Home Schooling vs. Traditional Schooling…Yep, We’re Making the Change!

homeLast week, I posted this message on my Facebook page:

Over the last few weeks, my hubby and I made the decision to pull our youngest kids out if school and sign them up for home school. They just got accepted into the program this week. So after Christmas break, no more traditional education.

This morning I got an automated call from the middle school saying they have upgraded security. You can no longer walk into the building without announcing your presence by calling the number listed on the now locked front door. The building had already been locked down, only allowing access to the front office. At this moment, I couldn’t be any prouder with our decision!

To my surprise, thirty-one people liked it and many commented, sharing the fact that they too were home schooling their kids. I had no idea!!

My husband and I have toyed with the idea of home school off and on for the past five years. Then our oldest got accepted into a Fine Arts Magnet program for Orchestra when in the ninth grade. For four years he participated in the program and we watched what started out as a wonderful opportunity start to slowly go downhill as the county had issues with funding and teachers. At the beginning of his senior year, the amazing Orchestra teacher who had been a part of the program left just two weeks before the start of the school. For several months, the program was without a qualified teacher and my son, who had worked hand-in-hand with his teacher, stepped up to handle the class as much as he could until they found a replacement. But, it was never the same. He has since graduated and is now attending college to get his Bachelors Degree in Music. His goal: become a music teacher.

One of my daughters followed in his footsteps and joined the Fine Arts Magnet Program three years ago and is taking Art. Her skills are amazing and she has learned a lot. Now in the eleventh grade, she has only one year left before graduation.

My youngest children are in the sixth and seventh grade, one in a Fine Arts Magnet Middle school for Art, the other attends the local middle school. School has been in session for five months, and we are not satisfied with what our kids are learning or how the teachers are handling our children’s education. After listening to my kids, it seems more time is spent on handling class disruptions than education. The teachers are stretched thin, underpaid, and expected to stay on track with the curriculum. When a student doesn’t understand something, chances are they may or may not get a chance to ask questions and fail assignments because the teacher does not have time to go back over it. Yep, pretty sure a lot of parents have heard this story. So what happens? Your child is frustrated because they fail an assignment, their confidence is destroyed, and it’s harder to encourage them to see the value of their education.

Add the issues of bullying, disrespectful children back talking to teachers, threats of violence, and drugs…

Ask your child what they leaned today and the most you get is a story about yet another fight in class or the fact someone has on the latest Jorden’s and you have to wonder, what are you sending them to school for???

This year, my husband started a concerted effort to learn more about home schooling process. After several phone calls, emails, and online chats with the program coordinators with the Georgia Cyber Academy, we made the decision to sign up our youngest children for the program. Imagine our happiness when we got the approval email saying they were accepted! They have only one week left in traditional school. After Christmas break, they will be learning from home!

The whole concept of the Georgia Cyber Academy is new for me and is going to be as much of a learning experience for me and my husband as it will be for the kids. Here are a few of the preconceived notions I had in the beginning and what I’ve learned so for:

MYTH: You have to have a background in education in order to teach your kids from home.

False! The online programs are set up so that your children receive assignments and take their classes at home, on the computer. They have teachers assigned to assist them. They have scheduled online, real-time class participation with their teacher. If they have questions, they can call, email, or chat with their teacher directly at any time. Learning is more one-on-one than having your student get lost in a sea of 30 plus kids in a classroom. If your child has a learning disability, they have Special Education teachers who will work with you weekly, ensuring your children’s continued growth and education. Entrance exams are given which enable the teacher to develop a system of learning specific to your children’s learning abilities. So whether you child is gifted or needs a little more help, it’s all about them!

MYTH: As a parent, it’s your responsibility to sit and hold your students hand all day while they work in class.

FALSE! Yes, some of your time will be involved, but you will not have to hold their hands. As a Learning Coach, your job is to prep your students for their daily assignments, assist them as they need help, and from time to time, assist them in certain assignments (such as science experiments, etc.) With the higher grades (middle school and high school), and especially if your children are proficient with the basics of using a computer, you don’t have to sit holding their hands throughout each assignment. You are responsible for keeping track of the time it takes to complete an assignment and enter this information as part of their attendance record. There are parent/teacher conferences, Parent Support Meetings with other parents, and the ability to connect directly with the teacher if you need help explaining something to your child.

MYTH: My kids won’t have any friends.

FALSE! The home school community has plenty of programs, clubs, and activities that allow the students, and parents, to connect online and in person. Field trips, parties, and other activities are designed for not only the student, but the parents as well. It’s like a whole new hidden world!

MYTH: They won’t graduate.

FALSE! Home school students must still take the same standardized tests as children do in school, including the Graduation Test, and yes, there is a graduation. (Not sure off the details of the graduation, but I read about it. LOL, with a sixth and seventh grader, I’ve got a ways to go before we get there!)

And last but not least:

MYTH: I can’t afford to pay for the program.

FALSE! The program we are participating in, the Georgia Cyber Academy, is F-R-E-E!!!!!! They will be providing all of the equipment, books, even a computer and printer needed in order to get online.

So, 2014 is going to be an interesting year for my family. Did I mention we gave our kids the option of doing school online versus staying in school? When they found out the difference in the education (online interactive learning vs. standard textbook), the fact that they will have more one-on-one learning opportunities and be able to work at their own pace, they jumped on board! No coercion, no special promises or begging. My oldest, which has one year left before graduation, opted to stay in school and she has our continued support. You can believe there will be blogs coming out of this experience!

So, what about you? If you’ve had experiences with teaching your kids at home, I’d LOVE to hear them!

 

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MJ

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Even Fictional Characters Appreciate Their #Mothers!

Happy Mother’s Day!

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting my day off sleeping in for as long as possible, then waiting to see what drawings my young artist have worked on all week and been dying for me to see.

When I write, I put my supporting characters in their lives that help them grow along their journey. What  relationship is more pivital in your life than the one with your mother? Good or bad, there’s always something to learn from the woman who’s given you life. In the case of Zachariah Givens and his mother, Ms. Belinda, she never hesitates to set tell him like it is.

Here’s an excerpt of Zachariah Givens as he talks to his mother about his relationship with Yasmine. Enjoy!

Excerpt: 

I arrived at my mother’s house, surprised to see my mom sitting on the front porch.

I walked up the steps and gave her a kiss on the cheek before joining her on the swing. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay.” She studied me, a look of curiosity on her face.

She wore the same expression on her face as she did when I was a child.

“What?”

“I had a visitor today.”

“Who?”

She turned to face me, her eyes narrowing. “Melissa.”

I froze. “Melissa?”

She nodded.

I sat back on the swing, closed my eyes, and massaged my temples. “What did she want?”

“She was looking for you.”

“I’m in the same place I’ve been since the day she left.” I opened my eyes. “She hasn’t come by.”

My mother shrugged. “Maybe you weren’t there. Who knows?” Her attention went back to the empty street.

I huffed. It’s funny how life worked. I hadn’t seen nor talked to Melissa in over a year. At first, I waited for her to come back, call or text, something to let me know our relationship had not been a waste of time. I wanted her to tell me even though she could not handle the emotional turmoil I endured, she at least still loved me.

It never happened.

Now that Yasmine was in my life, she appeared. Part of me needed to know what she wanted. The other part didn’t give a damn.

“Did she leave a message?” I kept my voice even.

My mother shot me a sideways glance. “She wants you to call.” She pointed to the small table sitting across from us.

I started to look at it then stopped, unwilling to mess around and memorize the numbers on the paper.

We sat in silence.

“Are you going to call?”

“Why?” Unexpected rage spewed from deep inside. “Why the hell would I want to talk to her? The last thing she said to me was her number changed and not to contact her again.” I shook my head in disgust.

“Don’t hate her, Zachariah, it’s not worth the effort,” Mom advised.

She was a far better person than I was.

“Yeah, well…it’s not something I can forgive. Leaving me…no, us, when we needed her the most.”

She reached over and patted my knee. “No, baby, she left you. I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you’ll get over it. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve begun getting over it already.” A sly smile spread across her lips.

“What do you mean?”

She laughed at my feigned innocence. I could never lie to my mother. Somehow she always seemed to know when I was not telling the truth.

“Play coy all you want, but I know my son. Since the day you brought Yasmine here, there’s been a smile on your face, especially when I say her name.”

I smirked. “You’re making that up.”

“Oh, really?”

I turned to look at her.

“Yasmine…see! You just did it! Your eyes lit up!” She laughed and smacked her knee.

I couldn’t help but laugh as well. My mother had this amazing way of being able to read my mind. It had to be motherly intuition.

“Fine, what can I say, she is amazing.”

“What you can say is you’ve told her how you feel.”

My attention turned back to the street and the car driving past. “No.”

“Why not?”

I glanced over and saw her hand resting on her hip, and a serious question in her eye. “Because… I don’t know how I feel.”

A sigh of exasperation came from her side of the porch. “Young people wouldn’t know love if it bit them in the ass.”

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Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

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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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