Getting in the game

Getting in the game

When we made the transition from homeschool to schoolschool last year, the kids were excited about the possibility of playing school sports. Only our firstborn was old enough, since basketball, soccer and volleyball don’t begin until fifth grade.

Last year, he made the wise decision to focus on his schoolwork and get used to his new routine before trying any sports. We agreed that he made a good choice, but by the end of the school year, he was wishing he had joined the basketball team.

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This year, he has been counting down the days until the start of basketball season. His younger brother has played baseball almost year round the past few years. And he also played on a community basketball team a few years ago. But this is the first time the 7th grader has been on a team since soccer about three  years ago.

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For the first game, his school was matched up against a public school from Chicago. From some of the comments of other parents, it sounded like it might be a tough game. But our team stayed ahead the entire game, and they won! What a great way to start the season!

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The fifth grader also is playing basketball, so the next few months are going to be crazy with practice and games four days a week. I’m excited for them both. And I might be just a little excited to get to be a basketball mom!

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Best. Invention. Ever.

Best. Invention. Ever.

I wanted to let all of you wonderful readers know that I have discovered the best. invention. ever.

It’s this magical place where you take your kids every morning, five days a week. They actually have trained professionals who will teach your children at age-appropriate grade levels all of the subject matter they need to learn that year.

While they are gone, YOU can clean up your house. You can play games, go for walk and sing songs with your toddler. You can go to the grocery store. You can plan dinner. You can meet a friend for coffee. And you can even focus on your part-time job!

OK… I know you all want to smack me right now for my sarcasm, but I do have to say that I am loving our new non-home schooling life style. Is that a horrible thing to say? I almost feel guilty even admitting it! (Almost.)

I would love to stop right there and tell you that everything is absolutely perfect and running smoothly since we started school one week ago. But the reaction to school has definitely received mixed reviews.

We have one child who asks each day if it can be his last. What is wrong with home schooling? You don’t have to sit and listen to teachers all day. You can get your work done on your own schedule. You don’t have to deal with lockers and tons of rules and homework.

We have another child who loves his class, his teacher and doing his work at school. School would be great if it weren’t for the 30 minutes right in the middle when he is still trying to find someone to play with at recess. He has made progress, but recess can be a long and agonizing half hour of awkwardness.

Then, we have one child who couldn’t be happier. She loves her teacher, loves her friends, loves hot lunch, loves recess, loves the library and comes home bursting with stories about Christopher Columbus and facts she learned in science.

We have definitely been working to just figure things out and learn the systems this week. I don’t regret one minute that we home schooled. We have so many fabulous memories, family moments and awesome friends from that experience. But I have to admit that when I dropped them off on Monday I was wondering WHY I had not discovered this magical place earlier!

For the first time in YEARS, I feel like I’m getting a handle on things around here. The house is relatively clean. I know what we’re having for dinner. We have food in the fridge. I’m even caught up on the laundry! Most of all, so much stress has been lifted off of me that I feel like I could float sometimes.

I worried that the toddler would be bored out of her mind. Instead, we have been having a wonderful time together. We are able to run errands during the day, play outside or read books together without feeling like I’m in a hurry. I’m even thinking ahead to the weekend and realizing I don’t have to scramble to catch up on all of the housework and shopping!

I was enjoying my paradise all day Monday until I picked up the kids at 3:15 and reality hit. We got home, they dropped their backpacks and started unloading books, folders and papers to sign. The great thing about home school is that when you are done with your work for the day, you are DONE! The evening is yours. Suddenly, the realization hit me that those days were gone. We would have to spend our evenings doing homework. I almost cried. (Almost.)

The second day wasn’t as bad as the first. We kind of knew what to expect. On Wednesday, the school doesn’t assign homework because it’s youth group night. So, we will see how tonight goes. I’m hoping that once we get in a routine, we will know how MUCH homework to expect and WHEN is the best time to get it done.

I went a little crazy making cute homework charts and calendars to put on the fridge and I bought some organizational items to help me manage the incoming papers. Just doing a few things like that made ME feel better anyway!

I’m trying to start setting up fun outings and play dates with the toddler. This morning, we created a fun adventure around my 3-mile walk. I pushed her in the stroller along the riverwalk and then stopped at a park to play. We had such a nice time, and I’m looking forward to planning more of these outings together!

Week One is almost a wrap in our world. How about you? Is your school year off to a good start? Are you facing any new challenges this year?

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First Day

First Day

Thursday was the first day of school for the kids.

It was the first day our third-grade daughter has been to school since pre-school.

It was the first day our fourth-grade son has been to school since Kindergarten.

It was the first day for our oldest son to be in middle school.

It was the first day for the toddler and I to figure out what life would look like with just the two of us at home.

After three years of home schooling, it was the first day for a lot of things.

I wish, and I was hoping, that I would be able to get on my blog and write a glowing report about how perfect and happy everyone was. I really wasn’t expecting the range of emotions that we experienced.

Our daughter was a bundle of excitement at drop-off, while the boys were very nervous. I was nervous, too. It was overwhelming for us to be amidst so many PEOPLE. There were lots of rules to learn and supplies to put in their places and pieces of paper with information.

In the middle school, my son did a great job figuring out how to open his new locker. And we found out which room was his “home room.” Then we stood like home schoolers in headlights as all of the other students, parents and teachers ran around giving hugs and high fives and chatting away after the summer break. We had arrived way too early, which left minutes that felt like decades to just stand there waiting for the bell to ring and the awkwardness to end.

Our sixth grader gave me a brave good-bye and told me it was OK to leave him so I could go drop off the fourth grader. Our middle son woke up at 4 .m. with too much anticipation, so by 8:30, he was almost sick from being tired and anxious. I was holding back tears as I slipped away and just prayed the bell would ring and he could get settled in a new routine.

When I got home, I pulled out some of my huge stash of Discovery Toys books and music CDs and the toddler literally danced and sang the morning away. I was expecting her to throw a tantrum that the other kids were gone. Instead, she played happily all morning. We literally have had so little time together in her almost three years of life that I was a mix of joy and guilt, sprinkled with deja vu moments of the last time I had had only ONE child. How did the time go so fast? How could HE be in middle school?

It does seem that home schooling slows down the time in a way. When you spend every single day with your kids, the days seem like maybe they don’t slip away quite as fast. Then sending them off to school suddenly brings back the reality that those days are gone. Either way my first baby is in middle school. And now I am living through these toddler years for the last time with my last baby.

At pick-up, I quickly found out that the reviews of the day fell on a spectrum according to birth order. It was fabulous and exciting at the bottom, difficult and overwhelming at the top and a mix of the two in the middle.

We had some awesome conversation at the end of the day, and God has already taught us some lessons, even after only one day. When you home school there are no social dynamics to interfere with the process of learning. You don’t have to worry about where you will sit at lunch, who you will play with at recess or who will sit right next to you in class. You don’t have to contend with the fact that 95 percent of the other students have been friends for years already, and they all are excited to see each other and aren’t really thinking about the new kids.

My kids have been on the opposite side of that so many times. They are used to being part of a community of friends they know very well. How many times has a newcomer entered the picture and we turned the other way in favor of focusing on what is known and comfortable?

As a mom, I want to swoop in and make it all better and take away the awkwardness and the hurt. And then I realize that if I want my kids to develop compassionate hearts, if I want them to care about those who struggle, if I want them to feel someone else’s pain, then I should be thankful for each day they get to experience some of that.

They will be stronger in the end. They will be better in the end. And Day Two will be a little better than Day One.

More about Day Two coming soon…

 

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Back to school photo shoot

Back to school photo shoot

I knew the first day of school was going to be very rushed, so I took the kids to St. James Farm for a photo shoot in their uniforms. Jayda was being a little stinker, as you can tell in the photos! The time is getting close now… And have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE school uniforms?!

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Going baaaaaack!

Going baaaaaack!

I didn’t even realize it until a friend clued me in, but Monday was a big day for us.

It was the day we could find out which teachers our kids got for the school year. Even after she told me, I didn’t bother to rush over to the school to find my children’s names on the class lists. I wouldn’t know if it was good news or bad news.

Instead, my friend messaged me with the names of our teachers. I got a big lump in my throat when I heard the news. It really didn’t make a difference WHAT the names were. I was just so happy that they HAVE teachers. That’s right. They have actual certified, bonafide, living, breathing teachers. And NOT ONE of the teachers is ME.

If you are new here or you haven’t stopped by in a while, let me just catch you up with the news: I resigned from home schooling.

I’m a home school drop out.

Back in January, I finally faced up to the fact that it was not possible for me to continue trying to educate my own children AND work a part-time job. Something had to go.

We prayed and researched and made lists and spreadsheets. We considered every option. Public school, private school, co-ops. A mixture of those. I assumed that I would probably end up home schooling again, so we starting doing our best to live on only my husband’s income.

At the same time, we were challenged to dramatically increase our giving to our church. So, for the past six months or so, we really have been changing our habits and changing our view on having money. (This is the subject of another blog post, but I just wanted to mention it quickly here.)

To say I was feeling burn out about home schooling would be quite the understatement. I know what burn out feels like. And I know that getting away for a few days or taking a summer break can revive me. But I had dug down deep into the innermost part of my being and I could not find one drop of creativity, excitement or energy for home schooling. It was all gone.

The hard part for me is that educating my own children is very far outside of what comes naturally to me. It takes me about three times more energy to do it than it does to do the things that I love. Many people ask me what’s hard about it, and I always try to explain it the same way.

I LOVE the “home” part of home schooling. I love having my kids with me everyday. I love the freedom. I love the lifestyle. I love the field trips and the community. I love our home schooling friends.

It’s the “school” that’s hard. (Yes, this is meant to be a little sarcastic.) It’s getting up every morning and being organized and finding the discipline to do school with three children in three grades while also being a mommy to a toddler. I’ve heard of other people who say they can get through school in a few hours. For us, especially as the kids got older, we were consistently starting earlier than the public school kids and still working when the school bus pulled around the corner in the afternoon. Add in a part-time job, a house that’s a mess, dinners that need to be planned and mountains of laundry, and it completely overwhelms me.

I’m on e-mail lists and Facebook pages, and I subscribe to blogs with tips and info about home schooling. And each time I read one of those, I would end up feeling more overwhelmed. I would delete the e-mails without even opening them because I just couldn’t handle one more conversation about curriculum or one more fabulous tip about getting organized. I would avoid the huge home schooling conference that should be such a source of encouragement because it would leave me feeling exhausted at the thought of all that I should be doing.

While other moms seemed to choose their curriculum with excitement, I would dread the decision and put it off until the week before we started school.

It could be my personality. I know it would be different if I had one child or two, rather than four. I know that I set standards that are very high, and it’s sometimes impossible to live up to them. But it’s equally difficult for me to do something at a lower standard and feel at peace that I’m doing well.

Once my husband and I agreed that something had to go, it made it much easier to make the choice. At some point in the process, we ruled out sending our oldest son to public school for the first time in his life in sixth grade. We also ruled out several private schools because it was not be possible financially. We looked at a private, Christian school that is near us that we had looked at several years ago. For some reason, I knew that school wasn’t the right choice for us when we looked at it then. This time, we all had a very positive experience.

We went back a week later so the kids could sit in the classrooms. We only planned to stay for the morning, but the kids begged to stay for lunch and recess. “You can go home and pick us up at the end of the day,” one of them suggested.

One big positive about this school is that its multiple child discount was far better than any of the others we had considered. When we did the math, we realized that instead of quitting my job, (which I LOVE), to home school, (which exhausts me), it made more sense to just give my paycheck to the school. 🙂 It would be the same difference either way.

So, we filled out the paperwork in May. But I wondered if we would think differently when the time was REALLY here. Would we all regret this decision?

We’ve already had to do lots this summer to get ready for the school year. We bought uniforms. (YAY!! I LOVE uniforms!) We bought the school supplies we were told to buy (rather than roaming the aisles getting all the cool markers and crayons that WE wanted to buy!). We have studied the hot lunch menu 100 times with eager anticipation! We even paid tuition. And now, with one week left, we found out the teachers’ names.

I worried that I might be feeling dread as we did all of these things. Instead, with each step closer we get to the school year, we all feel more and more excited. Our daughter absolutely can’t wait. I’m sure the transition will be hardest for the sixth grader. But even he is ready for the change.

I know that the toddler and I are going to be lost on Aug. 23 after we drop them all off. Figuring out how to organize our day is going to be one of the hard parts. I have absolutely loved having the kids home the last three years when she was born and allowing them to see her each day as a baby and toddler.

But I think even we are ready. It will be good to be able to really spend time with her, rather than seeing her as a distraction to the others who are trying to complete their assignments.

It won’t be long until those names we received on Monday will be a big part of our daily lives. We can’t wait!

 

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