Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The First Step of Our Homeschool Journey

We've started homeschooling our Little Guy, and I am discovering that it takes a serious change in view to school such a creative and bright child.  Most people who meet Little Guy are shocked by two things. The first thing they notice is that he's small for his age.  The kid is a victim of  maternal genetics.  The second thing they notice, after talking to him for a bit, is how quickly he picks up on things and how much knowledge he's already stored away in that head of his. 
The story of my life - Left behind, while he forges ahead   .

The first step, I discovered, is letting go of my own notions of how his education should proceed.  Big Guy and I struggled with getting him to practice writing his letters.  Little Guy sat there with his pencil and paper and very passive aggressively refused to trace his alphabet.  He doodled, he sang, he made up stories starring his pencil and paper, but he WOULD NOT write his letters.  In response, we cajoled, we pleaded, we threatened, we yelled...  And then, we let it go.  I sighed, shrugged, and told him he could watch a TV show if he wrote five words down.  Any five words. 

And he did. 

It took less than two minutes.  Two hours of fighting over writing and in less than two minutes he wrote five words.  Big Guy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and let it go. Later on as we discussed the difficulties, we came tot he conclusion that we were approaching this the wrong way.  We had to keep in mind WHY we were homeschooling him.  We recognized that he would not handle the stereotypical school schedule well.  He'd rebel and then get in trouble.  We also didn't want him to HATE education, so we knew we'd have to do things differently than they would in a classroom. 

That's where we screwed up.  We approached the writing the way they do in school because that's the way we were taught.  We knew that wasn't going to work with him, and we tried it anyhow.  It worked exactly as we expected; he fought us.  So, we are re-evaluating.  Since he's still a young 'un, we're going to focus more on exposing him to things he'll learn about.  He CAN write, we just have to get him to do it.  Big Guy got him to write me a note while I was at work and left him alone to do it.  I came home to, "I miss you mommy."  We took advantage of Museum Day and took him to the Studebaker Museum and the Center for History. 
To be fair, that word can give lots of people trouble.

We're going to try things while we can and find something that works.  He's got a head start on his peer group; I want to keep him ahead and, more importantly, interested in learning. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mommy Page Post

Mommy Page approached me for an interview in return for a post about them here.  I am not one to advertise for someone or something I don't support, so the first thing I did was go to their website to see exactly what I would be talking about. 

They have plenty of coupons and freebies for the financially conscious among us.  I saw coupons for Zulily, and JC Penny.  And with the holiday season approaching, this is probably a very good thing. Big Guy and I have an ongoing contest to see who can get the most and best stuff for the least amount of money.  (I win.  Always.)

There are sections with articles for every stage of early motherhood: from pregnancy to toddlerhood.  Those seem to be the stages that mothers search for the most online.  Once kids hit school-age, you stop worrying about whether or not you're going to break them.  Chances are, you already have, and you know it.

They also have a series of interviews with other Mommy Bloggers.  That's what I find most interesting.  We're always looking for people to connect with and these interviews give you a snapshot into other Mommy Bloggers lives and may give you another person to talk to, read, or connect with. 

Check it out.  Poke around.  See what there is to see.  And, eventually, you will see an interview with yours truly. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

How would my story be told?

The National Public Radio released an article recently on the stories people tell as their lives come to a close. The psychiatrist who ran the study noticed that the stories people tell take a very different tone and focus as they are dying.  That got me thinking...  What would my story be?  Who would I want to have it? 

Everyone wants to believe that they matter.  Everyone wants to believe they made an impact on others' lives.  Why?  Probably because people really are small in the scheme of things.  With 6 billion people on the Earth, it's difficult to say that anyone can make a definite impact on anything.  Most people never write a great novel, sing an amazing song, or paint a spectacular picture.  Very few will become politicians or activists who actually make any sort of impact. 

I've come to believe the impact we make will depend solely on the people we interact with.  I realized that I've had about 400 students pass through my classes.  I've seen many of them succeed and graduate.  Even now, I have former students stop by just to say "hi."  I am pleased that, even if they don't LOVE English, they got something worthwhile out of my class.  I also know I can't reach everyone.  Sometimes, some of my students don't make it.  I hate that, but it is what it is. 

So when it comes down to it, I'd tell my story for Little Guy.  And I would want him to see what I accomplished and what he could accomplish.  I'd want him to know that I followed my heart...  Both in my career and in my personal life.  I married his father out of love, and I loved both of them more than anything.  I would want him to know how much I valued my education and how important critical thinking is.  More importantly, I'd want him to know that no matter what, I'm proud of him.  He's an amazing, brilliant child, and he can grow into an amazing brilliant man. 

I'd also write for Big Guy.  I'd want him to know that of all the unexpected things in life, he topped my list.  I'd try to make him see himself how I see him.  He's intelligent, sensitive, and creative.  I'd want him to have more confidence, to believe in what he can do more than he currently does.  He often sells himself so short. 

My mom would need to get a copy too, just so I can tell her how much I love her.  I like who I am, and I wouldn't be who I am without her.  I wouldn't have been able to achieve this without her...  Though I could have done without the writing addiction.  I blame her for that. 

I may never write the Great American Novel.  I may never give magnificent speeches or go to unique and spectacular places.  But I think I have made an impact.  And I am proud of the impact I made.  I think that's the important part when it comes to the end of life.  Did you do the best you could?  And I think I have.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Gardening Metaphor

Flowers, flowers everywhere
At Toddler in Tow, Amyables talks about her gardening adventure this year, and I must admit a bit of jealousy.  We didn't have a garden this year.  I decreed at the beginning of the season that we were moving, which meant anything I planted would be left behind in the move.  I refused to let someone else play the grasshopper to my ant. 

Now, however, we are in a place to garden and I intend to garden when Spring arrives.  I'd like to get Little Guy more involved and give him a place to garden as well.  It could definitely work as part of his science curriculum.  We were lucky that our landlord was a pretty avid gardening guy himself.  He had an amazing garden set-up to start with, and I look forward to maintaining and adding to it.  Little Guy already pulled out his watering can to water the flowers in the back yard.  There's a planter near the front door that I may give him some seeds and let him go to town. 

I would love for Little Guy to get the enjoyment and peace from flowers that I find in the dirt.  The past few years were difficult, and my garden really reflected how I felt about where we were.  Dropped into crap soil, we had to fight to survive.  Some parts did.  Some parts didn't.  I'd classify our family as much hardier than we were three years ago, but I suppose that happens when you prune away some of the dead wood. 

Pruning, in life as in the garden, seems to be an ongoing thing.  I unpacked with my mom today and she took 3 boxes and a bag to Goodwill.  She also took a couple boxes home for my nephew.  I feel bad about that because they were baby clothes and I would love to have another baby around the house.  Little Guy is getting so big and, while I know he loves me, isn't at the chubby-cheeked, wide-eyed innocent stage anymore.  Now he's a full boy with snips and snails and puppy-dog tails. 

But, I want our family to survive, so away go the baby clothes and other items we have no intention of doing something with.  I want my soil to be primed and ready because we deserve it.  Like most American families, the economic downturn has hurt.  Big Guy lost his job a year ago and we're limping by on unemployment and what I earn in teaching and writing.  But, we're also very blessed.  We've moved to a place that we intend to be a long-term stepping stone.  We're closer to my work and closer to our friends.  Big Guy has been able to be home with Little Guy and both were able to pack while I worked. 
Every rose does indeed have its thorn.

I believe that this time we have landed in more fertile soil and the garden is a reflection of that.  I look forward to seeing what comes up!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Grant me serenity....

Just when you think things are going smoothly, something comes along to trip you up.  The process of moving and squaring things away is a lesson in changing what you can and accepting what you can't because just when you think things are settled, it turns out not to be.  This weekend I discovered my bank sent my rent, not to my landlord, but to nowhere.  They cut a paper check instead of paying his account and sent it to nowhere, literally.  There was no address.  They sent the check anyhow.  This is the problem with automated systems.  A person might have noticed there was no address and stopped the process to figure out what was going on.  The mechanical system, however, just shoots things out. 

I discovered this on Saturday morning after my landlord contacted me to let me know he hadn't received our money yet.  The bank put a stop-payment on the check they cut and said the money would be back in my account in 3 - 5 business days.  In the meantime, I am sending a personal check to cover this to my landlord so that, once the money is back in my account, he can go ahead and cash it.  The next step from there will be to figure out how to do this so it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN

Also on Saturday, we discovered the tree in our backyard was trying to make an entrance into the neighbor's yard.  It's a lovely mulberry tree that just sort of leaned over the fence.  Big Guy would take care of it himself, but there's some sort of line there that the tree is also leaning on, so I think someone professional needs to take care of it to prevent death and/or loss of limb (HA) and property.  However, it's a holiday weekend, and, as with the bank, that means NO ONE is working until Tuesday without serious overtime. 

For most people, this is a relaxing time.  For me, it turned into a frenzy of 'crap I cannot control'. I don't like sharp changes in plans; I especially don't like sharp changes in plans of things I had already marked off my list.  My reaction to that loss of control and inability to change it RIGHT NOW was to take control elsewhere.  As such, Big Guy and I emptied the dining room of boxes and then refilled it with boxes from the family room.  We then sorted the place out and got the furniture arranged (mostly) to our satisfaction.  I need a wireless adapted for my computer before it can go on my desk but then we are settled in the family room.  We have a mishmash of hand-me-down furniture from friends, family and second-hand stores which, surprisingly, almost looks like we planned it and matches the woodwork here beautifully.  I have no idea how we managed both the coordinating furniture and the coordinating woodwork, but go us. 

In the end, this means Tuesday will be a busy day.  I'm OK with that as long as everything gets sorted out.  I want everything back to settled, so I can get down to the very serious business of settling in and sorting things out.  We need to get settled in so I can get Little Guy into a routine and start homeschooling the little booger.  He desperately needs a routine and regular schedule.  This past month has been sorely lacking in that department, and I am starting to feel like a horrible parent.  But again, I need to look at this as an opportunity to change what I can and accept what I can't. 

It's just difficult. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Adventures in Moving

We're moved.  I wasn't sure we'd be able to do it, and I must admit I panicked there a bit at the end.  We were truly blessed in the help we received from family and friends.  We finished moving 2.5 days earlier than we thought thanks to them.  That doesn't mean it wasn't an adventure though. 

Class ended for me on Thursday and that's when the moving weekend really began.  The next day we had to travel to the new house to wait for the cable guy.  While we were there, we put Little Guy's bed together and started making his room feel like a real home.  He had been having difficulties and I am positive it was due to all the changes.  His temper was shorter, he tried to push all the boundaries, and he just did not like what was going on.  Big Guy and I thought that getting some familiarity in his new room might settle things down.  So, while the cable guy set up our cable and internet, we set up the bed.  That may have been a mistake though, since he then wanted to spend the night there and we weren't done at the old place yet.  Plus, the bulk of moving was going to be done the next day.

 Saturday began bright and early.  Big Guy and a friend went to get the moving truck while Little Guy and I (mostly the *I*) continued to box things up and get things sorted.  All the electronic items were gone, waiting at the new house, and the entire house was just about done.  At about 10 am, people began to arrive and we started stacking stuff on the lawn and moving it into the truck.  Everyone took a load to the new place while I and two others held back and continued packing.  We were just about done when the truck returned and we finished up our last load for the day.  After that, we headed to the new place and crashed. We still had cleaning at the old place, but what we needed people and a truck to handle, we had managed to complete. 

Sunday, we were sore, we were tired, and we still had stuff to finish.  We went back to the old house to mop, vacuum, and finish wiping things down.  When we arrived, however, we were greeted with a surprise.  Someone had STOLEN our stair railings.  We considered that they may have been stolen for the metal...but someone had left the wrought iron doormat.  They hadn't just stolen the railings either, they broke the bolts getting them off.  Looking out our back window, we noticed that our back neighbors had a suspiciously familiar pair of railings while the guy across the street from them had their old railing.  It was beyond ridiculous.  We griped about it for the rest of the day as we finished cleaning but we got the place in order and went home.  We had a few boxes left that Big Guy was going to pack up the next day when he talked to the office about our missing rails. 

When he went in to the office to tell them someone had stolen our rails, the office's initial reaction was: "That's really not our problem."  Once he explained that we didn't waqnt to get charged on our move out and that we were renters, then they cared.  I couldn't believe it.  Yet another reason why we are so glad to be out of there.  After that he loaded up the last boxes and turned in the keys... And we were done there.  We've been unpacking and organizing and just generally trying to make ouselves at home.  The house is amazing and we love it already.  This has been such a positive move and a wonderful blessing for us.  I am thrilled.  And even Little Guy has started settling in.