Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We Homeschool a Little Bit

Gemma turned 4 this summer, so as September inched closer, it seemed we had a decision to make about how to approach preschool this year. Our options: send her to the public school pre-K4 program, send her to the Catholic school pre-K4 program, or keep her home and provide a homeschool program for her to get her ready for Kindergarten. 

My big 4 year-old, ready to take on the world!

Well, the public school she would have to go to is academically subpar. And yes, I realize it's only pre-K but if my child is going to be spending 20 hours a week somewhere besides home, I'd like it to be somewhere that feels warm, safe, and academically dynamic. Well, this place doesn't fit that bill. End of story. 
Then I peeked at the tuition rates for Catholic school. And almost spewed coffee all over my screen. Really?!?! No way can I justify spending that much money on my preschooler!! And yes, I realize I could have applied for financial aid and all that glorious stuff, but the reality is, even with aid, it seemed a frivolous use of our money. For preschool. Oh, and as a side note, I also took a peek at the tuition rates for the Montessori school down the street from us (seriously, we could walk there). Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa. Even more $$ than Catholic school. So no. Not happening.

Thus, we come down to the final option. And you know what? I was secretly looking at her other schooling options with a mentality of "Convince me you're better than homeschooling" because the reality is, I wanted to homeschool her! I just figured, hey maybe there is something to this structured, brick-and-mortar school thing since so many families follow that track. I should give it a chance. And I will continue to give it a chance as our kids grow and our family's needs change.

At least for now, for as long as we're in the school zone we're in (AKA as long as we're in this house), public schooling will not be an option. I may take another look at the Catholic school option once our debts are paid down more. But with multiple children (we have two now, and hoping for more), how is it feasible financially? I know financial aid is offered, but there's no way every family who sends their kids there is receiving aid. And those who are, few are receiving a full ride. So trying to imagine a world where we could afford to send multiple kids to Catholic school seems like a far and away dream. 

But we're blessed because this area is ripe with some amazing homeschooling families, co-ops, and resources. It's a education choice that is growing in popularity and it's easy to see why. In a more personal model of education, curricula can be tailor-made to each child. The child is taught by their parents and perhaps a few other homeschooling parents on occasion (in the case of a co-op) so the student to teacher ratio is the best you can get. The child has the opportunity to be experiencing life as it's lived every day by the average citizen - shopping, errands, bank visits, post office trips, etc. The opportunities for field trips are endless and don't need to be scheduled way in advance. Family vacations can happen anytime. Extended vacations can even happen, and you can bring school on the road with you. Statistics have shown that homeschool students move at a faster pace academically that their traditionally-schooled peers, and they fare better academically in college as well. They can often earn a vast sum of college credit during their high school years, allowing them to earn a full Bachelor's degree at a University in as little as two years. 

Here's a sneak peek at our homeschool room. :)

 Now, I could go on because the benefits of homeschooling are really remarkable. But! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. This year, I have a 4 year old and an 18-month old at home. I'm "homeschooling" pre-k to Gemma, and bringing Avila along for as much of the ride as she can handle. Basically, we're reading a lot of books, doing arts and crafts, playing, cooking together, playing, practicing writing letters (at Gemma's fervent request!), we run errands in the world, go to Library story time classes, playdates, Mass, Adoration, then we play some more, dance around, read another pile of books, take care of household chores, then at the end of the day, we all play some more. 

Sweet Avila! She's happy Gemma's homeschooling too because then she  has big sister home all day to play with!

I'm not exactly busting out hardcore curricula over here just yet. We're taking this one year at a time. Each year, we'll reassess the academic options available to us, along with the individual needs of our children and make a decision about who goes to school where. Most likely, they'll largely be homeschooled, but I'm open. I'm looking forward to checking out the homeschool co-op and enrichment programs in our area a little more in depth. 

We're having fun. Education should be fun. It's an adventure! I can't wait to watch all the magic and knowledge my kiddos will discover. :)

9/2/14 Gemma's first day of Pre-K4!!

Check back at my next post where I'll give a full photo show of how we turned our cruddy, disorganized playroom into a functional, multi-purpose playroom/schoolroom! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stress Paralyzed

Here's a little peek at my internal monologue as I wade through life:

Gosh, it's so freaking hard to be a mom. I want to be a good mom. I want my kids to trust me and depend upon me. I want to know their souls deeply. I want to protect them and nurture them. …
I have the best kids ever. I can't imagine how hard it would be if I had to work outside the home and be away from them. Oh but… man, what if I could be away from them sometimes?? Have a nice break from the screeching and shirt-tugging. Happy sigh…
Aw, but then I might miss that perfect moment of a spontaneous kiss shared between them. Or the times when Gemma drops everything she's doing just to make Avi laugh for ten minutes straight. Or the moment Avi walks out of the bedroom dressed head-to-toe in Gem's clothes because that's what little sisters do. Yep, I love staying home with them.

But sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing enough. I do have a shiny, very expensive degree from a fancy, private university. It's actually not shiny. It's quite literally collecting dust atop our bookcase in the office. My lovely degree… in Spanish. Yeaaa….. well, I did teach Spanish for one year, that's gotta count for something, right? And I've tutored on and off for the better part of the past 10 years, so that counts too, right? Ugh. I'm a failure.

And then just throw in all my other passions as well. I'm obsessed with birth. Obsessed. I love it. I really actually love talking about contractions and placenta and oxytocin and just all of it. I am loving being a doula. I should work on my doula business a bit more. I'm not a very good advertiser. Maybe I can drop some business cards off at some …places… like I dunno. A chiropractic office? Yea, cuz they'd just let me do that. ??? I'm seriously not good at business-y type stuff. 

Case in point - Radiantly You. I love that company. So pumped to be an IWG with them. But I feel like I never have enough time to devote to RY stuff. Am I just a failure at everything? 

Now I have this new passion for crafting, because ya know, I have TONS of extra time to just sit around making home decor items. But the other night, I stayed up till 1am making the most gorgeous wreath. At least I think it's gorgeous. We'll see if anyone else does? Crafty goodness for sale comin' y'all's way in no time. Just gotta finish up a couple more items so I can actually have something to show for my new "business" not just like "Hey world, gotta wreath for sale. Yep. Just one. But she's a real beaut. Any takers?? No… oh okay, that's cool. Oh! You?? Yes, sold to the lovely lady in yellow!! Check me out a successful little businesswoman, just sold my first piece. Can't wait to sell more… oh wait, there are no more. Crap!" Mhm. That's me - jane of all trades, master of none. Master of the "I started an awesome project that I'll never finish." Cuz I'm awesome at stuff. Except not.

I like to think I'm doing okay at this whole Mommy thing. 

When I'm doing especially good at the mommy thing is when my business stuff really flops out hardcore. How does one do it all? Really and truly. 

Then I remember the answer: the key is all in the schedule, they say. Get yourself a calendar, a planner, they say! Write everything down, map it all out, have a plan! Life will be so much easier, they say. 

Schedules are my achilles heal. Planners are my kryptonite. 

The minute I bust one out, draw up a business plan, map it all out, create a family schedule, etc, I can pretty much guarantee the household will fall into shambles within 2 weeks' time. Because I also have this amazingly helpful quirk called perfectionism. That was sarcasm ncase ya didn't catch that. The problem with being a perfectionist with a planner is that these two gorgeous little creatures whom inhabit my home and accompany me ever.y.where. don't really care that I have blocked out 11:15am-11:30am for wreath-making. Nope. They'll still spill an entire box of beads, or poop their diaper, or smear peanut butter everywhere or need helping finding their other Elsa sock regardless of what have on the schedule. So I do my best to be flexible and try to get back on track but then I start to get sweaty palms because I realize there's no way I'm gonna get to everything on my list for that day which means I won't be able to cross it off which means I failed which means I'm not perfect which means mommy anxiety and of course it's always dinnertime. Right?? 
How is it ALWAYS dinnertime?? Like, sometimes I just need one second to cry or breath or change my playdoh covered pants, but I can't because I have to make dinner right now. And then Rocky finally arrives home in time for me to launch the children at him and retreat to the kitchen where he'll find me in the fetal position staring at not-yet-defrosted chicken as I rock back and forth trying to figure out how to somehow make this edible for my family in the next half hour because ya know, Rachel Ray make 30 minute meals, and dammit, so should I. And just like that, I'm stress-paralyzed. 
Yes, it's a thing.

It's about this time that I realize I'm overloading myself. I need to scale back. I need to lower my standards because otherwise I'm literally going to go crazy. And my girls don't want a crazy mom. I mean… a little crazy, that's okay. But not psycho crazy. That's no good. Y'all know what I'm talking about. So my solution? Meh, who needs a planner?? Life was way less stressful when we just naturally allowed the days to flow. Don't get me wrong, we have a routine. Everyone needs a routine. Kids… they need a routine. But a routine is different than a schedule. At least in the mind of a perfectionist, it's different. So as we settle back into our natural routine, that's when I realize so many of the things I strive to accomplish just don't always fit into our routine. Small humans are all consuming. They're designed that way. 

I sit down to write a card and like moth to a flame, my toddler comes over and literally starts 
scream-begging (scregging?) to have the pen in my hand. I try to give her a crayon as an alternative. That totally works. 

Just kidding. It actually just pissed her off. Now she's scream-crying (scryming?) in her rage at me for being so condescending as to offer her a crayon when the gloriousness of the ballpoint pen is so clearly available. So my only solution is to remove the temptation. So I put the card and the pen away, far up, out of reach. Out of sight, out of mind. I'll finish it later I guess. (I'll find it a week later and go, Crap!! I never finished that!) For now, I have to go hold Avi, nurse her, play with her for at least ten minutes to calm her back down. There's goes 15 minutes of my life spent on writing my return address on an envelope. Nice.

This particular blog post was written in about 5 different chunks of time spread out over 2 weeks' time. This exact moment as I try to finish it, I'm lying on the floor on my stomach with both girls on my back pulling my hair begging to play horsey. I'm not making that up. 

I dunno. Maybe I'm an anomaly though. Maybe there really are moms out there who are awesome. They blog twice a week. They run a successful home business. They're healthy physically and emotionally. They are bff's with Jesus. Their marriages are stable and beautiful. Their kids are smart, well-dressed, behaved. Do these women exist? Are you one of them? If so, please tell me your secret. 

But if the answer is "Scheduling! Planning!" then I might cry. :)
Okay but for real, I am asking for advice. How do you juggle everything without becoming stress-paralyzed? Or is that just a part of the job that I'll have to learn to live with?
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