Narcoleptic Tourette’s and…

I’ve got a couple of odd/funny things to share with all of you…

Narcoleptic Tourette’s

Since my eldest was around eight years old, I have found myself affected by the weirdest condition…

When I read out loud, either to her or to her sister, I end up falling asleep. As in, mid-sentence.

You can imagine my consternation at this, especially when you consider how much I enjoy reading. It has left me in quite a quandary – because having someone else read aloud does about the same thing to me.

As a homeschooler, I’m leading the charge in my child’s education, which really doesn’t mix well with falling asleep sitting up.

This can happen at any time of the day, even right after a full night’s sleep. So I’m not sleep-deprived. And even worse, as I begin to teeter on the edge of consciousness, I’m afflicted with a weird second affliction – something akin to Tourette’s – where you just spit out random words. I can be reading about ancient history and all of a sudden “hot dogs” spills from my mouth, or some other odd word having nothing to do with what I’m reading.

It absolutely sucks but, basically, I’ve some kind of narcoleptic Tourette’s, folks.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

You Erupted My Constipation!

Em is growing up fast, so it is a bit of a rarity when she gets her words confused. However, the other day as Dee was working with her on her homeschool assignments, Em was trying to tell her to stop interrupting her concentration. However that came out as “You erupted my constipation!” Which, as I am sure you are aware, is quite a different thing entirely.

I will miss the kidisms…Em will be nine years old in another five weeks. Where did the time go and can I get it back?!

Last Week of (My) Homeschool Freedom

I’ve got just a couple more days of homeschool freedom before I take back homeschool from my eldest daughter, Dee. She has been doing a fabulous job of homeschooling her sister in the last few weeks – Emily has responded beautifully and been involved, excited, and really learned a lot.

Emily’s Progress

With clarity and consistency, I’ve seen Em really blossom in the past few weeks. With her reading skills increasing every day (you should hear her reel off her spelling and sight word lists, she says them so fast I can barely keep up), so too have her spelling skills.

The first week, on the first day, she managed one right out of ten. by the fourth day, she had one wrong out of ten. The rule is that she will be done for the week as soon as she achieves 100% on a test.

Last week she had five right at the beginning of the week and it gradually increased to 100% by the end of the week.

So far it has taken her all five days of testing before getting 100%, but who knows, this week might be different (I’m writing this on Thursday of the 4th week and she only has two words out of the ten that are giving her difficulties)

I love all of the journal entries she has been making, along with the interpretive art. On Wednesday she drew the cupid from Botticelli’s Primavera, complete with the blindfold. They have also been watching art documentaries and will be going to the Nelson Atkins for a wrap-up to the month.

Excellent work, Dee!

Start Juggling!

A month ago I basically reset my schedule and, while maintaining my upcoming classes and growing the cleaning biz, started back into focusing on my writing, as well as marketing, marketing, marketing.

But marketing in a good way, because I could never do the hard sell. No thanks!

In any case, I realized this week that, a) I would need to take things over next week, b) I still hadn’t figured in reading (yes, I’ve totally dropped the ball on that) daily (and that’s my own reading, folks, not hers), and stretching.

Now that might sound silly, but I’ve been having ever-increasing problems with sciatic pain and flexibility. I also know that, as a writer, I need to read more. Mix that in with homeschool and trying to get more income in the door, and I’m faced with not enough hours in the day. I’m not kidding, it’s a crap load and seems like it’s just getting busier and busier.

Homeschool Tracking

A discussion on homeschool tracking with one of the local homeschool groups I belong to got me to thinking. Specifically, there was a question of whether or not a mom should log the titles of all of the books read.

The idea occurred to me…why not put Emily in charge of that? She’s the one reading the books after all. We began using daily checklists a couple of months ago. Each day as she goes through her homeschool activities, she marks off what she has completed on the checklist. This could work well for tracking books she is reading as well. I could add a couple of lines down at the bottom with the question: “What books are you reading?” and allow her to fill them in.

So I’m going to try that and see what happens. If I ever need to provide records, it should be a simple matter of disseminating the information out of the daily checklists.

 

Now This Bothered Me

My Google feed sense me weekly updates on homeschool – which usually is a mishmash of the great things homeschoolers are up to.

This article, “I Was Homeschooled, But I Will Not Homeschool My Children” however, was NOT that.

It makes me sad to hear these things. My takeaways from it are that the author’s upbringing was heavily religious, possibly highly racist, and obviously incomplete.

That she would understand it was incomplete and not choose to homeschool felt as if she were saying:

  • She didn’t learn from her parent’s mistakes
  • That public school would not make any mistakes at all in education (despite some of the highest numbers of illiteracy and low math scores of any first world country
  • That she didn’t trust herself to differentiate from dogma and make strides towards rectifying that with her own children

She seemed obviously intelligent, which probably distressed me even more when she brought of Seinfeld references that I couldn’t even relate to. Possibly because I never watched Seinfeld and don’t see how it is such a relevant part of our culture.

I wasn’t homeschooled. I doubt my parents would have had the patience for it. Sometimes I barely have the patience for it. But every time I think of the alternatives, or worry that there might be those ‘educational blind spots’ – I realize that some of those blind spots she mentioned are either easily overcome, or not necessarily accurate.

Homeschooling is not for everyone, I know this, but it seems as if the author believes she was truly damaged by her upbringing (which she well might have been) and has responded reflexively by running in the opposite direction and denouncing homeschooling as a whole.

I can’t help wondering how she will feel in a few years. Will she be happy with her decision? Will she be unhappy, but unwilling to change due to her stance?

What do you think of the article?

Focusing on Art and Writing

Zeus throwing lightning bolts - Week 3 - Mythology

Zeus throwing lightning bolts – Week 3 – Mythology (she was very proud of the detail in the hair)

We are halfway through August and Emily has responded to her sister’s homeschool lessons with interest and enthusiasm.

Rainbow Serpent - Week 2 - Aboriginal culture

Rainbow Serpent – Week 2 – Aboriginal culture

Danielle started the first week with an emphasis on art. They visited the Nelson-Atkins, and Emily was tasked with finding a piece of art she liked and then writing about it.

Decorated boomerang - Week 2 - Aboriginal culture and the history of boomerangs

Decorated boomerang – Week 2 – Aboriginal culture and the history of boomerangs

With a brand-new art journal in hand, she has begun filling the pages with writing and sketches, painting and stories.

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Part of me feels a little silly – this is exactly what I wanted her to be doing. I just tried to do it way too early…as in years too early. And when she didn’t show an interest, or evidenced a strong dislike or dug in her heels and refused to participate, I gave up and didn’t revisit it.

The Sphinx - Week 1

The Sphinx – Week 1

Things are markedly different since Em learned how to read. That reading has snowballed and she easily identifies all of the Dolch sight words and has made incredible progress on many words. Her only downfall is when she guesses at words, then tries guessing again when we point out the mistake. It takes reminding her to slow down and sound out a word before she listens and gives it the attention it deserves.

Week 1

Week 1

As you can see, I’ve been taking pictures of her journal entries and art as they have progressed from art in Week 1 to Aboriginal culture and the history of the boomerang (Em’s request) in Week 2 and now they are delving into Greek myths in Week 3.

September Homeschool

So while Dee is handling August, I am busy planning for September. I’ve got the following plan…

Language Arts
Reading Read aloud 10 minutes per day to an adult and read on own before bed each night (2nd part is voluntary). Each week check out up to 7 books in these subjects: Biography, Poetry, Art, DIY/Craft/How To, Fine Lit (or age-appropriate abridged), Storybook, and Science
Writing Write spelling words 1x and 2x more when incorrect. Write in homeschool journal each day.
Spelling Practice spelling list of the week every day until 100% accurate
Mathematics Khan Academy, one set per day, 5x per week and two chapters from Life of Fred per week
Social Studies
History Story of the World 3x per week
Geography Explore Everywhere emails from AllAroundTheWorld.com
Science LEARN Science and Math classes on Fridays
Art Danielle will handle the administration of art education
Music Project Harmony classes every Tuesday, Thursday and Sat.

Next I’ll make up a daily checklist, so we both know what needs to happen on a daily basis and have something to check off the list.

Reading at night

The other night, at just after 10, I noticed a light on in Em’s room. I knocked and then walked in to see her on her bed, surrounded by Emily the Strange books. She looked up at me, looked a little embarrassed, and said, “What? I like books, okay?!”

This from the child who announced to her sister in June, “I don’t really like books.”

Recently she has been reading a graphic novel of her sister’s – Utena – each night in bed. We recently instituted a policy of no more computer or tv at least 1/2 hour before bed. So each night she selects a book and begins to read.

This started rather auspiciously when, on the first night of the new rules, she accidentally picked up a book from the humor section Go the F*ck to Sleep.

Oops.

She told me about it the next morning. I suggested she go to the two shelves below the Humor shelf in our library where there are plenty of age-appropriate books to read!

Overall, seeing her reading books is probably hands down the best thing ever. I love to read, so I love to see her reading!

Raising Future Adults

I was barely eighteen when my daughter Danielle was born. And I was double that age when her little sister came along. Eighteen years is a long time to parent, and plan, but I don’t think anyone is every really ready for parenthood. There are moments that catch us off guard, boodoggle us with challenges we never imagined, and fill us with excitement, curiosity and pride.

One of the things I thought of, soon after my divorce to Danielle’s dad, probably even a little before that, was What kind of a person, what kind of an adult, do I want to see?

She was three or four, and I was busy worrying about the kind of adult she would become.

Would she be kind?

Capable?

I set out to prepare her for the world. I didn’t always hit the mark, but the “car talks” we had discussed my reasons behind why I wanted her to learn how to tie her shoes, do well in school, make friends and keep them.

And now, with her here in my life again, living in my house where I am lucky enough to see her every day, I am struck by something else.

Whether I voiced it or not, I wanted something else from her as an adult, which I have been lucky enough to get. A relationship based on respect, love, and companionship. A relationship of equals. I like spending time with her. I find her input/ideas/thoughts to be (usually) on target, and well thought out.

Having kids is wonderful. Having your children grow up to be adults that you genuinely like and want to spend time with is even better.

I wish I had that relationship with my parents. I wish that they saw me in any other light than that impetuous 15-year-old that seems stuck in their brains. I wish I could tell them that person hasn’t existed for 30 years.

Part of child-rearing, a huge part, is one of letting go. We start at it slow. They take their first steps and we are there, ready to catch them. We remember the first time they poured their own cereal, handled a knife, or cooked on the hot stovetop.

We hold our breaths the first time they walk down the street on their own, or learn to parallel park, and we tell ourselves they will be okay, that they will make it, and so will we.

And when they leave home, we grieve and celebrate, for the child that we have lost, and the budding adult that has taken their place. But no matter what, we have to let go.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Danielle, as she was growing up, speculated on how I would react to her leaving home. And when it happened, in the middle of a fight, it was absolutely traumatic. We both grieved, me for years, and a thousand times I wished I had handled things differently.

In the end, I was holding back the tide. She had to leave. She had to go to California and become the adult she was meant to become. It took years, and plenty of talks and tears on both our parts to come to where we are now and for her to return to Missouri.

I realize now, as I am in the middle of raising Emily, now eight (almost 9, eek!) that my goals for raising her are slightly expanded from the goals I had raising Danielle.

I want to raise Emily to be…

  • Self-sufficient and capable
  • Strong and smart
  • Respectful and kind
  • A lifelong learner
  • A friend and peer

We all have our goals, and priorities. Those are mine.

What are yours?

 

 

August Homeschool

August Homeschool…in the Hands of Her Sister

I wasn’t particularly surprised when Dee (my eldest, age 26) asked if she could try her hand at schooling Em for a month. She did a lot with her stepson, including teaching him how to read and she is a huge advocate for homeschooling. Remember, I homeschooled her in her teen years!

And honestly, I thought it sounded great. I was hoping she would bring a fresh infusion into it, and I visualize working with her in the weeks, months, and years to come to create some dynamic collaborations for Em’s homeschooling adventures.

Dee is a bit more structured than I am. Is it possible that I’m still recovering from the disastrous go at “organized schooling” I tried at various times through the last few years since beginning homeschooling with Em.

I really should try it again, because Em is now a reader (and doing quite well on that score) and far more interested in homeschool than she originally was.

In any case, I agreed to let Dee take over homeschool for the month of August and she began on Sunday with a trip to the Nelson-Atkins. This week seems to focus directly on Art History. It includes learning about some different authors, the history of their works (like Madame X by Sargent) and experimenting with several different artistic styles (pointillism, for one).

On Thursday, Dee asked Em, “What would you like to study in homeschool next week?”

Em thought for a moment and answered, “I want to know the history of the boomerang.”

I seriously love that kid!

So next week will take us to Australia, the Aborigine people, perhaps a taste of their art and culture, and of course, boomerangs.

There’s never a dull moment around here!

College at 15?

Early on in our homeschool journey I looked over the curriculae for the next “twelve” years and discovered that, if you removed all of the three month summer breaks, a homeschooled child could easily graduate homeschool and enter college by the age of 15.

And before you kick up a fuss, NO, that is not what I intend to do. I intend to present learning opportunities and let Em learn at her own pace. Homeschooling is not a race or a competition. And this article that another mom linked to sums it up perfectly…

The goal should never be raising children who are impressive. It should be, instead, about nurturing and celebrating each individual, no matter who they are.

It is so wonderful to watch my eldest teaching her baby sister. She is so patient, creative and thoughtful. In return, Em has responded with enthusiasm.

A couple of weeks ago she did bring up college, and I mentioned that, given a straight run at scholastics, it was entirely possible to graduate homeschool by age 14/15. I was rather surprised at Em’s reaction – she said she wanted to do that.

Now, she might be interested in that now and quite easily change her mind later. But I found her interest in the concept of college at age 15 rather exciting. Who knows where all of this will lead?!

A Writing Class for LEARN

I had gone back and forth on this for a while, and I’ve decided to take the plunge…again…with teaching a class at LEARN this fall.

I’ve had limited success teaching classes there. Mainly, I’m a grumpy old creature who has no interest in corralling kids and forcing them to learn.

The last time I taught a class, two years ago, it was a Zentangle class and I wanted to beat many of the kids halfway through, they made me so frustrated. The class turned into a “let’s draw on each other, wrestle in class, and generally behave in a bad manner” each week. Ugh!

So I’m hoping to do something different with this class.

Here is the main description…

Interested in writing books, self-published or otherwise? Do you have a story in you that you want to share with the world? In this class we will discuss and create poetry, essays, and short stories and end the semester by publishing them in paperback and ebook form. We will discuss writing styles, address general writing technique (although nothing as horrible and boring as diagramming sentences), and help edit each others’ work for publication. This class is intended for self-motivated writers, suggested ages are 10 and up. This class will have variable attendance, ask instructor for details on this.

So basically, I want to be able to say to the parents and the kids, “We meet each week, but it might not be for a full hour, so don’t send your kid back to me if they appear before the hour is up.”

I want kids who want to be there, not because their parents signed them up for a class. And I don’t want to have a bunch of hooligan shenanigans during the class.

I’m sounding old and cranky aren’t I?

Well, that’s fair. I am kind of old and cranky, so that works for me.

In any case, this fulfills my self-imposed obligation to be involved and participating as a member of the LEARN community, and I think it could be fun. Who knows what they will come up with?

Maybe I’ll get my buddy Kerrie to stop in and talk about her own writing. Now I just need to rustle up some more writers and see if I can’t get a handful of guest speakers. That would be super-cool!

Family

I have been pretty quiet lately. Mainly I’ve been busy, but then again, I’m always busy. More importantly, I’ve been adjusting to having my eldest back in my day-to-day life again.

We have had too many heart-to-hearts to count.

And while your adult child coming home to stay with you might be viewed by some as less than optimal, I remain, over six weeks later, deliriously happy about it.

Perhaps it is an artifact of a 17-year-old pregnant girl’s dreams. At that age you don’t think about teenage angst, arguments over messy rooms, or single parenting. Instead, you imagine a sweet little baby, all cuddles and coos, and someone who will love you for all the rest of your days.

At least, that’s what I imagined.

Through marriage, divorce, custody battles, screaming poverty and more – Dee and I kind of grew up together. I’d love to say that I was an amazing mom. But honestly? I just did an okay job – I stressed out about all the wrong crap and ignored or rushed through the moments when I just needed to stop and ENJOY my child. I was too worried about making ends meet, being a single mom, trying to improve my life, and more.

And when she went away, just a few months before her 18th birthday, and didn’t come back…I was devastated.

In the 8+ years she was gone, I really changed my life. A big part of it was Em’s presence in my life, and our decision to homeschool. It pulled me out of my comfortable little isolationist life and straight into a life filled with laid-back, innovative, forward-thinking moms and dads. It took me from a quiet house in Belton to a house in the city filled with sirens and crazy dramatic moments, more friends, and connections in the community around me, plus even more homeschooling mama friends and cool neighbors.

And then Dee returned. And I was different, and she was different, and yet, in all of the important ways, we were very much alike.

  • We make the same weird little noises.
  • We have the same odd sense of humor.
  • The values I instilled in her during the better parts of my parenting adventures were well remembered

And I found that I really, really enjoyed her presence.

Honestly, there have been far too many visits where I was in tears at the end – either because I felt as if we would never, ever be able to put the past sadness and anger behind us and forge a new peer relationship, or later, that we couldn’t have a proper relationship because we were so damned far apart.

It’s hard to be close to someone who lives 1,500 miles away.

So here she is, and as I said, I couldn’t be happier. The people I love most in the world are all under one roof. Seriously, how could it get better?

We still have our scraps and tense moments. And one of them occurred today. Later, hours later, Dee said, “I’m dependent on you, I’m not paying my way…”

That bothered me. It bothered me a lot.

I said to her, “We all do our part. Dave makes more money than I do, but I handle so much of the running of the household. I handle the finances, keep the house running as smoothly as possible, and do what I can to contribute financially. You cook most of the meals, help me out with the house and with Em, and were 90% of the driving force to getting her room clean (an epic event that went on for over three days and has made the room the cleanest most organized room in the entire house). If you are a dependent, then so am I, and I’m not okay with that. I do my part, Dave does his, and you do yours. You are not dependent upon us, you are not a drain on us, you are a part of our family and our household.”

Dave echoed my sentiments later that day. “It is a wonderful thing knowing that if I need it, there is always a place for me in my parent’s home.”

And that, my dear readers, is what love and family are to me.

If you get really, really lucky, sometimes they come back home.

A Couple of Links

In a couple of hours, Em will be boarding a plane for San Francisco to visit her grandparents. She will be gone until late next Thursday and I realized it will be the longest we have been away from her in her entire life!

It sure is going to be strange without her here in the house this next week.

I found this interesting article on a Google homeschool feed you might find interesting.

And just for laughs, here is a Buzzfeed link on Eight Things Homeschooled Kids are Sick of Hearing. Enjoy!

Homeschool/Unschool During the Summer

You might have thought, due to my long silence, that I was not homeschooling during the summer. I am, I’ve just been distracted by other parts of my life, like my eldest returning to our home after nine years away in California and Nevada.

In fact, we are trying out something new, and I want to share that with you all…

Welcome to ILS

For the nearly 30 years since I attended a small, quirky private high school in San Francisco, I’ve been regaling folks with tales of what it was like, and how very different it was.

ILS, Independent Learning School, actually accepted grades 6-12. I was 13 when I enrolled there in 1983 for summer school to take a computer class. I started full-time the fall of 1983, my freshman year of high school.

We learned out of books, without lectures or classrooms filled with same-age kids, and our level of freedom was based on how much of our work we could get done without having to be stood over and directed.

I wish I could say I was always a Floater (someone who could sit in whatever classroom they wanted, talk, eat, and take breaks when they wanted), but for those first couple of years I was quite firmly located in the Seater room on a regular basis. I hadn’t yet learned the art of self-control, responsibility, and the biggie…motivation.

In fact, I wouldn’t learn those for quite a while. In some cases, not until after leaving ILS and my dad’s home, and striking out on my own. But the seeds of how I deal with things now were planted there, in that school.

So I decided to emulate the school model in some ways…

Congratulations, You are a Floater

When the school year started, we began as Movers (a step up from the lowly Seater) and had to earn our freedoms as Floaters or even Superfloaters. We did this by completing the work in a daily and weekly Contract. And this is what I came up with for Em…

A weekly contract of certain areas of study…

  • Math – Khan Academy – 3 sets of six questions, three times a week
  • Language Arts – Reading (20 minutes, 3x per week), Writing Journal entries (3x per week), and Penmanship (3 assignments a week from a textbook on the subject)
  • Social Studies – History (an adult reading one segment, 3x per week from Story of the World), Geography (an adult reading one state per week from a textbook)
  • Science – study two pages per week with an adult from a textbook

It ended up coming to 16 things to do each week, or 3 activities each weekday, plus one extra.

I started her off as a Floater, told her she had seven days to finish each weekly contract, and waited to see what happened.

Week 1 – Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone

I wanted her to succeed so much, that I couldn’t leave her alone. For that matter, I still have difficulty, but that first week was a doozy! Combine with that her dad reacting badly and telling me that this was doomed to fail (in FRONT of our daughter) and I will admit it was a tough week of me nagging, her whining, and her dad eventually apologizing for, as I put it, sabotaging something before it had even begun.

She managed to get everything done, but it was a logistical nightmare.

Week 2 – Getting Better, HATES Khan Academy

So the second week went better. I was less naggy…Dave was more supportive…and Em was busy putting off Khan Academy until the LAST STINKING MINUTE. Tears, wailing, gnashing of teeth, we duked it out, the two of us. But I noticed that she was working harder, and budgeting her time better, and not needing quite as many reminders.

Baby steps…by the end of the week she asked me, “So, does this mean I’m a Superfloater now?”

Yes baby, it does!

There was an interlude of a week of no school work while she attended a full week of Nature Arts Camp.

Week 3 – Like a Dream, Only Better!

Em had only a little difficulty over the Khan Academy and was actually enjoying the rest of the activities. She had a little difficulty as her penmanship practice increased, but otherwise was doing quite well.

As I listened to her practice reading out loud to her big sister I was happy to hear her sounding out the bigger words and understanding more and more. It has been so wonderful to have a reader in the house, and I am hoping that Em will soon actually LIKE reading and not just tolerate it.

There was another week off after this, as Em attended a full week of Science City day camp.

Week 4 – In Process With Excellent Attitude

By this week, the current week that we are now in, Em has fallen into a decent routine. Monday was hectic, and she only managed one of the items on her list. The next day, Tuesday, was another busy day ending with a birthday party and sleepover in Lawrence. I retrieved her on Wednesday afternoon and reminded her this morning that she had a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in because while today and Friday were relatively open, Saturday and Sunday would be busy as well.

“Today and tomorrow, you need to get it all done,” I told her. She nodded and without a word of complaint or whining, got to work. She had her eyes on the prize, a dinner and movie out with her big sister this evening, while Dave and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary with a fancy dinner out.

She completed a total of eight items on the list, combined with the one from Monday, leaving just seven left to do for tomorrow. And all without a word of complaint.

I’m pleased with her progress and she seems quite motivated to do the work. Crossing fingers and hoping this continues!