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

All About Me

Post Harvey: Back to School

Last time I posted, we were in the middle of our ‘soft start’ back to school. Since then, it’s been a struggle trying to figure out what our new ‘normal’ looks like. Before hurricane Harvey struck, we’d been experimenting with a block schedule, but without any impetus to really give it a good try, it’s just been a thing more in theory than in practice. But since we are still living with friends right now, and not in our own space where we can school as we normally do, we’ve revisited the idea of a block schedule in truth as a way to make the most of our time and energy (and limited space and resources).

Block scheduling, for those who aren’t familiar with the concept, is basically where you do only one or two subjects per day, but rather than spread the lessons out over the course of the week, you do several lessons in that subject all at once. Colleges usually have block scheduling. Here’s a sample of what our (ideal) block schedule looks like right now:

  • Mondays: science, SAT practice and music (orchestra class)
  • Tuesdays: history, civics, SAT practice & music
  • Wednesdays: math, SAT practice & music
  • Thursdays: co-op (including orchestra class)
  • Fridays: grammar, literature, SAT practice & music (orchestra practice at home and private lessons on their second instrument)

I say ‘ideal’ because we are still displaced from Harvey, and  keeping any kind of regular schedule is… difficult, at best. At this point, if we manage to get *any* schooling done, I am counting it as a success. We are eight weeks out, and I literally have no idea when our lives will return even to a glimpse of ‘normal’. But we’re working on establishing whatever good habits, school-wise, we can, and music practice is a big part of that.

LBB is still catching up to where the class is after switching to cello from violin over the summer, and PeaGreen (who is still playing violin for co-op) has experimented with several instruments including piano, guitar, ukulele, and coronet and has now decided that saxophone is the one for him. With a saxophone in hand now (thanks to a very generous friend), he’s confident that his future as a jazz musician is assured. We’ll see how that goes. LBB has tried guitar and piano, and is just focusing on cello for now.

so shiny!!

This is his ‘serious jazz musician’ face.

Practice in ‘not our house’ has been difficult. I don’t know if our music stands were tossed in the cleanup, or if they’re very well-packed, but I couldn’t find them so we’ve had to make-do. Fortunately, that’s been resolved since these pictures were taken (thanks Amazon Prime 2-day free shipping*!!). LBB’s been using my cello book in class, so I also got him a new book, strings and a bow for PeaGreen (the one PG is using is his teacher’s) so we’re finally set for orchestra to resume. Co-op as well; we started up a couple of weeks ago, but the first class back ended up being a social thing with no classes since the kids hadn’t seen each other in a month. Hurricanes are hard to deal with in so many ways; I’ve been through them before with younger kids (Rita when they were 2/3, and Ike when they were 5/6 or so), and this experience has been harder in some ways and easier in some. When they were younger, being out of our house was an adventure. As long as I was cool, they were cool. Now, they have enough knowledge and interest in the situation to be stressed in their own right, independent of my feelings about the situation. Just another stop on the magical mystery tour of parenting teenagers, I guess.

We did get ‘official’ school pictures done though. Behold:

It’s been hard to decide what the priority thing is lately. Everything is a priority right now, therefore nothing is. It’s a weird place to be in, and stressful because there’s so much to do in every direction. Not only are we cleaning up our own house, but also my dad’s. He lives 2 houses down from us, and was also flooded/rescued during Harvey. He’s also been displaced and is staying with friends. He’s in a wheelchair, so my sister was really the one who did the initial cleanup and set-up of the fans to dry everything out. Along the way, she found a Starbucks gift card in some of my mom’s things (we lost so much of her personal things that we hadn’t gotten to yet – it’s pretty traumatizing), and since she doesn’t drink coffee, passed it along to me. Being without her has been hard; it was nice to have ‘coffee on Mom’ one last time with LBB. I do want to point out that though I did get the picture I wanted (below), LBB thought it was ‘disrespectful’ to make a big deal about having coffee with/on Grammie, which initiated a conversation about grief and processing and the ways and hows that make things okay or distasteful for different people, and how to support different choices and paths of grieving. I forget sometimes that he lost both of his grandmothers within 18 months of each other. It was a good conversation, and a good reminder for me.

Aside from school and life-lessons, the process of cleanup, demolition, and rebuilding continues. We have an old house, so there have been some repairs that we needed to make anyway that the flooding just exacerbated. Workdays at the house are hard, but it’s nice to see progress.

In the chaos, I am trying to remember to be a good mom. PG and I went to see a showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas (which is a traditional Halloween and Christmas Day movie in our house, but that we won’t get to do this year – at least for Halloween. Maybe for Christmas!!) date night. Then the next day, I woke LBB up early to go have breakfast with me, and of course, selfies in the car have become our ‘thing’.

In other news, our library’s homeschool book clubs have started up again. The teen book club was originally scheduled for sometime in September, but got moved for obvious reasons. I was afraid we’d miss it this year; we missed all of last year due to various reasons – the primary one being my mom’s illness and death (and coming to terms with that after the fact). But with the hurricane, it got pushed back to October, so we didn’t miss it after all.

Another ‘after working on the house’ outing – to Orange Leaf for some much needed froyo with Dad.

practice, practice, practice

Somehow, I only have the one picture of PG playing his new pink violin. I’ll have to rectify that soon.

Though it’s very slow-going, we are definitely making some progress on the house. Now that all of the damaged sheet rock is out, we’re making plans for repairs. On my end, that means choosing new paint colors. I’ve decided to go with the same color for all of the rooms except the bedrooms, and gray is the direction I am leaning. I picked up a few paint swatches and put them on the walls to check the color in the house (because it never looks like it does in the store under the fluorescent lights). Most of them were too ‘blue’, and a few too dark or with a green cast to them. I was able to narrow it down a bit, and will get down to three or so and then move the samples to the other walls.

#allthegreys

#finalists

 

I know that I want my bedroom the same color it was before, but the paint cans are all gone now, so I was really glad I am my same obsessive self, because I was able to go back through blog posts to when we re-did our bedroom to find the paint color – Daring Indigo by Behr. I now have justification for almost a decade of blogging!

At this point, we are just trying to figure out funding. Between FEMA and SBA, hopefully we will be able to make the repairs we need to so that our home is livable again soon. Anyway. That’s pretty much all that’s happening in our world right now. Hope your world is functioning within normal parameters 😉

Bonus picture of these two weirdos ❤

 

Warmly,
~h

*disclaimer: this isn’t a sponsored post and I am not an Amazon affiliate. I just appreciate the hell out of a company that can get me things I want/need in 2 days for free. 😉

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Hurricane Harvey

This year has been a hard one. My mom died in January, and we were among the thousands who lost their home in Harvey. I’ll have commentary on homeschooling through things like this at some point, but for now, I just want to archive our experience.

Thursday, August 24th was about the first real mention of Harvey as a threat to the Texas coastline that I got wind of. I was in Denver, CO on day 7 of an 8-day business trip and ready to get home. News of a hurricane wasn’t particularly worrisome;  I live in a hurricane zone so I’m used to the sensationalism that a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico tends to spawn. Those of us who were raised along the coast know that you don’t really start worrying until the day before the storm makes landfall, and even then, only if you’re in the target zone. At that point, Harvey was still out in ‘projection’ zone with no clear landfall destination, so I wasn’t overly concerned that it would hit my city at that point. Although I will say that I was a bit concerned about driving into a hurricane, since we were scheduled to begin the drive home that afternoon. We got in touch with our respective husbands to touch base about hurricane plans and whatnot and started home. By Friday, we were back in Texas, and the news was a little more stressful, so we were eager to get home. As evening fell, we were driving into Houston from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and there was a steady line of traffic for hours, headed North on I-45. We decided to bypass Houston to get back home to Beaumont. We hit gas shortages and issues with ATMs and credit card readers along the way, but made it safely home before midnight.

The weekend was spent in recovery mode. I don’t ‘people’ well for long periods of time, so I was in total hermit/hibernation with my family mode after being gone and surrounded by (amazing, fantastic, inspiring) people for a solid week. Being back home – in my own space – was divine.  News over the weekend was bad – Harvey had hit Corpus Christi and bounced up the coast to Houston, with major flooding and other related issues. Though we had a lot of rain in our area, there was no wind or other ‘normal’ hurricane related stuff going on. At this point, I was sympathetic to those affected, but super glad the storm had missed us although the forecast looked like we were still in the line of fire. I wasn’t worried though; we’ve weathered storms before (hurricanes Rita and Ike, among others), and we were as prepared as we could be.

Monday, we had still more rain, and we lost power for a while, but it came back on. We have a weird drainage issue on our property, and sometimes get water leaking into our office/school room, which is a converted garage. It sits on a slab, at ground-level while the rest of the house is on pier and beam. Because of all the rain, we got a little bit of water into that room – no big deal; it happens sometimes. Basically, it looked like someone spilled a big glass of water in the corner of the room. We cleaned it up, and Loverly Husband grabbed a shovel and cleared the drainage that ran beside the house, then he and the boys took turns using a broom to encourage the water not to accumulate near that wall. By Tuesday (August 29th), the sweeping thing was getting old, so I took over for a while so the boys could get some sleep – and still the rain came. The power went out again, and stayed out this time.

By Tuesday evening, things were pretty stable. No power, and lots of rain, but not really even all that heavy – just *constant*. I took a little video clip and posted it on Instagram; even though we were hearing about water starting to rise and people getting flooded in and trapped, we didn’t have any standing water in our yard – just a bit up by the porch where the weird drainage issue is sometimes. We weren’t even having water in the office anymore at this point. I was absolutely not concerned that we were going to get flooded in. Our street may get covered, so we might get stuck in our neighborhood for a couple of days, but I was in no way worried that we’d have water in the house, much less be in danger. Our city called for a mandatory evacuation of streets that branch off of ours, but never for our street; our property is high – my family has lived on the same piece of land for more that 60 years and it has NEVER flooded where we are. Even in 1994, which is the benchmark that everyone was using to gauge how bad things were going to be, we never even had water near our houses. We went to bed Tuesday evening honestly believing that we were in no danger.

That changed at 2AM Wednesday morning. Loverly Husband shook me awake to tell me that we ‘have a problem’. We had about 4″ of water in the office. It was wild to see! My shoes were floating. I think my brain kindof shut off; how do you react to wading through ankle-deep water in your house? We made a lot of jokes about indoor pools and unplanned remodeling, then took the office chairs out of there and put whatever wasn’t already wet/ruined up onto the desks. It was still raining, but we figured that this would surely be the worst of it. We did what we could; things were already wet in that room; there wasn’t anything else we could do about it in the middle of the night in the dark with no power, so we went back to bed thinking that we’d figure it out in the morning. In hindsight, we were already in trouble at that point – we just didn’t know it.

The top image is from Tuesday (Aug. 29) afternoon. There is no water. The grass looks fantastic. It looks absolutely no different than any other typical rainstorm that we frequently weather. There was nothing to suggest that we were in trouble. My dad (who lives next door to us) drove down the street to areas that normally flood, and had been evacuated, and reported nothing extraordinary – just what we’d expected. Everything was within normal expectations for a tropical storm.

The bottom image is what we woke up to just before/at sunrise Wednesday (Aug. 30) morning. We had 2′ of water in the office/school room, and it was rising FAST. I wasn’t thinking anymore. I was in survival mode – in ‘get the kids; get to Dad’s; make sure everyone is safe’ mode. Loverly Husband and I told the kids to get a bag packed and we did the same. He moved the car out to the street (which wasn’t underwater yet). I don’t know what I packed – just threw some clothes into a backpack. There was no cohesion; no planning – just reaction.

We gathered up the two dogs and the cat and waded out to the street in thigh-deep, freezing cold water. I sat in the car while the boys went to my dad’s to check on him. We decided that we’d go to my Dad’s; his property sits higher than ours (though only slightly). We moved the cars off the street into his driveway – the highest spot around. All over, there were little islands – his driveway; the street in front of our neighbor’s house; a little island across the street in the horse pasture. I stayed in the car to charge phones, and watched the water rise and rise and rise.

At 9:30AM, we finally had enough snap to recognize that this was going to get WAY WORSE and called for help. Between our neighbor and a friend on Facebook who was helping coordinate with local volunteers, we got put on someone’s list.

While we waited, Loverly Husband went back over to our house and water had already risen to the point that it was several inches high inside the main part of our house. He emptied the refrigerator (something we knew to do from previous experience so it would be a massive, gross problem later), and grabbed some of his work things that he’d forgotten in the mad rush out the door. That was a peculiar feeling – watching as everything you worked for and planned for and saved for is destroyed right before your eyes and there’s nothing you can do about it. I *literally* watched the water go from being ‘problematic’ to ‘terrifying’. The pictures don’t show it,  but there was a crazy strong current. The water in my dad’s front yard (to the right of the above picture) was hip-deep on me and strong enough to push me over when I lost my balance. By the time we were rescued, it was chest deep on Loverly Husband.

At 1PM, thanks to several amazing neighbors and volunteers from Louisiana’s Cajun Navy, we got my dad (who is disabled and in a wheelchair) loaded into a flat-bottomed aluminum boat, and headed to meet my sister who was waiting with rescue volunteers to pick us up. A second boat brought me and the boys, our two dogs and cat and my dad’s dog out (and a rescued chicken along the way), and a third trip brought Loverly Husband out. We were each allowed one bag, which was all we could realistically carry anyway, but it meant that we didn’t necessarily have everything we needed. LBB made it out without shoes, and in the commotion, my dad ended up leaving his bag at his house, and so had nothing with him except his dog.

My sister took this as we were being boated to higher ground.

I cannot describe how surreal it was to *boat* down a street you’re used to driving down. The line of sight was completely different; our boat driver was from our neighborhood and so was familiar with the terrain. I can;t imagine how much more difficult it must have been for volunteers who didn’t know what the land under the water looked like. We stuck to the ditches for the most part, but the water was so deep that it wasn’t necessary for most of the ride. We passed a car that had been completely submerged; only the tip of the antenna was sticking out of the water. Many of the houses were already flooded up to the bottoms of the window sills, with a couple up to the eaves. We live kind of in the country, so many of our neighbors have horses and other animals – we saw horses congregated on little islands of high ground; pigs, cows, rabbits, chickens, dogs, cats… it was really weird.

My sister was waiting for us, with her father-in-law (and my dad’s BFF) in his big truck to pick us up. Thank goodness for family, because I don’t know what we’d have done without them. We went back to their house and got showered and into dry clothes, and my sister’s MIL cooked and got a warm meal into everyone.

PeaGreen – cold, wet, tired, scared

LittleBoyBlue and the dogs, with his one bag

The view as we left – water covering everything, with volunteers and concerned families everywhere.

The next few days were a blur. We stayed with my sister in her tiny 2 bedroom house – the boys slept on the couch while Loverly Husband and I stole my niece’s bed. I’ve been through hurricane displacement before, so I knew to apply with FEMA and call the insurance company. We didn’t have windstorm or flood insurance – just regular homeowner’s, which doesn’t cover anything related to a hurricane.

We weren’t able to get back into our neighborhood until the following Tuesday – nearly a week later. There was still water covering the road on Monday, and the Army was in our neighborhood with a ‘gas leak’. We think they were doing house-to-house checks for bodies and didn’t want interference or to freak people out, which I can totally respect; we saw several houses tagged with the big orange X and the date once we got back in.

We ended up with 4′ of water in the office/school room, and about 2′ in the rest of the house. We lost everything that was on, or near or touching the floor – basically everything from doorknobs down in most of the house and *everything* that was left the the office from about waist high down. The water in there was about an inch or so over the top of my desk. Unfortunately, that’s where some of our most important paperwork was; the kids’ school stuff and archives/records, and most of my art supplies. I was able to keep most of our curriculum, which is fortunate, but all of the kids’ school records that weren’t digital are lost. And books… so *many* books.

The kids and I spent Sept. 6-8 clearing out the house and packing up what little could be salvaged into containers. We took a mental health day on Saturday, but were back at it on Sunday, with Loverly Husband finally getting some time off work the following week so we could start demo’ing the house.

The kids in front of our storage building, which now houses everything we are left with after the storm.

We lost basically everything: all of our furniture, beds, the kids’ violins and my grandmother’s piano, heirloom furniture, books, movies, games, music, memorabilia, photo albums, scrapbooks, clothes, electronics, computers & tablets, shoes, holiday decorations, tools, toiletries, our car… I can’t even begin to list what all we lost. I keep hearing ‘it’s just stuff; stuff can be replaced. At least you all are safe’. That’s true, but as my friend Renae said…

All in all, it could be worse. I know that. We have been INCREDIBLY fortunate to have family and friends to stay with and rely on. We have been the beneficiaries of donations and funds to purchase supplies to demo our house (which is now devoid of doors, trim, flooring and sheetrock from 4′ down), and to purchase some basic necessities. We are still in the waiting pool, with thousands of others, for FEMA to inspect and allocate funds to begin repairing our house. I have 5 close friends who also had water in their houses, a couple with water all the way to the eaves, and several acquaintances who also had some pretty severe damage. It’s not just us; there are so many families who are affected by this storm, and by the others that followed – Irma, Maria…

I am so incredibly grateful to the people who risked their lives to help rescue us. The people who boated us to safety were our neighbors, who themselves lost their house with water up to the eaves. We are fortunate to have support from friends and family so that we have a place to stay, transportation, and pretty much all of the basics.

That said, we are not ‘okay’. Being a guest in someone else’s home for a long period of time is difficult.  Probably the most frustrating thing is not having any sort of timeline to go by. You can power through almost anything if you have a set time frame and a date at which your situation will end or change; we are in a constant state of limbo, without any information with which to make plans or goals. We are slowly starting to regain some small bits of normality and replacing things we’ve lost (just basics at this point, like clothes and toiletries and instruments and minimal school supplies so we can at least get back to school), but we have a LONG way to go. Our house is destroyed. We have no furniture. Talking with friends who’ve undergone similar disasters (floods, fires, etc.), I know that it will be a long time before we are back to ‘normal’. We really haven’t even begun yet and I don’t know when things will start to settle down into whatever the new normal will be. But we’re making the best of it… or trying to, anyway. Self-care is, as ever, a central theme in my life. I am trying to stay positive and model good coping behaviours for my children, and overall, we are managing.

I am incredibly glad that we are homeschooling, because we are currently living with a friend in another nearby city. If the kids were in school, that would be a big dilemma – stay in our home district or move them to the district we ‘live’ in now? Since we homeschool, we just delayed the start of our school year by a few weeks; we actually started yesterday with a ‘soft start’ – just a couple of subjects and assignments. We’ll start in truth next week with a return to co-op and music lessons and the whole shebang.

I guess it kinda goes without saying that I will not be participating in the Not Back to School Blog Hop this year; I’ve already missed all of it! But I’ll do my own version of the weekly themes as we get to them this year. First up is usually student pictures – we did get that accomplished! LBB is in 10th grade this year, and PeaGreen is in 9th – it’s all high school from here on out. I can’t believe that both of my babies are high schoolers!

I’ll have a more detailed look at our school year at some point – no promises though. I don’t have my desktop computer and am forced to write on a laptop (which isn’t horrible, but it’s not as user-friendly as my big computer and I don’t have access to everything that was on that hard drive), so I am not even really sure what our school year will look like right now. But say tuned and I’ll be in touch soon!

Warmly,

~h


Happy New Year 2017

happy-2017

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.

 

create

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