August 31, 2012

Homeschooling - Chronicles of an emotional journey I didn't sign up for...or did I?

Homeschooling is like no other.
          Any uncertainty I had on any aspect of parenting has arrived at my "front door" and is starring me in the face. All day. Every day.

         Did I wish this on myself? Did I actually sign up for this subconsciously??

         At 2:30pm everyday the answer is "HELL NO! Send these kids away!" but in quiet times when "the voices" are silenced I have to wonder.........

         I have so many questions I need answers to. I have so many uncertainties that need certainty. This parenting and schooling journey is one wrought with fear, worry, joy, tears (good and bad), and fulfillment beyond measure.

        But still - I do feel some days - I didn't sign up for this!!!

         I have decided to chronicle my emotional journey through my homeschooling style. This is so personal. This is mostly for me. And somewhat for a kids. Hopefully - you lovely people - you will read this and think "Awwww, I get it now. Poor mom was just doing her best" So if you read it be very kind to me.and I will let you come along as I figure this out.

        Here are some letters to my mentors wherein I pour my heart out.
A letter to one of my top 10 favorite people on the planet, my educational mentor, who happens to also be my favorite high school teacher: 
"August 9th - 5 weeks into homeschooling:
All is going better. I had been in quite a funk but was trying to suppress it. I was failed purposy, hating the kids, hating homeschooling and just hating life (not quite but almost). Then I went to the Home School Conference and got a huge boost there. A lot of those folks are what is called unschoolers. I went to a seminar on it and it was actually totally fascinating and I have a feeling L. Ron Hubbard would say that is the TOTAL way to go. What I got from it was that you basically trust your child to find things that interest them and then help them in ANY and EVERY way so they can do that and more of that. I just get nervous that they might miss out on valuable things and experiences if we don't sometimes force (oh so lovingly) them to try other things..........I don't know. The great debate! :) 

Anyway - the Home School Conference was awesome. And then the kids were out of town camping with their old school for a week right after so I had a chance to chat things over with John. Then we went to Utah for 8 days and stayed with John's cousin who has 10 kids and is the coolest lady. That also calmed me down more.

Then we have returned and I am learning to just let things flow more. Stop resisiting everything that detracts of my daily goals (which often feels like anything the children say and want from me!). Trying to enjoy the process.

I also started reading A New Slant on Life as I want to change my parenting style to be more in line with LRH. Give the kids more freedoms in their own lives. Not control them so freaking much. It's such a tough area as I like cleanliness and order!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGH!!!!

Anyway - John and I have been meeting every night to discuss things. Compare notes on other families. Read together, etc. It's really fun.

Today was a super good day. I gave the kids checklists and we all seemed to like this better instead of me barking orders and corraling them constantly through my master list. This way they could kinda of go at their own pace. We'll see. It's such a trial and error sort of deal."


And then a few weeks later my other parenting and educational mentor Joke (Yoka) Reeder comes to town to put on a 6 hour seminar. I was blown away. Speechless. Calm. Full of love and thinking clearly. After her seminar these are the notes I wrote her:

"Joke!! We are driving to the pet store to create a frog habitat! We are building tables! We are DOING this! You are an angel. I have talked to several moms today and we are creating Joke event. This must happen! Thank you to pieces for yesterday's seminar."

Following day:

"Joke! You were right! The LeBaron house has suddenly filled up with extra kids because there is so much going on here! Action! Not screens! We are making jello from scratch, soldering metal towers, and playing board games. I have a happy & productive house. We love you!"

Later that day...

"I would like to tell you the rest as things are winding down now.

First - after several active and fun things  - we go over to pick up my daughter from a playdate. And my older son TALKS TO HIS SISTER. He didn't want to fight or tease - the first thing he did was search her out to HAVE A CHEERFUL CONVERSATION! Holy, holy moly! Tears. Mommy tears.

The place we were picking up my daughter was one that always has videos, movies, video games. and ipad time.  Before my daughter was allowed over I made sure I was going to get support for  our "three weeks of no screen experiment" With all screens completely and unquestionly banished my kids did the following: soccer, talk to grown ups, dance, play piano, crafts, beg to built model airplanes, and challenge people to a game of chess. And I LOVED spending time with them.

We then soldered a whole bunch more with me and is currently building a Eiffel Tower with soldering wire. After I retired to the bath he charged in the bathroom with a huge grin on his face to tell me:

"MOM! I am going to make Charlotte and Isabella jewelry hangers. I will start with them. And then mom, I will build something for you and dad"

Can we just stop and cry right now?!?????

Thank god I am in a place to GET IT now. Thank god I am homeschooling and can finally DO something about it. Boy - I get it now. 

I have always loved children, babies, and especially children and babies and education together. I think I have finally, finally, FINALLY - without a doubt - know it for sure - figured out my true purpose this lifetime. I want to open a preschool when the kids are older.

I love you. I need you"


Tonight. A letter to Linda with another update:

I went to a Joke Reeder seminar last weekend and can I just tell you - I have been to them before. And I did get A LOT out of them before. But now after having done 175 hours of therapy at the church AND now that I am homeschooling and can finally be TOTAL cause over my family and children's education....I got SO MUCH out of it. I was walking on water for about 3 days I swear to GOD!

That woman - I have to say it Linda - that woman knows her stuff on education and children like no other. LIke NO OTHER. I could almost stop right there.

I mean seriously...............her take on education is mind blowing. It is VERY Sudburry Valley. It is VERY much like all those books out there that challenge the ineffective job the public school is doing. You would get goose bumps. You would either hate it or love it. I'm telling you - the whole universe goes quiet when she talks. My mind becomes calm, logical and sane. I love my children. I see clearly. And I see that there is no quesiton to what needs to be done.

After the seminar John and I talked until the wee hours of the morning. It was very interesting timing because - I don't know if it's the homeschooling or just this stage of parenting - but John and I are starting to question EVERY aspect of our give allowance or not? To assign chores or not? To lovingly force the kids to do piano lessons or not? To unschool or structure school? And on and on?

 It seems as though the parental s&%# is hitting the fan...........And then this seminar came to town. And instead of reeling.....I came home focused. Loving. Calmer. I came home completely revitalized on my purpose as an educator and I want to work with children in the way Joke does. Unhurried, unforced, putting so little attention on the seriousness of an education - but just there lovingly providing a ton of learning activities and information as needed and as desired. 

Can you even begin to wrap your mind about a space that didn't force you into a classroom? That didn't force you to study things? But was there giving classes if you wanted to go? Can you imagine being in a space where it was totally safe to say you HATED _________ (subject) and not be treated like shmuck?? OH man I have to say I cried buckets while in the audience of her seminar. I needed Joke when I was a student. I needed space and love so I could come around. And come around I did but only after schooling was no longer mandatory.

Thank god you were there for me in your unmatchable Linda way. I was in such rough shape then!!!!!!!!!!

So anyway - like I was saying - we started our three week experiment after Joke's seminar and banned ALL screens from the house. TV, movies, ipads, iphones, all. The kids rebelled heavily for 1 hour. And then like Joke said we replaced that ban with a TON of doingness. We built a frog tank, got chickens, have done 4 field trips, made cakes, tarts, read a ton of books, etc., etc. It's more work for me - but I am finding my parenting saner. I feel better. It's hardest on me I think to know I can't pop a movie in on Friday nights when I am tired. :) 

And although I felt so good and certain of myself during and after the seminar the thing that I ALWAYS come back to and that you and I always talk about is the worry, or disagreement that we have with unschooling………………….

The one side of me completely sees the TRUTH of it. The sanity of it. The rightness of it. As - you and I know - it DOES NOT take 12 freaking years to get a quality education. Joke says it takes 3 if you are interested and a good student. I have a feeling she's close. So her WHOLE thing she does out there at that school is gets kids calm enough, loved enough, built up enough and to give them that quality three years. And all the while in a very unserious, unhurried way and FULL of fun and doingness actions. 

And the other side of me LOVES the structured approach. I love my checklists. My date stamper. My red pen. I love knowing that if I do 2 pages a day in math and 1 chapter of spelling a week they will make it through by June for that grade level. I love this. It feels safe. And secure. But seriously………..I have to look at - - - IS IT RIGHT???

I fight with my children off and on all day to get through their schoolwork. Some days I come to have serious animosity toward them. And they me. Is it because I am simply just the mom? Or is it something more?

It's time to meet again I think!


And so the great debate rages on. But I have a feeling I am closer than ever before to The Answer.

xoxoxo to infinity,

PS So I am totally revitalized on my purpose and I AM going to open up a preschool once the kids are older or grown. It's happening. I have always wanted to do something like this. Do you know Bev Bos??? She is an early childhood educator LEGEND and runs a famous preschool in northern CA. I just started subscribing to the monthly CDs she puts out that has videos of different aspects of her school so I can see how it's done, articles, etc.. I have been following her for years but got failed purposey on my preschool idea. Well that's all gone and I'm creating again! Even if it doesn't open for 15 years! Bev Bos is the Linda Neilson and Joke equivalent but for preschool. You would ADORE her.

August 25, 2012

Utah Trip Day 7 - County Fair

Day #7 of our Utah Trip brought is to the little country fair in Delta.
I love that kind of stuff (holy moly I sound like my mother!!)

First up is their duct tape contest - how cool is that??

These duct tape shoes were made by a teenager.

As were these! SO AWESOME! That's what I want my children doing with their spare time!

Duct tape flip flops! LOVE!

And a little snow cone break. I try not to think of the damage the blue dye with do to her body but I can't help myself. But her face is a good distraction. Pure cuteness.

Mr Will found a balloon. Daddy actually sweettalked a booth owner into cutting it off their booth for him. Yay daddy!
Can we talk about this shirt real quick? Really?? Horse mural on your shirt?? It was too much. I had to remember this one forever and ever.

I kept commenting over and over to my nieces how Utah girls really know hairdos. One of them said to me (sweet thing ever) "It's all we have going for us!" LOL

Mexican dancers! Loved this! Sweetest little dancer ninas.

But the ladies was a treat. I just love the red skirt. Could I get away with it?? Hmm....


The red one is calling to me!

Next were the animals. The kid's had a blast looking at them all.

A row of chickens. Just wait until you meet Cruela DeVille!

Hola scary chicken! I named you Cruela DeVille as you are a starleing likeness.
told ya!

Oh sweet Savannah bear. You were just a queen and slept away. Your red hair is always an attention grabber but this day you were photographed (while awake) for the Delta newspaper. You are just too much.

Madam Olivia - I will follow you wherever you go.

Children's Rodeo!
we all LOVED watching these pipsqueaks riding their horses, jumping off, wrangling a goat, and riping off a ribbon all while being timed. It was electrifying! Sorta kinda.

Awwwwww - look at this little buddy. Daddy was running down with him cuz he really is that small.

But not small enough to wrangle a goat. 
He done make me proud and I don't even know him.

We will miss you country fair. Until next time!

August 24, 2012

Utah Trip 2012 - Day 6

Let's take a tour around the "farm." Meet Juicy Jean. She arrived just a few days before we did. Olivia wanted a milking cow (because she doesn't have enough on her plate!).

Juicy Jean is a sweet cow - because I have so many other cows to compare her to....riiiiight. But she is really sweet. I've had fantasies of having a cow myself. With organic, raw milk costing about $11-19 a gallon (no joke!) that sucker would pay for itself pretty quick.
The only problem is Juicy Jean makes about 10 gallons of milk a day. With their main fridge needing parts, that only left the second and guest fridge and those were filling up fast.
So the solution? Cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Here baby #1 and #10 are helping out.

Olivia is separating curds and whey. How very Mrs. Muffet of her.

There are also a few puuuurty horses around these parts. We didn't go riding this trip...but we admired from afar.

Let's take a break and love on my baby. :) Miss O loves Miss S. I named Miss S after Miss O because she is the _________ person (insert any favorable adjective) I know.
Awww. cousins. Wills was in his stranger-danger mode for the first 3 days (of course) but here is one of 4 sweet group moments. :)

Oh Louis. You have grown up so much. Just recently you were the tantrum-throwing 2 year old and now you are the big boy.

Wills started to love the pups. Because the pups were locked up now. 

Here puppy, puppy, puppy.

One of my favorite things about these people is they all get along - no matter the age range. Simple toys and activities fuel hours of entertainment. It's wholesome. It's sweet. I feel so jaded and grungy comparatively. I sure do like city living, but these people - they do make me reconsider.

Wills and John are gluesticks. And vacation time just enhances their bond. Get it? :) I like puns

One of the many fun things to do is swing on their 20 foot tall swing.

Oh miss Amy, can I please take you home? You are sweet as can be. I swear you are pure light.

This series of shots absolutely made my day.

Kimberly - have I told you lately how special you are? I have never met anyone like you. I believe you are a natural born leader; kind, strong, intelligent...a good recipe. You will father the younger flock of kids (7 when mine are there too) and put together games and hours of wholesome fun. I really admire you.

I told my sweet Miss C that she had better warm up to her cousins quick and not let it take 3 days because we only had four. She seemed to take my advice and jumped right in (as much as a shy girl can).

This was just the morning of - country fair coming up!

August 23, 2012

Why I homeschool

Most people think I'm crazy to homeschool.
It could be they are worried about my kid's education.
Or their social life.
Or that I'm making religious zealots out of them.
But in reality it's none of those - I just love 'em a lot.

And I know how fast this stage goes.

Sometimes way too fast - like the cuddly, squishing baby phase Savannah is in.
Or way too slow - like the tantrum throwing stage William is in.

But what I know for sure is I do love them. And I want them growing up together. And am super greedy about my time with them. 
Even on the days when all the time spent makes me want to pluck my eyelashes out with needle nose pliers.....

Something like this sequence happens.....

....and then seeing me laughing on the rug with her siblings....
...Charlotte comes to join the baby lovin' party.

And then I melt. The days can be so very long. But Lord help me remember the years are painfully short.

I homeschool because I don't want to miss out on these years. I don't want to miss out on teaching them the things I feel are important to learn and sheltering them just a bit longer from the things I feel are not. 

I homeschool because I want them to grow up together, loving each other and being each other's friends.