Homeschool

A very different 1st day of 8th grade than any of us imagined a year ago!

Photo Aug 30, 11 28 27 AM

Pictures of him taken after he got home from his 1st day of 8th grade.

For the past 2 school years, B has played sports for a local private school. Isn’t that awesome they allow homeschoolers to join their sports teams?! Last Winter he met a boy on the basketball team who was a homeschooler and going to this private school part-time. We didn’t know that was an option! By Spring, B told us he would like to try going to a traditional school for freshman year of high school. He wanted to see what it was about and if he would like it. We felt we’d be throwing him to the wolves if we just dropped him off at the public high school without any experience or preparation. So, we enrolled him, part-time, in the private school where he’s been playing sports. Yesterday was his first day.

He had been so confident and excited to start this new adventure all Summer. Me, not so much. I love our homeschool life! The flexibility, going anywhere we want on any given day, rabbit-holing for days, weeks or months about a subject or topic that B’s interested in, staying in PJs all day if we want, meeting so many different SMEs in and out of the area and learning so much from them, no one to report to if he’s sick, and learning together.

The goal of parenthood is to raise confident, secure kids who can and want to go out into the world and I love that he wants to go and try new things. But it still hurts a mom’s heart to realize this is the beginning of the end. Pretty soon he’ll no longer need me to drive him anywhere and then he’ll be off in college and we won’t talk everyday. I won’t know where he is and what he’s doing any given moment of the day at some time in the future! So this is a great transition to that time.

I have been so upset for the past week, though! I am grieving as if we just dropped him off at college and not at a school a few miles away for less than 4 hours a day! It just reminds me, again, that he is our only one. There are no more babies at home and there will not be anymore babies at home, no matter how hard we try. I’m going through that grieving process all over again.

Last week we attended Back-to-School Night. Very different from when I was a kid. Back-to-School Night used to happen a few weeks into the school year and only for parents. Parents follow their child’s schedule, meet teachers and listen to what their kids are going to learn. This one was for the entire family and took place before school started. We were to bring his school supplies and locker decorations and everything could be all set up and ready for him on the first day of school.

My anxiety and weepiness of the past week disappeared at Back-to-School Night! I got all caught up in the love and fellowship, happy B could meet his teachers and see where the classrooms were in relation to his locker ahead of time. However, the reality of starting at a traditional school slammed into Mr. Excited & Confident that night and we had a little incident at the lockers. He looked like a caged animal, panicked and then lashed out at me. Poor thing! And he was like that when he was home until I left him at the school yesterday. He was freaking out about not knowing what the rules are, getting sent to the principle’s office, not being able to keep up with lessons, etc. He basically went up his tree.

We just had to reassure him and remind him that:

  • There is Grace in abundance for him at the school! They know this is all new to him and will help him along.
  • He is a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He’s not a vandal, he’s not mean, he doesn’t talk back, he knows what is right and what is wrong and, if he has any doubt, the Holy Spirit will activate his intuition and let him know.
  • Although he’s not the best speller (he scored a 4th grade level in Spelling on the school’s entrance exam) the school was not concerned and knows they can turn that around before the year is out. Plus, he scored an 11th grade level in Reading Comprehension and college level in Math! Being bored might be more of a concern than not keeping up. 😉
  • This isn’t a life sentence. He’s going to see if he likes a traditional school or, more to the point, does he like more aspects of it than he doesn’t (because there are always pros and cons to each situation). We can re-evaluate at the end of the first quarter, during Christmas break, etc., and the same goes for high school.

Yesterday before walking into the school, I prayed over him in the car. I went in the school with him to get him to his locker, do some decorating that didn’t get done on Back-to-School Night, show him where the classrooms were (he was stressed and nothing was sticking in his head), and to let him know he’s not in this alone. I was doing really well keeping my own shit together so as not to make him lose his until the Admissions Director and then the Principal came out of their offices when they saw us walk by, hug me and ask with sympathetic faces, “How ya doing, Mom?” NEVER ask someone holding their shit together with spider webs if they are OK!!! My son saw my eyes leaking and he didn’t need that on him, too! I do have to say they have been so wonderful and patient with us and I feel confident that B is in a safe place.

He had some trouble multi-tasking in a class, and he got his back up because two female teachers who talked about the rules of the school and in their classrooms used only scenarios with boys in them while describing what not to do (insert eye-roll). And he’s sad about all the things he won’t get to do because he’s chosen to be in school 5 days a week.

I have to admit, we were quite taken aback on Back-to-School Night when the Science teacher started talking about Evolution vs. Creationism, as well as a question on yesterday’s Science homework asking if you thought climate change was a fact. But we’re reminding ourselves that not everyone sees eye-to-eye on all issues and hearing another person’s perspective on any subject is educational. You can learn about a topic as well as learn about the person speaking.

He takes 3 classes (Civics, English & Science) 4 days a week and on the 5th day, he adds a 4th class, Health. You know, girls go off with a female teacher and boys go off with a male teacher (one of B’s coaches), and they talk about manly bits and other subjects. We have very open dialogues regarding our bodies, respect for each other, sex, drugs, etc., but it’s always just B with one or both of his parents. We felt it beneficial for B to discuss these and other topics with boys his age in the room and an adult leading. It’s good for a kid to know others do and feel the same things or are confused about the same things. The hubs and I also are hoping that subjects we have neglected to, or didn’t know to, bring up will be addressed by the Coach teaching the class and B can come home and continue the dialogue with us.

I know this is long, but I have to share one more things about B’s first day of school. I tried so hard to keep it together until I walked out of that school and I assumed I would sit and bawl in my car for an hour, so I passed on the Admission’s Director’s offer to come by her office for coffee and bagels. However, as soon as I walked out the door, my eyes dried up, I felt no emotion (god or bad) at all, and I got a headache. I didn’t want to go home, so I went to the local Chik-fil-A and sat in the parking lot looking at everyone’s back to school pix on Facebook until they started serving lunch at 10:30am. I ate my sandwich and drank my coke there and took the side salad for today’s lunch (which I’m eating right now). I drove to the liquor store and bought a pint of Tito’s because I knew I’d need it (and, DAMMIT, I deserved it!) with dinner.

As I drove home, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t cried yet and why I had this headache. I was traveling on a road with a 55 MPH speed limit and had all the windows open. I cried out to God, “WHY can’t I cry?! I need to cry, I need to release all this before I pick him up so he doesn’t feel guilty or responsible for my normal, parenting grief! Please, God!” And you know what? The dam immediately broke and the sobs came. I reached up a hand to clear my eyes and all of a sudden there were tissues swirling around me, like I was in the eye of a tissue tornado. Even though I was going 60 MPH, none of them flew out the window. There were at least a dozen of them. I grabbed 2 out of the air and after dabbing my eyes, I looked around and there weren’t anymore tissues to be seen. I wondered where the tissues came from and then realized we usually keep a box of tissues in the back seat and the wind through the open windows must have flung them around.

When I got home, I searched the car for all the other tissues that were flying about and only found one more, which is a good thing because I needed to blow my nose! There was no box of tissues in the car, anywhere. The hubs had tasked B with cleaning the car out the week before. No tissues nor trash anywhere. I realized my headache was gone and that God had sent me the tissues. I am so humbled and blessed to be called His own and so thankful to Him for reaching out to me in my time of need.

Thrifty Thursday: Creating Costumes from the Thrift Store

I know, I know! I’ve done a Thrifty Thursday post about the thrift store before. However, I recently was put in the position to make 3 Star Wars costumes for my son, and I couldn’t have done it without my favorite thrift store. Plus, I’m really proud of how well I did under pressure. So, bear with me.

My son was in a Star Wars performance in December. His troupe performed three scenes from Episode IV: A New Hope: the trash compactor, Luke & Leah escaping Stormtroopers by swinging over an abyss, and fighting their way to the Millennium Falcon to escape the Death Star while watching Darth Vader kill Ben Kenobi. B had the rolls of Han Solo (my favorite character out of all 7 movies), a stormtrooper and Ben Kenobi.

After the first meeting when he told me he had 3 parts, I said, “I was prepared to come up with one costume, but three? OK, we’ve got time to try and put these together.” B assured me that the teacher had all the costumes and we didn’t have to provide anything. “Are you sure,” I asked, to which he emphatically said, “Yes.”

Several weeks go by and the day before B’s performance was payday – my run errands, fill the gas tanks and buy groceries day. By mid-afternoon, I had a nagging feeling about the costumes.

Me: “Are you sure that your teacher will be providing everything you need for all 3 of your costumes?”
B: “OH! I forgot to tell you after class last week! Yeah, he thought he had costumes for me but he doesn’t.”
Me (*Blink. Blink, blink. deep breath*): So, you’re telling me that I have to come up with costumes for Han Solo, a stormtrooper and Ben Kenobi with robe, with 21 hours left until your performance?!”
B (Eyes slowly getting as big as saucers as that reality sinks in.): No. No, Ma. It’s my fault. You don’t have to come up with anything! I’ll figure something out. Don’t worry.
Me: No. I can do this! Get in the car!

And off to my favorite thrift store we went! I bought 2 things – a white, mens, long-sleeved shirt and a brown, decorative, womens sweater. Total: $3. (I also found a Ralph Lauren blazer in B’s size, excellent condition, on the $1 rack! I had to buy it.) I found nothing that would work for Ben Kenobi’s hooded robe, but I did find white “Joey Buttafuoco” pants that were white with a black elastic waistband and black trim on the pockets. The white shirt would work as a top for both Han Solo and a stormtrooper and the pants were a little too big for B, so they’d be easy to take on and off over his jeans to switch between the 2 characters. After looking disgustedly at the white pants, however, B decided he didn’t think there’d be enough time for such a “complicated” wardrobe change and would stick to his jeans. ;o)

The white shirt just needed to be washed. I cut the arms off the womens decorative brown sweater, turned it inside out and had Han Solo’s vest. An old cap gun holster was dug out of a toy bin in the bowels of the basement. Han Solo done!

Photo Jan 21, 9 45 40 PM

 

 

Party City was all out of Stormtrooper masks, but I found a free printable online and printed it out on card stock. I cut it out, cut out the eye holes and used clear packaging tape to attach the mask to B’s favorite sunglasses: they are white and wrap-around. Stormtrooper done!

Photo Jan 21, 9 47 31 PM

I walked around the house, looking for something to make Ben Kenobi’s robe and my eyes fell on the heavy, room-darkening curtain we hang at the back door. It’s very drafty at that door and the curtain keeps the cold air out and the heat in. Perfect! I went down to the basement and got the other curtain (bought them as a pair) and draped it over B to get inspiration. I realized I needed something to pinch off the hood of the robe, but the small rubber bands we had would likely break when he put the robe on. So, I used Hickies, these really cool fasteners that B has on his sneakers. Two of them were hooked together about a quarter of the way down. In addition to the robe, I offered to make B one of the felt Jedi uniforms to go under it, like I made for his Jedi Training Academy Birthday Party, but he declined, once again siting time constraints on costume changes. (Evidently Han Solo & Ben Kenobi were in the same scene!). He got one of his lightsabers from the garage and…Ben Kenobi done!

Photo Jan 21, 8 39 31 PM

Even if PartyCity had mens Star Wars costumes in stock (or if I’d known weeks earlier that I needed them and ordered them online), I would have spent $39.99 on the Han Solo costume, $4.99 for a stormtrooper mask (or $49.99 for the whole costume) and $19.99 for a robe. But I spent $3 at the thrift store. THAT, plus the fact I did it all in less than 2 hours, is what makes this a great Thrifty Thursday post. ;o)

I wanted a sign.

5:25am  As instructed, the hubs got me up before leaving for work.  (Last night, while we were cleaning up after Bible circle, I said to the hubs, “Don’t forget to wake me up before you go to work tomorrow.”  He replied, “You mean…wake you up before I…go-go?”  “Yes,” I laughed. “Wake me up before you go-go!”)

5:34am  I sit down at the computer, pull up a particular site and have a credit card at the ready.  Registration for the Fall semester of amazing homeschool classes begins at 6:00am.  One of my friends described it so accurately yesterday: a shark feeding frenzy.  You have to be up and hope you are quick enough to get your kids into the classes they want.  Why?  Although there are a good number of companies and individuals who are catering to homeschoolers now, the majority of them offer core subjects (Math, Language Arts, Science), gym and tend to cater to the younger students (up to 3rd grade).

The place I am talking about definitely offers core subjects, but also electives in languages, art, music, cooking, computers, architecture, making this planet a better place, and so much more!  There is hands-on and interactive learning and live performances of historical characters by professions actors who work in museums.  These are not classes doing “school” at home; this is HOMEschool!  These are classes we’d want to create for our kids if we were subject matter experts and had the resources.  These are classes our kids beg to take, are so excited to get to and you know what?  There are no tests!  It is purely for the love of learning and advancing themselves in a topic they are passionate about!

5:56am  Had to refresh the registration page, just in case it went live early.  Classes are only once a week, but they happen to fall on a day that has other obligations for us, so it can be a hectic day.  Especially for this mama, who is an introvert and does not enjoy being around people.

5:59am  Be back soon…

6:00am  DAMMIT!  So many people trying to register, I can’t get on!

6:06am  I got to the registration page and managed to enter one class to my cart, but the other one won’t.  I’m just getting this swirly thing, telling me the computer is thinking…

6:12am  Still can’t get the 2nd class in my cart.  I’ve tried checking out with the one class so it is secured before it fills up, but I can’t get to my cart.  Their site is so overwhelmed with parents trying to register.  I’m messaging with a friend who is also trying.  She almost made me pee my pants with laughter when she references the “swirls of death”, taunting us, leaving us in limbo, wondering if we’ll ever get our kids in these classes!

6:33am  FINALLY got second class added to cart!  Trying to get into the cart to checkout now…

6:43am  CHECKED OUT, PAID AND CONFIRMATION EMAIL RECEIVED!!!!!!  If B wasn’t still asleep, I’d be whooping, doing a happy dance and singing the Hallelujah chorus!  I don’t know how people can work on the stock exchange floor day in and day out; this was so stressful!

You know, as I was hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, and getting the message, “error in connecting to server” over and over and over again, I kept wondering if maybe not getting into these classes was for the best.  I hate Wednesdays, mostly because of these classes. I started to hope that he didn’t get into the classes.  But as soon as that thought took seed, the website worked for me and I got both classes into my cart and was able to check out.  So I did.

Near the end of our Wednesday night Bible circle, before we break out dessert, we take turns telling our prayer requests and thanksgivings.  Last night, my thanksgiving was that yesterday was the last day of these classes I shlep B to every Wednesday, then rush home for flag football practices/games and then Bible circle.  I was thankful that this was the first Wednesday all school year that I did not think about drinking (or actually pour a drink) as soon as we got home!  The relief I felt that it was over!  Then the hubs mentioned that I had to be up at the crack of dawn this morning for Fall registration and one of the men in our circle asked me, “Then why do you do this?!  If it’s so stressful and it makes you want to drink, why?”

It was a very valid question with a very simple answer: for my son.  It’s not his fault that his mom is an introvert who wants to hermit all day.  I refuse to let my anxieties cripple his life and his opportunities.  There are certain subjects that I can’t teach him and I won’t hold back this child who loves the classes, the teachers and the other students there with him.

But I did put my foot down for this coming Fall.  We won’t be there all day.  He can’t take whatever classes he wants – one starting at 9am, another at 2pm and he’ll take some other classes in between or just play with the other kids.  I really wanted to be out of there by 2pm, but I would push it back to 3pm if it was an important class.  I was firm on that.  So, the last class I just registered him for ends at 3:30pm.  ;o)  He really wants to concentrate on his acting, so he’s taking back-to-back acting classes.  I’m OK with that.  We’ll only be there for 2.5 hours and I don’t have to pack lunch.  I have two friends there that I can talk to when I want to and who don’t mind if I go off by myself (I could have more friends, if I wanted to, but I choose not to socialize.)

7:47am  The registration website is down, due to “unprecedented traffic”.  I’m glad I got in when I did.  It was a sign.  :o)

Movie Wednesday

Last year, I told you about our Language Arts curriculum, Brave Writer’s The Arrow.  Today is Movie Wednesday, but we didn’t watch a movie.  We watched a show that aired on ABC last night – Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Changed American Cinema.  I saw the show on the guide several minutes after 10pm, turned on the TV and hit record.  When we watched it this morning, it only captured #14 through #1.  I’ve searched the internet and cannot find what #15 was, so if you saw the show, please let me know!  Anywho, watching this 54 minute show provided lessons in not only Language Arts, but also History (of our country and the movie industry), Civil Rights and Cinematography.  B wants to make movies when he grows up.  He really enjoys doing it now and this show gave great, historical insight.  In the future, we will watch almost all of these movies for the content and ingenuity they will lend to B’s education.

Language Arts

The Brave Writer Lifestyle teaches us the importance of word selection in stories, whether they are told in books or movies.  When you read a great line in a book, the delivery is yours, in your head.  The tone of a book B reads may come across completely differently when I read it.  With movies, you hear an actor in character saying an iconic line; see the expression and emotion on their face as it’s delivered.  How many lines from movies stick with us, do we use in our daily lives?  Lines from movies decades old, movies we’ve seen years ago, still stick with us and we want to make that impression on others when we write (or act). Every movie on last night’s show had lines like that.  This show also reminded us when it’s fitting to not use “proper” English; when the local and/or historical way of speaking should be used. See if you can tell from which movie these lines came:

  1. “Whuzzah happenin’, hot stuff?”
  2. “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  3. “STELLA!”
  4. “Well, when I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
  5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

History

Ever movie is on this list because it made cinematic history.  The Production Codes were created in the 1930s to censor future movies after I’m No Angel was released.  The multi-plane camera was invented in order to bring the first, full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to the screen. Easy Rider was the 1st indy film that became a blockbuster.  2001: A Space Odyssey birthed the Sci-Fi genre.  Jaws showed us that the score of a movie can make a villain.

So many times during this show, we paused to discuss not only the what and why of a storyline, but also the filming.  The shower scene in Psycho was a great topic!

B: [Janet Leigh’s character] was ridiculous in the shower!  She just stood there and kept letting out short screams while the bad guy took forever to raise his knife.  She should have attacked him or knocked him over and run.
Me: She didn’t scream that long.  She gave one scream, and the director chose to play it over and over again, at different angles, to prepare the audience for what was about to happen.  Otherwise, the scene may have gone by before the audience could absorb it and they might have missed it.  (I hit play again and B listened to commentators on the show describe how Alfred Hitchcock reinvented fear in this movie.  Audiences had not seen anything like this before and it was so horrifying without even being gory.)
B: I get it!  No one was expecting a murderer.  No one was expecting that character.  The director had to give the audience a second to get what was about to happen so that they could get and be afraid of it as it happened.  Cool!

But these movies also taught us about our History.  In clips from The Birth of a Nation, B learned that KKK members not only dressed in white but also covered their horses.  Although Hattie McDaniel was nominated for, and won, an Oscar for Gone with the Wind, she was not allowed to sit at the same table with her cast mates.  She was segregated to her own table in the back.  We discussed the significance of a black man cast as the main character of a motion picture (Lillies of the Field) in 1962 and Sidney Poitier winning an oscar.  B watched Halle Berry’s emotional acceptance speech in 2001 with shock that a woman of color had not won best actress until the 21st century.  Easy Rider was created by, for and about the 60s generation.

Oh my goodness, I can go on and on about this show and the wonderful lessons we got from it today, but I have to stop and make dinner now.  I can’t wait to watch one of these films next Wednesday!

Painting

20150210_174148 After 2 years of major renovations, from foundation to roof, my brother was finally able to move back into his house a couple of weeks ago. He asked B to paint a mural on this small section of wall between his back door and a window. B painted it yesterday and my brother sent me a picture of it last night. It’s B and his favorite Uncle in a NERF battle! It says “Good Times” and B even signed & dated it at the bottom (I blurred that out). B painted himself “behind” the light switches (the switch plate is off in this picture).  He came up with this idea in his head and then just painted it.  He didn’t sketch it on paper nor on the wall before painting.  He just did it. And he doesn’t critique his work; doesn’t point out flaws and say he could have done better. He’s happy with what he created, proud of it and accepts our praise and complements graciously.  Man, does this kid continually show me how be a better person, a content person, a self-loving person!

Filing Taxes

Sitting down to do my taxes. I love doing them!  Working with freshly sharpened pencils, rubbing the rectangular, pink eraser in between my thumb and forefinger as I calculate in my head, the shuffling of papers.  There is also such a feeling of accomplishment when you can navigate all the government and accountant wording. I love Math, I love puzzles and I love not having to pay anyone nor any software company to do them for me.

My dad used to do them until 1998. That year, the hubs and I bought our 1st house and I decided to try my hand at it.  I don’t know why I never tried before, when our tax life was much simpler.  Starting with the first year that we itemized, moved from one state to another and worked in one state while living in another one, would seem daunting, but I was up for the challenge.  I had the instruction manual and my dad to call when I had questions.  I was nervous when I finished and handed our forms to my dad to check my numbers.  However, I got it all right and I was hooked!

Years later, when we no longer owned a home and our credit union offered access to an online tax company, we gave it a try.  It was free, it was kind of easy and it saved all the info I inputted so I didn’t have to go searching for last years tax forms when it came time to do this year’s filing.  However, it didn’t turn out to be free, and each year the price kept going up, so I went back to the instruction manual, paper forms and a pencil.

How do your taxes get done?

  1. Do them yourself on paper.
  2. Do them yourself with software.
  3. A family member does them.
  4. An accountant does them.
  5. Go to a tax preparation company, such as H&R Block.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside!”

B: I’ve been listening to that song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” all month and I don’t understand. What grown women who is old enough to date still lives with her parents, brother and aunt?!

Me: Hey! I was still living with your Nana & Poppop when I met your dad!

This lead to a discussion of what American life was like in the 1940s, when this song was written.  Women got married earlier back then and, more than not, did not have a job.  Most men and and women went straight from their parents’ house to their own when they got married.  The maiden aunt in the song had never been married and was now living with her brother or sister (maybe their parents had passed away) because that’s the way it was.

Until we entered World War II, when most of the men were shipped off to war and the women were needed en mass in the workplace to replace the men and, most importantly, work in factories that made military essentials.  They had freedom, responsibilities and pride like they may not have ever had before.  They were glad to be contributing, to help their country, and keep their minds off, even for just their shift, how much they worried about their fathers/brothers/boyfriends/husbands.  While the men were fighting for the world’s freedom, the women kept this country running.

Unfortunately, when the war was over, and the surviving men came back home, the women were pushed out, told to go back to keeping house and hosting luncheons and let the men take over again.  It was very hard for many them!  They were told they weren’t needed, weren’t wanted, anymore.  We had a really good discussion about this!

B: Thanks for telling me all of this, Ma.  I really enjoyed talking about it.  :o)

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