Saturday, April 14, 2012

A good hearty laugh

Joey is the silliest kid and it is beyond impossible to not enjoy his outlook on life. When Joey gets to laughing you can't help but laugh along with him. Joey is always laughing, always smiling, always looking at each day as a brand new opportunity to laugh out loud.

Last night Joey was in my parents' basement watching a movie and all of a sudden we hear this loud belly laugh. Both my mom and I burst out laughing at the sound. Joey always puts a smile on my face. What's truly funny is that Joey will laugh loudest when everyone around him is laughing and joyful. It's so heartwarming to see that Joey's greatest joy is in seeing everyone around him happy and full of laughter.

I sometimes think Joey's purpose in life is to make people smile. I have yet to meet a person that has not been able to smile at Joey, a true smile not a polite smile. Joey has such a wonderful sense of happiness in everything in his life. It's contagious. His smile really does light up the room.

I do need to pay closer attention to Joey's attitude about things. Joey will always find a way to see the funny side of things. It's time for Mommy to start looking at life that way, too. Time to look for the reasons to smile and laugh and enjoy life as much as possible.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 1 Nature study journey

The day dawned bright and sunny, just a light wind sweeping fluffy white clouds over a beautiful blue sky. The perfect day to be outside and enjoy it. Okay, enough with waxing poetic.

It's too nice a day to stay inside so I got the kids ready and we went for a walk. I gave Jaysen an assignment, pick two flowers to take home and pay attention to everything going on around you. We didn't go far, I still have some trouble breathing and didn't want to overdo it, but far enough that the kids got to enjoy the wind blowing and the sun shining. We listened to a rooster crowing away and watching sheep grazing in their pasture. We stopped to watch a small group of young bulls in their pen, some even came up close to the fence to eyeball these goofy kids of mine. Katie jabbered away to the cows; what 3 year old doesn't enjoy a lively conversation with a muddy black cow?

Jaysen commented on all the different kinds of dogs we saw in yards; old dogs and young dogs, everything from a mini Pincher to an English bulldog. There were few houses that we didn't have a dog dash up to the fence and bark its greeting. There aren't many flowers blooming just yet as spring is really just getting going here but we saw daffodils and crocus and some other flowers we don't know the names of yet. Shades of purple, yellow, blue and orange. The trees are just beginning to bloom and it's nice to see the light haze of green spreading through the tree tops. Yards are turning all shades of green as the new spring grass is beginning to really take off in it's growth.

When we got back I had Jaysen draw a picture of the flowers we found. We had to search hard to find something and what we found was tiny. Jaysen could draw a nice picture but trying to identify the different parts of the flower was tricky. We will try to find out what kinds of flowers we found online later. We did our best then Jaysen went out to play with his little sister. The best part of the day was listening to Jaysen point out the different things in the yard to his sister. Of course, Katie could care less about it all and the only thing that interested her was trying to chase a bird they saw. But it was cool to see that Jaysen enjoyed the activity and did his best to include his little sister. Then he gave up and they went to find some Nerf guns.

I'm looking forward to the spring and summer and helping to open up the natural world of God's creation to the kids. I can't take credit for the assignment idea. I found a wonderful blog full of great idea's and our assignment was based off the one I was sent in the email I got today. Check it out, it's really cool! Handbook of Nature Study

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A peaceful moment

I guess it's time to write about the scariest thing that has happened to us in a while. This past year I was diagnosed with cancer. Thyroid cancer to be exact. But I'm happy to say that I am now cancer free and healthy!

I will say first, we serve an amazing God! Throughout the whole ordeal I felt an incredible peace. I even had one of my doctors comment on the fact that I was taking the whole situation well and seemed so calm about it. At the time, I didn't see why that mattered. But looking back now, I see it. Right from the moment I was told there was a nodule, my heart said that it would be cancer. But I felt peaceful about it. When I told Josh that they found a nodule he gave me a hug and asked if I was okay. And I honestly was. I told him that I was fine, that I felt peace about it and that there was no sense worrying. If it's cancer, it's cancer and no amount of worrying was going to change that.

I didn't have nearly as difficult a road as many who are diagnosed with cancer, after all thyroid cancer can be deadly in the right circumstances. Mine was relatively easy. The side effects have been the worst part for me. My vocal chords have not fully recovered and my body isn't responding well to not having a thyroid gland anymore. But it's worth it to know that I am alive. I told the doctor to be as aggressive as possible in taking care of this thing and the side effects were the least of my concerns. I was more than willing to do whatever it was going to take to ensure my health and my life.

As of now everything is fine and I am doing well. We had one pretty scary moment when it looked like there was a possibility of my having lymphoma but God took care of that. I have praise in my heart every single day not just for my healing but for the peace and understanding that God gave me.

Changing the view

Josh and I have started a marriage Bible study at home together recently and one of the questions stuck with me a lot. It essentially asked which of your views on marriage have changed the most since you first married. I like that question and I think it's a good one for couples to revisit periodically over the years.

My answer to that question is that I"ve come to realize that it's okay for me, as wife and mother, to spend some time by myself. That I don't have to dedicate each and every momemt to caring for my husband and kids. In fact, I need that time to myself to sort of "reboot" my mind and refresh myself. To remember that I am still an individual that has different needs than my family and it's okay for me to spend time doing the things I like to do.

I used to not understand what some women meant when they would say things like "I'm afraid to get married because I'm afraid of losing myself, losing my identity". I didn't get what the big deal was. But I have begun to understand. It is easy to "lose yourself" when you get married. You can get so caught up in taking care of your husband and kids that you forget that you have different interests and passions and it's okay to enjoy them. I know that when I become too focused on meeting the needs of Josh and the kids and forget myself, I get dull and boring and listless. I stop caring about how I look, how the house looks, etc. And Josh has begun to notice when those times hit. He encourages me to spend time by myself, to get refocused and relax. He knows it helps me to be a better wife and mother.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

Maybe this time...maybe this time...maybe this time!

I'm beginning to think there will never be a time when I won't question our curriculum choices for the kids. There will always be something out there that looks better. The last 2 years I got hit by the spring curriculum fever. I notice it seems to hit a lot of homeschool moms out there this time of year. Looking to the future, burned out and fighting cabin fever at the same time, moms (and dads) across the country begin to look at the stacks of homeschool books they already own and think "I bet there's something out there that would keep us more interested and we'd probably like better". Sometimes it's a good thing, more often than not it's a less than good thing.

When the urge to rethink our entire collection of books hits, I'm reminded of the scene in "Bee Movie" where Barry the bee slams himself into the closed window over and over again saying "maybe this time...this time...this time". That's the way I feel. That maybe this time we'll make the right choices. After having done hours and days and weeks and months of research, believing we have FINALLY found the right program, sit down to start teaching and know just moments in...this.will.not.WORK! That is the absolute most frustrating moment. That and because we bought it used there's no returning it and getting our money back. Right now I'm stuck with the decision of whether to continue the science book that we are halfway through and is boring us to tears or to ditch it and either get rid of it or go back to it later. It's hard to let go of something you know isn't working.

Josh and I have talked and prayed for a while and we think we are going to work towards using more old fashioned, tried and true curriculum choices. After discovering the good old McGuffey eclectic readers available on Kindle, I downloaded all the ones available and tried them out with Jaysen. Low and behold, it clicked for him! The only hitch is he doesn't like having an actual book in his hands, that was easily remedied recently when I found an affordable set for sale. I've also discovered that the old Ray's Arithmetic books are available free on Googlebooks and I'm going to look those over closely soon. I've found a good resource for finding older (think 1800s) curriculum: An Old-Fashioned Education

Our feeling is that what worked for the older generations should be good enough for our kids. Back then, kids got a good, solid education. Much more in depth than what kids get in public schools today. I think at least some of the reasons were back then many of the young men left school early to work the family farms and many of the young ladies married before they could finish school. Therefore, it was necessary to squeeze in as much education as possible to make sure that kids got as much "schooling" as they could get before it became necessary to leave the schoolhouse behind forever.

One of the things I've remembered from my own school days was how boring and tedious it was. I rarely could get really interested in the lessons. Several of my teachers over the years confessed to my parents that they knew the school work was too easy for me and was boring, but with a classroom full of students they just didn't have the time to come up with more interesting lessons for me. So I muddled through and got lower grades than I probably would have if the lessons had better. I don't blame my teachers, I had wonderful men and women teach me over the years and several of them I will never forget. But I know I want better for our kids. I don't want them bored to tears. I don't want them left to struggle with no hope of ever catching up. I want them to WANT to learn and I will do the best I can to give them that love of learning. Even if it means changing our approach to how we do that and what books/materials we use every year to accomplish it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning to homeschool realistically

I've been thinking a lot lately about the whole topic of "homeschool style". There are so many out there with some of the most popular being classical and Charlotte Mason. Then there are the more controversial styles, most notably unschooling. One can get mightily overwhelmed, along with developing the most intense migraine ever known to man, just reading up on the different styles. At the end of the day you are left with the big questions. What style do we choose? What style fits our family? How do we know which style is best for our family? How do we know it's working? And then that migraine comes back to life.

When I think of the style we use, I admit I'm stuck. We really don't follow any specific style. For a while I called us "eclectic" in that we use many, if not all, styles. To be honest, we use whatever works and that may change from one day to the next. All depends on what mood the kids are in...and the parents. Let's be honest, if you wake up feeling terrible you are not going to be an effective teacher and before long both you and the kids are exhausted and cranky and not one thing has been accomplished. Shoot, I remember that happening in public school all the time, you could tell the moment when the teacher walked in if this was going to be one of "those" days. And it usually was.

So, as I was thinking about it the other day, the answer finally hit me. The best way to describe our style is "realistic". The best way I can think to describe or define this is: realizing that there will be no one-size-fits-all method for our family and doing whatever has to be done to get through the day/week/month/year and accomplish as much as possible in the least painful way possible and as simply as possible. For our family, this is very true! Some days we get so much done I can't believe it and I'm honestly afraid to admit we had a wonderful day for fear of jinxing the possibility of having another great day. Other days you know the best thing to do is to throw up the white flag of surrender and put on any educational documentary on Netflix that will keep the kids interested for more than 5 seconds.

I am learning quickly to not compare ourselves to others and that we have to do what works for our family. It doesn't matter what others think or if they approve. As long as the kids are learning, it really doesn't matter how, what, where or when. It only matters that they are learning. And when one is homeschooling special needs kiddos, specifically developmentally disabled kiddos, you have GOT to be willing to bend and be flexible or you will break and it won't be pretty. I have had too many of those days already where I am curled up on the bed, sobbing my heart out and feeling like I have done nothing but fail our kids. You know those days, when you are mere moments from picking up the phone and re-enrolling them in public school.

But then the moment of self-pity passes. You wipe your swollen eyes, take a deep breath and pray. Your reevaluate what you are doing and what needs to be changed. Most of the times, it's Mommy's expectations and preconceived notions that need to change. I am too hard on myself and expect too much. And that's where the realistic approach comes in. I look in the mirror and say "you can only do what you can do and you can't expect the kids to do more than they are able to do". The boys have come a long way and are learning. Neither of them are at the grade level their "typical" peers are, but who cares? With both boys, you can only push them so far before they totally shut down and all learning progress comes to a screeching halt. And what's the point of that? Too much of that took place in public school for them both and became yet another of the many reasons we withdrew them. So why am I trying to continue what's already been proven to fail for them both? That, my friends, becomes the million dollar question. Why am I continuing to make the same mistakes that public school made? Because I got caught up in the very unrealistic idea that the boys should be doing "x, y, z" instead of seeing them for the individuals they are and creating a realistic learning environment based on their individual selves.

Josh and I sat down over the week along with my parents (who are a huge part of the kids lives) and made a monumental decision. To be realistic homeschoolers and set realistic goals for the kids. Combining life skills with academics and above all: simplify!!! Simplify is a word I'm trying very hard to get my foggy brain to focus on and incorporate into every aspect of our life. De-cluttering is another but that's for another post on another day.