Friday, August 27, 2010

homeschooling,cardio, and bribery

The other night at church, a girl giving her testimony said she was unsure whether she was ever "called" to something. When we started hsing 27 years ago, I had NO idea what I was getting into! I had no grandiose plans of spending much of my adult life doing this. It is only in looking back that I see God's calling in this area of our family life.
God can use any tool He wants to shape us into the kind of vessels He needs for His purposes. He introduced us to, called us to, and equipped us to do this radical form of education for our kiddoes. He has been faithful to raise up finances,resources, and energy for us to keep doing this.
In order to maintain energy for the task of home education, we all need to do some cardio. The only workout that works is the one you will DO. So choose an activity that appeals to you for this season, and be diligent about it. You WILL change at some point--and this is good for your enjoyment-and your physical health (after many repetitions, you actually have to "trick" your body into responding).
I also "trick" or bribe myself into doing some things that I know are good for me in the long run. I sometimes read 2 or 3 books at once--rewarding myself with the "want-to read" after I have finished part of the "should-read". I plan fun educational family outings after we complete hard studies.
Our family works hard together--and we play well together---but I believe we are called to do the first before we get to enjoy the second. Work it out!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

homeschooling,$355 electric bill, and the Book of Eli

Whew, what a HOT month! But that is not the complete reason for our highest electric bill ever. We have 5 extra family members living with us, the two DVD players are on almost all day(it is too hot to play outside except for early a.m.), we all are using room fans to help camoflage the baby's middle of the night crying(that is getting SO much better), and we have had to use our office AC a lot(the construction business has thankfully picked up).
As a family that IS home all day, our utilities and our messes will be SO much more than those families who go somewhere else during the day. As we learn to budget for the upcoming school year, this is one expense that should be factored. However, we can certainly save money on our grocery bill. Since we ARE home, we should take advantage of simple home-cooked meals, garden produce, and wisely using leftovers.I have actually learned to gauge when we have been "living life" a little too much in the car with all our fast food expenses.
Speaking of summer and budgeting, this is the time that I order most of my curricula on-line. For beginners, it may be important to physically handle your books, but for those of us who are already familiar with our publishers, we can save by ordering online. One other tip: you do not HAVE to order everything now! Give yourself time to see if a certain series 'fits" with you and your children. Be willing to make the calls and send back those helps which are NOT helpful to you! And unless it makes more financial sense, don't buy second semester material until Christmas break--you may have finished early, you may go another direction, or you may have enough material to last throughout the second semester already!
Begin a new self-discipline to start this new school year--meditating on and putting God's word in your heart. If you start now, in the beginning of August, by September it will be a habit.
Then when you have your Bible time with your kiddoes, they will see that you have already been memorizing verses, and it will encourage and inspire them.(Please see chapter 4 in my book 'Go Fly A Kite").
And speaking of seeing something, before school starts, make a point to rent Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli". This is definitely a grown-up movie--and as you watch it,you will understand how we, as parents, need the underlying lesson told in the tale as we train our children.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

homeschooling,canoe paddles, and summer sleepovers

I do not choose to do "year-round school". And yet, there is never a day that learning does NOT take place. Yesterday, Tim and I got to canoe down a river whose bed had totally been changed by the recent flood. We were reminded of the last time we had been there with Luke & Lamarkus. Lamarkus had never canoed--and Luke had limited experience by himself, but we decided it was time to LEARN HOW.
I loved watching them do the hard thing of steering as a team against a hard current, learning the pull of the paddles, and learning to negotiate and communicate their efforts (sounds like a great marriage analogy :).And although, it was hard, they felt such success after tackling something which they thought was too hard for them.
Our choice of homeschooling is HARD. Do not believe anyone who says that it is carefree and constant fun. I personally love a "break" during the summer to re-charge and seek new ideas, curricula, and books. This summer looks different because of our oldest son's family living here with us.
One of our daughter's college professors had her write a paper entitled "Ten Things My Parents Did Right". One of her listings read : "I cannot remember a summer that my parents did not open their homes to someone who needed to live with us." Until I read that, I had not realized that this was truly one of the themes of our life. We have had family members, displaced church friends, friends of our kiddoes,my parents after the fire, and an older man from church live with us for extended periods of time.
So, in God's fashion of asking us to do hard things and then COMPLETELY equipping us for His task, we have this summer laid out for us. It is such a privilege for us to watch how Will & Sarah are also coping with all the hard things that the flood has thrust upon them. They are dealing with loss, being displaced, and having a newborn at someone else's home with such GRACE.
We are all LEARNING how to co-exist with new schedules and territories.
Just as the flood changed the landscape of the river bank, the flood has changed the present order of our lives. We are learning how to negotiate the new curves, the rapids which were not there before, and the new dangerous overhanging uprooted trees. But the river would be so boring if not for the new challenges!! So, hold on for the fun ride!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

homeschooling,floods and a burned-up Christmas tree

I have seen devastation by fire, and I have seen devastation by flood. Both are tragic, and destroy most everything in their paths--and especially memories. The destruction by fire I personally witnessed was my parent's home of over 40 years burning on Christmas Day from a broken candlestick on a dinner table. This was a horrible day to experience such devastation--and the entire extended family of my parents, all 5 siblings and their spouses, grandkids and great-grandkids were within minutes of arriving to have Christmas lunch together. And what we came to instead was a scene of firetrucks, neighbors trying to get Christmas presents and family pictures out, and smoke and fire engulfing their beautiful home--followed by the media, because this was the only house to burn down on Christmas Day 2005.
Sometimes the devastation happens to everyone in a neighborhood. Obviously, we all witnessed the flooding of 2010--and our son,daughter-in-law and their two boys were flooded out of Section 6 in Bellevue's River Plantation. The true rivers of mud left behind when the 6 feet of water receded threatened to leave all of us with a heavy,hopeless,sick feeling.
(However, our kiddoes have been amazing examples of remaining grateful for what they do have left, and totally trusting God to take care of them no matter what--and that is SOME trust, because she is due any minute with son # 3!!)
So, WHAT does this have to do with homeschooling? Only that if we continue obeying in the small and mundane routines of teaching, that God WILL meet us there.
After we moved their family in with us and got a little organized, the VERY next time Luke & I did school, we had Isaiah 43 for our Bible reading!! I mean, stop right here and find an online translation--and read it to the VERY end to see what I am talking about :)!! And if THAT weren't enough, that day in one of our read-alouds called "Torches of Joy" (LOVE it)..where the Deckers'(missionaries in New Guinea) house burned down, and because they didn't cry, the natives said,"The Deckers have a big house in Jesus' yard. The things that really count cannot be destroyed."
What an incredibly Providential lesson for Luke and for me that day! My dad,mom, Will, & Sarah had all lived that out in front of our family. I too often get detoured by the details of the work that needs to be done--but that day,in order for both of us to hear God, I needed to step forward in faith and just keep going according to the lesson plan. So keep on--and listen!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I just lost a custody battle and I'm not even divorced

I guess I need to explain.My marriage is intact, and our 12 year old remains in a stable home. Most of my blogs are meant to encourage parents who are training their children. This one is just for me to vent a little and maybe do some processing. It IS about parenting, however.
About 6 years ago, our family was introduced to a single mom and her two little boys. We immediately bonded with them--especially our Luke and the boys. They quickly became part of our family. They spent weekends, school breaks and most of the summers with us. They celebrated our older kids' weddings and birth of grandkids. They never missed Sunday church and big family lunches. They went on camping trips, vacations, celebrated holidays and had their birthdays with us. Their mom was frequently with us--but the boys were a given. They were in our family picture in our church directory, and had their own special foods, toys, and clothes here at our house. When they became sick at the public school they attended or forgot their homework, who did the school call? US... When they needed extra money for football registration or school trips, who did they call? US ...When they had a full week off of school, who did they call? US ...When either was sad, feeling abandoned, or worse, who held them when they cried? US .
Recently, several home factors propelled them into a foster care situation. It was incredibly difficult trying to get DCS and other entities to recognize that this white family should have any input into these young black boys' lives. After all, we weren't "FAMILY".
As the mom's parental rights were being evaluated, we were asked to begin undergoing intense background checks, home studies, and reams of intrusive paperwork. We were ready and willing to become ON PAPER that family that we had been all along.
We covered everything in prayer--and knew that God, in His perfect knowledge and sovereignty, would bring about what He planned.
And as of now, His plan is certainly not what I would have planned.
We did "lose custody" to a great aunt who is related to one of the boys. We were told it was a "cultural" decision. I know God can bring about His intent for the boys' lives, but it does not mean that I am not hurting.
Both boys introduced me to so many things : to frying bologna and hot hair ashy skin after hilarious trash-talking on the football field and basketball "walking the dog" hip-hop clothing shops and hair do-rags...and sorry, boys, but I will never really like your Christian rap music :).
We introduced them to : family stability... Jesus,the Bible and church attendance...blueberry, blackberry and strawberry picking...camping....a white grandmother they also call"Nana"....growing up in the "country"....weddings in general....vegetable gardening...believe it or not, the Temptations and Michael Jackson (their favorites are "Can't Get Next To You" and "Billie Jean":).
I pray that our contact with them is not over, but we have no control over our involvement from this point. I know in my head that God can bring forth fruit where seeds are planted, but right now, I just feel empty as far as my boys are concerned. Parenting second-hand certainly has no guarantees, but I know deep down that God has His hand on them--and THAT is what will make the difference in their lives.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

homeschooling,latitudes,.and an Avatar grandson

Earlier this week, my daughter-in-law looked at her youngest in the back seat car seat and was astonished to see that he had somehow unearthed a bright blue marker and had drawn all OVER his face!(He had had so much fun doing it too :)
It reminded me of a lesson I almost learned too late about art supplies: have them in a place that is ALWAYS available to your children! That same daughter-in-law is due to give birth in a few weeks, and she will have 3 boys 4 and under. I always am asked how do you teach many different ages, and one good way is to have appropriate art supplies on hand for them to discover and use.
Because of my teaching background,I somehow imagined that all school supplies needed to be up and out of sight. That is almost backwards to our philosophy now of having exciting educational books and products within easy reach.
Our oldest first asked to read "The Lord of the Rings" because he SAW IT OUT and thought it looked interesting. He also saw my husband and me reading whenever we had a free moment.
In addition, doodling has a place in our homeschool. All of our kiddoes had the option of illustrating whatever "read-aloud" we happened to be involved in at the time. Even though some children are more artistically inclined, all kids can learn to draw. Our 12 year old is right now completing a course where he is drawing the entire world, all the latitudes and longitudes and labeling all continents, countries, and as many capitals and physical features as he can remember--STARTING from a BLANK sheet of paper!!
So, give those kids blank paper--and let them create!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

homeschooling, soccer, and an African headmaster named Jac

As I slowed down for all the soccer traffic this Saturday morning, I remembered when our family was part of that same mass. Our entire Saturday seemed to revolve around meaningless outcomes of meaningless games coached by men who would have really no longterm meaning in our children's lives. Of course, we didn't think so THEN : we told ourselves that it was for teamwork, for learning competition, and for potential scholarships. But our children were sometimes as young as 5---and now looking back, I see how consumed we were with it. Don't get me wrong- there is much redeeming value in sports, but it should NOT dictate your family time. As with everything, there is a moderation or balance that we need to prayerfully stay attuned to.
With an older perspective, it is now easy to see that our children would have been FINE to wait to play later, to play less seasons,to have skipped more practices for family outings and church ---and STILL succeeded at the levels they desired.
A welcome perspective in our home right now is that of a 41 year old native Kenyan who is the headmaster of a Christian school our church helped to found in Africa.Winyo Christian Academy began in 1991 with 8 students and now has more than 320! Jacob is staying with us for a while, and he is the most humble,gentle,wise servant. We took him bowling for the first time(he LOVED it)...fed him grits("very nice")...and took him all over the Opryland Hotel. He continues to question the "whys" of the way Americans do things (not in a derogatory way, but in an endearing,inquisitive way in order that he may learn from it). His curious joy is contagious. He accurately perceives that not everything will translate culturally for his work, but he appreciates all things associated with learning.
We need to re-examine some of the things we do because we think we SHOULD, or because others are doing it, or because it is easier to say "yes" than to buck the system. Is (you-fill-in whatever activity) beneficial for your family right now ? We would be wise to look around and see what fruit, if ANY, is being borne out in our children. AND there's always NEXT season!