Tuesday, August 26, 2014

3 Myths About Homeschoolers That You Should Stop Believing

Having done this homeschooling thing for a while now, I have found that there are some common misconceptions the general public seems to have about us.  I'd like to take a few minutes and clear up three of those myths for you.  (These aren't universal truths, as I'm sure you could find families that do fit these stereotypes. But the homeschoolers that I know don't and I would bet that most others don't either.)

1. We don't care about public education.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While most of my kiddos are not currently attending our local elementary or middle school (we actually do have one in preschool there this year), the majority of kids in America are going to public school. With the exception of a handful of homeschoolers and about three families who send their kids to private Christian schools, all the rest of my kids' friends go to public school. Most of their cousins and their fellow Scouts go to public school.  As do our neighbors and the kids on their ball teams. The kids we know at church and my own kids' friends as well. I have many, many friends who are amazing public school teachers. To even imply that I don't care about any of these people is absurd and to be quite honest, a little insulting.

2. Our kids are unsocialized.
Pa-leeze! This is such an outdated misconception. This week we had a back-to-school party for just our homeschool friends. They couldn't all attend, but we had over 20 kids and a dozen parents there. (If everyone we invited had come, that number would have more than doubled. And that's JUST our homeschool friends.) They swam, played games, jumped on the trampoline and a few of the older ones were even a little awkward around members of the opposite sex. Sounds pretty normal to me.

3. We somehow have more patience than other parents.
I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I have heard, "I would homeschool, but I don't have the patience." And what, dear friends, makes you think that I do? Seriously, I lose my temper way more often than I am willing to fess up to. And don't even shake you're head and think to yourself, Maybe, Kelsy. But I bet you've never (insert your worst parenting moment here). Because short of things that would land me in jail, I probably have. And because the nature of homeschooling puts me in close proximity to my little dearies more often than some other moms, I probably lose it more often.  Don't believe me? Ask my kids. Wait. Scratch that. Don't ask my kids. They might tell you the truth.

The reality is, we're just normal people. Yes, we choose to teach our kids differently but our sameness is much bigger than our differences.  We all care about other people, even the ones who are not just like us. We all want need friends and meaningful relationships with others. Homeschool moms blow it with our kids and have to ask forgiveness (from them and from God) just as often, if not more so than other people do. So home, public or private schooled, let's all love each other and give each other a lot of grace.  We all need it. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kelsy Crutchfield's Busy Busy Life

I just read an advice blog that said, "Stay home as much as possible.  Not having to be running all the time is a gift you can give your children."  Sounds like good advice.

And you know what?  It probably is.  For some people.  For some seasons.  But right now, my life is pretty busy.  And by pretty busy, I mean it's full to bursting!  We have baseball, VBS, church, scouts, friends, family, parties, sleepovers, dance class, summer camp, swimming pools, and a million other things.  And you know what?  I LOVE IT. There are days when we all just need a break from it.  And we take those.  We stay at home and in our pajamas for entire weekends when it's necessary.  But for the most part, we are a family of goers.  We leave the house and we live our lives in this crazy, messed-up, lovely world.

I love this busy life.  It's crazy but I have no doubt that it's right where we need to be.

It's hours in the van, countless dollars in gas, and a lot of time away from home.  It's breakfast at McDonald's and supper at Pizza Hut.  It's hard to get the laundry done and impossible to even think about meal planning.  It's exhausting.

But it's also hours in the van with my family.  Conversations we might not have otherwise.  Time when we can't get away from each other and life gets real.

It's hot days on hard bleachers building relationships with people we have come to love.  It's being a part of our community and supporting each other.  It's carpooling and helping each other out.  It's sharing sunflower seeds and taking pictures together. It's building friendships that will last well past this season.

It's 90 degrees out and kids on a slip and slide.  It's moms drinking Pepsi in the shade and sharing their lives together.  Water gun fights and learning how to deal with people. Greeting the new neighbors with smiles and chatting with the ones who have lived close for years.

It's life lessons and disappointments.  Winning, losing, not getting to play, making the great catch.  They're all important things to experience, both for our kids and for us as parents.  Scraped knees and kisses on boo-boos. Not getting the water gun you wanted and having to wait your turn to run down the slide.

It's teaching kids, my own and those in my community, to live life in a way that reflects the love of Jesus.  It's showing that following Christ happens not just in a "church," but in our everyday lives as well.

It's serving others.  Staying an extra 15 minutes so that someone else doesn't have to stay an extra two hours. It's dropping by with a casserole and sending a card to friend who is struggling.

My life?  It's busy.  It's crazy.  It's exhausting.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sometimes It's Hard to Remember

Oh, Pinterest.  A place to make you laugh, cry and be hungry all in the first 10 seconds.   A while back I came across a pin that was something along the lines of "Someone else would gladly have what you are complaining about."  It was pretty much a thought for mothers who are having bad days with their kids.

And it's true.  I know it's true.  I know that there are people out there who struggle every single day with infertility.  I realize that there are mommas out there who have lost their babies and would give anything, anything at all, to simply hold them one more time.  I know this to be true, and for those mommas, I am so sorry for your hurt.  I know that it is real and it is heavy and it can be all consuming.  I have myself mourned for a child I never got to hold.  I have watched people I love mourn the loss of their children.  It is the worst thing.  The very worst.

But just knowing that other people wish for the happy, healthy children that I have sometimes isn't enough to make the crazy go away.  Sometimes, dealing with the every day reality of having and homeschooling four kids is just hard.

Hearing the little man with whom you have just had a 20 minute struggle to put on his shoes and get his butt in the van call you the "worst mom in the whole wide world" sucks.  On a long day, it might be enough to push you over the edge.  It might cause you tell him to look for another mom because you are resigning from the position.  It may not be your best parenting moment.

When your Tigger is extra tired and extra bouncy and backtalks you in public and then bursts into tears in the buffet line, the last thing on your mind is gratitude.  The first thing might be wanting to burst into tears yourself or to go crawl in a hole and hide.

When your boys act like boys and your furniture looks like it belongs in a frat house, it's easy to forget that these little men are gifts from God.  Holes in the dry wall and rips in the couch cushions can be enough to make me wallow in a "woe is me" kind of pity party.  "Poor me.  I'll never have nice things. If I do, they'll just ruin them!"

In that moment when your daughter first rolls her eyes at you and you realize you are now raising a pre-teen girl and it's not all going to be sunshine and roses, it's easy to forget the blessing that children are.  It's easier to remember the mess of hormones that come with growing up and all the mess that entails.  And the funk.  Oh, the funk.  The funky attitudes and the funky smells are enough to make this mother question her own sanity.

It's easy to forget when I'm tired, hungry, stressed, and/or single-parenting because my hard working husband is on the night shift.

But it's easy to remember when the little man looks up at you and says in his sweetest voice, with his cutest face, "Hold me, Mom."  When Tigger wraps his arms around you and cries into your shoulder and says that he's sorry and he just wants his mommy to hold him for a minute, then you remember.  When your not-so-little girl willingly shares a secret with you, trusting you to keep her confidence, you know why you do this parenting thing every day. When your growing-up-way-too-fast tween looks at you and out of the blue says, "I just love you so much, Mom," you wonder how you ever thought furniture was important.  In those moments, you remember.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: The Usborne Book of World History

The Usborne Book of World History by Anne Millard, 2008 edition

I bought this book for the 2011-12 school year based on the recommendation from Sonlight.  Sonlight uses it as part of their Core B+C curriculum.  They pair this book with Hillyer's A Child's History of the WorldGeography Songs and the Bible.  I use it with my first and third graders.

The history aspect of Sonlight's Core B+C is focused on ancient civilizations, starting with the earliest settlers in Mesopotamia to the late twentieth century, roughly ending around the Vietnam War.  This book in particular chronicles life on the planet through about 1914, or right before World War I.

Each pair of pages in this book are a "chapter" about a certain time period and place in history.  There are no photographs (for obvious reasons!) but there are detailed, colorful drawings that depict the people and places well.  A warning for the easily offended; there is a LOT of nudity depicted in this book.  In accurately trying to depict the cultures of ancient people, the authors did not put clothes on people who probably did not wear them.  There are well over two dozen pictures of naked folks.  This doesn't bother me or my kids, but if it does you or yours, this is NOT the book for you.

There are also many violent scenes. Pictures show a gladiator fighting a bear, Christians being thrown to the lions, and soldiers with spears through their chests.  This visual history is not for the faint of heart.  They don't shy away from mentioning human sacrifices, executions (Mary, Queen of Scots is shown with an executioner about to chop off her head with an axe), or the horrors of war (there is no mention of sexual slavery or rape).

That said, this is a very interesting and well done book.  While this would not be a good stand-alone history text, the information given is excellent but brief.  They cover Joan of Arc in less than 40 words and a picture of her burning at the stake.  Obviously, there is more to her story, but this is a good introduction.  That's basically the truth of the entire book: It shouldn't be your only history text, but it is certainly a great supplement to one.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Unsolicited Advice for Packing for Camp

This year was my oldest son's first year to go to Boy Scout camp.  He was gone for an entire week and had the time of his life!  Over the next seven years, as he progresses through ranks and eventually becomes an Eagle Scout, I have no doubt that we will learn a thousand useful things from this organization. For now, though, I just want to share the one that has been the most useful for me, the mom, so far.

Packing for camp.  The BSA guys have this down really well.  Here's what I've learned from them along with a few tricks I've picked up on my own.

1. Forget the suitcase.  Pack in a hard plastic tote with a snap-on lid.  It's waterproof, stackable and will keep bugs out.  If you get a clear one, you can easily see through it and know what is inside.  Be sure to get one that is thick enough to stand up to camp use.  Thin, brittle plastic will do you no good.   A tote is especially helpful if you are tent camping and have a greater chance of rain or wildlife getting into your stuff.

If you will be using traditional bedding, you can include your sheets and blankets in the tote as well. For church camp, we were even able to fit my son's pillow in the tote, reducing his entire week's luggage to one container. If you have bulky bedding (like a sleeping bag) and can't fit it all in the tote, stick everything in a large trash bag.  This keeps sleeping bags and pillows together and makes it easier when transporting them.

2. Gallon size Ziplock baggies are the perfect size for packing each day's worth of clothing.  As he gets older and bigger, we may have to rethink this, but for now, we can fit a pair of shorts, shirt, underwear and socks all in one baggie.  As a mom, this is beneficial for many reasons.  First off, I can rest easy knowing that his clothes for each day go together.  I wouldn't want him tramping through the woods in a mismatched outfit.  :) Even better, this keeps the clean laundry separated from the dirty stuff.  If the clothes are still folded in the baggie when he gets home, I know they need to go back to the closet.  The rest gets dumped in the washer as soon as he walks through the door.

Toiletries get put in the baggies as well. Soap, shampoo, deodorant, along with a washcloth, toothpaste and a toothbrush are all packed together in a single bag.  Now, whether or not my tween boy ever gets them out while he's away from home is entirely out of my hands.  But at least I know they are all packed together, readily available if he does decide to use them. Please son, use them.  For the sake of those of us who have to ride home with you at the end of the week, please use them!

3. Include an empty trash bag for the dirty clothes.  If you can get all of the smelly, wet, and crusty stuff to stay in one place, you'll be better off.  Don't even look at it.  Just dump the entire thing in the washing machine with an extra bit of Oxy Clean.

4. Use a day bag.  It can be a simple messenger style bag or a large backpack or whatever is best for the type of camp your child is attending.  In it, pack useful things your kid may need to have close at hand; a flashlight, a journal, a pen, a Bible, bug spray* and sunblock.* (*Be sure to put these in a Ziplock as well.  No one wants their bug spray all over their pack.)  You can either have your child carry this to camp with him or put it in the top of the tote.

5. Pack a water bottle, even if it's not on the list.  If you can find one that snaps or hooks to the day pack, that's a bonus.  Dehydration is killer at summer camp. Be sure your child knows that WATER is what he needs to be drinking, NOT soda pop.  My kids have been to three different camps this summer.  Each place had its own rules on food and drink and some were more lenient than others about what I would consider healthy habits.  I made sure to stress the importance of proper hydration at each place, and to make sure my kids were having water at each meal (and in between).

6. Write your kid's name on everything!  Every towel, shoe and piece of clothing that you want to return to your home should be labeled. Things at camp tend to get thrown on the floor, left at the pool, and thrown under the bed.  If that random t-shirt someone pulls out of the corner has your kids' name on the tag, you'll probably get it back.  If not, well, probably not. If it's something you really, really don't want to lose, like a ball glove, musical instrument or expensive eyeglasses, put your phone number on it as well.  (On a side note, we've had more than one ball glove returned to us after someone found it, saw our name and number on it and called.  It's worth the twenty seconds it takes to write it on there, I promise.)

7. If you have to send medication OF ANY KIND with your kids, be sure to hand it directly to the adult responsible for it.  Don't just assume that your kid will remember to turn it in to the camp nurse once they get there. Having taken 22 kids to camp this summer, I can assure you that they will probably forget.  If it's a prescription, send it in the original container that has dosing directions included.  For OTC stuff, use a Sharpie and write your child's name and dosage directly on the bottle.

8. If camp will include water of any kind, you might want to include a simple drying rack.  I picked up a couple of these at Dollar General last year. I think they were around $1 each.  As a counselor at kids' church camp, I hung them in our shared bathroom and encouraged all of the girls to hang their wet swimsuits on them.  This kept the water out of their bunks and in one place.  Before bed each night I wrung out the suits and they were mostly dry before we had to put them back on the next day.

Veteran campers and packers, what have I missed?  How do YOU pack for summer camp?