Time Machines, Field Trips, and Another Anniversary

This week, my kids had a field trip with their homeschool group, Classical Conversations, to The Rock Ranch. It is just about their favorite place ever. It’s a working farm, with historical tours, reenactments, artifacts, and best of all- plenty of places for free play. They took advantage of a giant bubble in the ground- ok, I know I have phrased that completely incorrectly, but to me that’s what it looks like! They took their shoes off and bounced their heads off. Then, there was Tiny Town- a miniature version of an old west town complete with a jail, courthouse, church, school, and stores. That is the highlight of the trip! They chase each other around, and drag their friends to the jail. Oh- the laughter! I could have listen to it for hours.

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On the way home, Aidan and Rose were talking about how this year compared with other years they had been- the weather, the food, the activities. It hit me that I have no memories of those adventures. None. I don’t even remember the days that they went. I don’t remember them coming home to tell me about it, nor the other experiences they shared with dear friends. While everyone else’s lives moved on, I was in a bubble for almost two years. My bedroom was the bubble most of the time, dark, and I was unable to talk or read or even listen most days. The sustained level of pain separated me from rational thought and conversation. I existed somewhere between reality and a dream world. I do remember it feeling endless- days turned into weeks, into months. One day exactly like the next with no progress for a very, very long time.

I told my children that I felt like I had just stepped out of a time machine. A little over two years ago, I stepped out of this reality, and I just emerged. I’ve been doing more and more with the kids, but this week I noticed the passage of time so much more than before. Here I am, driving the kids hours in the car for a full day of activity. I didn’t drive a car for over a year. It was almost as though the last couple of years were a dream. I went from 2016, to now. They have all of these memories that I am not a part of. I’m not bitter about that, rather I feel an immense gratitude that they were so loved and cared for. I get to wake up every day, like it’s Christmas morning. EVERY DAY. I get to drive! I get to eat! I get to walk around! Never gets old.

I’m by no means perfect- my health is an ongoing challenge. A couple of days ago, James and I had an emergency trip to see a neurologist for me. We used to have those nail-biting, jump in the car, desperate wild goose chase for answers, outings together all of the time. A lot of those long drives and longer appointments were dead ends. This one, however, was not. Another piece of the puzzle is being put back together. It’s amazing just how much can fall apart, like dominoes toppling one after the other. I’m playing catch-up, and most days I feel great about the progress but other days (like this week) I look at where I want to be and I get discouraged. When will I get there? There is no magic time machine to jump in, and fast forward. Getting to the destination sure would be nice, but this journey has made me endlessly grateful for each teeny, tiny blessing.

While my recovery was gradual- almost imperceptible for months, the major events that changed my life are pretty easy to identify. I passed another milestone this week- the two year anniversary of my surgery at Emory. It was on November 9th, a Wednesday morning right after the election. The nurse came in at 4:30am to wake me up and tell me that Donald Trump had won. I was so surprised I almost fell out of the bed. They wheeled me down to pre-op in the still-dark hours of dawn. I was blissfully unaware of how difficult the surgery would be, and I think my surgeon was as well. He estimated 1.5 hours, and it took 7. After waking up, there were some complications in the PACU, and I felt real, raw fear. I was free-wheeling (ok, literally because I had enough ketamine in me to kill a horse), and didn’t know where I would land. For the first time in my life, I considered the real possibility that everything would not be ok. The uncertainty was the worst part- moving forward after that with no clear path or guarantees. I know I’m not alone in that experience. While mine was health related, other people I know have faced total uncertainty with jobs, sick children, marriages crumbling, and finances changing. I think human beings have a natural tendency to seek control and structure of their own destinies. To be forced to let go of all control and realize it is a harsh lesson to learn. Control is, I’ve learned, all an illusion of course! Even when we think we are the navigators of all things in our lives, we really aren’t.

Two years ago, I woke up on November 9th and fully realized that I was not in control at all. The reality had been there all along, I just didn’t see it clearly. Now, I wake up every day and let life happen. Am I still a planner? By nature, yes. Do I cling to ideals, bitterly and relentlessly, not wanting to let go of “my” plans? Nope. Not any more. While I was in my “bubble” I changed, evolved and I’m still growing. A time machine would have saved me so much heartache, but then I wouldn’t see life through rose colored glasses like I do today. La vie en rose.

 

Why do I homeschool?

I remember having a conversation with a friend years and years ago, and she said that she wanted to homeschool her children. I thought wow! that’s great, good for you, but I could NEVER do that. The first question I asked was “what about socialization?” She had a long, well thought out answer full of plans and ideas that sounded wonderful. In my mind, I thought about prom, and AP English class discussions which I loved. I didn’t want to deprive my children of the good experiences that I had had in school. Homeschool sounded interesting, but it wasn’t for me. My husband went to a private, Catholic high school and I went to a private, secular high school that was academically challenging. I loved school, and I’m still close with friends I’ve had since middle school. Still, a tiny seed was planted that day while on a coffee date with a mom friend.

Fast forward a little while. We were living in the Philadelphia area for James’s residency and he had matched with a fellowship in the Detroit area. I had heard the not-so-pleasant stories about Detroit (#1 most dangerous place in America, at the time) and I obsessively scoured the internet trying to find us a suitable place to live. We had no money for flying out there and searching in person for a rental. I was pregnant with Matthew, and I remember sitting on the sofa/bed/chair/everywhere with the laptop on my legs and searching- again and again. Nothing. If I found a cute place, I immediately got outbid. I was flummoxed, because to my knowledge not many people were moving to Detroit! I finally broke down and called a real estate agent to ask what in the world was going on. She kindly explained that I was trying to move to the ONE good school district in the area. ahhh- gotcha. That made sense. No wonder it was so competitive.

God provided for us, perfectly, in His time, just like He always has. In what felt like the LAST minute, I received an email from a doctor at the hospital where James was going to work. She was an ob/gyn and she was renting out her family home and would LOVE to have a medical family stay there. Phew. It happened to be on the cutest street in America, in the best school district, with kind neighbors- basically perfect. While that experience ended well, it got me thinking. What happens in a year when James is looking for jobs after fellowship? Do we make a list and say that not only does  the job have to have certain criteria, but we have to find a home with a certain floor plan, in a specific school district? I knew that that was too many variables, too many unknowns.  I had to remove some.

Finding a job near a great school district was going to be too much pressure. The buck stopped with me, not the teachers, to make sure that my children were well educated. I didn’t want to end up with a  great job, albeit in the middle of nowhere, and not have a way to make sure that the kids were well taken care of academically. I decided to start researching homeschooling as a back-up option. I don’t do things halfway- it’s all or nothing. It wasn’t feasible for me to physically go back to school to get a degree in education, so I ordered the textbooks and taught myself. I read about early childhood education, lesson plans, child psychology, development, and education theories. I was very practical about all of it at the get-go.

I remember this so vividly- I was reading a woman’s blog one day- ok, back up a little. I didn’t exactly know how blogs worked! I googled “mom homeschool blog” and worked my way through them, reading about how they divided up their time and managed to teach multiple children. During the course of that afternoon, a warm and fuzzy sensation spread through me. I mean that literally! There was a warmth, a tangible feeling of joy and love that I will never forget. I felt a calling, a very strong conviction, to homeschool my children. I was not looking for a “sign”, but one hit me like a brick wall. It was the clearest answer to a question that I hadn’t asked out loud- Lord, what do I do? He said, Amy DO THIS. Gulp. Really? I will repeat that- I was NOT looking or asking for guidance, I *thought* I was just reading and preparing “just in case.” Nope. Funny how life happens?

After that afternoon, when I felt a calling deep within me, I went to my husband to get his blessing. Oh, by the way, we are going to keep these LOUD, little humans home with us and take on the task of education too. M’kay? I feel called to do this. Before I got all of the words out of my mouth, James was exuberant! “Amy, those homeschooled kids ALWAYS win the Scripps spelling bee!” Those were his exact words. Oh, sweet James. He was valedictorian, and the best speller I know. Bless his heart. So far, none of his children have exhibited one-half of his ability to spell. Hehe. However, the thought of one of his kids winning a national spelling bee was what first attracted him to the idea! From there, we delved more into the nitty-gritty of each subject, the logistics, and the spiritual and moral side of things. Education is an immense responsibility and we knew from the beginning it was a team effort.

My sweet friend who talked to me in the coffee shop that day also extolled me on the attributes of Classical Conversations. It is an international “school” with a standardized curriculum, that repeats every three years. Meaning, wherever you go, the CC group is doing the same thing as all of the others around the world. I read about every kind of approach known to man for education. I settled on the “classical” approach, and it works well for us. There are so, so many things I could write but this post was just to give a little background on the “why.” When we found out where we were moving after fellowship, I immediately looked for a Classical Conversations group to join. The public schools here are amazing, but I committed to trying homeschooling for one year. The one year turned in to six, and we love it.

I was deeply grateful for the public school system when I was too sick, and in too much pain to teach. The teachers there didn’t just teach, they loved my children. My daughter and son flourished academically and made a lot of friends. Long story for another day- but the gist of it is, God took care of us at every turn in life. There have been many bumps in the road, stops, starts, and pauses.  We’ve committed to trying to tailor the education to meet each child’s needs, as well as me and James. It saves our sanity and patience to have the littlest ones in a nearby preschool, that we love- they are like family!

When I started homeschooling six years ago, I created this gorgeous classroom. I carefully chose the paint color for the walls, posters, charts, globes, art supplies, desk, bookshelves, etc. I admire those families that actually use a “classroom” at home. Wow. So in reality, now we use the kitchen table. Why? It’s a lot closer to the snacks which my children “need” in order to learn, at least every hour. The books get stacked on a pretty hutch that I got for dishes. It does not have one dish in it. It does have a LOT of broken crayons:) We use our formal dining room now too- it’s covered in kids’ books, and papers. Education is not confined to a classroom. It’s all over our house! There’s a science experiment currently growing in my kitchen, and the Classical Conversations cd’s are upstairs in the bedroom, where the little siblings can listen to them as well during their quiet time.

 

So, why do we homeschool? In short, I felt called to do it. James has a heart for it as well. We have always been on the same page as far as education is concerned. What started out as a one year commitment, to “see how it goes”, has turned into a lifestyle for us. It works for us! We had to change things when my health was suffering, but that is the great thing about community- everyone loved on us, and pitched in! My oldest son didn’t miss a beat. Public school served our family very well, private preschool and kindergarten did, and our homeschool community acted like family and kept Aidan moving along. CC embraced my mom who took Aidan every week last year, when I was still stuck in bed.

I’ll share more details about curriculum another time. For today, just know that I love homeschooling. I never in a million years thought that we would be doing this! And socialization, is not a problem. Just ask them- if you can get a word in edgewise!

Pull it together Amy!

This week, I’ve been recovering from a small procedure I had on Monday. Overall, I’m just plain tired. It’s been hard to sleep and we were out of town, so didn’t sleep as well as I do in my own bed. I think I wore pajamas every day, laid on ice, heat… it’s been a blur!  Each day is better, but I’m still working on catching up on sleep.

I got an invitation to our homeschool moms’ get together this weekend. My oldest child attends Classical Conversations. It was kind of them to include me, because I actually don’t even go to the group. My mom takes Aidan for me and I rest on those days. I haven’t done anything social with friends in- hmm…almost two years I think? Since before Lana was born and she’s almost 21 months old.  The mom who invited me lives in my neighborhood, walking distance for the kids. I knew they wouldn’t mind if I laid on the couch- these are true friends who just enjoy my company!

I decided to surprise everyone, even myself, and say “yes!” I wanted to pull it together, and put my best foot forward. Every time my kids see me dressed nicely, they ask if I have a doctor’s appointment:) Gosh, it’s time for me to pull it together more often! I learned to contour like the pros from a friend, and James got me this fun make-up for Christmas from Maskcara Beauty. Drumroll… Here’s the before and after shots!

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I am getting a lot of use out of my Christmas present! I wore white peach, walnut/olive, black cherry, rose gold, and London and amethyst on my eyes.  I got the chance to wear my favorite Shelly Brown earrings and stacked bracelets as well. Thanks to James’s Christmas present and Shelly’s sense of style, I pulled it together for a couple of hours! Huge step forward for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

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*This was our New Year’s Eve dinner, while daddy worked. Dining room, real china, a wonderful way to end the year!

One thing that always makes the first week back go a little easier, is to have breakfast premade! It is unusually cold in Georgia right now, and it’s still pitch black dark outside when my daughter has to walk to the bus stop. Last night I stayed up, making brie/croissant/raspberry jam filled rolls. I don’t use a recipe- I just winged it. They were a hit today!

This year, we have one in Classical Conversations Foundations and Essentials, one in public school second grade, one in kindergarten, one in pre-K, and one in Mother’s Morning Out at a Methodist Church Preschool nearby. The littlest is 1.5, and she’s home with me and her oldest brother. This year, the school situation is all over the place, because of my health issues. I wasn’t well enough or strong enough to handle much. I still really wanted to homeschool, but wasn’t sure how we were going to make it work. My parents moved up here so that they could help take care of me, and the kids. My mom takes my son to CC, my husband, in addition to his full time job as a doctor, also takes care of all of the math instruction, and I do religion, science, reading/book reports, and CC review. He takes an online self-paced history class from Veritas that we really like!

When I was little, going back in January was always the hardest- not after summer. I definitely got the winter blues. I love having the kids around over break, all of the noise, the mess, the laughter- it’s music to my ears. They weren’t apprehensive at all about school; my oldest got right back to work where we left off on his own, my daughter jumped out of bed bright and early, and the three boys marched out the door, clutching their backpacks and full of joy for seeing their teachers and their school buddies.

I admit, I was really tired today after having everyone home, and trying to be more active, and present for them.  Blessing to have them home, and blessing that we have great schools that fit our needs for now! Today, was a quiet, recovery day for me!