home schooling

Camel in a Body Cast

You know that expression "It was the straw that broke the camel's back?"

Well, I'm the camel.

And I'm still having a hard time processing that there really is a "maximum load" for what I am able to handle. But I've been forced to do so in the last few weeks. Since I'll have some time in a body cast while things work themselves out before I can heal, I guess I'll have some time to process everything. But it's still pretty fresh. (I'm hoping this post will help.)

For anyone freaking out right now, this is a metaphorical body cast. I am physically as fine as I ever am. (Actually, better, since I'm 10 lbs. lighter than most of the last year, thanks to the Slique Experience diet I was on.)

So, what do I mean?

Apparently, my plate, or my pack, or whatever, was already as full as it could possibly get before we got a baby in the family. Little did I know.

While I may not have been able to spend extra time on my businesses or the three courses I was taking at the time (working those around the first priorities of family and home school life), I was able to dedicate some time to them every week, and usually every day. (Businesses: Winters Distributing, Young Living, clothing design, and songwriting; Courses: 6-week Songwriting Course with Pat Pattison through Coursera, Portuguese from Mango Languages, and How to Think Sideways 6-month novel writing course from Holly Lisle.) And, other than the time-blitz required for year-end books and taxes that I was in the midst of finishing, I was still able to spend time with my husband in the evenings several nights a week and actually get a decent sleep, for the most part.

Levi changed that.

And I am NOT upset about that. Or him. The whole change was very sudden, not the way it would have worked if I had peed on a stick, praised God for a miracle, and got to spend the next eight months changing my commitments to allow for the extra work of adding a baby into our lives.

In a few days, we just had a baby--verging on a very busy toddler--without much time to think of the repercussions that would result. And, like a stone thrown in a pond that makes the ripples expand outward, we are still finding out where we need to make changes to accommodate this new addition. And, also like the ripples, each new thing seems to be bigger than the last.

Here is what my schedule looked like before Levi:

I know it's too small to read the words, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that the only "unscheduled" time on this 24-hour/7-day schedule is the white stuff, totalling about 23 hours/week--and that was where I had to fit 10 hours/week of office work, time with my husband, extra household projects or needs, and any "down time". (To be fair, the tan-coloured Friday night and Saturday are the times I schedule off as fun time with family and maybe friends--and I clung to that each week, because I was sometimes approaching burnout by the time Friday night came along.)

One of the first things to go was Tuesday night Bible Study (in blue.) We had just finished a study, anyway, so it was a good time to take a hiatus, especially during the first two sleep-deprived weeks until Levi started sleeping through the night.

Fortunately, karate (orange) and piano lessons (light grey on Mondays) both ended within the last two weeks.

However, despite that, the books are stalled at the beginning of September, I haven't touched them for two weeks, and taxes were due almost a month ago. Since I can no longer work on them between lessons with the boys, or during any time period when Levi is awake, the extra time commitment required for them has to go into those white spaces--and frankly, I'm lucky to finish my daily paperwork before my brain turns off and it is time for bed, these days.

Then, two weeks ago, a cold virus hit our house. It was the kind of cold that left you a little sniffly, with a bit of a sore throat, but dead tired. And it recycled itself--you thought you were nearly done after three days, but a few days later you had it back again. Almost all of us got it, including me.

Was the cold the straw that broke me, that made tempers flare all day long, and my kids argue with everything I said, even if I was just trying to help them with math? No. It just accentuated a trend that was already occurring. We were all more tired, and me especially. A tired mama has less emotional energy to begin with, but since I was now spending a good chunk of that energy on meeting the needs of a toddler (thank goodness he's a fairly easy one!), I had less in reserve for handling the two strong-willed boys among the other three when it came to timely completion of schoolwork, or even finishing a math lesson.

Home schooling, which I used to love, became a chore for me. Sometimes I wouldn't get the marking done all week, then I'd pile half of it in front of Jason as I begged him to help with the mountain that had accumulated. Doing dishes by hand (which we have been doing since last November-ish you might recall) became not just a task but drudgery that sucked up any remaining spare minutes I used to have in my day, even with the help that the older three boys and Jason were giving in that regard.

Last Thursday after supper, I gave myself a time-out in my room. An hour and a nap later, I emerged, but sadly, my emotions and temper weren't much repaired. After the boys were all safely in bed, Jason and I had a heart-to-heart, and I shared with him just how desperate I had become.

Of course, he's no blind idiot, and he had seen how much I had been struggling over the last few weeks. He had already been trying to make suggestions, one of which was along the lines of "maybe we should put the  boys in school next year."

My first reaction was to rebel--I firmly, firmly believe in home schooling, and not only that, I love doing it. It had been my first choice since before we had even conceived Jude. "At least until Grade 3", I had said, "depending on need." Jason had went along with it hesitantly at first, but became more of a believer as time went on and he saw the fruit of the individual attention the boys had received in their first few years of academia.

So it wasn't because he thought I was doing a poor job that he had gently suggested the change. That didn't matter--I wasn't ready to listen when he first said it about three weeks ago.

By Thursday, though, after two weeks of meltdowns (several of which were mine), I was ready to entertain it. Even though I brought it up with the request that we look at any other possible alternative first, in my heart, I knew there really weren't any. Not only that, my main reasons for wanting to home school the boys for their first few grades were no longer a concern--they all love reading, love learning, and have fair-to-excellent ratings on the stability of their value systems. Jude and Jabin both thrive in classroom environments, and Noah will likely do okay, especially if he is able to get some extra, individual support. They all want to go back to school, too.

With the mounting pressures--my kids fighting all day at home (with me and each other), wanting to go to school, Jason wanting to send them to school, and my own increasing emotional instability, it was hard to deny that school might really be the best option. But we decided to take some time to pray about it before making a final decision.

Part of my mom's Mother's Day gift.

Part of my mom's Mother's Day gift.

Friday afternoon, hiding in my bathroom, I sniffled into the phone, "Mom, I'm breaking..."

Her response was similar to what Jason's had been--I should not feel bad about having to make this change... I was already a Supermom, and most other women wish they could accomplish half as much... It really might be for the best...

Still, it's hard not to feel like I've failed, at least a bit. I haven't been doing a great job of home schooling for the last month or two. I feel overwhelmed with my "to-do" list all of the time . And if other women I know can home school with toddlers, babies, and grade school children, why can't I handle the addition of a toddler alone?

"You set the bar so high for yourself," Jason says. I need to cut myself some slack, apparently.

Looking at my schedule, and my life, I am trying to. By Saturday, I knew that the kids would definitely have to go back to school--every time I thought of it, I was overcome with relief. I took that as a sign.

I also knew that I needed help now, just to make it through the end of this school year intact.

So, we are working on a few things that will allow that to happen. Even still, last night as I was revamping the rest of the year's science program to make it work, I was still fantasizing about just driving the boys to the school and entering them for the last six weeks of this year... which just seems a little ridiculous. I think there are other, more appropriate solutions to the issue. But still, I took that as a sign.

For now, I may have to allow myself a summer without a garden... or broiler chickens. I haven't decided, but since I've been trying to get to ordering broilers for four weeks, now, and the only time I managed to even dial the phone (with a strange feeling of dread in my heart) the company was too busy to take my call... maybe I should take that as a sign.

I'm not quite sure what the next few months to a year will look like. But for now, despite the relief, I am still grieving the passing of a much-enjoyed chapter of my life. I covet your prayers as I look forward to the best parts of the future chapters, and attempt to see past the mire that is my day-to-day right now.

And thank God that Levi has brought much joy to our household, as well as being the catalyst that brought my house of cards crashing down around me. Maybe I should have made these changes before, I don't know. But now that the need is so glaringly obvious, I think I'd be a fool not to take that as a sign...

The End Draweth Nigh...

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.
— Hal Borland

I can't believe summer is almost over. There are way too many things still on my "to-do" list for that to be allowed.

For most of yesterday, and the rest of today, I have been/will be planning out my homeschool year. Of course, I have a general idea what I'm doing, having picked topics--now I just need to decide what we're doing when, and what activities will go along with it. It is fun, and exciting, and I know that if I plan it now, the year will go much better.

This year, for the first time since we were in Arkansas, I will have all three boys home. I am really looking forward to it, especially to maintaining the "we-know-how-to-play-together" dynamic that took most of the summer to achieve. (Of course, as I was typing that, I heard Jabin start wailing because of something Jude did. Figures.)

Seriously, though, I noticed a real change in the dynamics around here from July to now. It was like a year in school, mostly with children his own age, made Jude forget how to play with his brothers. His self-admitted favourite thing to do in June was to pester them. IT WAS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!

It took several weeks, but what I was hoping would happen was finally realized--Jude and his brothers seemed to re-equalize their dynamic.

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Then, last week when we had a couple of rainy days, I realized that they had been creatively finding things to do all week, and mostly getting along in their play. They had built stuff, played dress-up, played outside, and were uncomplaining about the limited "screen time" I allowed them.

YAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

Anyway, despite my typical "the-summer-is-almost-over-and-the-projects-are-still-undone" panic, we have been knocking a few things off of Ye Olde To-Do Liste, some more "for fun" than others.

The weekend before last, I made a wreath I've had the supplies for for over a year. The little wooden "preserve" jars with the "Fruits of the Spirit" on them were actually a garland that I got in a garage sale. The hemp twine holding them together kept breaking, and I had no good place for it in the new trailer, besides. So, "a- repurposing we will go." Add a wreath, ribbon, and decorative potpourri, plus a few silk flowers, and Voila!

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(My one peeve with it is that the last fruit [dangling below the bow] is spelled "Self-Contrl." Made in China, anyone?...)

Also, it no longer hangs over the mirror. I didn't like it there. :-)

Last fall, we switched out the diesel heater that was originally warming our addition (and went through ginormous amounts of fuel) for a wood stove that was a gift from my mom and Mike. Jason built a tiled base and wall-cover heat shield (technical term? Dunno.) from tile that was given to us by our friends the Mundts and also the Stanleys from some of their leftovers. We got very creative in making a symmetrical pattern with what we had, and it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, it was already late enough in the year that we could not actually remove the stove long enough to mortar and grout the ones on the base, as the addition would be too cold without the stove running for it to cure properly. So, in the last week, Jason has been tackling that project. He mortared down the base tiles, and got almost everything grouted before running out of grout! We are hopeful that he will be able to match the colour, but just in case he can't, he left symmetrical sections of tile ungrouted to make it look a little less "unplanned." :-)

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Since the rest of the room is full of items that would normally be filling up the area in this photo (like the wood stove!), you can see that I am using this convenient flat surface to sort out my textbooks at the moment.

The white case in the far back right is a beginner Japanese course. Jude decided he would rather learn Japanese than French this year. I told him I was game--it is a useful language to know, and I will learn it with him. Should be fun. Also, we are hoping to be able to put the boys in karate this year, so it will complement that nicely. (In most karate dojos, the students need to learn basic Japanese terms anyway, such as counting. I still remember how to count to, uh, ten! Also, I can say "I did it!", but that's from watching Heroes. :-D)

The plastic bag over the stovepipe has a bit of creosote that fell down into it, plus some water from the rain--not sure why that is, since we re-shingled the addition this spring, and Jason just re-tarred everything. Musta missed something. Anyway, last night a moth flew down the chimney (Forest Tent Moth--only about a million of those around here right now) and got caught in the bag. It can't seem to find it's way up again, and the flapping against the plastic is freakin' me out...

One more exciting bit of news. Last Tuesday, we got 40 chicks from a mongrel used-to-be-purebred-heritage-breed flock of chickens. They are meant to replenish my own decimated flock. (If you don't remember what happened, my dog did it.) They will be pretty little going into the winter, and we won't know for sure which ones are roosters until around February. However, I'm hoping that they manage to keep each other warm this winter and we can actually start getting a decent number of eggs again by spring. Right now, they are just li'l cute balls of multi-coloured fluff!

Anyway, I should go feed my kiddos some lunch, then keep working on "school."

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Priceless

Not so long ago, I came across this really cool project on DadCanDo for Dragon Glare Reducing Goggles.

My boys have no need for Dragon Glare Reducing Goggles (most of the time), but I thought that the craft would be equally authentic as Snow Glare Reducing Goggles to go with our unit about Mountain Climbing and Sir Edmund Hillary.

I got some pop bottles from Amanda (she didn't even charge me the deposit! What a friend!), gathered the rest of the supplies from my copious stash and overflowing recycle bin, and came up with my own version. (I'm usually too cheap to pay for a pattern I can re-invent on my own. However, for those of you less craftily-inclined, I am not going to steal any further revenue from Mr. Chris Bernardo. He is doing some great work over on that DadCanDo site, and I hitherto recommend that if you want to create your own version, head on over there and buy the instructions for yourself.)

Supplies.
Monkey decorating his headband.
Squirt decorating his headband
Decorating the headbands.
The Boys and their Goggles.

Bottle of gold spray paint? $10. The rest of the supplies? Free. Listening to three boys be "astropilots" for as long as Mom will let them before bed?...

...Well, you know the rest.

Snow Blow

So today, Noah got to write his own "snow" poem for English. First, we wrote one together:

Snowball Fight
by Noah and Mommy

Get set
to get wet!
Go throw
some wet snow!
White might!
Snowball fight!

Then, Noah got to write a snow poem all on his own. His is a little tricky to follow without all his verbal explanations, but not bad for a first grader:

Night Fight
by Noah

Woah! Low
There's snow
Loseboot [a name, apparently]
Is going to toot
Play in the night
Night fight. [à la Dr. Seuss]

Not to be left out, Jude wrote his own little poem on a scrap of paper:

Jude
by Jude

Jude the dude who was not rude
wanted food.

Okay, okay, I get the hint. Lunch is served...

(Re: Jude's poem: What else is new?!)

Oh, the Places I've Gone!

Okay, I haven't been that many places over the last few weeks, but I have been extremely busy--as usual, lots to blog about and no time to do it in. So, I will try to recap:

School

- We have been going strong for three weeks now, and have got to do such fun things as making the colour wheel out of frosting, hitting up the library, painting a giant sun on butcher paper, and doing a field trip to the Telus World of Science. Jabin comes home from kindergarten every day talking about a new friend, and enjoys his "home days", too. So far, so good.

Family

- We spent last weekend in S.L., the official reason being to attend my cousin Riley's wedding reception. It was great, but also a perfect excuse for a "mini family reunion" with my brother and dad. Logan had not been to Canada for almost exactly two years, as he was waiting for his Green Card paperwork to come through, which it finally did about a month ago. Thankfully, we have all managed to travel his direction a few times during the interim--well, all of us except Jason. We had a great weekend of hanging out, playing board games, and laughing--a LOT. I love my family.

"Farming"

- On the Labour Day weekend, our friends B. & L. came out to educate us on the ways of butchering a chicken. L. has plenty of experience from her childhood days on a farm. I had two roosters whose doom awaited them--one for the demo, and one for practice. I'll spare you the grisly details, but considering the fact that I used to have my friend Amanda do all the actual dissecting when we were in Biology together, I'd say I did pretty good. I only felt queasy once, and that was when my attempts at neck-breaking only stressed out my poor boy instead of achieving the "quick demise" I was going for. We ended up using the axe. Anyway, on Monday they looked like this:

And on Wednesday night, one of them looked like this:

(The other one is still in the freezer.)

Kinda scrawny, I know, but there were just too many roosters for my "girls", so they had to go.

I don't quite have the whole garden in, yet, but I managed to save the last of my potatoes from the ravages of my chickens today--the "turkeys" were digging them up and eating them! I still have two of my five raised beds to empty, but I'm not in a hurry to dig up my carrots--they'll keep much better in the ground, for now.

I'm sure there is much more that could be said, but my clock just informed me that the party's over, folks--it's after midnight. I need to get my rest, so Teacher Mommy will be reasonable tomorrow. I'll try not to stay away so long, this time!