29 July 2015

Day 1 / 105 - Moving Day!

Exactly one month ago today, the movers arrived at our home in southern West Virginia and began the daunting task of loading up our belongings and transporting them to our new home in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The move was long overdue.  My husband began working in Charlotte last December and had been commuting the 200 miles back to Beckley on the weekends.  We have been quite eager to be reunited as a family during the week.  Because we anticipated our move to the Queen City for several months, we've transitioned nicely.  I know it's only been a few weeks, but I can proudly boast that I love this town.  I'm looking forward to adding North Carolina posts to our homeschooling journey.

We've moved many times, and I've posted about it more than once.  However, we've managed to do things a little differently this time.  First, we downsized by roughly 800 square feet.  This was intentional.  My life long goal is to fully embrace the idea of minimalism (even though the thought of a minimalist homeschooler seems like an oxymoron -- homeschoolers collect a lot of stuff!!)  But, there is beauty and simplicity in having less.  As a family, we have been headed in the direction of minimalism for the past few years and now living without a basement, a shop-sized garage, and a laundry room is forcing us to take even more creative steps in that direction.  We lost over 150 square feet in our kitchen alone (our past three homes have had sizable kitchens).  We have eliminated everything from our kitchen except for what we truly need, and I have to admit meal prep and clean up has been a breeze.

Another difference we made during this move has been for the past month, we have been 'offline'.  Again this was intentional and aided us tremendously in our unpacking efforts.  It was a great respite to take a 30 day-break from the internet as we've adjusted to our new home and its surroundings.  Continuing to set boundaries around our online usage remains an integral part of our homeschooling journey, especially as my children age and become more connected on social networks.

I compared photos of my children on our front porches from their major moves in 2008, 2012, and 2015.  My son moved one other time at 20 months of age.  Our home here in Charlotte has a phenomenal front porch, which will yield some pictures in the near future.

22 June 2015

Day 104 / 104 - West, by God, Virginia

In 2012, my husband was working for an iron ore and coal mining company headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.  He had been employed by them for three years, beginning with a Finance internship while finishing his MBA from Case Western.  One day, during the last week of February, he called me to say, "They officially offered me the Controller job at Pinnacle Mine [in Pineville, West Virginia]."  This wasn't a huge surprise.  It was a position his supervisor had discussed with him previously.  It was the second sentence of his phone call that shocked me.  "They want me to start on Monday."

For five months, he temporarily relocated from Cleveland to Pineville while our children and I finished our commitments and prepared for a move to southern West Virginia.  It all happened very quickly.  To say that I moved to West Virginia 'kicking and screaming' isn't quite accurate because there definitely wasn't enough time for me to 'kick and scream'.   His company compensated us generously for the relocation, he was eager for his new position, and we had made several major moves prior to this, so we truly believed: This won't be that difficult.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and we both admit now we would have handled certain aspects of our move to West Virginia very differently.

Prior to moving to Beckley, I considered myself a 'little tougher' than your average suburban homeschooler/stay-at-home-mom.  It only took me about a week in Appalachia before I became quite aware that I am a suburbanite through-and-through.  I prefer neighborhoods with street lights and sidewalks.  I expect my roads to be plowed as soon as the snow storm ends.  When I show up to an ATM or a gas station, I assume there will be cash and/or gas. I expect some customer service at business establishments.  In 2015, surely there should be cell service for my husband on his 90-mile round-trip rural commute to work each day.  Most days, I prefer my power to stay on.....

.... But, I'm sure you get the point.  Southern West Virginia was (and still is) an adjustment.  Frequently, I tell people from around these parts, "This is an extremely difficult place to live.  I don't know how you do it."

My husband and I like to believe that we are adventurers.  When adventure calls, we long to follow.   Adventure awaits when we are willing to take steps of faith and not resist change.  Moving to southern West Virginia was an adventure for us.  Gandalf's words to Bilbo describe it far better than I ever could.

Gandalf:  I am looking for someone to share in an adventure I am arranging, and it is very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo:  I should think so -- in these parts!  We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.  Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!  I can't think what anybody sees in them ....

Gandalf:  You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.

Bilbo:  You can promise that I will come back?

Gandalf:  No.  And if you do, you will not be the same.

I'm writing my final post from the Mountain State.  We have many tales to tell of our time here, and we are certainly different people from when we arrived three years ago.  Also, adventure is more than the journey.  Sometimes the adventure is the people you meet along the way.

My original idea for this post was to highlight former posts showcasing our adventures in West Virginia.   I scrolled back through my blog and realized there were 93 (!!!) posts dealing directly with an event, a location, or an opportunity distinct to southern West Virginia.  93.  93 opportunities we had, tales we can tell, people we met, and friends we made all specifically because of our willingness to venture on this journey.  I am so grateful that we have too many delightful memories to share in one simple blog post.  (Although, I did attach a few favorite links!)

Life here has been difficult at times, but the adventure of West Virginia has been so rewarding.  We've cherished everything about the incredible outdoor environment and the scenic Appalachian beauty as well as the quaint and charming small towns full of history.  We stumbled into a phenomenal dance school, an incredible Boy Scout troop, and the best piano teacher imaginable.  Our home has been one of our favorites.  We are sad to leave as we have outfitted it in so many perfect ways to fit our family and our homeschooling journey.  

And finally, the people.  I read once that Mountaineers have such a strong sense of community because the mountains act as a protective wall between the outside world and West Virginia's small town inhabitants.  Our homeschool journey in West Virginia has been rich and full because of the others journeying alongside with us.  This community welcomed us in.  We have made memories, and we have made friends.  The adventure has been worthwhile.

I believe Bilbo's journey was roughly 14 months.  Ours has been 36.  We have many tales to tell.  We are not returning to our starting point.  And, we are definitely not the same.

Montani Semper Liberi

Day 103 / 104 - Year 6: Check

If you've ever read my About page, you know that I started this blog as a means to nicely print our year-end portfolio into a cute little bound book.  And, I did that in 2012, and 2013, and 2014.  Sometimes, however, life happens (and you prepare for a move).  This year, there was no nicely bound printed book for our annual portfolio.  Most of homeschooling centers around flexibility and adaptability.  I've joked that I'm considering changing the name of this blog to 65 Days of Homeschooling, so that I can finish posting within ample time to get the book to the printers.

Due to our scheduling, two weeks ago we needed to meet with our Assessor.  Fortunately, I was able to print out some blog pages, gather some of my children's academic work, and hole-punch our way to a successful portfolio assessment.  My children did a fantastic job talking through many of their achievements, events, and lessons from this past year.  I've posted several times before (check the 2014 link above) about how essential and rewarding I think this process is.

I have never succeeded with 'To Do' lists.  Usually, I embrace the idea of a 'Done' list. At the end of each day, I list 8 - 10 items I've completed that are accomplishments worth celebrating (even as simple as Worked Out, Folded Laundry, Tried a New Recipe, etc). This eliminates any overwhelming feelings of stress and allows me the simplicity and satisfaction of daily pride and joy.  Even more so with homeschooling.

As I scrolled through my blog to assemble our year-end homeschooling portfolio, I was reminded again of this principle. Looking back on the year, I remembered how my children taught themselves division and Latin. I revisited them constructing schools out of card-board boxes, sewing Shakespeare-themed Halloween costumes, and learning how to draw the world from memory. I re-watched them struggle through hard conversations and decisions. Most of this was completed without my instruction. They are incredible children. We are on an unimaginable journey. There is so much worth celebrating!  Our portfolio allows us to do that.

If you don't embrace a habit like this one, I'd invite you to start. I believe being prideful and joyful in my homeschool journey anchors my soul with hope. Join me in this journey.

01 June 2015

Day 102 / 104 - The World

After 30 weeks of Geography, this is what my son produced completely from memory.

He specifically requested that he not have to draw any more maps for awhile.

Day 101 / 104 - Cartooning

Aren't these cute?  My daughter has been spending some spare time with her sharpies, a sketch pen, and an online cartooning tutorial.  I wanted to get a few pictures before all the papers become completely wrinkled and/or lost.  The cartoon pictured above is supposed to be her.

28 May 2015

Day 100 / 104 - Big Town, Big Dreams

Last week my daughter spent three evenings at her annual dance recital.  The theme was Big Town, Big Dreams, and it showcased the dancers in a hopeful journey to New York City.

Over the course of three evenings, she had several different performances (complete with costume and hair changes), but she loved every minute of it.

My favorite number was the one sporting the lavender leotards.  On stage, twelve dancers simulated a ballet class crafting for the audience How It All Begins for an aspiring ballerina.  The piece was eight minutes long and truly was one of the most beautiful dances she has ever been a part of.

19 May 2015

Day 99 / 104 - Scout Sunday

If you asked my son to make a list of 2,000 things he wanted to do, playing piano in church would not be on there.  Anywhere.  Yet, for the second year in a row, he graciously entertained the host church for his Boy Scout troop during their Sunday morning service.  For weeks, he diligently practiced his piece, and on Sunday (I'm proud to say) he played exceptionally well.  I even think he might have been blessed by his effort.  ;)