Saturday, September 13, 2014

on switching things up

It’s started again, that crazy ticking that rules our lives from September to June.  This year I’m actually ready for it.  Summer was so packed with fun and freedom that it’s given us all a taste for structure again. 

I have four kids in three school this year.  It’s going to be a different kind of year and I’m counting on taking most of September to reinvent ourselves, to make us fit more smoothly into this new routine.

We’re doing something super different this year with Hazel….ready for it?  Home based, online school through K12 and the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield.  Yep, that’s right, I’m kind-of-sort-of a half-way-home-schooler and I’m pretty excited about it.  IMG_3251

Hazel on her first day of {virtual} school

All year last year I was worried that Hazel wasn’t in the right place.  She was stressed and a little insecure and just not herself for a lot of the year.  I kept feeling nudged to change something up for her, but I didn’t know what it should be.  She was in a great accelerated program in the public school system here, but the pace wasn’t right for her, the social dynamic in her class wasn’t great (same kids in the same class every year) and she spent a lot of her energy worrying about kids following rules (how did I produce such a rule follower?).  And on top of that, she often described her life as “too packed.”  It took me a while to figure that one out, she really wasn’t over scheduled and her homework load wasn’t that bad.  But then I realized that her brain is just always bursting with ideas, with a desire to know and explore and create, and between homework, practicing and family dinner there just wasn’t time for her to live out all that was inside of her. 

So, we started exploring options. I’ve been wanting to try homeschooling ever since I became a mom.  There’s something so appealing to me about being my children’s educator, about watching them first hand as they grasp new things, meet new ideas, form new connections.  I loved what we did during our six month stint in England, we all felt alive as we learned together.  But Jeff was a little worried about me being structured enough to really get home school right (what? me? not structured and organized? ha ha). I agreed that he had a pretty strong point :).  Schooling your children is a scary thing to take on, I so admire all those amazing moms out there who do it, and I do know there’s are so many great homeschooling resources out there that could help me pull it all together.  But in weighing our options we decided to try this k12 thing.  My brother and sister-in-law do it for their oldest and they’ve loved it.  It seemed like a good fit for us because it’s still very structured and school driven, there’s still a teacher, a daily schedule, some virtual live classes, but it takes just a few hours a day and would give Hazel a LOT of ownership, let her go at her own pace, leave her time to pursue all of those creative ideas bursting out of who she is. 

So after deciding if this was a real option for her we decided to hand her the reigns, let her decide.  She was the one who would have to live with the consequences of this, she’s the one who would have to drive it, push herself, work hard at doing something different and we realized that the only way she would be happy with either school option was if she chose for herself.  So, Jeff and I took her on a little walk and explained that we’d found another option for her for school.   We described what it was, helped her think through some of the pros and cons and then told her that we trusted her to make this decision.  She spent a few weeks thinking about it and talking to people and researching and praying.  She really weighed both sides and thought through all it would mean the best she could.  She took that decision seriously! 

When she finally decided that she wanted to go for it with K12 I was as nervous as could be, but she was certain and unshakable.  She knew it was the right thing.  I worried to myself about how this would affect our relationship, if she would be missing out on important social learning, if she’d learn enough, if she’d push herself, how we’d fill in her extra time.  And then, my dear sister-in-law advised me to calm down, to back off, to let this be Hazel’s year.  To really give her the reigns.  To let her own this.

And, even though I’ve had to make myself back off lots of times since this all started, I think I’ve done a pretty good job at letting her really drive this thing.  And the change that has come over her has been astounding.  My kind, happy, creative, soul searching Hazel is back.  That angry, stressed out, sullen third grader went away and has emerged as a hard working, driven, easy going, thankful 4th grader.  She is psyched every morning to log on to see what she has to do for the day.  We work together on some of the stuff, but she does a lot of it on her own and she whizzes through most of it, giving her time to explore the long list of things she’s interested in.

Sure, we’re still kind of in the honey-moon phase….I’m sure we have hard hills ahead in this new path we’ve chosen.  And we’ll certainly have to tweak things around as we go.  But we feel like we’re on the right path again.  We’re going in the right direction. 

Sometimes it just feels so good to switch things up.  To take the reigns and choose to do something a little different.  It reminds me that life doesn’t always have to be lived the way everyone else is living it.  It’s important to stop and evaluate and then work to find the changes that will make a difference to us and to our children.  It has taken some guts to make this big change, but it feels right and oh so alive to do something that takes guts! 

Because a big part of life is about owning our experiences.  We are the ones writing on these pages.   And sometimes when things get messy we’ve got to turn to a blank page and write something totally new.



Friday, September 12, 2014

four kids. three schools. happy mom.

Deep breath.  We’ve made it half way through September.  All four kids are in school for some portion of the week this year.  And, as hard as it is to get everyone where they need to go, it feels so good to have some mommy freedom!  To get some things done.

We had a graduated start this year.  Hazel started first with her online school.  This didn’t really feel like schools starting though….in Hazel’s words: “every day feels like summer.”  Don’t think that sentiment will last, but we’re going to bask in it while it does!  Here she is on her first day, all ready to go in her Greenfield Academy t-shirt.  (more about this new kind of schooling here).  IMG_3249

she was a little more excited than she looks…..

IMG_3469Next it was Charlie’s turn.  This a breeze for this third grader.  He was so excited to get back into things, to see his friends, to have a bazillion people to talk to all day long.  This kid is crazy social and loves the way school stretches him.  IMG_3474

These tough guys have started here at the Linden together since the beginning.  Oh, it’s such a blessing to have a best friend.  IMG_3538Hazel came to drop Charlie off.  She was psyched to get to see all her friends from last year and give them all her exciting news about her new school path for the year.  IMG_3531 Next it was Em’s turn.  Do you think she looks excited?  IMG_5374The night before she started we had a little family meeting and the big kids gave her advice about starting school.  It was awesome to sit and listen as Hazel and Charlie pretty much nailed it.  Hazel told her to remember that if she started to feel scared she should just remember that everyone was a little scared and that she should look around and see who might even feel more scared than she was and help them out.  Charlie gave her lots of tips on how to impress her teacher, Mrs. Elliott.  He knows, he had Mrs. Elliott.  IMG_5377

Don’t let that confidence fool you, she had butterflies swarming in her belly.  She asked me if it was normal to be a little nervous because Ramona didn’t seam nervous.  I told her that those butterflies would give her all the energy she needed and that they’d help her to remember to follow Hazel’s advice.  IMG_5373We all rallied around her and gave her a bunch of kissing hands before sending her off.  She felt so big and full of energy and adrenaline. IMG_5379My two Linden School kids. ^^IMG_3536 Em was so excited to have this good friend in her class, at her very table.       IMG_3542 She came out smiling with this cute little sticker….but she was also EXAUSTED.  Poor girl.  It’s hard to build up those school muscles.  IMG_3541    IMG_3553 And Peter was last.  Starting at the Rockland.   He’s been dropping off siblings at the Rockland since he was born so this was a piece of cake for him.  He wanted to jump out of the van while it was still moving to get into that big school in time.  He seriously did not bat an eye.  Jumped out of the car and marched up those steps.  Every day when I pick him up he tells me, “I LIIIIIKE school!”  IMG_3560     In my opinion, he’s a little too happy about being so grown up.  It’s that baby going to preschool that’s really the killer.  I still remember so clearly the day I dropped my first pre-schoolers off at the Rockland.  How did all that time go by so fast????  Everyone told me it would, but that was too hard to believe. 


We celebrated all of these new beginnings with a trip to Zinga to get some froyo.  We’re going to have a good year.  For the first time in a long time I’m going to have a few mornings of quiet around here.  With just Ms. Hazel schooling quietly by my side.  Crossing my fingers I can get a few things I’ve been meaning to get to for years (but not holding my breath).

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Turning


This is my parent’s newest book.  And I’m pretty sure they feel like it’s their most important one yet.  This book is like their other books in that it’s packed with practical ideas that any family can connect with and put into action.  But it’s more than that too.  It’s really a call to action.  It lays out the forces turning our society away from the family and compels us all to turn back towards it. 

For as long as I can remember my parents have been passionate about the family.  Their whole lives’ work has been dedicated to building and strengthening their own family and to bringing others along with them in their journey.  And they’ve planted this seed in all of us kids….this drive to build our own strong families, to see this work as our most important contribution to the world.  

Because really, the family is the bedrock of our society.  Where families are failing, communities and cultures and countries are failing. 

I read a really thought provoking talk recently by a Mormon feminist, Valarie Cassler, about gender equality, which is a huge Mormon hot topic right now (which I have actually a lot to say about, but that’s not really what this post is about).  One point that she made was this:

"The central drama in all societies is not what you see on page one of the Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune.The real drama of human societies is what’s happening between men and women. It isn’t treaties and wars and the price of oil or how the stock market is doing……the situation of women [and families] is a barometer of how near death a civilization is. It is because where love and equality between men and women do not exist, you cannot live the Gospel.”

The real drama of the world right now is not what is happening in governments or at war, it is what is happening within and around families.  I’m no sociological guru, but it seems to me that where government and policy are supporting families, society is thriving and where families have no social or political support societies are dying. 

Sure, it’s a little bit of a simplistic view of things, but at my heart of hearts I believe that the work we do in our most intimate relationships will far outweigh anything we do outside of them.  The family is more than just the bedrock of our society, it is the essence of eternity. 

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – Winston Churchill

“There is no cause that will be more effective in meeting the needs and solving the problems of today’s world than the strengthening of families.”   - Richard Eyre (I just couldn’t resist putting my dad up there with Churchill)

So, if you’re looking for a cause, this is a pretty good one!

So turn with us.  Join the cause. 

Click here for more information:

Monday, September 01, 2014

Shumway Reunion Part 2: monterey dunes

IMG_1637After the 4th of July parade we made our way down to Monterey Dunes.  We’ve been coming here for reunions for quite a few years now, starting when Hazel was in my belly.  It’s so great to go back to a familiar place, packed already with memories, ready for more. IMG_1419 IMG_1427 I remember Charlie years ago, peter’s age, on this same board walk.  Man, he’s grown.  And boy do I miss that long shaggy hair sometimes.


IMG_1532And here’s Peter on the same walk, same age. IMG_1431There’s so much beauty to behold,  IMG_1441 places to sit and relax:IMG_1439a cold ocean to be crazy and jump in (it was only 60 degrees out….these kids are nutty brave):IMG_1446  IMG_1488 IMG_1498 I took a swim too….just have to document that little fact….I always wanted to be a mom who would get her hair wet.  And I am (about 5% of the time).IMG_1457Luckily there was a hot tub to run to when you’d turned blue. IMG_1517 IMG_1519 IMG_1520Charlie tried his first artichoke.  I think he’s hooked. 

IMG_2442 We took a little trip down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Oh, I love that place.  Especially the jellies and the open sea exhibit.  Look that that sun fish, twice the size of Peter (who was a little terrified).  IMG_2459 Oh, the beauty under that big ocean.  IMG_2478 IMG_2484 IMG_2493 I think my favorite part of our stay there was listening to these guys play the guitar and sing Shumway songs.  There’s such a long tradition in the Shumway family of music and singing and I was happy to expose my kids to more of it.   The music was accompanied by some great Shumway stories told my grandma and grandpa.  I’m pretty sure it’s something none of us will forget.  IMG_1545 IMG_1553 IMG_1558 IMG_1561 IMG_1576 IMG_1618  The sun came out the last night there, just in time for us to see a golden sunset.  Love that glistening light.  IMG_1644 IMG_1665 IMG_1751IMG_1759 ^^These lovely ladies are all the Shumway #1’s.   IMG_2246And these strapping young fellows are the #2’s (note that they couldn’t get themselves together to take a picture at the beach like the rest of the groups….they’ve got things to do, places to be those #2’s)IMG_1757^^ and here are the #3’s IMG_1773 and finally the #4’s ^^

A lot has happened over the years!  We’ve evolved from this:

To this:

IMG_1785 IMG_1807

We already can’t wait for next time!  Thanks G and G Shumway!


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