Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Life's Ups and Downs

Our day was all planned.

The boys were all set for karate.

We had our schoolwork all set and picked out.

We piled into the car.... and it wouldn't start.

Our car is only 5 years old so I still think of it as a "new" car.  It looks nice and new still, for the most part, and while we drive it a lot we also take really good care of it; frequent washing & waxing, lots of vacuuming, religiously changing the oil, etc.

But for the past few months we've had trouble starting it.  Just an off and on sort of thing when it's super cold or if we haven't gone anywhere in a few days and it's just sitting unused in the garage.  Normally, it will splutter and shake a bit but I have always managed to get it started; until today.

The boys were bummed we were going to miss karate and I was silently freaking out about the cost of fixing the car.  Luckily my husband is one of those handy guys with lots of tools and knowledge about fixing things.  Even luckier he was working in the next town over today and came home right away to try and fix the car for me.  It started up for him (after a bit of coaxing) and we were fairly confident it was the battery.  He removed it, took it to get tested and had plans to buy a new one and get the car fixed today.  Phew! I thought the crisis was averted.

I headed inside to settle the boys down and try to re-configure our day.  

It was loud.  Extremely loud and I think all the boys were thrown for a loop with the last minute change of plans.

 My husband was in and out trying to fix the car and that further threw our day off.

We discovered our battery was fine (great in fact!) and that left us with a great big question mark about what could possibly be wrong with the car.  We called the repair shop and they offered to look at it but had no idea going into it what could be wrong with the car. To me this means they're going to experiment, try changing a few possible parts and in essence spend a lot of my money on what MIGHT be the problem.  I don't like this idea.

My husband then brought up the question "when are we planning to trade this in for a new one?".. and I liked that question even less.  I was angry.  Not at my husband-- he's a good, hard- working man, but at the fact that we've only had this car for five years and I do still think of it as being fairly new.   I'm frustrated that it seems like nothing is made to last or work anymore.

I don't know about you, but when I'm only halfheartedly thinking about my boys and their schooling our days don't go so well.  

  • I feel like lately I've been preoccupied and worried about "other" things and it makes it really hard to focus on the boys and what we should be doing.  
  • Lately, I feel like life is sucking the fun out of our school and family time and I'm trying really hard to figure out how to get that back.  
  • We've homeschooled through enough ups and downs in life that I know we just need to wait it out and work harder at focusing on the good and fun.  
The boys seem to be mostly oblivious so I'm thankful for that.

Homeschooling is hard enough when life is going well but it can be quite difficult to continue schooling when life is handing you lemons.  

But I have to think that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade.... so I always try to make the best of it.

There are a few things we do to alter our schooling when life is not going well:

  1. Take a break!  Sometimes (like when my grandmother died) the only thing we could do was take a break.  We took a few days off to mourn, spend time with family, and focus on life.  School was just not in the cards.
  2. Assign less work.  When life is hectic and I'm busy trying to keep all those balls in the air that we parents constantly juggle I can not teach each child every single subject.  We scale back to the bare minimum-- Math, Reading, and Writing, and I let the boys explore other topics on their own.
  3. Use alternate resources.  When I can't pull out the boys lesson books for the day or sit with them at the table we rely on movies, computer games, and board games they can play together.  Using alternate resources keeps it fun and interesting for the boys and requires a lot less input from me. 
  4. Find a substitute.  I have had other family members school the boys on days that I just can't.  Everyone is an expert in something and anyone can teach school for a day or two.  

Today I decided to just assign less work and see how our day unfolded as we went. 

The boys all worked hard today and did more work than I had planned on!!

The older two boys worked on one of the Mystery Picture Math pages practicing division facts.  Evan worked on a page in his Star Wars book where he had to add three digit numbers together.

All three boys had a Harry Potter maze page they wanted to work on.  I had found the maze page on the Scholastic website and the boys thought it would be fun.  The older two breezed right through it but Evan had a really hard time finding the end of the maze.  We ended up working together and, honestly, I think I should have asked one of his brothers to help since I wasn't much better!  After erasing the maze a few times we finally made our way out!

The older two boys also worked with fractions when they were making up the snacks for the geography fair.  Ian also made macaroni and cheese for lunch so he measured and mixed a lot today.

We put together a bin for the geography fair with all of the craft/ hands- on supplies we needed.

Alec pulled out some Greek God Trivia cards that we bought on vacation last year and, rather than just throwing them in the box to bring with him to the fair, proceeded to read them out loud and quiz us all on the Greek gods.

The older boys made dirt cake (to go with the Bulldozer report) and ambrosia (white fudge brownies).

We read our Arkansas postcard and found it on the map. We learned about the state bird, nickname, capital, and flower.  We read about a day in the life of one homeschooling family from Arkansas too.
Ian and I read one more chapter in The Hunger Games.  He, again, read the first and last page of each chapter to me while listening to me read the rest of it.

Alec read several chapters of his Warrior Clan book; Eclipse (so many that we had a hard time getting him to put it down and get anything else done!).

Evan and I read Puppy Mudge Takes a Bath together.  He also completed a short vowel page where he got to use our Bingo markers to dot the correct spelling of the word and then he re-wrote each word on the line.  He told me he loved the paper and that the words were so easy.  I told him they should be by now but I was glad he enjoyed it and had some fun with school.

All three boys completed a short writing page about designing their own wand.  I found this fun Wand Making paper at the Harry Potter reading club on Scholastic and all three boys had fun creating their own wand.  Evan, who hates to draw, only described his to me, but Alec spent a lot of time making his wand.  He designed and re-designed it several times.

They all talked about the various materials they could have used, debated the usefulness of various woods, and talked about the different uses for each of their wands.  Today's project had a lot less writing than the Potions Making paper but I think if I had given them lined paper they would have been able to fill up one side with all the details about their wands.

Today our science lessons were about the weather, the running of a car engine, and some yummy kitchen science.   Though it was already 43 degrees at 9 o'clock this morning (which Ian claimed was really warm!) it was dreary and cloudy and cold.  We talked about how it can feel colder out when the sun isn't out even when the thermometer says it's warmer than the previous day.

We talked about what might be wrong with the car, how some of the parts work and how today's cars are different from older models that didn't have computerized... well.. everything!

We talked about heat and heat transference when melting butter and white chocolate chips for the brownies (or should I call them whities?).

The boys all played outside for a bit today even though it was raining pretty hard most of the day.  Now that the snow is gone they just want to be outside and they don't care if it's wet or cold.

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