Monday, November 15, 2010

Taking a Break

I'm going to take a break from blogging here for the foreseeable future. If you need to reach me, feel free to email me; inetsupergrrl at yahoo dot com.

Or, visit my regular blog here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Mom Moments

This weekend we attended a Bobby Lawrence Karate tournament. The boys have taken karate for four years, even David and I did it for a couple years. Xander has competed at each of the two tournaments every years since they started. And for the first couple years, Charlie competed too.

Then he got tired of always losing ~ of sometimes being the only one in his division who didn't win anything at all. Participation ribbons seem like a good idea ~ except when your brother is bringing home trophies and all you have is a box full of silky tokens.

It takes a lot of courage to try again. Especially when you have so much proof that convinces you it's not going to be worth it. I was so proud that after a break from tournaments for a year, Charlie wanted to compete again. He's been showing more committment lately, and has been practicing more than he used to; but he still has a long way to go. I was so afraid he'd lose again, though, and any forward progression he's made would be lost. I prayed and prayed that he would have a positive experience.

When it came time for Charlie to perform, I held my breath. I wanted so much for him ~ and was so afraid for him.

He forgot most of his form, and instead of ending strong, like we'd practiced, he just kind of shrugged and left the ring.

He forgot most of his weapons form, just kind of threw his hands up in the air, and left the ring.

His last class, self-defense, was up. We'd worked hard on these, but we thought he'd be able to have Xander as his partner, and now he had to do it with a boy he didn't know and might not do the approach the same way Charlie'd practiced.

His turn came up. And Charlie did GREAT.

And, he won third place for self-defense!

Xan placed first in forms, weapons and self-defense for his division (he's in a different belt class than Charlie.)

So, here's my very proud mom moment. Believe it or not, it didn't end with Charlie finally winning a medal. As we were leaving, Charlie seemed sad. When I asked him what was wrong, he said he wished he'd given his medal to the boy who didn't win anything. There was one child there, one out of seven kids, who didn't win anything, who went home with only a participation ribbon. And Charlie knows exactly how that feels. He looked around for the boy, but he'd already left.
 Xander & Charlie

That was my proud mom moment. And it was a moment born out of all the pain Charlie has felt from so many losses. And then I thought, maybe losing isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review ~ The Unmotivated Child

The Unmotivated Child: Helping Your Underachiever Become a Successful StudentThe Unmotivated Child: Helping Your Underachiever Become a Successful Student by Natalie Rathvon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of parenting books and a lot of schooling books (I school my two boys at home) and I've finally found the book that describes my child.

He didn't quite fit with the ADD profiles, nor any of the other psychological acronyms that would help me understand why my boy would break down in tears over a math problem.

He'd do great one day, and then everything would fall apart the next. I couldn't understand it! Finally, though, I have a glimpse into what's been going on with my son.

I wasn't thrilled to discover that a lot of his problems might stem from a failure to securely attach to us, his parents, as an infant and young child, but ... I can't deny it's a possibility. As a premature baby, with time in the NICU and a very demanding attention-seeking twin brother, my easy-going, sweet baby was often left to wait until I took care of the noisier baby first.

The Unmotivated Child helps you identify whether your child is suffering from this particular problem and how to discover what brand of problem his lack of attachment has developed. It teaches you ways to reach out to your child, primarily using effective communication skills that are easy to understand--though implementing them might take a lot of practice.

I'm looking forward to communicating with my son better and hope it will have a positive effect on his school experiences, and on his life in general. Mostly though, I'm just so grateful for a little insight into my own child who I love so much but just couldn't understand.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Homeschooling Bonus

I finally figured out Order of Operations!!


All this time, and the order of operations was a mystery to me. I almost always got them wrong, and when I didn't, I had no idea how I did it.

Enter: Homeschooling!

You're kind of forced to face your own demons and step waaaayyy outside your comfort zone in order to help your child. I've learned more about grammar than I even knew existed. (Shh. Yes, I'm a writer, but I didn't know what it was called when I left a participle dangling!)

But now I know that and the order of order of operations:

Parenthesis first.
Exponents, next.
Multiplication or Division next, worked left to right if there's more than one.
Addition and Subtraction next, worked left to right.

I know, I know. I'm probably the only grown-up out there who did NOT know how to work these problems, but there it is. Yay for me!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sometimes New Is Not Better

On Friday the boys and I had the opportunity to attend a field trip with our school. We went to Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah to see, we thought, The Phantom of the Opera. Nothing in the information we were given on the show suggested it was anything other than what you would expect.

As a former professional opera singer, I was thrilled to take my boys to this performance. Phantom would have been a good choice to introduce my boys to musical theater.

However, the Phantom, as I know it, was not at all what we got.

Instead our senses were assaulted with a rock version of the story (which in and of itself I wouldn't have had a problem with) written in the contemporary style of many composers, featuring dissonate chords and minor keys.

In short, it was torturous.

I thought the musicians, performers and singers were pretty darn great. A couple of them excellent, even.

But there wasn't a single thing about the actual composition and production that I enjoyed. At all.

At least we got to have a good discussion about music composition, performance and personal taste. Judging by the reviews, people have found this show appealing enough.

And hey, we got a break from school work and were able to walk around a bit on the beautiful UofU campus. Which also gave us the opportunity to discuss silver linings. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

From Bad Mom to Awesome Mom ~ Getting My Child Help

Toward the end of last year, Charlie really seemed to be getting a handle on math. So when he started school this year and was plugging along in math, I didn't question it. Everyone was happy since K12's change in math program that allowed for a lot more work to be done online.

It wasn't until Xan came to me with some difficulties with his own math, that I realized I couldn't take for granted the guys were making their way through math without problem. There were problems all right.

Except it wasn't Xan--he consistently gets enough questions right the first time around (80% or better), it was Charlie. The online checkpoints, and me being willing to relinquish my mom-smarts, enable Charlie to engage in some bad behavior.

Basically, Charlie would go through his checkpoint (basically an end-of-lesson test) and fail it. Then he'd click the "review" button where he could see where he went wrong. Normally, the parent should go through the review with their child to help work through problem spots. Well, I was a bad mom and didn't know he was failing and reviewing and then basically just entering in the right answers as he remembered them from the review. *sigh*
When I finally realized my mistake, it was on Charlie's Unit 2 review. Once Xan alerted me to the problem (sometimes it's a good thing to tattle!) I sat down with Charlie to review where he'd gone wrong on his unit review test. Um, he didn't seem to know any of it. He claimed complete ignorance on even relatively simple math problems.

Add to that some complaints about how stupid he is and how he'll never be able to do math ... and I realized it was time for me to do something.

Thankfully, I have a good friend who is a former math teacher. For the last few years she's been working as a math specialist at our local elementary school, helping kids just like Charlie. And, even better for me (but bad for her), she was laid off this summer as our school district made drastic cuts in their budget. Meg loves to teach kids math and she, thankfully, responded with enthusiasm to my request that she tutor Charlie.

I am so pleased and can't wait for her to come in and help my guy out. I'm hoping she'll start tomorrow, Monday. I only wish I'd paid better attention to what Charlie was doing sooner. BUT, at least it's only been a month. There's still time to really turn things around for him.

He's also been invited to join in the Reading Horizons program which promises to improve his reading skills exponentially.

I am thrilled and excited for Charlie. I think this is going to be his year to really leap ahead in his academic abilities and especially in his perception of himself. That's a tremendous and lasting gift that could change his life for the better.

So, I may have been a bad mom, but at least I can recognize my shortcomings and work to overcome them--and sometimes that means admitting that I can't do a thing, but finding someone that can.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Field Trips Starting!

One thing I love about K12 are the fabulous field trips. There's already been a couple activities, but October will give us the opportunity for an outing pretty much every week.

This week, we'll go to the zoo. Then, we'll see Phantom of the Opera at Kingsbury Hall. A couple Halloween/Pumpkin Patch trips (which my boys are not quite too old for,) later in the month. The boys are excited for these adventures--it's just great to get out of the house sometimes and see the world around you.

That's one of the greatest advantages homeschooling offers, isn't it? And K12 does it beautifully.

I'm afraid we won't get too much school work done this week though. Monday we'll be at Primary Children's Hospital for what I expect will be at least half the day (our first appointment starts at 7:00 a.m. ~ oy!), for Charlie to see a cardiologist who specializes in Marfan's syndrom. Then on Wednesday both the boys will see their allergist for help with asthma and allergies. Then the zoo on Friday.

Um, yup. Not a lot of time for school, but we'll do our best. That's another thing that's great about homeschooling ~ some weeks you just don't get a lot of schoolwork done and you know what? That's okay too.

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2010

So Why DO You Homeschool?

This is probably the question people ask me most often. Here's what I tell them:

Xan was one of those guys who was done his work far more quickly than everyone else. And then he would proceed to go around the classroom "helping". He got in trouble for being out of his seat. He got in trouble for talking all the time.

Was his work completed? Yes. Was his work done correctly? Yes. And was he considered a "trouble maker"? Yes.

Charlie was a guy who struggled with just about everything--even by the end of Grade Two he couldn't tell you the alphabet all the way through without hesitating, or even needing a reminder or prompt here or there.

And yet, he was being promoted to Grade Three. Do you see a problem there? I sure did.

Xan needed to be in an environment that would keep him actively engaged and challenged. Charlie needed to be allowed the opportunity to master his material. Both of these problems can be addressed by having my boys school at home.

And here's how it works: Xan's done his school material most days within two hours. He gets to spend the rest of his day reading, playing on the computer (yes, I allow this as long as chores and school work are completed) and writing, or whatever he wants.

Charlie, who used to get barely 50% on his spelling tests, now practices his words walking back and forth on the couch. Now he typically gets 100% on his spelling tests.

My children are learning how to manage their time, how to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and they are mastering the material the public school was willing to pass with far less than mastery.

I think I made the right choice. Totally.

Why do you homeschool? Or, why are you considering it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Day in the Life

Today begins our third week in our third year of homeschooling and using the K12 virtual academy.

I almost didn't homeschool the boys this year. I felt like such a failure at the end of last year that I thought there was no way I could do it again.

But, man. Am I glad I didn't give up.

Because this year is already going so much better than the last couple years and I have every reason to expect that it will continue to go well. Of course we'll have our rough spots, but as long as the good outweighs the bad, it's all good, right?

So, I thought I'd give a little glimpse into what our days are like right now:

8:00 a.m. ~ Boys get up, one of them showers, they get their teeth brushed, tidy up their rooms, make their beds, go downstairs and get started on their chores.

Their chores are: Feed and walk the dog, scoop the poops in the backyard. Unload the dishwasher. Take out the kitchen garbage (recycling and regular). Plus other chores as needed.

Have breakfast ~ they prefer just cold cereal, so they get that themselves.

They play on their computers until I'm ready to start school.

8:20 a.m. ~ I exercise. Or at least, that's the plan. :)

9:45 a.m. ~ Check my email, log in to the K12 site, settle in to start my day at the computer.

10:00 a.m. ~ Usually around this time we're ready to start school.

Right now we're only doing science, which we will have completed by the time we take our Christmas break. We'll add history to the core subjects in the New Year.

We do a lesson of science together. We sit on the couch with my laptop, a child to each side of me. We take turns reading through the screens, then we do our science test in an open-book fashion.

The boys then work through their lessons, with occasional help from me.

12:00 p.m. ~ We break for lunch. The boys make lunch Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri, and I make lunch on Wednesday. They each picked two lunches they'd like to make; I taught them how to make it, and now we have a menu for the week so each boy knows what and how to make lunch.

Most days Xan is done school for the day by the time we break for lunch.

1:00 p.m. ~ Around this time, or maybe a little earlier, we head back into the office and finish up school.

And that's it! Pretty easy, right? Even if we have harder lessons on a day, there's plenty of time to get it done and still have our work completed before their friends get home from school.

In the afternoon, I write for a couple hours while the boys play. Usually they like to play on their computers and I'm okay with that as long as they play with friends when the local public school gets out.

We also have piano at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and karate lessons a couple nights a week for a couple hours each night, and scouts once a week.

I hope this helps put your day into perspective. How do our days differ from your own?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One Week Down, Thirty Five to Go

And, amazingly, we didn't die!

We didn't even cry ourselves to sleep every night!

Charlie did cry the first two days, bemoaning his unwillingness to try at school, math in particular. But by Thursday he'd remembered, or realized, again that things are not so bad at all when he keeps a positive attitude.

AND, we've done science every day and didn't hate it as much as we used to. Huzzah!

So all in all, it was a much better first week than we'd even dared to hope for. I really had been nervous about homeschooling this year. I felt like I was completely sucking the previous two years and while the boys progressed, it was hard, hard work.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, well nothing good in life comes easily. And that may be true, but let me tell you, it sure is fun to have a school day with smiles instead of tears.

How about you? How have your first days been?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Making a Schedule You Can Live With

Well, today marks the beginning of our school year. I school my two boys at home--not traditional homeschool, because we use the K12 curriculum which has a charter here in Utah so we're subject to all the standardized testing (which means I can't break my kids--or at least, mostly!), but still, homeschooling none the less. As you can imagine, homeschooling, being a career writer (that's my fancy way of saying I'm not writing for a hobby, but for publication), and running a household with all the myriad responsibilities that entails and all the other stuff that go into making a life, starting today I'm going to be busy. Or busier. ;)

I've had some people ask how I do it. And the answer's simple: I make a plan.

And then I always get asked: How do you make a plan? But that's not quite as simple.

Still, I thought, since this is fresh on my mind, I'd share my schedule-making method.
  1. Make a list of all the different parts of your life. My list includes: health, family, school, writing, home.
  2. Under each part (above) list what your daily responsibilities include. Mine says: HEALTH/exercise, FAMILY/family prayer, family scripture reading, boys' activities, WRITING/1hr, networking, etc.
  3. Then, beside each responsibility or task, mark how much time you need for each. For instance, I need a solid block of an hour and twenty minutes for exercise every day, and an hour for writing plus an hour for networking (or more, lol.)
  4. Make a list the hours of your day on the left, then block off each hour on the right with your activities.
  5. Remember that any good schedule is one that can flex as needed--your schedule is there to help you, not hinder you!
  6. Also remember, your schedule is yours. Don't worry if you think you do less than someone else. If it helps you manage your time, and more precisely manage what's important to you, then your schedule is working. Yay!
And just one more thing. I had a wise and kind friend offer me some advice my first year homeschooling. When asked how she handles all the demands on her time, particularly those that come from other people, she said, "I just remember that a yes to someone else, is a no to my family." That advice has helped me more than any other.

So I say to you, whatever it is that's important to you, no one else will value it as much as you do. Stick to your guns and remember a yes to something/someone else, is a no to what's important to you. Protect your time and give value where it's due in your life.

How do make sure the things you value most in life get the time and attention they deserve?