Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Santa, Baby

I took the younger three to the library this past Sunday where they were having a "Santa's Workshop" event. It was a spur of the moment trip when I saw the library share on Facebook that Santa would be there until the late afternoon; next year I will plan ahead so that we can do more of the crafts and enjoy the snacks instead of just seeing Santa. We got some cute and free pics, though.

Now, some of you who know us in real life may remember that years ago when our oldest was small, we were strongly opposed to Santa. He did not ever visit Santa, no presents were ever labeled "from Santa" and  when he was a preschooler I'm pretty sure we straight out told him, "Santa isn't real." Both of us were opposed to lying to the kids, and neither of us had ever believed in Santa ourselves and felt that it was important in any way. I admit as a kid feeling disdain for those kids who DID believe, but I was prone to feelings of superiority in general.

We still believe in much of that and don't do a lot of things intended to encourage a belief in Santa, but we're much more accepting of his place in Christmas. What changed? The first thing that really made me think was when we took the boys to see the Wiggles several years ago. We got fake flowers to give to Dorothy, we made a cardboard bone to give to Wags, and I realized that I would never tell the kids "Dorothy isn't real," or anything similar about any other television character. I would assume that they'd figure it out as they grew up. I started to loosen up then, but what really changed things was a surprised Santa visit at a church function when Roger was about four. The look on his face really was just magical.

Mostly, though, we've just realized that we don't have to treat everything so very seriously. Not everything is a big deal. Things aren't perfect and they don't have to be done perfectly right. You can just relax and have fun without considering further implications for everything. Yeah, we grew up a bit.

So, for our younger kids Santa has been treated just like any other magical character. No presents are labeled "from Santa," but they appear under the tree in unique paper. The kids can visit Santa if they want, just like they got to meet Dorothy and Wags and all the Wiggly Dancers. Roger gently grew out of a belief in Santa, and for the older boys Santa is just a fun game. I'm not sure what Rosie thinks. I do feel bad, though, that Pauly did have that brief and transient belief in the magic. . .

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What I've Learned From School

Putting the kids into our local parish school after homeschooling for years has been an interesting experience. For the most part, the kids are doing very well. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what I've learned while watching the kids adapt these first several weeks.
  • What I think I "know" about the children may not be true at all. Even before we decided to put the kids into school, I had what I thought was a pretty good idea of which kids would do well, which would struggle and in what areas. Some of those ideas did turn out to be true, but others were entirely incorrect. I thought that Roger with his ADHD would do terribly with the structure of school. Based on his personality and our experiences, I thought that he would be in constant trouble, that he would have social problems, and that he would be miserable. Bob thought much the same thing. We were entirely and completely wrong. His ADHD has caused some problems -- the child can lose an assignment in between his desk and the folder where he's supposed to turn it in -- but he has not had any trouble with the actual structure of school and hasn't had significant problems behaving. He is happy to go to school and has actually complained on the days that they don't have school. Socially, he's doing just fantastic. He has a lot of friends and is really happy. We have seen our assumptions and expectations blown completely out of the water. On the other hand, some of the other kids have struggled in areas where we didn't expect to see them struggle. No matter how much we know our kids, we don't know them perfectly and they can always surprise us.
  • Weaknesses need work.  For years I've operated under the thinking that one of the really big benefits of homeschooling is that things can be adjusted for the students' strengths and weaknesses. Pauly has always struggled with handwriting, and while we've worked on that steadily as its own subject, we made adjustments in other subjects. I didn't want to hold back his learning in science, or social studies, or X, because of his poor handwriting. We regularly did work orally instead of written, or allowed brief answers instead of complete sentences for reading comprehension, and we kept working on handwriting as a subject, waiting for his fine motor skills to improve so he could catch up. I was very worried with his transition into school, because he was behind not only in handwriting, but also in writing skills, I think largely due to our accommodations for handwriting which reduced his writing practice. I wasn't wrong in thinking he was behind, but I was shocked by how quickly his handwriting and writing output improved. In just a week or so there was significant improvement. While we'd consistently tried to work on his handwriting and writing, what he really needed was lots and lots and lots of practice. Making accommodations actually worked against what he really needed.
  • I don't have to control everything, and it doesn't have to be perfect. This is one that I've "known" for a long time, but it can be hard to really believe in it. While I had realized while homeschooling that I needed to "settle" instead of search for perfection in order to maintain my sanity, this is even more true with the kids in school. While overall the academics are good, they haven't necessarily chosen the resources that I would use for each subject. There are particular areas, like the handwriting program they use in the early grades, that I really just don't like at all. I roll my eyes at some of the busywork religion assignments that my fifth grader brings home. I don't like how some of their assignments have been graded. Homeschooling let me be in control of everything, but that's simply not possible now that they're in school. Letting go of some of that control and just relaxing is a good thing.
The kids insist that they don't miss homeschooling. I will admit that I continue to look at curriculum catalogs and reviews. . .

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The First day of School!

We got up early, really early. The kids were too excited to sleep. At least that way we were ready to go. Got breakfast, got the kids dressed, got lunches ready, got to school and got everyone dropped off on time. Good deal!

I discovered that a white dog and navy blue uniform pants aren't a great combination.

On the way out the door Roger said, "It's the first day of school, so meteor don't hit the earth today!" Apparently, he has been under the impression that we're in imminent danger of a meteor strike at all times. I tried to clear that up.

We'll see if they're all still smiling tomorrow!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

One Week!

It is one week to the first day of school. One week to my children's first day of school, ever.

We have the school supplies purchased and sorted out into the children's backpacks, the uniforms purchased and tried on and wash, school shoes purchased. Each child has had a well child check and has had confirmed that their vaccinations are up to date. We are getting official school e-mail and mailing. It looks like we're actually going to do this.

And I'm scared.

I know this is "normal." The vast majority of children go to school, and everything goes just fine for most of them. But it is not our normal. We have always homeschooled. I have dealt with schools as a student, as an education student, as a substitute teacher, but never as a parent of one of the children. This will be a new role for me. I have always had the children with me for most of the day. Having them going for a majority of the waking hours will be very different. And I've always been the one totally in control. I have to let go of that control a little bit, here, and trust that other people can help and it will be fine.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Why School?

Last year was one of our best homeschooling years. I found a curriculum, Catholic Heritage Curricula, that provided a framework that I could work from for our entire schooling experience, and which relieved a lot of stress on my part. We made good progress throughout the year, and actually finished up nearly all of our planned lessons for the year. The kids seemed to like the school work, or at least they didn't hate it and didn't complain too much. So, considering how well things have gone, why are the children enrolled in school for the first time ever for the fall?

A major part of the reason is described in this blog post by Simcha Fischer. I have been trying to fit us into the "outfit" of a "homeschooling family" for several years, simply because I liked the idea, even if it did not necessarily work for us. My husband and I had previously made a commitment to homeschool, even before we had children, and due to this commitment I kept trying to walk in the homeschooling outfit, even when I was inclined to consider school from the time my oldest was first school age. If I found the perfect curriculum fit, then it would work, wouldn't it? I tried a different curriculum, different approach, different organizational method each year, and I managed to muddle through but not to thrive.

I don't know that the "school outfit" will be a better fit for our family, but I'm willing to try it on. I know well where homeschooling doesn't fit us, but I think trying out schooling may relieve pressure on me and help our family thrive, or at the very least it will make me appreciate homeschooling as I become more aware of all the negatives of school!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The End of the Year

The boys finished up their school year at the end of May (yes, this post is late!). This was a momentous occasion, because it is not only the end of this school year, it is also the end of this phase of our schooling adventure. Next year the children will be going to Catholic school.

Some pics of our celebration:
Pauly and his end of year completion certificate.

Roger is a little bit happy about finishing second grade.

The cake!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Bob has started fishing again recently, since he has a bit of time before his classes start again, and he's been bringing the kids along, here and there. Pauly was the first to catch a fish, while on our camping trip.

Roger caught the next fish, while he and Bob were fishing one afternoon.

And today Bob took Rosie fishing, since she needs more one on one attention to learn what to do, and she caught THREE fish! They threw one back, but here are two of them.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Done with Kindergarten

Last Friday, Rosie finished up all her Kindergarten level work, and we celebrated with a certificate and cake.