Thoughts on the First Semester

The kids are at co-op right now. I packed them up at 8 am and they headed off, backpacks loaded down with books to return and light lunchboxes for they had the opportunity to order their lunches today for the first time. They are ordering because I didn’t feel like making lunches that will be sent home, yet again. Oh yes, one of the greatest perks of homeschooling has been that I don’t have to pack lunches. With our switch to an all gluten-free house, finding things Liam will eat that can be packed has become increasingly challenging.

I spent my morning organizing their school records. I’m in my third year of homeschooling, but this is my first year with both kids who have school work that needs to be recorded and kept track of. I bought a banker’s box off Amazon that has metal handles and is large enough to have textbooks and papers stored. For the time being, I’ve got it all in one box, but eventually, I’ll have to purchase more. I stood there for a while, admiring my giant binder clipped stacks of worksheets and neatly organized textbooks. I took out the little booklets Liam made last year and flipped through the memories and re-read his journal sheets. Good memories.

So this first semester has passed. Grade cards are completed and I’m planned for the next quarter. I’m pretty pleased with my work. I’m pleased with the kids’ work too. Liam has taken an interest in cursive handwriting and so we started that on Monday. Sylvi feels she should also be working on it so I suppose I will have to get her a book as well.

Today is my first break that included silence in probably two months. Between working from home and homeschooling and teaching Sunday school and life in general, I don’t get much silence. I enjoy silence. It felt indulgent to sit quietly at my table checking records and ordering library books, but my did it get done quickly. So quickly, I may not only complete all my goals, but accomplish a few more tasks.

My goal for this year is to keep better records. Over the years, we have read so many books, but I haven’t recorded them. I always mean to, but I don’t. Last year, I kept track of my own personal reading and I loved seeing my total last weekend. So I set up a goodreads list to keep track of the books we read for the kids this year. I’ll be including the audiobooks as well since both kids are absolutely captivated by listening to them in the car as we travel between classes and errands. I’m excited to see where this lands us in 12 months!

To close, here’s where are sitting with our school progress at this point in the year!

Liam: 

  • Lesson 45 in Saxon 3 for math
  • Lesson 15 in comprehension (we do one a week)
  • Lesson 28 in Volume 1 of Story of the World (Liam has taken charge of this subject and listens to the audio book version all day and even at night. I check in frequently, and give him the chapter tests. At this point in the year, he has only missed one question. I keep track of the additional resources that are included in the teacher’s manual and get extra books from the library to follow along with the lessons.)
  • Phonics and reading are at the halfway point of lessons, but Liam is also reading in the evenings with us so he’s reading more than what the curriculum dictates.
  • English 2 has been a bit of a challenge. Liam is bored by the curriculum, and I plan to make a change next year, but for the time being we continue to work through the lessons. He’s got a good grasp on the parts of speech and grammar, but writing is not his jam. He can tell you anything you’d like to know about a sentence, but to write that sentence? Nope.
  • Handwriting without Tears, introduction to cursive – just begun.
  • Step 21 of 25 in All About Spelling level 2. I’ve stopped a few times throughout the year to do reviews of the spelling rules and words and he has done well. We will continue on to level 3 in a month or so.
  • Astronomy is running out of steam. We will be visiting the Air and Space museum next week and I’m looking into the audiobook version of our textbook to keep his interest. Liam has discovered the science channel and asks to watch it whenever he can.

Sylvia:

  • Handwriting without Tears Kindergarten. She’s almost done with this book and even though she wants to move on to cursive, I plan to continue with the next HWT book on printing.
  • We began Saxon Math 1 this week and she’s just buzzing along. I did the ABeka kindergarten math last semester and while she liked the pictures, it was just too easy. I’m glad to be moving on.
  • We took a break from Phonics for about two months and now she’s back at it, whipping through the lessons. She needed those months to get a better grip on her speech so she could hear the sounds in her own ears before she could apply them to the lessons.
  • She’s on lesson two in All About Reading 1. I took my time introducing this book, waiting on her speech as well. She places a great deal of pressure on herself during the sight word portion of the lessons so I am working on how to address this.
  • We did the requisite kindergarten science book that the Independent Studies program asked us to do, but that only took  few weeks. When your children are raised by a science-crazy, homeschooling mom, it’s hard to follow certain books. Sylvia has been participating in the Astronomy work alongside Liam all year as well.
  • In addition to The Story of the World, Sylvia is completing the required social studies book from the IS program as well. We don’t like it.

Both kids together are listening to Adventures in Odyssey for Bible. We aren’t attending Adventure club on Wednesday nights because of how late it runs, but the kids are enjoying this option. Liam takes Jiu-jitsu 2-3 days a week and has private guitar lessons once a week. Sylvia takes ballet lessons on Tuesdays and a combo ballet/tap class on Saturdays. And they are still working with a counselor who addresses Liam’s obsessive behaviors and anxiety disorder. Sylvia attends most of the sessions and I’ve loved watching her blossom socially as a result.

That’s where we are for school! Now that it’s all written out, I think I know why we are all so tired at the end of the day!

 

Day 13

I must admit that the last three weeks have gone by surprisingly fast. I had no idea that homeschooling two children would be so simply complicated. Yes. Simple and complicated at the same time. I don’t understand it either.

I remember my brother’s kindergarten year. I was in third grade and pretty offended that his work took less than half an hour to complete. I prepared Liam for this possibility. Thus far, he hasn’t been upset about Sylvia doing her work and leaving the table while he plugs along. Let’s take a moment and raise our coffee mugs in gratitude, shall we? She rejoins us when we do science and history and so far, it’s a system that is working very well.

While I type this, Liam is doing his phonics worksheets. He’s also lecturing me about the habits of hummingbirds. We have bird feeders outside the dining room window and often suspend our work to watch the hummingbirds zip back and forth. We may need to add another feeder or two in the spring. I haven’t witnessed any territoriality, but I’d like to keep encouraging their visits as much as possible!

One of the things that surprised me the most about school this year would be how much Liam is enjoying our world history study. We are using the book Story of the World and he is just absorbing every detail. I’ll admit that it makes the class so fun for me because we are currently studying the ancient Egyptians and that was the first historical period I remember studying and thoroughly enjoying.

I think one of the most complicated parts about homeschooling for me is the time. I love my children and spending time with them, but when we are in school mode, I can substitute our school time that we spend working in place of playing. So then life becomes all about work. I’m an all about work sort of person, so this doesn’t bother me, but they are too young (and mentally healthy!) to be like this, so they crave play. It’s probably a sad state of affairs that I have to learn how to play. But, to be fair, I don’t think 80s parents did that so this super-factual and old-souled mom has to be her own example.

We are really focusing on read-alouds and legos and playmobil and dolls. Those I can do. We played in the pool a lot this summer, often with me being the oddball mom doing cannonballs off the diving board or chasing them around the deep end. But the pool is now closed, so I’ve got to be more creative. I’m learning.

So school is simple. Life is complicated. But it’s all good. Really. The kids have their first day of co-op tomorrow and uniforms have been tried on and waistbands adjusted. I’ll pack lunches tonight and we will walk to the school building the morning, taking photos and waving goodbye. And on Monday, we will start it all over again with our math books and stories about the ancient Egyptians in our pjs.

First Day

Today was our first day of school. I got up early, showered and did my hair. I felt like I should start the school year off on a good note. A together note. I also took myself to Starbucks for coffee. It’s the first day of school, I should celebrate in my own way, right?

School went well. Liam is working through second grade and Sylvia is in Kindergarten. We have repurposed most of the dining room furniture for our school room. I often wonder what my Grandmother would think if she were to see her buffet filled with books and supplies, the silverware drawers housing stickers and notecards and extra pencils. Would she be horrified that I recovered her gold brocaded chairs in navy blue duck cloth for easy cleaning? I know she would faint if she were to ever see the art projects that take place on the table.

But it’s what works for us. I’m learning to do what works for us without apology. While I sit here typing, sauce for spaghetti is simmering on the stove and brownies bake in the oven. I’m thirty-five years old now and have just finally figured out what sauce is for our family. I’ve been working on the recipe for 10 years. TEN years. I’m Italian, you’d think it would be easier. But it’s not. And you know what else it isn’t? It’s not fast.

Turns out, the key to making sauce we all want to lick off the plates is three hours. Just three hours of simmering and slowness. Efficiency is my love language and I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to make everything quick. But sauce is not quick. And it seems I should not be either. My life, my breath, is so much more when I am slow.

These days, I start supper hours before we plan to eat it. Our food is slow. And in accepting a slower pace for our food, we’ve invited the Slow into the rest of our lives. Someone asked me what my schedule for the school year would be. I don’t know. I know how long it should take to cover all our materials, but it doesn’t matter. The beauty of our Slow life is that we don’t have to be chained to expectations. If we need an hour for phonics today, then so be it. If we need to put our nose in the books and power through five math lessons, we can do it. I don’t have the weight of I should have hanging over my head any more.

The brownies are almost done baking. They are from a mix. They are gluten free and guaranteed to not hurt anyone’s tummy. And that is good enough. I like to bake. I like to bake a lot. But gluten free baking can be so temperamental, I decided to cut myself some slack. Yes, I’d like to be able to do these things from scratch, but it’s not in the cards right now. So I am grateful for those people who have the skills to create mixes that turn out perfectly every. time.

Today was a good day. I think we hit a rhythm that could be sustainable. But the season will change and so will our activities. With that shift, we may need to alter the rhythm, as much as I enjoyed today’s. But if I have learned anything in the last 7 years of parenting, the schedule is not worth the drama.

Garden of Weedin’

I know, it’s not the most amazing title you’ll ever read, but right now, that’s exactly what it is. We’ve been pretty faithful about watering, but I tell you, the weeding gets me every year! This year, we planted shallots, leeks, 4 kinds of lettuce, kale, jalapenos, lunchbox peppers, Sicilian peppers, Roma tomatoes, Big Boy tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Royal Burgundy Green beans and carrots.

Lessons so far:

  • Leeks are really tiny seedlings
  • Vito won’t bother the shallots – they smell onion-y already
  • Vito still really likes green beans – he’s been rooting through all the leaves looking for the harvest already!
  • Carrots take forEVER to grow
  • Weeding around leeks and shallots is incredibly time consuming.
  • We are doing to need more supports for the tomatoes. There are so many blossoms!

Every morning, I get up and drink my coffee while I water. It’s such a peaceful routine. I put a lot of effort into the soil this year, finding good compost and adding soil to the areas that were too clay like. That alone has helped the herb garden immensely. Our own compost is pitiful, so I’ve gottena ton of books out of the library to hopefully remedy that!

Jump!

“Oh he’ll grow out of it.”

In seven years, I’ve heard that more than I can count. But in seven years, there have been moments when I’ve thought “Nope. This isn’t a grow-out-of situation.” That thought is shortly followed by a story about how their child used to be afraid of some inane thing and how they were able to tell their child to just buck up and get over it. Good for them. That’s not how it works here.

Liam was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year and now I understand why fear and anxiety have been a far more constant presence in our lives than the lives of our friends. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve got everything under control, but I can see his reasoning behind our chaos much more clearly now.

For instance, we started Liam in swim lessons when he was two. He just started swimming this summer. In the space between then, he’s screamed and cried, clung to the wall, the instructor and myself. This year, he’s been doing private lessons and group lessons. In the last week, he’s had two panic attacks related to the pool. We keep working at it and have spent a great deal of time making goals and talking about how we are going to accomplish them.

Today, at the end of swim lessons, the lifeguards told the kids they were able to jump off the diving board. Every child except Liam jumped. At the end of his private lesson, his teacher again told him he was ready to jump. He walked over and I ruined it. I realized what was happening, wanted to catch it on camera and spooked him. He tried twice over the course of the next hour. Half of that time I spent treading water in the 12-foot deep end trying to provide the security he needed.

After supper we returned to the pool, this time with Liam saying he was ready to jump. Ready to jump for him meant an additional 15 minutes of him standing on the edge of the diving board shaking and trying to work up the nerve to jump while we filmed. And cheered. And encouraged.

He did it. It took years of encouragement… this is not hyperbole, we’ve been working to get him to jump for years. A little girl did not get to jump because he took so long and her mom wanted to leave. The pool’s diving coach got into the water and waited for him for almost ten minutes.

When you have a child with an anxiety disorder, every little challenge that is met graciously by a stranger is a beautiful moment. I’ve had many moments of frustration and embarrassment, but tonight, I watched two lifeguards show my son love. He looks so normal that people see his fearful expressions as him being spoiled or whiny. They don’t hear his whispered fears in between the sobs. They don’t realize how wiped out he is from the effort to even try. He can’t see his hands shaking in fear.

Today, Liam jumped off the diving board. I asked him if he wanted to do it again. He said no. And it’s ok. When he’s ready to, it won’t be his first time. He’s already done for the first time. Sometimes, the first time is the hardest. And I have it on video for him to relive whenever he wants.