Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm expanding the ways I use this space, so that it's not just our homeschooling adventures, but also the rest of our domestic concerns.  Possibly further than that.  I'll see what happens as we go.

A few weeks ago, I had what may have been the worst anxiety episode I've ever had (it was mixed in with awful GERD, and hyperventilation, and so it's hard to pin it down with a single, simple description).

The doctor (after telling me my heart's in perfect shape, and that I have a long life ahead of me) told me to give up caffeine and take a daily walk (in addition to any other exercise I'm doing).  I'm not giving up caffeine all the way, at this time.  I'm cutting out all the cold caffeine (cola and iced tea), which is about 75% of my usual intake.  Hot tea and dark chocolate have so many health benefits (and are so delightful) that it more than outweighs the drawbacks of the caffeine.  I'm also taking the opportunity to make a bunch of other changes.

I'm taking a three-pronged approach -- increasing relaxation, increasing joy, and combining the GTD approach and cognitive behavioral techniques to decrease stress by tackling as many as I can of the things that've been stressing me out. 

This week I'm focusing on my morning routine (because there are many little changes I can make there which will set the tone for my day), our 4 pm check-in phone call (when Joe and I check in with each other about how our days have gone and which household tasks we've gotten done), eating dinner at the dining room table (because I think that'll make the whole rest of the evening go much more smoothly), and our bedtime routine.

For the morning routine, I'm increasing relaxation by adding a little tai chi to my other morning contemplative practices, I'm decreasing stress by moving my morning email and facebook checking to later in the day (and replacing it with some pleasant reading), and I'm increasing joy by shifting my cup of sweet black tea to the morning, changing to a savory breakfast (black beans, avocado, tomatoes, and rice or a homemade tortilla, or leftovers from last night's dinner), and working towards finding time to sit out in the yard while I sip my tea (I won't drink the whole thing out there, because I don't want to start my day with a big cup of sugar water without any food to balance it).  So now the morning will look like:  breathwork, tai chi, chanting and making tea and a little time in the sunlight, read something pleasant, cuddle Sarah awake, breakfast, sweeps (tidying up), process email to zero, exercise.  Then we play school.

As for the bedtime routine, we're working toward turning most lights out at 10, doing sweeps (putting things back where they go), putting the oatmeal in the crockpot for the next day, brushing teeth, and listening to a book on tape.  Eventually we're hoping to dim the lights an hour before bedtime, and to fit in a relaxation technique of some kind into the bedtime routine. 

There are a lot of changes still ahead of me, but right now I'm happy focusing on these first steps.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy New Year!

I love how the air is full of possibility, this time of year.  No matter how the summer went, no matter how last school year ended, September is the perfect excuse to start fresh -- brand new notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, a whole different set of plans and schemes...  I'm hoping to get here more often than I did last year -- especially if I give myself permission to be as boring and humdrum as I like -- no philosophy, no poetry, just straightforward journaling of how the week's gone.

Last week was our Not Back To School week -- we didn't start up our schoolyear rhythms to the day, but we did enjoy celebrating some of the freedom of homeschooling, by going out during the school day.  :)  We attended the first home game of the Stevens Women's Soccer team, made it to the first Montclair homeschool board game meetup of the year, had lunch with friends at our favorite fair trade cafe, went to the first Zoo Crew of the year (got to meet a screech owl and a whole bunch of new homeschooling colleagues).

This week we shifted back to our usual routines and rhythms.  We've tweaked a few things -- having breakfast right away and saving our dancing for later in the morning, making a little room in the day for a project-based approach instead of being entirely booky...  We've also decided to get away from the packed weekly schedules we had last year, and instead focus on more monthly gatherings and activities.

Monday we had our first meeting of the school year, discussing what sorts of things she'd like to pursue, this year, and what sorts of skills she'd like to improve at.  She's very clear that she doesn't want the responsibility of making all the decisions about what to study or pursue, and I'm very clear that I need us to have some sort of daily routine.  So we continue to put aside 2 hours every morning to play school, and at the start of each season I suggest a list of resources, she lets me know which ones she's interested in working with, and we go from there.

This year we're going to be working with Mosaic World History, The Thinking Toolbox, Living Math, String Straight Edge and Shadow, The Good Time Math Events Book, Houghton Mifflin Spelling and Vocabulary, The Story of Science, Life of Fred, and a whole bunch of myth and folklore books, some nature journaling, and a country of the week.  We're also going to work on Spanish, but I don't know what resources we'll be using.  Nothing has leapt out, yet, as both effective and affordable.  Oh, and Sarah will be taking a weekly art class. 

Mostly, though, I'm hoping to help her grow in independence and confidence.  We don't really do grade levels, although we sometimes use the concept of them as a guideline when we're coming up with things to do.  But I'm very conscious of the fact that she would be in middle school, now, if she were in a formal program -- doing more focused, challenging work, more independent work, and also having more opportunities for independent adventures -- taking the bus, leaving school at lunch, ...  Heck, I was going into the city every day starting in the 7th grade, and taking the subway in 8th.  We're also going to work on more physical skills (skateboarding, skating, swimming, soccer, softball, badminton, backpacking, cooking, carpentry, a wide variety of art, yoga).  I like knowing we can make time for those priorities, without being overwhelmed by outside responsibilities.

Today we took a nice hike along the Palisades, hoping to see some hawks.  There were none at all for the first several hours (although we did see half a dozen butterflies, some chipmunks, and many dogs on leashes), then we got 10 of them circling around for 5 or 10 minutes, tops, and when we looked away for a minute and looked back, they were gone.