Writing.  Some people really enjoy it and others...well...they don’t.  I fall into the “enjoy it when I’m in the mood” camp.  It’s a great release, the ability to articulate one’s ideas onto paper is just amazing to me.  Of course lately I haven’t been in the mood for writing-which sadly includes blogging-. The ideas are there, I've even started a few blog post, but the desire just fizzes. I blame lack of sleep and far too many commitments.  So what do you do when life’s comings and goings impede on your desire to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)?  You do a rewrite. Yes, I’m rewriting our life.  Slashing commitments from our schedule and slowly retreating back into our little den, similar to life circa 2011, but with a few more friends, and a co-op that we may or may not do again next school year.  

Our move back to the states was a curse and a blessing all in one. We, finally, have all of the opportunities that I wanted the boys to have and experience, but those opportunities bring with them commitments of our time, money, energy, as well as a whole lot of extra stress. Which has a tendency to zap what little energy reserve a mother of three has to start with and I’ll admit I’m a bit selfish.  At the end of the day, after teaching, feeding, cleaning, refereeing, and generally keeping all three of them alive I still want to have energy for my own hobbies and interests. I don’t currently have that and it depresses me-which isn't good-.

As a way to help usher in our lighter load and to help motivate my fingers to get back into typing I thought participating in NaNoWriMo -instead of just talking about possibly participating one year in the near or distant future- would be a good idea. Then, I found out they have an option for kids and I got really excited and the little wheels in my sleep deprived brain started turning.  

I've mentioned before that we were moving to a one subject a day type of school schedule and we've been doing really well with it. It’s removed a lot of the pressure that comes with feeling like you have to cover everything in one very long day.  Instead we focus our energies on one core subject for that day and highlight things that need a bit of repetition to stick, usually using games or relaxed question and answer sessions before dinner.

After looking over the NaNoWriMo information I thought what better way to expand on this idea then by focusing just on reading and writing for the month of November. Their readings would be a mixture mostly fiction with a healthy dose of books that tied in history and science so those things aren't completely neglected. They would also still be free to play their educational math apps and other little games. I may even have them do a math lesson or two if they experience writers block, but our overall focus would be on letting our imaginations come to life on paper.  They both already love telling their own stories at bedtime and General Disarray has been working hard on a series of short stories over the past few months, this just seems like a natural progression for their already creative minds.

This will also be a great segue for them as well as myself into what life is going to be like after November.  Less distractions, more time to pursue our creative selves in the comfort of our home, and more emphasis on being present in what we’re doing instead of just going through the day to day motions and checking things off of a calendar. Feel free to call us hippies, it really doesn't matter as long as we’re enjoying what we’re doing -at least 90% of the time-.

Now you might be asking “Can your kids really write a novel in a month?” Maybe. Hell, I don’t even know if I can get it done.  The beautiful thing about NaNoWriMo for kids is that they get to set their own word count, and they have a nifty word count calculator to help kids determine what their goal should be.  Now obviously General Disarray will have a higher goal count than his brother because they are at two different stages in their writing abilities. For General Disarray I really want him to just write, I figure the more he does it the better he will get at it. I also think he has enough ideas with his short stories to really produce a fun novel. With Professor Chaos this is more about helping him see, in an applied way, how a story grows and develops. Basically, it will be for teaching him the parts of a story and helping him to learn how to go into more detail and tie parts of a story together.  Since he struggles with writing we’ll be using dictation for his story.  

I plan to take it a step further though and after it’s all over I’ll print out their novels and have them illustrate them, then we’ll bind them and they’ll have their very own book. Told in their own words, illustrated with their own art work.

NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program does make it easier to do something of this magnitude.  There are plenty of resources on their website for anyone interested in giving it a go with their kids.  They even offer a free PDF workbook (three versions so you can pick the one that fits your child’s grade range) which we’ll be using to kick off the program towards the end of this month.

Hopefully, we’ll all come away from this with a little more passion for creating words on paper (or electronic paper) and three awesome novels.

Copyright(c)2013 Rayven Holmes

My children are like night and day.  While Stormageddon's personality is starting to blossom, General Disarray and Professor Chaos  are very easy for me to peg. For General Disarray learning and retaining knowledge is effortless, as long as he is somewhat focused. He may not always fill you in on what he has learned that day but, you'll hear about it in full detail when he's ready.  Professor Chaos on the other hand struggles with the things "average" kids his age are "expected" to do.  He needs more time to process new information, he needs more time to formulate a response, and he needs the information presented in different ways. Sitting still and doing worksheets isn't the best method of instruction for him...I know this now.  
About a year ago I was as big as a house and fed up with a lot of things including homeschooling Professor Chaos. Sure, General Disarray and I would have our bad days but, generally speaking we got accomplished what we needed to do without starting WW3.  Not with Professor Chaos though, oh boy he is an eye opening experience.  We would be chugging along in our Teach A Child To Read lessons, Saxon Math, or a whole host of other materials we used; and then he would just stop, shut down, and not even try. I would push and he would push back, eventually we would both be angry and in tears and I would be left wondering if I was making the right choice.  
Maybe he would be better served in public school? He was five years old, surely he should be able to do all these -unrealistic- things we expect of little people who just stopped crapping their pants the year before. The thing is he couldn't. He wasn't developmentally ready for what I had been programmed to believe he "should" be doing. Sure there are kids who can do those things and more with no effort  when they're five, General Disarray was one of those kids. Professor Chaos wasn't though and all my pushing did was create a negative attitude towards learning in general for him. Which is something I observed in public schools and it’s not something I wanted to recreate in my own home.
So I backed off. I let go off the wheel.  I still read to him, well as much as I could with a baby and an international move.  Thankfully, he has a wonderful older brother who would, and still does, spend hours reading to him. I still worked in concepts like letter sounds, numbers, basic addition and subtraction throughout the day but, did very little formal/planned learning with him. I gave him the chance to steer and then one day a few months ago, while sitting in our hotel room watching his brother plow through a lesson, he turned to me and asked "Can I do some school work too?"  He had steered the wheel back into the school lane all on his own.  
Now, I will admit internally I cringed a bit thinking back to all the struggles we've had, but I said yes and proceeded to dig through the materials I packed until I found something just for him. He's been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. I've had to realize that I'm not the driver of the bus they are, it's just my job/responsibility to help guide them in the right direction.  I'm like their own personal Garmin, except I know-well I'm learning- that there are moments when I need to just sit down, shut up, and let them go left when I really want them to go right.
Sure, I could have fought with him over the last year, but where would that have got us? Would he be eager for his assignments every day? Would he turn to me while in the middle of what use to be such a tedious task for him and exclaim "You know mom I think I'm having fun!"? Probably not. He would be like a growing number of kids who decide that school is hard and unpleasant because they were forced into it before they were mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for it.
Just because a child reaches a certain age determined by others doesn't mean they are ready for formal education. One very important lesson I've been learning on our homeschool journey is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to learning and education. What one child may be able to do at five another won't be able to do until they’re seven. It's easy to forget that each person, and that's what a child is-a person-, develops at their own rate. But, they do.
I'm striving to remember that as Stormageddon grows. He may not get there at the same time as other children his age, he may even get there early, but he will get there. And if he, or his brothers, happen to hit a dead end I'll be there on the dashboard to help them make the necessary u-turn in the right direction.  

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. 
Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."~Greg Anderson

Copyright(c)2013 Rayven Holmes

*GASP* Did I just type that? Now before the holy rollers start praising Jesus, just slow your roll and back the Jesus train up a bit. Now, I say church but, I do not mean church in the context the average American thinks of church. There isn't any praying... well, there’s probably some somewhere in the building but I'm not part of it.  No one is laying on hands unless there is a hug involved and the one time hell was mentioned the laughter it caused warmed my dark evil godless tree-hugging heart. So I wouldn't call it church.
I prefer the term fellowship, not just because it’s the name on the building but, it more accurately describes what happens there. Of course the bigger question is why I of all people would go to a * looks around...whispers...* church? My last encounter with a church was in 2008 and it was a favor to my father because they were having a family and friends day and we just happened to be in town on that very Sunday. Talk about a miscalculation in my vacation planning! Since then I've done my best to avoid religious institutions and religion in general-aside from debates and general rage induced rants-.
If I generally don't like religion why would I crawl out of bed on a perfectly good Sunday morning? The Spouse and I pretty much agree that religion is generally a waste of time but, when it comes to Unitarian Universalism he and I differ. I find UUism...interesting, yeah I think that's the best word to use. You never really know what you'll get. Before I walk into any relatives church I can tell you exactly what will happen, moment for moment-based on the flavor of Christianity they prescribe to- and when it's all said and done I'll still be going to hell in their eyes.
But when I walk into a UU fellowship I'm allowed to confront nearly 30 years of religious bullshit that would take years to wade through and this blog is not the place for it all, and I can do it in a community of love and understanding.  Which gets to the why of it all. Over my life I've heard and seen things that have made me cynical, unyielding, and at times downright cruel to those who believe a whole host of things that I just don't see any shred of evidence for-and to the human race in general-. 
Now, granted at times this has been justified, I see no point in playing nice with someone who equates gays with pedophiles or who claims that Atheist and other non members of the "right" religion are the cause of all the world's problems. But, I can't lump people who carry one label in with all the idiots who also carry that label. It's not fair to project my baggage on individuals who are good decent people. This I know, that doesn't mean it's easy to do. In fact, far from it, while I work through my own personal issues with the religious community though, I still have three little people who are looking to me for answers.
I have no issues with sharing my personal beliefs with them -they are my children after all-, and have done so and will continue to do so. I know, though, that my own personal beliefs about every single issue are just that, my own. I can't very well criticize religious parents for not giving their children the option to find their own beliefs and then prevent my children from doing the same. It's hypocritical and truthfully for me it seems unfair.  The one thing I hated more than anything on Sunday mornings growing up was the fact that I wasn't given a choice. I had to go to church, I had to believe that what I was told was the only truth, and I better smile while I praised the sweet baby Jesus for all he does! I've never wanted that for my children. 
Every Sunday they are given a choice and they go if they so choose, they learn in an environment where they are free to question, and where they can talk with other people from various backgrounds and start to think deeper about what they've been taught at home or heard from family members. They have the freedom of choice. And while they're exploring their beliefs they're also reaffirming values we teach in our home, and who doesn't love an outlet that tells your kids to just be a decent loving human being simply because we only have this one planet and we all have to live on it together? No threats of eternal hell fire, not gods and goddesses to please.
Just people working together to make the world a bit better. I can get out of bed for that.

Copyright(c)2013 Rayven Holmes

A sneak peek at our schooling space. Check back next week for a tour of where *some* our schooling magic happens.

Copyright(c)2013 Rayven Holmes

I haven't updated this blog since October 2012!! Holy cow has it really been that long?! Needless to say things have been very busy in our dysfunctional world. Since I do have a post in progress (the same post I alluded to back in October) I'll just make this one a picture post to give you some idea of the crazy we have been living since October.

We've tried some new recipes (they had Nutella inside of them!)

We took our first official family of five photos; they were also our last professional family photos in Japan. 
We endured three days of movers in our itty bitty Japanese house. 

We slept on air mattresses. 

We had our last field trip to the Okinawa Aquarium. 

We said goodbye to Japan after four life changing years. (This was taken at 30,000 feet as the sun went down  in Japan and our time their ended). 

We got back to America and discovered that the place put in charge of storing our vehicle had done this to ALL the seats in our car as well as other things to it. The damage can't be put into words and posting all the pictures would completely change the mood of this instead I'll let your imaginations run wild.  

Lastly, we arrived at our new base in VA. This is the sun rising over the Chesapeake, I still had wicked jet lag when I took this. Things have improved jet lag wise. Although, I must admit I miss Japan more than I thought I would. Uprooting your life doesn't get easier, but the adventures you get to take do make the headaches worth it!

If any of you happen to call VA home please feel free to share in the comments what you like to do for fun in the state for lovers.

Copyright(c)2013 Rayven Holmes