Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Adjustments and Lessons

I was re-reading my last blog and thinking about how optimistic I was at the beginning of this year.  It is not that it's all gone wrong, but it hasn't been smooth sailing either.  I did expect a few adjustments, but certainly not the emotional roller coaster that it turned out to be.

First off, we homeschool our kids for several reasons of which one of them is that our eldest daughter didn't thrive in a classroom setting.  Everything from the delivery of information to the amount of homework proved to be far more challenging that it should have been.  Putting her back into a school setting brought all of those things back. Ugh!  Even though it's only once per week and she has six days to complete their homework it was still too much.  We ended up dropping the Advanced Lit and dropping the notion that we would do Physical Science at home in addition to her other work. Added to her day was Spanish 1 which I thought would be a nightmare but has turned out to be a strength for her. Praise God!

The first few months were horrible. Sure Dennis and I enjoy our Thursday's off, but the pain and suffering during the rest of the week hardly makes it worth it.  I felt like I was in school all over again but since I had not handed out the assignments, I felt as lost as she was.  Moreover, providing the copious amount of help made me extremely nervous for her future.  How long am I going to do this?  Will I be going to college as her personal assistant and tutor?

We're now entering our third month and things have turned around for the better.  It's taken that long for all the kids to get comfortable with the work load and to realize that sometimes you have to do school work outside of traditional school hours (a difficult concept for my homeschoolers... not that we don't learn at all times of the day, but we usually don't do written work on evenings and weekends). This year has not been as easy or fun as it has been in the past, but I think there is value in experiencing the struggle. It's one thing to say "good job" after a simple assignment from mom, but it's entirely something else to wrestle with what seems insurmountable, impossible, and beyond your abilities and then succeed at it and be rewarded from an impartial teacher with a compliment and good grade.

There have been tough parenting questions for us this year.  Like... how much do I help on schoolwork versus leave them to their own mistakes? When do I say you've done enough versus keep going and try harder?  When do I  hug them and show understanding versus give them a swift kick in the backside and say, 'buck up little camper'?  When do I say, 'this is too much, let's quit co-op' versus, 'we paid for this and committed so get dressed and go'. I've flip-flopped using all of these tactics at one time or another hoping something would stick.  If it wasn't for God's grace I think would have ordered my straight-jacket from Amazon a long time ago.

Thankfully, it is His strength, not mine that will help me make the tough calls. It is His plan for the kids, not mine that will determine their future.  And it is His infinite love and mercy, not mine that will comfort them when I fall short and make the wrong call.  On my knees is the only way I see this parenting and homeschooling journey being a success.  When people ask me, "How can you homeschool your kids?"  or sometimes it's "How can you stand homeschooling your kids?  I have only one response. "I can do all things through Christ who strengths me." Phil. 4:13.  It might make some people roll their eyes, but truthfully there is no other way it would be possible. And so we carry on one day at a time... making adjustments and learning new lessons as we go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mid-Summer Review

It doesn't take long to go from end of the school-year to mid-summer. As a matter of fact, it's almost instantaneous.  Well, that's how it feels.

The kiddos wrapped up 9th, 8th, and 5th grade on the final day of May.  It's now mid-July and the summer has more than half past by.  I can hardly believe it and we are all still in denial.

My oldest, Emily, is taking Driver's Ed this summer. I think that was a very good choice because if nothing else happens at least we'll feel like she accomplished something.  She doesn't realize it, but she's actually doing "school work" thus continuing to engage her brain in something other than drawing pictures of cats.

My middle child and only son, James, is determined to build his own computer this summer so his time has been spent researching, reading, comparison shopping, and talking to adults "in the know" both online and in computer stores.  Although I know this is for pleasure, I have no doubt that he has unwittingly (or perhaps unknowing) used many skills that I hope he will continue to use in his lifetime.

My youngest, Katherine, has signed on with Azuree Talent this summer in hopes to one day become employed in some kind of acting job. So far nothing has come up, but she did manage to sing at our church's Artists' Night. She also continues to take singing lessons so even though we're getting very little reading or math out of her, she is doing something productive that she loves to do.

I've been doing my usual curriculum research extravaganza.  I think I have the next year designed out, but it's hard to say if it'll be a huge hit or a big miss.  Here's what we've got so far.

Emily, 10th grade:

Geometry, Math U See
Debate:  Co-Op
American History:  Co-Op
Advanced Literature: Co-Op
2-D Art - Co-Op
Physical Science - Apologia

James, 9th grade:

Geometry, Math U See
Debate/English 1: Co-Op
American History:  Co-Op
Physical Science- Co-Op
Chemistry (or 2-D Art) - Co-Op

Katherine, 6th Grade:

Math - Teaching Texbooks 6
English 1 - FLVS
Science - ACE
Social Science - ACE
Life Skills - Miss. Cathy's Tutoring

There's a little wiggle room for changes as they come up, but otherwise we are fairly certain this is how the year will play out. The most exciting thing (ok, perhaps just for me) is that the older kids will go to a co-op once a week while the youngest will attend a tutoring program on the same day. Did you catch that?  One day a week the kids will be completely out of the house for a few hours.  I hardly know what I will do that first day.  The list of possibilities for a homeschool mom of 3 are endless. :)

I'm just going to sit here and ponder that for moment and without a doubt.... in these few seconds that pass... the school year will begin again.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Belle for a Day

When the kids were very young we didn't let them watch many Disney movies. It sounds a little strange since Disney is usually the go-to company for safe family-friendly viewing options but at the time we felt it was for the best.  Emily had quite a tender heart and easily got nightmares from even the mildest villain (a Disney must-have).  By the time Kat came along they watched a few videos like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but not too many others.  This however did not stop the girls from wanting to dress up as Disney princesses.

Here's Emily dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

Fast forward many years.

Since we live close to Disney World, it's not uncommon to see young ladies dressed as Disney princesses for birthday parties, charity events, and other functions.  This past weekend Emily had an opportunity to once again don such a costume.

Her dear friend, Alice in Wonderland, had asked if she'd join her along with another friend, Ariel, to make some young kids' wishes come true.  The event was held in honor of her cousin who had passed away from cancer several years before.  The three girls all dressed as different Disney characters and set up a photo booth where kids could come by to meet them and have their picture taken.  Emily choose to be Belle again, but this time she's wearing her blue dress and holding one of her books.

All three girls were delightful and behaved completely in character.  It was so fun to see them interact with the kids.  At one point a young girl around age five or six came up to "Belle" and looked at her in awe.  I couldn't help but think of Emily at that age and how at one time she was that little girl. Now she's grown old enough to look like - and pretend to be - the real princess Belle.  What a joy it's been to watch her turn into this lovely young woman who would willingly give up her time to make other little girls feel special.  Truly, all three of these young ladies have the hearts of beautiful princesses inside and out.

And when it was over, they all had a chance to kiss a frog.  Who knows, maybe their Prince Charmings are not far off.  Well... maybe not just yet.

Friday, April 11, 2014

When the CEO fails...

If I think of our family in terms of a business enterprise, I see myself as the CEO. My husband of course would be on the board of directors making all the most important decisions and providing the financial backing for the whole operation. His is a vital role of which I fully support.  Mine however is different although also equally important. As CEO, I'm in charge of the day-to-day operations. I set the schedule, choose the curriculum, oversee the menus (or lack there of), purchase necessities, organize vacations, manage the home's cleanliness, etc.  The list goes on and on (for both us actually). 

So this week as CEO, it was my job to register the kids for their yearly standardize test and then get them to said test - preferably a little early, but at least on time.  I set the alarm, made breakfast, shouted the appropriate commands, made empty threats, and then ushered them all into the van being just a wee bit behind schedule.

Traffic wasn't too bad as we zoomed along the highway traveling a touch (ok a lot) over the speed limit.  [Side note:  I think getting kids to particular locations at particular times has to be one of the CEO's least favorite and most challenging things done on a daily basis. It's stressful to say the least, and dangerous at it's worst.]  Anyway... I monitored the clocking continually knowing that we would definitely not be there 15 minutes early as recommended  Upon taking the appropriate highway Exit, it was quickly apparent that the road we needed to take was closed. Uggh!  The detour wasn't too bad; however, and we were quickly back on track. But then there was a red light - and another - and another. Time ticked on as my stomach continued to knot up. Finally we pulled into the parking lot with literally no more than one minute to spare. I jumped out of the car and hurried across the parking lot because to me, I get graded on these things. No one fills out an official report card, but I know if I pass or fail.  It's partially a peer review (think of moms staring at you as you are the last one rushing in) and partially a self-evaluation as you consider how you could have left 10 minutes earlier to avoid the whole issue. 

Strangely enough, no one was there to offer disapproving looks. As a matter of fact, no one was there AT ALL.  Now I really started to panic. I had no extra time to figure out where to go.  I had been there the previous year so I had not even considered that it might be held in a different area of the church.  I found a security guard who knew nothing of the test that was supposed to be going on. I pulled out my paper and read the information: Calvery Baptist Church, Whickham Rd, Melbourne.  "This is Calvery Chapel," he informed me. At the precise same moment I saw the street address and knew instantly that we were not on "Whickham Rd", and just for extra effect, my phone starting ringing.  "Hello, is this Mrs. LeRoy?  Are your children coming to testing today?"  Eeeek!!  Major CEO fail!  

The mistake was quickly sorted out and thankfully the correct church was not too terribly far away. The kids missed the first section of testing but were allowed to jump in at break time and make up the rest as they went on.  The test proctor showed me a huge helping of grace which made the whole experience a little less painful.  Even still, it's a horrible feeling knowing that you were in charge and you blew it.  It's more than just that... it's knowing that it was not only a hassle for you personally, but your mistake affected your kids, inconvenienced three classes, three proctors, and countless people on the road driving too slowly. It's not the end of the world, but I'd rather not be the cause of other people's stress.   I would say that my job as CEO was in jeopardy that day, but thankfully I know someone on the board of directors who's quite unlikely to fire me. :)

Post Script:  The rest of the afternoon I spent at home waiting for my new washing machine to arrive. (Mind you we have several days worth of dirty clothes as our machine broke a week ago.) Around 5:00pm, I called Lowes and asked if it was still coming.  "Ahhh... Mrs. LeRoy," a women said on the other end, "There's been a mistake.  We thought it was supposed to be delivered next Thursday. Our employee accidentally entered the wrong date."   Grace flows both ways I thoughtDeep breath.  "That's okay," I said, "Just deliver it tomorrow." 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Field Trips (aka Breaks from Reality)

Although we have not attempted any lengthy family trips as we did during the last school year, we have gone on several local field trips and taken short breaks which have made this year really fun.  I mean think about it... who doesn't want as many "breaks from reality" as possible?

Our first field trip of the year was to Medieval Times in Orlando.  The older two had recently studied the Middle Ages so it fit in perfectly with our curriculum.  There was plenty of entertainment, average tasting food, and a creepy yet educational museum featuring medieval artifacts.

Our next adventure took us out of state to Buffalo, NY.  The kids were desperately missing snow so we decided to find the coldest jetBlue city we could (not really, but that's about how it turned out).  In the morning we saw Niagara Falls.

In the late afternoon/evening we went sledding at Kissing Bridge, NY. 

The next field trip brought us to the Cocoa Post Office.  It wasn't the most exciting of places to visit, but anything you do for the first time is usually pretty interesting. We saw behind the scenes where the mail is sorted by route. Unfortunately it wasn't our local Post Office so we did not see any mail for us.

Our next adventure was more of a break than a field trip.  For the first time ever, our family went tent camping at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. We went with another family who kindly loaned us their tent. Not only did the kids have such a great time hanging out, but us adults also got to relax and enjoy some uninterrupted conversation.  Spoiler Alert:  We had such a great time with our friends that we have already planned our next trip together.  Look out for another camping blog in a few months.

Next trip took us to a place I always wanted to go to as a child:  Marineland.  Located just south of Saint Augustine, Marineland used to be a dolphin show theater complete with stadium and animal entertainment. As a kid I remember looking at the brochures and begging my parents to go. After hurricane Charley in 2006, the facility closed with no harm to the dolphins but much damage to the stadium and surrounding buildings.  It is now reopened as an education center focusing on dolphin conservation and education.  The kids got to touch and feed the dolphins, learn about their anatomy and habits, and finally go on a "Behind the Seas" tour featuring a history of the place along with several aquariums.  Here are some of the pictures we took.



So that wraps up January - March.  This week is technically our Spring Break, but with all the great trips we've taken lately we thought we'd just spend some time at home and work on some much needed projects around the house. For me as a homeschooling mom of three, it sounds like another great 'break from reality'.  :) 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How do we get this far, this fast? [The Lost Blog Entry]

As I was working on my blog this week, I realized that one of the reasons I'm so far behind is that my last entry was never published! Ooops!   Here's what I should have posted last year!

Once again the end of the year is upon us and looking back on my blog I realize more and more weeks pass in between entries. Are we doing less? Not a chance.  I have more material than ever... just less time to write about it.  Here's a quick update:

Birthday:  Yes I turned 45.  Yikes!  It was actually a very nice day. The kids made me breakfast in bed and later that afternoon my husband took me to Melting Pot for afternoon happy hour with cheese fondue. 

Vacation: Denny and I went to Nashville.  We spent the first day and evening with his sister and family and then drove east to Rock Island for little hiking. It was a short three day visit, but a much needed break from the kids and the regular day to day stuff.

Thanksgiving:  The whole family flew back up to Nashville to celebrate with the LeRoy side of the family.  It was great to see the cousins all together and we had ample time to catch up with everyone. In addition, Becky and Mark invited several members of their small group at church so we had really festive and lively bunch. 

One of the highlights of our time was a family outing to the Parthenon in Nashville. This is really cool replica of the original surrounds by a beautiful park.  We took lots of pictures.

Before our time was over we made sure to get a professional cousins picture. I think it turned out really well and it was certainly a lot easier than it had been when they were younger.

Field Trips:  We took plenty of field trips over past few weeks. Some of them include: An AM radio station, a college TV station, and the Planetarium.  All of them were interesting and as usual, I think I learned as much as the kids did. 

Theater:  Kat made her acting d├ębut in a winter showcase performance inspired by The Polar Express.  Her part was small, but she hit every line and got quite a few laughs.  We couldn't be more proud of her and can see a real talent blooming.  Most importantly, she really enjoyed it and wants to do more. 

Continuing On and Starting Fresh

Every time I check my blog page I think, Yup...it's still true that I haven't written since Halloween.  My next thought is:  Gee, I really should do something about that.  And then my next:  There's so much to write about...maybe tomorrow I'll tackle it.  And that's how one ends up being three months behind. Uggh!

Obviously I'm not going to reflect on the end of the year with any degree of detail and substance other than to say, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Nashville, TN and a fabulous Christmas and New Year's here at home.

I felt like we stopped our homeschooling for the year at a reasonable place. I can't say we finished everything, but I did not feel panic when we closed the book; however, I did feel some stress at the beginning of 2014 not knowing exactly how the second semester would look. After much research (crammed into two or three days) I made the final selections.

For my 9th grader:

Continuing on:  Math-U-See Algebra I, Notgrass World History, Biology 101, Analytical Grammar (finishing soon), 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, and ice skating lessons

Starting Fresh:  Excellence in Literature, The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-fiction in High School, Art of Argument, and Biology Lab (co-op class)

For my 8th grader:

Continuing on:  Math-U-See Algebra I, Notgrass World History, Biology 101, AG (finishing soon), 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, and tennis lessons

Starting Fresh:  8th Grade Literature (making it up as I go), The Power in Your Hands: Writing Non-fiction in High School, Art of Argument, and Biology Lab (co-op class)

For my 5th grader

Continuing on:  Math-U-See Epsilon (and sometimes Life of Fred, Liver), Apologia Swimming Creatures, Spelling Power, Proverbs (Notgrass drawing/devotion), flute lessons, and Acting III

Starting Fresh:  Composition for the Reluctant and Eager Writer, Reading/Literature (making it up as I go), German lessons (given by friend), voice lessons, and musical theater

So, if you have any questions about these curriculums, I'd be happy to give you my two cents worth. We're about three weeks into it and so far so good.

We still have several field trips planned, a winter formal dance next month, and we will continue to do monthly archery lessons and weekly park day with other homeschoolers.  I think the only thing I'd like to see more of is physical fitness.  Aside from the odd lesson here and there, it's really hard to find the time and the desire to have a regular physical fitness type of event.  I think maybe I need to add one more thing to the schedule... a morning running class.  I think I'll have them start that tomorrow.  :)