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Review: Asana.com (Not Sponsored)

I found a tool last year during work that has saved my sanity when it comes to homeschooling…Asana.com.  This web-based, free tool serves as the hub for our homeschool lives teaching four different grade levels.

Essentially this is a project management tool that I use for work, but we found a way to modify it’s use a bit and it serves as our school calendar and to do list.  Each child has assignments list there with due date, some of them like keyboarding practice and on-going studies are re-occuring.  From there we can communicative via notes, add attachments and mark things as complete.  I LOVE it!

My favorite features of Asana are:

  1. Super easy interface – In addition to seeing my personal tasks as well as those of the kids, I can sort them by specific projects, due dates and responsible party.  And adding a new task is as easy as clicking on a plus sign. (Did I mention that there’s an app for it as well!)
  2. Reoccurring tasks (optional) – I LOVE, LOVE this feature!  I can set a student to be reminded every day or two to practice their keyboarding, practice their JAVA or work on a more complicated project.  This way they are able to mark things as done so I can see what they are working on, and then based on the settings, they can be reminded to revisit it.
  3. Attachments – have you ever printed worksheets for your students and then had to print them again and again because they lose them or the dog eats them.  I love that I can attach worksheets to individual tasks and then the student can print it wherever they are and when they are ready to work on it.  No more “I can’t work on that because I don’t have it with me when we are traveling.” Or “Mom, I have to wait on you to print it again.”  I’m telling you, this tool is sanity saving.
  4. Projects – I can limit access to items based on project assignment or give everyone access to everything.  This has come in helpful for everyone.
  5. Personal lists – KISS (keep is simple stupid) is a standard I like to live by.  It is SO nice to be able to log in, land on my personal to do list, which pulls any task assigned to me from any project and then sort them by date.  This automatically helps me and the kids prioritize their work and helps significantly with time management.

Some additional features that we don’t use so much but are nice to have:

  1. Permissions – you control who sees the tasks, who gets emailed about tasks and so much more.
  2. Subtasks – Complicated tasks can be broken down by sub-tasks with individual assignments, due dates, etc.  For some of my students, these bit sized chunks are exactly what they need to stay on task.
  3. Tags – you can use keyword tags to create special filters and views when looking for tasks assigned to certain subjects.  I find this really helpful when I’m looking to review all school work for the week by subject.

I especially love that at any time, any place they can log on via a computer, their ipad or even a phone to look at their to do list, sorting by due date and get to work.  The other thing I like is that they can add notes, questions, etc specifically to the task which will be emailed to me so when I am not available due to work or just busy, they don’t have to wait to ask, they just drop it in.  It’s time stamped so that there is no mistaking 1) that they are getting started and/or 2) they are waiting for me for any reason.

If you are seeking a way to keep your homeschool classroom and students on track, I definitely recommend you try out Asana!

(Note: A couple of others you might be interested in checking out especially if you teach homeschool classes at all are: Edmodo and Haiku.  I have used both these programs as well when managing classroom type settings.)

When Words Fail

My most recent post was the need my younger children have been exhibiting and verbalizing for a father in their lives – The Fatherneed.  And lo and behold, just a month after that, their father announced he was moving across the country.  This move is the culmination of years of absentee father, unreliable contact and big let downs, and that’s not just from when we split up.

Now I’m not writing this to disparage my ex.  I know his heart is in the right place.  And I hope this move gives him a fresh start – job wise, finance wise.  But my gut reaction was complete dismay and anger for my children, especially since it is overtly obvious what the lack of an active father has meant for them.  The broken-hearted crying, the disappointment when he doesn’t call back or show up and the confusion over their place in his life.

So how do I, the parent left behind, the one picking up the pieces deal?

How do I compensate for not only an absent father but one that is almost a two days drive away?

This weekend, words just wouldn’t cut it as they grieved after seeing their dad for the last time for the foreseeable future. In fact, all I got from Little Gymnast when he awoke Saturday morning was silence and teary eyes.  To combat I resorted to edible chemistry…a tie dye cake.  Using just three dye colors we made all the colors of the rainbow!  Mixed them in with a vanilla cake and swirled up the batter before baking.  It was fun, educational and definitely took his mind off his burden.

Then last night, I put work aside, left a filthy home and put down my phone…we traipsed around Busch Gardens, riding rides, watching shows and having a few snacks.  Watched a patriotic fireworks show.  And we smiled and giggled a lot.

I think I will have to wait for them to talk and ask.  But until, I must intentionally make time to put EVERYTHING else away and look at them, listen to them and just be there.  I guess that’s what all parents should be doing.

Maybe him moving away was to teach me what I needed to do to be a better parent.

Someone asked what my greatest fear was and why haven’t I faced it…

My greatest fear is screwing up my children, especially as a single mom.  But I face it every day – walking with confidence, asking for guidance where I can and trusting that God will not only guide me on a daily basis.

Now I have added a daily prayer to heal my children’s hearts and most importantly to show them that God is their Heavenly Father and when our earthly father or mother fail, He will never leave them or forsake them.  And that He has created them perfectly in His image, nothing lacking, nothing in the wrong place, His love is unconditional.

The Growing Fatherneed

It’s taken me almost a month to try to sit down an write this post. It’s been rattling around in my head for almost a month. And to be honest, I still don’t have the words.

It was just a regular day, no drama, nothing unusual to stir up emotions or longing, just a regular day. And that’s when he dropped the bomb.

My nine year old was sitting up front with me, we’re enjoying the warmer weather, jamming to some music and out on a regular drive.

“What was it like growing up with your dad forever?”

My heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach and shame rushed to my brain, making me feel hot and so sad. I knew what he was asking, he had cornered me with it, and I had nothing to comfort him with. But you know what, this is not about me and my reaction. This is about my son. My hurting son, my son who is longing for a father, my son who envies his friends who have one in their lives.

This is the same child that just a year ago, in tears said, “if he doesn’t show up this time, then he never needs to again.” This is the same child that for months would ask to see his father almost daily, calling him, pleading and crying every time he didn’t get to see his dad.

So back to the conversation, I floundered for a bit. “Yes, you know grandad is my father.” And then the next question:

“Did you get to see him? Did he go to your stuff?”

And then I realized, that other than what my kids see on TV and in their brief glimpses into their friend’s lives, they think everyone lives like they do. My heart just broke, right there in the car.

Growing FathernnedMy children are not growing up with a man to teach them to be “handy” like I did. They are not growing up with a dad on the sidelines cheering them on. And they are not growing up with a dad who takes them outside to practice their sport or give them advice.

The statistics in our country about fatherless children are deplorable…I just started reading this list at Growing Up Fatherless, and it’s certainly something to make your stomach turn and your heart ache…even if I wasn’t seeing the day to day hurt in my own children’s eyes. So I’ve started searching, seeking guidance on what I can do to help, to fill the gap. And I’ve read some great advice (and some not so great statistics,) but I’d like to hear from real people, real moms who did it, real men women who overcame it! What worked, what didn’t, what do you wish had been done?

I cannot create the “ideal” father. I do not want to “date” just to find a dad. But I do want to do whatever I can to help heal my children, to bridge the gap. I know it will never replace the father that God intended all his children to have. But there must be something…

Articles I enjoyed that you might as well:

  • Raising Fatherless Boys – I loved how succinct this article it. Clear, concise and to the point. It gave me clear direction on the things I can and the things I cannot do in this situation AND as I suspect continued to push at least some contact with the kids father which is something I have always believed – something, anything is better than nothing.
  • Yahoo Question : What to do on Father’s Day – Of course, there are some smartass comments, which made me giggle and lightened the mood. But the bottom line is whether the kids can see or contact dad or not, this is a day that must be celebrated. No matter what else, always reassure your child that they were born of love and wanted, there is no “bad” side of them. And try to think of the good times with dad that the child can cherish, we all need those, and it just takes a couple.
  • Raising a Fatherless Son: What Single Moms Need to Know – This article is actually a re-write of the first one and by the same author, but it highlights what a single mom CAN do, which is exactly what I’m looking for. I found the advice to be do-able and on point. If no other article, this would have gotten me started in the right direction.
  • How Can a Single Mom Do It – While this article is a little wordy for my taste, it is the article that every newly single mom needs to read. It gives all the right pointers for getting started and the reasoning behind it, which is in my opinion the hardest part to here as a newly single mom.
  • The Fatherless Family – This is one man’s story regarding growing up fatherless, and then he goes on to re-hash the related statistics, neither of which I found to be new information or very enlighting; however, towards the end he introduced me to a term that wraps up this whole situation very easily for me “Fatherneed.” That word speaks to me on so many levels. He goes on to reference several resources from well known authors which I will be checking out, so definitely worth the time for those two things.
  • What Not to Say to a Boy who has No Father – While his circumstances were different then ours, I admire the way he cut to the chase and made it clear that there are three things no boy should hear. We forget how the simplest statement said in anger or despair can cut deep and change a child’s entire perspective. Whatever the circumstances, as adults we must guard the heart and minds of our young men.
  • What About the Fatherless Families – I love the Biblical perspective on the fatherless. It saddens me that I have not seen the church step up to bridge the gap in a more hands on way, but I truly appreciate the perspective. It gives me hope that there are those who will some day as the statistic of fatherless homes grows larger with each passing year. And personally, I appreciate that they acknowledge how tough being a single mom is, sometimes just that recognition is enough to bolster me through another tough situation or time. I don’t think society really gets it, even in the acclaimed movie The Single Mom’s Club all the women are “saved” via a relationship and frankly that just hasn’t been my story.
  • Manless Moms Equals Fatherless Children – A more analytical approach to how children become or stay fatherless written by women. I admit it didn’t help me too much on this particular quest, but I’ve saving it and sharing it because I think the site in general may have some good information so I want to go back and spend a bit more time evaluating it and perusing the other articles.

Mine, His, Hers and Yours – Stop It’s OURS

tug of warA game of tug of war is a pretty common event in our house.  Unfortunately, we’ve graduated from stuffed animals that can easily be put in time out or gotten rid of, and are now on to XBox games, computers and even tv shoes.  It BLOWS my mind.  The first time I heard my 16 year old tell my 10 year old “No, you can’t watch that show because it’s mine!”  And when I asked with my incredulous face and tone “what?!?” His response…”I want something that is just mine.”  Ok, that I understand, but claiming a TV show as yours, really?

Then someone got in trouble, they stormed into their room, shouting at everyone not to play their video games (which had nothing to do with the reason they got in trouble.)  Of course, I flew off the handle, taking away video games from the culprit FOREVER.

I don’t know if it’s a sense of ownership they want so much as it is control over something when these tussles happen, but this mama is tired of being referee!  Ugh, what is a mama to do about this.  My kids claim this type of “solo-ship” to items, tv shows, even activities.  One of my sons got so mad when he found out everyone was going to swim team practice, not just him.  Hello…you are all on the same swim team!

So here are my new guidelines for ownership and control in our home, I’d love to know your thoughts!

1. We are a family.  You are all under 18.  I OWN everything…yes, even you!

Oh, you bought it with your money?  Where did you get said money? A gift from me? A paid choir from me? A job which I clothed, fed and drove you too, ie from me?  Yes. everything is MINE!

2. You are in charge of it, you say?

Have you finished your schoolwork for the day/week? Is your room clean and your chores done? Is all of your stuff where is belongs?  If you have answered NO to any of those questions, then you are not in control.  You need to put it down and get a YES to all those questions before you claim control.

3. It’s your turn.  He or she needs to get off and be fair.

First off, life is NOT fair.  Deal.  Second, we have a standing rule that if you want a turn on something you have two options…ask the person who is on it when they will be done and state your desire to have a turn. They are obligated to give you a time, no later than an hour away when you can have a turn.  Set a timer and listen for the beep.  Otherwise, leave them alone.  You may, without whining, plead your case to that same person, stating that you will be gone all night, just need to accomplish a certain thing, etc. and pray for their mercy.  If none of these options work, which I’m fairly certain they will…you can come to mom.  And more than likely, no one is going to like the outcome if mom has to get involved so just forget I mentioned this option.

4. I want something that is just mine.

Great, I totally understand that desire.  You have a couple of things going for you here.  One, you may claim solo-ship to your underwear.  It’s all yours, no one will touch it wear  or even wants to look at it.  There is some thing that is all yours.

Oh, something more than that…hmm, let me think.  You have full rights to your attitude, facial expression and what comes out of your mouth.  And believe me, once you learn to control those things and own them, your whole life will change!

This is meant to be satire.  While yes, as the only adult in the home, I do OWN everything, but my goal is to convince the children that CARING is SHARING, meaning we as a collective own and are responsible for our possessions and family.  But more than that, controlling our attitudes and responses and claiming our emotions can make all the difference in the world.