Monday, March 07, 2011

It's a Different World

The blog has been quiet because I have NOT been quiet! Hahaha!  I returned home late this evening after having been invited to work at the booth for Nancy Larson Publishers, the company which created the science curriculum we are using.

I had no idea what to expect from this weekend.  I have never been to Memphis, I had never met Madon Dailey, who I would be spending the weekend with, I had never done anything like this on this sort of scale before, and I had never interacted with this many homeschoolers before.  While I was looking forward to the opportunity, I'll admit I was a bit tentative about it and was unsure of myself.

I ended up having a great time and was very grateful for the opportunity to do it!  Madon was wonderful, we discovered we had a lot in common and we enjoyed each other very much.  Our interaction with one another made the weekend fly by.  I also hadn't realized just how much I had been missing sales/service contact with others.  Just about every job I have ever had in the past has involved working with the public, and being home this past year has been a real change for me.  I love what I am doing with the kids, and consider it a great gift and blessing, but having a little taste of working with others again in this capacity was a nice change of pace.

The convention had good attendance, and I met a lot of really nice moms and a few dads as well.  I had time to wander around and peruse materials myself, coming up mostly empty but gaining a few ideas that might work well for us.  Much of the curricula out there is firmly rooted in the Christian faith, and because of the public school program we are working through we are not allowed to use any faith based materials.  I had hoped to find a few more secular or neutral items there, but was unable to find much.  Even if we were not required to use secular material, I personally have found that there is a lot of curricula that brands itself as "Christian" and gets attention simply because of the label or because there is Scripture sprinkled throughout, but that doesn't necessarily make it superior.  I also am of the mindset that curricula is not inherently bad because it is secular either.  Often, for our unique situation, secular curricula as far more able to meet our needs than Christian curricula is.  That being said, there is also some high quality Christian curricula out there as well, but you have to work your way through a lot of chaff to get to the wheat.  I guess I just like my educational materials to be "whole grain", and that doesn't mean it has to be stamped with a fish on it.  In every other area of our lives God works through all, and I think that comes to curricula as well.

We didn't get the chance to see much of Memphis, as we were literally working 12 hour days.  But we did have a treat at the end of the day.  We stumbled into a local landmark, Westy's, which was right on the trolley line and a block down from the Convention Center.  There we met Reggie, the finest ambassador for Memphis that ever lived.  We were treated to his version of warm Memphis hospitality when he pulled up a chair and shared a little history of downtown Memphis, and made recommendations for menu selections.  We had "to die for" ribs with real down home BBQ sauce.  Best I have ever had, bar none.  This place is a whole in the wall leaning toward the "dive" side, but authentic as it gets and we loved it enough to return two nights in a row.  Meeting Reggie was a treat in itself and when he saw us the second night he surprised us with his virgin version of  his speciality "triple threat" mixed juice cocktail which was yummy.

I had time for a lot of reading and contemplation today, as I had a mini-retreat in a corner of the Memphis airport where I had to wait 8 hours for my flight to depart.  I found I did a lot of thinking, maybe because it was the most downtime I have had in months!  Here is what I discovered for myself:

1)  This convention was good for me in many ways, one of them being that I met many moms who appeared to have it all together when the approached our booth, but after a few minutes of conversation it "got real" and I was able to see that no one has it any more together or less together than I do.  I am not the single worst Loser Homeschooling Mom, everyone is struggling to keep motivated, to keep their kids moving forward, and to cover all the bases.  In other words, we are all doing the best we can, and that looks different for every family.  I think I hadn't realized it, but I needed to see that.

2)  However we homeschool, it will never look like anyone else, and I think I like it that way.  We did not look like the majority of homeschooling families I encountered there.  Many wonderful families filled with delightful children who were all dressed perfectly, had every hair in place, and admittedly had terrific behavior.  Lots of mom/daughter combos who dressed alike in skirts and were cute with their long hair braided and very demure.  Let's put it this way, the LaJoy Women will never, ever be demure.  Totally not a word anyone would ever use to describe the three of us, or come to think of it any of our extended family....hahahaha!  Skirts and braids, not happening.  But you know what?  As much as I honestly had an appreciation for those Duggar-esque families (Who wouldn't admire that sort of organization and decency, really?), I walked away with a greater appreciation for who WE are as a homeschooling family.  We will never fit a certain mold, but that's OK because we broke the mold anyway :-) 

3)  I like what I saw in terms of the children I encountered and their easy, respectful and comfortable interaction with the adults around them.  I am seeing that same thing slowly develop in our kids as well, and I'll admit I didn't expect it.

4)  There was a subtlety I picked up on, which if I hadn't been part of the public schooling system so long I might not have noticed. In public school, parents tend to "brag" on their kids' sports accomplishments, with homeschoolers it is far more often about academics.  It took me all weekend to see that clearly, that with homeschoolers there is a much greater emphasis, in general, on academics and that is where the pride is reflected, but in public education parents seem to gain more pride in athletic ability.  That's not to say that there isn't some flip flopping there from time to time, but in general, this appears to be true.

5)  My world at home has changed, our kids have hit the next phase, and I heard it in their voices and in their laughter during our late night phone call.  Goodbye, young childhood, hello pre-adulthood.  Don't know why it hit me full force like that, as of course there have been changes going on continually around here, but it was very clear and obvious.

6)  I really like homeschooling, yes, even for myself.  I like what it does for our family, I like how it has enhanced and shortened the time it took for emotional connections to develop.  I like how we have gone from a frantic, running every evening group of individuals living under one roof, to being together as a family far more often.  I like that I don't have that sense of guilt hanging over me continually that my kids are at school and are not getting the individual time they need, especially Kenny.  I knew this was not going to work, I knew I was failing him by leaving him in school and by allowing him to be moved to be moved to 4th grade.  I may not do better than the school did with him, but my guilt has dissipated because now I feel like we are giving it everything we've got to help him (and the girls too!) achieve and be all that it is possible for him to be. I like that we all share in our successes every day and can celebrate them, where in school, for some of our kids, their successes would barely be noticed, even if for them it is huge.  I like the atmosphere in our home at mid-morning when all are engrossed in their work.  I like the clink of the piano, the swoosh of the loom shuttle, and the twang of the guitar strings. 

7)  I need to carve out more time for me, I need to create more, to work more, to connect makes me happier and the kids as well.  I need to be intentional about it, for I need to be filled too in order to have anything to fill up others.

8)  I can be outgoing, but I am truly an introvert.  My outgoingness does not come naturally at all, and I have to do a lot of internal talking to move out of my wallflower mode, where I live happily most of the time.

9)  I realized that I am much happier having a game plan in place, a framework to work from, and throwing in spontaneous things or projects.  But I could never be too loose, it would be too uncomfortable for me.  I also realized that creating a general plan through the end of high school is important for me to be able to let go and get in the moment, so I started one and hope it is a living document to be worked with.  Already the simple act of doing that has helped release some tension.  I know it is silly, I also know that the greatest plans of mice and men yadda yadda yadda, but for me it brings peace to plan, it allows me to let go of certain data and make room for other more important data.

10)  We'll never be able to do it all, so get over your bad self!!  What we DO accomplish will be amazing and extraordinary.  There will be gaps, if we are sane.  If we are insane, we will try to cover every single thing and I will beat my head bloody against a wall.  I don't want to miss the joy in all of this, and letting go of the need to do EVERYTHING will help in that regard.

There were many more insights I gained, or maybe internalized more after having already given it some brain time.  Strengthening who we all are in this, and what we envision for our kids, is an important part in my evolution as a mom. 

My eyes are closing on me, and I need to get some sleep.  Glad I am only driving a computer!


Anonymous said...

What a blessing that being away and amongst other homeschoolers (braids, denim skirts, and all)gave you a firmer picture of your own family, your schooling choices and process, and of yourself, Cindy. Sounds like you got many unexpected blessings out of your trip.

I'm sure it seemed that your kids had grown and matured by leaps and bounds, beng away from them for awhile.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Oops...better explain my "denim skirt" comment. We have many homeschooling friends and aquaintences. One close friend brought it to my attention that she didn't have the typical "homeschool uniform" of the denim skirt or jumper she was seeing at homeschool gatherings they attended. I respect others who are more "demure" than our family, as you say. Just not our choice nor hers as to how the females in our family dress, though admittedly, we could stand to dress up a bit more than we do. Our idea of church clothes are our customary black dress pants and a nice (and modest) dress shirt of some type. In that regard, my convictions lie more in terms of not spending so much money on clothes, but more on giving.

As you so often stress, each family is responsible to God for making their own decisions. The beauty of that is the freedom that is allowed within the limits of scripture. The sad part part of it is when we start to judge each other.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

So delighted you had a wonderful change of pace and place. Thanks for the fruits of your thoughts. As one privileged to be on the other end while you were gone, I have some reflections on your reflections (of course!).

1. I feel that every parent living a conscious, caring life has occasions when they struggle with the gap between fantasy perfect and real living. It may be this struggle that helps keep us reevaluating, striving, changing.

2. Maybe never dresses, but Angela beautifully braided her hair before work. She was a beautiful representative of Team LaJoy in manner and appearance.

3. I see that as they grow your children push out and playfully stretch limits, but they are beautifully, solidly respectful.

4. I have to give credit to homeschooling for keeping academics in the forefront. I will say that in the past small towns have centered much of the community social life and pride around their high school sports teams. This, of course, is changing as television, computer games, Wii, texting, etc. takes deeper root in our society. I also see a value in physical activity and even to learn to work in teams, although this can be academic, agricultural, scientific teams as well as sports. Still, kudos to those who put academics first.

5. It's a delightful time to watch the kids balancing between young childhood and testing adolescence. Academics, nerf wars, church, cooking, intellectual games, horseplay, organizing and cleaning space and properties--they may grow up too soon for us, but it is fun to be a bystander or participant in their lives.

6. Kenny--absolutely you have made the right decision for him--and for each of the others. Kenny is rad! We who are around Team LaJoy watch him gain in poise and confidence. We are made better for his delight in life, his anticipation, his outgoing manner.

"...atmosphere in mid-morning when all are engrossed in their work..." Oh, oh! I think that was when we were engrossed in a nerf war.

7. Yes!

8. Time, intent to feed the mind and soul, quiet time for self, one-on-one time with other adults--move out of wallflower into flower...bloom as Cindy in some sunny spot of your own garden.

9. Game plan, life dream, have been so clear minded about at least some of your goals from the beginning. As a reader of your blog, I now need to pause and reflect on whether I have a game plan, what it is, whether I am keeping it in sight as I live. You live an intentional, conscious life.

10. Well said!

The Substitute Teacher

Anna said...

isnt it beautiful when we can all appreciate the differences even in homeschooling? As the movement has grown I have seen such a nice shift. There are more choices which can be good. I still stand by my tried and true though. When we moved here it was hard because the homeschoolers looked a certain way. I tried it for a season but have learned I have to be true to my self and understanding of Gods word. I am thankful that He is good and full of grace.

I am glad for this away time. It helps us see the trees in spite of the forest doesnt it. I am glad you have a plan and a dream for each of your children/students. Keep the "joy" in it ;)

Anonymous said...

Looking deeper into the convention's website, it becomes obvious that it has a huge religious emphasis that isn't really noticeable when you first look at it. That's fine, but it would be nice if they were more upfront about it since people seeking a more secular program might not find what they are looking for there. I can imagine that your family, like most, doesn't have unlimited funds to go to every convention like this across the country :-)

Hopefully more niches will continue to open up that understand that all types of people from all different backgrounds are choosing to homeschool. Like you said, just being in a homeschooling environment was beneficial. I hope you got some good ideas about where to go for the type of curricula your family needs.