Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for October, 2011

A Whole New World

Seventeen years ago today was one of the very best of my entire life so far. Seventeen years ago today, October 22, 1994, I declared before God and family the commitment I’d already made in my heart on New Year’s Eve 1992. Seventeen years ago today, I married my very best friend.

When he asked me to be his wife, it was unplanned and completely from the heart. When I said yes, it was a rare triumph of heart over head for me. I clearly and distinctly remember my brain processing the question and thinking, “What?! Not time! Too soon! Not planned! What if…?!” and my heart interrupting with just one word, the only word, the right word which, when spoken, instantly shocked and silenced my head: YES. It hung in the air and left both our heads and hearts alike breathless and wondering what had just happened, what had just been said, what had just been agreed. Yet we both knew it was right and forever. We kept it secret for 10 months from all but our single best friends. It had been sudden, yet 2 years and 9.5 months in the making. And even the f0llowing fall when he made it socially official with the traditional ring, some were shocked, surprised, and thinking it was too soon. But we knew, he and I, and we couldn’t wait!

We wrote our own vows because it just seemed right to do that. Sadly, the envelope with the original vows written in our own hand was lost in the whirlwind of the day. Years later, I listened closely, over and over again, to the wedding video and painstakingly transcribed those vows into our wedding album so we’d be able to read them and remember them always. They are as true today as they were then. I’m still working on fulfilling mine in the way he deserves, even though I fall short in so many ways. He has fulfilled his and continues to make them true every day.

Our wedding day was AWESOME! We thought about so many details to make the day meaningful for us and fun for our guests. We planned and planned – together – and it went off with only few smalls glitches, like a dropped and broken unity candle (apparently NOT some kind of bad omen). My only real regret that day was the damn fake flowers in hideously unnatural rainbow hues, but hey – everyone needs something to go wrong so there’s a good wedding horror story to tell in later years.

Although it was expensive and I had to fight to make it happen, I am so very glad we have professional video from the entire day, from getting ready with my bridesmaids at home to getting to the church to taking pictures to the reception. Although the videography seems amateurish now with transitional effects that make me cringe, I still watch it every year. I cry at the sight of people in attendance who are no longer with us, I laugh at the me I used to be, and I giggle at the sheer silliness. I never imagined watching it with my own kids, but I do and they love it as much as I do. Mostly, I love the LOVE and fun of it all. And I still dearly love that man he was and is now.

Some people think marriage doesn’t matter, that it’s at best an unnecessary social formality and at worse a misogynistic patriarchal artifact. But words DO have power; traditions DO have meaning; public declarations of commitment in front of those we love, toward whom we feel a sense of respect and admiration and responsibility, creates a new kind of bond and cements the foundation that under-girds a very vibrant and ever-changing relationship.

We’re not exchanging gifts today. Some years we do and some years we don’t. For our 15 year anniversary we went on a cruise to the Bahamas that he reluctantly agreed to on our 14th anniversary. I told him that it was such an amazingly fun trip that it could even count for this year’s anniversary (pretty good return on investment, getting credit for 4 anniversaries from a single three day cruise, donchya think?). But really, what gift could ever compare to the one he gave me 14 years ago: the gift of his heart, soul, and love?

When he went to Africa for 6 weeks in 2009, I knew I’d miss him, but I never EVER expected it to be as hard as it was to live without his physical presence every day. We’d not been apart for more than a week before he left and I told him afterward that never again would we be apart that long. He’s just too much a part of my very self, more than I ever realized, for me to feel whole for long without him.

Three days ago, I read about a couple who was married for 72 years. She was 90 and he was 94 and sadly, they were together in a car with him driving when he pulled out in front of another car at an intersection and were hit. They were rushed to the hospital and put in the ICU together, basically non-responsive, but yet holding hands. They died an hour apart – to the minute – still holding hands. Their children said that’s how their parents would have wanted to die – together – because one wouldn’t have wanted to live without the other. I completely understand.

So happy 17th wedding anniversary to my best friend, my soul-mate, my sweetie, my children’s father, my lover, my husband, my delight. To John. Here’s to a lifetime more memories together because after 17 years, we are just getting started!

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Beautiful, Beautiful

It’s been 6 and a half weeks since school officially began for us at Ohio Virtual Academy and what a whirlwind it’s been! I have so much to blog about that I hardly know where to start. Many of the points I will touch on briefly here deserve their own discussions. Please let me know what questions you have about our experience or journey so far that I could address more fully in future posts!

First the good stuff. Emily absolutely loves OHVA. Her joy of learning has not just returned, but it brought all its friends with it! It’s an enthusiasm party for education at our house! Emily is MUCH more the engaged, involved, and inquisitive child I used to know but lost a few years ago. Even though the same subjects that were hard for her in past years still present a challenge, there is not one subject that she does not enjoy – including math and even when she has to wrestle with a particular concept.

Here’s another plus: she is spending far more time in the material then she would in her local public school. As of today, she has actually attended school for 37 days averaging 5.7 hours per day of actual instructional time. Had she attended the local public school and started on the same calendar day, she would have attended only 33 days for 6.5 hours of TOTAL time, not solely instructional or curricular time. Over the course of the school year, this pace would translate to over 16 more school days! This curriculum is also far more rigorous and in depth than what our local brick and mortar public school provides.

But of course, the picture is not all beautiful. There are some DISadvantages to this schooling model. Primarily, this is NOT a program for the weak-hearted parent. This role of learning coach is a difficult one. Even though Emily works much more independently than she ever demonstrated in her brick and mortar school, she still has questions or requires assistance from time to time. This means that my primary job is to be available to her which, frankly, after 5 years of day-times to myself, is constricting.

I also feel that it’s not enough to give her pat answers found in the teacher guides. Sometimes I need to review a topic myself before I feel comfortable coaching her in it. How can I expect her to make connections and draw conclusions from material I have not myself reviewed? What if she’s missing some big picture point? This means some academic work for me as well as her!

Emily is also not comfortable being left home alone more than 2-3 hours at a time. Since we’re not willing to invest in a cell phone for her and since we got rid of our landline years ago, this posed a significant communication challenge. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I was able to overcome this challenge using Google Voice and Skype. Because Emily has had her own gmail account for several years, it was easy to set her up with a Google Voice phone number. Since she has used Skype to talk to her grandparents, she’s familiar with its use and comfortable using her computer to call my cellphone. This means I can get in touch with her to check on her progress when I’m away from home and she can call my cell phone using her computer. Best of all, this solution did not cost us a penny!

Another significant disadvantage to this type of education is the learning curve… or should I say the unlearning curve. September is always a difficult month for our family as we transition from the freewheeling of summer to the more scheduled school year. But with OHVA came the freedom to structure her learning day any way we wanted. Many people suggested re-creating a traditional classroom structure: have her get up, dressed, work at a desk, break for lunch, etc…. But OHVA encouraged us to think outside the box and embrace the freedom this type of education provides to do what works for us. It has taken all of 6 weeks for this to coalesce (I will blog about our typical day some other time).

My greatest disappointment, though, has been the lack of involvement of and with her teachers. All of her teachers have done their best to reach out, introduce themselves, and get to know her as a person, which was great the first week. But we haven’t seemed to move beyond that stage. I’ve made a great effort to be in touch with all four of her teachers, either through email or verbally or both, but they seem to treat her as a statistic still. The online classes didn’t start until 3 weeks into school and the benchmark testing wasn’t completed until this week. When this testing revealed that my 7th grader is at a college level in her reading, vocabulary, and comprehension, I understandably had questions about how to keep her challenged and progressing in a meaningful way. Their answers to my specific questions were right out of some “Intro to Educational Theory” undergraduate course and put the ball in my court to keep her challenged. This was not the type of support for her pre-identified giftedness for which I was hoping. This experience is really making me question the role of the teacher in education.

On the whole, though, the very BEST part of this alternative school experience is seeing Emily take ownership and responsibility for her own learning. Freed from the artificial social constraints of a traditional school and classroom, which most definitely teaches kids to learn and game the system to achieve the highest possible (meaningless) reward (also called a grade), Emily has already become MUCH more focused on learning. If she is struggling in a particular math concept, she might score a 60% on the narrowly focused assessment. The first week, this resulted in a melt-down and tears. Now she’ll go out to Khan Academy and watch those videos for additional tips and exercises. If she still can’t master the concept, she asks me for help and we work through it together. When she’s ready, she will retake the test to demonstrate mastery. It’s all about the learning. (There will most certainly be a more lengthy blog post on this topic in future weeks!).

At this point, we are still VERY pleased with our educational choice this year and we continue to refine and adjust our routine to suit Emily’s learning style and schedule. What more would YOU like to know about our journey so far?

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