Stillness, sleep, and homeschooling

Almost two weeks of homeschool are under our belts.  Mia, Anna and I are happy and content with how it has gone so far.

Mia says her favorite aspects of homeschooling so far have been the freedom, nature walks, and the sleep (she has slept roughly 12 hours per night, sometimes waking up at noon).  Anna says her favorite things have been time with mommy, outside time, and her fairy project that we’re working on this week.

We start each day with reading poetry from The Waldorf Book of Poetry. Sometimes I read it, sometimes the girls read it, and sometimes we create artwork in response to it. We light a candle when we start our work and keep it going until we’re done.  At least, this is what I’ve been trying to do.  We’ll see how many candles we go through.

Anna will work through Jacob Streit’s book, And There Was Light, learning the creation story in the Old Testament and creating art in response to it.  I read one chapter to her at a time. This story is an important part of the Waldorf curriculum in the 9th year.  It is a beautiful story. I am hoping to get through it by the time Anna turns ten in March.

Mia is enjoying her English curriculum from Oak Meadow, and I am enjoying it along with her! Today she read a poem, The Buddha’s Last Instruction, by Mary Oliver in her book, House of Light.  The poem is beautiful and so is the curriculum.   The curriculum encourages deep thinking and creative expression.  I am very happy with it.

My favorite aspect about our new homeschooling experience is stillness.  We have long periods of silence.  It is peaceful and restorative.  This is something I don’t know if we’ve ever experienced in a school setting.

My least favorite aspect of this new adventure is that I am working two days per week and one additional afternoon per week.  I would like to be home 5 days a week homeschooling and taking care of the home.  I love it so very much.  And, I also do love my work with clients outside of the home.  Life balance is key, now more than ever.

Homeschooling has begun!

Today was our official first day of 4th and 9th grades! It was wonderful, delightful, and warmed my heart in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.  I can hardly express how much I love these girls and love this new adventure we’re on together.  There will probably be bumps in the road and hard days ahead, but not today.  Today was a great day.

We’re “winging it” a bit with this homeschooling plan.  Mia has more structure, but Anna, not so much.  There are a bunch of loose ideas in my head that I hope to intuitively navigate and pull together in a cohesive way (which magically happened today).  The most important thing is that the atmosphere is loving and relaxed.  Everything else is a distant second.

This morning we visited a local nursing home where Mia played guitar and sang some old folk and country songs for the residents.  Anna sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” while playing her eukelele.  It was lovely.  Mia and Anna genuinely enjoyed it and love the company of the elderly.  Our hope is that visiting the nursing home will become a regular part of our routine from now on.

After that, we had lunch and did some school work.  We tried to do a guided meditation that I like, but we all ended up laughing so much that we had to give it up.  While I worked with Anna, Mia worked on her online classes on Khan Academy and on her English curriculum from Oak Meadow. Together we wrote in journals, read aloud, drew, observed animals outside and walked around the lake when we’d all had enough school for the day.

Here are a couple photos from our special day.

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Homeschool vs. public school after 5 days

We are five days into public school after nine years of homeschooling. It has been a huge change, and I think it will be a while before I am fully adjusted.

This is what I love about public school so far:

1. It is free

2. It is a 6-hour break for me to not worry about one child and be able to focus on my other child

3. Mia’s teacher is extremely organized, structured, and creative.  She’s fun and a great role model for Mia.

4. Mia goes outside every day and gets play with other kids her age in fresh air with exercise. Every day.

5. She gets exposed to a variety of topics each day and broadens her horizons.

6. She is learning how to do things more quickly, such as change into snow-gear and pack a backpack at the end of the day.

7. She doesn’t have to fight with a three-year-old for 6 hours a day.

8. It has placed structure and routine into our lives, and I have thrived on it, for the most part.  It has made me more productive and organized, and my meals more intentional and interesting.

What I loved about homeschool:

1. The freedom to make our own schedule or not have one at all.

2.  That Mia could play guitar, sing, draw, read and write for hours each day–in her pajamas and with messy hair.  I also very much love that this is what she did for most of her life before she went to school.

3. Lots of downtime with Mia, lots of time for conversation, and lots of shared experiences that gave us a strong and wonderful bond that I hope, with my whole heart, will last forever.

4. The lack of homework

5. The quickness and ease of learning something new, without having to wait around or follow procedures to do so.

6. The lack of negative peer influence/ constant presence of positive influence

7. The extra sleep for everyone

8. The space to act on inspiration and learn/do anything that pleases us

9. The ability/space for Mia to learn at her level and at her pace

10. The opportunity for natural learning/ learning from true life events not created in a classroom (such as planning, shopping, and making a meal for dinner).

11.  That without ever having a spelling test prior to this week, Mia was able to develop the ability to spell years beyond her grade level, all on her own, simply by reading, writing, and developing in a natural way.

As of today, my conclusion is that homeschooling is awesome–and public school is awesome.  They each have their own great qualities, and one can’t replicate the other.  A little is lost and a little is won. They are two very different options, and I think I am pretty lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to experience both.

I do think we will go back to homeschooling someday, perhaps years down the road.  But for now, and except for the homework, I love having my kid in school.

on becoming a grown-up

A few years ago, I began to ponder what it meant to be a grown-up.

For a reason that I was unable to put my finger on, I was certain that I was not yet a grown-up.  I was old enough to be tried as an adult in court, old enough to pay my own taxes, old enough to legally marry. At the same time, I was clueless about how to handle conflict, how to have a healthy relationship or what a healthy relationship was, and how to be responsible for all areas of my life.

It took some searching, but eventually I learned about what it means to be a grown-up when I read The Seven Best Things Happy Couples Do by John and Linda Friel, which may as well be entitled “How to be a Grown-Up so You can be Happy and Your Spouse can, too”.

Reading the book was overwhelming at times; it pushed me to look at myself in ways that were uncomfortable and challenging.  It became clear that my relationships were my own responsibility, that my life was my own choice and I had to let go of blame. It made me see that in order to be a grown-up, I had to evaluate every aspect of my life.  I mean every aspect, including choice of spouse and religious beliefs.  That was undoubtedly the hardest part.

In the book, John Friel explains that the process of becoming a grown-up takes at least two years to accomplish once the process has begun. He also explains that in order to become a grown-up, one must pass through a series of phases. A bit disappointed that it would take me this long, I trudged along and gave it my best, anyway.  Besides, I had nothing to lose but my childish ways–and these I was more than willing to kiss goodbye.

It has been over two years since I read the book.

I have no more resentments. I have no blame, at least the majority of the time.  I am at peace with my past, something that once seemed impossible.  I am not even mad at my sixth-grade Social Studies teacher who embarrassed me in front of the class or at my once-BFF who ditched me after being my bridesmaid, never to be seen again. I am grateful for all of my experiences, both painful and joyful.  They are pieces of the important journey that has made me the person I am right now: a person that I love and approve of.

Marc and Angel Hacklife say it like this:

“Adulthood is not based age; it’s based strictly on emotional maturity.”

This list is copied directly from Marc and Angel Hacklife, and describes in a nutshell what it means to be a grown-up:

  1. Realizing that maturity is an ongoing process, not a state, and continuously striving for self improvement.
  2. Able to manage personal jealousy and feelings of envy.
  3. Has the ability to listen to and evaluate the viewpoints of others.
  4. Maintains patience and flexibility on a daily basis.
  5. Accepts the fact that you can’t always win, and learns from mistakes instead of whining about the outcome.
  6. Does not overanalyze negative points, but instead looks for the positive points in the subject being analyzed.
  7. Is able to differentiate between rational decision making and emotional impulse.
  8. Understands that no skill or talent can overshadow the act of preparation.
  9. Capable of managing temper and anger.
  10. Keeps other people’s feeling in mind and limits selfishness.
  11. Being able to distinguish between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
  12. Shows confidence without being overly arrogant.
  13. Handles pressure with self composure.
  14. Takes ownership and responsibility of personal actions.
  15. Manages personal fears.
  16. Able to see the various shades of grey between the extremes of black and white in every situation.
  17. Accepts negative feedback as a tool for self improvement.
  18. Aware of personal insecurities and self-esteem.
  19. Able to separate true love from transitory infatuation.
  20. Understanding that open communication is the key to progression.

Above all, true adults do what they have to do when it is required of them, and they do what they want when they can.  They are able to distinguish between the two and manage their time and efforts accordingly.”

I am still working on several of these, but I am getting there. It feels great.

Mama and Mia book club

My biggest girl is eight.  She is growing before my eyes, morphing into a new form of personhood that feels suddenly foreign.  Her mannerisms, her sense of humor, her enjoyment of making faces in the mirror–they are typical, but new.  Typical of someone who is eight.  New to me, although I suppose that once upon a time, I was a very similar eight-year-old, morphing into someone new.

She will never be little again.  To say that it doesn’t hurt would be untruthful. The other day I decided that I am going to try my darndest to make the best of this, without holding her back, without getting too nostalgic.  Be in the moment.

Mia and I started a new tradition of choosing a book to read together at bedtime.  Only she and I will read the book together; not daddy, not by herself.  It is ours. Our club.

When we’ve finished a book, we write an inscription in the cover so we always know when we read it.  We will save the pile of books and she will soon have a collection of memories and good books that she may one day read to her children.

I have always read to Mia, but not so deliberately.

Doing things deliberately makes them special.  Doing things ritually and with pleasure makes them sacred.

We are on our 3rd book tonight, Miracles on Maple Hill.  We tried out a few pages of Huckleberry Finn, Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and the American Girls series before landing on Miracles on Maple Hill.  That one was just right.

Our first book was Charlotte’s Web, our second, The Hundred Dresses.  Charlotte’s Web is one of my favorite books of all time.  It is beautiful.

Our Mama and Mia book club is a blissful end to the day.  Truly.  It is a chance for us to snuggle, be still, and connect.  It keeps me in touch with the new person she is becoming.  It lets her know that with all the changes that are still to come, I will still be here: beside her all the way.

princess for a day

Before Mia was born, and even in her early years, I was adamantly opposed to anything “princess”.  My ideas about princesses had come from watching Disney films and reading (awful) Disney books, in which the (usually) white, blond, blue-eyed, helpless girl is rescued by a strong and capable prince.  She has nothing going for her but her good looks and status and can’t do much of anything because she is wearing a hoopskirt. Please.

Through the years, I have been stubborn.  I have avoided princesses as much as I possibly could.  Yes, I know this sounds terrible and controlling and mean…but let me explain.  Although I haven’t encouraged any princess-type play, I haven’t discouraged it, either.  Above my own ideals, I value freedom. I want Mia to feel free and safe to explore and play whatever her heart desires. So I let her be, and from the sidelines, encourage discussion about those underlying meanings, more or less to make myself feel better.

Despite her mother’s stubbornness, Mia has inevitably learned about this world of princesses.  Though she has never seen a Disney princess movie and maybe doesn’t quite understand the princess stereotype yet, she has acquired a few little figurines, learned their names, and suddenly loves everything princess.

So I found a compromise. An answer to please us both. Something we could love together, while keeping this imaginary world of princesses alive.  Let me introduce Rosamond, the Princess of Colchester!

Princess Rosamond is the main character from the book, The Well at the End of the World by Robert D. San Souci.  The story and illustrations are equally beautiful, and best of all, Rosamond is a tough, intelligent, and selfless princess.  The story is much like Cinderella, but with a contemporary twist; Rosamond has a cruel step-mother and step-sister, but with her loving heart and wise mind, she doesn’t let them determine her fate or the fate of her ill father. When Rosamond reaches the well at the end of the world on her quest to save her father, she is rewarded for her good heart with riches and a promise of true love.  The riches mean little to her; the greatest reward is that her father becomes well again. When she has healed her father, she shares her riches to help the needy. In the end, Rosamond gets the ultimate reward and falls in love with a prince, and for all the right reasons: they laugh together, they enjoy reading books to each other by the fire,  and most of all, they love each others company.  Now *there* is a princess I don’t mind my daughter looking up to!

Today, Mia made a crown just like Princess Rosamond’s.  She wore the crown along with her fanciest dress and took loving care of her little sister (even though little sis was tugging at her dress and trying to eat her crown)….because that is what princesses do!

The Well at the End of the World

by Robert D. San Souci