Riding the Celestial Wave

Edmund First CommunionI should have taken better note when I found just one of my eight year old son’s shoes at his grandpa’s this past week.  I was like, that’s weird. Kid isn’t even here with me. He’s at home. How can the only shoes he wears, well one of them, be here and him not? It’s kind of like looking for your car keys and you know they are around the house because the car is there. But in this circumstance the keys are at another location than the car.

How is he getting around this past week? He does have another pair of shoes. I assume and hope they are at home, but they are some serious hiking shoes that require a lot of help getting them on. I am quite sure I would have been involved in that process of helping him unlace and tie those huge blocks onto his feet. They took patience, and I can’t remember helping him lately. I concluded that he must not have left the house for the whole week. Wow. That’s kind of weird not leaving the house since last Sunday. And, he must have left grandpa’s last week with only one shoe on? Maybe no shoes? But I can only find one here.

I grabbed the spider man velcro shoe and threw it in my diaper bag and really didn’t think much about it until it was Sunday morning and it was, “Time to get your shoes on! We’re leaving in 1 minute!” This minute can be so tricky. So much pressure to get all seven ducks in a row and remain in a churchlike state.

My husband would just like everyone to get in the car regardless of anything, say explosive diaper bombs, great gothic sculptures of morning hair with fragments of some girly experiment lingering in it from last night. What would he think of a child with one shoe? He really doesn’t like to be late. Me, I don’t like to be late either but I have a fear of getting places too early and a fear of looking like I have seven kids and the kids looking like they have a mother of seven kids. Early to church means more time for little kids to get squirmy and more time for me to get stressed out. I like to get places on time looking and smelling normal which makes us late.

In my search to find his other spider man shoe, I found one of his hiking shoes. So I took that lead and started looking for its match. Nope. What does he do with just one shoe?

Time for a new strategy: girl’s closet.  He followed me dutifully, trusting my mothering sensibilities, and blocking out the fact we were in the girl’s room. They have tons of shoes. They have tons of everything. I do a lot of thrift shopping and that means lots of girl stuff and not much boy stuff. There just isn’t much at thrift shops for boys his age, or older for that matter. Sure, I could buy him new shoes. But imagine the frustration when only one of those shoes are found. The other option here would be to see if the hiking shoe and the sneaker shoe made a matching right/left pair, but I am going to leave that one as the last option.

I surreptitiously dug into the girl’s stash of shoes that would warrant his size. The best I got were a pair of sherbert orange leather sandals. Without saying a word about them, I applied shoes to feet. His toes stuck out an inch from the top. He judged them a good fit in his happy-go-lucky way. Considering our desperation, I also considered them tolerable. He could at least get in the door with these things fastened to his Barney Rubble feet. And maybe, just maybe, his pants, if long enough, would cover his ugly step sister fit bulging out of the dainty slipper. He could take the offense off after church and go barefoot the rest of the day in true hillbilly fashion. So I tried to fasten the velcro around the top of his still a little baby chubby foot, but there was no way. Nope. And, nope. No way.

This next route was the winner: his first communion shoes. 1) They were a perfect fit. 2) They were boy shoes. 3) They were exactly where they should be, paired nicely together by his dresser.

It was at this time I told him that the sandals he was somewhat fond of were girl shoes, hoping that would soften him up to wearing these bad boys instead. He chuckled at me, and said, “Mom, you put girl shoes on me?” We had a good laugh. Silly mom.

Just to give you a proper visual, (There was no time for photographs, people. We were on one minute to get to church on time.) Edmund had on a green Minecraft shirt with gray corduroys. I did try to have him wear a nice striped shirt for church, but if you would have saw his face about changing out of his favorite shirt, you would have done the same and let him wear his not-Sunday shirt. The kid really doesn’t ask for much, and one of the things I have learned as a mother is to pick your battles wisely, and to say yes to as much as you can. This was an area I could concede, and considering the day’s circumstances, the kid was gonna need to hold onto something normal boyish. His corduroy pants made a nice transition from Minecraft shirt to shiny black dress shoes. Edmund looked satisfied with his new look and said contentedly, “Well, I am going to church.”

Monday morning, there is only one black dress shoe in the kitchen. True story.

Believe it or not, I have more Edmund church stories both involving short shorts. You can mentally fill in the details. He is one trooper, that nice guy.

11951970_10205085843255702_2063005118441247357_nEdmund (not in church) just riding the celestial waves that is Number Five in colossal family.

He Learned to Fly

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Change can be hard and change can be welcome. Sometimes it’s both. I sent my sweet baby boy off to school for the first time this year. Hello, tears.

It’s not your typical story of a cute five-year-old toting a Transformer lunch box in a cute new matching outfit. It’s not that this day could not have happened sooner or that I didn’t consider it happening sooner along the way.  It just never happened. It would have felt strange for it to have happened sooner. Homeschooling came natural to me like nursing a baby.

Just so you know, wrangling kids and telling them what to do is not my idea of a fun time. Some days were pure mayhem. Some were mediocre. And some were the ideal packed with meaningful conversations, quiet breakthroughs, and passions ignited. We could eat second breakfasts and wear pajamas, to boot!

I didn’t think about him reaching the age of eighteen before stepping into an actual brick and mortar school, and a college at that, but that’s what happened. Time just flew. And, If you wait this long, they can drive themselves there and pay for their own lunch. Bonus!

It has been my pleasure to have had him home with me these eighteen years and we already reminisce about our quiet afternoons reading Tolkien and Lewis together for the first time when he was elementary age. But now it is time. Time that he should seek his fortune, slay his dragon, and perhaps, find his true love? One thing is for certain, his heart is in our little Hobbiton.  And he will find his way back.

Now that he is a man, I need not fret if he gets hurt and needs a hug, or breaks down and needs a milk and cookie break. I need not worry that what he says is not heard, or that his hard effort is not praised.  I have praised him so many times. I need not miss how cute he was playing knights with his younger brother, wearing blanket capes with butter knife swords, and building a great fortress made of sheets and school books. Because some days that was all books were good for. I need not miss his childhood presence when I would bring a new baby home, the cattle got loose, or we would hear sad, hard news and we all needed each other.

Of course, I still worry, but I know he’s fineI have seen him grow every hour, every day, from baby to man, and in such a smooth and natural manner. He can chop a cord of wood while smiling, milk a cow without her noticing, change a tire, and write a sharp essay. He can make a crying baby laugh and knows when a woman just needs a hug. He is armored with the strength that is forged in familial love. He is kind to others even when he disagrees wholeheartedly. He knows his purpose, importance, and has an opinion. He has a hungry intellect and a clear path to follow. He is strong in his faith yet humble in his soul.

I don’t mean to say he is in anyway perfect, or that I have done an excellent job as his mother. Hardly, so. I could elaborate on those two points quite extensively. It is just that the job and duty of mothering is one where you do not get to step back and reflect much. It seems you are always swimming and the end is never in sight. You get these moments on the mountain top and you see that the path you went down was guided but that you have to get back down there on the battlefield. So the story continues.

Now, I feel my mothering work has changed. Not at all finished but different. That now, as mother, I am more support and advice, more adult-to-adult, and less the laundress, cook, and nurse. I am more, let’s sit and share a cup of french pressed coffee, talk philosophy, music, and discuss each other’s day. I am less, let me pack your gym bag for the day, where’s your homework, and here’s a pb&j. I can feel where now my care could be a hindrance, a crutch.

A friend explained an analogy about raising children that resonated with me. She likened children to compression springs. If you let go of the spring too fast, they will shoot off. If you hold them back too long, they will lose their tension. But if you let go steadily, they can maintain their buoyancy.

Knowing when and how to let go, I believe, is in the grace of parenting and is particular to each family. Homeschooling came natural to us, at least as of this day. For grace seems to come as you need it and goes where you will follow it. So no judgments if you choose otherwise. I am sure you are on the right path simply because that is your intention. Love is the rubric here, not fearful judgments or cookie cutter answers. That is how I think this parenting thing works.

And that love makes the hurting part of change turn its bitter to sweetness.

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Five Coping Methods for a New Home Schooling Mother

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You want to home school but you don’t want a crazy house and you would still like a life? I can’t help you with those last two things, but I do think you can home school. And what’s a house that is not lived in or a life that is not lived?

This is my life, and this year marks the thirteenth year of homeschooling for me. And, if you do the math (I had to do the math) do you know what that means? I had my first graduation last spring! One done, only six more to go! Oh boy…

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Homeschooling has always been a year to year thing for my husband and I, but one that we have always felt called to every year. I usually get so burnt-out and terribly distracted by the end of each school year only to get re-energized right before the beginning of the next school year. It is always so much fun to think about work versus doing it. I am by no means an expert on education, or really even home-education, for that matter. I am about as much an expert at home schooling as I am at giving birth. What I have to offer may still be helpful to the homeschooling novice or initiate. My expertise is simple, it’s experience.

These are five little things that I have learned and a few suggestions for you if you prefer to learn from others and not make your own mistakes. If not, carry on making your own mistakes; this is how I usually learn, too. I think schooling at home is just a matter of life-learning, so there is no right or wrong way, just what works best for you and your family. I like to include myself in the learning part too. This year I am starting violin with my children. For some reason my fifteen year old son thinks this is cringe? He’ll see how cool it is once we play some awesome duets. He has been playing since age seven, so he’ll help me sound better.

Five Coping Methods for Home Schooling with some amount of Success and Joy:

ONE – The first day is going to be stressful, and for that matter the first week. Make your first day an “orientation day. Or more generally, start out slow.  Don’t feel bad about pace, at least not right away.” Let the kids try out that fancy watercolor set or break into making a robot. The transition from a mind-numbing, loosely scheduled summer can be harsh for you, never mind the kids, make it fun and maybe make it a half day.

Most people start homeschooling with just a kindergartner and gradually add the younger children as they come. This gives you lots of time to adjust to your new lifestyle until it normalizes. Over time we have become a family that learns together at home. That is what normal family life is for us. If you are starting with small children, you will have plenty of time to plan for educating your prospecting engineer in Calculus, even if you never took it yourself, or involving them in this sport and that. Both technology and the culture around home schooling are advancing fast, and most likely, by the time you get there, things will have continued to improve for the home schooled.

One area I have seen really advance is technology. The internet has really opened up areas for discussions and endless resources at a touch of a finger. Imagine what will come next. I imagine all school will utilize the specialization technology can offer to an individual education. If you are jumping into home schooling with a high schooler, you will be amazed what types of skills your budding adult has when given more input and control over their own education.

So don’t let your first day, week, month, freak you out! Some people prefer to school year round and therefore avoid the sudden disruption of a flurry of new books and lesson plans, lunch and laundry, the baby crying then screaming, phone calls and the household mess that comes with a good day of homeschooling. Am I stressing you out? That’s what first days can feel like.

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TWO – Use a schedule that works according to your family and its own natural rhythm. Trying to get everyone going at the crack of dawn or to alarms is not necessary unless that is the way you do things. I have tried to go against the grain of our natural routines and found that we don’t get more done, we are just more tired! I love quiet mornings and well rested kids, so I let the younger kids sleep until they naturally wake up. As long as they went to sleep when they should have, they wake up at a good starting time and I get some mommy time. Older kids usually wake up accordingly as the younger, but they may need some help if the morning gets too late for me. Sleep is so necessary for good brain development. So take advantage of the freedom to use what works best for you even if it is unconventional.

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THREE – Change things up and go back too. Dynamics will change within your family and it is so easy to think if something worked for one kid it will work for another. You can fall in love with something so much that you will miss something better.

Example 1: I loved Saxon math for the first 6-7 years of home schooling until I fell for Teaching Textbooks. Recently, my eight year old son was literally hitting his head against the dining room table last year with Teaching Textbooks, seriously hitting his head. We went back to Saxon just for him and what do you know, no more head hitting.

Example 2 and 3: I now have three girls that love art, so I added more art to our day this year after almost abandoning it for years because my two older boys dreaded it. Duh! I forgot about art as a subject because of that. I also went back to a classical education for my high schoolers after leaving it since their elementary years.

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Home schooling is always changing and growing that new things are opening up for us all the time. I am sure this has to do with all those home educators naturally wanted the best education for their children and in a convenient and approachable manner.

Keep checking into your local sphere for ways they can help you educate your children, like your school district, charter schools, home school groups, 4-h groups, colleges, tech schools, libraries, art and recreation centers. These facilities can help flesh out where you may be lacking.

However, be careful not to add so much that you forget why it is you are doing what you are doing. It can be easy to add and add, but then implementing becomes hard on you and the family. Some things are worth the sacrifice and some things are nothing but a headache for everyone. For me, I feel I homeschool best when I have an open day schedule. That way when life happens we can work around it without a huge disruption.

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FOUR – Listen to your kids, and listen to yourself. This seems like a no-brainer, but listening to your kids, and yourself (and husband), is a balance act. Sometimes, you know in your heart what is best for your kids and you have to put your foot down. My husband and I try to make important decisions together, and if it has both of our blessings, we almost consider it sacrosanct.

At the same time, we try to listen to our kids and act on their desires as much as possible. Family life is complicated and finding creative ways to keep everyone stimulated educationally takes paying attention to the growth and development of your kids, all the while, honing into what your priorities are for that to take place effectively. Staying the course on things you feel strongly about is important, but changing the course may be necessary to not sink the boat.

believe all kids love to learn and have gifts to cultivate. Find those, listen for those, and adapt a plan that feeds it, but keep to your vision of why you are choosing to home school in the first place.

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FIVE – Chill out and get to work. Kids are so forgiving and I think it is important to remember that they are ultimately in charge of their education. You can rest assured that they are still learning even if you had a bad teaching day, month, or year for that matter.

Probably the biggest part is getting, or simply letting, their creative mind motor run. Engaging in a good dialogue where you value their input works well. If you can get excited by what they find exciting it can be really helpful to instilling confidence in your budding scholar. Experiencing their education with them will help you encourage their learning. That may be all education really takes. Nevertheless, once you get to that point, you naturally want to help them along their merry way through a planned route or freestyle route curriculum that fosters it.

Combining subjects for multiple children is a big secret to success as well. If the content is interesting everyone is going to want to join in. Every time I start reading storybooks, old and young alike start to listen. But seniors do not get credit for “The Giraffe that Walked to Paris.” Maybe have them read it to the little kids. That way they will not be called for listening to a child’s book and you can go make a pot of tea.

Investing in their early education is key to tuning the motor and helping it to be strong enough to run without your assistance. It is like a weaning process or learning to ride a bike. They start out by learning on your lap, then snuggled by your side, then across the room, and then they are off telling you about things you didn’t know.

They will find new roads, they will probably go down roads beyond your vehicle’s capabilities or desires. Maybe they will hate driving roads and choose to fly, maybe they will develop laser portals and beam you up into outerspace for an afternoon Milky Way Coffee at My Momma Homeschooled Me Cafe and I Thank Her for It.

Our work is to facilitate the running of their amazing mind engines and then to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy your year!

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