Monday, May 4, 2015

Year 3/Week 34: A Bittersweet Aloha

This is my last homeschool blog post for Midlife Homeschool Mom...I think. Since I am tearing down the classroom to make it into a dining room again for my oldest daughter's wedding shower this weekend (we have four more weeks of school but it can all be done without the classroom), I thought it would be the right time to give an appropriate send-off to my first/best/only attempt at homeschool in this lifetime.

The first thing that I realized when I started packing up the classroom was how much STUFF I have accumulated! A lifelong bookworm and pack rat, this adventure in homeschooling was a total magnet for every book, notebook, game or other shiny doodad that I ever wanted to find its way into my home. I know now that I probably love learning more than either of my boys because the neat stuff I found for every subject was definitely more interesting to me than they turned out to be for them!

That's also the sad part - I wanted to give them my true love for learning, but I don't think I accomplished that miracle. I think I did break down the barriers between home and school so that they will always carry the idea that learning can be anywhere, but I don't think they'll ever read or research for fun the way I did (for goodness sake, I read the ENCYCLOPEDIA for fun when I was a kid - who does that?!?!) But at least I got to do a lot of that with them and we had a ton of good times along the way.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I restarted my own education two years into our schooling and at this writing, I'm three weeks away from completing an entire course in Medical Coding that should start me on a brand new journey in my life - one that requires lifelong learning to keep up my skills - so that should take care of my curiosity these days!

Anyway, it's been a privilege, a joy, a relief and a blessing to have had these three years with my boys every day and teach and learn with them. Since my husband has been working from home this whole time as well, we have had a rare opportunity that many families in our country no longer have - 24 hour a day family time combined with work and school. Sometimes it's been very hard to be together so much all the time, but mostly it has been the most amazing experience that I know we all will remember and cherish the rest of our lives.

So, to these last three years and all the magical (and NOT so magical) moments we've had...I've decided to say "aloha". Since it means "hello"and "goodbye" to us as well as the original Hawaiian meanings of "peace", "affection", "compassion" and "mercy", it seems the perfect word to sum up our experience. And since it doesn't mean a definite goodbye, it also means that we - and life - are always ready to embrace this experience again if it is meant for us in the future.

Thank You, Lord, Thank You, Homeschooling, Thank You OLPH school for taking care of my boys after this....and Aloha.

Midlife Homeschool Mom

Monday, January 5, 2015

Year 3/Week 16: Homeschool Halftime and our Hail Mary pass to the end zone...

Happy New Year 2015! This last year has been a completely full, tumultuous, difficult year that we are happy to see behind us. Besides losing two deeply beloved family members, getting really kicked in the tail by income taxes and having our rusted water heater flood our basement, we had a rough time in home school. Ever since last year, I've felt like our school was a car with a tire getting ready to go flat - bumpy, unsure and scary. It wasn't feeling right and I was realizing I needed help. I had looked for different curricula and tutors, but nothing seemed to come up. Homeschool was getting harder and harder for all of us. These blog posts became fewer and fewer because it was hard to talk about.

This time last year, my husband and I had a real "Come to Jesus" talk with the boys about the reality of homeschool if their attitude didn't change (and by "they", I mean my oldest son). While we continued on as best we could, each week that passed left me feeling  more and more worried that I wouldn't be able to meet my oldest son's specials needs as well as the harder high school requirements that are looming ahead in another year. I didn't have anywhere else to turn - and we weren't ready to go back to public school - so I just dug my trenches deeper and kept fighting.

Fast forward to this fall. We started school a little late with a newly painted schoolroom, but I have to admit, with no enthusiasm at all on my part. One particularly lazy Sunday, hubby and I had a chance phone conversation with a neighbor while drinking coffee and were struck with the revelation that our new church's parochial school might be an excellent option for the boys. Since I was already enrolled in a college program to certify me to work as a medical coder next year which would cover the expenses, we started investigating the possibility and after many meetings, tours, and prayer, I can finally say:

This is our last year of homeschool!

For now. Our original plan was never for me to homeschool permanently, but only to get us out of an environment that wasn't good for our family, which we did. Starting in the fall, we'll be dealing with all new schools, whether private or public, which is a plus no matter how you look at it. Although I do feel like a failure for not continuing our lovely homeschool for another seven years (yikes!), I know that is not what God intended for me or the family. We are still taking it one year at a time (because once Danny finishes 8th grade next year, we'll still have to make the decision of which high school he attends). The one part that is NOT scary is that we now know that homeschool is always here for us as an option and we definitely know we can do it! Also, after some work experience under my belt, I will be qualified to work from home as a medical coder in a year or two, so I even have the option to homeschool later AND work, if need be.

But until the end of this school year, we homeschool. Today was our first day back after winter break and I think it was physically painful for all of us to adjust. We had some nice family reading time, some great math review together and laughs, but we also had our first tears when Danny's science assignment required some math that we hadn't quite covered yet. So, it continues. I am trying to treasure each and every day of homeschool now, the same way that I treasure their growing years after losing the girls to adulthood already. We are blessed to have this. And we are blessed to have the option to leave it as well.

Happy New Year and God Bless you all!

Year 3/Week 7: Homeschool is the easy way out...and the hard way

We backed into homeschooling. We had never even thought of homeschooling until the public school system completely failed us. We worked for over two years with our school administrators and teachers, attended countless meetings, drove our son into Baltimore for extensive and expensive evaluations and cried countless tears..all for nothing.
Because we had no choice for our sons education and mental health, we dove into homeschooling. In some ways, and I'm sure to some people, it looked like we took the easy way out. We didn't stay and fight, because I didn't want anyone we had to FORCE to do the right thing teaching my children. And because it was such a relief and Godsend, it did feel easy at first. But I now know all the reasons that homeschooling is the harder least for me and my children.

1. Homeschool owns my life. At one time, I sent my sons to "professional teachers" and I did my own mommy things. These "things" included cleaning, grocery shopping, and a part time job,  which quickly fell by the wayside and were replaced by class preparation, grading papers, driving the boys to homeschool classes in art, music and PE..oh, and teaching various subjects from English to ancient Egyptian history. At the exact moment in my life when I thought I was going to escape these four walls and return to "my" life after a wonderful decade of being a  stay at home mom, I was sucked right back in without even a preschool class reprieve. This one hit me the hardest.

2. I..and I responsible for my sons' education. That one thought has kept me awake countless nights. I can no longer just drop my child at the big brick building and assume all his education needs will be taken care of. If I forget to cover health this week...they don't learn it. Period. I can't blame anyone else, which leads me to...

3. There is no one to blame but me. This is the hardest one. As much as I hated arguing with the school, at least I was the"good guy" and they were the "bad guy". I had righteous reasons to complain and somewhere to aim. Now, the only person I can blame when my son doesn't know in the mirror.

All these things are humbling and terrifying and I often wish they were not my life...but when I try to think of myself on the sidelines of my sons' education again, I really can't picture myself being meek and mild again and so...

4. I've become very choosy about whom I will let teach my children. Now that I know what they need and how they work, I will need to trust a new teacher an awful lot before I will feel comfortable leaving them in charge. They are no longer just glorified babysitters who educate my boys in some strange, indecipherable method which I could never do...I am doing that job and I have expectations now. This one didn't hit me until this year and surprised me.

So don't let anyone fool you that homeschoolers sit around all day and make cookies in our pajamas...

Because actually we DO do that .....but we do much more. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Year 3/Week 5: Homeschool performance reviews

As many homeschoolers know, one of the hardest parts of being a homeschool mom is the feeling of ...independence?...isolation?...alone at the top-ness?...well, the feeling that since your own homeschool is one-of-a-kind and happily unique, there really is no one to give you that daily feedback about how you are doing in your very important work. Motherhood is by design a thankless that, I mean we do all our mothering unconditionally without expectation of thanks..but homeschool parenting is motherhood on speed. So, once in a while, when we get that moment when the skies open up and God reaches down and shows us how we are is a beautiful thing. :)

Soooo..this is how it happened. We are studying Ancient Egypt at the moment, so the exhibit nearby at the Natural History Museum was our first family field trip (happily, with my hubby as well) and it went splendidly. We got to the mall around noon to a perfect 70 degree day and slightly cloudy, so no sunburn worries. We dropped by the Insect Zoo exhibit on our way to the mummies...

Danny was fascinated by the leaf bugs

..but once we got there, the boys did a great job of relating our current reading of   The Golden Goblet , Story of the World 1 and other readings we've had this month. Ben was proud of himself that he could identify the parts of the mummy on xray and took all the quizzes...

Of course, there was lots of cool stuff. A great 3000 year old inner sarcophagus...

..and even a visit to the Live Butterfly enclosure that Ben REALLY wanted to do and then wanted to leave in five minutes because REALLY BIG BUTTERFLIES were flying around his head! Hahaha

      Once we were done with our "planned visit", we made another attempt to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives. We had tried this on our last visit in the spring, but something major must have been going on at the Archives that day, because the line had been out the door and around the corner and we hadn't even bothered. But this line! We got in right away and as we were in line to view the documents, I was going over the meaning of the documents and why we had each one (one to declare our independence, one to define what our new country and what we stood for, and a third to further delineate rights of individuals in our country). I was trying to do this in a way both boys would understand simply and easily and they would remember from our last two year study of American History. All was going swimmingly and I was happy we all could remember so much of what we had learned, when a 30-something gentlemen behind us asked "Are you a teacher". Gratefully, I did not say "no", since I've finally learned that I AM, so I laughed and pointed to the boys and said "We are homeschoolers!". At this point, the man completely surprised me by saying, "That was the most simple and straightforward explanation of these documents that I've ever heard. I asked that because I teach college-age students and I haven't heard anything before that was that easy to understand." Wow. Just wow. I just got a pat on the back by the Great Teacher Review Board in the sky and I floated on Cloud Nine until I got home. Some days are just that good.
We get it, we really get it

Point and match. I'm done. Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are. 

Obligatory yearly Easter island Head 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Year 3/Week 4/Final bodycount...any *&$% day...

One of the most frustrating things, if not the MOST frustrating thing, about homeschooling a child with a behavioral/neurological disorder is that you can count on...absolutely nothing. There is  no guarantee any day will go well, and more likely, if you've had a couple of good days under your belt, the odds increase exponentially each day that THIS day will be a disaster. And this can happen any time on any day. 


Let me repeat that. Uncertainty and surprise are my life homeschooling with ASD in our lives...not to mention the looming menace of my health issues. But at least my health issues stay mostly at a constant low ebb and I've worked most of our classes around the possibility that the boys may have to work alone. But ASD...that just lives to create chaos in our school.

Our week was going pretty well. The basics were getting done and even though Danny seemed to be stalling every day and pushing me to the limit every evening before he was finally done, he was doing all his work and getting great scores. Then today. I already knew today was going to be tough on me, because I had a really scary episode with my back last night..the worst since my surgery, in fact. So I had already planned the boys were only going to do the basics and I wouldn't ask more of them. Easy, right?

Four hours after we started school, Danny had done exactly 12 math problems independently. Twelve. Addition and multiplication problems. And nothing else. For those four hours, I had checked on him, encouraged him, tried to help him...and then when I realized he has accomplished next to nothing, I just lost it.  Frustrated, mad, pissed off, you name it. It's just beyond my comprehension. I'm tired, in pain, out of patience, it's Friday name it. 

Then he puts his head down and cries.

And I'm done.  Again.

And I'm  putty in his hands. He breaks down and tells me he is having "one of the days" where he can't even add 9+9. And he didn't tell me. Just kept trying and trying and nothing made sense for him. And I feel awful. My whole day flips topsy turvy in 2 seconds and I am hugging him and kissing him and trying to make it work again. And realizing how a "normal" school would never understand that on Monday we'll have to stop and review addition and subtraction and basic multiplication. Again. Until it kicks in again. That's when I'm so glad he's with me...and scared he'll never be able to go back to a "real school".  Ever.

So, we sit on my bed and I study my college text and he reads his reading novel..and hold hands and smile. And I hug him every five minutes until he's ready to move to the next subject. 

I'm so ready for the weekend.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Year 3/Week 4: A Return to Normalcy..for us, anyway...

This is our fourth week of homeschool for Year 3 and the first day of fall. So thankful this summer is was a bear! And for the first time in our 5th and 7th grade schooling, we are finally falling in a regular routine and our house is beginning to recover. Once the painting was done, it took me a full week to restock the schoolroom (not including the space we are losing because the bay window ceiling is still leaking) and de-junkify the front living room. Today we finally got the TV room decluttered and vacuumed and it FINALLY feels ready to face company again. Now, once I get my office and upper hallway cleared of the stuff we loaded out of the basement from the flood...and box up or donate all the stuff in the basement...and move the basement furniture...and get the carpet in the basement replaced..we'll be set :)

The boys are on a regular schedule of a core daily program of math, English, reading, instrument practice, Bible/religion study, and what I call MYH (Move Your Hiney time, which is a daily chart of stretching, strength exercises and cardio they can choose from to complete their 30 minutes daily) and they are falling into step pretty well. We've still had to work at Danny not getting distracted while on the computer for math and English, but I've got to admit, he is really trying hard. Which is nice after last week, where I was SERIOUSLY one step from driving him up and enrolling him in school...public school, church school, ANY school! But we got through that (for now) and we're doing okay.

Our school week includes "add-ins" of history, geography, science, health and art as I can fit them in and find good lessons. Music is still weekly band lessons with Encore Academy and I'm just as excited as the boys that we are moving up to Intermediate Band this year. Woot!

This is our first year not using the Sonlight Instructor's Guide for history, although I did buy a good amount of the Sonlight Readers to use in conjunction with our Story of the World studies this year. I've made the executive decision (which I am still realizing I can do) to limit our studies to Egypt, Greece, Rome and as much of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as we can get to this year. Since this is Danny's last year with me (and it SO, I want to touch on as much of World History as I can before he goes. I wish we could have made it to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year, but we got rained out on the only free weekend before baseball started. Serious bummer for Mom/Teacher.

But the reason we are missing the Ren Fest is awesome...the boys are playing baseball for the very first time (which is also most of their cardio for MYH time)...and loving it! I couldn't be more tickled, because this is really hubby's sport and he is right in there helping them practice, getting their equipment and taking them to the batting cages, practices and games. I finally feel like I'm seeing one of the biggest payoffs we'll get from homeschooling - having enough time in our schedule to try different activities including this one, which is a homerun for everyone this time. :)

 Danny's first baseball team warming up before the game...he's #53 :)
Ben at his first practice before he got rained out..complete with game face :)

So, now that the house is fairly under control and the boys have their work finished in good time today, I'm off to list more of my growing pile of "give aways" on my eBay store and do a little studying for my own classes while I'm at it. Yee-haw! Talk to you during my next breather....MLM

Monday, September 8, 2014

Year 3/Week 2: Seriously?

Just looking at today's title, I couldn't believe we are actually homeschooling into Year 3 - who would have thought?!?! Many things have changed over the years, including the frequency of my blogs, but it's a great way to start the year, so here goes (many pardons to all my Facebook buddies who have already seen these in real time)...

Week 2, you say? What happened to Week 1? Well, let me show you....
This was our classroom during the first week of school.

I guess I also need to let you know that we started our school year AFTER Labor Day, as well. And AFTER my birthday, the day after Labor Day...and even though we started as late as 9/3/14, we still didn't start a full schedule because we were still in the middle of  THIS: repainting a good portion of our first floor (which we had been putting off for years...and, obviously, until the end of this summer.) We had a fun first week, though! After our traditional first day picture and annual "field trip" to Dunkin Donuts...

First day of Homeschool 2014-2015

we had an easy day of grocery shopping and then reading happily after finding Minecraft novels at BJs...
Third year of homeschool and finally found books they really LIKE to read!

Finding these books was a real Godsend to me since the boys have humored me by reading books I've assigned or helped them choose at the library, but they LOVED these. Finally! I may still have to assign reading time, but they won't complain..:)

Our second day of school was fun and busy. We headed up to Mt. Airy first to Talbot Run Equestrian Center for a homeschool Intro to Horseback Riding lesson. It was the first time the boys were ever on a horse, and they had a fantastic time. Danny giggled the whole time and Ben looked like he was born to ride...they are already bugging me when we are going next! Since it's an expensive hobby, we'll probably only be able to go once a month or so, but looking forward to giving them these great opportunities in whatever years we have left at Varga School.

 Danny and Ben sitting like champs

We finished our Thursday classes with a "math/spelling bee" on the car ride further north to our band lesson in Hampstead. Love our Encore Academy instructor and's a great perk and break for all of us each week. Our first week ended with a relaxing day on Friday while Dad took over the boys and watched over their reading assignment and took them for haircuts while I fled to the library to study for my Medical Coding class. After we were all done, we headed to Rockburn Park for a fun class through Howard County Parks and Rec, Introduction to Geocaching. We had a great time, found a few practice caches and got our smartphones set up to do more in the future. Loved it!

So, we were lucky that our first week really didn't require the classroom. We kicked tail finishing the painting over the weekend so that today (Monday), we were ready for REAL classes like this:

Ben and Danny doing their Math lesson in our new setup

Besides  not having things hung on the walls yet, we did pretty good and covered our first "full" day of subjects with math (Teaching Textbooks on DVD w/workbook again), English (Essentials in Writing on DVD w/workbook), instrument practice, reading and P.E. I'll be adding in History, Science, Art and other electives as we get further into the semester. I am just SO relieved to have my first floor back in working order for the first time in FOREVER, that everything seems so much easier now. Once I get all the subjects up and running, I'll be able to tackle re-carpeting the basement from the Spring Flood of '14 and all the crazy that will entail. But that's for another time. For now, we are just enjoying the normal!!

Til next breather - MHM