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