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!    

Monday, July 27, 2015

Things that are making me happy right now

1. phone free walks - 

I wake at 5:30 each morning, and get ready for the day while all my guys are still sleeping. When Paul travels, this looks like journaling and reading mostly. When Paul is home and it’s safe to step away, I try to take a 2 mile walk around my neighborhood. I love these walks. A couple months ago I felt a tug to not listen to anything but what I was walking past—birds, leaves, squirrels, the spillway behind the lake. It was wonderful. 

My head is stuffed with thoughts. I need quiet to sift through them and see what’s worth what. I also have such a drive to learn that I feel compelled to listen to as much information as possible on housekeeping, finances, homeschooling, etc, but there needs to be a better balance of quiet & learning. I’ve been taking a lot more silent walks, as I like to call them. 

It feels like a treat to be, in my own little way, off the grid—away from that phone. I want to have more phone detox time in my days and weeks.  I’m thinking about this. I want to enjoy my phone, but feel detached from it as well.  Or at the least, at times. I don’t want to be robbed of being present anymore. 

2. night-time prayers with the kids -  

When I heard Thomas sign his name to the end of a prayer about a month ago, “Love, Thomas” as if he was sending a letter up to God, I thought maybe we should make night time prayers a bit more of a norm rather than once every other month. 

I’m the reading mom, the walking mom, the cooking in the kitchen with you mom. I wish I was all the mom things, but I’m not.  Even praying once every day, other than at the table, felt like a stretch for me. Baby steps.  So I kept it super, super simple.  

I tuck the twins in first.  I give them their drinks of water. They make messy signs of the cross. Then I say while they press their hands together and give me the cutest little smiles I’ve ever ever seen, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this day / in every single way. Amen.” At that point they do this thing where it looks like they are releasing doves out of their hands. I’m not sure what that’s about, but it seems in good spirit of what we’re doing.  

When I tuck Thomas in, about an hour later, we have a bit messier time praying.  We talk real to Jesus. Thomas throws in things randomly and usually asks questions that have nothing to do with what we are praying about.  We say what we are grateful for and think through our day. We list family members in a haphazard rotation & try to pray specifically for thing going on in their lives. And we add one other intention, usually for the people who are lonely because that just breaks my heart after we’ve thought about our day so full with one another.

Now if only I could get in the habit of saying my own night-time prayers.  All in time. For now, just this little change in our routine has added a ton of gratitude in my heart. 

3.   afternoon clean-up time

Last weekend I took out our gate in the sunroom that has either kept the twins inside of it or locked out since they were born.  It was becoming a nuisance when guests would visit, so I begrudgingly removed it. Little did I know that I would be so excited about the change (after I spent hours purging and moving stuff). Plus, it feels like we are truly in a new season of life and I really, really love that. 

Now all the kids’ toys are either in the sunroom or put away in their room in their closet.  Before, they were in all the living areas of the house. 

At 5:00 p.m. every day, we stop whatever we are doing for clean-up time.  We don’t walk away until every single item is put away on the built-in shelves. It stays clean until bed time because the rest of the night is screen time, dinner, bedtime routine, baths, reading, etc.  

The system I used before for toy pick-up isn’t even worth mentioning. Suffice it to say it was making me very unhappy and annoyed.  I let the kids keep tons and tons of toys out, especially Thomas. I had to create a whole new norm for us when it hit me recently that Paul and I are happiest when the house is really clean and clutter-free, and so our family culture & our kids are just going to have to form around that need.

I had to really think about what I’m trying to accomplish when I’m having the kids clean.  It seems obvious, right? I want it clean. But after years of doing this the wrong way, I see there is a different purpose for each season and right now while the boys are little there are specific reasons for why I want pick-up time to be this way. 

I want them to form habits and practice doing things to completion.  Mostly, I want the process to be more peaceful, and in the past it hasn’t been.  If I see that it’s taking more than ten minutes or so to clean up the mess we made during the day, that’s a sign to me we need to simplify or let go of some things.  

The best part of our new pick-up habit is that Paul is greeted with a happier wife and a cleaner home.  Plus, the kids seem very proud of their work. So win-win-win.

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I enjoyed writing these so much.  I had more to share, but maybe on another day. Let me know if you have something that is making you happy right now. I would love to hear!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sickness helping me see

A steady diet of Kleenex will do the trick!

I'm typing this in the corner of our yard, watching the boys play with dirty water on the patio.  Thomas has only underwear on, Emerick has one of Thomas's old tanks on, and Alistair has a white t-shirt bedazzled with graham cracker crumbs.

I came down with a cold yesterday, and it punched me in the face about a dozen times this morning and then drowned me for a few hours. I think it's packing its bags though. Yes, please.  I don't have any business sending (more) texts to everyone in my phone that death is passing over my home in the form of a wee cough & runny nose.

When I get a cold, I'm panicky. They last 4 days, usually. I hate not being able to get as much work done.  It's already enough work to keep me focused. Add a cold and throw in two toddler twins crying and whining because they don't understand why their snotty heads and little coughy bodies have betrayed them and I'm all staring emoticon x 1000. 

Highlights of the day = 

* Thomas bringing me water & getting me Kleenexes 

* Thomas's sincere & sweet dismay over getting "all of you so sick"

* Emerick & Alistair sweetly cupping my face and giving me little rubs because they know something is up for Mommy to be sprawled out on the couch & wailing, "WHY?? WHY??!"

Lowlights = 

* Clinging to the promise of nap time... and then it only lasting 1 hr 10 minutes. 

* Feeling okay enough to clean the kitchen & within two minutes a small child slides a glass riiiiiiighhhht across the counter into the dishwasher below, shattering it into all the places and directions. Missed the mark just a touch, buddy.

Bonus: Yesterday, I found out six hours after going to the gym that when I was in the very, very front of Zumba class dropping my booty and shaking it for the dozens of women behind me to see, my pants were in fact inside out. Poster mother for having it all together. Right. Here.

Emerick just walked up to Thomas with a cup of water. 

Thomas said, "Thank you for that, but if you'll excuse me I would like you to go ahead and leave please." He gently escorted Emerick away and then he said to me, "that's what you say when you need them to leave you alone but in a nice way."

What can I say to that? Teach me your ways, Thomas. 

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There is one awesome thing about being sick. About twenty awful things, but definitely one good thing. That one good thing is being so incapable of doing anything that you truly stop & take account of how things are. 

Today, as I slowly warm back to life, I see three boys in my house.  They play with each other and learn together.  They laugh, run, build, and shout. They talk and listen and solve problems together (even if it's not always a win-win resolution).  Right now I see my crew of boys walking across the retaining wall I built earlier this summer. These boys love being tough, testing physical boundaries, and even walking with little pumping fists and puffed out chests.

"Mom, watch this! Watch this! Watch this!" [Thomas jumps backwards off the wall]

"Watch this! Watch this party jump!" [Thomas jumps forward yelling, "Osakooooo!!"]

Alistair comes around the corner from the other patio & Thomas says, "Oh there you are. I thought you were dead! Don't ever do that again. I was so worried about you!"

*    *    *

I see the boys interact sweetly, fiercely, lovingly--together.  I see little soldiers walking in a row and yelling indecipherably. I peek into their room and see a wash of blue and little beds, of toys and hopes scattered out across the floor for these real people in little bodies.
Today was that day where I stopped and felt it. I felt it before, little notes of it, but today it was a crystal clear ping. Alistair and Emerick, you belonged all along. It's not us + you. It's us as our family was always meant to be, all I know now and all I would have cared to know had I known it was there all along in the possibility of things outside the plans.

I trip on myself. I run ahead in my mind. I make big plans. I worry about when I will go back to teaching, how long I will get to homeschool my kids, and if there will ever be another little baby in our home. And yes, I know I can't do it all, but .... can I do it all? Please!!!  Oh hush, this sickness says. Stop running, this cold says.  Sit and savor, if only for just a day.  Be gentle. Be slow. See all that is good right here, right now and don't worry more than you need to for this day, this moment,  those kids thirty yards in front of you smeared in mud and charging with sticks. 

These little blossoms of things I've stumbled upon.  These little guys.  I love them so very much it hurts when I stop long enough to let my heart catch up, when I step away from the to do list, when I'm so sick and so foggy that I can't dress myself properly, that I clean the kitchen and call it a day and spend the rest of it letting them climb all over me and kiss me on the cheek.

Thank goodness for a sick day every once in a while.  

But only every once in a while because oh my word was it tough. I'm going back to work tomorrow, but I'll be waiting for my "taking care of little sick people who don't make sense while you are also sick and also don't make sense" trophy to come in the mail any day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

hey you

I'm just popping in really, really quick to say I'm not done with this space. I all but quit blogging these past few months & I feel clogged. I feel better when I shake out my words & hang them to dry here, and so that's what I'm going to do.

Writing makes me a healthier, happier person. I don't always have something funny or helpful to say, but that's okay. All I want is to show up & be authentic with you.  I don't need to read women who lead extraordinary lives full of adventure way outside my grasp. I just want to read the words of women who are honest about whatever it is they are doing and seeing in their every day.

I was wiping the polish off the living room furniture a couple weeks ago (something that happens when the light hits the furniture jusssssst right) when it came to me why I haven't been able to write for weeks and weeks on end: I'm worried I've been fake here.   I don't know if I really have. That's about as long as I had to think about that thought before I went on with chores and playing referee with the kids and their toys.

To me, there would be nothing worse than being fake with you. We've got enough of that already both in social media & even in real life, especially with women.  There's nothing I find more refreshing than a woman who can be totally herself, who isn't afraid to show up and say, "yep, this is what you're looking at", a woman whose presence you walk away from feeling lighter, not heavier, happier (not guilty) for also being your real self too.

Turning 30. It's been real. It's like a friend walked up next to me & she and I are looking over a table at it all. All the things. All the things I've thought, the plans I've made, the experiences, the stuff, the possessions, the fears, the dreams, the opinions, and even more stuff. All of it.  And this friend is nice and all. Very lovely. I like her. But she's also like "girl, some of this needs to GO." The fluff. The lies. The fears. The unnecessary guilt, the pressure from others, the weight of junk we just don't need. Toss it. Get it out of here. Anything that's not essential--show it the door.

See that's all going on internally. And then I think of writing, and I go all jiggly wiggly and go on with dishes and reading books to kids. Because I like who I'm becoming inside but she's a bit do I say this....ordinary than I thought.  I don't know if ordinary is the right word. I'm pretty sure it is though.

The twins are playing outside on the patio right now.  Alistair has a handful of hydrangea flowers he is working his way through with Emerick. They are shoving it into the t-ball stand their aunt gave them for their birthday. They haven't actually used the set yet.  Thomas confessed after church one Sunday that he broke the bat, and felt terrible about it, crushing the sidewalk chalk into beautiful bits. I told him he had to replace it with his money, but then he worked me so hard with his confession that my resolve to play collector dissolved and I said his natural consequence would be going without the bat (that wasn't even his) and also the chalk (which admittedly, I was glad to see gone because: chalk).  I'm making up parenting as I go. Sometimes I consult a really wise, most favorite book, Making Up Parenting As You Go.

I don't know why I told you all of that. Probably because the twins and their dusty jean butts out there look so cute tearing apart the few sweet hydrangea petals that survived the heat this week. And because this post is sounding very narcissistic and therefore about 1000 more boring than, what I realize now, is essentially my kids destroying the lovely things we own.

Happy day to you in all its ordinary lovely.

If you are reading this, hugs.

your real friend,