Category Archives: Homeschool

Sprained

I am typing this from my bed, which I have hardly left all day, because I’m uncoordinated on crutches and my foot is in massive pain.* It feels abominably lazy, so I have to list off all the things I’ve done to comfort myself. I have nursed the baby, provided cooking advice to the children, prayed, and read a number of books to accommodating audiences. I am willing the cells in my foot to quickly mend all damaged tissue. By sheer force of will, this must be better quickly…we’ve got a Seder to go to at Fancypants University next week. Unfortunately, I sprained my foot.

The story is embarrassing. Husband volunteered to take all the children to buy groceries (and pick up a really sweet Craigslist deal to replace the rapidly deteriorating flooring in our kitchen) and I, in my giddiness at having an empty house all to myself, went into CLEANING BEAST MODE, with a plan to clean and write and clean and write until my house was immaculate at my novel was perfect.

So I was sprinting through the house, and with all the grace that nature has gifted me, I smacked my foot into a lovely pillar between the dining room and living room.

It only hurt slightly, but enough that I sat down and wrote for a while. Then went back to CLEANING BEAST MODE,  ignoring the pain. Until the pain became not-ignorable, about 8 o’clock that night. By 9, I couldn’t move my toes.

By 9:30, I feel like this:

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By 10, a nurse was telling me to go get it x rayed, and no, it couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

So I go to the ER at 11 pm, where my fellow hospital patients are an unconscious man bleeding from a bandaged head wound, and a barefooted, t-shirted, handcuffed man railing about police violence and hollering colorful epithets at the five security guards accompanying him on his hospital bed travels.

I’m feeling silly being here. There are so many more people who need so much more attention than I do.

But here I am, and when they look at my foot, they tell me I should be here. I still feel silly. Shoulda stayed home with ice.

Jane the Austen’s violin teacher also happens to be in the ER, accompanying a sick relative. She sees me (though I do not see her; did she catch me spying on the crazy people?) and sends me a text. We have a lovely text conversation in between paperwork and wheeling to and from X-Rays. (I don’t feel polite texting while people are doing stuff for me, even if they’re not talking to me). She offers me a ride home, which is lovely because husband is at home with our five sleeping babies.

Jane the Austen’s violin a lovely, lovely woman, one of those people that radiates goodness and puts one in a perpetual state of awe by the breadth and depth of her pedagogical  and humanitarian and artistic talents. She helps me up the steps to my house, and dear husband makes me eggs, because it is past midnight and I am hungry and he is compassionate.

In the morning, Jane the Austen and Jack the Stewart make crepes and bring them to my room, so we can have breakfast as a family:

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They sit on my bed and I read them stories. When Clive the Staples discovers my crutches, all bets for a tranquil morning are off:

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But that’s OK. I’ve always known that he had a destiny in the circus arts.

Somehow or other, the seven of us ended up having a lunch of peanut butter and apples in my room while Husband the Man read Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians to us all.

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Jane the Austen half-listened, half-penned the next great American Novel. Also, note Lucy the Maude’s fist photobombing. All my favorite people are right here.

Later, the children brought me a leaning tower of banana bread with cream cheese frosting. Because when the children are in charge of the food, they will make whatever they darn well please! (It was delicious.)

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We lay in my bed like a bunch of lazy fools, eating banana bread and watching enthusiastic homesteaders tell us about how to keep chickens. Why are we researching chickens? We’re homeschooling millennials. Chickens are our destiny.

It was a glorious afternoon. Husband the Man took Lucy the Maude and Mr. the Rogers home teaching, and Katherine the great fell asleep on me while we did our Chicken Youtube research.

When the rest of the family came home, husband piggybacked my sprained-foot self down the stairs and we curled up around the fireplace as we burned up the dried out Christmas tree.

Yes, the Christmas Tree. Yes, it’s March.

Our family seems so small when we’re all cuddled up together.

Conclusion: Having a sprained foot is not that bad when you have a family like mine.

Second conclusion: Seven in the family is not too large. Not by a long shot.

The End.

*Due to the fact that I write and schedule these things ahead of time, I’m hoping that by the time this posts, this injury will be a thing of the past.

 

Here’s what we’ve been growing–

 

Fairy Gardens:

Snowdrops (which we had no idea existed on our property until they burst forth with all the vigor of an invading army this spring):

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Gladiolas, Dahlias, and two kinds of sprouting mystery bulbs, which we uprooted, broke up, and replanted with hope and prayers and optimism:

Sourdough English muffins, and ensuing delicious lunches:

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Decomposing organisms, hopefully mostly in our (outdoor) compost heap. I haven’t got a picture of that, so here’s one more thing we’ve unearthed that delights us:

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Did we do some lanscaping and edging with 103 year old bricks buried in the yard? Yes.

Did we discuss the onset of World War I while doing so? Oh yes.

Literally stumbling across American antiquity all the time is among the best things about living in the wilds of urban Connecticut.

The End.

 

Portrait of our Morning

Taken at approximately 9:25 am:

Jane the Austen:

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She practice for 30-45 minutes each morning, often in her bathrobe because it’s cold in the wilds of Connecticut.

Clive the Staples:

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While J the A practices violin, Clive the Staples and Mr. the Rogers cuddle me on the couch. We alternate who is getting in their reading with me, and who is practicing math and writing. At the moment, it’s Clive the Staple’s turn to read. He’s a major fan of Frog and Toad. Note Lucy the Maude’s hair in the corner.

Mr. the Rogers:

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Mr. the Rogers found new passion for writing today, due to the content.

Katherine the Great:

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K the G sleeps in. Being a toddler, we let her. So on this morning, as on many mornings besides, she breakfasts while the rest of the children are already at their lessons.

Lucy the Maude:

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L the M spends her mornings on my lap. But I didn’t photograph her this morning, so here we are on the Fancypants University Shuttle, doing what we always do: imitating kangaroo and joey.

In conclusion:

I love my children.  9:25 am is usually our most glorious time of day.

Why I Don’t Care if My Children Go to College

I grew up in a generation that was told college was the answer. College was the key to personal and financial success.

It was even used by my high school teachers as a carrot and stick:

Take this class so you can get into college!

If you don’t learn to do this, you’ll never get into college!

So I took the right classes. I passed the AP tests. I went to college. It was great. I have no regrets.

HOWEVER.

When I really think about what success actually means, and what I want most for my children, college doesn’t make the list.

Here’s what I want for the progeny:

  1. Strong personal integrity
  2. An ability to repent and change when necessary*
  3. An ability to forgive and heal when necessary*
  4. A happy family and home life
  5. Employment that enables them to provide for self and family, keeps them perpetually learning and growing, and affords them freedom to maintain integrity to what they believe is right.
  6. A desire and ability to be constantly learning and growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

That’s pretty much it. And all of that is just as attainable for an electrician or plumber as it is for a physicist or biochemist. In fact, I would submit that these goals are more tenable in technical vocations than they are in certain advanced fields of study-where “being intelligent” is often equated with having the *correct* opinion. Academic consensus does not always equal objective truth, and when one’s life is steeped in academia, this can be a slippery concept to hold on to.

But I digress.

The goals of homeschooling are the above mentioned goals with one more:

Prepare the children academically so that they are capable of rising to the challenge of whatever they wish to do.

If they become physicists or doctors or firefighters or stay at home parents, I will be equally pleased.

My only goal is to hand them the tools and habits necessary to build whatever they want. And if that whatever includes no formal schooling beyond a technical certificate, that’s fine with me.

True achievement has very little to do with degrees, and everything to do with what we build personally.

I would sooner see my sons become uncelebrated blue collar worker- faithful husbands with happy marriages than Stephen Hawkings with broken ones.

I would sooner see my daughters be barefoot, stay at home mothers with their daughters trusting them than Alice Walkers with estranged and abandoned progeny.

And if my children become great, both in the eyes of the world, and in the arms of their families, wonderful. If they are only great by the work they do in their families, equally wonderful.

There is one real goal here.

There you have it. There are those who think that my hopes for the progeny set the bar too low, but they are mistaken.

These hopes sit on top of the highest bar there is.

 

*Quite Possibly the Most Important Thing Ever.

Museum Training (or, potty training level 2)

What you need for a grand adventure in the wilds of Urban Connecticut:

  1. Library Card (Obviously. What true adventure doesn’t involve one?)
  2. Baby wrap (one without buckles and adjustable plastic things. Too complicated)
  3. Purse with diaper in it (I gave up on diaper bags ages ago. Viva la resistance!)
  4. Progeny (count twice to make sure you’ve got them all)
  5. Umbrella Stroller (for the short of stature do weary fast)

 

It is best to museum train the children. This is like advanced potty training–one must hold in all the joy and only let it out in non-antiquity destroying ways. It’s slightly harder than potty training, because children’s bladder and bowel capacities are finite; their capacity for joy in the beautiful is NOT.

Despite the worry associated with allowing a child within sneezing distance of a priceless piece of art, the payoff is worth it. Set low expectations and leave when they still want to stay. Ask a million speculative questions about the art, and the children end up feeling a sense of ownership. They each have “their” favorite painting at Fancypants University Art Gallery. Fred the Roger’s painting is a 50 million dollar Van Gogh. And he hasn’t sneezed on it….yet.

On one of our first visits to the Fancypants University Art Gallery, the Museum Guard demonstrated the “gallery pose.” You clasp your hands behind the back and lean towards the painting. He told the children they could get as close to the art as they wished, so long as they had their hands behind their backs and didn’t touch the painting with their faces.

On this particular field trip day, we went to the library first. So as to have something to read when Mom has to stop in the middle of cutting across Fancypants University to get to Fancypants Art Gallery in order to breastfeed Lucy the Maude. As one does.

We made it for an hour of museum time on this particular afternoon before Fred the Rogers was hungry, Katherine the Great was tired, and Lucy the Maude was done tolerating a nursing cover. She prefers to dine al fresco.

If I could do it inconspicuously enough, I’d have nursed her blanketless; but even when the children are perfect museum patrons ,they are still flashing lights and sirens, drawing disproportionate amounts of attention to our little group. Me, unceremoniously flashing the staring art professor with Undergrad art history class in tow when Lucy the Maude comes unlatched to grin and coo, is just one scene too many. Yes, I know the Fancypants galleries are rife with portrayals bared nipples and nursing infants; I’m just not prepared to join their ranks.

There are coin-operated lockers for stashing our things whilst in the museum. This is to safeguard against a 9th century Chinese vase “accidentally” ending up in the preschooler’s Spiderman backpack. I understand, Fancypants. I understand.

Upon retrieving our things at the end of our cultural excursion, we found ourselves in a hallway traffic jam with a small army of Fancypants University Caterers who were preparing a Fancypants feast. They went slack-jawed and doe-eyed at the children, and the little beggars scored to melon ball fruit skewers.

And I got a Fancypants Punch Recipe, which I am dying to make:

-Ginger Ale

-Pineapple Juice

-Orange Juice

-A bunch of “grown up drinks” than I will never be “grown up” enough to drink. Because I’m drunk on life, darnit!

I don’t remember the proportions, but it will be delicious in any ratio. I’m sure of it. And it will be virgin.

And that, dear friends,

is the long story of how my children scored free melon ball skewers on field trip day.

The end.

 

 

Polygamy Pasta (or, something funny happened on the way to the art gallery).

Man: Wow, you’ve got a lot of kids!

Me *suppressing the “I haven’t heard this one before” look*: Yep.

Man: Are they all yours??

Me *Suppressing harder*: Yep.

Man: Are you a Mormon?

Me *actually surprised this time*: Yeah!

Man: Are you from the Midwest?

Me: Yeah! (Former beehive in the Nauvoo Stake. Heck yes I’m midwestern!)

Man: So you’re from Utah?

Me *Disappointed with man’s abysmal geography*: Nope.

Man *disppointed with my lack of authentic Mormonness*: Oh. I have some friends who are Mormons. They all live out on a nice commune in Missourah. They go to Florida every winter. Why do you go to Florida every winter?

Me: We don’t.

Man *a little more disappointed*: Oh. Anyway, they brought me some great pasta back from their commune in Florida.

Me: Oh. OK.

Man: So you’re a polyga–

Me: No.

Man *Disappointed*: Oh. OK.

And that’s when we parted ways, me to teach the children about Greco-Roman civilization at Fancypants University Art Gallery, and the man, a little bewildered, to presumably go home and eat Polygamy Pasta.

 

The End.

A Day in the Life (or, the power of lists)

Over the course of our marriage, we’ve passed through several seasons of calm and chaos. The last six months of 2016 were insane, between moving twice, having a baby, and husband preparing for his qualifying exams, gallivanting off to physics conferences as part of his program, and breaking both his arms. Yes, his arms. BOTH of them.

Since the new year, however, things have settled down and we’ve been able to resume some old routines that make life so, so much smoother. You’d think that running your life on a list (and lists of lists) on your phone would be constraining, but the structure (particularly following a season of chaos) is actually enormously freeing. Things get done. Checking off checkboxes fires endorphins. Books and blogs get written. And adventures continue apace with less running late and fewer crises of household.

This is approximately how our little family of seven has been puttering through 2017:

 

6:45: Wake up to hungry baby. Nurse baby. Read scriptures (or, if not on a social media fast, check Facebook and feel vaguely guilty about it.)

7:05: Put sleeping baby back down and go downstairs to start list. I have this magical list of 15 things I need to do each morning before breakfast and school. It appears on my phone at 6 am, and when those are done, my house is mysteriously cleaner, and my brain is ready for children’s school and life in general. There are a lot of enormously basic things on the list like “brush teeth” and “say prayers” and “read scriptures.” You’d think after a decade or two of doing those things, they’d happen without thought. Not so. Doubly not so when a child wakes up vomiting, a basement is flooded, or, you know, I get horribly distracted by an internet thread that I should not have been reading prior to scriptures. Ergo, I have a list to remind me what I still need to do after managing some unexpected crisis (or non-crisis).

8:00-Finish list. The kids are waking up, and need kisses and good mornings and reminders about room tidying, clothes wearing, prayer saying. Kitchen duty child is reminded to put away last night’s dishes. Jane the Austen does Katherine the Great’s hair. Because she’s awesome like that.

8:10-Breakfast. Oatmeal and grapefruit, the standard fare.

8:30-School Starts. Kitchen duty child spends first twenty minutes or so of school doing dishes. Some children are much faster dish doers than others. I have a list of 21 things that need to happen during school. If I don’t have and use it, I will wake up at 11:30 pm thinking, “Jane the Austen did not diagram a single sentence today. Clive the staples did no spelling exercises. I am neglecting their education.” I don’t know about you, but diagramming sentences is not what I want to be thinking about at 11:30 pm.

Noon-ish-School finishes. Here’s when I start my (shorter) list of 8 things I need to do in the afternoon. We’re so very lucky at this point in life that husband can come home for lunch nearly every day. This is when lots of the “what did you learn at school today?” conversation happens. It’s very gratifying to hear what they have remembered, internalized, or found notable about what we covered in the last few hours.

The most treasured and precious item on the noon list, besides our family lunch, is WRITE. The children have 1-2 glorious hours in the afternoon wherein they play, have friends over, run around like insane little heathens, nap, etc. I write amidst the chaos. And we’re all the happier for it.

Late Afternoon-pretty much every weekday afternoon is taken up with afterschool extracurriculars, running errands, helping out immigrant and refugee friends, or all of the above, in the case of Jane the Austen, who helps out in an afterschool program for her refugee and immigrant peers.

Evening-We come stumbling home from our adventures, exhausted, with me reminding the kids a million times to help bring in library books and groceries, because I am carrying in the smallest child or two, who almost always fall asleep on the way home. Generally speaking, they also need reminding to go close the door of the van. Otherwise, our wonderfully conscientious neighbor will come remind us. Enthusiastically.

6 pm-Husband comes home again, and we have dinner. I set about my short (6-item) evening list, which I rarely complete. Post dinner, kitchen duty child and husband or I do the dishes, we read scriptures and pray as a family, husband takes the kids upstairs for bedtime stories, and I do yoga. And write. And prepare to do it again the next day.

It’s a good life.