know from personal experience how frightening it can be during the first years of homeschooling when it's not evident that things are falling into place the way they should, but a lot of that is just that we all grew up in schools and have a hard time separating our expectations about how real learning can take place and how things can be deeply learned in plenty of time even without using traditional schooling techniques/schoolwork. 


You're entering a stressful time with your parent's illness (been there/done that) and the last thing you and your son are going to need is to have him in school struggling with even more self esteem issues while you're struggling with the physical and emotional challenges that are going to be coming along. I'd seriously think in terms of making this a time for taking all unnecessary stresses off of yourself and your son - it won't negatively impact his education. If you think in terms of this being a time for nurturing yourselves and finding ways to destress as you go, it can be a very fruitful time for homeschooling. It can be a time to explore and expand upon his skills, talents, and interests and to notice how he tends to learn things best/easiest/most deeply. It can be a time for him discovering and coming to appreciate his strengths in ways that weren't/aren't possible or likely within a traditional schoolwork framework. The more confidence he gains about his natural abilities, the easier everything is going to be for him - and the joy of learning really takes off and grows. Here's a thread that might be helpful - Things kids learn from following their own interests.

 

I hope you don't give up on homeschooling - it can be a lifeline to the kind of peaceful and healing time you'll all be needing. 

Lillian




 

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#8 of 19 Old 10-14-2012, 12:09 AM
 
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My heart goes out to you.

 

Lillian said it so well-- I was just thinking I should mention the "deschooling time" theory. I've seen that play out again and again as a teacher in alternative/progressive schools, with kids transferring in from traditional public school situations.

I second the thought 4evermom had above, one of the beauties of homeschooling is its flexibility.

What a gift to you at a time like this.

 

Here's an idea: give him a place at the table. If your son feels he has more say in what the homeschooling looks like, you might find yourself with a willing, excited partner instead of a daily sparring match that wounds and wearies you both. Self-directed learning has a long and impressive track record when you find the way that works for your child.

Maybe you could ask him what he'd really love to know more about, and then embed math/science/reading into that.

Or not. Just giving him the reins to direct what's focused on might have profound power. If he reclaims his love of learning, you've struck pay dirt!

Everything flows much better, when you're in that "zone".

 

And I second the thoughts above about letting things be where they are right now, knowing that it won't look the same in two years, or five years.

Hand over some responsibility with that freedom, little by little-- next year this time, he may be willing to try writing again, while choosing the angle from which he's coming at it, or the theme (creating a journal of an Ancient Egyptian tomb raider, for example, or whatever he's passionate about). Maybe two years from now, he'll be willing to make a learning contract for himself about weekly goals and skill practice and field trips and new areas of exploration-- with you as co-pilot.

It looks so many ways, so many possibilities .

 

Challenge him to teach you something. We all learn from a very effective place when we're put in that role. Maybe it uses different neural pathways or something, I don't know. But it's one of the things I love about placing older kids in mentoring positions to younger kids, helping them read, write, conduct an experiment, read a map, figure out a new math concept...

Hmm, now there's another idea-- know any younger kids who might be a good match for such a mutually beneficial teaching/mentoring practice?

 

Just some things to think about.

 

I wish you the best of luck as you navigate this trying time in your life.

Remember to be forgiving to yourself and that each day is a new, unwritten page full of paths not yet taken.

And whenever you need to, keep asking.

This is why we're all here.

 

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#9 of 19 Old 10-14-2012, 09:07 AM
 
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I agree with the rest of the posters here, but I had another thing to add.  There is nothing in the standard 5th grade curriculum that is more important than the lesson you're living right now-- how to manage when someone you love needs help.  The math and the reading and writing will come, but learning about the beautiful important task you're undergoing with your parent could easily get missed.  

 

If I were you, I would consider bringing him with you to live with your ailing parent, and homeschooling him there.  I would certainly do that before putting an anxious child into a new public school for a brief time.  

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#10 of 19 Old 10-14-2012, 09:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onatightrope View Post

I agree with the rest of the posters here, but I had another thing to add.  There is nothing in the standard 5th grade curriculum that is more important than the lesson you're living right now-- how to manage when someone you love needs help.  The math and the reading and writing will come, but learning about the beautiful important task you're undergoing with your parent could easily get missed.  

If I were you, I would consider bringing him with you to live with your ailing parent, and homeschooling him there.  I would certainly do that before putting an anxious child into a new public school for a brief time.  

Absolutely!
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#11 of 19 Old 10-14-2012, 12:33 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onatightrope View Post

I agree with the rest of the posters here, but I had another thing to add.  There is nothing in the standard 5th grade curriculum that is more important than the lesson you're living right now-- how to manage when someone you love needs help.  The math and the reading and writing will come, but learning about the beautiful important task you're undergoing with your parent could easily get missed.  

 

If I were you, I would consider bringing him with you to live with your ailing parent, and homeschooling him there.  I would certainly do that before putting an anxious child into a new public school for a brief time.  

 

Yes! I was thinking this too - traditional school subjects are only part of the big picture.  - Lillian

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#12 of 19 Old 10-14-2012, 12:54 PM
 
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Regarding the idea of letting him teach you something. I think that could be pretty helpful. If you were to ask him to teach you how to play one of his video games, for instance, it's pretty unlikely he would have you practice over and over how to use the controller, but would just show you how to use it, and let you go ahead and handle it in your own way, stepping in, if clearly needed, to clarify it if you fumble or get frustrated along the way. He wouldn't stop you at various levels of a game to go over all the moves various characters can do and quiz you on what you need to do to accomplish various moves. He wouldn't have you write anything down about your strategy. He would let you become engaged in the whole experience and discover things as you go along, with his tips and encouragement. And you'd learn quickly and easily. But that's not the way most traditional school curricula work. The way we tend to learn things in the rest of our lives is usually pretty different from the way we were forced to learn them in school - but we got used to accepting that the traditional school techniques were the best way to learn, so we didn't question it, and then we pass it on. I started out with those kinds of traditional expectations when we started homeschooling, but soon noticed that my son was learning lots of things out of the thin air - and I had no idea where they were coming from. So I started questioning my own teaching schemes, and started letting go of them. I was still providing lots of learning opportunities, experiences, books, resources, discussions, etc., but with different assumptions and expectations, and my son became able to own his learning experiences in a much more natural and satisfying way. It's really just a fairly small shift - not at all as radical as it may sound.

 

- Lillian

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#13 of 19 Old 10-18-2012, 08:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all the thoughtful responses.  It has been very helpful to hear of others' similar experiences. The chemo rounds have been very rough on our family as it has brought out many of our distinct flaws individually and also as a family.  My dh and I took the time to talk about our frustrations regarding this situation (there are many more to deal with yet, some that may impact the homeschooling in the long run) and to figure out a different approach.

 

Our new strategy includes many of the ideas you have suggested.  Briefly, we are relaxing much of our "scheduled learning" and focusing on math topics, reading books of interest (and some not of interest occasionally too), and much life experience.  He is struggling with his anxiety still, something that has amped up with dh changing schedules to help dd while we are away.  We are working on keeping him regularly seeing his therapist and keeping up his swimming.  We sadly are also dealing with additional transitions as well as he had finally made a true best friend, another homeschooled boy in the neighborhood. Peas in a pod! The other boy is moving many states away on Monday.  All in all, while this is not an ideal situation, he is learning valuable lessons regarding family and friends, life skills and how studies apply to them (math during meals, looking up things in the library, learning about cancer treatments and thinking of ways to be involved as an adult, etc).  His fragile mama just needs to chill!!!

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#14 of 19 Old 10-18-2012, 08:23 PM
 
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hug.gif Sounds as if there's deep challenge and growth coming out of all this, as is so often the case in such times. Wishing you all the smoothest journey possible in the coming months.   Lillian

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#15 of 19 Old 10-19-2012, 06:26 PM
 
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 We sadly are also dealing with additional transitions as well as he had finally made a true best friend, another homeschooled boy in the neighborhood. Peas in a pod! The other boy is moving many states away on Monday.  

Hopefully they will still be able to keep in touch. It's so much easier now with things like email and skype. My son does voice chats through gmail with his cousins while they play computer games like Minecraft online together. It's great for maintaining a relationship when they don't see each other often and some of them can't read or write well. 

 

Best wishes during this difficult time. 


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#16 of 19 Old 10-20-2012, 03:34 PM
 
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I just ran across this article I thought might be helpful:

Homeschooling Through Difficulties 

 

It had been posted online by Parent at the Helm, another great resource, published by homeschooling author, Linda Dobson.

 

Lillian

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#17 of 19 Old 12-09-2012, 02:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for the outpouring of support! We are, amazingly enough, still homeschooling.  I have backed off tremendously (quit as teacher for a few weeks because we both needed the break, however he has since "rehired" me).  This had given him the opportunity to see some of the benefits of homeschool along with some of the responsibilities that face us as homeschoolers.  It also let us find the responsibilites we have as a family in general these days.  I am back to "teacher" at our homeschool, but on a much more low key level.  He is making progress which is what is needed, though it is not at our "normal" pace.  Instead I am allowing him to experience a number of things he would otherwise miss- time with my ill parent, time with other grandparents that help when we need it, daytrips that have included everything from talking with cancer patients to visiting museums in unfamiliar towns.  Trying to get lots of pictures and video. 
 

Still looking at different math programs to get us past the math anxiety.  Starting to research box curriculum for next year (middle school for him).  Funny thing is he is finally enjoying the homeschooling (although he misses being around other kids) overall.  Funny how different your outlook can be given a few months.  Hopefully it will remain positive for us all!

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#18 of 19 Old 12-09-2012, 10:01 PM
 
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Glad to hear things are moving in a positive direction. I hope they continue to do so, and that you are taking care of yourself, as well. My thoughts are with you.
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#19 of 19 Old 12-20-2012, 11:29 AM
 
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Last school year my mom was dying from cancer.  She passed away in June.  The year and a half before she passed had me really putting my dd's homeschooling on the back burner.  She did an online class or two she was interested in and then just really did her own thing.  This school year has shown me how valuable that time was for her.  She is so self-directed now at 14.  She plans what she wants to do and how to get it done.  She protects her free time to spend with friends, makes sure she is keeping up with helping around the house and farm, and is learning so much with challenging academics she has chosen.  It was really hard trying to be there for my parents, keep up with my job, and be there for my girl.  But she grew sooooo much.  She is really happy now, and we are loving homeschooling high school.

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