oh, I’m just so glad!

I’m really just so glad to be homeschooling!

In my “why” posts, you can see my incredibly valid reasons for knowing this is the right avenue for our family. But I have a loooooooooong list of other benefits to homeschooling, some compelling and some…not so much.  But they all add up to making me feel oh so happy about our decision!  I want to share one of those reasons with you today.

I sat in my car at 7:50 am one morning and shouted, “I love you!” to a six year old I had just been screaming at moments earlier. I watched Sunshine walk away from me across a courtyard and become sucked into a giant brick structure with heavy glass doors. I wouldn’t get to see her again for seven hours, while she remained within that orifice belonging to them, not me.  She would be the person they wanted her to be, not the person she really was.  She would become lost amongst the other 725 little children, no longer a precious child with individual needs, but one of many. 

Yet I had found it necessary to spend the first hour of her day shouting at her about making her bed, getting her shoes for PE ready, finishing her breakfast, and not talking to her siblings or WE WERE GOING TO BE LATE!!!!!!!  Not to mention the shouting at her siblings for getting in our way when I was doing Sunshine’s hair and fixing a cute Bento lunch, or making sure the green crepe paper I volunteered to send into school that day was actually in her backpack and not being strewn across the floor by one of them.  The really sad part was that this is how three out of five days each week began.  My heart broke for little Sunshine.

What was all that screaming for?  What had I actually gained by it?  But really, what had I lost because of it?

I took a long, hard look at the things that turn me into “Mean Mom,” as I like to call myself at times.  Mean Mom likes to make appearances when I have lost my cool and gone over the edge.  She doesn’t come because of one particular instance.  She comes because I have had one too many things go wrong and can’t handle the next unfortunate event that happens.  I’m really a very organized person and our mornings were pretty streamlined, but is there really enough time in the morning to get a group of little people presentable and ready for the day?  I don’t think so.  But I do add some elements that are unnecessary.

I needed to cut out volunteering to send in green crepe paper or whatever it was that day.  It seemed like every day I was spending great amounts of time and money doing things for their schools, but not for them.  I was organizing school fundraisers to benefit their classrooms, but my kids would have rather had Mean Mom take an extended leave of absense and just have me read them a book.  They didn’t care as much about the new PE equipment my fundraising had made possible. If I died tomorrow, there would be a large group of people who could testify of the work I did for their children, their organization, their classroom, their event.  But it would have been at the expense of Mean Mom parenting my children, instead of me.

My quandry was that I didn’t want to stop doing those things, because people at their schools were nicer to them because of all of the work I did.  I felt like it was a lose-lose situation.  But it really wasn’t.  When I started to become impressed to homeschool, it dawned on me that if I was their teacher, I would be kissing up to me, not a stranger.  If their classroom was in our home, I would be concerned that our home was a happy and safe place, not the big brick building down the road.

I know that homeschooling isn’t an option for everyone.  I know that schools are wonderful places for many wonderful children. I know that I haven’t returned  phone calls or emails, or posted much on my blogs much since June, and I feel bad about that.  I know that I could go to counseling and better deal with kicking out Mean Mom.  But homeschooling has worked miracles in our family this summer.  I am again committed first and foremost to what happens within the walls of our home.  My husband has noticed the difference and mentioned it, without being provoked.  I have noticed the difference.  I sure hope the Littles have. 

And so, Sutton Academy goes forth.  Pray for us to prosper.

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privacy

My mother just asked for the link to this blog, something that I haven’t shared with anyone, even SA’s headmaster.  While the headmaster and I discuss and make decisions together, he’s not really into blogs.  Go figure.  Apparently, it’s a girl thing.

So, why is this blog a secret? 

I feel the need to prepare myself for this journey, make decisions about planning, curriculum, schedules, participation in homeschooling networks, etc. without the direct influence and opinions of others, and to let things settle in my mind before I share it all with anyone. 

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

Please know that I hesitated to use this quote, because of the sacred nature of the event referenced.  I am by no means Mary, but I am a mother.  I do believe that I receive revelation for the welfare and future of my family.  I keep those things close inside.

I think deciding to withdraw our children from the public school system to homeschool is a lightening rod topic.  Very few people have mediocre feelings and opinions about homeschooling.  You’re either hot or cold, in or out, open to it or closed.  At this time, I really don’t want to know how people I care about feel about this decision. In fact out of all our relationships and acquaintances, only a handful of family members and friends know that we’re homeschooling the children this fall. (Oh yes, and of course my massive online readership.)  There are things that the headmaster and I are still pondering in our hearts.  I’m not ready to share them yet.

scriptural reference from Luke 2:19 KJV

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a handicraft

When I first started reading about Charlotte Mason, I was drawn to many of her philosophies about what is developmentally appropriate for children.  I thought, “Here’s a woman who cared more about the child becoming a good adult, than a child being able to “perform” in academics.”  I liked her.

But the deal sincher was that she endorsed handicrafts and we all know how much I love an excuse to break out the hot glue gun.

I’m copying and pasting from our family blog the following “handicraft” we did during Spring Break this year for the Latter-Day Homeschooling Art Hop.  Since March was National Craft Month, we did something new and fun each week, but I thought this would be appeal to the LDS crowd.  We sang a familiar song, made a craft, and had a snack.  Good times were had by all.

————————————

more spring break crafts

Sunshine invited over a few friends during Spring Break for some crafty fun, old school-style.  Did you do this when you were younger?  I distinctly remember doing it at a Primary activity.

Because Pocket is OBSESSED with the all of the “popcorn” on the trees around town, we made our own little popcorn trees.

 The kiddles blew ink to make the tree

 

and then pasted popcorn on the branches.


You’ll notice that TLM isn’t in any of these photos. He went as fast as he could and then made off with his bowl of popcorn. Sunshine took her time – “One kernel for the tree and one kernel for me.”


I think they turned out nicely.
 

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oh, what do you do in the summertime?

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you fish in a stream, or lazily dream on the banks as the clouds go by?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you swim in a pool, to keep yourself cool, or swing in a tree up high?
Is that what you do? So do I!

Oh, what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?
Do you march in parades, or drink lemonades, or count all the stars in the sky?
Is that what you do? So do I!

I just love summertime.  It’s like a world full of possibilities is open to you.  People are in such great moods, it’s okay, and even expected, that you sleep in, and you get to do things that you don’t make time for during the school year.  Last year, we went on the Trip of a Lifetime, traveling by car from Texas to South Dakota and back again.  We slept in a covered wagon on the same land that Laura Ingalls lived on, climbed giant tree houses at the Arbor Day Tree Farm, visited the memorial that Don’s relative sculpted at Winter Quarters, dug for fossils at the Mammoth Site, saw Mount Rushmore, and did much more.  The whole experience was life-changing and won’t be forgotten.

This summer, we sticking closer to home.   Don isn’t able to take as much time off work and I have so much on my plate, planning for the new school year.  We’ll be going to Gramma Camp at Sea World at one point and visiting the cottage rental property a few times.  But that’s it!  Which means that we’ll have to entertain ourselves with less “life-changing” adventures and more plain ole good family fun.

As we do each summer,  we’ll be focusing on a few unit studies.  Usually we do one a week, but with all of the planning I’m doing for the school year, I think it’s best to scale down this year.   Also, our topics were chosen during Spring Break, before we knew that we were going to homeschool everyone this fall.  Consequently, some topics overlap our lesson plans for the school year and have had to be cut out or toned down. We have swim lessons and a field trip or park playdate planned for each morning before it becomes unbearably hot, followed by occasional errands, lunch, quiet time (nap for the youngest and seatwork for the older ones), and then a short “lesson.” 

It’s been a blast so far – really low key, which is a departure from my usual theatrics – and we can’t wait for the rest of the summer to unfold.  In no particular order (because you know I don’t like people knowing where we are all of the time!), here are our plans for Summer 2010:

Fire Fighters

  • Field trip to the local fire station (actually it was a birthday party event we were all invited to)
  • made a fire station lapbook
  • read many books on the subject
  • watched  a video on safety vehicles
  • watched a video on fire safety
  • took dinner to the new fire station down the road

 Frogs

  • collected tadpoles and made a frog habitat out of mom’s trifle dish
  • read many frog books
  • watched “Life: Amphibians and Reptiles”
  • made a frog lapbook

 Shakespeare

  • read the plays from Lamb’s Shakespeare for Children
  • watch a Shakespeare play
  • put on our own play

 Ocean Animals  

  • read books on ocean animals
  • make an ocean animal lapbook
  • go to Sea World (Gramma Camp 2010)
  • do crafts, games, activities, and more with their cousins (Gramma Camp 2010)

Animals

  • study the literature and drawings of Beatrix Potter
  • visit the Beatrix Potter “exhibit” at the arboretum
  • study the drawings and life of John James Audobon
  • view related educational films
  • do a photography unit on wildlife
  • produce art based on wildlife photography

Around the World

  •  “tour” countries based on some AWESOME stuff my sister gave us from a swap she was in with people from around the world
  • food, games, cultural activities, and books

 Getting Fit!

  •  the older two children will attend camp at local fitness center
  • read books about fitness
  • do a tiny bit of research on the human body (this is one of our science studies this year and I just want to tickle their fancy without giving too much away)

 Vacation Bible School

  • hook up with friend from church for this unit
  • older two girls will present the lesson objective each day with a visual (meet the preceding week to plan and create these props)
  • crafts, food, games, and more

That’s it!  Of course, we always have something impromptu come steal our attention and that’s the beauty of being at home.  We can switch things around without any drama. 

I know this is a little “scheduled” for some people, but it really isn’t.  I asked the kids about things they were interested in doing, learning, or seeing.  Then I found a field trip to go along with it and added in a focus for our library trip each week.  An easy going unit study was born! 

 Words and music from Oh, What Do You Do in the Summertime: Dorothy S. Andersen, b. 1927
© 1964 by Dorothy S. Andersen. This song may be copied for incidental, noncommercial church or home use.

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the last day

 

Today was Sunshine’s last day of school.  It’s been a day we’ve been looking forward to for so long.  Do you know how hard it’s been not to withdraw her after we decided to keep her home next year?  How hard it’s been to convince her to wake up each morning when I know she’s not learning anything academic these last few weeks?  How hard it’s been to smile at people I’m not fans of when I know I don’t have to interact with them next year?  I really, really didn’t want to send her, but I knew I had to.  I knew she needed closure, a good, healthy end to this period of her life.  So I sent her.

But on the last day of school, I just couldn’t go.  I have loved and adored Sunshine’s teachers and school.  If I could have picked anywhere for her to go and anyone to mentor her, it would have been at this school with these people.  They have been so, so good to her.  She has blossomed and grown. 

And now we’re leaving? I felt like I was trying to peacefully divorce someone.  How do you say goodbye to someone when you don’t like them enough to stay?  How do you choose to leave someone for something better, without saying the new way is better and hurting their feelings?  The whole thing was going to be too hard for me and I’m not good at goodbyes normally.

So, I sent Don and I stayed home with the littles.  We made banners and played with Daddy’s hammers.

It was the chicken’s way out.

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the why: part 2

Sunshine has enjoyed two years at our local public elementary school.  She has been cossetted and loved by wonderful teachers.  The staff at the school know her by name and look out after her.  The administration has been kind and generous to her at every pass.  Our family is enthusiastically greeted by all when we come on campus.  We’ve felt very welcome there. 

But Sunshine is done.

When we decided to homeschool The Little Master, we told ourselves that it was a temporary solution to his “late summer birthday” and that we would enroll him at the Sunshine’s grade school next year.  Progressively, we’ve gotten more and more comfortable with the idea of homeschooling him long-term.   And with that comfort came the realization that it was also the right thing to do for Sunshine.

Slowly as the spring went on, Sunshine started exhibiting several signs of anxiety that caused us concern.  The first sign that she was under too much stress was incredibly obvious and should have hit my in the head like a load of books.  Of course, it didn’t.  One day while she was in school, I had felt impressed that I needed to spend more one-on-one quiet time with her when I tucked her in for bed.  Initially, I thought of the complications that would get in the way of this – namely Complication #1 (Buddy) and Complication #2 (Polly).  And then I remembered sweet Michelle Duggar, who always finds a way to make it work, so I made it work.  I left the younger two in TLM’s room to chat and play (and delay bedtime), while I cuddled with Sunshine and said, “Tell me something…anything…I just want to hear your voice.”  And I sat there in uncomfortable silence for about 30 seconds and tried so hard not to say anything, because I really felt that there was something she needed to tell me.  She giggled and asked what I wanted her to talk about, and I assured her that anything would be lovely, because I just really wanted to hear her voice. And then the deluge began.

There were tears, tears, and more tears, interspersed with sobs, and they were all about going to 2nd Grade.  Apparently, Sunshine believed that she wouldn’t be able to cut it, would be kept in at recess to finish work and would never succeed in 2nd Grade.  I assured her that she was remarkable and brilliant, and had nothing to be worried about.  She responded by begging to homeschool.

At first I thought she was just reacting to our quiet decision to homeschool The Little Master.  Who wants to go to school when the younge two are staying home for a party?  Then I thought that she really just hated going to bed on time and getting up in the morning.  Sunshine really hates waking up in the morning.  Also, it was almost the end of the school year.  We’re ALL dragging by this time of the year.  She was probably just burnt out.  Surely, it wasn’t really about wanting to homeschool.  She LOVES her school. She is doing FABULOUSLY there.  We would never want to take her from there. 

It was around this time that I also started to see other things that disturbed me, (because I didn’t notice the load of bricks and God had plans for me). She began to have a nervous tick.   She started chewing on her fingers.  When I dropped her off at school in the morning, she very slowly wandered inside, instead of skipping in like she had just a few weeks earlier.  When I went on campus, she would cling to me, instead of showing off in her classroom.  And she cried in my arms every night for two weeks, still begging to homeschool. 

To his credit, Don jumped on board right away, though he had made me promise while we were engaged that we would never homeschool or homebirth our children.  The naivete of youth!  Initially, I agreed only to appease her and make the tears stop.  Why would we keep her home when she was at such a great school? People only homeschool when there are problems at school, right?  But I kept feeling nagged by the Spirit, telling me that all was not well at school and there would be problems in the future that I could only solve by keeping her home.  Finally, I gave in and immediately felt so, so good about the decision.  I’d like to believe that Sunshine feels that way too, because the crying, the nervous tick, and the chewing of fingers stopped immediately.

Even now, if we ask Sunshine why she wants to homeschool next year instead of returning to public school, she can’t really articulate her reasons.  Usually, she’ll just parrot a benefit that she’s heard me say.  I realize now what a benefit it is that she never told me a “reason” for her to withdraw from school.  If she had told me what the problem was, I would have tried to fix it.  Deciding to homeschool her without a concrete “reason” was a test of faith.  Would I follow my promptings to homeschool her if I didnt have a plain and clear explanation to tell people for my decision?  Would I keep her home if my only real reason was that I “felt” it was the right thing to do?  How do you explain that to people without sounding like a nutcase?

I guess you can’t, but me looking like a crazy person shouldn’t be a real concern, should it?  It’s not really about me.

 

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the why: part 1

We began, though, to wonder fairly early whether we truly grieved for Will, or whether our parental egos grieved our inability to live and achieve through our child. The longer we have been parents, the more we have learned to distrust our motives for responding sharply if Will melted down in public, or for demanding obedience just because we said so. Will’s most challenging task may be training us to act in his best interest, without worrying about how our decisions affect our parental image.
– Catherine Parry

I read this passage on a blog recently. It was written by the mother of a child with autism, but I felt like it could apply to all mothers, especially me. I printed it out and kept it where I could read it several times a day. My parental ego is constantly humbled.  Bad experiences at the children’s schools or at the grocery store or even in the homes of friends leave me crushed.  Unflattering comments about my children or parenting skills that hurt my heart.

But it’s not really about me, is it?


I worry about The Little Master. I don’t understand the way his mind operates or how his little heart works. I often tread on them unknowingly. Because I worry that people who don’t love-him-up-and-down also injure him, I feel intense anxiety every time I pass him off to others, at school or church or play. Thankfully, he is being raised by angel teachers again this year at preschool and that is such a comfort to me. Unfortunately, though his teachers at church try hard, it doesn’t quite work out for TLM there. My little man and I spend a lot of the two hours of Primary together, as he clings to me intensely in the hallway, bereft, confused, and anxious, or helps me with the dozens of littles in Nursery I’m responsible for…and his class continues on without him. That makes me sad for him.

Over the past few months, I have looked all about for a solution to our issues and couldn’t find one that felt right. Don and I have spent a lot of time thinking really hard, praying really hard, and listening really hard for some answers to help our little man. We finally found the answer and it was already waiting for us here at home. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best solution and it’s one that was quietly whispering to you all along.

“and behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind the earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
1 Kings 19:11-12

I’m grateful for a strong testimony that God loves me. I have been extremely blessed in my life, in that from the earliest time I can remember, I’ve felt God’s presence daily. I have always been sure of what He was saying to me, though I haven’t always headed those promptings. I have always, always known that He loves me an awful lot. I have always known that He is mindful and aware of every detail of my life. I have always known that He looks after me when I ask Him to and encircles me “in the arms of His love.”

It’s now time for me to really know that God feels the same way about TLM. It’s now time for me to realize that I am the one who has been prepared, molded, shaped and fashioned into the person who is supposed to raise TLM, advocate for him, and gently prepare him for his place here on earth.  I am his teacher.

This knowledge has brought me great power. I feel very strongly that I do know how to help Buddy right now. New situations will arise and new solutions will need to be found. But I know that right now, I have been given the answer for right now. That brings me peace, which will help bring peace to my little man who I love oh so much.

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