Monday, August 31, 2015

If It's Late August, I Must Be In the Throes of a Panic Attack

It's late August, isn't it?  Yeah, I could tell because I'm kind of hyperventilating.  

It happens every year at this time, and yet I never think to head it off and it always takes me by surprise.  It's funny how I can be smack in the middle of my August anxiety episode, sure that the universe is caving in around me and I will not be able to claw my way out of the debris alive, before I remember, "Ohhhhh, right....  I know what this is.  It's the beginning on a new school year and I'm suffering from my annual all-the-syllabuses-all-at-once panic attack." 

I've always put pressure on myself to do well in academic related pursuits, but I don't think my performance anxiety (academic performance anxiety, that is) didn't start until high school.  It was in high school when teachers started giving you lots of paperwork at the beginning of the year telling you what's expected of you throughout the entire rest of the year.  So you have an entire year's worth of assignments and expectations in front of you and you feel a pit begin to rapidly form in your stomach, your throat starts to close up, your hands get sweaty, and your heartbeat quickens, and you start to shake.  The fear is real.  I will fail.  I cannot possibly do all of this.  

And by the time you get on the subway to go home after the first day of high school, pretending like you're reading a book so that the rowdy public school kids don't see that you're crying... 

...or by the time you call your mom on the Friday afternoon of the first week of your freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of college and start hyperventilating into the phone... 

...or by the time you freak out in front of your husband for the fourth year in a row that this is going to be the hardest homeschooling year yet -- our children will never learn anything because we have babies or toddlers or preschoolers whose primary purpose in life is to sideline homeschooling...'s too late.  You're deep, deep, deep into the beginning-of-the-school-year panic attack that will only begin to dissipate when you recall, through the weight of fear and anxiety and overwhelmed-ness, that this happens every year.  This is nothing new.  It feels very familiar and awful at the same time.  It's ok to indulge in a little panic because it helps to set me on course and then it will pass.  

It's part of who I am and how I operate to have academic performance anxiety episodes periodically throughout the year.  They keep me from getting too nonchalant about the schedules and assignments and expectations.  They force me to plot and plan and problem solve.

Even though the kids and I homeschool year round (though with a significantly lighter load in the summer) I still suffer from the panic attacks of my youth.  It happens when the second half of August inevitably takes me by surprise.   The older kids will start at their study center soon and our work load will increase.  A lot.  Every year, after the initial freak out event, I harness my panick-y energy and make lists and plans and plot out all the changes we'll implement so that we can just get through the year.  Some of them stick. (like this and this)  Some of them don't.  Some of them are just therapeutic - like last week I realized that a cluttered pantry door was going to be the downfall of our school year and I applied my creative problem solving solutions and some 3M hooks to create a system that would allow my kids to retrieve and put away their own lunch bags.  I have no idea if this will actually streamline anything on the days we have to be out the door at 8 AM, but it was a very therapeutic project ;)  

This year I'm also trying to streamline food prep with a pre-determined lunch schedule for the first time.  Until now we've just eaten whatever I can come up with at noon.  But the next month or so I'm going to try a lunch plan - we'll have the same thing every Monday, same thing every Tues, etc... and I'm borrowing Gina's great idea of having my older kids take responsibility for making the lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We're going to try it and see how it goes...  

I've also sat down with the boys to chat with them about why I think this year will be so tricky and to ask them to help me brainstorm creative ways to get all our work done.  Locking Sweet Baby James in his room is not an option...  but since he's not napping in the morning anymore we're going to try a plan where each boy will take a 10 - 20 minute time slot with James.  They'll play together upstairs while I work with the other boy.  Maybe I'll add a baby gate on the door so they can leave the door open.......   maybe a CD player for music up there....... 

It's all still in the plotting and planning phase, but thankfully I've gotten past the "Oh my Zeus, there is no way I'm going to get through this year!  I might as well quit now because failure is inevitable" phase.  It wouldn't be a new school year without the panic attack, and it's like an old friend come to visit when it does hit, but it's nice that I'm wise enough now to recognize it for what it is, pat it on the back, and say Yep, this year will be hard, but I've got the brains to sort through it, the determination to make it work, and the skills to tackle it.

Just as soon as I stop hyperventilating. 

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All the Homeschool Extras That I Love (come join the link-up!)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clare Beaton :: Summer *Illustrator* Binge

Clare Beaton (Summer Author Illustrator Binge)

I'm wrapping up my summer author binge posts with a big stack of books illustrated by Clare Beaton.  Not familiar with her work?  Go check it out here and then come back....

Did you see all that beautiful and detailed hand sewing???  The way she ingeniously puts together buttons and felt and ric-rac and lace to make gorgeous collages??   It's not an exaggeration to say that I want to be Clare Beaton when I grow up.  I mean, I want to be her now but something about having lots of little kids around prevents me from doing much sewing... or anything at all, for that matter.  

I was first introduced to Beaton when I was a mother to just one baby boy.  I would take said little boy to a story hour at a local Pottery Barn Kids, where a less-than-enthusiastic woman would read books and then punch a card that would get you $10 off in the store once the card was filled with punches.  I managed to get a few cute things during our stint in the PBK book club, one of which was the book Secret Seahorse.

I've mentioned it before, but Secret Seahorse is one of our favorite board books of all time.  The text (by Stella Blackstone) is a fun rhyme about traveling through the ocean and inquiring after a seahorse that "disappeared from sight."  The artwork by Clara Beaton makes this book a fantastic one for babies and kids.  Each page is full of undersea scenery - floaty jellyfishes, waving octopuses, glittery fishes, sharks, and shipwrecks, and at the end the reader is surprised to find a whole seahorse family.  

Anyway... I just love, love, love Beaton's hand-sewn collage illustrations.  They're eclectic and bright, and there's always more to see than the "picture."  Kids can search the pages for beads and buttons and sequins and more.  

Many of Beaton's books come in board book format.  The larger traditional versions are nice because the illustrations are bigger, but I prefer the sturdy board books.  We have several of them and they've been well loved by several babies!  In my opinion, the board books are great, great gifts for baby showers or baby's first birthday :)

The following list of Clare Beaton books are roughly ordered from my very favorites to my plain old favorites.  They're all super fun!  


Bonus material!  Maybe, you'll become such a fan of Beaton's artwork, that you'll decide you must have her alphabet flash cards, as I did.  The front of each card is decorated with one of Beaton's hand-sewn animal illustrations, and the backs contain a decorated capital letter and short word list.  They're super cute!  (Oh, and they're sturdy cardboard!)  

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

All the Homeschool Extras That I Love (it's a link-up!!)

Quick note: I tend to publish a lot of "lists of stuff I love" posts.  I actually love writing these!!  One of the reasons I do this is because I can't stomach the thought of writing posts about what YOU should do (like "10 Homeschool Extras You Can't Live Without."  Those kinds of titles usually turn me off.  Way off.  But.... I've always loved reading posts like "What Works for Me" and "My Favorite Such-and-Such" because I'm getting the writer's review and personal experience without being told that I have to do the same.  Get the difference?  I have benefited SO very much from veteran homeschool moms sharing their tips and tricks, opinions and reviews, that I'm happy to do the same for other newbie (or just curious) moms (but I'm not quite veteran yet, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt.) If you're just not into lists of books or school supplies or art supplies, no hard feelings!  (Though I admit I don't understand how a person could not love lists of awesome stuff...) Lists happen to be one of my favorite things.  Ever.  :)  And so I may have a few more posts like this coming up!  Yay!  or  Sorry!  (you get to pick!) 

We're celebrating around here!  It's back-to-school time!  We're actually year-round homeschoolers, but my older kids do start back up at their twice-a-week study center in the fall, so we get to experience a little of the back-to-school excitement!  I thought I'd host a little party!!  A link-up party!!  (whoop!  whoop!) (um... it's only a party if you join in, so link up or hit us with your favorites in the combox!  Details below.)

A few days ago I wrote about the curriculum programs that we use and like enough to stick with (I love reading and writing about that kind of stuff, but some people's reaction may be more along the lines of blah, blah, blah...)  But today, things get a little less nerdy and little more fun!  Let's share about all the little extra things that make homeschooling easier, better, more fun, less stressful!  

I invite you to join in!  If you homeschool and blog, write your own post about the "extras" you love and link it up!  Don't blog?  Not a problem!  There's lots of comment space here to list all the favorites you want!  I can't wait to read them!  

All the Little Extras that I Love to Love...

Edupress Math In A Flash Flash Cards.   Why are these flash cards so much better than other flash cards?  Because they're color coded.  If the baby tosses them all over the floor, it still sort of stinks, but at least they're easy to sort and get back in order.  The colored borders also make it easier to find what you're looking for and to choose only the facts you want to add to the rings for your child to review.  Love these cards.

they obviously have subtraction, multiplication, and division too ;)

My Laminator  and binder rings.   I sometimes joke that laminating things and putting them on binder rings is my second religion.  But some may argue, probably rightly so, that that's not a very appropriate joke.  So let's just say that if you have a laminator and binder rings, you possess the power to turn anything into a flashcard.  This is basically a super power that guarantees the success of your academic year ;) 

Quotable Saints, by Rhonda Chervin.  This book is perfect for copy work (of both the academic and disciplinary varieties.)  

My Designated Library Bag.  I had no idea how much I needed this until a dear friend gifted me with one for my birthday a few years ago,.  It's so handy!!  Obviously I use it for transporting our book hauls to and from the library, but it's also perfect for storing the books in our living room - library books have a specific place to always go and they rarely get lost under the couch or mixed in to our bookshelves anymore.  I LOVE my library bag!

Nat Geo Wild Animal Atlas.  Somehow, I think that the regular use of this book has something to do with our love of Wild Kratts...

Noise Reducing Earmuffs. We only just got these in May, but they've been very useful. With multiple kids working at one table, I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner...



The Children's Bible (Golden Press)

DK Encyclopedia of Animals.  We bought this book to use with the Elemental Science curriculum (wrote about that here) but it turned out to be one of those books that everyone loves and the kids end up pulling it off the shelf frequently.  The photographs, for one, are fabulous!

Little Plastic World Landmarks.  I got this wonderful idea from a friend who uses these little landmarks with her granddaughters.  When I saw them, I couldn't wait to show them to my kiddos.  They love when we do map activities with these.  We'll pull out our USA and World map placemats and have contests to see who can place the most landmarks in the proper spots.  As we progress through our history lessons, they're starting to recognize the significance of many of the landmarks too :)  Learning with toys is a big YES for me! (I'm guessing we may be adding to our Safari TOOB collection this year when the boys start studying the American Revolutionary War!)    

Dover Coloring Books.  Obviously.

The Original Schoolhouse Rock.  I never watched this until my mom bought it for us a few years ago.  We all like it so much... I should start playing it more often :) (I even referenced a song during a writing and grammar lesson the other day, so, thanks, Mom!)

Liberty's Kids (it was a summertime goal to finish this, but we're still not quite there yet.)

Woah.  That list sort of exploded from my original five ideas.  Well, now you know there is no limit to what you can share!  So start taking stock of all the little extras you love to use in your homeschool and link up your posts here (and spread the word to our fellow homeschooling bloggers.)  Can't wait to read all your ideas!  

The link-up party lasts until September 22.

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