Our Home School Journey- The First Week of School!!!

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The First Day of School! Both of my kids sitting at their own work space; my daughter is on her father’s computer and my son is working on the brand new computer sent by the Georgia Cyber Academy.

A few weeks ago, I announced on my blog and other social network platforms, that my husband and I made the decision to take our two youngest kids’ education into our own hands. After several months of disappointment and watching the standard of education grow increasingly worse, we decided pulling them out of the traditional brick-and-mortar school and enrolling them into a home school program was what we needed to do. And after one week, I am more than sure that our decision was the best for our kids!

Before I go any further, I have to say this: When I un-enrolled my kids from their middle schools, (my son was in a regular middle school, while my daughter was in a Magnet middle school), I was not only irritated, I was very disappointed in the negative feedback the schools counselors gave me when I told them about our decision. Did I walk in the door singing the praises of home schooling and telling them to their faces how disappointed I was to ask my kids every day what they learned and their faces went blank, only to hear about all the negative issues they experienced when NOT getting their questions answered or understanding what an assignment was all about? Did I go in throwing teachers names around, complaining about the lack of communication, help, and attention my kids had received? No, I didn’t. I simply walked in, notified them of the need to withdraw my kids. Simple. Then the conversation went like this:

Counselor: So what school are they transferring to?

Me: We’re home schooling them. They’ve been accepted into the Georgia Cyber Academy.

Counselor: Home school? Do you know how many parents pull their kids out, get tired of it and come running back crying to enroll their kids? They should have left them here.

Me: *Quietly fuming and holding my tongue, trying my best not to tell her exactly how I feel about this school because going off on her would not be setting a good example for my children at this moment.*

Counselor: Some parent’s bite off more than they can chew. Well, just know, once they’re enrolled, you can’t bring them back until next year.

Me: I don’t plan on bringing them back. My husband and I have made a decision that’s best for our kids. We’ve got this.

Counselor: *smirks as she walks off to get the paperwork completed*

I can’t tell you the amount of cursing that went on under my breath! Did I ask this woman for her personal opinion? Who was she to tell me that I would fail in undertaking this journey? I carried my children in my womb for nine months. I gave birth to them and have taken care of them all of their lives. My husband and I know how intelligent our kids are and how to work with them to help them understand in ways teachers don’t. All we need are the tools to guide them in the right direction. And that is exactly what the Georgia Cyber academy has given us. For FREE!!!!

Sorry to rant a bit, but that seriously pissed me off! So, parents…if you decide this path is what you want to take, your school is going to feel the need to have something negative to say about it. I’d like to think it was because they were truly concerned about my kids’ education, but let’s be real. It’s all about numbers. The more kids they have enrolled in their school, the more money they can get from the state. Period. Personally, I prefer my tax dollars to go to the program that’s working for my kids!

Now, onto the good stuff! There is so much information to share! I can’t do it all in one post, so for now I’ll stick to the basics of this week.

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‘Live’ Life Science class where the teacher is revealing blacked out answers to questions she’s asked the students.

Our first day back from Christmas Break starts with enthusiasm from my daughter, and grumpiness from my son, who was under the misguided impression that ‘home school’ meant sleeping in and getting work done when he decides to get up….NOT!!!

I dive in with gusto and make a nice breakfast, excited to get the day started. Once the kids wipe the sleep from their eyes, they realize they are about to embark on a new experience. It’s no longer something we talk about…it’s happening…right now! Their eyes beaming, they are in their seats by 8:30 and ready to go! (My goal is to keep them on as normal  a schedule as possible, so they don’t feel the need to forget the daytime is about learning, not chilling out and getting to it when they feel like it.

Like all schools, there is a brief adjustment period for new students and their teachers to get to know one another. My kids are enrolling in the new semester, joining other kids who have been here since school started in August. Just like enrolling into a brand new school, it takes time to get schedules set up, and home room teachers assigned. But with the Georgia Cyber Academy, they take it a step farther.

The first week is all about the teachers assessing the students and their individual learning abilities. The kids have their own log in profiles, (to which the parents have complete access to through an account of their own), and a day-to-day outline of activities in Science, Math, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies. The assignments for the day are outlined in their student accounts, and is also available in the parent’s account.

The program has sent everything they need to ensure they have full access to the state’s mandatory curriculum. Test books, student work books, literature books for reading assignments (no need to run to the library or book store for a specific novel!), as well as the fun stuff, like a microscope, slides, rocks, sand, and various other items typically found in a Science class room. And my favorite….a brand new computer and Ink Jet printer! The point is, my kids have everything they need to continue getting the same type, if not better, education in the comfort of home, as they would if they were in a brick-and-mortar school.

My husband and I have access to books of our own – learning coach guides- which deal with the breakdown of each subject they are studying, along with answer keys to the worksheets done for practice. There are also plenty of online recordings for us to take advantage of when we need help, live support classes, and the ability to email the teachers or other parents for one-on-one assistance and encouragement if we get confused or discouraged.

The first thing my kids do when logging in to check their daily schedules is see what classes require online ‘live’ class participation. Simply put, that means they follow a link from their schedules which takes them to a virtual class room filled with other students in their grade. There are two teachers in the room along with however many students log in at that time. The classes are recorded for those who may not be available to join at that time or for students to return to in case there is something they don’t understand. Awesome, right?

Instead of the traditional chalk board seen in brick-and-mortar schools, the teachers present Power Point presentations. They can use a virtual mouse to point to different things and use a virtual ‘pen’ to write on the ‘white board’. At times, they turn on a function that allows the kids to use their mouse and write on the board as well. All of this can be seen by other students. There are many opportunities for class participation through reading out loud. How is this done? The teacher can pick a student, or they can raise their ‘virtual hand’, and the teacher will turn on their microphone (also provided by the school) so they can read from the slide presentation. How cool is that? My son loves this and takes advantage of it as many times as he can.  There are also review questions asked where the students answer by putting their comments in the chat box. The teachers are quick to acknowledge their responses by calling their names as their answers hit the screen. Students are also sent study guides and the Power Point Presentation which they can save to their computer for quick reference, or print out for their folders.

As I said, there is a lot of stuff to share, but one thing I know for sure, this next week will be different. Remember when I stated the work they did last week was a part of evaluating their learning abilities? The teachers have reviewed their test (yes, they have online tests taken per unit, and believe me, how that works is an entirely different story!) From now on, the teachers will tailor their weekly assignments to them specifically. Can’t wait to see how that goes!

Oh and one more thing, and this is amazing….

My son and daughter, ages thirteen and twelve, who have fussed and argued nearly every day during Christmas break, spent the week laughing, helping each other if there was something in an assignment the other didn’t understand, and even worked together doing chores….only ONE ARGUMENT during the entire week!!!! If I had to guess, it was because for once, they were not under any negative influences or stress they dealt with during a regular school day. And that among everything else, makes this entire experience worthwhile!

Look out for my next post in two weeks!

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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My First Big Speaking Engagement!

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Are you an Aspiring Author or fan of The Butterfly Memoirs who resides in the Atlanta area? Well, this one is for you!

 I am pleased to announce that I am participating in the Author’s Workshop being held by The Virtuous Women, LLC and co-hosted by Barnes & Noble on August 17th where I have been asked to be the FEATURED AUTHOR! Talk about existed!!!

 But before I talk more about the event, let me give you a bit of history about The Virtuous Women, LLC.

 The organization was formed a by Dr. Beverly Harris-Coleman, a Special Education Teacher for the Dekalb County School System. What started as a sisters and sister-in-law spa day quickly turned into more. The Virtuous Women, LLC is a Christian organization that looks to empower, educate, support, and help create businesses and opportunities within the community. They hold monthly meetings and events to share valuable information with the the goal of building a better community, one family and business at a time. For more information about to find out about upcoming community events, visit the website and get registered.

 The theme for this months event is The Author’s Workshop. The goal is to provide encouragement to aspiring writers who are looking to become published authors.

 Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? Then this event is for you! There will be ten local authors who will be sharing their stories about why they chose to write, what motivated their project, and what challenges they overcame to see their project through to completion.

 During that time, I will have some great giveaways, and if you have purchased a paperback copy of either of my books, bring it and I will me more than happy to sign it! Got a Kindle or Nook and like to collect author signatures? I’ll sign that too! Don’t forget your cameras! For more information about the event, follow this link. I hope to see you there!

The Virtuous Women, LLC

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

 

MJ

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Community, Couponing, and Making Your Dollars Stretch

Community.
We know what the word means, but in today’s world we often forget what these actions stand for. Recently, I was at the bus stop with my son, my neighbor and her daughter. For the past week we’ve talked a little and listened to the kids as they spoke of the joy of leaving elementary school and starting middle school.
‘Have you been able to open your locker yet? Have you had homework? Did you get your books? Do you like you Math teacher?’

Boy, do I remember those days.
The bus stop is at a corner where there are four pear trees. Every morning I stared at the fruit weighed down the branches, some of them broken, fallen to the ground. All around the base of the tree fallen fruit rests in the grass or has rolled into the gutter, or ran over by a car at the stop sign, and has since rotten.
Everyday we stood staring at the trees.
Then one morning my neighbor’s daughter walks over to a tree, pulls a pear and began to eat. My son looked at her.
                “I’m hungry. The lady said anybody can have some if they want.”

My son and I looked at each other. I nod my head and he walked over and pulled two pears, takes a bite, and hands me one.
I’ve never been a lover of pears, but I accepted the fruit and sampled. I swear that was the best pear I’ve ever eaten. Fresh from the tree…no juices in a can, no harsh chemicals sprayed on the fruit’s skin to make it look ‘beautiful’. Just a freshly picked pear.
It made me think.
Here we are just standing in a neighborhood at the only yard that has fruit trees. There are starving people, I’m sure, who don’t live far away. You don’t have to be homeless to be starving. With the job scarcity, the amount of people living on minimum wage, rising gas prices, and the price of food going up, everyone has to reevaluate their spending habits. You may not be able to afford the special ice cream that used to be two dollars but is now pushing six bucks. You’d love to feed your family steak, but for less than half the price of ONE steak, you can buy a bag of chicken leg quarters and feed your entire family for several days. The mentality of ‘No, I’m not buying it if I don’t have a coupon for it!’ (Oh yes, we coupon at my house, have been doing it for over a year!)
We’re not extreme couponor’s, but the savings stretched our dollars. In the course of a year- according to our final store receipts in December- between shopping at Kroger and Food Lion, we saved over $1200 dollars! And by savings I mean not only did we save money, that same amount of money was used to purchase more food items, thus giving our family a wider variety of food choices and keeping the fridge, cabinets, and pantry stocked….without having to spend more money than we budgeted!

It was not an easy feat! My cousin spends time going through the newspapers every week cutting coupons and comparing them to the sales circular’s for every grocery store. I’m not just talking about the big boys, but the smaller competitors, too. You remember, right? The local grocery stores in your community you tend to ride by because they don’t have the really big parking lot, or the convenience of getting your prescriptions, housewares, or fancy labels on the products?

But guess what…those small stores sell the same products at less the cost of the big boys…all the while excepting coupons which of course, adds to your savings!
You know me, I love giving examples, so here you go!
This summer, my family has become bacon hogs-pun intended. Every day we seemed to go through two packs of bacon! With seven people – four between the ages of 17 and 10 – gone are the days of serving two pieces per person. My DH will eat five by himself! I usually ask for three. Between bacon with pancakes, bacon with eggs, BLT’s, and bacon on burgers, I was buying bacon at least twice a week! Now let’s think about price. Bacon averages around $3.99 per pack, depending on the grade or company you buy it from. Kroger was selling it two packs for $7.00 bucks a couple of times during the summer. I was buying four packs at a time which meant I was spending $14.00 that was gone within three days! Suffice it to say, I avoided buying the meat until it was demanded!
After two months, we decided to re-evaluate our shopping habits, thus shopping at the smaller chain stores began. Imagine my surprise when I went to Food Depot and found the exact same bacon I’d been paying $3.50 for was being sold for $1.98!!! That is not a typo! That meant I could have brought the same bacon for less money! Four packages would have cost $8.00 instead of $14.00 (and that was when it was on sale!)
Have you ever heard the adage off pork bellies on wall street? I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but I believe the gist of it was that pork stock will never fail? I see why!!!
It all comes down to this, as moms, budgeting and taking care of our households is a process that is always evolving and changing. I don’t take credit for the changes my family has made over the past year to keep our bellies full. It’s been a group effort. My cousin was the one who took an interest in couponing when those shows were popular on TV. Extreme couponers we will never be. Just because you can find a great deal on a product, why buy more than what you need? Yes, we stock up on items such as cleaning supplies, detergent, soap, and toothpaste, but you will never find a room in our house dedicated to just over stock deals. Too many people and too many personal items to even think about that! Plus, how can you use money wisely if you’re buying products you don’t even need? (I meet a man who was way into extreme couponing. He brought tons of cat food and diapers…but didn’t have a cat or a baby!)
The point is this… save money where you can. Help others in your community when you can, and believe me, it will come back to you.
As a thank you for our neighbors unselfish generosity of sharing the fruit from their trees, my son and I brought a broom and trash bags and cleaned up as much of the rotten fruit as we could. My way of giving back to a neighbor who doesn’t mind sharing with the community. When we were done, we picked a large bag of pears keeping the fruit bowl filled for a couple of days…and all it will have cost was a few minutes of our day and a few trash bags.
After all, they could always demand that we pay for it. 
MJ
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