Sunday, October 5, 2014

What happens when you blog about your divorce.

When you decide to open up about your divorce online, be prepared for what you may learn about yourself and others. 

1) You find out that everyone has an opinion.

It’s amazing to receive Facebook messages from people who never have any contact with you outside of Facebook, but who suddenly know how to fix your marriage. The internet has been a blessing for our family while living overseas, allowing us to keep close relationships with people even though we live on the other side of the world. But, the internet has also become a place where people feel emboldened to pass judgement without any fear of having to look someone in the eye while doing it. 

People don’t just want to know you’re getting a divorce. They want to know why, and whose fault it was. I know I did. And for me, it boiled down to a fear of it happening in my own marriage. If I could diagnose what went wrong with someone else’s relationship, I could make sure it didn’t happen to mine.

2) You lose some friends.

When people decide that the fault in the divorce lies squarely on your shoulders, some of them will decide that they can’t be friends with you anymore. Mutual friends are put in a particularly rough spot. They may try to be supportive to both of you, but in hearing each of your stories, they inevitably feel compelled to take a side. You’ll start to feel the cold shoulder. You’ll get messages of support, while your spouse gets messages of pity. And underlying those messages is the opinion that your spouse is the victim and you are the perpetrator. 

“I think our first response to pain - our or someone else’s - is to self-protect. We protect ourselves by looking for someone or something blame. Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgement or by immediately going into fix-it mode.” - Brene Brown “The Gifts of Imperfection”

Some of your friends won’t be able to understand your reasons. They’ll want justification for what you’re doing. And because you won’t be able to satisfy their questions, you’ll feel the friendship starting to wither. It will be disheartening. You’ll feel shamed, and lonely, and abandoned. In simple terms, it will suck.

3) You find out that some friends were even better friends than you first realized.

Here’s the silver lining in regards to friendships: even as you feel some friends turning away, you’ll feel some of your friends pull even closer. I have friends who I felt I was close to, but who, since reading my blog, have gone above and beyond in offering their love and support. The good friends haven’t judged and haven’t offered advice. They aren’t there to fix, or to help, the situation. What they are is present. 

The good friends practice compassion. They suffer with me, holding my hand as I wade through something difficult. They don’t make me feel as though I’m somehow less than them, or that my situation reflects an inherent fault in who I am. They continue to make me feel as though we are equals. They recognize our shared humanity, and by doing so, remind me that I’m not really on my own. 

4) You regret putting the blog post out there.

In some ways, my life would have been a lot easier had I never written about my divorce on my blog. I would have shed far fewer tears over the course of the last week, and I would have preserved my “good standing” with many friends and acquaintances. I would have kept some blog readers, too, one of which informed me that she no longer admired the life I was creating and would be unsubscribing from the blog. By writing that post, I made myself vulnerable. I laid myself out there, and thus, welcomed both support and criticism. And believe me, I received a fair amount of both. 

5) But then you remember that some woman out there needs to know she’s not alone.

This is not the first time that I have chosen vulnerability over comfort and safety. I would like to say that I’m chock full of courage, but really, I am open and honest because I don’t quite know any other way to be. When I write posts about my struggles with post-partum depression, low self-esteem, the difficulties of parenthood, or divorce, I’m writing to the woman (or man) out there who feels the same way that I do but is too scared to tell anyone. 

Underlying each of those struggles are the same inherent desires. I want to feel valued. I want to feel capable. I want to feel worthy of being loved. And I would venture to guess that most people want those same things. Do I know the secret formula for feeling valued and loved all the time? Of course not! Yet, I think the work we do - the journey we take - is ultimately more important than the answer itself. 

If laying my struggles out for all the world to see makes someone else feel less alone, or helps them along in their own journey, the blog post is worth it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

when the only choice you can make is the one that hurts the most.

Photo credit: Taylor Loy
"What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs." — Rumi "The Essential Rumi"
Once something is brought into your consciousness, you can’t really make it go away. As Brene Brown says, “Once you see something, you can’t un-see it.” I try to live my life in a way that is intentional and mindful, always attempting (and it’s an attempt, at best) to avoid harmful speech, actions, and thoughts towards myself and/or others. This has been the focus of my blog, my parenting, my zazen practice, and most of my experiences day-to-day. So, you can imagine how surprised, distraught, saddened, and scared I was when I realized that despite what always seemed my best efforts, I had been blind to the fact that in order to live more mindfully, I was going to have to put myself first and even hurt those closest to me: my husband and children.
A few weeks ago, I asked my husband for a divorce. I have my reasons, obviously, and one of the hardest parts of this decision-making process has been to honor my feelings and intuition, even though they may not seem rational, or reasonable, to those around me. To hear that I’m asking for a divorce has been shocking to some of my friends and family. It most certainly has been shocking to my husband. And yet, as shocking as it is, it feels like the only choice I have.

So, I now find myself wrestling with the knowledge that in being true to myself, I’m causing a lot of pain and sadness for people I love. I’m capable of getting rid of their pain, and yet, it’s the one thing I cannot bring myself to do. For a wife and mother who has always put her husband and children ahead of herself, this has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done: sitting with the shock, the sadness, the hurt, and the confusion of those around me without doing anything to fix it. 

I'm starting to understand that mindfulness, compassion, and kindness aren't always about keeping others from feeling pain. While I was trying to be a mindful wife and mother, I was ignoring some of my own intrinsic needs and truths. In the last couple of months, I have learned that there is a fine line between being compassionate and kind towards others, and making sure you take care of your own needs. If I had been more honest with myself, and my husband, about what I wanted from my relationship, I might have saved my marriage. Or, I might have asked for a divorce even earlier. But instead, I pushed a lot of uneasiness, and longing, and resentment below the surface and led my husband to think that everything was fine. Admittedly, I convinced myself it was fine too. I now realize that I was being mindful of what everyone needed except me.  

I’ve heard a saying that the only way out, is through. And the only thing getting me through this is the profound sense that I’m doing exactly what the Universe wants me to do. If I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that, I never would have considered putting my husband and children through this. So, coupled with the pain, and guilt, of what I’m inflicting on people I love, I’m also comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that I’m following the path that has been laid out for me. It’s true: once you know something, you can’t un-know it. 

In the next few months, I’ll be writing my way through my divorce. I’ll write about moving away from Japan earlier than I expected; about moving back to my home state of Tennessee. I’ll write about the transition from homeschooling my children, to sending them off to a public magnet school. There will be posts about why I felt like I needed a divorce (while obviously trying to be respectful of my husband, my children, and his family), and what the entire divorce process entails. You’ll no doubt see posts about both the good days, and the difficult ones. And all the while, I’ll be trying to live a mindful, compassionate, loving, and honest life - not only for those I love, but for myself, too.
"Whatever life you lead you must put your soul in it--to make any sort of success in it; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance, I assure you: it becomes grim reality! And you can't always please yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I admit, you're very ready to do; but there's another thing that's still more important--you must often displease others. You must always be ready for that--you must never shrink from it." — Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I Teach My Young Children About Sex

I'm a little late to the "Friday Night Lights" bandwagon, but since the show has gone off the air, and is now on Netflix, I've been binge-watching with my husband. In one of the recent episodes, Coach Taylor found his 17-year-old daughter in bed with her boyfriend. He told his wife, of course, and his wife immediately went to tell their daughter that they would need to have a big conversation about it. The daughter avoided it for a day or so, but when she finally sat down to talk with her mom, I couldn't help but think about the similar conversation I had with my own parents.

Photo credit: Catholic Lane.
I was 15 when I had sex for the first time. My boyfriend was 18, and it happened without ever being talked about beforehand. I was not prepared for it, but I thought he loved me. I was in shock that I'd had sex, but also a little flabbergasted that that was the thing I'd been told was so special - and a sin to do before marriage. It certainly wasn't as grand I'd imagined it to be. We continued having sex, and I told a friend about it. Well, she told her mom, and unbeknownst to me, her mom took my mother out to lunch to break the news to her. The next thing I knew, I was being checked out of school (I thought my youngest sister had had a serious seizure again or something) and my parents drove me to a church parking lot where they proceeded to lecture me about what a terrible thing I'd done.

It was some of the worst months of my life. My boyfriend quickly forgot about me. My parents had my youth minister come over to talk to me. I was banned from going out with friends or leaving the house - except for school. And I was made to feel like a huge disappointment, not only by my parents, but by all my church friends who were shocked at how I had "fallen." I don't blame my parents - they were doing the best they could - and I don't blame my friends. It was just the culture I grew up in. Sex was very, very, very bad. Unless, of course, you were married.

Now, back to the episode. Tami (mom) sits down to talk with her daughter (Julie), and starts asking her about whether or not they are using some form of protection. She asks if she knows how to use condoms correctly, asks if she knows they aren't 100% effective, and if she feels like she could tell her boyfriend "no" if she didn't want to have sex with him anymore. And after all of that, Julie says she just didn't want her mom to be disappointed in her, and her mom assures her that she's not.

I immediately turned to my husband and said that the sex conversation was going to be different with our girls. If we find out our daughters are having sex, that won't be the first time we'll talk to them about birth control options. We're not going to be mad at them. And it won't be the first time we've told them that they should know they can always say "no" and that they don't have to have sex with someone they're dating.

All of these conversations should happen years before sex is a possibility, and should be ongoing. 

Regardless of your views about sex outside of marriage, the fact is, many, many, many teenagers have sex. Sex can be wonderful, and I want it to be wonderful for my kids. I don't want them to feel like a disappointment, or like they are now flawed, should they have sex. I did. And it haunted me for years.

I want my children to know their bodies, to feel comfortable in their skin, to be confident in their ability to set limits and boundaries, to know it is their right to say "no," to know their limits, to know about birth control, pregnancy, STD's, and different ways to have sex. And most importantly, I want them to know that they can come to me when they're thinking about having sex, or when they've already had it, because I am in their corner. I will always see them as the whole, beautiful, valuable girls that they are.

Sex education should start when your kids are as young as 5- and 6-years old. We have a couple of books laying around the house that teach kids about bodies, reproduction, and healthy relationships.

It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (The Family Library) 
by Robie H. Harris et al. 

This is the first in this series, and was the first book that we bought for our girls. It has great pictures of bodies of all shapes, sizes, and ages, and is a great introduction to some of the subjects that parents dread bringing up with their children. It is appropriate for ages 4 and up.
It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families (The Family Library) 
by Robie H. Harris et al. 

This is the second book in this series, and it has always been my 6yo's favorite. It goes into a bit more detail, and introduces things like menstruation, in the same age-appropriate and clear way as the first book. It is appropriate for ages 7 and up, though my daughter showed a preference for this one when she was 4 and 5.
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library) 
by Robie H. Harris et al. 

This is the last book in the series, and we're going to be purchasing it in a couple of years. This book dives into the topics of internet safety, conception, AIDS, and making decisions about relationships and physical intimacy. It is appropriate for ages 10 and up.

I found out about these books when I went to training to become a facilitator for Our Whole Lives (OWL) - a sex education curriculum used by the United Churches of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association. If you think your kids are too young for these books, they're not. We had 10-year-olds asking us what anal sex was because they'd heard it talked about at school. YOU need to be the one giving this information out first. If your kids hear it at school before they hear it from you, chances are they're going to be getting incorrect information. And, they won't tell you about it. 

If your kids are asking about it, they're ready to hear the answers. My 6yo asked about eggs that aren't used to make babies, so I sat down with her and her book, and started talking about menstruation and ovulation. After we had talked about it for a few minutes, and she had asked some questions. I told her that I wanted her to know about these things because I didn't want her to be scared when she was older and started having a period - that some girls don't know much about it and it can be scary for them. She laughed at me and looked at me like I was being ridiculous. "Why would I be scared? It's just my body doing what it's supposed to do," she said. 

Make it another normal conversation with your child, and your child will come to you when they have questions. If you start these conversations early on, some of that awkwardness and fear (much of which is on our end) will dissipate before the more important conversations happen down the road. You will have set the stage for open and honest dialog, and your children - and, more importantly, your relationship with them - will benefit. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Passports (a review!)

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.**

Do you want your kids to see the world? Do you have an unlimited budget, loads of free time, and no responsibilities? If you're like most of us, the answer is no. The good news is, thanks to Little Passports, you can show your kids the world anyway. 

Little Passports World Edition lets you travel the world with your children, teaching them about a new country every month. With a monthly subscription, two world travelers, "Sam and Sofia," will send your kids a goody bag full of new souvenirs and facts about the latest country they've visited. 

We received our first package last week, and my kids couldn't wait to open it up. Inside the box was a brand new suitcase for all their travels. 

In the suitcase was:
  • a passport 
  • an introductory letter from Sam
  • a colorful world map
  • a boarding pass (with links to online games and activities)
  • stickers for their suitcase
  • and an activity book. 

After pulling out the map, my 6yo dove right into the activity booklet, figuring out the secret codes that showed her how to say "Hello" in several foreign languages. 

A Little Passports subscription would be a great addition to any family, especially those who are homeschooling. These monthly packages could easily be a jumping-off point for more in-depth study of a country. You could look up the country's flag to color, find library books about the country, cook a meal that you'd eat there... the possibilities are endless. There is also a Little Passports USA Edition for older kids who might be interested in learning about our 50 states. 

My girls are excited about seeing what country we're visiting next month, and they can't wait to add some stamps to their passport.

What do you think of Little Passports? Would your kids enjoy it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our Daily & Weekly Rhythm (Or, how we keep our sanity)

If you follow along on this blog, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago, we were dying for more routine in our lives. We finished up our homeschooling year at the beginning of April, had friends come visit, went to Kyoto (Japan), had a two-week break before my sister came to visit in May, took lots of day trips with her, and finally settled back down at home - with no visitors - in June. Kids at the base elementary school were just beginning to enjoy their first days of summer vacation, but we were desperate to start our next year of school. Because we’d also be traveling for a month at the end of August, I decided to start our 2014-2015 school year on June 16.

We’re now in our second week of school, and I couldn’t be happier! Our routine and rhythms seem to be exactly what we needed, and today, I thought I’d share what our days and weeks are beginning to look like. We try to have a fairly relaxed schedule that includes time outside, lots of play, and afternoons free for our own special interests. And I am trying to institute a 4-day school week this year so that one day of the week is free for trips to the grocery store and library. Why not do those things on the weekend? Weekends are for family. We still have Saturday free to explore Japan, and Sundays are for being lazy - together. 

Our Weekly Schedule

Monday - Errand Day/No School. 

We’ll go to the grocery and library (it’s convenient to get any books we might need for lessons during the week), and I usually have my Japanese lesson on Monday afternoon. While I wish I could do these errands in the morning, our base library doesn’t open until 11:00am (?! - I know I’m not the only SAHM mom that wishes they would open around 9:00am).

Tuesday - Home Day

Wednesday - Home Day (except for the first Wed. of every month on which we have a tour with Fusako san)

Thursday - Home Day

Friday - Home Day + Japanese class for 6yo

Saturday - Free Family Day

Sunday - Home Day/Rest Day

See? Not too much going on there. And that’s exactly how I like it. 

Our Daily Schedule

Our Daily Schedule has a bit more life in it. I have tried to keep the same routine going day-to-day, and this has been whole-heartedly embraced by my children. They are not bickering as much, and aren’t asking me 5 million times a day what we are doing next. My eldest has also stopped asking to play on the iPad or LeapPad all day long. It’s been a much-needed change.

0500 - I’m up with my husband so that I can have sit in zazen (I’m not great about this), have coffee, read, and check email/FB/Twitter, or blog. 

0600-0730 - My kids usually wake between 6:00-6:30am, and they are allowed to turn on the tv at 0630. They have time to watch one show each before I watch the “nightly” news (we’re on the opposite side of the world, remember) at 0730. Somewhere in this time frame, we’ll also fix some breakfast.

0730 - 0830 - While I’m watching the news, the girls are doing their morning chores (potty, brush teeth, get dressed, make beds). Around 0830, we’ll head outside to the playground if the weather is nice. I like to go out first thing in the morning before it’s had a chance to get uncomfortably hot.

0930-1000 - We’ll come back inside, have a snack, and get started on our school work. Usually, the girls will come inside, wash up, and head straight to our “office.” 

Remember how I was going to institute workboxes? They have been GREAT! The girls each have about 5 paper-tray-sized drawers which are labeled with subjects. Only 3-4 trays will be filled each day, and they contain worksheets/activities that take no longer than 5-10 minutes each. Both girls complained a bit when I first introduced them to the idea of workboxes, but after only a couple of days using the system, they eagerly go in to check their boxes each morning. My 6yo now knows what she is expected to do, and there has been little-to-no complaining about her schoolwork since we started using the boxes. 

They usually do “daily work” first. This is a review or mash-up of subjects.

Next comes handwriting, math, and our special subject of the day. 

Two days a week we read “Story of the World” together and do activities from the activity guide. One day a week we study science together, and one day a week we’ll do an art lesson together.

We are usually finished with school at lunchtime (yay!).

1130-1200 - Lunchtime! While the girls are eating, I usually go over a short grammar lesson (we’re talking 5-10 minutes thanks to First Language Lessons).

1230-1330 - This is usually free time for the girls. They might play, read, or work on a project of their own choosing. I might work on my own project or do some household chores.

1400 - By this time, they are usually asking for some downtime by way of the television or computer. And that is fine with me! I’ll set them up with something to do while I read, blog, or continue my own project work.

1530-1600 - We’ll ease back into playtime and I’ll start straightening up the house before my husband gets home. I want him to think it’s looked clean all day…..

1700 - It’s time to start preparing dinner. We have made it priority that we all sit down together for a meal in the evening. We’ll eat around 1800.

1830-1900 - After dinner, the girls will do their evening chores (sometimes they’ll help clean up after dinner, then potty, brush their teeth, pajamas). They’ll spend their remaining time before bed either reading or playing, or maybe snuggling up with us on the couch.

1930-2000 - Bedtime. One of us will read a book to the girls before bed, sing a song and tuck them in. However, for the last couple of months, our 6yo - since she started reading on her own - will spend another half an hour reading to herself in bed. 

Every morning, our school work is done by lunch, leaving us with plenty of time in the afternoons to play, read, work on projects, or watch something that relates to what we’ve been learning during the week. I firmly believe that children thrive when there is a consistent reliable routine in place. And, notice that I use the word “routine.” I do not have our day scheduled down to the minute. I do, however, how a predictable flow that the girls are learning, and they know what is coming next in the day. They know when they have some work to do, and they know when they’ll have free time to do whatever they like. IT. HAS. BEEN. WONDERFUL. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep this going all year.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Plant Party (A small win for Project-Based-Homeschooling)

My kids throw out thousands of "good ideas," every week. Sometimes it seems like there are thousands in one day. I know we can't do every single thing our kids ask, but since I've been trying to integrate more PBH time into our days, I have found myself looking for more opportunities to say "yes."

One of these opportunities popped up the other day when my 6yo said she felt like celebrating something. It's rainy season here in Japan, so she said it was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the rain and how it helps the plants grow. "A plant party! We should have a plant party!" she said enthusiastically. For most of her life, I've probably shot down ideas like this without a second thought about them. But this time, I said, "Sure. You can have a plant party if you make all the plans and preparations." She looked completely shocked that I'd said yes, and immediately got to work.

She decided when she'd have her party (two weeks from that day), and what time of day would be best.

She asked me to help her make invitations and we made one on Facebook (to save trees, right?).

For two weeks, she made lists:

-- lists of what foods we should have
-- lists of games we could play
-- lists of activities we could have for guests (coloring pages, anyone?)
-- lists of decorations
-- lists of supplies/groceries she would need from the store

I rarely offered help or suggestions, only giving my input when she asked for it or I knew something would not go over well with parent (like conflicts with siblings' nap schedules).

A couple of days before her party, she insisted on going to the grocery with me and she made sure we bought some extra fruit, snacks, and cake mix. She also spent time working on a game for her party. She loves "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey," so she made up her own version for the plant party: "pin-the-pollen-on-the-flower."

The day before, she made a list of things that still needed to be done, and shortly after lunch, she asked if she could make her cake. She's started reading more and more on her own now, so she got all the ingredients together, read the directions, and directed the baking of the cake. She iced it (with a little help from me) and offered her little sister the important job of putting sprinkles on the cake. She was so proud of herself.

Later that afternoon, she asked if she could start decorating. I pulled out a bag of streamers and balloons that I keep on-hand, and I told her to think about what she wanted and that I'd be available to help her in a few minutes. I went to finish up on something I'd been working on, and when I came out, she'd already started hanging up string across the room, and using the streamers as vines.

The morning of the party, she donned her fanciest dress. "Isn't that the same dress you wore for your birthday party?" I asked. To which she responded, "Well, I looked for something else, but this was the only suitable thing I had." Ha! What 6yo says "suitable?"

After getting ready, I showed her how to look for flower coloring pages online, and then showed her how to go to "File," then "Print," and how to change the number of copies printed. She was excited to learn a bit more about the computer, and picked out 3 different coloring pages for her friends.

The plant party went well, but wasn't without a few hiccups for the 4-6yo age group. There were some tears because not everyone wanted to do activities (they just wanted to play), and some party guests were upset about not winning the pollen game, but overall, there were a lot of giggles and hugs.

I could have said "no" to the plant party. I could have dismissed it like I have done with so many other ideas. But instead, I said, "yes," and my 6yo learned a little bit about planning something, baking, and getting creative. She also might be saying that she wants to be an event planner and plan our anniversary party next month.... (Oh boy...) So who knows what will be next. I'm very happy to count this as a small win for PBH in our home, and I hope that these kinds of opportunities will help my daughters learn that they are capable of so much! They are creative, resourceful, determined, intelligent and passionate, and I don't want them to forget it as they grow older (like so many adults do...). That's what project-based-homeschooling is about. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

We're Going Back to School! (First Grade & PreK curriculum choices for 2014-2015)

Starting on Monday, we're launching into our school year for 2014-2015. Yes, it's only June, but we have been on "break" for the last two months (friends and family visits, and traveling, took up our time) and we're going to be taking a month-long vacation to the States at the end of August (our first trip back in two years!). We are itching to have some routine back in our lives, and want to get started well before we spend another month traveling.

This will be our second year homeschooling. I have a Preschooler (she'll be five in November) and a First Grader. I'm going to try to homeschool on a 4-day schedule, taking off one morning for myself (if I can find a daytime babysitter, which is the HARDEST job position to fill). 

Needless to say, I feel like I've been working non-stop to get things ready before next week. I've been ordering materials, browsing Pinterest, printing worksheets, and trying to figure out our daily/weekly schedule. Even with all the planning I've done, I've not done nearly as much as I did last year. The past year was our first year officially homeschooling, and I learned a few things - one of which was to calm the heck down. I don't have to plan out every single lesson for every. single. subject. (See: my science curriculum last year. Oy.) And my kids learn an amazing amount by just soaking up the things around them: nature, library books, educational shows and computer games, and play.

So this year is hopefully going to be a bit more laid back as far as curriculum goes. We are eclectic homeschoolers... we mix a little bit of unschooling, interest-led learning, and classical philosophy and do what works well for each of us as individual learners. We're not doing a science curriculum. We're not doing spelling. Or a formal reading program. We are going to concentrate on reading/language arts/writing and math as our core, with lots of room to study everything else we find interesting: history, art, science, geography, religious, and special project work.

One other change that I'm going to try and implement this year are workboxes. Some homeschoolers go workbox crazy, but we are doing workbox *lite* (if that's a thing.). We struggled with finding a good routine last year, which in turn led to problems with my eldest knowing what was expected of her. This year, she'll have daily work to be completed before any afternoon activities (read: fun) can be done. I'll also be preparing work for my Preschooler, but this will be very informal and fun. She needs a fun year. Every day, they'll find something in their daily work, handwriting, and math boxes. History will be two days a week, and art, science, and religious education one day a week. 

So here's what we're going to be using this year:

Daily Work

The first thing in our workboxes will be a daily worksheet. I bought the "1st Grade Morning Workbook" from Second Story Window for my First Grader, and she'll just have a one-sided page to do each morning. I thought this would be a great way to cover several things in small increments (reading, writing, math, and spelling) over the course of the year.

For my preschooler, I will use coloring pages, simple worksheets, or activities in her "daily work" drawer. She hates sitting and doing workbooks, so this will have to be something fun to start her school day.


In our handwriting drawer will be one page of handwriting work. For my first grader, this will be a page from her Getty Dubay workbook. She does not enjoy writing things out by hand, and complains about her hand getting tired. She also continues to make mistakes with some letters and numbers. So, this is something that I want to work on despite her predicted protests. I know handwriting will become easier as she grows older, so I'm fine with her doing just one page per day. We'll work on italics for a while, and when that seems to be better, I'll let her start learning cursive (which she is very interested in). 

My preschooler will also have a daily letter- or number-tracing page to complete. And because she is opposed to workbooks, she'll have the option of completing the page with a pencil/crayon, or using her markers/dry-erase board or a gel bag to practice her writing. There are lots of free handwriting pages online, and I might use these from Confessions of a Homeschooler


My eldest is a year or two ahead in math. It seems to come easily to her, and she enjoys it, so we're following her lead. She's finishing up her Math Skills Grade 2 workbook, and will be starting Teaching Textbooks Math 3 in the next week or two. TT3 is a computer-based curriculum that needs little-to-no help from parents (yay!). She is very excited about doing math on the computer and loved the demo lessons that we tried before buying. We'll see how well she does with the third grade curriculum, and will do some first/second grade review if needed.

While my eldest is on the computer, I'm going to be doing some simple, fun math games with my preschooler. She thrives with one-on-one time, and we ordered some manipulatives for our core math work (counting bears, pattern blocks, scale, clock, money, etc.). I also bought her the Math Skills K workbook in case she comes around to workbooks by the end of the year. It is very colorful with minimal work on each page, so I think she might come around to working on one page every day alongside me (and with plenty of manipulatives within reach).


I've debated about this a lot, but I think we're going to start over with Story of the World Volume 1. We started this last year, and have made it about half-way through. The girls seem to have enjoyed it and we've taken our time studying about the ancient peoples in the chapters we've read. However, there is so much to do with Story of the World that I think I'd like to start it over again and really dig in this year. I will be using this as the spine of our homeschool. Story of the World can be used for narration, dictation, copy-work, vocabulary, geography, social studies, music, art, read-alouds, and history. Almost all of this is spelled-out in the Activity Guide, and I'd like to make better use of it this year. What can it hurt to study the Ancients again? My preschooler is in love with ancient Egypt, and I'm sure she won't mind.

I'm also going to be ordering the audio cds so that I can upload them onto my phone and computer and play them during snack time, rest time, or travel in the van. I'm hoping this will also help the girls to soak up even more of the information.


We're not using a science curriculum this year, but that doesn't mean we're not going to study science. We're going to be utilizing Brain Pop and Brain Pop Junior (can't say enough good things about these websites! worth every penny!). They have a science section loaded with videos, activities, vocabulary, book suggestions, and games for a whole slew of subjects aligned with Common Core (if you're worried about that sort of thing....). We'll be going through the videos one by one, completing the activities and checking out corresponding books from the library.

We'll also continue to fill our home with all things science - nature study, science toys (Snap Circuits, science experiment kits), books, and educational tv shows like the Magic School Bus and Cosmos (if you haven't watched Cosmos with your children, you should). My kids have learned an amazing amount from these things already (my 6-year-old can tell you about DNA, for instance), so we'll just continue to see where our interest leads.


Grammar has become such a regular part of our lunch time that the girls hardly even know they're "learning grammar." I started First Language Lessons: Level 1 towards the end of the year and will definitely keep working through the levels. It is very repetitive, but for my young kids, that's okay. Each lesson takes about 5-10 minutes and I go through one lesson while the girls are finishing up their lunch. My 4-year-old can tell you the definition of a noun and my 6-year-old is learning about proper sentence form, capitalization, proper and common nouns, and narration. And that's good enough for me.


We hardly did any arts and crafts last year, and I want to change that. Not only do I want my girls to get their hands a little dirty, but I want them to learn about some famous artists, and technique. That's where Home Art Studio comes in. I picked up the Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade DVDS at a steal from Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. These videos were made by an art teacher who wanted to bring age-appropriate art classes into the home. My girls are SO excited about these, and we'll be doing one project each week.

Religious Education

We don't have a Unitarian Universalist church here, and have not found much of a religious community for ourselves or our children. I've become involved in a local Zen Buddhist temple, and have made friends with several priests, and am very grateful that my children have become involved as well. They enjoy going to the temple with me and feel very comfortable there. But in one year, we'll be moving back to the US, and our kids are going to need to learn a bit more about Christianity. I also want them to develop more spiritual awareness and their own relationship with God.

I purchased the most progressive, liberal, non-creedal Christian curriculum I could find, from where else but... Progressive Christianity. I'm going to try to do one lesson a week and see how it goes. I'll definitely be writing a review of this after we've jumped into it. If you'd like to see a list of lessons, go here.

Yay for school!

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to begin school on Monday. We have long-awaited dentist appointments that morning, but I'm not letting that stop us. Our appointments are early in the morning, and when we get back home, to school we'll go!

If you are homeschooling, when will you be starting your next school year? Have you used any of these books or curriculum? I'd love to hear what you're doing in your homeschool.