The Tricky Part of Blogging in the Teen Years

riandty

Some of you know that this blog has been around for a really long time (originally at Homeschool Journal).  I’m not sure how long.  Maybe 8 years?  It’s been a while, though, and I have always been a rather transparent blogger.  I believe in full disclosure, shots of messy houses, confessions and real stuff.

Which all gets tricky in the teen years.

You may have noticed that I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  Part of the reason is because I’m pretty darned busy.  I have 5 kids to homeschool now, plus I write four columns, cook three meals a day (or so) from scratch, do several billion loads of laundry per week, do all kinds of crazy homesteading and foraging jobs, and occasionally try to check in on two blogs.  And that doesn’t even get into all the housework I should be doing.  🙂

But it’s also because my little homeschool students are growing up, and they don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their news to my world.

rhiax

Look how that little girl that I kept accidentally giving mullets to over the years has grown up!  And she’s the little sister.  🙂

My big kids don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their lives, and I don’t blame them in the least.

But still, this is hard for me, for many reasons.

  1. I love them and am proud of them, and still want to tell all about their current loves, interests and accomplishments.
  2. I have always used this blog to try to share advice and support from a BTDT perspective, to help others who might face the same issues.  This worked fine when I shared information on surviving your four year old, but it’s not really okay to share specifics on surviving your sixteen year old when said sixteen year old may have friends reading (I’m surprised and confused at how many of my teens’ friends apparently read this blog!).
  3. Their lives are a big part of my life, which makes it hard for me to come here and talk about my own life if I need to respect their privacy.
  4. It seems disingenuous to blog about fluffy things when big things are a big part of our life at times.  During those times, I stay silent because it feels fake to just talk about the little things.

So I’m still trying to navigate these years as a writer/blogger/jabbermouth.

I respect my kids and will not post about things that are personal to them, but I also believe in the community of blogging in order to support each other and form a new sort of network for this new age.

And considering how many bloggers have completely given up on the idea of blogging for connection and community and have instead embraced blogging as a way to try to make money, there are fewer and fewer authentic blogs out there of moms just trying to support each other.  I don’t want to give up being a part of that.

Good grief, do I know how much we need connection, community and support during times in parenting, homeschooling, and yes, raising teens.

Luckily, I still have little ones to write about and design lesson plans around and all that fun stuff.  And I hope to start posting about them soon, too.

But I also hope to post more about the teen years here in the near future.  All with permission, of course.  Because frankly, we need each other in those times as much as the others.

And I miss the blabbing.  😉

vandg

 

 

A Plan for What's Left of September

I’m working on plans right now.  Not in the typical homeschool mama scheduling sort of way, but as a sort of crisis management plan.

My issues are:

  • This summer, I was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease and some problems with my brain (nothing fatal, but apparently some form of epilepsy that is happening quite often each day).  I was also diagnosed with some issues with my blood and stomach, and some deficiencies, but those are the two biggies.
  • I need to find a new balance for homeschooling and properly parenting five children.
  • I need to find a balance for writing four columns that I rely on increasingly more to pay the bills.
  • I need to get my house in some sort of working order.  I have never been much of a housekeeper but when I am sick or overextended I get messier, and this summer was a whole lot of both of those.
  • I desperately want to get my book (A Magical Childhood) finished and published, in one form or another.  I know it’s not the best timing but it never has been and I don’t want to die someday with it 90% finished on my computer somewhere, having spent my whole life putting it off until that “right time.”
  • We had planned to move Victoria to the attic and move Anna into her room and Jack into Anna’s room, since Victoria was going off to art school.  She’s back home but all the kids want to move things around anyway and it was half done, so we’re working really hard to finish all that relocating.  That means major work right now in clearing the rest of the attic, getting it painted and prepped, getting other rooms painted and prepped and on and on.
  • It is fall, and that means a whole lot of work around here.  In-town homesteading is part of how we get by on next to nothing, and that means some major effort in the harvest season.  It doesn’t matter if my brain is short circuiting and Fiona is hanging onto my skirt when my kitchen is full of 4 bushels of free apples, 2 bushels of wild pears and a basket of acorns all needing to be processed and my garden is exploding with stuff to harvest, freeze, dry, dig and pluck.  That’s not even getting into the elderberries to turn into flu-fighting syrup and the others that need to be picked at the county park and the walnuts and the grapes and the plums and the pumpkins….

I have been feeling overwhelmed and overextended.  Truth be told, I have also been having a little bit of a pity party for myself.  I wish that I had more friends nearby.  I wish that I had help with the kids or the house or something, outside of Daryl and the kids themselves.  I wish I had any family alive, other than some long-lost (wonderful) cousins and a grandma and aunt in Ohio.  I wish I had a tribe.

I wish I had a girlfriend who’d come over and drink wine with me.

I had paid to have someone come and help with the house and that didn’t work out.  That person isn’t in a place to help me right now, and I need to just accept that and save myself instead.

So September is my month to save myself, migraines and seizures and clingy toddlers and messy house and all.

September is my month to get back in a homeschool schedule, to knock out that fall work, to take baby steps when I need to and monster steps when I can.

My goal is just to breathe, push, breathe, push, just like having a baby.  Sometimes you just need to keep on going, cuz it’s not going to get better until you get it done.  🙂

Wish me luck!

We Are Not That Kind of Homeschooling Family

Every time I read one of those “a day in our life as homeschoolers” posts, I feel as if I’ve accidentally wandered into another dimension. We have about as much in common with your standard homeschooling blogger family as we do with French royalty, street musicians or hermit crabs.

We don’t have a typical day.  The way our homeschool looks varies so wildly from season to season, month to month, crisis to crisis, joy to joy.

In the 10 years or so that we’ve been officially homeschooling…

We’ve homeschooled through trips to Florida, Maine, California, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina — and probably 20 or more trips to play with the Bakers in Nebraska and a hundred day trips to South Dakota. hpim1149.JPG We’ve homeschooled through six family surgeries, Victoria’s cancer and three new babies. vhospital girlshosp I’ve homeschooled through daily migraines with auras, high risk pregnancies, mono, physical therapy for my chronic neck pain, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that was so bad I spent months on the couch piled high with my kids and dozens of library books to keep them occupied.

Daryl has homeschooled through “end stage osteoarthritis” in his knee, elbow and ankle especially, and a completely destroyed hip socket.

We’ve homeschooled through 8 years of the Wilder Pageant taking up most of the months of June and July, along with various other plays and performances.  (In that time, Victoria and Anna  have been seen by roughly 80,000 audience members!) We’ve homeschooled through the deaths of good friends, beloved pets and loved ones.

We’ve homeschooled through the Feingold Program, a GF/DF diet and various kids going vegan, vegetarian and raw (plus several years of me cooking a vegan diet to cure my CFS).

We’ve homeschooled through our own bouts with depression, angst, anxiety, phobias and personal crises.

We’ve homeschooled through Civil War Days, History Fest, Pioneer Village, The Betsy Tacy Society, the Petroglyphs, telegraphs, old time gamblers, the Ingalls Family and Walnut Grove, old time musical instruments, old time games, the atlatl, flintknapping, winter counts, prairie life, Dakota life, flim flams and Civil War balls. civilhuckstersOld iPodWe’ve homeschooled through raising dozens of monarch butterflies, taking part in real archeological digs, watching kittens being born, dissecting owl pellets, taking part in survival camp, experimenting at the kitchen table and using science conferences, CSI workshops, nature walks, memberships to zoos and science museums, Netflix shows, iPod apps, board games, ant farms and close encounters with all different wildlife. We’ve homeschooled through fixations with lapbooks, altered books, the Civil War, photography, artist trading cards, Harry Potter, Tokio Hotel, the Gold Rush, Twilight, Pokemon, LEGOs, fairies, endangered animals, Mario, Taylor Swift, Germany, Hannah Montana, Van Gogh, tigers, the 39 Clues, trains, social justice, abandoned houses, Minecraft, Homestuck, Sadie Rose, crime shows, screenwriting, astrophysics, ghost hunting and anything medical. p101999.JPG We’ve homeschooled through potty training, first periods, lost friendships, crushes and the tween/teen years (if you haven’t yet entered the middle school and teen years as a parent, you may not be aware of what an accomplishment it is to survive those years intact).

We’ve homeschooled through financial crises, personal crises and general malaise.

And at every turn, our homeschooling was different. The only things that are consistent in our homeschool are:

  • Our house is almost always messy, and all of us (except Daryl) are generally behind in chores.
  • Our house is almost always noisy.  You will hear talking, hooting, laughing, barking, bickering and far too much TV.
  • We are generally together.  The kids congregate wherever we are, no matter how much they say they’re annoyed by noise and each other.  😉
  • We talk all the time.  It is the biggest way we homeschool, by sharing interesting information (the kids too) with each other.
  • Our house is cluttered.  We collect everything from books to bones to crystals.  We have all kinds of science gadgets, strange musical instruments, fossils, art supplies, electronic toys, materials for projects and assorted nifties.
  • We love to read.  We have more bookcases than I can count, including a floor to ceiling bookcase wall on our front porch, and we still don’t have room for all of our books.  We are always reading — library books, Kindle books, antique books, Calvin and Hobbes books, psychology textbooks, gluten free cookbooks, giant astronomy books, you name it.
  • We love to learn, and to share what we learn with each other.
  • We love adventure.  We seek out travels and new things to try, whether it’s archery or a camp across the country.
  • We love to homeschool — however we happen to do it that day.

high school plansIMG_2906mudOld iPod

timessquareLast weekend, we were homeschooling at Tiffany’s in Nebraska again.  That involved learning to knit, making new friends (and finally meeting a lovely HS family I’ve known online for years!), photography at the lake, talking about England, Wii games, reading about Einstein and sampling chocolate, among other things!

Old iPod

We got home yesterday. Today, we rest.  Okay, sort of.  Daryl, Victoria and Fiona have made a run to Windom for some groceries for the next couple of days.  The boys are watching Cyber Chase on Netflix, Anna is writing a book, and I’m trying to catch up on writing and cleaning (but instead am blogging!).

It should be noted that I am still in my pajamas.  And I’m okay with that.  🙂

Tomorrow, Alex has an appointment in Sioux Falls for a recheck from his surgery. We’ll probably stop by the zoo or the science museum while we’re in town.

The next day, we leave for Rochester, where we’ll be in a hotel extended stay suite next to the Mayo while Daryl gets a new hip.  It will be me, five kids, and a dog.

Victoria will be accompanying her dad for his day of tests and classes beforehand, and then we will all visit him when we can until he’s released on Sunday.

That should be quite an adventure.

I have a mental list of all sorts of things I want to accomplish today, on the homeschool front, the cleaning front and the work/personal front.  I won’t get to half of it and I’ll still be behind in everything, and I’ll go to bed with a sore neck and a pile of kids surrounding us still wanting to yap and hang out with us.

And it’s the perfect homeschool day to me.  🙂

Ho Ho… Nah

So far, this holiday season is not looking like it’s going down in our family history as one of the best.

Everything is just a little off…

We didn’t have snow until the first of December so it didn’t feel like Christmas until very recently.  I’m busy with baby Fiona, so I have less time for holiday magic.  We haven’t taken our holiday picture, finished our cards (we hand make around 50 every year!), written our annual letter, put up lights outside, decorated inside (other than the tree and Christmas lights in a couple of the kids’ rooms)…

Balancing my writing (which is really starting to be a good source of income) with homeschooling 4 kids at very different levels, cooking, cleaning and trying to meet the needs of 5 children (one of whom is a newborn!) is a challenge right now.  It is very cold so we’ve been stuck inside, and the isolation of living in a small town is not helping.

Alex has been really bouncing off the walls and driving us all more than a little crazy.  He’s a sensory seeker (he likes it loud, likes to move, barely feels touch unless he runs into a wall and then is likely to like it) and in a small house, that can lead to more than usual mayhem.  I’m really brainstorming about how to meet his physical needs this winter, since there are no gyms nearby and it gets so bitterly cold outside.

I’m also trying to figure out more social interaction for the kids.  They get plenty of “socialization” but the girls don’t have any friends nearby that they really click with and I know that’s hard.  Jack has a new friend next door, but he’s not necessarily the best influence.

It’s funny — we have a newborn but it is the older kids and other responsibilities that are pulling me in all directions and making life challenging.  Fiona is a fairy tale baby for the most part:  she sleeps through the night next to me and she’s a very happy and easy-going baby (as long as she’s held most of the time, which isn’t really a problem in this house).

Trying to parent five children well is a bit tricky!  I’m feeling like a bit of a failure at it all right now… Anna misses her friends, Jack wants more time with me to do things like cooking and crafts, Alex needs more time outside and direction, Victoria craves quiet and wishes she were closer to her friends, all of the kids want more one-on-one time with me, the boys need more read-alouds, we haven’t done fun homeschooling projects in far too long, Jack has been bored and stir crazy, Anna feels that she has too many responsibilities around the house, Alex seems to have a Omega-3 deficiency (he has “chicken skin” and “alligator skin,” plus hyperactive behavior), the kids are all getting on each other’s nerves and fighting, Jack wants me to start making green smoothies every day again, computers keep breaking, all of us need more exercise… and I have a two month old nursling, 4 columns to keep up with, a house that’s far too messy, daily migraines and chronic neck pain to deal with and things like cooking most foods from scratch.

Most days I feel pretty great about the life we’ve created together, but some days I feel as if there are just too many balls to keep in the air and I’m dropping most of them.

I have a full day ahead of me today, though, and I guess I’ll just do my best to be as fabulous as possible today.  Or at least not suck.  😉

 

 

Lesson of the Day

Last week I took the boys to the Windom library while Daryl took Anna ice skating with friends.

After I was there a little while, I started to feel pretty weak again (I was very sick last week) and went to get my purse.  I called Daryl and asked if they could be done at 2:30, and went back into the library room where Alex had been reading a board book on a cute little chair.

And found that Alex had become bored.

Books were everywhere.  My knees nearly buckled.

And so, I told the boys we needed to clean it up. I got down on the ground and began picking up books.  Jack jumped up to help, and he was quickly handing me piles of this series numbers 8 through 12, and reshelving this series numbers 44 through 50.

Alex occasionally threw himself on the floor and muttered about being bored.  But he was a little jealous of the way I kept thanking Jack and saying how much he rocked, and he does like numbers.  So he at least occasionally put in a bit of an effort.

Lesson of the day for the boys:

Numbers, letters, alphabetizing, helping out

Lesson of the day for Mama:

Next time, send Alex with Daddy.

Can You Homeschool Four Kids and Not Turn Into an Unschooler?

I’ve never used the unschooling word to describe what we do. It does come awfully close to how we homeschool around here much of the time, but I’ve always preferred to call us “eclectic” and “child led” and “relaxed.”

It’s not only because I’ve been kicked off of unschooling lists (true story — twice!).

It’s partly because we’re not just child-led. We’re also mom-led and dad-led and “Hey!  We’re in Sinclair Lewis’s hometown so we should study about him!”-led.  We’re led by whichever way the wind blows, and that’s all of us, even if one of us would rather stay home and watch Sponge Bob.

So that’s one reason.

And I also just hate boxes and labels. I don’t do well with rules!  So when someone tells me I can’t use worksheets or that I don’t count if I make my kids brush their teeth (even if I make it fun, for heaven’s sake), well, that just doesn’t sit well with me.

I tend to love unschoolers. They’re often my favorite families.  I’ve met one or two unschooled kids that really made me want to go find the vodka, but I’ve found just as many of any other sort of schooling that had that effect on me.  Many of my favorite kids and almost all of my favorite teenagers have been unschooled.  That can’t be a coincidence.

Just the same, I have never considered us unschoolers.  Until this year.

I am finding it more and more impossible to pretend to school my children now that there are four of them needing their proverbial buckets filled with knowledge.

Frankly, they do that themselves.

Sometimes they fill their buckets with Sponge Bob and physics games online, but then they wander out and surprise me by saying something pretty nearly brilliant and I stop thinking quite so much that I’m failing our family.

I’m stretched a bit thin these days.

I’m writing three columns and two blogs, mostly daily on all five counts (this poor blog has taken some hits though!).

I’m cooking from scratch, including meeting the culinary requirements of one vegan, one vegetarian, one flexitarian and some grumpy omnivores who miss bacon.

I’m doing a darn good job of avoiding cleaning a very messy house.  This includes doing countless loads of laundry (with my trusty assistants) that never seem to even pretend to get us caught up.

I’m toilet training my last child.

I’m reading long (but interesting) books to review.

And I’m attempting to keep up with good parenting quotas — making play dough, reading stories, taking the kids outside on snowy walks, having talks, playing games…

Now where would the two to six hours each of educating come into this, times four?

It just doesn’t.  Not this year.

Maybe next year I’ll go back to lapbooks and lesson plans.  Heck, maybe next week. Maybe we’ll all gather at the kitchen table and learn about cellular biology as a group, despite the years of differences between all the kids.

But for now, we’re this close to unschoolers, even if they won’t give me a card to carry.

I still make everybody come sit and listen to “The Long Winter” and sometimes I say “do two math pages before you get online.”  We talk about Japanese internment camps and how to make bonsai trees at the dinner table.  I still make them brush their teeth, too.

Mostly, though, I get out the educational games, I strew the good science books, I get out the microscope and watch all the kids gather round to see what I’m looking at.  I talk.  I answer questions.  I put the educational DVD’s on in the background.

And so on.

Lately, I’ve been reading blog posts about plans for the new homeschooling year. There’s a whole lot of planning going on for some people.

I even saw a pie chart.  A pie chart of what the children would be doing, extracurriculars and all.

My resolution is not to read them.

I’m resolving to keep going with my unschooly, haphazard ways.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know a thing or two. And one thing I know best is to follow the seasons.  When you have a new baby, you don’t worry about spelling tests.  The baby is the lesson, and things work out.  When your garden is full of things to put up, you don’t drill multiplication tables.  When a parent has cancer, you cuddle on the bed and read books together.  School should follow life, not vice versa.

There is a season for lapbooks and lesson plans.

There is also a season for trusting your children and making sure the books and microscope are out. I wrote about goals today (not resolutions) and had some advice about what sort to set.

Mine are easy:

  • Read to the kids every day
  • Get outside as much as possible, and when not possible (which is often, this winter!), still get lots of exercise together
  • Do some sort of fun math thing every day

I’m still not sure we’ll meet those ones.

But you know what? My 12 year-old taught a friend of hers binary over the computer last week, for fun.  My 10 year-old has been devouring historic novels.  My7 year-old has decided he loves spelling.  And my 3 year-old is obsessed with physics experiments.  They usually involve a toilet plunger, the bathroom door, or blocks being catapulted across the room, but I’m pretty sure he’s a prodigy.  😉

Lesson plans are overrated.

Maybe next week I’ll decide to make a salt dough model of Florida or do 12 hours straight of multiplication drills (okay, not really). The only thing I’m consistent about as a homeschooler is my inconsistency.

But I know it’s all good.

You’re all good too, in case you’re worried about it.

Read a little, strew a little, play a lot and love a lot. The rest will fill in the gaps, despite your worries. That’s my plan.

Happy 2011!

11 Shots

Alex and I are up late and he’s sad, so I’m going to make this quick.  Here’s eleven shots of life here lately, typed with a boy in my arms.

Keywords (in no particular order):  Spanish feast, the Macarena, random fridge notes, even more random fridge art (Sweetie, firstly — better spell-check businessmen, secondly — fun cartoons, and thirdly — what on earth????), art, art, more art, Daddy’s tools, toddler mega-messes (also known as too many books) and research online.

I think that should cover my full disclosure posts for a month.  😉