what I learned last year, a day in the life of me

When you come for a visit at my home, I am sure to flip the switch on my Gaggia and serve up a dry foam 8 oz non fat “Abruzzo” cappuccino. But if you prefer tea, I have most varieties covered, messily tossed in a green metal tin. So grab your mug and let’s chat.

What have I learned about my kids’ learning styles this past year?

One of my kiddos needs social time during her learning. Combine a spelling program with her sister, and play some kinesthetic games and she is content, and is more attentive. Give her a chance to demonstrate her chemistry experiments with her younger brother, and she is happy. Sitting for afternoon tea reading and discussing our American history books together is another way to engage her.

One of my kiddos wants tests, grades and rock n’ roll. Okay, she doesn’t need the rock n’ roll. But how did this child come from me? I don’t need to grade my kids. I know where they’re at. I don’t need to test them. I can see what they understand.

But she wants tests. When she takes them, she always aces them. A need to see if she could perform in a college conventional classroom, she says. The fact that she is thinking this at twelve, I tell her, along with the combination of strong work ethic and natural aptitudes, means she’ll do more than survive. The sky is the limit.

One of my kiddos enjoys the solitary and doesn’t want my input, thank you very much. And though she is adolescent, she has always been like this. So back off mama. I will line up my expectations early in the year, review her weekly, not daily, definitely not hourly, and let her roll. If she’s not self-motivated, it’ll be an uphill battle, all. the. way. I lay down my sword.

What do I fight about with my kids? And how have I learned to handle it?

Attitudes. Bickering. Complaining.

How do I handle it at present? Consequences. I’m pretty tight on my expectations. I’m sure that because we are together often, I am less tolerant of these mighty mood killers: negative attitudes, bickering, complaining. I know I can’t expect perfection though, from them or me, but I can shoot to curtail the happy killers.

I endeavor to ‘collect before I direct’, as Gordon Neufeld wisely asserts. To gather their hearts, their minds, before I react and dish out consequences, without understanding the context and their needs. However, trouble making will garner housework, or something that’s a signal to them to cut it out. This is a long hard battle for me to not be reactive.

Might you wonder if this is a lot of work, or if my little cherubs are naturally cherubic — yeah, you already know. None of us are. The more effort my husband and I put into this, the greater benefit we experience.

What have I learned about myself this past year?

It’s a slow-going message I’ve been learning about myself the past seven home educating years: I like control.

I’m pretty sure everyone likes control. Feeling out of control isn’t a trait anyone aspires to.

I’ve chosen to take the role of organizer and director of my children’s education. And I take myself too seriously sometimes. I may occasionally call myself an unschooler, but I do it with intention.

Relax. Loosen up. Let it go. A mantra I like to say, but find harder to do.

If I’m not enjoying the process (bearing circumstances that surely kaibosh a smooth day: excessive whining, complaining, bickering), then what do I need to differently?

Do I continuously capture the charmed life? You already know that too. And I know I won’t ever hit it dead center.

But I will die trying.

August 2015 041

What is a new favourite book or curriculum I’ve used this past year?

Sonlight for American History…and we have used it in our own rhythm, so we will stretch it into two years. Nothing beats Sarita’s collections of read-alouds. But since we’ve used Sonlight before for World History, I’ll also add a new favourite to my list.

All About Spelling. Previously a non-spelling teaching conformist, I have again reformed my non-conforming and joined the ranks of the “AAS company”. These people make spelling enjoyable. Well, as enjoyable as spelling can get without just playing Scrabble games. A collective spelling lesson, using laminated magnetic tiles and the kinesthetic approach, changes the pace of our morning.

What do you do for you — or do outside of your kids that is just you?

Unschool an MFA–Master of Fine Arts.

I blog, read about writing, write fiction, read about fiction writing, read English poets, classical authors, conventional authors. I really read and write a lot. With coffee. Sometimes at coffee shops.

Call me fun, call me boring, but call me loudly, cause I may look like I’m in your world, but I may not be. I might be in my own made up world.

August 2015 030

And since I do so much sitting, I’ve also discovered the benefit of strengthening yoga. Get rid of those middle aged aches and pains (can I really call myself middle aged? OMG I can I can). I like gardening, hiking, walking, canoeing and cross country skiing. I like to be outside unless there’s a squall, even to write.

August 2015 045

I redeem my transporting kids time (half hour each direction) with podcasts. I enjoy Netflix late in the evening, though fall asleep within fifteen minutes. If you can’t capture my attention in fifteen minutes, I’m lost to my dreaming imagination.

I love travelling. And meeting new people. I definitely love free travel: listening to people’s travel stories.

I like to visit with friends, with coffee, or wine too. Book clubs, cooking classes, writing critique groups, house designing. I’ve got a few things going on.

As part of my community, if you’re interested in contributing to this summer series, A Day in the Life of a Homeschooling Mama, leave a comment below.