The Future Holds Promise

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.

October 2021

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.

September

When I was a little girl, my favorite children’s book was Wacky Wednesday. I read it over and over and over again. It was about a boy who woke up on Wednesday, and everything about the world was wacky. Shoes stuck to the ceiling and planes flew backwards. As he went through his day, the world got more and more wacky, and he was the only one who could see that everything was not quite right. Finally, the day ended, and when he woke up the next morning, everything was back to normal. What a relief!

As a child, this story was funny but also cathartic. Things go wrong! Not everything is perfect. However, if we wait long enough, we’ll come out the other side.

I think we can all relate, can’t we? We might have a wacky day or a wacky year. Yep, the world is pretty wacky right now, but I’m not counting on waking up one morning and everything being back to normal. I think what we can count on, however, is our ability to adapt, grow and change when necessary, which makes it much easier to deal with the wacky world, which, actually, has always been wonkers. Some of us have a harder time with change, which makes life so much harder for them. These people can make life more difficult for others too. :/

If I’ve learned anything from this wacky time, I think it’s that whatever a person chooses to listen to, i.e. what media they read/trust, says a lot more about that person than whatever the Truth is. No media outlet, reporter, book, opinion shouter, has the whole Truth. It’s always more complicated. We think we’re so connected and that we have all the answers at our fingertips, but I think it’s even harder now to cut through the endless hype. Hmm. Less media and more meditation might help. Ha ha.

Okay, I will stop while I’m ahead.

We had a good August, and my boys are a year older! Again! Yikes. And now I’m homeschooling 5th grade again, and whoa….8th grade! It’s the last year before high school. Wow. Wow. I can’t believe we’re at this point. Every year has gone by faster than the one before it.

I’m excited about our upcoming year. Despite the pandemic, I think it’ll be a great year. The boys have a lot of activities they are involved in (all remotely). Maybe it’ll be a better year because we’re going to be home together everyday. With time moving as fast as it is, I know my boys will be growing up and living away from this house before I know it. So I’m always going to appreciate this extra bit of closeness we had together.

Still, I hope hope hope that later this year we’ll have some kind of relief, and it’ll be safer to resume in-person lessons and meet-ups. Fingers crossed. If not, we’ll deal with it, right?

At some point I’ll write about our plans for 5th and 8th grade, but I can’t promise when. I’ll probably pepper my monthly updates with tidbits, but I may wait until the end of the year to give a comprehensive overview of our curriculum because I always end up tweaking my plans and letting some things slide. This is also the year my husband and I will be doing some serious thought about high school for our eldest son. It’s so exciting! But we have a lot to consider and research. I’m thankful that my husband is big on research, and this is one area he seems to like researching.

We took a couple weeks off in August, and most of the summer we were on a lighter schedule. It was good to keep a little structure in our days, but we also played a lot of games, read lots of books, and enjoyed many movies and documentaries. Here are some of our favorites:

Exploding Kittens — Our new favorite card game. It has a big giggle quotient. 🙂

The Wrinkle in Time Quintet — My younger son is really enjoying this classic book series right now, although I don’t own this particular boxed set. We had some old copies and also used our Kindle to get the whole series. My eldest son really enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time when I read it to him many moons ago, and it was my favorite book when I was in the 4th grade. I even wrote a letter to Madeline L’Engle, and she wrote me back!

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church — I read this book for myself, and I can’t recommend it enough. I first heard about it during an interview with the author on NPR’s Fresh Air last year, and listening to her speak about her upbringing, the realizations she made in her late twenties, and the love that she still has for her family, I wanted to read her book. If I find the time, I may write a longer review of it, but I do highly recommend it. I like it because this is not a vengeful exposé. It’s a thoughtful retelling of her experiences and the events and thought processes in realizing her family’s and church’s mistakes. And it’s a good testament that yelling, spewing insults, and arguing do not change people’s minds. What changes minds is building relationships in kind and gentle ways. Something the whole world could learn from right now!

Connected — A Netflix original, and a truly great documentary that shows how our world is much smaller than we think it is. Watch the trailer at the link. (And remember: I try to post all the educational programs we watch on Pinterest.)

So please tell me: how are you feeling right now? Are you managing okay through this wacky time? What plans do you have for this upcoming school year?

April

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.

With the family–

Zumbo’s Just Desserts
Star Trek Voyager

Just me–

Unorthodox
Kim’s Convenience
Grantchester — Just started the 4th season!

Please leave me a comment and tell me how you are doing during this self-isolation period. Take Care~

March Madness & Silver Linings

I wrote my monthly post for March on the 5th, but so much in the world has changed since then that I thought another March post might be warranted. Whew. How are you doing? I hope your family is healthy and you are coping with the self-isolation that is so important for all of us right now. We have a high risk person living in this house, and there are many elderly people we know and love who are high risk too not just because of their age but because of their health too. Everyone has the right to live as long as they possibly can, so we’re taking this very seriously.

We are okay right now. As you know, we homeschool and work from home, so not much changes for us on a daily basis. However, it’s spring, and this is the time of year we love to go on day trips with the boys. It’s sad we can’t do that, yet we want to stay safe, and we want to keep others safe. So, we’re willing to do what must be done.

All of our outside lessons have been either cancelled or changed to a remote online (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime etc.) format. Last week was the first time trying that, and it went well. All of my son’s piano events, except for the state competition, have been cancelled. That’s a shame after all the hard work he’s done. The state competition was postponed, and now we’re working on a video to submit for the regional auditions. We’re grateful they are finding a way for the competition to continue, but it’s been a bit deflating as well. We’ve had to find ways to keep our spirits up and make the best of the situation.

For me, that has meant getting outside whenever possible. We’re starting to get spring-like weather, so I’ve been taking long walks and working in the yard a little too. I haven’t had much time these past few years to work on our yard, and I’ve missed it, so that’s a silver lining! As the weeks tick by (and I’m sure they will as this is going to last longer than we think), I’m hoping to find time for some baking, extra lesson planning, and maybe more art projects with the boys. We’ll see. Or, we’ll just stay as busy as we ever were because as I said, not too much changes in our daily routine!

For my 13-year-old, we bought him some new music, which always cheers him up. Now is a perfect time for him to move on to new pieces despite the competition. For my 10-year-old, and for all of us, we’ve been paying more attention to the birds outside and using our binoculars more. The boys are also taking occasional walks or runs with us around the neighborhood too.

Since it’s nearing the end of the year, and we’ve all felt pretty distracted, I’ve instructed my 7th grader to just focus on his priorities now: science, literature and math. He’s done a lot of writing this year already, so we’re slowing down on that, and other workbooks and things can wait awhile. I’ve surprised myself by giving the 4th grader more work to do on his own this year, and he just started using a similar rotation system that my 7th grader is using in order to pace himself and schedule his lessons each day. I say I’m surprised because I wasn’t planning on doing that with him this year, but sometimes things just progress naturally and it feels right to introduce him to stuff. This is the best part of homeschooling — kids usually show you when they are ready for something. That is, if you let them.

Another homeschool surprise that I wasn’t planning for this year: We started watching A History of the United States, 2nd Edition, on the Great Courses Plus, and both my boys kind of like it! (Though I have to explain a lot to the 10-year-old.) It’s really long, so I don’t know if we’ll finish it, and I’m also a little leery that it’s taught by three white guys, but we’re watching it with a critical eye and will be supplementing quite a bit over the coming years! Luckily my husband is a historian, so he’s good at supplementing our study of history, and he prefers focusing on social history more than political history.

Other than this, the 10-year-old and I finishedThe Yearling, and he’s also finished reading all the books in the Shiloh series by himself. He loved those. (Thanks to my sister for giving him the first book in that series!) Now we’re reading The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz together (thanks to my boys’ cousins for gifting us this book!), and he started the first book about some warrior cats: Warriors #1: Into the Wild by himself, and he says he likes it so far.

I’m still reading the James Herriot book that I mentioned in my last March post, and as for my 13-year-old, he’s still plowing through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although this is a very difficult time for many people, I hope that after it’s over, there will be many silver linings, such as:

  • people will value their community more and keeping using these new ways of communicating as well as meeting face-to-face
  • working from home will become more standard, especially for those with families
  • online learning will become a more viable option for those who need it and benefit from it
  • people might learn that slowing down is a good thing
  • certain professions will become more highly respected, such as teachers, grocery store clerks, garbage pick up, truckers — all those people who keep our society running smoothly (not to mention our doctors and nurses!)
  • perhaps some families will decide to keep homeschooling because they realize it’s working better for them?
  • and finally….people will learn how to wash their hands properly! (I credit my mom for teaching me to wash my hands every time I return home from somewhere.)

What are your silver linings during this pandemic?

January

Happy New Year! I hope your new year has had a good start. Despite all the distressing news I read in the media, I am hopeful that 2020 will be a good year. I hope it will contain more good than bad. I believe that no matter how misguided some people may be, deep down everyone wants to live a peaceful life that is in harmony with others. I hope that this desire will eventually lead people to see what actions are most helpful to the world, and they will carry out those actions. I hope this even if I don’t always feel it’s possible.

Thinking of actions that are most helpful to the world, I sometimes feel helpless that I can’t do more. My time and mental energy is strapped. And, yet, I feel I’m doing something very important. I’m raising two children, and not only this, I’m homeschooling them. I’m trying to give them a wide view of the world — not a narrow one! I tell them about all kinds of different people, cultures, beliefs, and ideas. I will keep telling them about these things, and hopefully, when they are finished with their homeschooling, they will continue to learn on their own. Above everything, I try to teach them that learning never stops. We should never assume that we have the answers to everything.

My action in this world is an investment in the future. I can only hope that my boys will be compassionate, giving and kind-hearted people. I don’t expect them to be famous or passionate activists, though maybe they will be. They can be whoever they want to be. But I do expect them to be kind to everyone they meet. I expect them to at least not be blinded about other people’s suffering. I expect them to care about the Earth and its future because that is how you care about the future inhabitants of Earth, including your great-grandchildren.

We can’t all make big, grand gestures, but that’s okay. I think all the small actions, the small stones, ripple out farther than we can possibly know. I hope that my blog is a small stone. I hope all the time and effort I put into homeschooling is a much bigger stone.

Speaking of my blog, you may have noticed that for this past year, I have mostly written monthly updates vs. “how to homeschool” posts. I think this is a natural progression as my boys get older, but also, the old format doesn’t seem necessary anymore. That’s because this blog contains years worth of elementary homeschool posts, and I think that’s more than enough information to help people on their homeschool journey.

I’ve enjoyed writing it all, and I’ve especially enjoyed the rare comments and emails I get telling me that my posts are helpful. As I go forward with middle school and high school, however, I’m going to move my exclusively homeschool content to MY STORE in form of pdf resources. And, yes, I’m going to sell the information for a small amount of money. While I love writing and sharing, and I would do it free forever, if I could, we are making huge sacrifices while homeschooling, and I just can’t do all this work for free anymore. I hope you understand.

I will, of course, write a post introducing any new resource I write, and I still have two years of elementary school with my younger son, so there may be a few posts about that. But for the most part, I want to use this blog as my place to relax from a busy day and reflect on daily life, nature, books, music, (maybe documentaries?), and other things I’m learning whether it’s with the boys or not. In other words, I’ll keep writing my monthly updates.

If you have read this entire blog post, thank you, and if you have been a regular reader of my blog, I thank you even more. Have a wonderful 2020!

Twenty Years Ago

Me and a friend (who is inside the head of the costume) at a festival in Japan. She became one of my best friends from my year in Japan, and we still correspond frequently via email. She lives in Australia. 🙂

It seems a bit crazy to think that exactly twenty years ago, I was ringing in a new century at the top of a sky scraper in India. I was spending a year in Japan teaching English as a participant of the JET Programme, and during the winter break, a friend of mine and I traveled in India for three weeks. Later, during spring break, I went with a group of people to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines. I was twenty-eight years old.

On a walk near my apartment in Japan.

When I returned home, I got a job in the International Affairs office of a local university. I remember reading a faculty member’s article about students studying abroad, which I never did — both my sojourns overseas were through work programs — but I remember reading that the memories of an experience like this stay more vivid than all the other memories in your life. This is because you are somewhere so different — literally everything in your daily life is different — so these images, feelings and experiences stay with you longer. It’s like a gift that keeps giving.

Another favorite place to walk.

I can say that this is 100% true. I can remember many things about my year abroad, yet the years since then have blurred together. My husband will say, “Remember when we did this?” and I can’t remember! My memories from high school and college are also vague. Of course, I have many good memories from these times and other periods of my life, but they just aren’t as vivid as the memories from my time in Japan, India and the Philippines.

Me and the senior class at the middle school where I worked. I miss all the kids at that school. Just think — they are in their thirties by now!

If you or your children ever get an opportunity to study abroad or work abroad, I would say that you shouldn’t pass up the chance. Actually living in a different culture — not just visiting it — can be an eye-opening experience. My year in Japan was a turning point in my life. I learned so much about myself, my culture, and the whole world, and what I learned still informs my decisions today. It made me wiser, more compassionate, more aware of other people’s sufferings, and I gained a tremendous amount of confidence. Though I think I was too shy and insecure to do my best while teaching and living in Japan, I was very surprised that when I returned home, I was a much more confident person, more outgoing, and less shy in my own culture. That was a surprising outcome for me.

At the New Year I usually reflect on our past year, and I see many people reflecting on this past decade. Indeed, so much has happened to me in this decade! But the other day I realized it has been twenty years since I lived in Japan, and I wanted to write about it. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. Maybe that’s because the memories remain in the forefront of my mind, or maybe it’s because living abroad was one dream I managed to make come true.

When I returned from Japan twenty years ago, I could have never predicted where I would be today. Where were you twenty years ago? Could you have predicted where your life would be today? 

Twenty years ago, I did not even have a digital camera. The images you see here are scanned images of print photos. I took many photos on my journey. I guess I should scan them all someday!

December

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:

  1. Kids.
  2. Birds.
  3. Dogs. (Or any kind of pet or animal.)
  4. Music, especially classical.
  5. Birds.
  6. Dessert. (Whichever is your favorite.)
  7. Good books.
  8. Nature. Get out into it more!
  9. Birds. (You can never spend too much time birdwatching! It’s very good for your mental health!)
  10. 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.

Maybe you can add something to this list?

A very, rare, shared photo of me. But sometimes I should probably show my face. 🙂 Have a Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays.

October

It’s October, and our year is well on its way. (Even if it does feel like August outside.)

This year I’m putting in the effort to plan our week’s lessons on the weekend, and this has been helpful for me. Writing, grammar, cursive, math, history, science, Spanish, Chinese and more — not necessarily in that order — but we’re getting to all of it. Usually.

We also have a plant project going on that may last all year. We’re learning about trees, especially the ones in our yard, and the plants that grow in the woods. My eldest son got some field guides for his birthday, and he’s making use of them. 🙂

All the photos in this post were taken on a day hike that we took last weekend. We never plan these excursions. We just wake up and decide it’s a good day to go.

My son requested a science curriculum this year, so we’re trying CK-12’s free, online textbook, Earth Science Concepts for Middle School. He likes it so far, but we don’t have time for it everyday, which is frustrating. There’s so much to do!

We started U.S. history, and I found a cool kids book at the library about Cahokia. We are also going to try another library book about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, which we learned about on our trip out west. That should be interesting! Haven’t found time for Ancient Rome, though. We’ll have to stick to one history subject at a time.

We finished reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, which was fun (book review forthcoming on the home/school/life blog), and now we’re reading Freedom Train, a little book I own because I bought it when I assisted the author at a writer’s conference many years ago (before I had children). It’s a good read and will give them insight into racism and social justice.

My eldest son has finally caught the Harry Potter fever, and he’s already on the fifth book, which he reads at night before bed. My younger son is reading pretty well now too. He likes to read comics in his spare time just like his older brother, and I’m currently reading Old Yeller to him, which he remembers, but he wanted to hear it again. It’s one of those classics that never gets old.

Every morning I roll our round table out onto our front porch to do our lessons. It’s a bit of a hassle to move the table, but I don’t mind. It’s beautiful outside in the mornings. We get distracted by the birds, bugs, our dog, and the sunlight (we have to move the table to and fro as the light changes), but all the distractions are worth it. I let them (the boys and dog) take breaks and run around the trees. It makes me happy to be outside, and I hope the boys will remember their mornings spent on the front porch. Pretty soon it’ll be too cool to go outside.

I wrote a post about our curriculum like I do every year, but this time, it’ll be posted only on the home/school/life blog. (I need to save time.) I’ll be sure to link to it from here. I’ve also written about how I schedule our lessons, and I’ll post that here in the near future.

I’ve never seen a tree grow like this in the woods before. Can anyone guess what made it do that? I have no idea!

I’m enjoying our routine, our learning, our nature excursions, the music in the house as well as local recitals we attend. If you saw the Excel spreadsheet that I meticulously work on to plan each day you would probably think I was one of the those uber-organized freaks. Maybe I am? But I have come to this over six years of homeschooling and realize that it’s necessary when you stay home with two kids and take on their entire education. When you think your kids are probably college-bound, and there are three hours of instrument practice between the two of them each day, you’ve got to be organized. You have to plan meticulously to get everything in (almost everything, anyway) and leave a little free time too.

There’s a lot that goes undone. I don’t cook meals from scratch. I don’t scrub my floors or the bathrooms every week. (Though I do clean. And do laundry. Every single day.) I don’t visit friends or family very much. I don’t take days off or ever visit the bookstore by myself just for the fun of it. I don’t get much writing, photography or other pleasures done. But I consider it a time of life where my priorities are elsewhere.

(There are positives to being busy with kids, though. I don’t spend too much time on social media or dwell too long about negative things!)

I don’t think there are any people who truly understand this lifestyle we’re living except maybe other homeschoolers. I say “maybe” because believe it or not, I was criticized once by another homeschool mom. It made me realize that within the homeschooling movement, there are a lot of different opinions about how to homeschool. But most homeschoolers have a live and let live attitude because they get judged a lot. And most of them get it. They take full advantage of this lifestyle and know why it’s worth it. Other people don’t need to understand, and maybe it’s a good thing. If every parent who could manage it understood the benefits of homeschooling, then….well, there would be too many homeschoolers, and the resources would be stretched and there would be parents who were doing it for the wrong reasons. (And that sometimes happens now, unfortunately.)

But I’m off on a trail that I didn’t mean to go down. I just wanted to say that October is here! We have a full year of learning ahead of us. We have good books to read and excursions to take. We have concerts to attend at the local university (we’ve already been to several). We have homeschool science classes to attend at the nature center (yay!). My eldest son will be giving more recitals and attending studio classes and other cool events arranged by his piano teacher. My younger son is making strides on the cello. It’s all so exciting.

Every time I check off the plans completed for a day or week, it feels very satisfying. I wish I could blog more about it, but you’ll have to make do with these occasional long, windy posts that I write here and there and try to edit into something cohesive. If you’d like for me to write about something specific, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send a private e-mail.

I hope you are having a fulfilling autumn too. I wish you peace and joy and perfect weather. (We’re still waiting for that weather here in Georgia. :/ )

A year of meaningful work

Here it is — the end of April — and while our homeschool year won’t officially end until July or August, I begin now to start thinking about what I want to finish, what I’ll carry over to next year, what to work on over the summer, and we start to shift to other meaningful learning opportunities, such as gardening and admiring the spring flowers. I mean, how can we not get outside when the weather is so beautiful? (The photos in this post come from a morning we spent at the botanical garden.)

When I began homeschooling, I wanted to give my children a say in what they were learning, which I thought — and now know for sure — would motivate them to learn. I also wanted the chance to pick subjects I felt was important to teach them, and I wanted to decide when and how they should learn it. After seven years of homeschooling, I’m so pleased with what my boys are accomplishing and who they are becoming. I do think that homeschooling has made all the difference.

Whatever path a parent picks to educate their kids will have its challenges, and nothing is perfect. Sometimes I wish I had more resources so that I could provide additional activities for the boys, but I think we’re doing pretty good with what we’ve got. I’m realizing that any concern I had about homeschooling in the beginning is working itself out in the long run. That’s the thing about homeschooling — it takes the long view. There are no deadlines for anything like there is in traditional school. That makes a big difference for kids.

I will be writing a bit about the boys’ projects in upcoming posts. I said I would stop doing that, but what can I say? I have to share some of it! I’ll try to keep it brief.

I’m starting to realize that homeschooling my boys is one of my projects, and I’m enjoying it more than I ever thought I would. Through their interests, I’ve learned so much, but as I sit down and think about what’s important to teach — I get so much out of that too. I enjoy exploring curriculums as much as actually using them. These may not be subjects that my kids have asked for, but I’m not ramming it down their throats either. We take our time, and I back off, if they dislike something. Over time, I’ve realized this approach has kept the boys from hating “school stuff.” They even seem to like it sometimes.

We are, of course, doing the basics, such as math and grammar and writing. I feel like I’m relearning these subjects, and it’s great. I am enjoying the Life of Fred math books just as much as my boys, and it’s not so much because of the story about Fred, but I enjoy getting a review in math in a way I can understand it! And though I love to write, I’m starting to understand how to teach writing to someone who isn’t a natural at it, and I find that very satisfying.

I’m also so pleased with our progress in world history — this past year and a half we’ve covered prehistory, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, the Hebrews, Ancient India, Ancient China, and we’re going to be finishing up Ancient Greece soon too. We’ve read some fun books and watched interesting documentaries, and just because we’re moving onto another time and place in history doesn’t mean we’ll stop learning about these. As we find more resources, we’ll add them to our list.

This year we began studying two foreign languages! I know I mentioned that we were going to study Spanish, but I also added Chinese about mid-year. I feel like this year has been more about figuring out how to study and teach a language than actually making a lot of progress with it, but in its own way, that is progress, and I’m so excited. Eventually I will write a post about our foreign language study, but I’m happy with it so far, and I am determined to learn it as thoroughly as I hope my boys will learn it.

The challenge is fitting it all into our days. I try to balance lesson time with my son’s work (his piano practice) and our free time too. There are things I have to let go of, such as wanting to read books all morning on the sofa or weekly art lessons. (I’m lucky if I get to one every two months.) There are also subjects I put on hold. I know we’ll get to all of it over the next seven years (only seven years until my eldest graduates! what?!), but sometimes I wish there were more days in the week.

I think I always lament about time more than anything else. But I don’t mean to complain. It’s more of an observation that I have so many things I’d like to do, and it’s impossible to do them all. But that’s good. It forces me to pick what is most important and spend my time doing that. I don’t waste time. (Sometimes I daydream, but that’s not wasted time.) And I hope that as the boys grow up, they will learn to prioritize their work and make time for fun too.

How has your year been going?