Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who'da Thunk It?!

Man, oh man, did we have a great summer! Stephen was between projects so we had him home for most of it. We ventured out and did fun things. On my first pass through our pictures I found nearly 100 photos I wanted to post. I had to PAINSTAKINGLY eliminate about half of them to come up with the 50 bazillion I have left. There were so many great videos. . . Oh, how to choose! Of course, not everything is as interesting and wonderful as I would like to think.

Then the summer ended, and the most amazing next phase of our lives began. This is something I have long been determined to do, but secretly dreaded like the plague since I was a teenager. I have talked big about it since I can remember. I have always known since my late teens that I would someday homeschool my children. I watched members of my family successfully homeschool their children, and I also I watched my parents fight the system for years as people on every committee, and even as a long time devoted school board member, work to make the public school system something educational, palatable, and relatively safe from indoctrination that stood contrary to everything I was raised to believe, sadly with limited success. I could write a book on my thought processes that make me think that homeschooling is best for my family, but what it really comes down to is that I know this is what God wills for our children. I try, really, really, really, really hard not to judge other parents who make different decisions for their children.

Anyway, I put Evan into pre-school very young just for him to get some social interaction. I pulled him out after a year and a half and thought, “ I will just start my own preschool here at home”! I had enough kids of my own to really be like a preschool. I was so ready for it. I was organized with supplies and schedules and great plans. I was stoked!

That worked for about a day. . . MAYBE two. It was basically a flop. Throughout the last 3 years I have gone in spurts and waves of better teaching and structure and worse, but it was always pretty dreadful and short lived. My kids learned the most as we played and interacted and learned chores and how to behave in public, but nothing super consistent with the academic stuff. I taught Evan to read, but the whole experience was exhausting and not very encouraging to me most days. He was pretty resistant and when the program was done, I took a year and half break. The boy reads like a champ, but most of it was self taught on his bed at night with the lamp on. My life was overwhelming most days just keeping up with basic needs. The thought of adding real homeschooling to it made me break out in hives.

Over the course of the last year I went to several homeschool seminars and expos and learned a TON. Most of it was encouraging. I was doing many of the right things with spending time teaching my kids life skills that would help out a lot when we actually got to the academic stuff, but in the beginning of August when the curriculum I ordered for Evan’s kindergarten year came in the mail I nearly had a nervous breakdown. (I ordered the first grade stuff because Evan had completed all of the objectives for the kindergarten level. I am telling Evan he is in kindergarten because I don’t want him graduating early). I just was not going to be able to add schooling to my life on a consistent basis with my ridiculously overloaded to do list the way it is. I was certain that I was going to stink at this in a major way. . . at least for a while.

I spent 2 weeks reading through everything and getting a handle on what I would be doing and teaching, and in the middle of August we got started. I always believed that homeschooling was something only terribly self-disciplined parents painstakingly endured. However, this is where the “Who’da Thunk It” part comes in. I really, really, really love it. I mean it. I really love it. I can’t believe I am writing that, to be honest. In trying to put my finger on the reason for such a drastic change in attitude, I have come up with some thoughts. First of all, I ordered a comprehensive curriculum written by much smarter and more knowledgeable people than I, and that boosts my confidence in a major way. I really love the curriculum, and Evan is thriving on it. He is still resistant to some parts of it, like the writing parts. He has always hated to do things he is not very good at. He is behind on fine motor skill development, and that frustrates him. However, I think the reason the rest of it is going so well with him now is just that he is to a point in his maturity where sitting down and doing more academic stuff is palatable. Many young children just aren’t ready for it until they are ready for it, and there is no speeding that up. It also helps that Julia loves to get involved too, so that keeps her busy and easier to manage during our school hour(s).

I also love that the necessity of an education gives me permission to really put my kids where they need to be in my list of priorities. I can’t put things off like I used to in order to keep the other things that I felt I needed to do. For example, I don’t feel obligated to host a play date once a week which put me on edge trying to get my house in order and had me put off spending time with the kids. I really have a great excuse to stay at home and spend some majorly quality and rewarding time with my children. Wow, does that help me put my guilt at bay!

Also, I honest-to-goodness believe that my life is easier than people who have their children in school. We meander to the dining room about 9:00 after breakfast in our pajamas and begin a very rewarding hour to hour and a half working together to get our lessons done, and then the kids are off to play. I don’t have tons of stuff to pack up. I don’t have to rush them out the door to the bus at hideous times in the morning or drive them to wait in carpool lines at school. I don’t have unexpected school projects coming home or crazy, after school hour activities to keep up with. All homeschool coop activities happen during the school day. My life is really quite peaceful compared to what I hear my friends talking about.

The most amazing side effect from spending time in the mornings teaching the children is that when it is over they are antsy to start playing. They run off and leave me alone for long periods of time to get stuff done. I find that I have not fallen behind on any of my to do list, and in fact, I am probably more productive each day than before. I mean, man alive! Who’da thunk it? Honestly? When will I learn once and for all that God knows what He is doing?

-has come a LONG way in his handwriting abilities since the beginning of the year. I thought his lack of cooperation with learning to write would be the death of me, but we are muddling through. It is like night and day with his abilities in less than a month.
-is a math whiz like his daddy. There is really no effort involved in teaching this boy Math.
-reads the most astounding things. He is mostly self taught from spending time each night quietly reading books in bed.
-persists in being the bossiest character east of the Mississippi. I am constantly reminding my more compliant Harrison that he does not have to obey his brother.
-seems to FINALLY be overcoming his unbelievably, strong-willed argumentative stage. . .finally.
-is now on his first baseball team (Homeschool baseball league) and absolutely, enthusiastically, loving it.
-loves, loves, loves his baby brother.
-instead of saying something like, “Is that the biggest tree on earth”?, he will say, “Is that the biggest tree in the whole kingdom of the world”?
-favorite activities include, riding a bike, building with Legos or Lincoln Logs, climbing trees, climbing anything, AWANA, splashing in the creek.

-has a MAJOR passion for foreign language. She is now taking private French lessons to help satisfy her craving for it with a great teacher/mother and her nearly 4 year old daughter.
-has learned to read with Hooked on Phonics like her big brother. I have videos of it below. She is MUCH more enthusiastic about it than Evan was at this age.
-now has her own account on my computer and can type in her own name to log in.
-loves, loves, loves her baby brother so much she grinds her teeth when she is around him.
-likes to make up songs about Jesus as she goes along.
-learned to pump in a swing.
-favorite activities include, building with Lincoln Logs, swinging, French lessons, AWANA, helping out around the house, tea parties, school.

-is the funniest creature "in the whole kingdom of the world", for real.
-is now on his first baseball team for 3 year olds (Homeschool baseball league) and likes it a lot.
-is all of the time quitting things instead of just simply being done. For example he will come up the deck stairs and say, “Mommy, I QUIT! I quit playing outside”. Or he might say, “I QUIT! I quit playing with Evan”.
-he also likes to say that he is “too tired” for things he doesn’t want to do. He will say, “I am too tired to finish my breakfast”, or quite frequently, “I am too tired to go to bed”.
-sporadically yells, “Barack Obama” instead of saying, “Oh my goodness”, or “Shoot”. We don’t know why. I have a video of him doing this while splashing in the creek last week.
-loves, loves, loves to put together puzzles. He can put together a 125 piece puzzle totally by himself. I keep a stack of puzzles on the dining room table for him and he will do one after the next while Evan and Julia do their school work.
-favorite activities include, playing imaginative games like Batman or Iron Man, swinging, wrestling, puzzles.

-is 15 months.
-has been wondering around for the past week calling and calling and calling for his “Daddy” who is working out of town again after spending the summer at home. He also calls every man we see in public “Daddy” in hopes that he might be him, which is. . . fun for me.
-has no indoor voice at all. His one volume is very, very loud.
-he is definitely my most busy baby. He is very busy, so necessarily that keeps me very busy.
-is talking more every day. He is even starting to put two words together a bit now. He will say, “Mommy, no”!
-started letting me sing and rock him to sleep a couple of months ago. He is my very first child to allow this. The others would not have it. It is sooooo special.
-randomly likes to walk around with a sock on his head. He spends time looking for socks to put on his head.
-loves to have his teeth brushed.
-will absolutely, under no circumstances eat a vegetable for any reason.
-loves to bring me any ol’ shoe or combination of shoes for me to put on him. If guests take off their shoes, he wants to try them on immediately.
-he also does not like for others to not have their shoes on and will bring their shoes to them.
-is now able to follow simple commands like “sit down” or “go get your blanket”, etc.
-is still not a big fan of all of the attention he gets from his older siblings.
-really, really, really likes pizza. . . really. Between him and the other 3 kids they can now eat an entire, large, Papa John’s pizza in a single meal.
-LOVES to blow his nose. He will blow his nose on any tissue or piece of cloth, or even his baby blanket. I have to stand guard at all times.
-favorite activities include, screaming (a lot), playing outside, eating chewable vitamins and bringing me the bottle 24 times a day, playing with Daddy, and some more screaming.

Julia reads her first books.

Evan and Harrison on their first day of baseball.

Random summer videos.

Fun in the creek with cousin Quin.

Elijah and Julia (WAY back there) enjoying the wave pool at White Water.

Stephen took the kids on this fake, lazy river at White Water. They loved it.

You can see all 4 of my kids loving the kiddy section at the water park.

Julia slept like this for a good 15 minutes before I realized she was asleep. I thought she was just bored.

She cleaned her room all by herself and then called for me to come see. She was waiting for me behind this heart she had for me out of pennies. . . What's better than that?

This is the garbage can at the neighborhood park that Eli drank water from a couple of weeks ago. . . This shaved 9 years off my life, I kid you not.

He LOVES to clean with a sponge. I keep a clean one just for him to use because he also likes to take pauses just to suck on it.

So, incredibly precious. . .

. . .Likewise. . .

. . .Likewise.

Harrison drew this picture by himself. It is Batman, of course.

The BEST birthday present EVER! This Roomba creature keeps my floors vacuumed with almost no effort on my part. Gotta love my husband!

Evan's first baseball practice. He takes himself VERY seriously.

Harrison. . . the most adorable kid out there to be sure. This is his first baseball practice. He loved playing in the dirt as much as he loved playing with his team.

Evan was incredibly excited.

Julia is learning numbers at one of her beloved French lessons with her teacher, Mrs. Summer.

This was part of our homeschool day. We built a little Lincoln Log city together.

A typical school morning. The kids are working on Jewish Calendars for their bible class and puzzles are covering the table.

An experienced homeschool mom gave me the idea to let Eli drip water into a spoon. She promised it would entertain him for an hour while I worked with the other kids. . . He just turned the water on full force and created a massive flood.

They each did these 100 peice puzzles by themselves.

Another 100 peice puzzle he did by himself while I taught Evan. He is obssessed.

We went to the Atlanta History Museum for the first day of school. Homeschool kids got to go for free this day. The kids had a blast at their many sites including this flower garden at an onsite plantation. Eli surpised us here by saying the word "flower". I have a video of it.

The Swann House at the Atlanta History Museum. It was free this day for homeschoolers.

One of the medal podiums for the'96 Olympics held in Atlanta. This is at the Atlanta History Museum.

Eli joined the ranks of damaged toothed kids in our family with this chip in the corner of his top, front, left tooth after falling down the stairs.

Eli LOVES to blow his nose. He will blow his nose on any tissue or peice of cloth, or even his baby blanket. I have to stand gaurd at all times.

Everyone is enjoying a frosty on this HOT afternoon. . .

. . .after this skater event at our church. They all loved watching these professional skaters show off their skills.

Pretty girl.

Learned to pump. One giant step towards some freedom for me!

The kids pretended to camp in the livingroom while cousin Quin was here from Minnesota.

The kids showed Quin how to play in the creek in our backyard and he showed them how to hang upside down.

This was at a park near our house. This MAY be the beginning of the creek in our yard, but I can't be sure.

I had never seen anything like this spinning thing before but they rode with cousin Quin until they were sick.

This open play gymnastic place was amazing. All 5 kids (including cousin Quin from MN who stayed with us for a week) had more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.

They played this dangerous leaping game until someone lost an eye. . . or came close.

They played this dangerous leaping game until someone lost an eye. . . or came close.

They played this dangerous leaping game until someone lost an eye. . . or came close

They found this maggot on one of our science walks for school. They started by arguing about who could put in their bag, but then argued about who would have to pick it up.

This is still them checking out that maggot on our science walk. They are gathering interesting things from nature into their bags.

Julia loves to leap from swings.

This is a "cave" in the middle of a very large bush at our neighborhood playground. The kids make plans to move in here on a more permanent basiss.

Quin and Evan are doing their "Superman swing".

Eli is picking up interesting things from nature on our science walk.

This is them coming out of their "Cave". Honestly, I though Quin was going to move in here.

Smelling flowers on our science walk. I wouldn't let them collect other people's flowers for their bags. Only touch and smell.

Jeremy and Dad found this tree on a walk through a local park. The kids played on this with cousins Quin and Aaron for a LONG time.

I love this picture of Evan and Quin at the park.

This is me and the 5 oldest cousins swinging at the park.

All of the cousins except newborn Lauren loving their time together at the park.

A most elegant/manly, princess/super hero tea party hosted by Princess Julia.Eli napped during the party because he would have wreaked a bit of havoc on it.

I interupt this girly tea party for my most ferocious Batman pose!

It was crazy hair night at AWANA yesterday.

Crazy kids.
Whereas the rest of my babies would dance around excitedly while they waited for their favorite food, Eli pined and screamed at the oven for quite some time.


  1. Hey, love your post! We are thinking about the homeschool thing too and have all the worries that you :)

    Your kids look great and I am impressed how far they have come along!

    God Bless


  2. Great post! I loved everything you wrote about homeschooling!