Meghan Tells It

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Learning to Relax September 16, 2016

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 3:17 am
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We’ve started Alex’s 3rd Grade school year. Each month, and now year, that passes, I learn to relax a little more when it comes to his education.

Like many new homeschooling parents, back when I started, I was very worried about fitting in all of the elements of a good education. While that is still my priority, I’m realizing that we have years to do this, not days.

The concerned and organized parts of me want Alex to sit and do his lessons with good focus on a daily basis. I want him to enjoy reading and writing as much as I enjoy them. Then the part of me that loves and respects him as a fellow human point out that he’s still a young kid who needs to play. He may never enjoy reading or writing to the same extent that I do because he’s not me.

So, I remind myself that he’s made steady academic progress. I remind myself that even with lots of days spent away from our school books to go on field trips or to playgrounds or just using Google to pursue interesting topics, (or hibernating for the entire month of February), we finished the books ahead of schedule in 2nd Grade.

Today, the familiar voice that says, “Do the book work!” clanged about inside my head. We went to a library program with other local homeschoolers. Then most of us headed to the playground to enjoy some gorgeous September weather. Then I took Alex to play Pokémon with another group of homeschoolers. I reminded the worried voice that these activities are also instructional and a very important part of childhood.

“You need to hit the books!” that voice insisted once more as I accepted an invitation to play tomorrow morning and another to visit family in the early evening. Alex wants to be a nice person. He expressed gratitude when I bought a book to help him with that. But experience with other people is the best way to learn that. So we’ll go to the playground. So many kids don’t get to know their grandparents or extended family. So we’ll take advantage of the opportunity to eat with my in-laws and other family members while we’re all together in the same town. There are lessons there that can not be learned in any text book.

I reminded that voice in my head that New England offers a very long winter that is perfect for sitting with school books. Here in my corner of New England, winter offers many icy days where driving is difficult and playing outside is just no fun for us summer loving folks. We will hit the books more often in those months. Alex will continue to progress in his education, sometimes in spite of me.

 

In Sickness and in Health September 13, 2016

Filed under: Family — Meghan Hamilton @ 2:49 am
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I wrote a really long post about my August. Then I deleted it. It was too long. I’ll just summarize. I was really sick. A bug bite turned into a raging skin infection in my left leg. I spent some quality time with the fine folks at my local hospital. Then I got to see a bunch of visiting nurses who came to take care of me at home.

Through all of this, I went from not walking to barely walking. Craig, my dear husband who seems unable to care for himself, cared for me and Alex. Our friends brought us groceries. He cooked and hand delivered meals. He stood by as I was washed my hair in the sink in case I tipped over or needed anything. He helped me change my clothes. There are too many things to list here.

I still require a lot of rest and can’t walk far. Apparently the infection took a bunch of my energy with it. He continues to do many of these things.

I am profoundly grateful to have a spouse who doesn’t complain about helping me out.

(Alex has helped a lot too. He is an excellent delivery person. I lost count of the drinks he brought me and how many dirty dishes he took to the kitchen for me.)

When we got married we went with fairly traditional vows. There are times when a phrase like, “… in sickness and in health…” really stands out in your mind. This was one of them. He was up for the task. I’m ready to get back to health though.

 

No Rest For The Sane September 9, 2016

Filed under: Family,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 3:14 am
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I’ve recently seen a primary care doctor for the first time in about a decade. He was clearly unhappy that I hadn’t seen anyone for any kind of checkup since my son was born over eight years ago. Here is my explanation.

Caregiver Syndrome or Caregiver Burnout.  My husband has a serious mental illness and I’m trying to raise our child, homeschool him no less. I have many of the symptoms. One of them is spending more time coordinating the other person’s appointments than your own. Guilty.  Really highly totally guilty.

Something that this country (maybe others, but I haven’t looked) has started to do well is to offer respite care for elderly folks in need of care. Nursing homes will take on a temporary resident so that the family can go away on vacation. Adult day cares are popping up so that adult children can work and live with their parents. Or they can have a day off to take care of their own appointments.

What we lack in America is such programming for adults with mental illnesses. Single adults may qualify for a permanent group home type situation. But what of us spouses who remain married to mentally ill men and women who need regular care? What of parents of mentally ill adults who have chosen to allow their children to remain at home? I’m sure there are others too.

My husband is currently willing to take his meds and take care of himself. But he is completely scatter brained and often forgets. Daily pill reminders. Daily reminders to do his part of the housekeeping. Daily checks of the schedule to make sure he doesn’t miss an appointment with one of four doctors. Daily scrutiny of behavior for symptoms flaring up. It never ends.

So I neglect myself. I overeat junk food to sooth my stress. I only get a break when he is in bad enough shape to warrant a hospital stay. I don’t wish that upon him. Even that though isn’t total freedom for me. There are calls and visits to the hospital. Childcare arrangements need to be made because young children aren’t welcomed in such facilities and visiting hours are strict and never at a convenient time.

Is there a point other than to say this life is hard? I don’t know. I often simply wish that there were respite care for people in my situation. I want someone else to take the load once in a while so that I can rest. I’m absolutely sure it would make a positive difference in my life, thus in our relationship.

 

Snapshot of a Fleeting Childhood August 3, 2016

Filed under: Family,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 11:41 am

 

Jpeg

Alex Being His Goofy Self

My son is eight years old. This fall he will be a third grader for those of you keeping track. My aging body woke me up in the wee hours of the morning with a variety of minor ailments that conspired to keep me awake. Usually when this happens I feel irritated and angry. Today was different. I contemplated the sleeping child beside me.

Alex has gone through a number of changes in the last year, in the last months even. He no longer snuggles up to me during the day. You see, he’s far too busy living his own life. Whether he’s playing video games at home or disappearing into a friend’s back yard for hours on end, he no longer needs my body as security the way that he used to.

Yesterday I hardly laid eyes on him. We spent the morning in separate rooms of the house. Then we went to a birthday party where he played outside while I chatted with the other moms inside of the house. We then went to a park. He disappeared to the far edges of the property with his friends. They explored wooded paths and created their own adventures. He came close only long enough to guzzle some water and complain about a situation before he was back at the business of play.

So this morning, as he snuggled close in the cool morning air, I wondered how many more nights he’ll need to sleep at my side. A couple of months ago he shocked me by choosing to sleep over both a friend’s home and his grandparents’ home without me. A year ago this would only happen if I made him do it.

He has always been on his own timeline with his development. He walked after he turned one. He finished potty training at age six. Reading finally became somewhat comfortable at age eight. Soon, he won’t want to sleep close to me. He’ll  see the advantage of that bedroom he’s had since birth. So when sleep eludes me, I will savor the sleepy snuggles while I still can. There will be time for me to feel cranky about it later.

 

Small Town Life – Escaped Horse December 8, 2015

Filed under: Thoughts,Uncategorized — Meghan Hamilton @ 6:37 pm
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On Sunday I got a call from a friend. She and her family were about an hour outside of town and they had received a call from the police. One of their horses had escaped. The police had the horse safely tied in the area, but they were having difficulty getting by the dogs. So could I drive over and help get the horse back onto their property?

I immediately headed over. Upon arrival, a policeman and the animal control officer were standing in the driveway, the horse on a stick lead dancing around, dogs barking at the two strangers in their yard, and the animal control officer trying to not get stepped on by the horse. He is a miniature horse, but you still don’t want to get stepped on or kicked.

The dogs noticed me and formed a wall between myself and the two strangers on their property. I reassured them that it was OK and we got the horse back into the paddock. Apparently he was upset that the family had taken a couple of the other horses out for the day and left him behind. He managed to open the gate and go looking for them.

Given that the horse wasn’t run over, the dogs didn’t bite anyone, and all ended well, it was pretty comical. That got me thinking. It was probably the most exciting thing that happened to any of us that day. For that, I am grateful. We live in a world where some people are eager to hurt others. My area isn’t immune to such things. But that day, I was safe. My biggest worry was getting a friend’s horse back where he belonged.

 

 

How to Plan a Fun Afternoon With Your Child November 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Hamilton @ 1:56 pm

Directions for a nice afternoon with your child:

1. Find out about a free event through Facebook.
2. Notice it’s out of town, but neglect to check exactly where the location is because you’re distracted.
3. Ask child if he wants to go.
4. Upon an excited acceptance by child, sign him/her up for the event.
5. The day of the event, double check the location in case you need directions.
6. Notice it’s in South Shore Plaza at 4:00PM, just in time for Boston rush hour traffic to hit hard. (It’s already an hour away from us in good driving conditions.)
7. Bite the bullet, move your departure time to 2:00, and get in the car hoping for the best.
8. Arrive with your happy child who can’t wait to check in and get started.
9. When he’s done, hear him tell you he wants to do it all over again next month.
9. Get in car and enjoy more rush hour traffic on the way home.
10. Stop for a fast food dinner on the way because the traffic has made you insane and there will be no cooking upon arrival home.
11. Arrive home and think it may have all been worth it because your kid had such a good time.

Meghan Schaffer Hamilton's photo.
 

How do I meet requirements for homeschooling hours? October 30, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 3:01 pm
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Watching bears at the zoo

Watching bears at the zoo

In Massachusetts, homeschoolers agree to instruct their children for 180 days and 900 or 990 hours (depending upon grade level) over the course of those days. Most states have a similar policy. For my 2nd grader, that comes out to five hours of instruction per day. That looks very daunting at first. How do I make him sit and do math and reading for FIVE HOURS? Well, I don’t. Chances are, your local public school teacher doesn’t either. We started Alex in public school. At the Open House, his 1st grade teacher gave a copy of the schedule she followed most days. There were two hours of math and reading scheduled per day. Two hours. Even high school students have down time and wait on the next part of their day. How much of the class time is the teacher answering questions that maybe your student already knows the answer to? How much time would your student have to wait to have a question answered while the teacher answers other questions? Homeschooling is generally more efficient because the student to teacher ratio is much lower. So if we don’t get in five formal hours, I’m not going to worry about it.

My son asks a lot of questions over the course of the day. So even after our formal book work is done (Usually around 2 hours for my 7 year old), we are looking up information on other topics. Little things, like asking questions about pricing in grocery stores, add up to a lot of time. Doing routine things, like taking/sending kids to places like the post office, can count. How many schools teach about the post office but can’t take their students? Taking your kids to the bank can count if you are involving them in what you are doing (how to fill out a deposit slip or a check, etc…) Do your kids cook? There is an activity that counts for school hours.

Today, we aren’t cracking open a single text book unless Alex wants to. But it’s still a school day. How? We have a four day book work week and use the fifth for field trips or educational videos. As I didn’t plan any field trips for today, I chose several educational videos for him to watch. One was about a Tuareg boy who lives in the Sahara Desert, tying into our current science unit. One was the Electric Company, tying into language arts. Then he watched several episodes of Wild Kratts, because fun! How many times have your kids voluntarily watched an educational program? Some days Alex watches these things because he just wants to. One of his favorite DVDs is about trains in Colorado. From that he’s learned about Pike’s Peak, the Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande River, and other aspects of the state. Those shows can be counted towards your hours.

How much time do they spend on artwork on their own? Just because you aren’t sitting with them, or assigning it to them, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of their learning. Many kids like to read for pleasure, so even though they are choosing their reading material, they are still doing educational things outside of what you have planned that you can figure into that 900/990 hours.

Additionally, when you look at a schedule from a public school, much of the day is spent moving between classes/activities. For young children, play is counted as educational, thus recess figures into the school day. How much time does your elementary school aged student spend at play? For jr high/high school students, they have study halls.

As for myself, I also look at things that we do on weekends. If we spend two or more hours at an event that is teaching my son something on a Saturday or Sunday, I check that off as one of our 180 days of school. (I like record keeping…) For example, my mother in law took him to a multi-cultural event and he learned quite a bit about other countries. So, it was a school day. I took him to a wild animal event at our local Audobon Society, so I counted it as a school day.

When it comes to high school and tracking “credit hours” for putting together transcripts for college, many parents will consider completing a text book designed to be used for an entire school year as a completed credit. Even if their student completes it in six months as opposed to ten months. They don’t see the need to fill in those other four months with extra activities to count the credit. Think about it. There are a number of high schoolers in the public schools and certainly in accredited private schools that graduate early because they were allowed to work ahead of their peers. They still get full credit and a diploma even if they didn’t spend the same number of actual hours on a subject as most of their peers. That is why it’s called a credit hour and not just an hour. 

Yes, I love record keeping, but I don’t track every minute of the day to make sure I’m getting in the five hours. I am looking at our lifestyle. Much of what we do with Alex is educational in nature. So I am not worried about it. As evidence mounts that homeschooled students get an equal if not better education than their public school counterparts, I know I can relax about minute counting and just make sure that we have reasonable goals for what we want to complete each school year.