Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Start Reading This Unless You Have Absolutely Nothing Better To Do

First of all - this is how the birthday celebrations went. Camille's First Ever Sleepover was monumentally successful. Who had the most fun? Jasper. Here they are having a toilet paper fight.

And here is Camille opening her special gift from her Daddy - the 5th Nancy Drew book!! They read these together every night. Nancy Drew is Camille's personal guide to White Privilege. I mean, what American girl doesn't want a convertible and a dad who is a lawyer and a housekeeper who is thrilled to death to cook, iron, and polish and a college boyfriend who invites her to sleep over at the Fraternity House and not for sex, either, because this fraternity house is more like a luxury hotel run by monks? What can I say? I was more of a Hardy Boys girl.

And here is Jules's party. He had a Nerf Gun Battle. Which is funny because we are the local Pacifist family. We have a sign to prove it.

I have not begun 2010 with any real resolve. Most days I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. So this is going to be a wonderfully uplifting post - one about how basically I feel I am failing in several areas of my life.

Before I begin, let me just say that anything and everything in my life pales in comparison to Actual Human Suffering....and I am massively aware of this. Haiti comes to mind. And stays there....those poor, poor people. Also, and this, too, pales in comparison to Haiti - my BCF (Best Conservative Friend) has a very sick little one who just got out of the hospital and now seems to be relapsing a bit - might have another trip back to the hospital. So prayers (if you're so inclined) all the way around, or thoughts (if you're so inclined), or positive imagery/energy (if you're so inclined) or you can just send money - to Haiti - but probably my friend would appreciate some, too.

Now Back To Me:

What the heck was I thinking? All those previous posts about how easy it is? LIES. All lies. Seriously. I was talking about my oldest kid - the one who learned to read at 3 and has been taking college classes since 9th grade and who gets up at the crack of dawn to do I have no idea what but it gets her great scores on the SAT so who cares? SHE is easy to homeschool. We basically unschool our youngsters, and I TOTALLY believe in late starts for the kids who aren't hankering for an early start (I believe in early starts for them) - but, lately I have felt the need for more structure. I read other blogs, lots of articles, talk to lots of homeschoolers and I begin to get that nagging little we-should-be-doing-more feeling. So I tried to do more. Jasper, who would technically be in kindergarten, began rather enthusiastically back in September and also quit school entirely, back in September. After gluing beans onto a "B" he sighed, threw his head down on the table and said, "I quit." He meant it. Any attempts since then to bring him back to beans, crayons, glue, or anything of that nature results in, "I said I quit school!! Remember!?!" Yes, I remember. And honestly, I don't care whether or not the kid glues beans onto a "B". Really. There isn't a huge job market for that in this economy, anyway. But I see the pictures on other blogs of kids his age using manipulatives and making finger puppets and in addition to making me want to throw up, it also makes me jealous.

Camille is doing okay - she's just started to read (2nd grade) and she's doing okay in math. That is really all I do with her and it takes about 30 minutes. But I feel like we should be doing projects and art and cooking and art flash cards and all of those things I see other people doing....but the truth is that I haven't the time and she hasn't the inclination.

The Boys are where I'm spending my homeschooling efforts right now. Unlike their sister, they haven't magically absorbed things like spelling, grammar, and vocabulary simply from reading. They can neither one spell very well. However, I am recognizing the value of a late start for things like grammar. Joel, age 15, is picking it up very easily. Jules, 12, isn't so interested. So part of me is saying, "Just wait until he's 15." And that makes sense. Except that then I get the little worried bug starting in so I force him to do grammar worksheets that are really not having any effect that I can see.

Jules is in 6th grade doing 7th grade math, Joel's doing algebra.....THANK YOU TEACHING TEXTBOOKS!! Math is covered. Even in our house.

We are enjoying read-aloud history lessons with lots of discussion - we always love history. Big Time. But we don't do it enough. Our lives are busy. We don't have a time that is just for school because we can't. Ellie has piano students coming in and out, we have Odyssey kids here twice a week, we're off to ballet, piano, tae kwon do, guitar pretty much every day of the week. We're prone to taking off to go here or there because it sounds like "school" is often in the car, or in the evenings before bed, or in the summer months. I just don't feel like I've ever gotten a handle on a routine. It was easier when I just had little kids. Now we just have So Much To Do Seemingly All The Time.

Yet, I know they're learning. And I'm learning right along with them - so I have to question whether or not they'd be learning any more if they were in school all day. I mean, I was in school all day, you know? And yet I constantly say, "Wow! I didn't know that!" when we're learning together. But still - can this be all there is to it? Reading books together, talking, watching videos when we have the time? Looking at my boys and listening to them talk, I know that the answer is "yes". But looking through curriculum catalogs and flipping through textbooks makes me doubt myself. We're not taking tests. They're not writing essays. They can, however, hold very intelligent conversations with adults about almost anything. And they are curious about virtually everything. So.....

So what am I worried about, right? Well - science - for one. Again - I am happy with the late start approach. Other than watching NOVA and other educational shows, reading books and magazines for pleasure, talking, exploring, and observing - they've done no "real" science. But Joel is in high school now and he needs "real" science. And I am having a very hard time finding anything for a homeschooled boy that doesn't contain Creationism or Intelligent Design as viable scientific theories. Almost all of the homeschool science curricula available are Young Earth and that doesn't fit in with our worldview. I'm not dogging people who believe in YE or choose to teach it to their kids, (in fact - I think that the Texas Board of Education fits into that category), I'm just saying that we don't want to go that route and are having a hard time finding another path. Ellie started High School Biology via a college textbook - but Joel really isn't ready for that depth of investigation. I just need your Average Joe High School Biology Textbook and I can't freaking find one!! Sigh.

But that hasn't stopped me from buying lots of other books. Lots. And lots. And they mostly sit around screaming at me. I hate it when books scream at me. Books, in general, are not very nice when they're screaming. "Hey! Remember when you bought me? You were going to use me to teach geography! What - you think they're just going to pick that stuff up from general living and traveling and talking and learning? How far do you think that is going to get them? Hey, Baby - I have TIMELINES in here. Honest to God TIMELINES. And right here next to me? Is the Shakespeare stuff you bought. And the Poetry. And War and Peace is sitting over there saying he knew you were never gonna read him. And the Idiots Guide to Homeschooling is snickering. Honestly Woman - have you no pride?" Then they all start laughing and talking about me behind my back. Stupid books.

Also speaking of books.....I'm trying to write one. Stupid, I know. Nothing starts up my negative self-talk like sitting down to work on the book. I know it will never get published. It will probably never get finished. If, by some miracle, it does get both finished and published, it will never sell. Then I'll never get published, again. Then all the books in the house will start laughing at me again and they won't let my book join in any real book games. And speaking of Real Books - I'm reading Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel and it has totally depressed me and encouraged my negative self-talk.

The book I'm writing is fiction - classified as either MG or Very YA. Why am I writing fiction? Because I tend to undermine my own success, that's why. I had an agent talk to me about writing a parenting book - she wanted an outline and proposal within 90 days - so of course I responded sensibly by taking a nap for year and then waking up to write fiction. Also? I had a paying gig as a columnist. It was going well. So I quit. Also? I was blogging for a major newspaper. That was going well. Except for the fact that they constantly had to bug me for posts. And that made me sleepy. And every time I sat down to blog for them I ended up here OR working on the Novel That Will Never Be Published.

And speaking of Here - On Sardines - I've lost a follower. I have no idea who I offended. Either a Conservative Republican or a Buddhist - based on my previous post. And it is hard to offend both Conservatives and Buddhists in one post so in a way, I guess I should congratulate myself. But the truth is - I have a little problem in that I want everyone to like me. Ellie tries to cheer me up by saying, "Everyone likes you, Mom! Except for the people who don't."

You'll also notice that, in addition to a follower, I've lost my ads. That's because BlogHer wanted me to make some very minor changes to my blog in order to be in compliance with ad agreements and that made me sleepy; resulting in another nap and no compliance, whatsoever, on my part. What am I going to do without the $25/year I earned annually in ad clicks? Because, you know, I could have totally saved it up for 10 years and ended up with $250 of money that I did absolutely nothing to earn. But contemplating that? Also makes me sleepy. Thinking about money makes me sleepy.

Have you picked up on a theme here? All I really want to do is tell stories. The rest of it makes me sleepy. I've told other people stories my entire life. Usually, they've been true or partly true or mostly true but prone to embellishment. Usually, they're funny. But the stories I've always told myself....and I do mean ALWAYS because I've been spinning stories in my head since I was a baby......are all about fictional places, fictional people, a fictional ME. And letting them out where other people can see them is really really hard and requires a huge amount of self-confidence that I cannot seem to muster. It is a little bit like taking off all of your clothes and standing in the middle of a crowded room. People would say, "Wow. That's what she looks like without supportive undergarments??? Yikes!" Well, I'm afraid that when people peep at my fictional world it will be just like that. In the non-fiction I let people see - I always make sure to wear my undergarments. Fiction isn't like that. Fiction is going full-on commando. Fiction is what you think about quietly when nobody else in the room has a clue as to what's going on in your head. And writing it down and asking people to read it - friends, critique groups, publishers and like standing naked. Non-fiction is not really all that revealing - even when I'm writing about myself and my family, you only see what I want you to see. Fiction is TOTALLY revealing.

Okay - well - that was intense. Let me stop crying and move onto some other area of failure. I'm still talking books, though. In the failure category - books are a big theme for me. Here is my shameful confession: We are missing 2 library books. As in, totally missing. We cannot find them anywhere. Anywhere. People say, "You'll find them! Where could they be?" Well, people, we have lost REALLY BIG THINGS in this house - never to be seen, again. What are the odds I'm going to find two little books? And the replacement values are astronomical and one of the books is out of print. This is REALLY bothering me. I just know everybody at the library is talking about how irresponsible we are. Any psychics out there who can tell me where my books might be?

Well, I'm off to go about floundering through the rest of my day.
Sardine Mama


  1. Oh, man. I just found your blog yesterday (from a comment over at Green and Crunchy) and I really love your writing style. I think you're very funny.

    We're a homeschool (unschool, really) family, too, and I know what you mean about thinking you should do more. I get that way, too. But, then I come back to my senses. Living in an enriching environment is enough. Really. They'll all turn out fine. And college? It really isn't for everyone, so even if grammar books aren't doing it for your 12 year old, he'll still become a good person, yes? At least, that's what I'm hoping for my 12 year old who'd really rather not do any math most of the time.

    We had a cassette out from the library for well over a year once. Our library allows up to 99 renewals if no one else has a hold on the item. I'd given it up for lost, but kept renewing on the off chance it'd show up. It finally did. In the car. In a little compartment that we never open, having slid up so that even if you did open it, you wouldn't see it. Don't give up hope!

    That said, though, we did have to replace two books when we left them at my grandparents house accidentally and they, rather than returning them, gave them to their local thrift shop. Sigh.

    Good luck and this, too, shall pass. :)

  2. I'm still trying to figure out what the heck would be on "art flashcards"

    Until college I never wrote an essay and I still haven't taken science courses since they weren't required for my degree, I might be taking something like astronomy when I go back to take the lest 6-8 courses that will transfer.

    My sister didn't do much science either and jumped right in to her college chemistry and her nursing biology classes, this was at community college where they do tend to hold your hand a little if you need it in the basic classes but she flew through with flying colors (and is graduating in May!!! go Sarah the RN).

    I know bragging about my sister might not make you feel better but I hope it does anyway.

    loved your post, funny and heartfelt all in one.

    I remember once at the library your family turned a book in with bite marks on it, they thought it was from a dog, I thought it was from Jasper (or maybe it was the other way around). We decided not to charge you for it because Ellie volunteered there :)

    And last: if I saw you naked in the middle of a crowded room I would totally give you a high five!!

    and...last for the second time: I know I'm nowhere near the top of the list but I would LOVE to read your fiction!! For english I started a novel in middle school about animals in a zoo and their secret lives in rock bands. I never got past chapter three :( I know you'll do better than me.

  3. Oh Hannah - I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!! And Thanks "N" otherwise known as My New Best Friend.

  4. Homeschool catalogs are like churches or diet books - they make you feel like only they are the holders of the truth and that if you just follow their plan, their steps, you and your entire crew of children will be utterly successful and will get to heaven looking svelte. (Wow, I don't think I have ever used the word svelte in a written sentence before - did I spell it right?)

    Hang in there and don't give into the temptation.

    And thank you for sharing your first chapter with me. I feel very privileged after having read this.

  5. Carol, I may have to read this novella in installments (no, I haven't read it yet), but congratulations for being so prolific! The more you write, the better you get, and you started out way up there already. Keep it up.

  6. OK, so I read it. That's the thing, once I start reading one of your blogs, I know everything else will have to wait because I can't stop until I get to the end.

    Carol, pretend you are writing just for yourself and that no one else will ever see what you've written. And stop reading that damn depressing book on writing! You are a brilliant writer, but it doesn't matter unless you keep writing. And guess what? People really don't care that much about you and your life, they are too wrapped up in their own little worries and problems. And once you've swept them away with one of your stories, they are not even thinking about you. I guarantee it.

  7. That home schooling thing sounds a bit tough. My mom had me get a head start on things )cause I was reading and writing at 4, but because I was an only child wanted to go to school very badly (to be with other kids) and of course had teacher tell my parents I would never be good in any thing with math (science included).
    A lot they knew...
    The confusion of having a paint ball fight and pacifism is not so off the mark as it may seem. No one is going to get hurt.

  8. Writing fiction and sharing it is exactly as you have described. I imagine it is scary to have teenagers and not be doing the traditional path, but if anyone can do it successfully, I believe you can and will (and have and do.)

  9. When I read your blog I say to myself...I wish I could homeschool with more joy and less type A stress. Look at how much fun they have and how much she trusts her I must suck :) You seem great. You have been doing this for a while now and your kids seem great. I wonder how many people who use flash cards with there kids have kids who want to throw them at them :) oh and I would read your book!

  10. Just caught up on your posts! Just for the record I gave away 3 trashbags (big-ones) full of unread/untouched books (timelines included) this week.
    Your kiddoes are fine scientists..don't sweat it.