Saturday, May 30, 2015

Country Summer

Bumps, Bruises, and Adventures

My boys just returned from camp.  They came back exhausted, excited, and full of stories to share.  This will be a full summer for them, with more camps and trips and experiences, just as any preteen's summers should be.  I see them growing in leaps and bounds as they begin this mad race toward adulthood, and it makes me so proud of the young men they are becoming.  As they each carried their bags and pillows and blankets and tackle boxes to the van and loaded them up (without asking for help or being prompted to do so, I might add), I realized how much I love their independence, their freedom to live and learn and experience things.

Since we have always homeschooled, there are many of the typical childhood problems that were avoided.  No one has made my kids cry over the fact that they weren't wearing cool shoes, or made fun of them for things they like to do or shows they like to watch.  They have been able to grow and flourish and thrive free of the negative pressures that are typical at this age.  Their friends are beautifully supportive and kind.  I thoroughly enjoy this aspect of our life because it is more representative of reality.  The Lord of the Flies of typical school is not a social reality.... it is school reality.  In real life, you have to freedom to change your environment, to change your job, to change your career, to change your goals, your location.  I love that the personalities of my children can be forged in this environment.  However, I do not wish that they grow up in a bubble.  This is less about hovering and protecting, and more about providing a safe place for all of those important mistakes and heartbreaks and missteps to occur.  Life is about experiences.  Life is about choices.  Cuts.  Bruises.  Tears.  These are mandatory for growth.  For health. 

To my children,

I want you to make your own decisions, so that you will learn to trust yourself.
I want you to fall, so that you will learn to get back up.
I want you to be scared, so that you can learn how strong you are.
I want you to ride/skate/play so hard that you break a bone, so you can see that you will heal.
I want you to feel heartbreak, so that you can learn when to guard it, and when to let it free.
I want your legs to be covered in scrapes, bumps, and bruises, so I will know you are truly living, not just growing older.
I want you to miss me so that when you come back to me you will see that, wherever you may go, I will always be here for you.
I want you to get into trouble, so that you can learn from your mistakes.
I want you to see me cry, so that you will know that everyone's hearts can break.

Your independent spirits give me such comfort.  I don't want to raise you up like a chick in a brooder, but guide you through the fields.  May all of your experiences, both good and bad, mold you into the strong, sincere, resilient, confident, trusting, careful, beautiful person that you are meant to be.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Pat on the Back

Dear Holly circa 2007,
Good job on that massive GeoTrax set.  In 7 more years not only will it be used and loved, it will carry Calico Critters to their various stops.  Instead of just a construction and driving toy, it will become a backdrop for imaginative storylines.  So, good job with that one.

P.S.- It will make you sneeze.  A lot.

P.P.S- Bravo for the "It can be kinda tricky.  I got this out last year, but you guys weren't big enough yet.  Now you're so big, it won't make you whine at all!"  It worked.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Next Phase...

 It has been a long time, but the sawmill has now been moved off of Ennis & Addison's property.  We were here 18 months, and we cut hard both winters, taking mandatory time out in the summer as trees do not do well being cut in the heat/bugs/etc. We also cut some trees before moving the mill here, for possibly 6 months. While there will be a little more to cut as we go, we are largely done with all the main beams. So a rough number is that it was 24 months of cutting trees into raw beams.

Now, to move onto the next phase...

Whew! We did it again!

 We did it.  We wrapped up yet another year of homeschooling.  And, you know what?  This year, the first year of teaching all four of my kiddos, was the smoothest year yet.  It flew by... for all of us.  This was a year without rushing around to find items that start with the letter "P", or running out the door to remember that it was "wear the color blue day", or having to explain that I forgot to turn in the photo for the scrapbooky wall project thing.  Nope.  I didn't have to send in $5 on Thursday, or remember to bring a plate of grapes that had been painstakingly sliced into pieces.  It was glorious.  It was gloriously messy and lazy and fun and mundane and there were piles of dirty clothes high enough to have their own climate at the top.  6 years ago, I said I would take homeschooling one year at a time.  Well, here I am... and I cannot imagine it any other way.  Of course, the kids still have a say in our house.  It's not my education, it is theirs... and I am so thrilled that they continue to chose this path.

Speaking of paths, next year will be a slightly new one for my boys, as they will embark on a new homeschool program.  They will be going to Konos, which meets once per week.  Yes, they have gone to a 2-day a week program in the past, but this will be the first time that they are going to one that wasn't created, orchestrated, and directed by their mother!  New curriculum, new teachers, new friends.... and it could not have come at a better time!  These boys of mine are 12!  I am so proud of the young men they are becoming, and the different strengths and interests that they have.  Asa will be going into Konos Juniors, which is a 7th & 8th grade class.  He is completing some 7th grade material this year, but I am not pushing ahead just for the sake of pushing.  He is such a smart and inventive kid!  I am constantly in awe of his ability to create and build.  He is forever designing and working out new ideas in his head. In the fall, he will be competing with a homeschool First Lego League team... thank goodness! He definitely has a gift!  My main concern with 'school' is that he feels comfortable, happy, and confident. I trust him and his teachers and Konos to decide whether he should stay in Juniors for one or two years. 

Addison's Classroom
At first, Addison was not going to be joining Konos for their entire program, but just take science and a foreign language with them.  We had met with their high school counselor to discuss how to proceed, as Addison would be doing mostly high school level work beginning next year.  It wasn't until the open house that I realized it would be best to enroll him.  A) Addison would be perfectly content NEVER leaving the house or talking to peers and B) the instructors in the Konos Academy program seemed highly qualified, and I believe they would be able to engage and discuss the material at a level that he requires.  Of course, Addison handled the change of plans in a truly Addison way, "So, you think I need this, socially, huh?  Alright.  If that's what you think I should do, that's fine."  And so, we signed up and waited for the big "interview".  Jeff, Addison, and I marched in and sat at a large conference table, where we discussed his academic achievement, goals, etc.  Addison took a test in math and writing.  Before his test, I asked him if he was nervous.
"How have I been doing this year?" he asked.
 "Great." I replied.
 "Well, then I'm not nervous."
That's my kid.
Journey Through Justice Program at the GA State Bar Association
After our testing and interview process, we were officially enrolled.  So, I suppose I have an upcoming highschooler.  I started to have a strange feeling about this recently, and then I reminded myself that we are not in the typical scenerio.  We are not tied to the "system".  We are not in a box.  He just needs this material, this level, and the grade number means nothing, really.  All it means is that we will be in Konos Academy next year.  Beyond that, who knows.  I've spent my entire parenting-life stressed out about how to meet the unique needs of my children... and I've learned that 'baby steps' is the best approach.

My girls are finishing up the very first year of homeschooling, AND the very first year that they were able to be in my Farm Fusion class!  I must say, I love how much they loved the class!  Olive would pack her bookbag on Thursday for a class that only met on Wednesdays.  She is such a planner.  She also doesn't pull any punches, so when she says, "I really like how you have art and coloring and things instead of just talking," I know she means it.  I keep the class hoppin', and I am glad she approves!  At home, the girls both completed the same curriculum.  Although Ivey technically would have been in Kindergarten, she has an October birthday and was right on track to start first grade this year.  Since both she and Olive were both already reading, I knew they would be just fine to be taught together.  So, both girls completed 1st grade this year.  It really amazed me how easily they absorbed the math, especially.  It wasn't a stretch, they really do know the material!  They just had to have it presented in a way that appeals to their age level.  At these young ages, a few months is a big deal.  I had to teach 1st grade concepts in a fun enough way to keep the attention of a very spunky and emotional 5-6 year old, and a incredibly perfectionistic, easily frustrated, easily bored 4-5 year old.  I am very proud of all three of us on this one.  At one point, I found myself having to explain motor development to Olive just so she could understand why her little fingers couldn't make perfect, tiny, cursive letters.  I literally made that girl stop working and HUG HERSELF on multiple occasions.  Man, oh man.  It may have taken miniature marshmallows, counting bears, about 50 whiteboard markers, and 12 reams of construction paper, but we managed to make our way through!