Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Shifting sands

Since the end of the school year I have been wondering how to get back here or whether to come back at all. The thought of starting fresh with another bright, shiny blog crossed my mind several times. In all honesty the only reason I'm not typing over there is due to the lack of inspiration for a new, bright, shiny blog name. Then I decided my fickle blogging intentions were rather comfortable right here at HomM HQ, plus we have history. Forty two months of history to be precise. Those months have carried our story, reminding me of all the blurry days between the years.

Those blurry days have revealed a teenager in the house, a pre-teen on the cusp of adolescence, a young baby grown into a pre-schooler & the whispering thoughts of another child into an almost toddling toddler. Plus a dog, a cat & a partridge in a pear tree...or four budgies in a cage, whatever.

The last update was all about Jack, how far he has come within himself since we pulled him from mainstream school & began our homeschooling journey.

Journey noun
Passage or progress from one stage to another:
the journey to success
We have very much undergone a journey, not only with Jack, but also within ourselves & our beliefs pertaining to education. Our generic acceptance was challenged. The further we wandered down the beaten track the more we questioned, with each fork in the road our status quo shifted a little each time. School is not a one size fits all. It's rarely a one size fits most. I'll get into that another night.
Going back over the last post & reading how the other (school aged) minions all happily went off to their first day back to school come February, or first day at school as was the case for Will, amazes me in how much our point of view has altered. A narrow perspective has been upgraded to a wide angle lens with a birds eye view.
Mid year we decided that instead of sending Clay off to kindergarten in 2018, he would never see the inside of a conventional classroom. Instead he would keep doing what he's always known & that is homeschooling with Jack.
As we made this decision the other kids, particularly Ben & Blake, continued to frequently ask to homeschool. The blanket response initially was "no" for a variety of reasons, including the (misconception) that I personally wouldn't be able to do it, as well as the perception that they had no 'reason' to homeschool & hence were better off at mainstream school. Oh how I was still so blinkered.
You know when you're meant to be on another path, but you stubbornly continue to take step after step along the well worn tracks you're eminently familiar with, so the universe decides to throw a little wild weather your way. Whether it be in the form of an earthquake, a mudslide or a tsunami.
In our case it was a six week meet & greet with Influenza B & Norovirus - a nasty & hideously contagious gastro virus that loves nothing better than to take out nursing homes & cruise ships in one fell swoop. Or put a household under quarantine. 
Once we knew what we were battling & the kids were looking at a minimum one to two week absence from school, we offered them the choice to 'mock homeschool' or have their school work sent home from their teachers to complete. With a unanimous vote to (trail) homeschool, off we went.

Life. Changing.
For all of us.
Five weeks later & in the final week of term three, following several (hundred) discussions as a family, with the children separately & between Doug & I, we made the leap & put in our application to homeschool all the remaining school aged children.
It's now been three (or four?) months, though it feels so much longer than that - in a good way. It feels like life as we've always known it. The kids are even happier, which I didn't think was possible given they were all pretty happy kiddo's before. The cooperation & teamwork between them is heart bursting to quietly watch. Hearing them discuss or explain whatever they are currently reading, watching, writing, working on, thinking through, gives me more proof, if it was ever needed, that for our family homeschooling is the absolute freaking bees knees.
The world is their oyster school & I can't wait to travel it with them.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's not easy being green - part II

This time last year we were several weeks into the first term of school. While most of our school aged minions were happy & adjusting well to the new school year, Jack was waist deep & sinking fast. 

Drowning in negative self talk, nail biting to the point of bleeding, hair pulling, facial & upper body tics plus other anxiety related behaviour. There was sleeplessness, melt downs & mood swings, anger, tears - lots & lots of tears.  

In the morning, the closer it got to leaving for school the worse he became. Once we arrived at school he was compliant enough heading in to class. I won't write that he was happy enough, because he wasn't. More accurately put, he was resigned to it. Some days were better than others for him & I could usually gauge how stressful his day was based on how quickly he melted down once we got home. Or once he got to the car. 

So many days with so many tears of frustration, anger, self doubt. It was like the more he held it together at school the worse the personal fall out, or 'let go', was for him once he was in his safe space of being home.

We haven't even touched on the topic of homework. 

It's actually really heart breaking recalling how internally tormented he was, how different he was back then.

Over the years I had toyed mentally with the thought of homeschooling, it's always been on my radar since Ben approached school age. However with a reasonable selection of good schools around us in the suburbs that we lived in it was never more than a thought. Until it became a very serious consideration to try help our 'Jacker-knackers' come out of the swamp he seemed stuck in.

The school was great - it wasn't them, a school transfer was not going to fix this. It was Jack. No amount of meetings, compromise or additional help in any form was going to be able to fix what we were looking at. There was just so many areas, so multi-faceted, it would be impossible to ask a teacher to accomodate so many changes. Especially when our teachers are already stretched like an over used hair-band (& often doing an incredible job teaching a stacked curriculum to twenty odd students all of varying academic levels & backgrounds.)

After several weeks of researching, talking & sleepless nights, more researching & more talking, we made the decision to homeschool Jack.




The road we've traveled so far has not been without a few speed bumps & route re-evaluations. Especially with a pregnancy thrown into the mix. We completed our first year of homeschooling when Kade was eleven weeks old. It was not always easy, particularly in the last trimester when your body is all about growing a human & your brain is all about the sleep. Then we kicked off term four with a two week old. At least I could sit & feed, or stand & rock Kade to sleep while helping Jack. But the brain haze that accompanies the detaching of the placenta & the commencement of breast engorgement...the struggle was real. My brain was trying to nurture a newborn & support a nine year old with sensory issues, anxiety & still over coming the slathering of self doubt he was beginning to see past.

But my god. The changes we began to see, even just six weeks in. That was validation & all the confirmation we needed that this was right. 

The nail biting to point of bleeding & beyond began to ease, the nervous tics were dissipating, our mornings ran a lot smoother & after school was no longer filled with melt downs & homework battles.

The negative self talk-

"I can't do this"

"I'm so stupid"

"God I'm so dumb"

"Everybody hates me"

we even had "I wish I wasn't born"... 

*deep breaths, wipe away the tears.

I can't remember the last time Jack has spoken about himself like that. 

Last year when Jack was faced with a page of work that looked daunting, there was an immediate shut down response. It took a lot of coaching, coaxing & reassurance that I was right there with him to just get him to even consider putting a pencil in his hand.

Yesterday Jack opened up one of his English workbooks we're currently working through. He looked at all the writing, all the reading & said "Mum I can't do this one, it's too hard."
I came over to have a look & said, "you know what, I really think you can do it. I know it looks like there is a lot, but I think you should give it a go. Remember all the other times you have said something was too hard & we worked through it together? Then you realised it really wasn't that hard at all? I think you should just try. See how you go." 

Without any further comment, Jack put his head down & began to read. Then began to write. Ten minutes later he was finished & incredibly proud of himself. It may not sound like a lot to some, but to us it is huge. A complete contrast to seven months ago. 

Each day another brick is added to his wall of self confidence, it's slowly re-building but it seems we're getting a bit faster now. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Being an adult is like looking both ways for cars...then getting hit by an aeroplane

After getting the itch to start blogging again late last year I intended to get this post up within a week or two, definitely before the end of January. Then January rolled in...& rolled out with February hot on it's tail. Each week I told myself I must to find the time to get re-acqainted back here. Then the days all blended into a blurry haze of summer heat, school holidays, back to school shopping & soaking up every drop of toilet training fails from Clay. 

In the end life just kept on spinning by while we kept up with each day - much like the last 18 months really.

Since that last post (was it really back in 2015!?!) There have been a few changes for us here at House of many Minions. 

- We bought our home. 

- Expanded our family by 4 furry feet. 

- Made plans for the future...then found out lucky number seven was on the way a little earlier than we planned.

- Started homeschooling Jack.

- Welcomed lucky number seven into our family. 

- Bought a camper trailer large enough to accomodate all nine of us (plus the two dogs) for many adventures & spontaneous weekends away.

- Seen Will off to his first year of school. 

- Realised life in the coming future with numerous teens & pre-teens is going to be much like raising over grown toddlers with a talent for food consumption of epic proportions.

It's a bit like when you catch up with a friend you haven't seen in ages & you're asked what has happened since we last caught up...everything & nothing. There's all these big life events thrown in with the spinning of day to day life. You quickly float over the mundane threads to try pick up the strands of glittery sparkle. 

The brightest sparkly thread that has woven into our lives is Kade, our seventh little minion.

After buying our first home 6 months earlier, Doug & I had this great big discussion on long term goals, achievements & where we wanted to be in the next three to four years time. This included having another baby, maybe late 2017 or during 2018...Seems this discussion was all the universe needed - just a few short weeks later two pretty pink lines threw all our well made plans into the air & changed our course to collect another passenger.

Thirty eight weeks & a car upgrade later, the newest member for the blue team declared his intention to join us earthside with a small pop of waters after dinner. Baby sitters were called, bags were thrown in the car, contractions were mild...until they weren't. My back felt like it was going to explode, my belly was having the mother of all period cramps, my mind was struggling to let go of inconveniencing all these people who had been called out of their homes so late in the evening. Then just after midnight our wriggly, cranky, serious faced boy arrived. 

Our little passenger is now fast approaching five months old & an absolute sleep depriving, time wasting, delight. He feeds like a sumo wrestler & can out-stare even the most seasoned pro in a staring competition. He thinks our bed is a hell of a lot better than his own & I'm too tired to disagree. Which means our nights consist of me creeping into bed a lot closer to midnight than conducive for optimal sleep, only to stumble out within the hour to collect Kade from his cradle (still in our room - these apron strings are a lot harder to sever this time round.) He'll latch on like starving man in front of an all you can eat buffet, before passing out in a warm, milky stupor minutes later. 

If I'm still semi conscious I'll put him back in his cradle...only to be summoned again within the hour. Rinse & repeat until the sun rises & the alarm declares the day must begin. The other alternative is to remain immobile all night long, as only a mother can, while the little bundle contentedly dozes the night through.

Right now I prefer some sleep over no sleep, so I'll continue to push Doug near out the bed while I play sleeping statues in the middle, with Kade taking prime position on my side of the bed.

We're surviving, I'm functioning - though that is up for debate some days, my coffee consumption is keeping the coffee bean business thriving & this too shall pass.