Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Month of School and More: A Homeschool Mother's Journey (8/28-9/23)

 So long, Summer; Happy First Day of Autumn, all. 

As we look forward to the traditions of apple picking, pumpkin carving, scarecrow making, leaf-pile jumping, hiking and all the rest that this awesome season has to offer, I also cannot help but to look backward.

So Happy to Get a "Last" Beach Day In... Maybe An Indian Summer Will Bring Another
Wow! These last four weeks of summer and the transition into fall have been so full. With our homeschool prep week followed by a “practice week” and, then, two “real homeschool” weeks, which were all punctuated by a near-hurricane, regular rounds of appointments and me starting back to part-time work, I kept missing writing up my Friday Homeschool Mother’s Journal posts. So, here’s a mammoth month in review entry:

In my life these past four weeks…

were far too many boxes and bags! I spent many borrowed and dedicated moments trying to turn our Office/Play-n-Learning space, which had turned into a dumping ground and storage area, back into a workable room. It was a daunting task, and I did not accomplish all I wanted to, but I did succeed in readying the room for our home learning this year. Hoorah!

The Newly Decluttered Work Room
Since then, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, in particular, the “big” kids have been enjoying three-hour work period using their Montessori Shelves and Workboxes, while Jack plays alongside them or is encouraged to play in his “classroom” (the hallway) as I go back and forth between all the kids.
The room has been popular at other times, too. Let’s just hope I can eventually do the same magic on our basement, which is our future classroom (hopefully!)

In our homeschool…

we spent the first partial week of September focusing on getting a regular rhythm back, including lots of outdoor time. Or, I should say, Mommy focused on this while the kids unknowingly – and quite contentedly – went along with it.

Building A Fort = Problem-Solving, Team Work, Hurricane Clean Up and Natural Heavy Work

The second week was supposed to be our first official week of homeschooling for the year, but rain precluded that. You see, Luke was set that he was going to ride a carousel on his first day of school instead of a yellow bus like traditional-school kindergartners do. When we woke on Tuesday the 13th to rain and possible thunder storms, we realized that could not happen. So, we opted to do “practice school” instead. 

The 1st Work Nina Chose: Knobless Cylindars
I explained to Luke that his cousin had gone to an orientation day at kindergarten and we could do the same in our classroom space. Boy was that a hit!

The 1st Work Jack Chose: Nursery Rhyme Blocks
I couldn’t get the kids out of the space all day. They eagerly immersed themselves in the Montessori shelf work and workboxing activities I had prepared for them.

The 1st Wok Luke Chose: Dinosaur Basic Concepts Print  Outs
Then, the week continued with them choosing more time in the “classroom” than outside. Weird! Wonderful. But not something I will continue to encourage. For although I want to follow my children and their interests, I also want them to take advantage of all that homeschool has to offer – including lots of outdoor time and field trips! 
Jack Enjoys A Field Trip to Nantasket

Field trips, in fact is how we closed our second week of September. The first was to a great little accessible playground to kick off the new school year with one of our homeschool co-op’s. The kids enjoyed seeing their friends there and discovering all the neat features included on the play structure – such as an all playground seek-and-find of shapes and animals. (Mommy forgot to take any pictures though!)

Luke Loves His Big Yellow School Bus Alternative
The second field trip was our delayed “first day” excursion to ride a carousel. Daddy joined us and we not only got the carousel ride in, but also got some PE time at the playground, had a picnic lunch, did some impromptu nature study with a praying matis we spotted, spent some time working on reading/pre-reading and enjoyed digging holes, drawing in the sand and playing catch on the beach. Such fun! 

Nina Enjoys Luke's Choice, Too
The third week of the month, we continued on with what we had been doing the week prior, but Luke called it "real school".  "Real School" entails trying to follow our new weekly rhythm, which I will share in more detail in an upcoming post of Morning Lotto time/Family Work Time, outdoor times, Montessori and Workbox Mornings, OT, Feeding Specialist, Drama Kids, etc. Full and fun. 

Learning at an Impromptu Field Trip After Luke's OT Appointment

Then, this week, we had Elephant Week, starting off with a family day at a local zoo and rounded out by classroom time, outdoor time, the usual round of appointments and taking learning outside to a fish hatchery.   Amusing this week has been Luke's random rhyme-speak.  He has become enamored with Horton Hears a Who and much of his free play now -- and even a recent melt down -- has been narrated in rhyme.

Playing a Game at elephant Awareness Day at the Zoo

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share… 

Embrace and learn in the moment! 

The past four weeks have been filled with so many unexpected moments to be savored. A keen eye, a spirit of discovery and a love of all things beautiful can inspire so much more learning than even the most well-prepared classroom or curriculum:

How does a frog camouflage itself?

Spontaneous leaf-tracing for fine motor control anyone?

Can you catch a dragonfly to study?

How about a game of logic and fine motor control?

Long pause to observe a praying mantis...

Spot a turtle in an unlikely place in the yard...

Take a gross motor sensory break...

Spontaneous lessons are everywhere. 

I am inspired by… 

my husband. 

Mike began a new job on September 1st and seems to be using it as a catalyst for positive changes in all aspects of his life. With a much shorter commute, more mentally challenging – yet energizing – responsibilities at work and a vision of what professional opportunities may lay ahead, he has become a more upbeat person.  And - bonus - he has more hours in the week to share with the family!

Mike wakes with smiles more often than he used to. He comes home excited to share about his day. He models renewed focus and purpose. He also demonstrates that some risks are worth taking. 

You see, Mike used to be employed by the federal government. Not many in today’s economy would risk leaving a government job for the private sector. Instead, they would opt for the security of federal employment– even if it comes with a dose of daily drudgery. Not Mike.  When a new opportunity arose, he weighed the financial, emotional and personal aspects of life as it was and life as it could be and decided to take a chance. 

The familiar is sometimes easy to hang onto, even if it is not “what is best”. Fear is difficult to let go. I am inspired by my husband’s choice to move forward unafraid to a life that is a better fit for him and us. 

My favorite thing over the past four weeks was… 

witnessing Jack go from pulling himself up on things to stand up and then letting go of them, steadying himself on ever-less-wobbly legs, to seeing him experiment with getting into a standing position from the floor or ground, to watching him tentatively take a single independent step here and there for a few days, to finally sharing in his proud joy as he walked, first, a few independent steps, and, then the entire length of the hallway. 

Nothing seems more precious than his intent look, followed by a beaming grin and happy clapping hands as he celebrates his accomplishments and continues to master mobility! 

What’s working for us… 

Flexible structure in our daily rhythm and mixing Montessori and Workboxes on our “classroom days”, plus continuing to weave faith into every day learning, sometimes making it the main focus of learning as we did on the Nativity of Mary Feast Day

Question I have… 

How might I better let love direct and define me daily?

As I reflect on the fact that it has been a year since my grandmother passed, I think about how I am (and am not) living in ways she modeled so well. One thing I know I can always work on is acceptance of whatever comes and love through it all. 

Things I’m working on… 

Training myself to get enough sleep again! 

I pulled a few late nighters on purpose in order to attend to classroom set up/school prep, writing, etc. Following that, Jack initiated two-plus week's worth of interrupted sleep as he suffered with an infection, on the heels of a bout of croup, complicated by having three teeth coming in at once.  This lack of sleep is getting to me, making me sluggish and, sometimes, grumpier than I should be. 

I need to accept and appreciate the snatches of sleep I can have, be better about going to sleep when I can even when my want- and need-to-lists remain long at the end of the day, and, above all, stay upbeat despite however many hours of sleep I get.  Then, once Jack gets through the end of this difficult teething period, I need to retrain myself to go to sleep at a decent hour and to stay in bed until dawn.  Interrupted sleep cycles are such a difficult habit to break.

Trying to look ahead, not back, as I undo six years of bad homekeeping choices and plain old bad luck.

It is so hard to stay focused on getting our home to a clutter-free, organized, clean – and dare I dream – inspiring place. Homeschool time, family time, social time, online time and the like all motivate me far more than wading through water damage, mold and –eek – a bit of mouse poop in the basement ever could. 

Stumbling blocks for me have been the aforementioned lack of sleep, a lack of focus, a lack of kid-free time and a lack of willpower to just get to it. However, a vision of what I am called to provide for my family is helping me forge ahead now. Well, that, and a family commitment to helping each other build better habits (which I also hope to post more about later). 

My first habit is to dedicate at least 15 minutes a day to slogging through the cellar. I started this habit off with a bang, but, admittedly, have lost steam in the past week.  There have been some missed nights.  So, I am not counting it as a true habit formed until I have reached 21 consecutive days in a row.  Wish me luck!

Revamping our home (and classroom) to be more sensory-friendly. 

I have already made great progress on our classroom and am now stockpiling a bevy of sensory-smart resources for the year. To that end, I made some I Can Calm Myself ABC Cards and am thinking about other things we have or I can procure as tools for the kids to learn to self-regulate. I am also constantly thinking of tweaks I might make to increase the overall the sensory-friendliness of our home. 

I’m reading… 

a lot here and there for myself – blogs, books, manuals… But, to be honest, my reading time has so unfocused in the past four weeks, I feel reluctant to share much on any one title. 

However, I can say that I know have a growing knowledge of elephants and can name almost 20 elephant-theme non-fiction and fiction picture books. Boy, is it fun to learn along with your kids! 

I’m cooking… 

for convenience and thrift, mostly, but also starting Food Studies with the kids, which I will write more on later. We did one at home on egg whites for the Nativity of Mary and have done some at Luke’s Feeding Specialist appointments.  

I plan to do more consistent ones here at home as fall progresses. 

I’m grateful for… 

my mother’s help. Not only does she often offer a listening ear and always extend love to us, but she also steps in to watch some of the kids when others of them have appointments, collects stickers for the kids to use (which came in handy again, like this, at Jack’s unexpected doctor’s appointment last week) and happily does little mending projects for me that I could do, but don’t make time for. She supports us in so many practical and spiritual ways.

I’m praying for…
  • continued success with our homeschooling journey
  • all the babies we know who have been welcomed into the world this past month by family and friends (and all we don’t know, too!)
  • the healing of some folks I know who are dealing with broken marriages and growth for extended family members who have just entered into marriage
  • wisdom and peace for all homeschool mothers (and fathers) who are feeling extra-challenged or overwhelmed as the school year begins
  • good leadership at local and national levels and folks to follow their faith as they practice their citizenship 
  • …and so much more. There is simply so much to adore, confess, offer thanks and ask for supplication about. Prayer A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication) as a cornerstone for building better days. That’s a foundation I want myself and my children to continue to build upon! 

    Photo to Share 

    One day, Jack would not go down for nap.  Later, as I was attending to a chore, Luke and Nina called out, "Mommy, come quick."  This is what they were drawing my attention to:

    Jack had pushed a little chair over to "GG's chair", used it as a ladder to climb up onto the soft cushion and had, promptly, fallen asleep.  

    Whew!  I hope I have not made anyone want to do the same thing with the mega First Month of School and More Homeschool Mother's Journal Entry.

    Pop on over to The Homeschool Mother's Journal 
    to find many examples of encouragement, reality and hope.

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