The Playlist

playlistTomorrow I will put my three children on a school bus and ship them off to a building that (if I’m being totally honest) looks a bit like a prison. They will be gone five days a week for a solid seven hours. In case you’re new here, you should know that I only have three children right now. So that means that for the first time in a decade, my house will be devoid of sound for a routine amount of time five days a week.

That is scary. If I’m going to be totally honest one more time and as blunt as I can possibly be, I’ll tell you that it’s scary as H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS. 

If I think too long about sending all my babies off to a prison-like building inside the belly of a giant yellow bus, I feel a slight panic attack start to rumble somewhere in my gut. It kind of moves around before settling like a giant weight. If I’m super lucky, that weight will push itself up into my throat where it will expand until I can’t really breathe, at which point my eyes will involuntarily fill with tears and my heart will race and I’ll wonder if 10:00 am is too early to start drinking.

So instead of thinking about ALL THE QUIET, I’m thinking about fun stuff.

Like that fact that Lee and I are going to go to Busch Gardens on Friday just the two of us so we can ride all the roller coasters as often as we want without small people whining at our feet.

I’m also thinking of an IKEA trip where I can slowly meander through the aisles without worrying about having to buy a broken vase because someone couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

I’m considering a Tuesday morning Bible study for the first time in ten years because I will finally have the time to attend and the quiet moments of my days to think.

I’m looking at that pair of jeans that fits a littler more snugly than I prefer and I’m envisioning the time I’ll have to work out.

I’m thinking about the fact that I may actually be able to earn a little more money doing this writing thing I love so much because I’ll have actual stretches of time to piece together coherent thoughts.

I’m pondering how many actual home cooked meals I may be able to feed my family now that I can wrap my mind around dinner before the 4:00 hour.

There’s a lot to be excited about this week. Well, there’s at least enough to hopefully keep me from chasing the bus down the street sobbing and wailing and tearing my clothes in utter and complete grief. I’d prefer not to gnash my teeth this week.

choosejoyThere’s a price to be paid when you choose to stay at home with your children. It’s an easy enough sacrifice when they’re very young and there’s work to be done in the house. It’s hard work and exhausting, but at least you knew you were needed during those long daytime hours. But now? Now that they’re going to be gone and my job is less seen, less cumbersome, the sacrifice feels more…sacrificial. What will I do?

I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

I’ll start by cranking the music and having a dance party. My “Kids have gone to school playlist” includes the following songs:

I’m a Survivor

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party

1999

Be OK

I Will Survive

Miss Independent

 

I’m going to hold my head up high and embrace this time because I honestly don’t know how long it will last. There may be another little one in our future. In fact, I rather hope that there is.

I may end up homeschooling again. In fact, I rather hope that I do.

I’m embracing this year as a blessing and with only a small amount of trepidation. I’m nervous about being alone. And I’m excited. I feel both emotions, and if ever there was a reason to jam, the conflicting emotions of freedom and loneliness was it.

So…what songs should I add to the playlist?

And who wants to jam with me?!

 

What I Miss Most About Homeschooling

Books. I miss reading good books with my kids - those exciting stories that suck you in and leave you breathless for more. I love reading to my kids. Did you know I was a musical theater major before switching to Professional Writing? Trust me – this Mama knows how to bring a book to life.

There isn’t nearly enough time these days to read the really good books. With their required school reading, they are so busy trying to make their RP (or AR) reading goals that they don’t have time to get lost in the really good books. Especially because reading has not come easily for either of my older two. (Landon is proving to be a much better reader. He’s catching on faster than the other two did.) Because reading is tough, I like to read to them. I want them to see the world open up inside their imaginations.

Good books do that, don’t they? They introduce a life and a character that is so glorious and real that you feel as though you know them. I want my kids to feel a sense of loss when they lay a book down after finishing it. Right now, the best way to introduce that feeling to them is to read to them…when we have time.

We don’t have time to work on their Russian language anymore, either. I’m relegated to 20 minutes a day because it’s all I feel I can ask from them after a long day at school.

This makes me sad. This makes me miss homeschooling more than anything. Yes, there are things about school I have really enjoyed and there are areas where I can see they have thrived. And yes, there are things about homeschooling I have not missed even a little bit (Math, Science, the pressure).

But it doesn’t change the fact that I miss the freedom I had with my kids when I had them home. For now, they are in a good place, but it doesn’t make me miss it less.

Some parenting decision are made and they feel really right. Some are made and you immediately know they’re wrong. And others are made that are neither right nor wrong – they just are. Schooling feels like that for me – for our family. Putting the kids in school was neither right nor was it wrong. It was just the decision we felt like we needed to make. There are pros and cons to both scenarios and I think every year we will weigh all of our options. Because that’s what you do when you have these small ones to raise.

You make decisions that are hard then you move forward in confidence that it will all work out in the end.

Parenting…it’s not for the faint of heart, you know?

What’s a hard parenting decision you’ve made – one that didn’t necessarily feel right or wrong, but just a decision that needed to be made?

Contractually bound

Just fulfilling my “Mom-Blogger” obligations…

 

She's lost four teeth in the last month. That smile slays me...

This kid needs to stop growing...

Hot. Mess.

Ah! The freckles...

Landon, are you ready for school?

Here come the teachers...

The pictures end there for him because he began sobbing hysterically and had to be pulled from my arms, which you can only image was super duper and such a neat way to start my day.

It was an emotional day – just all around hard. I spent a lot of time praying that we made the right decision, wondering if sending them to school was the right thing. I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach all day. The moments when I wasn’t praying fervently were spent sitting in an Urgent Care getting a shot and prescriptions for the severe reaction I had to the fly bites from the other night. (Turns out I got bit by a yellow fly…which I’m apparently allergic to as evidenced by the fact my legs ballooned up like sausages and burned and itched like nothing I’ve ever felt before.)

So, you know - the first day of school wasn’t traumatic for me at all.

Here’s to better days to come…

For now, I’m praying over this prayer…and reminicsing a cute little first grade Sloan.

The Decision

I wrestled endlessly this Spring with our schooling decision. I made lists, I attended open houses, I prayed, I cried, I decided and waffled and changed my mind and stressed and worried and fretted and wished and hoped.

And I finally went to my husband with all of the information, laid it out in front of him and put the decision in his hands. I told him my first choice, a hybrid homeschool program in which the kids would attend three days a week and I would facilitate lessons the other two, but it had a cost involved that concerned us both.

I told him my willingness to homeschool again if he felt like we needed to and I gave him all the information on the public school. And I asked him to decide because I was paralyzed. I had analyzed and dissected every option and was well versed on each Pro and every Con and it left me completely inept to see what would be best.

So I gave it to Lee and waited for him to make the decision. After a few weeks of thought and prayer he pointed me to the public school and, while that had been my last choice, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. A decision was made by my husband and I had no doubt that it was the right choice.

He wasn’t plagued by every little detail like I was. He simply knew what would be the best next step and I trust him so Tuesday I marched to the public school and enrolled Sloan and Tia for next year.

I feel peaceful, but I’m nervous. I know it’s right, but there’s the unknown that keeps me prayerful.

I loved homeschooling the kids. I really did. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. Something really special happened this past year when I had them home with me.

I fell in love with them.

Of course I always loved my children, but I didn’t always love being with them. I was happy to ship them away whenever the chance presented itself and I hoarded my alone time with no small amount of selfishness. While they were home this past year, though, I really enjoyed just being with them.

We laughed a lot.

We learned a lot.

We enjoyed one another more than we ever have before.

We had freedom to go where we wanted to do what we pleased and learn what was interesting to us. I loved that.

However…

I firmly believe that homeschooling is the best education a child can receive if the parent teaching them is doing it really well. While I was having fun with them, I still did not feel like I was giving them the best educational foundation simply because I don’t know how.

I don’t know how to teach Math or Science. I didn’t love trying to break down grammar and teaching a six year old to read is just short of being stabbed in the eye with a hot poker. It’s hard.

I really believe there are other people more qualified to teach my children core subjects at this stage in our lives, but I also don’t doubt for a second that I will homeschool again someday. I can really see myself enjoying it a little more when they’re older and are a little more independent in their studies and I have more resources for help in the subjects I am not qualified in.

In short, I loved everything about homeschooling but the schooling part. Which…well, it’s kind of a key component.

Now, to be fair to myself, I will say I did a good job teaching them this past year. When we started the year Sloan was reading at a first grade level, could barely spell and had very little exposure to Subtraction. By the end of the year he was reading at a fifth grade level, spelling at a fourth grade, writing beautiful poems and paragraphs and had a working knowledge of Multiplication.

It’s not that I can’t teach them. But I did live under a constant wave of stress all year long and there are areas where I know they would benefit from a teacher who understands how to break things down more than I did. I never doubted my ability to teach them well. But I did fully realize that if I were to homeschool again, I would need a little more help in some key areas.

So next year they will go to school, and Landon will be in preschool five mornings a week, which means for the first time in nine years I will be alone during the day time hours on a consistent basis. I’m not going to lie – that’s an attractive thought.

But it’s also scary. I’m going to miss them. So when they all start back to school, to celebrate my first day home alone, I have vowed to go to Busch Gardens and ride every single roller coaster in the park.

By. My. Self.

How do you make the education decision for your children?

Morphing into summer

All three children are playing quietly in their rooms. Go ahead, you can be impressed if you want. I won’t tell you that they’re in there because they had a massive fight, went all WWF and I walked in to find them screaming and crying and swinging bags of chips at one another, crumbs flying all over my freshly vaccumed carpet.

I’ll just let you go on thinking I’m raising angels.

So hey – got this summer time thing going on. With the pressure of school off my shoulders I have found myself inhaling for the first time in…nine months. NINE MONTHS. And it’s glorious, food fights and all. But there’s got to be some structure or me?

Ima hafta lose my mind.

Our home school schedule consisted of lessons beginning around 9:00 and finishing around 2:00 every day. Just because we are officially on summer break doesn’t mean that all learning stops, though. Every summer, even when Sloan went to public school, I instituted a one hour long “learning time” each morning. I like to do this just to watch them whine and complain.

It’s super fun.

So learning time is back. From 9:00-10:00 each morning the kids are working on reading, math, spelling or Russian. By the time we finish up those lessons, clean up around the house and have a minimum of two fights, it’s already lunch time!

BAM! No lazy summer days here. No siree.

The pool is providing great afternoon entertainment as are neighborhood friends and a bit of TV, because what’s summer without a teeny bit of laziness, yes?

I’ve ordered a ton of books and we will be heading to the library periodically as well. We have offered the two older kids a bribe an incentive to get them reading over the summer. For every book they finish, we will pay them a dollar. Sloan gets two dollars if he reads longer chapter books (at least fourth grade reading level or higher) and I’ve have offered him 5 dollars if he will read an entire book in Russian from front to back.

I did not think about the work all this would be for me as I now have to translate said Russian book to help him with comprehension and I have to read the more advanced books to make sure he is comprehending those as well. That kinda blows because while I want them active and busy, I myself had envisioned a nice, relaxing summer with my feet kicked up beside the pool and a cold iced tea in my hand.

*snort*

Clearly I am delusional.

So what about you? How do you keep your kids from driving you crazy active during these summer months?

On schooling

“So, Kelli, how’s that home schooling thing going for you?”

Oh, how sweet of you to ask!

This is our last official week of home schooling (homeschooling? is it one word or two because I’ve seen it both ways and I can’t figure it out…). Honestly?

This has been the hardest year of my life.

Selling a house, saying goodbye to friends who were more like family, paying for our own move cross country, starting a new job, buying a new house, home schooling, visiting countless churches over the course of ten months, struggling to find our place, living under strain and stress…

This year has exhausted me.

I noticed something interesting in Africa. The women there are tough. Despite life’s adversities, they know how to dig in their heels and keep the home at any cost. Remember how the Maasai women actually build their family homes? It’s interesting, isn’t it? God has equipped us as women to know when it’s time to dig in, clench our teeth and do what needs to be done to keep life moving forward. He has created us with an inate ability to survive, not for ourselves, but for everyone around us.

In some regard, this past year has been something like that for me. I’ve been in survival mode, heels dug in, holding up the walls of the home. Because life was bumpy there for awhile. I just needed my family to be okay - I needed us to be safe and together and whole.

Home schooling provided that safety in a way. I’m so glad I had the kids home with me because I needed them near me and I think they needed each other. But as the dust settles and the light at the end of the tunnel widens just slightly, we’re evaluating and praying and trying to decide what’s best for next year.

Tools of survival...

I will be totally honest and tell you I’m really proud of what I accomplished with my kids this year. I didn’t really know if I could do this home schooling thing. In fact, I never ever wanted to do it. Ever. Ever, ever. Like most people I assumed that I wasn’t cut out to teach my kids at home.

But it’s not true. We are all fully equipped to do whatever needs to be done when it comes to our children. So if you’re thinking about home schooling, or wondering about it and you fear you can’t do it, just know that you can. I’m not saying you should. But I am saying you shouldn’t sell yourself short.

We women are tougher than we think.

Now that we are on the other side of the year, we are looking at different options. Home schooling isn’t out of the mix by any means, but neither is public school. Those are pretty much the two options we have at this point and it’s kind of scary, this decision to be made.

Part of me is hopping from foot to foot, Rocky style, trying to pep talk my way back in to the arena. I saw the benefits of what the kids and I accomplished this past year. I completely back the educational positives of home schooling. There is, by far, nothing like it. There are so many things I’ve loved about having the kids home with me.

However…

I also see the benefits of a school setting and there are things I haven’t enjoyed about having them home. There are pros and cons to both choices and it all comes down to what we think works best for the kids AND for me. So we pray and wait and prepare for whatever comes next, because after this year I’ve kind of decided there isn’t anything I can’t do.

Except maybe build a mud hut out of cow dung. I’m not sure I could handle that.

So what are you doing for school next year? How did you come to your decision?

It’s Not Your Mama’s Wizard of Oz

The kids and I finished the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz today, much to their awe and delight. There is only one other book that we’ve read this year that has captivated their attention as much as this one and that was The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles.

This was my first time to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, too, so I was equally excited to dig in HOWEVER…

This may be the first time in the HISTORY OF ALL TIME that I liked a movie better than a book. Maybe because the movie is such a classic? But the book was a classic first, thus necessitating the need for the movie so what we’re left with here is a chicken or the egg situation.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was good, for sure. It was exciting and, for the most part, was very similar to the movie except for, ya know, the morbid violence and word pictures that left my six year old looking at me with saucer eyes and mouth hung open wide.

Do you know how the Tin Man became a Tin Man? The wicked witch put a spell on his axe so that every time he tried to chop something HE CUT OFF ONE OF HIS LIMBS. The local tin maker replaced each amputated limb with one of tin until, finally, the Tin Man cut off his own head and wound up being a man made entirely of tin.

OF COURSE.

Read that to your kids while they eat breakfast and see what happens. It’s fun.

Or there’s the part when the Wicked Witch of the West sees the four travellers (and her little dog, too) making their way to her palace and she sends out wolves with the command to tear them to pieces. Never fear, though. The Tin Man chops off the heads of every wolf that lunges forward until he is, at last, standing upon a pile of severed bodies and dismembered heads.

This is the part where Tia wonders if she really wants to see the movie.

But wait there’s more!

While traveling to Glinda’s palace in the South to (hopefully) (fingers crossed) return Dorothy to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas, the band of misfits runs into a most peculiar group of little men called The Quadlings. These men refuse to to let the group cross over the mountain that stands between them and Glinda and when they try, The Quadlings who, naturally, don’t have any arms, detach their heads from their bodies and fling them at the trespassers with brute force and might, bruising the now courageous lion and knocking the stuffing out of the Scarecrow.

Landon was all, “Wait…dey TAKE OFF DERE HEADS AND HIT DEM?!”

To which Sloan replied, “COOL!” and Tia looked at me with saucer eyes again.

I promised the kids we would watch the movie one morning next week to celebrate finishing the book. I also promised that we would not witness the dismemberment of a single person…well, except the Scarecrow. But I’d rather let them be surprised. Tia wasn’t sure about the movie, though, so I sweetened the deal with a promise of green popcorn (in honor of the Emeral City, of course) and lots of candy.

This should be fun.

Image Credit

Confessions of a chronic overachiever

Photo taken my my amazingly talented friend, Sarah, when she was here on Spring Break.

I have a confession to make. It’s not nearly as scandalous as my last confession, so please don’t be worried, but this confession is going to force me to make some changes, some of which might affect this little space I’ve created on the web.

The confession is two-pronged, because I don’t believe in doing anything small. Go big or don’t go at all, that’s how I roll.

First, I have a very nasty habit of biting off more than I can chew. I assume I can handle way more than I actually can and I convince myself that it’s fine, I don’t actually need sleep and Nutella for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I don’t have time to prepare a proper meal is perfectly acceptable.

Which, who am I kidding right? OF COURSE NUTELLA IS ACCEPTABLE AT EVERY MEAL!

Okay – so that’s the first part of the confession. I take on too much and assume I can handle it just fine.

The second part of my confession is I am terribly prone to laziness. It’s true. I am the dog from the movie UP. I can be perfectly engaged in an activity then SQUIRREL!

That’s me. It’s not ADD, though I would LOVE to blame it on that. I’m just easily distracted and I have a hard time pulling myself back.

I’ve struggled with finishing the school year strong with the kids. I imagine every teacher the world over feels this spring time tug when the rigors of a daily schedule must wage battle against the pull of a warm breeze and the call of the outdoors. The fact is, I’m tired. I want to be done and so do the kids. But we can’t, because learning should never end.

I read this post by Ann Voskamp the other day and it reignited my desire to do this home schooling thing well. Whether this ends up being the only year we teach our children at home or we decide to do it again next year, I want it to count. This requires that I fight the laziness that threatens to invade and dig my heels in.

I’ve lost momentum on my book. It’s a lot, this business of home schooling, maintaining a blog, writing a book, trying to keep a household running smoothly, editing a new manuscript and getting into shape.

SQUIRELL!

I need to finish the book and finish it well. Do you see a theme here?

So first order of business – GET MORE SLEEP!

Do you know how fascinating squirells are when you’re tired? Stunning little creatures…

My goal is to be in bed no later than 10:00 every week night most week nights because the whole stay-up-till-midnight-pretending-to-be-working-but-really-reading-blogs-and-surfing-facebook thing isn’t working for me. I’m tired. I need to sleep. I’m not a night owl and never have been. I’m accepting that and moving forward.

This means I need to be diligent with my time and get my butt out of bed early. In fact, I set up my alarm on my phone so that when it goes off, my screen lights up with the phrase “Get your butt out of bed you lazy A…!”

I firmly believe in tough love.

I am going to be kickin’ it on my book this month and I actually do have a book manuscript to finish editing. I will be here, too, but maybe not every day. And I’m going to add a third confession – that’s scary.

Shaun wrote about it last week. It’s sometimes difficult as a blogger to not blog because we fear the audience we’ve worked to build will go away. And honestly, I can’t afford to lose my audience right now. I’m counting on you guys to help me get the word out about Compassion International’s awesome work when I go to Tanzania next month. I want you right there with me!

So I won’t be far away this month, but I may not be here every day. Because I’ll be a little busier than normal trying to keep my head above –

SQUIRELL!

I’m the Cruelest Mom Ever but Look at the Awesome Pics I Took of this Caterpillar, Yo!

Sometimes coming up with clever titles is just too much, you know?

It’s spring break ’round these parts. Well – it’s spring break for the public schools. My kids, however, are being forced to do school this week because I relish in torturing them.

Muahahahahahahaha…

Seriously. you’d think I was standing over them with a bowl of cold gruel and a whip barking “What’s the sum of 5+7!” They are in the dungeon of learning, folks. You should feel sorry for them.

In a lame attempt to garner a few meager cool points, I’m offering a lot of breaks and we’re starting an hour later than usualy each morning. This gives them ample opporunity to enjoy the awesome that is Florida spring weather and hunt lizards and caterpillars to their little hearts content.

And speaking of caterpillars, check out these photos we got today of the creeper we affectionately (and completely unoriginally) named “Spikey.”

So, in celebration of my lack of awesome, please tell me – what did you do today that was awesome?

Busch Gardens Fun

Alternately titled: Proof that I’m getting old because two days later I’m still worn out.

First order of business – I am over at (in)courage today talking about being uncomfortable. I’d love for you to read about the hope that God has placed in my heart despite the unsettled place I am in. Thank you for reading and for your support as I continue to work out the struggles of moving.

And on to my second order of business. Telling you random bits about my life…

We entered into our final ten weeks of curriculum this week and let me just tell you something – home schooling is exhausting. I’m wiped. Some days are jazzy fun. The kids get it. I’m happy.

Birds flit about the house chirping in perfect harmony.

But other days it appears that someone has tied a ten pound stone about all our necks, thrown us into the deep end of a pool and yelled, “Swim!” We stay afloat, but Lawdy we have to work hard.

The only things keeping me sane motivated are frequent scheduled breaks and Cuban Espresso. I like to call it caffienated sludge. It’s somethin’ potent, but it gets the job done. I feel great once my hands stop trembling. Come to think of it, the cartoon birds only flit about when I drink my sludge. Interesting…

Last week I laid out the kid’s lessons and gave them a great, big goal – finish it all by Friday and we will head to Busch Gardens. I wish I could adequately explain the zeal with which they attacked their Math books. Little tongues stuck out of their mouths in deep concentration as they worked through each lesson mothodically. Then they moved on to spelling and writing and Russian and reading and each time someone would start to complain I’d raise an eyebrow (which, incidentally, I never knew how to raise one eyebrow until I became a mom. It’s like I inherited that magic brow when my first born hit two) and they’d snap their mouths shut and put pencil to paper.

Call it motivation, bribery, reward -what.ev.er. We went to Busch Gardens.

I don’t have great pictures of the picture perfect reward day because who wants to carry a mammth camera around an amusement park?

Well, actually, I kind of do. I am going to bring my good camera next time because there are a lot of great photos to be taken there.

The photos I did get, though, were filled with three grinning, laughing, blond headed children who deserved a break. I am proud of my kids and the hard work they’ve put in this year. I’m not sure if we are going to home school again next year. We are still praying about it and looking at our options, seeking what’s best for them, for me and for our family. But for now, I am cherishing this sweet and challenging year I’ve had with my children. We have all grown and learned in different ways. I wouldn’t trade these months for anything.

 

This was his first big kid ride. I'm hoping he will be my child who likes roller coasters. No one else in my family will go on them with me.

 

Like my new tennis shoes? I was hoping they would provide a bit of motivation to work out. Turns out they aren't magical. They're just...shoes. Disappointing.

 

"Mom, I'm pettin' a Wallaby!" That might be my favorite quote of the day. Tia was enamored with these creatures.

Happy weekending everyone! May your days be filled with sun, laughter and maybe even a Wallaby or two!