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Overwhelmed in January

January is a good time for us homeschoolers to start feeling overwhelmed. Ever notice that? In most of the country, it means inclement weather has us stuck inside the house with littles who are tired of being stuck inside the house. The excitement of the holidays is over. The next break is weeks or even months away (unless you homeschool year round with monthly breaks, but Even That seems far away in January). There’s that back to school rush at the first of the month then within a few days… Blah. Burnout. We are out of sorts from lack of sun. One little is stuck in one subject and it seems like he’ll never get it. Another little is sick. A third is hyper from being cooped up.

Well, I don’t have 3 in homeschool. But maybe they have multiple personalities.

Just kidding.

back to school

back to school

Burnout happens to us homeschool teachers just as much as it happens to college students, if not more. We are responsible for So Much. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if homeschooling were at least our only responsibility? If a maid service took care of the house, a chef took care of the meals, a chauffeur drove the kids to outside activities, and you had farmhands? Well, okay, my boys might count as farmhands. But I still have to check their work. The thing is, most of the time, we have to be all those things. And it can be exhausting. Let’s not pretend to be Supermom here–when we are thinking rationally, we all know such moms do not exist.

So what do we do when it’s January and we are feeling overwhelmed? Well, there are some things I do to help me get through it, and maybe they will help you, too.

1. Reconsider your schedule

When we come back from Christmas break, the past 7 weeks have looked like this:

  • 2 weeks off for deer season/Thanksgiving
  • 3 weeks of Unit Study in one subject
  • 2 weeks off for Christmas break

So, the first week of January I feel compelled to jump right back in to a full schedule.  This year that means writing, forensics, math, reading, and geography unit study that includes history, gardening, art, maps, geology and animal studies.  It’s a lot of work.  Last week, we had a blast getting back into what we call ‘real school.’

Monday morning I woke up just not feeling it.  It snowed over the weekend, and in our rural county, that meant the roads were bad.  So I knew I was stuck in the house.  I also knew it was going to snow again on Tuesday, which might mean I was stuck for even longer.  The temperature has been pretty low too, and Littlest has been sick.  So we couldn’t even go out for a snow walk or to build a snowman.  What does that have to do with school?

Nothing but my attitude.

And it grew and grew.  Even today, the only reason we will have a normal school day is because I’m going to push myself to do it.  I don’t want to.  So I’ll be taking another look at my schedule, to see if there’s anything I can cut out or put off, at least for a week or two, until I’m feeling less overwhelmed.

I’m not telling you to chuck your schedule.  I fully believe that sticking to some kind of schedule is imperative for good learning.  Kids react to life better when they know what to expect.  You don’t even have to chuck one class.  Maybe just start a little later so these dark early mornings can be spent in bed.  Maybe shorten each lesson–spread what you planned for one day over two or three.  Whatever makes your weight a little lighter.

Littlest had tea to help his sore throat

Littlest had tea to help his sore throat

2. Seek Help

As homeschoolers, no matter how many groups we belong to we can often feel isolated.  As homeschool teachers, we tend to think the job is solely up to us and if anything goes wrong, we’re the only ones who can own it.  But that’s not true.  We have spouses, friends, peers, co-ops, and even an online community who are all too willing to help.  We hesitate to ask for help.  Will people think we suck at this if we need help?  Cruising the interweb can make us feel worse, can’t it?  Those bloggers seem to know so much and have it all together.  Well, let me tell you, bloggers deal with the same stuff you do, but we gave ourselves the job of being here to help you, so we offer advice.  Often, the reason we think to write that advice for you to read is because we’re dealing with the issue ourselves.  We don’t have it all together.  We’re giving ourselves pep talks as much as we’re advising you.  Remember, Supermom doesn’t exist.  Instead of letting blogs make you feel worse, glean the good advice from them.  In fact, send an email to your favorite blogger (I hope it’s me), and you’ll find someone willing not only to make suggestions but who will commiserate.  Totally.  We get it.

Turn to your spouse.  Don’t we forget that sometimes?  He or she is in this, too, and perfectly capable of helping with math flash cards or going over spelling words.  Martin teaches the boy things I can’t (because I don’t know how to do them), like mechanics and woodworking.  He is even having them help build our new house so they are learning that skill as well.  Is it structured school?  Well, no.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable asset to their education.  And the thing is, don’t we homeschool because we want them to have the opportunity to truly learn how to navigate life?

Your homeschooling peers and friends would probably appreciate the offer to swap teaching days one day a week.  Or even to swap kids.  Maybe you have something to offer your neighbors’ kids that she doesn’t necessarily have.  I can’t knit.  I think it would be cool if my boys could go to a friends house one day a week to learn that skill.  Or if they would just go to a friend’s house one day a week.

Just kidding.

Big reading aloud to save Littlest's throat

Big reading aloud to save Littlest’s throat

3. Shake it up

I’ve mentioned this before, but taking some time to just have fun can still be learning.  Board games are the perfect tool. Scrabble for language, Monopoly for math & finance, Clue for critical thinking, trivia games for history and current events.  See if you can plan a board game day into your schedule.  Or play one game every day.

You could also have a craft day or a science experiment day.  No writing or reading, just hands-on learning.  You’d be amazed at how much pressure a day like that can relieve.

4. Get outside anyway

Whaaaaat? It’s 13 degrees outside right now!

Yeah, yeah, but it’ll be 32 this afternoon, and we have coats, gloves, scarves, and toboggans.  And if this funk keeps clouding my brain, a brisk walk in the snow might be just the thing to clear it up.  And I don’t mean walk to your car, though visiting friends might also be a big help.  I mean take 15 minutes and go enjoy the planet.  I know, it sucks being cold.  But it sucks just a little bit more being trapped inside, doesn’t it?  It must, or we wouldn’t complain about it so much!

5.  Trust your instincts

Still feel like you need a day off?  Take it.

Your children’s education is not going to take a nose dive because you took a day off in January.  Maybe, though, it will help you get some new perspective.  Tomorrow might be your first get-up-and-go school day of 2016.

Here’s the thing.  We all get overwhelmed.  This homeschooling thing is Hard.  But we knew that going in, didn’t we?  And we signed up for it anyway.  I don’t know about you but–hard as it is–it’s easier than I thought it would be when I decided to do it.  Yeah, it’s a lot of work.  But it’s gratifying work.  So take care of yourself and you’ll be able to take care of your littles.  And all your other jobs.

Love wins,

KT

YA Book Review: Haven by A. R. Ivanovich

1-12-16

Haven by A. R. Ivanovich

I have to start by saying this a really good book.  Sure, there is a believable world created here as a backdrop.  But what I loved was that it was really well-written in a strong female voice.  Katelyn Kestrel is the kind of hero a girl can believe in.   She lives in a mountain valley called Haven–and I mean a valley completely surrounded by towering mountains through which there is no way out.  Supposedly.  No one has been outside of Haven in over 700 years.  It’s sort of a steam punk meets epic fantasy kind of place.  Mechanical carriages to help the horses out.  Running water.  Weather men.  In a land where things are simple.  I like true fantasy, where the setting is more medieval, but I have found that I also enjoy the modernized take on the old standby.  Ms. Ivanovich pulls it off with vigor.

Katelyn is a curious girl, and she wonders what lies outside those mountains.  So one night, after a particularly humiliating experience among her school peers, she decides to try to find her way out.  And some strange pull inside her leads her directly to the only path out of the mountains.  She finds her way Outside.  What awaits her there makes high school look like a day at the park.  A war is waging Outside and she gets caught up in the middle of it.  Her allies Outside are Dylan and Rune, two very different young men who affect her very differently.  Dylan is charming and flirtatious while Rune is distant to the point of cruelty.  What’s cool here is that Katelyn isn’t a gullible girl.  She sees through to who the true good guy is, even from the beginning.  Though she grows to trust Dylan, it takes him a while to get to her.  She trusts Rune from the start.  I liked that I wasn’t supposed to be believing that this girl just trusted and threw herself at everybody.  Believing that anyone could be so… stupid.  There are books like that out there.  You know it’s true.

But that’s not the main story.  Oh no, the main story is that Katelyn has to find her way back to Haven without leading all the crazies from Outside to her home.  Because the Outside world has been searching for Haven for centuries, and it has sinister plans for its inhabitants.  And Katelyn is a prisoner, one way or another, from the moment she reaches Outside.  Super sinister bad guys, untrustworthy good guys, new friends, and bitter disappointments pepper Katelyn’s action-packed adventure, but she stays true to herself and her motives and fights back even when there seems to be no fight left in her.

I can’t say much more without giving too much away, so I’ll leave it at this–this book is kind of epic.  I can’t think of a single protagonist who made a foolish mistake that made me want to put the book down (that happens, too.  You know it does).  They all made right choices.  Human choices.  Believable choices. It rocked.  And the last paragraph… Let’s just say it punched me in the heart.  Pick up this wonderful book for yourself your teens and tweens if your looking for something to truly engage them.  Read it with your littles if they love adventure and you want to teach a lesson about loyalty and courage.

Happy reading.

Love wins,

KT

Story Time: Owl Moon

Story Time: Owl Moon - Crafts and activities for the picture book

The Greatest German Shepherd in the World wanted out at 5:30 this morning.  So I bundled up (because it was -1 degree outside) and stepped out on the back porch with him.  The ground was covered in snow, the stars were bright chips in the velvet night, the air was crisp (to say the least).  I stood there, breathing, enjoying the quiet.  Then I heard it.

Who-who-who-whooooo-who

If you’re a country dweller you know that even out here, the sound is rare.  I held my breath.  It came again.  I couldn’t have stopped the slow smile from spreading across my face at gunpoint.  Owls are such lovely, mysterious creatures, aren’t they?  All the more so because we rarely catch a glimpse or a sound of them.  We know they’re there, hunting the woods and the fields at night, but they are such silent fliers, such very nocturnal animals, we generally only get to enjoy them in zoos.
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A Mother’s Regret

Here’s what I remember best:

His small hand reaching up for mine in the bright sunshine.  The scent of the baby sweat in his bright blond hair.  His trusting eyes looking at me like I am the most important thing his universe will ever offer.  His willingness to be my best friend and cohort.

Littlest little

I blew it.  I did that.

This is about my regrets as a mother.  Not Life Regrets, because what came after prepped me for both homeschooling and blogging (and gave me the best friend I’ve ever had), and I’m not sad about that part of it.  What breaks my heart when I think of it is how he grew away from me.  And continues to do so.  Littlest was my baby, and even though at different times his older brothers had been the same, he was my Last Baby, and I wish I had been able to pay more attention.  See, I was a SAHM when we first moved to the farm.  And we were giddily happy.  But one week I saw an ad in the paper for a part-time children’s librarian at the local library.  And it was my dream job.  So after discussing it with Martin, I applied for it.  I figured, what, 20 hours a week is a part-time job, and it wouldn’t take me away from my only baby too much but would satisfy my need to contribute to my community.  And, let’s face it, get out of the house for a minute and do something For Me.  I got the call for the interview with the library board.  I went to the interview.  I knew the interview was going extremely well.  Then they told me the job was for 32 hours a week.  Mm hmm.  I know why companies do That.  So, since I didn’t Need the job, I was honest with them.  I told them I couldn’t take a job with that many hours because I had a little one at home; that I was under the impression it was part-time job and I couldn’t accept it.  Imagine my shock when they called me the next day and asked if two of the board members could meet with me at my house.  I agreed to do so.  They came over, offered to hire in another person to work 8 of my hours, and let me bring Littlest to work with me 1 day a week.  What an offer!  I was so flattered.  They must have Really Wanted me to go to those lengths.  I did not consider that the job was still going to take me away from my Littlest for a lot of hours.  I accepted.

Working in that library was wonderful.  I got to know the people in my rural area, met a lot of homeschoolers, and met my best friend (who happened to be the woman they hired along with me).  But I have to admit, I got so caught up in having a life of my own I forgot the reasons I originally turned down the job.  A lot of work and a lot of politics went into that job, and it took my focus.  Away from my baby.  Less and less did he reach for my hand.  He stayed with a wonderful homeschool family while I was working, and I’m truly glad he got that experience.  His dad drove him to his little league games and practices while I was working evenings and Saturdays.  He began to depend on other people.  I kept telling myself I had plenty of time to make it up to him.  I didn’t.

We never do.

Littles with their daddy

Littles with their daddy

I only worked three days a week.  But the schedule was basically 10-6 all 3 days.  I was missing most of his day for 3 days every week.  Then I went back to school because it occurred to me that I loved working with kids so much I could be a school librarian and reach them even better.  So for the 4 days I wasn’t working, I was dealing with online classes, not my Little.  I thought I was doing it for him.  I was wrong.

Not all mothers feel that way.  Some mothers have that same experience and at the end are proud of what they’ve accomplished, what they’ve done for their kids.  Thing is, after a year of working in the public school system, I was completely disillusioned by it and had no desire to continue on.  So now I look back on those years when Littlest still needed me and I wasn’t there as a huge mistake.  Because he’s still closer to his dad than he is to me.  And I’m under no illusions that when these boys all grow up and find mates I will be as important to them as I am now.  And I’m not as important now as I was then.  Since I made the plunge to homeschool, I have tried to re-establish that early relationship with Littlest, but I feel like I am the one constantly chasing him for attention now.  I have never told him I feel this way, and I doubt I ever will.  But it breaks my heart every single day.  I would give quite a bit to see that little hand reaching for me in the sunlight again.

The other thing I remember well is my excitement when Big was accepted at IU.  In fact, I was so excited that I may not have been paying attention to His Reaction.  I imagined his world broadening while he stayed in his dorm–the friends he would make, the responsibilities he would take, the Life that would blow Wide Open.  What I did not imagine was how much he would hate it.  How lonely he would be.  How his innate shyness would prevent him from making a ton of friends.  How homesick he would be, every day, for the entire year he was there.

Big 2He came home for the weekend often.  Usually he left again with a hug and a sad smile.  But there was one time he came home for a couple of days with his girlfriend of the moment.  As they were pulling out of the driveway (me crying on the front porch.  I always did), he turned to me from the passenger seat, and He Was Bawling.  It tore my heart out.  Right in front of his girlfriend, no shame, no hiding it.  My beautiful son was crying harder than I was.  I wanted to run after the car, tell them to stop, tell him he didn’t have to go.  But he was halfway through a semester, and that would ruin both his college career and his scholarship.  So I gave him a bright smile and waved and let him leave.

Ugh.  Being a mother is hard.  It is equally joyful and heartrending.  As his mommy, with no other consequences but proving I love him more than the moon loves the stars, I should have stopped him.  I should not have made him go back.  The look on his face is etched on my brain and I recall it occasionally for no reason at all and cry Every Time.  I don’t think there’s a lot worse in the world than seeing your grown son cry like he did when he was a baby.  I’ve only seen him cry like that one other time, and I’ll never forgive the person who caused it.  So how can I forgive myself for encouraging him to go away to college and being the cause of that sob session?

Big

I can’t.

As mothers, we all have those moments, big and small, that tear us to shreds forever.  That one thing we shouldn’t have said, that other thing we shouldn’t have done.  I have a lot more than these two examples–I am human and I make mistakes.  But I don’t regret most of my mistakes as much as I do those I make as a mother.  I want to be perfect for all of my boys.  I want them to know only love and compassion and laughter.  I want to protect them from the dark, from the bad guys, from the heartbreak.  When I act in a way that is opposite of that wish, I want to don a hair shirt and self-flagellate because nothing is more important in the multiverse than my boys’ smiles.  So even though I make those mistakes, I keep trying and learning and hoping I can be better for them.

Because if I have to have regrets as a mother, I want them to be as few as possible.  For the boys’ sakes, not my own.

Now, I think you’ll forgive me if I go ask Littlest to play a game of Sorry. Yeah, I’m noting the irony.

Love wins,

KT