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

Mom's Health

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

kind-sq

kind header

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.

CAM03897

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


Homeschooling Despite April Showers

HS despite april showers

HS despite april showersSome years, I wonder where old sayings come from. This is not one of those years! We’ve had SO. MUCH. RAIN. Luckily, we’re not in a low lying area and haven’t been flooded out, but with the incredible rainfall this month I do start to worry anytime the yard starts looking more like a lake.

Despite the rain, homeschooling continues! We’ve been indoors quite a bit, and even some of our homeschool group’s activities have been either cancelled or rescheduled due to the weather. I thought that I would have time to work on planning for next school year (high school for LBB – eek!!), but so far, nada. Work has me completely busy with event planning and organization. That’s good; I like it when work is steady even if I don’t get paid, but the time it takes away from other things is a double-edged sword. On the one had, I love being busy and having lots to do (especially with the slump I’ve been in since my dental surgery – I’ve needed the distraction), but being a busy bee also makes it suuuuper easy to put off things that aren’t as exciting (like math… and history).

So the last week or so has necessitated a lot of soul-searching and figuring out where I need to spend my energy. One thing that helped get me motivated to work on school stuff was the acquisition of a new giant cabinet for the school room. My storage solutions were less than solution-y, so getting rid of the junky looking mess and having a nice, clean, white cabinet to put things into made a world of difference. The taller storage means that I can fit some of the overflow from the other cabinet, too – it’s just a much nicer space now. In addition to ‘surroundings’, I am also working on self-care – things like hydration, making sure I eat when I need to (because I don’t do that), and trying to get up earlier so I can have some time to myself in the mornings. I’m not a ‘morning person’ by nature, but I am giving it a shot. I am a fan of planner stickers (little stickers made specifically to track lifestyle and habits that go into your daily planner/organizer). I make my own either by finding inspiration from things I see elsewhere, or creating my own based on what I want to track. Being able to tie feelings with practical habits is helping me manage my anxiety and depression. Doing the things that I know make me feel better is always difficult; this makes it a tiny bit easier because I refer to my planner so often, and it’s constantly in my face.

CAM03769

It’s helping in our school-ish world, too. One of the things I found when I was cleaning up was an old binder with the kids’ work from a couple of years ago. In it was our daily routine. I’d forgotten about it, because it seems like we went to workboxes or something like that and stopped using that schedule. But I like the concept, so I re-worked it for what we’re doing now, and re-did the boys’ current binders. I love the word ‘accountability’ for the kids (and for myself). I found Thirty Handmade Days’ printable accountability and school binder covers a while back and I LOVE them. I made new covers using her templates and made my own additions and customizations to simple things up a bit – I’m a fan of ‘all in one and done’. They look great, especially when compared to their ragged old ones.

CAM03767

CAM03768

We’ve had a lot going on over the last few weeks – National Siblings Day was April 10th, and we planned a family dinner with my brother and sister and our families. We try to get together every other month or so; this time just happened to fall on NSD.

siblings day 4-10-16

Top Left: My brother, doing what brothers do to their older sisters. Top Right: Brothers who don’t appreciate the joy of the sibling relationship yet. Bottom: My brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law and all our noisy heathen children.

 

One of the cool new things we’re doing with our homeschool group is LARP (live action role playing) PE. We have park day once a month, and the kids plan a game/battle scenario to play out while we’re there. To help with that, one of our families hosted a sword-making day and we all brought supplies to make LARP-safe swords from PVC pipe, foam pool noodles, soft-foam (for the sword tips), hot glue, electrical tape and duct tape. The guidelines we used can be found in the NERO Rule Book.

CAM03692

CAM03697
Another project we started with our group is this year’s Triangle Homeschoolers’ Yearbook. At Park Day, we got student pictures of some of the kids, with plans to get pictures of the rest next month, or have their parents send in headshots to be included. We’re using Picaboo online yearbook building, and it’s a REALLY cool program! We’re setting it up so that the kids can edit and create the yearbook, and we’re doing a cover contest as well, so the cover will feature kids’ art – so excited about that!

CAM03739

CAM03752
CAM03765
Here’s a sneak peek – this may change; I was playing around with the program to see how easy it was to use; I have no idea what the final, kid-approved project will look like. Every part of the page is editable, from the backgrounds to the layout and the numbers (which are stickers that can be moved, re-sized, turned – whatever). I can’t wait for the kids to dig into it!

stubodsample3
Our activity this week was a STEM Day; we brought craft supplies and had an egg drop challenge. The goal was to create a capsule that would protect an egg from a ten-foot drop. LBB created a very cushioned container with lots of spikes to help diffuse the impact. He put a lot of work into his capsule! PeaGreen made several different style capsules; one with sponges, one with spokes. I made a couple too, just for funsises.

CAM03774

CAM03780

CAM03808

CAM03810

Unfortunately, of the 5 that we made, the only one that protected the egg was the simplest one – I cut an egg carton so that there were 2 sections with 4 cups each. I put the egg in the divot in the center, then put the top on and used masking tape to secure it. It worked! Simple is sometimes better, I guess. We were surprised that PeaGreen’s sponge-capsule didn’t work; you’d think that sponges all around would have protected the egg – too ‘squishy’, maybe? And LBB’s capsule, we think ended up being too dense to disperse the impact. This was a really fun project though!

Stay dry!!
Warmly,
~h

 

 

 


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.

CAM03554

CAM03555

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.

CAM03564

 

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.

 
CAM03566

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.

CAM03572

CAM03574

CAM03579

CAM03582

CAM03588

CAM03608

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.

CAM03639

Boys_at_ETZoo_11_3_04
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!

CAM03642

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.

CAM03679

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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 175 other followers