Wednesday, October 22, 2014

woman on a mission

Next week is Halloween-week. It's a week during which I usually spend my time scrambling to finish costumes, making a halloween night plan, coming up with cool things for the my kids to do to accommodate red ribbon week at school, with it's many activities and special dress-up days, carving out time to carve some jack-o-lanterns, and doing even more work on the damn costumes. Am I the driving force behind the kids' elaborate and difficult costumes every October? Yes, I am. Does that make me qualified to create a Dalek from scrap material found around my home? No. No, it does not. I am considering, very strongly, doing a "Peanuts" themed halloween next year just to make my October a little easier. My creativity levels are at a record low these days and to be perfectly honest, I regret the decision to do one of the most elaborate and complicated costume themes that we've ever attempted. Why do I do this stuff? Because people expect it, and because I am supposed to be creative. It's one of the only qualities I possess that make me cool. No one is going to be impressed that I can watch 5 seasons of a show on Netflix in 3 weeks. Creativity is about all that I have got.

I have found myself in a creative slump lately, which usually doesn't happen around this time of year. I am trying to photograph something every day. Honestly, there are days that pass when I think "I don't even want to look at my camera, or photoshop". It's not depression, definitely not. I think I just want a challenge. I have lived in this house for 5 years next month and I have photographed every nook and cranny. Although, I have never been able to find out precisely what a cranny is, so it is very possible that I have missed one or more of those. My children are reaching an age in which they don't change every day expect in the way that they are growing increasingly tired of being photographed so often. Who reading this remembers my photo projects from back in 2008/2009? Even 2010? I miss that April sometimes. I miss that part of me that wanted to document every little tiny stupid thing and loved the attention that I got from it, and the part of me that wanted to top it every day. I am not sure why I was so attention-hungry back then, but now, not so many years later, I enjoy solitude and privacy so much. Half of the photo's that I take never even make it to flickr. I just have certain little pieces of my life that I want for myself, and I am sure this is much to the relief of Seth who has always said that I over-share on facebook, flickr, and blogger. He's probably right. My constant need for attention can be exhausting to everyone around me, and even to myself and I have found less and less need for attention as the years have gone by though I do try to do it sometimes just to give myself a reason to attempt to be more creative.

In closing for today, I am realizing just how much a person can change in such a short amount of time. As I approach my 30th birthday in January, I am reflecting on my 20's and on all the things that I did wrong, the things I did right, the way I never wish to be again and also the ways that I wish I still were. When I look back on the most difficult, but also the most creative year of my life, 2008-2009, I realize that it was one of my favorite years. So much happened in just one year. I certainly didn't do much growing up that year, but I had fun pretending that I was doing just that. How could I have changed so much in just 6 years? My mission is to rediscover my 24 year old self and bring her back, just without the drama and constant need for attention and praise because when I remember that part of myself from back then, I kind of want to punch that bitch in the throat.

(photo from December 2008)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hush little baby

A few weeks ago, my darling husband surprised me with a new(used) light kit. I was particularly excited about it because I sure could have used one last winter with all the indoor baby sessions that I had to shoot. I made do with natural light and bouncing my flash, but I am stoked that I can act like a "real" photographer this year and not have to resort to more unconventional methods of lighting a room.  It's going to be a great winter, but I have to really draw people in. For years, I have been rebelling against studio photography. I have never had any desire to use a hundred props, capture cheesy, on command smiles, and use artificial light if I can at all help it. However, the older I get, the poorer we get, and the less fire I have inside of me to buck the system. It's a job, and I have to cater to the market.

I recently republished my Facebook photography page. I unpublished it about 2 years ago. I was going through yet another "rebellious" phase and I hated everyone's Facebook business pages because my news feed was constantly cluttered with "specials" and "sales" and online party invites for wax melts and monogrammed lunch totes. It was getting a bit too commercial for a "social" networking. I never deleted my page though because I assumed like everything else I do, it was probably a phase. I was right and I had meant to republish it months ago, but I needed to spiffy it up first. Now it's republished and I haven't shot a session since I put it back up and gained 40+ followers. The pressure is on to really wow my followers. Today I have a two week old baby girl coming over for newbie portraits and I need them to be incredible. My entire winter baby season is riding on it. Most people don't book sessions or weddings in the winter for obvious reasons. But babies can't help when they are born so newborn through 1st birthday portraits are my bread and butter during the winter months. I need today to go well. Yesterday, I decided to do some test shots in some of the props that I had laid out for today's sessions so I could do troubleshooting in advance. Naturally, I don't have a newborn, but I have a 10 year old daughter and she has baby dolls. Unfortunately, the only one I could find was the creepiest damn baby doll ever. It's so creepy that I have threatened to leave it outside for a few months, pop one of the eye balls out and use it as a halloween decoration. Whatever, I just need it to sit there and wear this stupid hat. Three shots in and I said "Oh hell naw, I can't do this anymore."

Here are those three pictures in case you didn't want to sleep tonight.

*Cue Alfred Hitchcock murder music*

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yesterday(and today, too)

I get very anxious when plans don't pan out. It makes my stomach hurt and I just want to cry. In short, I feel like a 2 year old when I don't get my way. Hopefully, I don't act that way very often though, regardless of how I feel internally. Yesterday was a pretty terrible day up until about 5:30pm. I felt bad(lady problems). Bloated, achy, crampy, and tired, the entire weekend plan was crumbling down around me. I cancelled the tentative plans that we'd made for the evening because of how I was feeling and because the boss had so much work to do. In hindsight, I am not sure that there actually were plans because I never heard back about that and it had been a super crazy week for the potential party hosts, so I didn't think much about it(hopefully I didn't make anyone mad!). My mind shifted gears to the Beer fest happening the next day. I had been promised a pass from a friend of Seth's. When Seth called yesterday to arrange a time to get the pass, it was discovered that the friends wife had given it to a neighbor and hadn't realized that it was spoken for. Eeek!! Nothing to be angry about, just a minor hiccup. I contacted a friend on the beer fest committee to see if they had any volunteer spots available. Sadly, they did not. So my only option left was to buy my pass($35). Ordinarily, I would just say "meh, I'll volunteer next year and sit this one out" but man…I really wanted to go. I had been looking forward to it all week, almost all of my Roman friends were going to be there, and man, I really wanted to go! The boss wasn't crazy about me buying a ticket and we had a spat about that, that spewed over left us both with hurt feelings. Soon after my mom texted and asked if we could go to the fair that night with her and daddy and my sister-in-law and nephews. Things were just going crazy. The boss and I ended up in a huge argument, I spent the afternoon sobbing, took a quick nap so that I could pull myself together enough to take my kids to the county fair(I really really really did not want to go),  and then our real estate agent called and asked to show the house at 9:30 in the morning. I cried more, we argued more. Then we made up, and I cried again because I was bursting with emotion and happy that he wasn't angry at me anymore and we were good. I left the house practically spotless in preparation for the showing this morning(9:30am), but the real estate agent texted Seth late last night saying that the showing was cancelled. He was relieved, as he was looking forward to sleeping in without the kids home(Cate was at a sleepover and the boys and I stayed at moms with my nephew). Seth sure was surprised when while sleeping in on his couch in the den this morning, in nothing but his boxers, there was a ring of the door bell at 9:25am. The house shoppers and their agent stood at the back door with a clear view of my sleeping hubby on the couch…in his boxers. He was livid. The agents excuse? "Well, I wasn't sure if you had gotten that message last night, and they called this morning and wanted to come after all, so here we are!" OUR agent, once Seth got in touch with him, was furious. I was furious. That agent will never show our house again. So there is that drama. Now…back to ME(cause, you know, I am SO pitiful)

I went to the fair last night and it was fun(my sweet mom paid for everything expect our food so that I could go. If she had not have done that, we'd have been home last night), but I am not going to Beer Fest today. I have no pass, no babysitter, and a very disapproving hubby of my buying a pass. So I am sitting it out and as sad as I was about it yesterday, I realize this morning that pouting is going to do nothing to improve my circumstances. It seemed as though the entire universe was against me going, as everything that I had thought was set in stone began to unravel and fall apart. I resigned myself to staying home, knowing that it's all at least 90% my own fault for not having back-up plans for my back-up plans, and the other 10% was just the way the cards fell, no one's fault. When you have kids, you always need a back-up plan for your back-up plan. That's just how it is. I know that, and I failed to do it, so here I am.

In a funny turn of events, however, I have ended up making my own afternoon plans. I had to get Cate from a sleepover at her best friends house at some point today before 5pm. It just so happens that Cate's best friends' mom is also a very good friend of mine who I have been missing like crazy lately. All attempts to hang out have not been successful. So when I texted her that I wasn't going to beer fest today and said I could come get Cate whenever she was ready, we cooked up a plan to squeeze in some white wine girl time this afternoon. Suddenly, the clouds dissipated, and the sun was shining on me again, and I felt like it had all happened for a reason. All of the stress from yesterday seems very silly to me know, and I am extremely happy that my afternoon is going to be spent having quality time with my friend, rather than the chaotic hustle and bustle of floating around beer fest trying to see all of my other friends that I DO get to see almost every weekend. Which brings me to my closing thought: I literally have so many friends that it is a "problem" trying to make time to spend time with them all. With all of the problems in this world "problem" to have. I am sad that I am not with Seth today, but we'll meet up this evening, along with our beer-festing buddies. For now, I am going to sip this hot tea and piddle with pictures from the fair. My lesson in all of this is that I need to learn to roll with the punches a little more and stop being a little bitch every time things don't go my way. And also, my ovaries and uterus hate me and the sooner I yank them out, the better off I will be.  I have no excuse what so ever for not being happy all of the time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

There are other worlds than these

Liam and I often take walks to the cemetery across the road from our house, walking the outside perimeter. Usually, this is an occasion for tennis shoes, a bottle of water, and usually a small ziplock bag just in case he finds something worthy of being brought home. However this morning, rather than walking, we drove and parked the van out of the way so that we could take our time "exploring". I love cemeteries and this particular one is beautiful. From the highest point, you can see for miles and in the early morning the sun illuminates the fog, dew, and the white washed grave stones giving the entire grounds a very etherial feel. With my camera in one hand and a cup of hot coffee in the other, we pitter pattered around, reading stones and epitaph's and admiring the handiwork put into family plots and the elaborate, more prominent grave markers. Liam wanted to know the age of every person when they died. As I said before, I love cemeteries and could spend hours and hours poking around in them, reading each and every grave stone. I do pay attention to the age of the people at the time of their death, but it's never affected me until this morning.

We were just walking when a name caught my eye a few rows over. It was a name that I had only ever heard of one person having, and that person had passed away about a year ago. He was from Rome and ran in some of the same artsy circles as us. In fact, he had worked on a film with Seth years ago. I thought as I walked toward the grave "I wonder if that's him? The stone looks pretty new…" and upon turning the corner and reading the front of the stone, I realized that it was indeed the grave of this young man. I told Liam that we'd known him, and that he was Papa's age when he died last year of cancer. Almost one year exactly, as I found out. I had no clue he was buried there. I felt sad. How tragic, he was so young. I got a little teary eyed thinking about how scary the prospect is that even healthy young men can succumb to cancer, not just old ladies and young children. I thought about Seth and how they were the same age…it was just heartbreaking. He didn't have a wife, or children. Somehow that makes it seem even more sad. I wiped the tear off my cheek and said a prayer for him, and we went to "visit" Mr. Casey(previous owner of this house, who also died about a year ago).

I'm sure many people find mine and my family's fascination with cemeteries bizarre. I can't say that I blame them. You have to admit though, there is nothing that will remind you of your own mortality more than walking around a couple(or many more) acres of land literally filled with the vessels that once were home to thousands of living people. People who did one great thing that will always be remembered and people who did lots of tiny good things that never made headlines. From the grave stones that stand out above all the others, symbolic of a families accumulation of wealth or social standing to the flat stones that no one would even suspect to be a grave marker if it weren't for the fact that it's in the middle of a cemetery…and there are 4 of them in a row. From the husband and wife, buried side by side after 65 years of marriage to the still born infant who never even had a name, simply called "baby". From the confederate veteran who had undoubtedly seen so much death, violence, anguish and misery in his short life, to the young man, a year shy of 40, who loved film, music, and theater, his epitaph quoting author Stephen King "There are other worlds than these". I hope he found his way to a good one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

still blowing in the wind

My blog as certainly been living up to it's name lately, hasn't it? Over the past few weeks we've been incredibly busy and very stressed out. It's still all good busy and good stress. I have missed writing and I have missed taking pictures for myself, on a creative level, and I have missed painting. So I am basically combining all three of those loves into one small, short post. Bear with me, I am rusty at writing and have a very cluttered mind right now.

As a self proclaimed "artist" I like to think that I find beauty in almost everything. The things we see, feel, hear, and do on a daily basis are absolutely beautiful. The words we speak to those we love, and on occasion, a perfect stranger can be as beautiful or as unattractive as we wish them to be. That in itself is a beautiful thing to me. The mere fact that we have the power to choose what we, and others, see when we open our mouths, or even when we shoot a quick text is beautiful, and amazing when you think about it. What I find so absolutely unfathomable is that, often times, we make the decision to not show beauty when we speak to one another. Or even to ourselves. As a woman, I am guilty of being unfair and mean to myself. That's alright because I am a very forgiving person, even to myself. I hope that my words never show the ugliness that I am capable of to those that I love. I am sure I fall short of that goal more often than I would like to fool myself into believing. It's not out of malice, but rather my own stupidity or even ignorance. I would never purposefully hurt someone that I love…then again, sometimes, when someone hurts me, I find myself wondering how they would feel, how they would react, if I were to inflict that same pain on them? Would they simply shrug it off for the time being, bury the hurt deep down, and then blog about on their private blog a week later? And after airing their dirty laundry for a select few to read, would they then forgive me and forget about it? I am not at all trying to say that my method of dealing with hurt feelings is healthy. I know it's far from healthy, or productive. It accomplishes very little, in fact. Maybe they would take a different route. Maybe they would simply look me in the eye upon seeing my ugliness and ask me "Why would say that to me? Why would you say something hurtful?" Leaving me to stumble over my words as I do my best to muster up a proper apology and some kind of excuse for my ugliness? Or would they act like my 10 year old daughter and get mad, give me the silent treatment and go tell their "real" friends how ugly I really am? This is also a point where we can find beauty, in how we deal with uncomfortable situations such as someone saying something unkind. It's unavoidable. No human being is void of feelings, even if they can only manage to care about their own. From time to time, we are all faced with this. It wasn't the first time we've experienced it, and it most certainly will not be the last. We learn from how we deal with things. We learn how to respond more productively, how to process in a more healthy manner, and most importantly in my opinion, how to avoid as much as possible being on the giving end of ugly words. I confided to a group of old friends recently when I told them about something that a friend of mine had said to me. I wasn't going to talk to anyone about it. I was resolved to forgive and forget. Apparently that is not a way that I am able to deal with things like this. It was a very important night for me and my husband. A night when we were sitting on top of the world, elated, happy, and feeling very beautiful, in many ways about ourselves, one another, and more importantly, about us as one. With one comment and a lot of wine, someone tore me down. It was never about the comment. It was made by someone that I love, and who I know loves me, who was simply being belligerent and attempting, very awkwardly, to join in on a honest girl conversation that started out about sex and ended with my hair being ugly because I had cut it. Now, I don't care what people think about my hair. If I did care, I would never have cut it. I cut it because I wanted to and that is really all that anyone needs to know. I wasn't hurt by the fact that my friend did not like my new cut. I was hurt because she told me, and more so because she decided to tell me on that particular night. That night, I was supposed to go to bed feeling nothing other than love and support. I went to bed worried that my hair had been ugly and I would look like an idiot in all of the pictures.  I was angry with my friend for having so much to drink and angry that she'd let ugly words fly out of her mouth so carelessly and slam me against a wall on such a night. It was all very silly, after all, as I said before I don't care what others think about my hair. I don't want it to look like I combed it with a lit firecracker, naturally, but if I feel good about it(and that night, I had felt great about it), that is all that should have mattered. Oops. There I went. There I went not handling something beautifully. Damn. Better luck next time. That's the back story. Oh, sorry, I should have mentioned that I was being sarcastic when I said this was going to be short.

I am learning to embrace things about myself that are beautiful, right down to my hair. More importantly though, the type of person that I am. This messy, crazy, weird little person that you know as April. I leave clothes in the washing machine and forget about them for 2 days, so I have to rewash them but I always make sure that Seth has plenty of clean work pants and boxers. I'm prissy and girly but I will catch a green garden snake for my son because I want him to have it, even if I scream like a little girl the entire time. I obsesses over TV shows like Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Supernatural and cry the last 30 minutes of every season finale. I like Loki better than Thor, and not just because Tom Hiddleston is infinitely hotter than Chris Hemsworth. I spend the first half of my day in a tank top and panties and nothing else. I forget things all the time…doctors appointments, to pay the water bill, where my phone is, I forgot my birthday once. Technically, I didn't forget my birthday, I forgot what the date was. The date was January 4th, not the 3rd, so I thought my birthday was the next day until people started blowing up my phone and Facebook. Apparently, I also forget what I am writing about…Oh, my quirkiness…I paint while lying on the floor because I have to look directly down at my paintings rather than just leaning over them like a normal human. I just realized how weird this is today and took a picture. Yes, I'm in my panties.

I love my husband more than life, but it drives me insane when he's at home for more than 3 days. I like my space. I am addicted to buying nail polish, fragrant wax melts, and paint brushes. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I were a young unmarried woman in the 60's, I would have done everything in my power to hook up with Bob Dylan, probably in the 70's or 80's, too. I really do love my husband and although certain good looking celebrities make me swoon, there is not a human who has ever lived that I would find more attractive or more wonderful than my sweet Seth. Writing is intoxicating for me. I haven't had anything to drink today aside from coffee and my beloved lemon water, but I feel buzzed right now because I am writing for the first time in weeks. I spend most of my day trying to distract myself from eating food, because I love food that much. I get excited about cancelled plans 90% of the time because I hate leaving my house. I feel safe at home and very vulnerable and I hate that I feel that way. I'm Roman Catholic and live in constant fear of dying and going to hell because I only go to confession about once a year, sometimes less than that. I don't understand my in-laws and don't think I will ever be able to do so, but I still try to make them like me. I still don't know if they like me or not, but I think that they like very little about the world and understand even less than that and this makes me very sad and I wish that I could make them be happy…but I know that I can't. Other mothers intimidate me because they are all better at it than me. I live with constant guilt that I wished and drank away the most precious years of my kids lives because I was too young and stupid to cherish it. I know my art is not very good, but I keep reminding myself that the term "art" is broad and impossible to define, and relative to what one see's as beauty. I saw a ghost when I was 9 in my grandmothers house, a full apparition of a young boy who shouldn't have been there and I still remember how it felt when he was looking at me, and don't believe other people when they say that they believe me. I get angry with my husbands friends for not being as loyal to him as he is to them, and I hold a grudge and keep score. When I was 19, I voted for the first time and accidentally cast a digital ballot for someone that Seth wanted to vote against and he laughed at me and said "Oh man, you can't even vote right" and that comment has haunted me ever since, especially when I screw something up. I just want to be happy and to make other people happy. More often than not, I can't do both at the same time and that is a constant source of frustration for me.  All of this…this is what has spilled out of my brain in the past 5 minutes. I apologize for being scattered, but I am trying to paint a mental picture in your head(hopefully not half naked, lying on my stone floor) of who I really am. The reason that I am doing this is because I need to tell someone that I am a mess, and I need them to believe it. My mind, my life, my spirit…it's all a big mess. I'm like a Jackson Pollock painting that he did while being even more drunk than he usually was. But somehow, if I can make myself believe that it's a beautiful mess, I can sleep at night. If I tell myself every day that for everything weird, quirky, crazy thing about me is countered by something good, something wonderful, or beautiful, I can live with the person that I am today. Beauty…that age old thing, that thing that we all want to be, and want to spread. Can I be a beautiful person? For all of the ugliness and messiness that dwells within me, can I be a beautiful person? I hope that I can never answer that question, because I don't ever want to stop striving for it. So…if I can believe that one little ugly comment toward me, from a beautiful friend, can add to this weird little mixture of beautiful and ugly things, then all I need to do is find something beautiful to add to it. I am thinking that this entire post makes more sense inside my head than on this post, but I will post it anyway. My confidence in doing so is because I know who reads this, and I know y'all will just know that I am having a moment and will be super sweet and nice to me about it. That's why I love my friends. You all know that I am quirky and weird and you like me anyway.

So there you have it. I have exposed myself and am now naked with little left to hide. Not much to leave to the imagination, I suppose. I am not sure why I felt like opening up today, but I sincerely thank you, if you made it this far. Here's Bob singing Blowin' in the Wind, a picture of me painting this morning, and my new favorite picture, taken by my sister-in-law on Sunday, of Seth and I chilling on the trampoline at his parents house. I would have wished that we were alone during this moment, but now I am forever grateful that someone was there to grab my camera and snap this shot.

I think I will blog again, later tonight, on a might lighter note because I have more to say but I will just put this here for now and do my other things. Just right here. Just for now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A philosophy of education

When I was first married and dreaming of my future children, I mentioned to my mother that I intended to homeschool my kids. She wasn't entirely sold on the idea at the time, but as my mom has done regarding many things that she and I have not seen eye to eye on, she supported me. It wasn't long after that conversation that she happened upon, at a yard sale for $5, a series of books by an author and teacher that at the time was all but unknown to me: Charlotte Mason. When I say that Charlotte Mason "wrote the book" on home education, I mean that she literally wrote the books that inspired millions of parents and teachers to rethink education and her works continue to inspire to this day. When my mom bought me these books, I did some research and found that if I indeed planned to school my future kids at home, I should probably read them. I read the first book and I understood very little of it. It was as though Mason was speaking an entirely different language. In many ways, she was speaking a different language as the book was written in England in 1886 and I was reading it in Polk County Georgia in late 2003, fresh from my 13 year haul through the American public school system. Because I am a very hard headed and stubborn type of person, I was quite irritated with myself for not absorbing as much of the book as I had hoped. It was eloquently written and jam-packed with wonderful ideas, yet, so much of that information was lost on me simply because I was not used to reading anything so heavy. I decided to read it again months later. The second attempt to understand this book, Home Education, was much more successful. I read the following 4 books in the series over the course of about 3 years. After I had finished the entire series, I understood a little more about children, parenting, education, teaching, and life in general, actually. Then I neatly tucked away the series of 5 books on my shelf and there they have remained for 8 years.

Although I had initially wanted to homeschool all of my children from the very start of their school experience, it wasn't until last Fall that I began making strides to become a homeschooling parent. At the time, Liam was struggling so much in school that his teachers and principal were putting a lot of pressure on me to hold him back and have him repeat Kindergarten because as they put it "He would never be able to catch up before the end of the year". I remember such a feeling of defeat and deflation after I left that meeting. No parent ever wants to hear such negative words spoke about their child, even if they are true. But they were NOT true. I went through 3 extreme emotions that day. First I was deflated. All of my hopes and expectations of how that meeting was supposed to go had been violently sucked from my soul. What was I supposed to do? And why, why, is preschool the "new" kindergarten, as they put it? Why is that? It shouldn't be. Many children are ready for pre-school at age 4, but Liam certainly wasn't. Was I wrong because I didn't force my two boys to attend school a full year before they were ready to learn and sit still for a full day of school? Was this ALL my fault? Have I failed my boys, and in particular, Liam? After all, Simon hadn't gone to preschool and he seemed to adjust just fine in kindergarten. Sure, he wasn't a strong writer or reader when he started but he caught up very quickly and never had any problems. I didn't do anything to prepare Simon anymore than I had Liam. What must these teachers think of my parenting skills? I was just accused of putting my child at a disadvantage. I was told that I had not fulfilled my job to prepare my child for school simply because I didn't send him to preschool. I was accused….I was told something about my own child and my own parenting by three people who barely knew me, who barely knew my child. This is when the second extreme emotion came flooding in…anger. Oh yes, I was getting angry. Very angry. How dare they! Who are they to say? Who are they to think? Who are they to tell me what was and is best for my child? And how dare they insist that he is held back an entire grade merely 3 months into the school year? This was, and is, a wonderful school. A school that fueled our desire to move to this town. These are good, knowledgable, caring teachers. How could they? It was all starting to add up. While I was still very angry, I tried to channel my anger in a different direction in an effort to have my anger fuel something better than ugly words and resentment. Determination….a fierce and unstoppable determination to do everything in my power to get my son promoted to the 1st grade at the end of that school year. That is when we finally decided to bring our monkey home and school him through the Georgia Cyber Academy(GCA). GCA is public school at home. It is the very same curriculum used by our county schools and each child, based on a preliminary exam, is assigned an individualized learning plan. To put it simply, they learn at their own pace. We saw improvement within a month, and in May of 2014, upon completion of all of his kindergarten curriculum, Liam, the boy who was supposed to be held back, was promoted to the 1st grade. There were many factors that lead to this, most importantly, the fact that he was able to have one on one coaching, not only from me, but from his teacher at GCA. Mrs. Bailey was wonderful with Liam and met with us in her online classroom twice a month, at my request, to observe him, give advice, and most importantly encouragement.

Not every child is capable of learning, or learning well,  in a classroom setting. While Cate and Simon have done very well in public school, Liam required something different. I shudder to think of the child Liam would be today, a little less than a year later, if I had accepted what his teachers and principal had told me last October. Who would he be if I had simply rolled over and gave up on him, as they seem to have done? If he grew up knowing that he was the oldest in his class due to being "held back" because no one believed that he was capable of working hard enough to complete kindergarten on the first try? Who would he have been in 17 years from that day knowing that we'd given up on him? Or better yet, who will he be now in 17 years knowing that when others had given up on him that his parents still believed in him and were willing to fight for him? The problem was not that Liam wasn't ready to learn kindergarten skills. The problem was that he was not being given the opportunity to learn these skills at his own pace, and in his own way. Homeschooling provided him with those opportunities and he excelled, and thrived, and he learned and it was beautiful to witness first hand the progress that he made in that one semester at home. It's why we decided to continue at home with him this year for 1st grade.

"The Mother is the best kindergarten teacher- It is hardly necessary, here, to discuss the merits of the kindergarten school. The success of such a school demands rare qualities in the teacher- high culture, some knowledge of psychology and of the art of education ; intense sympathy with the children, much tact, much common sense, much common information, much 'joyousness of nature', and much governing power; - in a word, the kindergarten method is nicely contrived to bring the child en rapport with a superior intelligence. Given, such a superior being to conduct it, and the kindergarten is beautiful- ' 'tis like a little heaven below' ; but put a commonplace woman in charge of such a school, and the charmingly devised gifts and games and occupations become so many instruments of wooden teaching. If the very essence of the kindergarten method is personal influence, a sort of spiritual mesmerism, it follows that the mother is naturally the best kindergarten teacher; for who so likely as she to have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, and culture?" -Charlotte Mason - Home Education.

Now, naturally, Mason was writing about an entirely different type of "kindergarten" in 1886 London when she wrote this lecture than what I am referring to, but the words still ring true for me. Liam is now in 1st grade, yet I still refer to this excerpt when I am feeling unsure of what I am doing.

Today, Liam wrapped up all of his online work and all of his math in 2 hours. This is actually pretty amazing for him, as he works slow with his online work. It was only 10am and I glanced at my lesson plan for the rest of the day…only his reading assignments and literature left on the to do list. What the heck…let's take those to the park! We gathered our books, some bread to feed the fish, our water jugs that needed to be filled from the spring at the park, and hopped in the van to finish school. I had promised Liam that if we completed his lessons without any whining or hesitation that we'd spend some time in the cave, which is a local "commodity" and tourist attraction in addition to the spring but we go in there about once a week because we love the cave. Liam was eager to finish all of his reading and he did such a great job that I decided to make the most of our $1/person admission to the cave and do our lit lesson inside. It was really nice. Liam sat on the muddy, wet cave floor while I read him his book and we discussed it. After our lesson, we just played and hung out in the cool, damp cave for about an hour. The cave has almost always been an in and out kind of adventure for us. It's really a shame that we haven't yet taken the time to just hang out and enjoy it before today. Most people do go in there expecting something very different than what they get. The few little paths lead to no where; A steep stair case carved into the stone leads to the rock wall of the cave and a narrow tunnel leads to a very small and almost creepy "room" where the air suddenly turns very thick and heavy and shadows from the rocks and smaller tunnels that lead off of the room create for some serious creepy, paranoid feels. I don't like that room, yet, we always find ourselves there :-) ok, maybe we like creepy, just a bit. We spent more time than usual in the cave today and I am happy that we did. Liam's imagination ran wild and he had a blast once I told him "I don't care, go wherever you want, explore, climb, get muddy, have fun! That's why we are here!" It wasn't long before I was getting muddy and having fun right along side him. I never mind getting dirty if I am dressed appropriately. Sometimes, I don't even mind even if I am dressed in clothes that I'd rather not get dirty. I'm a big kid at heart so today was as fun for me as it was for Liam.

I posted this Charlotte Mason quote on my Facebook status today along with a couple of pictures from our school day at the park, however, I love this quote so much and feel that it really encompasses how I try to teach Liam that it bears repeating:

"But give the child work that Nature intended for him, and the quantity he can get through with ease is practically unlimited. Whoever saw a child tired of seeing, of examining in his own way, unfamiliar things? This is the sort of mental nourishment for which he has an unbounded appetite, because it is that food of the mind on which, for the present, he is meant to grow."

Liam loves to be outside, and he loves learning while exploring and observing, not just in nature but also in our home, or where ever he is. The world IS his classroom and I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity and privilege of being able to provide him with this amazing school experience. It's through teaching him that I am often reminded of the wonders of God's creation surrounding me daily and that I am able to take it all in and appreciate every aspect of it. Caves are particularly miraculous to me. Tucked away and hidden deep inside our earth and in the mountain sides are these beautiful, elaborate, and careful works of art created by our God. You simply cannot explain it any other way if you are a believer. While I sat in the mud of this cave today, I watched my own little miracle, my sweet darling son playing and exploring another miracle, this beautiful and wonderful little cave merely 300 yards from my own door step and it was a wonderful feeling. A feeling of peace and tranquility, and of pure joy and love for the son who is thriving and learning, for the beautiful earth that God created for us to enjoy, and for the time that he has so graciously given to me so that I can experience days like today. 

(please excuse the shitty photography. It's hard to focus with my non-auto lens in the dark cave!)

The fun thing about caves is that they are full of neat little cubbies and shelves to prop a camera up on and take a self timer selfie! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 1

What a fun 1st day of 1st grade! My little monkey got off to a fantastic start this morning at 8am on the dot! I told him last night that this year there would be no morning monkeying around. We were going to start at 8am every day and work until 11:30 with no interruptions or breaks. I have worked pretty hard setting up a good system for us to make the non-stop morning routine work for us. Most of you know that Liam's inability to sit still and concentrate for more than 30 minutes at a time was a factor in him doing so poorly in public school last year. We toyed around with various methods last year once we brought him home. Some worked and most did not work. I found that one of our biggest problems was my own lack of preplanning and organizing. This year I am attempting to have lesson plans completed for each week by Sunday morning so that I can assemble our materials and worksheets for the week in my lesson plan binder. I started out well with that last year but found myself getting lazy toward the end of the year. I'm hoping not to fall back into that kind of laziness this year. I am sure I will ave my days/weeks though!

 Everything worked out so smoothly today. Liam was ready to go and in his desk at 8 and we were pretty much all finished by 11:00. He'd done so well today that I decided to add a little fun so we did a simple science experiment. Liam worked on vocabulary for a bit today and was studying "weather words". During our lesson, he remarked "I wish I could touch a cloud one day". I remembered a link to an experiment that I'd run across on Pinterest and looked it up. We made a cloud in a jar and he loved it so much that he had to do it several times. Once the cloud is formed inside the jar, you remove the top and release the cloud. I thought it would be kind of a let down, but when you run your fingers through it, it feels wet. We talked about how clouds are made and he did indeed get to "touch a cloud". All in all a great 1st day!

Our new "classroom" is almost finished! Here is a sneak peek and Liam's "official" 1st grade picture from last week :-)