Thursday, September 30, 2010


Theresa, at Our Life in Words honored me with my first blog award!  Thank you so much.  Blogging is more than a hobby.  For me, it is therapy.  I take the thoughts that I struggle with, put them down and in doing so, release them into my journal.  Once they are on "paper" they are no longer taking up space inside me.  I can process them more easily.  What seems overwhelming becomes manageable.  What was once daunting is doable.  Frustrating becomes challenging.  And so on and so on.  

At times it may seem weird to put all my hopes, dreams, plans, goals and frustrations, concerns and questions out there for all to read but I am so thankful that I do.  For when I am stuck in a situation, I have so many people who have come this way before me to lean on.  The words of encouragement, support, advice and wisdom guide my choices, point me in different directions and steady me.  You are the ying to my yang.  Thank you for taking the time to help me on this journey!

The "rules" of accepting are 1) share 7 things about yourself  and 2) pass it along to 15 blogs you admire.  

My 7 things:
  • I have been feeling lately like I would like a third child and I have no idea why.  I do not want to carry a child but I would welcome a child into my family. Perhaps it is all the babies around me lately....
  • I am about to become an Aunt again any day.
  • I am not a good housekeeper but I try very hard.
  • I feel lost since I finished The Hunger Games trilogy and do not have a book to read.
  • I am looking forward to attending my first Catholic Conference at a local university next month.  The woman who wrote Left to Tell, ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza, is speaking.
  • I helped relocate 30 UN Relief Workers to Rwanda just weeks before the genocide and I think of them often.
  • Someday I would like to write a book.
Blogs I admire and read often for relaxation and inspiration:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Student or Learner?

When I left my career nine years ago to stay home with Grace I struggled deeply with defining my sense of self.  When I walked out of my classroom and closed the door behind me for the final time, I became “just” a mom.  Where would I find value?  How would others perceive me?  I shied away from parties, especially those me and my husband would go to in Manhattan where his coworkers would ask what I did for a living.  How did I answer that now? am just a mom?  How silly, no how stupid I was.  How could I have thought so little of the role of mother?  Sadly,  it took me about a year to let go of who I was and start to embrace the person I was becoming.  
I see so much of myself in my daughter.  For seven of her ten years she has been in some form of organized school where she has thrived.  She defined herself within the confines of school.  She received positive praise.  She competed successfully for stellar grades.  She was awarded prizes.  She defined herself as a “student”.  Notice, I did not say “learner”.  Nope.  She is a student.
Now removed from school, and the built in systems of rewards, that can range from expected rewards such as an A on a paper, to subtle rewards like extra time on the computer for finishing homework to the overt reward like a pizza party for those few student who worked “extra” hard on the CMT tests, she is lost.  Literally lost.  Since she values herself as a student, these rewards center her.  An A means all is well.  Time on the fence for missing a signature in her assignment pad is bad.  Pizza party is good.  Losing time off recess for talking is bad.  Getting cubes for compliments given by other adults is good.  Principal picking you out of a crowd because you are talking in the cafeteria after the lights are off signaling quiet is bad.  See what I mean?  They direct your sense of worth.  Get good rewards, praise and attention, and your confidence as a student goes up.  Grace got all these things, and more.  
At home I do not have a compliment jar but I do not send them to our fence when they do not complete work assigned.  I do not give standardized tests but I do host pizza parties every now and then!  But to Grace, her sense of self is diminished.  She has no litmus test.  Now she is saying things like I am a bad writer because I told her that she could add details to latest piece of writing.  She now hates math, which was her strongest subject.  She sees her sister reading at the same level as her (which is a perfect level for her) and that must mean she is not a good reader.  I feel like I am starting with a kindergartner, a child who is not sure what to do and where to go.  All because she has come to define herself as a student, not a learner.  
A student gets an A on a test.  A learner realizes even with an A there is still more to absorb.  A student can line up in the hallway and be quiet.  A learner can interview a stranger.  A student remembers her assignment pad.  A learner does not need an assignment pad because the learning never stops.  A student knows test taking strategies.  A learner knows how to read for knowledge.  A student’s day ends at 3:30 or whenever the homework is done.  A learner is always seeking to feed her brain.   
So how do I make the paradigm shift from student to learner?  How do I make her understand that homeschooling is not school?  She is no longer a student.  She is a girl.  She is a sister.  She is a daughter.  She is a granddaughter and niece and a great-niece.  She is an athlete.  She is a musician.  She is a friend.  She is a naturalist.  She is a thinker.  She is a writer.  She is a planner.  She is all these things and more.  She is now a learner.  I want her to feel as confident about that as she is about all the other things that make her who she is.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Sound of Music

My Nan loved to play the piano. When I expressed an interest in learning and showed promise, she sent one of her pianos to my house for me to practice on.  I fondly remember my teacher, an elderly blind man, who would somehow know instinctively every time I peeked at my fingers.  When he passed away after a fall I was crushed and I lost a bit of the love I had for my lessons.  That is how powerful a good teacher can be. 
The piano remained in my family at my parent’s house until my daughters took an interest in learning to play.  Greg and I my moved the piano to our house and I called a tuner.  I was distraught to hear the tinkling sound of plastic parts raining down on the inside of the piano when the tuner opened it up.  It would have been more cost effective to buy the girls a new piano than to repair the one I had used for all those years.  Given that the brand of piano was made in the 40s and 50s with plastic parts, it was not a good investment to repair.  We got rid of the piano.  My girls practiced on a keyboard.  It was just not the same.
After my Nan was no longer able to stay in her house and both she and my Grandfather moved in with my Aunt, there was the question of what to do with her other piano.  The one in this picture........

me (second from left) circa 1975

Grace today
My Dad loaded it onto his trailer and moved it from Massachusetts to my house.  It is exceedingly heavy.   I hoped that all the effort was worth it.  All the keys worked, it just seemed out of tune.  Again the tuner came and opened it up for a look.  He said I had a great piano that would last a few more generations if treated with care.  The sound of music began to fill my house again.
One of the beauties of homeschooling is that Grace (Lilah is on hiatus from lessons) can practice whenever she wants.  Being home has allowed her to develop her passion for the piano.  We are hoping to give her performing opportunities but I am struggling to find appropriate venues.  The senior center will not allow children because of legal liabilities.  Nursing homes will not return my calls.  Her school only has two recitals a year and she loves to have an audience.  Here are the pieces she is working on now.  Enjoy.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Have Zuca, Will Travel

We discovered Zuca bags when Grace was figure skating.  They are very handy for wheeling skates, guards, jump ropes, water bottles and butt pads into the rink.  Plus on busy days, they double for a place to sit and lace up.  We pulled our bags out the basement, dusted them off and realized they are perfect for hauling our binders, books, journals, pens and pencils to the library!

The library has become our new favorite place for lessons.  I love our library.  The children’s wing is warm and inviting.  There is a reading nook that doubles as a meeting space for the knitting and poetry clubs.  There is a toddler area with board books and duplo blocks, a large bank of computers, and plenty of space for the three of us to work.  The library is synonomous with learning.  At the table I will introduce what I want them to work on whether it’s the next lesson in their math text or the mini-lesson for their writing assignment.  Then they scatter, each to their own place.  Most of the time it is in the reading nook.  They come back to me for help, to review and to move on to the next lesson.  Our work is finished quickly, with little fuss and the reward is they get to browse and borrow for as much time as we can spare.  
Today there was a huge toddler crowd in the children’s room.  We could not take the never ending rounds of “We are glad to be together, together, together, we are glad to be together at the library today” with each child being personally introduced.  The girls just rolled their eyes like they are too cool for that!  I reminded them that they once sat on that rug for toddler time too, but perhaps the children’s place was not the best space for us today.  We ventured downstairs to the teen wing.  Here we found peace and solitutde and a beautiful window seat looking out onto our town’s Main Street.  The girls read their biographies, completed a rough draft of a description of a person, worked on cursive practice and Lilah completed one math lesson, Grace completed two.  The librarian was not too sure what to do with us.  When she asked if I was tutoring I just nodded.  Sometimes I get tired of explaining.  Really, why else would I be there with two girls who are calling me Mom at 10:30 in the morning on a public school day?  When she assumed I was a tutor, she said, “Oh, that’s okay then.”  I was curious what the alternative would have been if I were not a “tutor” and perhaps just a homeschooling “mom”.  Would that not have been okay?  Hopefully when we return on Wednesday, she will remember us and put two and two together without me having to explain.
I wish I had my camera this morning.  I love my camera but usually I have either forgotten it (like today) or when I actually remember it, I have left the memory card in my laptop at home.  So no pictures were taken of the girls at the library, or at the Audubon where they had an amazing class on keeping a Nature Journal, or of Grace’s flute ensemble, or of Lilah and me having a wonderful time browing through stores in the arts section of New Haven.  Oh well.  Tomorrow is another day!

** I wish Zuca would ask me to endorse their products.  I have my eye on the backpack.  Sadly, I was not paid either monetarily or through product to endorse their bags.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crisis Averted!

I could not find any clothes that fit me today.  I had what we have termed in this house, a “clothing crisis”.  Living with two daughters, we have these often.  Today was not about the actual fit of my clothes.   Well, I should mention that some are a bit snug due to my summer of glorious food.  But I do have some clothes that look fine on my body.  The problem with the fit today was that my clothes no longer fit who I am as a person.  

When I pulled out my fall clothes last year I was at a completely different stage of my life.  I was reentering the workforce full time for the first time in 9 years as a preschool teacher.  My daily clothes demanded flexibility.  Thank goodness we were allowed to wear jeans because life with preschoolers is up and down, literally!  But I often paired my jeans with something like this.  

Very preppy.  Very teacher-y.  Very straight-laced and slightly boring.  But I looked professional and well suited for a classroom of 20 three, four and five year olds.   
However, now when I open my closet and find my french cuff Brooks Brothers shirts they don’t fit who I see myself today.  I am still a teacher, only my students are now my daughters.  I am still seeking to be respected, but for who I am as a person, not for my career.   I still want to look put together when we venture out to our many classes, lessons, library trips and playdates but  I would much rather look like this now.

Fortunately, I was able to purchase my teaching clothes on the meager salary that preschool teachers make.  Now, I am not being paid for the hours and hours of planning, organizing, coordinating, facilitating, transporting and scheduling that I do now.  I still want to do these things in style, but now my style is a bit more relaxed.  Today I found some new clothes, not at Diesel, where I long to shop, but at Target where I found my favorite long sleeve tee shirts on sale for $7 each and two very cute short jersey shirts on clearance for $3.47 each!  I splurged on two pairs of very cool tights and with my boots, I can mimic this look for a fraction of the price of designer.  I went into the attic and rescued my "vintage" Henri Bendel skirts I got 10 years ago at a sample sale in New York City and had the great pleasure of shopping at P’s.  
P’s is not a store or a catalog.  Nope.  I am a very lucky girl indeed.  I have a mother who LOVES to shop and who has IMPECCABLE taste and fortunately is the same size as me!  So when she purges her closet, my sister and I come running.  We both carried out an armful of clothes from Banana Republic, Gap, and JCrew. mom can rock JCrew.  Like I said...I am a very lucky girl.  Now the only thing I really want but don’t yet have the courage to get to complete my new fall transformation is this. Even though I have wanted one since I was 12, I don’t think I will ever have the nerve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Accomplishments

Our accomplishments this week:
My girls can tell me who Ashurburnipal is and why he is significant in world history.  We learned about the collapse of the island Thera and learned about the mythological creature Minotaur.  They have not been interested in reading Percy Jackson, but now their interest is now piqued!
Lilah is no longer resisting subtraction with regrouping!  For me, this is a HUGE accomplishment.
We decided that we may do more of our lessons at the library as this offers the best of both worlds by giving Grace a location with energy and stimulation, while giving Lilah a quiet cozy nook to work in.  We accomplish more in a few short hours than we would at home.  Home then becomes our place to return to for art projects, history projects, music playing and just plain old play!
They published their second piece of writing: descriptive pieces on their pets.  On Monday, Lilah almost lost four of her beloved dolls when they were left behind at a cafe in New Haven.  Thankfully they were turned in by someone who knew they were loved and were later rescued by her dad.  This provided the inspiration for a fantastic story about the Lovely Girl’s Adventure in New Haven.  She is now on chapter 3!
Grace continues to blog at  I love to see her interest in blogging grow.
We attended our first class at the Audubon where we participated in a Yale study to determine if frogs have acquired a fungus (affectionately termed bumpy butt) that prevents the absorption of oxygen.  Grace’s flute ensemble began, as did her first Girl Scout Troop’s meetings.  Lucky girl gets to be in two GS troops, one for homeschooled children, the other with her friends from the neighborhood.  Lilah attended her second advanced cooking class where she delivered scrumptious chicken parmesan, homemade cesear salad dressing and my all-time favorite dessert, tiramisu.  
We ventured north to visit the girl’s Great Aunt, reinstating a tradition of Thursday visits.  I hope to visit at least once a month.
Most dear to my heart was the ability to see my girls grow up a little bit this week. Adjusting to being home has been a challenge and the relationship between my girls was suffering.  So much so, I was not sure if homeschooling would be an option for one of my daughters.  With the help of a trusted advisor, we came up with a plan that would help alleviate the hurt feelings and help them to learn to respect one another.  It is working.  Just today Grace apologized for something, offered a hug to her sister, and asked to be her friend.  I almost cried with joy.  That in itself is our greatest accomplishment this week!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Trip Memories

Every Thursday (unless my children we were sick) we would pile in our car and make the two hour drive north to visit my Grandmother in Massachusetts.  It was our ritual.  I would load up with dvds, diapers and bottles and spend three or four hours visiting.  I enjoyed making Gram grilled cheese sandwiches, which for some reason she felt were better than anyone else's.  Her tuna fish was outstanding.  We would drink tea, watch the girls swim or ride their trikes or just build with Lincoln Logs.  When she was well we would take walks up to her church and show the girls the field that bears the name of my Grandfather on the dedication plaque.  When she was not, we would rock and talk on her favorite glider. Then we would pack our stuff up, and head home. The girls would often be asleep before we were on the highway, offering me two hours of peace and solitude, alone with my memories of the day.  
I resented school for taking this time away from me when Grace turned 5 and went to Kindergarten.  No longer could we make our weekly trek.  I not only missed Grace when she was away from me, I missed my Gram.  Every school holiday we would go.  But it was not quite the same as our Thursday trips. 
I am so glad I took this time for my girls to spend with their Great-Grandmother.  Grace is her namesake after all.  My Gram was able to see them grow and change from infants to toddlers, to little girls and finally before her passing, to young ladies.  My girls remember her with love and we speak of her often.  
Now I have the opportunity to once again jump in the car, this time minus the diaper bags, bottles and dvds.  My Gram is no longer on this earth, but I am so lucky to have a close relationship with my Aunt who is now retired and able to play on a Thursday!  And play we did.  The girls played with an amazing handmade wooden gear set, following the diagrams to create interesting gear loops.  They created log cabins with the Lincoln Logs they have been using since they were old enough to hold the logs.  We played a few rounds of Blokus, which I am thrilled that my girls finally understand!  We also shared in stories told by my Aunt and Uncle of their recent trip to Alaska.  My girls are now convinced our family MUST take a cruise.  Actually, I sorta am too!
It was liberating to be on a road trip just me and the girls while the rest of the world is in school.  How lucky we are.  Tomorrow we will make up for the missed math and writing we did not accomplish today.  I did bring their binders, but there were never opened.  That is okay.  There will be time to make up the missed work tomorrow.  Today was about a different kind of learning. 
Learning to appreciate family.  Learning to look to others for wisdom and guidance.  Learning that love comes from many people.  Understanding how blessed we are for all the love we are given.  That kind of learning is just as valuable as the learning that comes from books and texts.  Especially given the conversations we have had this week about sisterhood, family and respect.  
Today was a good day.
Gram with Grace in 2000

Gram with Lilah in 2002

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Year I Got My Daughters Back

friendship bracelets

I am convinced that God has given me this year for a higher purpose.  It seems less and less likely that the purpose is to education my daughters and more and more likely that the purpose is to repair the relationship between my daughters.  
I never realized my daughters were lost to me.  How could I have been so blind?  My theory is that for so many years they left my care at 8:30 in the morning, went to two different rooms, with two different adults to guide them through their day, with different sets of friends and different rules and procedures.  They came back together at 3:15 when the school day ended full of stories about their day spent apart.  We would walk home, usually with their friends and went straight to homework, lessons or appointments.  Dinner was the first time since breakfast, 10 hours ago, that we were together.  After dinner came showers, some tv time and bedtime.  In a 24 hour day we spent perhaps 5 hours together.  
No wonder now that they are sleeping in the same room, sharing a common group of homeschooling friends, sharing in some activities, sharing in helping out around the house, sharing lessons, travel time and meals together, they do not know how to relate to each other.  Grace, being the oldest has always set the tone of what she wants to do, when she wants to do it.  But since she came home to a home learning environment already established by Lilah, the result is friction.  
Today Grace and I had a wonderful talk.  She had a lighbulb moment.  Something happened outside while she was playing with her neighborhood friends.  She was told what to do.  She was not asked for input.  She felt quite put out.  When she told me how much it bothered her, she looked at me in awe.  “Mom, that must be how Lilah feels when she says I boss her around!”   Tears immediately welled up in her eyes.  A moment of empathy.  A moment of clarity.  Hopefully a moment of true change.  
I went to Lilah, who was taking a self-impossed break by hanging out in the shower stall, and relayed this to her.  She is not sure her sisters words can be trusted.  For some reason, I really feel like Grace grew up a bit this afternoon and I think what happened with her friend could be the catalyst for real change.  I know Lilah does not have any real reason to believe this but I hope that through the power of gentle reminders, open lines of communication and unconditional love, both girls will come together.
Right now I know their lessons are important.  I know they will grow in mathematics, language arts and sciences.  Right now we are taking more of an unschooling approach which is a far cry from the Classical Method I thought I would be using back in January.  However, I am learning that to help my children grow, I have to be flexible and change along with them.  They need the ability to do their lessons when they feel they have the most energy to give to them.  When we need to talk something out, we need to stop, and talk it out.  When words are spoken that are lacking in kindness and respect, I need to model how to speak with kindness and respect.  
It seems very apparent that this year is not really about the “homeschooling”.  It is about teaching my girls to become friends again, like they were years ago when I would brag that my two daughters, just 23 months apart were the bestest of friends.  It is about repairing hurts that have built up over the years of living two very seperate lives.  It is about love and understanding, growth and nurturing.  It is about sisterhood and parenthood. 
This is our life.  The four of us, under one roof, living, laughing, loving, fighting, making up, making choices, making mistakes, learning from them.  All the while, learning.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Head is Full of Children

A long time ago I saw a great tee shirt in the gift shop at Save The Children Headquarters.  It had a woman's face and all around where her hair would be were children.  The caption was My Head Is Full of Children.  I wish I had that tee shirt.  My head is certainly full of my two children!
We are in the process of helping Grace to adjust to home learning. She is frustrated becuase math is not like school.  In school she was at the top of her class, concepts came easily to her and she was very confident.  At the beginning of the summer I bought her Life of Fred Fractions thinking she would love it.  Unless I gave her a calculator, she could not complete the lessons.  She has a very good understanding of computing basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  Unfortunately it is still basic.  I thought she had exposure to double digit multiplicaiton and division and fractions with mixed numerals.  She did not.  Today we talked about her feelings in math.  She explained to me that before, in school, things came so easily to her, she always got 100 and liked being one of the “smartest” students in the class.  I told her that in a class of 25, there are three groups of children (for the most part).  Those that the concept comes easily for, those who work at it and will get it with more practice, and those who need additional help to understand the concept being presented.  She agreed.  I asked her where her teacher spent most of her time teaching.  To the middle group, she replied.  So I asked if she was ever challenged.  Rarely, she replied.  So of course things came easy for her.  I asked her if she wanted to continue along getting 100s but never being challenged or if she would like to take a risk, try things that are new for her, struggle with some concepts and perhaps make mistakes, but then learn from those mistakes and grow as a student.  I told her she is no longer competing with anyone for grades.  She is only competing with herself now.  She laughed and said I sounded like her basketball coach.  I asked her to trust me.  I know Horizons 4 is easy for her now.  I also know she is doing several extra lessons as week and at that pace she will be onto the second book of Horizons 4 soon.  I want her to have a solid grasp of double digit multiplication, long division and a firm understanding of fractions and decimals.  Then we can extend her in so many ways.  
Her other frustration is writing.  She is struggling with short focused writing assignments.  We are using WriteSmart and so far she her assignments have been to describe an object and to describe a pet.  She struggles to infuse her writing with beautiful descriptive language.  She is looking for a framework to follow.  She is most familiar writing to prompts and has mastered the art of scoring well on them.  But take away that framework, open up the creative channels, and give her freedom in what she can write and she becomes very uncomfortable.  She said she hardly ever got to write stories in school and that is what she wants to do.  I told her to write the stories!  Write in her journal and blog them!  I would never hold her back from that.   She was intrigued by sports reporting while on her tour of ESPN and she loves blogging.  I told her I want to develop her writing and that starts simply by learning how to write well constructed sentences.  She is not aware of beautiful language.  Her limited vocabulary is holding her back.  I have taught her how to use a thesaurus and we continue with our word of the day.  I told her to go back and read her blog posts from the beginning to see if she notices a difference in her writing.  It has only been two weeks and I certainly notice.
Now that I am learning where her frustrations lie and that while she is taking it out on her sister and me, we are not the true objects of her frustration.  We are just the outlet she feels safe expressing them to.  I understand this.  Unfortunately, her sister does not and has had just about enough of it.  For now when tensions start to rise, we take break and sit down where ever we are and talk about it.  Lilah will start to understand that just like she had to adjust last winter, so does her sister.  Only she had the luxury of having me all to herself to voice her concerns, take out her frustrations and turn to for support.  She did not have to share all of herself with her sister.  
I feel like we are making progress.  Today we got through math, writing, cursive, and reading.  We took a trip to the post office to mail a package to Afghanistan, were on time for flute lessons and flute ensemble, and made it home just in time for Girl Scouts.  We did all that without a major meltdown.  The power of communication!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Book on a Nook

Remember before children, when love was new and it kept you up until the break of dawn?  Tired we would roll out of bed, blindly stumble into the kitchen to make coffee and hop in the car to the place we spent 10 hours a day, then come home and do it all over again?  I am there again.   
You see, I have fell in love. 
It was unexpected and passionate.  
This is a love that keeps me up until all hours of the night.   Shocking?   Perhaps.  Especially since I am not in love with a person.  I am in love with a daughter’s Nook.   Not only have I discovered that have made the switch from paper to electronic reading material, I am loving the books I am reading: The Hunger Game trilogy.  I cannot put it down.  So when my husband of 13 years  wonders why it is that I  fall asleep at 8:30 on a typical night, too exhausted to make it upstairs, this book keeps me up until the middle of the night?  He will never get the power of a good book.  Our love for reading is on two different levels.  It is my lifeline.  This time I am drawn into a world called Panem.
In between charging the Nook to guarantee it holds a full charge for me, um...for Grace and trying to figure out how to homeschool two girls with no drama (not to mention the housework, the errands and a full load of lessons) we did find time to end our week on a high note.  


Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Family That Blogs Together....

My friend Theresa, at Our Life in Words, started her first blog hop.  Blogging has become a family pastime for us.  My ten year old daughter started her blog, Life In Stories, a few months ago as a way to share her homeschool experience with her friends.  After saving for about 9 months, she bought her very own HP Netbook.   Her desire to become technologically fluent is beginning to rub off on her 8 year old sister, who for the first time, expressed interest in having her own blog.

This is where we blog.....

We blog on the couch in our living room.....

I am so proud of Grace for saving up for her HP.

We blog on the dog's bed in the family room....

I do most of my blogging late at night in the learning lounge.
And Greg reads our blogs and comments on them from his office.  A family that blogs together, connects together!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leave It All To Me

When my girls were little I would go to bed and want to tear out my hair because the lyrics to Barney would run nonstop through my brain on a continuous loop..I love you, you love me.  Horrid.  Now I have a different set of lyrics running through my brain.  Perhaps you recognize them....
In five, four, three, two
I know 
you see
somehow the world will change for me
and be so wonderful
live life
breathe air
I know somehow we're gonna get there
and feel so wonderful
It's all for real
I'm telling you just how i feel
So wake up the members of my nation
It's your time to be
there's no chance unless you take one
every time you see the brighter side
of every situation
somethings are meant to be
so give me your best and leave the rest to me
leave it all to me
leave it all to me
just leave it all to me
I have viewed just about every iCarly episode on tv, so I don’t pay much attention anymore.  It never occurred to me to actually listen to the lyrics.  

Today was not a great day.  Another morning of arguments, threats to return to school and many, many tears.  Out of the rubble of the aftermath of this argument came a glimmer of hope.  We all hopped into my bed, pulled the covers up to our chins and talked.  I acknowledged their feelings.  Grace is struggling to find her way in a system she is not familiar with in a structure that was created by Lilah and I months ago.  Lilah is feeling that this very structure is disrupted and she is not so sure she likes it.  I asked for a promise, to treat each other with kindness and respect.  Then I told them to leave it all to me.  Put their trust in me.  Count on me as their mother to know that as long as this is what we all want, we will find a way to make it work.  Lean on me when they are feeling unsure.  Confide in me when they do not like something or have ideas for change.  

In turn, I am leaving it all up to God.  I can plan, prepare and present.  But I am realizing that this journey is so much more than just homeschooling.  This is about mending a relationship between two little girls.  
As Stacey wrote in my comments yesterday, What if this is a bigger journey? What if it is as much about being "sisters" and being "family" as it is about school lessons. What if the reason our nation's families are such a mess (high divorce rates, etc) is that we don't really know how to "get along" as families because we always go our separate ways in 20 different directions? I'm thinking your daughters will be the best of friends in about 10 years and quite possibly relationally intelligent because they will be forced to figure out intimacy as siblings rather than superficial friendships in public school.”

I have been thinking about this all day.  We have not been homeschooling all along.  We have been homeschooling one child for 9 months and the other child for 2 weeks.  They have been in school for six and three years.  That is significant time spent apart.  Weekends are busy running errands, spending time with Dad, church and family dinners.  Our weekends have never allowed for long stretches of quiet time at home.  This is new for them.  They don’t always know how to related to one another.  It is like they are rediscovering being sisters and working on becoming friends.  What seemed so simple, sisterhood, is actually quite complicated.  Two girls relating to one another, sharing the time and attention of one parent (who happens to also be their teacher), recently sharing a room, sharing homeschool friends, plus the newness of learning at home is a lot for a young person to adjust to.  It is going to take time, patience and understanding.
So Grace and Lilah, It's your time to be, there's no chance unless you take one, every time you see the brighter side of every situation, somethings are meant to be, so give me your best and leave the rest to me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I knew that I would have to allow time to adjust.  I did not think the emotions that we are feeling would swing so suddenly, completely without warning, from pleasure and peacefullness to anger and hostility.  
Lilah is dealing with the adjustment from a one child schoolhouse to a two child one.  Lilah asked to come home and her adjustment to homeschooling was smooth.  We had some bad days for sure.  She complained about math every single day for three months.  Dispite her aversion to math, she loved being home.  She loved the freedom it gave her, the ability to spend time on things she loves and the quality time we were able to share.  When we spoke of the possibility of Grace coming home she was excited.  Having only one child at home can be lonely at times.  Despite the fact that my girls very rarely play together, she wanted her sister to share her days with.
I think she may have learned early to be careful what you wish for!  Now I have my wish, both girls are home learning together.  But Lilah’s wish is not working out the way I think she had planned.  Lilah cried out today that she wished she never came home so that Grace would never have been curious about the opportunity to come home and maybe it would be better in school. Mind you, Lilah will be someone you see someday accepting a Tony or an Oscar (most likely a daytime emmy) for best female performance in a drama.  Nevertheless, it broke my heart.  
Grace is struggling a bit with adjusting to lessons at home.  This summer we spent most of our learning centered around projects. She loved it.  Now we are back to the basics with spelling, writing, math and history.  She is not so sure about my style.  She feels math is too easy.    I struggled deeply over placing her in a math curriculum.  She did very well in school and scored very high on her Mastery Tests.  What she is doing now is easy for her - it is a review of addition and subtraction.  But the terms they use are new (subtrahand, difference, addend, zero property, etc).  She is not familiar with them.  Today I learned that she excels in computation, but give her a problem like a 3x3 grid with the rows and columns having the same sum and numbers are missing and she drew a complete blank.  She said she does not like “thinking” problems!  What??!!  So I am glad she is having this review, with many quick “thinking problems” thrown in.  What Lilah objects to is the rolling of the eyes, the comments that “this is so easy” or “we don’t do this in school” and “I used to love math, now I think I hate it”.  These are some of the same things Lilah used to say about math but now she has no patience for her sister’s journey of discovery.  Ironically, Lilah now loves math, does not complain and is grasping the concepts she struggled with in the spring.  I do not want Grace to lose her love for math so I have purchased a Singapore Daily Math Problem book to challenge her, even though these are some pretty tough “thinking problems”. 
We lost an hour today to the argument that insued after math.  Lilah stomped off to her cool down place in the attic and stayed there for all of writing.  Grace clung close to me while I tried to explain Lilah’s frustrations.  I told both girls that we need to allow time to adjust and if we want this to work out, it will.  I asked for Grace to trust me with math and enjoy the review.  I promised her it gets hard quick.  I reminded her that when we tried Life of Fred earlier this summer it was a disaster because she did not have a firm understanding of the key concepts.  She will get these soon, units of measurement including metric, which she has never had (or claims to never have had) is the next chapter.  
Once Lilah calmed down she said she did not want to return to school but she does want things to go back the way they were when it was just the two of us.  I explained that this is not possible right now.  We  will figure this out.  We will come up with a way to learn together and try to celebrate each other’s strengths, not point out our weaknesses.  We will treat each other with kindness and respect.  We will help each other when asked and not intrude on each other when not asked.  We will understand we learn differently and figure out how to accomplish our lessons honoring our differences.  We will realize that there are some things we just have to do because the teacher says so but the teacher will always help her students learn what they want to.  We will figure this out because we each want it in our own way, for our own reasons.  
This will be a journey.  Not always an easy one but certainly an unforgettable one.

began a collage for our biography unit: Zlata's Diary

played Harry Potter Wii with a friend

making bath bombs
worked on collage for biography of Jeff Corwin

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Gracie

Ten years ago, September 12th, I was about to give birth.... only I did not realize it for I was not due until September 23rd.
I went to bed as usual only to awake around 1:00a.m. feeling like something was not right.  Immediately I woke up Greg and told him that I thought my water may have broke.  He laughed and said I would know, so it didn’t and he told me to go back to bed.  Hmmm....he is a man.....never been pregnant....never will be pregnant.....what does he know?  Not suprisingly, he was able to roll over and fall sound asleep.  I however, was not.  No contractions, no back pain.   Unable to rest, I got up.  I watched a little late late night tv, tried to read, all the while wondering where the contractions were.  Where was the pain?  At six am I called my doctor who said to pack a bag and head on over to the hospital.  
We strolled through Stop and Shop on our way to the hospital.  I had everything I thought I needed, my favorite cds and walkman, my comfy pjs, my books, my camera, my slippers and robe.  Maybe if I had not walked out of most of my lamaze classes, I would have made some different choices (like packing the softest toilet tissue money can buy and forgetting about my best pjs).  I don’t remember what we needed at Stop and Shop but I will never forget the look on the cashier’s face as we told her we were on our way to have a little girl!  
I was all checked into the hospital, in my bed, watching some tv still waiting for what I thought labor was supposed to be like.  I was given a deadline, either contractions would start on their own soon, or the doctors would start them for me.  That did not sound like what I had in mind.  Reluctantly I agreed to Pitocin, not understanding the hell I was about to face.  
If I only knew then what I know now, I would have educated myself much more on labor.  I naively figured that women have been delivering since the beginning of time, why should I feel like I could not do it?  I did not prepare myself for the what ifs.  I struggled through the pain.  I breathed...the only thing I stuck around lamaze class long enough to learn!  It did nothing.  I cried.  The doctors wanted me to have an epidural.  That definitely was not in my plan.  I cried more.  I wanted my mom.  I called her on the phone hysterical that I could not take any more......I had been up since 1am, had been laboring for hours and I was literally scared to death of an epidural.  My doctor, a woman I respected very much held my hand and told me I could not fight my way through the pain.  It was not good for me or the baby and I would need my strength for when it was time to actually deliver her.  I agreed.  
The sweet relief.  I slept.  I rested.  Then at 3:30am on September 13th, 26 and a half hours since my husband told me my water did not break, a whole two weeks earlier than we expected her to arrive, Gracie was born into this world, changing our lives forever.  I struggle to believe that this memory is now ten years old.  How I loved those first few days.  We snuggled watching the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.  I sang Waltzing Mathilda to her over and over since that was the anthem of those Olympics.  I marveled at her very life.  I stared at her in wonder.  This baby, all 7 pounds of her, bald and fair was inside my body just hours ago was now kicking, crying, sleeping, drinking, breathing, living on her own.

Living on her own.  That sums up my daughter.  She came into her world on her terms and has been living her life according to them ever since.  She is kind and compassionate, yet stubborn and impulsive.  She is outgoing and friendly, yet determined and focused.  She is the type of child that one dreams of but one is not always sure how to parent.  She is a force of nature and a child of nature.  She is wonderous and bewildering.  She is loving and she is independent.  She is strong and capable.  She is smart and inquisitive.  She is my daughter.  She is Grace.
Happy Birthday my sweet sweet girl.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Heart is Full

Our first official week of homeschooling is complete.  What a busy, thrilling, exhausting, exciting week it was!  
I could and probably should write about each subject and how we approached it and reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. We had great moments and not so great moments that I could and probably should write about ....but this week there is just one thing that I want to share.  

Last night my heart was full. We celebrated Grace’s 10th birthday.   In my living room were 11 children ranging in age from 7 to 11 all piled on blankets, pillows and couches watching the first Harry Potter movie.  Five of these children are homeschooled.  Six of them are not.  Together they ate three large pizzas, three batches of popcorn, countless glasses of juice and water and of course, cake and ice cream.  

The presents my daughter received were thoughtful.  We talked about forgoing presents all together and asking instead for donations to the animal shelter or our local community center. But they have not had a friends party in so long that they pleaded for gifts and I obliged.  She was given the molt of a tiny horseshoe crab housed in a plastic box settled on a cloud of cotton balls.   She was given an owl puppet just like that of her dear friend.  She was given books to read and games to play.  She was given a homemade box decorated with the Marine Corps insignia loaded with note cards just waiting to be written in and sent to her Uncle in Afghanistan.  Her gifts spoke of the love that is shared between these children and our families.
When it came time for cake, her friend played Happy Birthday on her guitar, having just learned the song especially for Grace.  She sang for her and when she was done her friends, both old and new, burst into applause.

My bigges fear of removing Grace from public school would be that these freindships would suffer.  Last night showed me while a school building may be the place she met some of these children, the friendships can grow and deepen outside of the walls of school.  She successfully blended two groups of children.  On my couch were two girls, both 7, one homeschooled and one not, chatting away happy as could be.  The thing that makes this significant is one of these children is easily overwhelmed in a large group and prefers quieter, smaller settings.  She loved the energy of this group and possibly made a new friend last night.
I looked at this group, at my daughter nestled on the floor next to her best friends, and told Greg my heart is full.  He suggested we do a movie night every month.  Yes....I think we will!

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...