Huge Change

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This year, quite at the last minute, Marco and I decided to place the girls into public school. This is something we talked about ever since we moved into our current school district. When we first moved here we knew the school was a great school, Dee would be going into kindergarten so it would have been great timing. This is what stopped us:

1) Dee had massive anxiety. It was so extreme I was afraid putting her into school would be more harmful than good and I wanted her to love school.

2) The year prior had been awful. Marco lost his job, we lived in different states, and we were homeless. Mark slept on the couch at a friend’s place here and I hopped from place to place. I stayed at an empty house owned by a church, my parents’ house, and hotels. I dragged the kids and dog along with me. It was stressful. The unstable life we led made me want to create a bubble of stability for my kids. I wanted them home with me.

3) Debilitating fear of what the homeschool community would think of me for sending my kids to public school, the fear of being ostracized by homeschoolers and public school mommas since I wouldn’t really fall into either category exclusively, and the fear of being a failure. I feared I had failed at homeschooling my girls. Yes, I realize now that I hadn’t failed, but my fear was real and legitimate.

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We finally came to a breaking point. I was burnt out. Dee and I would fight every time I tried to teach her reading. Math and art and every other subject as fine, but reading? Oh my word. It was awful. Math came easy to her, but reading was hard and she would rather play than read. I cried a lot. She cried a lot. It was not how homeschooling should be. One would think the kid with learning issues and special needs would be the one I struggled to teach. Nope.

To make all of this all 100% worse we were in a homeschool co-op that was the worst experience ever. I loved the other moms there, but the leaders were terrible. They believe in 100% unbending conformity (when I told my therapist this he shuddered). They were not nice people and I hated the toxic environment I was in. I knew I wasn’t going to go back there, but at the same time I knew I couldn’t be home 7 days a week with all 5 kids because I was burnt out. Working at minimum 2 jobs and at maximum 4 jobs, I needed help.

All summer long I struggled with “The Great Debate.” Public school or homeschool? Then one of the kids had a medical crisis and I had to make a decision. The day before classes started I walked into the school and signed the girls up. That was a Tuesday. School started Wednesday. The girls first day was Friday. The entire time we never said a word to anyone other than a few very close people. We did not put up first day of school pictures or discuss it at all.

We lived life and no one noticed. This is a little sad because this means no one really paid any attention to subtle things I said or did. However, I get it. I can miss subtly at times also. My homeschooling friends had no idea the girls were gone all day. I mentioned school and they simply assumed I meant homeschool.

Why didn’t I say anything? I didn’t want to deal with the unnecessary questions and remarks. Remarks that are usually untrue and only hurtful.

“Why did you put them in public school?”
“You know public is not as good as it used it be right?”
“Aren’t you scared of bullies and your kids learning immoral things and growing up too fast?”
“They never really get free time or socialization in school. They will burn out.”
“You are being selfish because you are working. Maybe you should quit your jobs” (or what ever reason they come up with)
“They are at school all day and come home to do homework all night. Do you really want that?”
“You are at the mercy of the schools.”
“Why are you still homeschooling the boys?”
“Do you favor the boys?”

Oh the list of snarky remarks and questions is endless. I didn’t want to deal with them because it is no one’s business. Period. So we didn’t say anything. Mark respected my wishes to keep it quiet. Then the girls had school pictures and I posted them…

People were shocked, but the girls are firmly established in school so no one said anything. I could tell a few people really wanted to, but they held their tongues and I am glad they did. A few people were super happy for us. They understood the turmoil I must have gone through because they messaged me to tell me they deal with the same debate. I felt less alone, less like a failure, and more empowered.

 

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My gorgeous, thriving girls. They are world changers.

The girls are thriving! Ry’s teacher refers to her as an “asset.” What an amazing word! She isn’t just a good kid or studious or smart. She is an asset. This means she is valuable to the class and they need her and greatly benefit from her! WOW! I am pretty sure no one ever referred to me as an asset. When I told Ry the compliment she was glowing. What an amazing confidence boost for a 10 year old girl who was trying to fit in to an already established class. When we went to Parent/Teacher Conference we could tell her teacher really loves her! What an amazing feeling! The confirmation we made the right decision is just what I needed.

Delaney, not surprising, is known as a sweet heart. Everyone loves her gentle and kind ways. Dee still has lots of anxiety, but she is coming out of her shell and developing her strengths. School was exactly what she needed in order to spread her wings and fly. The teacher works one-pm-one with her and the fact they all have gathered to be a foundation under her makes my heart swell. They want to see her succeed. They could easily not care, but they do. Adding these positive influences into her life has been only a blessing.

We have no regrets. This was exactly what needed to be done. The boys are thriving at home, Charlie is getting more in depth one-on-one with me; something he desperately needed. I am far more calm and far less stressed. I am able to better focus and I accomplish more.

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The days are calmer.

Every family needs to decide what is right for them and their children. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you are a failure because you didn’t do things they way they think you should. You do what you need to do and own it! Being supportive is always the better option.

~Andrea

Crossroads

This year has been emotionally hard on me. One really big reason why is I have had more days than not when I feel like homeschooling 4 kids and caring for a toddler is just not for me. The only person I have mentioned this to is Mark so this is probably going to surprise those who know me best.

I struggle nearly everyday. I am worn from it. I really feel like the 2 girls would benefit from at least a year in a formal school setting. They are so much fun to be with, but I think they both need to find some independence away from their big brothers. I would like to see them blossom into their own beings. Their brothers, bless them, hold them back a little. I know they do not realize it. They are just protective.

My oldest is also going to “officially” be in high school this next year. I would like to focus more energy on getting him situated so he can achieve his very lofty life goals. My sweet 12 year old son would stay home with me also. He struggles and over the years we have discovered the best ways to help him learn and retain information. They are very nontraditional methods so a traditional school setting really wouldn’t be in his best interest.

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Elf is turning into a bookworm. She loves books as much as her eldest brother!

What do I do? I really do not want to send the girls to public school. I am not criticizing public school at all. My oldest went to public school for 2 years and Elf went for half a year until we changed school districts. My objection is personal to our family dynamics, beliefs, and goals. These are things that each family must personally decide on. For me, public school isn’t really an option at this time. I say “at this time” because I am not so bold as to say I am 100% against it. I am open for a change of mind and heart so long as it is the right choice for US.

That leaves private school. Who has money for that though? I have searched local schools and scholarship options. I actually have one place bookmarked that we may be able to make a reality. I have yet to get in touch with the school, but I plan to. There is also online school. That would keep the girls home without having to worry about planning their school days. That doesn’t help with my wanting them to develop themselves away from their brothers though.

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Princess making a cake while Zen watches. 

I really have no idea what I am going to do. Although Mark and I are a team, this is ultimately my decision since I am the one who is home all day with the kids. I know I have my husband’s support and that does make it easier. I know that when I make a decision he will back me up. That is a good feeling. Right now though, I am torn. I am not 100% convinced either way. I am no closer to an answer than I was in October. Time is not on my side. I need to make a decision sooner rather than later.

Why am I bothering telling you all of this if I am at a loss for what I am going to do? Well, writing it all out makes it more real. I need to see how I will react once I start getting feedback, because I know there will be feedback. Also, I feel like I can’t be the only parent struggling with the decision on what type of schooling is best for their child(ren). I want others to know they aren’t alone. The struggle is real. We are all just trying to do what is best and it is OK to doubt through the process.
~Andrea

Field Trip!!!!

This is my life unfolding…

The oldest 3 kids and I took a tour of one of the Toyota factories. One of the leaders in my son’s Boy Scout troop set up the tour. She is seriously amazing and I totally admire her passion to make sure the boys experience everything. In fact, all the leaders of the troop are pretty fantastic. I really could gush about them all day, but I am here to write about our trip. When the prospect of a tour was offered I jumped on it because it would be a duel experience for us; a scout outing AND a field trip! Score!

A friend and I switched kids; she took my younger 2 and I took her 2 older boys to the factory tour. It was a lot of fun and everyone was well behaved.

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Elf and 2 of the extra kids I had.

We were the first to arrive to the factory and had the chance to look around the Visitor Center. It was a lot of fun. There was plenty of hands-on stuff to occupy the kids. Once the rest of the troop was there we headed into a room to watch a brief video and then we headed to the tram.

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What was the first thing the kids noticed? They had a blast pretending to race each other.
Here is C-Dog

 

Can I just say Toyota is impressive! Did you know they have a zero landfill policy? They recycle everything! Their facility is amazingly clean. I don’t know about you but when I think “car factory” I think grease, oil, dust, etc.

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The Toyoda Type-G Automatic Loom invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the father of Toyota Motor Corp.

We learned that the plant used to produce the Tundra, but now makes the Sienna, the Highlander and the Highlander Hybrid. Most are already bought by individuals or dealerships.

 

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C-Dog and his buddy having fun int he Visitor’s Center

 

During the tram tour we got to see the manufacturing process of the Sienna first hand. No pictures were allowed though. I can tell you they make excellent use of all their space and we often had vehicles passing over our heads on conveyor belts! We also learned that Toyota takes their workers’ ideas seriously. When a team member has an idea that will make their job easier and/or more efficient Toyota listens and implements the idea. We actually saw at least one such idea being used. How fantastic to work for a company that actually listens! We also learned that the use of robots does NOT replace the worker. Robots are used to help and not replace. That is reassuring since jobs are hard enough to come by; trust me I know!

An example of a robotic arm used to help workers

An example of a robotic arm used to help workers

Toyota has several cafeterias, vending machine areas, several work-out ares, an on site pharmacy, a day care center, and more. I was left with the impression that they take good care of their employees.

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Bug checking out the plastics exhibit which uses a simulated process that demonstrates injection molding used to mold all the plastic vehicle parts in the plant.

The workers are efficient. They have an allotted time to complete their task on each vehicle; about 60-90 seconds per car! They have safety measures in place and each vehicle is examined and tested. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency in which they worked.

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Elf is working hard to make a car door in the allotted time!

Toyota is involved in the community and encourages all of their employees to do volunteer work. I think all companies need to do this. I also noticed that on the grounds they have an A-forestation section were they are growing new trees. What a great way to counter the Carbon Footprint they are creating and a true inspiration to the rest of us.

Overall, this trip was fantastic. What I saw of Toyota was incredible. I really can’t say enough positives about them based on what we saw. If you ever have the chance to tour a car factory I recommend it. Maybe your experience won’t be as positive as ours, but it was a true learning experience and it is something my kids will never forget.

~Andrea

**This is not a Toyota review. This is simply a post about a field trip to one of their plants. We had a great experience. All the opinions are mine based on what I saw during the tour.

Impromptu Field Trip and What the Turtles Taught Us

The internet is out…again. Seriously, we have the worst service but it is cheap and no contract and considering we have to make every penny count and we are only in this house temporarily I am stuck with the crummy service.

The problem is I use the internet when I homeschool. Sure there are things we do that do not require the computer but that only gives us about a half a day and I need to make every second count. If I don’t keep the kids busy then, well let me just say it gets quite loud and crazy 🙂

So what to do, what to do? I opted to load them into the van and go to the local zoo. Normally when we go to the zoo I teach about classification, proper animal names, where they are found, if they endangered, etc. Today the tortoises decided the kids needed a refresher course in procreation 😉

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The picture above is a seriously cute baby tortoise following his Mama ❤

My kids have been subjected to “the talk.” When I was pregnant with Zen we sat the kids down and were open and honest in an age appropriate manner. They know mom and dad have a special relationship with just each other. They understand how fertilization occurs. They understand how babies are born. In fact C-Dog very much wanted to help the midwife “catch” Zen when he was born. Zen was born at 3:30 am so C-Dog was asleep. He was disappointed.

I am not scared of discussing the intricacies of life with my kids. I have no issue discussing love, mating, death, and everything in between. I never tell them more than they need to know at that moment and I also never lie to them. It is a balancing act. The following is what happened….

“Hey! What are those tortoises doing?”
“Are they piggy backing?”
“They sure are noisy!”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the zoo keeper lift his head in curiosity to how I was going to deal with this.
Game on!
Did I get embarrassed? Nope. I actually like that my kids don’t just ignore things. They are really observing nature around them! I think they notice more than I do. My reply was “They are mating. Procreating. Making babies.”
I noticed the zoo keeper smile and return to his job. Yes! I said something right! I wonder if it frustrates him that some parents laugh off the situation or shuttle their children away from the animals when they are being, well, animals!
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My kids replied, “Oh OK” and that was that. Kind of. They did keep talking about babies and one of them mentioned how no matter who you love only a grown up man and grown up woman can actually make babies. The boys answered the girls’ questions. They all discussed how mammals don’t lay eggs, well except platypus. They took the conversation to a higher level and I got to witness them learning on their own. They never really needed more information, however if they had asked I would have answered. I only had to correct misinformation once or twice. Much of their speculation was right on target.

I love that my kids basically taught themselves and the older ones reminded the little ones what they already have been told. I was there to gently guide them and correct them as needed, but this was their moment.

To all the parents out there, this is my reminder to all of us that kids don’t always need books to learn. They don’t need the internet. They DO need to be allowed to explore and ask questions. They need experiences. It is easy to forget this. I know I for one often get distracted by how many pages are left in their math books or how much writing has taken, or not taken, place. I get distracted with looking things up on the internet for them because it is easy and fast. I need to remember that some things they can discover on their own.

We had a lot of fun. Learning was had and memories were made. Thank you tortoises for taking that moment to, um, meet your needs so my kids could take learning into their own hands.
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We also watched a tiger pee. I had to stop the potty talk because although my kids are seriously amazing they are also kids. Potty talk makes them laugh. Yes, the tiger is peeing in this picture. I didn’t realize it until afterward. I thought about deleting it. I prefer it here though 😉

Peace,
Andrea

Menu Planning and Homeschool

Many who know me love hearing about my homeschool experiences and some have asked me to expound upon our newest adventure….menu planning!

One day Mark had a day off in the middle of the week so we decided to run errands. We got to the local grocery store and I said to my boys “OK, think of one days worth of food. You are going to buy that food and you have a $50 limit.” Now $50 for one day is a lot and not what we normally spend but this was a “fly by the seat of your pants” experiment and I wanted to see what the boys would do.

Mark and I opted for the good old fashion divide and conquer technique. He took a boy and girl and I took the other 3. C-Dog decided on two dinners; beef and broccoli and veggie stir-fry. He also got lots of fresh fruits and veggies for snack, quinoa, and organic brown rice. Bug decided on frozen pizza and pasta. He also picked up some fresh fruit and frozen veggies to go with each meal. Pizza and pasta are not easy in my house. Elf can’t have pizza so Bug had to buy kosher and nitrate-free hotdogs for her. He then bought a pepperoni pizza for dad and a thin crust cheese pizza for me and him. He then bought two Udi’s Gluten Free Three Cheese Pizzas for C-Dog and Princess. Between the 2 they eat one and a half Udi’s pizzas. Pasta involves 2 different kids. One kid is allergic to rice and the other to corn. The pasta has to be gluten free. If you know GF pasta you know the choices are rice or corn and neither are that cheap.

Both boys came under budget. Thank goodness! What was the lesson learned? Bug learned just how expensive his choices were. He thought he would have a lot more leftover than he did. He learned that whole foods are cheaper and feed more than pre-packaged foods. C-Dog learned it is always good to buy seasonal fruits and veggies as they will be cheapest and taste best (sour and expensive berries were bought).

Mark and I were thrilled with the outcome. Not the food but the lessons learned. They learned that budgeting is important, food is expensive, and planning is a must. We decided it would be great to make this part of our homeschool. The 3 biggest kids each plan a full week’s menu; breakfast, lunch, dinner, 2 snacks, and dessert. Princess gets to add input. At least 3 meals have to be meatless. We plan for everyone. If someone can’t have a planned meal we make sure we either change the meal or plan something for that person. Each child has to cook at least one, but preferably two, of the meals they planned. Mark and I will guide them and have the right to change their menus as needed.
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The kids use my recipe books and my Pintrest boards for inspiration. We have some tried and true favorites but they also like to get creative and try new things. We use Sweet Bella Roos menu planners. I like menu planners because she currently has 3 colors so each kid gets their own color. It also has a shopping list. The kids can take their menus and see what we already have in the house and then create their shopping lists on what is still needed. At the store seeing the menu and the shopping list  helps prevent impulse buying. I have tried several planners and these ones are my favorite and they work extremely well for us.

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On Friday we sit around the table with cookbooks and my laptop and we start planning. Some bickering ensues as they fight over meal ideas, but in the end it is actually quite fun. We are together, we are communicating, we are learning.

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C-Dog’s menu got used first. Bug was away on a ski trip so I randomly picked between the other two menus. How did shopping go? Well, it was an utter disaster! I very foolishly brought him shopping on a Saturday, one of the busiest days! Ugh! C-Dog has Sensory Processing Disorder. I know better! My husband knows better! In fact we saw the signs of overload before we even left the house! “I want to stay home!” is not a temper tantrum with C-Dog, it is a cry for help. I gave him some Rescue Remedy pastilles in Black Currant, his favorite, and told him he would be “just fine.” Sigh. I really do know better. This was not a stellar parenting moment. I put my own agenda in front of the needs of my child. 😦 I am just keeping it real, folks!

I ended up doing the shopping while Mark carried our very overstimulated 10 year old. Yes, he carried him. It was that bad. The girls took advantage of the chaos and were quite rowdy. It was far from an ideal trip. The trip was so insane that the next day C-Dog was still very much struggling and so we opted to not go to church. Has a shopping trip ever taken you 2 days to recover from? Sigh. This is our life and I will be thankful.

OK, back to those menus…

This week C-Dog has helped make homemade jello with organic juice, Mongolian Beef and Broccoli, Orange-Cranberry Chicken, pasta, lunch, and plans to help make homemade muffins. He has met the goal of cooking at least two meals and then some! We are still on his week, but I promise you the next shopping trip will not be on a weekend!

I want to hear from you! Do you menu plan with your kids? If so share how you do it! If not do you plan to start?