On a Learning Curve

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

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A Conversation with My Childhood Self

This is my second post for Compassion’s Blog Month. My assignment? Have a conversation with my childhood self. Here’s what I would want my much-younger self to know:

Laura, you’re going to learn a lot of lessons in the coming years. Some of these lessons will come easily, while others will cause you some pain. But take it from your grown-up, almost-40-year-old self, you’re going to learn plenty!

1. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’ll have plenty more bad haircuts, and there’s no sense in crying over your hair. It will grow out.

3rd grade school picture, c. 1983. Notice my monogrammed sweater and wings.

3rd grade school picture, c. 1983. Notice my monogrammed sweater and wings.

2. Take some art lessons! Don’t quit piano in 9th grade! Your academic aspirations won’t suffer if you foster your creative side.

3. Do some strength training and put some muscle on your upper body. You’re not going to like what’s in store for your knees.

4. Don’t be so shy. Yes, it’s no fun that I’m saying the same thing that your mom tells you, but you’re going to do a whole lot of relocating in your adult life. Force yourself to be more outgoing so that you’ll know how to make friends wherever you live.

5. Don’t get too attached to the thought that you don’t want to move around as an adult or that you’d never marry someone in the military. Hint, hint.

6. Forget about waiting tables over summer break. You’ll never have a career in the restaurant world, but you will spend a ridiculous amount of time teaching and coaching children.

7. Seriously consider writing at least one research paper farther ahead than the night before it’s due. You’re really going to appreciate sleep when you’re older!

8. Continue to memorize Scripture. Powerful verses are going to come to mind exactly when you need comfort and wisdom the most.

9. Learn to trust God completely. Know that He is sovereign. You might think that you’re going to fall apart at times, but He won’t ever leave you to face your struggles alone.

10. Don’t judge others when you don’t know their circumstances. You’ll be amazed at who your true friends are later in life.


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It’s That Time Again

The start of another school year is fast approaching; in fact, we are at T minus 7 days. The girls couldn’t care any less, and I’m mostly ready to go. Okay, physically I’m ready. We have new pencils (with actual erasers), fresh reams of drawing paper and card stock, new curricula, and replacement workbooks for the older stuff. Here’s what we’ll be tackling this year.

H is the only one using Five in a Row this year. That’s something new for us. FIAR, unit studies designed around award-winning children’s picture books, has been the core of our curriculum for the past six years, so it will be a special time to share The Story about Ping, Madeline, and Night of the Moonjellies with my littlest student.

Big sisters G and S will be using Total Language Plus as their language arts program since G did very well last year. G has chosen King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry as her first unit. (It’s a horse book, go figure.) S is starting with The Courage of Sarah Noble, a lighter unit for somebody who is just starting novel-centered language arts. I like that I don’t have to pull separate literature, vocabulary, spelling, and writing programs together. For a fun twist on grammar, I bought Grammar Ace for the two older girls. Anything that requires viewing School House Rock episodes has to be fun, right? If you’re already singing “Conjunction Junction” in your head, maybe you should ignore the clip below.

We’re moving on to Volume 2 of Story of the World. This year we’ll be learning medieval history. Volume 1 was a big hit with everyone last year, and I bought Famous Figures of Medieval Times because the girls will want to assemble Joan of Arc while they read about her. At least this year we won’t have to mummify another chicken….

We’ll be starting our third year of Apologia elementary science, too. After learning about astronomy and flying creatures, the girls chose human anatomy and physiology for this year. I’m excited because we’ll be knocking out science and health at the same time. I really love the notebooking journals that come along with the series. These are huge time-savers for me, and the girls end up with a finished notebook that they can use for future reference.

Math is still Alpha Omega Horizons, and we’re covering 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, and 6th grades. Who says you don’t use math after you get out of high school?!

Lastly, I’ll be teaching music this year. Despite having taken five years of piano myself, music has never been a particular strength of mine. Since we’re not participating in a co-op this year and since the Great State of Maryland mandates “progress” in music each year, it should be an adventure for H, S, and me. (G continues to take lessons with a super patient piano teacher each week.) I bought Story of the Orchestra to get us started. Orchestra Bob and I will not be teaching theory or voice; I think appreciation is a better goal. And in case we start to take school too seriously, then it will be time for Beethoven’s Wig.

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My Learning Curve

Tell me that I’m not the only person who sets out to simplify her life and somehow ends up with a proverbial overflowing plate. Yesterday I opened an email asking me to provide a few sentences describing the creative writing/public speaking class that I will be teaching this coming school year in our homeschool co-op. She needs the blurb within the next day or so. Gulp. I asked to teach this class; actually I asked to teach the creative writing part and be released from teaching P.E. to 1st and 2nd graders. You see, I was a high school English teacher in my pre-children years. I enjoyed teaching writing and literary analysis to students who had already mastered phonics and potty-training. In the throes of teaching phonics and toileting skills to my own children, however, I put my academic credentials on hold and started teaching classes that required great physical energy but little mental preparation. Three years later, I am ready to use my brain again.

Of course the request came as I was figuring out how I will feed my family, supervise all 3 girls, and work both halves of tonight’s swim meet without my other half. I also had just finished a conversation with my college roommate that involves coordinating the schedules of 5 adults and 15 children. (Translation: Other college roommate had a baby in January, and the rest of us are suffering guilt that we may not see this new baby before he sprouts teeth and vocabulary words.) I threw out that I am working the registration table for our church’s VBS in August, two children will be attending different camps, and I’m supposed to taking a coaching clinic at some point. I totally forgot to add that we’ll be starting our school year at some point in the month, too! Hmmm. I think the one thing I didn’t mention is probably the most important thing.

It’s the coaching clinic that’s tugging at my gut. Years ago when I had all sorts of free time, I had signed up to get my D-level soccer coaching license. In retrospect, it was ridiculously stupid of my single, childless self to blow off that clinic because of a scheduling problem. Now I have 4 other schedules to juggle just to get my E-level license, which is actually a step down from a D. Sigh. I just wanted to coach S’s soccer team.

Why is life so complicated? That’s a rhetorical question. I know why. It’s because I make it complicated with too many good things. During the school year, we purposely limit the girls activities to Awana, art/music lessons, and one sport at a time. We want to make sure that they have “down” time and learn how to entertain themselves; in other words, we believe it’s okay that they are occasionally bored rather than over-scheduled. The problem is that I sign up to help during their activities. I’m the substitute Awana helper since I’m there anyway. I’m S’s soccer coach because I get to pick the days and location of practice. We belong to a parent-run homeschool co-op so I’m required to teach or assist a class once a week. We chose the co-op because the state of Maryland requires that I teach a laundry list of extracurricular subjects every. year. to. every. child.

So where and when do I let go? The story of Mary and Martha has been nagging me lately. When is it my turn to sit? I suspect that this coming school year will be full of learning opportunities, and I hope that I’ll have answers to my questions without having to learn things the hard way.