Halfway

We’re halfway through our last week of the semester here at L’ecole Agony and Ecstasy, and as usual, I feel like I’ve learned more this year than my actual school-aged child.

(Part of that is probably because, try as I might, I cannot get excited about learning suffixes. Yes it’s a big deal I suppose. But seriously.)

If you’re, well, my mom, you probably remember that this summer I meticulously planned the year. And that was great. To a point. I absolutely love some things about the way I planned it, and I hate (and so have ignored) some of the other things.

(YAY HOMESCHOOLING!!! You get to stop doing what you hate doing!!!)

(Also statistically higher test scores and greater demonstrated intelligence.)

(WHEE!!!)

I love the way I planned out the things I need to do every week. That has been amazing. I know exactly where I should be for this point in the year, and I don’t have to worry about finishing the books, because I know I will. My lesson planning (which last year was a good chunk of the morning on the weekends) now takes me about 20 minutes on a Saturday.

I built in a good chunk of vacation days/weeks too. Again, an awesome benefit to planning. I know I have enough days/hours to satisfy the state should it ever become an issue, but we also get to take guilt-free breaks pretty frequently.

(Like the coming huge break we have for Christmas and New Years.)

(Which is awesome because it turns out we have a huge family wedding on New Year’s Eve, which I didn’t know about when I planned the year.)

(Because the bride and groom hadn’t met yet.)

(I’m really excited about this wedding guys.)

I love that I built in  a lot of seasonal stuff. I’ve been trying really hard to keep the liturgical seasons a part of our family life and so I scheduled certain things for Advent, Lent, Easter, etc. I bought all the books this summer and planned everything out so now I literally just have to do the readings and stuff I already planned, which is a huge departure from my attempt last year which involved me sitting on the couch the night before Ash Wednesday googling “What to do with a six-year-old for Lent???”

(Guess how well that worked.)

Things haven’t gone completely according to plan, of course. What does? Certainly nothing in my life. Just like last year, I figured out that I hate a few of the books I had picked out. I HATE our American history book. Like, for serious. It is so stupid, and at the same time heavy-handed. I just, ugh. Do not like. Because she’s so little, we’ve been able to get around it by my reading to her from the parts that aren’t horrible, and supplementing with other books and materials.

You might think the fact that I have an MA in history would prove useful here, but it’s remarkably unhelpful as I just cannot get her interested in Vatican Ostpolitik. I know, right? Maybe in second grade.

I hate a bunch of the stuff I thought I’d do for religion too. I had this book on the lives of the saints for kids but once I started reading it it’s really dumb (Jesuits, pssh), so I found another series that I really like. We aren’t as strict about doing a bunch of the stuff I thought we would, but she’s learning the Sacraments and the commandments, and we do a family rosary and read the Gospel for the coming Sunday every Friday. Overall, I like the organic nature of our religion class more than “let’s sit down and memorize this.” Last year we were more based on the Baltimore Catechism, which is wonderful. But this year, as she prepares for her first Communion and first Reconciliation next year, I want our faith to be a part of her every day life in a way that she recognizes.

My favorite subject, Latin, is going really well, but not in the way that I necessarily thought it was going to go. Once again, I failed to realize that MY KID IS SIX. So obviously we aren’t sitting down and declining nouns. But she’s learning vocab words really well and even uses them around the house which I think is adorable. We’re learning prayers in Latin (and I do mean we, because I grew up int he ’90s and despite the fact that my mother is the most conservative person I know, nobody taught me anything except the sign of the cross in Latin. And then I took it in college at a Lutheran school, so sol there too.) So that’s been really cool.

I haven’t had a baby-related breakdown yet this year (probably because no one I know has one.) (Still!) (Counting it as a win!) It’s definitely a lot more difficult than last year, since she already pretty much knew everything from K5 and this year I have to actually teach her stuff? Like a real kid? What?

But I am so thankful for this opportunity to raise our family this way, despite the work it sometimes creates. I absolutely could not do it without Buzz’s support, or my family’s help. But since I am lucky enough to have those things, this is an unbelievable blessing for us.

Here’s hoping 2017 is as wonderful!

image

 

Advent for Kids (and Yourself)

Guys, I think Advent is my favorite liturgical season. I love the solemn nature of it- we’re not celebrating, not yet. But it’s not the same kind of solemn as Lent, which is mostly just a bummer.

(I’M KIDDING. Lent is lovely as well. Just more…intense.)

I also love that there are so many things that we can do as a family to mark the season. Again, Lent is so intense. Other than the stations of the Cross, it’s hard to come up with cute craft ideas for hey-let-me-explain-all-of-salvation-history-to-you. I know they’re out there, I do. But it’s just harder to ram home without being depressing..

And let’s be honest, I’m not doing any crafts anyway. I hate crafts. HATE THEM. Creativity and making a mess. Literally my two least favorite things.

ANYWAY. Homeschooling, we obviously have a lot of freedom to mark Advent and prepare for the Birth of the Lord. I have a six year old and a three year old, and frankly, the three year old is just phoning it in. He’s present for everything that we do, and we sing Advent songs with him and stuff like that. But he doesn’t really get it.

(Things he also doesn’t get: going to the bathroom IN THE BATHROOM. Fingers crossed by next Advent.)

img_5803

But Squeaks is almost seven, and she totally gets it this year. We have an Advent wreath (with flameless candles, natch) and so she “lights” it and we all read a devotion every night that we have dinner together. (Which okay hasn’t been much this week but hopefully that will get better.) We’re using the Catholic Family Advent Prayers and Activities book by Susan Hines-Brigger. I’m really loving it so far. It has a prayer, scripture passage, and discussion for every day of advent.

Also lots of craft ideas. (Blech.)

We also have an Advent book we got through Seton, the company we use for homeschooling curriculum. It’s int he Living and Celebrating our Catholic Traditions series, and it’s lovely too. There s a great story for each week that we use for school, and again, tons of crafts.

The one I’m actually going to do with her is a paper chain that leads to an empty manger, and then we glue Jesus in on Christmas morning. That sounds cute. (And easy.)  Everything in that book is reproducible too, so you can use it for years with different kids or even pass it on to family.

We do have an Elf on the Shelf, which I know is anathema to many Catholic families. But for us, it’s totally fine. I don’t see any reason to abstain from the non-heretical parts of secular life, and we have been able to use the Elf (Cooper) to talk to us about how it’s not important that we’re good for Santa, but rather that we need to make ourselves ready for Jesus to come at Christmas and the end of the world by being good children.

He hangs out at the Nativity a lot.

img_5746

The biggest, and also smallest, thing we’ve started doing is keeping Squeaks up with us to say a rosary at night. Buzz and I would say rosaries separately during the weekdays, but together on the weekend. And that was such a nice thing for us that we decided to include Squeaks for Advent. She LOVES it. She (against all odds) is able to sit calmly and quietly and say the prayers with us. She’s also learning a lot of the mysteries, which she is very proud of and makes my heart as a mother burst literally every night. It’s also a great way to teach her prayers that we’ve forgotten to pass on, like the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, and the Memorare.

img_4403

But it’s not all about the kids, right? I mean, I’m a firm believer in the concept that if your own spiritual life is empty, you can give nothing to your children. And also that the easiest way to pass on the faith to your children is to let them see you doing it. And we all know I am ALL ABOUT THE EASE OF THINGS. So I’ve decided to make sure that I made this Advent count for myself, too.

I’ve begun some more physical devotions- veiling, making sure I go to confession regularly, attending Eucharistic Adoration, etc. Those have been a wonderful way to make my actual time reflect my sense of waiting and hope and the desire to make myself ready for God, whenever He comes again.

img_5808

I also downloaded the Magnificat Advent 2016 app. It’s available on all platforms for $1.99, or $2.99 for the ebook format if you want it on kindle. This  is amazing, guys. It has a really user-friendly interface, prayers for morning, evening, and night, the Mass for the day, and additional prayers, songs, and rubrics (like for a penance service, blessing of the Advent wreath, etc.)  I am really, really enjoying it. HIGHLY recommend, and I am not a normal Magnificat girl. I can’t get into it. But this is amazing for me.

(And if you do the app it sends you touch reminders. SCORE.)

Finally, I’m switching up my “good-for-me” reading that I do every  morning. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but basically I take about half an hour before the kids get up to read a selection from the Bible, the Catechism, and a book about parenting or faith or whatever (anything except murders- I’ve been really into thrillers lately, guys.) I abandoned my Catholic Guide to Depression (ironically, AMAZING!) and am slogging my way through Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It’s a slim book, but if you’ve ever read anything Ratzinger has written, um, don’t expect a quick read. I’m absolutely loving being able to a.) focus on exegesis again, something I haven’t done since grad school, and b.) turning little parts of my day towards the anticipation of the Lord.

img_5802

So, what do you do for advent? I’d love more (non-craft) suggestions!

Week One and Two: We Still All Like Each Other.

Kind of. I mean, the principal and I fight sometimes. Mostly because he doesn’t pick up his underwear from the floor. But then we also make out sometimes. Because we’re married.

Ha! Sorry. That will never be not funny to me, you guys.

Anyway, the first two weeks of school are finished and overall? Pretty good, y’all.

We’ve been super busy, which has made actually hitting our stride with scheduling. Squeaks struggles with transitions, so I’ve been trying to keep us working for a chunk of time in the morning and get everything done. But now she’s trying to get everything finished super fast and doesn’t want to stop to fix anything like, oh, her nines facing backwards.

So tomorrow I’m going to try to switch it up and schedule playtime in the middle of the morning. Hopefully it would be enough to give her a break but having it actually scheduled will be official enough for her little executive function-challenged head.

One can only hope.

My favorite part of this year is that both my mom and my bonus mother are so involved. both of them homeschooled their kids* and help me out when they’re able to. This morning I had my prayer group and so I laid out all the subjects I wanted Squeaks to finish and my bonus mom took care of everything! I even came home to cute pictures of her doing her work.

*I know. My husband. He loves him some homeschooled girls apparently.

image

My mom helps out almost every day. We’re learning Latin together this year (or relearning as it’s been awhile since high school for me) and it’s so much fun to have my mom and my little girl bonding over a language. She’s also doing a ton with Buddy while I work with Squeaks. And now Buddy can count to fourteen now, so that’s super fun.

I know he’s three. We’re still happy about it. Shoot low. That basically my parenting motto.

image

One of the best things I’m doing differently this year is actually for me. After having a slight (major) breakdown last year, I realized that unless I’m a happy person I am not going to be a happy mother. Or a very effective teacher.

So I’ve started getting up with Buzz in the mornings, which gives me about an hour to myself before the kids get up. I get my housework done, and have enough time to do my own reading.

This year I’m following The Coming Home Network’s plan for reading the Bible and the Catechism in a year. (I’m only doing it on school days, so it’s going to take me a little bit longer than a year.) It’s available for free as a download or a $1 booklet at chnetwork.org. It only takes about 10 minutes (I read fast) and it really makes me feel centered to do some spiritual reading every day.

I also have a pile of parenting books that I’m working through. I read a lot, but I tend to get caught up in mostly novels. Which is fine, but then I ignore the ones that I should be reading to help me along my journey. So I devote ten minutes to that as well.

Finally, I make sure to say a rosary in the morning. I love doing a daily rosary, and doing it in the morning honestly makes my day so much easier. I know part of it is just the meditative/repetitive prayer aspect, but I love starting my day by petitioning the Blessed Mother.

So overall, we’re still doing okay. And I get to make out with the principal.

 

 

 

First Grade

Dear Squeaks,

Today is your first day of first grade. I remember being in first grade, and this is completely mind bending to me that I now have a DAUGHTER that will probably REMEMBER THIS TIME IN HER LIFE and maybe I should screw up a little bit less. Maybe.

But nope, it’s true. You are starting elementary school. You’re old enough that we have to register as a school with the state because you’re old enough that you’re required to be in school. That is also a little mind-bending, and the libertarian part of me is like okay guys, time to live off the grid. Shutter the windows and cancel your credit cards. We don’t need no government.

(Then I remember how much I love getting makeup in the mail and I’m like will ipsy still be able to find me on the compound? Probably not. Better stay in civilization.)

image

You are bright and funny and even on the days when your little personality and my personality end up not gelling too much with each other, I can honestly say that you are my favorite kid in the world and I am so glad I get to be your mother.

You can read and add and think you can swim. You can really do anything you set your mind to. You don’t like joining teams or taking lessons because people want to tell you what to do and you really don’t like that. Which I get. Mommy was never much of a joiner either. That’s okay. You’ll be fine and someday you’ll meet a nice widower and your mother will be like, “I don’t know what happened, she never liked spending time with people before!”

image

I am so honored and excited to be your teacher, sweetie. I can’t wait to see what you learn- what we learn together- this year.

I love you more,

Mommy

First Day of First Grade Questions:

I write my name like:

image

I am 47 inches tall and 51 lbs.

My best friend is: Joey. (Oh!)

My favorite thing to play is: I don’t know. Wait. Tag.

My favorite color is: PURPLE!

My favorite book is: my Frozen book series.

My favorite TV show is: DEFINITELY My Little Pony

My favorite food is: oriental chicken (just like they recorded on the adoption record lol)

When I grow up , I want to be: a mommy.

Something I love: my little brother

Something I don’t like: broccoli.

Something I like about myself: That I have the longest hair in the family.

Something I want to do this year: have a pool party before the first day of fall.

image

 

 

Haters Gonna Hate

I follow a number of homeschooling blogs, and mostly they just serve to make me feel badly because I  can’t get it together to post that much at all much less do it while educating my children so wonderfully. But hey. It’s good to have something to shoot for.

Maybe someday I’ll have opinions on things other than how Johnny Depp has aged and, oh, I don’t know, my hair or makeup or something.

(BEAUTY BLENDER. You guys. IT’S THE FUTURE.)

Today the lovely lady over at A Homeschooling Mom posted about “Forcing Religion on Your Children”, which is one of my pet peeves about the criticisms of homeschooling.

Along with socialization. And wearing your pajamas all day. And not shaving your legs.

(Okay okay okay. So I’m typing this in a robe and I haven’t showered yet so there’s obviously been no shaving. BUT IT’S SUMMER. I’m ALLOWED.)

Because I tend to hang out with mostly Catholic people because of my involvement in my parish and so forth, that isn’t a question so I get so much.

I do get “why are you trying to protect them from the world? You can’t do that forever, you know!”

*crickets*

Yes. Thank you, Target check out lady. I was under the impression that taking care of children was like one extended pregnancy where I just shoved them back up my birth canal when things got too scary and mean for them. Should I not be doing that, you mean?

My kids are six and three. They are pure, perfect little souls that I have been given to get to Heaven. Their souls are ON ME. And we all know how I feel about my hair in the heat. Eternal damnation? Not what I’m gunning for.

So guess what? I will protect them from the evils of the world (and it exists- as C.S. Lewis said, “The devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”) because THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. And I will bring them up in the religion I hold to be true. Because THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. I will also teach them to not run out in front of buses. Because THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. Same basic concept.

Somewhere along the line, in all of our desire for individuality, we forgot that parents are here to raise children. We protect them when they’re little. We give them a set of moral guidelines. That’s what we do.

We’re so obsessed with the “mommy wars” that we forgot to realize that it doesn’t matter one damn bit if I gave me son formula and had him circumcised or taught him baby sign language (yes yes and no) if he isn’t raised to be a good person and (I believe) enjoy eternal life with God.

Because one day, of course they’ll be grown up. I will not be telling them where to go, whose house they are allowed to play at, which shows are okay on Netflix. I will not be here saying the rosary with them and making sure they pray before every meal and go to Mass on Sundays. I won’t be explaining the Sacrament of Reconciliation by painstakingly detailing my own sins (some of them) so they understand what the point is and how it works.

They’ll be on their own. They’ll be making decisions about religious, ethical, sexual matters. The world will be telling them to act in a way that is contrary to the faith in which I have raised them.

(That is, if the world doesn’t implode immediately in November upon the announcement of a Trump or Clinton presidency.)

They will be in charge of all those decisions. I am not delusional. I know that I will not be standing next to my daughter the first time someone pressures her to have sex. (How awkward would that be?) But damn it, I am going to make sure that when she was mine? I gave her the tools she needed to make decisions that would honor her body, her God, and, yes, her parents too.

13600163_10153575449625685_7786466503834016655_n

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

You guys. LESSON PLANNING.

A whole week where it makes sense for me to just make lists and read books and write stuff in an overpriced planner and ignore the children because “Mommy has to work for school right now bye!!”

Try not to be too jealous of how sexy I look.

IMG_1030

I love it.

Lesson planning is my spirit animal.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but last year we didn’t really lesson plan for a lot of reasons. Mostly because I went crazy. Also because it was K5 and I had no idea how to do lesson plans for a tiny little homeschooler. Aren’t you still like napping? We don’t need to plan that. And I bought ALL THE BOOKS and then used like six of them. But oh well.

This year, I had my stuff together. I knew what worked for our family and was able to buy appropriately.

We used a combination of Seton and A Beka books for most subjects. I love Seton because they’re so Catholic and weave a devotion to the Saints and Mary throughout the book. But they also say things like “Columbus is all good because he was killing those Indians for the Pope.” And I love A Beka because they are sooo good at explaining math and English for little kids but they say things like “Kill all the Papists.”

So we mix and match.

This year is first grade, so the first real year that we’re doing real school. We’re using A Beka for Grammar, Writing, Cursive, and Math. Seton is covering most of religion (I supplement depending on liturgical season,) American history, and handwriting. We have a few spelling books that we’ll use and- my favorite- LATIN.

I am teaching my baby girl Latin and I AM SO EXCITED OMG.

(It’s a four-year program, and I’m not crazy- she is six. BUT I WILL NOT BE DETERRED.)

IMG_1033

I decided to use Erin Condren for a planner this year too. I have the best daily planner from her and also I felt like if I put this under school expenses I could spend more money. Which is pretty much always my goal.

IMG_1026

I organized it by week and then went through everything we need to get accomplished that week. So I’ll save a ton of time every week because I know exactly what I need to spread out over the the five days (or four. Or three. We have a lot of vacation days.)

I was super impressed with myself because even without trying suuper hard everything pretty much worked out perfectly to wrap up at the end of May. Because again with the vacation.

I love me some vacation.

IMG_1031

Science was definitely most difficult. I hate the science books we have available to us in those two programs- Seton’s isn’t great and A Beka’s is very…um…fundamental. Which is great. If you’re an evangelical Protestant. And we’re…not.

So we joined the Magic School Bus science club, and we get science experiment every month. We got backlogged last year (because of the crazy) so I had enough to cover the entire year. For each unit I found books and videos and stuff to supplament, and Squeaks can do the experiments with Buzz on the weekends.

Because he is the science parent. I am the rambling about Church history and the Jewish roots of Christianity parent.

(Equally important really.)

(Not really.)

IMG_1032

I had so much fun going through and outlining the year. Because I love me some lists.

Almost as much as vacation.

(Not really.)

Tomorrow I’m posting about my lesson plans for ME for next year. I know, right? Self care. Super exciting.

Fingers crossed we’ll avoid a breakdown this year!!!

(Probably not.)

(But we can try!)

 

Plan F. As in, well, you know.

Okay, guys. We are officially finished with our first year of homeschooling.

Then I came across this awesome article On to Plan C: An Honest Look at My School Year. And I was like, dude, people are tired of hearing about how you fold your underwear. Let’s navel-gaze a little about your first year as the mom in a homeschooling situation! That’s easily worth a thousand words.

Homeschooling my own young children was way different than I expected. Because this year…did not go as planned.  I did not plan how much I and my support system would be rocked by the COMPLETELY AWESOME ARRIVAL of my beautiful niece a few days before I was planning to start the year. I did not plan on stopping metabolizing my medication. I did not plan on the ensuing breakdown and daily panic attacks. I did not plan on effectively starting over again completely on antidepressants and gaining twenty pounds and losing my will to, oh, get up in the morning. I did not plan on Buddy requiring speech therapy and the six-month process it would take to FINALLY get him started. I did not plan on Squeaks suffering so so much throughout the year and us not being able to figure out what was wrong until a few weeks ago. I did not plan on feeling like I could not handle many of the responsibilities that were all of a sudden mine (You don’t know how to tie your shoes? Why? Oh shit. I’m supposed to teach you, right? Dang.) I did not plan on having cancer hit our family again. I did not plan on Squeaks and I having such discipline problems because of her struggles that it effectively ended our year two weeks early because it was that or seriously damage my relationship with my daughter.

I did not plan on any of that.

I planned on days starting with prayers and songs and then we’d talk about what subjects we wanted to do and we’d play outside and then I don’t know, try to split the atom before a nutritious lunch and a nice nap.

Look! Here we are on the first day!

12065599_10153067559420685_1513383312632594673_n

Hahahahaha. That lasted like six seconds. Oh well. It was an adorable photo op.

But even with all that stuff that went wrong, it was an amazing year and I realized that homeschooling is completely right for our family, and that I can totally do this.

I figured that out by finding out what did not work for me (like the author of the post above.) And oh, their number was legion.

So last summer, when I was a tiny baby brand-new homeschooling mom, I realized I had no idea how to homeschool a 6-year-old in 2015. All of my experience with homeschooling really stopped in 2002. And I didn’t even start until I was in third grade, and doing things actual academic subjects. I guess I was around for my brother being in kindergarten, but I was waay more concerned with the important pressing matters of the Saddle Club series or something by then. So I was completely at a loss.

(My husband really enjoys laughing about last year when I was trying to order books online and I was all upset because I couldn’t find the math teachers book. And he was like, “Um. Honey? You have a graduate degree. You can’t add the fishies together on your own?”)

So I figured I would just pick the curriculum (or rather curricula, since I combined the ones that said Christopher Columbus was awesome just because he was Catholic and all Catholics are amazing except those Novus Ordo fools, and the one that says we should murder all the papists and also that rock over there? Probably from the flood.) and then get the big ol’ K-5 kits that contain everything except a new pair of underwear every day.

I dutifully ordered them, spent a ton of money even though it felt like a drop in the bucket compared to the tuition we had been paying at the area’s most expensive Catholic school (Jesus Himself should come and do miracles every few weeks for what we paid.) I put all the flashcards in binders and other random shit that I remember looking at and thinking, “Yep. Probably never going to use this as I’m not even sure what it is.” I got my lesson planner out, and sat down one night to plan the year!

And then I realized…I had no idea how my daughter learned. I know her better than anyone in the world, but I’ve never been responsible for her formal education. I had no idea the pace at which she worked, or what I could reasonably expect to cover in a certain amount of time for each subject. So I put my book away, and decided to wing it.

And that? Amidst all the crazy (sometimes literally) that this year brought us, worked quite well. Around Christmas I started doing weekly lesson plans in my own planner, which was awesome. Once I was relatively stable and I had a better feel for how quickly she worked through certain material, it was nice to have a plan for each week. But because all the rest of our lives were burning around us, it was nice to not have a plan for the rest of the year that I’d feel badly sticking to.

12647129_10153256632665685_6578052266844093495_n

We did a lot of reading, a lot of science, and had a lot of experiences. I discovered I freaking HATED the history book I had picked (This is our flag. God made our country. We love God. No shit, Sherlock.) so I chucked it and did units based on the time of the year (Thanksgiving, Columbus Day) or preparing for our trip to Williamsburg. We also watched the Pope’s visit to the United States and did some coloring about it and it was awesome.

We finished all the core subjects (not that any of it matters, because you’re not required to be in school until 1st grade in Wisconsin), with weeks to spare, and she’s waaaay ahead at subjects that interest her (like reading and cursive) and plugging away at those that don’t (handwriting and history).

We snuggled a lot of babies.

12079432_10153067567615685_3320679579353975038_n

Or rather one baby, but we snuggled her a lot.

We used none of the things I thought we’d need from those huge packages I bought.

Once I let go of all my expectations, we had a healthy, happy, and productive year.

And that, I guess, is why I loved homeschooling so much.

6895_10153256642905685_6695377366193554437_n

In the coming weeks I’m going to detail my plan for next year, mostly to keep me accountable but also because I really like blogging and don’t have a whole lot else going on in my life.

(Also I bought a SUPER expensive lesson planner and I need to justify it to my husband somehow. Endorsements anyone?)