A lot has happened since I wrote last. We took the girls out of school and began homeschooling in the fall of 2015, and welcomed our son Griffin to the family last July. Since September I have been acclimating myself to my new role as mom/homeschool teacher, and although most days I believe my children are learning in spite of me rather than because of me, I am grateful for the gift of this time with them, and for the people who have been kind enough to share their homeschooling journey with me.
Inspired by the beautiful blogs of other local homeschooling families, I thought I would revisit my own. I hope that in chronicling my family’s time together I will discover that we have accomplished more than I think we have, which really shouldn’t be too difficult as most days my greatest achievement is getting all three kids dressed and out the door before nightfall. Here is a peek at our January:
Addy has been using YouTube to teach herself how to crochet. She could spend entire days doing nothing but crocheting, which has resulted in a beautiful pair of baby booties for her new cousin who is due to arrive this month.
Kenna, our budding entomologist/malacologist, spent an afternoon creating pipe cleaner snail families, and made over sixty of them in one sitting!
Not wanting to be left out, Griffin learned how to roll over (with some encouragement from his big sisters of course).
The girls spent a morning experimenting with different combinations of liquids and powders that they found in our kitchen to try and make an explosion. We conducted a variety of tests to look for signs of a chemical reaction and then chose one we thought would create the biggest ‘explosion’. We took the materials to the laundry sink to see just how big a reaction we could make. We now have no baking soda in the house, and our laundry sink smells like lemons.
Some of our art work this month:
Our favourite hike this month was one that Baba and Papa joined us for. Not surprisingly, it ended with some delicious ice cream from the Enniskillen General Store. Because it’s never too cold for ice cream.
There are three sleeping angels upstairs where normally there are only two. I am writing beside a nearly empty glass of wine, surrounded by toys, paper, and a child’s chair brought down from a bedroom. My daughters’ best friend, who happens to be the daughter of one of my own best friends growing up, is sleeping soundly beside the girl whose birthday is five days after her own, and who now proudly sports her first loose tooth. They are both snoring softly.
Today was filled with squeals of laughter, dancing, singing, snow; smelly markers, coloured paper, pizza; gossip, endless snacks, mugs of tea and, of course, a glass (or two) of wine. The stuff of friendship. Listening to the girls as they settled into sleep, whispering and giggling, shuffling under their covers, I was reminded of other sleepovers long ago (a result of the Ghostbusters Wii Dance video we grooved to?) and my heart filled with nostalgia. It’s not that I long for times past, or that I wish to relive my own youth. I’m quite happy to leave that in the past. It’s more the realization that this is what makes life so special, these moments with friends, and it is so beautiful watching my girls experience it with someone so connected to my own childhood. It’s been exactly the kind of day that you dream of having with your best friend when you grow up and have kids of your own. (Except for the dishes.)
Sitting here next to the (now empty) glass of wine, I feel gratitude for the friendships that fill my life, and those that will shape my daughters’ childhoods. I have been so incredibly lucky to have found (and been found by) so many amazing people. There is just nothing like the feeling you get from spending time with good friends.
For the first hour of this new year I held my youngest child in my arms while she tried desperately to sleep despite the coughing fits that ravaged her two year old body. Unlike many of my friends this past year, I was not worried for her health. There was no wheezing, no struggle for breath. I held her hoping to provide some comfort rather than to dispel my own fears. We have been lucky, so lucky, but I know that luck can change, so I held my baby tight while I patted her back gently. I breathed in the smell of her baby shampoo and kissed her dark curls. I reveled in the weight of her tired head on my chest, the warmth of her body next to mine. I tried to remember the last time I held her in my arms like that while she slept. I thought back to other sleepless nights, when I woke up to cries of hunger instead of coughs, dragging my body out of bed to feed her again and again. How it felt like years since I’d had a good night’s sleep. Back then I would have given anything to sleep through the night just once.
How quickly those nights disappear.
As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we also say goodbye to the old. I remember anticipating my first child’s first tooth, her first word, her first steps. Now she is writing words, attempting cartwheels, looking forward to losing her first tooth. Soon these firsts, too, will be in the past, and she will be moving on to other new feats. Watching her learn and grow is so wonderful, so amazing. Each time we do something together she surprises me with a new skill, a new word, a new understanding. But it is all happening so quickly, sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up. I want to tell her to wait, I just got used to her being able to open the fridge and now she can turn on the taps. But she has already moved on and is reaching for the light switch that used to be too high. It’s happening too fast.
I am not ready.
I know that our job as parents is to prepare them for the world, to slowly let them go so that one day they can be completely self-sufficient. And most of the time I think I can do it; I understand the importance of the end goal and so I stand back where once I would have offered my hand. I hold my arms out, just in case, and I watch them grow. I watch them gain confidence, and ability, and independence. And though I watch with pride, it is a tearful pride, as I watch them get further and further away from the soft, sweet smelling babies I once held in my arms in the middle of the night.
I am not ready.
Sadly, summer is (rather too quickly) coming to an end. In order not to feel too overwhelmed by my return to full-time teaching, I have been desperately trying to cram as much planning and preparation into these last few weeks as is humanly possible while still enjoying my beautiful girls and this gorgeous weather (which I’m sure will become ridiculously hot the minute the bell rings in my un-air conditioned new school).
Anyway, one of the first tasks I plan on giving my students is to write a letter to themselves about what they hope to accomplish this year (after bringing them on a field trip to… the stairwell. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, what better place to talk about reaching your goals one step at a time? Right? Plus, it’s free). So, in the spirit of good teaching and modelling, I decided to create my own as an example. Here is what I came up with:
P.S. You can find more about the disruptive student satisfaction ratio on Dan Meyer’s blog.
While waiting in line for the photocopy machine today I ended up talking to a colleague who is considering teaching in the UK. Sharing some of my experiences with her suddenly made me nostalgic for that magic ‘I’m living on the other side of the world’ feeling. I imagined what it would be like to live somewhere with more than a few hundred years’ worth of history, to tell my children stories of ancient people while we walked down the same streets they did. Then I arrived home, just in time to see my dad walking up the street with the girls in the double stroller. He watches them every Wednesday while I work. After he left we introduced Miss A to her new bike while dinner cooked in the oven. She travelled up and down our street, and I thought about how we knew the names of the people who lived in each house we passed. I thought about how, when our dog escapes for a romp around the neighbourhood, he doesn’t get very far because everyone within a 5 block radius knows who he belongs to. I thought about the fact that, when we take the girls to our local park, they always know at least 3 other kids playing there well enough to join in whatever game they’re playing. How if I’m chasing after Miss K when Miss A wants to climb the monkey bars, another mom will lift her up because she knows I won’t mind without having to ask. And I think: we might not have cobblestone roads, but my girls have a history here.
Hibernation. When the winter days are long and summer still seems a figment of the imagination. When the craziness of December has ended and Christmas baubles have been packed away for another eleven months of storage. When the energy required for constant eating, drinking and socializing has finally dissipated and all you are left with are bags under the eyes and a few extra pounds around the middle. Well then. It must be January.
Recently, Apple paired up with the London School of Economics to determine when people are happiest. The study involved an iPhone app and 45 000 people. They discovered that we are happiest just before 2pm on December 25th. And our lowest point? Around 8pm on January 31st. About the moment when we realize that those New Years resolutions we depended on to make this year bigger, brighter and better than the last are absolutely, positively, never going to happen and we resign ourselves to another year that looks awfully similar to the one that just ended.
So, how to go from blah to rah? The solution, apparently, is fairly simple: people are happiest during sex, while exercising, and while at the theatre. So go on, relive your teenage years with a good, old fashioned make-out session in the back of a movie theatre and get back to happy. I’m booking my tickets now.
This weekend I was reminded of the joy and positive energy that two people can create when they are truly in love. An old high school friend of my husband’s married his soul mate this weekend, and we could not be happier for them. The wedding was beautiful: snowflakes sparkled in the candlelight, family and friends exchanged stories about the bride and groom over dinner, and shoes were abandoned under tables as music filled the room. Laughter (and barking) echoed throughout the hall as the hosts for the evening regaled us with their impersonations of the groom, tears glistened as family and friends remembered the bride’s father, and hoots and hollers followed every kiss. But what I remember most was the strong feeling of love that was present in the hall that night.
There is something about two people who have found each other and are so obviously in love that you can’t help but smile and share in their joy. And when those two people are so appreciative of the love and support they receive from family and friends, and so generous with their own love and support, a kind of community is created. Many of the guests that night had never met one another before, and yet we were all connected in the love and goodwill we wished for the bride and groom. The connection was so powerful that perfect strangers felt completely at ease conversing, dancing, and laughing together, content to share the joy created by two people in love.
I have been to other weddings. Some are as magical as this one but many, though equally beautiful to look at, lack that feeling of being a part of something special. Maybe it was the way the couple looked into each other’s eyes and seemed to forget the world around them. Maybe it was the effort they put into the wedding itself, from the handmade invitations to the wedding favours. Or maybe it was the simple fact that they were so honestly and openly grateful for the family and friends that were there to share in their day and celebrate the start of their new life together.
Whatever the reason for the magic we felt that night, I count myself lucky to have been a part of it.