Tag Archives: learning

Homeschool, Year 1: Thus Far

4 Jan

When we initially made the decision to homeschool eight-year-old Phoenix this year, I did what I always do: I researched everything I could get my hands on.  I checked out almost every how-to-homeschool book that was on the shelf at the library, I read piles of homeschooling blogs, joined a local Yahoo group, Googled curriculum choices, unschooling,  deschooling, reschooling, homeschool laws, and on, and on.

When I had reached the million word mark, I really felt more confused than confident about how to homeschool.  I was certainly more knowledgeable about all the different possibilities of method, but which one was right for me? More importantly, which method was right for my child?

As the beginning of the new school year drew closer, I enrolled her in a one-day-a-week enrichment school that is chartered in a local school district. Because they are a publicly funded school, they provide curriculum at no charge to the parents. Better yet, because the program is purely complimentary to the families’ homeschooling choices, and they serve many families with differing opinions, they provide a large variety of curriculum options to choose from. The coordinator cautioned new-comers against ordering more than the children could handle in one year, so I went to the curriculum book fair with that in mind. I came away feeling I had ordered just enough.

It all began according to plan. I planned lessons based on the books, organized days around the lessons, scheduled field trips to support learning, wrote daily assignments in Phoenix’s planner…

Two and a half months in, we had used only half the curriculum, given up on lesson plans, disorganized the days around what had been planned. We were frustrated. We were exhausted. Phoenix resisted every effort I was making to teach her.

So I stopped.

It was a convenient time to pause. Phoenix had been taking ballet for over three years, and this year, she had auditioned to be in a professional production of  “The Nutcracker”.  She got cast in two parts (exciting!), and was scheduled to rehearse/perform multiple times per week during the last part of November, and the entire month of December (crazy!). We decided that, because this was very time consuming, and took a lot of hard-work and dedication, that she would focus on ballet.  We would temporarily stop “schooling”. I figured we could call it unschooling.

It is now January, and let me tell you, it has been wonderful. We quit arguing (about school, anyway), and have been able to simply enjoy each other’s company. We have talked to one another. We have listened. We have read books to each other, just because; gone to the library to check-out books on whatever piqued her interest; watched movies next to each other on the couch, and then discussed them over tea. Unschooling is awesome.

But the nagging voices in the back of my head won’t shut-up.

So for this, the second half of the school year, I need to find a happy medium (that sweet spot that is oh so hard to find sometimes). I cannot teach her directly–we tried that, and it doesn’t work well. She is a work-at-her-own-pace kind of gal, and really loves learning (which public school seemed to crush at times). I am not worried about her skill levels in any subject, but I also would like her to continue to learn new skills that she probably won’t find in a novel, and maybe not in everyday life. I’m going to have to get sneaky–like chopped-up-kale-in-spaghetti-sauce sneaky.

Phoenix loves kale now. Perhaps if she gets enough chopped-up multiplication and division in cookie recipes, she will love math too.

(By the way, seeing Phoenix perform in “The Nutcracker” with all the pros was an amazing thing.  My big girl looked so tiny up on that stage).

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Moving Onward and Upward (and Right Next Door)

28 Jul

Our ‘box city’ is not nearly as cool as this ‘box city’.

It has been a couple of weeks since I have posted anything on here. It is not for a lack of trying (or lack of things to say), but lack of down-time. I am putting many things on the back-burner right now, so that I may focus on not going completely insane. In three days, we are moving into a duplex right next door to the building we live in now, and we did not know we were moving until about two weeks ago. It’s kind of a long story, but in short, we need more room, and this place has it.

I find it very difficult to function amid the chaos of the moving process.  I feel claustrophobic in the middle of the small city of boxes  that is being constructed in our already tiny living room. My creativity is being crushed under to-do lists and stress, so I had to stop making my jewelry, my art–everything but dinner, really.  It is all a bit overwhelming.

But, however frazzled I may be right now, I have to look beyond the move. I have to think of the reasons we are moving (more space, my own space),  and remind myself that this part of the process does not last forever. Besides, moving is a perfect time to purge our home of all the superfluous things we have brought in. It is also a perfect time to organize all of the papers and possessions we are bringing into our new home.

I have much to think about and plan in the first couple of weeks after we move, including the beginning of our first year of homeschooling (Yeah!).  My favorite part to think about right now, (besides having hardwood floors instead of nasty old carpet!), is how I am going to set up my creative space in the basement. I have never had a room of my own in my adult life, and I am going to cherish it.

Any tips on organizing a creative workspace?

The Whole World Belongs to You

6 Jul

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu

Phoenix and Magpie are such different people in many ways. Magpie is generally happy, easily excitable, and practically bulletproof. She is just happy to be alive, most of the time.

Phoenix is complicated. She is very introspective. She works things over in her mind so completely that everything seems all wrong, and all right, all at the same time. She is overly susceptible to, and concerned with other people’s thoughts and feelings, which ordinarily is a good thing–she understands people, and has so much compassion and empathy–but it is often to her own detriment. I think she tries pleasing other people so much that it leaves her drained of her own happiness. Don’t get me wrong, she is a bright and cheery young lady much of the time, but it seems as if the smallest thing can strangely upset her to the point of deep sadness.

The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. I am also introspective. And, like Phoenix, I used to be highly sensitive to the feelings of those around me, until I learned to filter most of it out (and sometimes block it out completely, or so says my sensitive husband). As well, I can be a very positive person, but when the right mood strikes (or wrong mood, perhaps), I do seem to focus on the ugly.

I have been trying, for years, to figure out how to teach Phoenix to focus on the positive more than the negative; to remember what she has, and not what she lacks. But I think that, generally, I do not pay enough attention to the words that come out of my own mouth, to effectively show her the positivity and acceptance that I wish she would have. Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me the book Steady Days, by Jamie Martin. I was reading through it, thinking, ‘This woman is brilliant! Why didn’t I ever think to put my whole life in a three-ring binder?’, when I came across her chapter about Daily Blessings. She recommends writing down all of the things we are thankful for everyday. She has her whole family do this. I figured I could make my whole family do this too. It didn’t work quite as I had hoped–Adam was very irritated at the idea. He enjoys being a cynic.

However, the girls and I have made a (somewhat irregular) habit of asking each other what we are grateful for each day, when we are sitting at the dinner table. It is a small start, but it helps put things into perspective at the end of the day.

This morning, as I sat in a dental examination chair, under glaring florescent lights, thinking about all of my woes, I stared at a cheesy photo poster of a misty mountain cliff, with the above quote printed in the bottom corner.

the fam–this was one of two pictures I could find with both Adam and I in the frame–one of us is always behind the camera.

Times are difficult right now, but I am better off than so many. I could not ask for a better family, more amazing daughters, a more thoughtful and caring husband–and that is what I need to focus on. I lack nothing.

Oops…ugh

25 Jun

The past couple days have been slightly frustrating in the jewelry-making department. Some new resin I tried did not cure properly, and many of the pieces that I just made, I will now have to throw away. That is very discouraging, to say the least.

But Adam is keeping my head in the right place. When I try to make “mountains out of molehills”, as he likes to say, Adam brings me back to reality–it doesn’t mean it is all for not. It is a learning curve. I am challenging myself by working with materials I have little experience with, and it is better I find out my pieces are faulty now, than after I sell them to a valued customer. 

So, I am starting a new batch (with the jewelry-grade resin I know works), and I am learning from my mistakes. Hopefully it won’t set me back too far! 

Have you ever felt discouraged to the point of almost giving up? What made you want to keep going?

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