Sunday, April 15, 2018

wandering through homeschooling

I don't write very much about homeschooling on this blog. I don't write very much about anything lately. Life is full and good, but it is also challenging. I have so many thoughts in my head, and some of them I jot down and post on Facebook or Instagram, but mostly the thoughts remain in my head because as my children have left the little kid stage of life and are in the school age stage of life, it becomes hard to discern at times what to share and what to keep for just our nearest and dearest. I don't have any concrete answers yet on the what to share question.

What I will share is that we are in our last term of our fourth year of homeschooling. We re-evaluated homeschooling when we moved to Arizona because there are so many more options available to us here than there were in Missouri in terms of schooling - at least there are for Bubby. There are public schools, charter schools, private schools, hybrid schools, online schools, or continuing to homeschool. Theoretically most of those options are available for Bug as well, but in reality, his options remain public or home school. It is something as an educator, as a believer, as a school choice advocate, and as a special needs parent that annoys me - how little options there really are for someone who lacks fine motor skills and the ability to communicate in the same way as his peers. But I suppose that is a post for another day.

We have ten weeks of school curriculum left, and for the first time in our homeschooling years, we will be schooling through the month of June. We discovered June is the nastiest month here, so I don't want to waste taking time off during that month. We will stay inside, in the air conditioning, with our books and notebooks, and we have taken time off at other points in the calendar. The grace to have a modified year-round schedule is one of the perks of educating in this way. Four weeks off at a time is about all my children or I need or can handle.

During this 2017-2018 school year I feel like I have learned so much about what works for us in terms of education as well as have gotten into a pretty good groove on how to apply it. I am always learning. Every week it seems I read or hear something that just adds another piece of the puzzle, as I learn how to tweak the way we do nature study or how to substitute a book that actually works for my child for a book that was recommended by a curriculum guru. We have learned that easing into our morning with books or audiobooks or a bit of free play before we really sit down is what works best for us these days. We also need to be done most days around one o'clock for optimum attention. I have learned that I still don't know how to sew, even though Bubby has learned a few things about it this year, and that is okay. Babushka can sew, and therefore I will outsource more of those lessons to her when she comes to visit. I have learned that we thrive on flexibility with specific end goals - meaning we can adjust our day or week for appointments or times in nature as long as during the week or month or term we do what we said we would do in terms of learning, milestones, and development.

I have been blessed to meet so many new homeschooling families in the last year. Many have been through the Charlotte Mason group, but some have also been non CM families in a co-op. Through all of these families and conversations with moms I have learned many things. What works for one family might not work for another, and that is okay. Every family has strengths and challenges, and we need each other. Not everyone has a child with a disability, but there are other things that other families struggle with. It is important to have grace to give one another. It is important to encourage one another, to challenge one another, and to even have boundaries with one another. Different seasons need different things, and there is grace for each season and each need.

My books have started arriving for August already. The teacher in me is ready to dive into the next thing, and forget what we still have left to accomplish. But that is unwise and unnecessary. In the remaining two and a half months, I still have goals and methods to try. I am going to add more math games into our week. I have learned there is more than one way to keep a nature journal, and so I will be sharing what I have learned with my kids. There are books to finish reading, and one book at least that will carry over into the summer. We have new occupational therapy goals for Bug, and we have swim lessons to persevere through and hopefully enjoy. The weather is still decent enough to get outside regularly before we hide away for a few months in artificial coolness. There is no Charlotte Mason judge coming around to see how the remainder of our school year is going. There is peace in knowing this - in applying the principles to what practices make sense for our family. There is grace for making education an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life in this home in this season. We have wandered a bit inside and outside the lines to get here, and I know some wandering is still ahead. But I am excited about the remaining weeks instead of counting down the days till July, and that is a gift for which I am thankful.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To C, who is eight - soon to be nine

Dear Bubby,

Writing has taken a backseat the last year or two with our moves, our schooling, our adventures, and just our day to day living. You have been eight for almost a year now, and while I have documented so much via Instagram pictures, most of my written words to you have remained inside my head and heart.

You grow taller and taller every week it seemed. In a matter of just a few weeks you grew a couple of inches. The Wild Explorers t-shirt we bought you for Christmas is already looking like it won't last the summer, and you like to see how tall you are compared to me on a regular basis. It won't be long until you are as tall as I am.

We listened to The Hobbit on audible this winter, and then you decided to read it on your own. Last week you decided to read A Wrinkle In Time, and after we watched the movie you could tell me several of the differences. I knew by your chatter you had read and understood the book as well as a third-grader can - even though you said a few parts were a little confusing. You liked both the book and the movie, but you said the movie was more magical. You are a fan of stories of magic and adventure, and I hope that never changes. It isn't a genre I really ever got into, but I love that you love it. I love that you are a more diverse reader than I was at your age. I love how you re-read your favorite Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary books. I love that you tried Treasure Island, but put it aside because you thought it would make more sense when you were a bit older.

Every week you go to choir practice. Your assistant director compliments you on your behavior and attention, and it is hard for me to not what to take pride in that. We ask if you want to try out for the main choir next year, but that means twice a week practices, and you aren't sure you want to give up your free time. You still like to have plenty of time for books and Legos and using your imagination.

You have become a better outdoors-guy this year. This isn't something we were very used to in Missouri, but so many of your friend meet-ups involve hikes or nature gatherings that we have adjusted and embraced it as best as we can. You prefer running around with your friends creating stories and games to spending all of your time observing, but you ask good questions when you slow down for a few minutes.

You continue to be a helpful and loving big brother. You play games that aren't your favorite. You are patient in moments that require extra patience and understanding. This character trait spills over to your interactions with younger kids most of the time. You ask good (and sometimes hard) questions about God and faith and the Bible.

You are working on conquering a few fears/challenges this year. When you get to pick a composer to listen to, you almost always pick John Williams. You have now watched all of the Star Wars movies, and are making your way through Indiana Jones. Several times a week you get your dad to build Legos with you when he gets home from work. I am pretty sure these simple moments will stick with you forever.

It is bittersweet to watch you turn into a big kid, but mostly it is a joy. You are funny and compassionate. It is a great adventure to get to be your mom, and I am so thankful for you.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

books I read in 2017 - books to read in 2018

At the beginning of last year I attempted a reading challenge that had me needing to read twenty-six books in a variety of interesting categories. I was looking forward to it because I love to read, but I don't always make time for it like I should nor do I stretch myself as much as I would like. I started off strong, but with the move and all that came with it, I let the challenge go. I wondered as I was looking at everyone's "Best Books of 2017" lists if I even read anything. I have also been asked for book recommendations, and my mind has been going blank. So I sat down through my library history from the year, as well as some instagram photos and my bookshelves to figure out what exactly I did read. The list that follows is not necessarily a recommendation of a book, but it is what I can remember reading this year. I am not listing authors because I am too lazy today - but if you need to know an author of one of the books, I can try to help. I tried to organize them a bit by category. I am also including the challenge I created for myself (and anyone else who wants to join) for 2018.  Happy Reading!

The Life-Giving Table
Mere Motherhood

Gospel Fluency
The Drama of Scripture

Anne of Green Gables (again! and on audio)
I Let You Go (this is a dark read if I remember correctly)
The Secrets of Midwives
Love, Alice
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
The Kitchen House
Homegoing (this was one of the best things I read this year)
The Dinner

Children's Fiction (I read a lot with the kids but some of these stood out from our morning or evening read a loud time or some I just read by myself)
Most of the Narnia series (we have just one and a half books left)
The Poet's Dog
The Green Ember (one of Cole's favorite things we read this year)
The Penderwicks (I read this because it was on several booklists, and I thought it was boring!)
Wonder (I have mixed opinions of this story.)
The Courage of Sarah Noble

Amos Fortune 
Falling Free (part memoir, part theology)
At Home In The World

New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry

Books I Started But Didn't Finish (for various reasons)
Glory in the Ordinary
The Benedict Option
The Broken Way
Irena's Children
The Zookeeper's Wife
Bird By Bird
The Vanishing American Adult
Chasing Slow
Give Your Child The World
Moon Over Manifest

Books I Am Still Reading This Year
Charlotte Mason Vol. 6 Philosophy of Education (doing with a book study)
For The Children's Sake (have read before - doing with a book study)
The Life Giving Home (going through this slowly this year to follow the calendar)

2018 Book Challenge

1. award winner from the year you were born or the year you graduated from high school
2. Newberry winner
3. Caledcott winner
4. a book of poetry
5. a biography
6. a memoir
7. a book that takes place in your city or state
8. a book about an animal
9. a book that is science fiction or fantasy
10. a book you should have read in high school but did not
11. a book that you have not read since you were a child
12. a book that a friend recommended
13. a book that has been made into a movie
14. a book about traveling
15. a book set in a country you would like to visit
16. a book another book mentioned/reference
17. a book about philosophy, theology, or religion
18. a book with a pretty or an intriguing cover
19. a controversial book
20. a book that you think will help you in some way

Sunday, December 31, 2017

reflecting on home, my word for 2017

Like so many others, I am relieved to be done with the year 2017. Unlike many others, I am struggling to articulate exactly why. There have been some disappointments this year both for me personally and for how I would like the world to be, but overall it wasn't a bad year for me in my own little sphere of circumstances and situations. We moved across the country. The Hubs started a job that he really likes, and which I like because he likes it and for the fact that he is home each evening and weekend and holiday. I am in the process of cultivating friendships. We have a found a church that is gospel-focused. There I am reminded each week of the bigger story of creation, fall, redemption, restoration, my place in that story, and God's sovereignty in it all. We had a house full of new friends for Bug's seventh birthday, and for that I am so thankful. And in a couple of weeks we will purchase a home where, Lord willing, we will spend the remainder of our boys' childhoods.

We are already home here in Tucson, but it doesn't quite feel completely like home yet. Maybe these seasons of adjusting, of adapting, and even of being in escrow are symbolic of the state of my soul. The kingdom of God is already and not yet. The state of my soul is purchased, and yet I am still working out my salvation with fear and trembling. The world is not my home, and yet someday, at the renewal of all things, it will be my forever home.

I would like to say that after a year of focusing on the word and a year of settling into a new home, a new place, a new city that I understand the concept of home better. I read books with home as a focus, recognized it's theme in movies and music and Scripture. I know here in this city which we now call home I am beginning to connect with others through the Charlotte Mason group and through our church. Slowly, I am beginning to feel settled. And yet I miss the familiarity of being well know - of not having to explain my backstory or the backstory of my children. I miss our old routines, our old classes, our old ways of doing things mostly because they were good and safe and familiar. I realize in this longing for the safe and the familiar how home is really defined for me.

Home is when I am well-know, or at least when I am in the process of being well known and of knowing others well. As an INFJ, home is being past the small talk and delving in to conversations that matter. Sometimes this means serious discussion while other times it is light-hearted banter, but either way it is conversation with the purpose of knowing, of fellowship, of intimacy. Perhaps that is what home actually is. It is not an address or a club, a name or a gathering, but a place of knowing and being known. We were created for this. And while it happens imperfectly now, the longing for it points us to the one through whom such knowing happens and in whom we find our true rest and home.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

grey hair

A couple of weeks ago I was at a large gathering where they were identifying three subgroups by age. Eighteen to thirty-four, thirty-five to fifty-four, and fifty-five and up. I stood for the second group a bit shocked at first to realize I was part of the middle age group. Most days I feel like my adult life is just starting to take off, that I could still use a mentor or two (or three) to help me figure out things, but in all actuality my children are closer to traditional college age than I am. This shocks me. In ten years I could potentially have one of my children out of my house either gainfully employed or in college. Ten years!

I have been thinking a lot about how much I have changed in the last eight to twelve years. My hair has grey in it, and I don't think I will color it, unless I color it something fun like streaks of purple. My body has more or less settle into a clothing size that I am not thrilled with but I am less thrilled with the idea of giving up dessert at this phase of life. I've had two babies and I don't like sit-ups, therefore I will have a pooch. I have age spots on my hands, and I had my first mammogram this summer, which will be a yearly thing from here on out even if insurance doesn't pay.

But more than the physical changes, I think of the subtle changes that have taken place over time. I have figured out a lot of what I believe to be true about myself, the world and God, but I know there is still more to learn about all of those things. I have become passionate about some educational practices and parenting styles while also realizing my passion doesn't have to be dogma for someone else to live by in their own homes and families. I think that took me longer to realize than it should have. I am still figuring out how marriage works, almost thirteen years in. We are in a really good place in marriage overall, but there is always work to be done in communication and service and humility. I am lazy enough to wish that there wasn't work to be done in any of those areas.

Moving across the country has helped me recognize some things about myself that I don't know that I would have realized otherwise. I realize I was really lucky to have fairly easy to come by friendships the first twenty-two-ish years of my life, but the last decade and a half have required more effort and patience from me. I have realized more than ever that probably one of my favorite things is just sitting in someone's kitchen or living room with a cup of coffee with no agenda other than to just converse.  I'm introverted enough to not want a party but extroverted enough to need regular interaction with adults, and because I am an INFJ small talk doesn't cut it.

I think twenty-something Amanda would have thought I would have accomplished more by this point - a book, another piece of paper stating more of what I've learned, a few local bosom friends - but most days thirty-six year old me is a bit too tired to think about the what ifs. Most days, days when I'm not asked to stand up to identify with a certain age group, it's enough to just be where I am, plugging along with marriage and motherhood and catching up on a This Is Us episode when the schedule allows. Most days I am okay with the grey hair and the mama-pooch because I know both are blessings that not everyone gets to experience. Most days I can remember at some point before the sun goes down that each day is a gift.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

a Sunday as a special needs mom

"Mom, during pickup time, G was trying to get up to come to the door and some kid called him a slowpoke. I told him not to be mean, but I really wanted to slap him for saying that."

This prompted a discussion we seem to be having more and more these days. Earlier this week it was an older lady at the YMCA commenting about G's walking. Today it was a kid in church calling names. Of course, I commend my oldest for not responding with slapping. We talk about why we get angry when people say things about Bug and the reasons why they may say it and why we should think before we speak. It is easy to be the calm and collected mama on the ride home from church. It is not easy when I finally sneak away to the shower and cry my eyes out so my boys don't hear.

Bubby didn't know the name or even a good description of the boy who said the mean thing today, which honestly is probably a good thing since I volunteer now in there. And it isn't anything about this church or the teachers in there that caused this to happen. When we were at our Missouri church a child said in Bug's face right in front of me during Awana games, "Haha! You are slow!" To which I calmly but directly told the child that he was being unkind.

I think the thing that undid me this evening was the fact that this will happen more and more in the years ahead. Not necessarily at church, but at co-ops or playgrounds or birthday parties or story times. We pick on others to make ourselves feel better. Not just kids, adults, too. I know I have been guilty of this, and being on the mama side of it makes me realize just how horrible it is.

We are still settling in here.  The kids here don't know Bug. We haven't found our mama-hen-peer for Sunday school that we had a couple of previously. There isn't Art Inspired Academy where Bug is around kids who are more like him than not, who don't care that he doesn't run and can't hold a crayon well. The parents we know here we don't know well enough yet, and so they probably haven't had the "here's how to be a friend with someone with cerebral palsy and autism" talk yet. So in many ways I am starting from square one with educating and advocating and such.

I mentioned to the other volunteer in nursery with me today about Bug's noises sometimes in church. "Well at a Reformed church those noises really shouldn't bother other people since they are coming from a covenant child. Those are covenant cries and noises." I'm not Presbyterian enough yet to completely grasp everything about covenant children, but the encouragement helped me this morning and again now as I have dried my tears. Bug is a child of God that we have promised to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and therefore, church should be a place for him to be accepted and included. And he has been both at our Missouri church and our Arizona church. We have been blessed by pastors and elders who have been nothing but supportive and helpful.  But now some of the work and prayers begin again in making church a home be a more complete reality for my child.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The hardest part

The hardest part of moving across the country hasn't been adjustments that I have personally had to make. Those have honestly been relatively easy and painless. The hardest part for me has been watching my kids adjust to leaving behind all that was familiar. Bug left behind his beloved Art Inspired friends and teachers. Bubby left behind a handful of best buddies he saw twice a week. I hear homesickness in Bubby's prayer requests, the questions they both ask, and the way Bug mentions Miss Jamie and Mr. Richard at least twice a week. I think if I had known how hard this aspect of moving would be, I would not have wanted to move. It would have given me huge reservations. So I guess it is a good thing that I didn't know. I suppose that made it a little act of faith, but it also just feels difficult lately.

I am a worrier and an over-analyzer. I worry because I know how I felt when I moved to Yuma after college - it was the first time in my life that I didn't have close friends near me. I had always had a small group of close friends, and even thinking about those Yuma years now causes me to tense up and tear up a bit. The homesickness was heavy - not for my hometown but for friendship and familiarity. I had it my first few years when we moved back to Springfield, too. The wanting to be  known. The desire for inside jokes and people who know your backstory and your baggage and love you any way. I'm sure that need looks a little different for my boys, but the essence of it is the same. Bubby needs someone who understands his mixture of goofiness and seriousness,  Bug needs a friend or two who can engage even with his physical and social differences.

I would give up all of the friends I have just for my boys to have some, just for them to feel at home here. But it doesn't work that way, so we wait. We wait and pray and have faith that God is even using this season of homesickness for their good and His glory. And we remember that this longing to feel at home is a reminder that there is a better home awaiting us one day. I hope I continue to point my boys to Christ during this, to the friend who sticks closer than a brother, to the one preparing a place for us in heaven. I pray that the broken parts of their hearts are mended in a way that makes them stronger, yet more sensitive, than they might have been otherwise.