Thursday, September 20, 2012

Still on Track

Remember when I talked about not letting those unexpected life events get in the way of persevering on with your homeschool? Well, I had the opportunity to put this into practice this year already.

It was the day before we were planning to start school. I had done most of the prep work, but still had a list of stuff to be printed, cut, laminated, and a few books I had to find. Greg was asleep on the couch, the kids were still asleep in bed. I heard Greg's phone and saw his sister's number. I thought it would be a good time to wake him up, so I handed him the still vibrating phone and left the room to do more chores. A few minutes later he came to me, and I could tell before he said anything that the news was bad. My mind said "Who?", frantically going down the list of his family members, each possibility filling me with dread.  Then he said, "My dad's plane crashed," and began to cry. We would later find out that Henry's Grandpa-Dad had miraculously survived the accident and would slowly but steadily recover. But for that initial time we didn't know what to think.

I pushed away the tears of uncertain grief and tried to think practicalities. My husband's business had been steady, but his income was still cyclical, he will sometimes wait months to be paid for any one particular case, occasionally creating very dry times for us. This happened to be the absolute lowest we had ever been financially. We had a couple of near-maxed out credit cards and .38 cents in our bank account, no exaggeration. I went upstairs to my family and told them what happened, and asked to borrow money for gas to get down to TN. Luckily they were able to help us with no questions asked. My sister came down with me and started packing a bag for the kids, and I packed for Greg, then started packing for myself. Half-way in I just gave up and got everyone into the car and began driving.

We drove all day and night, arriving in Memphis around 6am the next morning. Greg saw his Dad right away and we were all encouraged as he took the first steps toward healing. We spent the week with Greg's sisters, working around the TICU's visiting schedule. We took Henry with us once, but the combination of emotional strain and running after him was difficult, and after that he stayed home with me or one of the aunts. Despite the stress of the situation, Henry did get to spend time with and interact with his aunts and his soon-to-be Uncle Ron who he absolutely adored.

We got back late on the following Sunday night, effectively skipping our first whole week of school. We were emotionally drained and worried, not just for Grandpa-Dad, but for his wife and daughter who were left behind to walk with him during what will be a difficult recovery time. I did not feel like singing songs or reading books to Henry. I wanted to spend the next day sleeping or reading or in some way recovering from the trip. But I got out my schedule and shifted some things around and cut some things out, and eventually figured about how to combine the first week into the second and third weeks. And Monday we had school. And it was awesome.

Henry had an amazing day. He listened, he remembered what I taught him. I was able to take care of Baby Stella and do the dishes and the laundry and teach Henry and even make dinner without a hitch. It wasn't perfect by any means. We won't get to do every single thing I originally planned. But it will be work, and Henry will have a great year, maybe even a better year because we stuck with it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Encouragement for Homeschool Moms

I need this post more than anyone else, so here goes:  

What You Shouldn't Be Discouraged By:  

Your Own Expectations. It might be the way you thought you'd look. It might be the kind of social life you thought you'd have. It might be zero screen-time and all wooden/organic/natural toys. I think the most silly and unrealistic expectation I have is my house. Somewhere in the back of my mind I pictured us living in a little brick mansion with an old stone fence and a garden in the backyard. The inside would be pristine and the cookies would be from scratch, with nary a laundry pile or Ikea product to be found. This ridiculous vision of domesticity is behind all sorts of guilty, discontented and otherwise useless thoughts that bring me down day after day.

The Solution: Expectations are a drag; realistic goals are much more useful. If you're not happy about your body, your schedule, your house, your job, your finances - make a plan and do a little something about it every day. It's not glamorous but it's a whole lot more likely to actually change your life.  

Other People's Expectations. Your parents, your in-laws, your friends who are sending their kids to school, even your husband will have some picture in their minds for what your homeschool should look like. Don't buy into it. Saying the pledge of allegiance every morning in your primary-colored school room might work for some people, but for most of us homeschooling looks a lot less formal.

The Solution: When it comes to other parents, like your friends who are raising kids or your own parents, often times your decision to do something differently is interpreted as a judgment of their own choices. If you're trying to convince your friends to homeschool their own kids and they are open to hearing about it, then by all means tell them how great it is. If they aren't open to the idea, shelve it for now. No one wants to hear how they're ruining their kids' lives with public school. Likewise your parents don't really need to know how inferior you think their choices were; instead of talking about what you hated about your education emphasize the pros of homeschooling and all the new (emphasis on new) resources out there. If your spouse is, um, surprised at the stacks of books on the table or the piles of unfolded laundry, the best advice I have is to swap it up. The next vacation week he has, let him take a day or two and try to do what you do. I've seriously done this and guess what? My husband knows how hard my job is and appreciates that he gets to go to work! Whatever other people think or say, make sure you don't let other people's low expectations of what you or your kids can do affect what you do or how you perceive your homeschool.  

Money. I saved up pretty much all our discretionary income for two months, and the other night I spent it all on school stuff for Henry, my not-yet three-year-old. I have to admit, placing the orders for this stuff stressed me out. It was a big commitment. I'm worried about spending too much for stuff, about not choosing the right things, and about, oddly enough, not spending enough. We are living on one income, and paying taxes for the school system but not using resources from the public school in return. This hurts sometimes. Maybe you have lots of kids, or one or one and a half incomes, or the economy sucks. Whatever it is, figuring out how to use the money you have to provide your kids with the best possible education is difficult and stressful sometimes.

The Solution: Being poor doesn't mean you can't give your kids a great education. That said, don't feel weird about sacrificing less important stuff so that you can afford the resources you really need. We've never paid for cable (actually not totally true, we had it for the three months we were studying for the bar so the babysitter could watch TV), I haven't bought myself new shoes in two years and we have limited eating out and traveling so that we can afford the lifestyle we've chosen. Get out of the deprivation mindset and look at allocating your financial resources like you're playing a game. Ask "How can we limit spending on things we don't really care about and focus our money on the things we really need or want?" Then, stop comparing what you have to others who have more. If you need to, compare yourself to those who have less and praise God for how rich you are.

  "Wasting" Your Time. I think this is something all SAHM's face from time to time. We put aside the degrees, the careers, all those things we used to get praise and money for excelling at. (Yes I end sentences in prepositions, no my kids will not be idiots because I'm their teacher). We give up alot to do a job that society does not value. So is being "just" a mom a waste of our gifts?

The Solution: Maybe, for you it might be. Ask yourself this: what do you want to do, honestly? Forget what anyone else thinks. Are you happier at home or outside the home? I can honestly say that working makes me proud, fulfilled, cranky, mentally tired and stressed out. Being home makes me happy, relaxed, and physically tired. It's clear to me that I prefer to be home. My mom wanted to work, and she did, and I am fine. Your kids will also be fine if you want to work. But choosing to stay home, while usually less lucrative than working, is not a waste of your time, as long as you don't waste your time at home. What does this mean? It means you're the mom, not the babysitter. Take advantage of the time you have, think of it as a real job in which you have the opportunity to excel. Pray about how to do it better and prioritize the most important things. Just because the world may not value this job doesn't mean it's not valuable.  

Not Doing a Good Enough Job. Even I've worried about this, and I'm teaching my kid to color inside the lines. Not exactly rocket science, but I've still worried that I will be so much less qualified to teach my kids than the preschool teacher down the road that it's led to serious self-doubt.

Solution: It's simple math. Maybe I'm only half as qualified to teach my kid as a real teacher would be, but he wouldn't just get a real teacher if I sent him to school. He'd get 1/30th of a real teacher or at best 1/15th. The fact that I can give him my full attention is worth way more than a few education classes, IMHO. And if you're worried about a lack of experience, remember that you've lived with this kid for years, since the day he was born. This experience makes you uniquely qualified to understand your child and how he learns.

Obstacles. You will fight with your cranky kid all day, only to realize just after five o'clock when the doctor's office is closed that he has a fever and an ear infection. You'll puke non-stop for five months with extreme morning sickness. Your friends and relatives will stop by the house unannounced in the middle of the day. Daddy will have an unexpected afternoon free and want to do something fun.

 The Solution: (Insert expletive) happens. It's not the end of the world. Having a rough day, or week, or even a few months of chaos does not mean you are failing. In regular school there are sick days and holidays, teachers who take breaks by showing movies, time spent lining up and walking around, waiting for everyone to sit down and shut up, and countless instances of busy work or working above or below the child's current abilities. In other words, you can afford to have hiccups in the routine and still get more done than in a classroom. Don't feel bad about needing breaks or unexpected distractions. Shake it off and begin again!

Problem Solved: How the crib tent saved our marriage

Ok, my title was a little dramatic. But seriously, Greg and I hadn't slept through the night in two months. Oh yeah, and Henry was also ridiculously cranky from his little nighttime romps.

If you are debating whether or not to get a crib tent for your tall or climb-y baby, stop. Just get one, I swear my son is not being abused by using this device.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homeschool 2012/2013

I've been spending way more time than necessary obsessing over what to do with Henry this year. He will be three in November and we've decided to start having a more planned-out routine for him during the week. Basically our plans consist of a Calendar Time every morning, weekly Bible Stories, verses, and songs, a poem each week, various crafts for fine motor skills, pre-writing practice, whatever steps he is ready for as far as reading goes, and Greg will introduce a math program when we feel he is ready.

I'm loosely following the curriculum set up by ABC Jesus Loves Me. Henry has already known the alphabet and sounds, numbers, shapes, colors, etc. for a while now, but the Bible stories schedule is good, and I'm working on simple themes to go along with each month.

I just ordered this crasian math program for Henry and Greg to do together. It's for older kids, so we'll see how it goes.

I also ordered all five sets of Bob books and the BOB Books: Sight Words: Kindergarten Henry has the pre-reader set and absolutely loves them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


As you might have noticed, I haven't posted much on this blog. My plans to do a little tot schooling with Henry this year got side tracked when we decided to move into a small apartment with Henry's aunt, uncle, and cousin, and when I realized I would have a difficult pregnancy. Despite completely neglecting to try and teach Henry anything for the past few months, he has excelled.

He now sounds out three letter words (when he is in the mood) and makes faces out of everything. He's talking a lot more clearly and can draw a recognizable face or body! He loves play doh toys and his train table, and is more interested in smaller board books that he can "read" himself than the longer books he used to like.

I still haven't tried potty training. Originally I thought we'd wait until our last move in Feb./March to start, but now I'm thinking I'll just wait and take my cues from him. I feel like the later I put it off in this case the easier it will be.

After being obsessed with Daddy for months, Henry is now in a mommy phase where he prefers me, especially if he is sick or upset. I have to say, I kind of miss the daddy's boy! But it is nice to know he likes me too :)