Monday, August 29, 2011

Your questions: Homeschooling

So today we'll hit the questions that pertain to homeschooling.

Rebecca asks "Dang, Erika stole my question. So, I'll ask this: what made you decide to homeschool? How did you know you'd be good at it? And as your kids get older, how do you deal with the subjects you don't know as much about as you need to? (If there are any such; I am embarrassed to admit how young my son was when I was no longer able to help him with his math homework just out of my own head.)"

 I decided to homeschool while I was in college getting my teaching degree. Yes, amazingly enough I am a certified teacher in my state and can teach in any k-8 classroom. (okay, I *think* my certification expires soon or maybe expired this month so I probably can't say that for much longer and be truthful about it}. Let me preface this by saying there are AMAZING teachers in this world. I know some of the best. I also, sadly, saw some of the worst. I do not think the worst make it for long. I think they quit, give up, but the truth is some kids have them for the year or two they hang in there. When I received my degree, my oldest was 3.5 and my youngest was 9 months old. That colored a lot of what I thought. I didn't want to risk them having the bad teachers. Not even for one year.

So I started looking into homeschooling. Did I know for sure I could do it? Um no. But I figured if the state of IL would let me teach an entire class of kids, I couldn't do much worse for a few kids at home. We started off pretty structured, but then stumbled into unschooling pretty quickly. So for a very long time, most of our homeschooling curriculum, we did whatever we wanted with no worksheets, textbooks, etc. I don't regret one second of it. I think my kids had lots of time to be kids, to learn and explore the world around them in a very nontraditional way. And it works. It works differently than school - by that I mean yes, they are behind in some areas. However, they are ahead in others. So basically, they are like all kids - they have strengths and weaknesses and we work with that.
This year, we left the unschooling behind and are now doing formal learning. It's an adjustment for us all. We now take tests and do worksheets. We study and make note cards. We drill with flashcards. We have due dates for assignments. The transition, especially for my 11yo, has been a lot easier than I anticipated. There is a lot they already knew - and we never had to waste time doing worksheets about 1+2. It's a bit harder for my 8yo - that said, I wish we could wait until she was 10 to make this transition for her as well. However, given both girls are almost positively going to school next year, I can't wait to make the transition for her. In an ideal world though, we'd unschool until 6th grade and then go formal. {That was always the plan, but cancer kind of changed it all}

As to what happens when I don't know something ... I do what I'd do if I was the classroom teacher ... I research it. I try to learn it all before we jump in, but often I'm learning right along with my girls. Here's the thing. When I was in college, I didn't in 2 years learn everything I might possibly have to teach from kindergarten to 8th grade. Often when a curriculum changes or a teacher switches grade level, that teacher has to prelearn what s/he is going to teach his/her class! It's true. So a teacher might have a teacher's guide with all that information in one spot ... but between google, the library and just asking people I know, I can gather up what I need and I'm good to go!

I think I like learning along with the kids the best. I like to tell them I don't know ... I like them to see I'm still learning and curious about things and looking stuff up. That learning doesn't happen only at school and stop once you graduate. I think all parents do this with some stuff. We've all been faced with questions we don't know, I just think I get them more since they are home with me all day.

Tracey asks "What do you like best about homeschooling? What do you like worst about it?"

I like best - having them all home all day =) What I think is worst about it? Is having them home all day!

No really. It's true, although mostly it's the best thing. I love them being home. I love them having more time to just be kids (even now with doing formal learning, we finish in 2-3 hours) and explore and play and just be. I think too many kids are already caught up in the rat race and don't have enough time to just be. Actually, I think too many adults are that way too, but that's a talk for another time!

That said, I'd be lying if I told you there weren't days I long to put them on the bus and get a break. That there aren't days I wonder if I've permanently screwed them up by keeping them home instead of sending them to school. That there weren't days I wonder why we decided to take a path that is not the normal one. But on the other hand, other parents have doubts at times too. So I think most of those doubts don't come from me homeschooling my kids so much as me parenting my kids.

Anymore questions, please feel free to ask! =) 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Out of ideas ...

My dear readers,

I never thought I'd say this, but I feel like I'm out of things to talk about. Or that I'm to the point where I'd just be saying the same thing over and over again. I think my brain is just a bit fried right now.

So I'm asking for your help. Please, I beg of you, leave me some questions in the comments area. I'll answer them over the next few posts. They can be about anything at all. I mean anything. If I don't like it, I just won't answer! Ha ha! =) Although I can't think off the top of my head what I wouldn't answer, so I doubt that will be an issue.

Anyway, hope everyone is having a great day. Leave me questions. It would make my day =)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Future ...

Last week my husband and I were able to go out to dinner alone. This is huge deal. We haven't gone out on a "date" in so long. It seems most of the year was wrapped up with sickness and then just as we left all the winter illness behind we were hit with my cancer diagnosis.

Anyway, we got out and it was so nice. While we were out husband started to talk to me about our future. He specifically brought up dreams I've talked about greatly in the past. And I can't lie. My anxiety sky rocketed and I couldn't talk to him about it.

You see the future right now is a scary place for me. Don't get me wrong, I feel very positive that this cancer will be gone and I'll go into remission and it won't come back. And yet, I'm terrified that the cancer is not gone. Or it will go away but return again. It's not uncommon for women who have breast cancer like mine to get it 2, 3, even more times in their lifetime.

That knowledge makes thinking about, planning for, or even dreaming about the future very difficult for me. I need to focus on today. Getting through the now. And once we are through all of this, hopefully I can back to dreaming and planning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm alive ....

I'm here and alive. I just haven't been on the computer too much lately. Sorry about that. I hate to leave everyone hanging, but sometimes it's just hard to get on here.

So here's an update:

Last week I started my new medicine. I am now on Taxol and Herceptin. The Taxol I get every other week for 8 weeks. The Herceptin is every week for 8 weeks, then it switches over to every 3 weeks for one year. Yes, you read that right ... I will be on Herceptin for one year. The good news is the as far as I can tell the herceptin has almost no side effects (there are other things going on that I don't believe are related to this medicine, but it's hard to tell with the taxol right now) and only takes 30 minutes to get so those visits aren't hours long.

The Taxol is much much much much (yes, we are stressing the much) easier than the other two medicines were. That being said, over the weekend I was hit with intense muscle/joint pain that essentially kept me in bed all weekend. The blessing here is that it happened over the weekend, when Saint Husband is home to, well, do everything!

My energy is still tanking. The chemo has been and continues to lower my red blood count every week. It is very likely that soon I will have to get a blood transfusion because of the red blood cell count. I won't lie, thinking about getting a blood transfusion scares me. I know it's safe but still. There is fear there. But. I'm also committed to doing whatever it takes to get through this in one piece, so if we have to add that to the list of things to do, so be it.

However, that is not the most nerve-wracking things on my mind right now. Maybe you've heard it - it's just starting to hit news outlets, but there is a shortage of many chemotherapy drugs in the US right now (here's one article if you are interested). Taxol (yes, the one I'm on right now) is one of the drugs there is a shortage of. My oncologists office does not day to day whether it will be available. Last Wednesday when I went they had it, but tomorrow? The next day? Next Wednesday when I go into get it again? It may not be available. My doctor has a back-up medicine they will use instead, so I won't have to go without chemo while we wait for it to become available. But some people right now are not able to get the chemo they need and it really makes me mad. Also. I don't want a back up plan. I want the plan A. I don't know, cancer and plan B just don't seem like they should go together. But at least there is a back up plan. As I said, some people don't have other medicines they can take instead.

Anyway, that's what's going on around these parts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Half-way ....

I am now officially half-way through chemo.

The last 8 weeks have taught me so much. There is so much more that happens during chemo than I ever realized before. So for fun I thought I'd share some tidbits with you.

1. First and foremost, the biggest thing I learned is each person reacts VERY differently to chemo. It's such an individualized response.So keep that in mind as you read my list. It might look very different if someone else wrote it. Also, different medicines have different side effects.

2. In the movies the big thing shown is fatigue and nausea. While both of those do and can happen there is so much more that. Chemotherapy has affected my whole entire body. It has caused havoc on my emotions. It's affected my ability to sleep. It has screwed with my mind. I feel like no part of me was untouched by it.

3. My sense of smell has gone haywire. This is actually pretty common with all chemo, so please keep this in mind if you are going to visit someone undergoing chemo. My nose is hyper-sensitive. Perfumes, food, flowers, etc, all can now make me feel nauseous. We even had to switch some of our soap and our liquid dish soap because the smells were so bothersome to me. People who wear tons of perfume or heavily scented anything, I have to take some steps back from. Walking through the grocery store - all those smells mingled together. Oh my. Sometimes when husband is cooking I have to leave the first floor of the house and go to our bedroom to get away from the smell. If you remember nothing else from this list, please remember this. Almost everyone I know who has undergone chemo had the same issue.

4. Aside from feeling tired and sick to my stomach, chemo has given me sore feet, sore hands, sores on my tongue, sore throat and other stomach problems. I didn't know chemo could do all of that until I went through it. Days when my hands are sore, I can't wear my wedding rings which makes me feel sad. I've had to stop wearing some of my shoes because of my feet. At the height of my tongue sores (which are thankfully doing much better now) it hurt to eat, drink and talk. In addition to this, at times I get muscle and joint pain that can make moving at all extra painful. I've been spared the worst of that. Some people get it much worse. Basically my point is chemo affects your whole entire body.

5. My emotions have been a roller coaster of ups and downs. I blame the chemo. It may not directly cause this emotional roller coaster, but the side effects that I'm dealing with, all the doctors appointments, not being able to do what I normally do around the house, with the kids, with my husband, some days I sleep 18 hours, other days I suffer from extreme insomnia. That's in addition to mentally trying to work through the fact that I have cancer, feeling like my body betrayed me, wondering why I didn't know I had cancer sooner, etc, etc, you can imagine some days I'm just an emotional wreck. Thankfully this is not every day or even most days. But some days it's hits so hard and fast.

So as you can see the chemo can just affect every single part of my body, of my life. It makes sense when you really think about but I didn't fully understand it until I was there, dealing with it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

School's in session

We started our homeschool year on Sunday.

I originally thought we'd delay the start, but after lots of thinking about it (including toying with the idea of sending all kids to the local pubic school this year),starting early seemed to be a much better option. That way, should we need to take a day off here or there for any medical reasons, we'll already be ahead so to speak and have more lee-way. Although both girls are showing they can work pretty independently, so I'm actually not that worried about it. As long as they know what to do, they are good at getting it done, which is such a blessing!

We also came to the conclusion that 5yo can not continue at his private school this year. So it looks like he will in fact attending kindergarten at the local public school. I've got a call into the school to find out about registering him (since, um, technically, we should have done all of this in the spring for kindergarten! Yikes!).  The difference is all day kindergarten vs. half day. I really wanted him at the all day program purely for selfish reasons ...  I will try to do as many doctor visits, including radiation which will be daily, while he's in school and all day would have given me more flexibility. But we'll work with what we can get.

Anyway, this year is going to be very bittersweet for me. It appears (but I also know a lot can change in a year) that both girls want to go to school next year. So this could be my last year as a homeschooling mom. I'm heartbroken about this. I can't lie. But I also understand and at this point won't force them to stay home any longer. We'll see how this year goes though and next year is still a long way off.

For now, we'll be toiling away and hitting the books hard. Our big focus this year will be writing, especially for the 11yo. The 8yo will be focusing a lot on spelling.

I figure starting is the hardest part, especially when the neighbor kids are still home. But we've started. 3 days down. 54 more weeks to go ;-)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A fun night out ...

First, let me preface this with saying you haven't heard much from me lately because I'm stuck in what I am calling side effect hell. It's like the medicine reached it's tipping point and more side effects have been showing up in the last week. But we'll get through and I don't want this post to be about that. Luckily I have something a little more fun to talk about.

My mom's neighborhood is pretty tight-knit. It's pretty amazing actually. If I could, I'd move into her neighborhood it's that wonderful. Many of the women meet at least monthly, and it seems like most of them do things together much more often than that - working out together, vacationing together, etc. I have great neighbors for sure, but we aren't half as close as the neighbor's where my mom lives.

Anyway, one night every month, many of them get together to play Bunco. It's a pretty easy game to play, doesn't really require much skill - you only need to know how to roll a dice. To me, the game is really an excuse to get together, chat, eat good food, and have a good time. Not a bad way to spend one evening a month at all!

This month they invited me, along with my mom to come and join them. They all know the situation. In fact many of them have sent me cards, small gifts, and brought dinners or gift cards to us. They circle around their own and simply by being my mom's daughter, I am considered one of their own.

Anyway, Thursday night I headed on out and had a great time. It was so nice to get out and have a good time. Many laughs were had. I even won a few games. I admit Thursday I was feeling so exhausted I almost backed out of going, but I'm so glad I didn't. I had such a great time.

As a bonus, this Thursday they played for me. You have to pay a bit of money to join. Usually there are winners at the end of the night and the money is passed out t them, and also a bit goes to the hostess. This month, they played for me. At the end of the night I was gifted the money with strict orders to do something fun for myself. Very generous of them all.

It was definitely a great night out. And much more fun than just sitting around at home in my pj's ;-)

Monday, August 01, 2011

You Can Do It!

Today's post is by Rhonda. Rhonda is another friend I met on twitter who has been so supportive during this time! 

Rhonda believes is miracles and true love. She loves to capture life in pictures and scrapbooks. She lives in Kansas with her husband Eric and their toddler Liam. Visit her blog at

She always sits in the back, she doesn’t want to be noticed. She doesn’t say much of anything, would it matter how she felt anyways? She’s doesn’t have many friends, she doesn’t want to have to explain anxiety disorder. She works hard, if she didn’t would she think people thought she was lazy due to her size? She feels like she is left out, are they judging me because of what I am not able to do? When she is mad she losses it, but if she keeps her feelings in no one will get mad if they don’t like what she says. She really isn’t herself, people have hurt her in the past and she doesn’t want a repeat of it.
Yes, that “she” is me. For so many years I wasn’t really who I wanted to be. I was in a marriage that I was afraid to get out of due to panic attacks. I let him and his family control my feelings. I wasn’t able to have an opinion. The past of me being quiet and bottled up continued through my adult years. I had no one to turn to. My family and friends thought all was good. It wasn’t. I struggled through infertility, depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I felt alone in my own home. My life was a hell on earth.
I went through the day to day motions. Work. Wife. I was always searching for happiness. I bought books on it. I read scriptures. Nothing to seemed to work. Happiness was no where to be found. But one day something changed. I wanted a new life. I wanted to leave my husband. Key note here, I married him because I wanted out of the house. I was 19 when we married. I thought I was in love. I thought I was happy. I was at times but deep inside I never was. I can see it not, I couldn’t then. I finally saw all the negative in my life. I needed a change but how? How does someone with panic attacks, anxiety disorder, depression and agoraphobia change the major things in her life? Slowly.
I decided to start with my weight. Over a year I lost 74 pounds by eating right and exercising. I started writing daily affirmations. I would write 10 things each day that was positive in my life. I started getting my voice back. I said what was on my mind. If something bothered me I didn’t bottle it up. Losing the weight was the first step in gaining my confidence and independence from a miserable marriage. I was seeing that I could do things once I set my mind to it. I realized then that I was in control of my happiness and what happened in my life. I was starting to win again!
To make a long story short, we separated. I met the man of my dreams. Someone that loves me for who I am. Someone that I can talk to about anything. Someone that I am not afraid to be myself to. Actually we had known each other for many years. We started dating and realized what we had for each other. About 8 months later I found out I was pregnant. After 3 loses I was afraid but my miracle came. My son is the joy of my life. We got married last year on 10/10/10! Life is what I always wanted it to be.
I am now 40. Do I look at those years as a waste? No, I needed to grow. I needed to believe in myself before my son came into my life. I need to have happiness. I strongly believe that we go through tough times to make us stronger and learn. Is it fair? No. We all have different needs and issues but what we all have in common is the need to be happy. Life is too short to be unhappy. I didn’t see that through anxious eyes. I thought I was happy when I went shopping or ate. Oh how I have learned that is so not true.
If you need a change in your life make it happen. It won’t happen right away. For me it was 5 years before I was strong enough to let it all end. I still need work on things that deal with anxiety but it is getting better. Be happy. Enjoy those everyday moments that we all take for granted. Life your live they way YOU want to. Do not let others determine your life. It is so worth coming out of your shell and seeing the world through your eyes. You can do it!