Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Year 2/Week 14: When Hot is Not

My son was hot today and that's what it finally took to shake me awake today.

The last two weeks have been very difficult – both for me and the boys. Although I thought our weeklong break at Thanksgiving would have given us enough of a break for us to start our third 6-week schedule, we have barely finished a week's worth of work after eight school days. Of course, it didn't help that we had two snow days this week (I know, I know, a homeschooler doesn't really HAVE snow days, but..oh, well, we needed them :), but those actually helped.

Our most serious school work dysfunction started the week before Thanksgiving and I figured it was excitement over the holiday. We took Thanksgiving week off and entertained, visited and traveled to see family in a fun week. We returned from our last family visit from out of state late Sunday night on December 1st...and all forward progress stopped at that point, I'm afraid. Because I hadn't taken time to really figure out our lesson plan for the last month of the year, we didn't have a real game plan and I'm afraid it showed. It really set me up for a rough time, but no matter what I did, I couldn't figure out what to do next. I felt panicked and paralyzed and had no idea why. I was increasely aware that we were falling behind in art, religion and health.

We limped along for the week, doing our daily spelling, reading, basic science and history and some math. Danny is thoroughly stuck on his triple digit multiplication, so I spent extra time just walking him through all his exercises and abbreviating all his work and quizzes, but it is still trying on his spirit. He “got” some parts a little on Wednesday when I tried a new review approach and we had a brief celebration, but he still couldn't complete the unit quiz that followed, so I started foundering at that point. Then Wednesday afternoon our PE teacher at the Y was a no-show due to a scheduling snafu, so the boys lost some decompression time, which didn't help either.

Thursday was interesting at band practice. Our lovely Encore Academy instructor is extraordinarily patient and funny with the kids but after Danny's 5th or 6th question about when the class would finally end, she jokingly said that the band wasn't finished but if he was done, he could pack up and leave. Which he immediately did. She was totally gobsmacked and couldn't believe he did it (she had no idea he was on the autism spectrum and takes everything literally)! But Danny did what was perfectly logical and what she offered, so I understood what had happened. After class, I explained it to him and what to do next time (when he needs a break, just asked to be excused to the restroom until he is ready to rejoin us) and explained it to Mindy in an email later. Nothing major, but I felt like a stress sandwich that was getting more and more layers and it was getting more than I could handle.

This past weekend gave me my first breathing room in weeks and Monday and Tuesday were our first official “snow days”, which was a true blessing. We used the weekend to finish putting up the tree and getting some work done on the front yard so we can eventually put up Christmas lights outside...maybe. After a week of being home, I FINALLY got the suitcases unpacked and caught up on MOST of the laundry (this just reminded that I need to get Ben's clothes in the wash if I want him to have ANY clean pants tomorrow...) and the dishes done. Sort of. By Monday we had some semblance of order again and I thanked God all day Monday for this excuse to put school aside for another day and pray for inspiration – along with running errands and going for a huge grocery store run.

Tuesday gave us a second snow “storm” and a true snow day. This was the first time I actually felt like I could breathe. My brain had sorted out a little but the anxiety/panic of not knowing what to do for school was still bubbling under the surface. It's not that I don't have the curriculum – I do! It's more – something about missing something, not doing enough, not teaching the boys what they will really need. When Danny gets totally log-jammed in his brain (usually about math), I go into this panic mode because I know the school system definitely didn't help him when that happened and if I can't, then where do I go and what do I do?! I don't trust counselors or psychologists anymore (this is a long story involving another child and trust me – you wouldn't go back either), so unless I schlep him up to Kennedy Krieger every time I need help, I'm on my own here. Sometimes the weight of the responsibility for all four of my wonderful, unique and amazing children is too much to bear. Not that I don't want to...I sometimes don't believe I am able.

But God always finds a way. You know the old saying that if you are really strong you bend, not break? Well, I am blessed that God always seems to show me a way to bend when I think I will finally break.

Today, we had an “okay” day at school. Danny was still struggling to concentrate at all and Benjamin was being a goofball at a record rate. Both of them kept our progress all morning to a snail's pace and although I tried to be goodnatured about it for the first hour or so, by the second hour I had really lost patience. We did manage to finish our daily spelling, a Nativity bible lesson from the gospels along with a worksheet, the second chapter of Caddie Woodlawn (Yea! Finally a book I know and loved as a child!) and a really good instrument practice. We trotted over to the YMCA for our PE class and got there on time. Check. I took my brief break to run our Angel Tree gifts over to the church and got that checked off my list, along with connecting with my Avon customers from church. Check. When I got back, I was ready to pick up the boys and finish the 3 or 4 final subjects for the day before I picked up my granddaughter after school, made dinner and took the boys to church choir.

And then I bent. Danny came out of the PE gym with his winter coat on over his sweating body. He had the hood up and almost covering his face and I knew something had changed. He had said numerous times all day that he was just having a terrible day. I knew that it mostly stemmed from the internet being out and he couldn't listen to his favorite songs streamed on his tablet, but I didn't realize it had gotten so bad. I just had to stop trying to push all of us forward with our schedule and stop to listen to his pain. Only part of his face was peaking out and he either had sweat or tears on his cheeks when I asked him why he wanted to be hot. He said that “it was the only thing that makes me feel better because the day was so bad”. I'm not exactly sure what words he used, but I knew that what his heart was trying to tell me was that he wanted to make his outside – his body – feel as bad as his inside – his spirit – felt. And that was it for me. All the anger flew out of me and all the love and care came racing in.

From that point on, I threw out the schedule and started ministering to my children's hearts again. And immediately my panic and anxiety totally lifted. We went to our favorite snack shop and we picked out our favorite food, which I usually ration out. But not today. I was blessed again when my granddaughter's other grandmother spontaneously offered to pick her up from school and that was off my plate. Then we went home and watched a BBC video (since the internet still isn't working – wah wah wah) and relaxed. I cancelled the rest of our classes and also decided to take church choir off our schedule for the night, too. I know we will fall behind on our schedule this session. I know I may need to drop back and punt next year, but right now I don't care. I started homeschool to take care of my sons' needs, education AND hearts and that's what I need to do. And by nurturing them, I nurture me, I nurture US.

I get it now. I'm learning. That must be what homeschool is all about....:)

The best part of our homeschool work this week :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Week 11/Yr 2: Schooling your children is like marriage

Choosing the way you school your children is a lot like choosing your partner in life. You look around at all your options, you learn as much as you can about the good - and the bad - of your partner...and even knowing ALL of it, you still decide they are for you.

Our choice of schooling has been like that. At first, we were public-schoolers like we grew up, as were our older daughters. There really wasn't even another choice for us. We didn't any more information - and didn't think we needed any more.

Then our boys' experience in our "blue ribbon" public school turned from one of education to frustration then demoralization. Thank God there were options available for us, that we found them and that our household situation allowed us to use them. Since this is Thanksgiving and the month for thanks, I'll just let you know that I already have that foremost in my heart each day. 

That being said...schooling is like being married. And some days it just sucks. Just awful, royal, total suckage like nothing else. You hate your life, hate your choices, feel overwhelmed and under-rewarded and nothing helps. Well, sometimes a drink. Or a hot bubble bath. Or a good book. Or a Xanax. Or all of the above. 

But sometimes nothing does. 

Then you wake up the next morning and see your life anew, as we do each day. And just like looking at the sleeping face of your spouse the morning after a bad day reminds you how lucky you are to have him/her in your life, seeing homeschooling the day after a bad day reminds you how very lucky you are to have this option.

To see your sons finish a book unthinkable task just last year.

To see your children practice instruments every day - for FUN - that they never touched until this year.

To see handwriting blossom and math concepts improve - or not. And to know that because they are with their mom for school, they will not be overlooked or hurried or belittled because they can't do it ...yet.

To see them master each challenge that they have in their lives..however slowly it may be.

To explore new concepts with your children and learn together. And when you look up at the moon on the way to choir rehearsal (which they don't really want to do anymore but miraculously don't complain about) and ask them what phase of the moon it is, they both say "Gibbous!". And when I ask them if it's waning or waxing, they KNOW! It still amazes me that they are actually LEARNING. From me. With me. 

And, once again, I love our schooling choice.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 10/Yr 2: Lost in Translation...

I lost two weeks. To be perfectly honest, I was here, but our homeschool almost wasn't.

Week 7 was a planned week off for "teacher planning". With Furlough Dad in charge and lots of field trip ideas, the boys had an enriching "unschool" week and everyone was fine with that.

Week 8 was a total Sick Out. I was just miserable with a sinus/headcold/fever thing that made life miserable day and night. School was back "In", but I wasn't. I leaned heavily on and Brainpop and hot cider and prayed to feel better before we lost too  much ground.

Week 9 was Halloween Week. If you have any child, this is a wasted week at any school with the adrenaline rush and candy-anticipation at full maximum. If you have a child on the autism have this multiplied by ...oh...a zillion? We had a very productive Monday and Tuesday with starting our Lincoln biography, another chapter in Science (one of the few subjects where we are right on schedule),  Time4Learning and Halloween worksheets for math and language arts. However, our week deteriorated rapidly on Wednesday right after YMCA PE direct correlation to the panic my oldest son started to have about not having a costume as "perfect" as the picture in his mind. So - school stopped and became "art class" until Halloween on Thursday night when the curtain rose on the wonderful costume for about an hour...until the rain started. Happily, my Big Guy was perfectly happy to stop short of a huge bag of candy in exchange for keeping his "awesome costume" (his term) intact, so in the end, it landed in the Win column of Halloweens. And Friday was post-adrenaline crash. Until mid-afternoon. This was when I realized we had family coming to stay for a weekend visit in SIX HOURS and the house was in shambles, so it became Crisis Cleaning Day. I guess I can count that as a Life Lessons class, but I was too tired to bother.

So - Week 10 started today and after a wonderful weekend with my sister-in-law here, I'm totally wiped out. Introvert Classic that I am, spending that much time entertaining ANYONE totally drains my battery, so today was just putting one foot in front of the other during school time. The boys did manage to finish all their work and we covered all our subjects, so in one way it was a success. But after weeks of sickness, holiday crazies and running around, I just don't have an ounce of energy to give to school. And I wonder how long I can do this. How many more years can I do this? Even for a healthy younger mom, this would be a challenge and it is days like this that I'm not sure I can do it.

But I do. I'll give myself until next summer to decide about next year. And I'll do that each year until I can't anymore. Because even this morning, I woke up from another nightmare about one of my boys being somewhere where I couldn't see them or get to them or help them...the way I felt when my boys were drowning in their old school and all my efforts didn't work. So, until I feel safe I can't let them go...even if it is harder than I ever thought it would be. 

I may be lost, but at least I know I'm not traveling in the wrong direction...:)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 8/Yr 2: Homeschooling is panic alternating with peace

Every so often, I start the "Homeschooling Mom Panic" phase. This usually happens when I'm lesson planning, like I did during my teacher "break" last week. I look at all the curriculum I am using, try to figure out how to get all the necessary content done by the end of the school year PLUS mix in all the field trips and extras that make homeschooling fun. Finally, I try to make sure we are covering all the materials that are included in "common core" so they will be able to transition back into public school when - or if - it becomes time.

I get performance anxiety because I feel so underqualified. Then, I get hit by another health problem - this time a terrible head cold - and I'm not able to "teach". And panic sets in. How can I teach my children when I can't even open my eyes for more than 10 minutes or read a book to them? And since I have chronic health conditions, I know this will happen regularly for the rest of my life - and the rest of their schooling.

I do have a small place of calm deep inside because I know things would be harder if they were in public school. I could NEVER get them dressed and ready for school on time in my condition AND I could never handle the absurd homework/project/extracurricular work they would bring home either. So - I know this is better and I move to thinking how I can do it.

Most importantly, I know my boys know how to do their work independently by now. I didn't have the energy to stock the workboxes, so I started with the basic Three R's on the white board, then I added instrument practice, glider exercise time and ended with a great Science Inventions kit I had stored for a rainy day. 

For Math, they do their regular Teaching Textbooks on CD, which they love. Boom, one R is done. 

For Language Arts, I am REALLY starting to love the Time 4 Learning website program for Language Arts. They do lessons in Language Arts (today was synonyms for Ben and pronoun nominatives for Danny) and Language Arts Extension (reading comprehension) with great videos and they seem very comprehensive. For the long reading comprehension paragraphs, I even found a wonderful FREE download for web and document audio reading called Natural Reader which will translate any text into audio so Ben can hear the paragraphs while he reads along, since he isn't 100% proficient on reading comprension yet. Second R down.

For reading, Mom can't read today, so we won't be beginning our new Newbery Honor book about a boy during the Civil War called Across Five Aprils, but we have time to start that tomorrow. I checked to see if there was an audio version at the library, but no luck :( However, the boys need to finish their self-reader, By The Great Horn Spoon, about a boy and his butler (!) during the Gold Rush, so they'll be reading to each other today while I listen. Last R completed and we could stop here and I'd still feel good, because the Reading portion also fulfills our History and Geography lessons as well (thank you, Sonlight!).

But...I did add instrument practice and glider exercise time, because we need to get used to doing those daily. And for future reference, please remind me NOT to practice my flute with the boys when I have a head cold!! Ouch in the ears...seriously...

Well, gotta go get another hot drink of something for the throat and a little something to eat, but I just wanted to stop by and note briefly that even sick in bed, homeschooling rocks. *sniff* *sniff* *gurgle* :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Week 7/Yr 2: Blink And You'll Miss It...

How can it possibly by Week 7 already?!? Where has the year gone? Really?! I do think it is a good thing that I haven't felt the need to stop and document every week of our second year, because it means I have  more of a "feel" for things this year and it's becoming more organic for me to do. 

Even though this is technically Week 7 of our second year, it is really a "planning week" for Mom (me). Daddy was out of work during the government shutdown for 16 days, so this week, he wrangled the boys to field trips while I did alot of lesson planning. Actually, we also did do some "catch-up" things like completing assembly of our solar system mobile, finishing a Sonlight novel called "The Candymaker" that we started over the summer and were reading for fun, finishing a Math quiz and having Homeschool Band with Encore Academy today. This band is great - after watching the boys the first week (and seeing another mom learning the flute), I decided to join the fun and re-start learning the flute again after quitting in the fourth grade - and we are all having a blast!

I can't figure out why it takes almost a week to plan every six week cycle, but it does! I think this is the only way that public school teachers have it easier than homeschool moms...they usually have to figure out lessons plans for one age of child each year. And many years, they repeat the lessons from the previous year! Each year, I have to advance each child a grade AND create a new lesson plan for both of them. Yes, some of the materials for my older son I can repeat for my younger, but for our history, we are using the Sonlight curriculum, so it's the same for both and advances each year. Yes, thank God for Sonlight curriculum! However...I do have to modify it for my boys abilities and speed. Some things we have to skip and some we have to supplement. 

This year, I took this time to review how the first six weeks had gone. Before school started, I had planned a six week "goal sheet" to help me figure out where I hoped to be by the end of this stretch, basically to make sure I don't get too far behind and have to cram everything in at the end of the year like I did last year! So far, we aren't too bad. I found out that we really are only doing full days four days a week, and doing catch-up and field trip adventures on Friday, so I have to adjust my next six weeks for four "real" days of work a week. 

I have managed to work art, PE and music into their schedules pretty well, but haven't found a way to work our Spanish and Programming lessons into the week as well. I know they aren't necessary, but they are the fun stuff, so I'll just have to figure out time!

We completed our first section of the second year of American History and are finishing with the Gold Rush this week. Coincidentally, the Discovery Channel is airing a new, fantastic series on Gold Fever each week and we are loving it! It shows places and events from our Sonlight novel "By the Great Horn Spoon!" and really helps when they can see the landscape of places we have read about all fall.

Our next six weeks is pure Civil War history. I'm feeling overwhelmed. It's a huge amount of very important material to cover and I want to do it justice. We have so many great places nearby to visit while we study this - we even were in Gettysburg last week for a relative's wedding! Unfortunately, I was a late bloomer American History buff, so I'm learning alot about this part with the boys, but I want to make sure I do it right. I know we can always revisit it later, but I know this is a special time with my guys and I just want to be there when they see it the first time :)

Well, I think that catches me up for now. I'm sitting on my bed surrounded by texts, curricula and spreadsheets and it's after 9pm, so I think it's time to hit the hay. One more day of "planning week", then we are off at full speed again on Monday. You may not hear from my again until after the holidays, the way things are going. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 4/Year 2: Why am I still organizing the school room?!?!

It's 9pm on the first Monday of our fourth week of school...and I just tonight got my classroom finally setup in workable condition. Seriously wondering how the heck this happened.

It's not like I didn't try to be ready for the beginning of school...but really, I wasn't able to. Maybe it was the total and complete burn out at the end of our last school that lasted until...about last Friday. Maybe it was the fact that my final homeschool review wasn't until three weeks after our summer vacation started and once I had everything so nice and neatly arranged for the meeting, I didn't want to tear it apart to store our work and take out what I needed for this year. Possibly, it was the fact that I had forgotten how much work it took to organize last year...or maybe I DID remember and just didn't want to do it again.

Whatever the reason, I am glad the paralysis is starting to lift. I've felt totally unprepared to start this year - and since I was SO ready last year when I had absolutely no experience, I have been confused about the whole situation. I am praying this part is over!

This year, I was lucky that I was able to hang onto our Sonlight Curriculum for our history and reading, Sequential Spelling, Teaching Textbooks for math and for now, Classic Science Earth Science from Mr. Q.

And I've added some things this year since I feel we've got some experience this year. I'm still a little unsure about complete grammar studies...but the boys are so mismatched on this, I'm pretty sure it's going to be different for both of them. Up til now, I've been using grammar worksheets to brush up on parts of speech, but soon I'll have Ben back on Essentials of Writing...and Danny....well, for now it's Time4Learning until I think about what's best for him. Nothing has really clicked for him  yet. I'm also adding Wordly Wise 3000 to beef up their vocabulary, although I have to admit just reading the Sonlight books with the boys has expanded their vocabulary by leaps and bounds anyway! Oh..any every new word seems to be similar to something in Minecraft or Portal 2 anyway, per my sons...LOL

Science is still Classic Science because the boys love it. I know it's corny, but the boys love the funny language, the cartoons and the activities for each chapter. I know the content is sound, so I know I can just beef it up with more content for Danny. So I'm added Time4Learning Science for him as well, hoping that will fill in the blanks.

Luckily, the electives seem to be covered. Although the PE class at the Y was cancelled after just one week, they are both in SAC soccer so they're getting plenty of exercise (and socialization, Also, with the SkyZone trampoline center opening, we have someplace to go when it rains, too :) 

For music, we are going to make the trek to Westminster every Thursday so the boys can join the Encore Academy band for beginning homeschoolers. Danny is playing our good old clarinet (kid number three on this old Bundy!) and Ben will switch this year and try trumpet (like my dad).  It will be cool to have them play together - and they will have concerts like the PS kids - yea!

Art is currently working on the Create Your Own Masterpiece book, written by the National Gallery of Art in DC. My hope is to turn this into a field trip to the Gallery downtown...I haven't seen it for years and have a suspicion Ben (and maybe Danny) would love it. 

But this year is tricky. In only my second year, I have to switch to a separate instruction for the boys for some subjects because now Dan is in middle school and I really have to up the game for him since the game plan at this point is to get him back into public/private school for high school. I'm feel much more pressure this year because I realize this is no longer just a short term measure to repair the education damage that happened in their local school, but needs to be a really solid and competitive program that will keep them right on track and ready for their return high school.

Now, just to get Danny to write complete sentences...and pray he can learn to write cohesive paragraphs. Oy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Homeschool re-examined: The Long Haul vs the Short Game

First, you must know I had never created a lesson plan before in my life. Ever. 

Beyond playing house as a child (which, since I was the oldest, consisted of me just ordering my little siblings around), I had never - ever - considered being a teacher. A trainer, yes. In my professional careers as computer programmer, project manager and Avon sales representation/manager, I've taught training course for years, but that was different. So different.

Today I sit down to plan my first six weeks of classes this year. We will start in three weeks and even I can't procrastinate anymore. Anxiety attacks are already starting, so I hope that getting things down in black and white will make things better in my brain.

I've had a full summer - two months so far - to relax and let last school year rattle around in my shell-shocked brain and settle into some kind of normalcy. And it actually did, to my relief and surprise. My biggest realization came last week when the question came up to Ben again about what grade he might want to go back to public school and his answer was...."never". it seems that instead of an emergency stopgap measure to help Danny with his learning issues, I've created a new reality for the whole family. We may be a serious homeschool family right up until high school - or beyond.

I never really considered this when I started. I figured I was just a band-aid on my boys' education until I could fix their damaged learning and send them back to public (or private) school at some future day. I didn't think this would be permanent. However, I may have created a monster - or a unicorn, depending on your definition of a brand new creature that never before existed - the Varga Homeschool Family.

I'm sure I'm not perfectly suited for this. However, I want the best for my boys and I want them to learn and love learning as much as I do. I want them to feel free to learn and study the way THEY do best, without condemnation about their uniqueness. I've seen immense changes in my boys since they've stopped attaching inadequacy and anxiety with learning and I can only hope that continues.  Just one example - Ben has NEVER wanted to go to school and started preschool and kindergarten with MUCH trepidation and never really got relaxed in a school setting. He was a great student, but very anxious all day in school. In second grade, he started and loved karate class, but quit after his first belt test after having a huge anxiety attack in front of the class. He just refused to set foot in the dojo again. Until this year. After being as relaxed as possible (I mean, how tense can you be bouncing around all day in your underwear?...), he asked to start karate again and I think he'll really do great this time. He's grounded in the love and support of his mom and family every day and that's what will help him fly and succeed.

Okay, I get it. We're in this for the long haul - and that's an amazing thing. 

But could someone else write these lesson plans for me??....:)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Break 2013...because I was definitely broken...

Whew...I haven't posted since May?! I have to admit, I seriously checked out this summer. I had such a serious case of burnout from homeschooling my first year that I shut down our school, headed out to our timeshare the next morning and never looked back (except to travel up to our umbrella school in Rising Sun and show them our amazing work).

Until yesterday. 

Two thirds of the way through our vacation, it's time. I looked at the calendar last week to surprisingly discover it was already August and realized it's time to put next year together. Since I had already planned to use June to decompress and do some painting around the house and July for Spring cleaning and a nice long vacation with hubby while the boys vacationed with their godmothers, I am right on track. I had hopes of painting more, including the homeschool room (which was our dining room in a previous incarnation), but I need to lay those hopes aside unless a miracle happens in homeschool planning for next year :)

Since recovering, I now realize how seriously we all were burned out from our first attempt at homeschooling, so I'm making some modifications this of the many benefits of homeschooling - we can modify anything that doesn't work! Some changes we'll be making this year:

1) We're going to try a modified Workbox System for work assignments with the boys each day. The Workbox system was originally developed by Sue Patrick and can be started with younger children, but really works with any age group. In a nutshell, each child starts the day with his work in "workboxes" and as he finishes his work, he moves the completed work to his "finished" area and stacks the empty workboxes aside. Since each student can move at his own pace and it is extremely visual, it works well for my visual learning boys. Each drawer is marked with what is being worked on and as long as it is done in the assigned order, each student can plan his day as he likes. The key is to put small treats and breaks along the way at unexpected intervals so they get rewards throughout the day. Very Pavlovian :) I'm looking forward to moving from being a public school-like "teacher" to a "facilitator" for most of their classes.

2) Changing the attitude of the classroom this year from "I'm teaching" to "you're discovering". I'm planning on teaching the boys how to find their own answers this year through search engines online, reference books and other methods. I want to teach them to learn, not just spit out information. Of course, we still have to drill the basics because they are still weak in that area from public school. But I am so proud that we ended last year with both boys knowing all their multiplication tables, holding their pencils correctly without any pencil grips and writing in much-improved handwriting. So that part is definitely staying!

3) I'm going to continue to try to instill a love of reading in them. This is a tough one. They are both reluctant readers and even though they CAN read, they don't CHOOSE to read. I gave them a complete break from reading at the beginning of the summer, but by last week I was really missing reading to them, so I pulled a fun book from our Sonlight curriculum that we didn't have time for last year (The Candymakers by Wendy Mass) and starting using it for bedtime reading. A book about a 12 year old boy who lives in a candy factory? Danny is enthralled and I am tickled. :) Ben is still wary...he is so bright with an amazing vocabulary, but something hasn't "clicked" in his reading enjoyment yet. He can't seem to read for enjoyment...somehow the content doesn't move into his brain very easily. He is content to listen to me read for now - and interrupts me to define words he doesn't know - but I haven't gotten the feeling yet that he can process all the story internally yet, so I'll keep reading to him and hope it "clicks" one day.

4) Make sure they move more and sit less. I was a nervous homeschool mom last year. I was terrified that they wouldn't get the subject content they needed and I would fail them. I am losing that fear a little this year, so I want to make sure they get as much "body knowledge" as they do "subject knowledge". This is one that I'm sure that moms who homeschool from the beginning do much better than those of us who are used to the public school model. Yes, we're still going to have desks they can use for common subjects, but I want to get us outside of the house and outside in the world more this year. If I can. I have been blessed that my personal health is doing so well these days (aside from putting on 10 pounds since beginning my homeschooling journey), so I'm hoping we can do more outside this year. Both boys are already enrolled in SAC soccer for the first time (serious nerves about Danny's "fitting in", but gotta tough it out since he's getting to be a big boy now) and they'll be enrolled again in the YMCA PE program they enjoyed so much last year. The Y program even finally got Ben swimming independently, which made me so happy and this summer at the pool MUCH more enjoyable. One serious bonus of pulling Ben out of  public school last year is that his anxiety level seems to have dropped steadily and that has led him to want to re-enroll in Karate this year. I am SO thrilled! He enrolled in our neighborhood dojo in the first grade and was amazing. His sensei said he was definitely gifted and would be one of his best students...until Ben had to take his first belt test in front of the whole school. He had a huge anxiety attack and even though he finished his test (under firm pressure from his dad and teacher) and got his yellow belt...he was traumatized and refused to ever go back. Out of the blue this summer, he said he is ready to try again. Win!

For now, these are enough goals for me to plan and start our next school year.The schoolroom got a straightening yesterday and this week I'll be moving more shelves in and rearranging the furniture to see if we can find a "better" way to work. We still have a few weeks to go before we do hardcore curriculum, because we'll be taking our ocean vacation the week the public school students start and driving 500 miles to see my dad for his 75th birthday during our first week of school. The boys don't realize that during their first week of school, we'll be doing "video carschooling" on the van DVD player!

I need to get used to this rhythm and relax and enjoy, because Ben just told me this week that he may never want to go back to public school. I hear ya, son. This is too much fun. :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Week 36: The end of the beginning

So, today is my "official" last day of teaching homeschool our first year. Technically, our last school day is tomorrow, but I hope that is just a party day and all our work is finished, since we only have to finish our book summaries today. It's so strange - on Tuesday of this week, I was elated. I was almost finished! I felt like a marathon runner who is within steps of the ribbon and I knew I was going to make it! Amazing! Incredible! 

So, on my last day of "educating", what am I doing? Planning next year's curriculum. How am I feeling? A little stressed, a little worried, very focused. Searching for books online. Thinking of how I am going to do "better" next year about the items we didn't really do well this year - or totally missed in a lot of ways. Yikes. Is this how athletes feel minutes after finishing a monumental race or game? You celebrate one minute and in the next minute, your focus is on the next challenge and what you can do better next time?

Don't get me wrong - we did amazing this year! After our week of vacation next week, I will begin to sit down and sort through the second half of our work this year and prepare my year-end evaluation report for my umbrella school. I'll look at what worked and what didn't. What we achieved (finishing spelling, science and history!) and what we didn't (only 75% of math and we totally lost grammar along the way somewhere this spring...). Trying to keep what we discovered from the good lessons (Danny needs both a DVD and workbook option for most subjects to keep him interested and Ben needs one-on-one for all his Language Arts) and find the answers to the hard lessons (I have an elementary and middle schooler next year and need to use two different approaches - yikes). 

I have a lot more to learn-and now homeschooling becomes more the marathon than the sprint. This year, homeschool was a last-minute essential that I just HAD to figure out, for the good of my boys and my family. Now, I realize I need to play the long game and figure out MY strategy for the years to come. I thought I would run away from school the last day of teaching this year and not think about it again until I had to in August. But I'm already trying to plan and get ready for next year - ACK! 

Part of this is because almost all the homeschoolers I've met and loved have been "organizational junkies". We love to plan. We love drawers and shelves and dividers and notebooks. Our eyes light up in office and teacher supply stores - what new markers can we buy today?!?! We love to fill up our adorable planners and Excel spreadsheets with new and amazing plans of all the fun things we'll teach our children next time. The planning is so much fun - the follow-through always feels harder, doesn't it? :) But every revision is better, every new learning makes our homeschool run smoother and service our children even better, so I know it's a good addiction to have!

So here's to the END of our FIRST and SUCCESSFUL Varga Homeschool year!! Yea!!

...and here's to the continuing saga of taking care of our children's education in the best way we can for them and their specialness.

Have a wonderful summer!!!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Caution: This is an Autism Moment

Reader warning: This entry is about my daily struggle being an Austism Mommy for my glorious son, Danny. If that doesn't interest you as much as my homeschool news, then this post is not for you :)

For those of you who don't know, my oldest son was diagnosed last year on the Autism Spectrum. Because he has social quirks and learning deficits all over the spectrum in an odd combination, his diagnosis is technically PDD/NOS - Pervasive Developmental Delay/Not Otherwise Specified. Not to go off on a tangent, but the DSM, the diagnostic "bible" of the psychiatric/psychological set got a makeover this year and the newest version, the DSM-V  deletes this diagnosis and simply puts all Autism/Aspergers/PDD-NOS/Retts patients under the ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis.

This means my son's diagnosis will (technically) disappear. Looking at the new specifications of the DSM-V, Danny will no longer meet the qualifications for autism. In fact, he will not meet ANY of the criteria of ANY official disorders. He will simply be "quirky", with no hope of getting any if he was getting any now, which he isn't. :(

Believe it or not, that's actually not the cause of my rant today. Today, I'm having AMF...Autism Mommy Fatigue. 

Most of the time, I can work with our daily schedule around our sons and our differences and quirky behaviors don't even show. We have done so well adjusting our lives around the needs of our sons that we don't even know we are doing it any more! I did have one of the psychologists that evaluated Danny note that we had adjusted our family to fit his needs...and I don't think she meant that as a compliment. But honestly, what options did we have? 

When your son can't sit still long enough for you to receive your meal, much less finish eating it, you don't go to restaurants as a family.

When your 10-year-old son can't understand why it's not okay to yell at a 3-year-old boy who accidentally pushed you, you don't go to the playground when other children are there.

When your son has NEVER been able to tolerate anyone touching/brushing/cutting their hair, you don't take him to the barber anymore - you learn to cut hair yourself and do it every six weeks for years and years....

...and when you are cutting his hair and realize that his extreme scalp sensitivity has led to a horrible case of I-dont-even-know-if-I-can-call-this-dandruff-it-is-so-horrible - then you give another lesson in personal hygiene and find yourself washing your little boy's hair again, just like when he was three.

When your son needs the extra understanding and time required to actually LEARN educational material rather than just perform the required sequence of lessons in the required time, then you take him out of that environment - and you stop your own life and teach yourself how to teach and become a Homeschool Midlife Mom.

When your son can't tolerate more than a handful of food tastes, you stop making family meals and are sad - or you make two of them and seethe with resentment.

When your son shakes and cries with fear some nights because he's scared to sleep alone in his room at age 11, you have family campouts in your bedroom with your son in a slumber bag on the floor and lose the last of your privacy.

When you take your son(s) to a group homeschool activity on a beautiful day in a beautiful park and he whines for the entire visit because the toy he brought doesn't work because YOU didn't tell him something and that YOU should have told him to bring another...and then happily frolicks in the creek you are passing as you desperately try to walk to the parking lot and just LEAVE and get home to your quiet cup of coffee at home...

And when enough of these happen on one day...or too many days in a row...then you realize you are Autism Mommy and it is hard. So very, very hard. And you have given your life and soul to someone you love very much, and love to raise  - but would very much like to watch grow, learn, and grow up. Before you lose your mind.

He is growing. He is learning. He is amazing and wonderful. But parts of him are the same as they were ten years ago. And Autism Mommy is tired today.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A full life and a full time job...

I'm not sure where I first read that homeschooling is a full-time job, but I believe them now. It's not that I didn't believe them before, it's just that I had no frame of reference.

Consider my reference suitably framed.

The last time I was a full-time working mom, I was in my 30s with two girls, ages 12 and 16. I was out of the "trenches" of baby mothering and my girls were in public school, so that was nicely out of my hands. Of course, I still had the brunt of teenaged escapades to come (and had NO idea how hard THAT was going to be), but going to work didn't kill me. Actually, in a way, it saved me because it was an escape to a world that was just "me" without the name "mom" attached - well, most of the time.

So, after 16 years of being a working mom, I had a vague idea of what full-time work was going to be like. However. This has been different.

After teaching homeschool to my two boys for almost a full year, I can honestly say I never imagined it would be this hard. And it has taken over our lives and our home as if I did have a full-time job right in the house. Our house is not neat. It is not clean. It is held together with bubblegum and bandaids until we finish our curriculum at the end of this month and I can do emergency surgery on the bathrooms and kitchen. After being a SAHM for a decade, I never realized before how much I actually accomplished at home when they were out of the house for preschool/school/camp/etc. This year I had exactly one hour a week when they were not in my hands - when they went to homeschool PE class at the Y. I usually work out in heavenly peace while they are there, but lately I've just been in recovery mode during that time and try to just deep breath while I walk around Target or Barnes and Noble for an hour. And shop. Don't forget shopping. That definitely helps.

But as I limped out of bed this morning trying to wrap my head around the day ahead and decide which subjects we NEEDED to do today and which we SHOULD do today and which chores I would TRY to squeeze in between classes before I'm too tired to make dinner tonight...I realized I have a full-time job that I never planned on having. I knew that having two more babies in my forties AND working was impossible, so my husband and I worked it out financially so I could stay home until they were in school. HA!

Then came my autoimmune diagnosis. And my older son's ADD and PDD/NOS diagnosis. And then the recession! So now I'm working full-time anyway - for NO money - AND being a full-time SAHM to boot. Wow. How the heck did that happen?

Well, don't let anyone tell you that homeschooling isn't a job. Yes, we sleep late and go to bed at night when it suits us. Yes, we can swap history for bike-riding on a nice day and go on field trips wherever we want and always get to chaperone :). Yes, we have no evening or weekend homework/book report/science project stress from meeting someone else's deadlines. But the schoolwork gets done and the housework doesn't. And I'm dog tired and need a vacation.

Yep, this is definitely a full-time job. And come to think of it, the best one I've ever had :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Week 33: Oh so done....

I'm done. So done. So very done. And I have 3 1/2 weeks left until the "official" end of the Homeschool year. I'm burned out, exhausted, impossibly behind on housework and paperwork and....everything. I need a break like you wouldn't believe. I don't have the will to pull myself out of bed in the morning but I still can't sleep at night. Go figure.

Other than that, things are awesome :) The boys are happy, getting along so well, and doing so well in school I can't complain at all. 

It's just me - I'm out of juice! Well, I'll keep giving the boys their work every day and we'll DO this thing until it's DONE. I'm obviously an ADD carrier to my kids because I love to start new and interesting things...and it is torture for me to finish them! So I know this can be done, and I just have to DO it. 

Where are my Nikes? :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Week 31: The Final Countdown

Well, this is it. The final countdown to the last weeks of school. This is where I really have to pull it off. Can I finish what I started last September? Finishing things is a hard one for me...the ADD part of me loves to start new and interesting things, but finishing up those last hard parts are always a challenge! 

So...this time last year I was gearing up for becoming Midlife Homeschool Mom and now I am figuring out how to finish my first year in this new endeavor. I spent two hours tonight compiling my final 6-week curriculum calendar and let's just mantra for this year should be "Best Laid Plans....". I've started each day/week/month with a great-looking calendar - and then my boys enter the picture and chaos ensues!

I'm encouraged that it looks like I'll be able to "finish" more subjects in my curriculum than I expected when I saw at mid-year that we were "behind". I began this year promising myself that I would go at my sons' speed and do what they needed, but I also realize now that if I stop for every issue Danny has, we will NEVER finish a school year, since his learning progress is so erratic and varies from day to day. 

Anyway, I need to make sure that even if Danny doesn't "get" everything we cover that I go ahead and progress so at least he's exposed to all the new information he needs. We can always review next year when we encounter paragraphs or regrouping again - it (and we) aren't going anywhere! 

Six more weeks...and then Mom will have a Summer Vacation Party!! :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week 29: Learning when to rest...

Homeschooling is teaching ALL of us.

One of the first things I am learning in my first year of homeschooling is that I will be learning as much as my sons do. Not only about what their needs, abilities and challenges are and not just about history and science facts that I missed my FIRST time around in school (!), but what a homeschool is and how OUR particular school works.

This week I learned that our school has a cycle of about six weeks. During those weeks, we begin with some squeaky gears the first week or so, start to really pickup steam and plow through some quality work for a few weeks...and then we hit the hard weeks. Just when I feel like we have "got" this homeschooling thing and I'm doing it "right" and they are learning so much and I am helping them just right...that's when I start to feel the cars jump the track. A bump here and there and it starts to occur to me that this is getting harder. Personally, I get emotionally burnt out and physically exhausted. I can barely get out of bed in the morning, regardless of the hour. So I down more coffee to keep alert and focused...and then sleep goes missing. By the end of this last week, I just knew I couldn't go on another day without an "off week" and I checked the calender. By George, we were completing our sixth week since the last break - Bingo! It's amazing. Like clockwork.

Now I'm working on the acceptance factor - accepting that we can't go speeding straight through the last seven weeks of class and complete an amazing amount of work before the end of the school year. It will just be enough, no more, this time.  I need to accept that next week will be a break for all of us from classwork - and we can mend some holes in the housework around here that have been overlooked while we rest our schedule. We'll do some fun outings to the zoo and go to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives...and yes, these will count as school field trips, but I will relax and enjoy the day with my guys for those trips!

Today was my first day "off" and I celebrated with a total Bruno Mars "Lazy Song" day....I didn't get out of bed until 11am, then rested in the recliner until 3pm, then in my office rocking chair until now :) I did unpack a suitcase and straighten a little, but looking around my office, I think I'll be working in here for a while between blogs! I know my next lesson will be how to have a nice, relaxing and recharging summer break while getting ready for a meaner, leaner homeschool next year.  I know it will be better, because "when you know better, you do better"..... :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Week 25: If I knew then what I know now...

Well, another week finished and 11 more weeks to go! We've been at this for over 6 months now and I feel like I'm just now getting my "sea legs". Sent my mid-year review packet to my umbrella school at the beginning of the month (I know it's late, but the school was just overwhelmed by new homeschoolers this year!) and realized I wish I had known what I know now when we started back in September.

I've finally realized that I can't do everything every day. My canned curriculum had us doing ALOT of work EVERY day and not only do my boys not do well with that schedule, I don't. I finally realized that it was most important that I do the "Three R's" every day, so without fail, we do those every day and mix up the rest. Since history is mostly reading, that gets taken care of easily with reading. We take care of science our first three days of the week and let it go at that. I plan to do the "fun" science experiments when the weather gets warmer and during the summer, like planting a garden, so I'm not sweating the labwork right now. 

The hardest thing to seem to fit in are the "fun" electives that the boys like to do but don't seem too important, so I've relegated them to after math and spelling on Fridays. Today they worked on for their second lesson in HTML because they REALLY wanted to learn programming. Yep, they are our sons, geekiness and all :) Classes that only happen once a week or so, like handwriting, keyboarding (for Ben), art, music, etc, are harder to fit in and make sure they happen. I'm lucky during the school year that choir and cello practice give us a definite day to schedule it, but when we get to a foreign language next year, I'm sort of lost.

The boys are finally comfortable knowing that "school" will happen every day, will not be too painful and the sooner they buckle down and finish their work, the better. I've become more comfortable knowing that I don't have to do EVERYthing in the curriculum and it will still be enough. I still worry we are going to be pretty far behind when the school year is up, but I read enough from my school curriculum support posts to know that I shouldn't sweat it if it takes up to two years to finish this single year of curriculum. It won't take us nearly that long, but I feel better knowing I'm not alone and that I'll be so much more prepared this fall when we start our second year of homeschool. I can't believe it's already time to pick and buy my books and materials for next year-or that we're actually getting close to the end of our first year and planning on doing it again! 

So, if I could talk to my "first year homeschooler" Laura self at this point, I would say, "Laura, just make sure they get their 3 R's done every day. Make sure that you are there for questions, that you work with them when they get stuck and that you have a plan for today and tomorrow. The rest will be okay and will take care of itself-you are doing great!"

I wonder what next year's Laura will have to say to me? :) 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Week 21: A great week - what a surprise!

It's 1:30am on Friday night/Saturday morning and I'm still awake. But it's a good awake :) All week we've all been in bed by a decent hour (for us - I'm just happy if they're asleep so I can watch The Daily Show at 11pm lol), up by 9am and starting school by 10-10:30. We had a couple rough mornings when Danny was tired, but he would pull it together after the first class or two and we had a GREAT week!

This week, we had an unexpected day off on Tuesday when Grandpa Bill delivered the girls' old bunk beds to us for the boys. He was sweet enough to set it up for us right away in Danny's room and the boys love it. Unfortunately, they didn't feel comfortable enough sleeping in it the first night, but they've adapted and now Ben sleeps in there every other night with Danny. 

I realized how much it helps our school days when the sun actually SHINES! On dark, cold winter days, we get very little actually done, even though we trudge through the material. When the sun is out, our dining room/classroom is wonderfully sunny and we just have so much more fun, even with the dull material!

The boys seem to have recovered from the holiday schoolwork setbacks. They are back to doing "A" work in math, although I have discovered the trick to this. Each DVD lesson shows new material which the boys learn very well and are able to do in their followup lessons. Where they - usually Danny - blow their grading curve is on the multiplication problems that recur in every problem set. They are so handicapped by not knowing their math facts. Ben has problems with subtraction and regrouping and Danny freaks out with multiplying by more than a 1 digit number. So we are sort of doing a double track math class. We work on math facts and also do the daily lesson. Ben is chugging right along and may actually finish most of his math lessons by the end of the year, but Danny will be lucky to get half of lessons done - although by doing it this way, we have speeded up our progress quite a bit and I do have hope.

We have started making progress on our Science classes as well. I'm only doing one lab every other chapter or so because they seemed to be sort of redundant and not that interesting - although we did love growing the herb seeds in different environments. Very cool! We started these classes late in the year since we switched Science programs and after talking to Amy, who does more of her science in the summer, I think that's a great idea. We'll do fun experiments this summer and finish our classes later than the rest.

I'm also realizing that our Spelling program in not working very well with our class schedule. It's  not bad - the boys are actually getting alot of good handwriting practice out of it and we are learning some spelling rules, but it doesn't seem relevant to our other lessons and we have to spell 25 words a day - with which my boys and their goofing off takes 30 minutes some days, which we just can't spare on a spelling class. So I'll search for something that works better.

So...reading, writing and 'rithmetic has been  my internal mantra chant lately. If I get concerned I'm missing something each day, I just make sure we do these three things and I feel like I'm doing what's important. Danny actually used a writing organizer to write a rough draft and did a good job. Of course, we have major revisions and editing to do, but the important thing is HE DID IT! He used our new Essentials in Writing DVD lessons to walk him through the steps and I'm more optimistic every day that he can do this. Of course, his writing will be very "Him" and will not be what a "regular" school would probably like, but if he's writing correct content and can learn to edit his own writing for grammar, punctuation and spelling, then THAT is what matters. 

And Ben is beginning to learn how to read on his own without me over his shoulder. In fact, I think he reads better when I'm not around. This time when we started our newest readers on George Washington, I left all the reading entirely up to the boys themselves. I also had the boys write a sentence about each chapter after they read it, and when they are done I'm going to have them write a full report using their notes. And I've looked at their notes and they're doing a great job!

Along with our fun spur-of-the-moment trip to Benjamin Banneker's home on Thursday and an end-of-the-schoolday trip to the library for a Lego Build day on Friday, we covered all our subjects and all of our objectives except for daily spelling. A spectacular success of a week that I wish I could duplicate every day. Ah, I could only hope :) But for now, I will revel in the glow of success, of the feeling of a job well done, of a week of well-rested and happy children - and a quiet but sweet Valentine's Day in the middle of it all.

Homeschool is wonderful. I can't imagine my life without it again :) 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Week 20: Halfway there!

Well, we are officially in our 20th week of homeschool, which means we are halfway through our first school year! Although we've been slogging at this for 20 weeks, we're only at around day 70 of actually book time, because we work on a four-day school week and we've had a few breaks. Which is actually what I'm ready for right now - a break.

I know we've only been schooling since the holidays for five weeks, but it feels like forever. I'm so exhausted - my health is just in the pits again right now and by 5pm tonight, I was in bed again. We are doing well on schoolwork and I'm actually feeling good about the progress we're making, but still tweaking how to do it - especially when my health isn't cooperating. Today we had "sofa school" - with me reading and working with the boys on math, writing and history while resting in my recliner. It wasn't the best, but it was okay. It sure made me realize that poor Benjamin doesn't really know what a verb is! How did he get through  2nd grade and half of this 3rd grade year without getting that?! Here's where I bring things to a screeching halt, find what my baby needs and work on this now.

I'm finding we're not going to finish all the curricula by the end of the year. I'm going to have to say "tough noogies", because that's what it takes. The boys know their multiplication tables better now than ever, but still not all of it. Ben doesn't know what a verb is and Danny still writes from the bottom and right. But we ARE ahead of where we started in September - and our family is happier and stronger than ever. 

Halfway there ain't halfway bad :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Divide and Conquer

My sons were born on opposite sides of the day. Not literally, since they both came into the world after midday, but they have operated on opposite time zones ever since. 

Danny was a nighttime baby from the beginning. He didn't want to go to bed before 11pm or midnight at all, and we tried everything. Sometimes it would take hours of walking, bouncing or rocking before he could calm his never-ending energy and sleep. And then when he slept, he slept! He was the only baby on the block that slept all night and woke up when the other babies were going down for the their first nap, usually around 10am. I LOVED that part of his schedule, BUT we were totally out-of-sync for playdates! Because he slept so well at night, we gave up his naps by the age of two- exactly the same time his brother came into the world to bookend my day.

Benjamin was up with the dawn right away. For the first 3 years of his life, his day (and mine) started at 4:30am. I am not kidding. I saw more sunrises in that time than I ever need to see. It would have been doable- because he was such a sweet little thing - except that darling son #1 was still going to bed at 11 or 12 at night. Hubby and I didn't get eight hours of sleep for years. When Ben started sleeping late - until 7:30am - it was a party at my house!

So, to make a long story short (too late, I know!), I have started to realize I need to reorganize my homeschool day. Ben will get up before anyone else and start to play with his games. I will follow, guzzling coffee and catching up on my emails and business stuff. Then we wait for Danny. And wait. And wait. He wakes up late and he wakes up slow, regardless of poking and prodding by brother, parents or dogs. (I think he's giving us previews of his teen years..) So yesterday, when analyzing where I could make our school day work better (if you don't know what I mean, see yesterday's, I realized that since Ben needs more one-on-one anyway and Danny is loving the independent folder work in the afternoon, I'll just split them up!

If today is any indication, I'm really onto something. Before Danny woke up, Ben and I did reading, handwriting and math and he really needed the individual time with me. Once we shook Danny out of bed and he had breakfast and woke up, we all came together for geography, spelling and science. It was a zoo, which is normal and how our whole day used to be. After we split up again, Ben did cello practice and Danny settled down to his folder work with me nearby for questions and one-on-one help while Ben played. I really think this is going to work.

Yes, it took longer than usual, but they really did much better and the only time I felt a migraine coming on was when they were in class together and if that  continues, I'll just split the whole day up. Problem solved! For now....:)

A cool place to check out: Hip Homeschool Moms :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Week 17: A bump in the road...

Tomorrow starts Week 17 in our homeschool and it isn't going as smoothly as I remember. 

Last week was our first week back after Christmas vacation. We took a nice, long break after Christmas to visit my husband's family for five days and then unwind and unpack after we returned. I had a whole month's worth of lessons ready for Monday morning and the day went fairly well...given that neither of the boys wanted to do work! We got alot finished since there was no pressure for the next day, because we were scheduled to go to the Homeschool Days classes at the Maryland Science Center all day Tuesday. 

The MSC was so much more fun this time! The first time we went in September, it was literally our second week of homeschool. I was much more tense and uptight, just trying to find my way around this thing called "homeschool". This time, I really just enjoyed being there and the classes were really enjoyable and I learned alot (and the boys did, too :)! 

Our return day on Wednesday didn't go as smoothly. Danny couldn't wake up, so we got a late start and I had to finish studies early to make sure I picked up my granddaughter from kindergarten as early as possible (since I had been at the end of the pickup line on Monday and they had given her to someone else to take home...ugh...but that's another story). So I left them with their independent work to do at 3pm and, different than before the holidays, it didn't get done.

Thursday was a loss. My granddaughter was with me all day because she had a fever, but that wasn't really the distraction I expected. Danny started to feel bad (which was also the reason I suspect he couldn't wake up Wednesday) and was too sick to go to PE at the YMCA. They completed their Unit #2 Test in Science (both with 97%, I must say), but that was really all we got done besides Ben going to PE. And I didn't feel that great anyway, so I gave up.

Needless to say, I'm a  little discouraged. I had a whole weeks' worth of nice lessons planned and only about half of it got done. This weekend, Danny and I have had the darn headcold and we both feel blech, so I'm not sure tomorrow is going to be much good either. At this point, I'm thinking of canning the actually lesson plan and just doing miscellaneous little things like Math Bingo or things out of our Mad Science kit or watch our new Schoolhouse Rock Earth video (did you know they even MADE a new one? Got it free with my Disney Reward Dollars - very cool :) just to keep them learning. I get so frustrated because we can never stay caught up with our Bible reading, regular reading, Religious Ed classes or writing assignments. I do feel like the universe is just telling me to "give up" and relax and do something different this week. I kind of have to - I don't feel up to doing anything else. 

And Ben's birthday is Wednesday. My baby is turning 9 and this is my very last year of having a child in single digits. Momentous for me, because when my "other" baby (my youngest daughter, Kelly), turned 9, I just knew that one day I would have more children, so even though it was sad, I could handle it. This will be harder. This is IT. And the grandchildren are following fast and furious behind him already (I already have three grandchildren, ages 5, 4 and 2 months) I need to figure out how to transition in to Nanamom,  not just Mommy. This is hard.

So, Lord, give me strength this week to be the best teachers my children need me to be. Maybe it's not what looks good on paper, but lead me to give them what THEY need this week. I guess I'll be a little more unschooled that usual. And hope that helps :)