Monday, October 12, 2015

Walk with me and we can not quite know together

Since coming home to care for the kids, letting go of my job as a teacher, I’ve fumbled in answering that question of how long I plan to stay.   “Hmm. I don’t know.” I’ve said those gray words so many times. No great crafted answer. Just a vague, unfinished statement.

And I hadn’t known for a while for all kinds of reasons. I’m supporting Paul in what he does and he’s supporting me. It’s romantic and difficult and good. I’m loving homeschool and getting good (better) at being a homemaker which I find surprisingly fulfilling. And then there's the time with my kids--that thing that I just can't quit no matter the strewn toys and long days. 

Stepping away from teaching was exhilarating but scary. My feet ached for firm ground and yet I wanted even more to stay put & make something of something new. It was the most daring ordinary thing I will ever do.  

I know a bit more of my plan now because I’ve gone ahead and made a path.  But there is always openness to what we do not know and what we can not predict.  Hearts change. Careers change. Families change. Some of these changes we feel slowly, some click as quiet as a switch inside our soul, and others tumble on top of us and turn us inside out in no time, no warning: “Up ahead. Total life reboot.”  

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I had thought that this vulnerability in uncertainty walked with me because I quit my job, but I learned this year that this particular vulnerability harbors no prejudice. Uncertainty walks with all of us.  It wasn’t a symptom of not having a paycheck. It is a symptom of being human. 

Throughout this year, women have come over to talk, coffee mug in hand and maybe kids playing at our feet. Old friends. Family members. Friends I’m close with now and who visit often.  I’ve listened to stories of things I missed before or things that are so new they’re raw and far from finished. I’ve listened to the hearts of women and I’ve seen how not alone I am.  

From afar, these women upheld lives that looked like perfect plans unfurled.  Or if not that, at least tidy, under control, secure.  I had made assumptions.  I had compared their front stage performance to my back stage scrambling.  I had mostly gotten it all wrong.  

I hurt all over just looking at this photo.

I’ve seen the truth of life laughing at our plans and not just mine.  I’ve seen the truth of my friends living outside of certainty and yet walking forward because life didn’t stop to fix up things and throw a rope when it was needed.  These women. Their lives.  So many things shattered, mended and hurting, so many things you couldn’t know from Facebook and Instagram, so many things outside of their plans that shaped their stories [and shape their stories] and have bloomed on their gorgeous faces because their faith and character pulled them through but not perfection.  Not anything near perfection.  So many things that they still just don’t know. 

All of us. We’re doing what we can with what we have. Obstacles ignite our creativity and stump us too. No guide to tell us why the bleeping hill just doesn’t end or how many miles more to the water.  We walk with confidence, with the things we know to be good.  We have joy in making plans for being our best selves.  But we have blank spaces too that we don’t yet have answers for. Hearts spilling over with silent grief. Cracked hands from tough work.  A turning over in our minds of things we wish we could control but can’t. 

Do you have plans? Yes?! Me too! So many plans. 

But do you also feel wonderment and gratitude for the things beyond the plans? 

Adventures you can not see. 

Splashes of color where you have pulled out a fresh, blank canvas. 

Inevitable turns up ahead that will have you doing things you don’t want but need, can’t know how but want, and won’t plan but is an unfinished part of you already just waiting for completion.

Me too! 

Plans are very, very good. But the things outside our plans, maybe even especially that which mystifies or frustrates or grieves or tires or stretches or pulls us to our knees in humility because the freaking roof blew off our box…

These are good because this is what has us grow the most. We become something we weren’t before. We become something that even our most perfectly perfect of beautiful plans can’t hold a match to because those plans were of the stuff inside us and this is of the stuff beyond. 

Where you find discomfort.  Where you find blank space.  Where you find vulnerability in uncertainty.

Go there.  I will meet you there & walk right along with you. I’ll laugh with you or cry with you or just get quiet with you.  Whatever you need, friend, but I’ll meet you there.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day in the Life - All photos, No words

Wednesday, October 7th

6:00 a.m.

7:00 a.m.

8:00 a.m.

9:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m.

11:00 a.m.

12:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m.

2:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m.

4:00 p.m.

5:00 p.m.

6:00 p.m.

7:00 p.m.

Monday, October 5, 2015

reclaiming my home

I’m reclaiming the spaces of my home.  It took one signifiant repurposing of the 3rd bedroom to set into motion a purging and reorganizing of every space in our home.  

Whether it was the long string of time we’ve now lived here (4 & 1/2 years), the drowning in chaos that comes with having a few small kids at home all day all week all year, or my own underdeveloped skill set for homemaking, our house had become a puzzle of shuffled chaos. 

It’s easy to think I’ll get to that another day when I have more time.

Earlier this summer a family member pulled out her phone and I saw a notification for over 2,000 unread emails. I won't say who here, but she knows because I gasped. ;) 

I could not sleep at night if I didn’t know exactly what those 2,000 were about, if I hadn’t sorted them and called them by name. I could not think clearly without those emails in their respective homes. 

But yet my house was just as much an unclaimed, waiting mess of stuff.  Things are mostly in their places but cozied up next to neighbors who had found their way there by accident and never left.  In the kids’ room mostly toys but also binders & board games. In the laundry room mostly cleaners but also tools & manuals.  In the garage, mostly… okay, everything is in that garage… but also lots of garden essentials that would have a wonderful home in our shed if only just escorted. 

And so it is I’m reclaiming the spaces of my home.  It feels good. It also feels a bit embarrassing, but I’m used to that.  As an INFP, I live life in a dreamy landscape and then reality sometimes bites me in the ass just as I’m musing at the pink sunset. That reality right now, teeth deep in my cheek, is that the linen closet provides the impression a drunk person was in charge of cleanup after a camping trip.  

Contents of our linen closet. I wish I was joking. 

Here is exactly how I’m getting everything in their places and booting out all the rest:

  1. I’ve set a deadline for myself: 

Paul and I listened to a podcast a couple weeks ago that made me rethink deadlines.  Essentially, our work expands to the time we give it.  Often we aren’t getting what we want done because we aren’t setting a deadline to do it. 

I’ve set a deadline for New Year’s Eve.  It’s always been one of my very favorite holidays.  Since I was a little girl, my love for a new year has known no bounds. It’s a bit ridiculous how excited I get.  This is what is pushing me. To know our family is starting a new year with all the things we love and need in their right places so we can seamlessly work hard and play hard too—the best! 

2.  Follow a thorough system. 

This is just how I’m doing this. I’m incorporating a lot of things I’ve learned from professionals like being comfortable with extra space in areas and getting as many alike things together in one place to increase simplicity. With those gems, I made my own system appropriate when one finds their home is a kaleidoscope of unorganized nonsense and they have to mostly start all over. 

1.  take everything out

2.  think of the function that is best for this space & declare what it is and what it is not 
3. bring as many things for that function into this space (and do not worry yet about lack of space or extra space) & take all extras that were in this space but now don’t belong to an interim space to be pulled from later (for example: basket in the garage or spare room)  

4. make order of what is here without buying extra things to do so (buying organizational stuff is often a distraction from the real work of making decisions & you can do this at the very end when you know you truly do not have any extra container but need one)

5. come back (later when other spaces are established as well) and make decisions about letting go of things that no longer belong
       * caveat: if purging is so obvious and automatic that it takes no energy—do it right away

5.   paint, decorate, and organize with whatever is needed to do it. 

3.  Thinking grateful thoughts and multiplying benefits.

This weekend I worked on creating a board game closet.  Right now, there’s no fancy system in it.  I just have all things in that group in this space and the space makes sense because it’s as close as possible to where we will use them. 

As I put everything in place I did two things.  A prayer of gratitude for the past.  And then a thought about a more productive future. 

I thought of all the memories we’ve made so far with those games and puzzles. Thomas naming the states our extended family members live in and where Nana went on vacation.  Paul schooling me in Monopoly. Sharing beers and laughs with friends over games of Wizard and Telestrations and Taboo. Piecing together 1000 piece puzzles with Thomas last winter as the snow fell just outside the sunroom windows. 

And then I thought of how a new home for these things means more likely use and easier cleanup. Organization is not a blueprint for living in a museum home, seeing our things tidy and beautiful at all times.  Organization's ultimate purpose is so we can live a full, rich lives. Lots of play. Lots of work.  Access to the things we need in the way that works the best for our family.  And that’s how I think of it as I’m moving things.  A laundry room that makes me want to fold and sort.  A kitchen that calls your name in to bake.  A kids’ room that allows for play but doesn’t also give mom a heart attack… still crossing my fingers on this one. Send your suggestions.  At this point, burn all the things is an option I’m strongly considering.  

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So there you have it.  A “how I’m doing it” from someone who is totally making it up as she goes.  I’m not too proud to share that I’m not great as housekeeping. It’s humbling to see that I’m really bad at something that is a good chunk of my job at the present. 

But I’m 30.  30 is, for me, a license to freely admit my faults, and to work on them with joy.  

Life is too short to hide from our shortcomings.  Embracing them and learning intentionally how to wade through the new, foreign, or messy in order to get to the things we know we need is much more fun! 

Leave me a comment. Let me know if you have had similar “findings” in your house. If and when you’ve purged or reorganized or if you need to now.  If you’ve got tips, tricks, or advice, I’m all ears for that too! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

right where I am

On Monday I disassembled the guest bed that was in our 3rd bedroom. I cleared out everything that didn’t fit the [new] single purpose of an office and study space. Our guest bed was getting so little use and it far from fit the needs of our family. As soon as the bed was out, I felt I could breathe. It was all wrong before. And now the room was right. 

The next day I continued.

I took three loads of stuff out of the garage to give away or recycle, hauled even more to the curb, and spent 4 hours rearranging our storage layout and all the things in it. Our garage is extra long but not extra wide. Previous owners put in cabinetry on the right side of the wall. It has always been all wrong, and we are finally having a contractor take it out. This is why I was out there. I was shifting all storage from the sides of the garage to the back where there has always been dead space. 

Yesterday, I took out everything from the laundry room and the cleaning closet. Thomas asked if he could earn money helping. I pulled things down and he organized them on the table. Housed in our laundry room cabinets were a freak show of miscellany. Paint sample cans. Abandoned socks. Tools. Empty boxes. Cleaning products I didn’t know we had. More screws than I could ever know what to do with. And enough manuals to build a tower as tall as Alistair & Emerick. 

Through this process all week I’ve been excited but not anxious to rush. I’m telling myself: no shuffling, no hiding, no shortcuts. If this thing in my hands isn’t sparking joy or its purpose expired some time ago, it’s time for it to go. And then I’m taking each item and putting it in its home not based on space I see or lack of space or where things were before. I’m putting it where it makes sense and with all the other things that it makes sense with.

This whole process of re-claiming my home is bringing me immense joy. We have better access to our tools and things which let us work and play with ease. In three days, I’ve gutted a disease of sorts which has caused us unnecessary stress and waste of time and replaced it with a visual declaration of “all things in their place.” 

Much of the beginning of 2015 I dwelled in this head and heart space of feeling and knowing that caring for twins is ... "challenging".  Of course my kids bring me tremendous joy. I am crazy lucky to be at home and I treasure my time with them. But I also felt like grabbing friends and family and saying, "YOU DON'T GET IT. THIS IS HARD."

Adjusting to life with three boys was [is!] very real and instead of handling it, I looked outside of myself and believed lies that if I was just “that mom” or I had “those kids” or I had “that set-up” my life would be easier. Ha! Maybe that is true. But what a bunch of crap that is wasting time on a life that isn’t yours when there are about a million things we can do at our fingertips to simplify, re-energize, and strike success with the one we do have!

Just about a month after the fog of my hard-heart lifted, homeschooling started. I’m going to admit something now that is even more shameful than the fact that I had tools in my laundry room, bottles of cleaners in my garage, and a guest bed I’ve always hated set up in a room we very much needed. 

Paul travels a lot. He does about 75% travel. He’s in Chicago this week. In the two weeks before that he had taken two trips each week. I used to post on Facebook that he was leaving or coming home or maybe blog about it here, but it’s such a normal part of our life that posting about it seems kind’ve silly now. 

This is our life, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Normally, I could keep up without extra help at night— the dinner clean-up, baths, books read to the kids. But with homeschooling now. WOAH. Like, woah. Could. Not. Just....No. Here it is… Here’s the kicker…. Since school started, three times Paul has come home to a house that was not clean. It was mostly clean. It was pretty clean. But it wasn’t that clean that a man who’s been busting his butt to provide deserves to come home to.

I’ve actually typed the words out to him: “I’m really struggling.”

Have you ever had this? A new stage of life. Maybe a baby. Maybe a promotion. Maybe a new house. Maybe, like me, homeschooling. And you can feel the growing pains. You know you are going to make it through but in transit you are looking like one. hot. mess. You’re not just dropping stuff, you are tripping over yourself and falling on your face. Well, if you have—then you know what my life has been like this year. I’ve mostly been a mess. 

And that’s why all this cleaning, pitching, purging, and creating a new vision for my home and how we live in it.

I’m in a good place right now.  A very, very good place. My eyes are not on anyone else’s life. Not the woman who has a man who is home at six (been there). Not on the momma of one sweet and tender, calm maybe, little girl (thought that). Not on the momma I’m going to be when I magically transform (NO effort!) into a well-oiled machine of both gentle nurturer and competent homemaker.

All I’m thinking about is where I am today and what I can do about it. I refuse to feel shame for the paint cans and messy garage, the slow claiming of my space, the past consumerism that stuffed our lives beyond good enough, or my lack of ability to magically transform into super-mommy or super-homeschool teacher.  I'm only thinking about the work. It's true what they say, that it doesn't matter about your past, but in light that it's always time to get to work on the right now.

I’m glad to be here doing the work. I’m grateful for a husband who trusts and believes in me. I’m happy for another beautiful day to be empowered, imaginative, and to pull out weeds and cultivate delight.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Five Easy Ways to Gratitude

I’ve done a lot of work in cleaning out the yucky parts of my heart to make room for joy this year. One of the things I’ve found is that gratitude clears a wide path for joy. It’s as if in seeing that we have much, we are given even more good.

I'm sharing today a few of the things that I do to bring myself back to gratitude and therefore joy. These are all easy practices that could be done almost at anytime and anywhere.

1. Cleaning

Doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, and scrubbing the toilet can be an exercise in gratitude if we let it. It’s when I clean up my fridge that I see I have so many things to eat. It’s in putting little boys’ clothes on hangers that I can smile for the little stinkers who made a cloud of dirt settle on that fabric just the day prior. It’s in tidying up books I can love the authors who’ve dedicated themselves to the words. It’s funny. I never feel like buying more clothes after a day of catching up on laundry. Sometimes even a purge or reinvention of things we have on hand can give us delight, all without reaching into our wallets.

We've reached critical mass at our home. It's as if we took a path out and now we hit then end and have to return to the trailhead. This is the first year that we've had way more things leave our house than come in. I haven't been able to purge all at once as suggested in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but we are getting there. After each chunk of purging, I've been truly, truly amazed at how different I felt about the things that remained in my closet, book shelves, the boys' room and the garage. The things that no longer "sparked joy" were getting in the way of the things that were. When we removed the things that were no longer meant for our home, the things that are seemed to come to life. I think this is true for the things we store internally as well, and I wonder how much we clean up internally when we are busy tending to the external weeds at our feet and hands.

2. Praying for others

It was just this year that I started regularly praying with my kids at night. With the twins, it’s a very simple prayer. They are usually busy setting up their stuffed animals and asking for their fifth drink of water. With Thomas, it’s a little something more. Whether we pray about our day or say an Our Father, we always pray at the end for those who are lonely or have little.

Without prompting, Thomas joined in saying the Our Father last week. I hadn't realized that he had it memorized since I just say it to him and when he prays he tends to do free form shout-outs to God about his friends, his brothers, his dad, and Legos. It hit me that Thomas might find mention of bread odd in a prayer, so I explained to him what asking for our daily bread meant. It hit me there in that retelling of "just enough, not more". Of course it is important to think long term and big picture. It is important to have extra savings and a plan for retirement. But at the end of the day--if we had enough for THAT day, our hearts should be thankful. It's this art of contentment that I'm learning as I age and it is a much happier place than the frenetic hustle for tomorrow's fruit. As my favorite poem states:

"Oh, leave tomorrow's fruit to providence

and dote upon the bud--from which is spun

a leafing-out to love in increments, "

It’s in meditating on the true suffering around us that we’ve taken more pause in our lives to think of those around us who are suffering, even those we don’t know who are suffering. Our extremely simple and humble prayer (think one or two sentences) puts into perspective the troubles of our day. It is all too cliche to say but true. There has never been a night I went to bed without shelter, clothes, or food. I have very much to be grateful for and also to be a good steward of.

Of course, actually helping others is even better. But when you don't know where to help or when to help or how to help or it's the end of the day and even your own life needs help -- one little prayer is good enough, is very good indeed.

3. Margins & Pauses

What good is the hammock if we do not lay in it? What good is the speaker system without the occasional weekend dance party with the family? What good is the hydrangea bush without a bouquet on the table? We can’t fully enjoy the things we already have if we are always rushing, rushing, rushing without margin.

Sometimes we are so busy working for the next good thing, we forget about the good things we already have. Say no to obligations that aren’t essential. Put away the phone. Give yourself permission to take a quiet walk, paint your toes bright pink, light a candle, and pick up the child and dance. Invite a friend over and pour a glass of wine. No one will step in and make margin in your life. You have to be firm in making white space. I’ve found that that’s where all my brightest colors bloom.

There are seasons in life that are so busy that even the word margin feels a bit like a joke. I know when the twins were newborns, there was little room for margin. Just their sleep cycle alone kept me on my toes and barely sleeping myself for a stretch of months. This is where I think a pause does great work. No one should have to feel heavy with stress and scrolling the to do list all day. Even 15 or 30 minute breaks to do something silly or fun or quiet recharges us and makes us return to even our grungiest, most difficult work with a bit of joy. Thomas and I do one art activity a week. This is something I let myself get lost in for a bit of time. I feel no shame playing and coloring because I've seen how I bounce back into my work with more enthusiasm and focus.

4. 3 Good Things journaling

Pick a month to declare a gratitude reset. Heck, pick a week. We don’t need to always write down the blessings in our lives, but doing it for a bit of time can spark back to life that joy we left behind when life got busy or stressful or just such a overstuffed bag that gratitude sifted to the bottom. At the end of each day (for whatever amount of time) take a moment to replay the day.

Did you love that you dressed up and felt beautiful? Did you take extra time to love on someone? Did you make a new recipe and strike gold? Did you see some great thing someone else did? Write three good things down.

I kept this practice this summer. It was incredible. The things I wrote down were very eye opening. They helped me to really take a step back from my life and see how truly good it is. I had a ton of wonderful things that I was very, very quickly forgetting because of all the looming things I needed to fix or get done or get through.

I know November is just around the bend, and with it Thanksgiving. It may not be a bad month to take notes on your good things. Ann Voskamp's books are good recommendations for listening and listening to our gifts. And there are plenty of tags on Instagram for directed focus on the beautiful things and people in our lives.  But don't think your gratitude list has to have anything grand on it. Every time I take a shower I feel like a million bucks and a walk around my neighborhood brings me so much joy it's impossible for me to hide it on my face. Simple things. Simple things. 

5. “I am ready for this.”

It’s easy to be grateful for the good, but what do we make of the difficulties of our lives? I think we can find a way to be grateful for those too. Each struggle is a door to something new. If we didn’t struggle, than it would be of nature something we already know. Me? Becoming a wife: difficult. Becoming a mom: difficult. These things were struggles (are struggles) because they pull me from what I was to what I need to be.

Do you know that ache in your chest when your heart is raw and your entire body, mind, and spirit are processing the “foreign”, the burden, the difficult—you know you have to get from A to Z and you’re confounded as to how? That's tough stuff.

Some difficulties land in our laps as if from the sky and I don't mean that as a nod to heaven. These problems are random and may not have much meaning aside from the character that we come to exercise in dealing with them.

But I think there are some difficulties that we specifically take on because we were ready to do so. It could be problems in our marriages or our relationships with others. It could be in taking care of that underlying, nagging issue with the house or the finances. It could be in apologizing to someone, confronting someone, or just simply going to someone to be honest about something you have harbored for some time because you couldn't find the words for so long. It could be in seeing that your kid mouths off or that it is time to put the dog down. It could be a big conversation about why your family is doing things the way they are and if that's the path you want to keep going down. These are all examples of things that we should meet when we are ready and because we are ready we should do them with a touch of joy for being ready. This is when we can say: "I am ready for this. I am strong enough for this! I'm glad I'm here to do this work."

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What do you do to increase your gratitude ? What's that thing you do to recenter your life and plant your feet in joy? I would love to know!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

fresh out the gate homeschooling hits & tweaks

We are on day 12 of kindergarten homeschool + trickle down benefits for the twins.  A friend texted me yesterday wanting to know details, so I’m jumping at the chance to press pause on life (which is kind've insane right now btw) and think on that question.

All the boys are asleep as I type this. The house is so quiet.... <smiles>

Anywho, here's what I see right now just a little over two weeks in.

what’s working well

  1. checklist notebook: 

Before the kids wake up, I pull out Thomas’s spiral bound notebook and create a checklist for the school day. Some days I even take care of it the night before.  He is always going to see a reading lesson, read aloud, poetry and math lesson listed on his daily rundown.  How I decide on the rest (handwriting, history, science, art, etc.) is complicated but takes very little time.  I take a moment and think about two things: 1) what did Thomas struggle and/or excel at yesterday?  and 2) what is on our schedule for today? essentially—how much time and energy will we realistically have to offer school today?

I mapped out a scope and sequence for our year, so I know what we need to do each month to keep us on track. But with the consideration of our schedule (appointments, errands, play dates) and what things I think I need to offer either slack or supplementation for, it’s easy for me to write down the rest of our activities and assignments for the day.  

When Sarah Mackenzie shared about this on her blog, I saw the benefit for older students who completed a great deal of independent work. I thought I would try it with Thomas anyway. He took to it right away. I love when something so simple works so well. 

2.   school (mostly) during nap time:

Our homeschool rhythm is largely influenced by the needs of the twins.  Yesterday was an odd morning and the boys were pretty calm and quiet for the first two hours of the day.  I kept thinking maybe somebody fled the scene, but no. Legos really are that awesome. Typically, the boys are wound and loud by 8 am, so focusing on school work during the morning is not a wise choice.  

Thomas knows that his checklist is ready to go in the morning.  We eat breakfast and cleanup. After I get my morning chores rolling, I make myself available for reading. Some mornings it is picture books. Most mornings Thomas asks to read our chapter book while they are playing.  I have to judge the climate of the house and if it’s too loud, I just wait for when we move outside or switch to drawing or whatever.  This used to frustrate me.  But I’ve accepted that reading aloud is really important and the only way we can make it work well is for me to wait for and ride opportune moments and not force it. This is all to say that we read a lot throughout the morning, but I don’t initiate any school in the morning, but if Thomas asks to get started on school, I’m happy to help and that’s okay too. 

So we largely do schoolwork during the twins’ nap, even if that means they are in their room playing while Thomas and I can focus on things like math or history that take a bit more focus.  I would love completing schoolwork in the morning because I’m one thousand percent a morning person. Maybe one day. But the season we are in with toddler twins and the relatively small curriculum needs of a kindergartner—nope! 

3.   everything reading

Our reading game is fierce. It is the one subject which has me feeling all the good feels: happy, excited, eager, confident.  I know the kids are not missing out.  Our home is definitely formed largely around a love for reading and ideas and imagination.  Ask me in person about reading to kids and you've set off a bomb. I will talk your leg off. Not so much for math and science.  I like what we are doing there, but I'm still watching and thinking and trying to find our fit. 

Here's what's on our plate:

  • direct reading instruction 
  • read alouds (current: The Green Ember)
  • oodles of picture books
  • + those that Thomas reads independently
  • and audiobooks

The reading instruction book we are using is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons last year.  I skipped a couple sections of TOPGTTR because I felt it overlapped a bit with 100 Easy Lessons, and Thomas loses interest if something doesn't challenge him enough.  Also, and I'm totally going to bore some (all) of you here, but there is some poetry work Bauer weaves into learning vowels that I do not like.  Just my opinion   Recitation along with reading instruction felt a bit cumbersome and so I stuck my flag in our ground and said nope to that.

Honestly, I wasn't excited to start The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  It doesn't have the same crowd appeal or cute visuals like the Explode the Code series. However, it is extraordinarily thorough.  Every bit of reading instruction you would want to equip a blossoming reader with seems to be contained in that book.  Thomas does well with the lessons and I see now how Bauer has layered the learning in a way that is really making it stick. So far so good, but I'm eager to see the rest of the lessons play out throughout the year.  Generally impressed... as of day 12.  ;)

what we'll be tweaking

1. science 

Thomas shows so much interest in science. That's awesome. What is not awesome is that by not wanting to overwhelm him, I planned on covering science through tons and tons of reading and the very occasional fun activity or experiment. Read: light science. 

It was made abundantly clear though that Thomas's idea of school meant a lot more exploration and contact with science manipulatives and such.  I can do that. I can meet that need. But I'm doing a little bit of scrambling to pull those resources. They are coming. 

2. theme days

I love simplifying things.  Less choices. Less clutter. Save the decision making for the stuff that can't be anchored onto some kind of loop, routine, or rhythm. So I'm working on theme days.  A home ec day. A poetry tea day. Maybe an art day.  If I ever get it figured out and it sticks, I will let you know.  I want to breathe life into each day of the week with their own unique flavors we can anticipate and savor. I want hooks in our weeks and days that entice us even in the most mundane (what? never!) stretches of curriculum work.  

3. and mommy time

Prior to kicking off our school year, I had been letting myself crash during nap time.  I would take a cat nap and maybe read or just lounge for a bit before rolling into the afternoon and getting back to work.  That's just not feasible with our homeschool days. Now, by the time we finish school work I have no time, if any at all, to sink into solitude before the twins wake.  Night time is the one place I can see in my schedule where there is time to steal. I want to return to going to bed early and reading myself to sleep and feeling rested enough in the morning to tackle these long days where I'm often solo parenting while Paul's away or working long hours. 

It's really important that I take care of myself. Paul has traveled so much in the past year, and I have learned so much about self-care. I'm still learning. But I know this truth.  A mommy who carves out time to fill up her cup can pour herself out with abundance.  It's an ever shifting game of seizing opportunities that still fit well with our family. Hey. As long as I know there is going to be one small swath of time for be to be by myself and to get quiet and listen to my thoughts, I don't care when it is. I'll take it!

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Okay. That's all I've got for now.


I've got a lot more to share, but I'm biting my tongue and sitting on my hands and trying on moderation so I can be responsible and go make a panini and feed the boys like a good mom.

Let me know your school-isn thoughts!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

kindergarten at home!

Thomas begins kindergarten this year at home.  Last week he was asked at the library what grade he is going into, and his response was that he was “going into Level 2”.  Our sweet librarian paused and smiled, working that out in her head. 

Hmm.  Maybe it's time to get a dialogue about this rolling a bit more. 

I haven’t said much here on the blog about us homeschooling, but I want to.  It's where I'm at and I want to write from where I'm at and meet you there.  

I wrote it all out yesterday, so I could explain some things.  I just typed typed typed all those thoughts, and they just kept coming and coming and wow. It was obscenely long. Obscene. AND I actually walked away from the computer, hopped in the shower, and thought as I was shampooing my hair that I was just barely getting started.  When it comes to life choices and sharing it online my ego jumps into my hands.  And when that happens I'm forced to have that difficult conversation with my ego that we all love him but he's going to have to shut up please. 

I will keep those long thoughts about homeschooling to myself for now and share with you the small ones.  No big feels.  Concrete stuff.  All dirt, no dazzle. For me to do this I have to picture my writer self carefully writing small words on a piece of paper with one of those massive, over-sized pencils.  

Our 1st day of school is August 17th.  All our curriculum materials are ready. Our goals are printed.  We're excited to get this party started & have a touch of fanfare like, but not like, our friends who are going to public or private school.  Homeschooling is largely different because we already do so much of what we will be doing, especially at this young age. It isn't as if our routine will flip a switch & see a dramatic difference once we are in school. It's simply more of what we do but with the dial turned up and with a road map in hand. 

We're going to continue keeping things weird.  

We will read profusely. Thomas will read to me. I will read to him.  A huge chunk of my focus is going to be in giving every opportunity in our days for the boys to explore language, ideas, cultures, history, art, science-- all the things -- through books. In addition, we have formal reading lessons to extend and complete Thomas's skill set.  

We will explore writing.  There's a big mix here. Over half of our educational goals are specifically rooted in language arts. Communication is key.  Reading, writing, listening and speaking--these are going to unlock learning in all other areas. We will be practicing handwriting with a workbook, and then exploring all sorts of writing purposes and formats: journaling, notes, letters, stories, etc. 

We will build a foundation of math.  I have an unorthodox system for how we are going to be tackling math skills. It's complicated & too much to get into here.  Suffice it to say it's important to me that no matter the school setting Thomas is in next year, he feels great about math and is very familiar with a wide base of math terms and processes. 

We will learn practical skills.  I'll have Thomas in the kitchen with me cooking, outside watering plants, at the table folding clothes.  He will have chores as well as new responsiblities. He'll come alongside me to work out problems. We'll talk about next steps and what we need and how we need to fix what is in front of us and evaluate our work.  We will practice doing things well, doing things carefully, and doing things to completion.  

We will do nothing.  The boys will play in dirt. I'll encourage them to go outside and make something out of nothing (literally because do not have many toys out there).  We will be radical by keeping things simple, so that the boys have lots of time to form their own ideas and agendas.

We will treasure our time together. 

We will let Thomas lead. Thomas is deeply interested in learning. We are going to run with that. He practices handwriting on his own.  He creates math problems and solves them.  He reads books to his brothers without me asking.  He begs for more read aloud time. Current fixation is ancient history.  When he wants to know something, he asks.  When he gets overwhelmed learning something, he takes a break.  I am responsible for making sure there are no gaps and so filling in those places he doesn't even know to ask about, but largely I will be encouraging a lot of this student-prompted learning and making lots of space for it in our days.  

We will have fun. Kindergarten should be. I'll be sprinkling in some hands on learning and activities throughout the year.  I want to keep in the spirit of exposure and discovery.  It's about building confidence with new ideas and having fun with learning. All kids deserve that at such a young age!

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So there's the landscape of our homeschooling.  I'm incredibly passionate about learning, and I feel really blessed that homeschooling fits in right now with our family's needs. This is a new chapter in our lives and we are excited to dive right in & get our hands messy with the process!