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Friday, November 6, 2020

What a Difference a Year Makes

This time last year, S-girl was filming a kids baking battle.  Wow.  I cannot believe it has truly been a year.  The older all the kids get, the faster time seems to move.  My sister had asked me for some of the pictures from the competition to use for her blog for some  super cute Christmas gift tags.  

And, it was at that point that I realized I NEVER blogged about it when it was actually happening. pandemic, you know?!?

It is kind of funny now when I see pictures of people clumped together without wearing masks. It seems strange.  That is sad.  

Anyway, S-girl auditioned by submitting a short video of herself showing off some of her treats and then talking about some of her favorite things to bake.  She was selected for the Holiday Kids Baking Battle competition.  

We went for an official photo shoot a few weeks before the competition.  There were flyers and posters up all around town.  She even appeared on a digital billboard.  

We all gained a bit of weight as she tried recipe after recipe trying to figure out the best one.  There were time limitations, so some of her more complicated choices had to be set aside for something that could be done more quickly in a room full of people that were also trying to use the same oven.  


She settled on an old fashioned lemon pie.  She picked that because it fit the time slot AND because both her grandma's have a love for lemons.  My mom makes lemon meringue pie every year for Christmas and Rainman's mom has "famous" lemon bars.  She was even featured in her local newspaper back when big hair was in.  

S-girl did not win (and yes, we all think she was robbed).  But, nonetheless, it was very interesting to be part of the filming and see how all those t.v. shows come together and how lots of stuff can be edited out so what you are seeing is accurate.....but, sort of not, at the same time.  

All in all, it was a good experience for her....but none of us are clambering for our next shot at fame.....because, it isn't really.....real. 

If you haven't already, go get some of my sister's free printable gift tags.  I JUST started my Christmas shopping this her timing was perfect.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Typical Homeschool Day Around Here

We have been homeschooling for a loooooong 17 or 18 years.  I have lost track.

I think back to when we were so nervous to try it.  Rainman and I sort of took turns with one of us being excited and stoked to do it and the other freaking out a bit that we were going to ruin our kids.

I am happy to say that I can safely say that our children have NOT been ruined.

We are down to only 2 kids at home doing school....if you don't count the whole pandemic situation....that had all 6 at home doing school again!

I thought I would share what our typical school day looks like.  I know some people are considering continuing to homeschool after the pandemic situation settles down...and others cannot wait for everything to go back to normal with the kids at school all day.  I get it.  But, I will say, remote schooling and home schooling are NOT the same thing.  So, if you hated remote schooling and all the Zoom conference calls, but liked having your kids around and seeing them learn stuff, you may want to give homeschooling a try when fall rolls around.

Our "typical" day has changed many times over the years  You know, jobs, babies, illness, moves, visitors.  It is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling.  It is not this rigid by the book thing that has only one right way to do it.

Click through some of the links at the bottom of this post to see various versions of our homeschool rooms....including, but not limited to the dining room table, a swing, and a bed!

We have had times where we did home schooling as close to what Rainman and I remembered about our typical public school day.  We had desks and letters on the wall.  Then we realized that the letters on the wall were fine and dandy, but the kids actually did school every day on the couch....or at the kitchen island and the desks just ended up as a place to pile their junk.

As locations of where "school" took place changed, one thing that has stayed fairly consistent is our goal of creating independent workers/students.  We have always been good about creating a lesson plan that the kids can see and use that shows them what our expectations are in each subject for the week.

(The last column we fill in with elective type courses - like art or music)

This has been a good thing for the kids, but also for Rainman and I.  It has kept all of us on track and accountable.  It has allowed the kids to be independent.  Rainman has always worked a full-time job and for most of our time homeschooling, I have also worked and not "just" been a stay at home mom.  The majority of my jobs have been what I call "sweatpant" jobs, where I can wear what I want and work from home.  Sometimes I do have to put real people clothes on and leave the house, but mostly my work has been done from home.  The whole working from home during the pandemic has been business as usual for me.

What that meant for me, was being able to quickly switch from professional mode, to mom mode, to teacher mode, to math tutor mode, back to professional mode, to short order cook mode, to exhausted mom flopping into bed at the end of the day mode.

What that meant for the kids was that they didn't have to wait to do their school work if mom was busy.  They didn't need to wait because we had it written down in black and white what they needed to get done each day.  If they had an opportunity to work for someone from our church or do something fun on a weekday, they could just double up on their school work and all would be well.

This system has worked really well for us.  Rainman is VERY diligent in sitting down and breaking down all the work they need to get done.  I am happy to let him.  We use a mixture of workbooks, textbooks, on-line and hands on resources for our actual school work.  We have not stuck with one curriculum, but chosen bits and pieces of different things that we felt worked best.  I was blessed to be a product reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for many years, so we got to try out lots of different products - many that I wouldn't have known about or been able to afford on my own.  So, we have a pretty eclectic mix of what we use.

These days, our school day, typically begins in the 9:00ish range.  I have relaxed my standards on this a bit.  There was a phase in our home schooling journey where I was much more strict about time.     I would march around the house making sure kids were up, forced to have breakfast and be at their desks by a certain time.  I have found I don't care as much anymore, as long as the work gets done.  I used to say that we would not start school any later than 9:00, but some of my kids are not morning people and if I allowed them to tailor their day a bit later, they did better on both their daily work and their tests.  So, I had to let go of the idea that letting them sleep until 11:00 was bad and made me a bad mom.  (It is not easy though!) Even though I have relaxed that rule a bit, it has not stopped me from lecturing them about how the world won't care if they are morning people or not and if their boss says they need to start work at 7:00 a.m., they had better do it with a good attitude.

I also do not make my children breakfast, unless it is their birthday or some other special occasion.  They are on their own.  I encourage them to have a little something, but some people just don't like to eat right away in the morning.  One of my daughters actually physically feels worse if she eats in the morning.   I must be getting old, because I am mellowing on this one too.

Back to our "typical" day.  I get up at about 6:30 a.m. every morning.  Let animals in or out as the case may be, feed a few of them, make the coffee, take my medicine and start my work day.  The various big kids that are working get up in the early-ish morning and head out to their day.

My mother-in-law moved in with us in January and needs help with daily activities because she cannot walk and is in a wheelchair.  I keep a baby monitor on my desk and she calls me when she wakes up which is usually about 8:30 a.m.  I get her up and ready for the day and S-girl who shares a room with her usually gets up around the same time.

S-girl is very internally motivated and organized.  She is not necessarily a morning person, but she likes to have goals and will diligently mark them off her list.  She is very structured in how she does things and likes to finish one thing before she moves on.  She has a system in the morning and likes to check things off her list - whether it is her daily devotion time, exercise, or school work.  She is very independent and has learned that she does better when her texts are read aloud, so when she gets to a subject like history, she will pop over to my work area and ask if (or when) I will have time to read to her.  Most of my work is easy to drop and pick back up again, so I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee and she sits down with me at the kitchen table and I read history and then we spend time going over the discussion questions in her book.

V-girl can sleep and sleep and sleep.  I usually try to let her because I know that is what her body needs.  But sometimes I can't take it and I have to wake her up while it is still morning!  LOL  Now before you ask, she sleeps in late regardless of what time she goes to just seems to be part of her nature.  I will say her bed time has gotten later during the pandemic with all the big kids home.  But, again, I don't really care.  You know why?  Because they stay up late watching Jeopardy or playing games together.  I am in bed and sometimes I can hear all 6 of them laughing and shushing each other from down the hall. That, to me, is more important than an early bed time. Anyway, she sleeps later and gets a later start.  Whereas, S-girl's goal is to be done with school by lunchtime, V-girl is usually just starting hers around lunchtime.  Again, though, this works for us, because then I don't have to divide my time between both of them and my work at the same time.  However, in the past, I have been able to successfully ping pong myself around and help the kids in their different subjects and grade levels.  It just meant that I didn't get as much of my own work done during those years - at least during "school hours".

V-girl  has a lesson plan and can still be independent, however, she needs a little more face to face teaching time still because if not, she will just plow on through and "get it done".....even if it is all wrong.  LOL  I have to be careful with her,  because if I get busy and just say, "Do you need any help? or "Are you understanding everything?"  She will almost always reply - "No, I don't need help.  I get it."   Then Rainman or I will correct her work and she will have done the entire thing wrong.  She is not big on reading directions all the way through. She has a tendency to sort of skim and glean what she thinks is the idea and just jump in and go for it.  (I happen to be married to someone like that too, so she comes by it naturally.) Like it does for Rainman, sometimes it works for her and sometimes it completely backfires.

I still make daily chore lists or piles for the kids.  This will sometimes incentivize the late sleepers to get moving a little earlier because the early bird gets to pick all the easy chores! (That is the beauty of the pile is a completely random division of jobs.  It just takes a bit more work and planning on my part.)

Rainman or I will correct their school work in the evening and "go over school" with them if we didn't already doing it during the day.  We just go over things to solidify what they did well or show where they messed up.  We also assign "homework" a few times a week too, which are usually just extra worksheets for math or essay type questions in other subjects..

The other parts of our "typical" homeschooling day are just all the normal household stuff that you need to know how to do:  Dishes, cleaning, laundry, yard work, home projects, and cooking.  I also, as much as possible, try to have the kids be responsible for making their own phone calls/inquiries about things.  For instance, when they want to get their driver's license or permit, there are documents that they need from school.  I do not handle any of that, nor do I even look up what they need.  That is on them.  It is their license...or not, as the case may be.  Do they sometimes get mad at me because I won't "just do it for them"?  Yup.  I do make doctors/dentist appointments until they are able to drive themselves though.  See?  I am not a horrible human being.

We have had the kids all start being responsible for their own laundry in the 10-11 age range.  They also start cooking basic stuff like scrambled eggs and grilled cheese by probably age....6 or 7.  They have always helped us with yard work and home projects despite their dramatic  moaning and groaning.  Cleaning is a constant battle with 9 of us living here, but I think we do a pretty good job of balancing the line between  squeaky clean and gross.  The house is a little cluttered and lived in looking.  It is what it is.

When everyone came home because of the pandemic and I was cooking every night, Rainman made a brilliant kitchen chore chart that has made a huge difference.  Now, whoever is on kitchen duty that day has the job of putting the kitchen to bed (wiping down counters, washing dishes, starting the dishwasher).  There are still a few late night snackers and dirty dishes left here or there, but in general it is done.  Which is a wonderful thing for me so that when I get up at 6:30 to start my other work, I don't have to factor in an hour to fix the kitchen first.

I will say one difficult thing with all the big kids being home because of the pandemic is that they have disrupted our chore routine.  It is hard to assign chores to big kids who are working outside of the house or have a heavy school load.  But, if we don't, then the younger ones are resentful that they are the only ones cleaning even though they aren't the only ones making the mess.  It is just harder.  Our system worked really well, when the oldest 2 were at college and the middle 2 were in public school because we managed to get both our regular school work and the daily chores done before they walked in the door.  Now it is just...harder.

Does that answer your questions about our typical day?  If you have more, let me know.  People have made comments to me now that their kids are home because of the pandemic about how hard this is and they cannot believe I have been doing it for so long.  Well, I think the remote schooling that their kids are doing is different than what we have been doing for so many years.  I guess there are pieces of homeschooling that are hard, but overall, I feel like homeschooling is easier on both the kids and the families than public schooling.  Everything in public school seems too rushed and so competitive...but not in the right ways, if that makes sense.  I like that our home schooling ebbs and flows with life and we don't  have to worry about falling behind.  We just catch up when we can.  I like that my kids can cry over math or a bad test score in the privacy of their own home with their parents hugging them and wiping their hair back from their faces.  I like that some of the boy/girl pressure is a little more delayed at our household.  It still exists.  We don't live in a bubble and we watch t.v., but it is not in their faces all day every day, so things don't start too early. questions?  Ask away.  I guess I can be considered a veteran homeschool mom at this point, can't I?  How did that happen?

I found some of my old blog posts that also share a glimpse into our homeschool life at the time.  If you aren't sick of me yet, go take a look (even just to see how crazy cute my kids were!)

Homeschooling...Our Way


Fitness When You Are a Homeschool Family

Back to School

This is the Very First Time

Friday, May 22, 2020

Quarantine Chronicles - Part 2

Things are getting back to "normal" here in Georgia.  Most things are re-open.  No libraries yet though.  Grrr.  

We were supposed to have a bunch of senior awards ceremonies and activities to attend this month.

D-man graduated from the University of Georgia earlier this month without a ceremony or fanfare. His ceremony has been postponed to October.

D-man's girlfriend, J-girl is an artist and did this rendering for him.  Pretty cool

L-girl was supposed to graduate high school at the end of this week.  She also didn't get prom or any of the other end of the year fun and games or finish our her senior varsity year in tennis.  Her graduation ceremony has been postponed to the end of June, but now only 2 of us get to go because they are reducing the amount of tickets available to each student.  

(As you can see from all her ropes, stoles and medals - we are missing out on a LOT of awards ceremonies!)
There is a piece of me that is heartbroken for them not to have these special moments.  But, an honest piece of me is rejoicing that I don't have to sit through both boring ceremonies right now.  I am horrible, aren't I?!? I really just want to hear my child's name and accomplishments.  I don't care about Tom, Dick, Harry or Penelope.  I don't.  I clap politely, but I don't care.  I also don't expect you to care that much about my kids accomplishments.    (Honestly, I brought a book to A-girls graduation ceremony and I read.  I did.  Originally, I was worried that I would feel a little rude, but people around me were talking and watching movies on their phones.  Reading seemed sort of tame in comparison.)

I have tried to make a few special memories for our two graduates though.  We surprised D-man and took him out for a steak dinner on what should have been his graduation night.  It was the day after restaurants started opening up again for in person dining, so it was interesting.  I had made reservations ahead of time, but there was a limit of 6 people per table.  I tried to explain to them that we were really a true we all live together and everything.....all 9 of us.....but, they couldn't make an exception.  So, we sat at 2 tables with 6 feet between them....then proceeded to walk back and forth and visit with each other the whole evening.  The restaurant was packed with loads of people waiting for tables....because the tables were spaced for far apart they couldn't seat as many people.  The poor wait staff were run ragged and all red faced and hot because they had to keep their masks on.  They also had added work to do like sanitizing menus after each and every customer, salt and pepper and steak sauce could not be just sitting at the table....also because it had to be sanitized between each customer.  So, they had lots of running back and forth to do, because they kept forgettin that they had to bring back those things.  

I just realized that we all got dressed up and I didn't even remember to take a picture of us!  It was actually Grandma's first time out in public in about 2 months.  Ooops.

There is not much I like about public school, but I did like one of the local high school traditions called Senior Breakfast.  It is exactly what it sounds like, but in addition to food, they also have teachers and family write cards and letters to the students.  The idea is that they just sit and eat and read their special notes.  I contacted teachers, friends and family and asked them to write letters to both L-girl and D-man.  I wanted to surprise them, so I had people send them directly to me and then we plotted and schemed so the two of them never picked up the mail.

I was particularly proud of my cantaloupe graduates.

I truly surprised both of them.  They both got lots of funny and thoughtful letters (and a few monetary gifts).  They were happy.  I got true hugs afterwards.  I was happy.

We have been keeping busy having bonfires, playing games (anyone heard of Qwixx?), hanging out on the deck just chatting.  Nothing earth shattering, but still sort of awesome.

Other things we have been up to:

S-girl had her first birthday cake commission.  I helped, but not as much as I thought I would have to.  This is really mostly her handiwork.

I have been crocheting ear protectors for facemasks.

Grandma turned 92 on Mother's Day.  She got the obligatory birthday pancakes

 and then the kids made us fancy brunch/breakfast.

(I didn't even know my kids knew how to make crepes!)

We surprised her with a Zoom call with almost all of her kids/grandkids. It was chaotic and loud and we made her cry happy tears....more than once.    I made her 2 of her favorite desserts, strawberry shortcake and lemon cheesecake (She was sad that she blew out all the candles and didn't end up with any boyfriends.  She was hoping for a 90 year old millionaire!).  It was a very good day.

Another recent quarantine activity was that I got my first haircut since....I don't know...probably October.  My hair is pretty easy.  It is long and thick and I can usually pull it up in a pony tail or make something work between cuts. But, it was getting to be too much for me.  Super long and heavy and I was just done.  When I start to get headaches when I pull it up in a pony tail, I know it is time to chop some of it off.  So, as soon as salons opened back up again and my lady was ready....I signed up.

But, I have to say, all the new protocols almost ruin what is usually a relaxing treat for me.  I truly get my hair cut once or twice a year which means that  I don't feel too bad splurging on it.

You know how it usually works: They offer you a drink, you get a nice shampoo/condition, a little head massage while they work the product into your hair, a nice chat with the stylist, and leave looking fabulous.

My stylist, Kelly, used to work at a salon close to my house, but a few years ago she moved about 1 hour and 20 minutes away from me.  I followed her.  I don't really mind the drive though because she is worth it...especially when I only do it once a twice a year.

However, is how my day went:

Arrive and wait outside the salon.  Put on my mask.  Be allowed in one at a time.  So, they can: take  my temperature; have me sign a waiver that I haven't been coughing/been near anybody coughing, etc; sent straight to the bathroom to wash my hands; then told which chair I could safely sit in.  Out came Kelly.  She was also masked and had a white, plastic "lunch lady" apron over her salon clothes, which has to be changed between each customer.  We talked about my hair through our masks, whilst complaining about our masks and the lack of oxygen.  Kelly sent me off to the shampoo bowl so her helper could wash my hair.  I sat down and I was asked to sit back, then her helper said, "I know this is weird, but I have to put a towel over your face."  Seriously?!?  I am already masked, now you put a towel over my WHOLE ENTIRE FACE?

Yes, they did.  It was black.  It was dark.  I felt like I couldn't breathe.  It wasn't quite as bad as my experience in the MRI machine where I had a little bit of a claustrophic panic attack, but it was NOT pleasant.  Where I would usually be relaxing and basking in being pampered, I was silently urging her to scrub faster and whispering in my mind, "That is enough.  I am sure you have rinsed all the conditioner out by now."  I REALLY couldn't breathe now.  She whisked the towel off my face when she was done which was all well and good, but then I couldn't see.  I felt like I was on one of those t.v. shows where the good guy has been kidnapped with a bag thrown over his head, transported to the evil villains lair and when the bag is finally whipped off....he kind of stands there squinting and blinking as the lone light bulb (in one of those cage thingies) sways back and forth....before matching whits with the bad guy behind the chair.   You know what I mean?  It was just like that, minus the guns and bad guys.

When I regained my sight, I went back over to the chair and Kelly started work on my hair.  This wasn't really relaxing either.  My mask got in the way of her cutting, so she had to carefully move the ear straps out of the way without exposing my face.  We talked, but it didn't feel the same.  Somehow, the world is just eyeballs and hair now.  It made me think maybe I should splurge and get those crazy fake eyelashes that are all the rage now.  If that is all I have to show the world, they may as well be long and luxurious, right? (except they would touch my glasses when I blinked.  Oh well, short stubby lashes are all the world gets from me, I guess)  I don't wear my mask much, but when I do, I have found myself announcing to people, "I am smiling under just can't tell!"  Maybe I would be able to smize more with my eyes if I could have to those lashes.

The only part of the salon story that is the same pre and post COVID-19 is that I left looking fabulous.

To finish this never ending story, the rest of my day was also not relaxing.  I drove 1 hour and 20 minutes home (which thanks to Siriously Sinatra, Sirius Broadway, and Sirius 80s, was not a bad trip).  I got home and found out that I was supposed to pick up 2 of the kids at the church car wash.  So, I hopped back in my car - drove to church, got a free car wash, drove them home.  Came home where Grandma had been waiting for me to help her take a shower,  so we did that.  Then, Rainman wanted to show me the outdoor projects he had worked on that morning (ones that I have been asking him to do for a few years now).  Yay!  Walked outside.  Looked around.  Dogs joined us.  One of them, who shall remain nameless,  apparently ate something that she shouldn't have and instead of taking care of business in the great outdoors, proceeded to walk into the house and throw up on the floor.  Happily it was on the hardwood and not the rug.   So, I cleaned that up, then my cute new hair and I did a little cleaning, pulled out stuff for supper, and had a very late lunch.

How is your quarantine going?  Are you coming out of it?  Things opening up yet?  Having to wear masks?