Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Thursday, May 25

College Orientation

James attended Orientation over the weekend. It was a two-day, high-energy, non-stop infopalooza. All good stuff. All things they need to know.

All things they've said at Admitted Student Day...

And the overnight campus visit...

And the Honors Orientation.

Wee!

I mentioned to Z that this was killing me. It's all on the website. It's all in the printed material. Whyyyyyy are they doing this? But then Z said something that put it all in perspective: maybe it's not just ours.

Maybe they need to hear it in different ways, at different times, for it to sink in. There IS a lot of information. And youth are not known (generally speaking) for their ability to internalize the process of filing information away so that they know where to find it when they need it. Plus, their entire world is upending all at once. That's disorienting enough.

The director of the events (he has an official title, but I can't remember it - very nice man, though) said that most people don't realize it's the same material, repackaged. He also said that in spite of the repetition and hammering, there will be students who say, "I didn't know we had free tutoring," or, "Nobody told me we have a career center."

I let that sink in for a moment, then told him I'd leave the student, but I was going to slip out for coffee. Then I promised not to call him to ask how I pay my bill.

Then I bookmarked the log in page for info. Because if I've learned anything in my decades on this Earth, it's "Don't trust yourself to remember anything. Write it down."

When I picked up James, he had notes. In his own handwriting. And he's referred to them a couple of times this week. I'll be honest with you, that gave me more encouragement than any grand plan or vision he could have come up with. I'm so proud!

Be encouraged! And take notes!

~ Dy

Sunday, April 30

Busy Days and Lazy Days, The Homeschooler's Schedule

A friend commented recently, "I love Almost-May! Everything is next year!" The rest of us laughed and nodded. In the homeschool calendar, that's pretty much it. August is, "Oh. We should probably start soon." September and October are mostly just happy sounds backed by cool weather and fresh books. November is, "Mmm, let's regroup and see what we can finish by December." January is just long, followed by February, which is "Wow, we should have looked more seriously into boarding school." March is another hopeful regrouping, "No, we can do this. Surely by August we'll have ironed out whatever-this-is-that's-tripping-us-up-right-now." (We won't - it's February that tripped us up. It happens every year.) That's followed by April, when everyone takes a deep breath, shoulders down, charge ahead, "We can do this! We're almost done!" Then comes May...

Next year, we're going to use the learning journals more regularly.

Next year, we're going to rock this time management plan I just found in the back of the bookshelf.

Next year, I'm hiring out as much as possible.

Next year, I'm going to do it all in-house, back to basics.

Next year, we're just going to subsist on water and museum memberships. It'll be FUN!

Even when we know better, there's a cathartic, comforting aspect to Next Year. It gets us through to June, which is the pay-off, the re-calibration, the re-centering:

"Huh. This was actually a pretty fantastic year. Look at you go! You learned a lot... I should probably give us all a little more credit next February."

It's good to know the rhythms of your year, lean in, embrace them. Come May, you can indulge in all the changes you're going to make Next Year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, April 7

Big Doings

Well, this has been an interesting week! Tomorrow is Round 2 of the ACT for John. He's been balancing study, work, test prep, Scouts, and sanity saving downtime like a champ. He's not a strong tester, and has had to work diligently to deal with the anxiety that wells up around it, in addition to any standard preparation. However, the other day, he said he feels a lot more confident going into this round. Still not stoked about it, or looking forward to it, but a lot less anxious and better prepared, overall. That, in itself, is a life skill I'm glad he's developing.

For his brother, standardized testing was an easy means to open opportunities. For John, it's a bar he has to clear to get where he wants to go. He's probably getting more from the process, in terms of personal growth and clear vision forward, because of it. I think the biggest benefit I've seen as we work our way through this is how the kids have encouraged each other, each meeting their siblings where they are. So he's got a goal to hit that will allow him to do what he wants to do, making this more than a routine exercise in hoop jumping. It's personal, and it matters to him. The rest of us are just here for brainstorming and general cheering.

I don't know if you have students taking standardized tests, but thought I'd share a few things we've found helpful:

Reading speed - I kept hearing - from the kids, from their friends - that they run out of time. It's not a matter of being strong readers or not. It's just being able to maintain the pace. We've kept reading, but upped our speed, increased our narrations, and added read alouds to the mix - them reading to me, to their siblings, to anyone who will hold still and listen. Measured in words-per-minute-comprehended, the reading aloud has had the best return on investment. Couple that with discussion, and it seems to be a strong booster to reading speed.

Math - Mine just don't test well with math. One of them is even a mathy-math kind of guy, but he'll groan a little and slink off with his coffee cup if you start talking standardized math tests. Something John has said he's experienced is that a firm familiarity with the concepts helps a lot - so even if you're not a math guy, and you don't love math or plan to pursue it deeply, being familiar with the vocabulary and the themes goes a long way toward quieting the roar in your head when you pop that section open. Go over the concepts you haven't gotten to in your math studies yet, and they're less overwhelming when you hit them on the exam.

ACT online learning - this is $35, you pay when you register for the test, then you can access it any time. They have two learning paths - one goes straight through the material from beginning to end, the other starts with a practice test and then adjusts your study using a combination of your own strengths/weaknesses and the highest return on time invested to help you get the most bang for your buck. You can switch between the two at any time.

There is no predetermined schedule for this study tool. To set up our schedule for this, we took the total number of questions, divided by 7 less than the total days left until test day (this gave us a buffer for getting sick, having to dig new gas lines, random attacks of Can't Even...) and that's your minimum number of questions to hit each day. It's not a good substitute for sitting down with a book, paper, and actual pencils for a practice test, but it's an excellent way to at least touch on every topic you'll be seeing on test day. When test prep is peripheral, rather than the bulk of your academic time, this is a fantastic tool.

What about you? If you've done test prep, what tips would you recommend?

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, March 11

Didn't see that coming.

James had picked his school. It was The One,  a perfect fit, a fantastic student body. It had the tone, the feel, the sense of purpose that he wanted in a school. "Here, I will thrive." He's been dealing mostly with how to earn the difference between scholarships and cost, with a motivated spirit and a can-do attitude. He even missed a deadline for scholarship applications for one of his back up schools because he'd been accepted to this one, offered scholarship money, and he was mentally committed to it. (I was a little tense about it, but I'm like that, regardless.)

Then today, I got a text from a friend. "Did you get the email from them?" Uh... no... what email?

She couldn't tell me, just sent me the link to the official news page for the college. The One announced today that they are shutting down all degree programs except Education (which James is not in), closing their on-campus housing, and circling the wagons... effective this August.

Well, then.

James is a little stunned. God love him, he took a deep breath, put in more job applications, reached out to network for work options, and is now redoubling his efforts to develop A New Plan. We're a little panicky, but we're not mad. We get it. It's hard to run a school, and if endowments and other donations shrink or disappear, you've got to work within the budget you have. We've visited with these people: they aren't making decisions lightly, or without prayerful consideration of all the outcomes. It can't have been an easy decision to make.

I am supremely thankful they said something before April 1st (not just for the April Fool's awkwardness of it, but because so many additional options go away after that date). As a First-time Freshman, he can change his trajectory pretty quickly. But my heart aches for the students who are already there, mid-way through a program, trying to figure out what to do in the fall. All the application deadlines are months gone. All the funding time is running out. I guess a surprise enforced gap year mid-program could make for an interesting story in a few years, but right now, they've got to be scrambling hard and trying to breathe. I hope the school is using its resources to help them transition.

*whew* I wish I had some wisdom or insight to offer everyone who is affected so strongly by this. And I'm going to stop wishing for things to be set in concrete - because if they are, then you can't move when you need to. Good reminder.

Beyond that, though, I'm just a little stunned by the suddenness of the change. By tonight, I've also mustered a little excitement about the possibilities that we haven't delved into, yet.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, March 8

Kentucky is Beautiful and Life is Weird

So, John and I are in Kentucky to visit the University of Kentucky. Since it's a full day's drive and the tour starts before we usually even get around to making breakfast, we decided to come up the day before and spend the night. The little bohemian in my head started chanting, "Road trip! Road trip!" It is so beautiful here. Wow! Go, Kentucky!

He, however, was not so keen. Turns out, he doesn't have a little bohemian in his head. He has a homebody and someone who bakes... a comedian, and a pretty competent first responder. And that's about it. I don't get it, but he's happy, so I don't have to get it. He is also a very good sport, and he agreed to stop at the Hidden River Cave for a tour and some rappelling yesterday. So that was cool.

We were about three hours into our drive when he told me that he's actually pretty committed to going to one college, in particular. He'd only agreed to come on this because he has made the reservation before he'd toured the other one. By the time he'd made his decision, it was too late to cancel with any decency, and he didn't want to just be a no-show.

Thus begins, and ends, our Spring College Tour of '17. *moment of silence*

Jacob's already making noise about the Naval Academy. So, probably not gonna get a lot of travel time out of that one, either.

If this keeps up, I may just drag the Littles to see every school on every continent. I've been looking forward to week-long road trips with fledgling kids ever since I learned that was A Thing. I pictured unplanned segues into neat little shops, eating at small diners, walking the streets of cities we hadn't seen before. I envisioned mad dashes to get from one place to another because this next one might just be The One. I hadn't honestly expected that it wouldn't be Our Thing. So far, it's not. Both of them hit a couple mandatory tours that I'd set up to help them get a feel for it, then promptly poked around, picked the school they wanted, and said, "Found it." Done. (None were on the Mandatory Tours list, so at least I know they weren't just picking something to shut me up. That's good.)

Yet another reminder that it's all OK - however it shakes down, whatever it looks like, it is all OK. Also, it's about them. Enjoy them. Let them lead. Follow where they want to explore. If you can get a road trip out of it, savor it. If not, enjoy hanging out at home. Whatever works, works. And that's good stuff.

We're off to breakfast at the hotel. Checked the weather, and it doesn't look like we'll need to stop for rain jackets, so we're set for the day!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Saturday, February 25

First Visit Without Me, Still Don't Know What I'm Doing

It's John's turn to visit colleges he's picked this Spring. He's at his first visit without his brother, which I think is going to be really great for him. They get along well, but they are so different, and they operate on different frequencies. So it'll be good for John to explore at his pace and see what resonates with him.

He's also there without me, and while it's fantastic for him to have time with Z, and all that ... This is weird. So I'm up, doing paperwork, paying bills, quieting the Calendar Vikings.

And texting with a friend who is about the same distance down this path as I am. (She's got one fledging, and one running the system check to get on deck next year.) She, too, sounds like she's being held hostage in a game show where you have to figure out the rules as you play and they throw wet things at your head when you get a question wrong. I had no idea this was what we sounded like, but there's been a lot of, "You, too!" and "I'm so glad it's not just me!" flying back and forth this morning. So, yeah. There's that.

So, to those of you fledging your first this year, we raise a toast. Yes, it's before 5. Yes, it's a stout one. We salute you. You are not alone.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


Thursday, February 23

Homeschooler's Peace

I know, there's spiritual peace. It's a thing. I do understand that, and totally embrace it. But that's not at all what I'm talking about. On a practical level, when I'm talking about peace, I'm talking about whatever dampens the noise in my head:

- The frequency that broadcasts financial recaps from eleven o'clock at night to three in the morning. There's a lot of speculation and wild guessing.

- The Question Channel, which seems to be staffed by precocious toddlers - Constantly asking "why", but about deep things, like educational plans, curricula choices, the meaning of life.

- Calendar planning. That's just a lot of Vikings grunting and bashing, really. I don't think anything will shut them up.

This morning, I found online Russian classes for John. And ordered a ton of Russian children's books. Why? Because between keeping up with Latin, Spanish, and ASL, I just. do. not. have the bandwidth to learn Russian and be of any use to him. He'll be fine. I'll learn it someday. But we needed something to add support for him, now.

In case you're interested:

CLRC offers them.
So does Wilson Hill.
And Amazon has a fantastic selection of books.
And Audible has some good material, as well. Great way to blow some of those six credits that just sit there, month after month.

For Spanish (and French) for Jacob, I bought a one-year family subscription to The ULAT. (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm cramped for time and can't go look it up just now. I'll edit later to add a link if I have.) Anyway, we tried it for a month and I was impressed. Even my Verbal Language Resistance Protesters got a lot out of it - and they were trying diligently NOT to.

The cost is $35 for a year. $180 if you want graded quizzes and exams. Not a bad deal. So if you're in the market for French, Spanish, or English lessons (not English grammar, but someone who needs to learn English as a second language), this is a great resource. You can couple it with DuoLingo and really knock it out of the ballpark.

That quieted some of the static in my head.

Then I paid the bills. So now there's weeping, but at least the financial report tonight won't be quite so full of speculation. That's something, right?

Now, to hide from the Vikings!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Wednesday, January 25

Opportunity Costs

So this was weird...

James seems to be zeroing in on the college he wants to go to. It's entirely his choice, and I think he's putting some good thought into his choice. He's leaning toward the one that's probably the best fit for him.

And now I find myself fretting over the ones he isn't leaning toward. (But, this campus is lovely! And that Physics program is amazing! But what about... But this one has... But, but but...) Which feels very dumb, and vaguely like I'm upset about his choice, which I'm not.

So what IS that?

It's fear. It's the Very Real Application of the concept of Opportunity Cost, and while it's not a Big Hairy Fear, I still don't like it. It's uncomfortable.

I've faced it before -- I got married (if you marry this one person, that means that none of the other people out there who are very good people can be your spouse), and that didn't bother me. I bought a house (and goodness knows that's a bit more of a commitment than picking a college... *raised eyebrow*). I choose grocery items and hair color, vehicles and clothing, doctors and medical choices... regularly, and with some skill. Why the difference here?

So I asked some trusted friends if they thought perhaps I am losing my mind. They've both got children out there, studying outside the nest, doing new things. They're about 10 klicks ahead of me on this particular journey. Both responded with a resounding, "Totally normal." It turns out, this is, in fact normal. We don't know why.

Perhaps it's because we dream larger than life for our children. We want to offer them the best of everything, and we don't want to limit them. We spend the bulk of two decades trying to cobble together opportunities and weave them into an Anything is Possible array for them. After that kind of lifestyle, we spend time looking at colleges and seeing some pretty fantastic things here and there... and then ask them to limit the the next few years of their lives by picking Just One. It feels like shutting doors. Well, it is shutting doors, but that's not a bad thing. You can't move forward if you don't pick a door and go through it.

(Worse, though, if you're a child of the 80's, it starts to feel like they probably just picked the door with the worn out mule behind it.)

But they're not just guessing. (I mean, some of it may be guessing, but at least in our house, I'm hearing enough thoughtful conversation to be reassured that it's not entirely guesswork. And that's enough. I'm happy. A lot of life is at least partially guesswork, anyway, so welcome to the club, Kids!)

I think he'll thrive there. I think, too, that I'll be fine with the Opportunity Costs, and that I will eventually get a handle on not fretting over all the things he's not doing while he's busy doing something he is immersed in. (The feedback from the 10-klicks-ahead crew indicates that yes, this is trueish.)

If he gets there and has a serious Gob moment ("I've made a huge mistake"), then he can change direction and shift gears. He'll figure it out. My part is not to let the fear that creeps in now take over my mouth when he actually needs my input. So. That's my assignment for now.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, January 21

Great Scott!

I feel the way Doc Brown looks. Thursdays are hard, y'all. And yes, I know it's Saturday. THAT'S how hard Thursdays are! But we made it. We're good to go. We weren't even late to things. The boys and I have a seminar at church to get to this morning, and I do believe I'mma let someone else drive. *yawn*

The college fair was interesting. There were about 30 schools there, and just enough students to keep them busy, but not so many that it became automated and uncomfortable. We met up with some friends and let the boys go talk and meander. I think the boys all came away with good information and some ideas to dive into. At one point, one of my children decided he'd like a school with a culinary arts program and a rifle team. *insert long, uncomfortable pause, here* (Z says it sounds like he's fixing to be a cook in the Navy.) We talked a bit later (because let's face it, that sounds like an odd combination - I thought perhaps I might be missing something), and it turns out he had just panicked. It happens. His brother, our science/technology/programming/all-things-automated Spock child, once told the head of the computer science department that he was going to major in Psychology. When asked later, he said, "I don't know. I panicked." It's good to get it out now, instead of later, when you're filing paperwork.

And then we've gone and gone and gone. Game day and ballet and ballroom and ballet and so. much. driving. Em was scandalized when she heard me tell Jacob the other night that he needed to find a girlfriend with a driver's license. (She thinks it's funny when Z says absurd things, but from me, she expects reason and Good Advice. I may have done something wrong, here.)

Jacob's entire educational plan is on hold for two or three weeks while he spools up on his new schedule. Blessedly, he's a reader, so he's still plugging along with books. That makes me hyperventilate a little less. And his posture is already improving, which is like having two months of physical therapy thrown in as an added bonus. Other than that, though, he pretty much eats and sleeps. Growing is hard work. He's doing a fine job.

Be encouraged!

~ Dy




Wednesday, January 18

College Fairs and Do Overs

There's a college fair in town today. John and I are going to go check it out. We went two years ago, but he was a Freshman that year. (We went for James, and John got to hang out with his buddy, who was a Junior. I'm pretty sure the parents got the most out of that one, just by standing back and observing.) I am, however, hopeful that this year he'll get more out of it, and maybe get excited about visiting schools.

I really hope I'm doing this right. You want your children to be happy. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to have a life filled with good work and strong connections. You want them to be all they can be (in the Army, or in civilian life - although kudos to the Army's marketing team for absolutely owning a phrase for all eternity. Well played, my friends. Well played.)

But where's the line between pushing them too hard and, say, encouraging them to punt? How do you nurture their passions without neglecting Something Really Important That You Didn't Think About? And how do you make sure you're not squashing their inner momentum with what you perceive to be Good Advice? What's the best way to encourage-but-not-badger? And do they need to be badgered sometimes? And how big of a badger do you need to use?

Sadly, these are just variations on the same questions I've been asking for 18 years. I'm no closer to the answers. (Although during one conversation, one of the kids did say, "Sometimes, I need to be nagged. I'm sorry, but it's true." So, yay for honesty?) All I have are some moderately successful ideas, some "Yeah, never do that" ideas (and, of course, the caveat there is "never do that for that particular child", because the next child may very well respond quite well to whatever broke the previous one). The learning curve is steep and... curvy.

But then, James and I were talking about do-overs the other day. He's got a few he'd like to take. I've got a few (or... more than a few...) I'd like to take. He asked some pretty direct questions about what kind of do-overs I had in mind if I could go back and try again with him. (There was definitely a kind of, "Whoa, whoa, whoa there. What kind of craziness might I have dodged?" feel to the line of questioning. It made me laugh.) Turns out, he liked his childhood. He appreciates his education. He loves his life. He encouraged me to just leave it alone if I do get the chance to go back and change things.

To be truthful, I probably wouldn't leave it alone. I would be gentler when I was tired. I would spend more time doing art and making messes. I would be far less fearful. I would be more fun. I would heed Good Advice when it was handed to me. But don't tell him that, please. He's happy, and I'm so, so glad.

Be encouraged!

~Dy

Friday, January 13

Ballet for Fun and Fitness

After watching The Nutcracker, you may remember Jacob announcing he would lurve to take ballet.

Well the director of the school called back and invited him to come visit a class. He did, and he loved it. He'll only explain it as, "It's hard and it's fun and I-am-so-not-flexible-at-all and Oh-I'm-going-to-have-amazing-legs-if-I-stick-with-it! I love it!"

So he signed up, and he'll be in dance (between ballroom, which he doesn't want to drop, and ballet) for nine hours a week. But he's thrilled with it, and looking forward to the challenge.

He's got his Space stuff - National Space Society, Space Camp, math. And now, he's got his dance. He's a happy kid.

And, I guess you've gotta love it. I don't know. But it's encouraging to me to see the kids pursuing hard things that make their souls soar.

It's fascinating to see how each child has such different interests and energy. I'm forever thankful that each of them knows he/she has support and encouragement to pursue whatever weird rabbit trail catches their attention. 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting year!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Monday, January 9

On That First College Acceptance Letter

How your children end up, as adults, is pretty much up to them. It really is. You spend years reminding yourself as they grow that they are nearly adults, now, and they have to make their own decisions. That they have to live with the consequences as well as reap the rewards. That you can't force them to make the same calls you would, and that sometimes they make better calls than you would. But there's a big difference in the philosophical aspect of parenting, and the natural inclinations that drive much of our internal dialogue.

And mostly, we're OK with it. Except when we're not.

While I love my kid, and am proud of the young man he's become, I will not lie to you: getting that first acceptance letter from a college application is a huge relief. At least, it was to me -- not because I felt he was a failure if nobody said yes, but because I was terrified I might have failed him, and that would be proof. Some of combating that is in knowing what path they want to take, and some of it comes from applying to places that are a good fit for them. But still, there's that niggling worry... what if all our decisions have effectively barred you from pursuing the very goals we've fostered?

You spend an inordinate amount of the time right before they leave home vacillating between, "It's really up to them" and "Please, Lord, let me not have broken them". It's a hard, weird process -- one that will strip you of your vanity, expose your deepest fears and failings, bring to light your heart's desires (both for your child and, less altruistically, for yourself), and quite possibly tax your liver. I highly recommend it, though, because I am convinced that if you can hang in there long enough, things are pretty fantastic on the other side. (As my brother-in-law says, an adventure is what you're having once you realize you're not gonna die.)

So. I'm not gonna die.

That makes this an adventure.

If parenting is the process of guiding a born person into self-sufficiency and full development, it is also very much a process of dividing yourself up and apportioning bits of you into this same autonomous creature. Then watching in horror as this individual goes off and acts like, well, an individual -- as if your heart weren't wholly vested in this person's safety and well-being and success.

Your heart, but also a bit of your pride. Particularly if you've homeschooled your now-autonomous individuals. (Although whatever educational path a family has taken, a parent's got a lot vested after nearly two decades. That's just the nature of the process.) And if you've got a child who has decided to go the post-secondary education route, that whole process is very invasive and scary. People with magnifying glasses and deadlines hit you with questions, and make demands for referrals and money. And no matter how fervently you swore you would not default to box-checking and hoop-jumping... well, there you are. It's tempting. Because this is your BABY. And we really don't want to be the reason someone said no.

But you know what? They really are their own persons. You have given them the best of yourself, your time, your talents, and above all, your love. The people or places that recognize whatever kindred energy exists between them will honor that and welcome them in. The people or places that don't are likely not going to be a good fit for them, anyway.

But I recognize that that's a much easier thing to say after one "yes".

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Saturday, January 7

What's Another Word For...

This week, with scholarship essays, ACT essay prep, and general writing practice, there's a lot of "What's another word for..." going around. It seems like we're all in need of words.

I do love playing that game. It's not really a game-game, but it is absolutely my favorite part of the writing process. Elocution. Wordsmithing. Polishing. Whatever you want to call it, the satisfaction of taking words that convey meaning and turning them into words that drive a point home, or make a point pop, is one of my favorite academic highs. (Can you have academic highs? Is that a thing?)

So, that's the general goings on, here.

What's another word for "trip"?

What's another word for "effectual"?

What's another word for "Aaargghhhh!"

(And then we know it's time for a break.)

But on a more serious note, what are your favorite essay writing tips? I'm asking about things beyond what the College Board or BuzzFeed suggest. Assuming a good night's rest, a well-balanced breakfast... no, wait, that's test prep...

OK, assuming a topic, an outline, and a functional grasp of how words work... what weird, or quirky, or just down-in-the-weeds thing has worked for you or your students? What have you stumbled upon that you don't find everywhere, but wish you'd seen sooner? (Or that you are just really glad you know!)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Friday, January 6

Snow Day!

First snow day of the year!


After the Snowpocalypse a few years ago that brought most of the South to its knees, everyone is a bit twitchy over the potential for snow. The schools are closed. Skate Day is canceled. Even the arsenal is closed today.*

This picture was taken at 10:45 in the morning. (Forecast accumulation says it'll be a bit worse than this. We just thought this was adorable.)

There is, however, no Snow Day for homeschoolers. (Or, rather, no snow day until you can actually play in it.) So the kids are working on writing.

After my dry run with the Prototype Child through the college admissions process, I've decided that we're adding a weekly journaling time to our schedule. This isn't going to be tied to what we're reading or what we're doing, which they can write about any time, but will use various essay prompts I dig up around the web. Theoretically, by the time they're ready to apply, they'll have ample experience with thinking about the sorts of things the essays ask them to think about. (To be truthful, I had thought that was what their education had done, but it turns out as soon as they're asked to jot down a few thoughts about very specific applications of their brains, they draw blanks. I admit I did not see that coming. Good to know now.)

Be encouraged!

~ Dy


*(Please note that it was not because we're all idiots, but because we have no snow removal in place, and also because the South just doesn't get cold and stay cold - it gets cold, warms up just enough to turn everything to slush, then re-freezes and snows over the ice - that's tricky, no matter who you are.)

Thursday, January 5

Herding Cats

A while back there was a technology company that put out a video of cat herders on a kitty drive. It was precious and very well done. (It was also hilarious, and just about every mother who saw it probably considered getting cowboys to help with the child wrangling.) But there were a few lines in the commercial that fit just perfectly:

I'm livin' the dream... I wouldn't do nothin' else... when you bring a herd into town and ya ain't lost a' one of them, ain't a feelin' like it in the world. 

So, James and I went to the community college yesterday to get registered. I went for backup and to offer my mad signature writing services, should they need anything official from the "school". I tried to have some fun with it -- "Just think of me as your own, personal bouncer." -- but he thought that was weird and asked me to stopit.

It took five hours to iron out the few glitches that remained, but our spirits were pretty high. We had fun. (We both talk to strangers, so that's handy.) We talked about big things and little things. We enjoyed each other's company. It was wonderful.

As we headed out we got behind a beautiful young mother with her two little fluffy-headed boys in tow. Both boys were wearing sweats tucked into cowboy boots. It snapped me back 15 years to when the older boys were little, running amok on campus in their capes and shorts and cowboy boots. I couldn't help but make little swooning sounds.

James opened the doors for them, and then I was straddling the two worlds - remembering the children they were and seeing the men they're becoming. Nearly two decades collapsed in on me.

I reached out to the mother and told her the first thing that came out...

They are beautiful. And you won't always be tired, I promise.

She laughed. She said she was glad to hear that, because she would really like to not feel harried but she does find herself wishing they would hurry up and become a little less hard to keep track of. I pointed at mine and told her it will come. And it will feel like it came too quickly and took too long, but that most of parenting is weird like that. Told her she's doing fine, her children are precious, and to hang in there.

Then I had to chase James down to get the keys, and I only got to drive by negotiating away control of the heat and air in the car. It was a hot and sticky, but happy, drive home.

And he's registered for classes, now. Onward we go!

Be encouraged!

~ Dy

Sunday, January 1

The Good Things

2016 seemed like a grueling year in so many ways. But it wasn't all bad. In an attempt to archive some of the good (and some of it was Very Good, Indeed), I wanted to pick a highlight from each month to share. Like the habit of finding 3 Good Things to list when life gets difficult, but on steroids.

January - Z was gone a lot this year, and Dad Boxes, sent from on the road, were a highlight for everyone.


February - we finally got around to designing and building a coffee table to go with the sofa! I love it!!


Also, Buddy finally got over his fear of the car. (He now hops in, goes all the way to the third row, and refuses to acknowledge that you're even speaking to him until you've taken him for a spin around the courthouse!)

 March -- John and James were both called out for the Order of the Arrow.


 In April, we biked the Silver Comet, starting at the AL/GA boarder.


 Oh, and took pottery. This was a pretty fantastic month.


John, his best bud, and I volunteered at a Spartan Race. (The plan was to use our credit to race in May, but that fell through. Still, this was a pretty fantastic experience.)


May - prom! Steampunk. Because that's awesome.


And we bought kayaks for the Littles. OH, why did we wait so long? This was huge fun!


And Chemistry. Every week, with two other families. The house is still standing. There were a few explosions. Semi-controlled, and outside. So that was nice. This was hard, and good, and I'm SO glad we did this.


Jacob got to go to Space Camp. He's hooked, he's got his eye on Mars, and is saving to go back for the next level in 2017.


June - James was selected as a model for the Alabama Fashion Alliance. This changed the trajectory of the entire rest of the year. So much to learn, but such an interesting industry. And he loves it.


And back to Colorado! It was hard - very hard - to come back that last time. And did I tell you we hiked the Manitou Incline? I only got 3/4 of the way up before the Littles mutinied, but James and John made it to the top. Also, we got lapped by an octogenarian who clearly runs it daily just because he can, but even that was encouraging.


July -- We tried Durian for the first time. Because how can you not?


And then Jacob's best bud came home and spent a week scrabbling about the rocks with us.


August -- *phew* This one was hard. (That's not me in the pictures - as far as I know, there are no photos of me doing this. But I did it!) For someone who has no depth perception, is uncoordinated and afraid of heights, this was a gigantic feat. Scouting is cool.


September -- James had his first runway show.


And his second...

October -- we were still out in the kayaks every chance we got this Summer. Er, and fall.


And James received the rank of Eagle Scout!


November -- there's been a lot of fiber art action going on, here. I love these little miniature felted critters that Em made.


A visit from friends from out West!


And a birthday outing! (Actually, a lot of the kids turned 18 this year. This has been bittersweet, but the excitement and anticipation win out because they are just. such. great. young men and women.)


December -- we made it. Full lap. Holy cow.


Here's to 2017 bringing us a time of learning, discernment, joy, growth, support (both given and received)...

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Thursday, December 29

The Glamorous Side

Do you know what I did today?

I kept a straight face as I helped my eldest son parse the intricacies of communicating with the staff at the local community college. The faculty may be great, but man, their office staff needs some help. We'll have to go down there when they re-open, because as things stand right now, a hold on his account that should have expired at the end of this semester is currently set to expire "December 2099", which, you know, seems a bit drastic for anything not involving criminal or ethical breeches. But the best part is that the dual enrollment coordinator has informed him (in writing, I'm not making this up) that State law prevents that date from being changed.

I don't know. Maybe he pissed off the Governor.

Know what else I did?

I looked for colleges for me! Well, not for me, initially. John had sent me some things to check out, so I started looking on his behalf, but then... there are some really cool academic programs out there. And the next thing I knew, I was looking at family housing in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It's a good thing he's motivated and focused, because I fear I am going to be no help, at all.


I also tallied grades and updated the transcripts, which felt a lot like that image, just up there. Good times. I actually figured out how to upload a correction to the Common App (these things - all things applying for college - should come with donation buttons and a note box: "Yeah, this was on me. My bad. He's actually better at math, but we didn't think it wise to let the student calculate his own GPA. Turns out, we probably should have. But, well, yay for honest students? And did I mention he can math good? So, uh, here's coffee money. Get the Grande. Love ya!")

Actually, it's probably best to just make that available after the decisions are in. I'd still send coffee, even if they said no.

And then, I printed out John's Spring Semester. Got it bound, found a great graphic for the cover... realized I was probably just procrastinating at that point, and got back to business. I can't believe he's also almost done. Just, wow. This is crazy.

In the down times between all that, I ironed a thousand perler bead sets. My plan, there, is to let the process just burn itself out. But y'all are gettin' plastic keychains for every major gift giving occasion this year. Fair warning.

That was the glamorous day. And if you've been homeschooling for any length of time, you know just how shiny and exhilarating a freshly bound planner can be... not even kidding.

Be encouraged!
~ Dy



Thursday, December 22

Community

We have the neatest community, and today was such a treat -- we got to catch the final hours of the opening exhibit of Rice Ball Press, the brainchild and labor of love of Elaine Landers. She recently graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has started this business. Although the business is based in Atlanta, our wee community got first dibs by virtue of being where she's from. Score!

The art was impressive. And Elaine was on hand to explain the backstory for each piece (storytelling taken to its full expression), as well as how the various types of art were made (Em was in heaven!) She's not only incredibly talented, but quite kind, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stop at the gallery.

Take a few minutes to visit her site and see what she has up. I didn't take any pictures other than this one:



Mostly because I can't do her images justice, and they really deserve it. (Isn't she lovely, though? Quite an impressive lady.)

One of the things she shared that I so appreciated, and I hope the kids caught hold of, as well, is that she graduated with a degree in printmaking and a minor in photography -- but she'd started as a sculptor. It was only as she explored other classes that she found things she loved more. And it wasn't until later in her academic career that she found her niche and passion, where she excelled and was happiest. What a great reminder for young people, that you don't have to know exactly where you're going when you set out on your adventure. Just move forward, in a good direction, and be open to the lovely paths and rabbit trails along the way. You never know when one of those will turn out to be your trail!

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Wednesday, December 21

It Is Time

James went to a party last night with friends. I have no idea how it went because I went to bed long before he got home. Z was up doing homework, and I'm out of things to watch on my own, so I read and got sleepy. I have my ringer volume set to Mind Numbingly Loud, so if there'd been an emergency he could have reached me. I'd have likely shown up looking like someone from an archived episode of Cops, but still, there. That's what counts, right? Pass the Okayest Mother of the Year Award this way, please.

This is not James getting home from his party. This is John, who was in charge of casting music while the Littles decorated the tree. Bonus points if you recognize the video.

We're nominally still doing school. In my head. Actually, right now, Jase is devouring the next in the Warriors (cat) books, and John is in the basement playing his favorite video game. (The basement is nearly finished - it's not as creepy as it sounds.) Everyone else is either sleeping in, or lying in bed praying I won't come poke them. And I haven't the umpf to poke them. Clearly, it's time for Christmas Break.

So today we'll wrap the rest of the presents. I will take notes as we wrap and make sure I haven't missed something important. I'm still waiting on a few packages, because I can't get my financial shizzle together in August and shop like a grown-up. Mahabis (that's James big gift this year) has awesome tracking info... until the package leaves the UK. After that, it all goes dark. I have no idea where his shoes are, if they're nearly here, or if they're now decorating the happy feet of a Somali pirate. And we'll clean a bit. Because that makes everything better.

James has to take his AP Physics final exam today. He won't let me make excited happy faces until that's over. (But I am totally making them in my head!)

Oh! We made liver pate yesterday. It's ostensibly "mellowing", or something, in the fridge, and we'll have it Christmas Eve. It tasted pretty good, although I don't know if it will taste good enough to overwhelm the visual... issues. (That is one unattractive dish!) But it was fun to do, we learned some new techniques, and so that was fun. I've got a package of Braunschweiger, just in case the pate is a no-go.

Be encouraged!
~Dy

Thursday, December 15

Big News. Ish.

Well, not Big-big News. I'd hopefully come up with a much better title for that. But little-news-that's-exciting-to-me-because-I-hate-using-the-computer-for-reading. ACNA (the Anglican Church in North America) has been working on a Texts for Common Prayer, and it looks like it'll be available in print January 1st. (It's been available in PDF for a while.) We're relatively new to the Anglican Church (it's been about a year and a half), and I do love me some hands-on reading. So I'm quite excited about this.

In other news, it's Alabama-cold. The kids set small cups of water on the porch last night, and were not only disappointed, but quite surprised that the water didn't freeze. They were relatively certain that the ice should have been rock solid and rather impressive. I don't know if we need to move to Minnesota, or just double down on how temperatures work. (Although to be fair, with a low of 24, I thought they'd at least get a little something around the rim. Our pipes freeze up when it hits 27... So maybe I need to study up, too.) Either way, we're loving the warm goodness of wool this week.

Not a lot, really, going on today. Had lunch with a wonderful friend -- we got to talk a bit about what it's like to have a student done with homeschooling... and then (as I'm about to graduate my first, she's about to graduate her last) what it's like to *be* done with homeschooling. Nobody ever blogs about that. Probably because it's just as terrifying as getting started, but with less heads up. You're plugging along, doing your thing, and the next thing you know, there's nobody coming up the ranks... just, done. Weird. Exciting, liberating, wide-open, and not a little unsettling. But I'm excited to see what she's going to do, and I'll be jotting down ideas for when I look up and realize I'm done.

If you're in the thick of it, know this - you're doing good work. Be diligent. Be kind. Be encouraged.

~Dy