Homeschooling in Baton Rouge

I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With the exception of a few months living in a barn in Saint Gabriel, I’ve lived here my entire life. I love this city  in a sentimental way. If someone asked should they move here, however, I’d shrug and say “meh, probably not”. I’m not the only one. Anytime you hear someone say “we just moved here” they are always met with a confused face and a resounding “why!? Husband’s job?” 98% of the time, their response is a glum “yeah.”

God bless the chemical plants.

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Baton Rouge is a great city to live in if you love to shop, eat or sit in traffic listening to commercials about shopping and eating. Also, football. For anything else, however, you have to dig a little deeper.

Last year’s homeschooling was mostly about not giving up; any outings we took were just to get relief from the trailer. This year I want to enrich our school year more. Once a week, I want to get out of the house. Once a month, I want to take a break from our curriculum schedule and spend a day on one topic or holiday (i.e. make lots of crafts). Finding things to do, took a little bit of work. Part of my homeschool prep this past month has been finding fun, inexpensive things to do around town with the kids.

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We’ve joined a local, Catholic homeschool group that I am very excited about. We’ll have the opportunity to meet up with them on park days twice a month. The group also organizes field trips, clubs and parties. The two oldest girls have joined their chapter of  The Little Flowers Girls’ Club ; they’ll meet once a month, on a park day, with other homeschool girls age 5-10. The girls will get some extra catechesis and spend time in a group away from me. Me and the little two will get some relaxing social time playing at the park with the other homeschoolers. It’s a win-win and a guaranteed “outing” on one week each month.

For a few years now, we’ve maintained (through birthday monies) a family membership to our local Arts and Science Museum. In addition to the permanent displays, including a real mummy, the museum rotates art exhibits and boasts two hands-on science rooms: one for little tikes and a more science-heavy room for older kids. The little kid’s room is huge with all kinds of imaginative play things. There is a sectioned off part for toddlers and a fully stocked craft corner. They have suggestions of crafts to make, or  you can just go crazy and make up  your own. Oh and did I mention the planetarium and DINOSAUR HEAD?! If we time it right, we can see any of the IMAX shows too, included in our membership.  It’s a great place to spend a day and since we have the membership, even if we go for an hour and just play in the kid room, we are still coming out ahead. It also has the benefit of being right on the levee near a river walk. This plus the trek from the parking garage means kids are fully worn out by the time we leave. Score.

 

I’ve been hunting around for more options like the museum for semi-regular visits. The Zoo costs $32 just to walk through the door; the fact that it is the complete opposite side of the parish also means lunch out. They do offer a discounted time, just before rush hour picks up on Wednesday. Only $7 to get us all in for an hour followed by 2 hours in traffic to get home?  Not so inciting.

This spring, we finally went to The Bluebonnet Swamp. Two dollars a person to get in, 102 acres to tramp through plus a large indoor visitors center with reptiles galore to look at. They also offer different event days throughout the year.  Oh and best of all, one of the three or four trails you can take leads you right to the Bluebonnet Library. Do you know what they have at the Bluebonnet Library? Books! A trip to the swamp, hike to the library and back means happy, exhausted kids. You can bet a family membership ($45 for a family of 6) will be on Evangeline’s birthday wish list this October.

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The Bluebonnet Library is a good, every day library. But the Main Library on Goodwood is our fancy library. The wonderfully air conditioned library has one of, if not the, biggest children’s sections in the parish system. A lot of low stacks (and stacks and stacks) of books, plenty of computers and multiple comfortable reading areas. The “new” main library was finished a few years ago and now the BREC powers-that-be are focusing their attention to the surrounding acreage. Thankfully, they’ve left the Botanic Gardens alone with the calming Iris Pavillion and enchanting rose garden. The crepemyrtle prominade is also left in tact which now leads to a fully updated, up-to-code, mercifully shaded, playground. Again, spend a little time inside with books, a little time outside in nature and everyone goes home happy. Noticing a trend to what I look for when taking the kids out?

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Speaking of nature, I’ve found the biggest Baton Rouge gem of them all: The Burden Center, Botanic Gardens and Rural Life Museum. Tucked away behind what’s become medical-metropolis on Essen Lane, the Burden Center is over 400 acres of gardens open to the public. We’ve been to the Rural Life Museum hidden in the very back for Halloween and Christmas events and had a blast. It would only be $18 for us to go to the museum during regular hours, but for one reason or another, we’ve never gone then. Now that I know the gardens are open and free, I expect we’ll be there a lot, especially when we start studying local plants.

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Our homeschool will officially begin on September 4 and I’m hoping all this leg work I’ve done looking for fun outlets will pay off. If we can keep on the straight and narrow, this year can really be a lot of fun and very enriching. I can’t wait to start our routine at home and get out and do fun things around town.

What is it like homeschooling in  your town? Where is your favorite place to bring your kids in Baton Rouge?

Outlook on the New School Year

The 2017-2018 school year has started for East Baton Rouge Parish, but not quite yet for the Carruth Classical Conservatory. Do you like the name? I’m trying out different options for our homeschool to see how they fit.   Louisiana doesn’t require us to name our school, so it’s just for funsies. We moved back into our house a few weeks ago and have been hard at work getting the kitchen finished. It will be many more weeks until everything is finally, fully done but a half finished house is better than a too-small trailer.

I’ve been steadily prepping for school since we got back in the house; I’ve ordered all the books, written lesson plans for the first quarter and I’m working out which subjects I’ll teach jointly. This year I’ll teach not only Evangeline, but Felicity as well. Last week the girls’ and I started re-acclimating ourselves to a homeschool schedule. We start our day with a prayer, then calendar work, counting and learning a new vocabulary word. In September when we begin our full school schedule, this will remain our morning routine.

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I’ve spent two years teaching Evangeline and my instincts have been molded by my interactions with her. Teaching Felicity is a daunting proposition. Felicity is a spirit all of her own and functions on an entirely different wavelength than the rest of us.

Evangeline is structured and enjoys rules. She likes sitting down and being taught; she likes the sense of accomplishment a completed worksheet brings. She thrives in a school room setting and basks in the one on one attention of homeschool. She likes to jump rope with the line between daughter and student. She frustrates easily and is offended to find things she did not already know.

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Felicity just enjoys the world; she is oblivious to circumstances. She can be sitting in a classroom, walking through a grocery store or kneeling in mass, when a thought occurs to her, she acts on it. About 90% of the time, her thoughts have nothing to do with what’s going on around her; her internal life is very active. She enjoys having her own work to do and can really zero in on a worksheet or coloring page. The thought of teaching her a lesson however makes me twitch. Just going through this morning routine for a week, I know she’s not one who will sit still and listen: “Sit down Felicity. Take that out of your mouth. We’ll get water in a second. Where are your pants?!”

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She’s 5 and we are working on sitting still during mass and at supper. I don’t think it’s necessary to beat the horse for homeschooling. In fact, while I have many concerns about teaching Felicity, my greatest worry is that I will crush her little spirit. She is so resilient and joyful. Happiness and affection simply beam out of her. But she can get underfoot and strike a nerve quicker than her siblings do. Maybe it’s because she and childhood-me are very similar; her flaws have been my flaws that I work hard to overcome. It isn’t fair and I have to remind myself often that she is a lovely 5 year old who is doing well on her journey to holiness.

This fear is the driving force as I make decisions for her school year. I want her Kindergarten year to be gentler than Evangeline’s was. She’s already ahead of where Evie started just because she’s had the benefit of an older sister in school.  I’m going to start with basics, but I expect her to make quick advances. I want her to accidentally learn rather than be taught directly. I want to help explain the world around her as she discovers it. My motto for Felicity this year is from Mr. Rogers

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

-Fred Rogers

 

An approach like this would drive Evangeline crazy. She likes the structure. Her’s is the hardest head in the family…well maybe after mine. She is so quick to draw a line in the sand and hunker down. That spirit could do with a little crushing if you know what I mean. My mottos for her year are meant more as instruction and encouragement for myself.

“You will accomplish more by kind words and a courteous manner than by anger or sharp rebuke, which should never be used except in necessity”

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“Do not lose heart, even if you should discover that you lack qualities necessary for the work to which you are called.  He who called you will not desert you, but the moment you are in need He will stretch out His saving hand.”

-Saint Angela Merici

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Teaching the two of these girls will require so much grace and favor from God. I surround myself with inspiring stories of girls adding to the world in tremendous ways through their education (thanks A Mighty Girl and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.) I hope to grow quite a bit this year and learn a great deal about teaching little girls…just in time to start teaching Reuben.

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Good Bye Trailer, Hello New Start

It is fitting that this post comes at the one year anniversary of the flood. It’s been 12 months months but the effects are still visible. Houses are still empty, families are still evacuated and most infuriating of all, infrastructure issues like clearing drains and maintaining pumps are still not done. There is barely any mention any more about diverting canals or preventive measures that seemed all too important a year ago. We are still living under the band-aid, but it feels like not much has happened to keep this from happening again.

Our family, too, is not quite back to pre-flood status but we are a lot closer. Our house has walls, our mortgage company is eeking out money for our repairs. The biggest milestone is that we have turned in the keys and officially moved out of our FEMA trailer!

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FEMA’s paradox, the trailer was a refuge all of our own where we could live out our own psychological torture experiment. But I’ve complained enough about it; now it’s time to move on!  It was good and it’s good that it was.

During the month of July we worked through projects big and small to get our house live-able. My dad built in our bathroom cabinets and closet shelves, my mom painted everything. We installed the counters in the bathrooms and are working to get the sinks all hooked up. We had nailed down the design for our kitchen and painted our surviving upper cabinets. Our kitchen and bathrooms remain our last projects. We still need to have tile walls of our bathrooms replaced, order cabinet doors, build in lower cabinets in the kitchen and put in the floor. The house is functional enough to live in while we finish the rest. As projects and rooms are finished, I’ll share their updates, in the mean time here’s a reminder of where we’ve been this year.

 

 

Our time back in the house has been wonderful. The children, as a whole, are happier with all the outlets now available to them to spend their energy. They have two rooms and a yard with swings, trampoline and an inflatable pool. Ryan and I, as a whole, are happier. Our house doesn’t shake with everyone’s steps, there is room enough for everyone to sit at the dinner table at the same time. Jackie, our dog, is back with us and it feels like we are landing on our feet. I’ve given us this month of August to finish preparing and settling in before starting homeschool after Labor Day. Each night as I sink into my own bed in my own room, I let out a contented sigh and affirm that it is good to be home.