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When you just can’t… Part 2

The truth is, I’m exhausted.  Don’t you get that way? I spent the day yesterday watching my beautiful husband go through tests to figure out what’s wrong with his heart, and we still don’t have any answers.  The good news is, Martin’s arteries are clean.  The bad news is they still don’t know what’s wrong.  Today promises more tests, though hopefully this time there will be answers.

martin and me 1

When I started this blog, I had a vision.  I still have that vision, and I am proud to say that especially in the last 2 months I have started seeing that vision come to life.  I have found a groove and that has allowed me to grow things at a much faster rate than previously.  My Story Times have become quite popular, which leads me to believe you might actually buy my novel studies when I get the shop open.  My subscriber list is growing, all thanks to you.   I am a true believer in the homeschool experience, and I want to share my belief and knowledge with all of you, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it, so I want to tell you how much I appreciate you coming by and helping me achieve this glorious dream.  You rock.

You rock.

I’m not feeling like much of a rocker right now.  I’m feeling like I don’t really have much left in me to give to you this week.  Stick a fork in me, ladies and gentlemen, I Am Done.  As I drove home from the hospital last night (leaving my sweet husband there alone so I could be home with the Littles), I was thinking about how much I wanted to accomplish business-wise on the week of spring break, and how I haven’t done a single thing except make sure I posted to you every day so we wouldn’t lose sight of each other.  I was thinking about how tired I am, how my brain does not want to function anymore, and how I need a spring break from spring break.  And I started wondering if I could put school off for another week.  Would that be possible?

And then I felt awful… Looking back at this entire semester, I feel like a failure.  Maybe I have let my Littles down.  Things have been haphazard and scattered at least 40% of the time, and That Is Not How I Run My Homeschool.  Ask anyone who knows me personally–I am a strictly-scheduled, get-it-all-in kind of mom.

I know.  I just said yesterday that life happens and we should accept it into our homeschool lives guilt-free and with grace.  Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I’m kind of feeling out of grace.  I’m feeling like I’d better suck it up and soldier on because otherwise I am not doing what I promised myself I would do 5 years ago: give my Littles the very best education they could possibly get.

What does a homeschool mama do when the thought just makes her want to vomit?

I have often advised others, wholeheartedly and with true meaning, to give themselves a break when times are rough.  I mean it when I say it.  How come we are so forgiving of others in these situations and so hard on ourselves?

I get scared, just like you do.  In a couple of short years I will have 2 high schoolers on my hands, and it feels monumental and a little intimidating.  So when I’m analyzing the past 3 months and trying to decide if I can truly give myself a break, my breath catches.  What if it puts them behind?  What if they feel abandoned?  What if I am never able to catch back up from this?

My job on this planet is to love my kids and educate them.  Nothing is more important than that.  Except maybe my Martin’s baboon heart.  At least for the time being.

You tell me.  What should I do next week?  Soldier through because that’s what we mamas do?  Or take a little time to recuperate from this Hell Week?

Ah, my lovely readers.  With tears in my eyes and heart, may I just remind you (and myself)…

Love wins,

KT

Should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque

I have a confession.

You know how you make a homeschool plan, then a couple weeks into the school year you evaluate things and tweak and throw out what isn’t working and improve on what is?  You know how that happens pretty much every year?

booksNot this year.  Not for me.

Because school starts tomorrow and I realized over this past weekend that my plan is Not. Going. To work.

At All.

I’ve been a little concerned about how stressed I’ve been over the planning process this summer, a little confused as to why I couldn’t get it together and get the year Mostly Planned like I usually do.  My conclusion?  I am putting too much on myself.  (Some of the homeschooling mamas around here who know me–along with my bff–are cheering right now.  They’ve been telling me that for years.)

So we start school tomorrow.

classroom 1And I’m chucking the entire plan.

Okay, so maybe not the Whole Plan, but after the first 4 weeks, we are going to move from unit study to an entirely different type of learning with entirely different goals.

Is that okay?  Well, the downside of being a homeschool teacher is I don’t get paid for all this extra work.  The upside is I don’t have a boss or a government telling me Exactly how I have to school  my kids. So I have options.

What do you do when you realize the Entire School Plan has to be thrown out??

Remember the other day when I talked about my School Flash Drive and all the awesome ebooks and ideas we haven’t used?  Guess who’s going to be using them.  We’re going to go ahead and do that forensics class for Littlest.  We’re going to pull from our summer plans that got altered to include the video game course and do the Curiosity Files from The Old Schoolhouse.  We’ll do a lot more nature study than I had planned.  We’re still going to study the geography of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, but we’re going to cut ourselves a little slack. We’ll still be studying composers just like we planned. We’re going to change our reading list, which I feel a Whole Lot Better about.  I’ll spend the next week or two finding a good code-writing program for Middle, deciding which historical era we’ll study, and I’ll start over.  Sound fun?

Hey, everybody makes mistakes–even those of us who now consider ourselves veterans.  Today what I love about homeschooling is the flexibility it allows me.  When I mess up, I can fix it without too much stress.  In this case, a lot less stress.

classroom 2

And you know what?  Since I had this realization and stopped trying to convince myself that I Had To go through with my original plan, I’m looking a lot more forward to our homeschool year.

I’ll let you know what I come up with.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, let me know.  And keep breathing.  The alternative?  Not so good.

Love wins,

KT

Getting It Right (Again) and a link to free science resource

We are days away from starting our new school year–we always ‘go back’ the day after Labor Day, though our actual school year begins with 7 weeks of summer science.  If you recall, we studied video game design this summer.  It was a hit, but didn’t really teach us to write code like we expected, so we are on the hunt for the next course that will.  Middle is still gung ho about designing video games for a living, and Littlest still wants to be a spy.  I did find an awesome free course in forensic science that includes an ebook, quizzes, powerpoints, and the like here. I think it will interest Littlest since it is part of detective work.  If you have a little interested in forensics, it’s a pretty brilliant rescource.

Remember our boring classroom table?

Remember our boring classroom table?

As the week winds down, I am in a flurry of making sure I’m prepared.  You homeschooling mamas know what I mean.  Did I get everything planned?  Do I have all my supplies?  Did I plan Too Much?  Who the hell told me I was good enough to teach my kids?

That’s right, all the old fears and doubts come back at the beginning of  a new year.  After all, when we started this adventure, the Littles were little.  1st & 3rd grade.  The possibilities were wide open.  I thought we had forever to learn all the awesome things I wanted to teach.  But now… Well, Middle is in 7th grade.  This is probably the last year I can get by with him before he begins his high school focus (bet you can guess what it will be).  Littlest wants to graduate early so he and Middle can go to college together.  So I have to start figuring out how we’re going to go about that.  If we Are Going to go about that.  No one but mothers of multiple births expects her nest to empty all at once.

Not boring anymore!

Not boring anymore!

If you are new to homeschooling, rest assured that you are not the only mama who is Questioning Everything.  I’m pretty sure we all do that.  Every year.  I know I do.  I want so much for my littles.  It’s the whole reason I school them at home, so they can learn about anything and everything with a depth not available in public or even private schools.  I am uber proud of their accomplishments and their dedication to learning.  But I look at all the folders saved on my ‘School Flash Drive,’ all those ebooks and ideas we haven’t gotten to use, and I wish we had an extra 10 years to do this.  Since we don’t (in fact, we may have several less than I expected), it is my job to put on my big girl boots and get it all figured out.  Daunting?  Well, yeah.  But I knew going in that I was going to have to work as hard at this as they do if it was going to benefit them the way I wanted it to.

And it’s also just as exciting as it was that first day of 1st grade.  Because as stressed as I am this week, I know my Littles and I are going to be Having A Blast this time next week.  And learning so much more about China than I ever did in school.  So I have that to look forward to.

So buck up, little campers.  We are in the midst of the greatest adventure of our lives.  Take a deep breath.  We can do it.

Love wins,

KT

Homeschooling through the Tough Times

image provide by contextualfeed.com

image provide by contextualfeed.com

A parent loses a job.  Someone close to the family passes away.  Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake.  Wind blows the roof off the house.  Illness sneaks in.

Things happen.  Bad things.  But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on.  It is difficult.  Sometimes it feels impossible.  We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us.  It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in.  Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval.  How do you handle it?

Prioritize

The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside).  If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too.  So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now.  Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load.  I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily.  Writing practice is also essential.  So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves.  Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do.  Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head.  Then read together.  Read Anything.  Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure.  A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process.  It can also take one less stress off your mind.  And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too.  As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.

Here are some great sites to find those things:

Math worksheets

Reading comprehension

Writing prompts

Notebooking

Be Flexible

Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things.  On those days, take the day off.  If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday.  If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening.  If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year.  I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  We work around it.  The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June.  We can do it whenever we want.  Be flexible With Yourself.  Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.

But Be Consistent

Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that.  If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor.  Math every day.  Not too hard to accomplish.  Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work.  Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do.  Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.

Practice Patience

And I do mean practice.  Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings.  It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong.  Everything makes us angry.  This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices.  Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you.  Then take another breath.  Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth.  Remember, they’re just little.  They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time.  Also, be patient with yourself.  We are so hard on ourselves.  We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit.  So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money.  Be patient.  As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you.  It really will work out in its own time.

Seek Inspiration

Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers.  Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place.  When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles.  Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up.  You don’t even have to do anything with it.  Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow.  For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace.  For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys.  For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom.  Come here.  Email me.  I promise to be here for you.  You never know when I might need you in return.

Take a break

At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons.  After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives.  My advice to her was to stop pushing.  Her daughter was grieving.  She was grieving.  She needed to give them space to do that.  No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them.  The mother was worried she was failing in some way.  I told her to take a break.  Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers.  I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork.  If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters.  Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break.  That way they still have that sense of consistency.

Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough.  Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times.  Do what you can.  Give your family a break.  But do soldier on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let the world roll over you.  There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely.  Because

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂