Q of the Week : How excited are you by back-to-school?

Image courtesy of D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr.For NYC, it’s back-to-school week (and I know many others are in the same boat), while some of you have had it in session for a few weeks already.  We’re running a bit behind my intended start date of today, but I’ll have it put together in the next couple of days.  We started up morning Checklists again at least so there was some little bit of a return to routine this morning! 
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Socializing and Homeschooling

It’s pretty funny to me that one of the most common arguments against homeschooling is the lack of socialization.  My kids get together with other groups of kids pretty regularly, make new friends at the park often, and talk to more adults than average because I make them ask their own questions when we’re out and about on our daily walks.  I had the same fears before considering homeschooling, and I get where the questioning comes from, but I really don’t think it’s an issue unless your kids never ever leave the house. 
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I'm not regretting it ... yet

Maybe homeschooling has changed me more than I thought.  Yesterday I lugged the boys downtown on the bus, to stock up at my favorite two stores in Bklyn, Sahadis and TJs.  As always, I bought more than I could really carry, and ended up staggering back to the bus with a loaded backpack and two shopping bags, barely able to hold Fynn’s hand.  As we approached the bus stop, we passed the usual row of street vendors, hawking everything from workbooks to cell phone covers to silk shawls. I ignored them all, but managed to catch a glimpse of a small stack of clear plastic containers with neon-colored lids, each housing something that looked like a wee turtle. 
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First Day of School

His new dress clothes, which pleased him to no end … he was pretending to be a full trash bag (that finger atop his head is the twist-tied part)I had more jitters than they did.  I believe they had none, to be exact … not exactly stomach-dropping fear when going to school means sitting down with your mom at the kitchen table after breakfast.  No lockers to find, no new teachers to meet, no bullies to make fun of the haircut you gave yourself because your bangs were “bothering you” the other day.  They loved having white-boarded assignments to check off, and beds to sprawl on while reading. 
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Friday Roundup ...

I was sick most of the week, and spent minimal time online, but here are a few things I ran across and enjoyed …

  • Happy Birthday Mom (by The Other Laura via the WC) … “THIS is normal”  Read it moms, and feel the truth.  So well said!
  • A friend turned me on to Grooveshark just today, and so far I love it!  It’s an online choose-your-own radio station where you put in some songs you like and it suggests others … not a new concept but I love not having to pick a playlist!  Great background noise if you want some. 
  • Homeschool Freebie of the Day is just that, and I’m loving some of the things I’m finding!  Great ebooks, .mp3s, etc for your kids … some just plain entertaining, some directly educational.  I just subscribe in my feedreader and check to see if it’s something I want every few days.  Most of the content is older, some of it really old, and I love seeing the vintage illustrations. The audio files are great alternative entertainment too.
  • One more homeschooling thing, which PW profiled today so I’ll let her talk about it … The Story of the World books, they really are fabulous!  I”m loving just picking them up and reading a chapter, and if you keep books in your bathroom??  Great addition to that pile :). 

Have a great weekend!  We’re hoping to do a mini stoop sale and lemonade stand if the weather holds, I’ll let you know how it goes. 

What a difference a day makes ...

Yesterday, my father-in-law came and took Douglas for the day.  With Fynn in preschool, that left me with 5 golden hours, the likes of which I hadn’t seen for over two months.  Hours of daylight, alone, without kids.  I was turning in circles wondering what I should do with them.  Work?  Run?  Relax?  Clean?  It was difficult to decide, actually, but I managed to do some of each.  The run sucked, as I was ridiculously tight and couldn’t seem to shake it off.  Then lunch, some cleaning up, blog reading and writing, work for a friend, a bunch of catch-up computer stuff, and then tearing off at top speed to pick up Fynn, cramming in one more phone call while I trotted.  It was a good day, if short on the relaxation aspect!

The difference it made in my week?  Immeasurable.  It set the tone for the week, as something to look forward to, and something refreshing enough to make me more patient and relaxed.  A simple break from routine is enough to recharge me for days.  I hope anyhow, shouldn’t speak too soon as it is only Thursday night, but it was a day well spent and it meant a lot to me.  I had a break, and I loved it.  This schooling gig is hard in all the ways I expected, and then some.  It takes it out of me, and we’re still adjusting.  I can only hope that it gets easier, and that I don’t feel as desperate for breaks as we get more comfortable … until then I’m glad for every little bit I get!

Tip Tuesday : Give Yourself a Break

I know, I know, it’s a tired old phrase but the reminder is no less necessary.  If you’re having a rough time, frustrated, or out of ideas, just give yourself a break!  I’ve hit a rough patch in homeschooling, and while I’m not one bit surprised, it’s still hard and somewhat demoralizing.  It’s a huge thing to adjust to, and we both have our issues. I’m struggling with feeling incompetent and impatient, two hot buttons of mine.  No surprises there to any who know me :).  I’ve had to step back a bit, and take stock of where I am, where he’s going, and watch and reflect for awhile.

One of the things I’ve been pushing is writing, which he needs work on, but every angle I try, I get huge amounts of resistance tossed back at me.  Rather than continue to battle him on it, I’m dropping it for now.  I’ll pick it up again eventually, but when we’re both ready, and not so battle scarred from trying!  He’s not going to fall behind, and dragging us both through something we both hate is pointless.  It’s more about our relationship, and less about writing I think.  We both need to relax and build some things together before we try to write.  Do what we’re good at, and let that drive the foray into things we both find challenging. He needs the break as much as I do.

A break is a good thing, no matter what you need a break from.  Chances are, returning to it will be all the sweeter and easier!

Food and Kids

No matter where (in the USA at least) your kids get their education, chances are the food program at their school could use some improvement.  I can certainly vouch for the craptastic quality of most of what Douglas was served for 4+ years.  It’s full of sugars and fillers and all kinds of stuff that we know isn’t the healthiest thing for our kids.  I think we can all agree there’s a lot of room for improvement in the public school system! 

I’ve gotten a chance to watch the first couple episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and it’s enough to make me hope that he can pull off some kind of change that makes other cities sit up and take notice!  He shows that many people have no idea where their food comes from, or what it even is.  That a classroom of kindergartners couldn’t identify a raw potato or tomato?!  There are some scare tactics in there for sure, but they make a very clear point.  We can do better.  It’s a cause I’m happy to support, and hope you do too!

The link to his petition is here, and the shows can be seen online here.  Check it out, and sign if you think it’s time to change the food served in our schools!

Life is like a box of Crayons ...

… you’re never quite sure what colors you’re going to need.  I have a lot of friends.  Some I’ve had forever, some for years, some for a day ore two, and they’re all important to me.  I tend to turn to certain friends for certain things.  I don’t usually call my childless friends to ask for parenting advice, or to my newest friend if I’m having a meltdown about my day.  I often feel drawn to specific relationships depending on what I want to talk about.  Some relationships are easy, the conversations range over absolutely everything, and the silences are golden.  These are the crayons stubs disappearing into the bottom of my precious box of 64, with the paper torn off and nary a point to be found.  Well used, well loved, and still colorful. 
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it's been a long day ...

… and all I want is glass of wine and a movie.  Tempers were as short as the mercury in the thermometer today, and colds and coughs were in evidence.  I didn’t do so well in the temper department myself, and could not wait to put the kids in bed.  I think they’re finally asleep?  I’m going to make myself fold the last two loads of laundry and then pick out a movie.  

Oh, and laundry, which I hate folding but don’t mind doing?  I’m trying a new system which works pretty well.  I now put all laundry out of the dryer straight onto our bed.  (It used to be the couch.).  Now I can’t go to bed unless it’s folded … rather handy and has worked so far!

I did manage this week to start the ball rolling with homeschooling … D has two weeks left of public school and then he’s home!  I’m quite honestly terrifed, but still convinced it’s the right thing.  I talked to his teacher and the parent coordinator at the school, and both were extremely understanding and supportive.  Whew!  Got the paperwork started, received a fab box of books from my expert-homeschooler cuz (thanks Tiff!) and feel like it’s a matter of Ghost in the Graveyard from here on.  Remember that nighttime hide/seek game with the “Ready or not, here I come!” chant?  I’m in the dark, ready or not, but the game has started … curious ride this will be.

I’ll leave you with a pic of the snowman we built on Thursday, when it wasn’t quite so horridly cold for playing outside.  It lasted all of an hour before melting, and was kicked to bits right after school as it was the only non-melted snow left to play in!

Let the next phase begin ...

It seems the decison has been reached.  Kid’s been consulted and agrees wholeheartedly.  Books are being sent, veterans consulted, devil’s advocate input sought, and logic argued.  While I’m quite aware of a whole host of potential issues, and unaware of many others that will rear their not-so-pretty heads, I’m certain in my heart that this is the right move to make.  It’s time.  The final tipping point may well have been this bit, though it all started about 2 years ago.  We’re pulling Douglas out of school next month, and teaching him at home.
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Schooling Choices and Creativity

I’m in a quandry.  Douglas is not happy at school.  It’s been brewing for awhile, and I’ve tried for several years to get him into a different type of school.  He’s in 2nd grade in a regular public school, subject to the restrictions of the lumbering systems known as NYC Department of Ed.  Some schools are better than others, and there are tons of options, but none of them have seemed perfect for him.  I know there are charter and private schools that would be more open/creative but we haven’t gotten him in anywhere. The clip below was posted by a friend of mine on FB, and it really hit home.  Creativity is NOT encouraged in the public school system, and he’s overflowing with it.  (It’s Sir Ken Robinson talking about creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.  Take a look:

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