Monday, September 28, 2015

The First Day of Public School

I recently read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and one area she writes about is new beginnings.

She says that the first day of anything new is the most important.

The first day of a new job, the first day in a new class, the first day of school.

What you do on that first day is what you will most likely continue to do.  The routine followed that day will most likely become habit. Where you choose to sit that day is probably where you will sit every day, the route you take, what you do during lunch.  And I happen to believe this is true.  (Hey, I always shower in the same shower at the gym, the same one I picked the first day.)

So, before the first day of school I wrote out how I wanted our days to flow and made sure that first day we stuck to it.  We went through the morning routine verbally multiple times over the three days before school started and practiced it full on the day before, including making an 8:00 a.m. appointment, since that's the time school starts. 

Truth be told I was a nervous wreck.  I was committed to keeping my tears at bay.  I was also having issues with my eyes that prevented me from wearing contacts so I couldn't even hide behind sunglasses.  :)

At 6:30 I was up and I woke the kids up at 6:45.

We enjoyed pancake pencils with a ham eraser, chocolate lead, and big fat watermelon erasers.  

And while they ate breakfast, I read aloud to them from The Friend, a children's magazine put out by our church that has articles on kindness, family, internet safety, health, etc. (I was so happy to see this picture my husband sneaked and sent to me late that morning.)

By 7:20 we were in the driveway taking photos, riding bikes, and just being together.  

At 7:45, with my heart a-racing, I drove them to school.  Truth be told I tried to stay as far away from anyone I knew as possible.  Remember that whole not-crying thing? 

The students were welcomed with great fanfare.  Cheers and balloons and the school mascot and I swear there was music too.  The boys asked if they could go and I told them to go for it.  I snapped one photo and I high-tailed it out of there, with my little ones in tow.  I told myself I could cry till I got to the gym then it was time to move on. (Which was a great plan but didn't really work out as well as I'd imagined.)

I was so eager to see the kids that afternoon.  Hawk, Tigerlily, and I sat beneath a tree in the front yard and waited eagerly for them.  When they arrived home they were all smiles and full of stories to tell.  We ate Popcicles and shared highlights of our day. 

And that's how we had a brand new first as we embarked on a new adventure for our family.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

15 Things I Learned From Sending My Homeschooled Kids to Public School

After homeschooling their entire lives, my sons have now been in public school for one month.  They entered the 4th and 2nd grades at our local elementary school in August.

I'm not going to pretend this wasn't a heart-wrenching, worrisome endeavor, because it was.  Oh boy, did I worry.

But let me back up.  Back in February, I had a little spark, "What if the boys go to public school next year?"  I was surprised by the thought and tucked it away for awhile.

But the thought kept coming.

In April we discussed five educational options for the next school year and settled on a similar hybrid-homeschooling approach to what we've been doing over the years, but this year with a new organization that is raved about in our county.

And we moved forward.

But I couldn't shake it.

I thought about public school everyday.

I thought about my own elementary experience.  Everyday.  (Who does that?  Who thinks about their elementary school experience every day?)  I realized I wanted them to have the experience.  I realized I wanted our family to have the experience.

I began to research public school in much the same way I did homeschooling.  I began to ask family and friends questions.  I learned about their routines, their likes, their dislikes.  Our little family attended a public school for lunch and I was surprised when I left impressed.  

And bless that sister of mine who listened to me day after day all summer long as I whirled this all around (out of earshot of the kids.)   

I experienced confusion in a way I never have before.  I was scared.  And did I mention worried?

Finally one day in July, I told my husband, "I think the boys should go to school this year.  I just can't shake this feeling.  I think it would be a good experience for us."  He was hesitant but said he'd think about it.  (His reaction is funny to me because he was a little hesitant about homeschooling in the beginning too.)

As religious people we believe in prayer and believe we can know in our souls what's right for us individually by seeking inspiration.  You may call it mother's intuition or a gut feeling, I just knew this was what we were supposed to do.

A few days later, my husband came to me and said, "I think they should go." 

The feeling of peace and calm that came immediately was absolutely overwhelming.  It was the feeling I'd been longing to have.  And I still get chills when I think about it.

And that was that.  (I'll spare you the roller coaster of emotions and the river of tears.)  

I googled and googled to try to find blogs about families who went from homeschool to public school and there is very little out there.  So I've written the post I wish I could have read a couple of months ago, when all the fear and worry seeped in. 

Fifteen things I've learned after sending my kids to public school.  

1.  Nobody cares.  At least not a whole lot. 
I've learned that nobody really cares a whole lot about our choice.  I'm sure there was initial shock for many, but they moved on pretty quickly.  I'm sure there are people who wonder why and what and all that and I did have one person ask me if I was ill.  But other than that, I don't think people really care all that much.  We've been treated very well from everyone from our homeschooling friends to the school staff. 

2.  My children were not negatively labeled by being homeschooled.  
I didn't say a word about homeschooling to my sons' teachers when we met them.  I didn't put any information about them being homeschooled on their information sheets.  I wanted their teachers to learn of it however it came about and I wanted them to form an opinion of the boys based on their character and not a label.  After one of the boys told his teacher, she had absolutely wonderful praise.  (And my heart did a little dance.)  :)  

3.  My children didn't fall apart. 
I sat in a restaurant with a friend a few days before we were going to tell the boys our decision.  I told her I was so nervous to tell them.  I was worried they were going to be so upset and I even worried that one of them may refuse.  We decided to tell them separately so they could have their own reactions and I'll tell you what, it was no big deal.  They were actually excited!  

4.  I don't mind homework.  And neither do the kids.   
Originally I thought we might opt-out of homework.  I was very concerned about how our lives would change time-wise and wanted to make sure I was keeping plenty of time open for play,  reading, piano, family field trips, scouts, family bike rides, family meals, and hikes.  But I've actually found that I appreciate the homework because it helps me to know what they're spending their time on each day and it allows me the opportunity of giving them one-on-one assistance, especially when there's something they don't quite get.

My boys will actually say they like homework.  You'll find Mowgli sitting at his desk before bed working on his daily spelling assignment because he enjoys it.  (That boy just knows how to spell and so I told him that if he already knows the words he doesn't need to do the assignments, but he likes it.)

5.  It's not academics all day, every day.   
There's turning in lunches, picture day packets, homework, and other forms.  Time spent getting prepared to go do the next thing.  Time spent waiting for someone to behave appropriately.  Days spent doing drills and learning all the rules.  But I'm okay with it.  No one (except maybe my mom) is 100% productive all day long.   

6.  They adjusted well. 
Those boys slid right into the fourth and second grades as very young students for their grades and they did it marvelously.  Just last night as I was in the kitchen helping Mowgli bake a batch of bread he said, "Mom, I like school." They are still excited about going each day, about friends, field trips, recess, lunch, homework, books they are reading, and riding their bikes each day.  They are flourishing with new experiences and Mowgli has even decided to run for student council.    

7.  I am enjoying the opportunity to "just be mom."  
Sometimes we need a "lightning moment" (as author Gretchen Rubin would call it) to shake things up in a major way.  I feel like this has helped me relax a little more and to get to "just be mom."   

8.  It can be a little mundane and monotonous. 
I love routine.  Love it.  Usually.  Normally.  Mostly.  Until it starts to feel boring, anyway.  I've pulled out the calendar twice to count how many days are left in this school year.  :)  The kids do well with routine as well, we all do.  When you know what to expect each day, things tend to flow pretty well.  But there are days I realize I need to pop an adventure on the calendar and soon!     

9.  New experiences can be a great opportunity for growth.  
New adventures are often scary and intimidating.  And deciding to completely change your family lifestyle is a pretty major event.  But this gave us the opportunity to discuss attitudes and positivity.  We talked to the kids about how you don't know how you'll feel about something until you experience it yourself and a positive attitude makes a world of difference in life.   

10.  I love {love} spending time in their classrooms.  
Just yesterday I had my first volunteer session at the school.  I spent just over an hour in Bud's classroom.  He was SO excited for me to come and I was SO excited to be there.  I can't wait to get to go again.  I am alternating with a friend so that one week she goes while I watch her kids and then the next week it's my turn.  I'll start spending time in Mowgli's classroom regularly in a couple of weeks as well. 

12.  Paper. 
So.  Much.  Paper.   

13.  I'm having to redefine who I am.
Of course, I still have two little ones at home and they take up a lot of my time.  We are thoroughly enjoying doing at-home preschool together.  But I do have a bit of time to fill now and I've been experimenting with how I will use it.  (More blogging perhaps?)

14. We are still homeschoolers.  

"All parents are homeschoolers. Yes, you read that right. I believe that all parents are homeschool parents no matter where they choose to have their children learn math or science. 

The narrow definition of a homeschool parent is someone who is replacing the instruction given at school with instruction given at home.

The broad definition of a homeschooling parent, is a parent who knows it is their responsibility to inspire, direct, lead, and teach their children what it means to live a fulfilled life and to accomplish the purpose of their existence. In short, the parent knows it is their job to prepare their child to become the person God intends them to become." --Nicholeen Peck

We have a house of learning, just as a lot of families around the world.

We read.  A lot.

We use our own resources to work on math facts.  I pulled the kids out of school early last week to go to the Natural History Museum of Utah.  We attended a couple of classes together and even got to dissect an owl pellet together.  (It was so cool!)  I have lots of field trips planned for us, hikes to take, books to read, and I'm continuing with Meals on Wheels with the little ones so the big boys can join us next summer.  We look for opportunities to travel and explore, spend time on scouts, attend LEGO club, go to piano lessons, draw, journal, write letters, and play games together. 

15.  I don't know what the future holds. 
I don't know what next year will bring.  Or the next.  Or the next.

And that's okay.

You can read about our First Day of Public School HERE.  


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Island Wedding

Edwin's eldest sister was married during their visit to the islands.  She and her husband reside in New Zealand and were married in Samoa.

All of the nieces and nephews minus two of our kids and one other baby who stayed home in Seattle. 

Cutest little page boys!

 Isn't she stunning?!  Not to worry, Edwin isn't driving, his brother is.  :)


Edwin with brothers on the left and right and a cousin on the far right.  

The bride with her father.  (And Edwin's father.)

Kisa and David, may you find joy (and patience and kindness and forgiveness and sweet bliss) in every nook and cranny of your life together. 


Monday, August 31, 2015

Piula Cave Pool and To Sua Ocean Trench

About a month before the guys were to depart I sat down and made a list of all the cool things I thought they should do on the various islands they'd be visiting.  I casually mentioned the list to Edwin and then a few days before they were to leave he started reading aloud the things he had listed in his phone and our lists were pretty darn similar.  These guys really packed in the adventures and were able to do many of the must experience "to-dos."

But the #1 thing I wanted them to do was to go to To Sua Ocean Trench.  Here's the first picture I ever saw: (photo credit:

Incredible right?

I was amazed to see it featured as One of the World's 12 Best Spots for Wild Swimming.  (One of two places in the South Pacific that made the list.  The other is in Vanuatu.)

I kid you not, when Edwin posted a picture of them at To Sua Ocean Trench on Instagram, I squealed!  They made it there on the 18th day of their trip, which was the day before they left Samoa. 

I can't believe we never made it there when we visited together in 2006!  (I'm a little mad about that.  Seriously.) 

Another really cool adventure came from swimming a couple of times at Piula Cave Pool, a freshwater swimming hole that's right on the shore.  

And now for some super blurry photos from inside the cave.  

You can see the proximity to the ocean in this shot.   

Swimming in caves, adventuring with cousins. 


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