Mama’s Getting a Promotion

Well, hello there.

The last time we talked it was January. I had every intention of starting 2017 off with a blogging boom. I had lists and schedules and all that stuff–and then I was offered a freelance writing job that took up every free moment of my life until mid-March. Almost immediately after it wrapped up, I got an even bigger promotion. The biggest promotion a stay-at-home mom/writer mama can get.


Nugget will be arriving just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and we’re all excited about the addition of a Little Brother for JC. In fact, when we told him the big news, his first reaction was, “Finally!” JC has been asking for a sibling since he was 3, and  in his opinion, his father and I have been taking our sweet time fulfilling that particular request.

The first trimester was…rough. I got really sick right after I found out I was expecting, then got sciatica so badly that some days I didn’t leave the couch. The first half of the second trimester wasn’t much better. Then summer came, and I was very focused on having a slow and engaged summer with JC. It has been really nice just to taking our time for the past couple of months: wake up when we feel like it (even though JC “feels like it” at 6 AM), exploring our favorite city haunts, and spending long afternoons reading Harry Potter together.

But fall is right around the corner. Homeschooling starts back up in just a couple weeks, along with my 3rd trimester. Change is in the air for JC, my family and for my little corner of the internet. I’ve enjoyed our slow summer but I’m happy to pick up the pace again.

Are you back to school or still enjoying summer? Are you ready for fall or still clinging to that summer feeling?

 

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School is OUT!

Kindergarten in our house ended much like it started–quietly and with little fanfare. There were no end of the year parties, no tiny processional of gowned children. And this was okay with us–JC is not the party type.

Instead, I mentioned to him that he had completed his first year of homeschool and that after the summer, he’d be starting first grade.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

A year ago, a comment like that would have thrown me off-kilter. Not this time.

“Well, everyone has some type of school. So what should we call it?”

“Super awesome dinosaur battle time.”

Alright, then.

Just because we’re not the last-day-of-school-party type doesn’t mean I’m not taking some time to reflect on out first year of homeschooling. I’m working on a yearbook for him, noting not only his academic achievements but his emotional and developmental ones, too.

I feel like this year went…differently than I thought it was going to be. I made a lot of tweaks and changes as we went. The phrase “unschooling” has always turned me off–but I have a suspicious feeling that we leaned a little to that side in the end. Some things that I thought went well:

  • JC continues to stay at the level of or excel the public school standards. I was concerned about his writing and word recognition/spelling earlier this year, but the moment I stopped pressuring him was the moment he started doing it. His strong subjects are still science and math.

  

  • He is finally warming up to hanging out with other kids. I think he still prefers the company of adults, but he’s learning there are perks to finding a crowd his size who like superheroes as much as he does.

  

  • We have found a co-op we really like and we’re looking forward to their summer sessions and joining them again in the fall.
  • Project based learning really works for JC. I love watching him getting excited about learning–especially when he doesn’t realize he’s learning. Favorite topics this year were the solar system, trains (of course), dinosaurs and World War One.

 

soldiers vs. jedi in an epic battle

 
It is a little bittersweet to see kindergarten come to a close. We had a lot of ups and downs as a family during the school year, and I’m excited to sink into summer. While there’s always things to work on, my singular goal for this summer is to have fun and play–because after all, that’s the way we all learn best.

Halfway Through Kindergarten

So here we are–the halfway point of our first year of homeschooling.

How is it going, you may ask. If you’re a random stranger on the street, I may answer, oh, it’s great! If you’re a casual acquaintance, I’d probably say, We have our challenges,  but it’s going well. But you, dear reader…well, you get the truth. It’s…going. 

I do not mean to make it sound like we’ve been having a bad time of it. We did a lot in the fall and the beginning of winter. We’ve spent a lot of time outside, examining nature and observing what happens to plants as the weather cools. We’ve studied dinosaurs, our community, dinosaurs, maps, and dinosaurs. We’ve built cities that have been attacked by Darth Vader and his army of storm troopers and set up a jungle with miniature figures in our front yard. We’ve dug holes and glued things. Oh, and we learned about dinosaurs.

Here are my three big takeaways from the first half of the year:

  • When JC becomes interested in something, he wants to learn IT ALL, age appropriate materials be damned. For example, he really enjoyed the Peanuts Movie that came out earlier this year, especially the part with Snoopy as the Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron. For a stretch, everything we did had to do with The Red Baron. We did research (and I edited as I read out loud). We built model planes, recreated battles, wrote our own chapter book continuing the story. Everyone who came in contact with JC got a lengthy lecture on WWI. We had similar obsessions with At-At Walkers (I managed to create a word family tree activity with that one I was pretty proud of) and of course, the aforementioned dinosaurs, as well as pilgrims. He still requests to read all the first Thanksgiving books we have  This is great–it’s what project based homeschooling is all about. Sometimes worlds collide and I walk into his playroom and find T Rex has gone over to the Dark Side and the brachiasaurus barely escaped Hoth because the Flying Ace comes to his rescue. Oh, and there’s a feast at the end.
  • In a similar vein, because that’s the way my kid functions, long term planning isn’t a reality right now. I do plan activities around a theme each week and JC enjoys them…but we often blow through them in a day or two and he goes back to focusing on whatever has his interest.
  • As he gets older, JC really needs a schedule. He was a super flexible, roll with the punches baby and toddler. He was the kid that took naps when he felt like it without too many late afternoon meltdowns, the kid who handled crazy long drives and late nights at Disney World like a champ. Then he turned five and, overnight, BANG. A different story. He needs his morning and nights to be the same, and he does way better when he knows what’s going on. Too much decision making sends him into a tailspin. This has been a really big–and evolving–change.

With this knowledge in hand, here are the three things I’m changing up for our winter and spring kindergarten:

  • We’ve established a “wake up” and “go to bed” routine, but I want to give JC a “morning” routine: updating the calendar, going over the day plans, maybe making a morning basket with a book and a short project that goes along with our theme.
  • We need to get out more. My child and I are both introverts–big crowds, flurries of activity and prolonged socialization wear us out, so we have a lot of solitary time. Which is perfectly okay. I’m not trying to change that about either of us, but I am still hunting for that perfect “tribe” that really suits us. I also think that regular routine will help with this–knowing we’re going to our co-op or kid book club in advance can prepare him (and me!) for the process.
  • I need to stop reading every book I come across on homeschooling theories and just do it. I like to research, I like to know what other people are doing so that I can assure myself I’m doing it right. Which is silly, because I have a smart and healthy kid. I’m doing it right. So my personal goal for the second half of the school year is to stay connected but not second guess myself (probably something I could carry to all aspects of my life!).

We’re “back to school” for the first time in 2016 tomorrow! Are your kids–homeschooled or not–back to reality? What’s new for them this year?

How Do You Vacation From Homeschool?

It’s Christmas week! It’s Christmas week! All over our town, school-aged kiddos slept in, got up and DID NOT put on their uniforms, and headed to the mall/museum/zoo to enjoy the first day of holiday break.

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I remember so well how special Christmas vacation was when I was little. It made the holidays feel real. It was my chance to watch bad day time TV and read FOR AS LONG AS I WANTED. My friends and I would go to the mall in the middle of the day, which felt decadent and a little bit naughty. You know the feeling, right?

So while this was going on all around us this morning, JC and I got up as usual. We had our morning routine (because holiday or no holiday, if you mess with my kid’s morning or night routine, our entire day falls apart). And then we…had a regular day. We read for as long as we wanted. He worked on his “novel” about Hoth, the ice planet from Star Wars (AKA he dictated to me and I typed as fast as I could). Nana came over and we went to the mall to finish up our shopping. We had lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. He’s currently drawing one AT-AT Walker after another in his “animation” notebook. It is essentially just another day for us. It was a fun, happy day, but it leaves me questioning: how do you have a vacation from project based homeschooling?

For the most part, we don’t follow a strict schedule. There are certainly parts our day that are more “school” than others, but the majority of the time we’re pretty free flowing. So how do I make “school breaks” special? Should I even have school breaks? I mean, for a 5-year-old, he has it pretty easy. And I’m certainly not going to stop him from working on something I would consider a homeschool project (even if it’s just considered “play” to him) while we’re technically on a break. But I find myself longing a little bit for that excited feeling of freedom, for both he and I. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job, so there’s no time off or Christmas party or holiday bonus. And he doesn’t school traditionally, so there’s nothing to break from.

This is one of these moments when I have to step back and think about the situation, long and hard. Why was it that I felt such freedom and happiness during Christmas break? It was the mental freedom from having to think and the physical freedom from being in school all day. When I look at it like that, I’m glad that JC doesn’t notice when we have a homeschool break. When I let go of something I have been conditioned to think (“school is out! I don’t have to learn anything!”) I realize that for my  kid, and my situation, I’m doing it right.

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I’m sure there will come a time when homeschool isn’t as fun as it is now. And we’ll take that break, and we’ll savor it. But for now, back to creating.