People often ask me if homeschooling is hard. I always answer in the negative. It is not hard for me or my kids. It is not hard because it has been an excellent fit with our life, goals, intentions and how my kids have learned and functioned best. When those things line up – it makes things easier – not hard at all.

We came by homeschooling very organically. It made perfect sense. It flowed out of natural paths that our family was already walking.

I’ll tell you what is hard.

It is hard when you notice a change. When late at night, you begin to entertain the information that your chosen educational model might not be optimal for a child. It is hard to sort doubt from concrete concerns. But you sort.

It is hard to take out a notebook and make an inventory of what you see and what you suspect would be a good fit for your child. It is hard to be brutally honest about strengths and challenges and look at them realistically.

Yours and his.

It is hard when you begin to suspect that what would be an ideal amount of structure and predictability does not line up with how your family’s days unfold. When you begin recognize the benefit of more direct instruction, in a more formal environmental – your notes spur more notes. It is hard when what might meet your child’s needs and desires conflicts with what you imagined would work out just fine.

We are under no delusions. This is not our first rodeo. We have been tireless advocates for Ethan’s educational needs. We are aware of the struggles included in that process, but can tell you that it is all worth it for him. Our principles have not changed, and we are acutely aware of parts of ‘the system’ that will be challenging for our family – but challenge has been our constant companion.

I have watched families who utilize school in a conscientious way. I have watched people make it work – I know ‘unschooly’ public schoolers and homeschoolers who a super-‘schooly’. The line is not as firm as it seems. I refuse to be afraid of an entire system and the ‘what ifs’ before we have even tried to tweak the situation to the best of our ability for one of our children.

What is harder than homeschooling?

Not acknowledging these things and allowing it all to go unchecked and unquestioned. A hallmark of my approach in life has been to question everything. Everything. Here I am again.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
~ Wayne Gretzky

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Troubleshooting

There are some things I totally have. I’m nailin’ them. I could list them. But I won’t.

There are also things that just aren’t working. The same things persist day after day and month after month with little deviation. The same things confound me and my self-talk (you do that, right?) gets nasty. I get hung up on the same failures and frustrations. At some point I recognize that when you continue to repeat the same ineffective strategies day after day…well, it might be a commentary on ones mental health.

So, the pragmatist that I am grabbed a legal pad last Thursday, and from the moment I woke up I started jotting down the things that I would change, if I could. As I encountered them, I noted the roadblocks I was experiencing. I wrote down minor and major aggravations. I cannot possibly tell you them all – or even most – because, again, it might call into question my mental status.

DSC04645I realized is that I do not like making myself coffee first thing in the morning. I want it made – but I want a little less effort. (Do not talk to me about a Kuerig) Sounds like such a little thing – but this was no-holes-barred list. My ‘evening self’ will now set up the percolator on my handy-dandy timer for my ‘morning self’. I know she will thank her. (Question mental health again)

I realized that for my family, we are getting up a little bit too late. I realized that I would prefer that I have done some type of ‘self-care’ before I am doing ‘kid-care’. Coffee, a shower and clothes would be nice. Speaking of clothes, I noted that I NEVER have something I want to wear clean and ready. I also noted that it is because I don’t have any clothes. I dislike all forms of fashion and shun most shopping. It is taking it’s toll and a pile of jeans and clean t-shirts, new socks and other necessities need to be procured. Don’t ask me to do better than that.

On my list, I complained of ‘having’ to do too many things at one time. The dining room table is seldom cleared off before dinner time. I rarely give myself enough time to get ready or adequate time to drive places. I made a New Year’s resolution regarding how many miles I’d like to walk this year and I am not fitting in all the time I will need to accomplish that. I disregard how long meals take. Repeating these same things every day cause frustration and feelings of inadequacy that I think can be avoided if I am honest and make additional allowances.

Oh no, did I say ‘meals’? Meal planning is a hot topic. A sore spot. Our family runs best when I know what is being served next. We regularly feed 4-6 of us 3 meals a day. It’s a project. If you whip up meals from what is ‘on-hand’, I am truly happy for you. I don’t have that type of brain power. I just want to know what is next and I’ll make it. I also believe it is best for our budget to plan and purchase. I occasionally get in a groove – plan, purchase, prepare, repeat – it’s the ‘repeat’ that trips me up.

I count on the magical powers of the New Year and I am invoking them here! I am spending the rest of the evening filling up my new meal planning tool, Plan to Eat, with our favorite recipes. So far, so good. I think it will take some of the most painful parts out of this task. Consolidating recipes in one spot – check! Ability to grab from anywhere on the internet – check! A planner to drop each meal into and a shopping list generated from the calendar – yes! I’ll keep you updated.

I have a list now – and I LOVE lists – of things that need resolved. (There really were a lot of items on my list) I’m going to pick away at them one by one. In the meantime, this has been transcribed onto an index card and placed where I can see it.

O God, give me the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
The courage to change what can be changed,
and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
Because I mean it.

The Cake

I documented the making of this fabulous cake straight from the pages of Cake Ladies – Celebrating a Southern Tradition.

My desire is to bake through the whole book. Because I get like that. When Mikey requested a labor-intensive cake that would require that I practice my caramel-making skills (do I have caramel-making skills?) I was looking forward to the process.

I worked hard – there was allowing all the ingredients to come to room temperature, the creaming, the sifting and the alternating of wet and dry additions. There was browning the sugar and raising the temperature to exactly 248 degrees. Whew!

When I poured the icing onto the cake for spreading, I saw it.

‘It’ was a tiny fleck of enamel paint. Paint?!

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My enamel-coated Kitchenaid paddle

DSC04581 My cake was iced with frosting that was chock full of white, enamel paint. All those ingredients. All that work. With a large spatula, Dennis tilted my beautiful cake plate and plunked it into the trash can. I couldn’t do it. Although it was just a cake – it was a terrible feeling to have it all slip unceremoniously into the garbage.

I could not pick out the flecks – they were pervasive. The whole cake had to be tossed.

Oh, the analogies I can draw from this baking experience. The lack of success, the perceived wasting of time and costly ingredients. I just did not know where to start. I thought I might lack the gumption to start the process over again. The first step in restarting this tremendous cake was to make a conscious decision as to whether I was going to tackle it or not. Decision made, I proceeded.

Rebuilding and reformulating from the ground up. Have you ever had to do that?

DSC04594 (1)I mean, it’s just a cake, right?

What If?

DSC04562What if I want to spend my whole day crocheting?

I did not know this could happen to me when I picked up a crochet hook a year ago. Now that I have been through the basics, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to improve my skills and take this hobby to the next level.

What if this book is igniting a stitching passion?

The way Erika Knight talks about yarn has inspired the least-artsy person around? I even visited a ‘real’ yarn store and I am really starting to ‘get it’. I am working through this gorgeous book and loving every minute of it.

What if a dishcloth can be ridiculously beautiful, completely meditative and very satisfying? It can even dry the dishes.

DSC04565What if my New Year’s resolutions are on an actual piece of paper, pinned to the kitchen wall, and were edited by my friends and family and I am now very attached to it?

DSC04566I wrote it for myself and mistakenly took it out of my drawer during our annual New Year’s Eve party. I wanted to look at one entry and accidentally left it on the counter. Not only did I expose my secrets and silly wishes – but left them open to being altered.

What if I want to do them all? Stay tuned.

What if I am beginning to suspect that something I hold really near and dear – a holy cow of sorts – a way of life, even – was suddenly or not so suddenly working for one of my kids?

What if what *I* want does not line up with something that one of my beloved, little cherubs might need?

What if even putting one foot in front of the other, while investigating the possible ways to mitigate the things that are not working, is terribly uncomfortable?

What if…

Sunday Scenes – A Birthday Edition

Does anyone else remember the Soul II Soul song “Back To Life” – the hook is running around in my head this morning?

Back to life, back to reality.

Enter the post-holiday doldrums. In our house we have been in chronic down time/party mode. Quite a combination and my system is not responding well to opening my household notebook and finding that I have LOTS of things to address. LOTS. So, with Ethan back at school, Dennis & The Middles off skiing at Shawnee, that leaves Sean and I to tackle the ‘regular’ stuff.

Here are a few images from our house from yesterday. One question, though. How did ‘Baby Gavin’ turn 14. <sigh>

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This poor kid had a high fever when I took this. I pointed the camera at him and he smiled like this! Is that what you get with a blogging mom?

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I was trying to capture the delicious steam emanating from my mug in this photo. I swear, I often wonder what would become of mine without this magic elixir.

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I crocheted the kitty a cat cave. It was a real learning process for me – but that was the point. The pattern can be found here.

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Happy 14th Birthday, Gavin.

Here it goes, folks. Get back to it. Whatever IT is.

2015 Begins

I can just tell it’s going to be a great year. I feel it. When the year starts with the your family and friends, under your roof, eating your food, laughing, talking and celebrating – you can’t go wrong.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
― Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Eager Anticipation

Like I said, I do like Christmas. It comes with a set of expectations and pressures though, that I could live without. Look at New Year’s! All the fun – none of the expectations.

I remember being a little girl eagerly anticipating January 1st to write in my brand new diary with the locking cover on a brand new, crisp page. That is what New Year’s Day is to me – a brand new crisp page. Even if it is just in my head – all things are possible. I love making resolutions. I can’t help but think and dream about what the coming year might hold and what might be possible.

January 1st comes on the heels of the solstice that promises that the days are lengthening and hope is on the horizon.  By hope, I mostly mean temperate weather, sunshine, warmth and Summer.  Other kinds of hope too – the kind that whispers ‘What do you want?’ I answer with secret thoughts and wishes, new quotes pasted all around my kitchen, a vision board full of the possible and improbable all the same. I am making a paper list of resolutions and I do not worry if I cannot keep them all – dreaming and planning is the best part. Hoping. Hope is the theme.

I am cooking, cleaning, and inviting guests. I am decorating and listening to music I love. Did I mention that I am cleaning? I am planning, dreaming, hoping, wishing and praying.

God – bless this day and let me see that it is holy. Clear my mind, plant my feet and set my path. Help to walk in light and love. Give me the strength and flexibility of a swift running river, the clarity and stillness of a deep lake, and the joy and energy of the rolling tide. So be it.                    ~ Janet Costello (New Year’s Prayer, 2014)

I can hardly contain my excitement about New Year’s Eve. I truly love that ball in Times Square. Maybe it is, in fact, magical and maybe the Goo Goo Dolls said it best.

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