Category: General Brilliance

Here I Come to Save the Day!

I remember when Fisher was a baby and he was sleeping terribly, and the mantra in my favorite baby sleep book was “sleep begets sleep”. Turns out, the same thing goes for blogging. Writing daily about homeschooling is getting me into the habit of writing, and so I’m going to keep doing it every day for a while. Maybe more than once per day, even! I know, that might be too much for you. But this is really a thing I’m doing for me, so that’s okay.

I’ve been encouraging Fisher to calmly ask for help BEFORE getting super frustrated and banging on things and crying when he’s having a problem. Because let me tell you, that is a fantastic way to get me to abandon my magnanimous nature.

So today when he said “Mom, can you please come help me?” I came downstairs and yelled, “HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAAAAAAAY!”. And then I bellowed it over and over again and instead of being amused, they asked me to please stop. Because sometimes I don’t know when to draw the line. Ok, lots of times.

This happens a lot when I do silly voices, which I love to do. I’ll bust out with “high-pitched-elderly-asian-lady” or “very southern belle” or the family favorite, an eastern European hairdresser named Svetlana. She used to come out a lot when the boys were very little and I’d comb their hair after bathtime. Tate still asks for her occasionally. But then sometimes they’re like “Ok, that was funny. You can stop now.” But I don’t want to. And I’m the adult (technically speaking), so I just keep going until I have purged the character.

I asked my husband last night if the boys will grow up thinking I was fun. And he said “Are you kidding?” But I told him that sometimes I wonder if they’ll think I was immature (because I kind of am) and overly dramatic (because I definitely am) and he assured me that they will only remember the good stuff, as long as I don’t actually traumatize them, which I’m pretty sure falls well beyond the occasional tantrum (I’m talking about mine).

Plus, they have him to play “mature parent”. Except when he does stuff like wonder aloud how the dog’s ears might taste deep fried and dipped in salsa. Yeah, well, at least we’re fun.

Closer and Closer

The idea of making this leap is feeling less scary every day. Each time I speak with another friend who home schools, it helps to allay my fears that this is a completely crazy idea.

The fact is, I’ve made “crazy” parenting decisions in the past. Decisions that weren’t mainstream, but were embraced by others who parent their children intentionally and with careful consideration. And I haven’t regretted any of those decisions yet. Obviously, I’m not saying people who make different or mainstream decisions aren’t parenting intentionally, I’m just saying that GOOD decisions can sometimes look like CRAZY ones.

As I get closer to making a decision, I am focusing more closely on the “cons”, both known and theoretical. And while it’s easy to get caught up on those, I need to remember that there are pros and cons to every choice, and it’s the cons of what we’re doing now that have brought me to contemplate this in the first place.  Attending last night’s PTO meeting made me feel a little sad and panicky about the idea of disconnecting from our school community. But I know that even if we detach from the school completely, we have connections with so many families within a mile of  our house that worrying about feeling closed off is just not reasonable. And the fact is, our school has been in such a state of transition (we will have our 5th principal in 5 years next year, 10 teachers retiring) that we’re not exactly leaving a super stable environment.

I do have some guilt about being one of the few active families leaving a large, diverse, in-flux school community. But I just don’t think this is the kind of situation where I feel like I am willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good.  In fact, I think this is part of the problem with public education – some kids’ needs are sacrificed in order to suit the needs of all. I’m not saying this is WRONG, but I am in the position to make a different choice for my kids.

And so, we inch closer…

More on the Homeschooling Decision

My last remaining real concern about whether or not to choose the homeschooling option is that I would like to find a situation in which we do not have to divorce ourselves completely from our home school. We love our school community, and we’d like to stay a part of it to some degree. Fisher has expressed an interest in doing his related arts at school and everything else at home, so that he can see his friends regularly during the day . We’d also like them to be able to participate in the Spelling Bee (which I actually run, and would continue to do so if we were able to keep connected to the school) and social events such as the back to school party and year-end events. As they get older I’d like for them to be able to participate in sports & the arts (that is, if they don’t decide to return to public school).

Our school is in transition right now, and we don’t really have a principal I can approach with questions about this. I did talk to an administrator this morning who said this is an option, but I am waiting for a call back with more detailed information.

Last night I attended an information session for the Ohio Virtual Academy. There’s a lot to like about this option, particularly as a transition from brick & mortar school to schooling at home. The only problem is that it is an Ohio Public School, which I believe may render us ineligible from participating in our local school, since attending this school would pull funding from our own district. I do not like this idea at all. I am a supporter (and product of!) our local school district and want to continue our relationship with it. I have no negative feelings at all toward our schools, I just want the freedom to do more efficient & experiential learning, and to be more closely involved with my childrens’ education on a daily basis.

OHVA uses the k12 curriculum, and while there is the option of purchasing the curriculum and using it independently without enrolling in a public school, it is super pricy, and therefore not a viable option.

Right now I am looking at the Time4Learning curriculum. It is internet-based, and would give much of the structure we’d get from OHVA but with more freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to still participate somewhat in activities at our home school.

I know I have a lot of unschooling friends who do not believe that a curriculum is necessary, and I don’t dismiss that idea. But I think for us (at least starting out), it’s the best way to go. I need and enjoy structure (as does at least one of my kiddos), and I think the leap will feel a little less scary if I feel like we’ve got a landing pad beneath us.

I am open to more suggestions for structured curriculum. It is very difficult to wade through the many MANY options that are out there. I’m meeting with a friend today, and will find out what she is using. I was really encouraged by the brief conversation with the administrative offices of our school this morning, and have hope that I will be able to come up with a plan that satisfies the wants and needs of the whole family.

Putting it out there

Been thinking about coming back to this blog and writing a bit. I get frustrated when there’s something I want to say that’s too long for Twitter but I don’t necessarily want to force on everyone over at Facebook. I prefer this more “read if you want” kind of environment.

Right now I’m in the throes of trying to decide if we want to homeschool next year. I’m not one to make decisions without researching them to death (I guess this is a good thing, right?) so that’s what I’m doing. I also find that once I begin to research something my ideas often begin to move in a direction that makes it difficult to rewind. By that I mean I come to a point where I feel like I’d be making a mistake to not continue in this direction. This has served me well in the past, but this is a pretty scary leap for me to make. From my research, though, most homeschoolers who have left public school after a number of years experience this, and the advice is to “just do it”. I definitely don’t want to be the person who stays on the safe and easy path, because I think most of life’s amazing moments happen when you step outside of your comfort zone.

In any case, both of my boys are very excited about the idea. Of course, they are 6 and 9 and although I definitely want to respect their opinions I am keeping in mind that they may not fully grasp the reality of what it means. My 6 year old has never particularly enjoyed school. My 9 year old has always enjoyed it, but I am starting to see ways in which it is wearing him down. He has a wonderful teacher he adores, a sweet and amazing group of friends, and is STILL saying he doesn’t want to go to school.

He is also very VERY much like me, and I had the same experience. People always seem so concerned about the social lives of homeschooled kids, but one of my biggest problems growing up was that that trying to learn at school felt like a distraction from my social life. From about 9 all the way through high school and even college, I was just really turned off to the learning process. I have come back to it and LOVE it now, but as a young person I really struggled with balancing learning & socializing. My experience, research & instinct tells me that this would likely be a VERY good change for my super-social kid.

I really think that for some very social kids, it can be beneficial to have learning time separate from social time.  Both of my boys have tons of friends that they spend time with after school and on the weekends, as well as sports & extracurricular activities. None of that would change by leaving school.

There are, of course, other reasons that I am considering this. Primarily, I really hate being so disconnected from what the kids are learning at school. We do a lot of talking/explaining/intellectualizing at home anyway, but I think it is difficult to really supplement their education after long, busy school days and homework every night.

The fact is, I am confident that I could be VERY GOOD at this. Actually, I can’t think of much I believe I’d be better at than this. I realize it may sound a bit like I’m doing this for me, but the fact is that this seed was planted years ago – before either of my boys entered school. I didn’t consider it right out of the gate because honestly, I was mentally and physically drained from years of raising tiny people. Now that they are older and more independent, I don’t need and crave the solid chunks of time away like I did when they were young and highly needy.  So as they’ve grown older, the seed has taken root and I feel like I’ve reached a point where I would be blatantly ignoring my conscience by not at least seriously examining this idea.

So, that’s what’s happening with us. Feel free to send your homeschooling friends my way to share their 2 cents!

Why I should stop waxing philosophical on twitter and start volunteering at the food pantry.

I had a very interesting dialogue on Twitter with a friend today. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a good philosophical/theological discussion with someone, and I really enjoyed it (probably more than all the people who read both our streams, sorry guys!).

We began the conversation discussing human rights, and the idea that in a godless universe (aka “the universe” to me), people do not have inherent rights. I agreed with this assertion (his), and continued to agree with him all the way through to the conclusion that humans have no inherent value at all and are essentially worthless. I believe our worth comes from being valued by other humans and that, generally speaking, we (as most species) are wired to value each other to a certain degree.  Obviously there are many cultural, situational, & biological exceptions to this “rule” – again, just as there are with many other species.

What I couldn’t quite gather was why it mattered. What benefit was there to the idea of having god-given rights, if humans are the only ones with the power to violate them?

He said that god-given rights “give you an unchanging basis for valuing humans. w/ implications for, say, slavery, torture, treatment of women, the poor…in the absence of such valuation, the social compact is tenuous and toothless, really, because there’s no reason I should care.”

Yes, I thought. That last part sounds pretty much like what we’ve got going on here on planet earth. A lot of people are being valued, a lot (more?) are not being valued. Our social contracts (governments) are constantly changing and shifting, and things get really ugly when people who don’t value other humans – or only particular humans – are put in powerful positions. In an high level view of human history, I see very little consistency at all, except that we seem to value each other just enough to not wipe ourselves out of existence (yet).

“So”, I said, “the world would look like it looks?” I mean, it seemed immediately obvious.

But he said, “no. the world would look demonstrably worse.”

Which is not at all what I expected he would say!

We left things there, because it had been a long conversation, which is challenging via Twitter for many reasons – and he acknowledged that this was the point at which we would hit an impasse.

So, if I’m understanding Joshua correctly, he’s saying that the current state of the world is evidence for the existence of inherent human rights bestowed by a creator. Because if there were no such rights, the state of things would be much worse. (I guess this is a bit of extrapolation – Joshua, feel free to correct me if I am wrong here.)

I will admit that I have been feeling pretty negative about the state-of-the-planet (SOTP) lately, and admittedly, my knowledge of world history is pretty weak overall. But still, things look kinda crappy from over here. Which is funny, because I am probably one of the luckiest motherbitches on the planet. The closest I ever feel to having my rights violated is when they are out of Snowville Cream at Kroger, for pete’s sake. Although, maybe it’s because I have it so good that things elsewhere look so bad? No, no…I’m pretty sure the horror of rape, torture, slavery etc. are never a matter of PERSPECTIVE.

But I am left wondering what some of you think. Would you have been as surprised at his response as I was?

I know that for some people, it sounds really bleak to say that I believe people have no inherent value. But I’m not saying people are worthless, just we’re worth something only to each other (though really, my dog likes me a helluvalot). This, of course, really gets down to the nitty gritty of morals and ethics and all that big philosophy stuff that you studied in college and people have been pondering since the beginning of time.  And honestly, as much as I enjoy a little existential pondering, when it gets to the really tough stuff, my brain starts to hurt and I have to stop. (I am this way about most things. I blame my parents for not fostering in me an ethic of persistence and follow-through).

I think mostly, I’m just fascinated by how differently we all see the world. We all have to build some kind of framework that helps us make sense of “reality”. And even more interestingly for me is that I tried to adopt a framework of faith for a long, long time and it just never “stuck”. It was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole…it just didn’t fit me. And I know people who’d say the same about their faith – that it doesn’t make sense and they can’t logically explain it, but nothing else feels right.

What’s my point? I don’t even know anymore.  I am starting to feel trapped in a Pink Floyd movie.  Time for bed.

 

 

The Problem

The problem, I’ve decided, is that I’m not at my best in long form. I can be a witty sonofabitch in 140 characters or less, but for some reason I just can’t pull it out for the blog.

So, do I simply sit by and accept this fact about myself, or is it a matter of practice? And if it is possible for me to improve my blog-charisma, do I really care to put the effort into it?

Wait, that makes two problems. My lack of charisma in long form, and my generalized laziness disorder.
*sigh*

Jumping on the Tramp

I am a huge fan of trampolines. So much so that I’ve entertained the idea of starting some kind of trampoline-advocacy website. Though, it should be stated that I come up with new (generally bad) website ideas practically daily, so that doesn’t really say a whole lot.

Our next door neighbors got a trampoline the summer Fisher turned 2, and he has been jumping ever since. We ended up getting one for our own yard (sometimes the older boys don’t want to share with the younger boys, and I’m just not down with that drama.)

Both of our boys are super coordinated. Sometimes I see other kids get on the trampoline who clearly aren’t used to it, and they look so stiff and awkward while my kids are doing flips and jumps and ninja moves and whatnot. Fisher isn’t super athletic, but he is fast and agile. Tate is pretty much awesome at everything, so apparently he’s working with an above-average baseline set of abilities.

Anyway, my working theory has always been that the boys are especially coordinated because of their trampoline usage, and I read something yesterday that (sort of?) supports that.

I am reading Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation. It’s about animal behavior, but there’s some human behavior stuff thrown in (newsflash: people are animals).  In talking about locomotor play, she says it is the “pretend chasing and jumping-and-spinning play a young animal does when it’s alone”. Sounds very much like how my kids play on the trampoline!  She goes on to say…

“Drs. Byers and Walker think the purpose of locomotor play might be to help grow good connections among the cells in the cerebellum, which is the [part of the brain] that handles posture, balance and coordination…it makse sense that a young animal or human might spend a lot of time leaping, running & chasing during the period that his cerebellum is forming new connections.”

True, this is just a theory, but it supports my antecdotal evidence so it must be COMPLETELY TRUE. Ok, not really, but a little confirmation bias never hurt anyone, right?

Also, I know people get all freaked out by trampolines, but in the 7 years my kids (and all the neighborhood kids) have been jumping out back, no one has ever been seriously injured. And the only minor injuries have occurred from improper use (not zippering the doorway, and slipping off the outside edge while walking around it WHILE IT WAS WET *coughtAmFamcough*.)

So, if you want a great backyard toy that your kids will use practically daily (I’m not even kidding when I say that my kids sometimes jump in the snow), is THOUSANDS of dollars less than one of those stupid wooden playsets, and is fun for the whole family (the kids love it when mom or dad get on!) and helps with coordination and brain development, then you just need to head over to your local Wal-mart with $250 in your pocket and pick up one of these puppies.

Plus, it comes with free static electricity!

PROTIP: Rig up a locking hose sprayer inside the trampoline and turn it into a slippery slidey trampoline.  They will think you are the best parent ever!!

And then when your kids grow up and get scholarships because they are so coordinated, you can come back and thank me.

 

Summer Lovin’

Well, turns out The Running Dream is just as great as the reviews say it is. Who’da thunk? (I’m pretty sure I spelled that wrong, but can you even spell a word wrong if it’s not really a word?)

Anyway, the book was great, but my favorite part was when the main character was having her prosthetic leg made, because it was *exactly* the same process we went through when Tate got his robot hand! It was really cool to read through it and relate to the story in that way.

Teen fiction is where it’s at, apparently. It would appear that I am not the only one with this opinion, as several of my friends at our monthly girls’ pub night perked up when I mentioned my most recent two reads were of the YA variety.  There’s just something about those teenage years, huh? So funny, I don’t know that I know anyone who’d want *actually* relive those years – so what makes us so eager to revisit them through stories?

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Summer is going well, but I am really missing my large chunks of quiet time each day. There’s just something about having the kids home ALL DAY that is hard on my brain. All of my homeschool fantasies fly right out the door after a couple of weeks of summer vacation, because it is very clear that I am at my parenting best when I get 2-3 hours of absolute quiet a few days a week.

I am trying to make this summer fun, though. Today Fisher (8) had 3 girl friends over for a lunch at “Fisher’s Diner”. He planned out a menu (which we printed and laminated) and then his friend Jack acted as server (he was so great!) while Fisher and I got everyone’s food ready.  This is totally the kind of thing I would have wanted to do as a kid, so I was happy to help make it happen. He did get to experience the let down of “that didn’t go exactly as I’d imagine because not everyone else is living this fantasy with me” kind of thing, but I think overall it went well. There was lots of screaming and laughing and running around afterwards and all the kids seemed to have a blast, so I’ll chalk that up as a summer mom success. Go me!

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I am really enjoying the pool. We’ve been going almost every day. Being able to let the kids swim while I read a book is completely revolutionary, as well as helpful for my sanity.

My girl AmFam has been out of town for a week, though it’s been nearly 2 weeks since I’ve seen her and I’m getting twitchy.

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I need to start doing some planning for our trip to Bar Harbor, Maine next month. Any suggestions of things to do while we’re there? We’ve never been, so I don’t want to miss out on any particularly awesome activities or places to see. Super psyched for a vacay, tho!

Blog Time!

So, it’s summer, and so far we are having a fantastic time. Lately, I’ve felt ridiculously happy…sort of high on life.

I keep writing blog posts in my head, but then it seems the only good time I have to sit and write is at night after the kids are in bed, and at that point I’m pretty much tapped out. All I want to do then is read, watch TV, or sneak over to Amy‘s house for a drink.

I am about as good a blog-reader as I am a blog-writer, but I stumbled upon this blog the other day and HOLY SHIT it is intense. About a year ago, this woman’s husband shot himself. In the garage. While she was gone and the kids were home. And so she is now the single mom to three little boys, two of whom who watched their father die.

I read the entire blog yesterday. Her writing is so incredibly raw – there were a few posts I read with heart pounding and hands sweating. And I’ll tell you, what she lacks in paragraph structure, she more than makes up for in humor, optimism, and just heart-wrenching raw emotion. She has been given a hand that is just more than one person should EVER have to deal with. Like she says (and like I have said before) – the idea that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is bullshit. Because you either deal with it, go crazy, or kill yourself. It’s not like we’re given a lot of options.

So seriously, in lieu of any actual writing here, I’m sending you to her blog. I promise, it’s like nothing you’ve ever read. I’m also recognizing the dissonance of “hey my life is awesome” combined with “go read this lady’s blog whose life is terrible!”. I’m sure there’s something really wise I could say about that, but instead you can just infer it while I go take a shower.

The General State of Things (GSOT)

So, I know last week I promised a big kitchen update within the week. But, today they are coming to finish up the last 1% of the project (stove backsplash, open shelving, sink light), so I want to wait until all of that is complete before I do the final post. I’ve got it on the books to start (if not finish) that tomorrow!

I’ve spent the last week “normalizing”. Some of you will remember that a couple of months before we started the project I went through the house and did a big purge/clean/organize and had done a really good job of keeping up with things. Well, all of that totally fell apart as the kitchen project got underway, so I’ve been tackling the piles of paper, backed-up laundry, filthy bathrooms and messy bedrooms.  It feels really good to be getting back to my regular routine.

I have had two separate friends under 2 entirely different contexts point out recently that I am what one of them called “an immersionist” and what the other referred to as someone who is “all-in”. When I am immersed in a project, everything else sort of falls away (see paragraph above). Was I working on the kitchen 24 hours a day? No. Would it have been possible for me to keep up with the household stuff during the project? Sure. But I often found myself wandering around the house, trying to figure out what to do. I just couldn’t think outside the project. Family members would have to run out of clothing before I would remember that I still had to do laundry, etc.

CONFESSION: At one point, Fisher had to do 3 weeks of homework all at once because we were so behind on “normal” life. Parenting win!

I think this also contributes to my, shall we say, low tolerance for stress. Because a major project like this becomes my world, when there is a problem it feels like a WORLD-ENDING PROBLEM. Logically, I know everything will work out fine in the end, but physically I respond to bumps in the road as if they are life-threatening.  I am hoping that I have gained some perspective on that tendency, and so that moving forward I can try to keep a bit more balance. Although, in my defense, gutting and renovating a kitchen *is* a pretty major undertaking. But I think that I can gain some insight here that can be applied to future situations on a smaller scale.

We are planning to have a kitchen-warming party/open house in a few weeks. If you’d like to come, let me know. I’ll be sending out an invite on facebook, so if we’re not friends there, look me up (thatpatti). Also, if I only know your internet name, tell me who you are, because I don’t friend total strangers.