Homeschool…

The kids finished up school last week, although Hallie keeps reminding us that she’s not quite done. 🙂 She’s got two more weeks before she finishes her first high school semester class.

Over the years, I’ve had many friends choose to homeschool their children for one reason or another. (And everyone seemed to have their definitive answers as to why). But I couldn’t understand how in the world they were accomplishing it with kids at many different levels. Teaching children is not one of my strong points (requires far more patience than I possess) which is why education was not an area I pursued.

But when the schools shut down due to COVID-19, I made a decision: I was going to give everything I had to homeschool for 9 weeks – 1 quarter. I had never put myself in the category of being capable of being a homeschool mom, but I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity. I read several times on social media that what we were being asked to do during this pandemic was not considered homeschool – the way we ran it in our home would prove them wrong.

(Now, I’m speaking very generally here – every teacher is so different, but this has been our overall experience over the last 10 years.)

My kids earn high honors at school but I’m not entirely sure how high the expectations are. They seem to skate through school with little effort which I think is typical in a large classroom setting. I have spent many hours in the classroom volunteering and teachers have an extremely hard role in making sure everyone is at level in every area while still keeping kids who have mastered the concepts engaged.

Homeschool was eye opening because I was able to more accurately see the holes in my kids learning and where they needed help – much easier when you’re focusing on a single kid and not 30 kids. This caused some emotions to run high on everyone’s part!

My kids were not used to mom teaching them and the first two weeks had some frustrating moments as we were working out a schedule and routine. They were used to a different way and I was frustrated that they had missed basic concepts at school that were part of their curriculum and yet they had high grades.

And writing? I’m not sure if this is nationwide or just our little area but writing is just not being taught! I think my kids have had a lot of practice – plenty of opportunities but their writing is not corrected with feedback so although they keep writing it’s not getting much better! This is something I’ve been fully aware of for a long while, but as I’ve corrected a lot of writing the last 9 weeks it has become even more apparent.

Luckily, we found our rhythm. We found resources that worked. (Hallie and Hunter had some assignments given online by their teachers and although I helped them they were able to manage it pretty well, I just provided supplemental learning.) Kids knew the expectations and it worked. One of my favorite parts was learning how my kids learn (and they all learn so differently) and I could cater to their specific needs. I love that it didn’t take all day. We spent time learning and then they had time to explore other interests like typing and coding and stop motion and reading and physical activities.

And the experience changed my perspective. All these years I’ve looked at homeschooling as something I could never do. But now I see the freedom, individual learning and time it gives back and I get why people do it. It may not be something we ever choose to do again, but I know its a possibility and I can do it (and even enjoy it) which was a mental block I had for years.

Our life has become busy as we’ve allowed kids to participate in activities and sports and it is enticing to have a shorter more focused school day. But even as I joked with my kids that they were going to like homeschool so much they wouldn’t want to go back – they weren’t laughing. In all reality, they love going to school. They are social beings and they have missed their friends and social environment. They miss their dual language program – which try as I may, I could not duplicate! Their public school experience has given them leadership opportunities and accountability and has been very positive. But it comes at a cost of 7 hours a day.

We are all hoping that schools open in the fall. But if they don’t, I’m confident we will have an equally enriching educational experience at home.

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First and Last Day of School 2020…

My kids laughed when I told them they had to get dressed and take last day of school pictures. They must of thought they were going to get out of it this year – not a chance. What you can’t see is the swimsuits on the bottom – balance in all things!

These little comparison photos show they’ve all grown a little bit over the last nine months!

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Home…

Towards the beginning of our isolation, I came across this picture called “Home” from thecoloramber.me and it spoke volumes to me.

picture from thecoloramber.me

Perhaps it was the darkness of the clouds juxtaposed with the brightness of the sun and flowers. At the time I saw this, things were feeling heavy mentally and emotionally as we were adjusting to kids being out of school and a not so optimistic media (which I ended up having to tune out.)

Perhaps it was seeing the strength of both the mother’s and father’s arms holding the home up. Although sometimes it feels like one of us is holding up the home while the other takes a much needed break and then they step in just when your arms feel as though they’re going to give out.

Perhaps it was the abundance of flowers. So prolific. So much growth. Even amid a dark storm, things grow. We grow.

Perhaps it was the mother holding that baby tight and sheltering them from what was outside. All that child can see is sunshine and flowers despite the storm brewing.

Perhaps it was the mother and father’s backs pushed up against each other as if to say, “I won’t let you fall.”

This picture now hangs in my office and it will forever remind of this time period. Of course it will remind me of the storm but more importantly it signifies growth – not only for me personally but growth within our family.

Today, more than ever, I am grateful for the four walls we call “home” and everything that has been created within.

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COVID Snapshot…

Not sure what your state currently looks like as far as stay-at-home orders, but Arizona’s expired over the weekend. It came and went without much fanfare or change. I talked to someone who tried going to the mall to pick up some shoes and although the mall was open, not many stores were open. I suppose stores will open when they feel ready to handle the increased regulations of being open. I don’t have a burning desire to be out in public but I think we’re all looking forward to some human interaction.

I saw this graphic on Facebook over the weekend (tried to find the source and it was a dead link) and it screamed the thoughts running through my head. There I sit, smack dab in the middle.

This virus has stirred a hateful pot unlike any I’ve ever seen. We all claim to be on the right side of whatever the argument is, passing judgement on everyone who doesn’t think like us. There is so much good in the world, even today and yet it’s hard to see past that with everyone shouting their superior claims. And perhaps you’re like me and see that this is a complex social issue and understand why each area is worth fighting for.

As we end our stay-at-home order, we’re fully aware that we are not in the clear, but it’s important to reemerge cautiously at some point. Briggs keeps asking if coronavirus is done yet – I wonder how much, if anything my kids will remember about this time, so I wanted to capture a snapshot of this historic time.

Life is quiet – even in a house full of 7 people. Steve was just saying a week before the stay-at-home that life was too busy. We needed to reevaluate what we were putting time into and then this happened. The timing couldn’t have been better for our family.

Yes, it came with it’s hardships. Steve and I both work from home which is much easier when only 1 kid is at home. My work came to screeching halt (I work for many industries and it was amazing to see how fast it stopped when everything shut down.) it ended up being perfect timing in order to take on the responsibility of the kids and their school.

The kids have adjusted seamlessly. We spend a lot of time together on our summer roadtrips and this felt like an extension of that, except we never left the home.

Life completely shutdown. We went from running to crawling.

They played together…a lot…with far less fighting than we anticipated. While they’re usually hyper-focused on spending time with friends, that was all redirected to each other and it’s been sweet to witness.

Most used toys/activities were bikes, skateboards, trampoline, pool, soccer balls and board games. We’ve yet to do a puzzle even though I normally love doing puzzles.

The kids have free rein of the TV until I get out of bed. Lucky for them I stay up late which means I wake up late. After that, it’s off for the day unless we watch a movie at night.

Bedtimes and meal times have been very flexible. We normally run a tight ship in this department and we’ve let it go because we don’t have a schedule to adhere to.

I’ve turned time and attention back to the kitchen which has been fun to share with the kids. We’ve made a lots of bread – Hallie’s perfecting french bread. Which paired well with our fresh strawberry jam. I think its time to can some salsa – it’s been a couple years and it’s my favorite.

We watched Survivor as a family and the kids were totally into it. We even had our own version of Survivor, complete with immunity idols, challenges and voting.

I’ve never spent less time with my camera. Its a little weird to look through my lightroom and not have new pictures. I think my camera misses me.

I’ve been cruising through my 95% list. You know, the projects that are 95% done but rarely ever make it to 100%. I’ve been going through that list. The list that I never made time for and now I didn’t have a good enough excuse not to do them. The shelves in my kitchen that I’ve had on my list for a year and a half and even bought all the supplies for months ago – finally got them done. The shelves in Bennett’s closet – done. The media room closet – done. Then I was bugged that they didn’t take much time and I could’ve done them months ago!

We’ve harvested a lot of lemons and oranges and we’ve spent hours juicing and freezing and juicing and freezing. We’ve given fruit away and we’ve still got buckets on the back porch left to juice.

Distant learning school was a success and completely shifted my preconceived ideas about homeschooling (more on that another day). I think the biggest disappointment was knowing the last day of school party wasn’t going to be what they’re used to. Trying to figure out how to end school with a bang.

For the first little while, we didn’t personally know a single person affected by COVID. And then we had several family members test positive and they became part of the statistics we see today. They couldn’t leave the home so we did grocery drop offs and treats and bread, anything to lift their spirits.

It’s been two months since we’ve attended church with our congregation and it took some adjusting but I think we’ve found our stride.

I’ve turned back to listening to audiobooks. I go in spurts, but I’ve hit the jackpot on the last two which encourages me to try another. Because of that, my podcast listening has gone down. There’s only so much time in a day to listen!

Online shopping had to be one of my larger disappointments during this time. We were doing everything we could to not go to the stores, which meant turning to online stores. But large stores like Target and Walmart let me down. Cancelling online orders, not allowing curbside pickup, making me go into the store instead of pulling items for me. Amazon could be thrown in there as well when you want to order a ream of paper and they tell you the soonest you can get it is in a month. The lack of online options forced people back into stores unnecessarily. (which I understand was to prioritize their resources) I admit, I have totally taken for granted Amazon’s two day shipping and Wal-marts grocery pick up. I had to go into stores more than I ever have because these services were no longer available.

Because of the isolation, it’s weird to look back on movies or pictures where there’s large crowds. Hallie just watched a clip tonight from just before this all started when Steve was in a stadium full of people at an NCAA college basketball game. Her comment, “Wow that’s a lot of people, that’s weird.” At the time it wasn’t weird, it was normal but now its a little unsettling. Watching people shake hands on the TV even seems weird! Funny how the normal has shifted.

For whatever reason the days are short and the time has past quickly. Everyone has been good about finding things to do and there have been very few “bored” moments. The first week was full of frustration on everyone’s part but we settled in and found our groove. This has been nothing I could have imagined and yet oddly what our family needed. The silver lining.

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More Chalk art…

These are from our early stay-at-home days. Before sidewalk chalk was scarce and we used it like we could walk into a store and buy more! 🙂 But fun none the less. Solar systems. Body outlines. Large, elaborate cities.

It’s amazing how long kids can be entertained with chalk. Its also amazing just how dirty kids are after using it!

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