Birthday Week

20160818_092049I’m writing this post on the morning of my youngest’s 7th birthday. He’s still sleeping, and his brother is at a piano lesson, and I just finished mopping the kitchen floor. I’m waiting for it to dry so that I can go start making yeast rolls, which is one of things he requested I make for him. Yesterday, we made a chocolate cake together, and I made tomato soup which I’m going to serve for lunch when my dad and step-mother come over to help celebrate his birthday.

We aren’t doing big parties this year. I had a party for this little guy last year, and it was a big success, but he’s a happy little fellow whether or not I have a party for him. As are most kids, he’s pretty excited about getting presents as well as the simple fact that he’s turning seven.

Exactly one week from today, my eldest son will turn 10, and I’m marveling at that two-digit number. I remember the year I turned 10, my mother had a slumber party for me. I invited a bunch of girls from school. At least one of them I didn’t know as well as the others, but I guess I thought she was cool. I have very few memories of the party now, but I do remember all us girls sleeping on my basement floor, and I let every girl pick out one of my stuffed animals to sleep with. It was a fun party, but I ate too many sweets, and I got sick after it was over. I also remember some kind of squabble between two of the girls. My mom said she’d never give me a slumber party again after that, and I don’t blame her. I’m sure it was a lot of work.

I never planned for my boys’ birthdays to be one week apart in August, but it’s been convenient and fun. We have “birthday week,” and it’s at the perfect time of year right after I finish up our homeschool year and before we start the new one. Both boys are equally excited since they both get to have birthdays. We always do separate celebrations for them, so they don’t feel like they have to share a birthday. However, they do share the decorations. It’s a tradition to decorate our house for the birthdays a day before my youngest’s birthday and take them down after my eldest’s birthday. They love having a whole week to savor the decorations!

I finally finished our end-of-year slideshow. We watched it last weekend, and I gave the boys a certificate of completion for the 3rd grade and Kindergarten. So now I have a 4th grader and 1st grader! How exciting! We will begin our “new” school year in September, and when I have time, I’ll write about what curriculum we’ll be using, etc.

I have already written about how I wrap up the end-of-year and do our record-keeping on this blog, but you can also read about My End of the Year Record-Keeping on the home/schoo/life blog, if you’re interested in that.

If you have a minute, tell me what’s happening in your world this week.🙂

Happy Father’s Day

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Note: I meant to post this on my blog on Father’s Day, but I was sick over the weekend and nothing got done. It was published in the Barrow Journal on June 15, 2016, before father’s day.🙂

Father’s Day is this weekend, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my kids have a great father. No one else on earth wants my boys to succeed in their heart’s desire more than their father. This is why he spends countless hours researching whatever it is my boys express an interest in so that he can make sure they are doing it right.

He doesn’t think any age is too young to do something right. In fact, he would argue, it’s crucial to start young. When they become adults and enter the workforce, they will be competing against peers who have apprenticed, volunteered or had wealthy parents enough to send them to all the best schools. We don’t have that kind of money, but we can start them early on the right path.

As a college professor, he’s in a unique position to see that homeschooling is beneficial to kids. He uses his knowledge as an advisor when thinking about how he wants to support his own kids. I’m lucky I have his support because I know not all couples agree on whether or not to homeschool. Sometimes he and I will squabble over how to homeschool, but we rarely question the decision to homeschool in the first place.

A few years ago, my husband had a chance to work from home full-time, and he took it. For a while, we weren’t sure how this would work out, but he doesn’t regret it and neither do I. Even though he has to spend the greater part of the day in his upstairs office, he can come greet his boys in the morning and also eat lunch with us….We always watch a documentary on Netflix or PBS at lunch. (You would be surprised at how much conversation and interaction can happen between family members while watching T.V.)

My husband can also take the time to be my son’s audience while he practices piano for an hour after lunch and dinner. My son loves playing the piano. He also loves learning about composers and listening to classical music performances on YouTube. I’ve been reading an introduction to the great composers with him, but my husband is the one who helps my son look up performances online and reads about them further on the Internet and Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers.

My husband always wants to give the boys anything they want, and sometimes I have to slap my head at this. Whether we run out of a snack food or entrée they like, he runs to the store often to keep the house overstocked on everything everybody likes to eat. He does almost all the grocery shopping.

When we visit a museum, he usually lets the boys pick out a little something from the gift shop, and if one of the boys goes shopping with daddy, they usually get to pick out something special on the trip as well.

My six-year-old has had a special interest in birds for the last year or more, and my husband has promised him that someday we’ll buy him a real bird as a pet. The only thing keeping him from running to the pet store right now is that my cat is still alive.

My nine-year-old is also interested in robotics, so my husband found the best robots on the market for him to learn from and play with, and this year he also guided my nine-year-old in building a computer from scratch. His thinking is that if our son is going to work a lot on computers, he wants him to understand the hardware as well as the software. Someday he plans to help our younger son build a computer too.

Every day my husband talks to his kids and interacts with them, which I think is wonderful, as I didn’t grow up with a father that was as available as that. Some days he might inquire about their progress on their favorite digital games, getting just as excited as the boys about Hungry Shark World. He laughs with them over Calvin and Hobbes comics. Other days he might go outside and push the boys on the swings, and he’s been making up dinosaur stories to tell to my youngest son at night for several years now too.

There are many different ways to be a good father, and I know there are many great fathers out there. I’m lucky to be married to one of them. Happy Father’s Day to all you awesome dads.

What is a True Friend?

Playing a story starter game at our homeschool Valentine’s party.

Note: This column was reprinted in the Barrow Journal on February 10, 2016. It was first published in February 2013. But we had another Valentine’s party with our same friends this year as you can see in the photo above.

On Valentine’s Day I will take my boys to a small party where they will exchange valentines with their friends. Watching them form their very first friendships, I reflect on what I have learned about friendship these past forty years.

A wise person once told me that she would not know whom her best friend was until she became an old woman. Only at that time, she asserted, could she look back on her life and say, “You have been my best friend.”

Young people throw the terms “best friend,” “best friend forever,” “BFF,” or “bestie” around like balls, hoping the person they throw it to will toss it back at them.  I have no doubt that for some people, the friends they make in their youth stick with them for a lifetime.  But as we grow older, we realize that true friends are rare.

Some friends are here for only an era of our life – school days, college, married with children, a summer vacation – and then when the ties that bind them loosen, they slowly (or quickly) exit our lives. I don’t think this lessens the value of the relationship.  We need various people to learn from and lean on during the different seasons of our lives.

What can weaken a friendship? Two friends may mature at a different pace, or sometimes interests change.  Distance can have a huge impact, if someone moves, or perhaps there’s a complete change in lifestyle. Are there friendships that can withstand any or all of these conditions?

True friendships withstand the test of time and the changes that can put obstacles in the way of a stress-free relationship. That is, it’s easy to be friends with someone who is available, who you have much in common with, and who you agree with on most issues.

I’ve learned that true friendship does not have much to do with what you have in common, though, of course, commonalities are needed, especially since they bring you together. What holds your friendship together is a deep love and concern for the other person’s well being. You care, so you continue to be there for that person.

  • Friends show up in times of trouble. When I lived in Japan, I had a friend at home who died of cancer, and I’ll never forget the e-mails she wrote to me before she died. In one of them she said that once she was bound to a wheelchair, she learned who her true friends were. I wonder if I had been at home, would I have been one of them?
  • True friends give each other space to grow and change though maybe not in the way you would choose for them. As long as your friend is happy, healthy, and living in harmony with the people around them, you cheer them on.
  • True friends are honest with each other, and they accept the other person’s honesty. They don’t let petty arguments come between them. They forgive each other. They realize that they don’t always have to agree.
  • True friends give you the freedom to have other friends. They are secure enough to know that if you are a worthy friend, they don’t have to do anything to persuade you to spend time with them. They know you have enough love in your heart for all your friendships.
  • True friends aren’t difficult to meet up with, and they aren’t hard to keep in touch with, if they live far away. While we all get busy at times, true friends inform each other that their friendship is still important, and both of them make an effort.

In the past I had a friend who pulled out a calendar and listed a handful of dates over the next three months that she could schedule a time to see me. Hmm, I thought, I’m busy too, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to find time to spend together (this was before we were married with children, of course). In contrast, I have a friend in Australia who I have been e-mailing for sixteen years. Our correspondence has ebbed and flowed depending on the demands of our lives, but both of us keep it up and neither of us wait for the other to write first.

  • True friendships are those that bring out the best in you. Your friend should give you energy – not drain it.  How many times have we stayed in relationships simply because the person was present, but deep down we know they aren’t good for us? When possible we should clear our lives of people who drain us and leave space to foster relationships that fill our wells.

A friend of mine told me she believed the mark of a true friendship was intimacy – your friend knows and wants to know what is happening in your life. On some level, they stay involved in your life. Indeed, that’s the mark of a true friend.

It goes without saying that to have true friends, we must work at being a good friend.  Even after forty years, I’m still learning how to be a better friend. I hope that I can guide my boys at fostering meaningful relationships that can last or at least serve a good purpose in their lives.

What do you think? What would you add to this list? And by the way, Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Favorite Posts of 2015

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For the first time, we stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Of course, we had to take some silly selfies in the dark while we waited for the ball to drop.

I hope that 2016 is a wonderful year for you and your family! I want to thank all of you for reading my blog, “liking,” commenting and occasionally e-mailing me. Connecting with other people, especially about homeschooling and parenting is what brings joy to my life, and I hope you will continue to reach out. Thank you so much for taking the time to read whether it was one post or many. I hope what I offer helps you even a little bit!

I thought I would take a look back at some of my favorite posts from 2015. I tend to like the ones that are about my kids and their projects the best because, as you know, they’re my favorite people, and they inspire me to be the best I can be.

Project-based Homeschooling: Sketching at the Botanical Garden

Art Fridays: Homeschool Art Lessons — I’m looking forward to getting back to this in the new year!

Piano Lessons

Project-based Homeschooling: Robotics

Project-based Homeschooling: Birds & Feathers

I’m also pretty proud of How to Make a Big History Timeline for Your Wall.

In addition to this, I have many great memories from our trip to Cloudland Canyon this year as well as our other day trips, which we take as often as we can.

Finally, this is the year that my husband launched his History for Homeschoolers — all his college history lectures online for free!

I also decided to offer Free Homeschool Coaching, and I hope you’ll take me up on it!

Happy New Year!

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Counting My Blessings at Christmastime

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Artwork I commissioned my six-year-old to do. “A T-Rex eating a Christmas tree.”

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on December 23, 2015.

As I write this, my nine-year-old is completing the last class of his homeschool chemical engineering class, and there are many blessings in that. 1) He enjoyed the class and learned a few things, which I’m glad about. 2) It’s the last day I have to drive him to this class, and I’m probably gladder about that. In fact, I’ll have a couple of weeks when I don’t have to drive my kids to four different appointments. It’s a small blessing, but I welcome it.

I feel extremely blessed that, for the most part, I am in charge of our schedule. We already took a break from spelling, handwriting, math etc. so that we can prepare for the holidays. Our tree is decorated with lights and ornaments, many of them hand-made, and lights are draped along the wall. Another small-lighted tree sits in the front window. The boys are bubbling with excitement as Christmas day approaches.

The Christmas books have been pulled from their storage place, and we’re reading about the true meaning of Christmas as well as the trouble Curious George causes this time of year. One day my six-year-old told me he had an idea for how to make some Christmas ornaments, so we got out the cardboard, scissors, glue and paints, and he’s been working on those. Both boys make a good supply of paper snowflakes each year too.

Despite the challenges and financial stress homeschooling comes with, I feel blessed to see the boys grow and have the time to pursue their interests. My nine-year-old was in his first piano recital this month – a Christmas recital – and my husband commented on the fact that if he were going to school, he wouldn’t have much time to practice. I doubt he’d be taking lessons at all considering homework and the downtime he would need.

We took advantage of one of the warmer days recently to visit Dauset Trails nature center near Jackson, Georgia, and we were delighted with the small zoo and trails they have there. We’ll go back again to explore. I feel blessed to live in a state with such a rich assortment of national, state and private parks and other sites to visit. We never run out of places to explore. On top of that, we never run out of things to learn about. Our whole world is fascinating and beautiful, if you know the right things to put your attention on.

I enjoy Christmas and the holidays, and this year is promising to be a good one, but I know many people have a hard time at the holidays, and I know I’ve had some sad ones too. If nothing else, this time of year always reminds me that I don’t have the close, extended family I would like to have. Divorce, lifestyle, beliefs, politics…you name it, and there are more reasons for why my family members each stay in their corner of the United States at this time of year.

But the blessing here is that as we grow older and become more independent, we have the power to begin anew with our own families, start our own traditions, and try to do better. We can put our attention on the people who do make our world a better place, and even though it can be very hard sometimes, we can work toward our own goals. And as we get even older, we’ll continue to meet and greet new people into our lives who make this world a better place. Cultivate love, and your life will bloom.

As I wrap up this column, I can see my son in his classroom, shaking some kind of chemical concoction in a plastic bag and laughing with his classmates. I know that on the way home, he’ll tell me what he was making in the class, and he’ll tell me the odd thing or two he learned today. That is always my favorite time of day. It’s a big blessing.

I hope that your holidays are a blessing to you. I hope you are warm, healthy and with the people you love. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Winter Solstice!

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My five-year-old and I made winter solstice trees today with branches, twigs and paper snowflakes. My eight-year-old decided to make a mossy swamp tree! There is moss on its bark and Spanish moss hanging from the limbs (the dried strings of glue were left there on purpose). It even has a dead branch underneath it with red mushrooms growing on it! I love how he gets these crazy ideas and just goes with it!

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Five-year-old’s tree is on the left. Mine on the right.

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Close up of eight-year-old’s “swamp solstice tree.” LOL

What are you doing to celebrate the winter solstice?