Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Back to Homeschool February 18, 2013

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

The girls are back to being homeschooled for the time being. I never wanted to put them in the private facility they attended while I was in school last semester, but I didn’t have many other options. After my marriage ended abruptly in May, and I found out that I was pregnant with Baby #3 two weeks later, I needed to make some big decisions right away. I was already finished with my first year of graduate school, and after much debate, figured it best to stay put in New England instead of moving back to my home in Illinois.

My Education Station - from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies. The tray atop is my schoolwork.

My Education Station – from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies.

For one thing, I was broke, and staying in school would give me loan money. It’s major debt, I know it, but I didn’t have a job, I’m still not getting child support, and with another baby on the way it seemed implausible to move back across the country expecting someone to find me a desirable employee.

There were a lot of other factors weighing into my decision to stay in New England, stay in school, and send my girls to the private preschool and private kindergarten they attended while I took classes, but more on that in another post. The school was decent enough. I loved the teachers and the way they went about teaching the kids, but it was no Montessori. My oldest, Amara, mostly got a safe place to socialize out of her time there. Terra learned to better identify her numbers and letters, and got a lot better at her drawings; the social aspect didn’t appeal to her as much, but she enjoyed the activities.

Typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the cardboard backing and helped choose the activities.

The girls’ typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the backing and helped to choose the activities.

This semester, as I was due with Baby #3 one week ago today (I am still pregnant. I don’t know when she’ll decide to come out), I opted to create a Directed Study course so that I could stay home with my girls. It’s only one class (you can follow my progress of exploring eMarketing here), but I’m able to continue getting loan money and my assignments are due on a much more flexible schedule.

The only problem with this set-up was that until a week ago the girls and I didn’t really have a set schedule. Having so much to do with little organization was getting the better of me, but we’ve finally solidified our routine.

Now, instead of simply knowing that I have to do umpteen chores, feed and bathe the girls, take them to various appointments and lessons, prep for Baby’s arrival, and between the insomnia and worry and whatnot do my homework as well, I have a schedule.

Our Job Chart. As with the schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I'm adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

As with the girls’ schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I’m adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

The girls have a schedule too, and they love it. I’d been working toward being this organized for quite some time, but between last semester ending, my nesting, and everything else consuming my attention, I couldn’t get around to really implementing the plan until recently.

I’d been keeping up with the girls’ homeschooling, but between teaching them and my other responsibilities I couldn’t find the time for doing my schoolwork. Creating a set schedule allowed me to find the gaps of space and time between the girls’ many activities where I could clean and work on my assignments and do some blogging. We’re so much more efficient now. Things are running smoothly, the girls feel a better sense of control over their day, and I am finally finding the time to complete everything.

There are numerous things that don’t go on their typical weekday schedule, like bath time and play dates and shopping and therapy; I made extra tabs for those things so they can be switched out with other activities when they need to go on our schedule. I love Velcro! Of course, Baby #3 will change things slightly, but I’m fairly certain she’ll quickly learn to go with the flow.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

I also purchased a file folder thingy on clearance at Michael’s to plan out the girls’ weekly lessons. It’s perfect, it holds ten folders so I can work ahead to schedule their activities for M-F and put workbook pages and whatnot inside so that I’m not lagging when they’re due to have “learning” time.

I’m so excited to be educating my girls, and so happy that I finally have a better system for planning their activities, keeping track of their progress, and feeling capable of taking care of my household and continuing my education as well.

There are so many things I cannot determine with what will become of my life. This time next year I might not be in New England anymore. I will more than likely have to return to work directly after finishing graduate grad school. I don’t know how I will be financially capable of continuing to homeschool. But I’m trying to look at the bright side and live in the now.

For now we’ve got a good thing going. We’re at home. We’re organized. We’re learning. We’re safe. It may be a tough load to carry and difficult to balance on a daily basis, but when I really consider how much worse things could be I shouldn’t complain.

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[Insert popular lyrics from classic rock song about school here] September 17, 2012

Lately I wonder if sending them to school is actually more consuming than keeping them home. I no longer have the option to keep them home, as life goes, but I think now about all of the people with the financial stability to stay at home, but still choose to send their little ones off to school. True, it gives you a few hours to tidy up the house and prep for dinner. You may even be able to get some shopping done, or blogging, or have the chance to contact that long forgotten friend, exercise!

Still. I hold tight to the pride of educating my children, I miss homeschooling them (and I sincerely miss sleeping in)!

Getting ready for school entails:

Having the girls bathed, hair braided, and in bed by no later than 10pm: I wish I could get them to bed by 8pm, but that just doesn’t happen around here yet. I have to be awake by 5am and I typically wait until 6am to wake them. Back when we stayed at home they’d sleep a good 10-12 hours straight, but those were the old days. I have to braid their hair because if I fail to we all suffer in the mornings. The girls do not like having their curls detangled and I don’t like the hassle. If it has been braided I simply have to undo the braids and give them a headband or redo the braids with hair ties and barrettes.

Having their lunches packed (and sometimes breakfast, and sometimes snack – depending on what their school is serving): My daughters don’t have allergies, but they’ve been on a fairly strict diet since they were babies and I don’t intend to let their school attendance ruin that. Every week the chef makes me a copy of the upcoming week’s lunch schedule. I look it over and decide which items they will be allowed to eat and which items I will be substituting. I try not to be too picky, but we do not eat much gluten, we limit sugar, and we stay away from nitrates in our home. We eat organic and local foods whenever possible, and I don’t want school to become associated with juice boxes, high fructose corn syrup, and starchy noodles.

I cannot simply plan their breakfast, lunch, and snack, but I have to prepare for dinner as well. If I’m allowing them to have gluten for breakfast that means they will not be having it for lunch or snack or dinner. I do this with my own packed school lunch as well. It is consuming, but I am satisfied in knowing that I’m sending them to school with healthy choices.

Having their homework done: Don’t teachers know that sending a three and five year old home with an assignment means the parents are being given an assignment? As if I don’t have enough homework of my own to do. I know, I know, it’s teaching them responsibility, and goodness forbid we don’t get a sticker on the homework chart!

Having their backpacks packed: Packing backpacks is simple enough, but I have to make sure to wash the linen every weekend so that their washed fitted sheets and blankets are ready to be taken (in labeled, plastic storage bags, of course). I put their backpacks in the trunk before waking them.

Having their clothes picked out: It’s bad enough that one of them is going to scream and cry no matter what reassurances I give her about possible upcoming enjoyment. If clothes are not laid out on the couch in the correct order of wearing (underwear, shirt, pants, socks, accessories) we are going to be late and I am going to miss my train to MY school. So far so good. I have the girls pick out their school clothes right after they brush their teeth the night before we need them. If they refuse to do so then I get to choose everything they’re wearing the next day, and they aren’t allowed to complain.

Having a mother who has had enough sleep to get up in the morning and make the magic happen again: We’re working on that…good night!

 

Mythical Welfare Queen August 24, 2012

I could’ve lied. I could’ve said I was in undergraduate school. I didn’t have to mention the house. I could’ve pulled all of the money from my bank account. I could have let them process my husband for child-support (though they would’ve taken that had I received any). I could’ve gone so far as to get a fake ID, fake social security card, and have someone cover for me when I list theirs as my address. But alas, I am infallibly honest. There goes my shot at being a welfare queen.

The system may seem too easy, but it is in fact not as simple to get help as you may think, and those who get help are not getting a lot of money. I have disagreed with the idea of government welfare all of my life. I do not like the system, its record of being abused, or the way that the people who use it feel compelled to succumb to the rules of remaining destitute.

People’s reliance on the government has cut down on the reliance of people in one’s own community and that makes it much harder to determine who really needs help and who is simply looking for a handout. Shouldn’t there be something on the applications which can determine whether or not you are an upstanding citizen who is really just going through a tough time and could use the assistance? No one I associate with would prefer to be on welfare or stay on welfare or condone living off of the government as a lifestyle.

I have done my duty as a citizen my entire life. I have given to the poor because I had extra at the time. I have completed community service simply because I enjoyed it. I have never complained about my position in society as being due to my ancestors’ enslavement, or blamed my hardships on “The Man”.  Upon beginning graduate school I reestablished and became the president of a student organization (which received the award for Most Outstanding Graduate Student Organization of the year), was nominated to be on the board of directors for a prestigious organization in the city, and have received an A in all of my courses thus far. Everything fell apart a little (okay, a lot) in May of this year, but I do not plan to stay in this indigent condition long. For the first time in my life I could actually use a bit of help and it’s nearly impossible to obtain.

One of the top reasons why women stay in abusive relationships is because the male partner is the breadwinner and/or they do not want to lose their financial stability. I admittedly overlooked several years of unacceptable treatment as I was determined not to enter the impoverished single-mother statistical category. I can put up with his mood swings if it means being able to stay home with my new baby, I convinced myself. I’ve been through this for eight years already, it’d be better to stay together while I finish grad school; at least while I’m in class the babies will not have to be cared for by a stranger. If I leave him I won’t be able to afford the Montessori or have the freedom to homeschool. I don’t want to be like those other single mothers.

I stayed with him to stay off of welfare. I stayed with him to maintain the illusion of a two-parent home. I stayed to keep from needing to weigh my options. How was I going to survive on my own? How do other mothers make it possible? I no longer think there’s such a thing as an authentic welfare queen; the system demands that you be insolvent before you qualify, and I don’t know too many people who would give up the little they’ve got to get a lot of flak. But how could anyone stoop so low as to deceive…no…it’s not so unbelievable. I suppose if someone got angry enough with the fraud being committed by others and desperately needed assistance she might think to go to extremes. But alas, I am unfailingly truthful. No crown for me.

 

Amara’s Antics August 17, 2012

I feel like I’m losing this parenting game. I’m trying so hard to do everything perfectly, to be what my daughters need me to be, to fill them with love and positive energy and help them to build the strength that they’ll need to survive in this chaotic world. Lately, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but my oldest is constantly rebelling against me.

I try incredibly hard to give her the space she needs, to explore behaviors and ideas and choices without scrutiny, but even with her unprecedented independence, I feel like a failure. Am I just trying too hard to make her secure and content? Am I expecting her to understand concepts that are beyond her years?

It has always been important to me to nurture my children in a way that doesn’t interfere with who they are or who they are becoming. I try to guide them without stifling their creativity. I try to teach them social constructs without demanding they conform, but when your five year old is making high pitched noises in the middle of the grocery store, picking up trash all over the floor “for her collection”, and running around on all fours because “she’s a Dalmatian”, I find it hard to not feel a teensy bit perturbed.

Gentle discipline and attachment parenting were so much easier before my daughter started telling me that she likes to make messes, she likes to make me feel bad, she likes to throw sand in her sister’s face, and she likes to pretend that she cannot hear me calling her name. We cannot go outside without Amara finding a patch of dirt to rub her entire body into, even if she was just bathed, and even if we are on our way someplace where I’d prefer her to look presentable. Usually I don’t mind her getting good and dirty, I encourage puddle jumping and digging for worms, but if we’re not outdoors for outdoor play there is a limit. If she’s not filthy she’s making contorted faces with wild, unfocused eyes and twitching her head from side to side in jerking motions while raising her arms to her chest like a tyrannosaurus rex and walking on tip-toes.

AAUGH!!!! Is this just childhood? Is this how it feels to be five? I don’t remember life before the age of nine so I cannot recall a time where I behaved in such a fashion. Is every child at some point their parent’s precious little tantrum throwing, annoying, back-talking little *&%!*^!???

What drives me the craziest is her utter lack of response to every method I use. I’ve been there done that with getting angry, raising my voice, and punitive responses. I don’t want to revert back to that, it always made me feel sick and guilty and cruel. I want to be kind, empathetic, friendly, and humorous, but she finds a way to challenge absolutely everything I say and I refuse to enter into senseless debate with a kindergartener. I hate feeling like the enemy.

It’s not that her behavior is dangerously extreme, at times she does risk damaging property, but usually it’s simpler things (i.e. running across a parking lot without me and before looking both ways, constantly creating a delay, and just being generally irritating). The problem is that if I say even one thing to try getting her to temper herself she acts flat out crazy! I don’t feel like I should just back down and never say anything, but I cannot even suggest better choices lately without her rebelling.

If she rebels against me at five years old I can hardly wait for when she’s 15! My theory has always been that if we can have a solid bond while she’s growing up, we will be better able to deal with bigger issues when she’s in her teens. I want her to feel like she can talk to me, that I respect and understand her completely, but lately I feel like my child got swapped out with some demonic otherworldly creature sent here solely to test my patience and torment me.

I suppose no mother knows quite what she’s doing or if what she tries is right or will ruin her children eventually. I can certainly say one thing; I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be relieved that she would soon be going to school. Since our plan was to homeschool I had only considered her going away to learn as something surrounded with negativity. Now, I am elated. I will enjoy these last three weeks of her being home with me, even if she’s filthy and walking through stores like an alien, because soon I will probably miss her antics and maybe, just maybe, long for them.