Monday, September 28, 2015

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Last Thursday, I could really commiserate with those Baudelaire kids. It appeared as if my day was going to be plagued by one misfortune after another. My daughter's figure skating coach recommended taking her takes to an ice rink an hour away to get them sharpened and get a recommendation for her next pair. First, I left two hours later than planned. Since we've never skated there before I plugged it into my GPS. We're driving along when I begin wondering why it's taking longer than anticipated. I check my GPS again, there's the name and address, but we're passing all the exits with the town we're driving to. Finally, we exit the interstate, and I'm thinking wow, we're in a larger city than I expected. I didn't think the rink was in the city.

Now, I'm panicking a little, because I mentally prepare myself before driving into the city. Can you tell I'm small town type of gal. I have to know I'm not going to need street parking, but a parking garage. My destination has to be exact. I plan my route out ahead. My biggest fears are driving the wrong way on a one way street and attempting to parallel park the mini van. So, I throw my phone in my son's hand, yell what's up next, and don't tell me at the last minute, apparently I want to know the turns before the map even calculates it.

We find a garage, and pass the first garage because I'm thinking how do I even enter, the clearance bar looks way too low. So, we circle around, take the risk, and lol and behold the van fits (sarcastic voice). We circle around and around to the top floor, park, and go into the iceplex. The circling makes me quest. When we exit the top, in big letters I read "Kettler Capitals Iceplex." It's beautiful. After being suitably impressed, we take her skates to the pro shop, ask for the person the coach recommended. The guy at the counter promptly responds, "O works at Skatequest, but I'm the O of this shop." Yes, I followed my GPS to Arlington. Sometimes I think I'm going to follow the GPS off a cliff. One simple, incorrect word took me to Kettler. The odd thing is, I knew I was going the wrong way and still continued on. Did you know people travel from as far as Richmond to have their skates sharpened here? Well, they do. Thanks B for trying to make me feel less stupid. Anyway, he sharpens the skates, fits her, and we head home.

Naturally, I'm obsessing about the traffic and getting out of here back to the interstate. It goes without saying I miss a turn, get a little nervous. My son, who is his daddy's child, calmly  says, "You're always so worried." And here  I thought I was hiding it so well. Does he care about my turmoil, no  he goes back to a game on his tablet without a worry in the world. Oh, to be a child. Apparently, he realised we'd get home at some point.

Long story short, the kids declare I almost drove on the sidewalk. All I'll say is the area was built exactly like the drive up places located at hotels and other places where lots of drop offs and pick ups occur. I might have contemplated it, but never initiated. I'll never tell. My daughter suggested when I was arrested by the police that I deepen my southern accent even more and play the dumb, hick card. In her best southern accent, "Officer, I just didn't know what to do, all the caaars, liiiights, and buildings, I'm not use to the city." No offense intended, I'm as southern as they come accent and all. I certainly was driving as if I'd never been in the city. By the way, I relayed all of this to her coach, hoping against hope Kettler would suffice. But, alas, I get to do this all again another day at the correct facility.

On the way home, I took the wrong exit, getting home via the outer belt loop. Such a crazy day, but I managed to laugh throughout the ordeal. I am reminded this morning of the futility of worrying, because "who by worrying can add one whit to his/her life." When I am able to recognise the worry and stop it, I am closer to  peace. In the midst of impatience, frustration, and confusion, I can slow down, take a deep breathe, and choose to be anxious for nothing. Just enjoy the journey, literally in this cause, going where the highway takes me.

Disclaimer: At no time did I drive on the sidewalk, enter a one way street, parallel park, or otherwise endanger pedestrians, even the jaywalkers, or passengers. No traffic violations were committed in the making of this story. But, my children did agree to hire me a driver when they hit the big times.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I awoke this morning with a need to encourage my children and let them know they're "fearfully and wonderfully made." They get so many things "right" during the day, but I often I fail to adequately recognize it. One of my sons left a mini grammar session feeling dumb and stupid because I asked, "Why does it seem you never know anything." I had noticed, while he was writing a story, he wasn't properly punctuating dialogue. So, instead of just pointing out the error and simply showing him how to write it correctly, I launched into diatribe of how he doesn't seem to remember whatever I teach him. Definitely, not the best move. I left him feeling defeated. As any good preacher (or motivational speaker) knows, you never leave the people feeling hopeless. Mind you, I'm not speaking about false praise, but true encouragement, support, and building up.

When I woke up, my children's future weighed, and still weighs, heavily on my mind. I thought about the brevity and troubles of life, and how we don't even know if we'll take our next breathe. I can't even say with certainty we'll be together 2, 5, or 10 years from now. We only have the present. My mom was killed in a car accident in 2007 on the way back from visiting family for Thanksgiving. Who could have anticipated that would be the last time we saw her? But, I remember her for the way she encouraged us, always having a positive and constructive word to share. Even more, her extreme patience in the face of my asking a million questions a day. Her faith, even in the midst of eventually becoming a single parent when I was around 11, allowed her a joy and confidence I find difficult to duplicate. I want my children to have the memories of me that I have of her. She was a safe place in a chaotic world. Although, I didn't share with her as much I probably could have in my middle school years.

As a Black parent, I can spend more time in defensive mode versus offensive mode. We make a conscious effort to prepare them for the REAL world, discussing how to engage with police or store owners. Often being a little harder because as folks in my church community might say, "The world don't care nothing about you." But, we can also miss the boat with showing affection, grace, and mercy. I'm not talking about abuse or neglect. But, that hardness that naturally infuses our parenting while trying to prepare for the realities of the world they'll encounter.  I'm not advocating lack of discipline or active, concerned parenting. I'm just not so sure we don't burden our children earlier than they can mentally bear. My children don't really get the whole you're representing the Black race when you go. I know I grew up with this mentality. They don't understand why character alone is not enough. I don't want them ignorant, but do I need to lay the entire history of the Black experience on them in one fell swoop? I'm learning to tread carefully, mindful of the hope they have. I tell them what they might potentially encounter, but I don't want them to expect discrimination. I want them to recognize injustices, but expect to be treated fairly, if that makes sense. I want them understand our history, but not become buried under the If my mom, born in 1955 in the rural south, managed to find a balance between hope and awareness surely I can do the same.

I want to be my children's safe place. A person they willingly share their thoughts and struggles with when they have issues. I want to hug more. Laugh more. I want them know, until they're ready to stand on their own I will fight for them.

I listen. I love. I care.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up

AHS 2015
What Didn't Work

Sometimes I'm a little slow. I'm still following the path of recreating school at home to a certain extent. It's not even intentional, but more of a habit. Fortunately, I don't often need to get hit repeatedly over the head to listen and learn.

AHS 2015
My children uninterested in creating vision boards. They did add words for the thought bubble. I took out the supplies and completed mine, hoping to entice them into starting theirs. No takers, and it was ok. I'm at the point that I'm okay with them not jumping on board with my ideas. The vision board really energized and helped me define my mission. So, it's all good.

We're on a much needed break this week. It's a chance for us to rest, but also review what's working and not working in our day. First, I realized studying Geology and Marine Geology are not exactly the same things. My daughter wants to study Marine Geology, but she's not finding tons of resources. The only resource we found, I deemed too difficult to understand and dry. She started an online, self-paced Geology course, but it definitely isn't her passion. Two days ago, passing a display in the library, we found a Marine Geology book. Instead of discouraging her, I let her know if she needs help reading or understanding I'll help. She decided to stop the Geology course.  
AHS 2015

About a week ago, I set up a Geology center with a mineral and rock kit. No takers on this either, yet. But, I did have ulterior motives. My daughter needed the kits for her class, and since she showed little enthusiasm I figured someone better make use of them.

All of our recent curriculum choices have been a dud for two of my children. Two of my children actually enjoy math and it's intuitive for them like their dad. The other two take after dear old mom. So, I'm stopping. They are surrounded by math, but now is not the time for formal study. I've decided to back off with the curriculum and let it come naturally. As Elijah says in the book Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, "But classroom learning just don't work the same as when something happens to you personal"(p.92). 

What's Working

We're enjoying the Harlem Renaissance. A little poetry, historical fiction, art work, music, and old movies featuring some of the people of this time, such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Fats Waller, and Duke Ellington have been a hit. A World War I audiobook has been really interesting as well. We just pop it in while running errands and talk about whatever we hear. It's a simple way for my oldest to learn about the war. Our family reading has been awesome. We just finished Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers, and now we're reading Elijah of Buxton by Curtis and The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Incorporating more Netflix and other video resources has been fun this week, from documentaries to the Sarah Jane Adventures, they love it all.

My daughter started back playing her sax and wants to continue with band. Unfortunately, our band is debating whether to continue this year. She continues to write Dr. Who fan fiction and read voraciously.

My youngest two constantly build with Lego and create Keynote presentation after presentation about Marvel superheroes. One son actually sits and argues out loud with whatever Marvel guide he's reading when he finds information that disagrees with the official guide. It's hilarious. He also continues to look forward to tap lessons. My youngest started swim lessons.

Most of our evening hours are filled with my son's football practices, the occasional Thursday night game, and afternoon Saturday games. My other children are having fun hanging out at 
practice and games with their new friends.

Zooniverse's newest Citizen Science Project, Wildcam Gorongosa, has been a great addition for the animal lover in our house. I also found a whale identification project great for the dolphin lover in the house.

We're one week into practicing and working out for figure skating, fun times, REALLY! Okay, actually, I'm having way more fun than she is, but she's hanging in there.

Funtime Fridays with friends playing Minecraft and just hanging out. Even more fun for the parents.

Going to any number of libraries, we frequent four, is always a winner.

Free rein in the kitchen, creating new recipes, and cleaning up afterwards is always fun.

Watching the Republican debates were a big hit. I grew tired of hearing the kids repeating hearsay about candidates, so encouraging them to listen for themselves. The kids seemed very concerned with their views on immigration. They were also interested in the fact checking that we did concerning the candidates' statements. We're looking forward to the Democratic debates.

My 10 year old just discovered Gamestar Mechanics, a platform designed to teach video game design in a fun way. Special thanks to lilhomeschoolmama. I met her on FaceBook, plus she has an awesome youtube channel.

What's Upcoming

My daughter is waiting for her metal spinner to work on spin moves and figure skating pants.

A free one day drawing class at Michael's.

I'm going to look for interesting items to strew. Um, things that they actually like. Maybe, throw in some new places and websites as well. The raspberry pi remains on my husband's Amazon wish list.

I'm trying to start doing more field trips, so I'm coming up with a list of local trip ideas.

Football, Tap, Swim, and Figure Skating

Possibly starting our literary magazine to showcase their work. We're hoping to get their friends in on it by creating a digital magazine that everyone can access. My learning curve has been a little slow. I'd do better asking my 10 year old how to do it.

Working on simplifying our home school and daily life.

I'm hoping to get my children's thoughts on my renewed vision for our home school and how they want to see it manifested.

This week I'm going to observe more, taking a backseat, and really discover those things that light up their eyes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Whose Commitment?

AHS 2015
What I Thought was the Problem

Initially, I had composed an entire post about how my daughter lacks focus and commitment to her figure skating. In a nutshell, her coach asked me to talk to her about her commitment level and determine whether she's recreational or not. According to her coach, at her freestyle level, she needs practice more and complete off ice workouts. She recommended private lessons if she's more than a recreational skater. Until a friend's injury, we were splitting lessons. But, not to spend the extra money if she's not serious about getting through the freestyle levels. We threw the entire weight of deciding on her shoulders alone.

The Decision

She decided to quit. Initially, I was fine with her decision, until I thought about how much she loves figure skating. It was weird she was willing to quit so easily. So, I decided to dig a little deeper. In short, I found out she was overwhelmed with having to make the decision and needed help.

The Solution

First, we discussed the short and long term goals she had set when she started. Which had she met? Had her goals changed? She met her goal to pass the basic levels. And yes, freestyle 6 is still a goal. She still hopes to meet her long term goal of either pairs or theatre on ice. Either way, she must complete Freestyle 6. She stated she's not ready to compete. But, she will participate in a Christmas ice show. No problem. After days of agonizing, her decision was obvious. She's signed up to start private lessons, and I helped her find an off ice workout. And I agreed to work out with her as long as she wants a partner. We're gradually implementing the exercises and her coach's tips. She was under the misconception she had to incorporate every tip, the workouts, and increased practices all at once.

As for her focus, I advised her to let her coach know if she's giving her too much information at once. Make eye contact, repeat her instructions back to her, write things down, and admit when you aren't following along. I have watched my daughter take a fall and jump back into it. She's practiced moves over and over, skated in the rink by herself. If that's not commitment, I don't know what is. Plus, I've found her coach sometimes overwhelms me with all the info she has about figure skating. I've had to say, okay could you just tell me what I need to focus on first. If she's uncomfortable speaking up, I offered to do it for her.

The Real Problem and the Real Answer

More importantly, I searched myself for my commitment level. Let's face it, unless I'm consistent and diligent about getting her to the rink, she can't practice. I took responsibility for this with her coach. This is where the rubber meets the road about whether I'm really willing to support her. Am I willing to sacrifice time and money necessary? Do I really show an interest in figure skating? I've mentioned before I hate cold weather sports, so I usually wait outside while she skates. Also, I thought it would be less performance anxiety. But, she actually wants me to watch. Occasionally, she wants me to skate with her. In the end, it's my commitment and focus to her figure skating. She'd probably skate everyday if I took her.

Oddly enough, I'm the flitter, easily bored, looking for the next best activity. I admire her sustained interest. Don't you love it when it's not really about your children and their perceived shortcomings, but yours? They constantly teach us so much if we're willing to learn.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hold Fast

Langston Hughes asked, "What happens to a dream deferred?" Years ago, when we first started home schooling, we wrote a mission statement reflecting the future we wanted for our children. I can't even put my hands on it or remember the exact wording. But, it mentioned something to the effect of growing mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially as Jesus did. We started off thinking certain curriculum would support this. Over the years, I realized I don't like much of the Christain-based curriculums, and am simply not comfortable teaching or using them. Plus, I'm having my own internal struggles, questioning many things I once thought were truth. Hopefully, we can all work together creating an updated mission statement, and help the children establish individual steps to fulfilling it.

I recognize that as my children mature they have their own plans, 
visions, and ways to meet their goals. Is our home school supporting their dreams and goals? If not, how can we better support them? Are they really free to be who they were created to be in this life? Are they free to do things in their own ways? Or think their own thoughts? Free to question? This is a biggie for me.

There's something inside all of us that desires to be at peace, free, 
and accepted within our surroundings. If they are constantly working to meet my goals, then they're not free. I admit I've allowed the school mind of levels/grades overshadow my home as opposed to meeting each child where he/she is. I want our home to reflect their particular dreams, bents, passions, and gifts. With that in mind, we're creating vision boards. This should have been our first step in arranging our year. Hughes also wrote "hold fast to dreams/for if dreams die/life is a broken-winged bird/that can not fly."

I've mentioned in a previous post my past aversion to sports and athletes. I wanted by children to choose goals that reflected my priorities. In my mind, every Black male desires to be a basketball or football player. Tell me doctor, plumber, teacher, etc. To me, football player is not a career goal, it's a stereotype. Mind you, my husband, sister, and various cousins have played high school and college sports. So, I insult them and my children by looking down on athletes. A large part of who my children are involves sports. Every time I lecture against sports, I deny part of who they are. It's my job to support who they are right now. Who am I to tell them their dreams are not good enough.

Actually, I'm fostering stereotypes when I only see them as only athletes, failing to realize there's so much more to them.  Maybe, we fail athletes in general by not taking time to see deeper. Any dream that "dries up like a raisin in the sun" has no value. We've all seen people weighed down with the remnants of unfulfilled dreams. Dreams have to come out, or the effects are detrimental. My children should not give up their dreams for me or anyone else. Unless you're an emu, penguin or ostrich, birds are meant to fly and they're not living to their full potential if they can't.

I want to take things a step further than the kids choosing topics to study for the year, but give them the ability to really determine what fits them.  It's exciting to think I'm a part of their present, and moving along with them into their futures. I look forward to sharing in their hopes and dreams.

What are some of your children's dreams, and how do you support?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Our Year at a Glance

Home School blogs at this time of year naturally give either detailed plans or glimpses of what children will cover during the year. Well, here's a quick view of what my children have decided to focus on this year.

Odyssey Learning Academy 2015-2016

DS 13: World War I and II, Architectural History, Hands on Architecture, Civil Air Patrol, football, weightlifting, and possibly basketball, and independent reading.

DD 12: Whales, Imperial Russia, French, Geology (hoping to focus on Marine Geology), operatic/musical singing, figure skating, fan fiction, stories, saxophone, photography, blogging, and lots of reading.

Picture Courtesy of AHS 2015
DS 10:  Rainforest, all things Lego, Civil War, Tap, Spanish, Latin, drawing comic figures, Minecraft, Photography, and Computer Technology.

DS 9: Dr. Who (build a tardis and sonic screwdriver), fan fiction, all things Lego, Spanish, drawing comic figures, computer technology, swimming, basketball, Minecraft, blogging, photography, and independent reading.

Family: Harlem Renaissance, butterflies, read alouds, library, volunteer activities, and field trips, etc

Per my husband's and my compromise, the three older children demoed Math Help and gave us feedback. So, we'll decide whether to use this or  Khan Academy. They seem very similar.
Also, the kids will incorporate Editor-in-Chief into their day. A couple of them are writing to outside audiences with blogging and fan fiction, so they want to firm up some skills. 

During an online home school conference we heard a speaker describe something called the power of an hour. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the author or the facilitator. I'll update if I come across this information. But, with power of an hour, I take one hour and work on anything that involves the entire family, such as read alouds, artists, and poetry. This year our hour will include Harlem Renaissance artists, poets, writers, and political leaders. I might throw in brainteasers, puzzles, or whatever I think they might find interesting.

We're incorporating project based learning, which is evolving naturally because of their interests. Based on the above, in depth projects include butterflies, whales, the rainforest, Dr. Who, and hands on architecture. Each child journals as well.

This truly is just a glimpse and is subject to change based on interest level. We're hoping to create a literary magazine to showcase our Harlem Renaissance writings to give to family and friends.

What are some of your plans for the upcoming year?