Monday, May 30, 2011

New Curriculum Shopping

In the past year we have used Oak Meadow for the kids homeschool curriculum. It worked on many levels and on some levels it did not. I found the First Grade level completely bored Tae. Morgan liked the 6th grade math but that was about it. I don't think it challenged either one of them.

So this year, we bit the bullet and ordered a very expensive curriculum. I know, expensive doesn't always mean better but they have a refund policy if we don't like it. But I want the kids to be challenged. Tae is already half way through his second grade year and Morgan needs much more help with her writing. She has such difficulty organizing thoughts and writing them down.

Patrick did very well with Oak Meadow 9th grade. Except the Math-we found Saxon Math just awful so for him this year we are switching to Teaching Textbooks Geometry.

Morgan and Tae will try Calvert. The way I look at it is this: we spend money on groceries, vacation, electronics so why not our kids education? We'll see how it goes. I have to admit that I had a bit of chest pain when I ordered.

Stay tuned for a review when the box comes in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lessons Learned

I am sitting at my desk this morning, reading through emails as my kids begin their day. It's my usual routine:coffee, slog the mess on the desk to the side, move through emails and decide which ones get priority before we start the days lessons.

It's been raining for a few days, my newly planted herbs and lettuces are happy. My joints and muscles....not so much. But the rain makes me reflective. It washes things anew and brings with it great possibilities.

The kids have finished up all their homeschool lessons which means an extended, welcome break over the summer. Some things we did well this year yet other goals were elusive (as they are every year) and need rethinking.

Finishing the school year brings me to the lessons learned, not just in homeschooling but in life and the people in it.

1) Whether it's homeschooling or in life, the process or task just doesn't matter in the end. How I treat those completing the task is much more important. Rules, policies, bylaws and guidelines are useless if you don't pay attention to the heart and the people involved.

2) I am not responsible for other people's feelings. Each of us needs to take ownership of our own reactions and motives behind those feelings. What I am responsible for is recognizing hurt and disappointment and making amends when I need to. I expect the same from others.

3) I trust my kids in all their mistakes and accomplishes. My kids talk to me...a lot...about everything. My husband and I have taught them well. They come to us when something is questionable and ask for help. They ask questions about sex, faith, friendship, struggles and joys. That doesn't mean that they don't screw up. And it doesn't mean if they do screw up that I trust them less. It means we talk about it as a family, learn from it and get on with it. But it also means that as parents, we have to let them grow and go and let them make their own mistakes. It also means as parents that we will make mistakes too. God knows, I've made my fair share.

4) Volunteering is important. For me, volunteering is Holy Work. Interpret that however you want. Every single one of us in our family volunteers in some way. Church, homeschool group, community or playground-it is the essense of our family.

5) I CHERISH my homeschool group and Board. These amazing families have supported, loved me, shared ideas, built community, have given me new ways of thinking and yes have even called me on my faults. They do so with kind and loving hearts in ways that can only support me as a person and help me to grow and recognize. That is a gift.

6) I am a the best of my abilities. Being a mom requires wearing a superhero cape everyday anyway. For most moms (and dads) the cloak is invisible and we see parenting, volunteering, working, homeschooling, serving and giving as just another piece of life's big picture.

7) My marriage comes first in life even before my kids. Shocker to some I know and here's why. This past year, I've learned that working as a team is important. If I don't nourish our marriage, things fall apart quickly. I can't be a wife to my husband and I can't be a mom to our kids if all the pieces of the puzzle don't fit together. Date nights are important. No kids. Just two adults and time to reconnect. My kids are also my life but I can't be my best self if life isn't rounded out with adult needs as well as kids needs. That's not being selfish-that's called self care. My kids know this and understand this and no they don't feel slighted at all. In fact, they notice the difference when I am stressed and haven't been taking care of myself.

My words of advice are this.

  • Do the best you can and when you can't, move on. Homeschooling isn't always easy but it is interwoven with life and all it's lessons.

  • Relationships matter. Take time to nurture them. They morph and change and grow and sometimes they don't.

  • Listen more. Don't just hear what the person is saying but deeply listen. Try to understand hurts, make the effort to fix them if possible.

  • Not all relationships are worth fixing. Know in your heart when you have done your best.

  • The meaning of life. Yes, I figured that out too. Just connect with people and learn about them. That is holy work too. We were put here to make connections and figure out humanity in all it's complexities. I'll let you know when I figure out what that means.

So honey, when is date night?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Signs of Spring

We've been outside enjoying the sunshine this week. Our homeschool year is winding down. The kids are a few weeks ahead in some lessons and it gives us ample opportunity to be outside.

While I love spring, I don't love the weeds. There are dandelions everywhere this year.

The Violets grow in abundance here and by next week I will be picking them to make Violet jelly. I made a big batch last year and it makes a great glaze for hams or chickens. It's also very yummy on top of cream cheese and a bagel.
If you search on the this blog you will find the recipe for Violet Jelly.

The Lemon Balm is already coming up in huge amounts. It makes delicious tea, lemon extract and fills out flower bouquets with such a lovely smell.

The brocolli has grown quite a bit.

The onions have been planted.

My buddha has a bit of a head injury after the long winter.

He happily sits next to my sage plant.

Tae found some time to play on the Zip Strip.

When did he get so tall?

Or cute?

The Maple trees are starting to blossom with the Chartreuse green, tender buds.

I'm happy to use my clothes line as well.

The chickens are finding tons of bugs and ticks to eat.

But....this is a problem.

They love this garden for dirt baths.

I don't know how we are going to put mulch in it this year.

They really do make a mess of my side walk and seedlings.

The view from my upper deck shows the chickens having a wonderful time.

While it looks like a chicken massacre...believe's not.

These girls roll around, upside down and sideways to make sure every inch of their feathers is covered in dirt. They always look awful afterward.

Moonlight the cat just strolls by them totally oblivious to their glory.

She learned long ago to leave the chickens alone.

A few too many pecks and she went running.

See? Dirty chickens.
Destroyed garden.

Divots and caverns where they lay. My seedlings gone.

I believe next weekend we will be building a small fence.


What's blooming where you live?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Each Spring we have to clean out our Koi pond. It's a horrible job but one that is necessary. As you walk by and the pond smells "swampy"-it's usually a pretty good sign that it's time.

Larry starts by skimming the top of debris and leaves and the pampas grass clippings.

But eventually he has to scoop down to the bottom and get all the muck out.

Tae helped cut all the grasses down and then raked out the beds.

Eventually, Larry has to get into the pond.

The Koi are not amused and like to brush by his legs.

Every once in a while you hear a little yell because he thinks it's a Garden Snake.

Today he worked on rebuilding the waterfall.

The winter snow had displaced a lot of rocks and the Racoons like to come and move the rocks looking for bugs and scrumptious things to eat.

The water lillies were completely overgrown. We cut the overgrown roots off the bottom and repotted them. I hate this job. The lillies are full of muck and stink. Then we stink.

The kids moved my glider swing out under the Willow Tree.

The big pampas grasses were cut back. They really need to be divided but we can do that anytime during the summer. They are so hardy they don't mind being hacked apart.

Buddha is quite happy to have some sun.

He entertained the chickens today.

We redid the boulders at the opposite end of the pond and create another small waterfall.

The water will be murky for about another week but will clear up soon. We started feeding the fish today but only in small amounts. The water is still quite cold and their metabolism is still slow so we do a bit at a time.

My yard is just blossoming with spring time.

Isn't it pretty?

The chickens have been very happy freeranging throughout the yard.

They are fertilizing and eating tons of bugs and ticks.

We got our cold weather crops in. Brocoli, spinach, lettuce, peas, beans and onions. We'll be planting the rest of the garden soon.

Happy May Day!