Thursday, January 8, 2015

CENTER: My Word for 2015

Last year, I pushed myself to do a lot of new things. Doing so required me to carve out time and space for myself. It was great in a lot of ways, and I created some amazing things with all of that hard work. I was also on the outside a lot. I spent a lot of time on the periphery, doing my work while the rest of my family played together. While it was a sort of necessary evil, I have to make sure it was only a temporary setup. That's partly why I chose CENTER as my word for 2015.

I want a reminder to stay in the middle and to surround myself with people, places, and things I love. I want to experience the joys of life with these people, not just arrange activities for them while I work in a corner. Of course, there will still be times when I have to do that, but my goal is to set a better schedule for myself so it doesn't happen as often. 

And then there's the personal application of the word CENTER. The peace and quiet pleasure I've been missing. A lot of it is my own doing, so I'm giving up coffee and sugar, and one day I hope to feel human again. In the meantime, I'm pushing myself a little less. I'm setting big goals, then stepping back and looking at them a second time, asking myself if I can realistically get these things done while still taking care of myself and while giving my loved ones the time and attention they deserve. I've had to make some Not Fun choices in my planning already, but I feel better for scaling back. Allowing myself room to breathe and grow.

I don't have a handle on some perfect-for-me schedule yet. This isn't one of those things I can decide to do on January 1st and *POOF* it's done. It's probably going to take the whole year to figure out this dance, but I'm convinced it will be worth it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014: Our Year in Review

Apparently, I this is only my fifth post this year. YIKES. In case you missed the other four, here they are:

 I'm definitely not ready to give up blogging here, but I did need to take some time this year to focus inward. To push my own goals forward and to regroup a little as my kids move into different stages. Shifting. Lots of shifting. Good things, though. Part of my plan for next year is to visit this space more often. At least once a month.

While 2013 was a hard year for me personally, it pushed me into much of the hard work of 2014. This was an upward momentum year, for sure, but all of my small successes were the result of hard work, commitments, and habit-building. The great thing about homeschooling is that while my kids witnessed me stumble last year, they also witnessed my perseverance and my bumpy road to making things better. Our school lessons are still important, but I hope my girls also take away important lessons from this year about resilience and how hard work pays off.

Here are a few notes from our year:
  • My oldest doesn't want photos of her public, and I respect that. I'm also only sharing photos of her project work if she previews and approves the photos first. That means less for me to share here sometimes.
  • Harper is learning to read and is pushing past the frustration stage. We're all very excited for this!
  • She is also (finally, in December) playing alone more often. It's been a frustrating year of her not wanting to do anything without her sister. I've have a hard time navigating that and my tween's increased desire for privacy and independence (as well as a tendency as the oldest to dictate the younger sibling's play), but I think we're finally turning a corner with this issue.
  • Ella has been taking classes through Minecraft Homeschool and loves them. I do NOT recommend this as a way to justify an interest in Minecraft (It needs no justification. I should probably post more on this at some point). The classes are separate from her project work. She picks her classes and does all the work, and it's a way to dig deeper into history/geography/math/whatever through her minecraft interest. She also enjoys the social aspect of interacting with the other kids on the class server.

  • Ella's (11) interests & projects - sewing (more on this later), Minecraft & video games in general (a developing interest in game testing and in video game story development), storytelling 
  • Harper's (6) interests & projects - cooking/baking, Minecraft, chemistry & mixing "potions," foxes

  • I made a serious commitment to writing fiction. :) I'm posting updates here:
  • I learned how to FINISH this year. I've been a dabbler most of my life, and this year I saw large projects through to completion, and to the point of sharing with others. It's no coincidence that my word for 2014 was COURAGE. 

I hope you have a wonderful end to this year. 
See you all back here in 2015!!!

Much love,

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Ripple Effect of a Desk Hutch

It's been pretty quiet around here, huh? Never fear, we're ok. Just busy with homeschooling, health stuff, and writing. I may be sprucing things up around here over the next couple of weeks while I have some down time. This is the first of hopefully several posts I have stored up. 

This summer, we made a project table (more on that later) and reorganized the office/music/art/storage room. We made it a functional project space and we are now referring to it as The Studio. The name isn't sticking yet, but it's definitely serving that purpose. Around that same time, my mom mentioned that she had a desk hutch she wasn't using. Hmm, I already had one of those, and my desk was still a mess. But since I didn't have any better ideas, I thought, Sure, let's see if it works.

To be clear, I haven't seen the surface of that desk in over a year. So, yeah. It works! My current freelance projects, novel notes, and homeschool folders each have a home that is visible but off the desktop. And my cords and chargers are tucked away. Sweet.

The best part of this one tiny change is that it had a ripple effect on the rest of the desk and the rest of the room.

Then, like MAGIC, the piles on my bar counter had a place to go, so that space also became a clear surface. Ta-da!

Never mind that pile of newspapers in the background. I've been saving those to mulch a walkway. Never mind that I've been saving them for almost two years now and they're still sitting there. Baby steps.

Think a tiny change won't have a big enough impact? Worried that organizing your office/art/music/crap room is a gigantic job, and it will take a year to tackle it? Don't let it overwhelm you. Focus in on one, tiny, solvable problem area. Let the ripple effect do the rest.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Modeling: Making time and space for my own projects

People talk quite a bit about modeling behaviors they want their children to emulate. Most of the time they're referring to character traits or ethical behaviors - telling the truth, practicing nonviolence, showing kindness, etc.  But what about modeling other values? Those that might require more time and space?

When you invest in your own projects, you're modeling a project-based lifestyle for your children. Sometimes we do need to hide in a quiet corner to work. But seriously, how often do most of us get quiet, uninterrupted time? Steal those moments when you can, but if you only work on your projects when the kids are in bed or with someone else, they won't see you investing time in what's important to you.

It took me a long time to learn that lesson. Or, rather, to let go of the idea that I could only work when I was alone. This past year, I've made it a priority to work on my projects in front of my kids.

They watched as I set up work spaces around the house.

They saw me take my work on the go, working on projects while my oldest was in play rehearsals next door.
(earbuds + spotify = best productivity combo ever)

They stepped around me as I spread my work out across the living room floor.

Of course, I've always worked with them to set up their own work spaces and worked around their projects at the table and on the floor. But seeing me do these things shows them that this isn't just some element of childhood. I'm modeling a lifestyle they can take with them into adulthood.

Bonus: I'm actually finishing projects now. Score!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It will be ok.

Lately, I've noticed that my reading habits have changed. Not the novels I choose, but the articles I save and read in the cracks of my days. When we started homeschooling, three and a half years ago, I filled my feed reader with homeschooling blogs. I couldn't get enough. I never really searched for the "right" way to do anything, but I loved seeing other perspectives, taking bits that seem to work for other people and sewing them into the seams of our own lives. I still enjoy that, but I have far fewer blogs in my reader these days. I'm no longer looking for The Answer.

I am FAR from having figured everything out. (I don't believe there is such a thing anyway.) We still struggle with routines, and I still struggle with documenting/journaling. Among other things. But I have made a major shift after three and a half years of muppet-flailing through this homeschooling adventure. You see, we've figured out what we like and what works for us. We still try new things. Sometimes they work. Sometimes we fail miserably. The difference now is that I worry less about those problems. Of course, we work on making things better. Always. But now I focus more energy on our successes and building on them than on those failures.

My mindset has shifted from What did I do wrong? or What can I do next? to simply doing. Being. Bird watching. Or whatever else is working.

Only saw a hawk, but still a good afternoon.

Sure, some days still suck. In fact, I had to stop writing this post last week because, as I explained to my husband via text: Worst. Day. Ever. Of course, it wasn't actually the worst day, but, like I said, some days suck. Some days will always suck, no matter if we homeschool or not. The great thing that I've come to appreciate is that we can make those sucky days (or weeks) better.
Because we're a team.
And I like my team.

While my mind isn't preoccupied with the search for the next great homeschool resource, I do still follow a few favorite blogs, and I read interesting homeschooling articles or posts when I see someone else pointing them out. But I'm choosier now, and I don't have quite such a voracious appetite for those posts. I try to engage in discussions about homeschooling when I can, but more often now I find my attention pulled in other directions: great books/movies, writing/publishing, my community, and what the world might look like when my girls step out into it on their own. I still want to read and write and talk about homeschooling, but less.

What's the takeaway of all of this? Well, for one, I'm posting here less, but I'll still be around from time to time. Second, while I still like to read and keep an eye open for ideas, I know that The Answer for us is not Out There. It's here. With us. I might find clues out there (oh, yes, I am SO grateful for some of the clues to our successes that I've found in the corners of the internet), but ultimately our success and happiness depend on our choices and attitudes. Ours. Not someone else's.

Finally, if you're new to homeschooling or you're feeling the mid-year slump, remember that it's going to be ok. We all make mistakes. We all get tired. We all need to shift gears at some point. Trust your gut, change directions, try something new, or just do something better. It will be ok. Three and a half years doesn't sound like a lot of time, but it feels like a much different place. I have a relaxed confidence now that I didn't have before. Even on that "Worst Day Ever," I believed that things would work out, either on their own or with a little tweaking. After three and a half years, I truly believe, It will be ok.