Thursday, January 31, 2013

What We Are Listening To

Last summer at a library book sale I grabbed an audiobook version of Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.  I thought perhaps it would be a good fit for use with our Story of the World History study.

This book is a gem!  I knew it was historical fiction but it is actually a living book of this period in history.  The main character, “Birdy”, is an outspoken, clever, cunning, and smart thirteen year old girl.  She feels repressed by her status of a knight’s daughter, destined to marry and spend her days as a lady of a manor, when she would rather be following the Jews as they emigrate from England during the Diaspora or join her uncle on crusade, her brother in a monastery or her best friend in the goat yard.  

Through her diary we are given a glimpse into what her life was like in the 1200’s.  We know what feasts were celebrated, what was eaten, what daily chores were, how the feudal system operated, how sickness was treated and how hard it was to survive.  

I recommend it as an accompaniment to Story of the World, Vol II, The Middle Ages.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Years: How I Know It Is Working

We have been homeschooling three years.  It is hard to imagine that three years have passed so quickly.  Three years ago Lilah was just seven years old and in 2nd grade.  I do remember the feelings of anxiety, of trepidation, and of concern I had for her and for our transition.  I remember my challenge to not be too critical of school, which was not a good place for one of my children, but was a fine place for my other.  At times I know I was too critical, but the more I reflected and wrote about my experiences with my daughter’s public school education, the more I realized that perhaps public school is not for every child.  It is not necessarily the best place for those who are not willing or able to give the teacher, and ultimately the system, what it deems necessary to "prove" or evaluate success.  

For our family, the past three years have truly been a journey of self-discovery.  This is my journey.  It is not perfect, but I am proud to own it.  I am blessed to share it.  I know to cherish it.  For us, it is working.

We are Learning:
My girls are not learning the same things at the same pace as their peers who attend school.  I know that in 4th grade children study the earth and topics like erosion.  I remember Grace recreating a stream in a baking pan and pouring water on it to illustrate how the earth is washed away in flooding.  Lilah never experienced this experiment.  She learned about erosion by watching documentaries on Hurricane Katrina and learning how the erosion of Louisiana’s marsh land contributed to the amount of water that was driven onshore by the storm surge.  She learned about this by venturing to the beach as many times as possible (in safe conditions) during Super Storm Sandy and seeing how the water eroded her own town’s shoreline.  Same concept, different methods of instruction.    

I know that my girls may not have learned about the civil war yet.  But this week in Religious Education class we were discussing how many languages were spoken in the region of Jerusalem at the time of Christ (and still today).  I asked Lilah why this was, and what people have held Jerusalem as their holy city, and she was able to tell me that Christians, Jews and Muslims are all connected to this city, have occupied it, and at times have gone to war over it.  

Through our daily interactions, I know my girls are learning.  Not only are they learning factual information, but they are learning why that information is relevant in their lives.  Perhaps Grace will use her love of weather and her concern for the environment to introduce new vegetation to shoreline area to buffer against storm surge....  

We are growing:
Every day the school bus rolls through my neighborhood beginning at 7:35am.  It is rare that my girls are awake to hear it.  This week Grace was woken up by Greg’s alarm at 5:00am.  She came to rest with me in my bed and she told me that when she heard the bus go by her first thought was relief that she does not have to keep a schedule that does not allow her body the rest it needs.  If they are sick, we don’t have to worry about make up work.  If they want to visit a museum, we go.  If they want to read a great book until 10:00pm, they do.  

We are exploring:
It pains me to see Grace lose touch with some of her neighborhood friends because homework takes up after school time.  Weekends are filled with sports and Sundays with church and family.  I hope that by the time summer comes, they will still be as close as they have been over the years.  My girls don’t have “homework” but that does not mean from 4:00 on they are in front of the television or on their computer either.  They use the time to work on things of their choosing.  

Monday night after dinner the girls decided to sew.  Lilah designed a dress for one of her Monster High Dolls and Grace worked on her pajama pants.  While they did this,  I worked on a page in my sketchbook.  Later, Lilah read some of Wonder, and Grace cleaned her room.  Other evenings the girls can be found drawing, blogging, baking, reading, writing, playing music, all things they enjoy doing.  What makes this time special is that it is of their own choosing.  They are developing and furthering their own interests and talents which reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest......

We are Loving:
Being home together allows us to share in learning with others in a very intimate way.  Electronics and dress design/sewing are just two examples of my girls learning skills from experts in a small group with their closest friends.  Having two hours of piano lessons and a half hour of guitar every week during the day with virtually unlimited practice time makes for very happy fulfilled children.  Being able to stay up late to spend time with their father, with no worry of a early wake up from an alarm clock makes for a happy family.  

I always said that we would homeschool as long as it was working, for both the girls and for myself.  What began as a six month trial three years ago has evolved into a way of life, and ultimately something that I see continuing for at least another year.  Conversations will happen about high school, about community college and portfolios.  The pros of basketball teams and after school clubs will be weighed against internships and customized learning opportunities. If Grace wants to go to high school we will explore that opportunity for her.  If she wants to stay home, I will make sure she gets what she needs.  I am not going to spend the next year worrying and fretting.  For now, I know that our choice to homeschool was a good choice for our family.  I know that it is working.  As we move into the next phase of our family’s adventure, I will continue to check in and recount the ways it is working.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Art Journaling: Try Something New

Saturday morning in yoga class, my instructor made me think of what our body does in the space of our yoga mat. Over the past three weeks I have challenged it to do what I thought was no longer possible, even without my leg injury. Quite the opposite was true in fact. My body needed this challenge, and it is healing.

Because of yoga class I am breathing better. I do not have asthma or even an acute condition like a cold or bronchitis, but I actually notice my breathing now and it feels better, deeper, more productive. It was something I never noticed before, not even while I studyied karate all those years go. Now, it feels like the slow, moderated, conscious breathing exercises we do works to not only fuel my muscles with oxygen, but also to provide my lungs with a workout! 

My instructor challenged us to compare what we do on our yoga mat to the rest of our life. How can we challenge ourself this week? Listen to a new piece of music? Read a new book? Consider a different point of view? I chose to create. It has been a long time since I found peace in my sketchbook. Most of my pages are pages that I either made as sample pages for my workshop sessions or pages I created with the kids during a session. I have my favorites and those are the pages that took days to create. I love the process of figuring out what to do. I love walking away from my page after finishing a step and reflecting on what I want to do next. It was in church yesterday that I thought to add comics to my newest page. This page was inspired by yoga and therefore bears this title. I had help from one of Lilah’s books, a beginner manga drawing book by Chris Hart. I am not a huge manga enthusiast, but I love the color and the bold lines. I love the quirkiness and the detail. I love watching Lilah draw and thought that it has been years since I drew something so why not give it a try? 

Prismacolor markers, Faber Castell manga markers and 
Spectrum Noir markers. 
Black Sharpie.
Old comics. 
Stamp and ink pad. 
Exacto knife and cutting mat. 
Modge Podge and putty knife. 
My thoughts. 
Cut out letters from a magazine.

I am pleased with her. She is not perfect, but she is a perfect way to embrace what I set out to do. Try something new.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week of January 25, 2013

In My Life This Week:  Growing up in Massachusetts, I remember coming home from school, rushing to get my ice skates, grabbing a thermos of hot chocolate and racing across the street to the frozen pond where a battle would ensue between my friends who wanted to skate and the boys who wanted to play hockey.  Eventually we would settle on our designated space but inevitably the puck would sail by us followed by boys who had no consideration for our need to practice spins and twirls.

My girls have very few memories of pond skating.  We live just a few houses away from two ponds but we have never skated on them.  They never look safe to me.  We are keeping our eye on another pond in our neighborhood....that one must be safe by now.  Not that I want to skate in this frigid weather!  

I know I should not complain that it is 20 degrees in Connecticut in January.  Not after the relatively mild winter we have had so far.  But man it is cold!  So cold, I have not been getting up early to write.  So cold, I stay tucked in until at least 7:00 which makes our day get off to a late start and seems to affect all we do.  I feel like not enough was accomplished this week.  What we did, we did well, but I am left feeling like we could have done more......

In My Homeschool This Week:  We dove into to Zoology 2.  The girls love the notebooking journal I purchased for them.  To do the accompanying activities takes longer of course, and a chapter that would normally be completed in one week now takes two.  I am fine with that because I feel the activities are worth the extra time and reinforce their understanding of the text.  

Math is going well.  Grace is working on scale.  She is mapping a floor plan of a room in our house and then drawing it to scale on graph paper.  The next step for her is to work in our yard.  I explained that when we applied for a variance to install the pool, we had to map our yard to scale.  We had to show where the pool would be, where our house is and the dimensions of the lot.  I would like Grace and Greg to create a scaled layout of our garden.  This spring we will be constructing several raised beds and it would be helpful to have a plan before we begin ordering seeds.   Lilah is continuing along with Fred.  This book deals with fuctions.  I love that it lays the foundations for higher math, but I am a bit disappointed that this book has not inspired her to research and create.  Last book she researched tigers, flags and obligate carnivores.  This book has not inspired any of this inquiry......She is almost done and perhaps the next one will be better.  

Art Journaling happened Thursday and it was one of my favorite sessions.  You can read more here.

Writing group also took place Friday.  Having time set aside every week for writing with peers is so invigorating.  I have discovered that I really do not like writing fiction.  At all.  I wrote a piece that I think is just fair and it gave me a glimpse into how Grace feels about writing. I understand why she likes to write historical fiction, the history gives your story a guideline to follow.  I am looking forward to reading her story, which focuses on Super Storm Sandy through a dog’s point of view.  Lilah is writing a story with Leprauchans, other worlds, and a girl who is on a quest.  So different are my two girls....

Minecrafting is on hold this week.  We left books at my Aunt’s house in Massachusetts Monday when we went to visit.  She kindly mailed them back to us so we would not have to wait until our next visit.

Places We Are Going and People We are Seeing:  It was a busy week for the girls.  Monday we traveled to Massachusetts to spend the day with my Aunt.  Tuesday we took time to visit friends we don’t get to see often.  Grace spent hours in the “woods” working on a fort.  I am glad she has two friends who share this interest.  This is something she does not have the opportunity to do in her own backyard.  She also had the opportunity to discover a musical instrument that was made in Madagascar.  I have not researched the name of it, but it works much like a guitar.  By sliding the pieces of wood up or down, she can get the note she wants.  Wednesday was piano day.  Thrusday art journaling day and basketball practice.  Friday was writing group and basketball games. It was a full week.  

What We Are Reading:  I was made aware that a children’s book that has been picked as Fairfield, Connecticut’s One Town, One Book reading selection.  It is titled Wonder by first time author, R.J. Palacio.  The library has many interesting activities planned around this book, including an Instagram contest to capture images of acts of kindness.  I began this book and was instantly pulled into the main character’s story.  He is a 5th grade boy who has been homeschooled due to his need for multiple surgeries to deal with a severe facial deformity and other health issues.  His parents would like him to go to school so that he can learn to handle being part of a larger social group and learn to function within that  group while being labeled as "different".  Two things:

  • I don’t think this author ever homeschooled, because home schooled kids get to connect with children of various ages, in various settings, all the time.  They are out and about in the REAL world every day.  The setting of this book is New York City.   It would be impossible to homeschool there and not have to face dealing with people and people’s reactions every single day.
  • The mother tells August that she wants him to go to school to learn things that she cannot teach him, like fractions.  Ugh.  This is such a stereotype of homeschooling.  That parents are incapable of teaching their children anything harder than 2+2=4 or 150 / 3 = 50.  Seriously.  I do not claim to be an expert in math.  If and when I encounter a level of math that I am not comfortable with, there are a million places I can turn to to find someone who is better suited to teach it than me and only one of those places is school.    

I addressed these two issues with Grace and Lilah before they began reading.  From the comments on Amazon, this book makes a lasting impact on its reader, not for debating the merits of homeschooling, but for how a boy changes the lives of those he encounters.  

Questions/Thoughts I Have:  Any advice/tips for travel with older children to Montana?  We are seriously considering a trip to Helena in late spring/early summer......  It is on Greg’s bucket list and the more I reasearch the more excited I become about the possibility!

Quote To Share:   When I am poking around Pinterest I come across many quotes and depending on what is occupying space in my mind at the moment, I pin them.  This was my inspiration quote for art journaling this week.  I do not know the original source for this picture, the link is to a Tumbler account who admits that she does not know the original source so I will credit this picture to Pinterest. 

This struck me because I have struggled a bit this week with good thoughts.  I am so frustrated with how our culture focuses on the negative. I can’t watch much news anymore.  I cannot hear about another murder/subway attack/death from a fire or a about a hit and run.  I just can’t.  I can’t hear all this talk about gun control when there is no talk about mental health.  Has anyone noticed that many of the young men who have committed mass acts of violence with a gun over the past several years was either on, or coming off, an anti-depressant or medication for “diseases” like ADHD?  Why are we not seeking information from big Pharma? Probably because our politicians are in bed with every major industry from banking, to agriculture, to pharmaceuticals, and they won’t bite the hand that feeds them.  

Good thoughts.  I want to focus my energy on good thoughts.  The child that creates a beautiful piece of art.  The person who does something extraordinary with his or her ordinary life.  The person who has not fallen from grace but rather given the gift of grace.  

I want to do things that inspire me to be a better person.  As much as I grumble about teaching Religious Education, it inspires me to be better, to learn more and to be more faithful.  As much as I detest getting up on these cold winter days, I am going to begin again and work yoga into my daily routine.  I am going to spend time with people who make me feel good.  I am going to hug my children, play with my dogs and enjoy the time I spend with my husband.  I am going to read good books.  I am going to create my own little bubble of good thoughts!

Homegrown Learners

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Art Journaling: Quotes

If you saw our group’s art journal pages on display, I wonder if you would be able to guess how old the artists are.

Artist's age: 8
Artist's age: 12

Artist's age: 9

Artist's age: 10

Artist's age: 12
Artist age: 10

Their work is mature beyond their years.  

I wonder why this is...Is it talent?  It is interest?  Is it passion?  

I don’t know.  What I do know is that magic happens when they are together...  

...and that I love every single minute of it.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Downton Abbey, tea and crackers...

16 years of marriage.  Crazy work schedules.  Gone before I awake.  Home when I am dead-tired.  He may watch Monday night football while I sleep on the couch.  Sometimes a good book will keep me awake, but that is rare and even so, it is not a shared activity.  Needless to say, during the week Greg and I seem to be like ships passing in the night.  There has not been much quality time over the years, sad to say.  

I have Downton Abbey to thank for injecting some quality relationship time into our home and into our marriage.  We love it.  I look forward to 8:30 when I hear the train whistle from the comfort of my home, signaling to me that he will be walking through the door in five minutes.  He eats his dinner, visits with the girls and when they are preparing for bed and reading quietly in their rooms, we have our “Downton Time”.  

It may be silly, but this has become a bit of a ritual as we are trying to catch up on two seasons worth of drama.  While I pull up the episode from Ruku (season 1 is available to stream on Netflix and we are watching season 2 via Amazon Instant Video through Roku), Greg makes tea!  Every night we enjoy a cup of tea together.  It is not proper....not according to my Grandmother’s standards.  She drank her tea the true English way, with milk and sugar.  We don’t drink black tea, and we don’t use milk or sugar, we drink our favorite tea, Traditional Medicine’s Nighty Night tea with just a drop or two of honey.

Words cannot truly express how much I have come to love this tea.  I was never a nighttime tea drinker.  In fact, I was never much of a tea drinker.  I have always preferred coffee.  Strong, dark, robust coffee with soy.  Love it.  Now I cannot imagine ending my day without Nighty Night.  

Greg goes to bed late...usually between 11:00 and 11:30 and his alarm wakes him at 4:45am.  As long as I have known him he has never slept soundly.  He tosses and turns and sometimes wakes around 3:00am unable to fall back asleep knowing it will not give his body the rejuvenation it so desperately needs.  He discovered Nighty Night quite by chance.  I was using The Organic Cold Care P.M for a mild cold I was fighting.  He tried it and enjoyed the tea, as well as the cold fighting benefits.  While at our natural food’s store, he picked up Nighty Night and slept soundly, until his alarm woke him.  No tossing.  No turning.  Just beautiful sleep.  Night after night.  I use it.  It works for me as well.  We have never felt so rested.  With our crazy lifestyle, this makes all the difference.

So back to Downton Abbey.......our tea is part of the ritual.  We are silly and goofy.  One night Greg made us toast points with jam to enjoy with our tea.  Last night we had cheese and crackers.  It is divine.  To the horror of our girls, we have taken to calling each other “dear” and “darling”.  It drives them nuts!

The girls are also annoyed that this is not family time.  It is Mom and Dad time.  The horror of it!  I know family time is also precious in our family and the girls cannot understand why we won’t let them watch with us.  My parents raised my sister, brother, and I very conservatively when it came to television and movies.  I tend to follow this in our house.  The girls do not have open access to movies and television shows.  Greg and I feel that the themes of this show are clearly mature (homosexual relationships, sexual relationships outside of marriage, death, war, adultery, blackmail, and complicated inter-personal relationships involving revenge, intentional harm, lies and gossip).  Even with the beautiful period fashions, dramatic scenery, historical accuracy and glimpse into a way of life long gone, we feel this will be best viewed when they are much older.  

We are almost caught up to season three.   We have DVR’d this seasons episodes to view when we have exhausted the past seasons episodes.  That will only be a few days time.  I am not ready to let our “us” time go.  I miss it on the nights he plays basketball or we are out and about with friends until it is too late to begin an episode.  I have come to look forward to our nightly tea, conversation and quality grown up time.   I will be sad when we are caught up and we go back to speaking in our plain old “American” dialect!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Week of January 19, 2013:

In My Life This Week
There is a particular person that I follow on Instagram that always posts pictures of cozy little nooks of her home.  There is never any dust or clutter.  There are always fresh flowers in vases and blankets lined up just so on the couch.  Part of me wonders if this is for real or if the camera were to span just a little to the left would we see a pile of books and the remnants of the Sunday paper........Life is not always what we present it to be on social media.  However, these photographs are beautiful, which is why I follow.  They inspire me to declutter my home.  Now is the perfect time to work on this never ending project.  

Our Christmas Village takes up an entire room.  It spans the length of my mantle, encompasses my entire hutch and a chest of drawers.  It takes more than one day to get every house and every accessory packed up and moved back into the attic.  I am not putting back every little pottery piece, every plate, every picture frame and every empty vase that used to take up this space.  I am only putting out my very favorite pieces, the ones that hold the most meaning to me.  I love having the village out because it is our family tradition.  But I also love to see it go.  My mantle has been washed with my favorite wood cleaner so that it shines.  My porch is begging for someone to sit with a cup of tea and knit or read.  It may even have a throw blanket lined up just so on the corner of the couch....

So far I have two giant moving boxes of village pieces packed....only 4 more to go!

In Our Homeschool This Week:
Projects took center stage this week over book lessons.  We did get some of our book work done, just not as much as we would during a typical week.

Lilah is working on Life of Fred and Grace continued to work on measurement, using floor plans to find perimeter.  This is still review, but it came up in real life this week.

During our trip to Joanne’s the girls were sitting at a table flipping through pattern books while I was people watching.  A woman came to the fabric cutting counter and asked the  store staff how much ribbon she would need to trim a 9 inch pillow.  The employee took out a calculator and told the woman 36 inches.  The woman continued to explain that she was making two pillows.  More calculator work followed until the answer of 72 inches was determined.

After the woman received her ribbon, I told Grace about this exchange.  I asked her to calculate.  After confirming the pillow was square, she quickly answered.  When I told her the woman had two pillows, she just doubled the answer in her head.  Sewing and crafting provides plenty of opportunity to use the math she has learned already.  Area, perimeter, square foot, volume are all applicable to sewing, and home decorating. 

I knew that Lilah likes to sew.  She had weekly lessons with my neighbor and friend for a few months when she first came home from school.  Recently she has fallen in love with clothing design.  I took out my machine, dusted it off, and Grace learned how to use it.  So far the girls have each made a drawstring bag and Grace is working with a pattern for flannel pajama pants.  I have a feeling there are many more trips to Joanne’s in my near future.  Actually I want to go to IKEA, because I have always wanted to buy fabric there.  Perhaps I will sew up some pillows......

History intersected with Minecraft this week.  We finished up chapter 18 in Story of the World with narration, mapwork and some notebooking.  I thought it would be interesting to challenge the girls to pick a country that sent Knights on the Crusades and research castles in that country.  Using Minecraft, they would create a historically accurate castle.  This project is going to take hours to complete.  We spent three hours in the library just finding books with good cross sections of castles!  Grace told me it is not as easy as she thought it would be.  I will post their completed “world” when they are finished.  

Places We’re Going and People We’re Seeing:
Lilah’s Cupcake Club delivered homemade puppy truffles to our local animal shelter.
Grace got a sewing lesson from our friend Amy and some guidance from her grandmother.
We had a tech-free afternoon at Sunday dinner at my parents.  We watched the Patriots game and I worked on my poker skills.  I am proud of the girls for leaving their iPads at home and honoring their Grandfather’s request for good old fashioned conversation.

What We Are Reading:
We finished listening to How To Train Your Dragon, Book 1.  What a wonderful audiobook!  I loved it.  I loved the characters, the descriptions of the dragons, the humor, and the names.  I love that what makes the main character different and unique is what also makes him a hero.  It is his intelligence, his knowledge and his courage that saves the day.  I hope to start book 2 soon.  We listened to this on our Tales 2 Go app.

Questions/Thoughts I Have:
I am wondering how families, especially those that unschool, make a portfolio for college applications.  I am collecting everything from what we are doing now.  Piano recital programs, bits of video of sports and music, work samples, field trips, volunteer work, etc.  So much has changed with applying to colleges from when I had to write an essay and attach my SAT scores and high school transcript....  Not to mention being homeschooled!  Even though Grace is only in 7th grade, I want to figure this out now, rather than be left scrambling for something at the last minute.  I think it will be easier to maintain throughout her high school years if we have something in place before she beings.  

After speaking with a friend about this, we may reach out to our local community in the hopes that families with older children will share what they are doing. 

Quote to Share:

“If you change the world, the world will change.” There is so much going on in our world that I could go on and on about. Our government is systematically taking away the very things that make our country great and nothing is being done to stop it.   Another sports “hero” just admitted to cheating after lying over and over and over again.  Greg pointed out that it is hypocritical that we are so quick to react and demand retribution from Lance Armstrong for lying and bullying when corporations like Monsanto do this every day (with the food we ingest) and we all just look the other way.  At times I wonder who my children are supposed to look up to?

I don’t want to write too much about the things that could keep me awake at night if I let them. This is not the place for that.  I don’t want my girls to read my blog and worry.  Instead I would like to use my blog and this space to honor those people, especially young people, who are using their lives to make change happen.  On my sidebar I added a spot to highlight people changing the world.  I asked Karen at Homeschool Girls for permission to post a video made by her 13 year old daughter, who used her birthday to brighten the lives of 13 strangers.   She inspires me.

Homegrown Learners

Friday, January 18, 2013

Balancing Act

I feel the push and pull of following a curriculum and following your heart.  We slip back and forth between the two.  Some weeks we are home and we just plow through work.  Other weeks are filled with interest-led activities, like taking two hours with a sewing exert to wander through Joanne Fabrics in search of the perfect material and the right supplies like snaps, grommets, zippers, and thread.  That is valuable is developing an interest and a talent in the same way doing a math lesson is developing a skill and addressing a need.  

I have my “educational” goals for the week:
  • as much math as possible
  • one chapter of history
  • one chapter of science
  • writing
  • reading

Then there are our interest-led “lessons”:
  • baking
  • sewing
  • weather study
  • electronics
  • Minecraft
  • fashion design

There are what would be called “specials” in school but are really “vitals” in our home:
  • piano
  • guitar
  • art journaling
  • drawing
  • basketball
  • ice skating

When we have had a day like Monday where our morning was taken up by a two year overdue physical and our afternoon was spent driving an hour to meet up with friends for that epic Joanne’s trip, and our evening was spent discovering a wonderful restaurant with gluten free items and organic meats, and we lingered over a very rare dessert talking and knitting and laughing, and we got home the same time as Greg, well.....not much "book learning" was done.  

That is the life of our homeschooling family.  We no longer compare ourselves to traditionally schooled kids, although in my mind it still does slip from time to time and I think that in Greg’s mind it slips even more because he is not here to see what takes place when the books are not open.

For example, at dinner our friend Scarlett gave us the most amazing review of a non fiction book she read and recommends.  As we were leaving the restaurant Lilah commented that she felt like she was leaving the Lotus Casino.  Grace had a very mature conversation with Amy at the table and I just sat back and took it all in.  

I think that because Grace would now be in middle school, I am revisiting the issues I had when we first began homeschooling, only now I am much more confident in how our family works together at home.  Gone are the days of sibling angst, gone are the days of math drama, gone are the days of driving past the school wondering if that was a better place to spend a day.  

However, creeping in are the thoughts of what we need to do to make a decision about Grace’s high school years.  Creeping in are the feelings of missing out on opportunities to play sports on a high school team.  Creeping in are the thoughts of prerequisite classes for college admissions.  These are very real and they must be carefully addressed.  Over the course of this year I must work with Grace to figure this out.  Right now she does not think she wants to go to high school, in which case we can get her the classes she needs online or at a community college, or perhaps at the university where she will be interning.  Much research and questioning has to take place.

I am re-reading Grace Llewellyn’s book: Teenage Liberation Handbook from an entirely new perspective.  I want Grace to be in control of her education and the direction her future will take.  I want her to feel like it is in her best interest to push herself in the maths and sciences.  I want her to work hard at accomplishing her goals.  I want her to know that she has plenty of options and her future does not need to be decided in the 7th grade.  I want her to know that she can always change her mind, just like I did, twice!  I want her to know that no matter what her choice is, I will always be her biggest supporter.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lucky Dog!

Watching my child do something that she is truly and totally passionate about brings me such joy.  Lilah can bake for hours and hours.  This weekend she and her friends met for 7 hours to work on LCC, and even that was not enough time!  She has so many plans and even though she makes the most of every single moment, it just is not enough to do all that she wants!  

This meeting was for the dogs.  They thought it would be a great idea to bake treats for the local dog shelter.  I don’t really believe in luck anymore.  Too many things happen that luck just can’t explain.  I guess serendipity would be a better word to explain how on this very day there happened to be a dog adoption event sponsored by the shelter volunteers.  I did not know about this in advance.  In fact, I was concerned the shelter would be closed before the girls had a chance to make their delivery.   Quite the opposite was true.  The shelter was busy and the volunteers and Animal Control Officer welcome the girls in.

Lilah seems to be the group’s spokesperson.  She explained their mission and that this time they wanted to give back to the shelter by treating the dogs who are looking for new forever homes.  They explained the ingredients, and that they were taste tested on our own animals, who gave them a paws-up!  

The girls have now been to several locations around town.  Each has welcomed them and been grateful for their spirit of volunteerism and charity.  This was our longest visit.  The volunteers had so many questions for the girls about what they do, why they do it, how they do it, etc.  They took their blog information.  They took their picture for the shelter’s Facebook site.  

We visited the animals in the shelter.  This shelter is brand new.  Our previous one was old, and inadequate to meet the needs of our city’s homeless pets.  This facility is gorgeous.  It is clean, spacious and the dogs looked really good.  We kind of fell in love with one....but we know she is not the right dog for our home.  Not with an elderly lady on serious medication and little patience.  Not with a high strung dog who is very protective of her elderly best friend.  Not now.  

The best part of the visit was watching the dogs enjoy their treats.  It was very thoughtful that the staff gave the treats to the dogs while the girls where there rather than waiting until we left.  

The shelter visit kicked off the LCC meeting.  There was also blog updating, cupcake baking (for family this time), pizza making and movie watching.  Because Lilah loves this so very much, I am going to make time for her to do this more often, on her own, in addition to when she meets with her friends.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gratitude #2

Sometimes I worry that children who homeschool have to wait to see their friends.  They don’t have 5 min to chat in homeroom or while they are rushing to lockers to switch out books.  They don’t have gym class together or eat in the cafeteria.  They don’t ride a school bus or walk to and from school.  I worry sometimes if they feel lonely or if they need the frenetic energy that comes from being inside a school building with hundreds of children.  But then I read that the Middle School my daughter would be attending was in lockdown this month because 4 ignorant people were in the field behind the school with air soft guns. They were taken into custody.   As we all know, lockdowns are a necessary drill, right alongside fire drills, but I will never ever forget the stress and anxiety the practices created for my children when they were in school.  I cannot even imagine what the real deal would do to their well-being.  I am grateful we homeschool.

I worry that my children had a cataclysmic falling out with their best friends and right now feel like they are searching a bit to belong.  Not so much Lilah, my child who had no true friends in school, but is now is blessed with many.  But my oldest baby...  I worry.  Her friends are older and very busy, as is she.  It is hard to see them as often as she would like.  I know the feeling, I miss visiting with their Moms too!  I am grateful that we call and email to keep in touch so that not a week goes by where we do not see our friends, either through art journaling, writer's workshop, dress design, skating, family dinners, or simply just play time.  I am so grateful that she has a very dear friend and neighbor who knocks on our door as soon as her homework is done.  They have been friends for years and they are growing into beautiful young ladies.  When she is feeling lonely, company is just a phone call and a 30 second walk away.  I am grateful we live in a neighborhood.

Being silly with friends!

 Teaching Minecraft to a friend.

Winter knitting with friends.

Working on the LCC blog with friends.

Baking with friends.

Discovering a new talent with friends.

There are times when I want to move away from this neighborhood to a place with more land, dark skies and quiet sounds of nature.  When the need to connect with the outdoors gets to us, we have plenty of choices.  We take the time to drive to the Northwest Hills, to a quiet farm with two bridges where the chickens greet you and a friendly welcoming smile receives you.  This is good for the soul.  I am grateful my friends open their home and their farm to us. 

Lilah took this picture. She is developing her photography skills.
Friends shared their new bunnies with us for the day!

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...