Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall and the Farm

I was talking to my Aunt the other day and she mentioned how tired I must be from taking care of my two sick girls.  I sighed and thought to myself how tired I really am.  I am bone weary tired and I don’t want to complain too loudly because pneumonia is a virus, an illness, it has a life span, it will go away and eventually my girls will be strong and healthy again.  I feel like I have no right to complain loudly when other Moms I know are dealing with more, so much more.  

This fall has not been what I had hoped for.  Grace looked at me recently and told me last year was so much better, and it was, but you know what?  Two months does not make a whole year and we can recover and revive and November is definitely the month for us to begin to celebrate 8th and 10th grades.  

We need to celebrate because we have hit a hard patch in our homeschool.  Being cooped up for over a month is not good for Grace who needs the interaction with people daily and honestly it is not good for Lilah and I because we settle into complacency.  We miss having a larger social network, have missed this for a year now, and we are not sure what the solution is, if it is school (we don’t think so), if it is joining an program like Classical Conversations (probably not unfortunately), or if it is out there waiting for us.  I pray, every night, that it is out there waiting for us.

In the meantime, we celebrate.  Last weekend we were strong enough to volunteer a few hours at our barn’s Fall at the Farm fundraiser in support of their animal assisted therapy program.  I did most of the legwork since it is a long walk uphill from the indoor ring to the stable.  The three of us brushed horses and ponies until they shined.  We swept the stable and set up chairs.  We arranged the dessert table and when the party was underway, we helped with the “unicorn” rides.  

The owner had a special connection and invited the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the oldest collegiate A Capella group in the country, to perform.  They were wonderful and it closed out a wonderful day.    We went home tired, sore, and happy.  This is the end of October, the end of our self imposed quarantine and the end of missing out on the fun stuff.  The bookwork will come, we will get back on track with history and math and science and it will all be okay.  We enjoy those things more when they are coupled with adventure and discovery and exploration.  We always have.  We may have missed the peak of fall but we intend to explore and discover the heck out of the start to winter!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Our Own Backyard

Our weeks are pretty full.  Mondays we have riding and we get a bunch of work done in the morning.  Tuesdays we have an online math class, cello lessons and writing group.  Wednesdays we have babysitting and riding.  Thursdays are for sign language and Fridays are writing group and piano.  It’s a full week.  At this point nothing can be added without taking something away.

When I look through my IG feed or even just my camera roll I see pictures of us writing, of us at the beach, or riding, and there is a part of me that misses seeing pictures of us out and about learning outside of home, at museums, at parks, at aquariums, at the movies, at lectures, at bookstores, anywhere but at home.  

Some highlights this fall have been:
  • Grace’s photography class
  • Their ASL class beginning
  • First visit to Peabody Museum for history (Inca)
  • Picking out Lilah’s cello in New Haven

That’s about it and that’s not enough.  It’s not enough for me to just give them book work without connecting it to life experiences.  I have to work on this.  

In the meantime our experiential learning has come from our time together as a family.  This weekend we had the rare opportunity to visit and tour the lighthouse in our town that is operated by the Coast Guard.  It was open only once before, this summer, in celebration of the Coast Guard’s 200th birthday.  We missed this event and made sure not to miss the second time they offered the tour, in response to the thousands that attended the first one.  

We love lighthouses.  Whereever we are on the East Coast we make it a point to visit.  We have visited lighthouses in ME, MA, CT, VA and FL but we never knew there was a Passport book and club you can participate in through

We obtained the stamp at our lighthouse and we will add it to our Passport book when it arrives.  Our lighthouse is not the biggest or the most impressive we have visited, but it is ours.  It was constructed in 1881 of cast iron and brick.  It’s 35 feet tall and on the cliff sits 52 feet above high tide. It was intended to mark the entrance to the Housatonic River.  It’s light can be seen for 16 nautical miles and flashes at 20 second intervals.

I love when we can learn and have new experiences right in our own backyard!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Human Flaw

After much though, discussion and prayer I decided to step down from my role as the coordinator of our church’s faith formation program.  Of course I will continue doing my work until a replacement is found and in my heart I hope that is sooner rather than later.  I will stay on as a catechist until the end of the year, but balancing the administrative work on a volunteer basis with my full time job as a home educator and adding serious illness to it has been unbalanceable.  

I am a only a volunteer, yet I took my job seriously.  I gave it my heart and my heart is not so tough.  I never wanted to be an administrator when I was teaching because I never wanted to deal with parents and teachers and the continuous issues that arise when dealing with these two groups.  Issues have to be resolved and 99% of them are reasonable.  It’s the 1% that do me in.  I just wanted to teach and sadly I learned why I never wanted to be an administrator when I stepped into this role as a volunteer last year.  

I now have a better understanding of why people leave organized religion or participate from a place of low involvement.  They show up, they tithe what they can, they take the message from the pulpit, and they go home and try to incorporate the teachings of Christ into their own lives.  I always questioned why more people do not get more involved to help their church grow and thrive.  Now I have a better understanding, at least from my perspective as a parent and a woman who is probably over-scheduled and over-stressed from her life.  

I want church to be a safe haven, a place of refuge or security.  Church gives me what I need to live my best life.  The message is not always pleasant, the tasks at hand of becoming a better person are not always easy, and I am not looking for a “make me feel good” homily.  I am looking for a “why the word of God should be at the forefront of my life” homily and thankfully I get this at our church.  

Traditions of Catholicism are ancient.  I love the rituals, the consistency of the mass, the prayers, the statues, the saints, the stained glass.  It is a very calming place.  Except when it isn’t.  

The church, any church, whether it is Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Non-Denominational is run by humans and these humans share all their flaws in church.  Church as times feels like an organization driven by the need for funds to operate.  At times church feels to big, like a monolith, doing wonderful things for the community, but at the same time, feeling too large to be something to connect with intimately.  People get tied up with their role, their place, their “ownership” of their piece of the church and conflicts arise.  It has been my experience that in the very place where we gather to learn the teachings of Christ, we often do the very opposite of what he is teaching.  

Over and over again I ask myself why this is and all I can come back to is human flaw.  

* All photos curtesy of Grace

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I'm as happy as I choose to be

Yesterday I read about a woman who presented herself as perfect on social media and then was found dead in an New York apartment building lobby apparently of a drug overdose.  No one is perfect.  No one has a perfect life.  Money does not equal perfection.  A family does not equal perfection.  A steady job and income does not equal perfection.  Heck, even a strong religious conviction does not equal perfection.  

I hope my girls never look at blogs, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and think that someone else’s life is “perfect” because we are all perfectly imperfect, searching to find our better selves, or maybe not searching all that hard.  Who knows?  We each walk our own journey towards happiness and like Tim Tebow posted today on IG, “I have found that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ~ Abraham Lincoln.  Wise words.  Wise too are the ones I listened to yesterday, the same day I read the story of the overdose, from Joel Osteen.  He shared the story of the Samaritan Woman that Jesus visited.  Jesus sought out the imperfect.  We are all worthy of Grace.

Not every IG feed shares every moment of real life.  We share what makes us happy, what brings us joy.  We share our children’s smiling faces, our clean dining room table, our husband’s loving glance, because that is us being happy in the moment.  I am not going to share the fact that illness has run rampant in my house, I’ve been to the doctors more times this month than in the past 2 years, my child is coughing so hard at midnight that I am debating bringing her to the hospital and my other child can’t fall asleep and it’s midnight and none of us are sleeping and Greg has to wake up at 4:30am and face a very important and stressful meeting, then get on a plane the next day and fly to his other office, then get ready for a longer upcoming trip.  At midnight I am not at my best and feel badly that I was snippy instead of supportive and caring. The dog is crapping all over the house and I love her to pieces, but she is 15 and caring for her is time consuming.  The laundry is piling up, my laundry, not every one else's.  The dust on the ceiling fans is grossing me out. I just washed the floors, disinfected the door knobs, the cabinet handles, the sink faucets and still feel germs.  I have library books to return, late fees piling up.  I have dog medicine to pick up a half hour away, and I’ve already been to the pharmacy three times for the daughter who is currently sick and wouldn’t it be nice if they were a compounding pharmacy to save me the hour trip for Daphne’s meds but without the meds she will pee all over the house and her autoimmune disease will come out of remission and she will die. So there really is no option.  I have just quit my volunteer job at church because I cannot put 15 hours a week into the position in addition to all this and I have not even mentioned the homeschooling stuff.  Thankfully lessons are happening in spite of all this other “stuff”.  

I am as happy as I choose to be.  I choose to look at leaves and focus on the water droplets.  I choose to look at my clean dining room table instead of my messy kitchen counter.  I choose to keep some things private and not share everything with everyone.  I choose to focus on my children’s health and try not to worry about unfinished work.  I choose to appreciate that I would have other worries if we were traditionally schooling and missing this much of 8th and 10th grade. I choose to be happy.  Because I am.  It may not always show and that is for me to work on, but even in the tougher seasons of life, I choose happiness, and that is what you will see on my Instagram feed.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall 2015

This has been the strangest fall y’all.  Never in my 15 years of parenting have I had a season of illness like the one I am currently living through.  My kids have had it all, ear infections, strep throat, stomach viruses, and even the flu but nothing is like pneumonia.  The deep rattling cough, worse than the cough that accompanied their flu, rocks my core.  I hate it.  It literally hurts me to hear it.  I just got Grace well and now Lilah is down with it.  Her illness it slightly different and while the doctor can hear something in her lung, it did not show up on the xray so they are calling it bronchitis but giving her the same medication as Grace had for the pneumonia.  All of October has been devoted to doctor’s visits and getting my children well.  Through it all, we have worked on lessons, moving ahead in our work and following where our interests lead us.

What is working:

Science.  Grace still enjoys her Apologia Biology text.  We were told about the app that goes along with it ($5) and she purchased it to supplement her readings. We also sought out YouTube videos of some of the topics covered to give her video illustrations of what she is reading.  

Lilah changed things up and created a schedule that covers the next three months.  She  wrote down the topics she wants to study and she seeks out information from the Internet and her textbook.  She takes notes, draws pictures, and writes a weekly summary of her learning.  We discovered a free download: Blank Lined Paper from iWork Community which allows her to type right on the line and drag and drop pictures into her writing.  I have not seen her this excited about science in a very long time.

Riding.  When Grace was too sick to ride, I took her lesson and loved it.  Loved it like I love yoga.  It is centering, calming and focusing.  For the thirty minutes that I am on a horse, I am not concerned about anything but me and that horse.  What a beautiful escape from my super busy mind.  

Photography.  Grace bought herself a new camera with the money she saved up from babysitting.  She completed an online class through Creative Live and her new learning was put to the test when took a live class at our local camera shop which was described as an introduction to her new camera but assumed the photographer had a working knowledge of terms like depth of field, aperture, ISO and color balance.  During the class I leaned over to ask her if she understood anything that was being said and she smirked and said she understood it all, thanks to the Creative Live class.  I went back to reading my book.

Reading/History.  Our love of books has not abated.  We did make some changes to our audiobook line up.  Jurassic Park was too much for my sensitive Grace, who does not want to internalize images of dead babies.  Lilah and I are listening to this on our own, when we wait for Grace to ride, or when Grace is outside and we are inside.  Our car audiobook is Sharon Draper’s Stella by Starlight, which is a bit juvenile but ties into our upcoming trip to Alabama.  When you are teaching children with sensitivities, it is hard to incorporate certain material into your studies.  For example, we were watching the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War but photos of naked slaves with scars disfiguring their backs imprint on my daughter’s brain and cause her sleepless nights.  It’s a fine balance of bringing in high school leveled material yet accommodating her needs.  Same with the KKK.  It is vital she knows about this, yet I cannot show her pictures of death.  Stella by Starlight is a great introduction to the KKK in a way she can internalize without being traumatized. This down time from illness has given me time to read also.  This week I finished Ana of California and The Same Sky.  Both good reads.  

We’ve added to our Civil Rights Timeline and put our American History program on hold for just a little bit.  It is hard to flip between Civil Rights and Dave Raymond’s program, so for now we are focusing more on Civil Rights as we prepare for our trip in November.  The work we have done and are continuing to do is adding up to a half credit for the girls as an elective.  This will be in addition to the full credit they will receive at the end of Dave Raymond’s program.  

Planning.  I have tried all kinds of planners, from very structured ones to cheap $5 I picked up at a teacher’s store.  I plan, but then life leads.  I know that to complete One Year Adventure Novel we have to do at least 2 lessons a week to finish in May.  We are ahead of this since we are watching multiple lessons per session to get us to the actual writing.  I know that Dave Raymond’s History is 36 lessons.  One should be done a week, unless we want to keep going through the summer, which we most likely will do because of piggybacking Civil Rights with it.  Math is done when math is done.  Algebra will be done in January and we will begin Geometry because holy moly do we need a break from algebra!  This is how I plan.  I keep a composition book daily that “assigns” the girls their lessons and keeps track of how many days we are doing formal lessons.  I don’t have to report this, I was just curious.  I write down what I want to accomplish day by day for each girl.  We check off the lessons when they are completed and I have a nice record.  A piece of duct tape on the inside margin helps hold the book open and pretties it up a bit.  This is by far the cheapest and easiest to maintain system I have tried and this is the longest I have kept up a planner. 

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...