Friday, January 29, 2010

Is Swearing a Problem?

Hint to stop a swearing problem: We have been facing a swearing problem with the newest member of our family. While in is relatively minor, it is definitively a problem. He has gotten in trouble at school for it, at sports activities, and at home. There is certainly no filter of what may be ok with one of the boys and how you speak to an adult. And he is very frustrated that we think swearing is a problem. He often wants to bait us into debating the rudeness of specific words. So the new phrase that has entered our home is “word choice – what would be a better word choice?” While at first he rolled his eyes, the rest of the family has really gotten into this and has started coming up with funny alternatives. For example, instead of the adding an expletive the end of a sentence, one could add “Oh, peanut butter and jelly”. We have also revived old phrases like “Oh, Jiminy”, “Gosh”, and “Goodness gracious”. Of course, we have also learned that it is not so much the words that you use, but how you use the words that really make something a swear.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Modeling Behavior

Some where I read a quote about, “be aware of the eyes are upon you.” It had to do with children watching everything that we do from how friendly we are to how we deal with stress. We can tell them what to do, demand that they do or do not do something, but our loudest words come from our actions. Although the exact quote eludes me, its basic premise sits on my heart, especially since we have added a foster child to the mix. Unfortunately, in his little life far too many people have given him bad examples so it is even more important that we do well. Interestingly, our biological children have not escaped from this requirement either. DS2 looks even more keenly on their behavior than ours. I had to remind DD this the other day when she was misbehaving a bit. I was clear about the behavior that I expected, but then I added, “Don’t forget you are a model.”

She responded that she wasn’t a model and looked genuinely confused by my comment. I let her know that as the eldest sister in the house, she was a model always now. Little eyes were watching. I could tell by her eyes that she took this comment to heart.

How do I know that my little girl is becoming a woman? By not only her acknowledgement of this duty, but the fact that she has taken it seriously and changed her behavior to be a better model.

I must tell you that this experience of foster parenting has strengthened my belief in my own parenting and my pride in my own children. They have been amazingly patient, truly kind, very responsible, and a great support to DH and I. We are not foster parents, but a foster family.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum

What makes a homeschool curriculum? Do you buy it? Create it? Plan it? Evolve it? Ignore it? I think that if you asked a myriad of homeschoolers, you would get a myriad of responses. In our case, we are what is known as eclectic. We aren’t strict school at home people. We aren’t unschoolers. We kind of live our life in the middle. I have a plan of attack and we use Alpha Omega LifePac’s as our core, but I am willing to stretch, change, omit, or add as needed. I look around to see what is going on in the world. I try to use the kid’s interests as jumping off points. I try to become visibly excited about information I find to see if it might be contagious.

This is one of the many great freedoms that homeschooling can offer. I always think it is such a shame when there is something wonderfully curious going on and yet the school system is stuck getting through their curriculum. What else can they do though? 30 kids may have 30 different interests. What interests one may not another. Plus the hours alone prevent some of the excitement. It is very hard for me to get excited about anything when I have to get up at 6 am. Plus, did you ever realize how interesting things could be at 2 am? How would / could a class adapt if a student became fascinated with a subject for weeks at a time to the exclusion of his other learning? But as homeschoolers, we are free to do this.

Plus, as homeschoolers, I am not confined to judging my children’s accomplishments strictly by standard assessments of their knowledge. DD can write a blog. DS1 can draw a picture. DS1 may do his reading by pouring through cookbooks, creating a masterpiece, and then teaching another child to do the same. Frankly, that is about as tasty a final exam on technical reading that one can get. DD, on the other hand, may work in reverse and beg to learn how to create an PowerPoint with an embedded graph to show the growth of patrons at her library so that she can argue for additional funding.

Homeschooling, also, may include a far broader reaching curriculum than a traditional school. In addition to Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, I consider:



-Work ethic





And other such virtues that are very difficult to quantify. I consider the growth in these areas to be a better gauge of how we are doing than the grade level on their books (I still can’t quite figure out why we insist on putting them there in the first place) or the grades they receive on their tests.

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the ability to monitor and adjust. In my job as the site facilitator for a program which teaches teachers, I often hear the phrase “monitor and adjust” used by the instructors. The phrase is used to explain how the future teachers how to show proceed in presenting their lesson plans if things are not going just as they had planned, but how far can they realistically adjust? When you homeschool, the ability to monitor and adjust is almost endless. I think of it like an old fashioned stage coach heading across country during the Western Expansion. If you were on a definitive path that you could not veer from, what obstacles might stop you from continuing your journey? What amazing sights might you miss? How many wagons would be able to finish the journey? But if you had endless abilities to “monitor and adjust” based on the needs of the horses, the stage, the road, the passengers, how might the journey be different?

So needless to say my advice for choosing a homeschool curriculum is fluid. Chose one if you wish. If it doesn’t work, try another. If something new or different catches your eye, don’t be afraid to try it. Think of assessment in a completely different way. What does it mean to be successful? And most importantly of all is have fun and find the joy in learning. Remember you chose to move away from the traditional methods for a reason: Rejoice in the freedom that you now have.

Helpful websites: Enchanted Learning ; Alpha Omega ; Calendar of Events ;

Monday, January 25, 2010

Escaping the Time and Space

Does it seem that I have disappeared? Fallen off the planet? To some degree I have. I have been trying to make sure that I post at least once a week (originally, I was working on once a day). Becoming a foster parent has taken up far more of my energy or time than I have ever anticipated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a reality. As we are intensive foster parents, the needs of our new child have been eating into our time in unforeseen ways and truthfully completely out of his control too. Because of his needs there are multiple appointments a week which are compounded by the requirements assigned by the state for his oversight. I know that there is a part of me that wants to yell, “Give us a break!” I can only imagine how he feels. Everyday, someone else is in the house asking him more questions. I understand their need for oversight, but maybe they could do it while assisting with his homework, watching one of his basketball games, or helping us get dinner together. Frankly, these day to day activities would probably speak more to how life is going than their intrusive sit down visits. I must say that all the people are quite pleasant (thank goodness) and truly have DS2’s best interests at heart, but this system seems to really bog down real life. Some days he can’t even get his homework done before basketball due to their visits. Once we ended up eating hot dogs because I didn’t get the chicken in the oven properly and had to leave DD overseeing it. It also seems that so many of these visits are redundant. Couldn’t one Social worker report to the other two instead of each of them having their different responsibilities and assessments? I hoping this will slow down over time, but we’ll see. I surely welcome any helpful suggestions from anyone else that has had to deal with this issue.

Some of the time constraints are of my own doing as we opted to maintain his therapist and other mental care in a city which is 45 minutes away, but I felt the poor child had had enough transition without taking away more people that he had built relationships with. I do find it funny though that people who chose to work with children only seem to be available during the day. Doesn’t it seem odd that we would want to take a child who is already struggling at school and make it basically mandatory to take him out of school in order to get proper mental and physical care?

Funny homeschooling moment related to this: Although DS2 is in public school, I am still homeschooling our other two children and among all these crazy time constraints, I am trying desperately to stay on top of their studies. The other day when we were waiting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, DS1 and I ended up having an impromptu art appreciation lesson. As any homeschooler can attest, the best curriculum plan is to use what is around you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cultural Knowledge

As a homeschooling parent, I have had pause to think about what makes someone educated.I have often wondered how I can compare my children’s knowledge with public schoolers.Unfortunately, sometimes the knowledge base is so different it is impossible to compare.Now with DS2 who has been in and out of the foster system for his entire 11 year life, I am thinking of cultural knowledge in an entirely different way.DS2 is a very smart boy.He tests as average, above average, or superior on all cognitive testing, but his cultural knowledge is almost a zero.This assessment is not an official test, but just a general review of his ability to discuss current events, geography, history, etc. As such, his understanding of the world around him is inhibited. He has no understanding of voting or political parties.He doesn’t understand that other people in the world live very differently than we do.He has no interest in learning / knowing about creatures and cultures that have come before us.He is satisfied with junk food mindless tv and rap music.He will comply with learning in school, but sees no correlation to what he is learning and his life.He has no goals for his future. I think that his life has been so set on survival, interest and knowledge seeking has had no place in his life. It is like a microcosmic Dark Age. He is finding our home to be so strange. He finds the unique knowledge that my kids have to be fascinating. He is somewhat troubled that his cartoon crammed days are now limited, but we are starting to see a little change in the way he thinks. It is like watching someone light a fire. We are hitting the flint with steel and creating a spark, now we just have to see if the flame can ignite the kindling and support a fire that will burn for the rest of his life.

While I work on this issue on an individual basis, I think that it is imperative that we look at this issue on a more global basis. What will a child like this become without a nurturing home? What will the affect be on society? What is the later cost vs the costs we may expend earlier on? How do you encourage cultural knowledge when a child can’t rely on their most basic needs being met? What does it say about a country that cannot properly care for those that most need its care? How can we improve the system? How can we prevent another child from being so starved?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homeschooling vs. Public School

Never in my life have the benefits of homeschooling been so clear to me. Unfortunately, due to many state rules and regulations, we cannot homeschool our foster son, DS2. So I am back straddling two worlds: our two biological children are homeschooled, DS2 is in public school. It is as if someone has sucked the air right out of my lungs. The schedule alone is enough to overwhelm someone. On the positive side, they did read and respond to the studies about students needing more sleep and school therefore doesn't start until 9:00; but a schedule is a schedule and it seems like the day is gone by the time he gets home at 3:45 with homework to do. I don't have to worry about too much tv on his part because who has time to watch it. Also, I have seriously questioned the schools connection to the world around them, when DS2 knows nothing of the historic election next Tuesday to fill Ted Kennedy's senate seat. "Ted who?" was the response I received. I forgot how disconnected some public schools can be from the world arround them.

I must say that the school has been very accommodating to DS2's issues and I appreciate that they have been working to strengthen the home / school connection, but I still feel very disconnected. Especially with a child with so many issues, it would be helpful to have a mother hen overlooking him more. I can understand the state's desire to use the public school: to maintain their own system, to maintain consistency in case of another move, to provide another set of eyes to ensure the safety of the child; but with so many other "eyes" available (therapists, social workers, court appointed observers) and other ways to asses progress, you would think that perhaps there would be ways around this rule. Although I do appreciate the break right now to regroup myself and have time with my two biological kids, I think if any children were to benefit from homeschooling it would be DS2 and the many other foster children in the system who would thrive in a 1 on 1 (or 2 or 3) setting.

On the positive side, this foray back into public schooling has reminded my children, my husband, and myself what we have to be thankful for.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Importance of Mom

It is interesting a new insight that DS2 has brought to me. Each night before he goes to bed we pray. Each night I ask him what he would like to include in his prayers. Each night he is very adamant that my health be part of the prayers. Sometimes as a mom, we forget how important we are in a family. We make sure that everyone else is healthy, fed, and cared for and often we skip over ourselves in this process. What mother, when there is only one something, doesn't give it to their child? What mother doesn't walk around with her own illness as she cares for the little ones? What mother doesn't put her needs aside to fulfil the needs of the others in her family? Maybe DS2 has reminded us all that we should rethink this strategy.

It is so easy to think of others when we are a mom, but DS2 reminds us that without us there is no family. His request of God is a somewhat selfish (but very appreciated one). He wants me to stay healthy so that he can finally have a Mom.

As you care take everyone else in your family this year, remember this prayer and take a few extra minutes to care for yourself so that you will always be there to answer their prayers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to approach difficult situations with a foster child

You would have laughed at me this morning watching me run for the car. I leaped out the door and down the steps. You would have thought I was an Olympic hurdeler. Why you ask? We have found that DS2 can be very slow to do things. This is his way to control the situation. It is not outright defiance but a form of passive defiance. I can decide when and how I do something if a slow down enough: You can't make me do it. These are the messages that are sent with the behavior without any words being spoken. So this morning DH turned it into a race about who could get in the car first. DS2 won the race. He was dressed, ready, in the car, and had his seatbelt on properly as I propelled myself out the door. I was happy to announce that he won the race, which of course delighted him and we were on time to school which delighted me. All and all a win / win situation.

We have found in general that the calmer we can be and the more laughter and game-like atmosphere that we can interject into a situation the easier the day goes. . . Mind you we are very early in the fostering process, so I wouldn't just take my word for it, but this was great advice that we got from other more experienced foster parents and it has been working well for us as well. I just hope that we continue along this path and don't find out that we are just in a honeymoon period.

Honeymoon period - a period of time usually at the beginning of a placement when a foster child attempts to behave "very well". A period of time that is not reflective of the child's true behaviors and attitudes that soon come seeping out and the honeymoon ends.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time is still Ellusive and other things I have learned in our first week of foster parenting

First of all, this is actually moving into our second week as foster parents which goes to prove that time is elusive. Some how time is slipping through my fingers. We are intensive foster parents which means that DS2 came to us with "issues" and thus far each appointment that we have been to has spawned off at least one if not two new appointments. We have gotten him back to school and continued his involvement in basketball, while trying not to give our biological children a raw deal. This has certainly meant a little fancy dancing, a lot of driving, and the cancellation of some of DH and my scheduled activities. Somehow though, we are making it work.

Some of the lessons that I have learned over the last week are:

  • Life would not be the same without DH.
  • Laughter can dispel even the worst temper.
  • A smile is contagious.
  • The answer to WWJD is help a child.
  • When two things battle for the same time slot on your calendar it is not a conflict but a matter of prioritization.
  • Wording matters.
  • DD and DS1 have been delightful children and DH and I are very lucky people.
  • God's plans for your lives are bigger and brighter than anything you could have ever thought of.
  • Dishes can wait.
  • 2 kids + 1 kid = way less time, way more laundry & more dishes, and way, way more groceries.
  • That being loved consistently without reservation is a right that all children deserve.
  • When you are frustrated, take a breathe.
  • I need a way bigger calendar!
  • Being a mom is the most important job in the world.

and to steal a phrase from one of my favorite childhood songs:

"love is something if you give it away, you'll end up having more."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Becoming a Foster Parent

I know it has been almost a week - maybe even a week, but I think you will forgive me as this week we have added an extra child. We picked up our newest addition last Monday and I've barely sat down once. You would think one extra child would not make that much of a difference but it has. First of all when a new placement comes to your house there are responsibilities that you have regarding doctors appointments and such. In this case, each one seems to lead to another one. Plus, I believe that I have explained that we are not just doing traditional foster parenting but intensive foster care, where the children have additional issues. Some have been abused or neglected, some have additional medical needs, some have diagnosis like RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) or ADHD. I think the transition has gone as well as can be expected both for DS2, but also for our biological children. We have tried to have fun while also getting through the appointments necessary. Tomorrow, we have to battle with the schools. Due to this move, we live outside of the district that he is currently being schooled in, but since he has had so many traumatic transitions and he is currently successful in school, I am hoping to maintain this school. Please wish me luck. I am hoping with the promise of transportation the school will allow him this small bit of consistency. So needless to say, while things may be a little crazy for a bit, I think you will find that my posts have a whole new component to them. We are no longer a family of four but of five: a mom, a dad, two homeschooled-biological child, and one public schooled foster child. Plus, we can't leave out the dog and the cat.

Here is a prime example of our new mixed up life, DH and I will be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary tomorrow, but between getting DS2 set up back at school, a therapist visit, basketball practice, and a book club, I don't think we are going to have a whole lot of celebrating time. So tonight, DH took me to the restaurant that we had our rehearsal dinner in 18 years ago today.

Of course who is taking the picture but the kids, who are happily eating their meal on the other side of the isle trying to be inconspicuous.