Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

All About Me

Happy New Year 2017

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So it’s that time of year again; when everyone posts their resolutions and goals for the new year. I’m not immune to the appeal of ‘starting fresh’ and making a grand effort to improve myself and my life – the changing of the calendar from one year to the next is a natural transition, and it feels good and productive to have goals. Last year, rather than making ‘resolutions’ for 2016, I went with an overall theme for the year. It was trendy a few years back, but I really liked that idea, and it worked better for me than having ultra-specific resolutions.

My theme for 2016, so you don’t have to go back and find that post, was ‘mindfulness’, which is basically the practice of living in the present moment (hard to do when anxiety disorder is part of your life, which is why it felt like something I needed to work on). That’s still one of my favorite words, and I find that it will continually be on my list of ‘things to work on’. It wasn’t a total success, but, as my music teacher is often saying, ‘progress, not perfection!”. In that light, I do think that having an overall theme was easier to maintain than a list of ‘rules’ to have to follow.

Here’s a re-cap of my goals in that theme from last year:

meditation – I practice on my own, but I really would like to make it part of my week to go to the group sit at St. Mark’s. They meet twice a week; I want to make at least one of them.

simplify – KonMari! I want to clear out things that don’t make me happy, from possessions to wardrobe to household goods

health – movement and community – walking with playgroup; with the kids; family health; focus on cleaner eating

relationships – tend those I care about and cut loose those I don’t

I didn’t actually make it to St. Marks for meditation with the group, well … ever. The timing wasn’t something I could ever work into my schedule. After giving it some thought, and making my personal meditation practice a priority, I didn’t feel the need to practice with a group as much. Now, I’m content to continue my personal practice in private. As for simplifying… well, that didn’t work out either; at least not in the KonMari way. I did do some downsizing and re-organizing, but nothing that could be categorized as a clean sweep in the KonMari way. We finally got our storage building moved into our backyard, so that alleviated a lot of the clutter inside the house, but there’s more (always) to be done. It’s a process, so while I didn’t exactly meet my original goal, I don’t feel like that was a total failure, either. Health/Nutrition/Fitness are always going to be a focus – more so in the coming year with the decline in my parents’ health, but that’s a long story best told over coffee. I went walking with the group once, and tried to go with another group, but that didn’t work out according to the original plan, either. I did purchase a new bicycle a few months ago, so that’s what I’ve been doing, because I enjoy biking more than walking. The kids have their bikes, too and we ride together – another bonus. This year, I want to get a bike rack so we can take our bikes to local biking trails and ride (or maybe we can just work on increasing our distance and ride to a park that’s not too awful far away). As for relationships, I feel like I’ve been stretched too thin to effectively be a friend to some of the people I actually do care about. There are definitely a few friends who have become long-distance friends that I need to make more of an effort to connect with.

This year, I am going to go with the same one-word theme, but more action-oriented. Mindfulness can be an action word, but it feels more passive to me. Now, at the end of the year, I’m feeling antsy – like I need to move and ‘do’. To satisfy that need, I’ve chosen ‘create’ as my theme. Here are some things I want to create this year:

  • space – both in a physical and metaphysical sense. In the real world, I want to create peaceful, relaxing spaces in my home. This means taking charge of clutter and possessions that no longer serve me or my family, or our purpose. I have really been drawn to the idea of minimalism over the past couple of years, and while I won’t say I am ready to go all in just yet, I feel the need to free up space in my home and my head, and I feel like downsizing all the things might be a step in the right direction. This aspect also includes clearing away obligations and activities that no longer fit my needs or bring me joy or relaxation, or free up time so that I can spend more of it with my kids and Loverly Husband. A relatively inflexible rule I’ve established over the last couple of months has been to say no to things I don’t truly, deeply enjoy or that put money in my family’s budget. I’m spread very thin, and I need to take back some of that time.
  • memories – this is something that is so very important to me; that my children have a rich childhood filled with memorable experiences and traditions to carry with them throughout their lives and one day pass on to their own kids. We’ve made an effort to have game nights and do things as a family that do just that: create a memory. We only have a few years of ‘childhood’ left; I want to make the most of them. I’d like 2017 to have an emphasis on ‘creating memories’  – simple things like rock painting, cooking together, game nights, traveling and other fun (inexpensive, low-key) stuff.
  • art – creating art is something I always come back to. This takes many forms: art journaling, writing, painting, crafting… I like them all. Some of the time I take from other things needs to be focused on creating more of the thing my soul craves.
  • music – I started playing cello this past year, and began piano lessons earlier in December. I used to play flute and clarinet in school, but dropped it after I graduated. I’d forgotten how much I loved it; playing music occupies my entire body – mind, hands, attention, eyes – it’s a full-body experience. For someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, having something that’s so all-consuming to drown in has been an amazing relief. Since my kids are also taking music lessons (both on violin), it’s also something we can do together, which I love.
  • change – activism has been a part of my life for years now, in small ways. As my kids get older and demand less of my time, I feel the need to get involved with larger efforts to affect positive change. I’m not sure exactly what route this path will lead me on just yet, but it’s something I am motivated to accomplish.

 

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So… that’s my word for this year. What’s yours?
Happy New Year!
Warmly,
~h


Happy Halloween – October 2016

happy-halloween-from-improveit-360Another month gone, y’all. I honestly don’t know how time passes so quickly. At this point, my plan to update each week is just completely out the window; I’m barely able to get in the once-a-moth gig at this point. Once you read through this post, you’ll see why though. The additions to our normal busy schedule have basically made ‘free time’ a thing of pure fantasy.

We’re still taking #alltheclasses – the boys started an aquatic science course with one of the moms in our homeschool group and are 8 classes in at this point. They’re enjoying it. The course is project-based, which I absolutely love, because I feel like they’re getting more out of it than they were with traditional book-work. This is the kind of science-y stuff that I have always wanted to offer my kids, but never got around to doing. They’ve made models, maps, used all kinds of cool tools and worked in larger groups, which has been a really neat dynamic for them. That can be one of the failings of homeschooling – missing out on group learning environments. It’s not an essential element to education, but I’m glad that my kids get to experience it. Since it’s a small group, and the kids that are there actually want to be there, I feel like this is a really good opportunity for them. Their next lesson involves building a wave pool thingy. I don’t know a lot about it, but I can’t wait to see it!

Our homeschool co-op is still going strong. I can honestly say that this has been the best part of our school year. Having something to break up the monotony of the week has been really nice. We’re 10 weeks in, and will be taking a break next week for Thanksgiving, then have the last 2 weeks of the fall semester before breaking for the rest of the year. We’ll pick back up in January, at which time I think we’ll all be ready for it to start up again! Our schedule for co-op runs in 6-week segments; we’re in the second 6-weeks right now. We started home economics (which I think is called family and consumer sciences in schools now) this 6 weeks, and the kids are learning how to crochet, along with literature (still Romeo & Juliet, which they elected to continue), debate and orchestra. We got our music for our homeschool group’s Christmas Pageant coming up in December (a community service event where we visit a local nursing home and sing carols and play for the residents), so we’ve been practicing Christmas carols and learning tab music.
The last month has been full of activities. We went to Johnson Space Center’s Homeschool Day in Houston the first week of October. This was our third trip, I think, and as always, we had a blast! (no pun intended). This was the first year that we’ve gone with friends who were older; the moms and I sent the kids off with a couple of assignments and we got to go on our own tours. We met back up with the kids at lunch, then sent them on the tram tours while we caught a couple of the inside demonstrations and then toured the Space Shuttle. Because they kinda did their own thing, I don’t think I have any pictures of the boys from this year’s trip!

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Each month, our group hosts a teen social for the group’s ‘tweens and teens to get together for some older-age appropriate socialization. In October, we brought games to a local coffee shop and let the kids hang out while the moms had their own table.

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We also have Social Studies club every 6 weeks where we focus on one country at a time. Each student does a project of some sort based on that country. October’s country was Iraq. My kids chose a culture project; LBB did a recreation of a painting by Faeq Hassan, and PeaGreen did a recreation of one of calligraphic artist Hassan Massoudy’s pieces.

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Mid October, I helped host WMC’s Nurture & Nourish Retreat at Crystal Beach. We rented a beach cabin, and spent Friday through Sunday working really hard on the mental aspects of good self-care. We spent some time learning how to stop the negative self-talk spiral, work through anxiety and depressive episodes that sneak up on us, and quite a bit of time learning some watercolor letting techniques and creating some artsy affirmation cards. It was such a great weekend! I came home refreshed and although it took a few days to recoup from my retreat, once I settled in, I feel renewed.

We’re hosting another retreat in April, and I am so excited for it!

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October is always my favorite month of the year – so several reasons: 1) It’s fall (supposedly), which is my favorite season; 2) pumpkin spice; 3) Halloween season; and 4) it’s time for our first week-long break of this school year – yay! This time, our break fell the week of Oct 17-21, which was the same week after my retreat. I needed to take some time off to ease back into real life, and having the week off from school was perfect timing.

We had a couple of things planned for that week that we ended up missing. The kids prepared for several weeks for their Public Speaking (part II of persuasive speeches) class. PeaGreen went to visit his cousins, but LBB and I were going to go without him. I tried, but I just couldn’t make myself take LBB. I needed the break! Taking full advantage of the time off so we could start back strong the next week was a priority for me.

During my off week, I didn’t just laze about – I was productive! I spent a couple of afternoons painting with a friend (who shall now be called ScienceMom since she’s the one who teaches the kids’ science class as well). We found a really cool Harry Potter/Starry Night mash-up picture online and I wanted to attempt a recreating. It didn’t turn out too bad! I also found a YouTube channel called Painting with Jane. I did one of her tutorials a month or so ago, and I loved her ‘Squishy’s Embrace’ picture, so I did that one as well. I actually had to go out and buy new canvases! I’ve had the same 4 sitting around for a while now, but they’re finally painted, so I got new ones.
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We decided back in the summer that our homeschool group should do a haunted house for our Halloween party this year. That was ambitious, and as the month started winding down, I think we all got more and more nervous about how it was going to work out. The last week of the month was full of decorating and setting up – I think we spent more time at ScienceMom’s house than we did our own! This is from the day before the party, after a long day of moving furniture and decorating. We didn’t want to wait until the very last-minute, so the bulk of the work was done the day before.

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Vampire’s Lair

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Zombie Maze with the projection screen in the background

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zombies in the window

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LBB’s very simple – but absolutely terrifying – costume

The end of the month was really exciting. We had the Halloween Party, and started the second 6-weeks of co-op. Due to a strange set of last-minute goings-on, I ended up hosting at my house, which was kinda nice. My house is tiny, so it was somewhat less comfortable for everyone, but we did get to do orchestra outside, which was amazing! All music should be played outside, I think.

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After setting up the party, we went to see the annual screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Jefferson Theater in downtown Beaumont. I love going there – it’s such a cool old 20’s style theater. They’ve been hosting classic movie night over the last year or so, and it’s been great to see fun old movies and neat to hang out in that theater. I had planned on taking my kids to see it, but LBB elected to stay home, so PeaGreen and I went and met some friends to see it.

(c) Beaumont Enterprise

(c) Beaumont Enterprise

We also moved my grandmother’s piano from her house to ours. She’ll be moving in a few weeks, and the piano was not going to be able to go with her, so it’s now comfortably in place in our living room – and getting regular use as well. The boys took piano lessons from her for a couple of years, but they slacked off as they got older. Loverly HUsband and I both want to learn, and PeaGReen is interested in taking lessons again, so the plan is to start in January. Right now, we’re just focusing on violin and cello. cam05015

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I bought a bike! A pretty, pink cruiser with a nice, wide seat. It’s been fun to ride again!

Another big deal for me was a paid writing project – my first! I worked with a good friend of mine to complete a CPR & First Aid manual/training course for an online school. It was a 20K word-count project with a week-long deadline, and we aced it! Unfortunately, it was the week before NaNoWriMo, which means that my brain hasn’t recovered enough to make NaNo happen yet. At this point, it’s halfway through the month and I am still on the outline. That makes me sad, but I’m not giving up yet. If you’re writing, too, then Happy NaNoWriMo to you!

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That’s pretty much it for October. Because I’m 2 weeks late with this post, I’ve talked about some stuff that’s happening in November already, but for the full story on what’s current, you’ll have to wait a couple more weeks for the full November update post (unless I get around to updating before the month is out… but don’t hold your breath). <wink>

Hope you’re enjoying the cooler weather – I know I am!
Warmly,
~h

 

 


Sadly, Summer Vacation is Now Over…

 

Untitled2Why, oh, why must vacations end?? This was our last week of vacation, and it is with much sadness and recalcitrance that I obey the dictates of the Bossy Book to get back to school starting Monday. <boo, hiss, boo>

If you know me IRL, then you know how insanely busy my life is. Between general ‘mom & wife’ life; homeschooling the kids (and running our local homeschool group); work and work; maintaining friendships and other relationships; and my SIMS 3 addiction; there’s usually just enough time between all that to eat somewhat properly and shower, with occasional naps (excluding Sundays which are my typical ‘day of rest’ to recuperate from my week). It’s very rare that I actually clear my schedule and just REST. But that’s what I’ve more or less done over the last 4 weeks. Barring a few homeschool/social engagements and meetings that I couldn’t put off (because I host them), most of my time has otherwise been spent home, playing Sims, reading, or binge-watching Bones (srsly – all 10 seasons that are on Netflix).  It’s been *splendid*.

It is with much reluctance that I mentally start getting ready for next week’s return to schoolwork. To be fair, we’re not actually doing a full schedule; this is a continuation of our lighter summer schedule, which will last through the beginning of September when we start our ‘real’ schoolwork – 9th grade for my oldest, LBB (14); and 8th grade for PeaGreen (13). Our summer schedule mostly consists of math and reading and it’s honestly not all that taxing or complicated to prepare or oversee. The boys are both older now, so much of their work is self-directed; I’m there more as a ‘guardian of time’ to make sure they’re managing their time effectively and not skiving off (and honestly, I mostly set a timer and sip a cuppa while they’re working… unless they have questions, of course, then I’m all ‘Activate Homeschool Mom Teacher Mode – GO!!!’)… sorry; I’ve had a lot of caffeine today.

Moving on!
In other news, we’re going to be featured! Well, not ‘featured’ but possibly talked about… or something. I am actually not entirely sure what it is, which makes me nervous. I received an email a few weeks ago from a freelance writer for a local magazine, V.I.P. of Southeast Texas. They’re doing a feature on homeschooling that will be published next month, and wanted to talk to me/us. I went with another mom in our group and talked to the writer for a couple of hours all about homeschooling, from how it’s changed over the years (I was homeschooled way back in the 90’s), and how it looks today, with all the variations and options. I thought that was going to be the end of it, but I was contacted by a photographer for the article and asked to meet, so the boys and I met him at a local library and we sat for some (very staged) photos. I honestly have no idea what direction the story will take, and consequently no clue what it is that I will be putting my face to, all of which makes me very, very anxious – but hopefully it will be something awesome. I’ll post a link when the article comes out so you guys can see/reassure me that it’s not that bad.

I’m still working on getting the ‘homeschool high school’ post finished. If you’re an experienced homeschooler, then you know how lengthy and arduous the planning process can be. If you’re a newbie, well… welcome to your new life! Kidding… mostly. We’re doing a co-op this fall as well, so I will probably be adding a section to that post about how that came about – or maybe I will do a whole post on planning a co-op. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments!

Hopefully your summer is continuing, unimpeded by bossy school-time schedules and other fun things like jobs and stuff, but if you’re on the verge of vacation’s end, I lend you my sympathy and support – we’re gonna get through this – Together!!
Carry on…

Warmly,
~h


How To Be KIND to Yourself When You Clearly Fail At Life

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One of the things I have heard over and over again as a mom is ‘be kind to yourself’. For a while, I truly hated hearing it, because no matter how hard I tried, there were literally  hundred times a day that I thought I have somehow failed at life. I say ‘were’ like something has changed – and something has, but it’s definitely not that part; I still fail at pretty much all the things on a daily basis, and self-care has been my focus over the past few weeks (months? years??) because I am honestly that bad at it. Let’s not even talk about how many times every day I fail at being an adult… a mom… a wife… a daughter… and what does that even mean, ‘be kind to yourself‘? I mean, honestly. I live inside my head; I know what goes on in here and it’s often not deserving of kindness. I think uncharitable thoughts, I yell at my kids, I lose my temper far too often, I have no patience, I suck at keeping in touch with friends, I don’t call my parents as often as I should, I suck at housekeeping and hate cooking… the list of my faults is long and, because I am a writer at heart, very, very detailed.

It’s only been in recent years that I have even begun to start understanding and working through my issues to even understand the concept of ‘being kind’ to myself, much less apply it. I’ve written before about homeschooling with depression and anxiety, but as I said in that post, I’m still broken and struggling, every day, and it’s really damn hard. Despite all of my best-laid plans, self-care is one of the things I have a hard time managing, and even though I know how important it is to my overall health and mood, I still have to fight (with myself) to make me do the things I need to do. When I can’t even remember to eat regularly, or drink water when I am thirsty, it’s really hard to be ‘kind’ to the person who is actively doing the opposite of taking care of me. But I’m working on it, and here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Recognize that you’re doing your best in this moment.

Here’s a visualization exercise for you: Think about the most recent thing you did that you gave yourself a tongue-lashing for. Now take a look inside and find your inner child – that cute, mischievous 5-year-old you that still likes to pop bubble wrap and is still tempted to write on bathroom walls in public. Pretend like she did the thing that you did. Now talk to her like you talk to yourself. Now pretend that she is your sweet baby child, and someone else is talking to her like that. Did Mama Bear come out to kick ass and take names? If so, then you probably need to work on your inner voice.

Here’s the deal – just like we try to remember when dealing with our kids, we’re doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us in this moment. As you learn new and better tools, your inner critic is easier to hush up. I won’t say ‘silence’, because my inner critic will not be silenced even when all is well (which is why I ply her with wine and decent chocolate on occasion), but as you change the atmosphere inside your head, there’s less for your inner critic to latch on to. The learning of new tools isn’t a fast process, so don’t expect all of your changes to take place at one time. Simply recognizing that there are tools out there, even if you don’t yet know what they are, is a huge step in the right direction… which brings me to my next point:

2. You’re an ever-evolving work of art.

You know what? It’s okay not to have your shit together. We’re all learning new skills and tools all the time, and it’s okay to not know them all, or not know how to implement them, or not be sure that they’re the right tools for you. Even if you decide to implement some new things, it’s okay to struggle with getting it going well. Every day is a new day. You have the opportunity to begin again every. single. day. There isn’t a guarantee that every new thing you learn will be implemented forevermore and always. What’s the saying? ‘When you stop learning, you stop living‘. Being ‘in progress’ means that you’re not a static being. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be absolutely dreadful, but others will be phenomenal. Most of them will be somewhere between ‘really good’ and ‘not so great’, but there is opportunity and change in each of them. Some days, you’re going to cope better with the highs or lows than others, and that’s okay, too. It’s not ‘all or nothing’; like a great work of art, it’s a process – the (better, happier, more capable, adultier, better adjusted, successful) person you’re becoming is a work-in-progress. The important thing is that you keep making progress. It can be one step forward, two steps back… but even the Texas Two Step is going to take you all around the dance floor sooner or later. The direction you thought you were going may not be the direction you truly need to move in. As you learn more and make changes, your path will become clearer. It’s okay to resist that process, too! Eventually, you’ll get where you’re supposed to end up.

 3. No one else has their shit together either; some of them just fake it better.

 Don’t believe me? Text your BFF right now and ask her to show you Mt. Laundry, or her kitchen sink full of dishes, or whatever her secret housekeeping shame is. Or maybe it’s not housekeeping that is her (or your) downfall, maybe it’s something else… whatever it is, we all have one (or more) areas of our lives that just don’t ever manage to flow correctly. But, there’s probably an area in your life where you do feel competent and successful and put together, and you can bet that someone out there has seen you do The Thing and assumed from your obvious competence at The Thing that the rest of your life was similarly in order. My ‘thing’ is making it look good on paper. In practice, it’s a hot mess, but damn if I can’t make it spiffy in written format! It’s my gift.

‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, or something like that… whatever the actual quote, comparing yourself to someone else is never going to end well (unless you’re the obvious winner, in which case, <highfive>). But you know who I’m talking about; the person(s) that you always compare yourself to where you’re not the winner. It’s easy to make comparisons when you only have the visual and not a front row seat to the three-ring circus inside her head. Everybody is struggling; it’s not just you. Even the most zen mama you know has issues (and if she’s that zen, she’d probably be genuinely open to talking with you about hers and yours if you asked her). The point here is don’t let unfair comparisons be another bat that you use to beat yourself up. Use your inner voice for good, not evil… which feeds directly into the next point:

4. Start small… today; Right Now. 

Say something nice to yourself. I mean it – do it even if you think it’s hokey or whatever. If the only thing you hear in your head is negative commentary, then you’re never going to get out of the place you’re in right now. Being KIND to yourself means changing your thought patterns. The change starts with you, with your inner commentary. If you need tools, make affirmation cards – they don’t have to be fancy, they just have to say things that you need to hear. I made my deck in index cards with markers and glitter glue. I looked online and found things I liked and copied them, then printed them out and pasted them on my cards. Simple and effective.

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If affirmation cards are too ‘woo-woo’ for you, then enlist help to focus on the positive things you bring to the table. Make a pact with your best friend where you can only say positive things about each other to each other for the next week, or start a Secret Sisters gift circle in your group of friends that celebrates each others talents and mad skillz. Chances are, she needs it, too.

Whatever your preferred method of getting some positive thoughts knocking around inside your noggin, do it, and make it a daily priority. Self-care is so, so important to your general well-being. Carve out space for you to tend to YOU, and make that time sacrosanct. Be a little bit selfish; you’re worth it. Small steps add up to bigger ones. Taking even 5 minutes to meditate or commune with Nature or whatever your Thing is and making it part of your daily routine – even to the point of helping your children and family to understand that this is ‘Mommy Time’ and to respect it lays the groundwork for you to take bigger self-care steps in the future.

So tell me, what does ‘being kind to yourself’ look like for you?

Warmly,
~h


Remember What I Said About Real Life?

I don’t have a lot to say this week about homeschooling – mainly because we haven’t done any. PeaGreen and I both had dental appointments for this week; his for routine cleaning (all clear – no cavities – yay!!) and me for dental surgery. As I have mentioned before, I have chronic and on-going anxiety disorder. Combine that with a full-on phobia of the dentist, and that does not a peaceful homeschooling environment make.

So I did what any normal person would do in this scenario – I skived off work and played Sims 3 for 4 days straight, because micromanaging imaginary people was the most like ‘real life’ I could handle leading up to the big scary dentist appointment… which, I am happy to report, I lived through.

All in all, it wasn’t that bad. Although, I was on Valium and laughing gas the whole time, so what do I know about it?

All told, I had my remaining 3 wisdom teeth extracted, and 2 fillings put in place as a temporary until I can get a couple of root canals re-done. I also learned that I have to get braces, because of a midline shift on the bottom (that I somehow never noticed). Can you believe it? At almost 40, I have to get frickkin’ braces. My kids don’t even have to get braces! They ended up with Loverly Husband’s teeth (thank goodness – because mine are too darn expensive!).

That’s pretty much all that’s been going on here – recovery from dental work, which is more painful than I’d expected, and trying to get back to normal. Next week is our group’s science fair, so stay tuned for a re-cap of that!

Hope your Easter/Ostara weekend is a hoppy one!
(Sorry – my kids are obsessed with puns lately, and I couldn’t resist.)

Warmly,
~h

 


New Years Resolutions 2016

OCP-new-years-resolution-3Happy New Year!

I was scrolling back through my blog to find last year’s resolutions and realized that somehow, I completely flaked and didn’t make a NYR post. It’s disappointed in myself; I’ve been blogging my NYRs since 2009 . I hate that I messed up my streak! Oh well; too late to cry over it now.

I was all set to write a new list and it occurred to me that there’s nothing that I want to accomplish this year that is different from what I wanted to accomplish in 2014. It’s a lot or ‘more of the same’. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I like the goals I set for myself. Even last year, those were the same goals I was working on. Maybe that’s why I didn’t make a new list last year?

A couple of years ago, there was a trend towards coming up with a theme for the year. In 2014, mine was ‘onward and upward’. It fit, and I think I managed to meet that theme. I think that instead of writing NYRs this year, I’ll go with a theme for 2016.

I really like the term ‘mindfulness’. It’s one of my favorite words, and has been for a long time, especially when it comes to parenting or dealing with my kids. It’s something I am always struggling with. The HuffPo article has this to say on mindfulness as a theme:

Theme: Mindfulness. Many of us live in a constant state of distraction, due to our busy lives. But this relentless multitasking can take a toll on our health, as well as our overall quality of life. Research has linked mindfulness with many beneficial outcomes, such as being able to curb overeating, experiencing less stress and anxiety, and even helping with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Mindfulness simply means paying attention to the present moment. We can practice this in many ways — taking time to notice the taste of our food when we eat, pausing to focus entirely on a child during conversation, or purposefully enjoying the feeling while taking a brisk walk are all acts of mindfulness.

I definitely live ‘in a constant state of distraction’… maybe that’s not exactly accurate – more like hyper-focused on whatever I am doing; often to the exclusion of things going on around me. Mindfulness in this context would mean setting aside time for each task, and not letting my focus exceed the time frame I designate and eat into time set aside for other things. I am also very guilty of doing one thing, but thinking about what comes next. Days will sometimes go by when I am constantly focused on what’s coming up, rather than enjoying what I am in the middle of.

That said, I can think of a few things I want to accomplish in this vein:

  • meditation – I practice on my own, but I really would like to make it part of my week to go to the group sit at St. Mark’s. They meet twice a week; I want to make at least one of them.
  • simplify – KonMari! I want to clear out things that don’t make me happy, from possessions to wardrobe to household goods
  • health – movement and community – walking with playgroup; with the kids; family health; focus on cleaner eating
  • relationships – tend those I care about and cut loose those I don’t

I think that’s a good plan.

*****

At the end of my NYR post, I usually copy and re-cap the previous year. Since I didn’t do one for 2015, we’ll pretend that they just carried over.

2014 NYR Re-cap

1.) Food – Join the local produce co-op; cook with more fresh (and unusual) foods. Be more open to trying new recipes, including gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and other diverse styles. We’ve been in a rut food-wise and I am ready to get out of it! Also – freezer meals. I’m feeling freezer meals in 2014. – DONE! I am still part of the co-op, and have been using Pinterest to find and make new recipes. We’ve had a few mishaps, but overall, it’s been good!

2.) Home Improvement – this is an on-going thing. We’re planning for a new roof in the spring, and hopefully the kids’ rooms will be finished this year (again). DONE! (mostly) – New roof was done, and PeaGreen’s room was totally gutted and re-done. In the Spring, we’re planning to repaint LBB’s room and possibly put in central air and heat.

3.) Health & Fitness – Rather than put pressure on myself again for a specific belt goal, I am going to plan on karate 2x per week, and biking or walking/running 2 miles per week. I also want to do two 5k’s this year. More would be great, but at least those two. I said one last year, and didn’t do it, so TWO this year! (Maybe even 3!) Yeah… this is going to have to carry over to 2016. I do plan on going back to karate at some point, hopefully this year.

4.) Kids – They’re really growing up now! I’d love for a family vacation to be on the menu this year (even if it’s a camping trip or weekend in Houston, Galveston or San Antonio). I really want to start bigger art projects with them. They’re always interested in my art, so I want to get them set up in collaborative projects with me, and with others. – Unfortunately, I have a bunch of homebodies… so travel is still on the menu, but we’ve spent lots of family time hanging out at home. We’ve been trying to do game nights and movie nights together, which is fun.

5.) Husband – Date Nights are always in the plan! I’d like to put into use some of the things I’ve Pinned on my board for dates or sweet things to do for him. Mini-break would be just heavenly!! DONE – maybe not every month, but more often this year for sure. Now that the kids are older, we can go out without having to worry about finding a babysitter, especially for just dinner or something. There are definitely perks to having older kids! We took a mini-break away from the kids for a weekend away – we went to the Texas Renaissance Festival for Pirate Weekend. That was a lot of fun and I want to plan on doing it again this year! 

6.) Myself – Art Classes; Journalistas, Mom’s Night Outs… all of this and more on a regular basis! Writing workshop – if I can find one, go to it! Write, write, WRITE. Also, wanting to get back into painting this year. Even if it’s Painting with a Twist! DONE!!  I did a month long index card art challenge, made affirmation cards for myself (as part of that), have been journaling and painting and joined my local NaNoWriMo group. Even though the event is over the group still meets every week. I’ve been making and meeting most of my specific writing goals, which is very satisfying!

7.) Extended Family – Visit my parents more, continue working on family history/genealogy research. Maybe plan a big family reunion. DONE! No family reunion, but my siblings and I have been doing family dinners about every 6 weeks or so. I also started working on family history again and my sister and I have plans to work together on it this coming year.

8.) Community – We’re Spiral Scouting this year, in addition to our regular community service work that we do through school. That will lend the kids even more opportunities to help out on a larger basis. We’re already signed up for a river clean-up and plan to pitch in on a creek clean up as well. Done, but not through Spiral Scouts. We let our charter lapse due to a lack of community support, so we found other ways to fulfill this.

9.) Work – Finish my BFUSA cert., start looking into pre-req.s for school (for me!). Done and done! 

 

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! Let’s hope my re-cap for this year looks as good or better!

go me

 

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Was Homeschooled and I Turned Out Okay

I don’t know if I’ve talked much about this before, but I am a homeschool graduate. I was in public school through 9th grade. Our freshman campus was separate from the senior high school, and when my mom saw the newly erected 6′-plus, barbed-wire topped fence go up around the senior high school, she decided that any place that needed a barbed-wire wrapped fence to keep the kids in (or criminals out) was not a place that her 15-year-old daughter needed to be. I remember that. Yes, it was pretty much exactly that wording.

She withdrew me after 9th was over, and I started homeschooling in 10th grade. After a few weeks, she decided to withdraw my sister and brother as well, and homeschooled us from that point on. My mom did a mix of things with us (which is probably where I get my eclectic outlook from), and she also organized our local homeschool group. My sister and I (and several of our cousins, and many, many of my childhood friends) graduated from American School of Correspondence; an accredited correspondence high school. When my brother got to high school, he opted to take the GED exam so he could start working with our dad. That was a ‘questionable’ decision, according to many, but it was the best option for my brother then, and one my parents still defend.

I’ve seen questions raised recently about how homeschoolers function in the real world, with comments like ‘not being ready socially, or educationally’. I’ve seen negative comments regarding college preparation and homeschooling parents called out for denying their kids the ‘high school experience’. Some of the accusation is ludicrous; the repeated and consistent admission of homeschoolers to virtually every college, from Ivy League to local community colleges, makes it clear that not only are homeschoolers adequately prepared, they’re often more prepared for college studies than their traditionally educated counterparts. As far as social preparedness, I find that, overwhelmingly, homeschooled students are open to and able to communicate socially with all age groups, in almost any setting. They seem to do just as well as students who graduate any other way, if not better.

Since graduating high school, I’ve worked a variety of jobs that have been in line with what I wanted to do or had previous experience with, mostly secretarial and office management type jobs. I like organizing things and scheduling and making sure things run on their proper time and place, so that was a good precursor to what I do now. I’ve worked as a full-time nanny, waiting tables, and other small jobs here and there. Since I’ve had children, I’ve taken classes and workshops so that I could start working as a lactation counselor and doula. In those roles, I’ve worked with new mothers and learned how vital a woman’s network of support is to her success in reaching the goals she sets for herself. To that end, I’ve started several local organizations, some more successful than others, and worked pretty consistently with the same business partner now for almost 10 years.

I’d say that’s a pretty good turn-out. Nothing truly spectacular; a pretty ‘normal’ life, I think. I don’t know how much of what I’ve accomplished can be attributed to homeschooling, per se. I do know that some of the opportunities I’ve had would not have been feasible if I was in a classroom setting; travel, mostly, but I do think that being encouraged and allowed to work and move at my own pace, and to pursue things that interested me rather than being told what and how to study, helped. Could I have accomplished the same thing if I’d stayed in a brick and mortar school? Yup. Would I have gone to college? Maybe; that’s hard to say and complicated due to several factors. The religion of my childhood discouraged secondary schooling, but allowed trade schools, or courses to help you gain employment. I never felt like college was ‘in my future’, but if I’d pushed for it, I probably could have. Even now, it’s not ‘too late’; I’m quickly reaching the point where my kids will be graduating high school themselves, and I’ll be re-inventing myself yet again.

As a homeschooling parent, obviously, I feel that this is (at present, and while reserving the right to change my mind in the future) the right choice for our family. But being a homeschool advocate doesn’t make me blind to the advantages of public school – and yes, despite what some homeschooling advocates may say, there ARE some advantages to being in a brick and mortar school.

I actually started working on this post back in May of last year, when my BFF’s son graduated high school. We went to his graduation ceremony, and was I struck with some interesting feelings. His school is a small one; their graduating class had only 19 students. That’s an *amazing* teacher:student ratio, and the closeness of the senior class was readily apparent. They had fun together, and the speakers mentioned several times that they made this journey together. They spent 4+ years as a class, day-in and day-out. I’m sure there were squabbles and personality conflicts, but overall, the class flowed as a unit, and I can only imagine the bond that some of those kids will have that stems from such a small class size. As I was listening to the students talk about their classes, their classmates, and most importantly, their teachers, I was surprised to feel sad that my kids were not going to have this – the experience of learning with their peers, from a variety of teachers (with different methods and styles and ideas). As many advantages that homeschooling has, there are some things that a homeschool environment can rarely emulate. That’s not to say that things like a structured co-op or a dual credit class can’t offer, but the consistency and familiarity that a small school like that has is enviable.

On the other hand, I start considering how few people from school, no matter how close we were while attending school, are still part of my life: a handful only, and most of those relationships were established well before school started. The one exception is my Loverly Husband, whom I met in Kindergarten. You might say that we’ve maintained a close friendship. But even those few that I felt close to in high school have moved away and developed lives that just don’t interconnect with mine, which is as it should be. School fosters and artificial closeness that’s not generally maintained outside of that environment. Even with work, you may change jobs may times, and co-workers, many times over the years. It’s sort of comparable, but as an adult, you have more options and choices than you do as a child.

I’m happy to say that since then, our homeschool group has gained quite a few older kids, and we’ve developed several clubs and programs that engage the older kids and meet their needs better than we had previously. It’s hard to focus on any age group that’s not one your own kids are part of; since I didn’t have teens, I wasn’t as focused on that age group. It’s amazing what difference a year and a half makes! More and more, I am seeing these same kinds of bonds developing between my kids and their friends, and I’m happy for them that they have that sort of similar bond with their peers. We haven’t ruled out returning to school in a couple of years, thought it’s been my plan for a while to continue homeschooling through graduation, who knows what the future will bring.

In any case, I wanted to post this for a couple of reasons. Mainly, to illustrate that homeschooling parents (and graduates) don’t see their experience as something that’s going to launch them into the realm of riches or any particular special status as an adult. At its core, homeschooling is just another way to assimilate the basic information one needs to be a productive, functioning adult in the real world. There are homeschooling students that are spectacular and just as many that are completely ordinary, just like there are in other forms of school. Secondly, to point out that homeschooling parents also understand that there are limitations and drawbacks to their choice. We’re not blind to the fact that this is just another option, with pros and cons, just like every other option. At the end of the day, do what works best for your family, right now.

Whatever you decide to do, your kids are going to turn out just fine.

 

CAM02890-1

my graduation photo – 1995

Warmly,

~h