But I do realize it is not the end of the world, that our life is very, very good and I really have nothing to complain about. Truly, could I ask for more in this world, and should I dare insinuate that what we have is not enough????
And yet...the loneliness that I know exists halfway around the world reaches into the very core of my soul and will not leave me alone. I can not run away from it no matter how I try to dress it up.
I am also trying to battle a minor cold that both Kenny and Josh had earlier this week but seemed to fight off. It's not looking like I will be so lucky.
We have had some great fun here though, as we celebrated Kenny's birthday this past Sunday. Although he turned 11, it was only his 3rd ever celebrated and he still very much anticipates it with the excitement of a much younger child. He bounded into our room Sunday morning declaring loudly in a sing song voice "It's my birthday, it's my birthday!". Although we tend to keep it low key, we did have a couple of his friends over and he had his special treat of cheesecake rather than a traditional birthday cake. He also got a special traditional gift of a watermelon from Miss Jill, who has taken it upon herself to provide that every year after doing so once and having Kenny remind us over and over that he got a watermelon for his birthday. He LOVES it and could eat an entire one all by himself if we let him!
Now I don't want any of you laughing at us here, but I want to share with you what our gift to Kenny was. You ready for this? A doll house. Yes, you read that right. That is all he has talked about for the past couple of months, and recently he was playing with one at a friend's house and I realized he really needs one. He loves playing pretend and this allows him to play pretend with a family. Now, if any of you have priced doll houses lately, you will know those little suckers aren't cheap. So on a whim I went to Hobby Lobby and found a small kit which was within our price range and so it was double the fun...he can have the challenge of putting it together (and forcing him to read diagrams and instructions isn't so bad either!) and then have a finished product he can be proud of AND play with! When we saw his face as he opened it up we knew we made the right choice, and already he has spent 3 evenings working on it diligently. Here are a couple of pictures below:
It was a couple of weeks of surprises as Matthew also got a thoughtful and touching surprise. We received a package that was addressed to him, but had had no clue what was in it and neither did I. Can you imagine how excited he was to open it up and find an updated version of his favorite blankie!! Yes, the one that had long ago been lost, that was threadbare and tattered from being so loved, was lovingly replaced by our "Blankie Grandma"!! I think what I love the most is that at 10 years old, his heart is still such that a gift like this would have him jumping up and down with excitement. I know they will eventually grow up, and to most who meet him he often presents as more mature than his age mates. But what some people don't understand is that maturity does not necessarily mean a loss of innocence or delight. How thankful I am that Matthew still exhibits those qualities!!! Here is his face as he relishes his new gift:
Now, I know what some of you out there might be thinking. These are 10 and 11 year old boys...aren't they a little old for this stuff? To that I would ask "Since when?". It is so sad to me that in today's society, we pressure our children to grow up so fast. They are exposed to all sorts of material from so many different directions that over-sexualize them, that shove violence in their faces 24/7, that encourage insolence towards their parents as a way of being humorous. Why? Why can't our kids preserve their innocence a tad bit longer? Why can't their childhoods last as long as our parents' did? That doesn't mean withholding information from them about "real life". But it does mean not subjecting them to the attitudes that convey to them that they must act as if they are bored 17 year olds when they are 10 or 11. And in Kenny's case, we feel it is imperative that he have the chance to relive the childhood he never really got to have...or we are afraid he will continue to search to live that out in inappropriate ways when he is older. Maybe we are wrong, I don't know, but while we don't want children who are naive, I also don't want to have them thinking that the MTV lifestyle is what life is all about.
Mom had a surprise too, as one of my longtime internet buddies surprised us with a "Family Shower in a Box", which was a total hoot. What this woman didn't think of! Everything from grass skirts and wigs for the boys with fake wax lip mustache's to party games to food the boys could fix to surprise me. We had so much fun and laughed like crazy the entire time!
Homeschooling continues to be a learning adventure for both Matthew and I, both of us morphing into new beings as we internalize what homeschooling really means for us. It really requires a new way of thinking, of "deschooling" as long time homeschoolers call it. We are gradually getting there, as I do more and more research and as Matt relaxes and gets back to having learning be more meaningful and less test oriented.
Unfortunately, I am not the kind who can just casually take on something new. For me to feel confident and secure, I have to do an extreme amount of investigation and analyze it all 15 different ways. It can be annoying to poor Dominick as I hash and rehash everything, but by now he has learned to live with it. But it does allow me to wrap my mind around new information and take from it what is applicable to our life and discard the rest.
Being a home educator is requiring us to look at what long term goals we have for all the kids, what we feel is important for them to know by the time they head out on their own someday. Often it is very different than what the State thinks our kids should know or will focus on teaching them. For example, for us it is important that the boys are exposed to the arts in various forms. And by that we mean far more than half an hour once a week in school. Why? Does that lead to a good career or get them into a good college? Well...barring scholarships for some as-yet-to-be-revealed talent, no. But it does lead to a lifetime of pleasure and appreciation of music and art, it might lead to a hobby which will be with them until the day they die. It might provide them with a way of expressing themselves or appreciating that their own emotions are expressed through the music or art of others.
It is also important that they understand how the adult world in which they will live functions. I can't to begin to tell you how surprised I have been over the past several years to be in conversations with young adults who are already out in the working world and have no idea how corporations make many or function, how loans work, what insurance is for other than meeting a state requirement, how the stock market works and why it exists, how an idea becomes a law, what those in our major roles in government do, and so many other things. They may be "educated" and know a lot of facts about botany, they may have obscure dates memorized of events in history (and I do mean obscure, not dates like Sept. 11th or the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor)...but they can't tell you within 200 years when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth or where Asia is. All anyone has to do is watch Jay Leno for his street walking questions to see that is not at all an exaggeration. What good is it to be able to tell me you memorized the periodic table of elements if you can't negotiate a fair and reasonable deal on a car loan? Unless you are going to be a scientist, which skill is more valuable? I am not suggesting that you give up one for the other but I think in our zest for working towards college entrance exams we have neglected to teach our kids the practical things that we took for granted they would learn somewhere along the line in school. Like how interest works on savings accounts and loans.
But I digress (see, it has been a few days and now I am running off at the mouth...or is that the keyboard?), Even with Matthew home now, there must be something permeating the air around here in terms of an excitement about learning. Here is what we are seeing often these days:
I love this shot and hope that somehow we can keep the excitement and enthusiasm going...not in any sort of attempt to create geniuses (Lord knows that ain't happenin' around here!) but to have the boys love learning and know HOW to learn. If we can accomplish that alone, we will have succeeded in my book.
To see Matthew finally back to being as engaged in learning as he was couple of years ago, has been awesome. A couple of weeks ago he discovered this old series of books called "Landmark" which were published from the 1950's through the 1970's. They are books of about 200 pages each which are biographies or true stories of events and people from our past. He started with "The Winter at Valley Forge", and loved it so much he went on to read "Custer's Last Stand" in 2 days! I knew we had "made it" when the other day he was reading in the car and we arrived at Walmart, and he slowly backed out of the car door, book in hand, trying to read just one more sentence before he had to put it down. He had to take "The Sinking of the Bismark" to TaeKwonDo tonight so that he could read it on the way home when Dominick picked them all up. It is that hunger for reading and learning which I had seen drifting away, it was that which prompted me to recognize we had a serious problem and had to make a change, drastic though it may have appeared to some. I don't know how many times in the past couple of weeks I have told Dominick how grateful I am that we made this choice for Matthew, because it has been such a gift to me to see him delighted with learning again. The side effect on Josh and Kenny is no small thing either.
And finally, you will have to tolerate this space looking a little like the front of a typical suburban housewife's fridge. In the spirit of recording more for the boys so I don't have to keep every art project forever and ever around the house, I have to post artwork from both Kenny and Matthew so that I may eventually be allowed to toss some items and not have to buy a $20,000 storage shed to hold it all! But with artwork like this, it isn't such an eyesore to look at, and I actually enjoy it! Not like my poor mom who suffered with this outright ugly tree I did in 1st or 2nd grade that had tissue paper glued to it for leaves and stayed affixed to our metal pantry door for about 20 years. No kidding, it was still there when I got married! Now THAT'S devotion! I had a much better mom than I'll ever be :-)
Here are Kenny's palm trees, which I loved because they were so unique! The geometric patterns on the trunk were totally cool. Below is Matthew's latest work from art class which he did today and was quite proud of. I can always tell if he likes what he has done, as he won't show it to me until we get out to the car.