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!

Looking Lovely

Some fun pictures and interesting tid-bits about Maskcara make-up. Maybe you’ve wondered about it, maybe you’ve never heard of it! I learned more and more over the course of last year from a friend who really liked this whole line of products. The more I saw, and the more I watched her videos, the more intrigued I became! The woman who founded the company was a mom who decided to start a blog, and talk about every day beauty products. She was honest and became an internet favorite for a lot of people. I admit, I had never heard of her! She was a foster child, and she is a foster mom now! The company that she started, donates the proceeds from certain products to foster care families and resources.  Cost wise, Maskcara stands out, and as a company, they give back to a specific group of people who need it! Just fyi:)

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

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Summer 2014

My plan was to just jump right in and lament my stress over science fair season! However, I can understand how some parents might not be able to relate at all, because their children have different goals than mine do, when it comes to these things. An introduction is in order! I have to put this stress over the science fair into context- it isn’t just science, or projects, it’s BOTH with this particular child.  He is my oldest, the most like me in personality, and I think he hung the moon (not because he’s like me, just because he’s that special!).

aidan 1 His 10th birthday, 2017

The name “Aidan” means “fiery one,” after St. Aidan. He was a cool guy- read about him if you get the chance!  I’m sure anyone could write for hours and hours about someone or thing that they love. Same with me. I’m not even sure how to par this down! Each family has unique dynamics, and in our large family, his personality affects how the younger ones fall into place. Aidan is, I would say, an “alpha” male or personality. He’s a natural leader (he’s been accused of being bossy by his younger counterparts), Type A (like me), and a bright kid. He started kindergarten when he was 4, and he walked to school everyday- usually without one of his parents- as part of a “walking schoolbus” in our neighborhood. We lived in Michigan that year for James’s fellowship, so our little guy was walking in snow for at least 6 months out of that year!

Like me, he sees the world in black and white, not shades of gray. There is a right way, and a wrong. There are definitely pro’s and cons to this personality trait! We are horrible liars- he couldn’t tell a fib if his life depended on it.  It also makes us rigid in how we like to do things, such as cleaning a certain way, bedtimes, meals, rules, etc. He is like me, times ten. As an adult, marriage has softened my edges and refined my character a great deal. I had to learn how to compromise more, and that there are two ways of doing things! My way isn’t always right:) Aidan, bless him, has an unwavering moral compass, and a tendency to be hard on people who are not in line with him, like his siblings! I think that having a large family is WONDERFUL for us. The sibling nearest in age to him, Rose, could not be more different. She doesn’t kowtow to his demands, she stands her ground like Wonder Woman, and isn’t intimidated by his skills, book-smarts, or sharp wit. It is SO good for him, to have her as his “foil” in our home. God put these special human beings in one place, so that we could all learn from each other, benefit and love one another. Someone’s weakness is another one’s strength. We talk openly about how each person has unique gifts, and that we can’t compare ourselves to others.

Wrestling as babies, Rose cheering him on in his first youth triathlon 2017

For instance, I have never, ever seen anyone with a memory like Rose. She can hear or read something once and recite it perfectly. I don’t know the exact criteria for a photographic memory, but she has got to be close. It’s astounding. Aidan and Rose both attend a children’s ministry group called Awana on Wednesday evenings. They are supposed to memorize Bible verses. Rose can memorize hers in under 5 minutes. Aidan is like a normal person, and has to practice for a while. This irks him to no end! He is very, very, very, did I say VERY competitive?? Everything, his whole life, has been a competition. Brushing teeth, I mean, who can compete when they brush their teeth?? Apparently he can. He does his the “right” way. When he was teeny tiny, his first word was “ball” and a love was born. As a plump, Buddha-esque baby of 8 months, he would sit on the floor and throw a softball to me, over and over again. If I got up to take a break, he would YELL his little blond head off, until I returned and we started again. Always with his left hand. I’m a lefty too:)

   Holding the ball from his first out-of-the-park homerun! Visiting Turner Field, 1995 Braves World Series Trophy

He loved to play baseball in the yard with James from the time he could walk. He would have make-shift bases made out of moss. I’m not kidding- he would slide into second base, which was a giant tree with gnarly roots, and tear up his leg!  Aidan would stand up, with cuts and blood, tears streaming down his little face. “I’m SAFE!!” I would explain EVERY TIME that daddy was NOT going to tag him out, he didn’t have to slide! I didn’t matter what I said…he was not taking any chances. There was no way he was going to lose to dad!  We laugh about that all of the time now. He thinks it’s the funniest thing ever.

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Palm Sunday, 2014 I think, playing the role of Jesus

His intense personality spread to other areas of life. He is known and has always been known for his love of food. I know, plenty of kids love treats and are “good eaters.” He’s in a category by himself. When he was little, as my first child, I had all of these goals of things I wanted to do with him to be a “perfect” mom. I took him to story time at the library- like he would actually listen at 13 months. I remember, some kid opened up a cheese stick, and it was all over. He screamed at the top of his lungs because someone else was having a snack. We couldn’t go anywhere for almost three years, where other people were eating.  Restaurants were off limits, because every time a waiter walked by with food for someone else, he hit the roof. Again, he thinks these stories are just HILARIOUS now. He would eat anything- and I mean anything. His physique was, shall we say, sturdy?  Then, around 6 years old, his eating did not slow down at all, but the chunk turned to muscle. Why can’t that be a trait from me?? Why?! How does that happen??

   First summer on swim team, he won Coach’s Award for his age group! 2017

He has six-pack abs, rounded biceps, legs that look like a sprinter. I do NOT have any of those qualities. Darn shame it is, I tell ya. He still loves baseball more than the air he breaths. Everything about the game- the smell of fresh cut grass, warm-ups, the sound of a bat cracking when it makes contact in the sweet spot, pitching a perfect strike, and of course, sliding!! We always watch the World Series together. In 2016, for his October birthday, I got the two of us seats right behind home plate, when the Braves were playing the Tigers- last game at Turner Field. I couldn’t go, because of the pain from my August surgery. That was right before I ended up being transferred to Emory for the full work up and mesh removal. My heart broke that I missed that with him. He still got to go though!

He is so responsible, and helpful around here. Every morning, when I am too sore to get up quickly, he hears the baby making noises in her crib, and he gets her for me. He will bring a warm bottle in for me, and help me get her changed. He helps his little siblings get dressed when they can’t find the button holes:), and he loves learning how to cook. Every since he was little, I thought he was cut out for the military. He thrives on structure and rules, and he appreciates boundaries. His sense of fairness rivals a Supreme Court justice anyday. His competitive streak does not come from me though- the blue eyes, dimples, dominant left hand, rigid take on right and wrong- that’s all me. I wish the six-pack abs were, but alas, those are definitely not mine either! My husband loves sports, but the killer instinct to win everything- that is all his own. Aidan was born with the desire to win every race, hit every ball out of the park, and WIN at the science fair.

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His first science fair, he did the project all by himself, 3rd grade

Now, on to the topic of the day- his science fair project! He’s very math and science oriented, like daddy. He loves math and breezes through. I worked hard in math, and did well, but it was not a breeze for me! He comes to me a week or so ago and asks, seriously, “Mama, can I split an atom for my science project?” Absentmindedly, I replied, “No hun, that’s kind of dangerous.” “But I’ll do it in the kitchen!” I have NO idea why that would make it safer? I firmly explained why we could NOT split any atoms, anywhere in the house. A few days later…”Mama, could we get a sample of polio from a lab, infect an animal, and observe it?” “Oh my gosh, NOOO!!” Not to be completely deterred, “Ok, what about an insect then?”

I had to get to the bottom of why he was coming up with these outlandish topics. Why couldn’t we just watch a sandwich get moldy? Build a potato battery or something like that?! I asked, but I should have known without asking, “Mom, I have never WON the science fair! I can’t do just ANYTHING, it has to be AMAZING!!” Ok, no pressure or anything. Daddy and I had a family meeting and came up with some ideas that didn’t involve killing a lot of people, and I think we finally settled on a topic today!! Oh thank goodness. The stress of trying to pick a topic was unpleasant. Aidan gets so into things- he doesn’t do anything 50%, he only knows 100%- which is wonderful, but when mom is running on an empty tank, and dad has successfully fought off the flu and been sleeping for a week straight, we are just plain tired!

I’ll have to post some pictures of the finished topic. I love that kid. We can finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts. I love my children equally, but not the same. Each one of them is SO different. I would have thought that they would take after each other, share some traits. Nope. God gave us 6 individuals who could have been from different planets. I absolutely love that. It made each pregnancy that much more exciting- seeing how different and special each new life would be. Aidan, you are my fiery one. Never lose your fire! Never lose your sense of justice, and your love for all things good and pure and righteous. God has big plans for you buddy!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sink or swim

The past couple of years, my kids- whole family really, got a crash course in “sink or swim” in life! I feel like I was the one sinking usually! And worrying about everyone else, especially the kids, sinking as well. Time and time again, friends, family, teachers, neighbors, and strangers told me that my kids were doing really well! They were happy, well adjusted, doing well in school, and getting along with others. I was absent for much of their development and the daily grind during this time period. It began with a very difficult pregnancy, where I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (same thing as Princess Kate) and migraines so severe, I was treated in the hospital a couple of times. Then, after the birth I couldn’t walk well, because of the femoral hernia that was so painful. Then, the surgery to fix that ended up changing my life forever. As a wife and mother, I carried enormous guilt over things that I had no control over, because of my perceived failure in my roles.

I have been proven wrong, yet again. My kids learned how to fix their own breakfast (they already knew but would still wait for someone else to do it), get themselves dressed, read to each other, entertain and play with the baby- all sorts of things! Today, I was the recipient of the funniest note EVER from a teacher. My three-year old in a Mother’s Morning Out program, got himself dressed today. His teacher sent me this:

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This is #ElitheWildman, as I refer to him around here, and on instagram:)  His wonderful teacher with a wry sense of humor is behind him.

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When your kids learn to be more self-sufficient, sometimes you end up with notes about their bare bottoms surprising their preschool class. Other times, they can shock you with maturity and wisdom beyond their years.

A few months ago, my husband had been on call all weekend. That means he worked nonstop for a few days, and got very little sleep. He is the one who gets up really early and makes sure our daughter gets to the bus on time. Come Monday morning, his alarm didn’t go off and he slept late. I am no help in the mornings, usually. It’s a very difficult time of day for me. James went hustling into the kitchen, searching for our daughter- worried about having to take her to school, get the boys dressed and ready- you know, all of that stress that comes with oversleeping an alarm! Our oldest son was calmly doing his homeschool lessons. He said, “Hey Daddy! Don’t worry, I got Rose up, made her breakfast, and walked her to the busstop on time. Then I came back, made the boys’ breakfast and started my lessons.”

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 This is my oldest, Aidan, and Rose, who has flourished at a new school this year.

     Gulp. I had to swallow a lump in my throat when James told me that later. My eyes may have stung a bit as well. I wish that I was more present, more capable, but then we would have deprived them of the chance to shine in ways I never could have foreseen. God knew, in His infinite wisdom, what they needed. I would not have chosen to step away, and let them fend for themselves quite so much! However, given the opportunity, they have learned how to “swim”! Underwear are occasionally forgotten in the shuffle of course… Hope they haven’t flashed too many people! Lol.

 

What you don’t see

This picture looks like a boy, reading.

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Of course, it is a boy reading, but what you don’t see tells more about the story than what you do see. I wasn’t able to drive a car for almost a year, because being in a sitting position caused me so much pain. I never in a million years thought that I would end up homeschooling my children, but I did- and I LOVE it. That story is a great one, I’ll share another time. Talk about life throwing you curve balls!

Life with chronic pain looked very, very different than my active “supermom” persona from before. My kids were put into schools, or had tutors, or taught by my husband and my mother. Just a few months ago, I was able- on good days- to take over a lesson or two, from my bed. Oh, how that brought joy to my heart! It gave me a reason to pull it together, grit my teeth and concentrate when I woke up every morning.

I haven’t gone to a restaurant in over a year. This past week, I had a doctor’s appointment (with one of the good ones!), and on my way home I decided I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I said, “let’s pack up our books, and go to Chick-Fil-A!” Ok, not a big deal to 99.9% of the population, but it was a HUGE deal to me! I brought a special cushion, and I was a little nervous about it!

My oldest child is in 5th grade, and I have debated writing their names on here or not. When I told them I started a blog, I didn’t know if they knew what that was. Lol. Right. “Mom, can you videotape me doing my Rubik’s cube and put it on there?” “Mom, can I sing, and you can post it?” “Are we going to be famous?!” No guys! haha. They weren’t concerned with privacy at all. I’m sure we’ll do introductions of each child, because each one deserves their own post! For now, I just wanted to share this simple picture of a boy, reading in a Chick-Fil-A.

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!