Sunday, August 23, 2015

Starting yet another school year.

The last month has been...weird. After nearly 2 weeks of some serious fatigue and even weirder breathing issues that had me in bed most of the time, the doctor has brilliantly (ahem, sarcasm alert) decided that I need to take a few extra vitamins and use an inhaler for a few weeks. Yes, vitamins. My problem is not really vitamins, but whatever. The random fatigue thing is gone to once again hit me another day.  Unfortunately, those were supposed to be my two weeks of obsessive housecleaning, menu planning, and freezer cooking to get me fully prepared to start our 2015/2016 school year. Sigh. I had such beautiful plans.

For my non-homeschooling friends, this is how the school year starts every year. No, not with weird health symptoms that come and go, but with something that wrecks my sparkly, shiny dreams of getting ALL of our schoolwork done, the house cleaned, and healthy, home cooked meals every day. It's not a realistic dream. It's just not. Still, every year I hope that THIS will be the year that it all gets done well and on the same day most of the time. Realistically, there will be exactly one day this year where the stars align into the perfect day. It's good that my dream get smashed early before I have time to actually start to believe this particular one is possible for me. =)

So where does that leave us now? Well, we've finished two weeks of school (only 34 more to go!). Tommy has started his Challenge B class with Classical Conversations. He's started algebra *gulp*. Algebra along with formal logic, Latin, and the other normal 8th grade subjects. Charlotte started 4th grade on Homeschool Lite until her CC group starts on Tuesday. Matthew is 5. I'll probably teach him to read this year. In general, school takes a lot more time than it used to, and I'm a little resentful of that. I miss the days of packing up and going to the park in the morning with our friends for "Physical Education".  I'm sure that will happen occasionally, but Algebra and frequent last minute park days simply aren't compatible.

We've eaten out more in the last few weeks. We've had more pasta with jarred sauce for dinner than I'd care to admit. Laundry? Honestly, it's been a few weeks since I've done that. Jon and the kids have taken that completely over for which I am very appreciative. If you see me in a t-shirt though, it's because Jon doesn't do my laundry quite as often as I'd like it done. I'm not complaining because, like I said, I haven't really done laundry in about a month. 

And that's it I suppose.  We've officially started another school year. I take homeschooling one year at a time. If it ever really doesn't work for us anymore or Jon decides he can't do anymore laundry, I suppose  we'll stop and do something else. Like finally hire the personal staff I've always wanted. ;)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Homeschool Planning Weekend 2015

I just finished my 4th Homeschool Planning Weekend, and it was hands down the most effective weekend yet. I think that's mostly because I was half a state away from my kids. They were not taking up any brain space so I was able to completely focus on my school work. My kids are not so little any more, and my husband was able to take a day off of work to watch them so I could do what I needed to do. He's awesome. =)

I am not one of those people that does well chipping away at a giant project for 15 minutes a day for months at a time. I'm naturally a project person, not a maintainer.  Give me a weekend of uninterrupted time, and I will get my head wrapped around teaching formal logic, literature, latin, science, and history to three kids ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade. Give me 2 months of 15 minute moments every day, and I'll get almost nothing done. And you know what? Homeschooling is no joke. Did you read those subjects I'm covering? LATIN? LOGIC? Seriously. Subjects for 3 different kids on 3 different grade levels. Do you think that's easy? Because it's not.

So this is how my friend and I do this. First,  make a friend do this with you. You need to do this with a friend. Not only does this give you a dinner companion, but you will automatically get more done. She's like your workout buddy. It's harder to put down the logic books and take a nap when your friend is busily typing her assignment sheets right next to you. Second, go to a hotel. It might sound silly or extravagant, but it's not. You won't get interruptions, breakfast is ready for you in the morning, and you don't have to clean anything. All you can do is work.  Next, use gift cards and hotel points if you have them. I had hotel points that allowed us to stay at a better hotel for less money. My friend had an Olive Garden gift card. We are a match made in heaven. =)

And that's it. My family is still trying soooo hard to stay on an all cash budget, so I drove my husband's car with much better gas mileage to our hotel that was just over 2 hours away. My husband's paid for car that's less than 2000 miles away from joining the 200,000 Miles Club. The car that has no radio and no AC. In July. In South Carolina. And I would do it again in a heartbeat because Homeschool Planning Weekend is that important!

And that's all. I really wrote all this out so I could humble brag about driving the car with no AC in the middle of summer in SC. It was a long setup. =)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dumont Summer 2015

 What can I say? It's summer. We've been busy. I have tried my very best to be the fun mom for at least month. I've had no updates for the last couple of months because I've been trying to stay away from anything remotely emotionally or mentally difficult. Since that was a real life impossibility, I at least refused to write about it.  Some people would call this putting up a front. I choose to call it keeping everything below the surface of my life private. =)

So what have we been up to for the last month and a half ? I'm so glad you asked. We have gone to the pool a lot. So much that the kids don't even get that excited about the pool anymore. They're spoiled. We've gone to the waterpark. We've had friends over. We've kept a friend at our house for nearly 3 weeks while said friend's parents went on an envy-worthy European river cruise. We've had a lot of ice cream in various forms: homemade by me, homemade by other people, milkshakes, ice cream cones, with chocolate chips, from the store (which reminds me that I haven't had any Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bars in weeks. I need to remedy that). We've had too many desserts in general. The kids played lots of video games. Seriously. An obscene amount of video games and netflix. Most of you would judge me if you knew how much I let them get away with. We also signed up for summer reading programs to balance it out. We went to a few movies. Jurassic World was AMAAAAZING.

How does one follow up weeks of Charleston fun?!?  By sending the kids away, of course! Tommy went to his friend's house in Greenville for the week. He probably doesn't want to come  home. Charlotte and Matthew went to our other friends' house in Raleigh. I'll stop right here. I know a lot of people don't do the sleepover thing and are probably aghast that we would send our kids to other people's houses. And to that, I say my husband and I had the most fantastic few days alone. ALONE. We did whatever we wanted. We were people, not mom and dad. It was quiet. We didn't even turn on the radio in the car. The silence was glorious. The kids were happy and safe with people that are like our second family. These kids of ours will only be here a short time, but Jon is stuck with me for life so it's a relationship worth investing in. And that's all I'll say about that.

Finally, the only other thing going on is very boring and has generally cramped my style. We've switched to using all cash. No debit cards. It hurts. We've tried this many times before, but I'd still use my debit card for gas because my kids were too small to leave in the car. And it's a hassle (a first world hassle). It ruined me every time. I'd lose track with how much I'd spent on gas and after a couple of weeks it was too easy to pull that magical card out and swipe it for other things too.  But now my kids are big. My youngest is 5 and my oldest is almost 13. So I've switched to paying cash at the gas station too. I have a love/hate relationship with this all cash concept. I love that I feel like I have more control over what I'm spending. I wasn't a frivolous spender before in most things, but it's certainly been an eye opening experience. We've had to say no to things that we would not have said no to before. We've totally blown it a few times because we both underestimated how much certain things would cost. Still, it's a good change.

So that's it. It's only July, but our summer of fun is already about to come to an end. This week I will finally let myself think about school starting back. I will start planning, and I'll finish buying the books we need. I will watch hours of dvds on writing and logic. I'll start studying Latin so that I'm ready for the fall. Sigh.  It was fun while it lasted. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Matthew on nudity, female anatomy, and death.

Because I have a boy, I have to say these kinds of things....

On nudity...
Matthew: "MOM! Can I get dressed on the patio?"
Me: "The patio that faces the entrance to our apartment community? No. No son, you cannot change there."
Matthew: "Why not? It's the patio!"

On female anatomy...

Matthew: *gives me a big hug then starts poking my boob* "Mom, can this pop?"
Me: "Um, no. It can't pop."
Matthew: "It feels like it could pop. Are you sure it won't pop?"
Me: "Yep, I'm sure. It definitely won't pop. Now please stop poking."

On Death...
Matthew: "Have you ever almost died from a whale shark?"

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. 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, 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...