Giving Thanks: Searching the Storm Clouds for Silver

This week I have had several conversations with friends about going through hard seasons. We all have our share. I hesitated to spill words here, for fear of being misunderstood, named melancholy. That is not where I am. I write these words to bring honesty and an attempted measure of comfort. At times it is good to speak of our oh-so-common pain and poorly hidden struggles.

There are times when darkness overwhelms.
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Even though we assuredly know we are blessed, untangling threads of silver from the storm clouds remains elusive. (Tweet This)

I used to say that times are hard but at least . . . and would then consider those things and events that were not, as if comparing tragedy to tragedy would lighten the load.

I still do this and there is a coping value in such a habit, but today I choose to face head on the things here and now. The pain that demands to be felt and not only touched but gripped. There is much to be thankful for in the midst of the human condition we so often find ourselves.

When everything moves off center, regaining a sure footing is a dance too clumsy to perform well. There is a profound lack of grace in the middle of stumbling over a thing so large its impact has shifted your entire world. When this happens, and it will, it is impossible to catch yourself. The ground is hard and strewn with half-forgotten discards that make for a rocky landing. We bruise. We bleed.

But we cannot catch ourselves, even when we realize the hard fall is coming.

I am thankful for the God Who Catches Me.

Today I am thankful for not knowing. For the should have, could have, would haves, the guilt and horrible realization that seizes me as I gape at the depth of my inadequacy. Facing our own lack is a rude and exquisitely singular pain. But I believe in a God who reveals.

The revelation here is that I will never truly be enough or do enough. What arrogance to think I was ever intended to be.

I give thanks for the God Who is Enough.

I am thankful for the desert places. I have been to the place where I have given and given, expecting a return. It did not come. There was a time I would become upset with those who did not respond in kind, not understanding that people cannot give what they do not possess and no amount of striving on my part will cause my need for reciprocity to be fulfilled. That yesterday seems so long ago from the here and now moment my feet are entrenched in today.

I have learned what it is to dwell in desert places, to have someone hold my heart in their hand without even an inkling of understanding what that means. Yes, there is sorrow in the knowledge that this love will not be returned, but there is an unfathomable greatness in knowing that without requital I would walk, with no hesitation, through fire for this one.
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It is in the act of giving, not receiving, that love comes to rest in its true purpose. (Tweet This)

Today I am thankful for the power of love that comes only from God. It pours itself out, watering this desert, and life blooms.

I am thankful for the God Who Fits His Vessels.

I have tried to be thankful through physical pain. This is one of my large failures. I detest measuring my time and energy in small, careful steps when my nature wants to run and dance headlong into adventure. But here I am, creeping along, sweating in a most unladylike manner and uttering words that are equally unladylike. I do not like this weakness, this dependency, this failure. I am not the owner of an angelic countenance and no gentle speech regarding my body’s suffering flows from my lips. My days are filled with physical pain and I bite against the restriction.

Any advice on what the grand meaning of this thorn may be will not be welcomed as long as I remain in this frame of mind. I much prefer being ministered to with soft, encouraging words accompanied by something chocolate and gooey delivered to my door. Yet I am thankful for today’s small victories.There will be an end to difficult times, of this I am sure. My thoughts skip over all the in-betweens.

I am profoundly thankful for the faith and hope that provides me courage to continue on.

I am thankful for the God Who is My God.

Flower with Quote Thankful for the Power

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This post is part of the Thankful for God’s Gifts Blog Hop. Please be sure to stop by the other participants listed below.

11/17/14 Loving Christ Ministries: Thankful In Grief www.lovingchristministries.com
11/18/14 Keeper Ministries: The Barren Woman a Joyful Mother – God’s Perfect Gift www.KeeperMinistries.com
11/19/14 Teena Myers Blog: A Greater Gift http://teenalmyers.com/blog/
11/20/14 Live, Love, Laugh, Post: 7 Reasons I Am Thankful For God http://livelaughlovepost.com
11/21/14 The Green Tomato Experience: To Serve and Capture http://www.thegreentomatoexperience.com/
11/22/14 Donna Stone Blog, Giving Thanks: Searching the Storm Clouds for Silver http://donnastone.me/
11/24/14 Sister We Thrive: Sister, given any thought to being thankful? Well, I have. http://www.lindsyb.com/#!blog/c17x6
11/25/14 Completely Committed Blog: One Grateful Mom http://completelycommittedgirl.blogspot.ca
11/26/14 The Kangacoo Blog Grateful People Share, Daily Bread is Enough www.kangacoo.com/kanga-blog

godsgiftsbloghop

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Homeschooling and Afterschooling High Functioning Kids on the Spectrum: My Short List of Resources Part One

There is no one size fits all approach to teaching high functioning kids on the spectrum, but I can tell you what has worked for us. Every curriculum needs adjusting, and every child has his or her own set of gifts, talents and needs. Add in the parent teacher’s preferred teaching style, belief system and materials available and every situation will be unique. I am listing a few resources I feel are of benefit to every parent teacher who has students on the high functioning end of the spectrum. Many of these apply in general to child rearing and training as well.

I am limiting my suggestions here, but keep in mind the best teachers are the ones who never stop searching for answers. It’s kind of mandatory, this flexible parenting thing. Kids have a way of changing on us as soon as we think we have stuff figured out.

How Can I Teach Them if I Can’t Even Control Their Behavior?

Parent and caregivers often spend a great deal of energy trying to control unwanted behavior. A better path, in my way of thinking, is to attempt changing the behavior by addressing the heart and motivation.

When there is a struggle, my first suggestion in teaching any child is to examine your current course of action. Is there another, better way to get the desired result? You could try Lori Petro’s Teach Through Love Teachable Moments youtube videos as a quick jumpstart. I have not deeply examined every single concept she has presented, but I have found that I agree with her general approach. She is a parent with Asperger’s raising a child with Asperger’s. These videos give some wonderful insights that can be applied by any parent or caregiver in their efforts to guide children.

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene PhD is an often recommended book. If you have difficulty in understanding or managing meltdowns or angry behavior, the ideas in this book may help.

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Considering the way your child with AS reasons out problems and approaches life can go a long way towards reaching them. If you can’t reach them, you can’t teach them. (Tweet This)

What About Life Skills?

Another great common sense resource is the book How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Asperger’s by Jennifer Mcllwee Myers. This is an easy to read book that I have found to be immensely practical and straight forward. The author of this book is on the spectrum and brings valuable perspective to the subject at hand.

What is the Best Curriculum?

It depends. There are simply too many variables. There is no such thing as a one size fits all program for any student. Each child has their own preferred learning style, capabilities, needs, and strengths. I have not used every curriculum out there on the market, even if it seems like I must have from the amount of materials collected and tried over the years!

What Worked Best for You?

My all-time favorite and most effective curriculum for our specific needs was KONOS. I used the original KONOS three volume set designed for K-8th and these are the books I am referring to. There are other KONOS products but I have not reviewed them so I am sticking to what I know here. We did not do every unit in every book. KONOS is a Christian homeschool unit study program.

Why KONOS? For us, the repetition of a unit organized around a character trait was exactly what was needed. Honestly, I muddled through at the beginning but quickly came to love the results. It truly did feel like a gift from heaven. KONOS integrates character training and academics in a hands-on structured way. I have used and perused a lot of curriculum in 20 plus years. KONOS is the only one that unified the wide variety of issues, academics, and skills I wanted to address.

We studied units that contained practical skills, speech making, literature, poetry, emotions, cooking, cooperative projects and much, much more all based around a specific character trait as a spring board. I started with Courage and we completed the entire unit, then moved on to Determination, Cooperation, and Self-Control. After we’d gotten through these, I did not do another entire BIG unit. Instead we would pick and choose from smaller units within the main category. We used KONOS for three consecutive years, including summers, and occasionally after that.

KONOS is a bit of work to implement for the teacher, but there are supports. KONOS covers all academic subjects except math. You may use the units as stand-alone units of study, adjusting them as you see fit. KONOS is also used for many co-ops. Although intended for use with two or more children, you can use it for an only child but will need to tweak the curriculum. This curriculum is very adjustable and can be used for a lighter or a more in-depth study.

KONOS is effective because it is a structured hands-on curriculum that repeats a core value for the length of the unit using various methods of teaching. It is NOT a social skills curriculum or a curriculum specifically designed for kids on the spectrum, but it sure did work well for us. Your child will need additional repetition for life skills and certain issues.

This is not THE ONE curriculum; it is only my personal favorite. It is not my favorite to prepare, but it is my favorite to actually teach and do.

KONOS has been around a lot longer than I’ve been homeschooling. That’s a long time, mommas.

You can find more information on the specifics of this curriculum at KONOS.com.

Today’s Parting Word on Teaching High Functioning Kids with ASD

Do not try to make every moment a serious teaching lesson.

Yes, some kids need every.single.thing taught to them in excruciating detail with grueling repetition, but they also need you, just you. Spend down time with them. (Tweet This)
Do the fun or interesting things that they are into. Talk to them. Your child needs to know you respect and enjoy him or her as a person. And you need to take joy in being mom to an awesome kid.

Do you have a favorite resource or bit of wisdom to share? Please comment!

Lessons That Matter

My highschooler comes home from her new part time job, Tuesday through Thursday, at lunchtime. The chatter is non-stop for a while. I love to watch her as she talks.

She works as a pair of extra hands at a private school.

A helper was needed for two special needs kids, teenagers. When the job posting came up, I thought it might be of interest to her. Patience with certain children is one of her attributes, and she is not scared of different. I asked her if she was interested and she said yes.

Our homeschool schedule had to be adjusted, but that is fine. We can well afford to be flexible with the hours.
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Important lessons take precedence, and some things need to be experienced. (Tweet This)

I felt this would be an excellent opportunity for her.

After the first week she says to me, “I’m really surprised by how much I like it.”

“I knew you would.”

I am too smug. She wrinkles her nose at me, then rolls her eyes. I pretend to be affronted, and defend myself.

“Well,” I say, hands on hips and trying not to grin,“at least I didn’t say, ‘Told you so.’ ”

This earns me a skeptical sideways glance and a lifted eyebrow.

“OK,” I admit, “It’s kind of the same thing.”

“Kind of exactly.”

We laugh.

Over the following days I learn that The Wiggles and Minions are her students’ favorites, about words missed and corrected, and many other things.

I listen to it all.

We are in my room after she gets home one day and conversation goes as usual. She pauses for breath, hesitating.

“Do I talk about my kids too much?”

My kids.

I shake my head no. “I want to hear,” I tell her.

She smiles and speaks of how much her boy student likes to color all the pictures in, not just the right number to get the answer, of gentle tugs on her sleeve and sweet laughter finally earned. She isn’t looking at me as she describes the laughter. There is a particular light in her eyes.

When she still rested in the womb I placed my palms on my naked, swollen belly. With fingers splayed out across the roundness, I wept and promised her she could be who she was, not knowing what future would come.

Here it is. I watch an unfolding woman’s soul begin to enter into being.

“My kids,” she said.

Just when I thought she couldn’t get any more beautiful.

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My Mother’s Day Post

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I wanted to write a nice, heartfelt mother’s day post, but I’m having a hard time. Here’s a confession: I have allowed myself to be snared by the entitlement trap. The one that makes you question, “Is it too much to ask for a little appreciation one day out of the year? One measly day?”

I know letting these kinds of thoughts in only makes me and everyone else around me unhappy (If Momma ain’t happy . . .) so I try to not be that way. I really do. But when other moms start posting their pics, that familiar monster of discontentment rears its head and takes a big old bite out of my good intentions.

I know them all well, every member of my little family. I know the intricacies of who each one of them is, their hopes and plans for the future, and how they like the jam spread on their toast. Sometimes I want them to know me, too, to see me as something more than she-who-takes-care-of-us.

It makes me cranky. Extremely.

Here’s the very, very foolish thing about this mind set. I say all the time that what I do, being a mom, is the best investment I could ever make. I love being mom, and there is absolutely nothing I would rather spend my time doing. I mean it with every single molecule of my being. I say it to friends, strangers and my beautiful family constantly.

I think I want breakfast in bed, and nicely wrapped gifts of writer’s books that show deep consideration and thoughtfulness. Something that shows me they recognize my soul. I do get gifts. And I appreciate new cookware, it’s only that I would like a more personal gift item every now and then, perhaps one that reflects my interests. I want to be seen, acknowledged.

But instead of recognizing me as a writer or the girl who likes roses, this is how they see me:

The fixer.

Reader of every single text you send her. Ever.

Possessor of magic mommy spit.

Emergency cash fund.

Lady with the mop bucket when they get sick all over the floor.

The soft, cool hands laid on a forehead and a kiss on the cheek.

Mender of torn clothes and tattered pride.

Advisor. Advocate. Rear-end Kicker.

Roast-cooking, sandwich making, vitamin-pushing nourisher.

Listener of stories and complaints and dreams.

The one to run to with happy news. The one to run to with bad news. The one to run to with the worst news of your life.

The one who lets you cry, even when it kills her.

The safe place.

Home.

They don’t tell me these things, but I know this is who I am to them because I live it every day.

I hope they never, ever see me as anything less than mom.

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On Philosophy, Theology and the Emerging Church

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Something’s off. I know it. But who am I?

A tick in my spirit is not enough argument to stand on. I should be able to stand and I feel guilt that still, even now, I am inadequate. I need to go back to my philosophy books. The fifth (or sixth or seventh) time’s the charm, right?

But there’s a contractor coming at two o’clock and the floor is full of crumbs and something smells boy-laundry-bad in the utility room.

Which brings me back to the point at hand. I can’t explain the whys and the terms. Words like post-modern and panentheism should trip off my tongue by now, but instead they trip me up. All I can say is something smells fishy.

I hate fighting. It makes my stomach hurt and my knees wobbly.

But in case you were wondering, I will not be swayed from this spot. See my shaking, clay-dirt covered feet? They are dug in deep into His word. Shaking but not shaky. The truth I try so hard to grasp and breathe in has penetrated, if only a little. So I stand here, desperately hoping. I know where my help comes from.

I know what I know and will not be moved. The difference between stubbornness and conviction is whose voice you listen to. Feelings lie, but the Truth doesn’t. Turn the pages in the Book and speak to its Author. Just the facts, please, without muddy thinking.

We are corrupted by our own wisdom, fed philosophy before we learn how to tie our shoes. If you think not, you do not understand the term. Everything is built on something.

Read your Bible, and not a verse here and there. Read it straight out, great drippy chunks of it. Read a whole book, and then read it again. I was brought up on the Word, yet here I am listening to chapters over and over and finding out I don’t know so much. Somewhere around the fourth repetition I think I may be starting to get it. Maybe. All my learning tends to get in the way, but the repetition of the word wears at those false walls.

Ask why and why and why. Do not strangle your questions. Do not follow man, even if it is a man who says do not follow man.

Do not ask, “What does this mean for me?” or “How do I make sense of this?” ask only, plain and simple, “What does it mean?”

You are precious in His sight, but you are not the center, beloved child.

Study philosophy before you quote philosophers. Use your own capable brain. Wrap your weary mind around the hard edges of logic and truth. It’s good medicine. And we are sick, there is no doubt of that.

No Small Act: Cruelty, Forgiveness, and Learning to Be Kind

My word for 2014 is kindness. I try to focus on the word, to find meaning in the concept. It’s useless. No idea comes.

Instead, a memory, and not one of a kindness given or received. It is one of those that comes unbidden, in early mornings or late at night when the quiet allows things pushed away into the corners to creep out and demand attention.

In the memory, he is eighteen years old and comes to stand beside me. I am in the kitchen, where moms of many spend a lot of time, my hands busy, taking care, doing one of the small tasks that make up my one best job.

“I have to tell you something,” he says.

His usual method of communication is to launch into loud and long dialog while his audience either keeps up or watches the blur. This preamble means it is serious. He often does this with things that bother him, his expression morose and tragic. Usually the situation is not. He shifts his feet. I finish what I am doing and give my absolute attention to him. He takes a deep breath and blows it out in a hard, fast exhalation.

He looks so very small, suddenly. This is not guilt, or a request, or a confession.  It is something else. He is troubled and sad.

“A long time ago,” he says, “when we were at church, a lady said something really mean.”

This is about his little brother.

A tingle starts between my shoulder blades as the muscles tense, but so many things are open to interpretation. I try to relax. I tip my head to the side and nod for him to continue.

He tells me the words she said and the words, though spoken years ago, are still sharp. “Shouldn’t be allowed” and “normal” and more. They buzz in my ears too loud and hurt, hurt, hurt. The air and sun of seasons gone by have not diluted their terrible power to cut.
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The greatest danger of motherhood is the inevitable vulnerability of her tender, unguardable heart. (Tweet This)

He stands there, with little boy eyes and slumped shoulders. He has borne this burden a long time, taking the arrows for his brother, for me. The man and the boy are all mixed up. Here is my child, made a man too young, now a grown man with a five o’clock shadow at eleven in the morning, still carrying manly boyhood wounds.

Why would a person say such things to a child about his younger sibling? I want to bind my boy’s hurts, to gather up the pieces of his grief and take them away, to cry, to scream, to use my own words against the one who has injured him so. Instead, I am quietly still. Tight anger is my shield against overwhelming helplessness.

He will not tell me who. He says he does not really know her. He doesn’t remember. But his eyes shift. Still taking arrows, he stands on this with fists clenched tightly around small secrets. There is nowhere for my Momma Bear fierceness to go.

I offer cliché-filled wisdom and rub wide circles on his broad back, pat his arm. We talk. I fix him a glass of sweet tea, give every bit of motherly comfort I can scrape up.

Life goes on and I try to forget about it, to disregard the mutterings of a mean-spirited woman and the scars left behind. I say to myself, “This is her problem, not mine,” and I shake my head at people like that.

Yet it haunts me. The pain in his eyes, and the unspeakable words still there, swirling about in the air and in my mind, never fading.

Kindness. This was not kindness. Then, out of the salt, I know what to do.

I pray for her.

I am surprised by the way it washes me, this act of kindness. And in this, I discover an even greater act of kindness, one toward myself.

In one step of faith and obedience towards forgiving the unforgivable, the impossible happens. Healing and freedom begin to take root. (Tweet This)

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Encouragement for Mothers: Diving In

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You are ready.

It will be glorious or horrible and, most definitely, it will be messy. There will be sunshine and roses, rain and thorns.

This is what will happen.

The washer will break.

Flu will haunt your house like a hungry stray cat you accidentally fed.

Some days you will forget what blue sky looks like, but on other days you will be able to taste it when your mouth opens wide and lets laughter fly free.

There will be tears. 868751_31441994[1]

You will be expected to sweep up sharp broken pieces even while your bare soles are smudged with blood. You will never be enough and always be enough. (Tweet This)

It will be scary hard. You will be forced to plant your feet, take ownership of your failures, and stare them down. You will fall short but you will be forgiven. You will learn to forgive yourself.

You will be pulled and stretched until every bit of your bounce is gone. Flexibility will be your middle name. On certain days you will wonder if the shape of deflated balloon is the permanent price your spirit will pay. But then, when you develop eyes to see the magnificence of stretch marks, the vision will leave you without air.

You will breathe beauty.

You will take a small hand in yours. If you don’t let go you will both grow into your feet, getting big enough to walk in the land of giants. You will begin to understand that perfection does not dwell in the world of mortals. Yet in times to come, a backward glance will reveal the perfect, unerring, working out of the distance you have already traveled.

This is what will happen.

You don’t get it all. You get the prize.

Your sisters are all lined up along the edge. They will help you if you are wise enough to understand that you are not alone.

Dive deep.

You will be fine; more than fine. How do I know? Look at you, sister-friend, momma-lady, baby-girl.

You’re already treading water.

Beautifully Fragile

I feel very fragile lately.

I have been fragile for years, but it was a moment of clarity and surprise when a medical assistant shook her head and said so to me.

You’re so fragile.

The idea was foreign to me. I was the girl who dug trenches in hard, red clay to bury water lines, planted gardens and carried heavy loads. The girl who bathed dogs and people and wiped up vomit from the floor.

When she told me I was fragile, I laughed.

Who has time for that?

Now I have time. I’m not a girl anymore.

It’s a strange place, but not bad. Tears dampen my cheeks almost daily. But what days they are.

My daughter comes in from a trip to the movies.

“Bree asked me if I was a daddy’s girl.” She bites her bottom lip, trying to hide a smile. She looks at me from underneath her lashes but I can see her eyes, the way they shine. “I told her yes.”

And here I go again, wiping my eyes with a tissue.

My middle boy, the one who drives me crazy, the one too much like me and too much like his father, says to his little brother who is now a man, “I am proud of you.”

Their conversation continues to flow around me while I am stayed, becalmed in the current, bathing in that singular moment, hardly able to breathe and not really caring if I ever do again.

I cry at the note taped to the television, “Watch anime with me,” and at the memory of how he always laughs at my lame joke about anime and anemone. An invitation into his world is a prize. This is not a carnival prize, but a gold medal prize to be carried and worn over the heart.

My husband comes in, weary from work but too stubborn to admit it. He stands, reading the endless to-do list on the refrigerator. When I see him with the youngest man-child and get a glimpse of the crazy, terrorizing love that comes with being this boy’s father, the wild rawness, the manliness of it, moves me.  

Against such things it’s hard to keep fists clenched tight around the small threads of bitterness gathered up over days and years. Maybe that is where the salt for all these tears was being held, waiting for release.

There are always ready tears for my eldest, who does nothing to make me cry, and so I do. What can I say? Mothers understand.

It took a long time to get here. I always, always knew it was all worth it. All the books and articles and wise women said so.

So the fragile girl laughed and wiped up vomit and held tight to little (and not-so-little) hands whether they wanted it or not. She waited by the phone and did not yell. She saved her keening for another day and stood as tall as five foot something allowed. Love made her strong.

(c) 2007 Engraved

photo (c) 2007 Engraved Arden Stone

Who knew being overwhelmingly, beautifully fragile would come from being so strong? (Tweet This)

It’s not a bad place. Not a bad place at all.

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Homeschool Beginnings: Gifts and Regrets

If you haven’t read my previous post you can find the first part of this story here.

Over the next ten weeks or so, my boy plowed through the curriculum, applying himself as was his nature, but something unexpected happened.

People remarked on it.

I was amazed and overwhelmed by it.

My boy returned to me.

I know no other way to put it. Like night and day, the change in him was undeniable. Here was my boy, reentering his world and reengaging in life.  All those ‘normal’ behaviors we thought were part of a natural growing up process began to peel away, layer after layer. The person that emerged in the first months of home schooling was the same child he had been at four. Older, yes, but the spark was back. And so was his sweet disposition and curiosity.

This was the first and greatest gift of homeschooling.

Fast on the heels of this wonderful surprise came my deepest regret. It sounds cheesy, but it has always been true. So true that even now, decades later, I can’t think of it without wanting to cry.

I wish I had brought him home earlier.

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Mommas, you know that tight feeling in the pit of your stomach? Maybe it’s about more than you, or your insecurity, or being over protective. Pay attention to your intuition and follow it up with good common sense.

Sometimes, many times, it is only closely wrapped ties of love constricting your pulse when that large part of your heart goes out into the world unprotected by strong arms. But even that means something. It is not to be ignored.

I am not a counselor, psychologist, doctor, or childhood expert of any sort, but I do know this: Your child is more than a number on a list or one of a collective. Each person is unique and should receive respect. As a parent, it is our duty to provide for our children’s individual needs in the best way possible. Seek counsel from those you trust, but season all advice with your own mother-wisdom.

And this was the second gift.

I learned to trust myself.

Did this gift also come with regrets? Of course it did. I could have done some things differently, made better choices. But these regrets are small and inconsequential in the big scheme of things. They primarily involve curriculum, extracurricular activities, and college funding.

If you think I am telling you what you choices you should make, you are missing the point. Read this cliché carefully. Repeatedly, if necessary.

We all live with our choices, so make sure the choice you make is one you can live with.

The third gift came in the summer of our first year.

My husband and I attended a meeting for newbies. It was one of our first forays into the homeschooling community outside of our small circle. The event was provided by a local homeschool group and was of the orientation type, with speakers on topics of interest to those starting out or for curious folks considering the journey. Tables of materials lined the walls, and chairs were arranged in rows facing the platform. Various speakers gave talks on the basics of beginning homeschooling.

After the speeches were given and the Q & A was over, we were free to look at the different information displayed on the tables and mingle.

As we perused the offerings on one of the tables, my husband began talking with a man who had been one of the speakers. Their conversation somehow got around to a specific high school program.

My husband sounded firmly confident when he said, “That’s what we are going to use.”

He and I had not discussed anything beyond third grade at this point, but I scooped up a brochure on the program mentioned.

He thought I could do this.

This was the third gift.

Daddies, believe in your woman. She will need it. Be her champion.

Did my husband agree with all of my methods or educational opinions? Don’t be ridiculous.

We are married, not mind-melded.

 

 

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Traditional school did not work for us.

My oldest was a very shy four-year-old, so even though it was not the customary thing to do at that time for moms who stayed home, I sent him to preschool.

Back then, preschool was basically a structured playtime to learn how to stand in line and adjust to a classroom setting. Academics were not of primary concern. My boy was already reading a little by then. I’m not sure how much math he knew. Learning just happens when you encourage curiosity.

He had plenty of company at home since I had a home daycare. He never acted lonely, but he was a quiet child and did not talk much. After talking it over with friends, we decided he needed to be around lots of other kids and away from mother so he could bloom socially.

It didn’t happen. He was stoic, but never really connected with all these little strangers. It was a mystery. At the end of the year, his teacher advised against kindergarten yet. He was advanced academically and he got along fine with everyone, being a very well-behaved child. Still, she felt he needed more time to develop socially. I wanted to send him to this particular preschool for another year, but they did not accept children for more than one year in their program.  So he stayed home the next year and we read books and did projects and lived our life.

He went to kindergarten late.

I knew some homeschoolers. I did not think it was the best way. Kids need to be around other kids, not cooped up all day with nothing but textbooks for company. While I had some pretty firm beliefs about education and how learning happened, I was still influenced by my school experience and had not really explored my thoughts on the subject.

The way I taught my preschoolers at home did not seem to me to be ‘real’ school. We did that kind learning for fun. It was not school.

My attitude had been colored by years of public school attendance, sitting at a desk in a classroom with thirty age-mates doing worksheets or reading textbooks. Homework was usually more of the same, me working at the dining table, or in my bedroom scribbling away in a notebook. I knew that much of my interest-led learning had been done outside of the classroom, with library books or activities of my own design, or by doing things with my grandmother or older sister. But that was different, not official or something.

In honesty, no deep reflections on how learning happens or what education means troubled me when I bought my son a lunchbox and backpack and all the other stuff he needed before sending him off on that big yellow bus.

bus

But school didn’t work. At all.

We tried, believe me, we tried. Halfway through second grade we entered into full crisis mode. Pulling him out to homeschool was an act of desperation.

While I would not attempt to teach a whole classroom of elementary children, I was pretty sure I could tutor my child in second grade anything, at least until we could figure out a solution. Even with its disadvantages, I had a deep knowing that this was a better alternative for him.

Two days after we made the big decision to bring him home, I found out I was pregnant. All my friends assumed that this was a game changer. I already had a preschooler and a school aged child. Now we were having another baby.

The situation may have changed, but my conviction did not. Once I had made that commitment to my son it never crossed my mind to go back on the promise. It was not lightly made and would not be easily broken.

We drove to the nearest store that offered homeschool curriculum. It was a very long and bumpy road trip. Morning, noon, and evening sickness plagued me. After we arrived, I promptly threw up. It did not help.

Normally, I love to shop, and books have always been at the top of my best things to shop for. I did not even glance around. My research had been done and a friend had pointed me to placement tests. I knew exactly what materials we needed to purchase. There was no deviation from the prepared list. I have never, before or since, gotten in and out of a book store so quickly.

My husband actually completed the transaction, because I was outside sucking cool air into my lungs and dreading the return car trip.

When he came out he asked me if I wanted a ginger ale.

I thought, “Only if it comes with a bucket.”

I shook my head.

The blessing of the Nine Month Flu (okay, maybe not the entire nine months) kept my teacherly exuberance in check and spared my son from too much schooliness. The time allowed him to decompress and deschool.

He did his assigned work for school. Once the ‘schoolwork’ was finished, our family went about life at home and in the world, doing our regular activities. I checked his work and waited for the baby and prayed for my stomach to settle.