Friday, July 21, 2017

Our 2017-2018 School Year

Last year was an overall good homeschooling year. I feel like we accomplished a lot. (Although it is never as much as I set out to do each year, but I gather that is rather common.) I hope that this year will be our best year yet. It is certainly helpful that this will be the start of my 7th year homeschooling. (2 years the first go at it and we are beginning our 5th year this go at it.) As time goes on I realize that I am not the only one who values our family's decision to homeschool. Each year (almost always during the winter months) I go back and forth about whether or not to send my kids back to public school. There are various reasons for this depending on the year, but each time I begin to really look at doing so either Bob or the kids talk me out of it. And each spring/summer/fall I am very grateful that I did not go through with the idea.

I ordered this years school books this past February when life was at its dullest here. There is something magical about new school books. I have always loved the promise and hope that new books bring. Every year as a child I would look forward to getting new school supplies and new school books. I still feel that way when the kids' books come in the mail. I know they like getting new books and supplies too, but just like I felt as a kid, they aren't too fond of those books after using them for a few weeks.

In terms of a homeschooling method, I have always enjoyed The Classical Education model. Having four kids doing school work means that I cannot follow that program to a 'T', (there just isn't enough of me or hours in the day to go around) but it is something that I strive for. I feel like of all of the methods of homeschooling that one fits our family the best. I have gone back and forth on various different styles of educating my children, but always seem to fall back on this one.

Our general school week will be to hit the books hard Monday - Thursday and then use Friday to catch up on anything that did not get completed Monday - Thursday. We will also spend Friday working on our weekly art assignment.

Andy - 11th grade

Math - Saxon Advanced Algebra II
Science - Apologia Biology
History - The Story of America
Government - United States Government
Geography - The Ultimate Geography Guide
Spanish - Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition (Levels I-V)
Braille - Taught by Sarah
Grammar - Saxon Grammar 8
Writing - Saxon Writing 8
Spelling - SpellingUSee Levels E & F
Great Books - (We will be reading 8-10 classic books this school year. We will start by finishing up Uncle Tom's Cabin which started at the end of last school year.)
Life Skills - 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
Health - High School Health
Logic - Mind Benders Puzzles

Joshua - 10th grade

Math - Saxon Algebra
Science - Apologia Biology
History - The Story of America
Government - United States Government
Geography - The Ultimate Geography Guide
Spanish - Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition (Levels I-V)
Braille - Taught by Sarah
Grammar - Saxon Grammar 8
Writing - Saxon Writing 8
Spelling - Spelling Workout Level G
Great Books - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Life Skills - 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
Health - High School Health
Logic - Mind Benders Puzzles

**Andy and Josh share a lot of the same subjects. This makes it both easier to teach them and also for them to help each other. They both completed Geometry last year, but instead of having Josh skip Algebra altogether (he is really good in math) I am going to run through that with him this year.**

**Both the boys math and science come with teaching DVD's so they will basically watch a lecture and do their book work and assignments with little help from me which is awesome because I loath science. If they do need my help though I have my own set of teaching material that I can use to help them. Even though they will be working independently on these two subjects I will still be checking their work daily. **

Sarah - 7th Grade

Math - Saxon 7/6
Science - Astronomy
History - The Story of the World Volume I
Geography - The Ultimate Geography Guide
Latin - Latina Prima
Braille - Finish contracted Braille
Grammar - Saxon 6
Writing - Saxon 6
Spelling - Spelling Workout Level G
Reading - Begin with Charlotte's Web in uncontracted braille.
Great Books - Finish up Uncle Tom's Cabin
Health - Horizon's 7th grade Health
Logic - Mind Bender's Puzzles

**Sarah (and Elizabeth) have already cycles through the 4 Story of the World books, but we are now beginning our second cycle and will be taking a more in depth look at the topics covered. Sarah won't make it through the whole cycle as she only has 2 years left before she begins high and will switch text books.)**

**Sarah is not required to take Great Books, but she loves listening to the classic stories that we read that I include that in her daily assignments.**

Elizabeth - 5th Grade

Math - Saxon Math 5/4
Science - Apologia Astronomy
History - The Story of the World Volume I
Geography - The Ultimate Geography Guide
Latin - Latina Prima
Braille - Taught by Sarah
Grammar - Saxon 4
Writing - Saxon 4
Spelling - SpellingUSee Level B and C
Reading - Who Was?
Health - Horizon's Health Grade 5
Logic - Mind Benders

Art will be done once a week as a guided activity. Each of the kids satisfies their gym requirements through sports, the workout room, horseback riding, hiking, etc...They get their music exposure from Bob.

So....that's what our school year will look like this year.

Image result for quote on homeschooling

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bringing Them Together

My kiddos do a decent job of getting along and hanging out. My boys seem to buddy up together a lot and then my girls seem to hang out a good bit together. Sometimes they will all join in and do something as a foursome, but as time passes and each kiddo finds their own space that togetherness has become more sparse. (Add in the fact that Miss Elizabeth has this tendency to grate on the boys nerves and this makes getting them to come together even harder.) Even so, they will all willingly participate in family games like soccer (we have a special soccer ball that allows Sarah to play with us) or lately, a game called Fishy Fishy when Bob and I suggest that we all do something together as a family. 

Usually, at this point in their lives, their togetherness is brought on by Bob and I suggesting an activity. That is until the boys got back from Ohio and brought their knowledge of a game called Dungeons and Dragons home with them. My four kids have been playing this game together non-stop for the last three days. They all get up early to play together, rush through their mandatory daily tasks, skip meals to play, and stay up way past their bedtime. There is no fighting coming from my bedroom (which is where they have chosen to play because they have the most space to spread out), no annoyed kids, no one huffing away in a tizzy over some upset word or action. It has just been my four kiddos playing together hour after hour. Literally, hour after hour.  No one is asking to play or be on electronics during the day. No one is playing with friends either. They are all just choosing to hang out together in my bedroom day and night. 

I cherish these days because I don't know how long this bond over this game will last before one of them gets bored of it. And I don't know if there will be anything else like this to bring them together like they are right now in the years before they start leaving our home to go out on their own. Certainly, it has been a year or two since they have all played together like this. (Which at the time was spent building with Legos.) 

It is so fun to hear them playing together. I cannot even put into words how happy this togetherness has made me. Just a week ago I felt so broken and fractured as a mother, as a family. This game has eased some of my worry and doubt. It's funny how life works sometimes. It's funny the things that take our brokenness and make us start to feel whole again. 

Sarah is fully included in this game as well and is just as excited as the other three kids to play. Hour after hour she plays this game never getting bored. I am so thankful that she is able to share this bond with her siblings. To be fully included in something.

Andy has been scouring the library for different D&D books as he is the Dungeon Master. (Don't ask me what that is because I don't have a clue. I think it just means Andy is in charge of the game.) He bought a book he really liked off of a used book site that is helping him as well. 

Even Josh is playing and hasn't gotten bored. I am shocked as outside of soccer things rarely hold his attention this way. 

But it doesn't matter the reasons. All that matters to me is that my kids are creating memories and building ties together in a way that hasn't happened for a long time. With some of the changes going on in our house this is a very welcome blessing, and one I don't take for granted. 

I also think that given all of the stuff going on between me and one of my sons that this is God's way of showing me that everything will be alright in the end. This is His way of letting me know that things aren't as bad as they seem, and that over time, it will get better. This is His way of showing me that the stranger who walked off that plane a couple of weeks ago and into my arms really wasn't a stranger, but my son. And even though he may have seemed like a different kid when he came back to me, underneath at his core, he is the same young man I know and love so very much.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Even When It Hurts

I knew that sending my boys back to Ohio for 5 weeks was something that they both desperately wanted and needed, but I was nervous about sending them away from our home for that long. Over the years since we began moving around from what they consider home (which is Ohio) they have both wavered in how much they have wanted to move back. Some months they both have said that they are okay (as long as we can move within driving distance) with being on this adventure and seeing where the jobs take us. Other months they are adamant about moving back to Ohio. One of my sons over the course of living in Portland has become almost desperate to move back. I was so afraid that I would lose them when I put them on a plane and allowed them the opportunity to be away from our home. I was afraid that he would reject everything that we (Bob and I) have instilled in him and instead pick up the patterns and behaviors of so many of his peers. I was afraid that this alternative lifestyle that we live would become too much for him and he would no longer want to be a part of it instead choosing the lure of mainstream society with all of its allure. But I knew deep down that I had to send him. I had to let him figure some stuff out and to do so on his own without my guidance or support. Even if this meant that his findings would hurt me in the end.

I did not hear much from either of my boys during their 5 weeks 2400 miles away from us. For one of my sons this was a blessing as he needed the opportunity to spread his wings and see that he can be independent from Bob and I, and that he can flourish on his own.  He needed this trip to build his self-confidence up. And it worked. He came home with his head held high and newfound sense of confidence that I was not sure I would ever see him possess.

The lack of communication from my other son worried me. I knew that he felt lost here and that he was struggling to find his identity. I was afraid that his lack of communication with Bob or me was a sign that whatever he was figuring out on his own did not include our family. The little communication I did have with him seemed to confirm these thoughts. My worst fears about sending him to Ohio were coming true and I felt sick to my stomach about it.

Once he came home stories started coming out of him a little bit here and little bit there. I was thankful that he still felt like he was able to talk to me. I knew that even if the stories and thoughts he was sharing with me bothered me that at least he hadn't closed me out entirely. At least he felt that he could communicate with me on his own terms and in his own time. I tried my best to remain neutral and to really make sure that my responses to things didn't scare him away from wanting to be open with me in any future conversations.

 I was worried though. I felt like I didn't know my own kid anymore. The things he was sharing made me feel like the young man who had been living in my home had somehow died and a new person had replaced him. He felt like a stranger. It hurt like hell.

And then words were spoken between us on our camping trip that broke me open in a way no child of mine has ever hurt me. The hurt was so bad that my heart ached. I felt I had no business being a mother to any of my children let alone him.

But as I sat alone in the woods near our campsite alone with my thoughts  I knew that what my son had said to me was not said to hurt me. He wasn't being mean or spiteful. He was sharing his heart with me in the only way his teenage self knew how. The words came out sloppy and complicated, but every word was true. And this is why it hurt so much.

It is hard to take in constructive criticism when you put your whole heart into something like I have in mothering these four kids of mine. Between homeschooling them and being a stay at home mom and our conservative parenting style I have a lot of eggs in one basket. To think that I am doing things "right" and then to have one of my children tell me that I am actually doing them all wrong for his/her personality is really hard to hear. To think that something might be broken and then to hear a child confirm that brokenness is a bitter pill to swallow.

I am so thankful that my mom was with us during this camping trip because she was able to help bridge some of the distance between my son and I after his words were spoken. She was able to see things and point out things to me that I would not have been able to see on my own because I was too blinded by my pain to see beyond that.

I am a perfectionist by nature and when things aren't perfect I have a habit to quit them. If I cannot do it perfectly then I don't want to do it at all. But the thing about being a parent is that I am almost never perfect at it and I cannot quit being my kids' mother. This makes it all the harder for me to stick with it when the going gets tough because I want to run from them until the hard part is over and I can be the perfect mother again with the perfect children. To stand in the fire and feel its heat and allow it to burn me from time to time is so hard for me to do. But I cannot quit these kids. I cannot quit my son. Even when it hurts.

But here's the thing: I know my son.  I must remember that. Even when I think he is a stranger to me. Even when I feel more distant from him than I have ever felt in our whole time together as mother and son. I know that he is going through a hard time right now. And I know that he is struggling to find his way. And I know that other lifestyles look enticing and shiny. I know that the grass seems the perfect shade of green in  Ohio. But it isn't. And I know that as he grows he might push himself further and further away. Or...he might not.

Sometimes allowing a child the ability to fly means taking the risk that he might not come back to you. But sometimes granting a child the ability to fly means taking the risk, thinking he might not come back, and having him come back knowing for sure that you are his home. That is what I have allowed my son to do in sending him away for 5 weeks to be where his heart desired and it has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through with either of my boys.

What I need to do for my son right now is to stand tall and strong. To allow him to explore his feelings and share his heart with me even when it hurts. To give him the space he needs to grow while providing a safe place for him to land. My job is to remain steadfast and to know that even though this boy living in my home may seem like a stranger underneath at his core he is still the same young man who left my house 6 weeks ago.  My job is to gently remind him who he is when he feels lost and confused. My job is to show him that while he may bend our bond he will never break it. (Just as I have the power to also bend our bond as is the case in any relationship.) My job is to continue to show him the way of our family because he was placed in it for a reason. My job is to be his mother, as imperfect as I am, without giving up on him (as imperfect as he is) and without running away from him.

 Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Redwood National Forest

Our trip to the Redwood National Forest is one that will go down in the books as a mixed bag experience. There were both some really cool things we got to experience and some really not cool things too.

My mom, Bob and I all thought that the pictures we took on this trip would not do the places we visited any justice, and I am finding as I upload these pictures that we were very much correct. The size and enormity of these trees was indescribable. There were places that we visited that took my breath away. One place we visited I swear was a spiritual experience that I have only felt in a handful of other places.

I was so thankful that my mom got to come with us. She was a great asset to have during a particularly difficult situation that occurred while we were there.  I enjoy having her with us on these trips. It makes me feel good (and I know Bob feels the same way) that we can share these experiences with her. She has done so much for our family over the years and taking her on these adventures with us is one of the ways that I can thank her for all that she has done for us.  Her life in Ohio is very busy and at times stressful. For her to be able to leave Ohio and come see us - no matter where we are - and to step away from her every day life is something that I will encourage as often as she can do so.

I also appreciate that she comes on these trips and creates great memories with my kids. She is a Super-Nana to our kids and did so much with them when we lived in Ohio. Bob and I are so thankful that she still tries to be a part of their life in any way that she can. No matter the cost of the tickets to come see us or how busy she is in her own life my kids (and so do Bob and I)  know that we can always count on my mom to make an effort to see our family and continue creating memories with us.  Bob and I notice her effort and it makes us love her all the more.  

A fallen tree that was at least 1000 years old before it went down. 

I love the sunlight streaming down on the kids in these next few photos. 

Trying to count rings...

We drove through this tree! It was a tight squeeze.