Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 7

Wow. Has it really been 3+ months since my last post about what lessons I’ve learned from homeschooling?

Since most of it was a blur, I’m not sure how much I will have to say about 2016Q4. But since I’m a completist, I will give it a go. Here then, (with my shortest preamble yet!) are the lessons I reluctantly learned while Homeschooling for October – December 2016.

1) When the kids are having a hard time listening and following directions, it’s best for everyone to take a break. Even if the break lasts a month (or two).

(ie: Mommy needs a time out.)

You see, few things infuriate me as much as children who don’t listen or follow directions.

Also I hate sloppiness. And the fidgets.

And I particularly hate when they look at me instead of the zhuyin (Chinese phonetic system) when they are reading and aren’t sure if they are reading correctly.

I mean, do I look like I have zhuyin and can tell you how the word is pronounced?

Friends, pregnancy makes me really pissy. 

My poor, poor children.

I was so mean to them and so impatient and quick to anger and scream.

I cut short many a lesson due to me completely losing it and yelling at full blast on their every stumble or perceived imperfection.

Nothing encourages language retention and making mistakes and learning for fun like a mean dragon fire-breathing mommy.

I have since learned (and re-learned) to just take a break. And to repeatedly tell Cookie Monster and Gamera that it’s not their fault that Mommy feels awful and that they are wonderful and beautiful and smart and that the time out is for me and not because they are bad.

But mostly, I broke my children and tried to put them back together after they burst into tears because they couldn’t please their mean mommy.

Trust me when I say that everyone is glad that Sasquatch is out instead of in.

Apparently no longer being in constant pain makes me a much more pleasant person.

2) Accept help.

I am a control freak. Everyone knows this. But even us control freaks need to acknowledge their desperate need for help and assistance sometimes.

Thus, it was with great relief that on rare occasion, my mom would listen to the kids read in Chinese (I’m talking on ONE occurrence – but it was still appreciated!!), or Hapa Papa would have the kids do math.

It was especially easy because I wanted Cookie Monster to do repetitive drills/workbooks to make sure he not only understood the concept of addition/subtraction/multiplication/division but to do them so often they became automatic.

Gamera was a little more difficult since she can’t read and her Singapore Math books require a lot more reading than Cookie Monster’s rows and rows of math problems. So, that required more effort on the part of Hapa Papa but hey, it’s not like I had to do the work.

3) Outsourcing homeschooling is AWESOME.

I mean, this is really why most people do NOT homeschool and send their kids to either public or private school, right? Having someone else do the teaching is fantastic!

Of course, I prefer the flexibility homeschooling allows. But my willingness to also hire private tutors or have them attend small classes is a great way for my kids to make friends with other kids (albeit, few of them), as well as give me a break from at least some of my children.

4) Paying for things in advance is a great way to force your kids to persevere in classes.

My kids were less than enthused about attending outdoor education classes. But after me telling them they had no choice because we already paid for these classes and HFS they were expensive – my kids grumbled for weeks.

But they went and had a good time.

They had such a good time that after awhile, the real reason they hated going no longer was as much of an issue. It just became something they had to do. (They didn’t like the fact that we had to leave before 8am to get to class on time and drive a long time because it cut down on their morning iPad time. Spoiled little brats.)

Now, they very much enjoy class and even don’t mind going to class in the rain. (They’ve even been brainwashed because Cookie Monster told me that rainy days are the best because then Mother Earth gets her water. Also, he gets to jump in mud puddles.)

This even applied to my kids and their kungfu lessons. Since they took such a long break from kungfu in the summer, it was hard for them to get back in the swing of things. Their muscles were sore after classes and because they were more advanced than they used to be, the forms were harder and it required more effort.

So, of course, they complained.

They complained because since we missed so many weeks in the summer due to our Taiwan Trip, we had to make up the sessions and often went to kungfu 3-4 times a week. Apparently, that is too much for them.

Well, again, the fact that we had already pre-paid came in handy and I brooked no dissent. After awhile, they again got used to the new reality and their bodies adjusted and they are happy about kungfu again. (It helps that they just got their yellow-black belts and have upgraded to a more advanced class.)

5) Homeschooling is flexible enough to withstand a lot of disruption.

I briefly touched upon this in the previous points, but seriously. I was worried about how being miserably pregnant and then happily unpregnant but with a newborn was going to affect homeschooling.

I need not have worried.

Yes, yes. We skipped a lot of actual schooling at home because I had a baby and all. But you know what? They played a lot with each other, still had their other classes, and in general, we took things slowly.

And because we adjusted our rhythm and tempo, my kids did not suffer really and since they’re pretty far ahead on math and yes, even Chinese reading, I wasn’t really worried.

Also, despite the fact that I still had to shuttle them to a lot of classes, it was STILL a lot easier than shuttling the kids to and from “regular” school. The thought of dealing with pick up/drop off and the traffic and rush in the early mornings hurts me.

Our laid back lifestyle was MUCH better and much preferred.

Plus, kids learned a lot about babies, helping with cooking, and home responsibilities. That is also learning. 

Alright. I think that’s the gist of the last three months. Here’s to another month of homeschooling! Happy 2017!

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

What is it about life that it just piles and piles and piles on top of everything and everywhere?

I mean, I realize that entropy is the default state of being and the Second Law of Thermodynamics so why fight against The Universe?

And yet.

No matter how much (or let’s be real, little) I do, it’s never enough. I always feel behind the 8-ball.

Is this a Woman Thing? Or a Mom Thing?

I mean, I don’t really hear Hapa Papa bitching and moaning about the state of the house (although, lately, it seems to be pressing on even him) or feeling as if he’s always behind or never caught up on shit.

However, now that I think about it – and I mean this in no way to diminish what Hapa Papa does because he is quite the involved father and provides pretty much all monetary support for our family – he really only has two major areas of responsibility: providing monetarily for the family and being an involved father.

Everything else is on me. Now, usually I don’t mind because quite frankly, I’m a control freak and I rather enjoy having everything be what I want it to be (or think it should be). But then, when things aren’t quite right, it’s all on me.

Hapa Papa is an easy-going guy and a good sport, so other than a few things, he really doesn’t have a particular opinion on whatever new parenting philosophy I’m trying this month or homeschooling or sports (wait, he does have an opinion on sports) or food or household chores or whatever. As long as it doesn’t particularly bother him, Hapa Papa mostly just gets out of my way and lets me do my thing and tries to support me as much as he can.

He is a good man.

But just like I (God-willing) will never have to feel that singular burden of providing financially for our household, he will never have to feel that singular burden of everything else. The staggering amounts of minutiae in the daily lives of five living and growing human beings.

I am overwhelmed.

(Although, I can’t say I have ever felt whelmed.)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s that much. I mean, I am a competent person of above-average intelligence and ability, right? Right?

So why do I feel so shitty? And so dissatisfied?

And now that I think about all the stuff that is within my purview, it really is a lot! I mean, I am not exaggerating when I say that Hapa Papa only needs to think about (and do) his career/making money and being a good father/husband. (And to clarify, Hapa Papa does a ton more than the “average” husband – so please know that I definitely appreciate him!)

Here’s just some stuff off the top my head that I have to take care of on a regular basis:

– Follow up with Car Rental Company to make sure they submit the missing paperwork to our credit card company re: a claim
– Follow up with Health Insurance Company re: multiple claims/missing money
– Submit FSA receipts
– Take care of all benefits
– Physicals and dental appointments for the whole family
– Saving/Investing
– Paying everyone and every institution that we need to pay
– Enrolling/Scheduling kids and their classes and paying on a monthly/quarterly basis
– Shuttling kids to all their activities
– Feeding/Bathing/Clothing/Maintaining/Keeping Alive/Disciplining children (and self and Hapa Papa)
– Keeping track of extended family birthdays/special events/visits/illnesses/etc.
– Keeping in touch with family friends
– Scheduling car maintenances
– Insurance (life/health/car/home/flood/umbrella WHATEVER)
– Shopping (food/clothes/home/educational/etc.)
– Cooking
– Cleaning/Laundry/Dishes/Garbage
– Mail (absolutely my LEAST favorite)
– Diapers
– Potty Training
– Parenting
– Taking out the garbage
– Compost
– Returning library books
– Sleep training
– Homeschooling
– Ovulation/Fertility Tracking (if we are still trying for a fourth)
– Taxes
– Anything that requires a phone call or a live human

Look. I know this shit is what life is made of. And again, it’s not like Hapa Papa doesn’t contribute in terms of housework (I am always elated when he unloads the dishwasher – one of my LEAST favorite activities even though it is incredibly simple). Furthermore, Hapa Papa is amazing at giving me space to decompress and disappear from the family. He gives me entire WEEKENDS (on a regular basis!) so I know I have it good.

But if I have it so good and am still feeling crushed, how the fuck are other people doing this?

Is everyone else just better at faking it?

(Ok. I do know some people who are terrible at faking it and when I look at them, I judge. I know. I’m a hypocrite. But seriously. Come on, people. Get your shit together.)

What do you think? Are we all just sucking at “adulting”? Did our parents have these problems, too? They must have, right? Let me know in the comments.

Food Insecurity

At almost every meal time, I briefly think that our family is “food insecure.” Not in the true sense of the word – by no means are we that at all. But if you asked me what we ate for the last week, I would have no idea. And if you asked me what we were going to eat for our next meal, I’d semi-panic and want to crawl in a hole and avoid the question entirely.

How is it possible that I go shopping every week, have a fridge and pantry full of food, yet we rarely have anything to eat?

In fact, I think one of the reasons Glow Worm is so short is because all he does is snack all day and doesn’t actually eat real food. (I’ll just go back and hide now.)

It’s pretty telling that my favorite time of every year is when I go to San Diego and visit my friend for a few days and she provides all meals and snacks for those blissful three days. I don’t have to think about anything!

It’s heaven.

Anyhow, lately, it’s been pressing upon me more and more so that we have to make some changes as a family about what we eat and how we eat it.

It all started when I slowly started realizing that whenever I had even minimal amounts of caffeine or sugar, I would start shaking. My whole body would feel jittery and jerky and I would feel jumpy and just “off.” And every time I ate a granola bar that my kids eat all the time (especially Glow Worm), I would feel really weird and my heart would start racing. I would get to thinking, “If I, as a fully grown adult woman, couldn’t handle the sugar content in a “healthy” granola bar, what the hell is it doing to my children?

I mean, maybe the reason Glow Worm is quite insane and is never tired has more to do with his diet than his temperament? Perhaps the kids would eat more of their normal meals if they didn’t always have snacks?

So, I don’t really know what to do. I flirt with the idea of cutting sugar or having only unprocessed foods in the house (OMG – that makes me so sad to even think about), or to go all hard core like the 100 Days of Real Food lady and that just stresses me out. I know I have the tendency to go full tilt all in extreme and then burn out super quick.

It seems impossible. And really hard. And a lot like work. (You all know how I feel about anything that even remotely resembles work.)

My mind races to think of what schedules I need to rearrange for shopping and food prep. Do I start freezer cooking? Use a crock pot? And are any of these dishes actual Chinese food? Or things my kids would eat?

And of course, I have a ton of excuses: the kids never eat what I make so why bother? We’re always on the go, how can we have fewer processed foods but still have an active lifestyle (and by active, I mean that we’re constantly driving around from one thing to another). What about all the food we already bought? It seems crazy hard – especially with my kids’ multiple food allergies.

And so, I’m hesitant to even mention my thoughts for several reasons. The main being that if I talk about it, I might actually have to do something. The others being that I know that my complaints are totally a first world problem and that I feel a lot of shame.

After all, there are 870 million people worldwide who don’t know what – if anything – they will have to eat. Even within the United States, there are millions of children and families who experience actual food insecurity. (1 in 7 Americans experience hunger because they or their families cannot afford food.) And here I am, complaining about my petty problems.

So, even though I have no idea what to do with our food situation, I hopefully can at least remind us that as America is gearing up for the holiday season. I encourage you to donate to your local food bank, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, donate your time to help pack food supplies, whatever. If you are at a loss of what to do, consider donating on a monthly basis to your local county food bank. We currently donate $150/month to the Contra Costa County Food Bank and I consider it part of our tithing. It has not been difficult to do considering it’s the very least I can do – which is give money.

In addition, this year, instead of just telling folks to not bring gifts to my children’s birthday parties, I’ve asked people to bring food items to donate to the local food bank instead. For Glow Worm’s birthday, we raised 118 pounds of food. I might even have people do so for our annual New Year’s Eve party.

I mention these things not to seem righteous or holy, but merely acknowledging that the rest of this post is horribly incongruent with real food insecurity. But since the context is my life, I can only write what I know.

However, I do want to also highlight actual hunger instead of my cheap facsimile so as we get ready for the holiday season (I know it seems early, but it really isn’t!), to keep in mind ways you can help – even if it’s just with your time and energy and strength.

I would also encourage you to set up a monthly contribution (or at least a reminder to donate during the summer months – which are notoriously low on donations) instead of just doing something during the holidays. People are hungry year round – not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Anyhow, I have no idea how to end this post (as always). But I would love to hear your feedback (especially if you and your family have made major food changes) and advice! Happy Monday.