Write With Me! November’s Coming. Time for NaNoWriMo!

NanowrimoJoin me! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every year in November. I’ve done it several times and it’s actually fun. You don’t have to write fiction – you can write whatever you want. This year, I’d love you to join me. I’ve set up a discussion board on this site so we can have our own community. The only cost is your time. I’ll be here to answer questions, provide support and encouragement. And hopefully a few laughs.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Register on the NaNoWriMo site.
  2. Friend me there!
  3. Don’t panic about your profile, you have time to add to it.
  4. Introduce yourself on my discussion board.
  5. Start thinking about what you want to write.
  6. Tell the voice in your head that says you can’t do this to shut-up.

Good to know…

Don’t short-change yourself.
This isn’t a competition (but you can win!). It’s about the process, not the result. You seriously can’t do this wrong (but your first draft will be crappy – that’s what editing is for). Starting is the very hardest part. But just start. Don’t edit in your head, don’t get caught up in over thinking, don’t listen to your critical parent sending you negative messages.

The hardest part is just doing it.
My first one was really hard. I am so driven and it was tough to find time, to feel good about what I was doing and to slog through. But suddenly, after about five days, the momentum kicked in. I couldn’t type as fast as I could think. I started adding things to my outline (table of contents) so I wouldn’t forget.

This process can change you.
When I did write fiction, I was able to create characters that had a life of their own. It allowed me to be the bad guy and the good guy – heck, it let me be a guy! I’ve also been a teen, a woman who lived through the last 100 years being at all the right places at the right time. I’ve been able to integrate my travel memories and stories from my family. I also have gotten things out that are sometimes hard to say out loud. Writing can be a wonderful confidant. If you’re here because you’ve been through trauma, this is a very safe place to start.

NaNo (nickname) is great about keeping us motivated.
They tweet. Follow the hashtags to listen to how others are doing (#nanowrimo and #nanowrimo2018). They are on Facebook. There are groups on the site and folks from all over the world participate. They even have great merch! I have my “winning” shirts framed over my bed. Alas, it kind of backfires for me because every time my Marge (mom) sees them, she turns to me and says, “Why aren’t any of these published!?” Oh mom, I’ll get there.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a great blog encouraging you to jump on-board and if you need more details, this one is terrific.

What are you waiting for! Join me. Join us.

Don’t Let This Happen to You! Online Meeting Embarassing Moments

Listen2Youth works with Cisco WebEx on social media and we just published a fun two-part blog on the unintended consequences of not paying attention during an online meeting.

We thought you might enjoy reading the articles! Part One is here and you can catch Part Two here. Let’s us know what you think!

If you use WebEx, join them on Facebook – become a fan!

Reflections: The First “Real” Week of Home School

We gave it our best shot this week – our first real week of  home school. We strove to get work done, prove we could work on our own and I looked for signs of autonomy in Katie. Alas, I am WAY too optimistic.

Our consultant, Joy, we great about telling me public school kids need to deprogram. She gave me permission to lighten up and kind of follow Katie’s lead. Our contract meeting went really well and I finally felt like I had the structure I needed to shepherd her through the process. Boy am I insane.

Um, kids are kids. DOH!

What the hell was I thinking? Katie was the same kid this week as she has been every other week I have known her. Absolutely distracted by life, into anything that didn’t require focus or concentration (unless it was Littlest Pet Shops all over the dining room table) and every time I said, “I want you to sit down and get to work,” she had a quick, “just a sec, I just need to…[fill in the blank with anything except school work here].”

By Friday, we were also getting ready to host a big family get together. The first one in probably two years because I am so incredibly bad at hosting parties. So the stress level was high. Everything had to be cleaned – yard, house – food had to be bought and prepared. I was just a little on edge (please read that with intense sarcasm…family members have threatened to leave me by the side of the road because of my intensity around these kinds of events).

And that’s when I lost it.

I flipped out and yelled at Katie to get to work. “I mean it this time,” I screamed. And then I dropped a whole stack of books on the floor to make my point. Things got very quiet. Katie picked up her work and went into the closet. (No, I am not horrible, she had made a little study nook in there and had yet to use it. Suddenly it became a haven.) And out poured the work. Writing, reading, thinking. Holy cow.

I was tempted to howl with relief. The work had been done. But I checked myself. Completing the work was fine but actually, it really wasn’t the point. Neither was my losing it. The point was, she had found a process that worked for her.

In fact, when I asked her why she was able to get it done this time and not before, she pointed out the workspace (yep, the closet) helped her focus. I bet it did. So I congratulated her on discovering a process that helped her be successful (Uncle Gary had sent me this article on praise earlier in the week – while I was already on board with the “don’t over praise” it was helpful to refresh my memory on what to do). Then I asked her to consider using that space in the future to help her hunker down and get the work done. She agreed it might make sense.

So, my reflections on the first week? It’s not going to be easy. There are a bunch of reasons I am loving home school. The stress relief for me is off the charts – no lunches, no homework battles, no morning fights to hurry up and get moving. And we can do fun stuff any day of the week – letting me work on the weekend of that makes sense and play on a Thursday!

But yep, it’s also going to be hard.

Home School POV: 

At the family party – which was also a bit of a late bday celebration for Katie – I asked folks to bring something home schoolish. I wanted them to share something they love with her so we could extend our home school reach and involve the whole family. The results were delightful.

One aunt and uncle bought two books – one for them and one for us – and have proposed a family book club. We will go hang with them in October to share our impressions. Another aunt and uncle got her a gift certificate to Michaels so Katie can get some crafts for upcoming projects. Another relative is sending us links to cool content and has offered up some language lessons. Those are just a few examples of the creative ways family and friends reached out. I am glad they are so willing to participate and share!

We Meet our Consultant and Write our Contract

To “do” home school via the district, we have to create an agreement that says what we will be doing in the next six weeks to keep Katie on track. So today we met with our consultant – a teacher – who helped us set goals, identify resources and get us moving forward.

It was a long meeting but really helpful. We have a few large subject areas – kind of what you would expect – and we have to work within each one: language arts, social studies, math, science, art/music and PE. Katie and I had already made a list of trips we want to go on in the next couple months and figured out some activities related to those trips.

During the meeting, Katie could hear the kids from her old school come out for recess. That nearly killed her. She knew her friends were right there, just on the other side of the fence, without her. She managed pretty well but we finally let her go to say, “hello.” It seemed to do the trick and her recovery was much faster.

Wilder Ranch. Totally Awesome.
We spent the afternoon investigating a volunteer activity. We thought we would be a good fit at Wilder Ranch, [that’s a photo of the barn!] but as we learned more about the commitment, it’s bigger than us. The job, feeding and putting up the sheep and goats once a week in the evening, it not bad at all. It’s actually pretty cool. But the 3pm time requirement and the year commitment is more than we can handle. I just don’t think I can get back from work in time on those days I have to be on site with the client. Don’t even get me started on the summer camp conflict. Bummer.

Update: In today’s paper, there’s a very depressing article about our State Parks and how our local parks, including Wilder, may possibly be closed. What a shame. The one comfort we had with our decision not to do the volunteering, is that we could still go there and simply hang out. I so hope we don’t lose this park.

We didn’t do much actual teaching (beyond what we learned at the ranch). Our smoke detectors woke us at 5:20am so we have been exhausted all day. So glad it’s almost over!

Update: We ended up working late into the evening cleaning the yard for an upcoming family party and at 8pm, Katie mentioned she never had dinner. So we ran out to grab a bite and when we were done and jumped back in the car, we were surprised by a loud explosion! It was fireworks! Capitola’s Birthday celebration was concluding with a huge fireworks show. We parked the car and watched with delight. It was completely unexpected and so cool.

Home School POV: Because home school has given us this incredible new flexibility (no looming bedtimes because I don’t have to roust Katie at the crack of dawn, no pressing homework deadlines), I was willing to go out and grab food at 8pm. Something I would never have done in the old days. As a result, we got to see the fireworks and share a moment we’ll always remember.

Hard Day: Missing Friends and the Weird Guy at the Park

Today was tough.

I knew it was going to be rough – Katie would be tired from four days of over doing. I had plenty to do workwise and I thought I had set aside a few things to keep Katie busy. I was going to push it – our consultant said to take things slow. She said when kids make the transition from traditional school to home school, they often have to go through a “de-programming” period while they unlearn some of the habits they learned at school. Made sense to me. Go slow. Got it.

So I didn’t have a fit when she didn’t want to read, she wanted to play Little Pet Shop. I didn’t over react when she said she wasn’t ready to write in her journal, she just needed to organize things first. I even kept it together when she asked if she could watch just one show instead of do the two measly thank you notes (her birthday was a month ago!) that need to be done.

But when she came in, started crying, and told me how incredibly bored and miserable she was. Then I got frustrated. She went on and on about normal school and how good it would be if she could be there. I reminded her that she had romanticized school, that she was miserable last year and that her friends were not all that friendly.

We got really stuck. I didn’t want to feed the “poor me” monster and I didn’t want to be insensitive either. I really tried to stay balanced, present and helpful. What really worked was a trip to the park.

Maybe a Trip to the Park?
I knew we needed to get out of the house. We walked to get the car (getting a repair from a damaged air conditioner – during the heatwave, of course). Then we hit the park. I did some walking, she did some playing and then we noticed him. The weird guy.

This man, in lame shorts, a baggy t shirt, white socks and flip flops was walking around the park with a balloon. Not a normal balloon – a kind of cool dog-on-a-leash balloon that was clearly designed to attract children. In fact, kids were attracted to him. But none of the kids belonged to him. It started to really freak us out.

So we decided to call the Sheriff. The deputy they sent was awesome. He called while on his way to the park and got the low down from us. We stressed we weren’t sure there was anything wrong but that things just didn’t look right. We kept an eye on things while waiting for him to arrive. When he got there, we casually went to our car and watch things unfold.

After 10 minutes talking to the man, the deputy walked away and I assured Katie he was calling us – which he was. Turned out the man was okay and admitted he was acting kind of weird now that the deputy pointed it out. That kids had come up to him and he hadn’t thought about it. The deputy thanked us for being vigilant and said we did the right thing.

The best part of the whole thing for me is that Katie got to participate in noticing people, their behavior and learn about making assessments about that behavior in a way that might help keep her safe in the future. We didn’t panic. We didn’t get paranoid. We did consider our options and made a conscious decision to make the call for help.

So it ended up being a home school day after all.

Outing: Home School Bonfire at Twin Lakes

Tonight our home school hosted a bonfire at the beach and it was great. We brought marshmallows and a roasting stick and pigged down lots of toasty roasted marshmallows.

We made some new friends and watched the pelicans and seagulls chase a school of fish up the coast.

Then the sailboats started coming in as the sun went down. What a great way to end a hot weekend with new friends, great weather and a beautiful view.

A First! A Chance to Babysit! Awesome!

Today was a first for Katie.

She had her first babysitting job. Okay – not really baby-sitting – it was “mommy’s helper” – but she was responsible for keeping Roark happy, engaged and safe while his mom and I worked.

We used the babysitting as a home school opportunity and studied up on child care, safety and reviewed the kinds of games she could play with a three year old. We borrowed some age-appropriate toys from the home school resource center and got a book on toddler games and babysitting. It was good preparation. 

Splish, Splash, Vrooooommmm!
As it turned out, it was an incredibly hot day and the kids got into a rousing game of water play. Then Roark’s dad came home and took both kids on a boat ride – which Katie thought was outstanding. It reminded me how much she likes to go fast!

We got done around two pm and when my client went to pay her, Katie was like, “no way, you can’t pay me! I had too much fun.” But I explained she actually did do the job, kept the child safe and engaged and that babysitting can actually be fun! She can’t wait to babysit again.

Unexpected Quality Time: Priceless
On the way home we had a great lunch at Red Robin (yummy) and some good discussion. I am truly appreciating having this extra time with her, getting to actually share some of her “firsts” (both child care and the boat ride) and still managing to get work done as well!

Home School POV: The two books we used for the prepping her for child care are kind of cool. They were:

Toddler Play by the good folks at Gymboree. “This book is a “recipe book” of games, finger rhymes, nursery songs, and craft exercises that parents can use to help their children develop physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills.” We thought it was easy to access good information quickly and gave her lots of ideas for play (a little young for threes…best for ones and two year olds.)

The Babysitter’s Handbook: The Care and Keeping of Kids by the other good folks at American Girl. Good information in a format Katie was already familiar with (we have a ton of the American Girl books, they are great!).

Field Trip: Gramma, Katie, GPS and the Rosicrucian Museum

I had to spend the whole day at my client’s office today – from 9am to 7:30pm – and so I planned ahead. I asked mom if she’d take Katie on a field trip to the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose as a follow on to King Tut on Monday.

Mom agreed, I printed out the maps and sent them on their merry way. And I gave them the Nuvi GPS.

I guess the museum is pretty cool. Some of it was repetitive and according to Kate, mom takes way too long looking at exhibits, but they have a real “tomb room” that they both thought was awesome. They also have some mummified animals which got Katie very fired up.

Not Really on “Target”
After the museum, they wanted to run by Target (we don’t have one near us) and so they used the GPS to help them get there. Well, ideally they thought they were using the GPS but apparently it was a cluster. They got lost, turned around and nearly decapitated the little man in my GPS that kept saying, “Recalculating!”

I guess they never made it to Target. They managed to find a Kmart and get the hair products we desperately needed! They laughed and cried together along the way. And when I got home, they were totally happy from having spent the day together and sharing the big adventure.

Home School POV: I came home to find Katie making a “book” about Egypt, King Tut and Mesopotamia. She was so excited about it. We also spent the next day working on learning how to use the GPS – so we got a little tech lesson!

Home School Orientation: So That’s Where All the Smart Women Went!

Today was kind of the “first day of school” if there is such a thing for home school. We went over to the school for orientation – to figure out how things work, to get our personal “consultant” and to meet new families.

Katie had a mind meld with one of the consultants and I looked around assessing the resources, listening and trying to figure out what to expect. I am a bit of a planner and it helps me to know what’s going on. The kiddo was much more focused on making friends.

Probably the hardest thing for her was seeing her old school right next door and watching the kids play during recess while we had to stay at an arm’s length. I was really proud of her ability not to totally lose it. I get it. I am an extrovert and friends matter a ton to me. I don’t know how I would have handled it seeing my buddies on the slide right next door. 
The Parent Round Table was Eye-Opening!
The kids broke away while the adults came together in a round table Q&A session. And then it  happened. I figured out where all the “women like me” had gone to. They were in home school! I am not sure about everyone but based on first impressions, there were a ton of smart women who actually cared about things like geography, current events, participating in the planet, community and more! It was amazing.

I have struggled to be a mom with the other moms in our community. Many of my peers stay a home while their spouses work and generally, they aren’t terribly engaged with politics, current events, or doing things to help others. They tend to squabble about silly things that frankly don’t matter on twit. So imagine my delight to find such an amazing group of women – interested in teaching their children and sharing that experience with others!
After we were done, the Yard Duty (what a horrible thing to be called when you are doing such an important job!), but the Yard Duty at Katie’s old school gave her permission to go visit with her friends during lunch recess. I think it was actually a really good thing because she got to see them through a different lens. It was just for a moment, but it was a start. 
Time for Compassion
In the afternoon, Katie spent time with her girlfriend, consoling her because her 21 year old cat was finally put down. I was glad Katie was there for her and the upside of home school – it was a school night but not the stressful kind. She was able to stay with her friend into the early evening without me panicking about homework and all the usual rot.

What a gift.


First Home “Work Day”: Meaning Both of Us Worked!

I had to get a lot of work done today. I had meetings and writing to get done, so Katie had her first show-some-initiative, do it yourself “work day” for home school.

She started out working on her one page journal entry based on the visit to King Tut, but that rapidly degenerated into organizing her desk area. As she started to get her work area organized, she also wanted to get her “subjects” posted on our white board and then needed to also pull together some – what I will call “traditional classroom props”.

Then she showed some initiative! She went about creating a list of all the Presidents – from Washington to the present – and created labels for all of them. This kept her busy for a good two hours as she used a great page on the Wiki to get their full names and numerical order.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Then she wanted to create a flag (mind you, should could have printed one from the Internet) but no, she had to create a flag on her own. She went outside to look at our flag to get the stars figured out and then created a lovely paper flag that went on the white board. Then she wrote the pledge of alligence (where we generated the list of spelling words for next week) and then we said the pledge together!

I am amazed that I actually got work done today and she was totally stoked about her Presidents project. She didn’t finish the journal one pager, but oh well, I have a feeling patience is going to be a big part of home school (for me)!