December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

The yearly reflection post is probably my favorite. This year I had quite a bit to think back on and it literally took me 3 days to finish this post.

I remember when I gave my child permission to quit one activity to start another, mid-season, and I became a karate mom.
I remember road tripping with my Dad, hitting four states in two days including a little stop off at my freshman college campus. That place has grown!

I remember receiving phonetically-spelled and emoticon-full texts from tLG anytime I was traveling. They always made me smile.

I remember our 3rd annual No Boys Allowed Party with dancing, stair jumping, pillow fighting and art making. The best part was stepping over sleeping little bodies to make my way to my room, which had been transformed into the biggest fort ever.
I remember Award's Show season. Me + E! + wine + Twitter. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

I remember when MY beloved Publix opened in Donelson. It was all I had dreamed of and more. The natural health section still makes my heart palpitate. In a very good way.
I remember going to the Women's Retreat. It was such a bittersweet weekend. I knew it was my last weekend away with Kelly before she moved but I also debuted my first set of nYn products and sold out of practically everything.
I remember tLG's dental surgery and the insane amount of research that went into making an informed decision about that process. It's infuriating that modern medicine can cause so many side effects that no one either a) knows about or b) bothers to mention.

I remember adding tires and pallets to my little redneck garden. I do love having fresh herbs and produce straight from the backyard but I somehow managed not to get a single tomato this year.

I remember when Field Day got canceled for rain and my girl gave me a "lesson" on skip counting. I do love me some Montessori.
I remember cutting my hair a 3rd time for Locks of Love. It was too long to think about going through another summer and I knew it was time. I gave 15 inches, which is my longest donation yet.

I remember picking out a "Fly Over" outfit with tLG. It wasn't a dress but it was PERFECT for her unique style.
I remember our School's Out for Summer Trip with Yah Yah. We had so much fun, especially sneaking over to the Holiday Inn to watch movies by the pool each night. On this trip, I declared 6 my new favorite age!
I remember when my bestie moved to Dallas. I literally felt LOST for weeks. Our little routine had just shifted in a big way. The way we made plans and went about our daily life was just... different.

I remember praying for a new friend and being shocked at how quickly and perfectly the Lord provided more than a friend, but a family, and we all attached to each other in a hurry. They love all the same things as we do, including our beloved Summer Fridays at the lake.
I remember many a summer dinner. It's possible that I perfected stove-top popcorn in coconut oil, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with butter. We also declared Chocolate Moose Tracks our fave!

I remember discovering Bicentennial Mall. I have no idea how I've never been there before. It has water and long stretches of grass and rocks and bells and the capitol building in the background and the Farmer's Market next door. It became my new happy place. So much so that we had our family pictures taken there in the fall.
Oh, how fondly I remember Summer Solstice. Not only is it my favorite day but we had the most delightful party with lots of friends to celebrate. Art Moves was here to do crafts with the kids and everyone had a blast!
I remember getting berries with tLG and Circle S Farms. She's a pretty good picker!
I can't quite remember when LeDarin showed up in our lives but I do remember how Skylar adored him. He seemed to fill a void in her heart from two other buddies who had moved away.
I remember going to TDF's Broadway review and falling in love with the music from Wicked and swearing to see it the next time it's at TPAC.

I remember discovering Hot Rod Ice Cream Shoppe. It's dangerously close to home and they have the best homemade waffle cones I've ever tasted. We may have went there a bit too often. Nah!
I remember the 1st day of first grade and some sweet new friends getting up super early to get us off to a good start. I cried that day as I mourned the loss of summer with my girl.
I remember a Sunday out on the pontoon boat with the entire family and being voted the "way more fun" jet ski driver. I also remember many sunset cruises on that boat with friends. Good times.
I remember my 1st trip to Roan Mountain. This was right on the heels of me discovering how many useful herbs grow in our area. I was in heaven. I also remember some sweet little girlies setting up a restaurant and serving everyone.
I remember when Mike randomly surprised me with the new M&M flavor, coconut. Life changing moment in many ways.

I remember a 66-hour birth that made me question why I ever wanted to become a doula. I hear it happens to the best of us. At my very next birth, I literally helped catch the baby and that was the reminder I needed.

I remember opting out of Awana and starting Bible Club at home. It was one of the best ideas I've had in a long time. Such sweet moments with my girl.
I remember homework, but not fondly. It did, however, get my wheels turning about homeschool.

I remember riding the Wacky Worm roller coaster at the fair with tLG over and over. She held her hands in the air like a true pro!

I remember how much I hated Vegas but how much my girl LOVED the Bellagio. She flew as an unaccompanied minor to get there and totally rocked it. Such a jet setter. I remember when she was sick at Christmas and so puny but she would say "let's talk about Bellagio again."
I remember when Skylar spent all of her tickets at the Fall Festival at the Garden Craft area. She does love art!

I remember meeting The Duggars! That may have been the highlight of my year.
I remember crossing a milestone that, 2 years before, I would have sworn could never happen. 

I remember the day that Skylar suddenly announced that she wanted her ears pierced. She did great and was so proud of them! I was so proud of how well she did and how easily she took care of them.
I remember falling in love with "chawk" paint and making plans for nearly every piece of furniture in our house. I even consented to letting Skylar pick "junebug" (bright green) for her desk.
 I remember when Skylar wanted her nails painted Auburn colors and when Alabama lost in the last second of the game. Boo!
I remember the enormous amount of research, thought, and prayer that went into our decision to homeschool.

I remember hanging with sweet friends at Christmas and overtaking their dining room table for many games of Settlers of Catan.

That's it for 2013. Wonder what 2014 will hold?

December 2013 in Pictures

For the full December update, click here.
2013 Christmas Card

New Advent Calendar

 First Snow Day
 Holiday Lunch at Stanford
Decorating Cookies
 Christmas Day with my favorite Peeps!
 Sweet Friends
Waiting to go to Bama

December 2013 Update

I could have sworn I was just typing the November recap. It seems that December flew by. It's not that we were super busy. In fact, this was probably our most low-key December today. I think I just had a lot on my mind.

For starters, Mike lost his job at Bass Pro. It was certainly a shock but I've had an amazing peace about the whole situation from the beginning. We've also really enjoyed having him home over the holidays because he's normally working a crazy schedule this time of year. For example, he was home on the first day it snowed. Mama doesn't do snow but these two went sledding and had a blast.

We did some our traditional holiday activities such as Walk Thru Bethlehem and celebrating with Mike's family. The Nashville parade was cancelled due to ice but that actually freed us up to attend our niece's birthday party. We had a Feliz Navidad party with our Lifegroup, holiday lunch at Skylar's school, and Christmas Eve service, which pretty much sums up the extent of our holiday festivities.
Speaking of school, we are elbow deep in trying to make a decision about homeschool. That has consumed quite a bit of my thought process this month. CONSUMED, I tell ya. Right now we are even in the midst of reconfiguring our entire upstairs to accommodate the possible change.

I've been rather bah-hum-bug about Christmas this year. A huge part of me is regretting having ever told my child about Santa. All that "magic" seemed right, at the time. I think, deep down, I thought if I were lackluster about all things Christmas then maybe my kiddo would finally figure it out. Bless her little heart. She doubts and then she just talks herself right back into it. I had big plans for this December but I failed miserably at most all of them. My Christmas cards went into the mail earlier than ever before, and it was all downhill after that.

We made Jesse tree ornaments back in November yet we didn't hang a single one. I crafted another Pinterest-inspired Advent calendar over Thanksgiving. It took me until the 5th to get it properly strung and somewhere around the 9th I totally forgot to keep up with writing down the special activity for each day. After about the 14th, my girl stopped asking about it. I did, however, manage to wrap 25 Christmas books and she got to open a new one each day but the novelty of that wore off about 19 books in. We didn't make it to see Santa but we did send him an email. Red Robin did show up (a day late) and I only forgot to move him twice. I was a little scroogy about gift giving too. The idea of shopping for that special gift for someone kind of made my head want to spin. We gave out lots of cash and gift cards. Those who did actually get a gift from us should consider themselves very special.

And then sickness struck our household and hung on for dear life. With the exception of 3-4 tiny little outings, I have literally been at home in my pajamas consistently since December 22nd. I'm not even kidding. tLG broke out with a 103 fever that lasted for 2-1/2 days and a cough that will not go away. Exactly a week later, I came down with a 102 fever that, thankfully, only lasted one night. As soon as my fever broke, Skylar was begging to go visit her grandparents in Bham so I drove her halfway to meet my Dad in, you guessed it, my pajamas. Facebook is warning me of vicious colds, nasty flu, and a stomach bug germ that refuses to die. I believe it. This is certainly the most illness we have had in a long time.

So, that brings us to the lovely end of 2013. I'm very much looking forward to 2014. I anticipate lots of changes for our family, which is both scary and exciting at the same time.

More December Pics found here.

December 23, 2013

Part 9 - Umbrella Schools in Tennessee

You might want to start at the beginning...

The truth is, we still haven't made our final decision about homeschool but we are about 95% sure that we will, at this point. In fact, we are proceeding like we will start homeschool in January. There are a few final particulars that we are waiting to fall into place and both have to do with our jobs. 

For now, the first step is enrolling with an "umbrella school" and, of course, withdrawing her from Metro. Our girl just finished the 2nd grading period and school is on holiday break until January 6th. Students are due to return January 7th. The research queen (moi!) did some fact checking and tLG would have to miss 5 consecutive days before we are reported to the truancy department. When you do the math, that means I technically have until January 13th before I have to make a conclusive decision. On that day, I will either send her back or show up to dis-enroll her. The type A in me shudders at waiting until the last minute but, in this case, I'm trying to buy myself as much time as possible because there is so much riding on this decision. This is a burn-a-bridge scenario and I'm not quite ready to strike that match. 

So, assuming that the measly 5% of doubt doesn't change, I've researched umbrella schools and have at least made a decision on that. I think. I'm pretty indecisive these days, aren't I? An umbrella or church-related school covers you legally and gets you out from under the local school board. For a small fee they report everything to the state on your behalf. Some provide additional perks such as group learning activities. I had it narrowed down to 4 choices. Here are the pros and cons to each. 

  • PROS: Registration fee is $95 (early rate is $70). Provides organized group activities and tutorial through high school, including varsity sports.
  • CONS: Tutorial meets in Hendersonville (25-30 min drive).
  • PROS: Registration fee is $100 (early rate is $50). Meets in Old Hickory (20 min drive). Web classes available starting in 3rd grade. 
  • CONS: Tutorial is 2 days per week. Unable to find a family currently enrolled with them for a personal testimonial. 
  • PROS: Co-op meets in Hermitage (20-25 min drive). Registration fee is $95 (early rate is $65). Provides organized group activities and tutorial through high school.
  • CONS: Based out of Mt. Juliet and many of the group activities are in the Mt. Juliet area. Co-op is on Friday. Parents are required to teach for 12 weeks of the co-op. 
  • PROS: It's at The Farm (home of Ina May Gaskin). Enrollment fee is $80 (early rate is $70) and includes a Homeschool Reporting Online account. Program is ran by Jacki Willard. They have an active and informative Facebook group. 
  • CONS: Any special activities would be in Summertown, TN. 

I think ALL of these umbrella schools are reputable options for homeschooling families. However, for us, the ultimate decision came down to location, cost, and flexibility. Aaron Academy was too far for us to take advantage of the tutorial. FCA requires 2 days per week and they just seem like they would be a little too involved in my business. I could be wrong but I can't find anyone with a personal connection to verify their flexibility. It's very possible that we would eventually switch to HCA but for now, we wouldn't be able to take advantage of the co-op because of the day and teaching requirement. Also, if we are going to be involved, we need to attend activities and I literally despise driving to Mt. Juliet. 

That left The Farm School. As a doula, like most birth professionals, I'm a huge fan of The Farm. I've even doula'd a baby born at The Farm. In addition to the amazing birth culture there, I'm fascinated by the communal living situation and the history of The Farm. In regards to the school, the fees are reasonable, especially since we are starting in the middle of the year, and they are pretty laid back. The program is run by a woman who is highly esteemed in the general homeschool community so I feel we would be in good hands. Co-op isn't an option because of the distance but I've found a non-umbrella tutorial right here in Donelson (10 min drive). Plus, there is no statement of faith required at The Farm School. For the record, we are Christian believers but, at this point in time, I just want an affordable, yet reputable, uncomplicated option. From my understanding, I simply pay the fee, send in my list of curriculum resources, report attendance and grades online (twice a year) and they leave me to educate my child in the manner I see fit. Sold!
Many of you are interested in our home remodel and I'm excited to share that with you but it's just starting and kind of a disaster right now. I will definitely post some pics when we have made some more progress and that's probably on hold until we get through Christmas. 

In part 10, I think I'll finally be ready to say yay or nay. 

December 20, 2013

Part 8 - My Thoughts on College Education

It doesn't take long to get caught up. Start here...

Families choose to homeschool for many different reasons and they start and end at different times. Some homeschool right off the bat. Others start in middle school. Some homeschool through elementary but then re-enter the public school system for middle school and high school for college prep. 

Many are curious how long we plan to homeschool. The honest answer is, I have no idea. Literally. Not even an inkling. I imagine if we start homeschooling we won't stop but, of course, I haven't a clue how this is going to all turn out. It's sink or swim. My hope is that it will be a beautiful journey and one day I will be ever grateful that I was brave enough to take that first step. Or we could crash and burn. There's always that scenario. 

Now, the obvious question arises. But what about college? 

I went to college because I was told I was going to college. I didn't really have a choice about the matter. Granted, I got to choose where I went and what I majored in, but going wasn't up for debate. It was the next logical step and mainstream American said that if you wanted a job you had to have a degree. I started out as a physical therapy major. Until I met Chemistry 101. The thought of going through more of that made me want to run far, far away. At that point, I decided if I wasn't going down the physical therapy track, I wanted the fastest way out of there with the most general degree possible. That's how I ended up with an Associate's and Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. I also finished my last two years online, which was an amazing fit for me. In the end, I realized there were a few ways that could have made my college days even shorter if I would have only known how to take advantage of them (AP, dual-enrollment, and CLEP credit). 

Now, let's talk about every single job I've had since I left college and how I got those jobs. 

  1. Pharmacy Technician - Was working at Walgreens in the photo department and they felt I had the skills to handle a job in the pharmacy department. I received on the job training and prepared for the certification examination on my own. 
  2. Executive Administrative Assistant - The Walgreens district office noticed my mad organizational skills and endearing personality (ha!) and asked me to fill a temporary position supporting one of the District Managers. This eventually turned into a permanent position. 
  3. Medical Transcriptionist - I started pursuing the skills for this job through a distance learning program before we started a family because I knew that I wanted to be home with my child and 90% of this profession is done on a telecommute basis. My first transcription gig was working for a lady in my church who had her own transcription company with established accounts. 
  4. Event Planner - Received a lead on this job from another PTO mom. Again, after seeing my mad organizational skills and endearing personality (hehe) she felt I would be a good fit to work on her conference team. 
  5. Doula - Pregnancy, birth, and parenting is a passion of mine and I felt a calling to do something to support mothers and babies. I completed my birth doula and hypnodoula training and began taking clients. 
Okay, so basically every job I've had since college has been because of additional training that I sought on my own or due to hard work with a little bit of pure luck thrown in. None of those jobs were really obtained by my fancy degree. I know a lot of people and I can probably count on one hand the folks who have careers in the field listed on their college degree. Most jobs land in our laps because of who we know. It's all about networking these days and college is getting more and more expensive by the minute. So, what's the point?

I'm not saying that college isn't beneficial but I'm going to leave the choice up to my girl when the time comes. When I think about school, wether that be at home or not, I can already tell you that we aren't striving for college in the Ivy Leagues. She can get a degree in half the time and for half the cost by being smart about it rather than going the traditional route. In my honest opinion, the only thing a degree is good for is showing that you have the determination to stick with something and finish it. Yes, most job descriptions want you to have a Bachelor's Degree but they could care less what you major in and what school you went to. Exceptions to the rule would be for careers such as doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher, accountant, ect. but there are a gabillion other jobs needing to be filled that don't require a specific degree and training is usually provided on the job. 

The homeschool years ahead of us will, of course, focus on academics but I will also be teaching life skills and character qualities so that one day she can woo others with her own hard work, determination, and charming personality. ;) For now, we will just focus on the fact that she has graduated kindergarten and, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, we will somehow finish 1st grade too. 

You tell me what you want to see in part 9. I could talk about 

a) my choice for umbrella school
b) our home remodel to create space for a homeschool room
c) my thoughts on socialization
d) other - reader's choice

Chime in via the comment section below or on Facebook. 

December 19, 2013

Part 7 - Timing Of Our Decision

You might want to start at the beginning. Here is... 

If we decide to homeschool, we will be pulling out at the end of this grading period. Meaning, this Friday could be tLG's last day of public school. If all goes according to plan she will not return after the holiday break for the spring semester. Why now? Well, I'm glad you asked. Because I can. That's why! Kidding. LOL! In all seriousness, I can, but it's mostly because the timing is right.

For starters, it's at the beginning of the year. Personally, I adore the start of a new year. It's like "new mercies" times 100. New Year's Day feels like a clean slate and a fresh start. It's refreshing and invigorating to start over. I'm a resolution maker, but I bet you could have guessed that. Me and my type A personality and all. I have more motivation at this time of year than any other time. If I'm gonna do this, I'm will need some super-charged determination so it seems January is the only logical time to start.
With my event planning job, things start getting busy in mid August. September is nothing short of insane and I travel the first half of October. It would be impossible to take on a new project during that time. Have you ever moved or reorganized a room in your home? During the middle of moving it tends to look like a bomb went off. Basically, it gets worse before it gets better. I'm kind of counting on that happening once we dip our toe into homeschool. I can't deal with that sort of drama in the middle of conference season. I would probably jump ship on day 2. We need to be well into our groove before August comes. I'm also considering some local co-ops for 2nd grade and I want her to be well adjusted to homeschooling before we delve into that. Co-ops are good for socialization but mainly it's so I can have some uninterrupted work hours. It's a genius idea, if I do say so myself!

There is also the issue of curriculum. I'm still in the overwhelmed research stage and couldn't pull the trigger on selecting a program right now if my life depended on it. For one, I need to assess where she's at so we know where to start. The next homeschool conference in Nashville is in March. I've already purchased our tickets to go. I can't wait! My plan is to use that opportunity to get a better look at curriculum options and then decide.

I've heard that when you switch to homeschool from public school, it can take some time to de-program the student from institutionalized learning. You basically take it easy for a while and let them kind of find their way and see where they are at and what they are interested in. Just being honest, but I'm fully planning to gimp my way through the spring semester. The current plan of attack is to piece it together to finish 1st grade, revisit curriculum options after the conference in March, then get my game face on to start 2nd grade with more organization and an actual plan.

Now, few of you know this about me but I have a thing for numbers. In fact, my Dad's side of the family is quite a bit superstitious about it. My favorite number is 14 and anything that revolves around 7 is good. We are headed into 2014 and my girl turns 7 in January. Can the sign be any clearer? ;)

In part 8, I'll discuss how long we plan to homeschool and my thoughts on college.

December 18, 2013

Part 6 - It's Easier Than What We Are Doing Now

Just jumping in? You've got some catching up to do. 

Basically the thought of homeschooling with our crazy schedule scares the bejeezus out of me and there is no backup plan if we fail. If we pull her out of her current school, I can't just send her back if it doesn't work out. In order to be a student at Stanford, you have to apply through a lottery system. It happens once a year and the 2014 deadline has already passed. Besides, it's darn near impossible to get in unless you come as a preschooler. Last year over 1000 applied with only 60 spots available. I called the Metro school options office and drilled them six ways to Sunday to try to find a loop hole. It's quite possible that I asked every "hypothetical" scenario known to man, to no avail. Unfortunately for us, they've got that little lottery system locked up pretty tight. So, there is no plan B. If we do this, it's homeschool or bust!

I have a laundry list of fears about starting homeschool but I've pretty much decided the following answer to every single concern: It's got to be easier than what we are doing now. 
I'm not naive in thinking this adventure will be a piece of cake to navigate. However, when I consider the amount of time I spend packing lunch, driving to and from school (twice), sitting in the car line (twice), checking the folder, and fighting through busy work (AKA homework), it adds up to quite a chunk of time in my day. Then there is the fiasco of trying to get grumpalumpagus to complete a task, any task, in a reasonable amount of time, so that's a big waste as well. I'm using up a ridiculous amount of time trying to undo negative behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes that she has learned at school. I'm so over it!

My hope is that by having her home I can put in the effort not only to teach her brain but capture her heart and streamline our life. If I now have an opportunity to teach her life skills then, hopefully, she will become more of a help than a hindrance. Sure, it will take time but, again, it's got to be easier that what we are doing now. Plus, I won't have the interruption right in the middle of my day to stop and do my taxi service to and from school. That alone will be huge, I think.

Some of my concerns won't get addressed until we try it out. I'm certain it will take us some time to find our groove. If I end up sticking her in front of the TV for large chunks of time so I can work, so what? That's the beauty of parenting. You get to figure out what works for your family and go with it. As for the challenges that haven't even dawned on me yet.... well, that's what prayer is for. And grace. I'm sure I'm going to be needing a running supply of new mercies for a while.

Some of you are very curious why I'm choosing to pull her out in the middle of the school year. There is a method to my madness, I promise. It's actually a very strategic move that I will explain in part 7.

December 17, 2013

Part 5 - My Biggest Fears About Homeschool

If you are just joining us, you might want to catch up.

Let me start off by saying that we are 100% sold on the benefits of homeschooling. I think it will give my kiddo a chance to learn at her own pace, fast or slow. It will also give me a chance to focus on character qualities and life skills with her. We can learn about subjects that she is interested in when she is interested in them because the curriculum can be flexible. The schedule is also flexible and our travel schedule will no longer revolve around that blasted balanced calendar. We can do field trips. A lot of them. We can basically do whatever we want as long as we meet the state requirement of 4 hours a day for 180 days and report grades. Easy enough, right? 

Well, maybe not. I have lots of concerns about homeschooling and most of them revolve around logistics. Here are my top 10 biggest fears right now.

  1. Schedule. We are a 2-income family and there is no way of getting around that. Mommy works. Daddy works. End of story. How in the world am I going to do my paid job, my mommy job, and still fit in 4 hours of schooling each day? It makes my brain hurt trying to fathom it all. Will I ever sleep again?
  2. Childcare. I'm super blessed to be able to work from home but what about the days that I have meetings at the office or doula clients and hubby is at work? Where will she go? Who will look after her? Most importantly, how much is that gonna cost us?
  3. Entertainment. Speaking of mommy working, how am I supposed to get my job done with a little person around all the time? How will I keep her entertained while I try to grab some uninterrupted time? What if I just end up sticking her in front of the TV during the majority of the 5-6 hours I'm trying to work each day? Won't people think I'm a terrible mommy and it would have been better to send her to school instead?
  4. Teaching. I went to college, graduated with 2 degrees, Cum Laude I might add, but I'm not smarter than a 5th grader. What happens when we get to a subject that I don't understand? Long division comes to mind here. And geometry. Lord help me. What if I cause my very bright child to actually fall behind?
  5. Curriculum. Lawd-A-Mercy there are so many options. It's overwhelming. What if I spend money on a curriculum that we both hate? What if I spin my wheels researching them all and can't ever decide on a single thing?
  6. Planning. I haven't the slightest idea how to make a lesson plan. I'm certain it takes time and effort and resources. What if I'm so busy trying to manage the logistics of our life that I never even have time to plan a single lesson for us to work on? What if everything we do is haphazard and fails miserably?
  7. Motivation. How can I motivate this child to do her work on a consistent basis with out fussing? Is that even possible? She will have no side-by-side competition. What will be her driving force to do her work and do it well?
  8. Relationship. What if all this togetherness ends up ruining this sweet relationship that we've recently come into? What if we fuss and fight the whole time and get on each others nerves? What if I just can't handle having another person in my space and I freak out?
  9. Assessment. Again, I'm clueless about how to teach a concept and then grade it. How will I know when she is ready to move on to something new? Wait, back up. How do I even know where she is ready to begin? How to I grade my own child. If she's failing, doesn't that mean that I'm failing too?
  10. Socialization. I'll admit that this is pretty low on my list of things that I'm worried about. I think she gets plenty of socialization outside of school and the interaction she's having at school is just negative anyway. What if I'm wrong? What if she really does need to be around kids her age on a daily basis?
And because my brain can't turn off just because I've reached the nice round number of 10.... What if my fantasies about homeschooling are just fantasies? What if I suck at being a homeschool mom? What if this isn't the right fit for our family? What if it's simply impossible to pull off with our super busy schedule? What if I'm making a mistake?

This brings us to part 6 where I'll tell you how I plan to overcome these fears. Advice from veteran homeschoolers or general encouragement from the masses is welcome in the comments or on Facebook. ;)

December 16, 2013

Part 4 - Falling In Love With My Child Again

Need to catch up? Start here. 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I knew that I wanted to homeschool but remember when I swore it off solely based on the antics of Satan's Sister (AKA my kid)? Yeah, she's not around so much anymore. When we figured out her trigger ingredients (red dye, TBHQ, BHA and BHT if you were curious) it was like magic. My sweet girl came back... and she slept too! It was a miracle.
Don't mind the patch. She was going through a pirate phase. ;)
I even declared 6 my new favorite age. My previous favorite age was 2 so it had been a hot minute since I had really enjoyed her on a consistent basis. Don't get me wrong. I love this child to no end. She just wasn't always easy to be around.

Somewhere around age 3 she came into her personality with a vengeance and was rather opinionated. About everything. She gets it honest, bless her heart, but tact had not yet been developed. She was once described to me as a wild colt looking to break free. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't always embrace her uniqueness. But now, I adore and can even appreciate every ounce of her spirit. She became my best sidekick. She's creative and crafty and has some crazy ideas. She's also loving, thoughtful, helpful, and eager to please. She's tactile and still loves to be held and hugged and kissed. She returns that affection and I eat it up.
If I could go back I would try to do a few things differently. See, our family went through a rough couple of years. It was a combination of things, really. More than just school and way too much to go into right now. We all lived in this house together but I'm not so sure there was a lot of free-flowing love and acceptance going around, from anybody. We were in survival mode, plain and simple. The timing just wasn't right for us to even think about homeschooling, much less do it. I didn't have the support I needed and my patience was practically non-existent. It's amazing how far we've come in the past few years. I crave to be around my people more than ever and little things make me smile.
Saturdays are one of my favorite days. Mike is usually at work but me and tLG have our own little groove. She's pretty much a homebody like me. When we first learned the days of the week, Saturday was referred to as Stay Home Day, and stay home we do! Well, we try. We bake and clean and dance and veg out and organize or work on a project. She's really quite the helper at the ripe old age of 6. We get along so well and I really do cherish how delightful she is to be around. So, you can imagine my shock and frustration when she comes home from school on Monday like a crazed evil twin. It's a night and day difference, I tell ya.

This past summer was quite possibly our best one yet. I was so sad when it ended. I had never cried on the 1st day of school until this year. I missed her terribly and it made me incredibly sad to go back to the grind. When first grade turned out to be the grind-on-crack, homeschool became a viable option.
It's fascinating how the Lord seems to knit things together in perfect timing and I'm learning more and more to just be patient and wait on Him. I don't think homeschool would have worked for us before. I still have no idea if it will work for us now but my heart has been changed and I'm willing to try. Can I be honest? I'm scared to death.

Stay tuned for part 5 and I'll address my biggest concerns about homeschool. 

December 13, 2013

Part 3 - More Issues with Public School

Need to catch up?

Part 1
Part 2

The seed for homeschool had been planted. This installment was the water that made it grow.

Strike two was 9/11. On the anniversary, this event was discussed in detail yet it wasn't part of the curriculum. She came home with LOTS of questions. Bless her heart. Naturally, I was upset that they had discussed such a serious and sensitive subject with my 6-year-old. My main objection was that, as her parent, I didn't have the opportunity to explain this to her, on her level, at the appropriate time.  I know my child better than anyone. It was obvious to me that she was too young for this knowledge but public education isn't individualized down to that level. This was probably the one incident that got my wheels turning the most about homeschool. I was furious that some of her innocence was taken away from her before she was ready.

Strike three was a bullying incident. For the record, I hate that word. It's so dramatic. I don't do drama. Anyway, tLG expressed that some students were being mean to her at school - name calling, hurting her, ect. I took it with a grain of salt, said 1st grade can be tough, and encouraged her to find other folks to play with. That's when she started loathing going to school and the letter writing started. She was going to get me to listen, one way or another.
I sent pictures of the letters to her teacher. Teacher responded immediately and said she would call me. Um, ELEVEN days later I finally got that call. I know what you are thinking. Why in the world did you not march yourself right up to that school and raise hell? Because, in my mind, I had already decided that something had to change and that change was educational environment. The Thanksgiving break did cause things to calm down on the meanness front so I just encouraged my girl to make it until the Christmas break. I didn't know how I was going to make it work but I knew I wanted to pull her out at the end of the grading period.

Someone asked, "what about private school?" Honestly, I think I'm just done with school at this point. We put her in school because it was the next milestone according to mainstream America. There was also that reading thing that I couldn't quite get a grasp on. In some ways school did make our life easier. In other ways, it just made things more complicated and more busy. I still remember the morning when my girl pitched a fit in the infamously dreaded car line because she didn't want to go inside. I thought to myself "it should be easier than this." When my child was busy herself being the mean one in PreK and K, I thought the same thing. I feel like I've been spinning my wheels for years. For starters, I'm practically like a used car salesman to get her out of bed in the morning. It's better than yelling, GET DRESSED OR YOU ARE GOING TO SCHOOL IN YOUR PAJAMAS! Ok, I may have used that line on one occasion. Or ten. Lately, I seem to be spending all of my time un-doing what she learns and hears at school. She comes home whiney, cranky, defeated and sassy. I'm trying to convince her how to overcome adversity, be nice, and work hard but my teaching time is limited. Somehow the school environment seems to undo all of my character quality progress with a quickness. It's a vicious cycle. I'm ready to simplify.

But how in the world is homeschooling with two working parents going to be simple? There's also that whole Satan's Sister situation to deal with.

Next up is Part 4

December 12, 2013

Part 2 - Issues with Public School

At the end of Part 1, all seemed peachy with our girl in a public Montessori school. The problem is, it wasn't. At all.

School just provided a new set of issues to deal with. First was an assistant teacher who yelled and was impossible to please. After a year I finally asked to move to a different classroom. Then there was the chunk of time where my child was acting out with terrible behavior and the consequence was always to take away her recess time. Are you kidding me? The kid had energy to burn. She was thriving academically but emotionally she was crashing. HARD. As a side note, this was also when we figured out she had food sensitivities. All those "snacks" they get at school. They are laden with dyes and preservatives, which caused some hellacious reactions in my girl. Basically, the food she was getting was setting her up for failure.

Then, the Metro School Board decided to move to a "balanced calendar" which meant chopping summer down to a measly 8 weeks. This warm-weather loving gal was having none of that. Kids spend SO much time in school. I wanted my kiddo to have a break. Heck, I needed a break. School is tough on us mamas too. It's all that up early, uniform washing, lunch packing, PTO meeting, fundraising, school supply buying, car line sitting, folder checking, form signing, suck up to the teacher business. It's exhausting! We need time to kick back and have fun.
So, I went round and round with the Board over the calendar. Twice! During this process it became apparent that the school board could care less about the well-being of the student body as a whole or parent opinion for that matter. In both cases, they passed their agenda which mainly focused on how to help the minority rather than the masses. Basically, the average family didn't count.

Next, I somehow got elected to the PTO Board. I say that in jest. I totally wanted to participate. I was dedicated to the cause and wanted to be involved in my daughter's school experience as much as I could. I thought I could make it a better place for her. Well, let me just tell ya, there's a whole new level of sucking up to be performed when you're on the PTO Board. You have to be political. Like it or not. You hear about crazy things that go on behind closed school doors. You have to consider the effects of every decision. Don't get me wrong. The Stanford PTO is Ah-maze-ing!! Truly. They collaboratively accomplish exciting things for the teachers, staff and students. But it's a part of my disillusioned experience with public school so I thought I should mention it.

This year, we "flew over" and moved from a Primary Classroom to an Elementary Classroom. Y'all, 1st grade is no joke! I had been warned this was a big transition year. Sure, okay. Um, it's like the transition from young married to first child. It rocks your world.

The first strike was homework. I was a #homeworkhater from Day 1. School gets my child for 7 hours a day. By the time I manage to chauffeur her, feed her, clean her, clothe her, and put her in bed, I get about 2 hours. Heaven forbid I let her participate in an extra-curricular activity to gain some perspective and experience outside of those school walls. I've now practically scarified my entire evening with her. Oh, but wait. She still needs to do more school work. At home. I could write a whole post on homework. Plain and simple, it's for the birds. I would rather be baking. Now, that's math and it's a life skill! Plus, it's just plain yummy and fun. ;)

We actually ended up opting out of our church's Awana program this year because our schedule had just gotten so ridiculously busy at night. She needed the downtime. We all did. I still felt that scripture memory was important so I owned up to my responsibility as her spiritual teacher and we started having Bible Club at home. It was one of the best ideas I've ever had. We memorized God's word in a manner that was easy for both of us to learn and we went at our own pace. It was super sweet and fun. It made me think that maybe, just maybe, I might want to have more time to teach her things. Important things.

Stay tuned for Part 3. I'll talk about strike 2 and 3.

December 11, 2013

Homeschool Decision - Part 1

If you really wanna know, we are thinking about homeschooling. For real this time.

I feel like I should back up and give some history. I have always thought about homeschooling but have never really put any serious consideration behind it. I admire people who homeschool. I totally see the benefits of it. I just never thought I could homeschool.

For starters, my kiddo is high maintenance. Or, she was. She was a high needs baby and a terrible sleeper through toddlerhood. Like, terrible. I nearly had a mental and physical breakdown over it. I wish I were kidding. I adored her at age 2 and then age 3 hit. I questioned why I ever wanted children. Hence the reason she is an only child. There was no way I was signing up for another one. At that point, I in fact swore that I would never homeschool for the sheer fact that I could not fathom spending every moment with Satan's Sister. It's tough being 3. For everybody.
Secondly, I work and our family needs my income. I didn't work at all for the first 12 months after she was born. I firmly believe that those are formative months and babies need their people. Then, because things were super tight, I started working part-time from home. Again, it was important for me to be home with her during that crucial development time but it was getting tricky. That high needs thing. Starting around age 2, she participated in a Mother's Day Out Program 2-3 days a week. It gave me uninterrupted work hours and a break from the constant-ness that comes with a toddler/preschooler. However, I enjoyed doing crafts and learning activities with her at home. I lived on No Time For Flash Cards. However, we reached a point where I had taught her letters but I had absolutely NO CLUE how to teach her to put those sounds together to make words and read. Working and homeschooling seemed impossible especially with the aforementioned high-needs girl. So, it's off to school she went. 
We were very fortunate to have a Montessori school close to us. It was part of our public school system but you had to apply through a lottery system to get in. I prayed hard for her little number to be pulled. Montessori education is awesome. I knew it would be perfect for my tactile mini me. We all rejoiced when she got in. I happily participated with the PTO (I'm currently on the Board) and was in awe when she started reading fluently at age 4.
All seemed right with the world. I now had 5 days a week all to myself during the day to work uninterrupted. I took on a more intensive job position and our finances improved and became stable for the first time since she was born. Me and hubby were less stressed and our marriage improved. It seemed that school was the solution to all of our problems. So, why in the world are we wanting to scratch it and start over?

Stay tuned for part 2.