I am Officially a Failed Homeschooler. And I am OK with that.

I have been a homeschooler for seven years. Before we even had kids, I was super excited about the thought of homeschooling. The bonding! The fun! The books! All those school supplies! I bought a pre-k curriculum for Ethan when he was three. I was pumped, people! Then the actual attempt at “schooling” began. Almost from the very beginning, heels were dug in, arms crossed, chin tucked for a battle. Up was down, left was right, black was white. The kid who loved to read books hated it when it was “you have to.” And I mean I read the book to him.. Oh, the story of reading…. Lets take a rabbit trail here…

I worked some on teaching Ethan how to read. We mainly focused on just “learning.”  Not on “how to read.” We studied letters and sounds, I read a lot. We played games that helped. Once it came to actually trying to read actual words in an actual book, nothing. He’d guess based on the picture (if there was one), or he’d say “hippopotomus” when it was “it.” I bought 4 different “teach your kid to read” curricula/plans. He was seven and not reading. I wasn’t super worried, I’ve read Ruth Beechik’s books, I knew he’d get it eventually. Enter my pregnancy with Riley. I puked/was nauseous daily for eight months. Four months in, when I finally realized the sickness might not stop, we enrolled Ethan in the Academy at our church, because I couldn’t teach him plus take care of the three and five year old. I talked to the teacher before he started school. I told her that Ethan was really smart, but he wasn’t reading and had a horrible attitude about reading (Noel even got frustrated trying to teach him to read. Noel NEVER gets frustrated). She was ready to work with him and do what needed to be done. First day of school: I go to pick him up, ask the teacher how the day went. She tells me, “Great! He read a couple books and….”  I don’t know what else she said, because I fainted when she told me he’d read… He. Could. Read. He just wouldn’t. For me and his dad. I wanted to hug him and strangle him at the same time. Don’t worry, I only hugged him.

Anyway, that’s a little snapshot of what I’ve been dealing with. Add to all that a high maintenance toddler, a husband who works a lot and travels for work, almost constant/chronic migraines and two other school aged kids who have had this strong-willed defiance modeled perfectly for them and are wonderful mimics, and it’s a homeschool nightmare. At least for me. Last year I cried almost daily for two months. The energy and battle of just getting one subject done was exhausting. I felt like a complete and utter failure. As a mom. As a homeschooler. As a woman. Just at life. We switched curriculum (curriculae?) so there was less of Me teaching. Things improved microscopically. Through all of this, I have prayed. I have prayed. I have prayed. I have googled. I have asked for advice. I have homeschool-boards/blogs stalked. In the deepest darkest places last fall, I realized that this homeschool journey was similar to my breastfeeding journey. Yes, I think that breastfeeding is ideal. I also think homeschooling is ideal. Both of these are ideal- until they aren’t. Once your relationship with your child is negatively affected by something, that something is no longer ideal. Ack! My brain struggles with that. What’s best for one should be best for all! Just make it so! Right?!?!? ( I would make a fabulous Evil Dictator… Just saying…) I’m such a black and white person, this lesson is really hard for me to get. I do not believe in “situational ethics.” Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. God’s word is true, whether we like what it says or not. But there are areas of life that aren’t moral or immoral. Sin or not sin. Lots of those areas surround parenting. Each child really is different. Each family really is different. Families really do have different seasons. It’s not a matter of giving in, but of giving up control to God. Control is only an illusion anyway. Having kids just reinforces the fact that we are not in control of our lives. This is  what I tell my married friends who don’t think they’re ready for kids. “No one’s ever ready for kids! Kids just show you, in the flesh, daily, that you are not in control. God is. We can only listen and obey Him and try our best to follow the path He has for us.”  Thus speaketh Lindsey.

My kids were not flourishing. My relationship with my kids was not flourishing. The rate we were going, I was going to end up with an ignorant High school graduate who hated his mother. And I’m not exaggerating. I had a death grip on homeschooling. Hanging by my fingertips and struggling for survival when all I had to do was let go and fall back onto the soft recliner that was right under me the whole entire time (that would be sending my kids to the Academy.) Be glad you’re not me, people. It’s hard and exhausting having to learn everything the long, slow, hard way!

This year, my three older kids are attending the Academy. They all love it. Their excitement for school and learning is awesome. No, it’s not perfect, but my kids are happier. I have a huge weight off of my shoulders. We all feel free. I have had many opportunities to comfort Ethan, encourage him and support him. I am now the righter-of-wrongs and fixer-of-problems instead of “The Bad Guy.” And yes, I still have innumerable opportunities to teach my children and to soften their strong wills; those opportunities are just separate now from their education.

I don’t know what the future holds for my kids’ educations. I am now smart enough to know that it might not be what I envisioned, but I will obey God even if my pride suffers. I will listen and be patient instead of blustering through with what I “know” is best.  It is hard for me though. I still have this idea in my head of what I wanted homeschooling to look like for our family. I spent years trying to make it a reality and now I’ve accepted that it isn’t ever going to happen the way I picture it- even if we were to homeschool again. It’s a grieving process. I get teary-eyed seeing homeschool blogs with photos of their children quietly working at a table. Then I remember that God gave my kids and I to each other for a reason and it might not look how I think it should, but by golly I’m going to trust in the God of all Creation and I will not mourn for what He hasn’t given me, but I will celebrate what He has given me! And he’s given me FOUR strong-willed, intelligent, awesome kids who happen to not flourish being homeschooled!

A wise person I was talking to about homeschooling asked me this question that stabbed right to my heart, “Did you ever ask God if He wanted you to homeschool?”  Ow! That one hurts! Are there things we do because we know they’re best, but haven’t asked God about? Have we applied morality to things that are amoral? What a mess we make!

My conclusion is that you can be a great parent and have your kids go to the worst inner city school on the planet. You can be a horrible parent who happens to homeschool. The form that your kids’ education takes does not define what kind of parent you are. Your relationship with your children defines what kind of parent you are. Don’t get those things messed up. It all comes down to relationship. (I am of course, a parenting expert being that my oldest is 10. I’m basing this off of observing people, families, parents and kids.)

First Day of School!

I am still adjusting to not homeschooling. A couple weeks ago I met another mom and we started talking about homeschooling. She was a homeschooler and she asked me if I was. I said, “Yes! Wait, I mean no! No, I’m not anymore!  I used to, though….” Pretty sure she thinks I’m a crazy person. I make great first impressions… It’s a spiritual gift…

 

Of Velociraptors and Beards and Mascara

Riley’s attempt at waterproof mascara application… Pretty impressive for a novice!
And yes, my 2 year old still uses a pacifier. Go ahead and judge!

Here are two unrelated stories with two unrelated photos. Well the photos relate to each other, but not to either story.

Last week Riley was helping me with laundry. We loaded the washer up and I grabbed the plastic container that I keep my homemade laundry detergent in and somehow managed to dump it and all it’s contents onto Riley’s head. And eyes. And mouth. And nose. The detergent is veeeeeery fine powder. Not good to come in contact with mucous membranes… I  hurriedly wiped/swatted at his eyes and mouth. He very bravely cried just a little. I raced him to the bathroom, stripped his dust covered clothes off, ran the bath, put him in the tub and then proceeded to half drown the kid by pouring water over his face to clean out his eyes/nose/mouth. Oddly enough he didn’t thank me for my senses-saving speed. We will be working on being grateful this week. What are kids coming to these days?

Here’s a  story from a long time ago.  These stories have nothing in common other than being about my children. La la la… Welcome to my world!

A certain firstborn child was born strong willed. Proof: He was still in the hospital from BEING BORN and he HATED being swaddled. He would fuss and fight and wiggle his way out of the blanket burrito. Less than 24 hours old!  Anyway, he was the advanced age of 3 for this story. It was a Sunday morning, and Noel had gone to church early to run sound or play bass on the worship team. I was getting my toddler (in my world 3 is still toddler), my baby and myself ready for church when toddler misbehaved. I can’t remember what it was, but whatever the transgression was, it was a doozy. Toddler needed to say he was sorry. He wouldn’t. It was a battle of wills and I finally told him to sit on his bed until he said he was sorry. Now this had started at about 8 AM. We needed to leave for church between 9:30 and 9:45. 9:30 came around and he wouldn’t apologize. Would. Not. I called Noel to see what I should do; be late to church if need be in order to be consistent or “give in” and let him down so we could get to church on time. Noel and I both thought I should wait him out. I would go in his room every so often and give him the opportunity to say what he needed to say. I was met with stony silence and complete refusal to talk.  He would not even just repeat what I said. Complete silence…. My blood pressure steadily climbed as the hands on the clock spin around and around. Noel came home from church around 1:30. Guess who was still on their bed. Noel finally brought that “experience” to a conclusion and after dealing with it, I was a shivering, quaking mass of stress, apprehension, frustration, and exasperation. Totally exhausted from this hours long battle with a tiny human! Said tiny human comes out of his room and acts like nothing happened. No big deal to him and I feel like I need a week long spa trip after this epic battle…

Same day. The entire never-used roll of paper from my label maker. Thank you Riley!

Fast forward a few weeks or maybe months. (I have mommy brain, time is blurry to me) It’s a Saturday night. Tiny human commits a crime that would be a felony if he weren’t a minor (OK, not really, but it was a super doozy). He needs to apologize. He won’t. He has to sit on a chair in the living room until he apologizes. This started near bed time. He is still sitting on the chair at 10 PM; we tell him he needs to go to bed, but he can’t get out of bed until he says what he needs to say. Guess what. I missed church that Sunday because a little boy was stubbornly sitting silently on his bed (for almost 18 hours! Counting sleeping.) When I called Noel to tell him we wouldn’t be making it to church I said, “That kid will sit on his bed until he turns 18 to prove his point.” Again it was brought to conclusion by Dad. And I never made that mistake again.

It only took me those two times to realize that I could not make open-ended consequences like that with him: he would test me every time and more than likely end up sitting on his bed until age 18.(Or maybe later. He would maybe still be sitting there at age 35, only getting down to use the bathroom. He’d have a Rip Van Winkle beard and we could charge people admission to look at him and try to coerce him into saying “I’m sorry” so we could finally let him down and be reunited as a family…. Maybe I went about this the wrong way… That sounds like a great money maker…. Hello Reality TV!)

Strong-willed kids are like the Velociraptors in the movie “Jurassic Park.” Even though their perimeter fence  is electrified and always on, they regularly test it because they are certain that eventually the boundary will fail. Even though they get shocked and it’s painful, the hope and expectation that just once, they’ll get away with it and “win” is worth it. And it was! The power did go off! They got out! They ate the people in charge of the fence. Dude. Did you see Jurassic Park? That’s scary and intense and exhausting. (For the people. Not the Velociraptors. They just ate the people. Slurp.)

So where am I going with this? I have no clue. My kids are like man-eating dinosaurs with rabid beards (and sharks) or something… Where can I go from there? Slurp….

 

And yes I know I was a lot a little over bearing/high strung with my guinea pig first born. I’m better now. Much smarter about which battles I choose to fight.

 

 

 

I Am Home

My iPod touch is all sticky and the battery drained.
I am home
I was woken up at 6:30 by Will snuggling hello.
I am home
I’ve spread cream cheese on the same bagel four times.
I am home
Riley just lint rolled my shirt and pants (that I’m wearing) for me.
I am home
I listened to noses whistle at nap time because the big kids had to rest with me.
I am home
I caved and let the kids wear the flag shirts I bought for Independence Day.
I am home (and my kids are adorable)
Riley’s brought me flip flops, flash cards and legos caught in his butterfly net.
I am home
Riley dug through my suitcase & unwrapped 3 pantyliners. I can’t find one.
I am home
The beautifully cleaned home that I returned to last night is now trashed.
I am home
All the pieces of my heart are back under one roof.
I am home

Miniature Resurrection Gardens

Last week I saw photos of mini resurrection gardens everywhere. (Hello Pinterest!)  I wrote it off as too messy and complicated and unnecessary, but then decided, “why not?” My kids are constantly doing experiments and crafty things on their own. Usually while I am still sleeping or when I go change Riley’s diaper. Sometimes during the time it takes me to blink they’ve gotten paper, tape and markers out and have littered our house with  pieces of tape and paper. I try to keep cool and encourage creativity while teaching them boundaries and respect for other people’s stuff, but ugh… So doing an Easter related craft that they can each take care of daily sounded like fun. What can I say, I’ve got kids that literally like to watch grass grow!

A blog I enjoy reading put together a tutorial on how to make your own mini garden. Go here if you’re interested in making one!

I was excited when I saw these trays and pots. I thought they were much cuter than the terra cotta style and they were much cheaper! Plus the fact that I could get three different colors makes it easier for the kids to know which one’s theirs. That is very important in our house. Apparently…

I took cruddy photos, but you get the point. I bought everything at Menards. Potting soil, grass seeds, pebbles (yes I bought rocks… I’m weird), pots, and trays. The kids gathered twigs, I hot glued them together then wrapped some extra twine from Ethan’s pirate party around the crosses. Looks cooler than a lump of glue :) I helped dump the potting soil on and the kids did the pebbles and put on the grass seed. They get to spray the grass every day with water and they are really, really excited about that part. I’m sure it’ll be a contest whose grass starts growing first. Because you know, that is the whole point of a resurrection garden, right?

 

 

That one time I fell off the face of the Earth… Alternately titled “Our oldest is 10!”

Sorry that I disappeared! We’ve been sick, Noel’s been traveling for work, and I was immersed in planning a Golden 10th Birthday Party for Ethan. And we’re hoping to get our house ready to sell by the end of March. So, yes, I’ve been a little overwhelmed as of late.

I thought I would share photos from Ethan’s birthday party. We had a Pirate theme, I thought it fit the “Golden” aspect of his birthday!

 

This is what kids got in their grab bags. Compasses, eye patches, foreign coins, golden necklaces, the brown fabric is a sash, the green is a boys handkerchief, the pink and blue is for girls. We had diamonds scattered around for decoration and the kids could take some of those home if they wanted. Yes, come to a party at my house and we send you home with diamonds and gold!!!

I wanted to have fake gold for the grab bags, but couldn’t find any that wasn’t ugly and cheap looking or absurdly expensive! On Amazon, I found that you could buy foreign coins by the pound, so that’s what I bought. It wasn’t gold, but it was cool!

Noel had a lot of fun turning our table into a ship! It made for interesting conversation across the table, but we had so many people crammed in our house, I don’t think it mattered too much!

I thought it would be fun to have part of the ship sticking out our window. I wonder what our neighbors think about us… And wow, were we grateful that we could have windows open on the Tenth of March! It was in the 50’s! A very beautiful day. We had to reschedule last year because of a blizzard! We’ll take the early spring!

 

We used car keys to hold one sail down. The sails could fold up to make talking easier. My husband may be an engineer, maybe ;)

Sea shells, golden necklaces and fake diamonds decorated the table and serving island.

I made chili, and veggie noodle soup from scratch. The world’s best honey cornbread muffins, and a German coleslaw (because I hate miracle whip/mayo).

Here are the cakes. I will be honest and tell you that all three were a disaster. The ship was supposed to be covered in fondant. The fondant tore and I was out of time and brown fondant to fix it. The middle cake didn’t rise as much as it should have and the bottom cake was a crumbly mess! I was having a migraine and I have really poor decision making skills when I have a migraine. I was stumped on the bottom cake and just decorated it stupidly… Then I remembered what I wanted to do and tried to fix it. Sigh. It’s a hot mess, but that’s life! I won’t go into more detail on all the failures of these cakes. I’ve learned a few things after this party. 1. Don’t bake the cakes the day of the party.  2. Think things through more before making it permanent on a cake. 3. Don’t get a migraine :)

The bottom cake was a chocolate layer cake. The middle is a lemon layer cake and the ship was a lemon pound cake. All three were covered in double chocolate ganache. The bottom two were then covered in fondant.

 

Here’s my pirate son. I can’t believe he is 10!

Finally, a normal smile!

The candles are 15 inches tall! Ha ha ha! Go big or go home, right?!?!

A few years ago I spent hours planning and making things for games for Ethan’s Cowboy birthday party. It was awesome! And none of the kids wanted to play the games! That’s when I stopped spending time, energy and money on games for parties. We usually have so many kids (this time there were 20 kids) that they just play with each other and my kids’ toys and that’s more than enough fun! I decided to do one game this time because it was easy and cheap! Pin-the-patch-on-the-pirate!

I took a photo of Ethan and emailed it to our local print shop. I asked for a blue print document. It’s black and white, 2 feet by 3 feet, and printed on standard 20 pound paper. The cost: $3.25!!!! I cut out shapes for the patches from paper we had at home and the kids had tons of fun! Yay! And I was impressed with the quality of the print.

It was a successful party even with the cake disaster. We had 48 people in our home, 20 of which were kids. We had plenty of food, and plenty of fun! I was reminiscing about Ethan’s first birthday party, and how far I’ve come as a mom and party thrower ;) And how far he’s come, although his hair is very shaggy just like it was at his first birthday. Poor hippy kid…

I hope to be posting more regularly in the coming weeks! Thanks for your patience! I really truly appreciate those of you who read my ramblings. Especially those of you who still talk to me ;)