Friday, August 31, 2018

What Are We Even Doing Around Here?

For how excited and ready I felt as we stepped into our school year a few weeks ago, it sure didn't go at all the way I'd planned. I thought that since I was relatively on top of things (for once in my life) that we would transition with ease into learning and that the whole year would run smoothly. If you've been reading my blog for awhile you already know that I'm delusional, and this is actually just another example of that. Our school year started out horribly. The first day was a nightmare, the second day started out okay but within a few hours the nightmare from the day before was repeating itself. I realized how terribly far behind both girls are in math, despite hiring a tutor last year. They worked on multiplication ALL YEAR last year and still neither of them knows their times tables. Like, at all. If their brains are little compartments of knowledge, like little rooms lined with bookshelves that are all filled up with the things they've learned per subject, most of their rooms have pretty full shelves. Their English/Grammar/Literature shelves are quite full, their art/music shelves are packed and the whole room is bursting at the seams, Nature Room is filled up, Science is looking a little sparse, but THE MATH ROOM IS EMPTY. TOTALLY DEVOID OF LEARNED THINGS. THEY REMEMBER NOTHING. 

This was disheartening. For all of us. So many tears as they began their new math books only to discover that--how shocking!--we are moving BEYOND multiplication now! They can't handle it and there are many breakdowns. 

So, my solution has been to just not do math these past few weeks. I found them some really fun workbooks in a series called "Math Adventures" and I got a book for each girl, but Anja's hasn't arrived yet so we're waiting to begin until we can all start at the same time. I'm hoping that the cuteness and fun activities in these books will offset the fact that they're doing what they despise the most. (Except Elka. Elka LOVES math and is really good at it, and has refused to wait for the rest of us as she just plows ahead through her math book. I'm beginning to think she's not actually my daughter... even though the other two sob daily over their times tables and I get really frustrated, at least I can understand since I did the exact same thing when I was their ages. 

So, anyway, no math yet. We've been focusing on other things. 

Nature is a big one because this is the BEST time of year to get outside and observe! Our garden has exploded with monarch and swallowtail butterflies, caterpillars, and pupae. It has been so fun to find and track the caterpillars, and at one point we had four that we were monitoring--three chrysalises and a "j" shaped caterpillar. Well, the J-shape died and fell off his spot, probably to get eaten by ants. The chrysalis on the house was okay for awhile but has since turned black and has that string on it that is bad news, as did the other one we found in the garden--which then broke open and oozed out brown stuff and I was eating a croissant when I saw it and I had to run into the house screaming and spit out my croissant and throw the rest of the way and sit down and recover. It was rough. It wasn't just the gross factor, it was the heartbreak that I had been watching "Big Hungry" the caterpillar for so long and I was so excited for his metamorphosis. So to see him be eaten by a parasite inside his capsule and then ooze out was a little heartbreaking. But we still have one healthy monarch chrysalis we're watching hopefully! And we have a swallowtail on the side of the house that has been extremely interesting to watch, and I really hope we get to see it emerge. The girls decided not to bring anything inside, but to just take our chances at catching the moment where it happens naturally. I feel so emotionally invested in these little larvae, I'm having a hard time with that level of risk, but whatever. 

We've been reading aloud A LOT. This has been what's getting us through the transitional days! 

And we've been copy working and Word of the Week-ing as well as adding in weekly essays on a topic I choose. Anja and Greta have all week to think about, write, and re-write their essay and at the end of the week, I read and correct any spelling or grammar, and help them work on writing form through that. I think it will be a good little activity once we find our groove with it. 

I'd really like to start a book club for kids their ages. Looking back on the idea of "book reports," I remember a lot of the joy of reading AND letting the book soak into my mind was robbed by the forced report I had to write afterward. Sometimes I feel like the best way to process your comprehension of a book is not to just write a bland regurgitation of it, but to discuss it with other people, hear what the people got out of it, how other people related to characters, share how YOU related to characters, or how the story touched you. Also, I've noticed that with homeschooling the art of good discussion is easily ignored. I want my girls to know how to discuss things--how to state their views clearly and patiently/enthusiastically/compassionately hear the views of others. I think this is so important! And I feel like a middle school aged book club would be a good place for that. 

We haven't gotten into science yet, but when we do, we'll be doing what we ended last year doing, which is studying scientists and what they are best known for. I like the idea of having a person to go with a concept, and my girls learn well under this style. Also I'm going to veeeeeeeerrrrryyyyyyyy casually introduce them to the periodic table of elements, just so they know what it is. I'm thinking of hanging a poster of it in the bathroom so that they can passively experience it on the daily. It would be a good thing to stare at while waiting for the turtle's bathtub to fill up. (A boring job, but one from which, once the water is on, YOU CANNOT WALK AWAY.) 

Elka is doing a lot of writing and drawing on her own this year, and I'm she is invited to participate in everything the big girls do, but is not pressured. She likes to do school with them, but some of the stuff is just too old for her. She's really enjoying reading chapter books (very slowly) so that's how she spends a lot of her school time. Naturing is her favorite, and she still is the tender of the gardens. Mostly with her we are working on behavior still. Controlling her temper. Calming down tactics. Today I tried something that worked really well for her! She'd been kicking her cousin and so she had a little time out. Her time-outs and usually on the bench by the bathroom because she can see me and talk to me while I'm cooking, but she is removed from the other kids so she can't hurt them. Today she was having a super hard time with that (and with everything) so I told her that she could work off her time by helping me--I needed to get some sage from the garden but couldn't leave the stove. She joyfully helped me, and it was exactly the reset she needed! She ended up taking so much time to help me, then quietly went back to the bench, and I told her she didn't need to, she was free to go back to the kids and play. Up until that idea, she had just been sitting there screaming, unable to control herself. She is so unlike my other kids that I have a super difficult time finding things that work with her--but working off her time is a definite winner. Yay! 

Oh, the other fun thing we're doing this year is learning German as a family! Anja has been working on it independently since last year, and we had all learned a little bit with her (Martin and I took German in high school, so this is the best language for us to be able to teach them... I remember less than Martin does, but I can manage pronunciations and can read it pretty well) and had learned some German songs, but this year a homeschooling friend passed on to us an audio Learn German for Kids pack, and everyone is enjoying it so much!

One treasure I got for our History this year (in American History we are pre-civil war/women's suffrage/gold rush, but will be moving into the Civil War, where we'll really concentrate for much of the year) was from the free cart at the library--it's a 1913 book of the military history of the US. It has timelines and maps that explain the explorers, territories, which country owned what at which time, it's AMAZING. It's basically what I've been searching for on Amazon for YEARS, found in a beautiful edition from 1913 FOR FREE on a "please take this off our hands" cart outside the library. I did a major happy dance that day!

For Ancient History we are finishing up Rome, then moving on to China. I know very little about Ancient China, so this will be me learning alongside the girls. I'm excited! Sometimes I think the girls learn best when I'm learning with them because I tend to get REALLY EXCITED when I learn new, cool things. So I expect when they're in college talking about things they should be familiar with, they might think, "Oh, I remember learning about that snippet of history--Mama got really loud and started dancing around the room! How could I ever forget?!"

Is that all? That's all the formal bookwork, I suppose. We do a lot of learning "organically," as they say, when the kids ask questions and we zoom on from there. Also memorable. Also often results in me being loud and making many excited hand gestures.

This is homeschool for us in a nutshell. What are you up to around your tables and in your yards?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Holding On Tight

I had an alarming thought today.

I was observing people in church during the offertory song and I was noticing a lot of women whom I've known most of my life who have reached middle age or beyond. I was thinking about how beautiful they are. I was thinking of how motherly they are, and how different they probably feel now as they finish out their 40s than they did when they were young 20-somethings, freshly engaged, married, beginning their families. Their faces are aged, but they also have a beautiful, shiny wisdom about them that made me think, "the 40s look like a lovely age to be."

And then I thought about my daughters and about my upcoming birthday, when I will be turning 35, and how I've been so much enjoying my 30s. That's when the alarming thought struck me: when I'm 45 (not old,) Anja will be 20. 2-0! TWENTY!!! That is only ten years away!!! THAT'S PRACTICALLY TOMORROW!!!

I broke out in a sweat. I looked around me at all my girls, behaving like angels, no longer in diapers, no longer napping, all speaking rational (or at least semi-rational) thoughts, and I thought, THIS IS IT. THE BABY YEARS ARE OVER.

Talk about a panic.

Now, two things I should mention: One thing is that even with it's unique challenges, I have been seriously enjoying this phase of parenting. Even though I complain about it, that's mostly because I want to remember it all. Also, if I blog about the less-than-perfection moments, I'm not doomed to look back at my blog in ten years (TEN YEARS. BECAUSE THAT'S ALL I HAVE UNTIL ADULTHOOD FOR MY CHILDREN. TOMORROW.) and sob my brains out over missing the perfection of the small people who once surrounded me and now are free adults no longer caught in my clutches. Another thing to mention is that we aren't quite to the age where we can actually declare we're done having children. I mean, I'm turning 35, not 55. Nothing is for certain. So the door is not closed, but at the same time, looking at our life (which sometimes resembles a dumpster fire, specifically one filled with dollar bills) it's at times hard to imagine having more.

So, I don't always think automatically of Ingrid as my "last" baby, because who knows. I do, however, soak her up as if she is my last because... well, who knows. And with her being four and Anja being ten, I feel like I'm in this storybook land of bliss where I have all little kids, everyone is at home every night, they still like me to read aloud to them, we still do art together, we eat our meals together, they still pretend play and dress up, and [except when they're trying to kill each other] it's all so beautiful and perfect.

You can see why I was so terrified this morning when I realized that in only ten years, when I still feel like I'll be in a "prime of my life" age, my oldest daughter and possibly the second-oldest will likely be MOVED OUT OF MY HOUSE FOREVER. I just don't know how to handle this realization. It's so frightening. It's so different. It's so SOON.

Martin has started back at his second job, which takes him away on weekend nights. This is good for everyone--it's a job where he has a lot of free time to get his grad school work done, and the rest of us have a couple evenings of girls' nights together. And since I don't have a baby who needs to be paced through the house in the evenings, and since all the girls go to bed in the same room at the same time, and since we all can sit and listen to a read-aloud (even chapters upon chapters in a row because we just don't want to stop reading!) these evenings together have been pretty enjoyable.

Despite the challenges (and each of these ages definitely has it's challenges, whoo-boy!) this is a pretty good time and I need to remember that because as wonderful as it is, it's just as fleeting. And I know people say this all the time, but then sometimes you're just sitting there humming along to the offertory song and looking lovingly and admiringly at the people around you and you realize--GASP!--nothing is forever!

You'll never get this moment back--LIVE IT UP!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Struggle Puggle

I always am appreciative when other people share snippets of their struggles on social media. Not because I wish struggling on people, but because it reminds me that the perfect lives as seen through Instagram squares are actually real lives involving real people, and like it or not, all real people have struggles.

Sometimes I get tired of the sugar-coating of struggles. I know, keep on the sunny side. I know, it could be worse. I know, be grateful for all you do have. All good reminders. But sometimes I have to wonder, don't you people ever just want to throw in the towel? Don't you ever pass under a dark cloud that really DOESN'T have a silver lining? Even if it's just a twenty-minute pity party spent in your bathroom before mustering up your courage to plaster on a smile and continue making the best of it?

So, here's my little pity party.

I'm feeling lately like I just cannot get ahead. I'm wondering if I should enroll the kids in regular school. I'm unable to fathom how other moms, through the magic of spreadsheets and coupons (both foreign languages to me... especially the spreadsheets *shudder*) are able to keep to a $12/month grocery budget and never experience hunger pains. I don't know how other people afford school supplies lists. I don't know how other people successfully homeschool dozens of children into adulthood, when I can't even figure out how to manage four little kids. House cleaning, money management, multiple extracurricular activities.... how are other moms not lying on the sidewalks all over town crying and giving up?! And some of them even have their own jobs! HOW DO THEY HANDLE LIFE. I NEED TO KNOW ALL THE SECRETS.

Here are some things I'm good at:

-Watching caterpillars
-Admiring flowers
-Walking fast
-Talking a lot

Here are some things I'm not so good at:

-Everything that actually matters

That's the truth! I'm not even good at separating my laundry loads. I'm constantly getting stainy stuff in the wrong piles, and my whites are always grey. I literally have no understanding of time or money (ask my husband!) and every week when Anja makes it to the door of her ballet school, I consider it a small miracle. And if we get back home from dropping her off and have remembered to shut the door to keep the dog from running away, that's a big miracle.

I am an incapable adult.

Usually I'm okay with this. I mean, I have been living with myself for enough years that I've pretty much accepted who I am. But sometimes when I open my eyes and see that the rest of the world is running differently, I view the traits that make me who I am as nothing but a list of failures and shortcomings.

And then I have a pity party, but after the party I have to DO something, you know?

So, if this happens to you, what do you do about it? Do you surround yourself with capable people and take note, then try to change yourself? Do you constantly try to better yourself?  Or do you just shrug and continue on with your self-acceptance with a live and let live attitude? Do you drive out the gloomies with a little splurge of retail therapy or self-care? Do you take a little vacation? Do you search Zillow for cave real estate in Kentucky or Spain and check your bank account for affordability, and then sink lower into your depression because you'll never be able to afford to buy a cave in Spain, even though you already knew that because that's the way you handled things last time you were feeling glum?

Today is Friday. I'm going to begin by wearing a favorite outfit and trying to have a really good homeschool day (will include watching caterpillars.) And then for the weekend perhaps I will sew. Something for myself and something for each girl. That would be a loving thing that takes some responsibility and commitment, right? I think that is what I will do.

But of course I'm open to all suggestions, and I'm DEFINITELY open to any affordable cave real estate anyone knows of in Kentucky or Spain. If nothing else, I hope my little pity party here has been an uplifting read for someone else who might be thinking that all the social media lives look perfect and sunshiney.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Plant for Pollinators!

On Instagram the other day I posted a video of Anja, Greta, Ingrid and I singing a song we wrote last summer that we call "Plant for Pollinators." We love pollinators! Anja really got us to be pollinator advocates a number of years ago when she read about endangered bees and insects, and learned about the devastation that would come of losing our beloved pollinators. She had a "Save the Bees" booth at a local festival, and hung a sign on our front gate that said, "Don't Spray! Save the Bees!" Now we have one beehive in our yard (thanks to her) and we and our next door neighbors have filled our yards with pollinator friendly flowers and plants. It's a beautiful little urban ecosystem! 

Anyway, it's a catchy tune and little kids seem to like it, so I thought I'd print the words here for anyone who wants to sing it! Spread the pollinator love! 

Ladybug, Butterfly, Bee
Ladybug, Butterfly, Flower
Hummingbird, big bee,
Little bee, Bat

Ladybug, Butterfly Bee
Ladybug, Butterfly, Flower
Ironweed, Milkweed, 
Columbine, Sage

Ladybug, Butterfly, Bee
Ladybug, Butterfly, Flower
Goldenrod, Hyssop, 
Pincushion flower

Ladybug, Butterfly, Bee
Ladybug, Butterfly, Flower
Bee balm, yarrow,
Borage, Catnip

Ladybug, Butterfly, Bee
Ladybug, Butterfly, Flower
Moth and Bumblebee,
Plant for pollinators! 

And here's a link to the Best-We-Can-Do video on Youtube, haha! 

Keep singing, friends! 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Double the Fun

If you are active on any parenting themed Facebook groups or online forums, you probably recognize that a lot of the dialogue is based around the same handful of snoozy questions being asked by new members over... and over... and over...
"Not wanting to start an argument, but--what are your opinions on vaccines?"
"Needing fast, healthy meals to feed a family on a budget! GO!"
"Does this look like Hand Foot & Mouth to you?"
"Best breast pumps?"
"How many c-sections have you had?"
"I'm a mom of eight expecting number nine and I still have absolutely no idea what I'm doing PLEASE HELP."

One question that plays on repeat that always stands out to me is the "Those of you who have children close together: would you recommend it?" I find this question both puzzling and comical. For one thing, I DO have children close together, and if Greta hadn't been a "happy accident," there is absolutely NO WAY she would have come into being. I mean, when Anja (crankiest baby in the universe) was five months old, I had sworn off of anymore children EVER. Literally, Martin and I had decided that we weren't going to have any more children because Anja was SUCH a difficult baby and we had no idea what we were doing and life was just awful. When she was seven months old she'd turned a corner and was becoming a super fun toddler and had stopped crying all the time, and we were realizing why people thought having babies was a good thing. Still, we'd not changed our minds about having more.

Luckily, we are not in charge.

Anja and Greta are sixteen months apart, which at the time was both exciting and difficult. Anja really was the MOST FUN toddler after she grew out of her nightmarish babyhood, so by the time Great was born, I was happy to have closely spaced sisters. Being pregnant and having a baby was a little embarrassing, what with all the comments from strangers and stuff, but more than that I kind of wondered if I was destined to be the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe with her uncountable number of feral children. That thought was a little frightening.

After a rough figuring-things-out first few months, we fell into being a fine family of four. It was excellent having two small children at once. It helped that Anja was not a difficult toddler or child--no tantrums, fits, whininess... she was SO EASY. Greta was not what I would categorize as an especially "easy" human to deal with, but she was definitely entertaining. She wasn't a dangerous kind of crazy--she didn't put small objects in her mouth, or try to stick forks in the electrical outlets. She was energetic but not insane, and her fits were often over things so ludicrous that it was hard to not just laugh about it. And as the months and years went by the two of them became more and more of best friends. Inseparable. A Delightful Duo. The only big difficulties we encountered were when Anja had to start going to speech therapy and Greta was left behind. (She was not a fan.) Other than that, the did everything together.

I know that not all closely spaced siblings have this sort of relationship, and I feel so lucky that mine have.

But I'm not done.

So, one of the really great things about having two kids close together is that I get kind of a double dose of each age. After one really tremendous year passes for Anja, I think, "I don't need to be sad to say goodbye to this age, I have a whole year more of it with Greta!" Two was a big one. I LOVE TWO YEAR OLDS. All of these beautiful preschool and early childhood years chugged along, two at a time, and I was so happy to be able to really get my fill of each year before leaving it behind (until Elka caught up, three years later.)

Until Nine.

I think I've mentioned here before that my sister had warned me about Age Nine. "Nine Year Olds are weird," She said. She didn't really expand on that statement, but it was a subtle warning. And then, sure enough, shortly after Anja turned nine, I felt the jolt. Nine has by far been the most difficult age with Anja. (Shortly after she turned 10, she became her delightful old self again--it was truly ONE year of difficulty!) She cried ALL THE TIME. She was sassy. She was all the bad things you hear about teenagers, with the terrible attitude, the eye-rolling, the thinking her parents are stupid, the constant tears and emotional turmoil. It was terrible. And the whole time I was thinking, "I know this will end.... but I also know I might have another year of it."

And sure enough, I did.

Now Greta is nine. And I know it will end because Anja has already come out the other end of the tunnel and is wonderful again, but GOSH, nine is a hard age! We fluctuate between sadness, irrational anger, and sassiness all day long. There are SO MANY TEARS. Oh my gosh. The emotions. Oh my goodness. And then the just being a jerk, which is so hard for all of us. Oh my. Nine.

The good part of having two close together used to be that I got a doubler of every year. Now the good part of having two close together is that I can see the light at the end of the Tunnel of Nine. It's still just a speck in the distance right now... but I know it's there.....

So, if you're on the fence about having two children close together, my advice is, DO IT! Or, DON'T DO IT! It's wonderful and terrible all mixed together, just like every day of every life of every person in the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Progress, Regress, Rinse, Repeat.

I have four daughters, as most of you know: Anja, Greta, Elka and Ingrid. 

Anja and Greta are only sixteen months apart in age, so most of their early first two years are just a blur in my memory, when I was sure I was doing everything exactly wrong, when I felt I'd lost all of who I was to motherhood, and couldn't imagine there would ever BE a light at the end of the tunnel, I was so far away from it. But about the time Greta turned two, we all seemed to turn a corner together and realize that, hey! This was GREAT! The summer that Anja and Greta were a 3 and a 2 year old still lives as one of my absolute favorites. We just had so much fun. I dressed them in matching outfits every chance I got, we sang together, we drew together, we gardened together, and for the most part, they got along beautifully. It was so good, in fact, that I warned Martin that if we didn't have another baby soon, it might not happen, because I was beginning to not be able to imagine life any other way.

Three months after Greta turned 3, Elka was born. She was an answer to many prayers and that summer was another one of absolute perfection. She was an ideal baby that whole first year, my little June Treasure who could do no wrong. She slept well, she ate well, she was hilarious, and even during her 9 month sleep regression I remember being up in the night thinking how wonderful it was to have that one-on-one time with her.

Then Elka turned one. And she was very active and got bored easily and if I didn't give her something to DO, she was making mischief or screaming. She wanted to walk everywhere and climb everything. She was suddenly very difficult! She hit all her gross motor and language milestones super early, and it was as if after having Anja and Greta, who were pretty late bloomers in terms of milestones (especially Anja,) I just didn't know what to do.

That started a pattern with Elka, which is clearly continuing into her sixth year. The pattern is to grow out of her comfort zone, not know how to handle that growth, and be kind of a beast until she figures it out. This is so unlike how Anja and Greta have gone along that it still throws me for a loop ALL THE TIME. Now we're getting into school agedness with her, and I think, "You are clearly old enough to act better than this!" in a lot of situations where she just seems to be throwing fits like a two year old. I guess it's a combination of having big emotions and a very short fuse, along with thriving on responsibility, which can't always be given. I have watched her blossom in situations like being in the dentist chair alone, being the oldest child in a group, being a part of a group of children led by a non-parent adult, even when the activity was insanely long and boring. She has the ABILITY to be a perfect angel, and she will go spans of time exercising that ability with grace, during which time I rejoice and soak it all up. And then something as simple as her *thinking* someone had eaten all of her pretzels will send her into a full-blown, on the ground, kicking screaming fit. And I accept it and try to work through it and I even see progress in that fit, because she's not reacting with violence toward anything else, and that is a step in the right direction!

Of course when progressions are upon us, it's vividly clear and I can see, "oh! That's why she was so frustrated before!" A good example is reading. She went through a terrible behavioral regression right as she was on the verge of reading. Then, once she got it, she was a saint. She could distract herself with a book before she let her emotions get the best of her. And I realized, aha! She had been frustrated in her inability to read. She learned to read very much by herself and very much in private, as a late five year old. She knew she could do it, she devoted herself, and she conquered, but not without making the rest of us suffer.

Today was another good example. She woke up in a great mood, she got ready for church like a champ, and was awesome on the walk there. But once we got there, she was NOT on her best behavior. I was getting frustrated with her because she's gone through a long time of being EXCELLENTLY behaved at church, week after week. But suddenly these past weeks she's being so difficult again! I'm trying to recognize that she must be on the verge of a progressive leap of some sort, even though I don't know what is going on, and even though she's really testing my patience. From Mass, we walked home a new way and found a hidden Sharing Garden (which we'd been told about but hadn't been able to find until today.) We stopped and pulled weeds for awhile, and Elka was absolutely in her element. She pulled weeds and observed all the vegetables, and was a really good little worker the whole time we were there, then she cut two red zinnias for herself. In a garden with work to do, she feels like she has a purpose. Growing and tending are her passions and she blossoms (haha, punny, punny!) when she is put into a situation where she knows what to do and can do it with confidence. She likes to be brave. She likes to be responsible. And as a little sister, I think she struggles with finding opportunities like that.

Today has been mostly a progression day of behavior and attitude for Elka, as she's been awesome the whole rest of the day since stumbling onto that Share Garden. Some days just aren't like that. The good news is that every regression is a little less severe than the last and the progressions do keep happening. I'm predicting that once we start our school year she will have another bump in maturity--she does really well with being given a task to complete. She LOVES workbooks, and even though she writes "I Don't Like Copywork" on all her copy work sheets, I can tell she really does like it. She's also a great reader now, so that will help her keep up with her sisters in a lot of areas, AND she's learned to knit! Another activity she can do alongside her sisters with minimal frustration!

I know we'll hit another bump in a road. We will backtrack and have to deliberately work on keeping tempers in check. We'll have meltdowns over being unable to do something, or unable to do something "perfectly" (because she's a hot-tempered perfectionist, which is about the worst combination I can imagine!) and we'll have boredom-induced fits of nutty, aggressive behavior. But we'll just have to work through it, one regression at a time, and keep our eye on the inevitable progressions that will (please, please, please) follow.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The School Year is Looming

Well, whaddaya know.. it's August again.

If we're speaking in averages, August is "on average" my second least favorite month of the year. (The first is a tie between February and March, depending on weather.) August 1st rolls around and suddenly everybody's all about Autumn. I don't understand it! In my heart August is still within the absolute best part of summer--everything is ripe! It's ALWAYS warm! (Except a few years back when we had "Auguary," where it rained and was only in the 50s for like two weeks and we had to wear sweaters and jackets every day and it was absolutely horrible.) We can spend all our time outside! And a big reason Summer is the best: nobody judges you for being lazy in the summer! Because, "Oh, I understand, it's so hot." In the wintertime, if you're feeling unable to function because it's so cold, you're just a wimp, but in the summertime, weather is a totally acceptable excuse for not getting anything done. And the best part of August: We're still on summer break!


I think the reason people equate August with Autumn is because--well, except for their very similar spellings--August is when school starts back up. Summer vacation is over. Officially. It's back to early bedtimes, packed lunches, homework, after-school sports, signing permission slips, losing your lunch money, forgetting to bring something for show-and-tell, having to endure the humiliation of being called up to the blackboard to solve a math problem that you have no idea how to even begin.... And it's somewhere among that black hole of school memories that I realize--



We do start school in August, because after all the school systems have started back it feels kind of boring to not be doing school, but I feel so fortunate to be able to put it off until the end of the month rather than jumping into full-blown Fall when the tomatoes have just begun to get ripe. It doesn't feel natural!

This brings me to the actual point of this post, if I ever have a point, which sometimes I do, but it usually gets lost in all the tangents along the way. The point of this post is to say that FINALLY after however many years of homeschooling, I feel really confident in my chosen course. Homeschooling is getting really popular in my area, which has given me the opportunity to talk to a number of different families this summer about what their homeschool paths look like. It has been really neat to hear all the different mixtures of curriculums, methods, philosophies, and schedules that different families have found. There are SO many options! In years past when I heard of different methods of home education I either felt overwhelmed, or inadequate. But this year for the first time, I feel one hundred percent confident in the structure of our upcoming year. I'm even a little bit looking forward to it! Okay, that last part is kind of a lie.... I wish it could be summer forever. Especially since this one started out being so terrible but has since turned around and goodness, we have just been having the nicest days! But, the calendar rolls on, so I have been planning and preparing. We've ordered some books and maps, and each girl got a brand new eraser, which they were really kind of oddly excited about. I still need a few more things, but for the most part we're ready to roll. It's so freeing to hear about other people's plans and see with great clarity that their method would not work for us. I love the feeling of being able to encourage someone along their chosen path while saying frankly, "that is really not something I would be good at, but I'm so glad it works for you!" Because I AM glad it works for them. Because if we all did homeschool the exact same way that wouldn't be very homeschooly. Well, I mean, it would be SCHOOLing at HOME, but without the whole idea of freedom and doing your own thing, you understand.

Likewise, I can see the pictures of my friends' children setting off on their first day of buildingschool and I can be really happy for them! In fact, I may even get a little misty-eyed. Because I don't think buildingschool is terrible! I think it would not be the best choice for my children at this time.

My plan is to start our kitchen table schooling on August 27th, and I will NOT enjoy a pumpkin spice latte on that day because it will NOT be Fall yet, even though we'll be back at the books. And I intend to enjoy and savor this year, because I really think it's going to be a good one. And even if it's not, it'll be the only school year I get with a Pre-K, 1st, 4th, and 5th grader so I'd better live it up!

I wish all of you the best of luck in the new school year, no matter what your school looks like!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Rainy Day Fun Times

We've had a span of cool, rainy days here and while it's been kind of nice, in July I'd rather have the hot summery weather. Salads and pools and creek days, and getting by with as few clothes as is appropriate. That's what I love.

Still, yesterday--the third straight day of rain--was the last day for this little scavenger hunt one of our bookstores hosted this month. So we woke up and the girls were ready to hit the town looking for Waldo. It's a Waldo celebration, and I guess it's going on nationwide, but Waldo is hidden in all these little small shops downtown and we had to find him in each store and have the store clerk sign our little paper, which let me tell you, by the end of yesterday morning that paper was looking pretty sad and soggy.

We got our sweaters, we got our umbrellas, and off we went. We started with the best smelling bakery, and ended the morning at the coffee shop where Martin was able to meet us. Being the end of the month, our bank account was empty, which was A VERY GOOD THING, because otherwise I would have spent all our fortunes on baked goods, coffee, books, and antiques throughout the day. As it was, I got by only spending a few dollars on a truffle for each of us at a chocolate shop and a cup of coffee for Martin and me. Lucky me! We were quite wet when we came back home for lunch, but that didn't stop us! We went back out after lunch! We were determined to get all the stamps we needed to be entered into the drawing at the WALDO PARTY that was being held that night at the bookstore. We really wanted a chance at winning the deluxe set of Waldo books!

(There were a few kind of frightening experiences... the Waldo to be found was about three inches tall. Some places had him near the front counter, but some places were quite large--like the ANTIQUE STORE--and the smiling lady was just like, "good luck!" Aaaahhh!!!! I think we spent more than half an hour looking for him there. It was very fun, but a little stressful, haha! Thankfully, having something to look for kept curious hands off the shelves upon shelves of Extremely Breakable and in some cases Very Valuable items. Whew!)

We finished just after 5:00 when everything was closed for the day and we had *just* the exact number required to enter the drawing. The party was scheduled for 6:00 so we zipped home for a quick dinner, then walked back down to the bookstore, which was...


They are never open on Tuesdays, but at ten after six the store was still locked and dark. There was another family waiting outside, just as disappointed and confused as we were. We all were checking on social media for an explanation, but could find none. The mother of the other family sent a message to the shop owners, we looked for a mail slot to drop in our stamp sheets for the drawing, but there was none. We waited around for half an hour.

During that half hour, we talked to this family, and I can never believe what a small world it is! Inevitably, the "where do you go to school" question came up. I always feel so self-conscious about homeschooling, even though I believe in it so firmly, and am so confident that it is the right path for us at this time. I still don't like the feeling of being labeled as weirdos by the rest of society. But guess what! This family is also a homeschooling family! Not only that, but they had just joined one of the homeschooling groups that a number of my friends are members of! And NOT ONLY THAT, but it turned out the husband of this family works at the same company as Martin! All these similarities were just unbelievable! Phone numbers were exchanged, and we went our separate ways at the intersection.

It's funny, but nobody in our family really cared that much about party not happening. I was disappointed for the kids' sake, but they didn't really seem too bothered. We had had a GREAT day, and yes, the end goal was the party, but even though it didn't happen, we still had a super fun day. I'm so glad my girls pushed me to get out the door and wander around in a downpour. I'm so glad they are so easily excitable. I'm thankful for big fun on small funds. I'm thankful for our community and all it's little corners--the small business corner, the homeschooling corner, the bookworm corner (we went into a bookstore we'd never visited before and it was hard to drag Anja away!) All the people working at these stores were SO kind and welcoming. The men at the game store, the women at the chocolate shop, the familiar and the unfamiliar faces, they all were just so nice and enthusiastic. Many of the participating businesses are ones we frequent, but some of them I had never visited before, or had not visited in years. The goal of the hunt was to get people into shops that were outside their habits, and I think that goal was achieved. I've got a lot of places in my mind for Christmas shopping now that are not!

Later that night I got a nice text from the mother of the family we'd met--she'd heard back from the bookstore saying they had rescheduled the party for Friday. I'm happy it's going to happen anyway! And I have a feeling it will be even a better time for us, since the kids won't be totally wiped out from walking all over town all day in the rain!