I love/hate Alaska

Confession: I am South American.  I don’t do winter sports.  And I was raised swimming outdoors in ocean water every weekend.  As a result, Alaska isn’t “natural” for me.

img_1670I have this love/hate relationship with Alaska, as I think most people do who weren’t born and raised here.  It’s definitely not a ‘meh’ state.  It’s always going big or going home, in everything from sunlight (and lack thereof) to snow.  Winters are long and hard on my joints.  Summers are short and sunny even during midnight.  It’s very extreme.

And very beautiful.

One of the reasons why we have stayed as long as we have (and plan on staying) is the way homeschooling has just opened up doors for our family.  We have a family we could have never imagined.  We live in a way that feels almost fairy tale like.  And I’m so thankful!

img_1674Just a few Sundays ago we went on a homeschool fieldtrip organized by our charter school.  Drove three hours one way to sit on a boat for 5 hours, and do marine biology lessons and experiments.  And whale watching.  And sea lion watching.  And glacier watching.

It’s the part of Alaska you fall in love with, the views that leave you breathless.  The smell of rain and pine trees that I’m sure I would never smell in any other place.  It’s the big ocean and the big mountains all in one panoramic view.

Then there’s an almost unbelievable amount of homeschooling support in this state that has afforded us to be here.  Paid for by their school (and not my pocket).  Learning about our ecosystem and being surrounded by kids just as interested and curious as my children.

img_1688My children (and I) learned:

  • Alaska (south of the Arctic circle) is indeed a rainforest.
  • We are so rich in phytoplankton that it is visible in our waters from outer space.
  • Alaska is the final frontier to many species of pelagic birds – birds that can swim and fly.  These birds have dense bones to help them really fly underwater but can still get airborne.
  • Marine mammals have had multiple adaptations which help them survive in these cold waters.
  • The tail of a humpback whale is worked by a muscle called a peduncle.  It is so powerful that in two swipes it will get a whale completely out of the water and into the air.  That’s 66,000 lbs!
  • Otters have such lose fur that they can literally grab their back, bring it in front of them for grooming, and put it back.

img_1690My kids got to look at and identify plankton under a microscope that they caught in the bay.  And they learned a lot about how unique our state is, the state I’m learning to fall in love with after all these years.

We also went outside and learned how to spot humpback whales by watching the patterns of the birds that feed around them.  We came to understand their behavior and know when they were going to dive for a long time.

How many people in the world could honestly say they’ve seen a humpback whale?

We also spotted sea lions resting on rocks to conserve their energy.  And so many birds.

img_1730I can get tired of the long, dark winters… but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of exploring the beauties of this place with my children and seeing the wonder in their eyes.  When you are in front of such big wildlife, you are more aware of how small you are in comparison to the rest of creation – and more in awe that God loves you THAT much.

 

My Hero Academia

Confession: I grew up with Anime (dubbed into Spanish. Yikes) and with few exceptions, I wasn’t really a fan. 

** Disclaimer: None of these images are mine.  I don’t draw that well. I don’t own them nor do I have the copyrights to them.**

heidiI was four years old when I watched my first anime, “Heidi” – yes, based on the novel of the Swedish orphan?  That was like my soap opera.  And I grew up with cousins that were really into Dragonball Z, and Sailor Moon, and I preferred Dragonball.  And then there was the Pokemon craze which I lost interest in after Pokemon #152.

My husband and kids are more into it than I am.  Once Dragonball Super finished my kids were looking into all the wonderful possibilities (and some of them were even dubbed in English!). I got involved to step up my parental controls.

Out of left field comes an anime that inspires us, makes us laugh, keeps us hanging at the edge of our seat!  I geek out over My Hero Academia, but I’m going to give you the parental review and not from a fandom perspective.

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The premise is that humanity has evolved where 80% of the population has meta-powers or “quirks” (not all that different from Marvel or DC comics).  This has changed regulations and laws as villains arose that could do things which had never been done before.  Because the police is maintaining it’s integrity in handling suspects, “Heroes” have stepped in and used their quirk to help apprehend (and that’s the key) villains and save mankind from the catastrophes that this ensues.

kachanEnter Izuku Midoria, a young boy in middle school.  In a world where he is bullied by kids with amazing superhuman abilities, he has none.  Completely quirkless.  But all he has ever dreamed of being is a hero like All-Might, the man he looks up to.

In a chance encounter Izuku meets All-Might and impresses him with his hero potential, not in his physical ability but in the condition of his heart, which gets Izuku a quirk and the best mentor in the hero world – and admission to the elite high school where super heroes are trained.  Here Izuku needs to learn not only how to use his quirk power but also the power in himself to be a hero by doing the right thing.

all mightThree seasons into it we are waiting for every episode.  I love and have had MULTIPLE devotions where we parallel Scripture to what we see!  As we see qualities in Izuku that Christ Himself has shown us to be the supreme example of (sacrifice, love, and compassion) we can’t help but cheer him on.  Along him come a whole crew of characters who are also navigating this personal growth and you can’t help but fall in love with them.  It is very well written!

studentsI personally LOVE how male to female relationships among high-schoolers are portrayed.  There’s a lot of respect, it’s innocent, and not dating centered –  as it should be.  There is the exception in one of the characters but it’s painfully obvious how this one dude is not with the program and when he’s inappropriate, it’s not funny.  It’s frowned upon.  Overall you see a crowd of peers that learn to work together the way I would hope my kids work with other kids at that age.  In the midst of teenagers, hormones, and crushes it’s very refreshing to see a series where boys and girls develop healthy, normal friendships.

That being said, there are some themes that may cause you to pass on this or watch episodes ahead and see if it’s for your child.  Although in my opinion, it’s not all that different than watching The Flash on the CW and definitely WORLDS better than anything on Cartoon Network, so here we go:
– Some females are overly sexualized in their costumes.  It was a character development decision that was thought through and justified (the way you would justify a woman in a bathing suit because she swims, but really wouldn’t expect her in a bikini top at school).
– In season 2, they get into the back story of one character that features an abusive father and the trauma that it brings about in his mother, which may be a bit too dark for younger kids.
– The villains are scary.  Scary the way Killgrave was scary in Jessica Jones; not because they’re monsters but because they are psychopaths.
– Season 3 episode 2 is not for kids.

Overall, I would say it’s for kids 10 and up with some episodes skipped, but with open communication I know of kids as young as 4 watching it with their parents.  And I think that’s what matters the most, to be honest.  What kind of dialogue do you have with your kids on the things they are watching?

Do The Hard Things

Confession: It’s been really nice being on summer break.  I’ve had three days of uninterrupted, unlimited Bible study.  And snuggles.  And coffee that is still hot when I drink it!

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This is my runfie.  This is the hot mess I look like running 2 miles in 50F.

I finished calculating grades and putting together progress reports on Monday and since then I feel like I have nothing to do.  Everything for AK Exploring Studies is submitted and I’m just waiting on the Anchorage School District to get back to me.  There is nothing left for me to do but wait and rest and recover.

And in all this resting, my Bible reading and my devotionals have all been revolving around one common theme: Do the hard thing.

It doesn’t take a neurologist to see that we are creatures of habit (ok, maybe it actually does, but just follow me here for a moment).  We will always do that which we have always done – we will react the same way we reacted last time, we will drive down the same routes we drove down yesterday…  And this is what makes weight loss so painfully difficult!  If you crave salt and vinegar chips when you are stressed and you give in today, you will crave and possibly give in tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

Which is why Paul the apostle told us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.  However they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.

Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.  Instead I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

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My daughter did a triathlon and I did the run part with her AND my youngest.

Bringing your body under strict control is not fun.  It’s hard.  But it’s the hard things that lead to the life God really envisioned for you!  We weren’t created to cruise on autopilot until we reach eternity.  We are told to do this life as if we were in the Olympics, going for the gold.  What does that look like?

  • Reading your Bible before reading your Facebook feed.
  • Putting away all the electronics and playing a board game with your kids.
  • Fasting and praying through decisions instead of making them on a whim.
  • Eating the handful of snap peas instead of the chocolate chip cookies.
  • Going for a run when you’d rather watch TV all day.
  • Listening to your spouse with the intention of understanding, instead of thinking of what you are going to respond because you are angry.
  • Working with your kid on a chore and guiding him until he gets it instead of just taking over and doing it yourself.
  • Bathing your own dog instead of paying someone else to do it when the money is tight.
  • Cutting out foods from your diet that cause inflammation if you are struggling with auto-immune issues!
  • Cutting cable when funds are tight or the family is on a spiritual low.

The hard things are not fun things.  But they are good things.  We know that doing the hard things now will plant seeds of victory that we will harvest later in the future.

img_1652My husband just went back to school.  He was faced with two options: Be a 40 year old C.M.A. or a 40 year old P.A.  It will take him that long to get there anyways and the time will pass either way.  But his career may be completely different if we all choose to do the hard thing now.

The good thing is that the hard things become easy things once they are a habit.  The tough part is making the decision to do it.  After doing it enough times, it won’t be an active decision to wrestle with any more, it will be a normal part of your life.  And that’s where it gets awesome!  Your mind, body and soul will be that much in tune with making the right choice the more we consistently do so when it is the hardest.

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Learning That Looks Different

I can imagine that to outsiders looking in, my Instagram feed looks strange.  What we consider homeschooling doesn’t look like schooling at all.  Where are the text books? Where are the worksheets?  And how is going to the gun range “schooling” at all?

The whole gun range rant is for another post.

But in essence, the truth is: If I wanted to recreate “school” at home I may as well send them to school and save me the trouble.

If “school” was producing such great results, with amazing prodigies in science, sports, and art, our education would rank higher than that of other countries, and our college graduates a much more formidable force in the competitive labor market across the world.  But it doesn’t.

I’m not saying that there aren’t children who do absolutely amazing in public school – because there are.  However, I would argue that succeeding at Public School is not necessarily equivalent with being a successful individual.

So in my personal experience, I need to determine what would my child look like as a successful individual, and work my way backwards from there.  And here is my flow chart:

  1. Being uninhibited in kindness and compassion is a big priority for my children.  They are very tenderhearted, and I don’t want them to be “toughened up” by bullying.  I don’t want them to learn through peer influence and unsupervised socialization to be callous, or rude.  As a result, at this time public school is not the best choice for them.
  2. My kids are argumentative and struggle with submitting to authority.  There is (believe it or  not) a benefit to this: they don’t accept any information at face value.  Everything is questioned, researched, debated… from a history lesson to the chore of washing dishes.  If I want the learning to be meaningful, they would benefit best from a Socratic approach to learning.  And that’s just not a style of learning in most public or private schools.
  3. Creativity helps my children de-stress.  It’s also how they express themselves.  I’m sure there may be a charter school that would allow them to turn in their report in Manga form *somewhere*, but I haven’t found it.
  4. There are learning disabilities to consider!  My kids aren’t behind as a result of ADHD but I also know that the way I work with them at home has helped them to not be handicapped by this condition.  They can stand on their heads, pace back and forth, bounce a ball, and overall wiggle their way through all their learning assignments without being reprimanded for the inconvenience it would cause to the class.  Homeschooling for the win!
  5. A strong family unit is by far the most influential and beneficial factor I could give my children.  I don’t know whether they’ll be doctors or game programmers, but I know that they will grow up and be in relationships, get married and have children of their own (possibly).  And regardless of what they do as a profession, they need to learn how to love their children and their spouses.  Research shows they learn that from experiencing it at home, and I don’t think a few hours around the dinner table is enough.

Am I a helicopter parent? A little bit.  But there is science to back up that a happy heart leads to a smarter mind.  Looking at each child as a unique individual and helping them feel joyful means that they will retain more of what they learn and *gasp* develop a LOVE for learning.  Not learning for passing the test sake.  Not learning for passing the class sake.  Learning because knowledge is worth acquiring.

This is why homeschooling looks different in every home, and it varies within the home from school year to school year.  It’s fluid and organic as the students themselves.  And it will provide very different results from what you might have experienced in other children.  That’s the point.

ISO Long Lost Relatives

This is not an affiliate post!  I paid for my own test with AncestryDNA.com and was not compensated or even asked to leave a review in any way.  The opinions on this blog post do not reflect the views of Ancestry.com and are exclusively my own.

Legalities out of the way, my husband and I did our DNA profiles with Ancestry.  Yup, despite the fear that now they will keep our DNA and sell it to third party companies that would track us from now on (no research for this, just my usual paranoia), we spit into the little tubes, shook it up and mailed it in.

And the results are in!

I did mine to try to find more info about my family.  I was hoping to find matches on my dad’s side of the family.  My dad and I don’t have a lot of information there – my grandfather left from Venezuela to Germany sometime around 1966.  My grandmother kept her maiden name, and came from Prussia – whether the polish or the German side of it, who knows?  Enough world wars have changed the landscape of Eastern Europe.

 

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Possibly my grandfather?? Who knows!

I have pictures of my grandma as a nurse, and bike riding through Europe as a young woman fresh out of school.  I also have pictures of her exploring Venezuela, and some colored photographs of her in Bali.  I know she visited a relative in Australia and had a friend in New York City.  I know she had brothers because I remember seeing the sepia-colored photographs of young men in uniform.  But I don’t really know anything about her!

 

So I was hoping to find more on Else Karalus or Hans Heimig, and see if there are any second cousins anywhere?  Any pictures or connections to a “home land”?  And this was probably fueled by the realization that my homeland is destroyed.  I will never, ever be able to take my husband and children to Venezuela and show them my grandmother’s grave, or my childhood neighborhood.  They’ll never know what it’s like to visit the falls, or the Andes, or the Amazonian basin.  And that grieves me.

My mom and I spent some time researching her side of the family and found out that her paternal grandparents were European Jews that came to Venezuela seeking refuge.  News to both of us!  And I’m thankful I met my great grandmother, and have pictures with her, and she walked me to school, because there isn’t much in the way of documents on an orphan ex-slave.  But it’s ok, cuz I knew her.  Till her dying day.

Anyhow, it’s a very difficult feeling to explain; you are always an immigrant, but you never have a country to go back to.  And you are adapted to the United States, well versed in politics, geography, and history – but it’s never “home”.  It always feels like you know this information as an outsider looking in.  Somehow I went on the search for a “home country”, one maybe in Eastern Europe I could hope to visit and learn about one day in replacement of the one I lost.

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I’m such a mutt I’m a child of the world!!

East Europe – my paternal side,  Prussia, explains this perfectly.  Native Americans – I’m sure that’s indigenous to Venezuela, like the Yanomami.  These two things make up half of the genetic pool that is me.

Then it’s a smorgasbord of ancient history and migration patterns.  Vikings that sailed all over the Baltic sea and established themselves in parts of Russia and the Iberian peninsula.  Spaniards, conquered by Romans and then Muslims.  Celts that fled from the Roman invasion in Britain.  African slaves from Senegal and Mali, brought on Spanish ships to Venezuela after Columbus’ ill arrival.  Aside from Southern Europe and Ireland, it’s dashes of spice from people that moved and were moved, conquered and were conquered, all somehow ending up in the northernmost part of South America to make me.

And somehow, unexplainably, a pinch of Melanesian (Papa New Guinea/Australian Aboriginal).  I’m sure that one made an interesting story some years back…

But this comforted me because it gave me a lot of places to call “home”.  A lot more history to learn, genealogies to look up, and hopefully once my kids all graduate – places to visit!  I was never meant to belong to any one geographical place here on earth.  I’ve always been a traveler passing through, with my citizenship in Heaven.  Then I’ll feel like I’m truly home.  Until then, I’ll keep searching for family members.

Do you have interesting lineages or family histories?  Share below!

 

 

The Problem With Women’s Health…

For the past few months I’ve been recovering from a hysterectomy that came about after an IUD pierced my uterine wall and decided to float around in my abdomen.

Fun times… not.

So let’s start at the top.  I could start with the decision to put in the IUD… or the ovary removal in 2012… or go even further back.

Let’s start with the day of my first period.  I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. It wasn’t too big of a deal except it was strange.  The pediatrician suspected it was a result of anemia because I ate very vegetarian.  But it stopped between 11 and 14 altogether with iron supplements and more sunlight.

And that’s things took a drastic turn south.

I remember  sitting in biology as a freshman and passing out in class.  I felt terribly nauseus and dizzy but they wouldn’t let me go to the nurse.  When I did pass out, I fell off my chair and it revealed a pool of blood on my seat, dripping down on to the floor.  THEN I was sent home.  I was also called nasty by my classmates who took this as an indication of poor feminine hygiene.

Never mind that I was wearing a tampon AND an overnight pad at that time…

… TMI?  Yes but I feel the need to be candid.

I got sick during my SATs and passed out for some of it.  No excuses.

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My high school self. Early 00s

 

In fact, I couldn’t excuse myself out of anything during my menstrual cycle.  Definitely not high school.  Also not work.  No boss could understand why I couldn’t deal with it or prepare better.

By God’s grace I delivered 3 children, and a few years after that I was going to the Emergency Department monthly.  Abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea.  They would do an ultrasound and say, “We think you had an ovarian cyst pop.”  And send me home.  When I ran a fever they prescribed a Zpack until I can’t even tolerate it any more without nausea.  Six months went by and my performance reviews at the veterinary clinic I worked for suuuuucked.  I called out too much.  I wasn’t very alert or helpful.  I was spacey.  I didn’t have the best customer service.

In desperation my OB GYN does a laparoscopic exploration and finds that I had pelvic vein congestion and endometriosis.  I had veins twisting to the thickness of my thumb.  I had blood pooling in my abdominal cavity.  I had a shriveled ovary removed.  And all this only five years ago!

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My kids are nursing me back to health with smoothies.

Up until the end of last year I still had gnarly periods.  I still went hormonally off the reservation.  I would spend $6000 worth of medications and literally bleed them out before they did anything to help the rheumatoid arthritis I was also fighting.

 

And the thing that drives me up the wall right now is that all this time, from age 14 to age 32, no one told me the crucial truth:  THIS ISN’T NORMAL!  I had never even heard of a period that lasted any LESS than 10 days.  Or cramps that went away with Motrin.  Because the only thing I was told was:

  • It’s not that bad.
  • It happens to every girl.
  • Watch your diet.
  • Exercise more.  Your stomach is flabby.
  • You need to lose weight.
  • Try some herbal teas, hot packs, or ice packs.

And quite frankly, this pisses me off (excuse my language).  I had severe symptoms that were dismissed all my life, as is the case with hundreds of thousands of women who struggle with PCOS, Endometriosis, or other uterine/ovarian health issues.  And this is where it needs to change.  We need to have this conversation and push our primary care providers and OBGYNs to look for the Zebras instead of the horses when we are explaining our painful menstrual cycles.

 

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After the good meds kicked in, just before surgery.

My primary care provider recommended an IUD when she saw the pattern of depression/RA Flare Ups/Long Periods to see if we could eliminate periods altogether.  Fortunately (and in an excruciatingly painful manner) the IUD went clear through my uterine wall.  I say fortunately because the pathology results of my now removed uterus proved my surgeon’s words true:  Uteruses bleed, bear children, cause pain and get cancer.  And it was time for mine to go.  Have you ever even heard of Adenomyosis? It’s not diagnosable by ultrasound.

 

I’m still recovering from the hysterectomy and it’s been about 6 weeks.  I’m not at 100% yet, although I’m anxious to be.  I’m curious to see what 100% of me feels like in my marriage, my parenting, and my ministry.  A full 100% of me that is not crippled for two weeks out of the month. I may be experiencing healthy for the first time in a long time.

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Have you struggled with women’s health issues?  How long did it take for you to be diagnosed?  Are you still waiting for answers?  Share below!

 

 

The Season of Silence

It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t blogged in so long.

But sometimes you don’t have anything to say.  I had a lot of incoming information and things I was quietly observing and praying about.  And just waiting for things to change and shift according to God’s will.

My health took a turn of events that had me resting A LOT.  So much so I had a lot of time to think, and journal, and sleeeeeeeep. Delicious sleep.

Nothing happens for our harm though.  I’ve learned that full well.  In all the events and trials we have been through, it has all worked out to do good in us.  The issue is that our definition of “good” is probably not God’s.

We think “good” is comfortable, pleasant, or nice.  God says “good” is having strong moral fiber, being like Jesus; forgiving when it hurts, turning the other cheek… Persevering in the face of persecution.  Having endurance in the faith while being tried and tested.

It goes without saying that to have good results by God’s standards you will have to be moved from the comfortable and pleasant.  You can’t stay safe and happy and develop a Christ-like character, which is the ultimate definition of “good”.

Yes, everything has worked out for my good.  I’ll share in subsequent blogs some specifics, but I can see God’s signature in my life and my faith is growing.

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Unquantifiable Benefits of Homeschooling

At the beginning of every year, I start evaluating all things from last year to determine our course of action for this year.  It’s kind of like setting New Year’s Resolutions, except no one keeps those.  I like to go a bit deeper and try to journal out things I wanted to do but didn’t, things I AM doing that I no longer want to do, things that worked out well and things that didn’t.  Then I try to be a bit more intentional moving forward.

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Homeschooling is one of those things that I can slave away and need some coffee in the morning and wine at night to get through.  But then again, that has more to do with parenting and less to do with schooling.  Temper tantrums, disobedience, and eye rolling happens in seasons for every kid (and I have three!) and they would happen here or in public/private school.  They just wear on me more when we are home together.

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However, every year I also find very tangible benefits to homeschooling.  Some I can put down on paper or a chart.  Some I just can’t.  More often it’s the unquantifiable benefits that far outweigh them all and has us pursuing the same course.

We are getting ready to do assessments with their contact teacher at their charter school tomorrow.  I needed some quantifiable results from an outside source to see if the kids are doing as well as I think they are.  Even though I’m seeing it with my own eyes, I have a hard time believing my 8 year old with ADHD does multiple digit multiplication in his head.  As much as I watch him do it.  He’s a self proclaimed 3rd grader that is supposed to be in 2nd and I’m not sure he has memorized his time tables.

It also feels like all of the sudden the three of them took leaps forward when it comes to writing, grammar, and penmanship. I would pat myself on the back if I knew how I did it.  I had been frustrated for almost an entire calendar year and all of the sudden – Whoosh! As if by magic – it clicked and it’s happening.baking cookies

But if I’m completely honest, my 5 reasons to continue our homeschooling journey are:

1.- My kids aren’t fussing with each other nearly as much as they were last year!  They have awesome moments of playing together or working together and they have more moments of resolving conflict calmly and respectfully.  If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD, this is HUGE.  As in, knock on wood, walk away and cross your fingers HUGE.

2.- My kids are taking a step back and making wiser decisions about their friendships outside the home.  They are realizing that even though they can be friendly to everyone, not everyone is a good influence on them.  I don’t think there’s a curriculum that teaches this.  But I’ll take it.

3.- My kids are the most outward-thinking, compassionate beings I have ever seen.  I am frequently getting reports from other parents who thank me about something very kind and helpful my kids did… of which I had no idea.  And would never had known if the parent had not messaged me.  Not something I can take credit for either, except to say that I’m convinced learning and living from a position of rest helps them to be less self-centered.Bible Quiz

4.- My kids are overcoming bullying a lot more effectively.  Yes, homeschoolers get bullied.  Because homeschoolers are socialized.  They are “weird” and often their kindness gets mistaken for weakness.  While it’s never pleasant, we’ve been able to address and recover from every incident and I am thankful for that opportunity.

5.- My kids have not gotten sick in a long time.  I have missed annual appointments because I forget.  Nothing lasts more than a day.  No fevers.  No runny noses. YAY!

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I’m a firm believer in that if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.  I’m seeing homeschooling working on all fronts.  So that’s how we plan to continue until changes need to be made.  With my husband returning to medical school there is a possibility that sometime in the future I will have to work full-time so he can attend school or do rotations full-time.  We will cross that bridge when we get there, but I’m praying for a way to continue on this course that has been  specifically charted out by God for us.

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Back to the grind…

The main thing on every homeschooling mom’s mind right now is, “How do I go back to it?” Whether it’s because of holidays, sick days, sad days, or the freshly fallen snow… it’s hard to transition from not doing anything really to any kind of focused progress.

Except for unschoolers. They’re cool like that. But I’m more the Charlotte Mason type.

I was struggling with some gnarly health issues that kept me laying down on the couch up until Christmas. Seeing this coming, I did something in December which I now consider brilliant:

I took my December calendar, and blocked off one day for every subject I do at home. We did language arts, science, history, and electives (Spanish, programming, art, ASL). Then I blocked off one day for every holiday activity the kids wanted to do: make crafts, homemade gifts, cookies, watching Christmas movies, and sledding.

And that was ALL WE DID. Every day that didn’t have an activity was a “free day” with some rules… When we did history we did history all day, between games and movies, and reading. When we did science we did that all day too. And then it got put away and pushed away.

For the record, we covered three weeks worth of science in one day, and learned from the French and Indian War to the Revolutionary War in History.

Our rule for “free days” was you needed to do 30 minutes of math practice and reading before you went to play. But I had gift-wrapped a book for each free day that we had scheduled. They were small readers that we got through in one day, taking turns reading aloud on the couch for about an hour. It was like opening a Christmas present of knowledge and imagination every day!

This helped prepare us for going back to school tremendously. Because the information was learned very effectively! And they made considerable progress that we can build on now.

For one thing, my 8 year old went from not really reading to reading books that have 14-20 chapters and loving it. And I can tell he’s reading because his writing and grammar have improved dramatically. It was a good break in the school year that wasn’t a waste of time; we rested AND moved forward.

You’re probably thinking, “That would’ve been a wonderful suggestion for DECEMBER, Maria. But now it’s January.” It would still work! Take January’s calendar and pick a day to review and prepare for each subject you teach. Block off a day to put away Christmas decorations (and make it fun! With hot drinks and music!). Block off a day to visit your local library or a play ground. Take one day to revisit the household chores and make adjustments if necessary.

Then make the rest of the days “free days”, that is, “interest-led” days. Let them have days to just craft, or read, or practice an instrument.

It’s a good idea in January to implement a few things daily regardless of what’s on the schedule; write a thank you note (or two) and work on five math problems. Simply because the skills necessary for writing and math have to be worked on regularly and consistently.

Then progressively work on replacing thank you cards with a full language arts lesson, and doing a full math lesson instead of just five problems… add the history and then the science. Build up on it so by the last week of January the family is back to full-speed ahead.

My kids are so comfortable with their language art and math lessons we are ready, by next week, to bring back history and science again. And all their regular activities (co-op, Choir) start up again too.

Pin this post for when life happens. Surgery, travel, family illness… Knowing there’s a way to ease off the workload and ease back into it without falling behind. It’s a perk of homeschooling, and it helps! I know what it’s like to feel pressure if days or weeks go by and “school hasn’t gotten done!” I only share this because it worked so well for my household, maybe I can inspire you to think outside the box… and come out victorious!

Happy 2018!

Happy New Year!

I have given up on the hope that I’ll sit by a computer three times a week, editing pinable photos and creating blog content to share… its time consuming. And while I enjoy it, 2017 showed me that I have a lot of hands-on to do with my kids this season of my life.

The kids are learning – REALLY learning – and it takes me a while to do everything. It takes me a full school day, but it isn’t a pushed schedule. It’s the projects, the questions, the read alouds… next thing you know it’s 4pm and I’m done.

My goals for 2017 changes a bit too. I finally feel on top of my health, and while I’m not 100% healed I can assume control and work on it. So it came back to the top of my priorities; to eat better, exercise and sleep well.

It’s not a “number on the scale” thing. It’s a life or death thing. Seeing my mom get diagnosed with breast cancer brought a new awareness in my life. The goal is longevity. It’s changing not only how I eat and whether I exercise but also the deodorant I use or the things I clean my house with. We are working our way towards mostly plant-based, completely toxin free living. To that end, I’m an H2O at Home Advisor, and I can’t overstate how much that has dramatically turned our lives around. But that’s for another blog post.

Conclusively, for the sake of my mental health I have made some changes too. We are no longer pursuing home ownership (I needed a break from that stress) and are happily renting a cute little apartment that has been a God-sent for our family. I’m trying not to add stressors to my life when I already have my handful of things going on: I’m still watching my mom fight breast cancer from afar, helping my husband go back to school this year, and still trying to improve my physical and mental health. I’m maxed out on projects or things to think about.

So where does that leave this blog? In a very primitive place, back in its origin. Writing for pleasure. For venting, for mental health purposes. Writing good news and writing to be encouraging. For an audience of 1 or 100.

What are you looking forward in 2018? Share below 👇🏼