Saturday, November 28, 2009

We're Getting There! :)

The final line of my last post stated, "the last thing I've learned is that I need to keep looking ahead and stop incessantly and unnecessarily looking back."

Here is what I mean by that. I am realizing more and more that each person comes to this homeschool thing - and really to all life - with a certain "bag of tricks". Our educational background, personality strengths and weaknesses, energy level, family support system (or lack thereof), financial resources and a million other factors all play into what we do and how we do it when it comes to homeschooling our children.

Throughout life one of my strongest tools in my trick bag has always been a really high energy level. Friends referred to me as the Energizer Bunny who just keep "going and going and going". Right now that is not so much the case as I have struggled with decreasing energy for a few years now. I am confronted by my personal limitations each and every day. I don't have the time to do it all and even if I had the time I just don't have the energy. And truth be told, even when I could do so much more, it wasn't necessarily the healthiest rhythm for my life. A rhythm of regular rest, fun and mental downtime is critical to a healthy soul - at least for me anyway.

Back to homeschooling. The increasing realization that I just cannot do it all had me asking some hard (hard for me anyway ;) questions. If I can't do it all, how do I prioritize? What gets done and what doesn't? And am I going to take control of my schedule or will I let "the tyranny of the urgent" rule my day?

Let me quote from the above linked article by leadership guru, Jim Clemmer, because even though his application is in the business world, there is much truth to be applied to homeschool moms and managers of our households (emphasis mine):
R. Alec Mackenzie once observed, "Urgency engulfs the manager; yet the most urgent task is not always the most important. The tyranny of the urgent lies in its distortion of priorities. One of the measures of a manager is the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent, to refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent, to refuse to manage by crisis."

Unsuccessful organizations are often beehives of activity and hard work. Reflecting on the performance of his struggling company a departmental manager observed, "We have lots of projects, goals, and priorities. We're constantly making lists and setting action plans. But we seldom see anything through to completion before some urgent new priority is pushed at us.

In the midst of tumultuous change, many managers are confusing "busywork" activity with results. Missing what's really important to long-term growth and development, they allow themselves to be tyrannized by short-term urgencies. But we just can't do it all. The list of dreams we could pursue to realize is a lengthy one. The number of improvements we could make to our performance gaps are countless.

So we've got to choose. From all our long-range options, alternatives, and possibilities we've got to establish short-term goals and priorities. There are as many things we've got to stop doing, as there are actions we've got to start taking. Some actions will drive us forward, many will hold us back, and some won't matter much either way. But without clear targets and a strong sense of what's most important, I — and everyone on my team or in my organization — won't be able to tell the difference.

Effectively establishing goals and priorities has both strategic and tactical components. The strategic decisions are what goals and priorities we choose to pursue. Tactics are how we get organized and manage our time to reach those goals.

The "busywork" part really stuck out to me. I am constantly busy, oh so busy. But is any of that busyness a road to somewhere I want to go? Now don't get me wrong, as moms we have a million jobs that could be seen as busywork because they are somewhat mindless, but are really vital to running our homes effectively - housework, cooking, meal planning and preparation, laundry (my nemesis) and so on. I am not talking about those things primarily - although they can be a source of unnecessary busyness if we are obsessive or inefficient. There is much more to it than that. It's the other things that can suck up my time and none are necessarily bad in and of themselves. It's just a matter of choosing between the "good and the better".

And as this post has gotten really long, I'll have to finish in my next post.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

I am Not the Homeschool Mom I Was

No secret, I am a detail kinda the max. ;) But that has been changing - slowly, but it's changing. And that's a good thing. For me. In this season of life. It is so easy for me to lose the proverbial forest for those doggone trees. Sticking with that analogy, I am so busy making sure that my journey through the forest is "just right" that I tend to not see the beauty that is all around me. I am constantly checking the map so that I sometimes forget to enjoy the hike.

Well God is thankfully doing a work in me but old habits die hard. I like formulas (okay I love formulas) but He is constantly reminding me that life is about relationships. Relationships involve people. And people are not formulas. Life is more like a dance and I am trying to embrace that metaphor. Sometimes you dance fast and sometimes slow. At times you lead; at times you follow. The dance can even get messy at times when things are just not in sync. And if you've ever watched Dancing With the Stars you've seen that the dance can be fun...or wild...or romantic...or even silly. In formulas there is no room for messy, or fast and slow, or fun or wild or romantic or silly. There is just black and white - one right answer and a bunch of wrong ones.

How has this affected me in my homeschool endeavors? Well, first off I didn't make one of these this year. Now I am not saying that I will never again make a "Year at a Glance", but for me in this season of therapy it just wasn't a priority. I know myself well enough to know that when I get something down on paper like that, it just stresses me out to the max if I get a few days off here and there. Didn't I tell you that I am a little freaky about minutiae? :) Right now our priority is to get therapy done each day. Academics are still important but they are not center stage. Honestly I am looking very forward to a time when academics will be preeminent and I hope that time comes sooner rather than later. Still I am committed to completing the full course of this therapy, and so there is not a place for hyper-detailed plans this year.

I do have a plan about what I want to accomplish though. I know how many math lessons we need to complete each week and when we get behind what we need to do to catch up. The same with history, Spanish, spelling, reading and handwriting. But it's all in my head and not on paper. When it comes to school this year I don't have one single checklist...and the most exciting thing is I am okay with that. :)

Our story is therapy but it would be the same if we had a new baby in the house, were dealing with a major illness, if we had just moved across country or any other myriad of life changes that can derail the best laid plans for a productive homeschool year (as I define productive anyway!).

Another thing I've learned is that a simple lesson done is better than perfect lesson plans that never leave the paper (or become reality way later than need be) because I don't have all the details worked out: I haven't tracked down that exact book or researched this one aspect just enough. Right now some of you think I am kidding but sadly this has rung true more than once in our school. Others of you so completely get it, don't you?! Just admit it. You're as nutty as me, aren't ya? :)

The last thing I've learned is that I need to keep looking ahead and stop incessantly and unnecessarily looking back. And I'll blog more on that next time.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Curriculum Updated

Tonight I updated my sidebar to show our 2009-2010 curriculum choices for both Thatcher and Haddon. Have I even mentioned that I am now doing school with two of my sweet boys?

Thatcher's school load is light compared to other years because what is not listed is that we are also doing Neurodevelopmental Therapy (NDT) two to three hours each day. We began this therapy six months ago but I have been hesitant to post about it for a few reasons. First, I know that anytime you put something in cyberspace you are opening yourself up for all sorts of feedback - good or bad. This is a type of therapy (like many in the realm of Autism) that is mostly shunned by the official medical world as being completely unscientific. Case in point, our developmental pediatrician told me, "There is absolutely no medical/scientific evidence to support this type of therapy but only anecdotal evidence." Well, stories of changed lives are a powerful thing and this therapy has given us hope for not only dealing with the day to day symptoms we deal with but actually fixing the root causes. On the flip side, the medical community we have access to has not offered any treatment options other than a handful of prescriptions.

I feel I need to digress here and say that we still may be going that medication route in the near future as Thatcher's ADHD continues to rage out of control and the emotional manifestations grow more severe as well. But before we go there we want to feel that we have exhausted all other possibilities of correcting the root issues and not just putting a band-aid on the symptoms. That is why we did the gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet last year for eight months as well. If there is a dietary cause, a bio-medical explanation or anything else...we want to address that first before jumping to medications.

The second reason I have been hesitant to post about our experience with NDT is that I am not yet willing to endorse it. This therapy takes from one-and-a-half to two years to see lasting results and we are not even half-way there. This therapy is inexpensive when compared to some others but it is still a big chunk of change. It is one thing for a mom to come to my blog and see a phonics book we're using and order it for $5.95 only to find two months later it's the wrong fit for her child. It's another to post a therapy that costs a great deal more both in time and money.

Well there it is...the post that has taken me six months to write.