Monday, October 8, 2012

My Rock in the River

Okay, so I cannot and will not sugar coat anything in this blog. In fact that is why I'm keeping this journal. I need to see where we have come from. I want to document what works and what doesn't. I've heard other homeschoolers talk about "bumps in the road", and I always wonder what those look and feel like because the specifics are usually left out. Well, here are my specifics.

C is NOT interested in lessons as much as I would like her to be. She is having a hard time coping with anything challenging, which is where we have come to in the lessons. So last week we took a week off of doing lessons. I even thought about just throwing the lesson books in a box and bringing them out next year. She would have made the K cutoff by two weeks anyways. Perhaps we wouldn't have sent her to K at all and waited for next year? All she wants to do is play. I know, what a shocking development - a 5 year old wants to play! I'm still in the process of reading Lori Pickert's Project-Based Homeschooling book and rethinking and evolving my approach towards C and J's homeschooling experience. Asking myself "what do I want the experience to be?" and "how does that correlate with their ability to thrive?" I'm all for independence and self-learning, but I and the children also need structure. Without structure I become a mess. I also feel it is important to introduce information (in this case reading, writing, and arithmetic) to them, but I cannot expect it to be processed and regurgitated at my whim, that isn't the purpose. I also have to remember that her independence needs to develop beyond the bounds of where I think her independence should be and give her that space. For example, I can't answer "yes, of course you can color, but only with the crayons" when she wants the markers. There needs to be boundaries, but I sometimes catch myself creating unnecessary lines (i.e. markers).

I think I am expecting too much too soon. I've been here before when C was younger,...

trying to force the future

..upon my little one. Example (I have plenty) - buying certain toys before they are ready, bikes that were too big, books that there is no way they would sit for, gymnastics at the age of 3 (although some kids would go for this, C was not ready and stood in the corner crying wanting to go home, but when we would leave she would cry because she wanted to stay, which equals not ready in my book).

To review a thought that comes to mind, one that I don't necessarily agree with yet I still find it there, entertaining it, coddling it, fearing it. Maybe the fear that is perpetuated is what consumes a lot of parents to the point of setting unrealistic expectations which leads to disappointments and anxiety resulting in a deep hole of stress, self loathing, child loathing, and life loathing. "Am I the only one that sometimes feels like my child is lacking in creativity and curiosity? Are they really going to get to that point where they find an interest that isn't fleeting? Something that is pursued and built upon with a gentle support and guidance. Beyond baby dolls and playing family?" And to go deeper "My kid is not who I want them to be. I need to - put them in a club; buy _____; make them do this or that - and then they will say, do, and be what I want." Put a mirror in front of that thought! I guess the next step to take in rethinking my approach is replacing this thought with a more positive, empowering idea. Something that will help and not hinder. Something that feels not so constrictive. Something expansive. From now on when this negative attitude begins to fog in around me I will stop and refocus towards...

My children are right where they need to be and are exactly who they need to be. I do, and will continue to, support their creativity and curiosities the best way I can. In a patient manor, I will also continue to guide their abilities in core areas of knowledge (reading, writing, arithmetic) in ways which are open for modification and that are engaging.

So today we worked on reading. She is at a standstill with this. She does good at picking words out of a list, but when it comes time to read a word or sentence she tenses up and becomes disengaged. So we will pause. No moving on in the lessons. I decided the best approach would be to just look back at the lessons we have already completed (about 30) and just review. So today, we looked at sentences and found ending sounds, capital and lower case letters, vowels. Then we took some words, wrote them on the white board and she pointed to a word after I said it. Then we played a game of charades. This was much easier than struggling through a lesson she is not ready for. I'm not trying to match her pace to mine, but holding her hand as she moves at her own pace.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Home Education Choice and Intention

Developing an intention. This has been an idea flooding my thoughts lately. What are my intentions related to homeschooling,? I know I have said "freedom and authenticity" but what does this mean and how does this manifest?

Could I make a statement that I could come home to time and time again that captures the essence of the life and physicality of what we are doing?

 I really sat with this while engaging with the children, while planning, while sleeping , but I have been resisting sitting down writing about it because I am unsure that a few sentences can fully capture my intentions as a home educator. However, I feel compelled to continue because intention is the foundation of all anyones doing rather they see it or not. I also feel that when introducing the idea that my family has a home educating lifestyle to someone else, I want to not just explain myself but I want to fuel intrigue and awakening within the listener. Intentions don't need to be developed as much as they need to be realized. So it isn't that I need to decide what the foundation of my choices will be, but what they already are, and I know this. It may not flood to the forefront of my consciousness right now or in an impromptu conversation, but perhaps that is my main intent here.

Perhaps I need to gaze back and look at how I got here. Why did I decide to stop taking C and J to preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings? I started noticing that I was just walking with the crowd. This is what I do next, right? Looking to others and my own past (as a daycare and latchkey kid) for advice. I was under the pressure to please and conform. I felt uncomfortable, but unsure what that meant. I was accepting and being the status quo of parenting. Then I heard Laurtte Lynn talking about what is natural and what is processed - a comparison between homeschooling and schooling. I will never forget that moment. I felt like I had been shaken awake to my children, to my purpose as a parent, to my resentments that I was allowing to fester. Resentments and resistance. Since having two children within a couple of years, both of which were unplanned but welcomed, I was unable to work the usual 40 to 60 hours a week that had been building since the age of 15, my dream wedding (really unsure what that was) and honeymoon ended up being rushed and I was sporting a prominent bump, and my travel plans shot out the back door. My head, body, and marriage was starting to slow down and stop the spinning. At this time in my life I was involved in, and am still focused on, a huge spiritual transformation and presence.

So I heard those words and started doing research. I was astonished that there was another option and why had I not seen this before?! I just assumed that homeschooling was for a certain religious right and I didn't exactly fit into that category. It was the winter of 2011 and I had time to allow C and J to finish up that semester of preschool, do more research, and convince my husband that not re enrolling the children was what was best for them, our family, and the world. I was able to observe my thoughts and feelings when dropping them off and picking them up. No longer was I feeling "free" of C and J on Tuesday and Thursday. No longer did I have the "I can't wait until they go to school" attitude. I now felt like we were paying someone else to do what we could do, to do what we should do. As gut wrenching and painful as it was at the time, I was building confidence. Perhaps that is what is lacking in the mainstream parenting culture and why so many think someone else can do better for their children than they can.

So what is my intention?

I intend to foster an engaging environment that fuels curiosity, exploration, and independent thought. I resolve to be present, patient, and empowering to the mind, body, and spirit of my children


Life is not a race to the top.
Life is not a competition.
Life is not material possessions.
Life is not information that needs to be processed and regurgitated.

Life is for each individual to find, to explore, and to know. Life is not to be given or taken. It is to be trusted and known as an inherent power.

Each choice that I make is a result of my intentions. I'm not saying that I currently always think, say, and act from this authentic and free space, but I'm learning to, or should I say "I'm learning too", and as long as I keep walking I will learn.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Creating Space

I have recently started reading Project-Based Homeschooling:Mentoring Self -Directed Learners, by Lori Pickert. I love this book so far! It is really helping me see where I can change when trying to help C. C is such an independent person, I like to call her a nonconformist, that it is sometimes hard to introduce new topics or help her when I think she is struggling. She becomes so angry and disconnected to the process when I "cross her line." I know it has happened, because she is the type to wear her heart on her sleeve, when she says "stop talking Mom," or she just stomps off. Then it becomes a struggle for control. I don't want to strong arm her. That didn't work well for me as a child. I know that it is not her that needs to change, but it is me that needs to modify my approach. This goes back to one of the most recent Family Rules of Respect, respect others' space. Not just for the kids, but for Mom and Dad too.

So, what is evolving around our house? I moved all of the activity books (aka workbooks), toys (aka manipulatives), crafts, etc...into one consolidated space. Everything is within reach. This will be great and challenging for learning how to clean up after ourselves, another family rule. I am also going to practice honing in and focusing on what the kids are interested in, and develop custom projects. I'm going to focus on keeping my mouth closed and my eyes and ears open. I'm going to practice an increased presence with my children, not trying to mold them into who or what I think they should be, but fostering an environment where they can Be.

Project plans
We have a great opportunity right now. My husband is in Africa on a medical mission. So the kids are enthusiastic about anything in Africa. I think I will start with leading the kids to that section of the library. C is also very intrigued by the extinction if Dinosaurs and how time-zones work. I'm excited to see what the kids will come up with and how I will do staying out of their way. Mum is the word.

Some links that lead me to new ideas...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What this mamma needs

So today I woke in an "ill" mood. Not feeling the vigor of life. I immediately started taking in what was on my mind. Melancholy thoughts stacked upon a night of broken sleep from a midnight battle with a 5 year old (perhaps I will leave for a future post). I remember my recent resolve (see Soccer drama mama). To become more aligned with what helps me stay centered - meditation and excercise.

I think the inability for people to recognize what they truly need leads to the "I can't wait to get these kids out of my hair" philosophy. My take on that line of thinking is that, as a mother, we can mix up our priorities in life, get distracted by social pressures, trying so hard to keep with the egocentric point of view that can shroud our world. Unable to find a balance of being a parent, a wife, and a human being.

It is so important to have a self-care routine that allows you to keep a balance, to keep perspective of the big picture. Yes, I am a mother, but my children are not me. Yes, I am a wife, but my husband is not me. I am that I am. I need to take care of that I ~ mind, body, and spirit ~ and allow that to reflect with thoughts, words, and actions. Therefore, I know how I need to think and what I need to do to maintain that balance (so I don't become angry, frustrated, and jilted.)
After reflecting on my state of being this morning I grabbed my ipad and headphones to meditate before the kids woke up. I enjoy using guided meditations, especially in times like these. I chose a short meditation from Tara Brach's website. From there, I began my day. Perhaps a bit more peacefully, present, and flowing.
J woke up and was immediately wanting to go for a bike ride. What a great idea! We loaded up the car and went to the local park with trails. The kids had fun and I got a great workout. After the bike ride they wanted to play at the park. What a great idea! It worked out I could run on the hill packed trail around the park while the kids played. No excuses! Fully refreshed!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lessons for the day

Hard at work with morning lessons. C wasn't ready to begin earlier and asked to play in her room for awhile. She let me know that she was ready about 20 minutes later and we began.

Let me digress a bit and let you know that earlier this am, her still in pj's, when the school bus rolled by, I asked her, "do you want to be on that bus or do lessons with me?" She smiled and laughed. I then said "that bus is a good reminder of why we are doing lessons." I think this fuels her level of motivation. She doesn't think school is a bad place, nor does she think it is scary. She knows it is simply an option and we choose not to go. I want her to know it is a choice (for her parents) and that her choice is her attitude.

J is working on his cutting skills. Sometimes moving in close for a better view. Sometimes he asks to do lessons too. So we will pull out his activity book and do some pages together. Later today, a trip to the post office, some toy organizing and grooming the dog.

By the way the family rules of respect are really working! Hanging on the fridge door as a reminder.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Soccer Drama Mama

Soccer. What a wonderful sport. I started playing when I was 5 and it became an outlet, an escape throughout my early year, teens, and early adult years. When it came time for Caia to choose a sport this fall she chose soccer. I realized there may be some sense of expectation I might have, looking into the future of her hypothetical soccer career and mistakingly planning her future to be the same as mine. I soon let that go. I wavered on where to sign her up. There are a lot of options around the midwest. The local community league, churches, "faith" based organizations, indoor facilities. I chose the local community rec program and signed her up. I soon recieved information that there were not enough spots for C and 11 other girls, and if I or another parent didn't take initiative and become a head coach my child, and 11 others, wouldn't be playing this fall. Talk about pulling at the good ol' heart strings. I paused, for a few days, waiting to hear that someone else stepped up. I signed C up so she could have another adult she could look to for guidance, expanding her experiences, and this one was to be without mom! I could watch on the sidelines, help her practice individually, and maybe help the coach out. But nothing. So I took a deep breath and spoke up.

So here we are a couple of months later. Today we had our 2nd game. I'm still numb from the stress of today. C is a very strong willed child. One that is constantly tapping her toe over the line, somtimes even leaping over it with a vicious look on her face. Okay. that last part was an exaggeration, but that is how it feels sometimes, today anyways. As a parent, I know we all have a "bad day." Struggling to find our own center, let alone trying to positively guide a young child along a peaceful path. In our league the teams are divided onto two fields, playing simultaneously. Each field has a coach. The first half was horrible. I coached on the aggressive field where C was going to play on the nonaggressive side. The game started and about 5 minutes in, Caia is standing on the sidelines looking at me screaming. I mean screaming and crying. It was a scene. I finally had to get a parent to go onto the field so I could be there for her to calm down, which happened. Then it was half-time and she played the second half, as long as I was on her field. These are the questions I have that surface...boy is my ego floating right now.

Does this experience reflect the fact that C is not going to kindergarten like all of the other girls? Would things have been different had we chosen to send her to school?
My husbands "favorite" question - What is wrong with her?
Is there something wrong with her?

Let me clarify for you. I am not an "easy" parent. I don't take sass and defiance. Perhaps I scream too much. Perhaps I threaten one too many times. So after the past day I am making further resolve. I am resolving to
  •  Take more time for meditation.
  • Take more time for physical activity aka stress relief.
  • Make a list of "Family Rules" and encourage the children to tell me what those rules of respect are.
  • Continue with the routine that is working well for us.
  • Follow through, no threats, no more counting to 3.
I know I am doing the best I can. I know she is doing the best she can. I love how we are both doing the best we can. I love how we are all doing the best we can. And the best we can is always evolving. Thank God for change. Tomorrow is a new day.

Learning is a natural process that doesn't need force.

Learning is a natural process that doesn't need force.

For example, to learn the months of the year we learn them as they come. We also get to work on days of the week as they come and go, holidays, seasons and so much more. Some areas that naturally came about in this process today were the discussion of writing from left to right, noticing the flow of numbers moving from the teens, to the twenties, and then thirties. Such a great and enriching review that occurs each month. Each night we place a sticker on the day that has passed. We are also starting to do some journaling in each childs notebook, which is taking some discipline on my part.

Embracing oppurtunities as they come, I'm learning, is an important part of this lifestyle!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Get it?

C, which is what I will call my daughter, is 5. She would have started kindergarten this past August, but she didn't. Whenever anyone asks, depending on my confidence level, I either respond, "we don't go to school", and other times "we do home education." Anyways, today C did reading and math, which is the main focus currently when it comes to lessons because other topics expand off of these and then others are so intimately intertwined with daily life they have no particular label. Reading and math are a good foundation and they are helping me learn the flow of our newly chosen lifestyle as well. Today, she struggled at the beginning with the reading, rolling her eyes, whining, squirming (which squirming sometimes I've noticed,a symptom of heavy learning for her. Weird, I know). So we changed to math, which is currently her stronger subject. After a quick snack of cheerios, she breezed through the page and the manipulative section. I had tried yesterday to do this lesson outside with chalk on the driveway, but she was tired and cranky about half way through the "game," so we stopped and went inside to play.

We then moved onto the reading/phonics lesson. It is amazing seeing her soak in the sounds of letters and putting them together! Just when I am feeling frustrated, trying to not let it show she gives me that shining ray of hope that I need. This is where I have grown greatly in the past few weeks. Patience! Sometimes, I find myself getting caught up with her not "getting it." I begin to feel the anxiety that she will never "get it," which is a dreadful and dark place to be! I have learned to tell myself the is not a big deal, nor a deal at all! It will happen, and with my guidance and patience and her ability to be this huge massive 5 year old curious sponge of a beautiful child the only problems that exist are the ones in my head, until I mindfully compassion them out of there!

On to the lesson we went. I'm not going to lie, there were times when I told her how it was. We were getting it done! With my loving encouragment and confidence rubbing off on her the lesson took about 20 minutes with smiles, a couple sighs of frustration from her, and the feeling completion...well partial completion. She still has the words "cap" and "bat" sitting on the white board for her to sound out and read to me, which will then follow with switching the beginning sounds out with an "s" for two new words, but she was done. So we went for a bike ride. BUT, just before leaving she came up to me and told me she wasn't going to tell me the word with the "ap" today! A mental smile fused through me. No problems here...

The rest of the day will be filled with an afternoon learning how to rollerskate with the local home ed group. Then quiet time and the movie UP I promised J (which is what I will call my 3 year-old son). After a rest, on to soccer practice for C, then bathtime, books, and bedtime.

Deciding to journal.

So we decided to "home educate" our children. The question that soon follows, "how long will you do this?". My response is usually, "do you know what you will be doing 5 or even 10 years from now?"

I want to keep a journal of my experience for several reasons. First, to document the experience for my own personal reflection. Second, to empower and inform others that are interested in reading. I will expand upon topics when I feel the motivaion, which always helps any process. Also, if you have any questions or seek any further information, please just ask.