Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thank You

Thanks to all who contributed toward our settling our dilemma of how to educate the various children in the upcoming school year. Many of you participated in the poll, which indicated that the majority of you believe we should homeschool all of the children, tailoring our program to each child's needs and capabilities. The emails and comments also bore this out. At this moment we are moving through the sluggish process of testing and assessments, to determine what special needs the children may have, and if there is a practical way to meet them. I admit that I am guardedly optimistic about finding any useful help, since we have come up empty time and again. Still, I am waiting a while longer, holding off on making firm plans, until I have a little more information.

That being said, several of you had some interesting suggestions which we are taking under consideration. We are looking at a variety of curriculum and supplementary activities. It is our intention to leave nothing to chance, and have a very well planned, structured program in place at the get go. In addition, my two little reluctant scholars are, not coincidentally, both quite behind in their studies. So much so, that we feel it is necessary to keep them on a lighter school schedule all summer long. The other three do the occasional math drill, and read every day. Sometimes if I'm feeling especially mean, I may give them a short writing assignment. Or maybe I'll just give them all a summer journal and expect them to write in it for a few minutes each day. But my two who lag behind, who drag their academic feet, will do a regular program of math and language arts each morning. I am hoping this will allow me to get them into their groove, so to speak, before taking on the other three and their intensive unit study. A couple of months getting into good habits will go a long way come fall, when I try and add more layers.

Another huge positive of having all of the children at home, is the ability to "do school" on unconventional days. During the school year camp is in session on the weekends, and Dad is largely absent, as he is cooking for the hungry hoards. His days off tend to be on the weekdays, which is hard with children in school. We can never go too far afield on days off, because children need to be sent off to school, and collected at the end of the day. If all are home, we can work on the days Daddy works, and take off for projects or play on the days he is free. This whole last year it felt as though we were in a constant tug-of-war with the school, simply over issues like making schedules work, and digging up the time and resources to keep the girls in their place there, while tending to the completely different needs of those at home. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it did get challenging.

So today I find myself with a stack of books and papers, making some headway with planning. The children are sprawled all over the playroom floor making elaborate creations with Lego. I am of the persuasion that Lego is one of the only toys needed to amuse children who have reached the age of not choking on small objects. Even the teens and adults in this family get down on the floor and create. But that's a whole different post...therapeutic Lego?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crime and Punishment

When we are young, we learn things about the way the world works. If we are lucky, or blessed...don't chide me for using the "L" word...we begin to learn the things that form and grow a conscience within us. Right and wrong are pretty cut and dried when you are little. Wrong doing equals disapproval and punishment. Right doing often brings rewards. I recently discovered I have a Montessori philosophy when it comes to rewarding children for "good behavior" or work well done. I don't believe in it. I believe that doing right is its own reward. I believe children can come to know this very early. But right doing certainly brings down showers of blessing. In an ideal world/home it brings down happiness and approval. Children bask in these things. Add a little sugar and they'll do anything for you.

What if when you were young you did not learn these things? What if a conscience was something that never got "wired in"? What if no one cared one way or the other what you did? What if you learned not to care much about anyone or anything? Would promises of rewards inspire you? Would the threat of disapproval worry you? Would the concepts of loss or gain attached to your behavior mean anything at all? What if the only fun or thrill you got was when you did something others clearly saw as "wrong doing", and you got away with it? Or maybe you got caught, but it was at least mildly entertaining to watch someone who cared get all worked up over the stupid thing?

I don't know what the outcome of such an experiment would be, but I do know this; take a couple of each sort of child, drop them into a family, and call them brothers and sisters, and it makes for a very interesting home life. At this point I must say that neither philosophy seems to be rubbing off on anyone else. It just causes a lot of friction and sparks. So if you see a halo of something that looks like the Northern Lights hanging over the old homestead here at camp, I guess you'll know why.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I think I'm In Love

My evil sewing machine has finally breathed its last. Hubby took me on a forced march to the sewing machine store. I bought the Bernina Artista 165 with the embroidery component. Not that I have a clue about embroidery, but I figure it might be fun. The best part? I got it used, for a pretty sweet deal. Well, so I'm told...but since I've paid less for cars, I'm not totally convinced. Tonight I set it up and played with it for quite awhile. I fixed two pairs of jeans, and it went through them like butter. And I experimented with some decorative stitches. If ever I need to edge something with tiny bicycles, I am all set. I'm getting tired so I think I'll just go lay on my bed and stare at it in all its shiny glory until I doze off.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I was watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel tonight, which I don't usually do. First of all, the topics don't usually catch my interest, and second, it's on early and the chilluns are usually still rattling about, making watching an exercise in futility. But...tonight they were quietly watching a movie or doing their school work, and I caught most of an episode. It was about the bedroom, and had segments on how beds are made, the history of beds, alarm clocks, etc....fascinating. Before they go to commercial, they always read a bit of related trivia, and I was intrigued to learn this fact:
Before the invention of the light bulb, the average person slept 9-10 hours per night. After, the average person slept 7-8 hours per night.

This means the average person began sleeping two hours less, around the turn of the last century. In one week's time, that averages out to fourteen hours, or TWO FULL NIGHT'S SLEEP (by today's standard)!! See me using exclamation points?! And we wonder what's wrong with us?
"It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep. " Psalm 127:2

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cool Poll

Wow. I found this fun poll function. So read my last post, and if you don't feel like writing a lengthy answer you can just vote. As for Ann-tastic, and Brenda, and Quilted Family, and QueenB...I can kinda figure out your votes based on your emails and comments, but I can't vote for you. You have to do that for yourself. So let me know if you do, so I won't count your opinion twice. I'm being very democratic about all of this, but you know I'll just do what I want to do anyhow. But I really do listen and consider all of your advice first.
"Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established." Proverbs 15:22

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Please Advise

Now, I know there are plenty of you reading and not commenting, so I'm asking you all to put on your thinking caps and help me out here. I also know that plenty of you are homeschoolers, or adoptive parents...but I'm not limiting this to anyone in particular. If you have a thought...share it. Here is my dilemma.

I have five children of school age living in this house, and when the girls came home we did homeschool for nine months. I should amend that and say, I did school at home with the four girls, and the boys sat on the back burner. Nothing that looked like homeschooling was going on. At the end of nine months, Soapy went into residential treatment, LaLa and Tater went to the local Christian school, and I began the new school year with high hopes of actually homeschooling my older three...Boo and the boys. Alas, Boo made it evident that although she LOVED the perks of being homeschooled and although she had no desire to be anywhere else, she WOULD NOT receive my instruction. She would in fact, make it her daily mission to distract and disrupt, so that I could not teach her brothers. So she got to be "work schooled". Lucky, lucky girl. This means she gets up early and goes to work with Dad. The fact that she has no one to distract or disturb, the fact that Dad tolerates no shenanigans, means that Boo has learned to work hard, independently, and get the job done. It also means I get a few hours each day to make sure the boys are actually making some progress, plus frees up some of my energy for helping the two who are in private school.

Now the school year is running toward a close, and I have to say it has not been bad. I do believe the girls were making better progress, both emotionally and academically, when they were at home. But the boys were getting very little of what they needed. And I was terribly burnt out trying to manage their behaviors. It is all but impossible to homeschool a child who digs in and refuses to take instruction. To recap how the year has gone:
  • The boys made good progress in their studies, but are requesting a change of curriculum. They want to move away from self guided schedules and studies, and return to a hands on curriculum that we do together. This involves much more time and involvement from Mom, but is much more in line with "how we roll"...or I should say, "how we used to roll before the girls came".
  • Boo spent most of the year under Dad's tutelage. She hates it, rebels against it, pleads to come home, and blows it every time we let her. On the academic end of things, she has never been more solid. On the emotional end of things, she in incapable of being part of a group effort.
  • LaLa has done OK in private school. Her grades and behavior are not stellar, but in comparison to how they were in the past, she has shown huge improvement. As the school year winds down, so has she. She has ceased to care. Her grades are in the toilet, and her behavior both in school and at home are deteriorating. The frustrating part is that I KNOW she is capable. When she was at home, we made her school work HER PROBLEM. At school, it is everyone else's problem, but never hers. Like Boo, she is incapable of being part of a group effort, simply because she does not care about any of it.
  • Sweet Tater has excelled in private school. She does well, both on her school work, and socially. She is loved by her teacher and friends. You would think this is a no brainer, but in fact, her efforts are largely spurred on by her desire to prove she can come home and not be a pill. I believe she will struggle with laziness, but her over arching desire is to be on board with the program here.
So what I find myself with is two separate schools, needing totally different styles of management. My desire is to homeschool the boys and Tater. My desire is to keep the other two home because I KNOW they are/will:
  • Use any involvement in a school setting to practice their emotionally unhealthy behaviors, and maintain a disconnect from the family.
  • Fail intentionally in a school setting, as a way to maintain control and thumb their noses at Mom and Dad.
  • Wear us to the bone trying to manage their behaviors in school, educate their teachers about their needs, advocate to get their needs met, etc.
So my question is this. Is there a way to do this? Can I set two children up to do school at home, making their school work largely their problem? At the same time, can I pour out my creativity and energy on the other three, knowing they will soak this up and flourish? I would love to think the other two would see this and say to themselves, "Self, I really want a piece of this action. What can I do to get from here to there?" But they don't. Their internal dialogue goes like this. "I never get to do anything fun. I hate this. What can I do today, to make sure their plans get derailed?" Then they will sit in smug satisfaction when Mom is so tired and frazzled she has nothing to give anyone.

I really do want them all at home. I believe with all my heart that it is what is best for them. What I want is for all of them to be on board together, able to enjoy the awesome parts of homeschool. But I know that just isn't possible at this stage of the game for two out of five. I am looking for ideas for how to make it work. Curriculum? Logistics? Disciplinary methods? Rewards? Sanity preservation? Because this is what I know:
  • I WILL HAVE two separate schools next fall. Either I will send two out to school, and reap the benefits and consequences of that choice, or I will structure two totally different homeschools. I WILL NOT subject my three willing scholars to the grind for yet another year.
  • I want what is best for all of the children, no matter what they may want or be working toward.
  • I will have to think outside the box in a major way to make this work, or to even come through and still be standing this time next year.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One More Time

I am putting this face up because it makes me laugh every time I see it. Hippie Boy studied it, and accused me of photo shopping his grin on...but no, that is his real smile! And the bald spot on his nose? Not the creeping crud. It comes from shoving his face through the fence to try and eat the weeds on the other side. Not that he doesn't have weeds on his own side, but you know what they say about the greenness of weeds on the other side of fences.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Love Goats

Goats are such wonderful, comical creatures. The way they ran, and leaped, and butted in the spring wind yesterday, had me doubled over with laughter. Donny kept butting at me and chewing on my clothing and boots, as I attempted to rake out his pen. Finally I opened the gate and shooed him and his little sister out, so they spent hours running and munching. Darcy sat in her pen and grumbled, as she wanted to be the one out...but Donny beats her up, so I knew she was safer behind her gate. Bunny kept turning in circles like a dog, and plopping herself down in the little piles of leaves I had raked up in the driveway.

Another reason goats are wonderful, is because they never stop chewing, and stomping, and pooping. After a winter, they provide good wholesome work for strong young backs and idle hands. Yesterday I had a reluctant helper, to move those giant piles of muck to the compost pile. Although she whined and fussed a bit, she worked hard, and got a fair amount of work accomplished. I have sore muscles today...I wonder if young ones hurt as much?