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Three Cheers for Professor Mom

Three Cheers for Professor Mom

Since the two sides in this infernal teachers strike are still not speaking to each other (a plague on both their houses!), it’s fortunate that the kids and I are actually enjoying this homeschooling thing.

Seriously.

We’ve developed a groove: from 8:30 to 11:00 each day we go through lessons and activities related to language arts, science, math, and social studies, with a snack break and a “recess” mixed in. I’m totally winging it, but it seems to be going all right. So far, I’ve managed to keep them engaged with different math games, science experiments and educational videos, none of which I came up with on my own (what did people do before the Internet?)

The point is not to cover the actual curriculum, though I do try to stay on that track. The real goal is to have structure and routine, and to keep our brains busy with something besides Pokemon. I’ve sort of figured out what works (starting the day with their weakest subject so they’re fresh) and what doesn’t (expecting them to do nothing but worksheets all morning), and I’ve even had a few unsolicited compliments from the students themselves. Yay me.

Tomorrow we’re doing a field trip, not because of its educational value, but because Professor Mom needs to get out of the &$!@ house. We’re meeting a few other families at a pioneer ranch about an hour from here. We’re all pretty excited at the chance to be with other people.

We’d be even more excited if the schools would open. Just sayin’.

No School = Not Cool

No School = Not Cool

Let’s recap, shall we?

  • Days since school was in session: 86
  • School days lost to the strike: 16
  • Bargaining sessions scheduled: 0

Oy. If anyone had told me, way back last spring, that my kids were about to go 86 straight days without school, I would’ve laughed. I would not have believed that the powers that be could allow such a thing to happen. I would have assumed that all involved would realize the effect this would have on the half-million kids in this province who rely on public education to give them the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to a healthy democratic society. And when the last two weeks of the school year got erased in June, I figured the two sides would use the summer months to cool off, man up and hammer out a deal.

But I was wrong.

I know there are important principles involved. I know there are passionate advocates on both sides. And I know there are no easy solutions.

But at this point, I don’t even care who “wins.” I just want my kids to be able to go to school.

SOON.

Professor Mom Steps In

Professor Mom Steps In

With no teacher training whatsoever, I am attempting to provide a stimulating educational experience for my kids while this strike drags on. On the very first morning, I freely admitted to the boys that I don’t know everything, that we’re all kind of feeling our way through this, and that we can always turn to Google if we get stumped (which we did in Justin’s very first vocabulary lesson — speaking as a highly trained communications professional, why does anyone need to know about irregular vowel sounds? But I digress.)

My class composition: a gifted nine-year-old with Asperger’s who would finish a year’s worth of workbooks in an hour if I’d let him but who falls apart if he gets even one answer wrong; and an active seven-year-old who loves to read but hates to write and whose favorite part of the curriculum is the DPA (that’s Daily Physical Activity, when we spend half an hour jumping on the trampoline or playing Twister or whatever).

I was expecting to maybe spend 20 minutes on worksheets each day and call it done, but the boys surprised me by wanting to keep going, so I’ve had to plan out lessons to cover the entire morning (well, not the ENTIRE morning: Justin was raring to go at 7:00 on Tuesday and I persuaded him to wait until 8:30.) I’ve come up with some math games that seem to be a hit, the kids have been pretty good about doing their reading comprehension worksheets, and our interactive globe has been a great help with our social studies unit. I’m skipping the arts and health components of the curriculum (pick your battles, right?) and I’ve been avoiding science, but we will start learning about states of matter tomorrow. Ugh.

But there’s a reason I didn’t become a teacher. I suck at it. I do love explaining things, but I prefer to do that by writing documents, not by standing in front of a group of kids. I was happy to be done with math and science decades ago; relearning the basics so I can pass them along to my kids is not my idea of a good time. And I strongly suspect the kids would behave differently for a teacher who wasn’t their mother.

But this, too, shall pass, right? RIGHT?

A September With No School

A September With No School

There are certain milestones that occur each year like clockwork: Halloween comes in October. Christmas is in December.

School starts in September.

Well, not this year. Not in BC. I’d give anything to be wrong, but it looks like our kids won’t be back in class for many, many moons. They may well grow out of their back-to-school clothes before they ever get a chance to wear them.

I won’t go into the politics of the thing. Frankly, I’m not feeling the love for either side right now. Instead of shopping for backpacks and planning bag lunches, I’m buying educational workbooks and designing a learning schedule. Years ago I saw a poster of a mom playing with her baby that read: “You are their first and favorite teacher.” I may have been their first, but no way am I their favorite. If I have to keep up the homeschooling thing for too long, we’ll all end up in therapy.

And $40 a day won’t cover that.

The Teachers Strike: Day 75

The Teachers Strike: Day 75

This is the 75th straight day of no school. Even if by some miracle the new year starts on schedule next week, the kids will have been out of class for 80 straight days. You know how many things can be forgotten in 80 days? I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning. We’ve been playing Yahtzee to practise math, and using our interactive globe to practise geography, and reading lots of books to practise literacy…but I’m so done. These guys need to get back to school. Or at the very least, they need to get AWAY FROM ME.

I’m not the only one who’s had enough of the extended break. Justin’s been talking about wanting to go back for a couple weeks now. Brayden’s looking forward to seeing all his friends again. Heaven knows, if this strike drags on much longer, we won’t be friends with each other anymore.

Phileas Fogg went around the world in 80 days; I’m about to go round the bend. Here’s hoping they settle this thing soon.

Deep Breaths…

Deep Breaths…

Be careful what you wish for, I guess. I was so focused on the thrill of getting the kids back to school that I kind of forgot how hectic our schedule would suddenly become.

Yes, I get six blissful kid-free hours during the day to get my stuff done — but there aren’t too many spare minutes once that final bell rings. Three afternoons a week are taken up with soccer practices and Justin’s therapy sessions, Saturdays are devoted to soccer games, and Sundays are busy with swimming lessons. In between all this we have to squeeze in homework, Justin’s OT exercises and both boys’ bike riding practice. I should start teaching Brayden how to tie his shoes, but God knows when I’ll find the time. Whew.

And it’s only going to get crazier once I start my job next month. I’ve got a nine-month editing contract starting in late October. They’re letting me work 9-2, so I can still keep up with the mad rush of after-school activities (lucky me!) while trying to also fit in all the stuff I now do during the school day (laundry, shopping…) I know a million other moms deal with this work-life balance thing all the time, I know September is always a crazy adjustment period, and I know I’ll find a routine that works for me — eventually.

The good news is that the kids don’t seem to be nearly as stressed out as I am. They’re happy with their new teachers, they’re making new friends, and they’re eating the lunches I’m sending, so that’s all good. There was even a day last week that Brayden didn’t lose any of his stuff. I call that progress.

One day at a time, right?

Why I Love the Back-to-School Season

Why I Love the Back-to-School Season

I never know how to react when someone comments that the summer is flying by. The implication seems to be that precious time is slipping away and gloomier days will soon be upon us.

I don’t see it that way. I always look forward to September. And not just because the kids get out of the house for much of the day (though that is a compelling factor).

Here are my top 5 reasons for looking forward to the end of summer:

1. Routine is good. Call me anal (you wouldn’t be the first), but I actually like being busy, and knowing what’s coming next. It gives me a sense of purpose, which also leads to a sense of accomplishment. So yeah, I like routine.

2. We’re up early anyway. A lot of moms groan when they think of trying to drag sleepy kids out of bed in time to get to class. We don’t have that problem. Justin’s up with the dawn no matter what, so having something to fill the morning is always good.

3. I get to be social too. I like getting the chance to chat with other moms while we wait for the bell to ring. It helps me feel connected to a wider community. There’s more to life than Facebook.

4. Fall is my favorite season. I actually prefer it when there’s a slight chill in the air and you have to wear jeans and maybe a sweater. It’s such a cozy time of year. And I still love crunching all those gorgeous leaves.

5. I love watching my kids grow and learn. A new school year is a reminder that they’re moving on to bigger and better things. I’ve never wished I could go back a stage in parenting — it’s just too cool to see my boys growing into mature and self-sufficient beings.

So while I may be counting the days until school begins again, it’s not just because I’m anxious to kick my kids out of the house. It’s not because we haven’t had a good summer and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s because I look forward to the next stage.

And I refuse to apologize for that.

Watch Out, World

Watch Out, World

You better hope I don’t plan any trips to wherever you live. A couple weeks ago we booked a cruise that starts and ends in Istanbul — and the very next day the riots in Turkey started. Then I looked at maybe going to central Europe — which promptly flooded. Then I was planning our road trip to Edmonton — which then had a tornado scare. Huh.

Our Edmonton plans got nixed anyway, as family circumstances dictate a trip to Saskatoon instead (note to Saskatonians: expect a plague of locusts). Chris was a little bummed about missing West Edmonton Mall, but overall I think this will be a more relaxing trip. The kids took the news surprisingly well — I guess maybe WEM might be a letdown after Disneyland anyway.

I’m waiting for the final marks from my latest tech writing class, but I’m not optimistic. I suppose the silver lining is that if I don’t pass, I don’t need to take the last two classes, as I won’t be graduating anyway. Argh. I’m already a bit stressed about the final course because Chris and I will be taking off for our 10-day Boston-New York-Washington trip in the middle of it..but such is life.

Happy Father’s Day!

Missing My Muse

Missing My Muse

When I started my tech comm program, I remember thinking how great it was that I had a mature attitude toward schoolwork: I was in it for the knowledge and skills, not for the grades. I was eager to participate and learn whatever I could. I was keen.

Two years later, I’m mostly just tired.

The last couple courses involved learning new software and stretching my technical skills, which was good, but time-consuming and exhausting. This one was supposed to be a nice break because it’s about writing, which I like to think I know something about. But it turns out that the course focuses on the writing process, so I have to analyze the way I come up with ideas and organize my thoughts and develop an outline and all the other stuff I do more or less automatically. Sigh.

So I’m not super engaged with the material, and I can’t help thinking that the finish line is getting so close…there are only two more courses after this one, and if all goes well I’ll be done by October, and it kind of feels like my mind is celebrating a few months too early. There is still work to be done, but I’m having a hard time getting motivated. Call it the Disney effect: I can’t seem to get back into gear after our vacation.

Ho hum…

Eureka

Eureka

While working on an assignment for the latest course in my tech comm program the other day, I realized I was actually learning something. Something useful. It’s an advanced course in MS Word, designed specifically for technical writers, and the word from former students was that it was a pretty tough slog. But I am absolutely loving it. I’m finally getting answers to questions about Word that have bugged me for years, and I’m learning new tricks to actually make my life easier (field codes baby!) Where was this info back in October, when I was drowning in the design class? What’s the point in studying design if you don’t know how to make the software realize your vision? Now I have the tools, and a brand new sense of confidence.

Which might be tested in the next few weeks. The university actually sent a note warning that the next course (Fundamentals of Creating Online Documents) is the most intense of the entire certificate, and that we should clear our schedules as much as possible to make time. I’m six courses in and I’ve never had a warning before, so that’s kind of intimidating. But right now I feel like I can handle anything.

Game on!