Who Are You?

I don’t recognize the woman I have become. I am not complaining, but I don’t know where this woman in the mirror came from.

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Early Mornings. Choosing to wake up before my children and doing it so often that I no longer need an alarm, even if I’m in bed at 1am.

Exercise…What?!

Choosing not to listen to Music or watch TV, and when I do it has become documentaries and musicals. I mean I have my list of things to watch but it is woefully out of date.

Reading historical documents, political theory, articles on International Relations theory, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology, and pre-1900 classics instead of Parenting Articles, fractured pieces of books I’ve wanted to read that still sit in piles all over my house, Manga (my serialized manga backload is in the hundreds of chapters), Webtoons, and Children’s Novels (well I still read these, but they are outloud and to a captivated audience, with voices).

None of this is a part of how I have framed myself over the years. In my own mind I have spent years searching for who I am and where I am going. Never quite knowing if I was there yet. Loving and accepting some parts of myself but knowing that other parts needed to grow up some more with no idea of how to get to that place of “grown up” me. I had peace in my Faith. I had peace in my Father’s plan, or rather that there was a plan for me but I didn’t know what the plan was and so I was always on the move. Always searching. For, me.

I knew who I was and could define who I was and what I stood for at any given moment, but I knew I wasn’t “there” yet. There was this picture in my mind of this mom that I wanted to be, this woman that I wanted to be and I wasn’t there yet. I am still not there yet. But the woman now, who tells her kids to do their independent reading for the next twenty minutes together so that mommy can read this piece of Plato, is a whole lot closer to that mental image than I ever was before.

After we received our diagnoses, and after I started working, things shifted in a way that I could have never imagined. I never imagined that adding more to my plate would make me a better mom, but it does.

Getting a chance to study big ideas, share the thoughts of great thinkers and challenge minds to a wider world than they could have imagined makes me feel alive, and purposed. I knew that I was doing all of that for my children as well, but it is different and it has nothing to do with the paycheck. Working with my children is being with and spreading my love for them but they are still young, so the ideas that we get to discuss and play with are not at the same level as the ideas that I bring to my classrooms. At home we study the American Revolution and we talk about freedom as an abstract idea. We talk about the founding fathers and they are people from story books and in museums or volunteers dressed up at events. At work we talk about The American Revolution and we discuss the idea of tyranny. Of a voice being unheard and injustice that is so rampant that men are willing to undergo frostbite and hunger to fight it. It is the look in an adults face as they begin to understand an argument that is so different from what they believe from a purely openminded place. When a 19 year old student reads a quote from a 400 year old author and says “damn, thats deep” and you know you just hit them with something that they will internalize into the fabric of their very personality that they may not have even heard otherwise.

Knowing that my work has this kind of greater purpose pushes me to make sure that not only my work is done, but it pushes me to make sure that my children are getting even more of me than my students do. I spend less time on my phone. Not being home two mornings a week and having several times during the week when I must work from home forces me to be really present when I am home. I bake more. I read more. I play with them more. Loosing two school days to teaching and driving means that the rest of our days are more purposeful in their actions. I have become a much better homeschooler and a much better mom because I don’t have the ability to just do it later- there is no later in this fast paced world, well, at least not until the term is over.

I have a confession to make. This new woman staring back at me is no good with multi-tasking. I can’t grade papers and listen to the made up stories of my five year old. I can’t keep up with the dishes/laundry and keep our records up to date. I cannot drive 2.5 hours two times a week to teach and do math every single day- if I do it all traditionally. I am not Superwoman. I don’t do it all, all the time. I take turns. I have off days. I stick to a sort of a schedule (GASP!) – ok, maybe I went to far there, its not a schedule, its a rhythm based on days…so it’s like a loose schedule…but if you’ve read my past posts, can you believe it? ME? A SCHEDULE of any sort?

So, lady staring back at me, who looks like me, but doesn’t act, like me… I don’t know who you are. I don’t know where you came from. I don’t know if these early mornings are good or bad yet, but I like you. I’ll make you a cup of Tea, why don’t you stay a while? Help me get to point where we actually fold the laundry and catch up on all of that manga too… after all, I’m growing up, not changing who I really am.

 

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Onward!

It’s been a while since I last wrote and honestly the only reason why I’ve taken a step back from blogging is because I’ve been elbow deep in living the life.

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I have spent more time reading up on a philosophy I thought I knew while trying to concurrently implement elements that I have always cast aside in favor for other styles than I thought would be necessary. I knew I was going to have to change things up when I started the switch from mixing unschooling and Charlotte Mason to full on CM and I guess I was a bit naive regarding just how much unschooling I had taken on. I dropped Unschooling because I noticed that my children needed the structure more but I didn’t want to lose the atmosphere that we had created in the process.

When something’s not broken you don’t go trying to fix it and the one thing we had really accomplished with unschooling was that the children loved learning! The last thing I wanted to do was make them feel like they must do this checklist worth of subjects and to reduce learning to a chore when we had spent so much time building an atmosphere of learning. After thumbing through multiple free sites, I built my own curriculum for all three of the school aged children mixing sources from multiple grade levels to reach each child where they were at… or so I thought.

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After one six week term with my own CM styled curriculum I realized that mixing them just wasn’t challenging my oldest at all and my younger two really needed to be separated, so I switched things up again. For the first time ever, I moved towards using someone else’s curriculum. At this point I needed something that I could pull together within one week but that also didn’t micromanage my time with too many instructions and so I decided to stick with Ambleside Online‘s free curriculum. I knew that most of the books could be found in the public domain so I didn’t have to spend a fortune pulling together my resources and many of the ones that are not free I could find in one of the three counties that I have a library card for.

We have been at this now for 6 weeks- we should be taking a break this week but using someone else’s curriculum has been a HUGE adjustment for us and instead of being ready for a break, we are two weeks behind. It’s not that this curriculum is hard for us, instead its exactly the kind of challenge we needed, but trying to juggle the items listed on the weekly syllabus (which I LOVE the format of!) with the things that used to be considered electives has been a bit of a challenge.

I used to focus on Math, Phonics, and Reading and everything else just kind of fell into place and because we are always on the move everything fell into place easily. Now I am trying to read 35, 15 minute long, readings a week (years 1,2 and 4- the on demand non-structured preschool readings are not included in this number), regularly make sure we are adding in Nature Study, Hymn Study, Composer Study, Folksongs, Handicrafts, Geography, Mapwork, Plutarch, Shakespeare and Poetry all while continuing Piano Lessons, Science Classes, regular Field Trips and while adding in an engineering class, doctors appointments and our own fun readings every night.

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Dude, I can’t even express how stressed out I was getting over it all during the first two weeks. I read so many blogs and listened to quite a few podcasts trying to figure out how families larger than mine manage to keep this all together!  I was trying so hard to keep the atmosphere that we had created while trying to add in all of this structure because I could see the value in every single part. I knew that together we could have something pretty awesome but I also knew that how things worked for other people wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t have the energy to keep house along with all of this other stuff and keep up with friends or volunteering- all of which are important to me and I don’t want to cut back on- but something had to change. The kids loved school but I was getting too stressed.

So I looked at it from another angle.

Mornings don’t work well for us- at least not for readings. Mommy reading everything out loud, doesn’t work well for me. Schedules, well, I still can’t keep them, so I work with my own version. Routine…not my cuppa tea. So how do I fit it all in without making a schedule or routine, without me reading everything out loud and without bombarding our mornings with lessons?

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While daily checklists and scheduled routines do not work for us, loose weekly requirements do. What does work is making a big list of everything I want to do across all three years during the week on our big blackboard, choosing a handful from each year and fitting those in everyday. Somedays don’t work as planned, either stuff comes up that is just too awesome to miss out (like free children’s day at the Aquarium) or we are so out of it that school just cannot go on, but the system still works for us. All in all, it has allowed us to keep the atmosphere, find a rhythm, and it keeps the boredom from settling in. On the downside, we don’t always get everything to fit into one week, but we are doing so much regularly that it no longer bothers me.

I do not read everything out loud anymore- Man was this killing my voice and my daily productivity! Not enough tea or coffee to keep me from getting sleepy while reading out loud for hours on end. Only one of my four is a strong enough reader to read on their own but too much reading assigned to even him meant that his reading for fun habits were disappearing and I didn’t want that either. Instead we started finding audiobooks through our library (who uses hoopla) or Librivox  and we now listen in the car or they listen during quiet time on their own. If we are not listening together then I’ll read ahead on my own so that I know what they are learning too and narrations are always done with me so we haven’t lost the one on one time in the process.

Also I don’t do all of the readings in the mornings anymore. I spread them out throughout the day in between our other activities. What used to be scheduled from 830 am to 1230 pm now is broken up on the way to science or piano, in the morning before math/ copywork / nature study/ handicrafts or in the evening after dinner. This way we keep the fun feeling of reading with mommy but it doesn’t turn into a chore. Sometimes it’s outside under a tree, sometimes on the couch, sometimes while we eat breakfast… but most of the time we read when I know it will keep their interests.

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I was overthinking it all. I was guilty of overthinking again. I do this a lot. I compare what I’m doing with what I read and I wonder if I am doing it wrong or if I need to add such and such… in a matter of 2 weeks I lost my focus. I went into this school year with a relaxed attitude. I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t over burdened…but then when I adapted to someone else curriculum I fell into the curriculum trap. It is a guideline, it is a philosophy, it is a lifestyle, it is not a how to. I needed to go back to how I viewed the curriculum; looking at it more like a booklist/unit and less like a manual. I am too literal to look at it like a manual. I stress out too easily. I overthink it too much and I forget that education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.

This is one of the greatest things about homeschooling and in an effort to create more structure I momentarily forgot that structure does not have to look like school to be effective. I don’t need to have blocks of subjects. I don’t need to have to do lists written out for each child. I don’t need to do it all. The children still need to be responsible for their own education and they need to work with me like they always have if we want to pull this off. I can homeschool in an organic way without being an unschooler and I can find freedom in a rhythm that is full of discipline.

I am, I can, I ought, I will.

This is our life.

This is not school.

We are individuals who were created in the image of the Almighty, we are each unique and in that uniqueness we are different from others so our school may not look like others do. We may have aspects that are similar. We may follow the same philosophy. We may even have many of the same struggles but what works for one does not necessarily work for another.

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So onward we move down this road, focusing on enjoying this journey because the destination leaves me with an empty nest, a thought I am not ready to rush into.

The Importance of a Lazy Day

Do you recognize the importance of lazy days? Do you savor the existence of an empty calendar day with no chores, expectations or social responsibilities? Do you intentionally plan for these days and then respect the need to keep them free?

importance of lazy daysI don’t know if you’ve been sucked into societies problem of over scheduling or if you’ve fallen prey to the wondrous lure of possibly fun or educational activities to the point where your family feels as though it’s being pulled in every which direction, but I have.

I have been a slave to the schedule of extra-curricular activities. I have stretched myself too thin between multiple social responsibilities that I just couldn’t say no to. I have been a chauffeur that eats multiple meals out of our van while spending way too much on gas money to get people from here to there.gardengirls There have been months where I wondered if we would be home often enough to ever get around to paper school work because there were so many activities and appointments scheduled. I’ve been there.I’ve been there and I was miserable. My family was rarely ever together the whole time, even though we homeschool and the stress was wearing us down.

Things needed to change, and so we changed them.

Over the past two years we have experimented with varying responsibilities, learning to say no, and learning to spread things out but more importantly we have learned to respect and hold fast to the importance of regularly scheduled lazy days. More than saying no, more than spreading out activities or field trips, it has been the regular lazy day that brings us together the most. gardening with dad

We try to fit in one day a week but realistically it looks more like two a month. A lazy day doesn’t need to be spent siting down. It doesn’t require lounging in front of a TV. Although both are valid options. A truly restful and healing lazy day means that you spend time at home, together, without outsiders or deadlines looming. Our best lazy days are scheduled after our busiest weeks or just before. Sometimes we garden together, sometimes we visit our neighborhood park (as in we go for a walk or bike ride) and on other days we play indoor games together (usually Dominoes or cards). It is on these days that I craft or cook their favorite meals and snacks, because I want to and we have the time, while the children play or my husband reads.

These are the days that we treasure most. These are the days where our family bonds grow. These are sacred days. They are important. They are necessary and we will never go back to a life without them.dominoes