Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Foreign language learning - Duolingo is adding more languages

One of my favorite platforms for FREE foreign language learning has added new languages! Duolingo is a great platform for on-the-go language learning and they are growing. When I started with Duolingo, they only offered English, Spanish, German, and French. They've added several more languages and have plans for even more.
Although I've been slacking quite a bit on my foreign language practice, Duolingo has helped me to improve my (very) basic French, German, and Spanish skills. Now I can also use it to help with my (even more) basic Swedish and Turkish!

What language(s) are you going to tackle today?

Check out these additional posts on foreign language learning:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My words for 2015...

onward persistence resilience
I have mentioned Leonie Dawson and her Amazing Biz and Life workbooks* in the past, and I am working on these workbooks again this year. If you work the workbooks and really follow the tips and plans set out, they pay off. One task in the workbooks is to choose your word for the year. This is a word that resonates with you, has meaning for you, and guides you throughout the year. In the private Facebook group that goes along with membership in Leonie's Amazing Biz and Life Academy*, many of the members have been discussing their words for 2015. Today, I joined in. Below is a slightly edited version of my response to one such discussion.

(The workbooks are free as downloadable PDF e-books with membership in the Academy
or available separately HERE as e-books or bound workbooks.*)

When it comes to words for the year, I have three: Onward, Resilience, Persistence.

They have been my words for the last 12 years, and when I keep them front and center and balance my choices and experiences against them, things continue to grow and m
ove forward and change in the right direction. When I lose sight of them, things start to fall apart. 

This is the story of my three words.

I was in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship and had a young child and I was struggling to go to school, to try to "save" or "fix" my relationship, and to be the mom I wanted in my heart to be. My ex threw up block after block after block and I wasn't dealing well. I was a mess emotionally and physically. Then, in April 2002, around my 28th birthday, I hit the wall and decided enough was enough. My ex basically told me flat out that I didn't *DESERVE* a college degree and that I wasn't *WORTH* a college degree - that I was nothing, had nothing, would always be nothing. He'd been telling me this stuff all along, but never so explicitly before. 

Finally, after almost four years of this, something clicked. 

The very next day I managed to get to school despite all odds (he took the car, he took my money so I had no bus fare, and he canceled the babysitter). I found an academic counselor and told her I had to graduate as soon as humanly possible no matter what it would take and that I was leaving an abusive partner and taking my son with me as soon as I had my degree. Within 30 minutes I had a new major that only required two additional classes beyond what I had already taken and beyond the classes I was already in for that term, and I had a graduation date only 4 months away. I then visited all of my current professors and told them the situation (crying in the first one's office and feeling empowered and strong by the time I left the last one's office), and they all agreed to help me in whatever ways they could (letting me bring my son to class and sitting in the hall so I could hear without my son disrupting the class, emailing me notes, making special arrangements to meet with me outside of normal office hours, letting me do work via independent study, etc).

I graduated in August 2002. I researched my legal rights regarding custody of my son, and I made a plan to leave for good (I'd already left three times before) that would allow us to do so safely, legally, and with help from family that lived 600 miles away. On October 15th, my sister and brother-in-law helped me pack a U-haul while ex was at work, and by 5pm that day I had left him for good!

Onward, Resilience, and Persistence helped me do that, and they have helped me overcome many obstacles since - some big, some small. They have helped me do things I didn't know I was capable of, and they are helping me achieve life long dreams now. That doesn't mean life is always easy or that I achieve everything I try, but it does mean I am constantly moving in the right direction, even if it means taking the occasional detour to get there. 

What are your guiding words for 2015, and how did you come up with them? I wanna know!

*These are affiliate links, but if you are committed to Leonie's programs, they pay off in ways you may not even realize!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Incoming mail...

I haven't taken part in Postcrossing in a long while, but recently sent out 10 cards and received my first one in return today!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

50 reasons why we love homeschooling

reasons to homeschool

1. We have lots of quality time together.
2. We can arrange our schedule according to our own needs.
3. My son can work ahead when it suits him.
4. We have time to review concepts and skills as much as necessary if they are difficult.
5. We meet a much wider variety of people than we ever did before.
6. We have time to explore new places and new situations.
7. We can drop everything for once-in-a-lifetime events.
8. My son has mentors from many more areas of his life than he ever did in a traditional school.
9. We can learn in our pajamas if we feel like it.
10. I worry a lot less about his food allergies.

11. No one makes fun of him at lunchtime if he doesn’t have the current popular snack.
12. It’s ok that he isn’t the slightest bit athletic.
13. It’s ok that he loves music and art.
14. He has taught himself computer coding and scripting.
15. He has friends on three continents.
16. We were able to drive cross-country (twice) when other kids were either in school or getting ready to go back to school (he’s been to 25 states now).
17. None of his friends or mine find his large vocabulary disturbing.
18. Without the distractions and interruptions that are a normal part of a traditional school, a “school day” takes half the time it used to and without the commute.
19. My son has taught himself many concepts that most kids don’t learn until college, if ever.
20. We have a lot more fun thanks to a lot more free time.

21. My son’s writing has blossomed now that he isn’t stuck to a particular rubric or school mandated curriculum.
22. My son has a practical understanding of math that isn’t taught at school.
23. We can indulge both academic and non-academic interests without sacrificing one over the other.
24. We don’t have to wait for school breaks to go out of town.
25. We’ve found tons of free or low-cost educational resources that are often better quality than school curriculum – we obtained quality while saving money.
26. We spend time on quality socialization rather than learning to manage bullying, conforming to dress codes, and so on.
27. Without getting into trouble or dealing with negative peer pressure, my son can excuse himself from activities if they don’t feel right or if the atmosphere feels dangerous, oppressive, stifling, or just wrong in some way.
28. My son can get enough sleep — he’s a teenager and they need more sleep.
29. We can take advantage of my son’s natural rhythms — he is far more alert and able to retain information in the evening hours.

30. Engrossed in a good book? We aren’t limited to a brief “silent reading” period — there’s plenty of time to read, and read, and read.
31. My son’s vocabulary is huge in large part due to all the reading we do.
32. We have time to discuss news stories in depth in addition to discussing media influence.
33. My son has a better understanding of how government is meant to work and how it actually works than most adults I know.
34. In public school, my son was socially awkward; as a homeschooler, he has found his tribe and now fits in.
35. His self-esteem skyrocketed after we began homeschooling.
36. He has learned better coping skills at home than he did in school.
37. He has learned to manage his perfectionist tendencies much better.
38. Going to family or kid-friendly places during off-peak hours is much more enjoyable.
39. As introverts, we can nourish our energy needs as much as we want.
40. The people and experiences in our lives are now much more diverse than they ever were before.

41. We can focus on what’s important to us and not whether or not he has the right backpack or shoes.
42. My son is more of an independent thinker now than he ever was in traditional school.
43. My son surprises me every day with something new that he has learned without having an academic lesson.
44. Instead of learning vocabulary and spelling from lists, he learns them from reading and context.
45. He is more curious about the world than ever before.
46. He has gotten over some phobias and obsessive problems by learning to face them on his own terms, in his own way, and on his own schedule.
47. We both have significantly less stress and anxiety in our lives.
48. We have time to stop and talk to people rather than rushing from one activity to the next since six to seven hours of our day aren’t taken up by a traditional school schedule.
49. Instead of learning multiple subjects from one teacher, my son can go to experts in each individual subject he wants to learn about.
50. It may not work for you, but it does work for us.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Recent drawing...

I've been doing a lot of drawing over the past several weeks. Some drawings have shown up in my Etsy shop as stationery or coloring pages. Others are part of a drawing challenge called #Inktober on Instagram. #Inktober is a challenge to draw every day of October.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pack light when traveling...

I still owe a post in my 5-part homeschooling series, and I swear someday I will get it done! Today, however, I want to talk about packing light while traveling. Author Elizabeth Gilbert's FB page today had a post about women traveling solo, and one of her suggestions is to pack light. A commenter, however, asked HOW does one do that.

I've spent a month in Mexico with only one backpack to carry all of my things. I spent 10 days in New York City with the same back pack. I've traveled cross-country twice, and both times, although I had tons of stuff with me, I only dipped into one single bag for clothes and toiletries.

Weekender tote bag by The Orange Door Boutique on Etsy - I could totally pack for a month in this one bag. Isn't it gorgeous?

Here are my tips for traveling light - this is my exact comment in response to the woman who commented on Liz's FB post:

Clothes that serve multiple purposes - a single pair of black paints or a black skirt in a forgiving, wrinkle resistant material can be worn for casual or dressy events or anything in between and goes with just about any kind of top. White, gray, black tops go with everything. Or, if you keep the bottoms neutral, take any top will pair with it. By taking easy to mix-match clothes you can take fewer clothes. Also, fabrics that can be worn more than once without getting smelly or that air out easily between wearings so you don't have to do laundry frequently.

I took a single backpack for a month long trip to Mexico once. We stayed in a hotel with a laundry service - it cost next to nothing so I could wear everything, put on my last clean outfit, and send the rest to be laundered every week for very little cost.

For a long trip, I pack 5-6 pairs of underwear and socks, an extra bra in addition to the one I'm wearing, a second pair of shoes (stuff the shoes with socks, underwear, and other stuff when packing to save space!), flip flops/sandals, one pair of pants, one skirt, and three tops. I carry a jacket or sweater on to the plane with me as I always get cold when flying. I usually wear a shirt and lounge pants on the plane and use those as pajamas while traveling. Oh, and I typically pack a hat of some sort (something that can be squished or folded up). Toiletries when traveling are toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion. I buy any other toiletries (shampoo, tampons/pads, for example) at my destination. 

I don't take things like a hairdryer, curlers, etc when traveling...although I don't use those at home either! 

I suggest pack a week before your trip. Two days later, remove 1/3 of whatever you packed. Two days after that remove another third. Only take what's left. Even with the small amount I pack, I always find one or two items that I don't wear at all during the trip.

I love taking clothing brands like Royal Robbins, Ex-Officio, Patagonia, Columbia, etc as they often are designed for travel with forgiving fabrics that don't wrinkle or that can be shaken out, and often don't absorb body odor.

My favorite book about women traveling solo:

Monday, April 7, 2014

We interrupt this program...to bring you a homeschooling BONUS lesson!

If you were following my five part series on our family's homeschooling evolution, you know that I posted parts I, II, and III, but then I sort of disappeared. Yep, I just kind of vanished. Sorry 'bout that!

Read part I of our homeschooling evolution HERE.
Read part II of our homeschooling evolution HERE.
Read part III of our homeschooling evolution HERE.

You know those times when it feels like everything is rolling along and going great, then suddenly...


Everything kind of falls apart!

Yeah, that's kind of what happened here. Thankfully, I think I'm climbing back up to the mountain, headed in the right direction, despite having lost the trail.

I spent weeks and weeks feeling under the weather but kept plugging along when I should have taken a rest. As a result, I ended up fairly sick. I spent loads of time in bed, sleeping, when I wasn't at work. I couldn't afford to take time off from work to focus on feeling better, so my recovery took much longer than it should have. Of course, just as I began feeling better, my allergies went completely bonkers. Totally haywire!

In the past week, I've spent more on new allergy medicine, asthma products, and so on than I think I spent on similar products in all of last year! Yesterday was the first day I've felt even slightly normal.

So, although not part of my series on how our homeschooling approach has evolved, here is an important homeschooling lesson for you:

Homeschooling BONUS lesson: Adapt and be flexible.

Many new homeschoolers wonder, "How do we keep homeschooling when I'm pregnant and on bed rest?" or "I'm in the hospital with pneumonia. What do we do about lessons?" or "Grandma is super sick and we have to go take care of her. Will my kids fall behind?"

The answer is, take a break! Adapt and do what you need to do in order to take care of the situation at hand. Taking a break from lessons does not mean your children will stop learning or suffer. In my opinion, learning to deal with the problems at hand can be much more informative than just about any formal academic lesson. How you handle a crisis will go a long way towards how your children handle future hiccups in their life plans as well. 
Typography poster: Everything is going to be OK by NeueStudioArtPrints on Etsy
Here are my five steps to homeschooling through a crisis:
1. Set the books aside and focus on making it through.
2. Talk to your kids about what is happening and what is most important at the moment.
3. Find alternative options to your usual lessons - documentaries and videos, books on tape, notebooks and pens, paper and crayons, whatever helps get you through without making you feel like you've lost your grip entirely.
4. Tell stories. Either make up stories from scratch or tell true stories about your family's history. Talk to one another. Learning to communicate face to face is sadly becoming a lost art in this day of technology and social media. Communicating will bring you closer together.
5. Reschedule lessons for another time. Instead of working Monday through Friday, do lessons on the weekends. Instead of taking a traditional breaks to match the local school calendar, take a break a week or two later. If you have to miss a significant amount of the school year, plan to work through part of the summer.

And, bonus step:
6. Your kids will still learn even without formal lessons. It's going to be OK! In a crisis, loving your family and supporting one another is far more important than just about anything academic.

I hope to have parts IV and V of my homeschooling evolution series up by the end of this week. Thanks for being patient!