20Sep

State of The People

I spent the past weekend at a girls’ retreat, navel-gazing and giggling.

imageI still missed my people. It’s easy to feel freed up from the needs and wants, but their personalities and their stories and their hugs? I can’t quit longing for those.

So I thought I’d talk about my gang for awhile. A State of the Union check-in of sorts…

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Sam:

He gets taller and more angular every day. Last spring’s change in philosophy over our goals for learning have been huge for Sam. He has so much more confidence and is really conquering and understanding his math, latin, and other studies. He’s still Sam, still silly, still takes everything we say literally, but it’s so fun watching him begin to mature. He’s asking fantastic questions about faith and Truth and I can’t get over how cool it is to talk to the person he’s becoming.

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Ian:

Officially in braces now. Continues to read everything in sight and remains interested in All The Things. My own little Renaissance Boy. He’s showing a great deal of maturity and is a very willing helper. He also laughs at my jokes, so he’s a keeper. He and Sam are taking my writing class in co-op and it’s a hoot to view them from the front of a classroom. Honestly, I grin like an idiot when I see their faces in the crowd. And they very sweetly do not tell too many ugly stories about me to their classmates.

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Adam:

Bless this middle child. He’s beginning to show glimpses of independence, like maybe he doesn’t want to be exactly like his brothers. He scored the first touchdown of the season in his flag football game last week. He stands straighter when we talk about it. But he’s also realizing the hard work that comes with playing a sport. Current obsessions include spy gear (he woke up with me at 6:30 to request that I price out heat sensing radars for him) and college football.

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Ellen:

Practically grown. She was doing well in reading, but then I showed her pictures of folks using journalling Bibles to draw in while they studied. It’s essentially scrapbooking in the Bible. She became obsessed and begged for her own wide-margin Bible. I told her she had to be reading well. Two hours later, she came downstairs and read me two verses from Psalms that she had sounded out all her own. She hung onto my promise with tenacity and kept reading me Boxcar Children stories and more Bible verses (although one time Adam – who doesn’t like to take the time to sound words out – told her the word was “animals” when it was “armies” which gave the verse a slightly different flavor.) We conceded and bought her the coveted Bible. She draws in it every day and loves going to church to sketch out her stick figure version of what she hears the pastor say.  She’s very… literal. Like the time the pastor said “amongst us” and she drew “a monster.”

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Willa:

Her fashion sense knows no sense. But she wears it with pride. She is now in charge of cleaning out the dishwasher. I’ve never seen such a methodical child. She plays with each fork and spoon on the way to the silverware holder. She makes up stories about the bowls. She puts things away one. item. at. a. time. Efficiency is never the goal with her. She applies this same philosophy to her school work. It makes her quick on the draw with phonics, but building numbers with math blocks takes a sweet forever while she arranges and clucks over each ten bar. I’m positive this skill will serve her well in the future, but in the meantime, I’m fighting to keep my eyeballs from rolling back in my head.

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Mira:

Shows us more of herself every single day. She dances and sings all the time. I see her practicing her ballet arms and turns a lot these days. She has nearly perfect pitch and can mimic any song with only hearing it once or twice. She gives the greatest hugs on the planet and doesn’t mind a good long cuddle. Gran gave me this print for my birthday and when I explained it to Mira, she hugged it close and said, “Can I have it?”

Anything you want, baby.

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Finn:

While driving in the van recently, he asked me to blow his “chicken ‘n fwies” for him. I told him he was a big boy and he could do it himself. His response? “I not a big boy. I a Finn!!”

That pretty much sums it up. He’s a sweet kid, unless you cross him. He really does go along for the ride with our crazy antics fairly well and is sharp as a tack when it comes to the learning. He loves to make us chant the continents or practice phonic sounds at the dinner table. I find this thrilling and terrifying all at once. He and Mira are currently learning all of the pre-reading stuff at the same time… Hold me.

 

And that’s my people.

I have a lot of them.

They fill my days and trash my floors, but they are the reason I get up every morning and start praying before I’ve had my coffee. I couldn’t mother them without Jesus and caffeine. But I love them so and this job is such a gift.

How are all YOUR people???

 

p.s. Andrew is my people, too, but he doesn’t like it when I update the internet on his fashion sense or learning abilities. Just trust me: he remains as wonderful as ever.

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Homeschooling – When You Want To Quit

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I got an SOS from a friend recently. You know the one. “I don’t know how to do this homeschool gig, these people are driving me nuts, I’m researching public schools as we speak, etc.”

And I get it. I text my resignation to Andrew at least a couple times a month. He never accepts. *rolls eyes*

I do not pretend to have all the answers. But as somebody who has had her share of “try to get fired” days, here’s what I said:

1. Relationship is the priority.

If you’ve hit the wall and the kids are melting down, it is absolutely ok to punt the day and restore fellowship with your kids. Leave the math where it is, grab some cookies and peanut butter (to get everyone’s blood sugar evened out) and head outside if you can. Blow some bubbles, play tag, just take some deep breaths and stop the vomit of words from your mouth.

Once your heart rate is normal, sit down and talk with your kids about “what just happened in there.” Listen to them, nodding and “mm-hmming” even if you want to yell back at them. Bite your tongue. Then, take a deep breath and talk about what went wrong from your perspective. Remember – the goal is to restore relationship, not start the cycle over again. So be as gentle as you can, recognizing that you are the adult in the room and leading by example is the best way to get others to follow.

It’s often helpful to ask your kids what THEY think the solution is, even if their ideas may be ineffective, because making them feel like part of the solution is half the battle.

Not everything can be solved in one meeting on one day. But once you’ve talked, hug it out, and then use your best judgment about whether or not you can all handle returning to the work at hand or just punting in favor of reading some good books together and cuddling.

2. Make a list of things that make you yell.

We call them “Pain Points.” I keep up with them now and run through my list with Andrew on occasion. I can’t always see objectively what needs to be done, so it helps to have an outside pair of eyes on it – someone who has a vested interest in this going well. We talk about how to fix those things, what to shift around or re-assign so that I don’t hit the roof every day at the exact same time.

3. Make a schedule.

I’ve tried not to. There’s no getting around it. Once the number of kids surpasses two or three, even us more “flexible” types will benefit from some sort of routine or rhythm to our days. Last year, shortly after a mega-meltdown, I had to admit that even a routine wasn’t enough. We settled on carving our day into thirty minute increments and making sure we knew where each person in the family would be at each half hour. Painstaking. A little soul-killing for us loosey-goosey types. But absolutely necessary.

At some point, this becomes NECESSARY FOR SANITY. My left eye quit twitching after we implemented this. No lie.

4. Build breaks into your day.

All of the best productivity books say that we’re really only at our best for hour and a half stretches. To require yourself or your gang to plow through without any breaks is asking for trouble. We take a snack break at 10:30 and I force myself to get up from my spot and walk outside. I need to breathe some fresh air as much as the kids do. I also top off my coffee and make sure I eat a protein snack to keep my blood sugar humming along until lunch time. Being Hangry is the opening act to Raving Total Lunatic.

5. Recognize your limits.

After a steady morning of teaching, I have not one single iota of energy left to devote to feeding my brood. Best thing I ever did was pass this job off to my older kids. Sam and Ian have covered it for awhile but I’m just about ready to add in Adam and Ellen. That means if you’ve got a seven year old, more than likely, they can handle this task. Just close your eyes and try not to notice the peanut butter on the floor or the bizarre combination of crackers and yogurt they concoct.

I learned that just knowing lunch was coming made my blood pressure start to rise and made everything harder at the end of the morning. Now that I know it’s covered, I relax into my role and enjoy my teaching right up until noon.

 

If at any point you are in doubt, please go back to point number 1. Relationship trumps everything. We all homeschool for many different reasons, but I think it’s safe to say that none of us do it so we can end up disliking our kids at the end of every day. If they spend every day with us, they will learn the states and capitals, they will learn the multiplication tables, but most importantly, they will learn how to relate to others from the way we relate to them. So make this your top priority and let the rest of it flow from there.

I know you all can come up with more. How do you cope? What makes you want to quit? What keeps you coming back for more? And how do you keep yourself on track?

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