Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Word of the Year 2015 - COURAGE

If you have read my blog for any length of time you know that I have chosen a theme word for each year. In 2014, my word was JOY. You can read the post about that word by clicking here.

If you had asked me yesterday how I did this year with JOY, I would have told you it was a miserable failure. But today during my run, I had time to reflect. I haven't had time to do a longer run (an hour or more) in almost a month so that cuts into the time I have to really ponder things. It's funny how that works: when you need the quiet reflection time the most is usually when you don't have the time to fit it in. Gotta work on that!

During my run I started thinking about JOY and how I handled the many, many changes that came about in 2014. Did I handle ALL of it to the best of my abilities? Probably not. But considering the sheer volume of changes that I had to tackle this year, did I do pretty well? I think so! I posted at the start of the year that I didn't need to walk around with a goofy grin on my face all the time to be successful at experiencing joy. And I talked about how I wanted my children to remember me differently. I think one of the most important things I started doing with my children this year is to talk out loud about my feelings and my anxiety and let them know that I am working on it and trying my hardest to change how I approach things. I want them to know that they have a choice when they are younger to learn how to recognize these feelings and work towards changing them. They can learn now how to trust God more and handle the trials that happen to everyone in this life with more grace and joy than I have in recent years. It's not easy. I don't think it's supposed to be. I want them to know that. And I want them to feel comfortable coming to me any time they have feelings that seem overwhelming so we can talk about it and work through it.

This year has been hard. I really don't know of anyone who would say any different. But I don't remember having any long periods of despair like I have in previous years. That's growth, and that's really all you can hope for in any given year. To be a different person (hopefully for the better!) at the end of the year than you were at the beginning.

As of yesterday, I was planning on JOY being my WOTY for 2015 again. But after pondering all of these things, a new word came into my head to use for 2015. It's COURAGE. The majority of my worries and stress come out of fear. I do not think I'm alone in this problem - read your Bible enough times and you'll see many people making mistakes as a result of fear. Angels constantly tell people not to be afraid. God told Joshua to have good courage. Jesus commands us not to worry. It seems to be human nature to worry over things which we cannot control. It stands to reason that - just like with JOY - we need to make a conscious decision to have COURAGE.

Funny thing that happened as I was writing this post - when I pulled up last year's post I discovered that I have already used COURAGE as a WOTY. In fact, it came the year after I last used JOY. Now, you know I do not believe in coincidence.

The last few months have found me growing increasingly fearful. Austin is graduating from our homeschool this spring. He is still working at his grocery store 3rd shift job, but he has had a difficult time with his boss. I worry (FEAR) that what I have done with him is not enough and he will not be able to support himself and be an independent adult. Riley and I are hoping that she will be able to take Dual Enrollment classes at the local college this coming fall. She is taking the SAT again in January and I am working on her transcript. I worry (FEAR) that the colleges won't look with favor on the non-traditional education I have given her at home. Reece has had a difficult fall and seems to be regressing in quite a few areas, most notably resilience. I worry (FEAR) that she is losing ground developmentally that cannot be recovered. And I worry (FEAR) that she is not getting enough time with me this year as I have been focused on the above-mentioned areas plus the craziness that is Riley's schedule with her new dance company.

It seems to me like I need to spend 2015 practicing COURAGE. What do you think?

Here is the verse that I think sums up my focus for this year, from the book of Psalms:
"3 But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56 - NLT)"
 I will close this post by thanking any of you who are still reading my blog. I really hope to post more in 2015! I can see by my post count by years that I dramatically slowed my posting when I joined Facebook. I think that's pretty common. But this is more than a blog - this is a journal for recording my journey with autism, epilepsy, homeschooling, and life as a mom in general. I enjoy being able to go back to 2005 and read some of the thoughts I shared when Reece was first diagnosed (BTW, can you believe that will be 10 years come September?!?). Talk about fear, huh? LOL If I don't write this stuff out, how will I be able to read it 10 years from now and reflect on how silly I was to be so afraid?! ;)

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year's Eve - if you are out and about, please be safe! If you are staying in like me, don't forget to watch the live streaming of Magic Kingdom fireworks starting at 11:40 PM EST tonight! Click this link for more details:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A field trip!

It has been so long since we've taken a day from lessons to enjoy a field trip! When a mom in our homeschool group planned a free tour of the Governor's Mansion and it was a day where we can actually be gone in the morning and not have to rush back for early dance classes, I signed us right up! I wasn't sure if Austin would be able to join us but he ended up getting off work just in time!

I forgot to take a pic of just my 3 so I had to cut a few of their friends out of the picture to get one of just them! LOL
Ok, let's all realize for a moment that my kids are all within a few inches of each other in height?!? When did that happen! Reece is SO close to being as tall as Riley!

So the field trip was really fantastic! I have to admit to being a little (lot??) lax on my Georgia state history because I assumed the Governor's Mansion must be over 100 years old. Actually, it was built in 1968 which is only "olden times" to my kids! However, we learned today that it is decorated in the Federal Period style which is from around 1800. And it was truly lovely! The ladies who hosted and told us about each room were incredibly friendly, and as a bonus, my kids were able to answer some of the questions posed to them! That's always a plus!

I am hosting my own field trip in February and I'm very excited about it! We are going to visit the brand new Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta - or, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, as it is formally named! I'm hoping we can hit a few other important Civil Rights locations in Atlanta while we're down there!

And I will remember that time to get a picture of my 3 by themselves next time! :D

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Being a mom to a grown up is...

So, I've been a mom to a adult now for a little over 5 months. And what is my verdict on being the mom to a grown up?

My grown up kid - Senior Year photo shoot for the yearbook

It's fantastic!


It's horrible!

It's not like anything is really all that different, and yet, it's completely different. Austin is still a great kid - in fact, he's a really great kid and I've enjoyed watching the rest of the world getting to know it like we do. He is still working at the grocery store on the overnight shift and he is still enjoying it. OK, so he's really enjoying the paychecks, but isn't that how it works for all of us?! They are actually working him full time because they are short-handed. Which brings me to the first reason it's horrible.

I want to march into that grocery store and tell them to stop working my baby boy 40+ hours a week while he's trying to do his Senior Year lessons! The poor guy is exhausted and doesn't have time to do anything but work and school. And yet, I can't. Why not? Because he's an adult. And he needs to handle things with his employer by himself. I have given him suggestions and reminders on how to talk to his boss, but ultimately he has to do this himself.

He's been very responsible with his money, which makes me proud of my grown up child - and is another reason that it's fantastic! I've been teaching him the Dave Ramsey principles of finance using the book Financial Peace, and teaching him budgeting the way I have done it since we started the Total Money Makeover years and years ago. Austin already has an emergency fund, and he is paying for his own (very expensive!!) car insurance and all of his gas. He is also saving for college classes and he gives a portion of his income to his church and our church. Which brings me to the second reason it's horrible.

A few weeks ago, Austin wanted to go to see a friend's baptism. It was a very stormy night and the church where this baptism was taking place is a "mega church" and the traffic is crazy. I really did not want him to go, and I voiced my concerns. However, he pays for the insurance and gas on his truck - and he's an adult - so I felt that my ability to put my foot down was limited. In the end, he went. I watched my cell phone like a hawk (because he texts me when he reaches destinations and when he heads home, because he loves his mother!), and all was well. He made it there and back safely and had a great time!

So despite all the ups and downs emotionally (warning: it's not a great idea to say "Graduation" to me right now LOL), I think I actually have it pretty good! Austin has always been the sort of kid who is eager to please and wants to do well and follow the rules! He likes to have people happy with him and to do the best he can. Not all adult children are like that, I know! I'm not so sure I'm going to be this lucky again in 2.5 more years! ;)

Less than 5.5 years and 2.5 years until the next grown up children come along...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The burnout cycle?

The week or so after listening to the Burnout audio seminar went very well! I had a much better perspective and was much more enthusiastic about our endeavors.

And then we hit this week. And I was so tired. And we had some more struggles. And I felt frustrated and overwhelmed again.

Thursday was not a good day.

But Friday was better. I wonder if getting out of the true Burnout phase involves a lot of cycling back and forth on the edge of burnout and refocusing on how to keep from tumbling back into it? That's what it feels like, anyway!

So today I took off from planning or anything related to school because I had other things that needed my attention. Tomorrow I will get back to work - because this is Week 12 we are about to embark upon which means the end of Term 1! And that means Exam time!

It also means that it's time to get Term 2 scheduled out and I am looking forward to digging into that work. Term 1 needed to be a bit lighter because I spent the first 8 weeks in the peak of my Half Ironman training. But that is behind me so we can ramp it back up again. Of course, we are in the midst of our first ever "Nutcracker" season which is proving to be quite a challenge in itself! But we will do the best we can!

I have a few exciting changes for Term 2 that will align us better with the principles of Charlotte Mason's vision of classical education! I hope the kids will enjoy it and that it will bring a spark back into their learning!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The times, they are a changin'...

When last I posted, about 2 weeks ago, I was not in a very good place with our homeschooling. I was tired and frustrated and pretty burnt out. Last week, however, (and you know this if you've been keeping up with my Facebook page) I discovered a little gem from the lovely folks at Peace Hill Press: an audio lecture from Susan Wise Bauer entitled "Burning Out: Why it Happens and What to do About it" and it might be the best $4.99 I've spent in quite a long while! And I encourage every homeschool mom to buy it, even if you're a newbie, and even if you're a veteran who doesn't show the first sign of experiencing burnout (by the way, I don't like you LOL).

So I listened to the lecture and took to heart what she said and have tried to implement some of the recommendations. I also decided that I am not going to sign up for any major races between now and when Austin graduates in the spring. I will, of course, continue to exercise (swim/bike/run) because I love it so much - but I will not be "in training" for any event. Graduation is only 7 months away, and in that time we have 3 major ballet productions, 3 major drama events, weekly dance and drama classes, a week-long trip to Disney World, the ACT, the SAT, and a dance recital that happens to fall on the same weekend as the last major ballet production. Oh, and I have to get transcripts pulled together for both of the big kids (one for graduation and one who wants to apply for Dual Enrollment provided she can improve her SAT scores enough). Plus the regular homeschooling, plus Christmas and Thanksgiving and 13th birthday and 16th birthday. I mean, it's simply insane! And as much as I love racing and competing, that is the one thing that I can put on the back burner for a brief moment in time. I have been "in training" almost non-stop for the last 6 years. I want to exercise for the stress relief and enjoyment of it. I don't need anything else on my plate in this particular season of my life.

The second major thing I am doing is to re-focus on my purpose for homeschooling in the first place and reflecting on why we continue each year. God has us on this path for a reason, and even though I may not enjoy it sometimes, I am being obedient to His calling. And if I'm very honest with myself I know that the biggest reason I'm not enjoying it has nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with my own perceptions of success and failure. With Riley starting high school last year, I think it was just amplified. I want to be successful and so often I equate that with high academic achievement. Susan Wise Bauer addresses this problem in her audio lecture and it really opened my eyes to reality. When I start comparing myself and my children to everyone else (and really just how I perceive everyone else since I'm not actually in their homes while they are having lessons), then I get overwhelmed and feel like a failure.  Add to that the fact that very soon colleges will be looking at our homeschool and judging whether or not they will allow my daughter the privilege of gracing their campus, and it can become quite scary. Georgia colleges are not at all friendly to homeschoolers. We have many extra hoops to jump through. And we have not homeschooled in a very traditional way with our classical/Charlotte Mason emphasis.

So I had to take a step back and breathe.

And I had to remember why I'm doing things the way I'm doing them. And I have to remember that my kids/teens are just kids/teens and each of them has to make their own future for themselves. My job is to lay out the feast of education in front of them! That's all I can do! What they do with it is up to them. It's their lives they are living and not my own. I got to make my decisions and my mistakes! This is their chance! And that's how I want it! I want them to grow and learn and be independent - not just for high school but for their entire lives. Having an unpleasantly stressed out mom as a teacher is probably not going to foster a love for learning. ;)

This week went much better - even though Austin worked 40 hours because they were short one guy who was on vacation and Riley missed a day of lessons due to taking the PSAT (just for practice since she's only in 10th grade). Reece started Pre-Algebra and seems to enjoy it, though she doesn't enjoy having to copy out problems into a notebook!

As I start planning Term 2 (already??), I am aiming to refocus these last 2 terms on the CM principles and plan to really enjoy wrapping up our modern history study! Only 25 more weeks of homeschooling my son. It doesn't even seem possible!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

So, where did I go??

Heading towards the Finish Line at Ironman 70.3 Augusta!

An official finisher!
So the last 6 weeks or so I've been in the peak of training for my first Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run) - in addition to getting the girls to all of their dance classes and rehearsals, getting Riley to work, AND doing our lessons. It's been, quite honestly, one of the craziest and busiest times of my life! It was everything I could do to keep my head above water!

But I did it - and I had a wonderful time doing it! I am really proud of myself and pleased with my results! Now it's time to re-focus on the kids and school and this dance year for Riley as she is in several major ballets, the first being Nutcracker next month! I will continue my training because it is my outlet and I really enjoy it, plus it helps me to stay healthy, but the intensity will be reduced! :)

Hopefully I will be able to post about our school year on a more regular basis. Things have not gone so smoothly in the last month, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we have all adjusted to the new busy-ness and can put our noses to the grindstone and get things done!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And away we go...

We are 2 full weeks into the school year and have added Riley's new dance studio and Reece's dance/drama. This coming week, Riley will add her outside classes and then we'll be at our full workload and schedule. Of course, I still have 5 weeks of training left for my Half Ironman - these next 2 weeks being the most intense and high mileage.

But we're making it through! The kids are being GREAT about getting up on time, and even early. Except Reece. She's at the age where she just wants to sleep and eat and that's it. Unfortunately, I need her up early to do lessons because our afternoons/evenings are simply too busy to allow for much work, especially anything that requires me.

There is only one of me. That is the biggest problem!

But the kids are really stepping up and doing their part and working hard! Austin has been managing his lessons around his work schedule. He gets in from work in the early morning, works for a few hours, and then sleeps. On the nights that he doesn't work but he's still awake at night because of his body clock, he does some of the independent work that he doesn't need me for!

Riley isn't available to work very much, but they seem to really like her at work and are working around her schedule, which is nice! Math U See Geometry is, so far, working quite well for her. Not sure if it's the curriculum, the subject, or maturity. Maybe a little of all of it?

Reece is just crushing her academics this year - she is so good that if I hadn't seen her do the work, I'd wonder if she was cheating. She is diagramming some incredibly complex sentences with gerund phrases, etc. And she can figure out the job of a word in a sentence without parsing and diagramming - just doing it in her head. Amazing!

I couldn't be prouder of how hard everyone is working! But boy, am I tired! I know it will get better after my big race is over. And then we'll also get used to getting everywhere we have to go. So we just have to make it through that part.

In the meantime, I'm so proud of my children for being very cooperative and flexible for me! :)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The First Day of School 2014-2015

Seventh Grade
The Student Body of the Black Pearl Academy!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

All of the variables!

Nope, this is not a math post! Sorry to all of my math-loving readers! ;)

I've been trying to do some lesson planning since we start back to school on Wednesday and I'm running into one major problem - too many variables!

Here they are, in no certain order:

A= Austin working third shift
D= Riley's new dance company/studio - 5 days per week plus show rehearsals,  and 30/40 minutes away from home
R= Reece has 3 days of dance this year, at a different studio
N= Peak Half Ironman training for me (this variable goes away in October)
S= Riley's outside classes will be a little more challenging this year (especially science)
M= Riley's job, 20 minutes away from home
T= Austin and Riley both need to do preparations for big standardized tests this year

Each week in August, more variables get added to our schooling equation. And I have no idea how each variable will affect the others. And especially for Riley, there is really nothing to cut from the schedule (except for her job, which would crush her because she loves it).

I can tell you that the schedule we have held to for most of the last 12 years of homeschooling - lessons from morning until lunch time, then a 90-120 minute rest time, then wrapping up lessons, then free time/activities, then dinner, then bed is going to be completely gone.

Since Austin will have to sleep during the day, I will devote most of the morning to his lessons that he needs to do with me. And since Riley will have dance or work most afternoons/evenings, that means I will need to work with her when I'm not working with Austin. So that means that Reece's work with me might have to get bumped to the evenings - but only when she's not also dancing. And since there aren't many of those, this could very well mean lessons on Friday nights and weekends. But since I'm in peak training until the end of September, that means that any work will have to be done in the evenings on the weekends.

The best way I can describe it is that it will be like when Reece was a baby/toddler and we did our school work whenever she slept - be it for 15 minutes or 2 hours! Except back then, I only had one child I was homeschooling and he was doing 1st or 2nd grade work.

Perhaps this wouldn't be a huge problem for many folks with older homeschool students. But Austin is not able to work very independently, especially in math and language arts. And this summer, Riley told me that she does not enjoy independent learning and prefers to have lots of discussion and interaction. She even - GASP - prefers to have lectures to reading material on her own!! So I promised her that we will discuss all of her work, though it may have to be just a couple of times a week like a college class! And I may have to go so far as to schedule it out into a specific block of time.

Right now, Reece is my most independent learner - and she will have to remain so for this school year. Next year when Austin has graduated and Riley might possibly be in Dual Enrollment for all but math, I will have more time for some really awesome one-on-one with my Reece! :)

It appears that Austin's Senior Year may end up being the most difficult one I've ever had. Your prayers are appreciated!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

10 days and counting...

Today I ordered the last of the books (I hope! LOL) that we need to get started on our first day of school! Planning is moving along slowly, mostly because after a few hours I put my head down on my laptop and say, "There is no way we're going to be able to do all of this!"

On a good note: Austin is only scheduled for 20 hours this coming week, instead of the 35-40 that he has been working all summer. Of course, last week he was scheduled for 28 and they called him in another day so he worked 35 again. He is loving the money, but he simply cannot work that many hours and do his senior year of high school. When I reminded him the other day to remind his boss that he returns to school on August 6th, he said, "Maybe I'll just drop out."

He wore a smirk on his face as he said this.

I replied, "How exactly does one drop out of homeschool??" Then we both laughed at the absurdity of it all. He has really developed a snarky sense of humor lately! ;)

Riley doesn't start her new dance classes until the Monday after we start school, so we'll have to wait and see what her work schedule looks like. She will only be available on Tuesdays (afternoon or evening), Saturday evening, and Sunday. If she can get her work done diligently and prove to me that she can manage her time well, I will let her add Thursday afternoons if they need her. But she's going to have to work hard to be able to do that. And I'm just not sure how that's going to work out. She loves her job... so maybe that will provide the incentive she's been lacking to work quickly. I guess we shall see!

As for Miss Reece, she spent this week translating "Let It Go" (from Frozen) into Latin. This took hours and hours of work over several days - and she did it all on her own. Then yesterday she translated the Happy Birthday song for her Daddy! I don't know if she did it correctly and I don't even care! She's a beginning Latin student, after all! I'm just excited that she wants to do translation work and that she seems to enjoy it.

However, I would prefer that she stop answering my texts in Latin. Because I don't remember all of the vocabulary and it takes me too long to figure out what she's saying! ;)

This week I plan to get the first couple of weeks' worth of assignment sheets ready to go. And to stop freaking out about how we're going to get everything done! LOL

Monday, July 21, 2014

Planning time, planning time! Open the books and see what's inside!

Yeah, I'm quoting my Blue Clues again! This is what happens when your kids get old. You start reliving their childhoods with their old favorites!

So this weekend, I started my planning - with a little over 2 weeks until the first day of school, I figured it was time to get on the ball!

My "work space" - aka, the kitchen table!
I am pleasantly surprised to find that most of our materials for this coming year really don't require much planning/scheduling on my part. They do, however, require a lot of time from me actually preparing the lessons. Since I'm going to be spending so much time sitting and waiting at Riley's new dance studio (or the nearby library!), I will be able to use my time productively. Which is good!

The first 2 months of school will be the most challenging because I'm still training for my Half Ironman - actually, I'll be in the peak of training! I'm going to have to schedule the most intensive things for my rest days, which will mean a little bit of juggling around. I haven't scheduled any races for myself (aside from the free Turkey Trot) after the HIM until I see how much time I will have for training.

Since this is Austin's Senior Year, we're finishing up our chronological history study with the 20th century. I'm really looking forward to this time period because it's my husband's favorite! I hope he will share his vast knowledge with the kids, as well as his love of the movies and mini-series that highlight the major wars and events during that time.

I have several goals for myself this year:

1. Do a better job with narrations. This means staying on top of the kids' reading.

2. Do more discussing in general with Riley. She told me at the end of last year that she doesn't enjoy just going off and reading and narrating. She wants me to 'teach' her - which goes against the CM philosophy. But I think what Riley means by 'teaching' is more of a discussion and interaction. The girl needs her interaction. (She will be taking science and speech/debate outside of the home this year).

3. Teach all of the kids study skills. Again, in keeping with CM principles, I have neglected to teach the kids the principles of how to study. Some kids - even most kids - may figure them out on their own. Mine haven't.

4. RELAX and enjoy Austin's last year of high school. Of homeschooling. And since Riley is shooting for dual enrollment next year, this could be the last year I am responsible for the bulk of her education as well. So I need to make the most of it during this completely crazy year!

We are home for a few weeks with relatively few commitments outside of my training and planning, and meeting friends for some last-minute pool time! I'm hoping to get caught up with a summer of posts! :)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Countdown to 2014-2015...

It's July, and you know what that means: we start back to school next month!! I simply cannot believe that this will be Austin's Senior year of high school - it doesn't even seem possible! Riley will be a Sophomore and Reece will be smack-dab in the middle of middle school (7th grade, which I remember SO well).

Our local schools will be starting the first full week of August, on a Tuesday, so we will start the following day.

Usually by this time of the summer, I have decided upon our curriculum for the new school year - and changed my mind a hundred times. LOL

This summer, however, I am driving my daughter to work, and driving her to her new dance studio far, far away. And dealing with a pubescent autistic daughter. And helping the adult with autism manage his new job (which has gone wonderfully, but at the same time has been a huge learning curve for all of us). Oh, yeah, and I'm training for a Half Ironman triathlon at the end of September!! :D

Last week during one of the times I sat and waited for my dancing queen to finish her class, I pretty much solidified our plans for the year. So that is good news. Now I have to make it "official" by putting it in a spreadsheet and making a shopping list. This should be simple, shouldn't it? So why am I struggling so much to get it done. Is it a mental block? Is it denial? I just don't know.

I do know that August and September will be lighter months for us academically because I'll be in the peak of my training, and we'll be getting used to the schedule for the new studio as well as getting the little one to her own studio, and Austin will be adjusting to working and doing his lessons and I'll be having to figure out how to make it all fit in!! And Riley will have outside classes again this year!


Maybe this is why I'm having trouble? I might just be a tiny bit overwhelmed. :)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Book Review, Part II: The Closer, My Story by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

I can't believe I forgot to post the rest of my book review! I got an email today from the publisher asking for my link, and I looked at my blog and, sure enough, I had forgotten all about it! Getting 2 children in the workplace apparently distracted me from the rest of my life!

I had posted in my initial review (before I finished reading the book) that I was struggling getting into the story because it's in first person, and in a present tense sort of way. I will admit that it does make reading a little more challenging for me, but I loved the story so much!

If you're a baseball fan like I am, you are going to absolutely love reading all of the details about what was going on on the field and in the locker room during some of the most exciting World Series in history. Reading about the first moment that Mariano met Derek Jeter and knew he was going to be a great player - we can all read that now and think, "Of course!" But then you have to really think about it. He knew Jeter when he was just a kid, not much older than my own son. There are tons of kids who play in the minor league system and not very many of them make it to the bigs. Anyway, I loved reading all of those little details and behind the scenes stories.

I also loved reading how Mariano gives all the glory to God. But not in an artificial, or forced way. In fact, he tells the story of how God humbled him right as he was getting ready to pitch in a very big game. That gave me goosebumps! We all make mistakes and we all stray from the path God has for us - in small ways or in big ways. But we can focus again on God and His plan, and just do what He has set out for us to do.

Know, if you know me very well at all, you know I do not like to write in my books or to turn down the corners. But I came to a section and simply had to turn the corner down so I wouldn't lose it. These two lines spoke to me so deeply that it brought me to tears:

"I very rarely pray for specific outcomes."
"For me, the most meaningful prayers are when I ask for God's wisdom."

Whoa, that is incredible! I know that we can be very specific in our praying to God. But sometimes I wonder if that keeps us from welcoming all of the blessings God has in store for us? The last few months, I've been praying that God would give us the means to be able to go to Cooperstown for our 20th Anniversary. Money has been getting tighter and tighter over the last year. I remember saying to my husband last summer right as all of this stuff began, "I wonder if God is wanting us to give control to Him with finances. Instead of trusting in our savings account, He wants us to trust Him more to provide." Russ agreed - he knows that financial security is a big thing for me. And having that funded savings account is something I cling to. Well, over the course of the last year, we have had emergency after emergency that has not allowed us to rebuild the savings - so it's pretty much gone. After spending years of building it up and knowing it was there. Now we have to rely on God to cover our needs, trust that they are not really 'needs' if He hasn't provided, and just basically believe that He will take care of us. And He has. But that doesn't mean that this trip is going to happen. I have been praying and praying and praying like crazy that He would make it happen. Maybe I just need to pray for His wisdom - and realize that I am blessed beyond measure, even if I don't get to take my first real trip with my husband in our 20 years of marriage and see Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, and Greg Maddux (and did I mention Tom Glavine?!?!? LOL) inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I started to cry when I put it all together. It makes me wonder if that's why I didn't "have time" to finish the book back when I was supposed to? Because I needed that message at a later date?

So the bottom line is, if you're a baseball fan who enjoys knowing more about what is going on on the field, in the locker room, and in the minds of some of your favorite ball players and managers, you will enjoy this book. If you're a Christian who enjoys reading about how God can change lives and use people in a might way, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoy a good biography, you will enjoy this book (in fact, it's going to be added to my son's reading list this coming year - for his Senior year as we study the last 100 or so years of history)!

Thanks for all of your patience for my tardy book review! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014


It seems like in the last month, every single thing in my life has changed. I plan to blog about each of these things in more detail later, but for now, let me share the really big one:

Austin and Riley are employed!!!

My Froyo gir!

The third shift grocery clerk!
They both got these jobs all on their own, and the stories about how it came about really deserve to be told. Soon! I promise!

Riley also left her old dance studio for a pre-professional dance company. Reece will remain at the old studio. But the new studio is 3 times as far away, at least. And it's 5 nights a week. So basically I am spending my time driving her everywhere she needs to be! :)

Austin's working third shift which means he sleeps most of the day. And I have to say that I miss him! It's hard to go from having someone around all the time for 18 years to barely talking to him or seeing him. But he is doing SO well (and so is Riley! Each job is well-suited for the individual) and I am incredibly proud of him! He started off the job working a 16 hour day - and almost 50 hours in the week! Things will settle down - he is classified as part time so he can't work more than 28 hours. But for now they have him working a ton! And he's jumping at the opportunity!

As for Reece, she's also doing well - missing her siblings but enjoying getting to pretty much do what she wants with me! Today, for instance, we went to the pool together and she made a new friend, and then we got slushies on the way to pick Riley up from work.

Change is so hard, but I think the kids are handling it better than I am! LOL

Monday, June 09, 2014

Book Review: The Closer by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

I  have been a baseball fan for all of my adult life! Actually now that I think about it, I've been a baseball fan since I was a little kid! I'm not sure which other 8-10 year old girl would have a crush on Darrell Porter (catcher for the Cardinals back in the day). But in my adult life, I lived in the South so I was a Braves fan. But I also worked for the Minor League Mets affiliate in college. I simply love baseball!

Recently, I've taken to reading biographies of ball players - R.A. Dickey and Curt Schilling are two of the most compelling ones. So when I had the chance to get a copy of the biography of newly retired Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera, to read and review for my blog, I jumped on it. Not only because I think Rivera is a phenomenal ball player, but also because it would be the first time I got something specifically to review!

I'm going to start off with the disclaimer that I have read so often on other blogs: I did receive a copy of this book free of charge to review, but the thoughts you are going to read here are completely my own.

And now I'll add another disclaimer - I have not yet finished reading the book. My big plan was to read it last week while the kids were at VBS and then I ended up helping out at VBS! :) But my review is due today and I don't want to miss my first ever deadline.

The story starts off with a description of Mariano's life in his home country. I had no idea how poor his family was. Part of the nature of the story that makes it so compelling is also part of the reason why it's taking me so long to read - it's written in first person, but it's not past tense. It feels awkward to me to read, and if the story weren't so good I probably would have put it down never to return to it.  But I want to know Rivera's story, so I will continue on. After all, I know the ending of the story, as does most everyone who loves baseball, even if you aren't a Yankees fan. ;) But I want to know what made the man who he is today. How did he transition from poverty to millionaire baseball player in America? And how exactly did he come to be a believer and to put his faith and trust in Jesus in a situation that frankly would have had most people putting their faith and trust in their pitching arm.

I noticed that the co-author is Wayne Coffey. The name sounded familiar to me, so I did a little research (OK, I googled LOL) and discovered that he is the co-author of R.A. Dickey's biography that I loved so much. I'm wondering now if that book was written in this 'past/present' style? I may have to check into that!

I will post a follow-up to this post once I'm done with the book, which shouldn't take more than a couple of days!

Edited to add: Well, it took more than a "couple of days" but here it is at last - Part 2 of the book review!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The end of our school year!

I'm back!! We made it through the complete craziness that was the month of May! As much as I would love to give each thing we did its own blog post, I just don't think that's going to be possible! So here is a basic run-down:

  • Reece had her first group standardized testing and loved it! She came out to me each afternoon with a smile on her face and told me that she thought it was fun, except for the boring parts! She doesn't ever want to do ITBS again without doing it in a group!
  • We went to our very first Six Flags Homeschool Day. It was awesome, and we'll be sure to go back next year if we can!
  • Austin turned 18 years old - still not sure how that happened! He was given a used truck for his birthday from my parents. My dad cleaned it up and they got a paint job on it so it looks practically new. He was completely shocked and is totally thrilled!
  • The girls and I made it through the dance recital! It was my first one (Adult Tap), the first time for Reece to dance in both recitals, and Riley's last one at the studio she has danced at for the last 8 years. Which brings me to the next bit of news:
  • Riley auditioned for and was accepted into a pre-professional ballet company! She begins training with them in a couple of weeks!

  • Riley applied for and has had 2 interviews for her first part-time summer job! We should find out soon if she gets it. I think the biggest thing she has against her is that she's only 15 years old and there are lots of work restrictions in Georgia for kids who are that age. 

  •  Austin applied for and has gotten a part-time job at a local grocery store! He is waiting on his drug test results to come back and then he will go to orientation. He is SO proud of himself, and I am SO proud of him!

With all of that craziness going on, we still managed to get our lessons DONE! It had been so hard all year long to work nonstop without taking a break, but to be completely done with lessons by the end of May was worth all of the hard work!

Traditional "Last Day of School" ice cream at Bruster's! :)
So now I have a Senior, a Sophomore, and a 7th grader. Yeah, soak that in for a moment. I simply cannot believe it! My plan for this coming week is to wrap up all of the paperwork for this school year, so that I can work on my shopping list for the 2014-2015 school year. I have a busy summer ahead of me between driving Riley to all of her dance rehearsals (and perhaps a part-time job) and training for a half Ironman race at the end of September, so I'd like to go ahead and get as much done as I can right now.

Our summer Sun and Fun plans include continuing with math and Latin (for the girls) and reading, of course. But I am giving the kids the full week off this coming week! :) They have earned it!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Deep Thinker

I've been wanting to write this post for a few weeks but I just never had the time. So I'm going to try to crank it out really quick while I have a few moments. These moments are courtesy of my wonderful planning before the school year started where I front-loaded our school work so we would finish some things before the last couple of weeks of school (which is now - only 10 days to go!!).

This post is about Reece. I have had a rough couple of weeks as a homeschooling mama, I won't try to even hide that. Man, this whole year has been rough and emotionally draining. And I had a particularly bad day not too long ago. I dropped off kids and now I can't even remember where. I think maybe I was taking Riley somewhere and that left me and Reece in the car alone.

So that's where the following conversation took place.

And I'm not sure how it got started. But at some point we got talking about me being upset and crying and yelling. I told her how I was sorry that I did that, and I am trying better. I pray to God every day that He will help me to be more patience.

She said, "I know when you are crying and you yell at us, that it's not that you are mad. It's that you are scared about the future, and you are worried. So I don't get upset with you. But I don't like for you to be afraid and worried. It makes me sad."

Boy did that hit me like a ton of bricks.

I said, "You know, you're pretty perceptive for a kid with autism." (Insert discussion on what perceptive means LOL) Then I added, "You're pretty perceptive for ANY 12 year old kid!"

So while I'm glad to know that at least Reece understands what's going on - good gracious, this is not how I want the kids to remember their childhood! I don't want them to gather around one day at Christmas or a family reunion and talk about the way mom used to cry and freak out about school or the messy house. And this is not how I want to LIVE. It's not fun to constantly be worried (read COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT) about whether or not I'm doing all of this good enough.

Everyone is growing up so fast. Austin has one more year of high school - Riley has 3 more years - Reece has only 6 more years of school. That means I have only 6 more years of homeschooling after having spent the last 12 years doing it! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But at the same time, it seems to me like the stakes are so much higher now. Georgia colleges are not at all homeschool friendly, and it's getting worse by the year. I am determined to remain an 'unaccredited homeschooler' because that is sticking with the letter of the law. But the colleges are putting more and more hoops out that we have to jump through. So I get afraid.

Fear is SO bad. I make such mistakes when I operate from a position of fear. I know this - and I'm getting better at recognizing it while it's happening (instead of when I look back, so that's progress, right?).

And I'm going to take this back to God again - because, well, that's where everything goes back to! Why do I live in such fear even though I'm a child of God, and I know that He loves me and He loves my children and has plans for their futures? Lack of trust. I can talk the talk, but I don't do so well when it comes time to walk the walk.

So my goal for next school year, above and beyond anything remotely academic, is to do our education thing. Read books, talk about them, write about them, do the math (even when they don't like it and don't get it and look at me like I'm crazy for loving it), learn the Latin. That's it. (Well, Riley will dissect more things - but she will be doing that as part of an outside class again because she enjoys that and this homeschooling mother does not LOL).

I want the Black Pearl Academy to be a NO FEAR zone.

So back to my Deep Thinking Girl, the subject of this post: she is positively amazing! I think you could agree with me on that. I knew she thought deeply about stuff - it's mostly evident when she cries and/or gets upset about things that happen to her and to other people. She has a deep sense of fairness and justice. I used to think that was a purely autism thing, rooted in the difficulties in assessing situations as more than black and white. But now, I think it has more to due to the way she thinks and processes so deeply. I don't know how to explain that, considering that she has an autism diagnosis. She's not supposed to be able to take another's perspective - but sometimes I think she takes the other perspective too much.

Regardless, I'm so glad that she felt comfortable to share with me what she is feeling. I hope to be able to tell her one day that she helped me to become someone who didn't spend her life operating out of a sense of fear. :D

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Comparison and Judgment

I received a request on my Facebook page to address a specific question here on my blog. I've known the lady who asked the question for many years, so I felt comfortable with telling her that I would try my best, but that she had hit on quite a "hot button" topic for me personally. ;) Here is the question:

How you have managed to deal with comparison and judgment. Comparison between siblings, between your children and other homeschooled children, between you and other homeschool moms and between curriculum and methods of education. And how judgment plays a role in all this. Judging others, misjudging others, misjudging our own children at times. Not wanting to be judged or misjudged b/c of x, y and z. How you overcome that and break free to do what is best for your family, each of your unique children and not be ashamed of what you're doing b/c it's not the most popular thing to do. Doing what God leads you to do and RESTING in that decision...RESTING in His faithfulness and TRUSTING in His promises and finding JOY in the journey!

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, I think you already know that I struggle with comparison. This year - this specific time of year - has been harder than most. Austin is turning 18 in just a couple of weeks, and I have kept up with his original playgroup friends via Facebook. We all met through MOMS Club when the kids were 18 months old and we stayed together through Kindergarten when the younger siblings would play together while the big kids were at school. Then life got busy and some of the folks moved away. Through the magic of Facebook, I've been able to see them grow up in the last few years, and it's been so wonderful! But this spring as the kids all turn 18 and most of them are graduating from high school (remember we held Austin back, so he has one more year of high school), there are post of prom pictures and college visits and acceptances. And while I am truly, honestly, very happy for all of them, it is breaking my heart. I want all of this for Austin. All I want is the "normal". Is that too much to ask?

I do also compare my kids to one another. I'm usually hardest on Riley because she doesn't have "anything going on" and yet I have the most trouble with her trying to get her work done. It's not fair that I have higher expectations for her, especially since my expectations are rooted in my own desire to feel good about myself (But more on THAT sort of comparison later). One level of comparison that has been beneficial is comparing Reece's academic performance to Austin's. I always thought his academic struggle were due to autism... and then Reece started to excel academically in ways he never did, and I realized there had to be something else going on. That realization helped me to get the additional testing that revealed his struggles to be related to his seizures. Unfortunately, there was no easy "fix" for the problem. But it did take a lot of the pressure off for him.

The comparison between me and other homeschool moms. Ahh, the poison. There is a popular statement that "Homeschooled Kids do better on standardized tests than Public Schooled Kids." Well, one of mine doesn't. Yes, he has learning disabilities, but that doesn't help. It makes me feel like a failure. That's when I put all that pressure on Riley - get good grades and test scores and make me look good. Ouch. That is not her job. And my worth is not tied to my children's grades and/or test scores anyway! But comparison leads down that road. The thief of joy, truly.

I don't really compare among curricula or methods. Everyone has to do their research and follow the path and plan that works for their family, their children, and the way that God leads them.

Judgment plays into all of this, of course. I think, as a whole, our society has become MORE judgmental in the last 10-20 years, despite our proclamations that we are a more tolerant society. We are only tolerant of ONE WAY - smart, beautiful, athletic children who get into a major University and attend right after high school (or after a gap year of travel and/or volunteerism). Try telling folks that your kid isn't going to college.

What is the answer? How do we get out of this cycle of judgment and/or comparison? That's simple, of course! We focus on God's plan for our lives, and for each of our children's lives. And we trust that He will lead us in the right path if we seek His will. But we have to turn away from what society says we need to do. You would think as homeschoolers this would be easy?! We are already bucking the societal norms. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I am VERY good at it. But most of the time I am a freaked out, blubbering mess - certain that I've ruined my children's futures. That's not a comparison or judgment problem. It's a TRUST thing.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV probably since it was one of the first verses I memorized when I became a Christian LOL)
Comparison and Judgment are nothing new. If you read the Bible, you see it everywhere in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It's reassuring to know that we're not experiencing anything new here in the 21st century. ;)

Finally, the last part of the question... about finding Joy in the Journey. Don't fall victim to the poisonous type of comparison. Don't let fear motivate your decision-making process. I implore you. I made those mistakes, and year by year, the Joy has been sucked out of our homeschool as a result. And I can assure you that it's not so easy to get it back. (That does have me wondering how it is possible to have Joy in homeschooling in the upper grades when your children are not academically inclined - how much Joy can one have with Algebra and Biology? LOL)

I hope that answered the questions. If not, please let me know and I'll try again! ;)

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Strength

Yesterday morning before my first Olympic Distance Triathlon, I was meditating on the verse I have dedicated to my athletic endeavors - Isaiah 40:31.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.  (NLT)

Makes sense to use it for swimming, biking, and running, doesn't it?

But as I was meditating over it at 3:30 in the morning, I stopped at the end of the first line/sentence.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. In the NIV, the word trust is replaced with hope and 'new strength' becomes 'renew their strength'.

Oh, how I need this right now! Homeschooling has become such a struggle and I am so tired. My strength is gone. I NEED new strength. I NEED renewal. 

Do you think it's any coincidence that the action verb in that sentence is TRUST/HOPE? Two of my previous Words of the Year? (BTW, have I mentioned lately how truly hard "Joy" has been for this year? WOW!) I don't believe in coincidences, so I know that it's all a message from God.

I used to think that my running/triathlon was my escape from the stresses of homeschooling. A coping mechanism and outlet for my nerves. Wouldn't it be something else if God planned it to be the way to teach me more about trusting Him and having my Hope in His plan and not in my own? Wouldn't it be even more amazing if He uses the circumstances relating to my big injury in 2011 to lead me to a stronger relationship and trusting in Him relating to my running as a precursor to doing the same work with homeschooling and my children's futures?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He survived!

As you may remember, Austin took his first outside class this year: Speech/Debate. The first semester was devoted to Speech and the second semester to Debate. The Speech semester went very well. Austin was nervous at first, but he made excellent progress with his speech making. He made eye contact with his audience, and his vocal quality was fantastic. He has this really deep voice - many of his classmates encouraged him to look into voice-overs as a career!

January rolled around and with it came Debate class. I never took Debate in high school or college (speech, either, which really should have been required for a teacher, I think). So I was unaware of the format. I have also learned that there are different styles/formats for Debate. The one his teacher teaches requires lots of fast talking - getting out your words/thoughts in a hurry. And the other team can interrupt you when you're talking with a "POI" (Points of Information). For someone like Austin who struggles with expressive language and processing speed, this was a nightmare.

The first time they gave a speech and he was interrupted with a POI, he was completely flustered. He lost his place in his thoughts and became very overwhelmed. His teacher is fantastic - experienced with special needs kids both in a classroom setting and from her years of teaching homeschoolers - and she did all the right things to help him succeed. But he continued to struggle even through the last debate, and he was not a happy camper.

Honestly, if I had known this was the format for Debate, I wouldn't have signed him up for the 2nd semester. I would have stopped at Speech and called it good. But I didn't want to pull him out of the class and have him think he shouldn't try something just because it's hard or because it involves an area that is one of his main disability areas. I told him to stick with it, do his best, and when the class is over he never has to do debate again.

At last, today was the last day of Debate class. And it started off with another problem. For some reason, Austin forgot to bring a key piece of his team's presentation. I asked him about it on the way home and he told me he had completed it, but forgot to print it off. He was very upset. The teacher came out to ask me if I needed to help him calm down. I peeked in the room was was told (by Austin) to leave. So I went back into the other room, stuck my earbuds in my ears, and listened to some music.

When the debate ended, I joined the rest of the class and the moms/siblings who had been watching and waited for the results. Austin's team had finally won, mostly because the other team had neglected to address a few of the points made by Austin's team! This was something that kept vexing our team through the semester so it was great to see that they were finally able to pull it out!

The teacher gave each of the kids an 'Award' and discussed how each of them had grown and changed through the year. Austin got the Determination Award. I started to cry. Then she asked if anyone had anything to say, and since I was already crying, I decided I might as well just go ahead. I thanked the class for being so kind to Austin through the year. (And yeah, it really embarrassed him - but he is so used to me doing this sort of thing LOL). I also commented on how kind and encouraging they have ALL been to one another, and how much they have grown this year.

I also hugged and thanked his teacher, without whom none of this would have been possible. She is simply fantastic and I have been so impressed. Her classes are higher than others in our area, but she is worth every penny! If you are in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend her classes. You can get more information at her website here: Martin Educational Services

I love this picture of them! :)
After class, his entire class (except one) meet for lunch! I didn't get a picture of the whole group because I figured if I tried that after I had already embarrassed Austin with my comments and tears at the end of class he might actually run away or something! LOL But I did get a picture of him before the rest of the kids arrived.

Debate Class Survivor! :)
I am really, really proud of Austin for all of his perseverance and hard work this year! He won't be taking outside classes next year, and he's not the least bit upset by that fact! LOL

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In which we have a nice, relaxing week planned... yeah, right!

This week is Spring Break for the local public and private schools which means, for us, all of our classes are cancelled! No dance! No speech/debate! No 'school' for Riley! I love this week every year! Even if we do not plan to take the week off, like this year, it's always nice and relaxing not to have to run around to our activities. I have been looking forward to some nice relaxing days!

Ha. Ha. Ha.

So Monday we took off completely to celebrate my birthday! Except I made the mistake Sunday evening of drinking an "energy" drink with my dinner. So I was awake until 1 AM! And it rained and poured ALL DAY, which just sapped the energy from me. And Austin's debate team meeting was postponed to today due to all of the storm warnings, which was a good thing. But then that turned Tuesday into utter chaos.

This morning I did my workout and came home to get everyone going - except everyone, including me, was sort of in a "This feels like Monday" funk. Riley had plans to meet up with her friends at the park in the afternoon for some Spring Break fun, but in order to get her there on time, she and Reece would have to come to Austin's meeting. And nobody got enough work done in the morning - so they had to bring work along.

We drove the 20 minutes to the meeting location and wait - and wait - and wait. Nobody ever shows up. Austin tries to text and call the other members of his team and we heard nothing back. (One of the kids finally replied back 4 hours later saying he 'forgot' @@).

Then we took Riley to meet up at the park with her friends, and it's chilly and windy and I'm not looking forward to trying to do school work in those conditions - and then I remember that this park is right next door to the newest library in our county. And wow, is it beautiful! I was definitely impressed.

Austin and Reece did a good bit of work, finishing up some things we started in the morning.

Reece discovers that Long Division is highly over-rated!
 I felt so bad for Reece. She has wanted to do long division for close to a year. She has been very stressed out that she hears her friends at dance talk about what they are doing in math and she hasn't done it. I try to explain to her that her curriculum takes a different order to things, but she doesn't care. She hates feeling behind (and she's not - this is the top level, she could do Pre-Algebra next year if I want her to! There is a Geometry level, but I haven't decided if we're going to do it or not. You actually do this Geometry through drawing, and then about halfway through you add in Algebra as well). Anyway, with 10 lessons to go in the book, she gets to do long division. I think she feels cheated! LOL

I have never seen Austin write this much. Ever. 

Austin finished his Geometry and his ACT test prep and decided he wanted to write for awhile. I was quite shocked. He simply doesn't write. His narrations are maybe 3 poorly written and un-punctuated attempts at sentences, despite the fact that he has completed FOUR complete writing curricula. His self-selected topic? Emergency preparedness in the event of natural or economic/social disaster. He finished this page and half of another - not the back. NEVER will he write on the back of the paper. Unless I require him to. (I told him in the event of a disaster he will have to write on the back of the paper so he can conserve his paper LOL) Anyway, I was shocked. It was poorly written and un-punctuated, but there was content that we can work with! And we will be! Tomorrow. :D

It's a BOOK! In her HAND! And I didn't assign it!
Riley texted to say they were going to froyo and could I pick her up from there. So we packed up our stuff - the kids were getting a little restless anyway - and headed out. Reece had been pacing around prior to this and as we were walking out she said, "Mama, I saw a book I would like to borrow."

I hope the look of shock didn't register on my face! Reece hates to read! I told her to go on and get it and we'd check it out. She came back with it and I looked the book over. It was from the teen section. Yikes. I read the back and the inside flap and didn't see anything that jumped out at me as being bad for a 12 year old. The character in the story is 12. But I also know that there is lots of stuff in the teen section that's not appropriate. But how can I tell her no when she's actually interested?? So I said a quick prayer and checked out the book. She started to read it in the car - and she says she's going to read it before bed tonight, so we'll see! I checked it out on amazon and it gets a 5 star review!! I really, really, really hope and pray she likes it and it hooks her on reading! She especially doesn't like fiction and this is a fiction book! So please join me in prayer about that!

So then we got froyo, picked up Riley, and headed home so that Riley could START her work. At 5 PM. Yikes. We are NOT night workers here and it's been very frustrating. She swears she's going to get the rest of today and all of tomorrow's work done tomorrow, so we'll see. She has nothing going on tomorrow so she could theoretically work hard and do that.

Tomorrow is the last moderately relaxing day. I hope to be able to take Reece to the park to ride her bike again (her birthday present!). And then Thursday is CRAZY and Friday is going to be devoted to recovering from Thursday - don't worry, I'll post all about that when we're done! :D

So there goes my relaxing week! Not so much relaxing! I wish I could do "not so much relaxing" better than I do. :(

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Home Stretch!

This week we are beginning the last half of our last term of the year! It sure is nice to be at the end of the lesson plans for the year and it's only April!

Yes, we have had to tweak the schedule a bit! :)
I didn't remember it until I started working on Term 3 assignment sheets, but I "front-loaded" our schedule this year - a much heavier load in the fall and winter, and much lighter in the spring when we're all frazzled and burned out and busy with our spring activities! I am SO glad I did that! What a relief it is to come to this point and know that we're going to be wrapping up some of our subject already! All of that hard work and dedication in the fall bears fruit in the spring!

I guess it's time to start thinking about next school year, huh? LOL

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You are 15 going on 16...

How does this:

First birthday party and the smush cake!

become this:

Yes, that's a Batman cupcake. She was so excited when we came across them at the store!
seemingly overnight?!?!

Riley has turned 15 years old! She is almost done with her Freshman year of high school. She has taken the SAT for the first time. And she is bugging me to let her get her learner's permit so she can start driving!

It's so hard to believe because it seems like just yesterday she was baby:

My favorite picture ever of Riley! I think she was around 9 months old!

Or this little girl! 
I want to say she was 5 or 6 in this picture!
Time flies... I'm telling you! It really does! Happy 15th Birthday, Riley! (And she is already talking about being 16 next year! LOL)

Friday, March 21, 2014

And another follow-up...

On Wednesdays, Austin takes a Speech/Debate class with a local veteran homeschooler. This lady is well-known and respected in the Georgia homeschool community. She has degrees in special education and offers lectures, testing, and consulting to homeschool families. I have taken several of her seminars over the years, and several years ago she tested both Austin and Reece. I trust and value her counsel and information.

So on this particular Wednesday - following the weekend meltdown - I needed to ask for some counsel. After class, I sent Austin to warm up the car and asked for a moment of her time. I wanted to clarify some information she had given at her "Homeschooling for High School and Beyond" workshop that I took when Austin was getting ready to enter high school.

"In the state of Georgia, you have the legal right to set your own homeschool graduation requirements. These should be based upon your child's post-graduation plans."

Does this mean I can set the levels of math required for Austin to graduate?


It just means he won't be able to go to a University System of Georgia school.

This is OK. He isn't planning to go to a USG school.

We spoke for a few more minutes to make sure this was the correct way to proceed for Austin, and she offered a few suggestions for next year's math curriculum - and then she said something that stunned and shocked me.

"If Austin needs an Academic letter of recommendation, I would be happy to write one for him."

Say what?!?

She then spoke of how hard he works in her class, how he always does all of his assignments and never makes excuses. He contacts her for help if he's confused about an assignment. He fully participates in class (WOOHOO!!). He gives the best effort that he can at all times. And she would be happy to share that as a non-biased instructor who has had him in her class.

I was absolutely shocked! And very proud! I know all of these things about Austin, but it was so cool to see that she recognized it as well. :)

So now we have a plan for Austin for next year (SENIOR YEAR!) and I'm confident that I'm not doing anything wrong or illegal by following through with it! WHEW!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Let's try this again...

Well, it's been a difficult few days since that last post. I can't tell you the number of times I considered coming here to delete it. Not only because I don't want myself to look bad (who does?!) but it's hard to have stuff "out there" about Austin, not just because I don't want to embarrass him if he ever comes across this blog, but also because of the homeschool naysayers out there. "See? This is why homeschooling is so bad - she hasn't done 2 of the basics with her high school Junior in 2 weeks!!"

Perceptions. Why do I care so much what other people think?

Anyway, today during church, our music minister (who is really hot, have you ever seen him? Oh yeah, he's my husband! Hee hee - had you going there for a minute! LOL) chose a song for the offertory called, "Let the Praises Ring" by Lincoln Brewester. One of my favorite songs, very upbeat and simple! Fun song.

And I started crying.

"Oh Lord my God in You I put my trust
Oh Lord my God in You I put my hope"

Those are the first two lines of the song, and they repeat themselves. Just enough time for me to really dwell on them. And realize (again ) how badly I have been failing in this area when it comes to homeschooling, and especially when it comes to Austin.

Then comes the first lines of the chorus:

"In You In You I find my peace
In You In You I find my strength"
The peace I'm looking for (and the joy?!)?? The strength I need to explain the difference between a line and an angle ONE. MORE. TIME. (or a hundred more times?) ?!?! It's not found within myself. It's not found in anything I can do. It's found in GOD. I know this. Duh.
So the tears are welling up, and then the next part of the chorus comes on:
"In You I live and move and breathe"
That line hits me upside the head like a ton of bricks. I first really came to know it when my daughter joined a dance company a few years ago called MOVE, and this line/verse (Acts 17ish) was part of their foundation. I commandeered it with my running/training when I was coming back from an injury and realized that I had been using my training as a way to deal with the stress in my life, instead of focusing on God. Running from my problems instead of running to God.

So I'm still processing that and the second verse begins: 

"Oh Lord my God to You I give my hands
Oh Lord my God to You I give my feet
Oh Lord my God to You I give my everything
Oh Lord my God to You I give my life"
By the end of the verse, and the return of the chorus, the tears are freely flowing. I have used this song before (music is SO important to me in so many different ways, and I've probably mentioned before how God uses music, and not just Christian music, to speak to me) but with my running. And all of those changes in the last 2.5 years have been simply amazing! I have found such joy in training and I no longer use it to get away from my problems, but as a time to focus my thoughts and improve my mental and physical and emotional conditioning, so I can better handle my problems. I have learned, I think, to trust God that if the plan I have going for my training gets derailed it's because He has a better plan for me (a different race? a better experience? saving me from myself?). I've learned to give Him my hands and my feet and my everything and He has blessed me time and again. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been and my training has gone so much better than I could have hoped. 

So why shouldn't I apply this same notion to homeschooling? Why is it so hard to trust God that if the plan I have going for homeschooling gets derailed it's because He has a better plan for me? For Austin? For Riley? For Reece? It didn't happen overnight for me to do that with my training. In fact, it was pretty ugly there for awhile. But the more I practiced, the easier it got. The more I trusted, the more it became second nature. It's like a spiritual workout.

Do I like it that Austin struggles academically? No. Is it fair? In my opinion, no. Austin is a genuinely nice kid with a strong work ethic and lots of determination! Why does everything have to be so hard for him?
I don't think I ever shared the story from Tuesday night. Hubby was working late, and I was getting ready to leave for the girls and me to go to dance class. Austin came into the kitchen where I was busy straightening things up. He said, "Shouldn't you be getting ready for dance class?" I said, "Yes, but I want to clean up the kitchen first so it isn't a mess when Dad gets home from his long day." Austin said, "I got this! You go get ready for dance!" and he proceeded to clean up the kitchen for me. How many other 17.5 year old boys do you know who would be so thoughtful and responsible? Let alone one with autism?! 

I constantly want Austin to trust God. And sometimes it makes me sad when Austin talks about having a hard time trusting God because things are so hard all the time. But what sort of a role model am I for trusting God to take all of Austin's challenges and turn them into something beautiful?? (Yeah, that's another song LOL)
So I'm glad I didn't delete that post from Friday. And I'm glad I went to church this morning. And I'm glad God inspired my husband to play that song. And I'm glad tomorrow is a new day and a new week and I can start (again!) practicing trusting God and putting my hope in Him when it comes to homeschooling Austin (and the girls). After all, He loves Austin way more than I do! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Stop! Thief!

I've been thinking about writing this post for awhile. But I didn't want to sound whiny. And there is also the privacy factor for my kids, which is hard now that they are teens. But maybe I can start with a caveat that I am very proud of my children and I love them very much. :) So any whiny-ness is just my own stupid problem.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted this picture on her Facebook timeline:

It really inspired me to think about what I've been wanting to write. I realized that this is a very true statement. It is especially important to me because "Joy" is my word of the year, and I have been finding it very hard to find Joy in homeschooling.

The post I was wanting to write is a little embarrassing for me, because it's admitting that I have dropped the ball. On purpose. So I'm going to own up to it in the hopes that, by doing so, I can hold myself accountable to rectifying the situation. Also, maybe this will help someone who may be reading and experience a similar problem.

OK, here we go:

I haven't done math or writing with Austin in 2 weeks.

A collective gasp comes from the readership of the Black Pearl Academy blog. And my head sinks.

It's awful, I know.

You know what makes it even more awful? The reason.

It's because I just cannot face working on math and writing with him right now.  I cannot explain again the difference between a line and an angle. I cannot bear to watch him try to remember the word "perpendicular" and it won't come, and he's got his hands up in a cross trying to show me what it looks like. I cannot look into his eyes again as his 12 year old sister whispers the answer to his high school geometry lesson because she has heard us go over and over and over it, and she hates to see him not know the answer. I cannot read another "paper" that consists of 3 sentences that make absolutely no sense and have so many easy words spelled wrong. And realizing that most of the paper is made up from what he "knows" about the topic because he has no comprehension of what he just read in the book.

None of this is his fault. I know that! Learning has always been hard for him and I have patiently spent the last 11.5 years working with him day in and day out and trying everything under the sun to try to help him learn to the best of his ability. But I am burned out! He is so frustrated, and yet he continues day in and day out to get up and try his best. Even though I haven't been doing math with him, I see him reading the lessons and trying to figure out what they mean. And then I see him put the math book away and we sort of look at each other. He knows that I'm not pushing the issue. I hope it doesn't make him feel worse.

So now we have the "Comparison" sentence pop up. I know that's the problem (along with the burnout). We joined a homeschool group this year, and I am guilty of comparing my kids with everyone else's. And especially when it comes to Austin. Kids his age, including his friends, are starting to get acceptances to the colleges of their choice. And I am thrilled for them. Truly! But I'm also sad for Austin. And you know what? Let me be honest - I'm sad for me. Insert the pouty mom here. Yeah, my kid struggles and I am whining about it.

No wonder I am not experiencing joy in homeschooling. It's not anyone's fault but my own. I am letting comparison (among my own children, between my children and other children, and even between the children I wasn't given but for some reason feel like I was entitled to) rob me of the joy I'm supposed to have in all circumstances. In fact, I'm supposed to embrace the troubles and trials WITH JOY because it will help me develop a strong character. (James 1 - and my verse for this year @@)

Austin embodies that better than I do. He may not express joy in the struggling, but he has never once come to me and said, "Mom, I don't want to do this anymore. I am OVER school and I am just not going to do it!" I couldn't blame him if he did. I know how discouraging it has been for me as a teacher. And I know how discouraging it is when you're trying to learn something new and it's hard and you don't really get it - my tap class last week is the perfect example (BTW, time steps are of the devil!). And he has been experiencing that feeling for years - over a decade! His psychiatrist - he sees one for anxiety and OCD - asked me this winter to reduce his academic load to help with the stress he is feeling. And Austin replied, "No way! I'm not a slacker!"

I feel ashamed of myself.

So now I need to stop feeling sorry for myself, and get my act together. If I have to explain the difference between a line and an angle again, so be it. Maybe one of these days I'll come up with THE way that will connect with him. I think I'm going to look into IEW writing again since I've heard that it's good for kids with LDs.