Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Expectations are Necessary

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises. ~William Shakespeare (All's Well That Ends Well)

Friends who know me well, know that I have a philosophy that expectations are what allow us to be hurt by other people so I usually have no or, at least, very low expectations of other people. That being said, before I had devised the new homeschool plan described in my last post, my daughter and I were still hashing it out over trying to fit into the old one. At one point, she screamed that my expectations of her were too high. It was during this time that I was beginning to accept what we had been doing was not working well for either of us. Her perception was not entirely accurate, but it also had some truth.

We sat down and talked about those expectations during one of our morning devotions, because the reality was that she was not meeting mine, but she also was mistaken in what my expectations were. She also knows my philosophy, so this was her teenage gotcha-now way of finding fault in practicing my own ideology on expectations, spurring our discussion about reasonable vs. unreasonable expectations.

People we trust the most are the ones on which we have the most expectations and most are reasonable. This is practically inescapable in human nature. As parents, we expect our children to obey us. When children disobey, there is a consequence, a punishment, to remind them and help train them to comply with the rules that are set for their protection and to train them to behave. You cannot explain to a toddler why he should not run out into the street, because he will not fully understand that he will be in harm's way, that he could be injured or killed by a car, but he will remember the spanking of a repeat offense. (For those against spanking, I feel it is better than letting them learn this one by experience.)

Unreasonable expectations are the ones that we have not communicated to the other person, like I might expect my husband to call me if he is going to be home late, but his idea of late maybe 9:00 pm and mine might be 6:30 pm. It is unreasonable to think he just knows what I have in mind without talking with him and coming to an agreement on the time.

Another unreasonable expectation is to want someone to be different than they are. This is something that cannot be agreed upon and cannot be changed by the person who has the expectation. Imposing an expectation, even one that you have communicated to the other person, is not going to change him and is only going to hurt you because it is continually unmet. I had such a relationship with my mother; she just never was and never was going to be the mother I needed her to be, but once I identified that expectation and let go of it, I was finally free to love and enjoy her for the person she was. We were never close, but I was no longer hurt by her casual remarks; in fact, I often laughed about the things she said that used to feel like stabbing into old wounds and upset me for days afterwards.

I explain to my daughter that with education, there will always be some expectations, that is why there are test scores. Her father must at least meet most of the expectations of his employer to keep his job and exceed them to be considered for promotion. This is just how the world works. Likewise, I, as both her mother and her teacher, have some expectations of her when it comes to homeschooling. I cannot hug her and and comfort her because she felt the teacher was mean to her at school as her mother, because I am also the teacher. I cannot be detached about the quality of the work she hands in and I grade as her teacher, because I am also her mother, who can be disappointed.

So, I am not lowering the bar on my expectations of my daughter because I do believe I should have some, but not unreasonable ones. I do not see her as an "A" student in math, but I still want her to strive to do her best and she has earned some A's. I do see her as an off-the-charts student in Language Arts because she is and I do expect very few grades lower than A's there. Mostly, I expect her to learn, really learn, the material she is assigned. I also expect her to be a teenager, who one minute wants her independence and the next the security of her parents. Now that we have a chart and daily communication about assignments so that there are no unspoken expectations, things are much better...and probably as good as they can be between a teen and a homeschooling mama. 

My Lord, help my daughter to understand that expectations are a part of life, but how she deals with them is very important. Let her not be crushed by the weight of expectations place on her by others, let her set her own reasonable expectations on herself, keeping ones on others very low.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Our New Homeschool Plan

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
~Corrie Ten Boom

I have not been writing on my blog for a number of reasons, most are excuses, but a few are quite valid. One is that I needed to focus on getting our homeschool structured. I wrote about this in Homeschooling Mama Still Learning the Hard Way nearly two months ago. After much seeking my Lord on the issue, I began to give in on my ideas of working towards the perfect college-prep transcript and come back to the things I loved about homeschooling; teaching to the child and encouraging her gifts and talents.

I think that going to the Home Learning Center encouraged a sense of conforming to the conventional academic expectations and with this being my daughter's first high school year...well, we both got caught up in everything counting with far more importance than the previous years. For instance, when the Princess began taking a science class it was to supplement our homeschool, although it was quite demanding. The next year she took the full STEM program, which it seem to take the position of priority in our homeschool. Knowing that this year everything would go on transcripts for colleges to look over, we both put far much importance on that.

I had to come back to placing my trust about our homeschool to my Lord... completely.

My daughter is a writer and an artist. She tries to sneak in writing one of her fictional stories whenever I am not watching over her and she knows how access her stories with every technical device with Wi-Fi access because she saves them online in Google Docs. We have some new rules about her tech now. She cannot have any tech in her room at night, because she will write when she should be sleeping and she was also having issues with her sleeping patterns that have been corrected for the most part after working on this for a few months. We believed that her abnormal sleeping patterns were contributing to her anxiety and depression, and she is doing far better now. We allowed her to have an extra 30 minutes for her bedtime curfew, but she has to be off all screens an hour before. Now she falls asleep more easily and stays asleep through the night most nights. She also cannot have any tech in her room until all her assignments are completed or I have given her permission for an assignment she wants to do in her room or listen to music. Permission depends on attitude, what she plans to do with the tech to help her with an assignment, and how responsible she has been at getting her assignments done.

My daughter takes a clipboard, pencil, and paper with her everywhere when we go out so she can draw whenever she can. She is also great with anything to do with dramas and, even though right now it is not something she loves, she is a pianist. We are in the perfect church for her. The people heading up the dramas actually teach acting. More recently couple of the youth have decided to start their own praise and worship band asking her to be on the keyboard and I am again seeing her spend extra time on the piano playing things for her own enjoyment once in a while.

This is what I felt led to do with her home education:

In the morning, we begin with devotions. We were skipping them when she got up late, which was more often than not. (I know, I know, and it was meant to be the most important thing of the day, but unfortunately, we made the schedule a higher priority.) To emphasize its importance and give the Spirit time needed to speak to us, we just do not have a schedule about how long to take with devotions. Sometimes they are quite long, because we still have some challenges to work out.

After devotions, we talk about the assignments for the day. On Monday, we look over scheduled appointments and such to plan the entire week assignments. I made a check-off chart so that we both could see everything that she is expected to do. Last week we went to the science museum for the Lunch & Learn on Rocket Science, so I had to cross off a few assignments for the week. Part of her problem was she could not see what I expected from her each day, each week. I remember she used to say that the more work she did the more I would give her, while I was thinking that she was under achieving what I wanted from her most of the time and I was trying not to overwhelm her with giving it to her all at once. We are communicating better now.

My chart has two columns, the first is the daily assignments and the second is the assignments that need to be done during the week at any time she wants, with the only condition that I have to check each assignment done before she starts the second one in the same subject. We also continue to have talks about time management and that she might have to rethink her expectation that no matter what she did or did not get done, she feels she should not work on any assignments after 4:00 pm. The first week we started this was rough, partially because she was ill for two days. The second week was a bit better. The third week, I was seeing her take more initiative—I actually found her working on her grammar in the evening after dinner!—but she came down with a cold so it fizzled out understandably.

The daily assignments are mostly morning ones, but we are flexible so if I have something I must do in the morning, we can flip them to the afternoon. All this is discussed after devotions each day, so we both have a clear understanding of the expectations of each other for the day.

Daily Assignments

The first assignment is piano practice for at least 45 minutes, which is usually always the first thing done.

Algebra is timed to one hour a day and the Princess also has to sit at the dining room table to do it, so that I am right there to help her should she need it. This is because she gets distracted when doing math. I cannot tell you how many times she was doing math in her bedroom that took hours because she actually was writing a story.

Latin or Greek may be before or after math, but we both take together because I am learning it also. Ideally, we should do two lessons of each one during the 4-day week. (We have only four days because Wednesday is our errand day.)

Vocabulary, based on Vocabulary from Classical Roots, is also mostly done at the dining room table because I have most of her studies on Quizlet, so she needs tech to do it. However, for each lesson, I require a writing test: I give the word and she must use it in a sentence that is graded on spelling, use, and identifying the root from Latin or Greek, which is indicated by underlining. She can earn extra points with five more words from the challenge words and variations lists. This overlaps Greek and Latin as well.

Weekly Assignments

Grammar is two assignments per week. When we finish with Analytical Grammar with all the parsing, sentence diagramming, grammar rules, she will be completely done with Grammar and we will move on to more writing and reading assignments.

Literature is something that got pushed to the wayside for too long now, but we have added it to our weekly assignments.

World History is one assignment per week. These are done in units of my own design. Each unit requires reading at least three chapters from various resources and then journaling at least one paragraph and drawing a picture of her choice associated with the time for each chapter. Her writing is checked before she prints out the paper and draws the pictures. So, this also is also a grammar and writing lesson.

Civics is one assignment per week, which is one chapter of Uncle Sam and You. Although it is intended for middle school students, I think it is more in depth than most get in high school. The tests are a little light, but the chapter review questions are quite good. It reminds me of my tough 8th grade social studies text and teacher, who expected every one of those review questions answered in full sentences.

Science was the one subject I was dreading, mostly because I have not taught it in two years. However, I obviously had my Lord's leading when I bought the Bob Jones Physical Science textbooks she was required to have for the school because I bought the entire set! Teacher's manual, lab manuals, everything! When I finally got the courage to look into the books, I fell in love. Right now the Princess is just doing reviews of the chapters she covered when in the school, because she did not do all the assignments and could not recall many things. She can get most things from the book without me, but we will be looking into doing lab work when we do our weekly plans.

French is still being worked on, but she decided that she likes the Duolingo app on her Kindle better for now and she is supposed to do two 30-minute sessions.

I feel this is how my Lord wishes it to be for now. The Princess is so much happier and far more engaged with both her father and me than she was. She seems willing to take more responsibly in her own education, even though the stories in her head are practically screaming to get typed out. I keep telling my Princess that college may not be where she is to go; she could be a published author making money while most of her peers are sinking into their student loan debt. She rolls her eyes, but then as soon as she can she sneaks away to smile at her computer screen as the words stream out of her.

My Lord, it has been a difficult time for my daughter. I see her gifts, gifts You gave her, but I hear the world and its demands for her education loudly. Quiet the world. I only want to hear you, my Lord, what You want for her. Thank you for guiding us and making things better for us.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Our Kissing Tradition

Always kiss your children goodnight, even if they're already asleep. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

From what I have seen on the Internet, this topic seems to be very controversial but I am going to write about it because I think people make too much of it, especially considering the variety of cultures within all the Western countries.

We have had this tradition, since my daughter began sitting up to eat, that we ask God to bless our food to nourish our bodies and then we all kiss each other...on the lips. It was cute when the Princess was young, but we just never stopped. When we are at a restaurant, we touch our finger to our mouth and then touch our fingers, when it is not convenient to kiss across the table.

Now, this kiss after a prayer was not a tradition in my family, nor my husband's. It is just something we began doing and it stuck. We also kiss on the lips when saying good-bye and good-night.

Sometime after the Princess turned twelve years old, she began to be a bit more self-conscious about our kissing tradition in front of people and where her friends might see, like when I would drop her off at the Home Study Center, so I accommodated with kissing her cheek when she would present it instead, which was off and on.

Now, as to the controversy, I was raised in a home with sexual abuse from which my Lord has healed me. I honestly and with all good intentions look forward to seeing my father in heaven, because I have completely forgiven him and hold absolutely no ill will towards him. I admit that I did not want even the possibility of exposing my daughter to him, because while I had fully forgiven him for what was done to my siblings and me, I also did not trust him with any children. Forgiveness does not equate to trust. Forgiveness is given, trust is earned. All this is to say that I would NEVER put my daughter at risk for her to be abused and since I have had that experience in my life, I know very well what can make a child more vulnerable to such abuse. Hold that thought for a minute.

I remember when I was in middle school, the time when children become so self-conscious, my aunt kissed me on the lips when saying good-bye. At the time, I was still enduring the abuse that she would not know about for a few more years (actually she was the one who figured it out and brought it to an end). She thought nothing of the kiss probably because half of our family is French descent and that is what they all did. I, on the other hand, felt it was the one intimate act that I had kept apart from the abuse. I could not stop anything else, but I made it clear that kissing was off-limits. This simple act that my aunt did out of love and respect and tradition felt foreign, surprising, and perhaps a bit of an invasion in a way to me. I was keenly aware that she was a woman kissing a girl, even though she probably had done it many times when I was younger, but since I only saw her a few times a year at the most, I had probably forgotten.

That one good-bye kiss from my aunt is something she probably does not even remember, but it was burned into my memory. Being that I was of the age of being self-conscious, I realized it was a familiar, casual, and perfectly normal act from her point of view and that is why it bothered me; it was not that for me at that point and I knew that it could have been and probably should have been because all the relations on my mother's side kissed on the lips. Also, it is not something done in just my family, my husband's family also kisses on the lips. Come to think of it, maybe it was also a generational tradition since they are the same age as my aunt and uncle?

I read many books about personalities and teaching approaches particularly in regards to children, but the one book that really stuck out to me was about the love languages. I still have not determined what my daughter's love language is and I think that is because we have kept her bank full in all of them. If she was deficient in the one she needs the most, we would know what that one is. For instance, the child has always loved to give gifts, but is not particularly disappointed when she does not get gifts...maybe she is divergent or factionless in the love languages? Regardless, I did not want her to be needy in the physical touch arena, because I knew that would make her more susceptible to an abuser or a premature physical relationship. I wanted her to know genuine love and respect through appropriate touching so that she would reject anything that was not appropriate.

When she was a baby, we used to give her a massage before bedtime. My husband changed her diapers and bathed her as often as I did. We wanted her to know that she could trust both of us and that is how she grew up. I wanted her to know that a kiss on the lips from a close family member is a show of love: her paternal grandmother did not even have to be encouraged in that! When she was a toddler, the Princess kissed a sick baby on the mouth and got a stomach flu, afterward she stopped kissing other children and today she thinks kissing anyone else but close family as...ewwww!

So, as to why I am writing about this now: The Princess and I went to a science museum to which we have a membership for a Lunch & Learn with a presentation on Issac Newton. Although I was fasting, the Princess grabbed a tuna salad sandwich and a salad from the cafe to eat during the presentation. She prayed, holding my hand which is also our tradition, and then to my surprised she kissed me on the lips. I was not surprised because she rarely does it, because we do this at least twice a day, but because she did it in public without giving it a thought in hesitation.

Immediately, I wondered what the other people there, mostly homeschoolers, would be thinking, but I did not look around because I really do not need their approval or their disapproval. I was just so very pleased that my daughter felt comfortable enough in that setting to do what we normally would do if we were home. There are glimpses of maturity in the child now and then that just leave me in awe.

Now I have a question:
Do you think you would feel odd to kiss Jesus on the lips?

My Lord, thank you for our ability to show affection to each other with all that is good, without fear and distrust. Thank you for breaking the cycle of abuse and victimization in me so that none of it has touched my daughter and influenced her relationships.