After a long week of school, and many days of King Pen working extra hours… it’s easy to feel a little lost. I had a moment this afternoon, when I was struck with that panicky sensation of anonymity that sometimes accompanies motherhood. Who am I? Where am I in all this? Could a ROBOT do this job? Where have I gone and will I ever come back?
Not the first time that’s hit me. Fortunately, I know better than to waste time analyzing and moping over it. Could have saved myself an awful lot of angst in the early years if I had realized how simple the solution was! Now I know when I begin to get lost in the crowd a bit, it’s time to redefine myself. Not reinvent myself, mind you. That one took a couple years to figure out, too. No, what I’m talking about is when the lines that separate me from all the other things in my life get a little too blurry, I just need to darken them up a bit. Trace over those old familiar things that I used to enjoy. Get some definition to myself again.
So I got my camera, my boots, and headed into the Brimberry.
Okay, it wasn’t that easy.
I got my camera, and realized the battery was dead, so then I had to charge it. Couldn’t leave the Shorties, so I had to find THREE pairs of socks, three pairs of boots, and make sure everybody had gone to the bathroom. Which, at least ONE hadn’t, so off with one set of boots and socks and pants, and get the business done. Finally, camera is (half) charged, I found a snake stick, and we were off.
Anyway, I knew this was what I needed. Just to SEE something. Something green and interesting and not at all requiring anything of me. They aren’t the most fascinating photos I’ve ever taken, but they made the lines around me a little sharper, a little clearer. I am more ME because of them.
Here’s where my boots went a’walkin’ today.
So– what don’t I do?
I don’t do baseboards. Kinda regretting the choice of white trim nowadays.
I don’t put the clothes into the drawers. They sit on the dressers for ages, which means they’ll probably tumble to the floor. And then I’ll think they’re dirty. So they get washed again. And don’t even get me started on those winter clothes that need to be packed up. (Maybe if I did that, there would be room in the drawers! Yup!)
I don’t file my paperwork. Why do that, when I have a perfectly good laundry basket to hold it all?
I don’t match socks, until people are crying.
I don’t defrost my freezers, clean the oven, or RSVP to bithday parties. I should do all of those things, I know. I’m sorry. It’s awful. I could at least try, but… yeah, I’m not going to. (Because I don’t make false promises. That’s a good don’t, right?)
I don’t sew buttons back on. Because where in the world is my needle/thread? I have no idea! Just look on your dresser for another shirt! (Or the floor, in case it is in the Tumbled to the Floor Phase.)
Those are just a FEW of the things I don’t do.
Someone wondered that the other day, what doesn’t she do so that she can do all the other stuff?
That’s not easy for me, actually. I don’t like leaving things unfinished. I can’t stand walking away from the breakfast dishes so we can start school on time. I don’t like ignoring the puzzle pieces all spilled out in the bottom of the closet. But ya know? Despite my online moniker, I am NOT WonderGirl. I cannot do it all. If it EVER looks that way to you, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. WonderGirl is an oxymoron. It was supposed to be ironic, kinda funny. It was not meant to be a declaration of my competent handle on the world, I promise. Maybe I should change it to something more accurate. BarelyTogetherGirl or DustBunnyGirl or OhGoodGriefTheDogToreUpAnotherPieceofStyroFoamAllOverTheYardGirl.
If you come to my house and it’s squeaky clean, you can put money on it– I was cleaning like a crazy she-creature because I knew you were coming. If my sock basket is (nearly) empty, it’s because I needed to justify a Battlestar Galactica marathon. If my baseboards are sparkling, that’s because somebody spilled a glass of water on it. Just being honest here.
I don’t do it all. Who can? I just do what’s essential, and try to get to the rest eventually. (And I cross my fingers that you won’t need to open a closet door when you’re here. For your own safety.)
Not WonderGirl. Not WonderMom or WonderSister or WonderFriend.
Just me. Giving the best I got.
So that’s it. That’s the secret: There IS no secret. Not for any of us. We’re all just getting along the best we can, and God is merciful and good.
I have been SO. INCREDIBLY. BUSY.
I’m so happy.
I could probably end this post right there, and get straight back to it. You wouldn’t hear from me again for another month. But I won’t do that. Because I want to record it, so I can remember it. I suppose, in the future when I reread my blog, I can look at these huge gaps in my writing and just know it. Oh, that’s when I was so busy being incredibly happy.
But, in consideration of my spotty 80 year old memory, I’ll try to jot out a few of the details.
School has filled my days, which means my kids have filled my days. During the summer, they are busy playing with friends and the dog and climbing trees and swimming and I see them for popsicle breaks. But during the school year, we are WITH each other. For better or worse– in good attitudes and bad. We’re in it. And it is soul shaping stuff. I can clearly see my weaknesses and flaws in the hard moments. And I see the utter, absolute GIFTS of God in the good ones. I just love it. the end. el fin. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life– no other thing that brings me such joy and contentment. Even when it is hard, it is the easiest choice I’ve ever made.
So, I’m pretty wrapped up in that. It’s a consuming experience, homeschooling! As a matter of fact, I was a little worried that when I DO find time to blog, that I would overrun the Sift with homeschool stuff. So, I started a new blog specifically for that topic. (I promise, this won’t get out of hand. No more blogs within the blogs! ha!) Anyway, feel free to check it out if you’re interested in the detailed version of our homeschooling days.
Besides schooling, we’ve been very focused on firmly rooting King Pen’s business. He’s doing some promotional stuff this month and working lots of overtime. Still pushing through the pain of starting up your own business, but we’re hopeful. Hanging in there. Honestly, I’m glad to have the first year behind us! Year Two, here we come. Giddyap.
So, life’s busy and wonderful which equals lots of blank posts on a blog. No worries, though. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a lousy blogger now. But I’m not half bad at living in my life, so I don’t mind too much. Hope you don’t, either.
Happy weekend, everybody.
There are a million and one ways to homeschool, and even more ways to set up your learning space! This year, we’re blessed enough to have a separate dining room to turn into my happy place. It’s mahvalous, dahling! Here are our school room rules. We like to keep it simple, and cute.
So, here is standing outside my dining room. We hung a heavy curtain- helps to block out the world when we need to get focused, and keep cool/hot when we want.
Stepping all the way into the room, you’ll see the technology corner: We do a lot of stuff with the internet and computer disks!
Then, to your left, is the library: We’re still building up our supply of reference books. Paint and playdough up top, and mailboxes that we made to deliver letters/goodies to each other through the school year. (Good writing AND kindness practice!) On the whiteboard, I jot down words we misspell or whatever we need to work out visually.
Pulling back, you can see the timeline in this photo as well:
Then turning around, you can see my cabinet o’ wonders:
It’s my fave. Here is where I store our notebooks, manipulatives, teacher manuals, flashcards, etc.:
Here’s our spelling center: We play games and do copywork with the words we misspell throughout the day.
The opposite wall is where I keep most of the student supplies. Boxes of crayons, markers, colored pencils, art supplies are all here.
Up close, you’ll see their individual boxes with workbooks, etc.:
Message center: chore lists and assignment board let them know what’s up! I just made these out of regular picture frames and white paper behind them.
So, that’s it. That’s where our magic happens. Hope you enjoyed a little peek into our school world!
Hey friends! It’s late and I’m wiped. But before I go to bed, I gotta take care of this post! I don’t want another day to pass without our traditional comparison of the First Day of School photos. I can hardly bear it– seriously. But we must forge ahead, because life will not wait for me to catch up. I’ll just grab my kleenex and get ready for the pain.
Here’s Czarina, last year:
And this year, as an 8th grader:
HeroBoy last year:
and this year, Mr. Cool 5th grader:
The Duke last year:
And this year (are you KIDDING ME???) as my big 3rd grader:
Chipmunk last year:
And this year, as a 1st grader, with a smile all his own:
And Mister last year: (come on, let’s all have a little cry over this one)
And this year, in “3K” as he calls it: (sniff, sniff)
Whew!! It’s done. It hurt, but I feel better. I’ve accepted it (for a while anyway!)– that they’re gonna grow. It’s inevitable. No matter how much I try to squish them down, they just won’t stay little. (I’m sure this is closely related to how they’re also eating us out of house and home.)
Next up: school room photos. Stay tuned! They’re magically delicious.
And all through the house,
The children were singing!
Even the mouse.
Okay, not really. The crowds aren’t going wild at the thought of a new school year starting tomorrow. But, let me tell ya, the teacher is STOKED. I may, or may not, have slept in the school room last night on a sleeping bag with flashcards in one hand and timeline figures in the other.
Most of it is giddy excitement. But some of it is a good old fashioned freak out. We’re pulling some major changes around here, and I am well out of my comfort zone. In my last post, I neatly listed out our curriculum, and on FB, I posted a photo of my super organized school schedule. (Didya see it? It was something else. A masterpiece of Type A-ness. I practically scheduled their digestive process in there. )
But… something happened to me. I wasn’t looking for this, but the Lord has been gently working on my heart about my children. It has been trickling in at me from many directions, a quiet flow of small changes, until before I knew it, I was floating on top of something totally new.
I haven’t been in this new place long enough to share much about how things are different, but I’ll share the things that have buoyed me to this place. Maybe they’ll lift you up to something new, too.
First, this article called “The View from Childhood.” (linked by a dear friend a few months ago). Basically, it’s about how you look in your home. It’s about showing the most important people in your life that they matter, by taking care with your appearance. This really resonated with me, and I started making more of an effort. Earrings or a summer dress or perfume– just small ways to make their mama more pleasurable to them. Getting “dressed for work” lets them know that they are VIPs to me. And an unexpected joy– their sweet words, “oh mama! You look so pretty today!” or them snuggling in for a book and taking a deep breath of me. What a boost of love! It seems like such a small, insignificant change to make, but it has made a big difference.
Next, a conversation I had with someone, but I can’t remember who! (You?) The comment was that whenever they make dessert, the kids want to know who is coming over for supper. We laughed, because that’s certainly true at my house, too. But, it stayed with me- it revealed something in my home that I wanted to change. So now, sometimes I make something decadent for snack. Sometimes I fry chicken. Sometimes we eat on real plates! Sometimes we all go get icees for no reason at all. I try not to make the only special foods/meals be when company is over or it’s somebody’s birthday. I love surprising them, and it’s brought even more joy into our house. Look, we’re not rich people here. There aren’t any Disney trips in their near future. But there are a million ways for them to know they are a Big Deal to me. The more I show it, the more ways I find to show it. I promise, it does more for their hearts than Disney can.
Another thing, and this one has been coming from our pastor, and from some books I’ve been reading about schooling. It’s about saying YES. It got to be a running joke around my house, that if you wanted to get a YES, you went to Dad. ’Cause Mama is the Queen of No. Well, shoot. I don’t want to be the Queen of No! Why am I saying “no” to everything in the first place? Is there a good reason? So now when they ask me if they can do something, I take a minute. I think about why I have the knee-jerk answer of “no.” Is it too messy? Too inconvenient? Is it dangerous? Do I simply not want to be bothered at this moment? If I’ve got a legitimate reason to say no, then is there a compromise that we can come up with? I’m trying to find more ways to say YES. ”No” still exists in our house, but I’m no longer the queen of it. And let me tell you, it really tickles me to surprise them with a “yes.” I get a kick out of that shocked look on their face. Messes can be cleaned- memories are more important. So, instead of “no,” I ask myself “why not?” If there’s a good answer to that, then so be it. Otherwise, YES!
Yet another really good one came from my friend Brian. Not sure how it came up, but the conversation came around to the fact that he’s a kid magnet. True. He said he thinks it’s because he really LISTENS to them. Looks them in the eye, and asks questions and hangs on every answer. It was an offhand comment, but it stuck with me for a while afterwards. Because I know for a fact, there are plenty of days I am totally distracted, half-listening, and wishing some of their stories were shorter and the punch line was quicker. Why would I do that? These are my kids! I don’t want other people to be listening to them better than ME! So, I’m trying. I make an effort to be still, to enjoy them, to really communicate to them that I am LISTENING. I laugh at their antics, I ask follow-up questions, I examine their artwork more closely. I’m trying to be more “present.”
And lastly, this fact: We are here on this earth to glorify our Maker. We are in our jobs, in our marriages, in our homes, in our relationships, to GLORIFY HIM. This includes educating our children, however you choose to do that. The chief end of their education is to glorify Him. If you start from that truth, it really changes the shape of what and how you’re teaching them. I mean, I always *knew* this, but now I *get* it. I know what objectives the world has for my children. I know what things they need to have learned by 5th grade, how advanced their vocabulary should be, what extracurricular activities will produce a well-rounded highschool graduate. I get all that. But, the world doesn’t care about their heart. It doesn’t care about their ability to forgive, to perservere, to repent, to love their neighbor, to be kind and compassionate. The world’s objectives are not the same as God’s. It doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable things to be found in public education. But it is not the measure that we should hold our Christian children up to. I am free from that. I am free of the format, the content, the structure of education as it has been established in this country. That sounds wild and crazy and like I’m ready to dump the whole institution, but that’s not where I am. I’m just saying that my objective is different, and it’s going to LOOK different.
All these things have been percolating in my mind for the last few months, and a funny thing happened. These small changes joined together like trickling streams– and became a fast moving force that has swept away some long held notions and ideas about parenting and teaching, about LIFE. It is changing me. I have a long way to go, and I certainly don’t have it figured out. Most of it scares the pants off me! I don’t know what to expect this year, and for Little Miss Type A, that is the stuff of nightmares. :) But we’re going to go with it. We’re going to swim with this river of change, and see where it takes us. I went back to the drawing board, and erased most of what I had. I let go of my super schedule. I bought more colored pencils and binoculars. I left big holes in the day, to let curiosity fill for us. It’s going to be different in every way. They don’t know what’s coming, and neither do I really, but I know that the Lord has led us here, so it’s gonna be good.
Homeschooling Year 8. This is where it gets fun.
There are a lot of things to catch up on, but right now, I want to tell you what’s been cooking in the home school department. A LOT! It’s seriously cut into my housework time, actually. There may have been a few days that the boys drew straws to see who got to wear the last pair of clean underwear. Kidding. (ish.)
I’ve been pouring over curriculum options and reviews, and evaluating my teaching methods for a few weeks. I finally wrapped it up though, and now we have one more week to hang out before officially launching our 2013/2014 school year. I thought you’d like to see what I’m teaching this year. Yes? No? It’s okay, you don’t have to keep reading this post if you aren’t into it. No one will even know it. (Except me, when I ask you about it later. And then, you’ll have to pretend you read it and I’ll have to pretend to believe you. Ha.)
So, with five kids, I’m learning that the more I can teach them as a group, the better. I toyed around with this concept a bit for the past two years in history with Story of the World. Loved the concept, but we needed more structure. So we’re switching to Mystery of History. We will read the text together, and do some supporting activities as a group, but then Czarina and HeroBoy will have additional readings from the Heritage History CDs. Following the group idea, all the boys will be using Apologia Zoology: Flying Animals of the 5th Day. Czarina will be using Switched on Schoolhouse‘s General Science and Family/Consumer Science computer courses. Everybody will be using Bob Jones Grammar & Writing and Wordly Wise for spelling/vocab. Sticking with good, old A Beka Phonics and Math for Chipmunk, and A Beka reading for the Duke. For math, we’re using Teaching Textbooks for Czarina, HeroBoy, and the Duke. We’ve had good success with Getty-Dubay for handwriting, so we’re staying with that for everyone (except Czarina! She’s done with that!!) For Bible/Geography, we will be watching the Drive Thru History series, starting with the Holy Land episodes, and independent Scripture memory. I’m sure we’ll do some unit studies on the countries we study as we go along, but I don’t have anything formally planned.
Those are the textbook type things we’re doing. The big change this year is Notebooking, which I’ve already mentioned. Revolutionary! I can’t wait to write more about this as we go along. We’ll also still be doing missionary read alouds, and we’ll be keeping nature journals, spending part of our school day on Fridays taking family walks and observing/recording. Aside from all that, HeroBoy and the Duke are taking a music class two days a week, and I’m not sure what we’ll find for Czarina and the little boys, but they’ll have something, too.
There ya have it! That’s the plan. That’s where I’ve been the last two weeks and why there has been a severe underwear shortage in my house. I love to read about what other people are teaching in their families, and it’s fun to share with y’all what we’re doing, too!
Okay, I’m outta here for now! Time to go wash some undies. Happy Sunday!