faster than a speeding…

Three-quarters of us are about to try Bullet Journalling. 

We have tried to go digital in organizing. And it works great for calendar events. But those To Do lists…

This seems like an elegant and infinitely flexible system that is also almost shocking in its simplicity. Let’s hope! Because I’m tired of running parallel lists for the different areas is my life and my daily life and not making sure there’s cross-pollination between them. Not to mention keeping track of them!  

One place! A mind that feels put together.   I have hopes. 

Series of happiness

Sandra turns 18 soon and was finding it hard to work up a sense of anticipatory happiness about the event.

We’ve been having a bit of a nostalgic winter, with lots of “remember when’s” and “oh, there was that time…” Sandra realized that if anything really defined her childhood in terms of fictional landscapes it was Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

Neither of my children has read Harry Potter, though. Thanks to the years of needing vision therapy, that was a series that they experienced as I read aloud. Sandra decided that this ought to be remedied and set about finding a set with artwork she wanted on her bookshelf. Because the family set was the family set, not the Sandra set.

And she talked Matthias into following her down the path. And they discovered that the North American sets are rather meh. And they ordered from England. And the sets arrived.

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Now they have to wait for her birthday to start reading. Happy anticipatory feelings have been achieved!

A view of today

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The new Pokemon games are out today so Matthias worked ahead yesterday and we went to buy it first thing this morning. I came home from a lunchtime run with my husband to find this the scene on the couch.

Siblings. When they’re not getting at each other, they really get each other.

It’s Art

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Your life – this journey, this adventure – starts off a blank canvas. It’s living that turns it into art. So often people lose sight of that. Just as paint-by-number kits don’t teach a kid to be an artist yet produce a product that is a facsimile of art, life can be lived by the numbers.

You ask what other people are doing when it’s time to make a decision. You let other people’s preferences guide you. You don’t make decisions but flow from moment to moment doing what seems easiest. You do what’s normal. You do what’s average. You chase the Jones. You make the Top Ten lists your into guidebook: vacations, outfits, books, wines…

But life is a canvas. Paint. Make it beautiful to you. You’ve got great taste, I promise. And the best news is that it’s not a watercolour – it’s a thick, gloppy oil painting that you can overpaint if you want to. If at 23 or 11 or 46 you decide your art isn’t making you happy, you can change it. Get a palette knife instead of a set of brushes. Make it into a multi-media art piece. Trade it in for sculpture tools.

I’ve just had a conversation with a mom who’s thinking of pulling her boy from school. It’s one of my favourite conversations to have. I get to tell a parent that she can do whatever she thinks will make that child a happy, functioning adult. That the sky is the limit, or maybe the furthest reaches of the galaxy. That she doesn’t have to paint by the numbers, no matter what the system says, no matter what the worrying reports about the state of education say, no matter what anything says but her wisdom as a parent.

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My kids don’t look like they’re supposed to, when you peel them back and parse them down to educational data points. It’s hard to say if they’re succeeding or failing to help Canada in the international education rankings. It doesn’t make one iota of difference to me. I don’t care what’s average. Have you looked around at the state of things? Average isn’t a goal I’m going to set. I’m not raising someone I’m hoping can slot into a list of ‘Top Ten Jobs for the Future’ or ‘Top Vacations for the Gap Year’ or even ‘Top Ten Paper Airplanes to Try’.

My kids are emotionally whole. They’re not wearing labels. They’re artists painting their own canvases, learning skills, messing up, repainting, and standing back to get a good look. They’re messy and they’re tidy.

It’s art. It’s unpredictable. That’s life.

First Day of Backpack

First Day of School (with a backpack)

It’s the first time our back-to-school season has involved a backpack.

The local university has 90-level courses in maths and sciences for those who need to get prerequisites for the 100-level classes. Sandra is taking Physics 90 and Chemistry 90 as her grade 12 science credits this year. (We are doing biology at home.)

We are really happy about this. It gives her a slow transition into university, into being marked by a non-relative, into working in labs, and it gives her a chance to meet people.

Each class covers the material from Gr 11 and 12, so we’re hoping that mostly it’s a review of information and the newness lies in the setting and the testing. It’s 6 hours per week of class and 5 hours of labs. That’s a big shift for us. It means that a sizeable chunk of our week is gone, and we’ve been creative in planning how to do all we’d love to do this last year together. More on that to come.

homeschool vacation?

Imagine taking a holiday at the office.

It’s a little hard, mixing home and work, and as a homeschooler I find taking breaks – true breaks – difficult. All through the year I compile a mental list that begins with the phrase, “I’ll get to that when we’re on summer break.”

Homeschoolers need rest. Homeschoolers need recharging.

Homes need work.

There’s a conflict there, and I am looking for a solution that also matches the reality of a one-income family. (How I’d love to just throw money at some of these problems! Make someone else do the work…)

I asked two friends what I ought to do: 1) work hard for a few weeks and get a couple of big tasks off my list and have a feeling of accomplishment before my time off, or 2) rest a week now and have some positive energy for the tasks. They told me to ‘Pay yourself first’. It seemed a good bit of advice and so this is one of my weeks off. I hope to get another later this summer.

Of course, first thing as I jumped in the shower this morning my mind thought of 3 emails and 2 phone calls I ought to take care of. Great, I thought, How am I going to get mentally on board with this?

The solution I came up with is this: I am giving myself 1 hour per day for To Do things. Housework? Emails? Errands? I get 60 minutes per day, so I’d better pick important ones and I’d better learn to let go of the rest. (Now, I’m not counting cooking in there.)

It’s early days yet, in fact it’s early Monday. But I’ve had some fun, relaxed a bit, done a bit, and now I’ve sent myself to my room to start reading a novel. It’s book 3 of His Majesty’s Dragon, if you’re wondering.

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How do you keep a holiday at home?

ThrowBack Thursday

It’s a thing, ThrowBack Thursday, where you post pictures of yourself from…before.

But it’s also an idea I had about homeschooling this week.

As I prepped for the conference, I gathered info from the panellists who were talking about their homeschooling methods – moms of children in the elementary years. I also wrote up my own lists and daily rhythm for the panel on homeschooling teens. For each panel, we were providing handouts of books used, basic approaches, etc. That way the audience didn’t madly have to scribble down notes of particular resources. The contrast between what I wrote for our typical day and the memories of homeschooling in our early years that the other handout conjured was something that stuck in my mind. Or, to be more explicit, stuck in my heart.

The difference between “they mostly work independently” and “we spend a lot of time reading aloud on the couch”.

The contrast between “we’re struggling to help our son find his passion” and “when things get rough we head out to the park”.

The difference between “the kids work off a checklist” and “we are project-based and it gives us enthusiasm”.

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I wondered, how can I bring that back?

Here’s what I’m brewing: ThrowBack Thursdays. Once a month, on a Thursday, we ditch the high school stuff, and have a Good Old Day.

Bring out the storybooks.
Have tea and pancakes.
Go on treasure hunts. (a former favourite method to get them reading through clues)
Play board games.
Do some art.
Hike.

Cookie time!

After a two-year hiatus, our cookie extravaganza is back!

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We love this project. We bake delicious cookies and people order them. The net result is hundreds of dollars raised for overseas work to lift people out of poverty. This year we have chosen to raise money for Free the Children, a magnificently thorough organization. Originally focused on freeing children from slave labour, they quickly realized that a whole set of conditions were needed in order to create a society where the children had no need to be working. Now they focus on providing 5 pillars in every location they are active in: clean water, education, alternative income, food security, and health.

This is the same organization that puts on the We Day events. Sandra attended a summer camp with them this year, a Leadership camp. It was – like everything else with this organization – thoughtfully done, powerful, effective, and amazing. She decided that clean water would be our focus for fundraising. As she put it – clean water is the foundation for the other 4. With clean, accessible water, girls attend school rather than walk to fetch water, growing crops is easier, health is improved, and even income-generating projects are easier.

So far we’ve made more than 300 candy cane crunchies, 70 lemon cheesecake squares, 100 pieces of fudge, 70 gingerbread, and 100 chocolate orange shortbread. In past years, our orders will add up to more than 1800 cookies. It’s work, but it’s fun. Last Saturday, my hair smelled of gingerbread for hours after we were done baking!

If you don’t live near us, you can still help. Shop in their store for some of your gifts. Get involved with one of their campaigns.

Our slogan this year is: Change the world, just don’t leave any crumbs! 🙂

Throw me a Party

As a mom, as a homeschooling mom, I’m in charge of everything, as it were. I throw the parties. I have the ideas. I make things happen. It’s not ideal, and Rainer and I talk about it, but the reality is that we’re all given 24 hours in the day and in a family people need to specialize for a full life to be efficiently managed.

Once in a while it catches up with me. I’m tired of making things fun for others. I’m tired of making things fun for me. During these times I laughingly (but with a melancholy undertone) say, “I don’t wanna BE the mom, I wanna HAVE a mom!”

I’m wondering if it’s partly due to the fact that we are so home-focused. We’re homeschoolers and we’re introverted. For the vast majority of time we are happy together. But I crave unpredictability of social interaction sometimes: people laughing at unexpected moments in a familiar story; people with different herbs in their spaghetti sauce.

I also need to feel like someone else is charging my battery. Mothering is a lot about managing people’s batteries. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they cranky because they’re hungry? Do we need to get out of the house? How many activities in a week are enough/too many? And so on. And then I crave – all of a sudden like a rogue wave just pounding a ship from the side – I wantwantwant someone to charge my battery. It’s almost always when Rainer’s stretched equally thin.

So, life, I want you to throw me a party. Give my life some sparkle. Make me laugh at unexpected stories. Give the food a new flavour. Let me feel like someone is tending to my needs and my desires. Let me be a passenger while someone else drives.

And on that note, I realize I need to go see to the laundry, lol.