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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

homeschooling amidst chaos

So. Life is different these days. Dada is holding down two jobs. His schedule is always changing. And I'm actually working, sort of. So, maybe I haven't said much about why we are here, aside from no winter and fresh pineapple. HA. There is an organization here that runs a non-profit university to train people from all over the world in all kinds of amazing things. School of Midwifery for midwives going to work in the developing world. School of Seamanship for those working on mercy ships, going to help in natural disasters or bring health care to places like Papua New Guinea. So. I'm helping to start a new school, to help teach skills in advocacy, law and government.

In any case. It means meetings. And phone calls. And skype sessions. And mama at the computer. Which is all....different...for our family.

And I'm loving it. Truly.

But holy moly. Life is chaotic. And yes. We are contemplating other school options next year. But for now. Homeschooling it is. Shoving it into the random corners of the day.

Something like this.

 come to me my children, let me teach you wise and wonderful things...hehehe

8am. Coffee. No. Mama is drinking coffee. Dont speak.

Okay, last slurp. Now you may speak.

Little man is reading on the couch, in his pajamas, wrapped in a blanket (because, you know, 72 degrees is COLD)

It is 9am.

Did you eat yet?

What? Ummmm... (nose in book)


legos. an ever present part of our homeschool day.

a newly discovered fascination with the game risk. kinda relates to geography...right????

He eats. Girls of course have eaten hours ago, at the crack of dawn, cinnamon toast is their norm these days.

Mama sipping coffee sits at "the homeschool table" in her adopted chair.

Let Us Begin.

Usually we do a Bible story, and a chapter of a book we are reading. We just finished Mary Poppins. Then we dive right in to grammar or copy work of some kind or maybe a lit story and reading comprehension questions for little man. Here. Read this story. Answer the questions. Neat sentences and proper punctuation. Here you. Little girl. Sit down. Alphaphonics. Let's go.

If they sit by me for more than one minute I grab a book off the table and get things started right then and there.

Then math. I have been lazy about math curricula over the past few years. Practicing adding and subtracting with math games and gems and stories about gnomes and etc. Up until a week ago I was making up math problem sheets every morning for little man with division, stacked addition, multiplication and adding simple fractions. Good enough. But it was getting to be a lot. So I finally caved and got them both math books. We chose Life of Fred for little miss. I like the story format. Little Green will sit and listen with us. Then there are a few questions at the end of the chapter. We also supplement with math worksheets from one of those big generic workbooks from Costco. For little man we got "Hard Math for Elementary Grades". Straightforward lessons with trucks and tips to using math in real life and learning shortcuts for mental math. He likes it so far. 

That takes care of the basics. I also just go Little Green a wonderful book introducing the alphabet chapter by chapter. Its with the "Tiptoes Lightly" characters, by Reg Down. She has been starting to read with Alphaphonics already but this book reinforces the letters, the sounds they make, etc. She does this and then plays in the corner (making a MESS ALL OVER the LIVING ROOM, but. Okay.)


I decided the easiest thing these days was to have themes each day. History is Monday and Tuesday. Little man is working his way through an audio book (free on Loyal Books!) called "This Country of Ours" on early American history. Little miss gets a reading of a history story from "Baldwin's Fifty Famous Stories Retold" (available here for free!) and then she does an oral narration of the story (it's amazing how good she has gotten at this, and really it helps comprehension and memory skills for later schooling!).

Wednesday we do geography. We just started "Home Geography" with little miss (here, for free) which includes copywork to do and some projects. I have little man study maps in his big Costco book and then play "Stack the States" on the iPad. Later in the afternoon he usually will watch "How the States Got Their Names" (available online).

Somewhere in here Little Green starts whining about a craft. So we do a craft. Today we made a pig from a plastic bottle. Two days ago a bird from styro foam balls. All from a a giant container of craft supplies we got them for Christmas. Glue. Paint. Glitter. EVERYWHERE.

I try to play some music for Green or maybe get some alphabet cards out but inevitably she whines and I let her watch Daniel Tiger on my phone. (Like now, so I can do a blog post. HA)

Thursday and Friday we do science. This has involved unit studies the past few years. We've done volcanoes and now we are doing the ocean so far this year. We get out a lot of books from the library, watch relevant Netflix documentaries, and read something together (I'm doing the Burgess book about the sea right now). Little man, being older, has started doing reports. Little miss too, a few lines and a picture of a sea animal, etc. Then we end the unit study (after a month or two) with a "report day" with daddy as the audience and some kind of experiment. With volcanoes we made a giant exploding volcano.

Good grief. I am exhausted reading that. HA HA.

I'm thinking we might scale back for a few weeks as baby-go time gets closer. Although, the rhythm of it all really helps us give structure to our days and weeks, so maybe I'll just keep it all going as long as I can. Plus I get to spend the morning sitting in the mama chair. Sitting is good right now. Standing makes me feel like the BABY IS ABOUT TO FALL OUT. No, seriously.

So I sit.

And then I get up to make lunch. Smoothie for me. Back to my chair. Kids reading and doing iPad things. Something. Fairly soon I am going to lay down.

That is my day. Well, today anyway. Yesterday was crazy meeting day with dada holding down the fort and doing (some of) the above routine.

Anybody have any tips for homeschooling in a chaotic time of life? Do you let go of subjects? Or keep at the routine?

In any case. I'd love to hear how other busy moms handle life. Meanwhile dishes and dinner prep and sweeping the floor are out the window. Maybe later today....after my nap....HA.
the messy homeschool table. awaiting another day...

Monday, January 18, 2016

love through the ages

It hit me the other day, after a heated, feisty argument with dada that our tactics for disagreeing have changed over the years.

You remember that first big spousal fight, right?

I flung myself on the couch, as he stamped off to bed, in our first apartment. I likely had my 8am French class the next morning. But I lay awake, staring at the snow out the window. Devastated. Stressed. Convinced we would never make it.

so young. and yet. the smartest thing i've ever done with my life.
16 years ago...

That's it, I thought.

Real married folks don't fight. Ever.

We are done for.

Too young to get married.

We are both too fiery. Too feisty.

What were we thinking??

And unlike the old adage, we let the sun go down on our wrath, waking up pissy and bitter the next day.

I can't even remember what that fight was about.

But it was real.

And I realize now its because we are both very different people than my parents, my models of relationship. They never yelled at each other. Aside from one time I remember my mom yelling at my dad for letting us have honey on our toast when she had just said no. And I asked my sister, nearly in tears, if they would get a divorce like my friend Christy's parents just did. She said, no. Probably not.


That was their relationship. Calm. Respectful. Quietly disagreeing in the politest of ways. Or at least, hiding any disagreement from us kids. Because they are subdued people. Midwestern to the core. And I don't know if I just inherited the Scottish fire instead of the Scandinavian cool or maybe because I've spent too much time living around the country. But yea, I got the fire. My husband, well, he's pure German. So. There's that. HA. And, as old married folks do, I guess we've rubbed off on each other. I am more prone to vocalize my, er, dissent. He is now more apt to lower his voice and talk calmly than he once was, or than how he was raised (his is the family that has loud heated conversations about say, the local football team's latest draft, that in my family would have constituted voices used only for unpleasant shouting and anger.)

So for me, that first fight was devastating.

But then. We woke up. A new day dawned. We went to our respective occupations. Likely watched a movie that night, cuddled on our old, inherited, orange corduroy couch that weighed hundreds of pounds. And we talked. And it was okay.

us at my parents farm during those crazy law school years...
So yea, we argue. And I realized then, or maybe a few squabbles later, that perfect marital harmony isn't possible without perfect marital partners. I am not perfect. Neither is he. We disagree. And in front of the kids, sometimes. Its not great of us but its inevitable. And, here is my point.

It doesn't change our love.

And what's more, we don't have to agree with someone, to love them, to respect them. In fact, I might go so far as to say that being able to disagree, say so, and move on, is a form of love, in itself. I recognize you and your thoughts. I am not going to dominate what you want out of life. Lets just say our bit and move on, in love.

And yea, we make it a point to talk afterwards to the kids, say after one of those unfortunate Saturday morning errands crabbing at each other about everything episodes. Guys, we are sorry. Sorry for yelling in front of you. Yelling isn't nice, is it? You know we love each other though, right? But, even people who love each other as much as we do don't always agree. And that is okay.

I want them to know that.

To live by that as adults.

That  you can have a differing opinions about important things, or even little things, and still love your partner, and still have a fantastically fabulous relationship. It doesn't have to break you. And you don't have to break who you are to accommodate each other.

The key is, to teach that love overwhelms those differences. That love can recognize each other's preferences, cling to our own, or meet half way if we are so inclined (fine, you can go watch the football game at the sports bar but dammit I am going out for coffee with girlfriends one of these days!)

We can learn to disagree and yet love. What's more, we can respect people in our lives, outside of our family, even if they have differing opinions. Vastly different even. This is what teaches that.

And gooodness, doesnt it seem like we need more of this in the next generation we are raising?? Yes, please. Respect and love but still voice your thoughts to the world. Learn to be okay with someone else having a different opinion than you.

We all know that we as mommies tend to surround ourselves with our own crew.

The crunchy homeschool mamas.

The public school PTA soccer moms.

The working moms.

The work from home moms.

The stay at home moms.

The breastfeeders.

The bottle givers.

So many divisions, just in parenting. Extending it beyond to religions and politics and soon it's easy to find yourself secluded inside a cloister of friends who ALL THINK EXACTLY LIKE YOU.

This isn't the real world.

And it isn't helpful to teach our kids this either.

And also, there is this.

Someday. MAYBE. Far Far in the Distant Future. Our own children MIGHT grow up to (GASP) have a different opinion that us!



And they will.

They will have radically different ideas, at one point or another. Date someone we don't like. Choose a profession that we disagree with. Voice opinions at family gatherings that make us cringe.


And when it does happen, I want my kid to know, that through it all, in it all, perhaps because of it all. I DESPERATELY LOVE THEM.

And, if you haven't noticed. The whole different opinion thing? That is starting now. (Ha. Sarcasm)

The other day, little man says to me. "Mom, I wish you would have informed me you were making spaghetti for dinner. I needed more time to prepare myself. As I've mentioned. MULTIPLE TIMES [he actually said this all] I do not like spaghetti."

I seriously turned away and laughed into my hands.

First of all. Hello, son of a lawyer and otherwise opinionated parents. RIGHT???

Second of all.

Yes. They have opinions. Clearly.


What to do with that? We teach them to express their opinions in a respectful way. (Little man said "hate" first about the offensive spaghetti, to which I said, you probably dont HATE it. Let's say dislike, ok?)

The child who is comfortable arguing (in a respectful way) about bedtime or the movie chosen or the dinner served will be the child who later on feels free to tell me about his friends, what they are up to, what they say that makes him feel uncomfortable, or maybe something his prof said that challenged his faith or his way of thinking.

And this goes for me too, still learning about this whole marriage thing at 16+ years. I'd rather have a husband say he disagrees with my choices or opinions than one who quietly stews, doesn't talk to me, or worse yet, talks to other people about it.

And we have worked on doing it respectfully. Rather than two days of stewing, which was our norm in those early years, or even bitterly hanging on to things as ammunition for later arguments, it now pretty much always ends like this...

"Hey, can you grab that basket of laundry for me?"
"Sure, here."
"Oh, and I'm sorry hon."
"Yea, me too."
"Were you going to go to the store now?"
"Yep, do you have a list?...."

Done. And done. Maybe we've gotten more efficient at arguing. Maybe we are just too distracted and tired. HA. But still. There is no more devastation.

My point?

Keep them talking.


Work on doing it respectfully.

Teach love. That love in family is stronger than different opinions, even the occasional fight.

My family today? We are a giant family. Scattered all over. With many differing opinions on many different things. And you know what? We chat on instant messaging all day long. We love the CRAP out of each other.

Love overwhelms it.

That is what I vote for. An argumentative kid now who later on entrusts me with his life's worries and goings-on. A husband who challenges me in a moment where I need challenging rather than ignoring my less than stellar moments. A sister who texts with a real worry late at night. A world where different opinions make a crazy, beautiful, challenging, interesting, heart-warming, heart-breaking at times place to live.

You know?

But now. It's Monday afternoon. And my children are, of course, quite fittingly, having a heated fight about who gets to have the next iPad turn. Circles within circles I tell ya.

And here is where I sign off. HA HA HA.

Happy weekend mamas! 5-6 WEEKS LEFT OF BABY GROWING. I CAN DO THIS!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

dilemmas at the 4 o'clock hour

And now, the 4 o'clock challenge we all face but made particularly troublesome at a painful contraction-y 7.5 month pregnant state. 
This. This is the state of the living room. 

I'm sitting here with my feet up in the sunshine and it is staring at me. 
And I at it. 
Who will win? 
Also there is that pesky 4 o'clock problem of dinner. 
Who will make it? 
Dada is working late, so I guess, me?
Maybe I could make a game of it with the 9 year old. How to make a chicken nugget dinner! Fun! 
Maybe if I close my eyes it will disappear. 
Nope. Didn't work. 
And the kids are fighting which might require intervention. 
I'm getting a contraction just thinking about getting up. 
Dilemmas, dilemmas, dilemmas. 
Oh but that sunshine...
Okay. View right now. Too funny not to share. 
What are you doing Green? I ask. 
Picking up. Of course. 
Oh right. My mistake. Of course. 

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