Welcome to Homeschooling: A Few Tips

I wrote this article in March a few years ago, not knowing how many people would be forced to homeschool in March 2020! Here are some tips and my own experiences with homeschooling. I’ll add a few curriculum links that I liked best and some fun things we did as mother and daughter staying at home. Take this opportunity to enjoy your children and family! 

 

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More time for swimming.

In an article I read this morning, “PARENTING: Consider the benefits of homeschooling” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Herald Tribune of Florida, it lists a number of benefits to homeschooling, from learning at an individual pace to not being bound by a school calendar.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

Have you thought about homeschooling your kids? Most people can easily make a list of reasons not to homeschool. That was Jody’s story when her oldest child asked to be homeschooled at the start of seventh grade.

“I’m not a teacher,” she thought. “I have no idea how to homeschool and really no desire.” But her son was serious and, after great consideration, she and her husband chose to honor his heartfelt request.

Very soon, Jody realized that children are not containers that we can pour information into. They are more like hunter/gatherers of knowledge and understanding, picking and choosing from the world around them, learning at their own pace and in their own way.

Jody’s son did not return to school until college. He’s now approaching his 30th birthday. He and his wife are both attorneys in New England.

We often tell parents that if their intention is to simply bring school into their homes, they may want to reconsider. In many cases, school does it better. But if they are looking for something unique, if they want to give their child a different experience, a more customized and pervasive education, homeschooling can be a great choice.

For starters, it gives families the time to focus on teaching important life skills and grooming character traits that will help kids become successful adults who offer strong contributions to their communities.

Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.

I found this interesting because my oldest child, my son begged to be homeschooled and I didn’t have the confidence to do it. By the time he went to high school and our daughter was beginning the middle school years, I decided to homeschool my daughter. I knew several families on our swim team that homeschooled their children and they were exceptionally personable, smart, and the kids I enjoyed immensely.

My daughter and I went to the Irvine Spectrum, an outdoor shopping mall, to meet with a person from Springs Charter School, which offers an academy and home school programs in So Cal, to get more information about their homeschooling program. We signed up that day and the next thing I did was research curriculum. I took my son, who had made it through middle school already to help me pick out materials at a CHEA convention in Long Beach, CA. I was shocked to see hundreds of vendors from Rosetta Stone to small book dealers. It was fun and overwhelming, but my son steered me through it–making sure the curriculum we selected was as rigorous as the one he had—or better. One my favorites was Beautiful Feet Books, history through literature.

What I discovered with Springs Charter school was that we were required to meet with a credentialed education specialist each month, and had to turn in all work. She made sure we kept on track and we weren’t slacking. They also administered the same standardized tests as the public schools at a nearby University classroom. We went on several of the 75 field trips offered each year like whale watching in San Diego, a trip to Medieval Times and SeaWorld. I was shocked that SeaWorld and Medieval Times were filled up to capacity— completely by homeschoolers.

 

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We got to experience New Orleans complete with several trips to Cafe De Monde.

The benefits we experienced: my daughter and I grew closer together. I was able to teach her basic life skills like banking, auto care, cooking, etc. We got to travel with my husband on business trips—New Orleans was our favorite. She got to learn at her own pace and in her own way—history lessons out by the pool or reading in the tub! She met her swim coach at the high school track in the early am when there wasn’t swim practice and ran with her. She had more time to hang out with friends. She loved crafts and had time to explore mosaics and quilting. She could work on swimming without being too tired for schoolwork or falling asleep in class.

Another huge benefit was getting to visit any place in Southern California during the week and avoiding the big crowds and lines you find on weekends. After our three years homeschooling for middle school, I went to work with my husband and my daughter entered our local high school. Although we loved the three years, it was time for both of us to move on.

 

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Sailing in Santa Barbara during the homeschool years.

Are you homeschooling now because of COVID 19? Have you ever considered homeschooling before? What were your reasons for homeschooling or not homeschooling?

 

Lifeguards Warn Parents to Put the Phones Down

I read an article posted by FINIS, Inc. called Parents distracted by smartphones can lead to kids drowning, lifeguards warn, written by Scott Stump for Today.com. (FINIS, Inc. is a swim technology and equipment company whose mission is: “OUR VISION IS TO HELP EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD ENJOY THE WATER.”

Think about how scary it is to be a distracted parent, supposedly supervising children in the water. Take your eyes off your children at the pool for a moment and they could be gone. Forever.

Once again, I’m thankful for the lack of technology in the 1990s when my kids were little. I watched them like a hawk at the pool and beach. I loved to sit and read outside, one of my favorite pleasures, but when the kids were on duty, I was on guard.

I get so distracted by phone now, I can’t imagine what would happen if I had young kids. I drop everything and my fingers and face go to my phone when my blog blings or I hear a text’s tri-tone. (What’s a tri-tone you ask? You know the sound. It’s the sound you hear when a text comes in. Here’s the the story behind it.) In any case, we can all get distracted by our phones and when kid are in the water, we need to turn off our phones or leave them in our bags. That’s for their safety, which is more important than any call, text FB post or tweet we are driven to look at.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The world’s largest lifeguard association has issued a warning that parents engrossed in their cellphones while kids are swimming can be a deadly mix.

The German Lifeguard Association is claiming that parents absorbed in their cellphones is a growing problem that has contributed to children drownings. Germany had 279 drownings in the first seven months of 2018, according to the association.

“Too few parents and grandparents are heeding the advice: When your children and grandchildren are in the water, put your smartphone away,” German Lifeguard Association spokesman Achim Wiese told The Guardian.

Drownings are the second-leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Parents distracted by texting or social media present a growing problem when it comes to keeping kids safe while swimming.

“A lot of parents don’t realize that it only takes seconds for a child to submerge and potentially drown,” Mary Beth Moran, director for the Center for Healthier Communities at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, told TODAY’s Stephanie Gosk.

“It can take seconds and you’re not necessarily looking for them, and all of a sudden they’re at the bottom of the pool.”

With warmer weather ahead of us, take this warning to heart. There is a suggestion in the article to share the watching responsibilities with other adults. It’s a lot to ask one parent to be on duty the entire time. If you get a call or text and need to reply or answer, ask another parent to watch your child while you get out your phone. Also, take turns with another parent or friend to be the parent on watch for a limited amount of time each, say half an hour or so.

Children love being in the water and we can’t rely completely on lifeguards to keep them safe. Our kids are our first priority and responsibility. kat and rob beach

What advice do you have to keep our children safe in the water?

True Grit and Sports Specialization: What’s the Connection?

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It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!

 

 

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport. There are always exceptions to the rule. For example, one my of daughter’s childhood teammates was an amazing swimmer. In high school, she stopped the club team and played water polo, ran cross country and swam for the high school team. Her athleticism continued to grow and she walked on as a swimmer at the D1 university and became their fastest sprinter.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?

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Who Is to Blame for Performance Pressure at the Big Meet?

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

Every morning, I walk around the neighborhood and park. On a good morning I talk to my kids as they are driving through the Bay Area traffic to work. Today, I chatted with my daughter about the PAC 12 Swimming Championships. She told me a few eye-opening things about her experiences in the years’ past.

First, she told me during her freshman year she was absolutely terrified before she swam. She felt the PAC 12s was the biggest meet of her life. I remember watching her from the balcony, having fun with her teammates. I had no clue she was terrified.

That made me ask an all important question. “Was it because your dad and I put too much pressure on you?”

“No, I put the pressure on myself,” she said.

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Me and my kids at PAC 12 Swimming Champs, 2018.

Whew. Big sigh of relief from me. I wrote about championship meets for SwimSwam and here on my blog last week. I thought I’d blown it with too much performance pressure on both my kids. What a nice bit of knowledge to know my daughter didn’t view it that way at all. Also, my son told me he also put pressure on himself. Of course, some of our actions may not have helped, but we weren’t the sole cause of their pressure.

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PAC 12 2015, goofing off with teammates.

She told me, “I remember during my first PAC  12s my coach was talking to me about Open Water Camp coming up. I thought to myself. Wow. There’s more swimming after this. This isn’t the end of the world after all.”  (USA Swimming Open Water Select Camp is an annual instructive camp where 12 men and 12 women, ages 13 to 18, are selected based on their 1500 times or Open Water Nationals results. Here’s a link to the year my daughter went.)

Another thing my daughter told me was about the mid-season meet. This is where the team goes to a big meet in the middle of the season with a bunch of other college teams. We never went to one because she didn’t want us there and we respected her wishes. She said “I hope you and dad know that I didn’t want you there because I put so much pressure on myself. It wasn’t you guys.” She asked, “Do you think Dad knows that?” She explained that she wasn’t tapered for that meet and she only swims fast with a taper. She didn’t expect to swim well and always felt she could have done more to prepare for that mid-season meet.

It’s so rewarding to have conversations with my adult children and know that they appreciate what we’ve done for them — and not be blamed for their own insecurities or pressures. They are separate human beings with their own goals and dreams. I’m glad to be of help along the way and I enjoyed it all beyond measure.

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US Open Water Nationals in Florida.

Have you had enlightening conversations with your kids about when and why they feel pressure?

 

 

What’s the Big Difference Between College and Age Group Champs?

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Teammates and coaches cheering my daughter on during the mile.

I enjoyed talking with one of my children’s former coaches this morning about championship meets. My question was what can parents do — or not do — to help their kids at the big meets. Coach Tim Hill, now of the SHARKS Swim Club in the Houston area, asked me what it was like at the PAC 12 championship meets sitting in the stands, compared to the big meets during our club years. He’s clever that way to get me to think about it myself rather than telling me the answers.

The big difference was rooting as a team with the other parents at the college championships. The scoreboard has our teams listed in order of points and you can’t avoid it. We were competitive not with the top teams on the scoreboard, but the ones right above and below us. The parents of each college dress up in school colors, have props like light-up necklaces and pompoms and create team cheers. We’d have a pre-finals function with drinks and snacks in the hotel lobby. When our kids walked through the lobby to get on their buses or vans, we’d perform our team cheer and make a tunnel for them to go through. It was fun and filled with laughter embarrassing the heck out of our kids.

We cheered for each other’s kids, felt disappointment when someone didn’t have a good swim together as a team. Up in the stands, we watched our kids cheer for each other, on their feet on deck or at the blocks, rooting and caring sincerely how their teammates swam. Yes, we wanted our kids to get best times and make it to A finals, but there was less focus on that than being part of a team.

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With my fellow swim moms at the PAC 12 Championships.

At USA Swimming meets, the focus was on individual swims and the team score wasn’t as important or often didn’t exist. We definitely cheered for each other’s kids, but it wasn’t as intensely a team experience as the college meets. The focus was on our own children. We wanted them to get personal bests, improve and get that cut.

At age group meets, Tim explained that parents have a lot of expectations because they’ve got “blood and money” invested. “It’s your baby and your money.” Often meets are away and you’re paying for hotels, plus the suits and entry fees. It adds up, not to mention the family’s time commitment, and if our children aren’t improving, we want to know why.

Tim also explained that swimming is a lot like real life and there are a lot of variables. The stock market doesn’t go straight up, for example. We aren’t 100% every day in our jobs or relationships — and our children aren’t going to get best times at every meet. Our children may be tired from homework, not feeling well or not on their game. He discovered that Tuesday afternoon duel meets for high school, kids may swim better than at USA meets on a weekend. They’re fresher for one thing. By the weekend, the kids may be tired after a week of school, practices and homework. Also, it’s a race with winners and losers. There’s immediate feedback. They may go to a USA meet and be seeded 80th and wonder if they even want to swim because they know they don’t have a shot at finals.

Parents need to be supportive and not start questioning in the stands if the taper was right, if another kid is getting more attention from the coach or why their child isn’t improving. If we are questioning the coach in front of our kids, they will start to lose confidence. So much of swimming is feeling confident, Tim said.  If we focus too much on performance and don’t realize it’s a process with ups and downs, we may put too much pressure on our kids. When the meet is over and we still have questions about “why” then go directly to the source. Ask the coach questions at the right time.

Tim mentioned that there’s a lot more opportunity for kids to improve during daily practice than at a monthly meet. When asked by a swimmer if Tim thought he could break 50 seconds in the 100 free, Tim asked him, “What have you been doing in practice to get there?”

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Cheering for teammates.

What differences do you see between college and age group meets?

 

 

How life changed with a fitbit

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The fitbit tracks my steps around the park.

I wanted a fitbit for Christmas mainly because I’m competitive and my husband started using one last year. We’d compare our steps during walks and his fitbit gave him way more steps than me carrying my iphone.

Now that I’ve used my fitbit for two weeks, what do I have to say about it?

I really like it. It’s helping stay on track. Every hour it gives me a little buzz to push me away from my computer and on my feet. I found that I am consistently getting more than 10,000 steps a day — not because I wasn’t before — but my phone wasn’t always with me to capture the steps.

The other thing I really like about it is that I can swim with it. It keeps track of my laps and minutes of my swim — except for kicking. For some reason — I guess because my arms aren’t moving — I don’t get the yards in for a kick set. Oh well. I know in my head I did the kicking. I did ask our coach yesterday, “Why kick, if the fitbit doesn’t record it?” His answer was, “Why wear it if it doesn’t record everything?” Well, it’s worth it for everything else.

The final thing that I’m liking about it is the sleep part. Every morning I wake up, let it sync to my phone and then I check how well I slept. It will give me the time I fell asleep and woke up. Also, how much light, deep, REM sleep I got and how much and often I woke up during the night. It’s really interesting stuff. One thing I’ve learned is that on a swim day, my REM and deep sleep is twice that of a day I didn’t swim.

What I think the fitbit does for me is encourages me to be consistent with my exercise and sleep. It makes these things easier, because after all there’s an App for that.

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The fitbit tracks my laps in the pool.

Have you tried a fitbit or an Apple watch? What do you like about them the most?

 

Staying On Track When You’re Overwhelmed

IMG_0140Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the same time? I’m feeling that way today. I’ve made it through days of cleaning and cooking for our Christmas crowd, reclaiming my house by washing sheets, towels and putting away the decorations.

Now the New Year is flying by. I’ve got lots of work to do and am trying to take a deep breath before I freak out. Here are a few of my secrets to keep me calm and on track:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got tight deadlines or a crazy schedule, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start to January and I’m not going to blow it now.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too.

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Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when you’re crazy busy?