C is for …

Here we are, looking at the world of homeschooling from an insider’s view, in alphabetical order. If you came looking for activities to teach your preschooler the letters of the alphabet, you came to the wrong place! For previous posts, please click on the links to the right.

Today I’m going to get personal with my C is for … because I think it’s important to know and understand what’s going on in other people’s homeschools. This is how we learn to support each other, and how we come to grips with what we’re doing in our own and why we’re doing it. It helps us to establish our priorities, to decide what is really important to teach our children, and what they can get by without.

So today, C is for cervical spine and cerebellum. I know, strange. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Let me explain.

(Not my MRI image)

MRI image of a normal cervical spine

I have had several health issues since beginning homeschooling. One of those has been headaches. As time has gone by, they’ve become more frequent and more intense. The pain has included a tightness in my neck, stiffness and pain in the shoulders, going across the top part of my back, pain going down the backs of my arms, to my elbows, and sometimes all the way down to my hands. There’s never been any rhyme or reason to the pain. My symptoms never fit any one condition.

I’ve tried chiropractors, physical therapy, medications, rest, exercise, heat, cold, changing position … some of these have worked, but usually only on a temporary basis.

This got really bad recently and I went back to my family doctor. She ordered an MRI of my cervical spine. That really seemed to be where it was coming from. She was thinking it was maybe a pinched nerve or herniated disc.

When she called, she surprised me by saying it was neither, and in  fact, she wanted to send me to a local neurosurgeon for another opinion and for some specialized therapy. Ok, that doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Unfortunately, that local neurosurgeon looked at my MRI results and decided he thought I needed more specialized help than he could give. This is not coming from my cervical spine. It’s coming from my brain, specifically the cerebellum, and my skull. (My cerebellum is hanging down into my foramen magnum, and part of my spinal cord is kinked and squished.) Apparently I am so special, he’s referring me to the Chief of Neurosurgery and Director of the Skull Base Surgery Program at a medical university in a major city. Gulp. He’s sending me to the Big Guy. Am I really that special?? I wish I wasn’t.

So what does all of this have to do with homeschooling? Simply put: everything! In light of all this, I will address some “C” words that fit the subject.

My husband (God bless him!) and I have had to address the issue of continuing homeschooling several times over the past few years as we’ve tried to decide whether my “sick days” were coming too often. Were the kids suffering? Were they missing out on too much school?

I’ve addressed that by continuing homeschooling, but choosing curriculum carefully and setting up routines that allow the kids to do it independently when needed. We focus on the basics, maintaining core skills, when I’m down, and I teach new concepts and do more fun or exciting activities when I’m up.

C is for … core skills. My kids are only in 4th and 6th grade right now. Core skills are still important to maintain. They need to practice math facts still, and learn new spelling words, and practice their reading skills. They are still working on improving their handwriting. On down days, these are things I can assign easily enough and they can do on their own.

C is for … computers! My 6th grader is using a great math program that is online … Thinkwell Math. This program has been a lifesaver for her math growth! A recorded live teacher (he’s stupendous!) teaches new concepts in bite-size chunks, then she practices the concepts online, and then on printable worksheets. We even have the option of printing the tests so she can do them on paper, and then enter the answers online. I use the computer to search out other activities for a variety of subjects to keep these kids learning all the time! The kids also use the computer to play games, but I’m choosy about which games I allow them to play. I’m careful about selecting games that have some kind of educational basis, but I do this loosely. Does it require reading? That works. Is this helping with their social development? That works. Are the problem-solving, or using thinking skills? That works. I could go on all day about computers and homeschooling, but y’all have to get back to teaching at some point! (And so do I.)

C is for … Christ. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without Jesus. He gives me strength just when I think I have nothing left. He opens my eyes to the big picture when I’m crying over the fact that the kids can’t spell a certain word correctly two days in a row. He reminds me that my children’s character is the number one priority … if they can list all of the presidents from memory but they don’t have love, it is all for naught.

C is for … character. That is one of my main reasons for homeschooling. Raising children with godly characters is not easy. I’ve already done it twice with two older children … both went all the way through public school. I’m not saying public school kids can’t be raised with godly characters, but it’s like trying to swim upstream. You’re constantly fighting against the things the world throws at you. My kids are not living sheltered lives, but it’s definitely a little easier to address character issues when I have them at home with me for more hours out of the day. We’re not trying to get homework, dinner, showers, after-school activities and fun done in an afternoon and evening, and still trying to find time for those important discussions that are necessary for their growth in a positive direction.

C is for … cooking. Part of my children’s character growth involves cooking. Most think of cooking as a life skill and include it in their homeschools, but for me it also addresses character. When i am sick or in pain, my children have learned the skills necessary to fix a meal, clean up after themselves, even help with the laundry. My daughter will bring me meals in bed. My son knows which bottle contains ibuprofen. They know that if they have to resort to microwave mac and cheese cups for themselves, they need to include fruits and veggies in their meal. Much of the teaching that I do when I’m up touches on things they might need to know for days when I’m down.

C is for … conversation. We have so many more conversations, about a huge variety of subjects, simply because we have the time. That is a huge part of homeschooling for me. With my two older children, most of our conversations revolved around what homework they had and what activities we had to get to and who needed how much money for whatever was happening. On top of conversations with my kids, I’ll admit, I prefer the conversations I have with other homeschooling moms than the ones I had with public school moms. We’re not talking all the time about gossipy social issues. We’re not complaining about this project or that that needs to be completed by a certain date, and we’re not trying to plan how to afford all the extras our kids “require” to compete in a public school atmosphere. Instead, we’re talking about cool ideas we’ve come across, the awesome things our kids learned about recently, complaining about having no time for ourselves, and the fact that we have no money because we spent it all on curriculum! Probably sounds lame to some moms, but it’s conversations like this that get us through the day! 🙂

What have I left out? What would you include in your “C is for …” list?

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5 thoughts on “C is for …

  1. I just read your AB and C today. I have never taken the time before. I really enjoyed reading them. You’re so witty and fun. Thank you for sharing your life here.

    • Thank you, Linda! That means a lot. There are days when I doubt every word that I’ve written. To hear this compliment from you makes a huge difference.

    • I’ll be able to update you after Feb. 25th when I’ll meet with the special specialist. So glad to hear of good results from your mother’s surgery. I’m not anxious to have any surgery, but if that’s what he recommends, I pray that it’s worth it.

  2. I love this series – thanks for sharing and being so personal and transparent. For “C” I’d add “creative” – one of the advantages to homeschooling is the flexibility to be creative with your curriculum, teaching style, choices, and also to nurture your child’s individual creativity where s/he is gifted. And since I”m in the midst of homeschooling preschool and Kindergarten, “C” is for “crafts” – big time!

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