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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our new history approach

Next year we're not doing history at all, as it's been decided to focus on geography for the entire year using Discovering the World of Geography and using our reading time to focus on literature instead of historical fiction. So our current history, Tapestry of Grace, Year 3 lost it's luster for the some of the same reasons we're not doing Tapestry next year. I need pick up and go without much thought or planning on my end.

I tried to like The Story of the World again. I really did but I'm spoiled now, as is Camille because we like whole books, Tapestry does such a fine job of presenting history with all its various regions into focus whereas SOTW just seems to jump around too much and throw too many names, events and countries at the reader. I realized that since I couldn't bring myself to use SOTW again that none of the condensed, all-in-one history books were going to satisfy us anymore.

What's left? Trusty old Usborne! Since switching to Tapestry, we've been using their core books instead of this encyclopedia. I don't want to coordinate books right now or figure out how to manage all of our reading. I want to, I want to read whole books with fabulous illustrations and rich writing but I can't. I want history to get done but reading, writing and math are much more important to me right now.

What we're doing is reading the 2 page spread, exploring the internet-links and I have maps from Tapestry's MapAids so I just have Camille label a map according to what we read about. This week it was Africa and the struggle over land, the Zulus, Boers and the British. Pictures to come this weekend.

Instead of reading a historical fiction book, Camille is reading Black Beauty and I'm reading a literature book to her as well, I'm still working on our next title-I need to find a free, online study guide to help so that is holding up the decision of the title at this time.



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A New Life

I think I'm ready.

Before Thanksgiving, we (the kids and I) were trucking along with a solid routine, enjoying ourselves. Then something happened in my personal life that had me reeling, as if the earth opened up and swallowed me whole. I'm unable to talk about it at this time but there has been many changes from Thanksgiving, all of which I think I'm finally regaining a bit of balance.

I've been working since December 2nd. Adjusting from being 100% stay-at-home mother to stay-at-home mom by day and work 20 hours during the night and weekends has been difficult. I am 100% dedicated to my children and having to give up time with them, what I consider crucial time - their bedtime routine, has been very hard for me. Reading aloud and snuggle time was replaced with management responsibilities of a store and for the kids, it has been hard to give up that Mommy time. I'd love to say that Dad has stepped in and maintained the routine but he hasn't. The kids now receive a terse bedtime and there have been many mornings that I discover that Danny is still in his clothes (instead of pjs) and his teeth were not brushed before bedtime.

It has been difficult to say the least. During my time off I've been torn on whether to clean the house or to spend time with the kids. In the last 3 weeks, I have decluttered our home to eliminate visual stress. Knick-knacks need to be dusted so off to Goodwill they went. I'm still "Spring Cleaning" mode but the house is more manageable for me, I know that I need to spend time sweeping, vacuuming, mopping and cleaning while I'm home to keep things manageable so some of our homeschool lessons are done with the scent of cleaner in the air and breaks of, "Mommy needs your help and then we'll do your science." Lol.

Another decision that was made in early December was to find Jack, our 1 year old golden retriever, a new home. While I love him and he was a blessing to our home- he was a stress for me. I found that I was not walking him enough, playing with him enough, or training him enough for his age. I was not being the dog owner that he deserved and I feel so blessed to have found him a home that he can grow in and be loved the way I wish I could at this time. He's doing great and his new family adores him so I can close that door knowing I did the right thing, especially knowing the stress it has alleviated for me. He went to his new family at the end of January and it's now been two weeks without him.

While I was working, finding Jack a new home and readjusting to a new lifestyle, I had to figure out how and where I was going to go to college. Having to play out the scenario in my mind of which one to select- the actual program of studies, whether to go on campus or to find an online solution, the cost and the end result, what in the world would our life be like after my degree- has been stressful all on its own. I feel like that I've had to trade lives with someone instantly and let go of all past expectations for our life for an uncertain future.

I explored nursing simply because I could get paid well and work 40 hours within a few days and be home the rest of the week but nursing does not amplify my natural abilities. It was a tough and difficult journey figuring out what type of degree to obtain that would allow me be the mother I want to be, amplify my natural abilities and have fulfilling work as well as be financially stable. After realizing that the college that I was trying to attend was the most expensive college in my area, not to mention unaffordable for me unless I took out student loans...I found my niche.

I looked back upon my work history and took at true look at myself. I was a graphic designer for 8 years but the most pleasure I had within that field was when I was managing a project or department, I enjoy streamlining procedures and finding more efficient ways to conduct business, I also enjoy customer service- a dying art in these times in my opinion. I thought I enjoyed graphic design because of the creative outflow of the actual graphics but stepping back and truly assessing my strengths, it was more in the management end than in the creative. That is why I never went to school for design, it wasn't my true passion. I realize that now. When faced with the course descriptions, Principles of Accounting interest me more than Human Anatomy and Physiology, lol. Instead of fearing the educational path before me, I'm excited.

After deciding that the most expensive college was not an option, which happened after I paid the $50 registration fee and applied for FAFSA as well as other scholarships and grants, I'm starting over with two colleges that I can attend online to obtain a Bachelor's in Business Administration with a few visits to the campus of the secondary college. Admission registration is not until April so I have plenty of time to hone my upper math skills and prepare for a college placement test although I regret missing the Spring session deadline, but all things come with time.

Also in December, I became increasingly frustrated with our financial situation, unable to get hub to get on a budget to pay off debt or to even show an interest in anything financial including having a savings account that wasn't emptied every single month. Once I started working, I knew I had to figure out a way to manage my own finances and decided to get smart about my own debt. Within the homeschooling circles I've heard a lot of about Dave Ramsey but I was still skeptical, I'm not a 'get rich quick' type of person and I didn't want to fall into any traps. I took a leap and bought The Total Money Makeover and I was sold. Through hard work and sacrifice I wrote out a plan to be personally debt free by December 2009 based on my income alone. I approached my hub with a plan to clear debt in his name by December 2010 but he wasn't interested, so I'm doing this for myself, by myself. After completing Baby Step 1, I will have paid off my first bill next month which if I kept paying the minimum payments, would take 49 more monthly payments to pay off. How freeing is that?

With all these changes to my life and the stress, I started losing weight from Thanksgiving to Christmas and once I realized that it was naturally happening, I decided to make a sincere effort to become more healthy. Working has helped tremendously in this area, instead of being sedentary at home watching tv, I'm physically working. There have been days that I don't even sit down except to drive from the time I get up in the morning to the time I go to bed. I'm watching what I eat, controlling my portions and only allowing myself occasional cheats like pizza or a cheeseburger. I have lost 20 lbs without an exercise or diet program, just replacing some of my eating habits and being more active. I actually feel depressed now if I spend a few hours in front of the tv just relaxing, lol.

My mom tried Nutrisystem but was unwilling to continue even though she lost 10 lbs because she had to have another back surgery. She's recovering and I just visited them with Camille to be a support, we cleaned my parents' house and decluttered a little by bringing home all of her Nutrisystem food (which is a LOT) and fabulous shoes she's unable to wear anymore after having 5 back surgeries. I have knee-high leather black boots now with high heels! I have beautiful white sandals to wear this summer and they all fit! I also brought home a Denise Austin exercise video with the rubber bands and a few other of those stretchy plastic torture devices, I joked with my mom that I'd knock myself out stretching those bands and having them snap me square on the head. I can be a little uncoordinated physically at times. I know a consistent exercise routine will help with my stress load and weight loss. I'm not trying to be a size 2, I just want to be firm and healthy, if that can be accomplished at a size 12, I will be happy. I have dropped sizes within the last 2 months and it has been a boost to my esteem. I don't have to shop in the plus sizes anymore to find something that fits but I haven't been doing much shopping either.

I am currently in counseling which I'm not sure is going to be helpful but I'm going anyway. We spent the entire first session trying to figure out how she can help me, outwardly I'm proactively moving forward- doing all that can and should be done. Internally, all of the positive changes in my life have made a positive impact but underneath all that positive stuff is the core reason as to why all of this happening. It's not something I can discuss freely with the world at this time so forgive me for the cloak and dagger treatment.

At work I'm training for a higher position, I have been acknowledged repeatedly by upper management, including the District Manager of the store I'm working at. I've just received my 60 day appraisal which had 'excellent' numerous times, which (toot, toot) is the highest evaluation you can get, and my immediate supervisor confessed that she's very rarely given anyone an 'excellent' rating, much less the majority of the appraisal. Can you see me beaming? At the core of all this success is the fact that I may be offered a position that is 40 hours a week. There are pros and cons to that but I have faith that everything will work out, one way or the other.

What was the purpose of this post? Well, first to get it all out and to identify the fact that I want to acknowledge what these last few months have been like to forgive myself for not being the homeschooling mother I've worked so hard to be. I've had to let go of many ideals and get down to the bare essentials. I haven't even mentioned the fact that Danny has had to adjust to a new preschool teacher or that my only living grandparent is battling Alzheimer's, or that I've been struggling with the idea of sending the kids to public school next year and wrestling with consistent idea that if I work, I won't be able to be the mother I want to be for my kids. So the purpose of this post is to acknowledge, forgive and move forward.

We are back on track with our lessons. We are taking one day a week to GO, either on a nature walk or field trip or just to go have fun doing something! Life is completely different than it was at the beginning of November but I think in a LOT of ways, it's better. It is so much better to walk in truth, even if it's hard and treacherous at times. This blog is my digital scrapbook of our journey and I'm ready to continue documenting.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Managing Better!

1 I know what colleges I will be attending! I will be able to earn my Bachelor's in Bus. Admin online through two GA colleges that I can afford with financial aid assistance (already awarded). This has been a major stress in the last two months but I've learned so much about the process.

2 I also had my first work appraisal yesterday in which I received "excellent" in all but one area which is out of my control. I spoke to my manager about further training and a higher position, both of which were received with enthusiasm and encouragement. We scheduled time for immediate higher level training and have had abounding appraisal from all upper management! Wow, my cheeks hurt from all the smiling!

My arm is red from pinching myself b/c things are going so well! Homeschooling is getting back on track, I did a bunch of spring cleaning and rearranging furniture earlier this week so that took us off track but the house is in much better shape as is my stress level. I'm still losing weight/inches although I'm only checking it weekly but can feel it in my clothes.

Reflecting back on the past two horrendously busy and complicated months, I can see where maintaining a positive attitude through all the rocky spots has truly helped me get to this place. While I wasn't continuously positive, determination to keep going forward helped.

Currently I've made some streamlined changes to our lessons. They have been pared down to maximize skill development.
Read Aloud- Fun, age-appropriate literature reads (Little House on the Prairie right now)
History- Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and corresponding map-work
Science- God's Design for Life: The World of Plants, Shanleya's Quest
Writing/Grammar- Writing Tales 1
Math- Math-U-See Gamma
Spelling- Simply Spelling, level A
Latin- Prima Latina

Our lessons are taking about 3 hours now, averaging 30 minutes for each subject and history is only 1 day a week. Latin is 4x a week, Science 3x a week with everything else daily. Much easier to manage with everything else!