Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School

We started school this week, and so far it is going very well. The girls both seem to like Teaching Textbooks, although it seems pretty light.  We are also doing Math Minutes like they do in public school.  Each day the girls get a page of math facts.  The idea is to finish the sheet in one minute.  They both made the addition goal today.  I added an opening writing prompt to our day too.  Of course Curly Loves it, but Bear is struggling somewhat.  I think that she will get the hang of it quickly.

So that's the school side of things.  In other news, they are trying to change Bear's gymnastics schedule.  We got the fall schedule in late June or early July.  So I figured it was a done deal.  I planned all of our lives around that schedule!  Now, since school started, people are having a hard time with balancing school and gymnastics.  I get it.  I have said from the beginning that I can't imagine Bear going to public school and keeping her hectic gymnastics schedule.  Still I am really irritated that this wasn't discussed a month or more ago. 

I am not a flexible person.  I know that, and I do try to work on it.  In this case I don't think  am being unreasonable though.  Still it looks like it is going to happen, so I may as well get used to it.  I am just really hoping that they don't schedule it for Sunday.  That is our family time.  I really don't want to give them up for gymnastics!

I am also bummed because I had the option of going out with friends for a ghost tour on Saturday, but I had to decline.  Sunday morning I have to help my Dad run the car show he does every year.  I really hate that thing, but he doesn't ask for anything and so I can't say no.  We actually do the pictures.  John is the photographer, and I take car of the computer side of things.  It's not really that big of a deal, but I get nervous about it every year.

Ok so that's a quick update.  This weekend will be crazy so I probably won't blog again until early next week.  It's getting close to Sept. so I will update you on my resolutions again.  I know you can't wait :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being a Parent is...

Being a parent is...

The hardest thing I have ever done.
Being a taxi driver, chef, cleaning lady and counselor.
The most important thing to me right now.
Unbelievably time consuming.
Constant second guessing.
Hard on my social life.
Hard on my love life.
The best part of my day.
The worst part of my day.
The biggest blow to my self confidence.
Self inflicted punishment.
Something I could not live without.
Not what I expected.
Utter choas.
The most rewarding thing I have ever done.

I just need to remember that every day :-)

My kids aren't perfect, but neither am I.  Hopefully we can all give each other the benefit of the doubt that we are doing our best!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Extreme Parenting

As I mentioned before Curly Q. is going through some horrible times.  Part of me knows it is mostly normal tween hormonal crap; I see many of her friends going through the same things.  Part of me wants to take up corporeal punishment or send her off to military school.  Always before I could count on her intelligence to help her see futility in being too argumentative, but lately even that doesn't help her.

It started about 6 months ago with eye rolling and grunting when she didn't like what was being said.  I tried to deal with that, but I guess I was so surprised to see her standing up for herself that I didn't do too much to squelch it.  I guess I chalked it up to freedom of expression, and didn't worry too much about it.  Later I started to see her getting a bit physical with her sister.  She would grab things from her or push her out of the way.  I see other siblings behave that way, so once again I wasn't too worried.  Obviously I disciplined her for it, but I didn't see it as a bigger problem.  Finally came the outright defiance.  It is pretty new, but it has me scrambling as to what to do now.

Curly Q. has always been an empathetic kid.  She never would intentionally harm someone, and if she accidentally even hurt someone's feelings she would apologize immediately.  She would stress over anyone who was down or upset.  She took blame upon herself when it wasn't hers to take.  I worried sometimes that she was too eager to take the blame.

Recently, however, she refuses to admit to any wrong doing.  I've tried to talk to her about it in regards to situations that do not involve me, and all she will say is, "I didn't do anything wrong."  Even when I tried to point out things that I know she understands are wrong, she will only admit to responding to someone else's wrongdoing.

It makes it impossible to discipline her.  I am not an authoritarian parent.  I discipline only to educate my kids.  I see my job as someone to help them grow into the best person they can be.  That won't work the kids don't understand what they did wrong, and why it was wrong.  So what do I do next?

So far I have tried positive parenting.  I try to notice all the good things she does.  I know she appreciates that, but it didn't seem to shape her behavior.  Next I tried punishments.  She loves her laptop so I tried taking that away.  That worked while the punishments were in place, but I didn't feel like it made any long term change in her attitude.  I feel like I need to do something radical...

So this morning, after she got completely mad at me about something, then refused to admit that she had been disrespectful I decided to ignore her.  Not totally, but as I explained it to her, I have no expectations for her so she should have no expectations of me.  When I made lunch I didn't make any for her.  When I brought the laundry up for folding, I put hers in the chair in her room and let her know they were there. 

At first she didn't even notice, but then she asked if I was mad at her.  I told her no, but that I was tired of doing all these things for someone with so little respect for me.  Tonight I will send her an e-mail.  In it I will try to explain the lesson I am hoping she will learn from this.  I have no idea if this will work any better than the other things I have tried, but I have to keep trying!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Have A Dream...

I have a dream of the perfect homeschool group for Curly Q.  I also have a dream of the perfect homeschool group for Bear.  They are nothing alike!  This makes our homeschool journey so much more difficult.

That was the initial opening to this post, but as I lined out the "perfect groups" I realized that they could be aligned more than I realized. Here's what I came up with...

  1. Our perfect group needs more members.  Both my kids, and in fact all the kids currently in our group, would benefit from a larger circle.  It would give everyone more opportunities to try different things, and it would keep any one person from feeling left out. I also believe that it would give each child more opportunities to be leaders.  I know that sounds counter intuitive, but because there are more people to follow more people can lead.  Also, because I think they would benefit from being divided into younger and older groups we need more people to fill in those group. 
  2. Our perfect group would have a discussion group for middle school kids.  Ideally there would be a group of at least 10 diverse kids aged 10+ ish.  They could spend time talking about books, philosophical lessons such as those from this book,  and even decision making lessons like these. In this way the kids would have a place to bounce around all those ideas that are crammed into their little heads.  They can have opportunities to view the world from other people's vantage points.  We would have to have a similar group for the younger set with more age appropriate topics and materials. 
  3. Our group would have lots of opportunities for sharing.  Anything that the kids had been working on art, writing, special collections, monologues, music, etc.  The kids would become a great support place.  Also, having a place to "show off" is a great motivator.  Creating for the sake of creating is nice, but pats on the back make it that much better.
  4. The group would regularly take on charity projects.  These would decided upon by the whole group.  Once again, the more opportunities for the kids to see other types of people the better.  I know my kids have benefited greatly from the few times they have volunteered.
  5. We would have a nice mix of educational and recreational field trips.  This way the group can satisfy their need for knowledge and their need for socializing.  Some days we will visit a museum.  Some days we will visit a playground or even the mall.
So there's the utopian ideal.  Could it work? If so, how?

The biggest problem as far as I can see is the biggest problem I have in the world.  Time is limited!  I would love to say that one day per week could be field trip day and one day could be meeting day, but no one can devote two days a week to this (even if it was their perfect group too).  So that leaves it to one day per week...

 So, what if we alternated one week is discussion/sharing and the next is a field trip.  Charity projects could be discussed during the sharing sessions, and we would have to schedule them separately.  We would need one person to run each age group, and there would be 2-4 age groups (preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school).  I know many people don't like the idea of age division, and I don't think that the boundries should be set in stone.  I do think that each age group can be customized to the needs of it's members better if their interests are at similar levels. 

So what do you think?  Could it work?  Is it a pipe dream?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011-2012 School Year

I am nearly ready for school now.  I have been diligently compiling materials for both girls, and all of us are getting excited.  Last year, we took it a bit easy, and I think we are all ready for a bit more structure.  Here's the outline of the plan:

  • Math -- Teaching Textbooks 6
  • Spelling -- Basic Cozy Spelling from
  • Grammar -- Lessons compiled from a McGraw Hill Workbook for 5-6 grade
  • Literature -- Online version of Lightning Literature 7
  • Math -- Teaching Textbooks 4
  • Spelling -- Sequential Spelling
  • Grammar -- Lessons compiled from several 3rd grade workbooks
  • Reading -- 15 minutes reading aloud (to me) every day 
I also had the girls make a list of things they were curious about.  We will work on using the inquiry model to find the answers to those questions.  We will be taking lots of field trips, too.  I also have two big books of science experiments and a bog book of art projects that they can pull out whenever the mood strikes them. Of course Curly will be dancing and Bear will be doing gymnastics.  We also stumbled into a twice a month cooking class.

So that is the plan for now.  I am going to try to strike a balance between structure and freedom.  We seems to swing from extreme to extreme. So, hopefully this can be the year we get it right!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


The other day I inadvertently got involved in a conversation with a couple other moms about the gifted program at their school.  It sounds like a wonderful program, very similar to how we homeschool, lots of projects and field trips...

It led to a discussion of the quirks of gifted kids.  I don't talk a lot about my kids giftedness because I think such a label just alienated people, but it was so interesting to "compare notes" with these other parents about the idiosyncrasies that always come with being a couple standard deviations away from the norm.  I was a profoundly gifted kid, and I remember how difficult it was until high school because I had no intellectual peers.  There were definitely other smart kids, probably even gifted kids, but they didn't have the same oddness that profoundly gifted kids seem to possess.

When Curly Q. was very little she asked bizarre questions all the time.  As she grew those questions became fewer and farther between.  It happened so gradually that I almost didn't notice.  I always knew she was very smart.  She began talking unbelievably early.  She read early.  She had an over developed sense of empathy practically from birth.  These are all signs of "giftedness."  I thought that because we homeschooled she would not have the same struggles that I had as a child.  I blamed all my problems on a public school system that is not cut out to deal with people like me.

As it turns out I was wrong.  Curly Q. has been going through normal tween bouts of hormones.  She has trouble controlling her emotions; sadness, happiness and anger all come pouring out of her at regular intervals.  During one of her crying spells, she admitted that she had purposely been editing herself so that she didn't seem weird with her friends.  She then rattled of a laundry list of weird questions she had.  As I lay in her bed with her I felt like crying too.  I remembered what it was like to feel so different.

Curly gets along with everyone.  Her natural empathy makes her a great friend, but sometimes I am not sure she gets what she needs from her friendships.  Her best friends spend all their time discussing boys (like "normal" girls do), and although she is beginning to notice boys they are not her focus.  She belongs to two different book clubs, but she feels the other members never want to read the same kind of things she does.  She enjoys some of the same activities, but for different reasons.

Anyway, it was so nice to talk to these other moms about the social issues that arise for their gifted kids.  We talked about how they all make power point or keynote presentations for fun.  We talked about the lists that litter their bedrooms.  We talked about how much more comfortable they seemed with adults.  We even talked about the strange collections they have.  It was so nice to know that there are others.  As it turns out Curly will be dancing with one of the other girls we were discussing, and I am so excited for her.  I know that she will eventually find her niche.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dance Moms

Have you seen the new show on Lifetime called "Dance Moms"?  Curly's dance coach was talking about it when we were volunteering together last week.  It is a reality show about the Abby Lee dance company.  Specifically they follow around the elite group of girls that are Curly's age.  Let me start by saying that a couple of these girls are phenomenal dancers.  They have better technique than some seasoned dancers.  Since it is reality tv there has to be drama of course.  The owner/teacher is portrayed as a authoritarian, money hungry, abusive bitch who practices blatant favoritism.  They have sound bites of her saying things that should never be said to a child.  For me the bigger villains are the moms.  These women all bring their daughters to dance seven days a week for six hours a day.  They allow them to be torn down.  These girls are from 6 to 13 years old!  Still after seeing the things I have seen in both dance and gymnastics I know enough to be skeptical.  There are five families.  One of the moms used to be a dancer at the same studio.  I fee so bad for her kids because the older daughter who is 13 does not want to dance any more.  She wants to be a teenager and go to the mall with her friends.  She wants to be a cheerleader.  Her younger daughter has to work especially hard because she doesn't seen to pick up choreography very quickly, but the coach makes no allowances for that.  That mom is so busy creating drama and being jealous of the "best" dancer that she doesn't even notice what her kids need, let alone help them get it.  Another mom is clearly an alcoholic.  Her daughter is as good of a dancer as the "best" dancer, bus her mom is constantly causing problems for her at the studio.  One mom is a busy working mom, but seems to be the least dramatic; another mom is the owner of another studio, but brings her six year old to hone in on the success at Abby Lee.  She is obviously an attention whore, but her daughter is not anywhere near the caliber of all the other dancers in the group.  So really all those moms are fairly unlikable characters.  Then there is Maddie and Mackenzie's mom.  I can't decide how much to dislike her.  Her older daughter is the best on the group.  Her younger daughter holds her own despite being the youngest by far.  They never show her kids complaining about coming to dance.  They truly seem to want to be there.  So even though it is excessive they want it.  Would I do any different?

I have been working on our fall schedule.  Bear will only be doing gymnastics because it is 12 hours per week.  We have had to rearrange our entire daily routine because she won't be finishing gymnastics until 8:30 and she used to go to bed at 8:30.  I have considered allowing her to take some type of music lesson if she is interested... Curly is back to dancing full time now.  Her Dance Team practices two days a week, but that is all performance based.  So I insisted she take technique classes also.  I would have been happy with one hour and a half ballet class a week, but of course at her level all the studios insist on ballet twice a week.  She will also take guitar if I can find a place that works with our schedule.  She had to give up theater for now, because it just doesn't fit into our times...

So am I any better than these psycho moms on the show?  I'd like to think so because both my kids know that although I am proud of their accomplishments at dance and gymnastics, I have many other reasons to be proud of them.  Also, I never coerce them to do anything.  The closest thing was insisting on a technique class for Curly's dance, but she didn't really complain about that.  Still sometimes I have a nagging suspicion that we could be as happy, if not happier, without all these activities.  Of course then I worry that some day they would come to me and complain that I didn't support their dreams and they could have been Olympic gymnasts or prima ballerinas if only I had encouraged them...

Thursday, August 11, 2011


It's been a long time since I posted.  There's an explanation for it, but it sounds strange.  I found out people were reading my blog, and it gave me writer's block.  I know that sounds terribly stupid, but it is true.  It's not that I don't want people reading my stuff.  I do... but every time I realize that a new person that I know reads my blog this happens.

I think I start considering that person in each of my posts.  What will this sound like to him or her, etc.?  It ends up stifling me, and I can't write anything.  In the past I have gone months without writing after gaining a new reader, but this time I am determined to get back on the horse and start writing now. 

So what have we been up to for the past couple weeks.  Well, last weekend we had some of our oldest friends over for a BBQ.   My husband has been friends with the Dad of one family since he was in fifth grade, ans I have known him since college.  We watched his relationship grown, and eventually we stood up in their wedding.  We became friends with the other couple right after college.  They came to our wedding; we went to their wedding.  We were together through our first pregnancies.  In fact we had dinner with them the night before my water broke.  Now, both families  live a couple hours from us.  This means that literally we see them once a year.  John gets together with the guys a few more times per year, but not much.  When we see them I have a great time, and it reminds me how much I miss them.  We always make plans to meetup halfway, but it never happens.  It makes me sad for a bit.

In truth though I feel like there is never enough time to get together with local friends, let alone people who live far away.  On the one hand I feel bad that I haven't seen my best friends from college for nearly two years, but it is just as bad that I have been trying to plan a get together with a local family all summer, and we can't come up with a night that works for all of us.  It seems that everyone we know is every bit as busy as us.  I guess that just makes it more special when we do get together.