What I Love About Homeschooling

It’s been a year since we pulled our daughter out of school and decided to homeschool.

She needed to be at home with me; to find a safe haven in the storm of a life that had been constantly changing for the past six years.

I needed her here, too.

I needed to see her.

To know her in the way that mothers know their children from the constancy of life.

To watch her grow and discover and pour out oil on her broken places.

To search out what it feels like to walk in her tender footsteps and breathe in the world around us through her little heart.

The past year has had it’s ups and downs, but there are many things I have learned to love about homeschooling.

It is a year I will never regret.

Now, on the brink of reintegrating her back to school…every day feels a bit bittersweet.

I love these days I have with her, even while I feel tied down, exhausted and claustrophobic!

Here are some reasons why I have loved homeschooling:

1.Flexibility –  It has been so nice coming home from a busy weekend and knowing that I can let my daughter sleep as long as she likes on Monday morning and let her ease back into the routine slowly.  There are days we accomplish tons of work…and there are days we accomplish very little.  The beauty of this, especially with a special needs child, is that when one of those days come along where you just know that learning is going to be a constant challenge…you can just NOT.  Some days we go for a walk instead, or spend our morning running errands.  Some days we visit friends, snuggle on the couch or take a nap.  I will miss this when I have to make sure she’s ready to go out the door every morning promptly, ready or not.

2. Integrated Learning –  I love that because I know exactly what my daughter is learning at all times, I can incorporate it into anything we may be doing.  If we are learning about money, for instance, we notice prices at the grocery store and talk about coin values when we count out allowance money.  She notices anything from spelling patterns to colours to story themes that we’ve been learning about all around her and I love that I know exactly what she is talking about when she mentions them.  I believe this is the most powerful way for a child to learn, when all of life becomes integrated.

3. Growth –  So, so much growth!  There is a huge, indescribable feeling that wells up in my soul when I hear her voice lacing out words and stories and poems as her eyes scan a page.  That was us!  Not me, not her, but us!  Together we have learned that she can read.  Together we have explored the sea and memorized the 7 continents of the world.  We have counted to 100 and explored the relativity of one number to the next.  Building blocks of tens and hundreds.  We can add them together or take them away.  We can write them and say them and see them and feel them.  Together we have bent our heads over books and papers and tiny little bugs.  We have run through the breeze and lifted our eyes to the sky, taking in the big wide world above us.  I have listened and listened and listened to her chatter.  Day after day after day until I thought my ears could take no more!  But in all the words and chatter and stories, she has given me her heart, offering it up to me in each little refrain.  Each and every small moment; put them in a box and you would see that we have learned!  We have grown.  I missed the first five tender years of my little A’s life…so when I look in this box I see a little bit of redemption.  A little bit of grace poured out that we could spend these moments together.

4. Play – Childhood is so short, and in an age where we are constantly measuring our children by charts and graphs and statistics from the minute their eyes first open, I want my children to have the chance to enjoy being a child.  I want to make sure that even while they are learning and growing, they are being given space to be children.  To laugh, to be silly, to explore, to create and to pretend.  Play in a child’s life is an essential part of their development as person.  Children use play to learn, comprehend life’s experiences and to communicate.   It took a long time for my daughter to be able to relax enough to really play, so when I see her carting her babies around, creating sculptures in the snow, setting up a house or building a fort…I cherish it.  It is a sign of the healing of her heart.

5. Sibling Bonds – When we chose to teach our daughter at home, we did not realize we were offering her an opportunity  to build a bond with her little brother that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity for otherwise.  With her older, more capable sister gone, she got a chance to form her own unique relationship with him.  Now, at age 14 months and 8 years, they spend every day together.  She is his favourite person to follow around and the games and stories she makes up for him keep him delightfully entertained.  Together they play cars, dolls, read stories and colour pictures.  Whatever she is doing, that’s what he wants to do, too.  Having the chance to be so adored, despite the many squabbles and struggles of siblings, has given her such a boost in confidence and self esteem.  Every day he proves to her by his little pattering feet following her around the house that she is worthy, she is loved, she is wanted.

6. Individualized Learning – While teaching a child with learning disabilities at home is not for the faint of heart, it is also incredibly relieving to  be able to step outside of the box and teach your child on his/her level with no pressure of ‘grade’ performance.  Most homeschooling families follow their child’s lead as to what they are interested in and then use that as a platform to build upon their learning.  It’s ok to be working at multiple grade levels.  Every child has strengths and weaknesses.  If math is going great and reading is a struggle, it’s ok to be working at a substantially more difficult level for math than for reading.  If your child conquers long division in just a few short lessons, it’s ok to move on to something new without doing the whole unit.  If your child has a short attention span, or learns more kinesthetically you can build breaks into their day that will help them thrive.  Math facts can be memorized while jumping rope.  Stories can be read at the park.  Spelling words can be created with paint and glue and soap bubbles.  If your child can spell orally but not with paper and pencil, it’s ok to test them that way.  If tests make your child anxious and he or she performs less than their best, it’s ok to toss tests out the window.  As his or her teacher, you will have a very good idea of what they are comprehending, so choosing to do tests will only be a formality of what you already both know.  If your child needs a  nap or some quiet time, it’s easily accessible.  If you decide to go on vacation in the middle of October that is perfectly ok!  I have loved being so involved in my child’s learning and being able to make decisions based on her best interests academically.  It has also given us more freedom as a family.

7. Life Skills – By choosing homeschooling you give yourself and your child a great opportunity to get involved in everyday activities that will teach them valuable life skills.  By bringing their learning home, you will be able to involve them in all your daily tasks.  Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, making a budget, the arts and music all become intertwined into their daily lives.  A child who has spent 8 hours a day at school will most likely not have the energy to enjoy baking cookies or doing the grocery shopping with you after school, but a child who has more space and free time will be more apt to learn these skills well as they have time to enjoy it.

Homeschooling has many challenges, and like most thing there are pros and cons no matter how you choose to educate your children.

 The past year has opened my eyes to the reality that homeschooling is not only possible but a really good option for many families.

 It is a great way for children to grow and learn and it is ideal for families who are craving connection and freedom from schedules and regulations.  It is ideal for adoptive families who are struggling with attachment issues, learning disabilities and trauma.  We were able to connect with a great homeschooling group locally that offered us support, diversity and fun, which was an added bonus.

We may or may not return to homeschooling in the future but either way I have enjoyed this year in ways I never imagined and I will never regret it!  If you have thought about homeschooling but feel it is too challenging, too complicated or too boring, hear this:

It was easier, more fun and more rewarding than I ever expected!

AF

Backyard Adventures

So I wish I could post some more photos for you of some of this stuff but until our adoption is finalized I can’t legally do that.  So…you’ll just have to be satisfied with my descriptions 🙂

I love to see kids using their imaginations and playing outdoors.  It is so healthy for all of us and it’s the sort of activity they don’t get to enjoy as much during the school year.  Recently I feel like the girls have really found their groove with the long summer days and are coming up with all kinds of things to do!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my husband has been working on building a tree house the past week.  He was actually pretty stoked about this since he’s always wanted a good reason to build a tree house apparently!  🙂  The girls were so excited about this and loved helping him.  I cringed as they wielded hammers, winced as they helped him saw and covered my eyes when it was finally complete enough for them to clamber up there…WAY up there!  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but spending the last few years providing daycare for other people’s kids and being a foster parent for the Children’s Aid Society has sharpened my ‘safety first’ instincts!  I tried not to let my nervous squeaks ruin their excitement and pushed away the jelly feeling in my stomach when I climbed up with them the first time.  Is it safe?  Barely.  But is it fun?  You bet it is!  This is why Akeisha and Alexa need a Daddy.  I encourage and applaud them when they are adventurous and brave…but I’m not as good at providing opportunities for them to practise those characteristics.

It really has been tons of fun, though, this tree house thing.  It can become a pirate ship, a secret clubhouse or a cool place to have lunch!  Yes, that was today.  Tuna sandwiches, carrots and apples are so much better when devoured with grimy little fingers as we gaze around at green, leafy walls.  Even the chipmunks, who have been feasting on peanuts right out of our hands, managed to crawl up there and try to steal a few crumbs!  It makes me feel like a child again…climbing trees, brushing the dirt off my sandwich, feeling rough wood on my feet and going out of the way to make each little moment extraordinary.  There’s even a trap door, which makes you feel like you’re entering a secret hideaway!  Akeisha tied a rope to a bucket so that they could transport all kinds of treasures up and down.  She also tried ‘fishing’ for chipmunks from her leafy hideaway which resulted in one clever little chipmunk getting quite the surprise when his peanut wouldn’t come free!

 

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There is also still a little fort in the bushes that gets some attention, a bear trap that was created ‘just in case’ and a new favourite hobby…picking apples from the wild apple trees beside our house!  Every now and then we still catch caterpillars and put them in our bug buckets…though they rarely get attention after that so they have a rather unfortunate end.  Akeisha is usually the ring leader of all these activities and the past few days working alongside Daddy she became enthralled with the idea of ‘working.’  So yesterday all day I was her boss and she drove to work in her workboat, just like Daddy.  She was so cute all dressed up in Daddy’s big work boots, a Rockscape Design hat and a big sweater that covered most of her body.  She took lunch breaks and even did a bunch of jobs for me as my ’employee.’  Hey, if she’s into working and having fun I’ve got all kinds of jobs that can be done! 🙂  After making the beds, doing dishes and sweeping the floor she was ready to go back to pretending to work like Daddy, not me!  Lol.

Our poor little doll babies who got such devoted attention a month ago have been rather neglected, but every now and then they still get a few cuddles, a walk to the park or a diaper change.  Crafts have been a big hobby lately and this mother has had to grin and bear all the glue, string, little paper pieces and wasted tape that goes with that!  Most of the crafts have been things for the fort or tree house.

I am so grateful for the little haven we have here up at the top of a quiet dead end street.  We have a perfect backyard for kids to be able to explore, play and create despite it’s small size.

So much to be thankful for.

Alongside all these backyard adventures I am just celebrating every little sign of attachment I see in our daughters.  Today Alexa, mimicking the words I’ve said to her so many times, told her doll “I’ll love you always and for ever NO MATTER WHAT!”  She also played shy and stuck right by my side the whole time a woman selling books dropped by this morning, which is a great improvement.  The last phone conversations we had with the girls foster parents were remarkably different than a few weeks ago.  Instead of the girls needing to know all about their former homes and what they were missing, they were able to excitedly share about the fun things that have been going on here!  We are hearing mostly Mommy and Daddy again, after a few weeks of reverting back to our names, and they are even able to have conversations about their new last names without feeling quite so threatened.  Alexa has a habit of coming up to me any random time and saying, “Mommy, I love you.”  No reason at all.  No particular emotion to provoke it.  Simply I love you 🙂  She loves when I call her my baby.  A favourite bonding activity is to be wrapped in a big towel after her bath and carried back to her room.

Daddy still gets greeted with huge shrieks of joy each and every evening…and he deserves every ounce of adoration the girls give him.  He’s amazing.  Day after day he comes home from work and pours a truckload of energy into the girls.  Alexa loves her snuggles from Daddy, climbing into his lap after supper just like I used to do with my Dad every night.  My favourite quote of hers was one Saturday morning as she crawled into bed to snuggle beside him.  “You’re my warm and fuzzy Daddy,” she said as she rubbed his whiskers affectionately. 🙂  She has been a Daddy’s girl since day #1 and there is just a bond there that I love to watch.

Akeisha likes to get quality time and attention, like helping him build the tree house or sitting on his lap chatting.  She got to stay up late a few nights just chatting with Daddy and it was so eye opening to hear her questions and comments.  They talked about everything from house fires to school to her day.  She was amazed to hear that Daddy would come back in the fire to find her if he knew she was still inside, and once again I was reminded how much we need to voice those things.  When trust is just being built, those things are not simply taken for granted as obvious facts like they were for me when I was a child.  They love to hear us say adamantly how much we would miss them if they left us and how we would follow them!  They’ve decided once they’re big enough to be moms themselves they will live next door to us in the house that is for sale so that they will not be far away, and talk about saving up their money for that.  🙂  Right now I am listening to them play house.  Akeisha is the mom and Alexa is the child.  Alexa has just been put on a ‘time-out’ by her sister and Akeisha is carefully explaining why exactly she is there and what will happen.  Wow.  Sponges.  It is incredible to hear your voice being parroted back at you.  The other day Akeisha said to me, “Mommy, I wish I would have been in your tummy.”  We’ve had this conversation a few times.  When I smiled, hugged her and said “Me too,” I could see her beautiful brown eyes glow.  We have so much yet to cover about the life they’ve already lived without us, but in those little moments we understand who we are.  We are a family.

I have no idea why God has allowed me to parent these girls.  I feel so unworthy some days.  But it really is the little things that matter so much.  It’s the way I speak, the way I go about my day and the things I place at the top of the list.  Through two pairs of young, searching eyes I get the chance to portray a tiny piece of what Jesus looks like.  When I stand before Him some day, I know what I am doing today is going to matter.  They are golden opportunities.  That can feel overwhelming, but I also know that it does not all depend on me.  God chooses to use me, but He doesn’t need me.  He will bring the increase.

AF

 

 

 

This Little Life of Mine…

This week has been so good 🙂

I am just so enjoying each day I have with my girls and it feels like we’re hitting a nice little groove…which I will try not to expect to last too long!  Last week felt a bit bumpy and I just felt the Grumpy Mama Syndrome setting in, which is the last thing any of us need these days.  So this week I was determined to be positive, say yes when I can, keep things light and just enjoy my daughters.  The pay off has been awesome! 🙂

Monday we just enjoyed being together after a busy weekend.  Hung out at home, cleaned up the house a bit so we felt sane again and ran a few errands.

Tuesday we went strawberry picking with some great friends of ours.  It rained a bit on us, but that was ok.  It was wonderful to spend time with friends again, and since these particular friends include kids ages 4 and 6, the girls had a great time.  By the time we made it home it was pouring rain and the house felt cool and damp, so we all ended up in jammies making strawberry pie for dinner.  On my way home from our friends I had noticed Pizza Hut’s sign…Tuesdays kids eat free…and we couldn’t quite pass that up on a rainy day 🙂  So we ate pizza for dinner and even managed to squeeze in biking up and down the street with Alexis from across the street.  Akeisha and Alexa love to bike, especially with Alexis, and I am so proud of how well they’re doing!  Akeisha loves to zoom up and down the street, showing off her tricks to us.  Alexa is gaining confidence each day and making lots of progress, despite the hard work it is for her little legs to pump those pedals.  She’s so proud that she can now bike down our big hill!  The girls also had fun watching Alexis try out her four wheeler-turned-two wheeler on Tuesday night.  She had been saying for about a week to Kirby, me and her Mommy and Daddy that she was ready for her training wheels to come off!  So Tuesday night ended up being the big night, and off she went!  The first few rides were rough, but in no time she got the hang of it and by today she’s a pro 🙂  This is what I love about our neighbourhood…the whole street felt like it was lit up as the kids zoomed up and down shouting out “Look at me!” and parents and neighbours waved and smiled and clapped.

Wednesday was the day for grocery shopping, making strawberry jam, and some laundry since it was nice and my dryer is broken 😦  I just have to insert here that I LOVE strawberry jam!  I love it on toast, muffins and icecream 🙂  My girls now love it, too, and even though it is super unhealthy because it’s loaded with sugar we eat it almost every day.  Alexa loves PB+J…on toast or a wrap, especially with this jam!  It is the recipe off the Certo package, which my Mom used when I was a kid.  I just can’t quite imagine anything better!  Yesterday I realized there is also a recipe on their for Strawberry-Banana Jam, and since I had bananas I tried a bit of that too.  Thinking that is going to be super yummy as well, though I haven’t actually tried it yet.  Anyway, back to Wednesday.

Early afternoon Alexis wandered over, as she does most days, and she and Akeisha got creative making a fort in the bushes!  Copying Franklin’s Secret Clubhouse, I agreed to sacrifice an old sheet and they strung it up over their little house.  All afternoon they blazed trails, collected treasures and cared for their worms and caterpillars in their little fort.  I love seeing kids use their imaginations to play this way, so I was delighted 🙂  They had hot chocolate…yes, in July…made signs and got covered in mud and sand.  Alexa joined in the fun a bit, but was a little less enthralled with tromping through the bushes.  Akeisha was so excited, it was all she could talk about all evening.

Today we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and scheming about our camping trip this weekend.  As long as the weather cooperates we plan to spend the weekend roughing it on one of the many crown land islands on beautiful Georgian Bay.  If it rains…well…I guess we can always head out early, since it’s so close.  FREE, FUN and CLOSE BY!  Love living here in the summertime 🙂  We’ll see how tenting treats us and what kind of adventures we can come home with on Sunday.  This morning Akeisha woke up early and went straight out to her fort, bundled up in her housecoat and two coats over top of her pajamas!  LOL.  So far she has eaten breakfast (her toast, milk and banana) and lunch (KD) out there.  Alexa cautiously joined the fun a bit later, but was a little worried there would be bears!  She came in sniffling to tell me that Akeisha was out bear hunting with her water gun but she was afraid she would get “attackled!”  I reassured her that, though there are bears around here, they would stay far away from noisy children 🙂  She still has not ventured back there much, however.  I guess the mud, sticks and mosquitoes don’t draw her quite as much.

It is all the wonderfully ordinary moments that I am just loving this week.  Dirty feet, sticky hands and messy faces.  My bathroom floor covered in bubbles from a little girl’s messy bath; what feels like thousands of ketchup stained purple and pink shirts in my laundry; tousled auburn hair against my cheek every morning on top of a sleepy smile.  I guess it’s because that’s what motherhood looks like.  KD on the floor, caterpillars on the deck, little arms and legs covered with scabs and bruises, shoes inside the door and markers and stickers everywhere.  Right now there’s a little girl sitting in my lap with hair that smells like mosquito repellent.  There’s another little girl dashing in the door giggling about something.  It’s time for me to go and give them some attention, but I hope this gives you a peek into our lives these days 🙂

The other night the girls were dancing around the living room and snuggling with Daddy while I played the piano.  Since we’d just been biking I thought of the song “You Can Let Go.”  I started singing it, but even though I’d sung it a thousand times before I only got a few phrases in and felt my throat closing up.  For the first time I thought about these two little girls someday growing up and walking down the isle beside my husband.  Because of that, I want to treasure every moment.  Too soon they won’t be little girls anymore tugging at my hands and holding up their treasures for me to see.  There is so much to do, and so little time…so one day, one moment at a time we will treasure this little life we have.

YOU CAN LET GO

By Crystal Shawanda

Wind blowing on my face
Sidewalk flying beneath my bike
A five year old’s first taste
Of what freedom’s really like

He was running right beside me
His hand holding on the seat
I took a deep breath and hollered
As I headed for the street

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

I was standing at the altar
Between the two loves of my life
To one, I’ve been a daughter
To one, I soon would be a wife

When the preacher asked
“Who gives this woman?”
Daddy’s eyes filled up with tears
He kept holding tightly to my arm
‘Til I whispered in his ear

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still feels a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

It was killing me to see the strongest man I ever knew
Wasting away to nothing in that hospital room
You know he’s only hanging on for you

That’s what the night nurse said
My voice and heart were breaking
As I crawled up in his bed and said

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Your little girl is ready to do this on my own
It’s gonna be a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

Hope you all have a super weekend!  I’ll let you know how the camping goes 🙂

AF