Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The wonders of soup

I only have a moment, but I just wanted to stop in and say hi.

I had a bit of a hiccup (isn't this really spelled, "hiccough"? Why doesn't my spellchecker recognize it?) this week. After a busy weekend spent adjusting to our worship service schedule, I fell behind on laundry and cleaning and must have also fallen behind in giving the children attention and discipline because they were ill-tempered and ill-behaved and in no time at all, I was ill-tempered!

I woke up Tuesday morning (I have a history of bad Tuesdays that goes back to high school: everyone thinks it's Monday as what gets you, but really, it's Tuesday), anyway I woke up Tuesday feeling like the biggest failure that ever failed in the history of failings. My daughter was sulky and sassy, my son was fractious and sullen, no one had any clean clothes or towels, every dish in the house was dirty and I was exhausted! I was not in a good frame of mind!

I made a few quick adjustments to our class schedule and settled down for some decompression time (read: mindless activity on the Internet) while Man-Cub played with his Legos and caught up on a few cartoons. We had breakfast. We had lunch. And then, after the clouds has passed and my blues lifted a little, I turned to the one who always help me dig myself out such a hole, the one whose methods are foolproof:

Good, old Amelia Bedelia. I loved stories about her when I was little! Even then, there was something that entranced me about salvaging one's day, mood, reputation or even job simply by whipping up the perfect dish! I relate to Miss Bedelia so very well: I try so hard to do what's expected of me and most of the time wind up leaving chaos in my wake. But I can cook!

Yesterday was a perfect example. I was feeling as if I'd just been scolded for tying steaks to the beans in the garden, unscrewing the light bulbs and carrying them outside, and hanging an unbaked loaf of bread up near the ceiling and then punching it down onto the floor. So, I made a short list, hied me to the grocery store and I got to cooking.

I made chicken noodle soup. The chicken noodle soup that everyone raves about and asks for. Once again I was amazed at how cheap and easy it is to make ($5 for a whole chicken and another $1.50 for a bag of egg noodles, the rest of the stuff I usually have on hand) and delighted at how excited my family (extended family included) gets over it.

There is something about a pot of something delicious bubbling on the stove that changes my outlook on life. Suddenly, I am capable, grown-up, sensible. Making soup somehow leads to folding laundry, sweeping floors and sloshing around in sudsy water in the sink. By 9:00 last night I had made soup, washed, dried and folded two loads of laundry, washed all the dishes, tidied the downstairs and swept the floors. Ok, I did have help, but it was nice to crawl into bed early last night knowing the house (and family) was back in order. Sure, the teenager was still a little sulky and the nine-year-old had to be spanked for defiantly disobeying his mother, but still not bad for an average Tuesday.

The benefits held over into today. We were able to have a great day in school (even finished early thanks to our first Latin test: 88%!), the house was tidied enough to have a dear friend over for an afternoon visit, and I was on top of things enough to bring leftover soup with crusty bread to Redheaded Snippet's game so we wouldn't miss dinner. Redheaded Snippet's team won their game, and Snippet played her little heart out so she was all pumped and in a good mood and everyone went home happy!

Ah...the return of order and routine. And to think, it all started with a pot of soup...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning and learning

We've finished our first week of school together and only one day has ended with me crying on the bathroom floor, clinging to the side of the tub! Sounds dramatic, doesn't it? Oh, it was! See, I was trying to clean the tub, in a desperate attempt to accomplish something, anything, after the horrendous day of school we had had. And much like everything else had gone that day, my efforts were fruitless.

I hate my fiberglass tub surround. It never comes clean! And all I wanted was to be able to walk into a room and have some kind of visual, tangible evidence that I had completed something. But, no.

And it was too much for me to bear. I stopped in the middle of my scrubbing, bent over the side of the tub and burst into tears. I sat like that for who knows how long, sobbing my heart out, venting all my frustration and disappointment.

Oh, it was gloriously dramatic. I'm the type of person who needs a good dose of moderate drama every now and then. I'm not talking major stuff like death, disease, poverty or imprisonment; just temporary, rather mundane things like cakes burning, favorite soup tureens shattering, tubs not coming clean, etc. So when I get the chance to do so without damage to my dignity or sanity, I revel in a little wallowing and gnashing of teeth and then I'm good for a while.

Man-Cub was a little monster yesterday. I wanted to throttle him. I probably should have spanked him but I was way too angry to do so properly. He pulled out every trick in the book and nearly made me crazy. He whined, he cried, he stared over my head and simply shrugged when I asked him questions, he pressed his knees up against his mouth and refused to answer, he bounced all over the place, rummaged in his desk, answered me in robot and cartoon voices, it was like trying to teach Calvin! I was poor Miss Wormwood yesterday!

Fortunately, The Viking was home when we finished school and witnessed my emotional break-down. This meant I got some very excellent hugging and soothing from a man who knows how to do it like no one else and Man-Cub got the tongue-lashing of his life. There's just something about a tongue-lashing from Father. The Viking doesn't yell very often at all, and he didn't yell yesterday. But he spoke with that authority that only Father has. The Viking is a very patient, gentle dad and, in fact, he is usually good cop while I play bad cop. But when he steps in and lays down the law, his voice rings with such authority as to make you cringe in your boots at the majesty before you. And Man-Cub did indeed cringe and cower!

Today, a new day has dawned and the outlook is much brighter. To start with, I made sure to get my bottom to bed quite early last night and managed to get nine solid hours of sleep! This morning, I made myself a good, hearty breakfast (I've found that, being hypoglycemic, I need a breakfast loaded with protein to start my day). There is no game this afternoon (we had one on each of the last two days which makes things so much more rushed and complicated) and I clamped right down on Man-Cub from the beginning.

It was Redheaded Snippet who suggested the method I'm trying today. I bought a few small packs of Bubble Tape at the dollar store over the weekend. My intent was to reward Man-Cub with a pack at the end of each school day if he had behaved himself. But, apparently, this was not enough of an incentive as he managed to lose access to the reward within the first fifteen minutes of class each day.

As per my Snippet's devious suggestion, today I brought a pack down, opened it and set it on the desk in front of Man-Cub. I told him that every time he acted up, I was going to tear off a piece of the gum, however long I wanted, and I was going to keep it for myself. At the end of the day, he could have whatever was left, if there was anything left. I then picked it up, showed him the gum and let him smell it...Mmmmmm, green apple, his favorite! He looked a little unhappy at that idea, but I could see the gears turning.

We're halfway through our day at this point (taking a break for lunch and recess) and I've had to take two lengths of gum. I popped them right into my mouth and have been blowing bubbles with them all through class. Toward the end of Latin, he muttered something unseemly about the material and when I asked him to repeat what he had said he quietly replied, as I have instructed him in the past, "Never mind. It was rude." And then he added, "And I don't want to lose anymore gum." We'll see how long this lasts, but if I have to spend $5 a week on gum to keep order in my classroom, it just might be worth it!

I'm learning that my son just might be a kinesthetic learner. Or he's just a nine-year-old boy who just wants to draw comics all day long. But he does get most interested when he gets to draw, color or use manipulatives such as the paper money he won't stop hounding me about. I think I need to get him some maps and timelines to draw and color and possibly rethink my teaching methods. But isn't that one of the things homeschooling is all about, tailoring lessons to your child's learning style and particular needs?

Well, recess is almost over and I need to get some lunch to fortify myself for an afternoon of Math and Grammar, heaven help us all! Math seems to be our worst subject. Man-Cub is great at it, but quails every day at the prospect of completing 26 problems on his own. Hopefully he'll just get used to it instead of giving me grief about it each and every day for the rest of the entire year...

Here's hoping...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A fresh, new start!

Today was Wits' End Academy's opening day! And as no one is dead or in tears (anymore-we had one incident) I am considering it a success!

Man-Cub is enamored with the idea of our school being like Hogwarts. All I can say is he's got a good imagination. Anyway, in that spirit, I let him put together a Hogwarts "uniform" complete with black pants, white-and-grey-plaid button-down shirt and Redheaded Snippet's robe from her old Hermione Halloween costume. At his request, I wore a black skirt, white shirt and a black robe from my old Hermione Halloween costume. It sounds mad, I know, but you know what? It worked. We both felt more serious about it, somehow.

I made us a pot of tea using the silver tea service (the silver-plated tea set someone gave us) and carried it up on a tray to keep nearby in the classroom. I must admit it was nice to be able to sip a cuppa while going over our lessons.

We began with Psalm 1 and prayer, then the salute to the flag, then we were off to Science!

Don't worry, I am not going to do this every day, but we learned about benthic and sessile creatures, zooplankton and phytoplankton and I was never more glad for Man-Cub's Spongebob obsession! Never did I imagine I would ask the questions, "So, what type of animal is Mr. Krabs, benthic or sessile?" or, "Would you say Plankton is a zooplankton or phytoplankton?" in a classroom setting! Man-Cub was thrilled that he got to use his colored pencils to draw pictures of both characters in his notebooking journal!

Grammar was a bit of a chore as it was all about setting our goals for the year and the difference between short-term and long-term goals! YAWN!

But then! Then, we did Math, which is a subject I've kind of been dreading. I have a long and bloody history with Math and I just know all of my old math teachers would feel somewhat avenged by the knowledge that I am now having to teach the stuff to a squirrelly, little boy who is a lot like me. I can handle addition, subtraction, multiplication and division just fine, but I still have issues with fractions and don't even get me started on measurements!

Surprisingly, Math was the best subject today! He got straight 100s on all his assignments and on his pre-test. His memory astounded me; I think he might have a photographic one! He would complain and complain about having to read from his book, but then when he had to give oral answers to my questions, he would answer almost word for word! What a stinker he's going to be!

History was, sadly, a bust. I was very excited when I first got the curriculum. It came very highly recommended and it's one of the subjects I'm most looking forward to teaching (and learning). Well, they say it's unavoidable for homeschoolers to wind up wasting time and money on curricula that simply don't work or are a lot more stupid or annoying than you could have known and it's already happened. I was actually apologizing to Man-Cub through his lesson today. And I have to find a new curriculum! There is no way he is going to like history if we stay with this one!

My Latin stuff hasn't arrived yet (I keep checking the front porch every 15 minutes to see if the mail's come) so I don't know what that will be like. Man-Cub was very much opposed to the idea of learning Latin at first, but once he realized that most of the spells in Harry Potter are based on Latin, he warmed up to it (he and The Viking are reading through the series at bedtime right now--hence the fascination with all things HP).

Right now, Man-Cub is in his play clothes, lolling on the couch, watching Tom and Jerry. I don't think he can believe that he's doing that at 1:55 on a school day and he's not sick. I'm not sure what to do with myself either, but I've got a few unmade beds that are calling my name.

So far, so good!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Sharpening pencils, filling bookshelves and planning lessons...

We're almost ready!

First, the new-school-year haircut!  The Rocker/Hippie Hair is no more.  He finally got sick of it and what better time than right before a new school year (and a new school) to make such a change?

To refresh your memory: here's my shaggy-headed babe, just prior to getting shorn...

A blurry side view of The Faux-Hawk.  He wants me to buy him gel now.  But it looks just as cute when it's just lying flat.  And as Daria said, "He just looks like a different brand of trouble now."

I've had two shipments of books and other school supplies arrive within the last two days and it was just like Christmas! And I called Daria and told her and she raced right over so we could put together the 600-piece puzzle that is a map of the world. All the pieces that pertain to land are in the shapes of the country or state (or in some cases where they are particularly small, countries or states) they depict! It's pretty darn cool!

There is our classroom. We have always called this room The Library. It used to be an 8 x 12 second bedroom that first Redheaded Snippet slept in and then both children shared when they were young. When The Viking built a second-story addition seven years ago, part of this room got re-purposed into a linen closet and Man-Cub's bedroom closet. The remaining space was too small and not private enough to be a bedroom but too large to simply be a hallway. It was kind of a large landing that wasn't directly at the top of the stairs.

Can you believe I've had this space for over seven years and have never known quite what to do with it?

This is Man-Cub's desk. It struck me, as I was arranging and rearranging furniture in there that this space, about which I have always been at a loss as to its best use, makes quite a satisfactory home classroom! Why did I never see it before? If it weren't for this space, we'd be very cramped and cluttered in our dining room, something both Man-Cub and I would hate with a passion.

This area, which has photographed very poorly, is where I will likely spend most of my school time. Mom is lending me her dry erase board which will go on the wall to the right and I still have to hang my calendar. I promise you it does not look that cave-like and gloomy in real life.

Man-Cub and I are having a bit of fun deciding exactly how we're going to run our school. The big things have already been decided by me and The Viking, of course, but Man-Cub is enjoying having a say in the littler things. He wants me to make a pot of tea every morning and bring it up to our classroom under the tea cozy so we can sip tea throughout our classes. He wants to wear a uniform like Harry Potter's. He very carefully chose his folders, pens, pencils and other supplies today.

I have no problem with the tea idea, or even the HP uniform.  I actually have an old robe from Redheaded Snippet's Hermione Granger costume that fits him and what do I care if it helps him get into the spirit of the thing?

We'll just have to see how excited he is once we've gotten started.

I must be off!  I have curricula to review and lessons to plan!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I just thought I'd pop in for a moment to have a bit of a whimpering pity-party for myself. School at Wits' End Academy begins in 6 days and I am beginning to have the slightest bit of trouble breathing correctly.

Are you wondering what the trouble is?

I'm not worried. And that worries me.

This is how deranged and certifiable I am. I am not running around like a crazy person, unable to sleep at night, snapping at husband and children. I am not feeling overwhelmed or about to die. I am not dreading Tuesday at all.

I know there are things I don't have figured out yet, but I'm cool with it. I know we'll work out the kinks as we go along. I've even put off buying all of my supplies because I know I'll need to do it a few times to really know what I'll need.

I'm being all serene and calm and collected and it's starting to worry me.


Me? Homeschooling?
Me? Excited about it?
Me? Not freaking out or regretting the decision already?
Me? Not having the entire thing doomed to fail before it even gets off the ground?

What is going on here?

I think maybe I'm a little delusional and maybe not a little power-mad. And maybe I'm just horribly naive.

Or maybe it's totally a God thing and I am a living example of what happens when we step aside and let Him move through us and doesn't that sound self-righteous and irritating!

Ok...ask me in about two weeks...