Category Archives: Stuff we love!

What Rainy Days are made for . . .

This is how our Kittiez chill while we're doing school . . . they love the laid back lifestyle!

My small boy sat at the kitchen bar today, with his sisters, after lunch. They were discussing what to do with this rainy, gray afternoon. We  settled on a new movie they had borrowed a while ago, but hadn’t yet watched at home.

Then suddenly, he piped up with,” Mom, I hope we homeschool forever.”

The girls chimed in with a quiet, “Me too!” And then they all gave me *that look* – the one that says, “you hope so too, right Mom??”

I smiled, realizing how different this day was from the disruptive, chaotic atmosphere we “enjoyed” yesterday, when everyone seemed to leave all of their ‘mojo’ AND most of their ‘A-game’ in bed! *sigh* Yes, some days are just like that. We make it through, everyone goes to bed, and we get up the next day, hopefully with a clean slate and a better attitude. For the latter, I’m referring to myself since my students are typically over it before their heads hit the pillow! 😉

I reminded them that we homeschool because we feel like it’s what the Lord led us to do this year, but on a personal level, I hoped we could continue with it. They’ve been seeking a commitment from me about the following school-year, but not for the reasons I suspected they would at this point in our journey. They miss their close friends, and mention them pretty much daily or weekly. Yet each one has approached me with questions and ideas for next year’s curriculum; each one has asked me to continue studying at home.

The conversation then turned to what might happen if we ever felt like He was leading us back to regular schooling.  I reminded them of the joy we find in obedience, but often not until AFTER we’ve taken that epic step – a trip down memory lane, anyone?? (Number 5 was a biggie.) I cited some well-known Bible characters, like Abraham and Isaac – the same ones that my wise, talk-me-down-from-the-ledge husband used back in June.

I can scarcely believe what we would have missed in our lives if I’d said a big, fat, fearful, resounding, “NO!!” when we felt the gentle nudging to homeschool. It makes my throat close up just imagining.

When I reminded them of their tearful first reaction to our thoughts last summer; they all shook their heads remembering. Now with big smiles, they are wiser and infinitely less fearful of the “unknown,” simply because, well, now it isn’t.

And so the afternoon was spent with the 3 of them piled under blankets and pillows watching “A Dolphin Tale,” munching on popcorn and homemade lemon-sugar cookies. I curled up on my bed with my iPod and returned emails while keeping one eye on some Food Network tv shows I recorded earlier in the week, day-dreaming of the ‘free-time’ I would hopefully have at some point.

When I heard the rain starting to fall, I realized it was time for car-pool. I was instantly relieved. I realized that I very much enjoy not having to dash out in the rain, or cold, or heat-wave to collect my babies from the school parking lot. I love that instead, our afternoons are spent wallowing in meaningful conversations about obedience, blessing, and favorite movies.

My Academic Olympians studying the Greek influence on early Roman civilizations . . . or something

PS.  I also don’t miss getting SOAKED to the bone on a regular basis – just in case anyone else has ever attempted to collect 3 school-kids during a rainstorm here in the South and can relate to me keeping it real!! 😉

Really, how much can you have to say about a pencil sharpener?? (Um . . .you’d be surprised!)

This is an understatement of what our collection looked like by December!

It’s funny the things you don’t consider  B.H. (Before Homeschooling). For us, one of the bigger revelations this past fall was the difference a lousy pencil sharpener could make to our school day. I never really thoughts about it before! Honestly, I sent in my kids’ 12 pencils and whatever colorful sharpener they happened to select on the back-2-school sales and never gave it another thought. Sure, we kept a few on-hand for homework and other projects, but I never bothered much if it wasn’t the world’s greatest pencil sharpening specimen or if we had to hunt down 3 different ones to find *the one* that would fit the new transformers pencil or latest Vera Bradley addition to the pencil fleet.

Ahh, but that was before.

BEFORE sharpening seemed to take up half our day. BEFORE hunting down the sharpener to fit each pencil meant derailing a math lesson or a group science reading. BEFORE I was suddenly noticing that there was no way our 12 x 3 packs of pencils were going to make it to Thanksgiving, let alone the end of the school year! In fact, just think of them in the context of a reverse ‘loaves and fishes’ scenario and you’ll have some understanding as to what happens to good quality pencils in a homeschool classroom.  I’ll give you a hint, it doesn’t matter how many you think you have to begin with.

Somewhere before the holidays we reached our breaking point with this issue – literally! I remember thinking about the “bouquet of newly sharpened pencils” that one of my seasoned homeschooling friends giggled about and reminded me not to get to attached to – yep, it was looking pretty neglected. Not because we didn’t want sharpened pencils or because we didn’t try – it was quite honestly because out of the half dozen sharpeners we had on hand, only ONE of them was actually any good at sharpening! Unfortunately, this little ‘$2.99 world-globe-shaped-sharpener-that-could’ had so many other issues, including a propensity for over-sharpening (which = snapping the lead off inside the blade area), as well as being impossible to empty without dousing yourself and the kitchen floor in lead-pencil shavings. *UGH* After snapping off approximately 8 red and lead pencils in quick succession I reached the conclusion that the days of this little sharpener were numbered.

So I did what I normally do in unfamiliarly frustrating situations – I threw my hands up in despair – and then I researched my way out of distress. I don’t always Google. Sometimes I do, but lately I’ve had success casting my net in more targeted areas of information and expanding outward until I find the information I need. I hit the jackpot very quickly when I stumbled upon a website touting THIS little gadget as the answer to all our pencil-sharpening woes. I hemmed and I hawed and I consulted the principal – who laughed and said we should buy several. I debated some more – really, could one sharpener really fix all the issues we had with pencil-sharpening in our classroom? Finally, I contacted the company who graciously agreed to share their sharpener with us in exchange for my honest feedback and blog opinions. For anyone who knows me, the thought of being ASKED to give ‘honest feedback’ typically elicits  a neurological response equivalent to consuming an entire bar of chocolate.  I jumped at the chance!

She even named it "Pencil Sharpy Bear" - it's family now.

And here it is – this pencil sharpener has changed our lives. OK, maybe not in the same sense as the more meaningful decisions we’ve made, you know, like choosing salvation, getting married, or deciding to have children . . . but definitely a major change for the better in our homeschooling endeavors. In fact, if I have to site a downside to this sharpener, it would be that I occasionally need to confiscate it from my 2nd grader who seems to invent reasons to sharpen his pencil every 3 seconds now for the sheer fun of it (because it’s certainly sharp enough that it doesn’t REQUIRE additional sharpening)!

Inspecting the point - how does it DO that?

As to durability, we have put our sharpener through it’s paces thus far. For 3 weeks, since starting our second semester, we have sharpened a wide variety of pencils ranging from the fancy “embellished” kind, to the higher-quality Ticonderogas we typically reach for, to Crayola erasable colored pencils and my basic grading pencils too. At no point have we had it jam, lock up, not sharpen, break apart, spill shavings or eat our pencils. Oh, and bonus – it’s quiet! This wasn’t a big issue for us, as it’s been a few years since our multiple attempts at using electric sharpeners (both epic failures within a few months – at varying price points much higher than this mechanical one), so we’d forgotten how loud a sharpener *could* be. But for anyone using an electric one now, you’ll definitely appreciate the change of decibel.

Quite simply, this is the most amazing pencil sharpener I’ve ever used. I wish I’d had this on hand for the days B.H. I can only assume it would have made those long homework sessions and weekend assignments somewhat less irritating. Indeed, this discovery is one of the many ‘blessings in disguise’ we’ve experienced along our journey. I know that whether or not we homeschool far into the future, we certainly won’t be giving up our Quietest Pencil Sharpener.

If you find yourself curious about our new sharpener, feel free to ask away. I’ll answer whatever questions are out there (you all know where to find me) – although the website also has a video that I found very useful when getting set up with it out of the box. The steps to sharpening may seem cumbersome (I admit to being intimidated initially – yes, I know it’s just a sharpener), but  I promise it takes about 2 seconds per pencil now that we’re all pros. 😉 Click on the button on my sidebar to check it out – and be sure to tell them you read about it here. We’re definite fans!

Back in business! Finally able to sharpen all the colors!

The Half-Way Mark

Do you see the end? Me either!

If I compare this one-year journey to a marathon,  I suppose I am officially “half-way” through.  I’ve just finalized our 2nd quarter grades. I’ve printed them (A’s =  free doughnuts, YO!), filed them (for my OCD), logged them at our online reporting site (because I’m required to) and NOW I’m ready to move on with Christmas crafts, holiday baking, and enjoying this season with my kids!

But honestly? If I had to look at our days and number them according to the yearly planner I have on my desktop, I think I would lose it! Why? Because I’m just now realizing this journey isn’t half-way through. It isn’t even half-way begun! For real! At what point does a parent look at their child and say to themselves, “I’m officially half-way finished with raising you”? Is it 9? I mean, technically, 18 is adult enough to vote, go to college, consume alcohol in a variety of states . . . I’ve heard. Or how about 10 1/2 – my newly 10 year old would probably love that! Wow, she’s half-way to 20! Yet the idea of thinking or saying that to my 8 or 10 year old is preposterous and inconceivable!

So instead,  I sit and ponder what the meaning of “half-way” for us really is. Does it make me any closer to defining the length of this journey? I don’t  think it does – at least not in the concrete terms I assumed it would by this date. “People” (you know, the ubiquitous ones who comment on everything and nothing inside your head?) all told me I’d feel a certain way by Christmastime. Instead, I find myself wondering how I could ever begin to put a date on this experience? How do I possibly determine the end of something that I feel like I was called to be to my babies all along (and just didn’t realize the seasonal and practical out-working of it until this year)?

These thoughts don’t necessarily translate to never putting our children back into a traditional, Christian school environment. It just means that homeschooling has evolved into far more than the “schooling” experience  I was prepared for . . . and for which I subsequently prepared the children! I feel like I’ve just recently gotten a hold of the super-secret homeschooler’s dictionary,  and I’m finally able to define terms I never understood before! I’m grasping the concept of “lifestyle” and not “school at home”. I’m living vicariously through my more “relaxed” and seasoned homeschooling mama friends, and taking mental notes for “next year” without even realizing I’ve just run smack past the finish-line of this imaginary race!!

So, no. I’m really not half-way to anything. Well, we might be half-way to summer break . . . then again, we might not! We might even take a walk on the wild-side and jump off the “year-round schooling” ledge while we’re at it! Why not? I grew up schooling like that, half a world away in the pacific where it’s actually the norm and not nearly as renegade an idea as it seems to be here above the equator. I’m not saying we will school year-round, but the freedom that comes from removing my finish line I think is what we all needed to do at the end of this calendar year.

It’s kind of a big step for me. At the beginning of this process I was panic-stricken about even committing to a WHOLE YEAR!!  What if I irreparably damaged my kids before then and they didn’t want to live here let alone attend school here any more?!?!  But as you can see, I’m firmly off that ledge. For now. At least until I start looking at curriculum options for next year. (Then I begin to open and close my mouth in imitation of a goldfish gasping in air.)

But, if it’s any consolation – and it was for me – my 10 year old recently asked a high-schooler at the dance studio what curriculum she was using for science, I suppose because the book the student was holding looked interesting. Unfortunately, the high-schooler couldn’t tell her. Instead she looked confused and asked my sweet E, “What’s a curriculum??”

I tried not to laugh when she told me, and casually suggested she might want to try the word “text-book” next time.

PS Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

Homeschooling ROCKS - it's true, even if I made them do this!

Just kidding . . . here you go for realz this time!

3smalltree

Blood, Candy, and Other Related Subjects

I need to take a moment to thank the BTDT (been there, done that) homeschooling moms who recommended we look into Apologia Science for our kids this year. It has been the most wonderful journey for all of us!

Still,  I remember wondering after the first few days if we’d made a horrible mistake! This book was NOTHING like our previous science books and we’d had plenty of them! The only science our kids took prior to this year was Abeka, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we knew we needed to change things up a little this year for homeschooling, based on a request from our rising 6th grader.The science-y part of what we learned . . .

After we settled on Anatomy and the book arrived,  I was very concerned that it would be WAY more than our 2nd grade student could handle and WAY more in-depth than our 6th grader would care for (given anatomy isn’t her fave to begin with!) – BUT it has turned out to be nothing short of a perfect fit for all of us!

Each chapter covers some aspect of the human body. So far we’ve studied cells, the skeletal system, the muscular system, the digestive system, nutrition & vitamins, the respiratory system and last week, BLOOD! This format changes things up enough to keep everyone interested, but it’s thorough enough that I don’t feel like we’re just skimming the surface of these very important subjects. To say I can’t wait to order and teach the rest of this series would be an understatement. We don’t know what the Lord has for us in the years ahead, but suffice to say, if He continues to lead us to homeschool our children, Apologia Science will be a staple! Did I mention that science has never really been my favorite subject? I don’t mind it, but I tend to glaze over when things get *too* scientific and I cap out at about 2 hours of wandering around the various Science Centers we’ve visited as a family. (Which just makes it all the more miraculous that I enjoy teaching this subject to our kids!)

Anyway, when we came to the chapter on BLOOD, we were especially excited for 2 reasons –

1. The kids have always wanted to know their blood types

and

2. Since my Dad is the manager of our community Blood Bank, we knew a field trip would be in order!

Here are some pictures from our recent adventures . . .

First we had to make a model of blood, because who doesn’t love a good edible model? We included the 4 components: Plasma (corn syrup), Red Blood Cells (red jelly bellies or cinnamon red hots), White Blood Cells (we used a white tootsie roll since you’re supposed to show that it’s larger than the red cells), and Platelets (candy sprinkles!).

Mmmm, blood!

Who knew all 3 would be so excited about making blood??

Later in our study we took the kids on a tour of their local blood bank. Here they learned how the blood bank separates blood into the 4 necessary components, and how they store them for transportation to local hospitals. Everyone also had blood typing done – turns out all 3 have the same blood type! A special shout out goes to the retired science teacher turned lab technician who graciously included our kids in his work. They learned so much!

Getting a lesson in how to separate the red cells

Examining the bags to be sure no plasma or white cells got in!

Putting the newly separated plasma into the blast freezer!

The 'girl with the purple gloves' is ready to tell Ems her blood type!

It was the perfect end to a very interesting science chapter and yet again reinforces why I’m so happy we chose this curriculum (and this lifestyle) for our family this school year! Thanks to all the participants who made this lesson possible. 🙂 Not only do we know all our blood types now, but the kids have an increased awareness for the need to donate blood (when they’re old enough) and what happens to it when they do!

For anyone in Florida, Georgia or Alabama interested in donating blood or learning how to host a blood drive, click on the Life South logo below to locate your nearest Life South Community Blood Center!

Unlocking the ‘Mommy Guilt’ Code

I never knew there was a choice!

I don’t make New year’s Resolutions. As one friend of mine so eloquently put it – “Why should I set myself up for one more opportunity to fail?” I think we’ve all felt like this at one time or another. I felt like that last year. In lieu of resolutions, however, another friend of mine revealed that each year she selects a word, just a single word, to represent what she is hoping to focus on in the coming 365 days.

ONE word? As a writer, I wondered how on earth I would ever do that? (Which was the key, really, because it meant the gauntlet had officially been thrown down – by me – and I had to do it.)

I sat down and discussed it at length with my better half. We both came up with words for the year. His word apparently scared me so much that I didn’t write it down. Anywhere.  (No doubt it was “CHANGE” and not in the presidential way. 😉 Because we all know how I feel about that word.) After much pondering, I went with “Deliberate” for my word in 2011.

Here is what I had to say about my selection on the day that I came up with it:

My word for 2011 is going to be “Deliberate” – as in, on purpose, intentional – particularly as it pertains to parenting and my routine here in the home. My goal is to avoid the “accidental parenting” that happens when I fall into patterns I don’t even especially like but are easy and familiar. I want to seize the opportunities presented to me by my children in these current ages and stages in an effort to minimize any regrets later that I “missed” so much of this or that. I’m sure I’ll still be able to think of plenty of things I could’ve done differently when I’m 50 and reviewing these early parenting years, but my goal is to be present and engaged and, well, deliberate.

Here is the irony of this whole process – I have not thought about my word from that day to this. In fact, if another friend hadn’t brought up HER word for the year earlier this week, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered it again before next January! (Yes, another PRIME example of why I don’t make resolutions. But anyway  . . . ) I looked up my word and was stunned to see how closely it aligned with the parenting decisions we’ve made this year – most notably our decision to homeschool – although in making these decisions, I can honestly say that I never even considered the word. So, apparently it played no part at all in my “deliberate” parenting other than being the initial articulation of something I’ve had stirring in me as a mommy for several years now.

Can I please read the clif notes instead?The thing is, as parents, we find so many opportunities to beat ourselves up. We continually feel we are making the wrong decision, even when 5 seconds before we were confident it was the absolute right one. I’m not sure why this is, but after 11 years of parenting, I learned to refer to it, without affection, as an undeniable case of “mommy guilt” that cropped up anytime I least needed it to.  All difficult parenting decisions came with a nice , warm cup of it, and any awkward conversations with my tween, her teacher or a fellow parent had the potential to further convince me that I was NOT making the grade in this Parenting 101 class.

However, in the days I have spent homeschooling this year (all 60-whatever of them, so don’t be thinking I know what I’m doing or anything) I think I’ve finally determined why I was so quick to feel like I had the words “epic fail” stamped on many of my parenting missteps.  Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling comes with it’s own, built-in fail-o-meter, and it’s a HUGE one. Fail at this, and you can potentially ruin your kid’s chance at getting into a good college, being successful or worse yet, being a productive member of society! Umm yeah, no pressure.  So why is it that I’m feeling far less guilty these days than I did last year. The year that prompted me to select DELIBERATE as my word for the parenting days ahead? I think it’s because it isn’t the act of failing that makes us feel like we’re not making the grade. It’s the times we wonder if we’ve done enough. Otherwise identifiable as the fear, regret, guilt cycle. Did we really put all our effort into that conversation, decision, project, study session, etc etc etc? Did we? (FEAR)  We decide we did not (typically when we make all our sound mommy decisions, circa. 1am), enter REGRET. Finally we are engulfed yet again by the ubiquitous and inevitable MOMMY GUILT. *Ugh!*

No. This lifestyle isn’t a perfect cure-all for the modern mommy guilt. I don’t want to portray that myth and add to the guilt! Yes. There are definitely days I’m almost comatose by 4pm just as it’s time to take everyone to swim, dance, soccer etc. HOWEVER, there are far MORE days when I am finally satisfied with the effort I’ve put in to my day with our kids.  I don’t lie awake at night anymore wondering if I’ll regret saying “no” to that last bed time story. Instead, I remember that I said YES to several other opportunities to make memories today – including reading aloud from a variety of books. I now plan our time together – I am deliberate in creating the moments we will spend in each others company. We will take trips just for fun. We will spend time reading. We will bake together (and clean the kitchen)! We will take walks to enjoy the sunshine and bundle up when we realize it’s really freezing cold instead! We will  have a range of discussions on every subject – scheduled and unscheduled – because we simply have more TIME together.

Taking time to smell the roses - or wildflowers in this case

I wish I had known, for the last 11 years, that what I really needed to do to relieve myself of heaping amounts of mommy-guilt, was just to say NO to the pressures around me, and take more TIME tending to the things I constantly felt like I could be doing better . . . instead of habitually feeling like I didn’t have enough quality time or questioning if we were spending it the way we *should*  (who decides that anyway?!).

Yes, we took family trips before. Yes, we ate dinner together as a family most nights. Yes, we sat on the ends of our kids’ beds at night while they discussed their day or their friends or their homework. Yes, we cheered them on at their soccer games and swim meets. Somehow it still didn’t feel like enough to me.

And that’s how I can quantify this decision to be more deliberate. Because now I feel it’s enough. I feel like they finally SEE the effort and care that I want them to know we put into this endeavor. Into THEM, not just their education. I’m not saying at 11, 9, and 8 I expect them to really “get” it, or even articulate their appreciation for it, but I know that they see it. And that’s finally ENOUGH for me as a parent.

I didn’t realize that my desire to be more deliberate was really synonymous with homeschooling – but that’s exactly how it has played out for me.

I guess it means I need to be more aware of whatever word I select for 2012?!

You have not because you ask not . . .

Because the sky is no longer the limit - for small boys OR astronauts!I have decided that small boys are like little sponges. They will soak up whatever information you give to them – good, bad, or indifferent! In addition, I’ve realized that they will also give you ONLY what you ask for. They will not attempt to exceed the bounds of whatever task you assign. They do not typically seek ways to over-achieve, but they will work hard to deliver exactly what you have asked for . . . hmmmm.

Applying this theory in our homeschool has been interesting. For example, if I expect my small boy to write neatly (knowing he is mechanically capable of doing so), then he will. If I let it slide when he writes with less care, he will continue to do so until I remind him that sloppy letters are not an option, at which point he sheepishly corrects the sloppy letters and reverts to his beautiful (and apparently time-consuming) printing method instead.

2 weeks ago, before Fall Break, I asked each student to select someone they wanted to learn more about. I got the idea from another homeschooling blog I read – the report is called “Person I Admire” and it gives me the chance to fine tune their writing skills (including addressing things like writing an outline, bibliographies, note cards, and rough drafts etc where needed) and provides the opportunity to do an oral presentation (costumes + our kids = a win!).  Spencer decided he wanted to do his report about the first man to walk on the moon. I selected some readers in his level from our local library, and he has spent 2 weeks absorbing all sorts of knowledge about Neil Armstrong.

I modeled the requirements for our written work on a similar assignment students are typically given at our previous school, with one notable exception – 2nd graders are not assigned this report. They are not expected to write anything of this length until closer to 3rd grade. But why not? I wasn’t sure how to go about this with a 2nd grader, but I decided we’d never know if I didn’t try . . .  so I just typed up my expectations, printed them out and handed them to him. He looked at the guidelines, asked a few questions, and simply accepted that this was normal. Aren’t all 2nd graders writing a one page paper on a person they admire and then completing an oral report in costume? No? Well, never mind, he is! Why? Because I asked him to.  😉

I'm not planning to have him write the report in Cuneiform - but apparently he could!

Today we sat down and discussed his outline. I explained that it was like a plan and I wanted him to have one so that he knew where his report was going and how he would get there. This apparently made sense to him. We talked about rough and final drafts.  I told him I didn’t expect it to be perfect because we would be making corrections together before his final draft. He knows to look up any words he is unsure of how to spell in our Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. I had to help him find the word “exciting” – and then tell him the word he actually needed for his sentence was “excited” (LOL) – but other than that, this small boy just turned out a complete paragraph about the early life of Neil Armstrong.

Oh. My. Word. Can I just take a moment here?? Who knew 8 year olds could do this??

Tomorrow I’ll have him write about his early career and the next day we’ll tackle achievements and accomplishments. The final day will be a paragraph on how this person has inspired him. ( I admit, I can’t wait to see what that paragraph looks like!)

So, now that the cat is out of the bag, it leaves me wondering . . . what else should I throw out there for my small boy to tackle?! I feel like this is a bit of a guessing game – “guess the student’s potential” – and it leaves me scratching my head a little. What else is he fully capable of and yet no one knows simply because no one has ever asked him to try? I was planning on beginning our times tables after Christmas . . . now I’m not so sure, maybe we’ll pull out the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs around Thanksgiving and get a head start. 😉

Of course, I do plan to check the report for accuracy . . .

October

I understand leaves look like this in places with seasons - just not around here. So apparently FALL has arrived, or Autumn, as I’m more accustomed to calling it. Either way, we’ve noticed a distinct drop in the humidity and, for at least 3 whole days, a dip in the temperatures too.  To celebrate this auspicious occasion, and because we’re currently studying poetry as part of our Creative Writing curriculum, I am including a Haiku written by my small boy. Yes, it is his very first. No, I didn’t help him at all (except to confirm that he did indeed have the required number of syllables per line).

Who would’ve thought my little engineer would have such a way with words? And yet he is consistently making me smile with his couplets, Haikus and other expressions. Just one more thing to love about being the one to teach him these things – an even deeper appreciation for the effort and glee that went into the making of these 17 syllables . . .

October

October is fun

It is fire pit season

It is raining leaves

Today we finished school a little early. Not by any real design other than the fact that everyone got their work finished by lunchtime. To celebrate, I broke our usual routine of quickly made deli sandwiches and instead served cheese quesadillas with left-over chili, fritos and a homemade brownie for dessert. While they surveyed their Mexican feast (+ brownie), knowing they were done for the day and all that awaited was the promise of a lazy afternoon, the oldest sighed and said . . . “No offense (previous school), but I LOVE this.” The others nodded and agreed through mouthfuls of lunch before running off to play.

Our afternoon has been spent with me perusing blogs, recipes, and information overload via the internet with one-eye open, and the kids playing with Barbies and Lego in the other room, while a slight breeze blows through the house from our open windows. It somehow makes the last 10 weeks even more worthwhile knowing that they are enjoying an extra 3 hours of childhood today.

And so we have made it to the end of our first quarter where despite some rocky days (Did I mention it IS possible to have a deficiency in homeschool? Why yes, it is!) and some hectic days (broken vacuum cleaner and customer service reps extraordinaire, anyone?), I think we are all holding onto the promise that homeschooling is the right forum for us to facilitate the education of our children this year.

Onward and upward and into the second quarter we boldly go . . .

How our pirates spend their time now . . .

Burnt Toast and Miranda Rights

Oh yeah, it was MONDAY.

So today has been a MONDAY – in every CAPS LOCK sense of the word. There was basic non-descript bickering after breakfast, a staggered start to school work (not really the kids’ fault), more sibling irritation, and finally, a broken vacuum-cleaner that totally derailed the rest of the academic day. But as I was driving my 3 kids, their school work, and my broken vacuum cleaner to the repair shop (again – but that’s another story), I began to think about how few people I could actually tell about my horrible morning. I know that most of the issues I now relate will sound far-fetched and hypothetical, but it has been brewing in my subconscious for a while, so here it is.

I feel like when we decided to homeschool our kids, I signed away my rights to complain. About anything. I am no longer allowed to comment that my kids had a bad day at school. Or that I’m struggling with their schoolwork. I’m not allowed to sigh that no one was able to focus this morning (even me). Or that despite my best efforts, some of the material we covered today probably went right over my 2nd grader’s sweet head.Nope, I'm fine. Nothing to see here!

Why?

Because it is now, officially and forever, and ever amen, MY FAULT if any of these things occur.

Melodrama, much?

OK, let me explain how it works: When parents (with kids attending a traditional-style school) have a hard day with their kid’s homework, they tell other parents (in the same class or school) about their dire situation . . . then the other parents nod and agree about how difficult the work is, how they wish the teacher didn’t assign so many pages, how the tests are too frequent, and how they are frustrated about the whole system. However, now that I’ve gone ahead and ditched the system, I apparently have no one to blame but myself (or my kids?) when things go awry in our day. (I do find this assumption to be both limiting and preposterous, but there you have it.)

It’s as if there is a certain commiseration chip that no one feels compelled to employ with homeschoolers! In fact, the sentiment I find heartily expressed among the general population is that I brought this on myself and my kids with our decision to homeschool and if I don’t like it, I should go back to regular school. No matter that NO ONE would EVER suggest the opposite to a parent complaining about a day in regular school. Ever. Just saying.

This guy? He's for SURE a homeschool parent!If I sound like I’m a tad bitter, I’m really not. It’s more of a sad observation, really. I know I could simply call up one of my homeschooling buddies and share these thoughts with them, but somehow it smacks of deprivation or bias that I can’t just unload on my other friends the way we’re all accustomed to! I miss it, in a way. Not that I NEED to complain, my kids are great and typically I don’t have much to complain about, but when we have a tough moment, I miss the camaraderie.  Also,  it takes time to build up a solid network of local homeschooling peeps to turn to in the throws of this new endeavor; I had over 6 years experience in the other field. 😉

I suppose the other reason I feel more secure in keeping my mouth shut, is that I’m acutely aware of how many pairs of eyes are watching our every move. In very much a “watched piece of toast in the toaster” kind of way. Only instead of waiting for it to pop up, I feel as if all the pairs of eyes are all waiting for the toast to burn. Waiting for me throw my hands up in the air and say “OMG! What was I THINKING?? Why would ANYONE want to do THIS??” In that instant,  there would undoubtedly be throngs of people nodding their heads in agreement and commiserating with me that they had those same fears and how glad they are I’m returning to “they system” so we can all complain about THAT together again.

I should pause to note that I DO have a variety of supporters in both camps (homeschool and traditional school) who have been amazing throughout this journey and done nothing more than their absolute BEST to encourage me no matter the circumstances — and our kids’ closest friends have been amazing too.

Maybe this will silence the naysayers?

But the fact remains – my toast is not burning. The eyes grow increasingly curious as our school year evolves and I’m still not having a melt-down. So I’ll be darned if I let my “Monday” be known to the masses. Not to put on a ‘front’ or anything, but today I’m realizing why I should exercise my right to remain silent. And why there are probably many homeschool Mom’s feeling the same way.

Who likes Fractions?

Half Man, Half Lion . . . All Myth (and apparently part-time superhero!)

So we’ve officially made it 1/6 of the way through our experimental year of homeschooling. The early start we got in August means we’ve now completed 31 days (of the required 180).

I decided to take a poll at the dinner table tonight because I thought it would be interesting to see how (if at all) everyone’s perspectives and opinions will change throughout the year.

The conversation went like this . . .

M: So, we’re 1/6 of the way through our school year! Can you believe it?

Kids: YAY!

M: How does everyone feel about homeschooling now?

Kids: Umm. Great? (I think perhaps they thought this was a trick question?)

M: OK. So who thinks they might want to go back to (insert name of previous school) next ye. . .

(interrupted by yelling)

Kids: NOOOOOOO!!!!

Well then. I guess our 1/6 of the way through the school year update is that 3/3 of our student body has 0/3 desire to go back to regular school next year. I wonder how they will feel about that closer to Christmas? Or Spring Break? Or Summer? I guess time will tell!

I admit their adamant and unanimous reactions made me very curious about their reasons! So, I did ask why they felt this way.  I received a cacophony of reasons, basically boiling down to the same issue . . .  that (previous school) was too hard.  Hahahaha! (Do what???!!)

Now, I’m especially baffled by this because we are doing almost the exact curriculum as their school counterparts this year (yes, I admit it, I was too gun-shy to veer too far off the beaten path with our curriculum choices).  I pointed this fact out, along with the newsflash that they are actually doing MORE work right now because we have extra time for me to add in subjects they wouldn’t be taking at school right now – like creative writing, art, piano, current events, Lego (yes, that’s right), drama, and coming soon, typing and French – but no matter! They are convinced that this is easier, so for now I’m going to let it slide! It certainly plays to my advantage!! 😉

Or maybe they just feel that way because we did this before school this morning?

Early Morning PE anyone?

Or because they are currently curled up on the couch in their PJs watching “Chicken Run” and eating fudgesicles, instead of racing around getting homework finished or going to bed early for “school” tomorrow?

Either way, it works for right now. Which means so far, 1/6 of the year has been a success.

8 hours x 5

“What did you do with your 8 hours, Mommy?” I laughed out loud but really, this question sucked all the oxygen out of the car the first time I heard it from my 1st grader!

The kids all *loved* school – they loved their 8 hours! (Right??)They enjoyed their friends, had some wonderful teachers, and were making good grades (which = learning, right??). But the more times I heard this question, the more it made me think long and hard about how I really wanted to spend my 8 hours.

Today, I’m really tired. I got up not so early (7:30am, yay, homeschooling!), helped everyone learn something in their 8 (hundred) subjects, ran some errands, cleaned the house, took kids to swim practice, went to the gym  . . . realized it was the wrong class  . . . decided to stay anyway (the jury is out on whether that was wisdom), came home, skyped with one of my relatives in Australia, cooked dinner, helped clean it up,  and fell in a heap. And you know what? I’m so much happier about what I did with my 8 hours today than I was the last time my son asked this question.

Last night I read a blog (yep, I’m not kidding, ALL the time, people. I probably need therapy but so far it mostly has good implications.)  and it commented that this particular blog family had done the math and figured out that they get to spend 1,440 more hours each year with their kids than they would if their children attended school outside the home.

1,440?!!

Oh. My. Word.

Because the next time we do this will be after I next blink.

The “8 hour” question was not the reason we decided to homeschool our children, but I can confidently say that it played a major part in our initial discussions on the matter. Knowing that even our kids noticed how much time we were spending apart and wanted to do something about it? Well . . . let’s just say, I’m happily providing him with an additional 1,440 hours of my time this year.