Some day I will look back on the last few years and remember how they were challenging, yet they are some of the years I was most alive and most needed. There has been a lot of joy along with the sad parts, and it continues to sustain me. Life is not just one or the other. It’s a little bit of everything, and I’m happy to be living it.
Among other things, I’ve been losing my parents. Two years ago in January, my dad died. This January, my mother reached a critical point when she could no longer refuse help. I flew to my old home, Las Vegas, for four weeks, and I moved her into an assisted living memory care. It was difficult, yet I surprised myself at how I handled it. I left Las Vegas a young girl, and I returned as a middled aged mama who knows how to take care of other people.
I wish I could have stayed with Mom longer, but I’m also glad to be home because my family needs me. But, hey, I think they appreciate me a little more after my absence! My boys stepped up to the plate, helping around the house while I was gone. I think the whole experience raised us up a notch in our Life Skills.
It’s taking me a while to get back into the swing of things at home. I’m overseeing my mom’s care from afar and dealing with some other issues. I have so much I’m coordinating for my homeschool boys: a middle schooler and high schooler/active performing pianist. I have a lot I could write about, but I don’t have much inclination to write at the moment. Maybe in the future…
I have moved a lot of my old things from my home in Las Vegas to Georgia….my high school and college life in two big boxes, and I need to figure out which cluttered corner of my house to put them. 😉 Wow, how crazy it is to look through these things! I’ve changed so much. The girl who was once me seems like someone else, yet she also seems quite familiar.
Please let me know what’s going on in your life in the comments or by email. I may be quiet here for awhile, but I’m always available by email.
Season’s Greetings! For everyone who celebrates it, Merry Christmas! Happy New Year to Everyone, and I hope whatever you celebrate, or however you are feeling about this time of year, you are at peace and healthy. I know some people get very sad and lonely around this time, and my heart goes out to them.
In the past, I used to go through my year’s blog posts, and I’d link to my favorites. It made me glad that I was keeping a blog with lots of details because it’s amazing what I’d forget a few months later as we dived into new projects and activities. I would happily remember all the field trips we had been on too. This year is different because I haven’t been writing as much. As the boys get older, I don’t feel like I should share details about their projects, hopes and dreams on the Internet, but I’m always happy to share those details with family and friends, if they ask. 😉
This year was also different because I suffered through a tragedy in January that has been with me all year. As time passes by, I have more perspective on it, but it’s something I will always have to live with. We are also living through a pandemic, so we weren’t on the move as much as we had been in the past. We did all our homeschooling and lessons at home and remotely, and, frankly, this opened doors for my boys that otherwise would not have been opened, and I’m so happy and thankful for that. Finally, we all got vaccinated, and this gave us more freedom, so we started taking some trips, albeit with precautions. We limit our social activities to people who are taking the pandemic as seriously as we are. Unfortunately, we don’t know many people like that here, but we’re thankful for those who do.
I have felt some ups and downs this year, but it is ending on an “up.” I’m feeling happy and excited for the future, and I think we’ve come to a point where we are managing this new normal in a way that works for us. I’m excited that my 9th grader is half-way through his first year of high school, and things are going well. I can’t even express how much he has on his plate. He has big dreams, and he’s working hard. I’m so thankful for his new piano teacher who truly believes in him. Likewise, my young birder is moving along in his lessons and learning more and more about birds on his own and through Outschool classes. Meeting other birders has really inspired him.
I have poured myself into making sure that both boys’ have what they need to progress in their lessons, so I haven’t been doing any particular project of my own lately. (Unless you count decluttering here and there…. But that’s a bottomless pit.) I never think that my homeschooling is perfect or that I have all the best resources for these kids. It’s a constant search and reevaluation, and there are times that I wish I had the money to hire tutors. But then I look at how far they have come and how well they are doing, and I think we will get through this, and we will smooth out any kinks one way or another. I’m very thankful for my husband who reminds me that I’ve taken on a herculean task.
I do take the time to take long walks and read, though. Currently I’m reading All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. I highly recommend all his books, if you need something beautiful, light, humorous, and heartfelt. It’s especially a must, if you love animals.
I also pulled my copy of the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson from my shelf because I have promised myself to read a little poetry everyday, which was one of my first loves as a young girl. That is, I loved writing poetry, but I didn’t study poetry, and I was a very bad poet. But I have a vast collection of poetry books, and I’ve read about half of them. I need to correct that. Anyway, one of the first poems in this collection has become an instant favorite of mine. I will close this post by sharing it with you. It inspires me, and I hope it will for you too.
Before I do, I want to say again: May this Season Bring You Joy. Thank you for reading my blog, especially if you have kept it bookmarked despite my infrequent posts. I hope you’ll share something with me about your current holiday celebrations or your current homeschool projects or hopes for the future. May this next year be fair and better for everyone.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Just a quick thank you to those of you who reached out to me after my last blog post. I want to reiterate that while I do have many worries, I am generally positive and happy. Though we never found that ideal “village” to raise our kids in, we have made the best of what we got, and I’m so thankful that my husband and I can work together at home and give the boys our daily attention. Though the past two years have thrown many sad events in my path, I knew I needed to ride the waves instead of fighting them. But I don’t like writing blog posts and giving the impression that everything is perfect because that doesn’t help anyone. I hope I strike the right balance when it comes to that question of “what is too much to share online?”
Having said all that, I am indeed looking forward with much anticipation. I’m pleased with our school year so far. Sometimes I look at the calendar and wonder if we’re getting too behind, but then I wonder if I am pushing forward too hard? If both those things cross my mind at intervals, then we’re probably right on track! But we have never and will never look like a traditional school. We are goal-oriented and not “follow the public school calendar” oriented. My boys thrive with being goal-oriented because they both have goals, so they are motivated to work even if they don’t always love the work.
We recently reached a point where we felt we could take a trip because my youngest son became eligible and was vaccinated with the COVID vaccine. (Can you guess where?) We also took a lot of other precautions so that we could keep ourselves and others safe while we traveled. The main purpose of our trip was so that our eldest son could meet his new piano teacher face-to-face. What a joy that was! Most of his lessons will be done remotely, but we hope to go again sometime. We also decided to extend the trip a few days so we could spend a few days in the mountains and do some hiking. I will share a few photos from that trip in this blog post.
Both boys are taking more online classes this year, and so far I’m pleased with how it’s going, but I’m not sure it’s saving me time. It’s a different kind of busy. But it feels good to be the support person and not the plan-all-the-lessons person. I’m hoping to pull together a blog post about my younger son’s 5th and 6th grade curriculum because I’m way behind in that. Eventually I’ll create another PDF resource about 9th grade, but that won’t come until the year is complete.
The past two years have been some of the most difficult of my life, although I see how things could be much worse, so I remain positive. I see life as a miracle no matter what it dishes out. But I won’t lie. While I appreciate the good things in life, there’s a lot of sadness, and there’s a lot I worry about too. In the spirit of being real, I’ll share some of those worries in this post.
I worry about the next few years and how we’ll get through the boys’ high school years, both practically and financially. I worry about elderly parents that I’m not in a position to help because of other obligations and especially during a pandemic. I worry about how much longer the pandemic will have an impact on our decision-making, travel plans, and the boys’ opportunities to join summer programs, which could be important for their future endeavors. I worry about the state of the world and how that will affect my sons’ futures. Sometimes I walk around with a lump in my throat, wondering how we’ll work everything out. Will it work out? Or will we have to give up on things we feel are important?
It’s not easy having a kid with musical talent who dreams of entering a field that needs very specialized training early in life, especially when we are not musicians ourselves. We have made so many mistakes. We are still learning, and we’ve been knocked down more than once, realizing we went down one path when we should have been on another. It would be a lot easier if we lived somewhere with better resources, or if we were wealthy. We are not poor enough for the significant need-based scholarships, but we’re not rich enough to pay for the right stuff. We’re stuck in between, and, well, it stinks.
I think what’s worse is not having anyone to talk to who can understand.* No one wants to hear about our problems because we’ve got it good, so what’s there to worry about? It’s hard to meet moms with kids who have special talents and needs. Other homeschoolers aren’t always helpful because every homeschool family does things differently (and rightly so), but it can leave one feeling rather lonely too.
I imagine every mom feels this way to some extent. You or your family member has some pressing need that’s unusual, so there aren’t many people around who understand it. You feel strongly about something that’s not popular, or you feel pulled in many directions because so many people need you, including friends, extended relatives, or a wider community. The guilt is there, but you can only do what’s in front of you at any given time.
There’s more I could say, but that’s the gist of my worries. This isn’t an easy path, but I wouldn’t trade it. And I know this too shall pass. I’ll get back to the positive stuff real soon. I promise.
*I do want to thank the people I have met through this blog and on social media who are very supportive, especially my one email buddy. Without you guys, this would be an extra lonely journey.
“Summer has a mind of its own.” I read that somewhere long ago when my kids were little, and I think about it every summer because it remains true. Every summer is different, and it never quite turns out how I plan it. For example, I thought I might have more down time this summer. Ha ha…No.
Currently my 14-year-old is in a virtual music summer program, and it’s fantastic but intense. On the weekdays the program goes from 9:00a.m.–9:30p.m. with breaks and four hours of practice time built into the schedule. There are some activities on the weekends too, but less, and the weekend mornings are free. It might sound like a rigorous schedule, but it’s pretty typical for a music conservatory or summer program. And my 14-year-old loves it. He’s in his element and interacting with other pianists. (Yes, I wish it could be face-to-face. Hopefully next year.)
I’m happy to see him engaged, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how much can be done on Zoom. (I’m sure it helps that most of the kids want to be there.) I have enjoyed watching some of the faculty recitals, “interactives” (i.e. studio classes) and master classes with my son too. If my son is performing, I am always there for that.
It’s not easy being in a house with a piano playing over four hours a day, making sure lunch and dinner is right on time because the day is very regimented, and helping in other ways too. I’m also spending extra time with my 11-year-old because his brother is busy, and I’ve got my regular chores too. I love it, but I’m a tired mama.
My husband is also being put to the test as he has given himself a crash course in sound engineering and microphones. He helps my son set up all the equipment, and we both help make recordings of his performances. Simply put, it’s a lot of work to be the parents of a serious musician. I could probably write a book about it, and maybe someday I will.
My plan this summer was to plan my 14-year-old’s 9th grade literature class, but I’m not making very much progress with that. Oh well. Somehow it will get done, though maybe it won’t be everything I imagined it would be. Summer has a mind of its own, and homeschooling in general has a mind of its own. We can plan and plan, but ultimately, our kids will lead us down the path they are meant to go. Every day and every experience opens new avenues, and sometimes the detours end up being the road we were looking for all along.
The older I get, the more I find joy in simply being alive. Even when the going gets tough, there’s something to be said for being able to experience Life with all its ups and downs. I think it’s harder when you are young to see the larger picture of one’s life, and it’s very hard when circumstances in your life keep you from living comfortably with good physical and mental health. I have dealt with many things over my own life, so I can empathize, and I’m grateful for that. I hope that for everyone who reads this, you are able to find some peace of mind, especially right now with the pandemic.
As there is still risk in catching the coronavirus, we have stayed home for five weeks now, and we plan to stay here even if things begin to open back up. As I mentioned before, we have a high risk person living in our house, and we are also very lucky that we already work at home and homeschool. We miss many things about being able to leave the house, but it’s not crucial that we do so. My heart goes out to those who are stuck between losing a job and possibly losing their or a loved ones’ life. My hope is that everyone will take this seriously and will take proper precautions when leaving their homes, but it saddens me to see so many people who don’t care or don’t understand the situation for what it is.
I’m very grateful that over the last few years as I’ve been homeschooling, I have learned so much more about science and critical thinking — many thanks go to my children for having these interests and inspiring an interest in me. So on one level, it’s been very interesting to watch what is happening and to follow the scientists on social media who study this stuff and also compare that to what other people are saying and doing. It can be very frustrating too, and heartbreaking. But, it’s Life, and we can’t control it. I try to keep that in perspective when I start to feel angry and want to cast blame.
I don’t think there’s much point in arguing with anyone or trying to convince people of anything. There will always be people who hold vastly different opinions. The fight of “my opinion vs their opinion” has always been going on throughout history, and it will go on no matter what. Unfortunately, there are times that this struggle leads to more suffering, and that’s when it hurts most. Sometimes all I can do is try not to add any more hurt to the world and remember to find joy where it can be found.
Lately, I have found a lot of joy in springtime. This is such a beautiful time of year, and I miss my Nikon camera so much! Gah. There are so many beautiful things to notice. However, my phone camera takes pretty decent photos, if I can find the right light, and searching for the light has always been my favorite thing to do. Not having my Nikon anymore has put me back into my beginner photographer’s mind, learning about what I can do with my phone, searching for the right moments, light and angles. It’s been a joy.
Also, it’s been a joy to watch nature happening around the house. The birds are nesting, and the pair of cardinals that we have been feeding for a few years have built a nest in a little bush right by our front porch! I have been lucky to be able to snap a few photos of the nest when Mama Cardinal was on our back porch filling up on sunflower seeds. 🙂
I also had a little Carolina wren waking me up EVERY morning VERY early for WEEKS. I think he took possession of the birdhouse on our front porch, and he was trying to attract a mate. I don’t know why any female wren would pass up such a perfect location, but I have not heard him singing in the mornings lately. 😦 I haven’t noticed that the birdhouse is being used either. I wonder if it might be because the cardinal nest is so close by?
We are still mostly reading the same books or series I mentioned in my last monthly update, so this month I thought I’d share some of my favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime programs that I have been watching either by myself or with the family. Have you seen any of these? I recommend them all.
December, and especially the Winter Solstice, seems like a good time for reflection to me. With cooler temperatures, I want to stay home and curl up with a good book. Or write some poetry. I never get to do that, but it’s nice dreaming about it. 😉
I know this time of year can be very difficult for some people. There are people who are grieving or dealing with anxiety, or they are lonely, or any number of things. I am glad I have experienced these things so that I can understand other people’s suffering….at least to a point. I can never truly understand someone else because we all handle Life very differently.
I know there’s a lot of depressing and anxiety-ridden current affairs too. I find it very hard to listen to the news, but I try to keep up with it as much as I can. As I study history with my boys, I have found countless, other troubled times. In fact, there’s no point in history when someone or some group isn’t suffering. I hope someday that we can truly minimize suffering in this world, but I also know that nothing ever stays the same. As the saying goes, “This too shall pass.” Good will come. Bad will come. Contentment will come. Frustration will come. Highs. Lows. You can’t have one without the other. It’s important to do what we can to make the world a better place, but it does no good to hold too tightly to any ideal.
I feel very grateful that I’m in a good place right now. I will appreciate it for as long as it lasts. While not everything is perfect, I remind myself that there is no such thing as perfect. It all has to do with my perspective.
I try to remember that there are things that transcend all disagreements or gloomy days. For me, these have universal appeal, and I think the world would be a better place, if everyone focused on them a little more. But maybe your list is a little different than my list. That’s okay. In the end, our lists, our goals, and our lives are all very similar. (Different, but similar….I remember my college professor saying that.)
Here’s my list:
Dogs. (Or any kind of pet or animal.)
Music, especially classical.
Dessert. (Whichever is your favorite.)
Nature. Get out into it more!
Birds. (You can never spend too much time birdwatching! It’s very good for your mental health!)
Kindness. Just be kind to everyone you meet. In the end, we all pretty much want the same things out of life. We get too caught up in how to make those things happen when it’s really not that complicated.
May is one of my favorite months of the year. Flowers are blooming and the temperature is perfect. The trees have fresh, new leaves, and the birds are tending to their babies. Our resident bluebirds had a successful brood, and we even got to witness one of the chicks leave the birdhouse — what an exciting moment! We haven’t noticed the baby bluebirds hanging out in our yard, but we do have a family of house finches (mama, papa and two chicks) coming every day to eat our sunflower seeds and drink the water from our birdbath. My twelve-year-old has commented on how loud the little chicks are when they are around!
May has been a busy month. After the state piano competition, I started making appointments and doing things we weren’t able to do while my son was preparing for that. We have had a couple of fun play dates, enjoyed some educational events at the university, and had a few other outings and errands to run, including shopping. My boys are growing so fast, and they need new clothes!
There’s always more to do as kids grow older, isn’t there? Just when I think it’s getting easier because the boys are more capable and independent, there’s a whole new level of work for my husband and me as we homeschool these boys. (Not to mention all the food consumption!!)
For now we are working on wrapping up this year, though for me I’ll be “wrapping up” throughout the summer. (Sigh. I just remembered I need to write up progress reports and all that.)
In the state of Georgia I am required to test my boys every three years starting in the third grade, so this is a testing year for us. As I mentioned before, it takes up time I would rather be spending on more important things, but I do think it’s wise to get an assessment occasionally to see where we’re at. So I am planning to do the testing in early June. I probably won’t write about it again because I doubt there will be anything new to say from the last time, but if you want to see which test we used and our experience with it, you can click here. In future years I may try a different test, and if I do, I’ll write about the process.
One of our weekly appointments will be ending for the summer this week, but the boys both continue their music lessons throughout the summer, albeit with some breaks here and there. We will also continue to homeschool throughout the summer, though we’ll be able to take breaks and focus on different stuff. I’m excited that my eldest son is going to be starting 7th grade in the fall, which I consider junior high. We’ll probably go ahead and begin some 7th grade work in the summer. Though I don’t do any official start date (except on paper), there are some things I’ll save for September in order to give us a lighter schedule during the summer months. Overall, summer will be fun and more relaxing, but it’s nice to ease into some of the new things that 7th grade will entail. (Of course, this is the plan now, but summer has a mind of it’s own — I don’t know what we’ll actually have time for. LOL)
I have laid out my plans for 7th grade, and while we’ll mostly be continuing to use some of the same resources we have always used, I am introducing some new things, and I’m writing a literature curriculum from scratch (with help from the Internet), which is taking a long time to finish. I’m so glad I started early. I couldn’t find a ready-made curriculum that I liked. I was an English major, and I’m picky about the books I want to read at any given time. (It’s this reason I could never belong to a book club. I never want to read the selections other people make.) I wanted to pick books that I felt my son would enjoy but that would also introduce him to other cultures, history, and ways of life. The theme of my literature course will be “survival.” This is something a twelve-year-old should like, don’t you think? 🙂
I always try to write follow-up blog posts to my beginning-of-year post that details our curriculum for that year. Indeed, I made a lot of changes this year, so I’ll try to do that soon, but I can’t make promises. We are going to get busier as the summer begins, and we will have some adventures that I hope to share with you later in the summer too.
I usually write a post about our gardening efforts this time of year, but alas, this will be the first time I don’t do that. We haven’t planted anything new, though we did take a day off of lessons to do some trail maintenance, and we continue to enjoy the flower beds in the front yard, which we made and planted last year. Unfortunately, my son’s Venus flytrap died over the winter, which is too bad. It had given us a few years worth of joy and had gotten quite big. His pitcher plants came back, and they had a good many flowers this year too. I find myself eagerly awaiting the hour everyday when I can step outside for a little while and water the plants. That simple act makes my day feel fulfilling and complete.
My boys and I make a lot of gardening “plans,” and sometimes we manage to carry them out, but as they get older and more involved in their music events and other activities, I wonder how often we’ll be able to dig in the dirt. You can’t plant new stuff unless you can commit to caring for it until it becomes established, and I don’t bother to plant vegetables unless I think I’ll have time to cook with them. But we love our yard, and I’m so glad the boys enjoy plants (I did too as a child). I think it’ll always be something we do when we can.
This has become a long and rambling post, and I thank any of you who have actually read the whole thing. I know this post is not the kind of blog material that attracts readers, but I don’t care about that much anymore. I want to keep a record of our homeschool, and I want to enjoy writing, and I want to attract only those who care about the same, simple things.
Please tell me what you’ve been up to lately. I hope your spring is just as lovely as ours.
Every week I have to drive down Price Avenue to take my youngest son to his cello lesson, and I’m so glad that I have at least one reason to drive down this street. Prince Avenue is special to me, mostly because I used to live near there before I was married. I loved the little old mill houses in the Boulevard area, and in my late twenties, I was finally able to rent one for awhile. I still miss it sometimes.
I also love Prince Avenue because both my boys were born in the hospital that is on this street, but even more than that, I love Prince Avenue because every April all the dogwoods that line this street are in full bloom, and for a couple of weeks every year, it’s like driving through a fairy land.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who gets giddy about the dogwoods. I don’t understand how people can just walk on by them without standing there for a few minutes in awe. I don’t understand why there aren’t more accidents from drivers who gaze too long at these angelic trees. Okay, I’m joking a little, but seriously, you just have to drive down Prince Avenue when the dogwoods are in their full splendor before you can understand what I’m talking about.
It may be because I spent twelve years living in the desert that I get giddy about trees. It’s not just dogwoods that I love. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t gaze lovingly out my windows at all the trees around our house. It never grows old to me — all these trees.
Speaking of trees, my eldest son has a special interest in them too. Maybe it’s something in our DNA because I never talk about trees very much. He just seems to like trees and plants too. I’m slowly working on some blog posts about that. I thought with Earth Day and Arbor Day coming, I would make a push to do a little more writing about these projects.
April is a beautiful month, and I’m relieved that we can take a breath now that my son’s state piano competition is finally finished. (He came in the top 5 in state! Be sure to see his YouTube channel, if you haven’t already.) We have taken one morning to clean up the trail in our backyard, and the boys really enjoyed that. We took another day to drive to Red Top Mountain State Park, which we’ve never been to before. While we were there, the pollen made the air look hazy and yellow. Literally. I have never seen that before!
April has also given us some exciting news, which I can’t write about yet, but we are buzzing about it, and on top of all this, the dogwoods are blooming beautifully this year. Did I mention that? 😉
January has been a quiet month around here. It has offered some very cold days — at least cold to us Southerners — so it’s been a good time to stay inside and get some work done.
The boys and I have been doing a lot of birdwatching out our windows, and we finally started some official Life Lists. (I love it when the boys get excited to write a bird’s name on their life list!) In Georgia, we have some birds who live here year-round, but it’s great fun to watch the winter visitors such as the golden-crowned kinglet, which is one of our our favorites (and comes in close second to my nine-year-old’s all-time favorite chickadee.)
For the second year in a row, we’ve had juncos visit the yard. Sometimes in pairs or sometimes twenty at a time! Also for the very first time, we saw two northern flickers! (They are so beautiful!) And we’ve been so excited to see a pileated woodpecker hanging out in the yard for a while. In the past, these big, gorgeous woodpeckers would only give us a brief glimpse before they moved on. We also had a young hawk hang out for a short time too.
Other than this, we’ve been keeping a good homeschooling routine — six days a week. Yes, that’s right. This morning (Saturday), my eldest son did science because it’s hard to fit it in during the weekdays, but I was thrilled to see he was enjoying it. He may be a pianist, but he still loves science, and I love that because I love it too. I love learning with him.
I don’t have much time for myself, and when I do have time, I usually end up lesson planning, cleaning, cooking (but not much — I still fail at this), or exercising (stupid hip thing), or planning the next six years. But to tell the truth, that’s kind of what I want to do right now. As I mentioned in my December post, I’m obsessing about planning for the next six years — junior high and high school. I’ve learned so much, and we’re already starting to implement some ideas in order to see if they will work and if I can fit them in. We’re going to try to fit more and more in as my son works through the rest of the 6th and 7th grade. The scheduling and how we do things is a sort of an experiment right now.
I keep thinking of topics and ideas to blog about, but when to actually blog? I’m writing this off-the-top-of-my-head, rambling post on a Saturday afternoon in about thirty minutes. (Saturdays and Sundays offer a little more free time.) Writing about specific curricula or other topics takes much longer because I have to think through what I want to say. Sigh.
I will tell you that we just signed up for a free trial of The Great Courses, and so far, we’re loving them. If we continue to like the courses, I can use some of them for our junior high and high school curriculum, and I’m so excited about this.
Now that January is almost over, I’m looking ahead to a very busy February when some important piano events and opportunities are starting. We will continue to lay low so my son can prepare and hopefully not get sick, and I’ll continue with my big planning. But right now I have thirty minutes until I need to start dinner, so I think I’ll take a nap. Thanks for reading!
Please leave me a message and tell me how YOU are doing this January.