Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good Stuff

Curled on the couch with a mug of hot coffee, the dog nestled in blankets at my feet and snow blowing and drifting outside, today is a day that begs for bread baking and fires in the fireplace, for reading and home made chicken soup....

That ain't gonna happen.  As usual, our day is packed from start to finish.  We will don our outdoor gear and go over the highway and through the burbs to deliver plastic bundles of groceries to grandma's.  We will stop at CVS.  We will bake... a whole bunch of pizza crusts for our church service potluck tonight.  We will do lessons and then back out to our church for a potluck/family service/cool musical event.  Whew.  Who ever said home schooling meant staying home?  But it's all good.  At least, now I think it is.

We had some rocky months.  I didn't think we were going to survive with our family in tact.  I was quickly losing my confidence... and even my dignity (pajamas all day will do that to you).  Then I finally got it through my head that home schooling DID NOT have to meet any one's expectations but our own.  Trying desperately to get through workbooks and experiments, writing and music, baking, cooking, pet care, home economics (eh hem, cleaning the house), writing, math games, social interaction, phys ed, art projects, all while trying to de-stress my overstressed son was incredibly stressful.  It wasn't helping anything. 

I tried to convince myself that I was trading one stress for another, my son's for my own.  But who was I fooling?  The stress was simply accumulating!  When my kettle was just about to blow its steam, I decided to switch off the burner.  We took a little break.  In the meantime, my son self-initiated a 145-Day Gaming-Free challenge. (With the condition that a reward would be negotiated at the end.)  Deal. 

Guess what?  Life.  Got.  Easier.

Mind you, it didn't slow down too much.  The stress levels sort of fizzled.  We still get little bursts here and there, but what an incredible difference.  Now instead of making a huge list for my kids to complete before Dad gets home, I make a list of suggestions and household obligations. They do have to practice their instruments daily.  They need to exercise and read.  (I carefully select a huge basket of books and graphic novels from the library each week, including Manga Math comics, historical fiction chapter books and graphic novels, etc.)  My son is starting free math tutoring at the library once a week, hosted by high school National Honors Society students.  We go on field trips, cook and bake (great math in baking, and science- watching yeast foam is cool). 

My house is cleaner.  My kids are happier.  I actually had the chance to work on a freelance writing project (and get paid).  yay me

But here's the kicker- they are LEARNING MORE!  The other day, before pajamas were even off or breakfast eaten, Cady was painting the copper mask she had been working on the day before and Asher was writing a blog post.  YES, he was VOLUNTARILY writing!  The other night the two kids both chose to write before bed, working together on writing Cady's biography!  Cool things happening here.
So, I've decided that we are going to stay home next year, too.  But the kids want to take the extracurriculars at school. Asher, choir and band.  Cady, art and music.  They want to get more involved in theatre.  (Possibly a Michigan History Theatre... more to come on that later.) Asher wants to take the Level II Computer Game design class at the college and join a Lego Robotics Club (he built this guy at a library Lego event).  Cady continues with ballet and tap, and is constantly sewing her own dress designs on her home make dress-maker's mannequin.  All good stuff.

For now, I'll take all the good stuff I can get.