Sparks of Magic

Parenting

How We Manage Homeschooling Five Kids Plus Some Options to Get Started in California

FamilyCamilleComment

Well, we did it and took the leap this year, our journey to homeschooling has begun. I guess I shouldn't say that it’s just beginning, because I've homeschooled our kids off and on since our eldest (now a Senior) was in Kindergarten, but this is the first year that we have ALL FIVE of them home and WE are working together.

Did you get that? Yep. WE.

Sparks of Magic - Wall Family - 2018.JPG

Jeff and I are a team in pretty much everything, but until recently, school has always leaned more towards this Mama’s court. However, since I am also working from home and focusing heavily on our transition to Los Angeles, we decided to meet in the middle for the kids’ education for this season in life.

At the time of this post, we are home educating 2 in middle and 3 in high school, with one graduating in Spring 2019. I know that people see the fun perks, like school at Disneyland and other destinations, more time spent as a family for travel and 1:1 learning and have this glamorous idea of what it’s like to be a home educator. I love homeschooling, but to be fair if you are considering it, it is A LOT of hard work especially with older students and it is not an easy feat. They get on our nerves. They don’t get to do what they want. They literally eat up the entire house since they’re home all day. They can’t be on social media during school hours (oh yes, they love that part *total sarcasm*). They have to have a schedule. They also have to get dressed. Granted, we do have our lazy days in pajamas, because if you can - why not, however brushing teeth before coming to the table is always a must! Oh, and yes, they have to do work. Thankfully we have an amazing and supporting Education Specialist through our charter school, along with a great team of Special Education teachers for our kiddos that need extra help. When we look at the pros and cons, especially a mid-year relocation, it made the most sense to round them all up, strap on our teaching hats and buckle down to make it work!

Be prepared. Homeschooling will test your marriage. You need to compromise & work together.

Agreeing to Compromise

Let’s be honest, after almost two decades married we have come to understand the word “compromise” on many levels… but let me tell you - homeschooling will test your marriage. Jeff and I have always had differing opinions about homeschooling, and it never really made sense for our family until this year to have all of them home. Fun fact: Jeff was homeschooled his entire life. He is not too proud of that fact for more reasons than one, but mostly because he missed out on a normalized social aspect and his schooling was due to sheltering not academics or opportunity for advancement in the real world. Our kids are little social butterflies most of the time, so he was/is most concerned that this area of their lives would/will suffer. You see how I am still including the present? Because it still scares him, LOL.

I, on the other hand, think that homeschooling is amazing - no matter how many times I’ve sat at the table and cried over planning another week of studies or rearranging schedules to accommodate appointments, travel and other things to keep them on track. In full scorpio fashion, I am a ball of emotion and energy so I can get a little excited with my doomsday thinking if I forget something. You feel like (because you kind of do) have the responsibility of your children’s entire future on your shoulders, and while it scares the shit out of me, it also empowers me because I CAN do this and I AM doing it. It’s not perfect, I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect. However, I am always reassured that they are doing well and we are making it work. The opportunity and flexibility, the joy of seeing our kids “get it” when it comes to certain subjects that are naturally tough, especially after spending years in traditional school coming home confused as hell - to me, is worth the tears, frustration and hard work.

So, how on earth do we make it work for us? I decided to share some of the ways that have helped us over a few blog posts, but be mindful as your family will have different needs than ours. There are so many blogs and articles on homeschooling in CA, and I assume if you’re reading this we know each other in real life, so I would hope that my input actually means something to you. If you have questions, reach out! :) This post focuses more on the options available in California to get this series started.

Homeschool Options 

In the state of California, we have options when it comes to home education. This is simply a brief overview and list of those options and should not be the foundation of your decision-making process. Dependent on your area, seek out school options, call and email, meet their administrators in person and ASK QUESTIONS. YOU are the advocate for your children’s education, speak up and find out what will work for your family based on your children’s needs and learning styles. We have children that have Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Section 504 accommodations and we have Support specialists and teachers that must follow the same mandated regulations as if they were in traditional school. We have always homeschooled through a public charter school so as a disclaimer for this and all future posts, my experience is the perspective of a public charter family in CA. Additional note: NOT ALL CHARTERS ARE THE SAME.

  1. Homeschool Program through Public Charter School: Just as it implies, you are enrolled in a public school and when you homeschool through this option, you are provided funding but you are also 100% responsible for using those funds appropriately for curriculum, enrichment and field trips. You work with an Education Specialist (ES, a Credentialed teacher) to plan your children’s path and they guide you on how to spend your funds. Funding amounts vary based on school, grade of student and location. Because this is public school, the purchase of religious products and services are prohibited. In our experiences, we meet in person or virtually with our ES every 20 school days or once per month.

  2. Homeschool Program through Private Schools: Many times this is an online or video program, additionally many programs are religious-based. As stated, this is private school, so it will also cost money to attend once accepted. For us personally, and with so many children, it is was not a viable financial option and we like the idea of them learning varying perspectives and having more flexibility in curriculum for each child.

  3. Independent Study through Public Charter or Private School: This is done through a public or private school location with varying ways of your student(s) receiving education. Some allow your student(s) to be onsite for an allotted amount of time and work from home the remainder. Some schools have scheduled classes to attend and they provide the curriculum. This option typically does not include any funding as curriculum provided covers CA standards based on grade level.

  4. Private School Affidavit (PSA): This is the option I am least familiar with, but you file with the state as a private home school to educate your own children. Based on CA Ed Code, there are filing dates, which are October 1-15th. More on that is here.

Ok, I know, that could be a lot to swallow if you’re just toying with the idea. However, once you decide the school option, there are still more areas to consider that include the age/grade of your child, their academic goals, learning styles and your desired time commitment. I am excited to embark on sharing our experiences here and touching on every one of those areas. I am grateful to live in a state that allows us options as parents to participate fully in our children’s education.

Do you homeschool? If not, have you considered homeschooling? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Finish off September with FREE Pancakes for the Kids & a Great Cause!

FoodCamilleComment

The season of fall has arrived! I'm always excited for cooler weather and warm drinks like hot chocolate, especially with a nice fluffy stack of pancakes. My sister swears by Denny's amazing hot chocolate so I am going to be trying it myself soon. I consider myself a hot cocoa connoisseur, so we will see about that. :) I'm always up for a challenge!

Kids are back in school, holidays are coming soon (yes, I know it's only September, but I can't help it). And every year, Denny's teams up with non-profit organization, No Kid Hungry, a company that partners with local schools and communities in helping to end child hunger in America. To date, Denny's has donated $3.3 million to the organization, assisting children throughout America. This year was the sixth year of participation on behalf of the restaurant and its team. 

With the launch of the new fluffier pancakes this summer, and for the month of September, Denny's offers free pancakes to its littlest fans every day from 4 pm - 10 pm, with the purchase of an adult entree. This gives kids (who happen to be the toughest critics) the opportunity to see how Denny's new recipe stacks up.

Along with the promotion, For every $1 donated, Denny's and No Kid Hungry will provide 10 healthy meals to a child in need. Not only does the organization provide meals, but they give assistance with meal planning and budgeting for families.

Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

Specifically in California, 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger... that's 25% of children. That is not okay. However, thanks to No Kid Hungry and 18 of its partners in CA, the goal is to satisfy and fill the tummies of our state's children. Our kids' school district offers free and reduced lunch for eligible families, and free breakfast for all children. Giving kids the nutrients and energy needed to function for the day is important and benefits them, but also their classmates and teachers. It's hard to focus when you're hungry (or like my kids - hangry), so I can't even imagine a child not having the basic needs of food fulfilled just to get through a school day.

Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

If you're not able to visit your local Denny's in September to donate, you can visit dennysnokidhungry.com and if you'd like to be part of the yearlong movement, Denny's will be donating $1 for every hashtag #ShareYourSlam on Twitter and Instagram.

Get your kids involved, too! We participated last year as well, and my boys were eager to help make sure kids were not going hungry. You can read that here.

Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

About No Kid Hungry®

No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 5 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring awareness to the needs of hungry children in America, as I am a member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and always mine. :)

A Conversation About Charity, Over Ice Cream Shakes

Family, FoodCamilleComment

It's the last week of school before my kids will have their first quarter, two-week break. During this final week, my boys have 1/2 day sessions all week. In an effort to spice things up, and keep my sanity, I thought it would be a fun surprise to take them out on a little dessert date before we started homework. I met with both of their teachers in the morning for parent conferences, and I'm happy to report that they are both doing well. So, I whisked them away and we went on a Mommy/Sons date to Denny's! As brand ambassador, I make it a point to visit my local Denny's and chat with them about any promotions. In this case, I was prepared to discuss Denny's joint effort with No Kid Hungry. 


The minute we walked into Denny's they stood in amazement at all of the campaign fliers posted, signs on the table, and walls full of people's names. What simply started out as a fun dessert date with my boys turned into much more, as I shared with them the campaign I was working on with Denny's and No Kid Hungry.

They colored and ordered their Oreo blaster shakes. They also had fun testing out the Dreamworks COLOR app with the new HOME, Dinotrux, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman kids' menu. We talked a lot about food, and after all of their questions, I shared my part in the No Kids Hungry campaign. Sometimes I forget that inquiring minds want to know what I'm up to, and it was actually a proud moment for me because they understood the importance of the campaign.

For our family, we've been blessed to have huge support system with family members that lend a helping hand if we ever need it. I told them that not all kids have that luxury, and as a family that is blessed to receive help when we need it, we should pay it forward and do what we can to help others in need. I broke down the donation monetary amounts for them (it was a fun little math lesson), and told them that $1 provides up to 10 meals, and $10 provided up to 100! They thought that was pretty awesome, and immediately asked if we could participate... because, "kids are hungry and it's not right for them to be if everyone just helps." My eldest son had a sad look on his face and said he wished he didn't spend all his birthday money (way back in April) because he would give $10 to donate for 100 meals. I reassured him that we can't go backwards in time, only forward. So they can be mindful and grateful for all that they get to eat, and be willing to share what they have with others.

As I shared in my previous post for this initial campaign, my kids thankfully have never gone hungry for lack of food. The many times they are hungry, is usually due to a picky palate, not because they don't have anything to eat. This campaign really reminded me of the luxuries afforded to us that so many don't have. 

Did you know that if you dine in the restaurant and donate $3, you'll get coupons in return, well over the amount of your donation, for future dining? My boys were most excited to write their names on the wall, knowing we helped to give 30 meals to other kids today. They are both very tender hearted and simply can't imagine the thought of not being able to eat when they need it most.

Kids are so active, and the lack of nutrition truly affects their moods, retaining information and is a determining factor in their behavior. This cause is so important for that reason alone. We are talking about the future of our country – the minds of our children. 

If you're not able to get to a Denny's location, you're always welcome to donate directly through my fundraising link; there's still time to support the cause in ending child hunger in America. I hope you'll join me and my family, Denny's and No Kid Hungry as we work to bring awareness to this nationwide issue of child hunger.

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's. While I have been compensated to share my thoughts and help bring awareness to the No Kid Hungry campaign, All thoughts and opinions shared are mine.

Another First Day.

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

It's barely 9 am and today has already been emotional. 

No, we didn't have any fights or frustrations; this morning went very well. If you have kids, you know that what might seem as a simple act of walking out the door, ON TIME, with kids in tow, really is an accomplishment. 

With our five kids, someone is bound to be in tears over the last bowl of cereal being eaten, forgetting to put their shirt in the dryer, or fighting over the bathroom, hair brushes, or socks!

I know that as the nervousness of a new environment fades, and they become more comfortable with their new school schedule, we might see a more typical morning at home – madness. Ha ha!

I loved seeing them walk together, help each other find things so they weren't late, and I'm grateful to have been here with them this morning to not only witness the angelic behavior, but to love on them and usher them into their newest journey.

I began the school drop offs at 7 am and was home by 8:15 am. Three schools later, and hugs with my five babies, I went back to my car with a sense of relief. I have been counting down to them going back to school, tired of hearing the "I'm boooooored" chant for days on end. But, even after all of that, in that moment alone, as I began to drive away, I let out a huge sigh and began to cry.

Talk about emo. :)

Today is a day of firsts; we now have a freshman in high school. We also have two 7th graders, and both of our boys are now "uppers" at the elementary school. As we move forward in life, we always have firsts and I want them to know it's okay to be nervous, but they should be excited to learn new things, grow in new ways and experience life with a new perspective.

It's so weird hearing my 7th grade baby girl  talk about her extracurricular activities for her college applications; she wants to go to Stanford or UCLA, so she's diving in and signing up for Science Olympiad and deciding what else she will pursue. Sometimes I want to say "STOP GROWING UP!" But, I know, this isn't Neverland.

I guess to keep it short and sweet, I am making it a point to remind myself that they will grow up. But as they do, I will keep stashing these memories like today away. When I'm feeling frustrated or stressed, I will pull these memories out and remember that I am not promised to have them tomorrow, and pretty soon, I will have my last "first" with them.

Have your kids gone back to school? Please tell me I am not the only crying mother. :) 

Raising Our Boys to Respect Women

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

With all things in life comes responsibility, especially with how we treat others. We focus on respecting others' mind, body and soul. Teaching our kids to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions is important. In this journey of life we are privileged to raise our five children and hope to watch them flourish as responsible citizens and kind hearted people.