Pages

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Homeschooling 2014/2015

I made it! I made it to the unofficial end of our school year. Yes, we'll still be doing math and grammar and other basic stuff, but it's Dumont Academy Lite for the next few months. I've never been in this position before. Never. I usually claw myself to the end of May until my will to continue has completely and totally shriveled up and died. But not this year! I've been so happy today. Giddy even. Me. I was giddy.  In spite of all the life that happened to us this year, here I am. The middle of April. Doing some light school because we FINISHED most of our subjects. You can't see it, but I'm doing a really ugly happy dance right now.

And how did we manage this feat in our family? I must admit it's because my resolve crumbled, and I rejoined Classical Conversations. That's it. I can't deny it or take too much credit. Homeschoolers can hate on it as much as they want, but it saved our year.  I will never be a CC Kool-aid drinker. There are things about it that I will never like (ahem...TIN WHISTLE, I'm staring you down hard).  Christian businesses always make me nervous. And I do not in any way, shape,or form think that CC is the only way to do things. But it's worked for us. I can actually feel really good about our year instead of feeling defeated because I didn't meet every goal or check every box.

So I'm sharing what we did this year and what I learned in case anyone cares...or even if you don't care. I just want to write it down to see it one place. =)
  1. We did CC as our curriculum. For Foundations, we did the memory work, read books from my collection or the library on the weekly topics, did copywork or coloring sheets from our books or memory work, did field trips relevant to our studies (science museums, history museums, art museums, etc), watched movies/doctumentaries/animated TV shows that were relevant to our topics. That was it for history and science.  And...it was enough. Part of me still wants to pull out one of my Apologia sciences for next year, but it would be extra. It's taken me years to feel okay with knowing that this is really enough.
  2. I learned that I have one kid with lots of natural ability but needs someone pushing pushing pushing to make him do everything.  I also learned that I have a kid that has to work a little harder at things, but she's the one that sets her eyes on a prize and works until she gets what she wants. Her persistence is kind of scary. I already knew these things, but it especially stood out this year.
  3. I still don't care if my 5 year learns anything in class. He's 5. I'll care more in 1st grade. Probably.
  4. Challenge A (7th grade for us)...I admit, I had no idea what I was doing. If I could do the year over again, I would do so many things differently. I didn't get how much memorization was still involved with Challenge A. I wish I had joined the online CC site for Challenge because I think it would have given me a better idea of how to help my son. I spent way too much time trying to understand Lost Tools of Writing. Actually, I didn't spend nearly enough time trying to understand LTW, but I wish I would have realized much earlier that I could teach the writing concepts my own way. LTW in Challenge isn't my favorite. It just isn't. But my son can write a paper because I know how to write, and I can teach him what I know. I wish I had been more confidant in the beginning to teach my way. 
  5. I need the accountability of having to be somewhere every week. I just do. I wish I could be one of those people that doesn't need the push, but my son gets his need for "motivation" from me. I can't even deny it. So CC made me get up and go every week. I think that was the most important part of our success this year. Even when my husband lost his job just as school was starting, we had to keep doing the next thing. When we had to move, we still kept doing the next thing. Sure we were in a hotel room for the first two weeks of CC in January while we waited for our new home to be ready. We still got work done. I don't think...no, I know that wouldn't have happened if it had been up to me to keep things going. I would have melted in a puddle by Christmas.
  6. I learned how to make CC work for me instead of trying to make everything fit CC. The first time I did this, I was a newbie homeschooler with all these ideals and unrealistic expectations. It burned me out. Now that I've been able to use my oldest as an ongoing, personal, homeschool guinea pig, I'm much more confidant in what really needs to be done. I don't care what everyone else is doing. We're doing our thing and it's working.
  7. Oh, and it's awesome that even though we moved to a different state over the holidays, I was able to switch to a new group without missing a beat. The kids were able to pick up right where they left off without me being the only person providing continuity. I can't even express how much it meant to me and my kids to be able to switch to a new group and continue. Everything else had to be dropped, but this one thing was able to be consistent.
So. When people hate on Classical Conversations, I can either explain or not explain because I know it's worked for us. When people tell me CC is the onlywaytodothingsandifyoudon'tdothisyou'reWRONG!, I can't gently use my favorite line, "Isn't it great that as homeschoolers we can find what works for our individual family needs?" =) Then I can move along and keep doing what we're doing.

Basically, I had every reason for this year to epically fail. But it didn't. I thank God that He directed me to change direction this year. He knew what was coming, and He put me in a support system that would keep me moving. Praise. 




Friday, March 27, 2015

Where comparison is king

We all know by now that we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others, right? I mean, that's the message we preach in Christian circles, mom circles, homeschool circles...those are pretty  much my circles at the moment.  Maybe this isn't the message everyone else is getting, but I certainly get the "Don't compare your life to someone else's highlight reel" meme weekly on my facebook feed.

And we love it. I mean, we don't live by it, but we love the ideal. In all areas of our lives but one, we are supposed to ignore what everyone else is doing and simply do our best to the glory of God. That's enough. But in what one area does this not apply? I say we preach the exact opposite when it comes to suffering and pain. Comparison is king when it comes to suffering.  We're supposed to be stoic in the face of difficulty.

"I can't really let fill in the blank get me down because so and so is dealing with fill in the blank, and that's so much worse than what I'm dealing with. Thank God I'm not going through that situation right now."

Isn't that what we tell ourselves? It's certainly what I tell myself. I berate myself and say I  shouldn't struggle so much with something because at least I'm not dealing with cancer, ISIS, death, etc.  And we absolutely need perspective. Sometimes we're being whiny over things that don't matter. For example, the Chinese restaurant forgot my egg rolls last night. I didn't realize it until I'd gotten home. HOW COULD THEY DO THAT?!?!!  The egg rolls are my favorite part! They're like dessert! In that moment when I realized I didn't have my beloved egg roll, I felt sadness and anger. And then I got over it because it's an egg roll. I'm better off for not eating it anyway, and it's barely a blip on my radar of life. Sometimes we make problems so much bigger in our minds than they really need to be.  And sometimes we suffer through hard things that still aren't as catastrophic as what someone else is going through. There's always someone going down a darker, rougher road than we are at the moment.

Still. That doesn't mean we're not in pain; that we're not grappling with circumstances and feelings that we don't exactly know how to get a handle on. Being stoic in the face of pain is a lie. Have you read the Psalms? They are full of laments. They are full of words expressing sorrow, pain, regret, and anger. Those people were going through difficult things, and they cried out to God in their pain. He didn't tell them to get over it because some other person was going through a quantifiably more difficult situation at the moment. 

When we put it like that, it seems ridiculous, right? Of course God isn't going to put us on a sliding scale to determine how much pain we should allow ourselves to feel. We live through painful situations, and we feel pain. It's human. It's appropriate. Telling ourselves it's not really that bad doesn't make that pain go away. We're just compounding our suffering with a lie. We're pouring salt on the wound. In that moment, the pain really is that bad. Why is it wrong to acknowledge it, feel it, and take it to  God?

Obviously, we need balance. Sometimes we might need the friend that gently reminds us that things  aren't as terrible as we feel at the moment. Even so, isn't it better to work through the struggles we have instead of pretending it's not really there? I know I'm not fooling myself when I try the comparison trick. I just feel worse for feeling sad or angry in the first place. It's another one of those downward spirals of guilt. 

I think of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. Aren't we just being Pharisees when our go-to answer to someone's personal pain and suffering is "well, just be thankful you're not dealing with fill in the blank. Now that person really has something to feel bad about."

I don't want to be a Pharisee. I don't want to shut someone down when they're actually willing to open up and share their suffering with me. I hope I can be a comfort. After the week I and some people close to me have had, I hope we can all find comfort instead of comparison.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'm not enjoying every minute of this homeschool journey. And that's ok.

Some of you might not know this about me, but I actually homeschool my kids. I know, I know. It's shocking. I just got back from my yearly homeschool convention trip, and it was amazing as always. This year was especially good for a couple of reasons. First, I actually had a budget to BUY something! It's always more fun to buy the books I need and want instead of caressing them lovingly before putting them back in a stack only to be picked up by some other mom that surely won't enjoy them as much as I would. I bought a few things that I'd been thinking about since last year's convention. So that was exciting. More importantly though is that it really helped me get over my homeschool slump.

I'll let you know something else about me that's going to be fairly scandalous and shocking. We've moved a lot in the last few years. 5 1/2 times.  The half could also be considered an extended move since it took a month from start to finish. It's been somewhat...let's say...disruptive to our daily lives.  This school year was so promising. And then in September (you know, when a school year BEGINS), our lives fell apart. I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to concentrate on things like activities and checking off all of my self-made homeschool boxes when I'm wondering when my husband will get a new job.

As my heart has been healing and learning that I can actually make plans again, fill out a calendar a month or two in advance again, that last piece that needed to come together was school. This weekend one of the speakers said something amazingly hilarious.

             "Homeschoolers lie all the time! We lie about how much school we've done! It might have been a day...or a week...or a month since we've actually sat down and officially done math!"

And yes. It's true. We have been that family. Life has happened multiple times over. Death, sickness, moves, mental breakdowns where I just. can't. fight. over. one. more. math. problem.  And I shouldn't feel bad about it really. I mean, most kids get a whole summer off for school while mine will be doing math by the pool. It's not like we're not covering what we need to cover...eventually.

This year has been especially hard for me though. I mean, every year is hard in some ways. But this year was a tough year in a string of tough years. I am just not that mom that loves homeschooling for the sake of homescchooling. I don't. I don't love it. I don't revel in pinteresty homeschool crafts and activities. Let me throw a book at the kids, have them tell me about the book, write about the book, or draw about the book.  And let's be done quickly so we can do something else, please.

Every year we stick with it because no matter how much I want to load those kids onto the yellow school bus, I still know it's the best thing for our family. And finally. Finally! I have the inspiration to keep going and and even enjoy the journey again. We CAN do 8th grade! I CAN teach my third child how to read. Which by the way is so much easier than potty training. I'd rather teach a kid to read any day than potty train.

I don't feel guilty about not enjoying homeschooling half the time. I see the pressure to "love every minute" and I just don't feel it. It's a lie. Where did that come from? That lie that we're supposed to love and enjoy every second of life, and if we're not, we're doing it wrong.  It's not true in anything and it only leads to disappointment.  Those couples that think they have to be happy every single married second of their lives? Yeah. That's stupid. And it's a yellow brick road to the emerald city of divorce. Sometimes things are hard and unpleasant, but we keep doing it because it's the best thing. Homeschooling for us is still the best thing. So I keep doing it. If something else becomes the best thing, then I'll do that.

Today, I'm honestly just thankful that I have the inspiration to keep trying to do this homeschool thing well for one more year. =)  Until next year's convention...


Monday, March 2, 2015

When we go on trips...

After 12 1/2 years of traveling with kids, I've learned that certain things are going to happen nearly every time. This weekend's trip was no exception. So here's a rundown of our weekend trip to grandma's and Great Wolf Lodge with kids that exemplified the family vacation pitfalls.

  • Kid #3 started with cold symptoms the morning of Trip Day 1. Kids always get sick when a trip is involved.
  • On Sunday morning and Day 2, we went to church with our friends before going straight to Walmart to buy cold medicine for the ever worsening cold that Kid #3 chose to get just to spite me. I also needed to buy a toothbrush because I forgot Kid #3's toothbrush. I always forget his toothbrush. I'm sorry for whatever dental problems you have later in life, Kid #3. You can blame me.
  • An hour or so into the drive, Kid #3 announced he was sick and started gagging. Because I expected vomit (I always expect vomit from someone) I managed to catch everything in the Wal-mart bag and avoided the roadside vomit clean up routine (which I was prepared for).
  • Buy the spiteful, sick kid a ginger ale in the hopes that the vomit was from the cold medicine on an empty-ish stomach, playing video games in the car, and NOT the 6 day stomach virus from hell that's been circling the homeschool groups lately.
  • Kid #3 seems fine and insists macaroni and cheese is the only thing he can eat. So we find a restaurant with mac&cheese. It was Bojangles. This is when Kid #1 decided he felt like throwing up. This was a false alarm brought on by the uber greasy Bojangles food. Kids always give you false alarms for potential vomit on roadtrips. 
  • Arrive at Great Wolf Lodge at the exact same time as every other family that is staying that night. Wait in line. Wait. Wait. An hour later, we're at the waterpark. Finally. At this point, I always have the stereotypical "Wow. This is a lot of work, and we haven't even started yet. I hope this is worth it" look. 
  • Pay $20 for a locker at the waterpark. Calm down husband who's bitter about the $20 locker.
  • Do some waterslides! Wait halfway up the stairs because you realize you forgot to get the required life jacket for Kid #3. You always forget a crucial item on a trip and remember at the last minute. Always.
  • Watch Kid #3's face as he goes from excitement to terror when he realizes how big the waterslides actually are. Make him get on anyway. 
  • After some lily pad and wave pool action, take Kid #3 up a million steps to try a different slide. Turn around and do the parent walk of shame because the kid has changed his mind. 
  • Eventually all kids are having fun and riding slides. Joy is had by all. This is the point you decide the kids actually are worth keeping.
  • Going to bed: kids have a "discussion" over which bed each one is sleeping in. Kids always "discuss" where they will sleep. Discuss is code for argue.
  • On Day 3, the morning goes well. This is where the kids have lulled you into complacency. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN!!!  THIS IS WHEN THEY STRIKE!!!
  • When trying to leave, the kids suddenly announce "Wait! We didn't get Dippin Dots! You promised we could get Dippin Dots at Great Wolf!"  And see, I don't know. Did I promise that? I remember talking about Dippin Dots but it doesn't sound like something I would promise. But maybe I did. I honestly don't remember. So we got Dippin Dots. I don't want to be the parent of broken promises.
  • Kids are bitter about leaving the waterpark. Kid #2 is on the verge of tears because she didn't win the waterslide race, she had to share some of her Dippin Dots, whatever other thing she could cling onto to slow our exit.  Kid #3 refused to smile or look at the camera for a picture.
  • Leave GWL. See a missed text from my mom. My mom only calls or texts if something bad happened.
  • Call mom. Get bad news. Mom, stop being so predictable.
  • Get to the parking lot for a 2pm lunch at Chick-fil-a.
  • Kid #1 suddenly announces he's left his pocketknife in the room. The pocketknife that belonged to his GREAT GRANDFATHER AND SHOULDN'T HAVE LEFT HOME AT ALL BUT HE WANTED TO CARRY IT AROUND WITH HIM BECAUSE IT'S SPECIAL!!!
  • Get back in the van, drive back to GWL, talk to the staff, find out no one can find the pocketknife, cry in the bathroom because I've reached my limit. Parents cry on family trips too.
  • Try for lunch again. At Wendy's. Yuck.
  • Find the lost pocketknife in Kid #1's Nintendo 3ds case. GAH!! Kids always lose things on trips. Permanently confiscate the pocketknife.
  • Realize Ikea can't happen because we spent so much time on the lost pocketknife that we'd be in the middle of Charlotte rush hour if we spend an hour and a half at Ikea. Cry on the inside. 
  • Drive home.
  • Twenty miles from our exit, the bathroom emergency hits. It's not a real emergency. It's an "I'm tired of sitting in the car and I'm kind of bored so I'll announce I need to go to the bathroom."
  • Arrive home! Finally! Realize we have no food in the house. Walk to Moe's because they have a Monday night burrito special and we can walk there. 
And that, my friends, is how we do family trips. This one was pretty calm in the grand scheme of things. Nothing like that time I lost my wallet and keys at Universal Studios...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I keep making these things called weekly plans.


In my attempt to wrestle a routine out of our year, I'm falling back to some ideas I got out a book I read last year called Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine (she's the moneysavingmom.com person in case you've ever heard of her).  It was actually a great book and very helpful. The basic point I'm using right now from the book is to make smaller, manageable goals. The other half is recognizing that I can't actually do all the things that I'll put on my list so I need to accept that from the beginning. Anyway, she suggests you make goals, then break them down into smaller, measurable chunks.  So that's what I'm doing. Sometimes it seems like a work of futility, but I'm going to keep pushing for routines. It's got to work one day, right?

This week's goals are as follows:
  • Work on organzing/decorating our bedroom for 15 minutes every day
  • Eat at home (No restaurants until Saturday when we go out of town)
  • Get math done before lunch every day
  • Read a chapter out of my current book every day (which is The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller at the moment)
  • Say NO TO SUGAR!
  • Run/walk 3 times this week for 2miles 
  • Be kind
I think I've got a good mix of school, house, and personal goals to work through this week. The eating at home will be tough. You know that. I LOVE eating at restaurants. I've gushed over it for years so there's no reason for me to do it again. Basically, if we're going to save up for a house and maybe go on a special trip later this year, the eating out has to go away. Sigh. I'm taking it one week at a time.

The no sugar thing plays into the restaurant goal. I love sweet tea. Sweet tea has sugar, obviously. Since I'm choosing to abstain from added sugar as much as possible in the weeks leading up to Easter, it's easier to avoid it if I also avoid the restaurants. At home I can control my ingredients and happily drink water. By the way, Sundays don't count for fasting. I read that Sundays are for celebrating the Resurrection, and I liked that. Today I had sugar in the form of a cafe mocha, chocolate covered peanuts, and sweet tea. They were all delicious. In fact, they were more special to me today. It actually felt like a little celebration. It may seem silly, but eating the sugar today actually did remind me that today is a day to celebrate Jesus.

Math...well, I don't like teaching it. UGGHHHH. I don't. like. it. I wish I could go back in time and only use Math U See. They have videos. Why didn't I go with the videos?! Anyway, it's too late for Tommy and Charlotte so we're going to try very hard to get the math over with as soon as possible so it doesn't get pushed to the end of the day...then the next day...then "CRAP WE HAVEN'T DONE MATH ALL WEEK!!!"  That doesn't really happen. I would never let that happen. It might have happened a few times. Don't judge me. My kids are still on grade level and brilliant.

Then all that's left is running, reading, and being kind. The kindness is more of my general character trait I want to focus on this week. The running is the smaller chunk of a bigger goal to maybe try to run a half marathon by the end of the year. I'm still not fully committed yet (in case you didn't get that from the "maybe try"). I don't like running. The only part I really love about running is the part when it's over. Still, it would be cool to be able to say I'd run a half marathon. I could put that 13.1 sticker on my car. I wouldn't have to even say anything. People would see my car and know that I finished my race.

So there's my week. Again, nothing terribly exciting. Exciting is overrated sometimes.






Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The most boring Dumont update ever.

It's been a little over a month since I've done a real update. Some of that is because our lives became very boring in comparison to our last year.  I've been setting up house, getting the kids into their new homeschool group, and dealing with...reintegration.  Reintegration is something military families will get. Although Jon wasn't deployed last year, he was traveling  all. the. time.  Now he's home every day. Every single day. Like, really. Reintegration means we have to relearn how to all live together full-time again. And really, that's about it. We've been doing very normal, boring things together for the last month since we haven't had normal, boring lives in a long time.  But... there are a few things that have happened so here's the rundown.

1.  We've been here a month, and although I still have some work to do, I've got our home generally put together. Our bedroom is still kind of a catchall, but our home is a home. NOT rooms full of stacks and boxes.

2. Tommy has had a surprising turn in his school. We were able to transition from one CC group in Raleigh to a new group here in Charleston. In the last few weeks, Tommy has really stepped up and taken ownership of his schoolwork which is fantastic for me. His motivation...how can I put this...well, he's motivated by being the most productive in his class. Basically, he likes having all of his work down, especially when others in his class don't. I've decided to go with it. If it makes him do his Latin on his own without me making him do it, I'm all for it. As a kid that was very motivated by having the best grade in the class, I get this. =)

3. Charlotte has never had trouble fitting in with new groups of girls, and this move has been no different. She has quickly settled in with the girls in her class as well as picking up with old friends. She's happy, so I'm happy.  She does want to get back into gymnastics and start taking violin lessons, but I'm not ready to commit. ;)

4. Tomorrow starts the season of Lent. I've never done Lent before. I've always been Baptist, and Baptists don't really do Lent or fasting. BUT I've felt more and more convicted in the last few years that fasting is something I need to incorporate into my life. So...I'm doing it. I haven't exactly decided how I'm going to do it. Whether I'm going to pick one thing (sugar) to give up, limiting myself to a restricted diet (think Jen Hatmaker's book, 7),  or to choose one day each week to fast. There are lots of ways to do it, and I'm settling tonight on what I'm going to do. I guess we'll see how this goes.

5. For about 5 minutes I had really exciting news about taking a trip with my friend to Washington DC. Then we remembered that we have people that can't seem to live a day without us so...that dream died fairly quickly. Sigh. I'm supposed to go to a homeschool convention in March, but I'm still waffling on it since Jon won't be around to watch the kiddos like he originally planned. It's only really fun when I don't have to think about the kids when I'm at a convention for the direct purpose of thinking about my kids' education. That might not make sense to you, but it does to me.

So that's it. A completely boring update. No moves. No job changes. Just very boring daily life. It's not even worthy of an update really, but I needed to officially close that chapter of our lives. =)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Moving up in 2015!

So this is it. A new year and almost a new life. The downward spiral our lives have been on for the last few months has reversed course, and we can see the end of this chapter. In another week, Jon will be in happily employed once again doing the same job he was previously doing on the AF base, and we will be in our new/old city of Charleston.  I have been waiting for this moment for the past couple of months. This moment when I can finally sit down, take a deep breath, and enumerate the ways that God used His people to carry us through this time.

It's hard to list it all because people have gone above and beyond for us. But I'll give it a try anyway.

  • People have given my husband work.
  • Friends have given him a place to stay while he worked away from home
  • Friends have given US a place to stay when we had a gap between homes.
  • Friends have encouraged all of us, even the kids.
  • People have fed us meals and listened to us talk through everything.
  • People have watched my kids for me while I either worked or rested
  • They helped us move, and more people will help us move again in a week!
  • We've been treated like normal people instead of social pariah (our story was a little out there and scary, even for me)
  • People have prayed for us, and they've let us know that they're praying.
  • Some people gave me dark chocolate covered cherries and wine. Because chocolate and wine are good for the soul sometimes. =)
All in all, our friends and family have been amazing. We couldn't have made it through everything so well if God hadn't used all of these people in our lives.

And now we're moving into our new home in a week. Jon starts his new job in a week. The kids are already involved in a new Classical Conversations homeschool group so school is still happening! Now that everything is coming together, I've looked back over what I wanted to get out of last year.  My 2014 goal was simplicity. I wanted to get rid of the excess in our lives, the overscheduling, the extra stuff, and get back to basics. Well, I think I achieved that. In fact, I think we were a little overzealous in our search for simplicity. Jobs are good complexities to have!  I was able to look at commitments with a more critical eye before agreeing, and I have a good grasp of things that are worth my time as opposed to things that just aren't.

For 2015, the two words that keep coming to mind are stability (obviously) and holiness. The stability thing is more about location, but also a state of mind. I mean, I'm not unstable. Really.  But I do want to focus on fewer things for longer instead of bouncing around. I don't want to be a bouncer this year. As for holiness, it's something that I've felt I need to take more seriously personally. I don't mean a live-action, daily performance of holy-like behavior. I think we can all agree that it's revolting to see and all too common. This year, I want to dig deeper into what holiness means and what that looks like in my life. God's been pointing out some instances when I've really failed, and honestly, I don't like to fail. So there's my 2015 goal: stability and holiness.

If you have any book suggestions, throw them at me! I'd love to hear what you've read or studied on the topic of holiness.  And that's it. The Dumonts are moving up again!