2021 Homeschool Week 20 | May 17

With a little bit of intention added back in, this was a rewarding week! 

I mentioned last week that I was going to put in the work to create something enjoyable, doing the things I know we will appreciate spending our time on if we have the focus to remember to do them!  

When something isn’t a part of my routine, I may forget altogether that it exists – or just not think to think about it. I also know I work best when life is allowed to flow forward and there isn’t any great force or demand on my executive functioning. 

I’ve spent years trying to find a good balance between getting things done and letting things be. Eventually I figured out that it wasn’t which system I tried to put into place, but my expectations of myself and understanding how I best operate that needed to be mastered. 

I’ve made a point to simplify and keep things simple as the default. 

If I have goals or intentions, I’ll write them on a sheet of paper attached to my clipboard so I can release my brain from trying to hold the information while having the reminder to help with recall and something to check back on if I happen to flow with something else first. 

I used to come up with a new goal and think or write down a million steps for how to achieve it, excitedly planning out my new life…and then, I’d use up all my energy planning and never want to get to actually accomplishing it – or if I did try, it would feel like an uphill battle. 

Now I set intentions and let them flow, choosing to put my focus into the area that needs attention without forcing outcomes or a checklist that may or may not fit into energy or time availability. 

I accomplish so much more, and I feel good most steps along the way instead of only feeling successful at the end of a long journey that I likely stopped and started multiple times while beating myself up with guilt for not being linear. Not anymore.  

Last weekend, I realized I was going to have to reset our routine to intentionally create the life I want to participate in, knowing it would take extra energy again too. Quite a few things have changed in our life since our routine was easily flowing, and lately it had become more haphazard avoidance of anything that felt too overwhelming (a needed break) than pursuing resources we have already chosen out of interest.  

I made a list of some things we could give our focus as they fit into our day, and we happily fit them in this week. As I said above, it was rewarding. I was concerned it would be exhausting in the short term, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly we incorporated our goals.  

Having chosen which things I wanted to make a priority made it easy to feel out in a free moment which thing felt good to pursue then, without having to plan and then do. I like having possibilities. I don’t love having a list of demands, a schedule, or an exact way things are supposed to take place. 

Fortunately, some things I want to continue are already routine, so they get to continue to flow while I figure out how to incorporate the rest. Myles continued classes, we listened to our audiobooks, he played games on his computer, and we worked on our puzzle some more.  

Myles initiated a Pokemon battle with his pokeballs and figures, and while it wasn’t on my intentions list, it’s exactly the kind of thing I love to have happen spontaneously. This is why I like the list to be flexible. I don’t want to say no to the things that just come up. I also don’t always have the creativity to just come up with something. Knowing this means having resources and setting myself up for success while letting it flow in the moment.  

When he got up that morning, Myles saw that I was working at my computer, so he jumped straight into Prodigy math game and then played a game of chess online. When he was looking for something new to start, I suggested maybe grabbing a book, and we both remembered he had been reading the Amulet series on his own. He went to get The Last Council (Amulet 4)* to finish, and I mentioned it would be cool if he read them to me at some point.  

The next day, we started reading book one, The Stonekeeper (Amulet 1)* together, him reading most of the dialogue and watching for my reactions since he knew what was coming. It was lovely having him read to me. He said he guessed he owed me after I read the entire Death Note series to him. Fair point. From manga to graphic novels, I love that we can share these stories together.  

We had finished the last bit of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6* by Monday, and we decided to jump right into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7* the next day. Once we’re done with the Harry Potter series, we can go back and catch up on our other books, but we’re really into this story right now! Did anyone else feel like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5* was much slower to get through, or did it just happen to be our lifestyle at the time that slowed us down getting through that one?

We continued our puzzle while listening, the Harry Potter Marauder’s Map 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle* taking quite a bit more effort than the Hedwig (1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle)* did. We have one left, Magic Academy Jigsaw Puzzle* and I wonder if we will do it right away or wait until puzzle inspiration hits again in the future.  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

It was nice enough to swim one afternoon before we got days and days of rain that turned our pool green. Now it’s sunny…and still green, sigh. (Yes, I’m still overall grateful to have a pool to need to keep clean)

When the rain kicked in, we got to some of our intentions, mostly going back to finish things we had already started but left undone. We pulled out our D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths* again, refreshing our memory, and continuing through the section on the minor gods, nymphs, satyrs, and centaurs.

Then we opened our Atlas Crate, reviewing the introduction and looking over the people and places described. Myles had built the binoculars about a month before, and this week we looked at the second part of that craft, which was constructing the animals of “The Big Five” to observe with the binoculars.

Since we had just gotten our Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia (Second Edition)* (we have the first edition) a couple weeks before and hadn’t used it just yet, I suggested looking up the “five” for more info. We found all but the buffalo and learned facts about them.  

I’ve been looking forward to the mancala game since we first opened the crate. I played when I was a kid, and our school had a local carpenter make us wooden boards that we sanded and painted. I remember spending hours working on mine and then playing the game with friends. The Atlas Crate version suggested using an egg carton for the trays, and we improvised until I can hopefully find the one from my childhood.  We had so much fun playing that we pulled our game out a couple times a day in between other activities.  

Who else loves an easy transition between expectations?  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

We took a few new one session webinar style classes with Varsity Tutors this week: Exploring the Night Sky, Butterflies in Our Backyard, and Swimming with Sea Turtles. I believe you can find the replays on YouTube on the Varsity Tutors channel.  

Myles also continued his Coding Games: Computer Science for Elementary School, Magical Potions, and Big Cats classes throughout the week.  Each of these was a free, large group class. You can check out which classes they offer at Varsity Tutors, and if you choose any paid classes, using our link will give you 3 free hours (we get 3 hours too, thanks!).

It was well worth the personal pep talk to get out of survival mode and make something happen that I could enjoy and appreciate. Myles has been entertained, but I’ve been more checked out for the last few weeks while he does his thing. I’m grateful for that rest, and I’m grateful that I was able to identify it was time to get on top of it again. I love that one of the new things we incorporated is Myles reading a graphic novel series to me – that’s something I’m going to be looking forward to over and over again!

How’s your homeschool going? Do you take a summer break?

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2021 Homeschool Week 19 | May 10

I mentioned that this week fell into a new, unintentional routine. It wasn’t unenjoyable, but I think it will become stale quickly if I let it continue like this. The relief of staring at puzzle pieces instead of pushing myself to do more seems like it has peaked and we’re on the downside. Of course I’m going to finish the Harry Potter Marauder’s Map Jigsaw Puzzle* we started this week, and I’m absolutely going to continue our audiobook, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6*

I’m also going to choose intentionally a few things that I think we will enjoy instead of waiting to see “what I feel like” when I’m overall a bit unenthused. That strategy works great for me when I’m feeling it, but there are times to have the awareness to intervene.  

Fortunately, the kiddo did shake things up a bit this week with some games he asked me to play with him. We played a couple rounds of the Hatchimals version of Trouble Board Game*, Chutes and Ladders*, and I SPY Eagle Eye Find-It Game*. (It doesn’t seem like the Hatchimals version is available for purchase any longer.)

I won almost every game by luck until we got to the one that tested skill, and he is quick with those cards! If you haven’t played the I Spy game, it’s a lot of fun. I’d bet it’s a fun competition between multiple siblings as well.  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

Myles picked up Prodigy math game again this week, returned to a brief typing lesson, and played some other games of his choice. 

Classes with Varsity Tutors continued, some ending, and he asked me to look at upcoming available classes for him to choose from. We found a class he was incredibly excited to start, Coding Games: Computer Science for Elementary School, and he spent time in and out of class working on his project. I’m excited to see where he goes with this since it seems enthusiasm sparks the best creativity!

He finished up Around the World with Google Earth, and I don’t believe we’ve signed up for an additional session at this time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we come back to it again in the future. 

He started new sessions of Virtual Safari: Big Cats Class and Magical Potions Class, which he has taken in the past. I think the Big Cats class may have been one of the first we took last summer, maybe even before I started blogging. These seem to be classes that are often available for free, large group sessions, if you’re interested in checking out what else Varsity Tutors offers. If you use our sign up link, you’ll get a $10 credit toward any paid classes as well (we also get a $10 credit, thanks!)

I’m grateful to have had classes to engage him since I’ve been a bit lethargic and unmotivated. I love discomfort that signals to me that I need to make a change that I have full power to implement. In my other post, I talked about moving forward more intentionally even though it’s going to take more effort for a bit, and I’m excited to see where that takes us again.

I do not regret the breaks I’ve given myself, and I’ve very much enjoyed the rate we’ve been listening to our recent audiobook. We took months to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5*, but we’ve listened to all but 2.5 hours of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6* (16 hours in) in the last two weeks. I bet we’ll finish it this week, and I’m curious if we will move straight into the next Harry Potter book, or if we will go back to finish The Hobbit* or maybe even Graveyard Book*. Who knows, we may start something new entirely. Sometimes the best way to find fresh enjoyment is to burst out of old habits and intentionally choose what feels enticing.  

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Balancing Self-Care: Rest vs Pushing Through

Do you ever struggle to find the balance between giving yourself reasonable rest and not pushing too hard when you’re overwhelmed or just unenthusiastic about keeping things moving forward? 

I’ve been open about being burned out lately. I’ve taken breaks, and I’ve appreciated my growth in being able to manage this in a much healthier way than I knew how to in the past. 

While I still need to proceed with caution and not throw myself right back into overwhelm, I’m also realizing I’m going to have to intentionally set some new habits to support the lifestyle I want to live. I had been in such a nice flow that it had started to feel almost effortless, even though I knew I had done plenty behind the scenes to set it up. Now, routines and habits have shifted, and it’s simply time to choose again which things are going to be priorities for this season to help life take shape. 

Looking back to how I would have felt in the past, I would have seen this as a failure. Like I dropped the ball and instead of keeping things running smoothly forever and making more and more progress, I moved backward. We accept this belief that we always have to be going somewhere, that we’re always supposed to be improving or at least not getting worse. If we lose ground, we’re failures. 

Maybe it’s because I have so many interests that often turn into goals with steps that require further effort that I feel I have to keep moving, combined with productivity standards from our society and the typical misunderstanding of laziness for executive functioning resets – but it can get unhealthy quickly if left unchecked. I no longer let the guilt overpower me. 

It’s clearly time for me to redirect my energy and find the balance in going with the current while intentionally choosing which paths. I’m not going the exact same direction anymore, but I’m not going backward. The old quest line is complete, and I’m starting a new one. 

Why is it so ingrained to see change as failure when it requires effort to get to the same comfort level? Why aren’t we encouraged to grow to meet the next challenge? I am not for the false enthusiasm laced with toxic positivity, but I’m also baffled by the narrative we adopt and judge ourselves by. I learned this, and then I had to unlearn it.  

Without habits in place, more of my energy next week is going to go to recreating my current lifestyle with its current needs and demands. This feels daunting when you already feel like you’re behind or you’ve failed. With awareness and kindness to myself, I’m looking forward to navigating it – intentionally – and probably giving myself more breaks, knowing I’ll be getting worn out easier. 

It’s my responsibility to build this, and while it’s exhausting looking forward, it will be more worthwhile than haphazardly being blown by the wind. It’s a delicate balance, and I have to have much self-awareness to acknowledge the difference in this versus my normal state of flow. The difference is that I’ve noticed I’ve been setting myself up for coping, not living, and that’s not my goal long term. 

I spent this week in unintentional habits created when I just needed a break and gave it to myself. This was never where I meant to stay, and I will not be satisfied living here. If I don’t intentionally choose, even when I’m “tired”, I’ll get stuck in a place I don’t want to be. That becomes its own fatiguing experience where unfulfillment turns to further exhaustion and struggle to summon the energy to create something new. 

I wondered what was “wrong with me” for years, and now I see how the parts fit together when I remove the productivity narrative and the shame that keeps it playing out. Now that I take true self-responsibility and have nothing to prove, I’m free.

2021 Homeschool Week 18 | May 3

My intro to this post got lengthy, so I gave it all the attention I felt it deserved, as a separate post.

This one will be a short overview of our homeschool activities this week. 

I didn’t offer much energy this week. The most I did was make resources available. I have no shame attached to these statements, as I once would have. I didn’t have energy to give, and I did provide a full and balanced week. I recharged, the kiddo learned, we spent enjoyable time together – success!  

I think I may have just figured out that in the past when I’ve felt I wasn’t doing enough it’s because I’m used to the hyperactivity that comes with my ADHD, so when I’m too tired for that to manifest in the usual enthusiasm, it feels like I’m “not doing anything”. Also guilt from years of seeing any form of rest scrutinized as laziness because neurodivergent individuals are expected to function against their needs to perpetuate the status quo. 

Left unattended, Myles found his way onto Google Earth multiple times this week. He looked for our house and grandparents’ house nearby, and proudly shared that he had used a fast food restaurant as a landmark to get to our area! Problem solving, exploration, geography. It’s almost like their brains are wired to learn!  

Provide some resources and that’s the direction learning will take. 

On that note, I had started a puzzle a couple weeks ago, which led to Myles choosing another puzzle based on his personal interest. This week, we started the new puzzle of Hedwig, and he enthusiastically came to the table multiple times to try to find a piece or two, claiming the Hedwig portion be only his to assemble. When we first started this one, Myles suggested we start the next audiobook in the Harry Potter series, so we used an Audible credit on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6*, listening to the first 3 hours as we organized and started our puzzle.

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

Myles continued classes with Varsity Tutors. He had his last sessions of Playing in the Parks, and he was excited to tell me about some places he wants us to go! He also spent time exploring new locations in Around the World with Google Earth, with a teacher who got deeply into history and culture as she showed them around.  

We had unintentionally missed the first two sessions of the Candyology class the week before, but we jumped in right in time to make edible slime from candy. The recipe called for Starburst, but despite my grocery pickup right before class, they somehow didn’t make it on the order and we used Laffy Taffy we had from Easter. It worked pretty well, and of course, it was delicious! The next class session, we learned how to make gummies with gelatin and juice.

We spent a couple evenings with family this week, having both a movie night and a tech support night. We made a requested dinner of creamy pasta and gooey rice krispie treats for my mom and sister, and Myles was able to surprise them with homemade ice cream he had learned to make minutes before in his Candyology class! He proudly introduced them to one of his favorite movies: Spies in Disguise*, and we ended up watching Lip Sync Battles thanks to Tom Holland’s performance in both.  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

I kept my involvement in the week to an easy, non-demanding recharge of much audiobook listening and puzzle piecing. I shared my personal experience with the impending burnout here, if you’d like to read my update.  

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Burnout and the Recovery Process

As I sit down to write, I remember saying in last week’s post that I expected this week to be more exciting. I had to go back and read the post again to compare my expectations with the reality of this week.  

Why did I think it was going to be exciting? Why did I even think it was going to be okay? 

I woke up, barely convincing myself to get out of bed, and then I could only get started by putting on an audiobook, working at a puzzle, and ignoring the overwhelming to do list that I’d planned to catch up on when my time was my own again. 

With my time reclaimed, the burn out hit me even harder. I wasn’t trying to keep up anymore. I had time without external demands, and I was going to have to actually take it to rest, not add my own demands, no matter how much I wanted to achieve them. Last week’s breakthroughs didn’t solve everything, and I was starting to feel discouraged that I had been so reassured just to then be lethargic. 

Displeased but with the awareness that pushing wasn’t going to help, I let myself just be. How long was this going to take? I don’t have a month to recover… I have things I want to do. I just bought an RV. Why did I even do that? Now I have to clean it, repair things, finish uncompleted work… Who was this person who thought projects were a good idea? I never want to do anything again! All I will ever do is lounge around and read books. 

By the time Friday rolled around, I woke up to the dreadful feeling of things to do – things that needed to be done on a weekday, and preferably one where it was just me and not juggling between fun stuff with the kiddo and things I needed my full focus to complete. So basically, this was the day to get things handled or wait a full week, and who knows how I was going to feel after another week of this. 

Was I going to let myself off the hook or push myself to do something I really didn’t want to do that I could put off again as far as actual deadlines go? I lied in bed acknowledging the dread. I can give myself more time, right? Self-care and all. But…I’m going to feel it weighing on me, knowing that deadlines will be approaching and there will be a time I have to force it if I don’t do it before… Will I even enjoy the day, knowing that I’m borrowing from the next Friday, knowing the things I need to do will still be uncomfortable then…what if I feel even worse…and letting them hang over me for a week… is it worth it? How do I feel? What do I need most? 

I decided I was already uncomfortable, and I may as well continue to put my focus into getting rid of the culprits. I got out of bed expecting a less than pleasant day – and because of this – deciding I would do every unpleasant thing I could get out of the way, so that the next days would feel more free and flowy, not interrupted by annoying adulty things. 

And that’s how a satisfyingly productive weekend started, where I caught up in almost every area that I’ve been feeling I didn’t have the time or energy to tackle. One morning put into insurance and assessments and taxes and paperwork, followed by listening to an audiobook and organizing my closet, scrubbing the RV and removing a plethora of stickers that have nothing to do with my interests, cleaning the pool and removing all the debris from the storms, catching up on all the laundry before my dryer broke again on the last load!, steam cleaning couch cushions and making the living room look fresher again – and not touching the puzzle because I promised I wouldn’t even put in one piece!

I say all of this to show my process and how it all happened because it’s so easy to focus on either one or the other. It’s so easy to have a good weekend that invalidates all earlier feelings of dread and only share how magical I felt with momentum. How easy it is to do all the things in a weekend, when it was really the restful week that let me be propelled to accomplish it all. Or once it’s all caught up again, to show all the relaxation and enjoyment like it didn’t also take effort to create that atmosphere – the picture perfect life of beautiful moments, which often lends to toxic positivity or making others feel inferior. 

On the other hand, it can also be easy to get caught up in the overwhelm and add shame and guilt and stay there much longer, fighting with ourselves instead of passing through it. I could have kept myself from getting to the satisfying part, entertaining self-loathing instead. I lived there for too long. I don’t give these feelings prolonged focus anymore, but I use them as tools to tell me where to make adjustments. I still feel they’re worth acknowledging. We’re human – and likely if you’re reading and relating to my own experiences – neurodivergent humans. The world can be much more challenging for us to navigate, so I’m committed to sharing a real picture of my real life experiences for relatability and normalcy that isn’t found in the overwhelming majority of sources. We’re valid too. 

When I looked back at last week’s post, I realized that yes, I thought this week would be more exciting; but I also uncovered some truths that still felt very true, making me realize it’s all a process, and not the end goal – some lessons take repetition and reminders, even once we “know” them.  

I’m going to put our homeschool activities in a separate, short post. So far I haven’t been able to decide the best format for sharing our day to day and sharing more depth for relatability. I’m working on that balance, and I’m okay with showing that I don’t have it all figured out. I will always prioritize inclusion over looking impressive. Neurodivergence can be isolating, but we can create spaces to do at least a bit of this together!

2021 Homeschool Week 17 | April 26

I took a much needed break this weekend from expectations and trying to keep up. I’m showing up to this space mentally refreshed and refocused on my purpose here. 

I’m reminded of what I know to be true for myself – that when I allow space, I end up achieving much more of what I want and balancing my time better than if I tried to plan every moment to a schedule. 

Lately, I have had a very unimposing schedule with babysitting a few days after school and one long day each weekend. Even then, the combination of that with time demands for – and I know we’ve been trained to believe this sounds ridiculous – reaching a major life goal, took over my life flow and had me feeling too close to burnout and survival mode.

This weekend, I was repeatedly reminded of why I choose this lifestyle and put in all the work required to maintain it. It’s not because it’s effortless, but because it creates the freedom my soul craves. It’s the only way for me to live. I compromise and sacrifice too much of myself when I try to live by rules that don’t fit me. So I’m committed to my responsibility to myself and the human in my care to continue to seek a lifestyle that benefits us to our core, not just to perpetuate our existence. 

With this refreshed sense of freedom, I’m sure next week will be more exciting to share. For now, here’s how we got through this last week. 

Not yet refreshed, I gave myself the space to not overwhelm myself with demands, while not quite feeling I had enough space to let my whole guard down while there were still expectations – that had to wait for the weekend as mentioned above, when my time and space could be fully reclaimed.  

I relied on classes from Varsity Tutors for stimulation and learning this week. I had already signed us up for them, and they came at the perfect time to let them take the lead.  

Myles took another session of Around the World with Google Earth, exploring different regions on the map. He spent time outside of class continuing to explore as he was interested. He found his dad’s house and worried that it had a sale sign! I explained how the photos are taken and updated over time, and that the photos must have been from the time before they moved in there. He said he was going to look for our house next.  

He continued a class he had started last week: Playing in the Parks. The instructor outlined the types of parks they would be looking at each class session, including national parks, theme parks, underwater parks, and more. Perfect timing with the purchase of our RV for him to be discovering places he would like to travel!

He also continued his class, Getting Bug-gy, exploring insects. One class this week focused on the praying mantis, and he learned lots of facts that kept him entertained while we worked on a jigsaw puzzle together.  

I let myself be drawn to connecting pieces when I needed to be doing something but not doing something that felt demanding. 

One morning while I was doing this, Myles set himself up with classes, finishing his audiobook The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire 1)* before it had to be returned to the library, and playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Nintendo Switch*. He listened to his audiobook before and between classes, and he played his game throughout. It worked perfectly for him. I could tell he wasn’t bored when class wasn’t moving at a pace that would keep him fully engaged, and he made responses to class from time to time that amused me, realizing how much of his attention it was also getting even if it may not have looked like it.  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

We completed our last week of babysitting with lots more outdoor playtime and a couple extra afternoons together instead of the long weekend day. We will definitely have to continue to get these two together for adventures outside of babysitting needs.  

The previous weekend, Myles stayed with me so they could play together. He normally goes to his Dad’s house over the weekend, but both kiddos said it would be more fun if he stayed. We got out a ton of arts and craft supplies, they created a restaurant where they served each other food, and they made up plenty of other games with his toys.

Observing their interactions shows me how much trusting Myles with his own thoughts and perceptions has strengthened his ability to navigate personal interactions from authenticity. We did have a couple talks about choosing how we want others to feel while interacting with us and how we can be genuine and honest while also being kind – and how all of that is a choice for each individual to explore and balance.  

We went to the park with another friend again. Everyone goes to bed early for school, so showing up before dusk gives time to play with random kids and then wind down with all the equipment alone – best of both worlds! We discovered this by coincidence, but we may keep it on purpose.

That was our week: simple, relaxing, engaging without being overwhelming… It was what we needed this week. Next week will inevitably look different as we adjust to our time being fully our own again. We may fall into a new routine that lasts us a few weeks in a row, or we may continue to find each week brings new things. Some of the things that we’ve put off until we had more time will come back into focus. The weather warming up again will bring increased gardening, or maybe just garden planning if the rain forecast holds true. 

Wishing you a fantastic week of adventure and peace!

Encouraging Curiosity is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.