Thursday, June 24, 2010

Life Is A Blur

I haven't written in a while, I know that. A friend and fellow blogger recently commented that the North Fork Bloggers have been verrrryyy quiet of late. I'm glad I'm not the only one! When I began this blog (at Rachel's urging) its original purpose was to be a family journal, something to look back on and relive all the memories we have as a family. I have kept "real" journals most of my life, although in a fit of self conciousness I threw the early ones away when I was about fifteen. I couldn't stand looking at my childhood self, all the things I thought were so important but that were really boring or truly humiliating. In my second half of high school I didn't keep in journal (which I truly regret now!) and then began to do it again in college. I still have those, and have not submitted to the urge to toss them, although some of what I wrote is embarrassing or boring or painful, in some cases.

When Rachel was born, my journal writing efforts started to change. I still wrote about my own thoughts and feelings, but there wasn't enough time in my day to mull things over the way I once did. And as my other children were born and the decision to homeschool was made....well, then time really became a precious commodity. I lived for several years on a kind of autopilot, with infants and toddlers and preschoolers and nursing and lack of sleep and play dates and homeschooling (and I put homeschooling last because really, homeschooling only Rachel in those early years was SO simple! One of those things that seemed hard when I was doing it, but as my efforts have multiplied over the years, I see how truly easy it really was...) However, even in my mommy-haze I recognized that the years are fleeting and that I wanted to preserve memories of what my beautiful children were like at every age, how they spoke and the adorable things they did, the vacations we went on and the birthday parties and Christmas gifts and the trials and tribulations. I usually wrote once every couple of months, but would fill pages and pages with anything and everything I could think of. It seems impossible to believe, but computers were only a part of life then. Sure, we used email and shopped online, and researched some topics when needed. But it was not the all-consuming presence it is now, for better or for worse.

When Rachel made this blog for us and told me I should use it like my handwritten journals, I was at first nonplussed. It seemed so impersonal, so self-important, like I was putting my family online and wanted people to actually read about us. Matt and I debated about using our real names, and whether or not photos should be included. I pressed for them, because in my mind this was a family scrapbook. I didn't intend for anyone other than family and far-flung friends to read it. But then that idea appealed to me--here was a way for relatives to see photos, artwork, and hear about the day-to-day, things that are easily forgotten when you're talking. Grandma would love it! So, slowly, I got into it. I still have the idea that someday we will print it all out (how much ink will THAT take?) so that we can have the satisfaction of actual pages in our hands rather than a website to browse.

My posts were almost daily in the beginning, and often very short. A snapshot of something that happened that day. These provide me with wonderful memories when I do look back. Now, however, my life has changed. My kids are growing up--Emma is finished with Kindergarten and will be 6 in just two months. No more babies! We have been finished with nursing and diapers for years now, something I could barely conceive of for ten years running. Everyone knows how to swim, to ride a bike, to read...everyone has lost two or more baby teeth.... everyone sleeps all night... Rachel is practically an adult...Julia is careening into preadolescence....the milestones are fewer when all this happens. They still do and say (what I think) are adorable and clever things, so in theory my posts could be similar to those first years of the blog. The biggest difference is, I guess, that I have much less time on my hands! Homeschooling four kids is a lot of work, there are always chores and errands to run, we have a lot of activities and friends to attend to--and hey, I like to have time to myself too!

We've finished school for the year, and as always, this is a huge relief. The routines were getting dull and we all needed a break--plus as the weather warms, there is nothing better than getting outside. We have been swimming and going to the beach and to Splish Splash and gardening and riding bikes and walking the dog and reading and sleeping late and having sleepovers and going fun places. I am starting to plan for next year--Rachel will be in 10th grade (!), Julia in 6th, Ben in 3rd and Emma in 1st. I am on the lookout for anything that will make our lives easier and more fun in regards to school kids simply don't need all the busy work! I have resolved to look for books that pack a punch while not boring us, and to find movies, documentaries and books that will bring subjects to life. One of the reasons we homeschool is to give them a specialized education, but unfortunately, since homeschooling has picked up so much speed in recent years, and as more and more parents decide to pull their kids out of a not-satisfying school experience, homeschool curricula seem to have become more schoolish.

My kids all read and write above their grade level--not certain exactly how far above, but let's just say well above grade level. So this past year, when Ben was doing a spelling program meant for 2nd grade, he was understandably bored and frustrated (and I didn't blame him--I think that 2nd graders probably can handle more than 3-and-4-letter words!) Emma did 1st grade language arts material in November and was also bored. I am trying to make next year the year where nobody does a book just because it's expected of them at that grade, and where pointless activities are banished. A perfect example of this would be one of the language arts books I used with Ben this year. It was literature based activities using the "Magic Tree House" books, which if you don't know, are fantasy books about time travel that teach about history topics. Ben loves the books, so I thought it would be a great fit. However, I didn't take into account that most of the activities listed were a waste of time. Like school, they were geared to the average student, and Ben was beyond it. We tried for the first couple of books, and then finally I just got him the books and we talked about them.

When I was finishing up the school year, I was looking through one of Emma's workbooks and thinking about how she wouldn't finish this one--we'd started it at the end of winter when she was finished with what she'd been doing, and although she liked it it was one of those several hundred page "complete curriculum" books that a friend had given me. Even though it was 1st grade we'd already skipped lots of the material because it was a review of Kindergarten (really? Do we need a review of Kindergarten?) but still there were probably a hundred pages to go. I wondered if I should hold onto it for next year, or if we should go crazy in the last few weeks of school and try to actually get it all done...and then I remembered that hello! it's all busy work anyway! Emma can read anything she puts her eyes on, she can draw better than I can already, and she has an imagination that boggles the brain. She can learn more from taking a book off the shelves and reading it than she can in any workbook, and I let it go.

I will try to write more. I will try to post something cute the kids do or say at least once a week, and I will try to write about what next school year is shaping up to be like. These are my summer resolutions....though I also resolve to enjoy my vacation thoroughly because I know September will be here far sooner than I'd wish!