Friday, January 20, 2012

My Fascinating Career

At dinner last night with friends I had a conversation in which I spoke about how sometimes, my job is hard.  Oh, not for the reasons all of you are thinking...the cooking, cleaning, teaching...yadda yadda.  Making the decision to step out of the working world after having worked since I was 15 years old is a difficult one, and can be hard on the ego.  Yea, I hate to admit it, as I will totally blow the image I have created for all of you of this ever-so-humble mom, but it can be hard to do a job that goes unrecognized in the traditional ways.  There are no raises, no satisfied customers letting you know how much they appreciate your help, no reviews of job performance, no feedback whatsoever.  We all need to know now and then that what we are doing matters, we all need a little praise and an accolade or two once in awhile, and we all need to know where we are on the continuum...are we succeeding on our chosen path?  What are our strengths and weaknesses?  Where could we make improvements and where do we totally rock?

Let me share something with you, the life of a homeschooling mom isn't filled with a whole lot of that sort of thing.  Surprised?  Nah, you all are smarter than that.

As I approach the 2 1/2 year mark of homeschooling...which has been an unusual stretch of time in my life (Really?  Seriously???)  and not at all a straight shot as we started with one home, then traveled to Kazakhstan for an unexpected emotional roller coaster 2 1/2 month long extravaganza, then added two that didn't speak a lick of English, then finally added two more to the homeschooling with seemingly insurmountable issues...well, to say it has been simple would be a total crack up.

That being said, and all the lack of recognition aside, it has been the single most fascinating thing I ever have or ever will undertake.  It has forced me to try and be more creative than I really am, or at least steal ideas from others that will help me teach in a more engaging and creative fashion.  It has stretched me to self-educate myself!  There is nothing I love more than learning something new, and I have never learned so much in my entire life as I have learned the past 2 years.  Panic will do that to a person  and is an amazing motivator! Hahaha! :-)  I have gained confidence in my skills in one area, and that is that I discovered I am not a half bad teacher, whether certified or not.

I also have gradually come to realize that accolades or not, I highly doubt I could be doing anything nearly as stimulating as I am doing right now, that does allow me to do what I most enjoy every single day, all day long...and that is figuring people out and trying to move them forward.  Sounds silly, but its true.  As I look back over the many jobs I have had, the ones I enjoyed most were the ones where I was training someone or teaching someone something new, whether it was helping someone learn about cameras, explaining the pros and cons of various insurance policies, or teaching folks how to make change on a cash register.  (I know none of those are glamorous jobs!)

Maybe God heard my conversation last night and provided me with some proof positive today of the ways in which my current job fits me to a "T" even without the job evaluations.  Working with the five special young people I am blessed to be around every single day, how could I possibly EVER grow bored with my chosen career?  And yea, I think I am beginning to see it as a career, weird as that may sound to some.

One of the ways in which God spoke to all of this today was quite profound, and would require years of psychology courses and counseling classes to analyze. We are all writing a lot right now, as part of a library program that Lael shared with us.  Angela was slow to warm to the idea, but once she started writing, she took off and wrote for 2 days.  She came to me this evening and asked if she could share the five handwritten pages she had completed.  Curled up together on the couch, the peachy blue sky darkening through the window behind us, she began reading in her husky voice.  It was a fictional story, and yet it truly wasn't...but only someone who knows her as well as we do would ever understand the autobiographical thread running through it.

It was the story of a large family that lived in Los Angeles, and was poor, but very, very happy.  Then Dad got a good job and Mom went to work too, and the entire dynamic of the family changed as money began to become more important than love.  Parents weren't home much, fun times were not spent together anymore, and older siblings moved away.  Dad started to drink, and the younger siblings left at home suffered as they watched their family sink into the mire of the effects of alcoholism and despair.  There were, however, the memories of the good times and loving siblings who still cared very much about one another and supported each other through it all.  One day, Dad and Mom decided to quit their jobs and recommit to their family.  The entire family went to Hawaii together and recaptured what had been lost.  The narrator of the story went on to become a pilot and remained very close to her family and good friends.

Wow...there were connections made throughout, with names used to overlay characters with similar traits from real life, there was a little underlying fear that what has been gained will be lost, there was a harkening back to very dark times, the acknowledgement that having less does not REALLY mean having less of the things that matter.  This was just an incredibly multi-layered piece of work that will take me quite awhile to thoughtfully digest and work with in the ways I can.  What a wonderfully complicated, insightful, open hearted daughter I have to share this sort of thing with! And talk about keeping me on my toes, ALL the kids do that in one form or another.

Then there is sweet, deep Kenny LaJoy.  Thursdays are "our" time as we spend the morning together traveling to the next town over for speech therapy and a temporary special needs class/evaluation.  There are times when Kenny is a typical younger acting kid (as in acting like 9 or 10, not 13) when he makes no sense at all, is as silly as a goose, and you have to work hard to keep from rolling your eyes at the nonsense.  Then there is the Kenny I had today, who was so incredibly articulate, so desirous of meaningful conversation, and such a wonderfully encouraging and dang bright kid.  Oh, the talk we had!!  He wanted to talk about school, about how he felt no one involved in the special needs process and evaluations had a clue what was wrong with his brain, and how glad he was that he had a mom and dad who wouldn't give up on him, saying sometimes he felt we were the only ones in the world who really understood how hard things were for him.

Special needs class has been a total bomb, not due to anyone's fault, but because Kenny's issues are not readily apparent and tend to be somewhat cyclical in nature.  The inconsistency makes it hard to evaluate, and I do understand that.  The gentleman working with him has tried to put Kenny in situations where he might show his memory failings, or his inability to organize and structure himself, but so far no luck.  In fact, Kenny has remarked a couple of times that "I don't want to be mean mom, but I don't think he is smart enough to figure out what is wrong with me.  He doesn't even know when he is asking me things that I can read right off the page because he doesn't hide them!  I just don't think he gets it.  No one does."  Today he said in the car "I wish we could find someone who was as smart as you, but had the training you don't have...I think only someone as smart as you is going to help us."  Quite a compliment, considering I have no idea really what is going on with his brain either.

One thing that tickled me completely was how he spoke about marrying someone eventually.  He furrowed his brow and said "You know, Mom, when I first came home, all I thought about a wife was to find someone to take care of me, someone to do everything for me.  You know, someone to make pies, cook big dinners, wear an apron and do everything I wanted...maybe even go to work while I stayed home.  I was so lazy!"  I laughed out loud over that one, as Kenny was pretty much wanting someone to wait on him hand and foot when he first arrived here.  But then, get this, the kid who used to call himself "stupid" all the time then added "Now I think I would be totally bored with that kind of wife.  It's not that a wife like that would be a bad person, but Mom, I think I need someone really smart.  You always have the best conversations with me, and I LOVE the classes at church on religion because they really make me think.  I like how we do school with history and all of us talk and share ideas and opinions.  If I had a wife like I used to want, she probably wouldn't be very smart because I would have fooled her into doing everything for me. I think I need a wife who I can talk to, who will challenge me, even if she can't bake pies and things.  I'd rather even have a messy house and a wife I can talk about things with!"  And then I really roared, because you ain't gonna catch me ever making a truly homemade pie, crust and all, sad to say.  My house?  Well, it is relatively clean most of the time, considering 7 people live here...but a pie?  Isn't that what Mrs. Smith's is for???

Yes, I know, total loser mom :-)  I know some of you are cringing as you read this, and poor Dee over at Crab Chronicles who sounds like an awesome cook is likely turning to her mom and saying "Oh, those poor kids!!"...and she would be right! Hahaha!

They all had art class today, and as we were getting ready to leave and Joshie was showing me his prayer flag with Peace and Love on it within his hand print, Miss Mary, the teacher said "All your kids are SO different and make such creative things...none of them alike!  It is so much fun to see what they all come up with every week!" She is right, we have five very distinctly different children, whose unique interests and personalities make my Fascinating Career so stimulating for me.

OK, so I think the "genius" part is definitely going too far, but substitute "curiosity and  a love of learning" and its right!

The best part?  Watching them change, pointing out the strengths they don't yet see, trying to present them with opportunities to explore those strengths...and loving them.  That's the best.  And let's face it, on what other job could I have all these roles combined into one:  Teacher, counselor, career guider, nurturer, enlightener, advocate, Director, curriculum researcher and implementer, supply clerk, researcher, writing/math/reading/history/science specialist, life coach, reviewer, logic developer, Chief Hugger, meal planner, laundress, media consultant, etc.  On any given day in MY office at MY executive desk (the kitchen table) I get to work with such diverse topics as: Under the gases of Jupiter is there a solid formation?  What part of speech is the word "not" considered?  How do we create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the worlds great and terrible leaders...and where do they cross over and each show some of the same traits?     Is the bottom of a pyramid also considered a "face"?  What are the similarities between Abraham Lincoln's death and John F. Kennedy's death? (thanks Dominick for that one!), why haven't the world's terrible leaders figured out that fighting a war for revenge never works?  What is "internal conflict" in a story?  And those, my friends, are exactly the topics I worked with over the past 24 hours...let alone all the other things described here that also came up.  How could my career ever be anything but fascinating???  Oh yea, and throw in a dash of theology from the outside :-)

Tonight we were getting dinner ready and everyone was helping in some way...Matt made brownies, Kenny grabbed silverware, Olesya made bread for tomorrow with her secret Amish recipe, Josh got drinks, and I finished the spaghetti while Dominick got off his feet after a 14 hour day.  I thought to myself what a wonderful, wonderful life we have.  Sickening, I know, but there is such peace that surrounds us even in times of stress.  There is no anger filling our home, nothing brewing under the surface.  There are 7 people living together, growing together, learning together and appreciating the love we share and the life we lead.  There are constant hugs and continual laughter.  There are challenges and heartaches too.  Yet in the midst of all of that, there is a blessed peace that I will never. ever. ever take for granted.  Somehow, I doubt any of us ever will.  Reading Angela's story this evening touched my heart so deeply, for she captured in her ever-less-broken English the very essence of what our family strives to be, and mostly lives out.

My career IS fascinating, more than anything else I could ever do in this world, be it brain surgery, leading a Forbes 500 company, or creating a non-profit that changes the world.  I have enough of the world to change, right here.  And I love every minute of it!


Carrie DeLille said...

I want to move in with you :o)!! Your pay-offs are great and will be even greater as they all near adulthood or become adults! You're a fabulous family, you're a fabulous mother and teacher. God bless!

Kelly and Sne said...

Ok, the pay sucks but the emotional rewards are substantial! Actually, I have been reading a lot about child development since our daughter came home and find it fascinating. I wonder if I've missed my calling! While I don't think I could stay home and school her (you have a lot more patience than I do!), I am very involved with ensuring that her needs are met and every therapist that I've spoken with is impressed at how much I know and how on top of things I am. Also, on the topic of Kenny - it is great that you can see the potential in him as he seems to have it in spades. Also, I don't understand why the special needs program doesn't get that a hallmark trait of neurological issues is inconsistency. I see that all the time in my daughter - some days it seems she just forgets skills or knowledge that we were confident she had mastered. In any case, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I once read that in this day and age each of us must be prepared for multiple careers. Jobs are phased out. Moves necessitate job changes. Technology obsoletes one thing and creates another. You, Cindy,as usual, have multitasked in spades. Most people, if they prepare, prepare for careeers in sequence. You put all your multiple careers in one, doing them simultaneously.

No wonder you need Diet Coke. I think you should get it by the keg, just tap it and have it ready any time of the day or night.

What insight Angela has in her life? Could you tell how much was consciously added into the story and what came out of the subconscious? Doesn't really matter, does it? Once out it is there to share, to process, to marvel at.

Amazing kids, amazing mom, amazing Team LaJoy,

Anonymous said...

What you described about your life as a homeschooling mom is the life of a true teacher! I discovered when I started teaching Sunday school that there was so much I didn't know, and I had to work hard to learn stuff before any kids in my class asked questions I couldn't answer. I loved that so much that I went back to school to get a teaching degree. School teachers don't earn much money and they don't get big accolades, but they know that when they get through to a kid, they have changed the world.

Dee said...

Cindy I just now caught up with your blog and I wanted to say, pies are SO not important! I guess I fuss too much about cooking. You are giving your children THE MOST valuable gift ever, the gift of your time and attention. You are my hero.

Having said that, however, I will send you a recipe nobody could screw up, and you can make it with the kids!

Big Hugs,