On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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Back to School

Our first week of school ended on a somewhat sour note. I canceled classes mid-morning Thursday, sent my absent husband an SOS, and gratefully accepted my sister’s offer to keep me company until Ryan finished his reserve duty. I was outnumbered and needed a second adult in the house. This photo accurately describes how I felt about a week ago–from the toad’s perspective.

DSCN1442My mental and emotional well-being are much healthier one week later. Ryan is home, I’ve caught up on some missing sleep, and I am ridiculously grateful that my sister and nephews drove three hours to rescue me. The children now seem to understand that they are legally required to do their schoolwork. Our second week of school went much smoother–thank you, Jesus.

Actually this nature scene took place in our neighbor’s backyard a few days ago. During our lunch break, H strolled through a few yards to see if any of her friends’ younger brothers wanted to play for a bit. Instead she was delighted to deliver the news that 4-year-old M had just spotted a snake! Eating a frog! In the backyard! We extended lunch to watch this garter snake eat his meal (who turned out to be a toad). The entire process took at least 30 minutes and captivated three adults and six children. It was fascinating in a rather disgusting way.

DSCN1456G and S were then inspired to round up some toads of their own for a terrarium we’d made previously. I’m surprised that the girls haven’t named these guys, but they have been good about watering them daily and providing them with fresh earthworms. (We found the instructions for layering a proper toad habitat in Pets in a Jar.)

My girls thrive academically when we link learning to the great outdoors; in fact, we had at least one outdoor activity each day last week. We learned about radiant energy with white and black trash bags; we used a magnifying glass to show how radiant energy creates thermal energy, which is a fancy term for fire. And here is how H and Granddad spent part of Friday morning.

DSCN1454H is just over 4 feet tall, so we carefully traced her body in chalk; we then drew a “small” 11-foot giraffe to demonstrate the difference in their heights. Granddad helped with the giraffe’s markings, and H laboriously colored in everything. I vetoed G’s idea to ask our neighbor if we could trace her two-month-old baby girl in between the giraffe and H.

I’m trying to scale back my expectations for the beginning of our school year. The first days back are notoriously unpredictable, and my month’s worth of lesson plans didn’t take into account two children’s particularly bad attitudes. As our new routine becomes, well, routine to the girls, I’m anticipating that they’ll become more compliant. I’m also hoping that our PE choices will tire them out in all the right ways, too: G starts year-round swim team in two weeks, S has her first soccer game next Saturday, and H has decided to become a runner. Art lessons and choir practice will also fill some of the afternoon void and give me some breathing room, too. I, on the other hand, am learning the art of saying no, thank you to others’ requests for my time.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress.




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First Day of School

I haven’t been writing because we’ve been getting ready to start another school year. Actually, I would have preferred working on this blog to writing lesson plans. I am an expert procrastinator, but I opted to be a responsible grown-up last week. My final language arts order arrived last Friday, and I hauled all the new workbooks and textbooks out of their hiding places. (Seriously, I hide new books; if I didn’t, the girls would haul them off to secret hiding places to read them. I know that doesn’t sound like a terrible problem, but it makes it inconvenient to find things.)

H bounded out of bed this morning and asked when she could start her math and handwriting. Being the great mom that I am, I told her I was still drinking coffee and needed to take a shower first. She took the hint and completed two subjects on her own just by reading the assignment board. Here’s H after we finally finished up this afternoon.

H finally has all of her front teeth!

H finally has all of her front teeth!

We took an ill-timed break this morning to head to the dermatologist. One of the downsides to living in a small rural community is that practitioners from specialty practices visit their satellite offices infrequently. S and I got our moles checked out, and we ran by the library on our way home.

S thinks she’s funny. She’s really halfway through 4th grade.

G actually had homework on her very first day of 7th grade. What kind of teacher does that?! Of course, that may be related to her complaining that the first two chapters of  The Hobbit were boring, which led me to re-read the first chapter aloud to her. S and H listened as well, and everyone agreed that The Hobbit seems like a pretty good book. By the way, that’s a long first chapter!

My stylish 7th grader. No, it's not cold outside yet.

My stylish 7th grader. No, it’s not cold outside; the hat is a fashion statement.

I survived my first day back, too. The funny thing is that I’ve been having classroom anxiety dreams lately. Sheesh! I haven’t received a paycheck for teaching in 11 years; surely I shouldn’t be dreaming about naughty students stealing test papers and carrying them out of the classroom under their shirts.

H took my picture. S took my board and wrote "no."

H took my picture. S took my board and wrote “no.”

Today marks the beginning of our eighth year of homeschooling. That’s exactly six years longer than Ryan and I originally decided we’d try this experiment with G. Since much of our married life has been filled with unplanned challenges, I really don’t know why we thought that homeschooling would be quick and easy. It definitely hasn’t been. The past seven years have been filled with messiness, struggles, and frustration, but they’ve also been equally amazing. All of our children can read; in fact, they love to read and visit the library on a weekly basis. One of them even loves math! They are each curious and talented in many ways, and it’s been a privilege–and a blessing–to spend my days with them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Ryan sacrifices an equal amount so that I can stay home with the girls. He holds down two jobs–in two different states, no less–to make sure this happens. What an awesome husband I have!