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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Closing a door

I wrote this on January 25, to an online message board for MAVA, the virtual school in Massachusetts (sorry for the wonky text--it was a literal cut-and-paste job):

We have almost finished our second month and I'm begin to lose my grip. I can
honestly say that I haven't had a day doing K12 when one of my two kids hasn't
been weeping over their work at one point or another. I am so tired of the
stomping, the whining, the tears----

Here is the thing: They are not strangers to school work. We have always done
sit-down math, history, science, grammar, spelling, It wasn't as scripted as it
is now, but we weren't totally unschool-y. I don't make them do the tedious work
and we skip anything "optional" b/c I'd rather they just go and relax/play.

And don't even get me started on what the heck do I do to keep my 6yo son busy
when I'm locked down in the dining room for the morning and into the afternoon
with the girls.

My kids are generally pretty well behaved and do follow rules. They will do
their work (eventually) but I feel like I'm fighting with them almost all the
time when school is "in session". It's almost like a tag team----one kids will
be a model student while the other is a wreck and then, "POOF!" they switch. I
jokingly said that I'm going to get an ulcer and gray hair from this. Not
jokingly: This isn't fun.

And, I'm no newbie---this is my 5th year homeschooling! When the girls do their
work without complaint, we have no issues with the program at all.

Would love your advice. Is this unique to my household, or are most of you
finding this to be a fight? Do you reward good behavior or punish the bad?


This, in a nutshell, sums up what life has been like for the past couple of months. (Can you tell how much I wrote this post to myself, as if to pick myself up and cheer myself on?)

What I didn't include in any of my public statements is that my son had started throwing huge angry tantrums daily, my kids were at each other's throats most of the time, and I was barely able to make it through the day without having to go sit in the bathroom to cry and question why I couldn't make this work.

So, this past Friday, I made a decision. We are leaving the virtual school, effective immediately.

We'll take a week off to regroup and go on field trips (heck, we didn't even take off "school vacation week", so I guess we deserve it), and then finish out the school year as regular old homeschoolers.

As soon as I made this decision final in my head, the feeling in our house--in me--changed. I wasn't running a list of what we needed to finish up over the weekend, mentally ticking off all the ways in which we could do better if only we applied ourselves more.

The kids felt the lightness too: That night, D---our little guy---crawled into bed with me and said, I love you, I love you, I love you over and over again, and then wrote John and I notes: "You are the best Daddy in the world", "You are the best Mommy in the world".

I'm not sure what life holds in store for us going forward, but I do know I made the right choice for us right now.

And for everyone who has commented, called, written or even just wished us luck during this decision-making process, thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so fortunate to have you all in my life.

While MAVA wasn't right for us, I do hope it succeeds in our state. I plan to post more thoughts about the program specifically in the coming weeks since I think some families may be interested to know if it would work for them.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: It's a double


two teeth lost within five minutes of each other;
the Tooth Fairy had a busy night

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Exercisus Interupptus

The other morning, one of my kids was having a fit over something or other, turned to me and yelled, "You are soooooo FAT!"

Ouch, kiddo. You know where to hit me where it hurts.

I haven't been exactly the picture of health this winter. Too much grazing, too little (read: none) exercise, too much "oh, I'll just finish this up instead of saving leftovers".

Too much top to this muffin, if you know what I mean.

But, it was my child's angry words that hit me like a slap. I guess not looking at mirrors all winter doesn't mean I'm invisible. Other people can see what I've been trying to ignore. And while I think her "fat" description was a bit excessive ("puffy" is better), it is getting me to rethink how I want to look come June. I don't want to carry this extra 15 pounds into the summer.

So tonight I decided to start exercising again by taking a few baby steps back toward fitness. Husband is out late, but I figured the kids, at 6, 7 & 10, are more than capable of getting ready for bed while I hit the exercise bike for a paltry 20 minutes.

Five minutes in: "WAH!!!!!" followed by sobs and cries of agony. Jilly had run into the back of D's head and smashed her nose. I paused the bike, put ice on her nose, kissed her head, and sent her on her way.

Pedal, pedal. Five more minutes pass. "WAH!!!!!" followed by cries and screeches of agony. D had tripped entering his room and whacked his head and knee into the door frame. Pause bike, administer first aid, kiss head, hop back on bike.

Ten more minutes pass relatively uneventfully but then I decide to push my luck and do a 15 minutes "walking" video (I'm pretty sure Jillian Michaels would bitch-slap me for this). Five minutes into it, a morose Belly slithers into the room like a Dementor and sucks all the joy out of the room with her pouting.

At this rate, maybe I should just buy bigger pants.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

My husband isn't the first guy I dated (sorry, honey), so I know a thing or two about failed relationships---those tension-filled moments toward the end. The avoidance, arguments and angst that come with the ending of something that was once so beautiful and fun.

I am starting to feel like homeschooling is my dying relationship.

Every day I vow that things will be different: We will wake up and have a good day. I won't raise my voice before breakfast. I won't sigh heavily (or worse, cry) when things aren't going according to plan. We will finish early and then lie around and read or bake or play, not run off immediately to an appointment or lesson because "school" has dragged on and on and on.

As if sensing they are near a wounded animal, the kids' behavior has gotten worse; it's like they are trying to finish this failed experiment off. The bickering, the name-calling, the outright refusal to do work is making me question my competence as a teacher. As a parent.

When did this all go from pretty great to unbearable?

I know February is a sucktastic month to be a teacher---it is probably why there is a school vacation week planned in the public schools----maybe everyone is ready to jump ship? But, I'm not sure if this is just the regular February blahs or a sign of something bigger than what a week off from school can fix.

Today I asked my second grader if she'd like to try public school for the rest of the year. She said yes. I'm not yet sure if this is the right thing to do because I'm not sure the next relationship (with the school system) will be any better than the one we're in right now.

And I don't want to spend the rest of my days wishing we had stuck it out with the "relationship" we're in right now and not given up when things went downhill. My oldest says it in a way that breaks my heart:

I don't want to give up on you, mom.

Before my phone starts ringing, let me say that we are not 100% sure about sending any of the kids to school at this point. Something has to change, though, for this to work in the long term----it may mean leaving the virtual school or leaving homeschooling entirely---or maybe we'll find our groove and be ok. We're committed to this virtual school through June, and after that, we'll reassess what our options are.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Homeschooling in a public school world

It's been almost two months since we started with MAVA, the new virtual public school in Massachusetts. The lack of new posts on this blog should be an indication that it is, indeed, kicking my butt.

But, I'm kind of enjoying the butt-kicking, in some weird way. It feels good to have a plan, to check off items as we do them, to track our progress more concretely than we were before.

But, there are definitely growing pains in this new school, both at our home and throughout the program. My girls would rather play than do school (shocking, I know). They complain about how long it takes, forgetting that things move so much quicker if they don't w-h-i-n-e at every step.

And, my poor son. I'm still struggling to keep him busy and learning and engaged while wrapped up with my other two.

Outside of our home, the only other family I knew in real life who was enrolled in MAVA recently quit. The public school's beating drum that says "move forward, move forward" thrown on top of K12's vigorous curriculum (which is, ironically, all about "mastering tasks at your own pace") got to be too much for them.

Aye, there's the rub, as Shakespeare would say.

It's hard to marry the homeschooling lifestyle with the public school mentality. The public school wants us to finish at least 80% of all of our subjects by the end of June, never mind that we joined more than 20% into the school year. Never mind that I was already doing school with the kids in September, October and November, not lying on the couch wondering how they'd get educated.

The public school wants 80% complete, but K12 says "mastery, mastery". So how does one move forward if a child is stuck? How can I spend an extra week on long division when the clock is ticking?

Report cards were just issued that were based solely on what percentage of the program is complete in each subject. I'd say we did fair. Each girl got one "W", or Warning grade. Belly got hers in Art, which is funny given that the girl takes three hours of art classes each week, but alas, her progress in the program lags a bit behind.

Jilly got her "W" in History, a subject we have always kicked ass in up until now. I like the K12 History program, it just gets shuffled aside a little bit in an attempt to get to math-reading-spelling-grammar-french-science-art. But, again, it feels funny to see a "W" in a subject that I've loved enough to do well into the summer each year.

I asked our "teacher" (more on this later), what will happen if we are at, say, 65% at the end of June. Will they kick us out? "No!" she replied quickly, but then admitted she isn't sure what that means for us. I know they want the kids to stay on grade level, but I don't really care if my 4th grader becomes a 5th grader in September, December or March of next year.

I care that my kids learn and understand the work.

I don't want to outright quit in frustration though. I want to see where we end up in June and then take stock in our family life, our homeschooling life and our place in MAVA. Maybe there will be a place for us next September, maybe there won't. But, it's too early to stop now.

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