Get stuck? Change the Plan

This morning ended with most of the living beings in our house in tears. The dog can’t cry, but if he could he would have sobbing because I was really mad. And the dog gets scared when I’m mad. Honestly, I get scared when I’m mad, too. I really value peace in our home, and when I’m mad there isn’t any peace for anyone. Today, there was no peace.

Today’s anger came bubbling out of a long-standing stalemate over math. What could have been done in 20 minutes lasted over an hour and half, mostly while I lectured and the perpetrator hid her head in her lap and sobbed (both real and fake tears). School is hard. And it’s harder when it’s the very beginning of the year. And for one of my kids in particular, it’s hard no matter what; homeschool, or school-school. And it’s hard for me to know that letting a kid play with legos and talk with me about outer-space is what would make a kid happy, but it isn’t what would make a kid grow into a real thinker who can get things done. It’s hard to be the tough guy.

But then I remembered that the nice thing about homeschool is that if we keep getting stuck…. maybe it’s the plan that’s not working. It’s not me that’s the problem. It’s not my kid that the problem. It’s that the plan we have set in motion isn’t achievable. We need a new plan. So, I switched math curriculums today. Just for one kid, and maybe even just for one week. But at least we can move forward. And hopefully tomorrow won’t be so full of tears.

A Homeschool Schedule Overview

School has technically started for the girls. We’ve decided to enroll in a Charter School for this year, which in California means we get to have access to some of the public school funds allotted for our kids to reimburse our curriculum/program expenses. In exchange we agree to teach to the Common Core Standards and having our children State tested each year. We also have the over-seeing of an Education Specialist who is a certified teacher. She looks over samples of our kids’ work through out the year and makes sure we’re reaching our family’s targets and helps us with curriculum choices if we need it. She lent us a child’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at our first meeting, so she’s OK in my book.

We’ve spent most of the summer relaxing, in spite of my original plan to keep schooling part-time through the summer. Olivia has been successfully institutionalized by her 3 years spent in school-school, and she cried at my suggestion we skip summer. We can’t have any of that crying about learning stuff, so we took it easy and did a whole lot of nothing. I’m interested to see how the kids react when we jump with both feet into our full schedule coming up. It looks a little bit like this:

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Oh yeah. That’s a lot of stuff. Do you see that big block on Friday? That’s an awesome part-time enrichment school option for homeschoolers in our charter. They go to the campus for a whole day and take hands-on learning classes in multi-age groups. People who know me on facebook know I had been venting a little about how I wanted a part-time school. Well, I found it. Now I’m just waiting to see if it fills our needs the way I’m hoping. If not, we’re committing to try them out until winter break and then we’ll know a little more if it was the right fit for us.

I’m hopeful that they’ll love the on site classes because I have some plans of my own. I’d like to start teaching sewing classes for homeschoolers on my off day. I also have a few other goals for that time to myself. I can get some of my web design work done while I’m free and even just sit quietly by myself. I love spending this time with my kids while they’re young. But, I’m thrilled that I’ve gotten to schedule some me-time this year. I can’t give my kids my all, when I’m always running on empty and there’s none of me to give!

Teaching Dignity

Our family honors and respects life. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what that means when I look at the world around me and see the violence and harm people commit daily. I struggle to learn how to disagree with someone while still upholding their dignity. I forget how to discipline my kids without relying on subtle shame. I don’t always know how to eat ethically. I don’t always know how to spend my money without supporting unsafe work conditions. And sometimes I just want to stop thinking about the inherent outcomes of the millions of decisions I make daily. I count on grace for the things I have done and the things I have left undone, but I don’t think that excuses me from making deliberate choices to honor the dignity of life in this world.

Our 7 year old is reaching the stage of childhood where justice is very apparent, and injustice is unacceptable. The weight of every living thing is heavy on her heart. At our county fair she took a pony ride which she looked forward to all day. She struggled to be patient, waiting for her turn. And when it finally came she got on the little pony and started riding around and around. Surprisingly, she struggled to hold back her tears the whole time. Afterwards her Aunt asked her if it was fun and she said, “It was kinda fun for me, but I don’t think it was any fun for the ponies. I don’t think they do anything but walk in a circle all day.”

Here is a very dignified grave site for "Delicate" the Painted Lady butterfly

Here is a very dignified grave site for “Delicate” the Painted Lady butterfly

She is also raising some Painted Lady butterflies in her bedroom. Three of the caterpillars didn’t survive their life cycles, and one of the butterflies never fully expanded her wings. As an adult, I know that this is the reason why insects reproduce in such large numbers. Their delicate lives require the strength-in-numbers strategy of carrying on the gene-pool. Ants will cannibalize their dead so that they can reuse the nutrients for the survival of the colony. There are no individual ant’s right, or respect for the individual butterfly in the animal kingdom. But she doesn’t know that yet. She is grieving the loss of each one, and feeling terribly guilty that their short lives are happening in a mesh cage in her room, not the big green world of flowers.

People are animals. But they’re more than animals. The world is a ball of resources. But it is more than just resources. Having respect for the dignity of a butterfly is a small act, but it is one that I hope will translate into having respect for the dignity of all life. We won’t always know how to respond to that dignity, but at least we will acknowledge that it exists.