7.31.2010

Weekly Wrap-Up # 8: The One That's Been a Writing Whirlwind

A week ago today, we arrived home from our wonderful week at Lake Lundgren. We'd thought we might unpack slowly, but the girls were excited to help unload the car and get all their things unpacked. So...one thing led to another and I soon found that I'd not only put everything else away but had also started laundry within an hour of walking in the door! Jeff was sad about coming back to "real life," and I must admit it was a bit of a mental transition for me, too. But I do like to be home; the trick is just not letting myself be overwhelmed by the pace that could overtake me if I'm not careful.

Actually, though, I have gotten a bit overwhelmed, as I feel that I've been sitting at my computer all week! I've done a lot of writing over the past seven days, as you know if you've read any of my daily camp updates. In fact, I wrote all of this in just one week - and a couple of these posts contain posts-within-the-post!

And one of my Celebrate Kids articles - written just before vacation - was published while we were gone so I posted that on my archive blog:

But it hasn't been any of that which has consumed me in "a writing whirlwind." Rather, it was me feverishly attempting to finish a very big project: the compilation of the girls' online portfolio for our 2009-2010 year of studies.

I've attempted to keep portfolios each year, not because I have to for our state home education regulations - thank God I live in a very reasonable state in that regard! - but because I like to keep memories. That's why I've scrapbooked since Rachel was born and go to great lengths to get caught up when I (inevitably) fall behind. And educational portfolios are an extension of that for me.

But I've struggled with how to keep a good amount of representative work without being inundated by old drawings and math tests (never mind motherly sentiments that make even a self-described "de-junker" like me want to save everything the girls create!). And I've wrestled with what might be the best way to put it together in a compact, attractive way. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by those perpetual questions that I never did get around to compiling portfolios for 2008-2009! I still had stacks of the girls' work (granted, short stacks because I'd done some sorting) sitting on one corner of my desk because I wasn't really pleased with the binders I'd previously put together and so wasn't motivated to do the next one.

Which got really scary when I realized we were close to wrapping up 2009-2010 and I'd need to do those portfolios, too! That's when I started lamenting that what had started as a labor of love seemed to have become a burden. But that's also about the time I saw an ad for Blog2Print, a service that converts blogs into professional-quality bound books. In an instant, I imagined the portfolios as that type of book and was intrigued.

Of course, I didn't want to invest what I surmised might be loads of time creating blogs for already-finished school years if I wouldn't like the results. So I did a test-run with posts from this blog - which I'd been wanting to somehow archive anyway - and wrote this week (in I've Got a "Published" Book!) about getting my finished book in the mail.

It's not perfect - the Blog2Print software doesn't keep the exact blog layout or format photo captions very nicely and sometimes leaves too much white space between posts. But the book is very nice and would be, I could see, a very efficient, compact way to show a year's worth of learning. So my major endeavor this past week - given that we jump into a new year of learning on Monday! - was to launch and complete a blog for our 2009-2010 year, our first with our now-beloved curriculum, My Father's World (MFW).

I am very glad I did it - I placed the order for the books today! - and I will do the same for subsequent years. But, boy, was it a lot of work! I had to set up the template, draft a post for each month (which entailed going back through all of this past year's Weekly Educational Logs), and choose and then upload a myriad of pictures, both from the web and my photo archives of the year...while dealing with more than my share of glitches along the way. I am pleased with the results and look forward to seeing the published books...but I stayed up way too late for way too many nights in a row and now feel completely wiped out.

So, even though I'm glad to have it and plan to continue making blogs (and books) for years to come, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else - in terms of doing so much in so short a time and working backwards over years gone by. In fact, I won't do it again.

I'd originally thought I'd work my way back and create blogs for all our previous "official" learning years (which would have meant going back five years!). But I've changed my tune on that. Instead, I'll organize what I have for previous years the best I can - utilizing big expandable envelopes that fit into file boxes and a Kinko's service that makes coil-bound books - and simply move forward from here with the blog books.

That's not easy for me to reconcile! I am a person who likes things to be beautiful and totally organized and uniform. So I don't like the idea that the girls' early school records won't match the later ones.

But I'm only human. And I'm a mom...and a teacher...and a wife...and a babysitter...and a writer...et cetera (!). So I have to become comfortable with my limits, one of which is that - while I could do it for a few days with a very specific goal in mind - I cannot justify being tied to my computer for hours a day for weeks at a time. As lovely as uniformity would be, the "cost" is simply not feasible.

It helps that 2009-2010 was our first year with MFW. As such, it seems in some ways as if it was the first year of our learning journey, at least in a more academic sense. So, knowing it'll be much easier to compile subsequent blogs - I've already written the next blog's introduction and can simply write one month's post at a time from here on out - I can be content saying I've created the blogs and books for all our MFW years, if not those before.

I still feel overwhelmed because I spent so much time on the blog this week that I haven't yet done much to get ready to start Exploring Countries and Cultures on Monday. And we're going to a family reunion for much of the day tomorrow so I may have a late night ahead of me on Sunday night. But the blessing is that each MFW teacher's guide is extremely organized so it won't take all that much time. And, truly, it'll be a joy...which will make it worth the time and effort.

*****

Of course, I wasn't only at my computer this week. I worked out a couple of times and took the girls to their summer swimming lessons, for which they have a new teacher - "Coach Paul" - whom they really like. And on Friday, we had a delightful playdate with Anna, one of my daycare girls, who'd invited Rachel and Abigail to come swimming in her pool. It was so good to see her! And Anna's mom and I had a great "talk date," too. We spent a fair amount of time discussing their family's big news: the impending arrival (in February) of a new sibling for Anna! That, of course, means a new daycare baby for me (!), but not until late May or early June. God has worked out the details perfectly with all of that, for both Anna's family and Teachers' Tots; we are all excited beyond words about this new little one.



We didn't do any "school" this week - this was a pre-planned week off between terms even without my computer project to manage. But on Thursday we had a lovely afternoon out, shopping for new supplies and new "not-back-to-school" outfits. The girls got cute new haircuts, too, which I'll reveal in our official "first day back" post on Monday.

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