One down, three to go

I can hardly believe it, but he graduated.

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Of course, I believe it, but…

Wasn’t he just a baby?

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I expected to be really emotional about it all, but there was so much going I didn’t have time.  Nor do I have anything deep to say about it other than I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to spend 18 years with this amazing person that is my son.

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Shaking it up: Poetry

Last week I took the girls out to a new coffee shop near us for tea and poetry.

Book - Zen Ties by Jon J Muth

Jon Muth’s Zen Ties is one of our favorite children’s books (a lovely, gentle story, beautiful paintings, and humor: what’s not to love?!) , and it happens that Stillwater’s young cousin, Koo, speaks in poetry. “Hi, Koo!” I brought it with us, and we read it over tea and croissants.

We spent half an hour writing our own haiku. First we each wrote one about the coffee shop. Then each of us wrote two words for the others which they had to use in their poems. (I got “candy” and “east” on the first round, and “San Pelligrino,” “Danger” and “Monkey” in the second. Hazards of being in a coffee shop, I guess.)

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I’m counting this for poetry, syllables (early grammar), and Lit.

Are you shaking things up during these last two months of school? If you’re not changing things around a little, do you need to?

Growth v. Confidence

This has been a challenging year for us as a family, and as homeschoolers. I can’t share much of that here, but I want to reflect for a minute about one particular pitfall of homeschooling, and how I’m trying to work around it.

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My school experience as a kid was one of boredom. I spent years finishing my work before the rest of the class and having to sit quietly at my desk while other kids finished. When they “pioneered” a gifted-and-talented program at my school, it meant that after I finished the regular work, they would pull me out and give me more work. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that maybe a few of us should have different work, or be able to work at our own pace.

That experience led me to design our homeschool to be a place where my kids could work at their own pace(s). When they master a concept, they move on to the next thing. The idea was not to “waste” any time sitting around being bored by repeating the same old information they’ve already mastered. On the other hand, if they need more time on a topic, we can spend as much time as they need before moving on.

We’ve been doing that for twirteen years now, and for the most part it has worked well. Most of our time is spent at the growing edge, or at the place where we’re all being stretched.  I have noticed one problem, though, and it’s this: living at the growing edge can be pretty uncomfortable. And tiring. Working at the growing edge doesn’t ever let you rest in a place of mastery, which builds confidence.

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There are several sources of confidence. One is internal, where the experience of repeated success causes us to trust our skills and our mastery of a subject or skill. The other is external, where we are able to see our mastery in comparison to others, or hear from others that we have mastered a subject. (Think: exams, teachers, certificates, races, performances, etc.)

While I hated the boredom of my own education, it was pretty great seeing that I was ahead of everyone else academically. That built my internal confidence. I had many teachers who gave me a lot of messages that built my confidence externally.

In our homeschool, my kids have very little opportunity to compare themselves academically to their peers. Instead, they compare themselves to one another, which leaves my younger children feeling lost as they compare themselves to a much-older, academically very gifted sibling. Our homeschool has effectively erased a major source of external confidence. On top of that, I have eliminated the sense of mastery that comes from lots of repetition by engineering a learning space in which we spend most of our time with new material.

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Where do I go from here?

We are trying to spend more time resting in mastery. As much as the repetition grates on me, I need my kids to see how much they know. This means different things for different kids- one needs more opportunities to perform. One needs opportunities to do things without an older sibling making suggestions over her shoulder. Another needs to spend more time reviewing material we’ve already done. They all need opportunities to compare their work to their own peers (instead of to their older siblings.)

What does the balance between growth and confidence look like for you? I’m looking for ideas here, friends, so please don’t be shy sharing in the comments.

Daybook: mid-March

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Outside my window: snow, but not enough to shovel. Just enough to make driving a pain. Last week our crocuses bloomed, and the tulips are getting taller. Sam pruned the roses earlier this month, so we can actually see the bulbs emerging.

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In the kitchen: kittens wolfing down their tuna. (I should used a cat metaphor there. Lioning? Cougaring? Ew, no. Wolfing will do.)

Sam went to the grocery store yesterday, so there’s a chance I’ll cook some food this week. Moriah made these lemon basil cookies, so in a pinch we can just eat those.

We can’t eat it, but my orchid rebloomed. This is the first time I’ve ever kept one alive long enough to bloom a second time. Hooray.

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In the school room: We’ve had a lot of performances. Willy Wonka (we are the proud parents of an Oompa Loompa) and High School Musical, Jr. were early in the week, and dance was this weekend. Whew. Everyone is beat.

During the plays, we had a lot of complaining about “being forced” to watch one’s siblings’ performances. Then afterwards, I asked them all what the difference between the performance and the dress rehearsal was. (Same stage, same cast, same costumes, same lines… but no audience.) We had a good discussion about the importance of the audience, and- thankfully- everyone came without complaining to the dance performance.

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I might be slightly biased, but I thought they were great.

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We all are ready for a break. The boys’ outside classes all have different spring breaks [they lose], but we are trying to embrace a lighter schedule. We took a few good walks [totally worth the whining] and are planning to see the Degas exhibit later this week.

In my shoes: I managed one run this week, and I love walking. I’ll take what I can get.

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On my reading shelf: I’m creeping through Deuteronomy, Hannah Coulter (Wendel Berry) and The Newcomers (Helen Thorpe.) I have a shortage of reading time right now.

Grateful: For the abundance of these days. For good conversations with my kids. For walks and crocuses and birds awing and hens laying eggs again. For all of it.

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Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Austen. Caregivers and new parents and those who grieve. Kids making college decisions (and their parents). Stillness within the storms.

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Daybook: Early March 2018

Outside my window: They are finally building the income-qualified housing on our corner (promised 10 years ago!) so I’m hearing lots of big trucks. I just heard a concrete mixer pull up, so we may go watch them pour some foundations later.

In the kitchen: Phoebe is making pancakes. It’s rare that she gets to cook alone [i.e. without a big sister telling her what to do], so I’m trying not to hover.

Also, we finally hung the pendant lights in the kitchen. We moved into this house four years ago and have been looking for glass pendants in cobalt since then. I thought I’d found just the right thing in a bar about a year after we came, but they had been brought back from Florence in the restaurant owner’s luggage. This fall, we were up in Estes Park for a weekend, and someone told us to check out the glass blowers up there. Turns out they’ll do all kinds of custom glass work, and this is what they did for us. I love them.

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Around the house: I came home from my hospital shift this weekend to find the house piled with laundry. (Sick + house guests + washer that wasn’t draining = laundry mountain. #math) I spend half of Monday watching DIY videos on how to clean out the drain trap, flooding the laundry room with water, scooping out all the detritus from the trap (ewwww! I know people think what I do at the hospital is gross, but it’s got nothing on this) and trying to screw the plug back in. I watched the first three loads with great trepidation, lest my insufficient torque allowed the water to drain all over the floor, but I think I solved the problem. Now I just have to fold it all…

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In the garden: I haven’t started any seeds yet, but the chickens have definitely noticed the change in the light. They laid these for us this morning.

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In my shoes: February was a bust for running. Between sickness and travel, I ran twice. That means I’m to square one for distance. On the bright side, I run slowly enough to see all the minute changes happening in everyone’s gardens. Tuesday I saw daffodils, crocuses, and all sorts of colorful branches fattening up their buds.

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In the school room: Owen’s robotics team competed in Utah last week and did awesome (mombrag!) although they didn’t qualify for Worlds. Two weeks ago, all three of the big kids placed at National History Day regionals, so now we need to make some improvements in their projects for state. When we turned the corner into March, Jonah’s AP exams suddenly felt much closer (at least I remembered to register him for them this year!). He is still anxiously checking the mailbox every day for college letters. Lots going on.

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We are reading Little Town on the Prairie (spoiler alert) with new eyes now that Jonah is looking at college. When we read it seven years ago, the passages about Mary’s impending departure were not so personal to us.

Speaking of spoilers, the kids keep reminding me of the day we drove past Vinton, Iowa, and I pointed out that that was where Mary went to the school for the blind. We had only read the first few books and had not gotten to On the Shores of Silver Lake. Three horrified children (and one baby) all started screaming, “Mary goes blind??!!!”

Grateful: For our new niece who arrived last week- what a blessing! For healthy outcomes at the hospital after some scary moments this weekend. For this awesome Ted talk we watched (Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work), for last month’s visit with my friends in NC (still savoring those moments), and for getting to see Hamilton last week. (We were only able to procure 4 tickets, which meant the girls were out of luck. But then Owen ended up traveling, and Jonah gave his ticket to his sister. Awwwww.)

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Praying for: Mandy. Judy. Lori. Ruth. Austen. Christine. Rev. Anna’s move. Those suffering from depression or violence (or both.) Refugees.

 

 

7QT: Don’t you have something you’re supposed to be doing?

One: After two weeks of illness (one child on antibiotics, another on Tamiflu, me on nothing as I hacked up one or more of my lungs) we are finally clawing out way back into schooling at home. Sam is coming down with something now, too, but since he’s goes to work to be sick, I don’t really count him as one of the stricken.

Two: Man, getting back into this is rough. In the midst of that, Sam and I both traveled. I really should have stayed at home, but… I wanted to see my friend. I saw her, but I spent the whole time afraid I was going to give her the plague.

Three: Speaking of plagues, we adopted a lovely cat. His name (spoiler alert) was Julian.
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Then his larynx swelled up, and despite high-dose steroids and a veterinary ICU and more steroids and another vet, he still died. After his necropsy, at which the vet couldn’t determine the cause of the allergy/infection/laryngeal edema NOS, she called me back to ask if I’d been able to get his shot records from his previous owner. No, I hadn’t. So she put us on Rabies Watch, had the county public health nurse call us to find out our travel plans and if any of us were acting strangely, and billed us $65 for rabies testing. Just like that, our family went from the infectious disease specialists to the possible source of an urban rabies outbreak. (Better spoiler: he didn’t have rabies, and neither do we.) Here is a gratuitous photo of the new cat, whose rabies vaccination I have documented on paper.

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Four: Anyway… now, two weeks later we have adopted a replacement cat, and everyone is trying to get back in the groove. To that end, everyone made it to the co-op for classes this week, all the adults went to their gainful employment, and I’ve been trying to teach things to the children with limited success.

Five: On Monday, I made it till one-thirty before I had to crawl into my bed for a nap. When I got up, I went to see where Phoebe one of the children was with her work.

Mom: Where are you with your school work today? Do you need help with math?

Anonymous Child: Why are you asking? Don’t you have some work you’re supposed to be doing?

Mom: I was under the impression that helping you with math was my work.

So that was really successful. I should have stayed in bed.

Six: Yesterday I finally made it outside for a run. I discovered three things:

  • two weeks without exercise turned me into a meatball, and I couldn’t breathe.
  • spring is coming, whether the bomb cyclone and Storm Emma realize it
  • exercise is my anchor activity.  Once I made the effort to exercise again, all sorts of other things became possible, like making dinner and putting bleach in the toilets and following up on my daughter’s math.

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The guardian of spring.

Seven: However, an anchor is not entirely sufficient to return everything to normal. In order get us back in the routine, I had to pull out the paints and insist everyone make some art while I read aloud to them. An hour later, the children wandered off to play Minecraft and left me with a huge arty mess to clean up. I think this means we’re back in the groove.

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Be sure to visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.

7QT: My baby is going to graduate

One: I ordered Jonah’s high school diploma today.

Yes, I am showing you Meg Ryan’s ugly cry because 1) my ugly cry is really, really ugly and 2) I am old.

Two:  I had to write in the name of our school. Years ago, we spent a few days brainstorming names for our home school. That was long before we had reached full enrollment (of 4) and all the grades (currently serving 4th-12th.) We came up with all sorts of lofty-sounding names, none of which I can remember now, but after two days they all sounded so ridiculous that we didn’t name it at all.

Three: Several hours earlier, Jonah had texted me because he forgot his calculator, which he was going to need later for an exam. He wondered if I could drive it to him.

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No, I could not. I am not Jennifer Garner. Lucky for him, he had cash and could go to the bookstore and spend his own money on a calculator before his test. #parenting.

Four: But I could order him a diploma, so I did. At lunch, I mentioned to the other kids that we had never named our school. They wanted to know why it mattered, and I mentioned the little matter of a diploma, and then Moriah started to cry because Jonah is going to graduate and move away.

Five: So here we are, friends. We started this homeschool journey 13 years ago, thinking it would be a one-year experiment. Now we’re ordering diplomas and having ugly cries.

Six: My advice to you is to name your school early, or it will be too late and your school will be the NoName Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Seven: Any ideas what he should write for his yearbook quote?

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Go check out Kelly for more Quick Takes!