Friday, August 29, 2008

Those poor unsocialized homeschoolers

As a homeschooling family, we field many questions about homeschooling and all that it entails. Probably the most asked question is along the lines of, "Do they have any friends?" I just know the questioner has an image of us never leaving our home (if only), sitting at desks, doing workbook page after workbook page, and not knowing how to have a conversation with anyone outside the family. I've learned just to laugh at this question because it is so ridiculous. My pat answer is to say that I wish they had fewer friends and social engagements as it would make my life a bit easier.

I am reminded of all this because earlier this week I was part of a homeschool information night at a local public library. One of the very real concerns of some of the attendees was that a homeschooled child wouldn't have any friends. The irony of discussing this concern while trying to survive the week that I've had is a bit amusing.

I will try to condense the past week into a paragraph (or 2 or 3) and you can decide for yourselves whether we need to feel sorry for the poor unsocialized homeschoolers among us. Monday started out wonderfully; no where to go, no one to see, just time at home doing my favorite thing of 'getting things done'. Monday night saw my kitchen filled with 7 young adults, only two of them mine. (The rest of the world would call them teenagers, but I dislike the term and won't be a party to it.) They were having another planning session for a party they are throwing for a few of their friends...the guest count is up to 27 last I heard. This is not just any ordinary party. It's a murder mystery party that requires acting, dressing in costume (it's set in Victorian England), and if some of them have their way, ballroom dancing. (The dancing is to be an ice-breaker...notice I never claimed homeschoolers were completely normal.) The guest list is eclectic...both homeschooled and public and private schoolers, from both city and suburbs, ages range from 12 on the young end to 17 on the older end, multiple sibling pairs, I'm sure I could come up with others if I sat and thought about it. It's been fun to watch the process. Plus, they're footing the bill for it themselves and doing all the cooking. (Yes, they are serving all of these people dinner.) I'm sure I will be posting more about this in future days.

Tuesday, we were invited for dinner at friend's house and the children spent the evening playing on a zip line. Wednesday brings a girls' Bible study group to our house followed by the weekly homeschooling beach day. Thursday was the annual Six Flags homeschool day where we and four other families (with a total of 21 children) whiled away the hours followed by a pizza dinner together. And today, because we didn't seem to have enough on our plate for the week, we went down to one of the museums to see a special exhibit on glass and glass blowing. This left us enough time to get to the park where our homeschooling group meets weekly for large group games. If after all of this M and B still feel the need to socialize, tomorrow a group of friends has arranged a beach time to welcome another homeschooler back from a trip. No wonder everyone has seemed a bit tired. Getting back to a more normal schedule might feel calming and refreshing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hip Hip Hooray!

D. has learned to ride his two-wheeler! He has been working on it for several months now, but every time he would try, the falling down part would get the better of him and he'd put the bike away. This was particularly difficult because TM has been able to ride a bike for nearly a year and half. (It was one of the first things he learned to do after he came home.) But yesterday was D's day. Instead of giving up when he didn't get it right away, he kept on trying. And then suddenly he was riding: a two and a half house long ride...pretty good for the first time. That's all it took and he was hooked. By the end of the afternoon he could start and stop with very little difficulty. I wish I had taken a video of his brothers and sisters cheering him on as he worked to master his new skill. D's smile was enormous; I think both due to the bike riding success and to all the cheering.

This, of course, leads to long family discussions about who is now going to ride what bike. I'm relieved that D is not put off by purple sunflowers and is just happy to have a bike (without training wheels) to call his own.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Where everyone knows your name

No, not our local bar...our branch library which is 1/2 a block away. (It was one of the selling points about our house.) I feel somewhat famous whenever we go in. I guess a family with 7 children, who comes during school hours and checks out no less than 70 books a visit is somewhat memorable. I know most of the librarians who work there, but today there were two whom I didn't think I knew, or who knew us. That is until one of them asks me if we're still homeschooling and then in a separate conversation, the other asks how we manage to keep track of all the books we check out each time. It makes me feel badly that I didn't know them.

About the number of books...everyone around here likes, no loves, to read or be read to. (I think the younger ones decide to learn to read as a defensive act. Sometimes when all the bigger types are involved in their own books, the only course for non-readers is to learn to read themselves.) Plus, because the city is always threatening to close the branch libraries to save money, we like to help keep circulation levels up. The city doesn't need to know it's all one family. And I know what you're all dying to ask. Everyone does. How on earth do I keep track of all those books? All I can say is thank goodness for online library accounts where I can see what I have out and when it is due. Weekly monitoring is mandatory. Even then I don't have a perfect track record. I still have to pay the occasional fine, or pay for a lost book. Sometimes I get overly enthusiastic and try to return a book that actually belongs to us. (It happened just today, in fact.) That's when I'm really glad the librarians all know us, because then they can return my books to me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking for large families in IL

The madness has to stop! I have been in contact with several other women and we want to see what we can do to change how Illinois approves large families to adopt. We are looking for two things right now. The first is anyone who would like to join us and the second is we need stories. If you have a large family and have been adversely affected by IL's way of doing things, please share your story. You can email me at thecurryseven at sbcglobal dot net

Thanks!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I love a productive day

(Welcome Kelly's Korner readers.  This is our third floor playroom.  If you want to see what laundry for 11 looks like, head here.)

Most of the third floor of our house is a single large room that we use as a play room. Usually this works pretty well. Usually being the key word. If it has been too long between my trips up there, the amount of mess that can be created is somewhat staggering. Staggering describes the mess when we started renovation, so I'm not sure what to call it after renovation. Due to some of the new systems we installed, the worker-men needed access to the play room as well. That means the staggering mess was then pushed to the center of the room and had a plastic sheet draped over it. Come June, children started venturing upstairs again and would burrow under the pile, pull out what they wanted, play with it, and then just leave it strewn across the floor. It looked as though a tornado had passed through. For any of you who thought perhaps I had my act together in all aspects of my life, I'm including pictures of what it looked like BEFORE we cleaned it up. This will dispel any notion of togetherness you may have had.(Actually, this is after we had spent about an hour cleaning...I'm not sure which is more embarrassing.)





Here are the 'after' pictures. This is the result of 6+ of us working all day with just a break for lunch. Everyone is thrilled. The children feel as though it's Christmas: finding toys they had forgotten, having a space to play, not having their mother grouse about the mess upstairs...I'm thrilled because there's no mess upstairs and we gave away a huge pile of toys that were never played with. The most time consuming part of the cleaning up was collecting the millions of small pieces (Lego, Playmobile, K'Nex, cars, doll accessories, puzzle pieces, etc.) and returning them to their respective bins. It's one reason why I've kept much of the small pieces toys in quarantine. The rules are only one out at a time, and the previous one must be put completely away before a new one comes out. I know from previous experience that this level of order only last so long...my home is a living example of entropy. But, boy, am I enjoying it while it lasts! (Oh, ignore the chipped floors. This is what happens when you buy your children scooter boards which are played with on painted surfaces. One of the new additions to this room is impact-grade Plexiglass over all the windows. We can still open them, but a child flying into one on a scooter board won't go though.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

We need more power, Scotty...

we're trapped in the gravitational field of Children's hospital and we can't break free! OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it's what it feels like. Early in the summer, while we were in Pennsylvania, M hurt her knee. Being the kind and compassionate mother that I am, I ignored her injury (aside from suggesting she stay off of it and giving her a bag of ice) and assumed that given time it would get better. Five weeks later, when it was still swollen and bothering her, I took her into the doctor. After poking and prodding, the doctor ordered an MRI. Armed with the results of the MRI, we now know that she chipped off a piece of cartilage that was attached to her thigh bone. (Not only did she injure her knee, but M. injured it in a very unusual way it seems.) We were then referred to a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Children's. M. is still having pain because the piece of cartilage is floating around in her knee causing trouble and the doctor will have to surgically remove it. It will all be done arthroscopicly, but she will still need a general anaesthesia. We won't know if she has to stay overnight until she is in surgery and the doctors can really see what needs to be done. The best case scenario is that she is able to come home the same day.

On the positive side, M's knee is bothering her too much and since the surgery won't happen until October, the doctors don't seem overly concerned. We also seem to have ended up with one of the best pediatric orthopaedists around. It is one of the positives of living in such a major metropolitan area.

After the surgery I proclaim our family done, really and truly done with Children's for a while. Well, at least until December, when K will go in for his semi-annual appointment with the plastic surgeon. Maybe it would be more realistic to just limit our events at Children's to two of the seven children.

(And, yes, J and I do enjoy watching the occasional episode of Star Trek.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The wrong question?

When we were up in Michigan last week, there was a news magazine lying around at which I happened to glance. One of the articles was titled, "Do children make you happy?" The conclusion of the author, after looking at many studies that were conducted asking people, both with and without children, to rate their happiness, was that, no, indeed children do not make people happier than those without. I've been thinking about this, and I've decided that everyone is asking the wrong question. Happiness is such a fleeting thing and incredibly dependent on circumstance. Do my children make me happy when they are whining, or throwing up in the middle of the night, or waiting too long to get to the bathroom? No, I can honestly say that when any of them behaves poorly or when I must clean up bodily fluids, I am not happy. Sometimes I am about as far from happy as a person can get. I'm also not happy when one of my children is sick, or injured, or sad. How can I be happy when someone I love is hurting? This is not to say I am never happy, or more accurately, never happy because of my children. This would be untrue as well. But if we are just measuring happiness, that sun-is-shining-the-birds-are-singing-all-is-right-with-the-world feeling, and I am not happy about the above mentioned items, and you multiply those things by 7, by rights it would seem that not only should I never be happy, but I should be walking around with a huge cloud hanging over my head.

There is no cloud, and I don't think I'm an unusually sad and dour person. And why is that? It's because the question the researchers should have been asking goes more like this: Does having children make you more joyful, or fulfilled, or blessed, or any of those other words that have more to do with internal states rather than what's going on outside. And the answer to all would be a resounding, Yes! Because I can be joyful, if I choose, when I'm cleaning up bodily fluids, because while it may not be fun, I have a child after whom I need to clean up. I have someone to whom I can show love, both my love and a small example of God's love. I can be joyful because God gave this precious being into my care.

Happiness is fleeting and beyond my control. Happiness is not a choice that one makes; it is something that happens to one. Happiness is an emotional response to circumstances. And happiness is not the goal. Joy, on the other hand, is a state in which I can choose to live. Joy is not erased or destroyed by pain or suffering or tears. And ultimately, joy can only come from being connected to the true joy-giver, Jesus Christ. Because, it is only through Him that we know there is way more to life than just what's here on earth. This knowledge is what can enable us to choose joy when life isn't going like we think it should. Or as Anne Shirley would say, there is so much more 'scope for imagination' if we just look past our immediate circumstances and focus on our eternal circumstances. (Can you tell I'm reading Anne of Green Gables to A and P?)

Friday, August 08, 2008

More scenes from our vacation this past week

We had a wonderful week up in Michigan at J's aunt and uncle's home. Here's some other things we enjoyed:

Reading...

Picking blueberries (although some of the shorter family members did more eating than picking)...

"Surfing"...
and shucking corn...


Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Men in a Tub

More accurately, it is two boys in an inner tube, using smash rackets as paddles.



Here is the third "man", left on shore, wishing he could go to sea as well.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Two months....already?!

I know that K has been home for only two months. I mean, I was there in Vietnam when we first met him, for heaven's sake. But even now, with so little time together, I feel as though he has always been in our family. K's transition has been one of those hearts and puppies adoption stories, with everyone falling in love and everything all happy. With our two adoptions, we have experienced two absolute extremes. I'm glad I did the hard one first. I appreciate the easy one that much more. To sum it up, K is a joy.

K also continues to make huge developmental strides...his therapists are all very impressed. We call them the "play ladies". There are too many of them to try and differentiate between them when talking to the children, so if a play lady is coming, a child will ask what toys she brings to identify which one. And since I am something of a compulsive learner, especially if it is one of my favorite areas (raising children), I have found the play lady times to be fascinating. I love picking up new tips and ideas. Before I hit 'publish', I will share one with you. If any of you have children with maintaining a correct grip on crayons and pencils (or writing sticks as they are often referred to around here), one of the play ladies introduced me to crayon rocks. We are all in love with these. Essentially they are soy-based crayons in the shape of rocks. The color goes on very smoothly and because of their shape, the child has no choice but to use the correct hand position. (A tripod hold, if you want to hear some of my new jargon.) We've ordered some more, since the three crayons (rocks?) the play lady gave us have been nearly used up. They are one of those great items that are both really fun to use and good for you.

Alright, end of commercial. Time to start the day. The masses of hungry children are starting to hover closer and closer, making it increasingly difficult to think and type.
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