Long Summer

February 19, 2010

like a real job

Filed under: bad days — by dbmamaz @ 10:44 am

I was reading another home schooler’s blog post the other day (we’ll call this blogger ‘B’).  The main thrust of her blog entry was that we, as home schoolers, should take our position seriously, like a full-time job.  The blog post rubbed me the wrong way.  Early in her post, she quoted a home school mom who was asking for advice (we’ll call this flustered mom ‘FM’).  FM sounded like an overwhelmed and poorly organized mom who just needed some tips and advice, and B was certainly not sympathetic or helpful.  In fact, B seems to be pointing to this FM as an example of someone who shouldnt home school at all. 

Of course, the real reason I didn’t like the blog post is because of my tendency to apply all criticism to myself. 

Now, I have never been officially diagnosed with anything.  After my son was diagnosed with adhd, autism and bipolar, I learned more about these conditions, and came to see that I have several traits of those as well.  I can have a very hard time staying focussed, and I’m very forgetful.  I am easily overwhelmed by too much incoming stimulation – noise, light, information – and when I feel overwhelmed, I withdraw in to myself to try to calm down.   I also have widely variable moods – for example, I’ve had to come to accept that there are some weeks where I can’t wait to have the time to clean up these floors, and other weeks where my head is spinning and I can barely see the floors.  My food allergies can exacerbate all of these issues, as well.

So home schooling can be very challenging for me.  On weeks when nothing out of the ordinary happens, it goes pretty well.  I understand what my boys want and need.   I create weekly and daily schedules that we mostly follow, and by the end of the day I usually feel exhausted but accomplished. 

But any little thing has the potential to totally throw me off.  If we have one appointment to go to, or someone gets sick, I don’t feel like I can fit in a field trip that week.  If we have three appointments in a week, or 2 people get sick, I feel like throwing up my hands and giving up.  When my 17 yo daughter, who I am not home schooling, becomes acutely depressed again, after bad reactions to three different meds, and keeps vacillating between being angry, sad and scared, and needs me in unexpected ways . ..  i have no idea what to do.  Some weeks, all I can do is what I ABSOLUTELY must do . . .  which for me is feed my family (multiple food allergies), make sure they have clean clothes to wear . . and get everyone to their appointments. 

So does this look like I’m taking home schooling seriously like a full-time job?  Actually . . . by my standards, it kinda does.  When my son was being diagnosed and getting approved for services at school, I was working full-time. There were many days I came in to work unable to focus on my job at all.  I rarely managed to work more than 30 hours a week, because of the doctor appointments and school meetings and picking him up on really bad days.  And I  frequently came home so stressed out that I screamed at anyone who came near me as I frantically tried to get dinner on the table before bedtime.

Is it better to be home schooling even if I dont have the time and the strength of character to make every day as predictable and enriching as a great private school?  YES!  My kids HATED school.  My gifted son was in special ed classes and bored to tears.  My 6 yo was learning to hate himself.  Here, they are at least safe from the kids and teachers who are  unsympathetic to mental illness and asynchronous development.  When we DO focus on education, they are able to go at a pace they are comfortable with, instead of being bored or falling behind.  And who wouldn’t rather have a mom who sometimes says ‘Ok, school’s over 2 hours early, its free time’,  instead of a mom who regularly turns in to a screaming meanie!

I have to remind myself once again that there are no educational emergencies.  My almost-14-yo special needs son already writes and does math as well as many community college freshman, although I plan to continue to teach him at home for now.  And he’s working happily through a high school AP biology text-book.  If we miss a week here and there . . . ok.  So maybe he wont start at community college until he’s 17, and if there were no crises in our lives he could start at 16.  Or maybe not . . . there’s no predicting the future.

Every day I have to do the best I can for my kids with the resources I have.  And if the resources I have require 24 hours of recharging after every little crisis . . . ok.  I have to trust myself and my own rhythms, and trust that I will do my best, because I love my children and want the best for them.  And if my best isn’t as good as someone else’s best?  Well that’s ok.  After all, maybe my kids best isn’t as good as their kids best .. in some areas, at least.  Thats ok too!  It’s not a race . . . its life.


January 26, 2010

One son off and one son on

Filed under: bad days — by dbmamaz @ 4:41 pm

I am ready to give up on eclectic and go full-on school-at-home.  Based on the crazy notion that if our days are stable and predictable, we will be too.  Hah!  Not. 

Today’s plan was a trip to the Virginia Historical Society.  It was recently pointed out to me as both cool and free  I have been lax on finding field trips . . and lax on getting curriculum prepared .. . so Tuesday morning we would discover the historical society. 

Tuesday morning started well enough – I woke up late, but the 6 yo was in a smiley, cuddly mood.  Until I told him it was time to get dressed.  Then he fell apart into a punching, crying, angry mess who couldn’t stop telling me how much he hated me.  The exact same thing happened when I told him it was time to turn off electronics and start our school day.  These melt downs were fairly common our first month of home schooling, but by december they had virtually vanished.  Taking 2 weeks off at christmas, however, seemed to bring them back again.  Monday’s chaos (due to mom having only had 4 hours of sleep) probably contributed as well. 

But I persevered with my plans, hoping that a change of scenery and some interesting artifacts could change Raven’s mood.  Raven seemed interested in the museum . . . for about 3 minutes.  Then he heard kids – a school group.  In fact, two school groups.  Raven wanted to join them.  But they were 3rd or 4th graders, and Raven does NOT have the self control to be quiet during lectures – plus the school groups were giving us rather unfriendly looks.  We tried to head off in a different direction. 

We saw guns, knives, more guns, swords, antique stills and cigarettes, printing presses, a water wheel, mining equipment, giant murals of the civil war (ok, this is Richmond here – capital of the south).  “I want to go home now”.   We saw a fantastic display of arrowheads, indian pottery, a trolley car, a recreation of a dig site (Raven was slightly interested in that one), and mostly, I heard “I want to go home now” interspersed with Orion trying to finish reading plaques and signs out loud.  

We found a recreated log house, and Raven was interested enough to suggest a picture 

I didnt snap when he was distracted, Raven carefully posed this way and asked me to take the picture. Its a good demonstration of his attitude towards the museum.


So finally, we went home.  Orion made himself lunch while Raven threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let him play an ‘educational’ computer game he had mastered at age 3.  Finally Orion watched some Horrible Histories on discovery streaming, and Raven invited me to read to him from the story book while he played legos – we read Cinderella, and a chapter of Jungle Story.  As I write this, Orion is at drama class, and Raven is watching claymation videos on youtube, because ‘school time’ is over.  

I take comfort in the fact that Orion’s history curiosity was piqued, the museum is now familiar instead of strange to us, and Raven at least listened to some good literature.  And tomorrow is another day – a day we stay home and just do school until park day at 2:30! 

Oh, no! Another child is about to pass me in height!

January 21, 2010

Is it balance, or attitude?

Filed under: bad days,Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 2:51 pm
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I’ve been struggling over the past few days with . . . .something about my home schooling, but I wasnt sure what.

First I felt overwhelmed spending so much time putting together my 13 yo’s curriculum: read a college biology text and watching dozens of video clips to find the best match; research social studies topics; sit with him to do grammar together; not to mention the microscope labs we kept skipping because i hadn’t gotten the materials.

Then I thought it was a problem of balance: how much time I spend prepping curriculum for 13 ds, vs doing work with 13 ds, vs actually doing work w 6 ds, vs letting 6 ds ‘just play’ while I clean or work on blog entries or keep refreshing fb looking for something interesting.

So today, i’m thinking . . . it’s just attitude. You know, those ‘bad’ days where you feel hopeless and like you’ll never get through it or you’re doing it all wrong . .. but the day was truly no worse than any other day? It’s all in your head. Ok, maybe I have more of those because of my various issues.

But today, i’m a day ahead on biology (because ds 13 was too sick for school yesterday), and that felt good. note to self: go back to prepping a whole chapter at a time on the weekends

Today I ‘forced’ the kicking and screaming ds6 to do 10 minutes of the maps unit study with me, and watch a new math video on discovery streaming. and he loved them both. Note to self: just do it.

Balance, attitude, working hard but keeping my head above water. Yeah, i guess it’s all of that.

But i’d still love a good high school level science curriculum which is TOTALLY secular and also doesn’t require a computer with internet access. 🙂

January 14, 2010

Mom’s lowest point

Filed under: about,bad days — by dbmamaz @ 10:29 am

Note to readers:  i am a moody person, but intended to keep the blog fairly up-beat.  however, i like this piece, and i think it’s worth sharing.    i was never much of a private person anyways.


the day is spent focussing on things to do – doctor apt, bank, curriculum, chores, park day, dinner.

The only one who tries to keep me company as I work is the middle one – bipolar, autistic and tourettes, he looks over my shoulder, not only shifting from foot to foot in a little dance, but his arms are going too, and his fists clench and unclench, and his head does a little roll. its not a happy dance, it’s just what his body does.   and there’s a countermelody under it, i hear it, it says, “who will love me? who will spend time with me? I’m bored and lonely.” And it feels so sad;  i’m the only one who lets myself hear it, the only one who tries to answer the call. I wonder if this one will ever stand on his own feet as a productive and valued member of society. sometimes, feeling that breathing down my neck, i would rather be alone

and then the 6 yo, still sick with a sinus infection, is spitting on kids at the park and running in circles around the dinner table. And the eldest is yelling at me because i didn’t spend enough time celebrating her first paycheck before I started talking about something else . . . . and then the husband, cranky from a lousy day at a crappy job, yells at me while tucking me in to bed.

and i sob under the covers after asking him to leave. and i’m so alone and so tired

times like these, an old Streisand song comes to my head, tho i think i’ve mangled the words over the years:

songbird sings from the heart
each word can tear you apart
i sing, you sing along
you find your life in my song
when you need the strength to carry on
you’ve got me to turn to
my song sets you free, but who sings to me?
i’m all alone now.  who sings for songbird?

its mom’s job to give and cry and do it again. this is my job. this is what i do.

but after laying angry in bed, i finally get up. I speak to husband about not taking his bad day out on us, jot down this rough draft, and return to bed for a better tuck in from a husband who does love me. And try to rest up for another day.

January 11, 2010


Filed under: bad days — by dbmamaz @ 3:01 pm

monday comes sick, tired

home school honors our rhythms

we still get much done!

January 8, 2010

Cara’s weekly panic (Nov 28 2009)

Filed under: bad days — by dbmamaz @ 1:58 am

This was originally a forum post, on Nov 28, 2009, but one responder suggested it would make a good blog post – maybe you can relate?


Ok, am I the only one? On a regular basis, maybe after reading a blog, or a post on a group, or talking to other home schoolers, or seeing some curriculum reviews, or seeing other kids . . .I’m sure I’m doing it wrong, or dont have what it takes, and the reasons I’m sure I’m failing are not only diverse, but often conflicting. You know, like:

•I’m going to fail because I’m not a Zen master who has her home always peaceful and beautiful with children who seem happy all the time

•I’m a failure because my children don’t do worksheets

•I’m going to fail because my kids will never learn self-direction because I give them scheduled work (and even a check-list for my 13 yo with emotional/developmental issues)

•I’m a failure because, when I’m not making them do otherwise, all they want to do is play video games.

•I’m going to fail because sometimes I start our day so late, we don’t get to half of the planned activities

•I’m a failure because my kids are spending too much time on the basics and not enough time on more important things, like creativity, or philosophical discussions, or learning more about current events, or the deeper symbolism in the literature we’re reading together (wait, I’m not even reading any of my older son’s stuff!)

•I’m a failure because i ‘buy in to’ the labels the scores of doctors gave my 13 yo

•I’ll never succeed because I never get around to using half of the curriculum i have sitting on my shelves and hard drive

•I’m doing it all wrong because I’m using computer resources instead of ‘pure’ resources, or because I’m using actual text books

•I’ll never keep up w the public schools if I skip school when I’m having a bad day

•I’m a failure because I don’t manage to do home school, keep the garden pretty, keep the house clean, and volunteer in the community with my children all at the same time with a smile on my face

•I’m doing it wrong because we either are taking too many or too few classes, or the wrong kinds, or because we don’t do co-ops, or I’m too lazy to drive more than 20 minutes to anything (unless its a free museum trip and then maybe 30)

•I’m doing it wrong because I’m not always in love with the idea of home schooling and freely admit that, if my kids were better adjusted and could handle school without either calling me hysterical from school, or waking up every morning begging not to go back . . .