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

Mom's Health

Thoughts on “I can’t Homeschool”

home school

home school

Basically, yes, you can.

Ultimately, that’s the end result of my thoughts on ‘I can’t homeschool because…’. Whatever your objection, it can be overcome if the need is there. When it comes down to it, most of us homeschool because it is what’s right for our kids at the time. Or maybe what we were doing with/for them wasn’t working and we needed a change, and homeschooling is a step towards an as-yet-undefined ‘something different’; but either way, it’s usually because we want something better for our kids than what they were getting before. So yes; if the need is there, you absolutely can homeschool your kid(s).

But just for funsies, I thought I’d break it down into specific objections.

THOUGHTS ON ‘PATIENCE’

‘Girl… I don’t know how you do it. I have zero patience; I’d lose my mind if I had to be cooped up with my kids all day, every day!’

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten some variation of that comment. It’s frustrating to me, because I also have zero patience, and frequently wonder if I am, in fact, losing my mind. It’s also annoying to me, and probably to other homeschooling parents as well, because it implies that we have some kind of handle on things that other people don’t – and that assumption/implication is SO FAR from the truth that I just #literallycanteven.

I am not a patient person. I am, in fact, the living embodiment of Impatience. I am easily frustrated and frequently have to take ‘mommy time outs’ for all of our sanity. Having no patience is not a ‘reason’ that homeschooling can’t work for you. Knowing your limits, getting into better touch with who you are as a person and what you need, and incorporating that into your week is key. I say ‘week’, because ‘day’ isn’t always possible. Balance over the course of a week is much easier to gauge and maintain than it is to try to balance every day, and most of us can take a couple of hard days (even in a row) as long as we get some down time after that. Same in homeschooling.

Personally, I need time away from my family quite frequently. Even my Loverly Husband, whom I’ve dedicated my life to, bugs the crap out of me if we’re forced to spend too much time together – that’s human nature, and children are the very embodiment of ‘human’: selfish, compassionate, irritating, kind, argumentative, adorable littles copies of the person I see in the mirror every morning. I love them so much I could squish them into itty-bitty pieces and put them in my pockets… but they make me insane and I just need to escape them, and that’s okay. Headphones are a staple in our homeschooling day – for me, and for the boys. Headphones let us all be absorbed in the work we’re doing without distraction. It gives us ‘privacy’ in the presence of the others in the room. The kids have the entire house to school in; they don’t need to be under my feet to get their work done. They check in with me when they need help, or we work together if we’re covering new territory.

I also take needed ‘me’ time – writing group on Monday evenings, Mom’s Night Out and/or Brunch once a month or so with my friends, and even a lunch date most weeks. Involvement with our homeschool group is another way I pepper my day with conversation from other adults – both online and at weekly events. I volunteer/work, so I also have obligations that get me out of the house that aren’t related to my kids; so that helps, too. Which leads me to another objection:

THOUGHTS ON ‘I CAN’T BECAUSE I WORK’

I get it. Working a full-time job (or even a part-time job) makes homeschooling a little more difficult, especially with littles.  Working parents often feel like the task of homeschooling seems impossible or impractical for their family. If that’s how you feel, then you might be right for your particular situation. But it may surprise you to know that a lot of parents who homeschool also have 8-5 jobs outside the home. Most would say that it’s not the ideal scenario, but it’s far from impossible, even if both parents work.

If you want to homeschool, or need to homeschool for your kids’ sake, there are strategies that you can employ to make it work. Flex-schooling is one. Basically, flex-schooling is school that isn’t done in the traditional ‘school day’ hours. Evenings, weekends, holidays – that’s where a lot of school gets done. Depending on your childcare situation, you can send work with them to be accomplished during the day and review it with them in the evenings. If the kids are older, then some combination of that might work. Organization and planning are key when your time is limited. Better organization and better planning means that your time with the kids is well spent. Talking with your kids about what to expect and what is expected of them is also key. If they’re older, then they might need to step their game up a bit and be able to work independently or help younger siblings with their work.

Another alternative is to drop to one income. For many families, this isn’t feasible, but for some it will be. Do the math – many find that whoever brings in the lesser income if often only paying for the things necessary to maintain the second parent’s job – a second car/insurance/gas, childcare and food expenses. Eliminating those expenses often means that one parents can stay home, making homeschooling a more viable/less stressful option.

We’ve done various combinations of these things. We have only one income, and one car. I work, but it’s on a volunteer basis even though it’s a ‘real job’. Flexible school days and hours work well for us; even into weekends and the wee hours of the night, since I am not a ‘morning person’. My kids get their work for the week on Mondays, and turn it all in on Fridays (ideally). It doesn’t always happen like clockwork, but that’s the plan, anyway. We’ve tried other things, and will try new things in the future, I’m sure. We make it work!

THOUGHTS ON ‘I DON’T MATH’ OR OTHER PERCEIVED PARENTAL EDUCATIONAL DEFICIENCIES

Basically, if you have a high school education, then you are well qualified to tackle homeschooling K-8th. Some might extend that through high school; I say at least through 8th grade. That’s where all your basics are – reading, writing, and arithmetic, and we all do those things every day. So we don’t all have training on how to teach a 6 year old how to read – that’s okay, because we have THE INTERNET, with literally all of the knowledge of mankind at our very fingertips, including myriad videos posted by school teachers with strategies they use in their classrooms that you can adapt for use with your child.

Every homeschooling parent (and honestly, everyone who wants to know something, period) I know uses YouTube as their go-to resource for learning how to do a thing. From learning Klingon or Elvish to diagramming sentences to building a primitive shelter from mud and bamboo to explaining string theory…. it’s all there. Just because you are their ‘teacher’ doesn’t mean that YOU have to do all the teaching. Combine internet resources with the knowledge and skills and abilities of other homeschooling parents in your area, and you may be able to establish a cooperative learning group where each parent teaches to their strengths.

Last but not least, there are guided textbooks and curriculum. If you can read it, you can teach it. With ‘say this’ guides to just plain reading and learning along with your child – just because you don’t know a thing doesn’t mean that you can’t facilitate your child learning how to do it.

THOUGHTS ON ‘I DON’T HAVE SPACE’

If you have a kitchen table (or even a TV tray), and a bookshelf, then you have space to homeschool; and besides – who said homeschool has to take place ‘at home’. It can be ‘yard-schooling’, ‘car-schooling’, ”grandma’s house-schooling’, ‘park-schooling’, ‘library-schooling’ – wherever you are, your kid can learn. Yes, it’s nice to have 15 acres of property and an old barn that’s been converted into your own personal little school house, but if space is your limiting factor, then you need to think outside the 4 walls of your hacienda.

Honestly, we don’t even ‘school’ at the table or desks even though we have a ‘school room’. Mostly, it’s sprawled on the bed, or couch or in the car on the go, or in the yard when it’s nice out.

THOUGHTS ON ‘I DON’T WANT MY KIDS TO BE WEIRD’

NEWSFLASH: Your kids are already weird.

Next!

Srsly though… yes, there are some people who are isolated and lack social skills. But you’ll find those people in public schools, too. That’s often more of a personality issue than an issue of where/how they were educated. Most homeschoolers are active in extra-curricular activities (sports, dance, martial arts), local community service activities, volunteering, and participating in classes offered during the day when most kids are stuck in school. Because homeschooled students are often interacting with the people in their communities, they’re not shy about walking up and striking a conversation with people of all ages. I don’t usually see the kind of uncomfortableness around the elderly, or scorn for younger kids among most homeschooled students that I know. High schoolers play with 5th graders and they’ll all talk with the janitor about his job and offer to help the lady put her bags in her car from the grocery store. Maybe they are weird – but this is the kind of weird I am totally okay with.

Socialization is always a ‘hot-button’ topic, but the rule comes down to this: If you don’t want your kids to be isolated hermits, then don’t BE an isolated hermit.

THOUGHTS ON ‘COLLEGE’

Did you know that colleges actively recruit homeschooled students? We’ve been doing this for 6 years now, and now that LBB is about to start high school, I have been getting emails from colleges all over the US, and even a couple in Germany who want my kids to enroll with them for dual credit courses. Many of them give preference to high school graduates who have gone through their programs when it comes to college admissions. Why? Because homeschooled students generally are interested in learning. They’re self-starters; motivated; driven; goal-oriented. Not every student, but the majority are. They’re not burned out on classroom activities; for many it’s a totally new experience. Because they’re used to working independently, they don’t have issues with getting their assignments done, and are more likely to actually read the material assigned and engage with the professor. Don’t take my word for it: Penelope Trunk,  Online College, Stanford Alumni, Alpha Omega, Tech Insider, MIT Admissions… the list goes on.

CONCLUSION

 

Here’s the deal – we all do what we think is best for our kids, within the abilities we have and what circumstances allow. All of us, which includes you and me and the neighbor down the street. My situation is different from yours, and the neighbor’s situation is probably vastly different from either of ours… and we’re all just doing the best we can. The choice to homeschool everything to do what what you think is best for your kids/family at this time and within what your current circumstances allow. I say ‘at this time’ because I know a great many homeschoolers who either went into homeschooling with the plan to put their kids back in a brick-and-mortar school at some point, or whose kids eventually decided that they’d like to return to school (or try it out if they’ve never been). I know others who have had to make some shifts in their family dynamic and plans due to circumstances beyond their control, and others who gave it a try and found that it wasn’t a thing they wanted to do… and all of that is both fine and totally normal, and completely within the norm of ‘homeschooling culture’, because it’s not ‘about’ homeschooling – it’s about doing the best you can, in any given moment, for your children and family as circumstances allow.

Homeschooling isn’t ‘for’ everyone. It’s not possible for everyone, or even desirable. But if you want to do it, then there’s very likely a way to make it happen. Don’t let the ‘I can’ts because…’ stop you!

Warmly,
~h


Stepping Back into the Flow

flow

flowI’ve heard stories about people having wisdom teeth extracted, and eating steak a couple of days later. Myth? I think so… I had no idea that my recovery was going to be such an ordeal. First of all, I got sick from the medications that I got for pain relief, so for the first 2 days, I was throwing up. Not. Fun. I figured it was the meds, so I stopped taking all of them, which meant I was just in pain… so I started taking only one at a time so I could figure out which on was the troublemaker – and I did! Tramadol… nasty business, that. So I am overjoyed to report that despite all initial indicatives to the contrary, I am now fully on the road to recovery with Rx-strength ibuprofen and Tylenol-3 at my side, fighting the good fight on my behalf. Thank goodness!

Recovery means back to normal though, or so I thought… only to figure out that I wasn’t quite up to the task of getting back to normal so quickly. I am the world’s worst patient, so of course I tried to rush through recovery with a couple of over-active days. I paid for them both with the next day barely able to get out of bed. Hoping I’ve learned my lesson, I am gingerly stepping back into a semi-normal flow of activity.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing the bare minimum. We took the weeks of March 21 and 28th off completely. I didn’t assign the kids anything new, so there wasn’t really anything to catch up on when we started back with assigned work on April 4th. But even though we didn’t have assigned work while we were off, there was still stuff to do. The main thing was our group’s  science fair. Yes, you read that right – we did science fair projects only days before the presentation. I suck as a mom right now – shut up.

Luckily, there are a zillion websites out there for crappy moms like me who wait until the very last second to pull something together. Here’s a list (not that you would ever need it, being the super-star stellar mom that you are):

PeaGreen chose a combination of two projects having to do with vision, Now you See it, Now You Don’t, and Does Eye Color affect Peripheral Vision. LBB chose Measuring the Speed of ‘Light’ with a Microwave Oven – mostly, I think because he got to play around with eggs.

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picabooIn other news, we met with our homeschool group  a couple of weeks ago to formally put together our first yearbook committee. That was a lot of fun, and really exciting. I have yearbooks from middle school, and that’s something I thought my kids were just going to miss out on, so I am really excited for them to both have  a yearbook at all, and to get to be part of the creative process. We looked at a couple of options, and decided to go with Picaboo, which is an online yearbook-making site. One of the things that swayed us was that for each book order, you also get a digital yearbook to share, and they archive books, so you can order another one at any time.

The kids also got to go swimming for the first time this year at our group’s monthly Teen Social. It was tool cold for me, but they look like they had a great time. There were more kids there, but the girls were already inside one we thought about snagging a picture.

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CNW_Participant_2016April is the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, and our local group hosts a writing date every Monday evening at a local coffee shop. The first Monday was April 4th, which also happens to be my birthday. To celebrate ‘camp’ we had a pajama party and made crafts. Coffee, conversation and no requirement to wear real pants… I have found my people, LOL! As I write, I am a bit behind on my word-count, but I plan to catch up this weekend.

 
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Last week was a little more ‘back to normal’.  I gave the kids a regular schedule, and they pretty much got their work done, which was nice. Our field trip was in Lufkin to visit the Ellen Trout Zoo, and we got in some car-schooling on the way there. It was a nice drive; I haven’t been up North in a while and the drive through Texas Hill Country is always so pretty. There was a lot of construction on single-lane highways with long delays where we were sitting still, so we had lots of opportunities for pictures on the way.

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Something I was really looking forward to is a re-take of a picture I took of the boys in 2004. PeaGreen was about a year and a half old, and LBB was 3ish. Too bad back then picture files were so small! But still – mission accomplished.

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We got in another D&D campaign as well. Our DM keeps saying ominous things, so I fear for the safety and longevity of my character (who is a 14-year-old girl who’s too smart for her own safety). PeaGreen plays a thief who is also a coward, and LBB’s character is an Elf who likes to help from afar. It’s been a really fun experience playing!

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This week, we have been pretty much totally back to normal. We’re off-schedule according to my year-calendar, so rather than this week being week 1 of 6, it’s actually week 2 of 7 to make up for our extra week off. As much as that doesn’t really ‘matter’ I will feel better when my books match up again.

Our field trip this week was Art Guild, and we worked on art prints a la Mary Cassatt. She was a truly interesting woman and this was one of the more interesting artist studies that we’ve done. The kids have more work do do on her life this week, but the actual prints were fun to make. We etched in Styrofoam and then used a brayer to put paint over the and pressed the paper to them to make the print.

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Not too shabby for being on the mend, if I do say so myself😉
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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Homeschooling with Depression

homeschooling depression

homeschooling depressionDepression and anxiety are issues I deal with on a daily basis, and have for many years now. I rarely mention it, because I tend to think that most of the posts about depression disorders are along the lines of ‘hey, I have depression, too, but I got better and you will, too!!’, which is both annoying to me and completely unrealistic. Or maybe my perspective is off; maybe their depression was situational, or seasonal and they got over it – which is great for them, but really annoying when you’re dealing with the kind of long-term, cyclical, never-ending depression that I’ve been dealing with for years. I wanted to write about it, because I don’t see depression talked about often in homeschool blogs, either.

Homeschooling parents deal with a lot of stereotypes. There’s the martyr, who sacrifices everything (including her sense of style) for her kids; the saint, who has many, many children, and just blesses each and every one of their little mischievous hearts without ever losing her cool (or mind); the overachiever, with only two or three kids, but all of them play a sport, a musical instrument, have each started a charity or their own business by the age of 10, and have private riding and fencing lessons twice weekly… and the rest of us, who just muddle through each day trying not to lose our minds. But chief among all of them, across the board, is the idea that homeschooling moms are, first and foremost, happy all the time. They are endless paragons of patience and bastions of knowledge and kindness and absolutely satisfied with every aspect of their life.

Oh, that it were so, but it’s definitely not. Here are some of the areas that I find to be challenging:

Motivation

Motivation is a huge issue for me – probably the main one I struggle with as a homeschooling mom. There are days when I just can’t. get. out. of. bed. Or just can’t manage to get it together and actually get the kids started on their work. It’s not that I didn’t plan well, or that we don’t have things to do – we absolutely have things to do, and I often find myself scrambling at the last minute to get ready to go, even for things I really want to do. It’s frustrating.

So far, I’ve found that, surprise! Nothing helps. This is a matter that I deal with on almost a daily basis. Some days to a lesser extent than others, but getting out of bed is a daily struggle. Homeschooling has been a double-edged sword in that we’re not tied to anyone else’s time table, which is great, because it means that I can adjust when we start and stop the school day. On the other hand, I’m not tied to any particular time table, which means that it’s entirely up to me to make it happen. So, I do what I’ve always done and complain about it in my head and just do it anyway. Some days, I manage it fairly well. Other days, school runs later into the day than I’d planned. It’s helped a lot that the kids are able to work independently more and more as they get older, but someone still has to plan the plans and keep track of things and be dressed when it’s time to go do the thing. I wish I could end this with a platitude or strategy, but I haven’t found one yet. The search continues, which is something, I guess.

Dealing with Bad Days

Bad days are bound to happen, depression or not. But with depression, bad days seem to linger. It’s almost like depression is a tangible fog or miasma that infects everything. The kids aren’t immune to my mood, either. As the mom/teacher, when you’re homeschooling, you often set the tone for the day. If I wake up in a bad mood, my kids will inevitably follow. If I wake up with a (forced) song in my heart, then they’ll likewise, generally follow suit.

As we all know, exercise helps. Having an exercise routine is a good thing – sticking to it is difficult. When a bad day peaks, movement can help get you out of the funk. If I am anxious, sometimes physically getting up and walking away from my problem (or the source of my stress) can put the problem back into proper perspective. If inside is gloomy and doomy, then hitting the sunshine and connecting with Mother Earth does wonders for my mental state. We school ‘on the go’ quite a bit, because staring at the same four walls would drive anyone crazy. Schoolwork outside has always, always been a great thing.

Meditation is a good way to re-center and re-charge also. We have mind jars that are between 5-10 minutes of glittery peace. Mindful movement is another non-stressful way to integrate movement and exercise into your day. A friend of mine has turned me on to ‘restorative yoga‘ – it’s amazeballs. Dance is another good one – a silly way to move your body, get out of a funk and connect with the kids. We favor Latin dance music for housekeeping – I recommend it.

Getting Overwhelmed

As a homeschooling parent, everything rests on your shoulders. All of the responsibility of educating your children – their successes and failures all reflect on you. What’s crazy about that is that even if they excel in several areas, if they fail in even one area that someone who feels they’re more qualified than you to decide what’s important, you’re still cast in a bad light. Maybe that’s my anxiety talkin’, but I’d wager most homeschooling parents would agree with that to some extent. As the sole arbiter of education, that’s a tremendous responsibility. Depression already casts the weight of the world onto your shoulders, it seems like adding the burden of homeschooling on top of that is insanity. There are days that ‘The Worry’ gets me, and I have a hard time snapping out of it.

Managing anxiety and depression are key in those moments. I use a few apps that help. My favorite is Mood Tools. I use it every time my anxiety starts getting high, and it honest-to-goodness helps. My most-used tool in that app is the Thought Diary. It takes you through rating your initial state, works you through your cognitive distortions, gives you a place to verbalize your fears and thoughts, and evaluate them, then re-evaluate your anxiety levels and I almost always am able to get a reality check and control it.

In a homeschooling context, the best tool I have is ‘some is better than none’. That’s not a crutch or an excuse not to do the thing… even public school teachers have days where they bring in the video cart and let the kids watch movies all day. What it does is release some of the pressure for getting things done today. Tomorrow is a whole new day, and things may be very different then – my mood may be better (or the kids’ moods); the sun may be shining…. brand new day.

When you homeschool, sometimes it doesn’t seem like there’s room for ‘real life’, so housework can get shuffled to the side. I like the idea of making everyone who is capable of physically doing the job responsible for his or her own messes/cleaning and care of personal spaces. That way, my workload is diminished, and the kids learn to do for themselves – win/win! Community spaces are community responsibility – just like in real life.

Stuck in a Rut

Homeschooling can be tedious, especially when, for whatever reason and despite your considerable effort, your kiddo just isn’t getting it. Or maybe things are going along as normal, and you just feel ‘blah’ because every day is routine. It doesn’t happen here very often, thanks to my ever-increasing sphere of interests and willingness to experiment, but when it does, how do you break it? For me, personally, I am prone to restructuring from the ground up. I can only handle doing the same task for so long before I go cuckoo-bananas, so we get a remodel of pretty much everything maybe once every other year or so. I make smaller changes about every few months – simple things like colors and fonts on printed materials, or shelving something that’s gotten dreary in favor of something with more pizzazz for a while.

In a larger sense, I plan our year so that I have different areas of focus at different times of the year. We plan for the fall semester to be the bulk of the text work, while the winter is more literary-based, leaving spring for unit studies. Summer is a mixed bag of catch-up and prep for the fall. I structure things so that I don’t have too long to focus on one thing. We also schedule our year so that there are built-in breaks every 4-6 weeks or so, rather than one long break.

When I need a quick fix though, even just a change of scenery for the day can do the trick. An impromptu field trip, or going to visit my brother for a couple of days – anything to break the monotony.

Asking for Help

Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you’re ‘supposed to’ have it all together. Combine that with the stigma of mental health issues, and it’s no wonder that people suffer silently. But I know there are more moms out there who are making it work, every day, step-by-painful-step. If you’re one of them, I’d love to hear from you.

I hate platitudes, especially ‘it gets better’, because it doesn’t always. I’m a rather pragmatic sort, and  one of the best, most practical things I’ve seen is the ‘Everything is Awful and I’m Not Okay: Questions to ask before giving up‘ list. I have it in my planner, I gave copies to my kids. It’s on the bulletin board in our kitchen. I like it because it’s something to help me focus ‘small’. Depression is ‘big’ – it looms over me; it takes up a lot of space in my head, in the room, in my life. It’s overwhelming and ever-present. The list is ‘small’. It’s useful. It’s something I can focus on right here, right now, that helps keep the despair at bay.

So, like I said, this isn’t one of those ‘and now I’m all fixed’ posts. I’m not; I’m still broken and struggling, every day, and it’s really damn hard.

 

Warmly,
~h


NYR’s 2014 – Better Late than Never!

New Year’s resolutions tend to be a joke among the general population. Not that I don’t get a good laugh at all the unrealistic, radical lifestyle changes that people plan to put into action like flipping a switch, but I find it somewhat insulting that the plan to make changes has become so cliche’. Most of my friends make resolutions, and actually do work towards them. Either their resolutions are more realistic, or they’re more motivated than the average Joe; but I’m lucky to be around people who are inspiring me to continue working towards my goals well into the month.
I’ve flip-flopped back and forth about whether to do resolutions this year, and about how to do them. There’s a trend right now about choosing a single word or phrase that sums up your goals and making that your theme for the year. I like that idea, but don’t know exactly if it will work for me… but who knows. Once I getall of this out of my head and onto the screen, I may find a theme when proofreading!

So, I am going to do my traditional 9, and update my last year’s resoloutions as well (as usual). Here’s last year’s post; I’m late this year – it’s Jan. 14th already.

2014 NYRs:

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.

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).

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!)

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.

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!!

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😉

7.) Extended Family – Visit my parents more, continue working on family history/genealogy research. Maybe plan a big family reunion.

8.) Community – We’re Spiral Scouting this year, in addition to our regular community service work that we do thought 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.

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

So there…. those are my plans for this year. Maybe my theme could be ‘Onward and Upward’…

2013 recap:

  1. Complete ‘Wreck this Journal’, and keep up with the Art Journalistas group on Facebook. (It’s a secret group; one for my IRL friends and I to post pictures and progress and meet up to browse each others’ books. We’re starting in January.) 2014: DONE!! I’m working on my second journal in this series as we speak (or as I type). 
  2. repaint living room & kids’ rooms (also includes new beds in their rooms, decor and the like) 2014: FAIL (klaxon) I painted about 2/5 of the living room and hate the color. Haven’t even started on the kids rooms. Why is this is HARD to accomplish??
  3. spend more time with Grandmama & Mom & Dad (My mom had a stroke this past year, and it really pointed out how little time we spend together. Plus, my grandmother’s sister died a few weeks ago – her younger sister – which really brought home how much time she may have left. Making more time to visit with my family needs to be a priority this year.) 2014: DONE (and continue to do. I could spend MORE time with them, but who can’t say that? Keeping them in my plans for this year as well.
  4. Harry Potter Marathon. I’ve talked about it many times… now is the time. ALL of the movies – one weekend. 2014: Meh… The kids and I have started working through the HP series as part of their literature and reading assignments. They’re enjoying the book, so when we finish a book, the plan is to watch the movie, then do a comparison diagram.
  5. Karate: keep on keepin’ on. I’d like to be a green belt (or maybe even blue!) by the end of the year… though I am  not the one who has the final say in whether or not I get to test; still, I plan on working hard, and I think that green is doable over the next 12 months. I also want to learn the Dojo Kun in Japanese. Also included in this res is going to be general health/fitness goals. More HAES, less sighing over a flat stomach. 2014: I took a break form karate from July-December. 3x a week was stressing me out with all the other stuff that’s always on my plate. I just burnt out of it. So I’ve started again this year, and am only committing myself to 2x per week (Tues & Thurs) so my weekend is free. Other health/fitness goals have suffered for the last 5 months or so, but I am back on track.
  6. Submit at least one writing project for publication (AnnA – gonna need your help on this). I also want to work on establishing and maintaining a regular writing schedule this year, and collaborate more with AnnA (my amazing writing partner – click her name above and read her blog!). Also, check out the local writer’s guild group again. I tried it a while back and it wasn’t my cuppa; it’s been a while though, so maybe fresh meat? 2014: FAIL  on everything but collab. with AnnA. She’s back in town though, so I foresee more collabs in the future.
  7. Date Night with Loverly Husband at least 1x each month. we did really well on this a while back, but have gotten away from it and it shows, so back onto the list it goes. Up this week: Django Unchained. At some point this coming year, I also want to take a mini-break, just the two of us. San Antonio or Dallas, maybe. 2014: Once a month was maybe pushing it – we resolve, but we have a life. The good thing about it is that even if we don’t get to go out alone together, we still enjoy one another’s company when hanging out at home, or with the kids. But a mini-break does sound heavenly.
  8. Family Vacation – we so very much need to do this. We’re in better financial shape that ever before, so maybe this is doable this year. 2014: Back on the list for this year!
  9. Run a 5K… or walk a 5K. I really want to do a Color Run and/or a Tough Mudder…. or aZombie Walk… or a Flash Mob. Something along those lines. We have friends who are into 5Ks as a family and it looks like fun. I’d love to get the kids involved in something like that. 2014: FAIL – but I’m not giving up! The color run is coming up, and we have a Zombie Response Team in the area now, so maybe a Zombie Walk is forthcoming😉

So… that’s that. I’m not updating the past years’ goals like I have in the past. Some of that is irrelevant; much of it is still on the list.

I thought that while I was on the subject of goals, I’d make a few homeschool goals for this year as well:

1.) Stick to our schedule a bit better. We did well through October, but November and December were difficult to keep on-track. January has been barely holding on; we need to do better.

2.) Math manipulatives – get better use out of them! We have a ton, and they just sit in the cabinet for the most part.

3.) Make use of Pinterest in a more productive manner. There are so many cool things there – that’s why I pinned them!! Now, the trick is to use them!

 

In any case, I think I will stick with Upward and Onward as my theme for this year. How about you – themes for the year, or traditional resolutions? Share yours!

Warmly,
~h


April Update

I suck at blogging this year. I know it’s not an excuse, but (like most of you) I’ve had too much on my plate lately. I used to make time for blogging, but I haven’t been motivated to do so lately. I tend to work in cycles, so this isn’t entirely unexpected  from my end. Things have been kinda topsy-turvey for the last couple of months, but we are settling into a routine again, so hopefully updates will come a little more frequently now.

Let’s see…

February was pretty busy. For field trips, we saw a play (The Real Story of the 3 Little Pigs, which is based on this book – one of my kids’ favorites when they were small), visited the symphony, went to Moody Gardens, celebrated Imbolc and Valentine’s Day, met with our newly-forming Spiral Scouts group to finalize our charter paperwork, had a ‘s’mores and movie day’ with our local homeschool group and had our monthly community service day volunteering with our local Humane Society.

picture by Amanda Horn

picture by Amanda Horn

Aidan - HumaneSoc January26_2013

picture by Jean Bennett

I also tested for my orange belt in karate, re-visited my doc for an update and medication switch to handle my depression and anxiety (because I am a good mother who does not want to end up on the evening news for freaking out and taking off my clothes and running down the street starkers), and got new contacts (because vision is of the good).

Orange belt!

March was full of school-y goodness, with a visit to the ballet to see Snow White, the NOAA Sea Turtle Research Facility in Galveston, celebrated Ostara & observed Easter, went hiking in the Big Thicket (I’m Mayor of the Kirby Trail on FourSquare!!), the Exotic Cat Refuge in Kirbyville, TX, a hike in Village Creek, and another successful volunteer date with the Humane Society.

Shambola

April has been equally exciting in some ways, but less ‘school-ish’. Due to inclement weather, we’ve ended up seeing movies (OZ and The Croods) instead of educational stuff, but those links are to lesson plan fun, so even strictly social/leisure outings can be built into school). I was also sick for a couple of weeks, so we missed out on some pretty awesome field trips (like NANO Days at the Houston Children’s Museum). I was bummed. I also missed our Humane Society date. Boo to that.

I’m on the mend though, and on a personal level, April rang in both the celebration of my 36th birthday and marked the occasion of my first ever 5K event. Loverly Husband and I went with my sister and some friends to the Mud Farm in Sour Lake, TX to do a ‘mud run’ obstacle course. It was so dirty and so much fun! #213 Heather Thomas 1:19:56 – 111 of 121 runners <— that’s me! He came in 38th with a time of 0:43:50.

Mud Run 5K - April 6, 2013

picture OF me, BY someone who is NOT me…
Carrie, maybe?

In homeschool news, we’ve been working our literature unit pretty consistently. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with the kids on a unit study; I’ve forgotten how ‘big’ this type of schooling can be. Even though this is ‘just’ Beyond Five In A Row, and ‘just’ The Boxcar Children #1, which is way below the boys’ reading/grade level, it’s still lent itself to some surprisingly in-depth lessons. We don’t necessarily have anything to show for it (other than the lapbook components), but it’s steady progress, which is a good thing. One of the more memorable lessons was on the construction of the Hoover Dam. The boys watched a half hour documentary about it and were pretty riveted. Another lesson was on planting blueberry bushes, which led to growing zones and was a nice tie-in to starting our garden this year. We’ll be planting more, but this was a nice start.

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We’ve also been hitting math and Latin pretty hard, which has been surprisingly fun. I found a Cambridge Yahoo group that and has been helpful in finding add-on lessons to go with book I. They also have a files section with worksheets and practice lessons and games.

I’ve been working with the boys on timed multiplication drills using Math-Drills.com worksheets. 5 minutes to do as much as they can. We’re working on adding one number each week and it’s going really well. We started with 1’s and that was a real confidence builder for them both. I am also using a workbook that I found called Multiplication Puzzle Practice by Bob Hugel/Scholastic. It’s divided into riddles and puzzles and the lessons are cumulative, each one adding another number. With this and the drill sheets, they’re doing quite well. I’ve also found that they are motivating each other (in between snarky comments and death-threats whispered under their breath to each other). Sorry… it’s been one of those days, LOL.

I’m also going to start using Lesson Pathways again, I think – at least for Language Arts and Science. I need something more… guided, I think. I tend to flit about from subject to subject in science and I really want something a little more cohesive. Their 5th grade Language Arts is using Dear Mr. Henshaw – a book I remember doing in 5th grade and I loved it. I think the boys will like it when we’re done with Boxcar.

In personal news, we had another Journalistas ‘dinner & coffee’ event, I picked up two of the other Keri Smith journals (Mess and This Is Not A Book). I’m more or less done with WTJ, but am having a really hard time getting into the other two books. I think I am going to start Mess first; TINAB makes me cringe for some reason. I’m not ready to explore that feeling just yet. Somewhat recently, I also went to see Beautiful Creatures and to a Happy Birthday dinner with PBJMom, and spent a Saturday morning cooking quiche and toffee crackers for a friend’s Blessingway. Loverly Husband and I had 2 date nights with our ‘best couple friends’ (to see Evil Dead and IHOP, and out for dinner and coffee), had my picture taken by a real professional for the BBC’s new website (coming soon), and am almost done with Leader Training for our Spiral Scouts group.

photo by Sarah Lynne Photography (click picture for link)

photo by Sarah Lynne Photography
(click picture for link)

Sprinkled between all this has been regular school days, pool preparation for the summer, board meetings an peer counseling with the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, complete and utter enjoyment of the new seasons of Game of Thrones & The Borgias, taking care of taxes, visiting family, and cooking dinner, amid other things. I’ve been in a funky place lately, but I am coming out of it now. My life is full, and I am grateful.

We’re getting ready for the summer, which means summer reading club, summer movie clubs, hiking every week, my niece, Appleberry, will be back with us, and lots of time spent lazing about on the beach (if things go well). Hopefully, you’ll hear from me again very soon!

Warmly,
~h

 

 


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