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? :)