Wednesday, December 30

EH Best of 2009

These are the top 10 posts that came up in conversations with others this year, things I shared verbally to friends or things that I just spent time chewing on and revisiting.

10. New Year's Interviews: Our simple little family tradition will be something we'll not only appreciate later in life, it makes us giggle now as we compare one year to the next.

9. Thoughts from an Unexpected Place: I love it when inspiration for this journey comes out of nowhere. But I wouldn't call Shane Claiborne nowhere.

8. School on the Road: We made a major life change this year... moved from Portland, OR to Denver, CO. Moved from floating to fulfilling. It's been humbling. This was just a little sidenote as we journeyed along.

7. Picking Up Some Pieces: I am guilty of having tunnel vision in the midst of our year. But we have to continue to be aware of the needs around us or what the heck are we doing this for?

6. Year Round or Summers Off: We have to make these philosophy determinations all the time. If you don't have a solid rationale behind your philosophy it will crumble. Take time to write out why you do what you do and it will shape how well it works.

5. You are Accepted Here Just As You Are: I'm just really, really thankful for this experience.

4. Admiring My Dyslexic Son: Homeschooling has its challenges, but in this challenge it's easy for me to see the positives.

3. Homeschooling When it Sucks. Speaking of challenges... I've added a couple new "Homeschooling When..." articles to the cache this year. This one is getting a little air time outside this blog.

2. and 1. It's a tie. These are the moments we all wait for. The times when our kids follow a passion and succeed. Here are two moments from J & B this year.

Have a wonderful New Year. -- Debra

Wednesday, December 23

Boys and Ballet

I took all my boys to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas yesterday. It was put on by a small local ballet company. I called it a play when I explained it to them because I didn't know how else to describe it. They may never trust me again when I say we're going to a play.

"That was interesting, " said J, "but I'm only saying that so you don't think it was a total waste of money."

"I liked it," said B.

"When is this going to be over?" asked S.

Well, at least they've been introduced.

Sunday, December 20

Christmas...almost.

I just had to move that last post down a bit, lest you think I'd turned into a homeschooling naysayer. Nope, just experiencing a dose of reality.

I can feel Christmas break moving in now. The past two mornings have felt like possibility rather than pointlessness and we are relaxed. Whew.

So, now what?

  • We're going to go check out the Christmas Wonderland at the Bass Pro Shop (?) in Denver today and maybe a living nativity tonight.
  • We have one more day of school to do tomorrow so we can put to bed our unit. We'll actually spend a good chunk of it watching the movie version of our read aloud, Journey to the Center of the Earth. (Which seems like a better idea than watching Elf like my son did during his Friday classes this week.)
  • We're going to see a ballet version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on Tuesday.
  • I'm contemplating taking the boys to An Interactive Christmas Carol on Wednesday.
  • We were looking forward to a Christmas with just the five of us but, instead, company will be here on Wednesday night. The boys will like that surprise.
  • I'm looking for tickets to go to Portland in February. It will be nice to see some friends and my parents again. If I do this now, I can put the "plane tickets" in the boys' stockings and surprise them.
  • I'm finishing up making something for my husband today and some other gifts for local friends.
Christmas break, seriously, could not have come at a better time.

Wednesday, December 16

Homeschooling When it Sucks

I've been doing this for eight years. In case no one ever told you, I'm going to tell you now:

There will be days...
  • when the children wiggle non-stop and you can't get their attention without use of force.
  • when the desire to organize your tax receipts, clean your tile grout, or finally get to that dentist appointment will seem far more enjoyable than schooling your kids.
  • when your children will literally scream at you, "You NEVER help me!!"
  • when your children will not stop screaming at one another.
  • when you completely agree that public school is really God's answer to ignorance.
  • when the baby/toddler just won't nap.
  • when other people's agendas will take over your day.
  • when you literally CANNOT finish a sentence without correcting someone.
  • when four math problems will take two hours.
  • when you convince yourself that they can still think clearly with a fever of 101.
  • when they just don't get it... for the fifth time.
  • when they scowl at you.
  • when they all ask for your help at once....continually.
  • when they refuse to talk to you at all.
  • when they tap the dang pencil.
  • when you discover what they've really been doing while they're supposed to be completing their computer-based curriculum.
  • when your husband surpasses your skills in housekeeping, because SOMEONE has to get it done.
  • when company asks if they can come in the middle of the school year.
  • when you get an earful of someone's narrow opinion about your choice to homeschool.
  • when you put them in the car for a field trip and they whine because they don't want to go.
  • when your expectations are way toooo high.
  • when your children cry.
  • when you cry.
  • when you say outloud, "I'm done."
It's not every day, but they do show up. When those days come, know that tomorrow is a new day and God can redeem anything.

Tuesday, December 15

The Weekly Task List

I know some of you do this regularly, however, I've never been brave enough to venture far from mom-centric learning methods. Weekly task lists seem to disconnect my children from me and their ability to work independently is questionable many days. Yet, certain events last week got me rethinking how we do this (yet again).

This is our last week before we break for Christmas and it seemed that we had a lot left to accomplish. So rather than rethink it all again I decided to just lay it all out there for the boys. I decided to try the weekly task list.

I wrote out on the whiteboard everything that needed to be finished this week...science ideas, math lessons, vocabulary studies, history thoughts, lapbook, etc.

Then I said, "By Thursday, this board needs to be wiped clean. So, what is your plan to get it there?"

They went to work... BUSILY. They took ownership of everything and we are, indeed, wiping that puppy clean. Cool.

How do you make the weekly task list work for you?

Sunday, December 6

Admiring My Dyslexic Son

Describing my middle son has always been easy for me. He has a good amount of healthy determination. He is a problem solver and loves a physical challenge. When he’s with peers he watches them for a bit and then picks a good one to become friends with. He’s an inventor and a builder. He’s sensitive and compassionate.


And we’ve just figured out that he’s dyslexic.


While I don’t think his dyslexia is severe, it consistently gets in his way: he talked late, he uses nebulous words like “things” and “stuff” when he tries to describe things, spelling is tough, and reading has been a very slow going process.


After reading up on this learning disability I have found out many things about its inner workings. But what’s really been made clear to me is not the severity of my son’s weaknesses but the abundance of his strengths. I’m learning that he relies heavily on context in order to understand meaning. I’m also learning that this applies to more than just words.


He understands his entire world by noting its context. He solves problems by considering the situation he’s in and calling upon his prior knowledge. He chooses friends by first noting their character. He knows how to serve others by picking up on their emotional cues. He can even find all the lost things in our house just by paying close attention to his environment. These traits demonstrate his genius ability to create sense and purpose out of the world in ways that don’t require reading. However, when it does come time to read, he perseveres through it just like any other problem he encounters, by fitting together everything he knows until it all makes sense.


I am amazed at the remarkable strengths this “disability” brings out in him – intuitiveness, creativity, and empathy among them. This new knowledge about my son doesn’t disappoint me in the slightest because I’m confident he has all the skills he’ll need to create a purposeful, productive and fulfilling life in the years ahead. We’ll just cheer him on no matter how long it takes him to get there.



Wednesday, December 2

Focus on Special Needs

Heart of the Matter's December online magazine is now out and it's all about special needs. I didn't submit anything for this one (though we're all about special needs here) because there have to be others who go about this task with a lot more wisdom and insight than I do. After reading a little of this issue, I'm finding that I was right.

Have a look at it here!

Tuesday, November 24

A Step I am Thankful For

Self-Improvement

You home schooling moms know that doing something just for you is not easy. We put so much into our kids that we put personal aspirations on the back burner or we let ourselves go entirely. Personally, due to fairly recent changes in our life story, I am in a process of becoming myself... that person that I knew God had in mind for me is now actually becoming me.

Therefore, a couple months ago I decided to take step one and get out of this rut of self-deprecation before it ruined me. Three times a week I go to a Tae Bo gym. And good things have come out of it.

1. I get to get out of the house for three hours a week.
2. Instead of constantly giving I get to receive something for an hour.
3. I do not have to be the expert. Someone else teaches me and I'm glad to listen.
4. I do not have to talk (or nag or repeat myself) for an entire hour.
5. My clothes fit much, much better.
6. As a mother of boys I think I should learn well how to punch and kick. :-)
7. When I come home I'm a different mom.
8. A homeschooling mom-friend of mine is now coming with me and she likes it too.

I hope to add more steps to my "me" process. But this works for now.

Monday, November 23

An Opportunity I am Thankful For

The Opportunity to Fail

As many homeschoolers do, my kids learn to a level of mastery. We just keep exploring a subject until I feel they have a level of familiarity that merges with their real world experience. (i.e. I try to help them answer the question, "Why should I know this?") In this scenario they always succeed. Awarding grades, therefore, is moot.

This week, my oldest son had the opportunity to "fail." During his theater class, he had the chance to develop a very short play based on Charlotte's Web. I went to watch their production and it, frankly, did not go well. Lines were forgotten, few props and costumes were prepared, backs to the audience, lots of unintentional movements. My son emerged from his class to say, "We will probably get the worst grade of all the groups." He's thinking, "This sucks. " But I'm thinking, "So what?"

He learned something and he's not done learning theater yet. Grades, at this point, are counterproductive for him. There is still more skill and content to learn and the timeline for doing so is not yet up (will it ever be?). But the fact that he has self-impressed himself to move toward a better grade is an opportunity he does not get at home. I'm interested to see where this motivation will take him.

Wednesday, November 18

Taught Himself

One more reason why homeschooling is awesome.
(by B, age 7)

Monday, November 16

Less is More

The day after Thanksgiving, while consumers take part in Black Friday, there is also a quiet counter-cultural observance called Make Something Day. Rather than participating in mob mentality in order to get a $10 microwave (Do you really know someone who needs one? Really?), stay home and make some things to give for Christmas. Here are some of the things we made last year:

1. The Exploding Box. This is a fun take on a photo album. It's a 3 layer box (12 flaps in all...perfect for a photo a month) with a lid. When you lift the lid the box expands so your recipient can immediately catch up with what you've done all year. We made a couple of these for friends and family far away. Google "exploding box instructions" and you'll find several sites to inspire your own version.


2. A Perpetual Calendar. I learned this idea at an independent workshop I took a few years ago. It utilizes a clear 8 1/2 x 11 expanding pocket with tie closure and features 12 pockets in which I slipped lists for every day of every month. My sister-in-law can keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and memorials that she wants to acknowledge throughout the year. I even made some matching cards to get her started. She can tuck the cards into the folder so she has them at the ready to mail.


3. Gift Card Cozies. This is an easy way to recycle t.p. tubes. Fold them flat, glue one end shut, paint them and let dry. Cut a piece of cardstock to fit inside and affix the gift card to it. Decorate and done.


4. Wood Creations. This was the project my 6 year old made for his 2 year old brother (with a lot of help from Grandpa). It's a multitone drum. S loved it. Even the drumsticks are homemade using dowels and super balls. (Make sure you glue those balls on tight!)

5.  Place Card Holders. Grandma likes to dress her table up for all the holidays. Since the boys and I were learning about simple machines right before Christmas, we bought a coping saw and cut out pumpkins and acorns so she could set a proper Thanksgiving table. They cut them out over a period of a couple weeks and then painted them. I cut slits in the top to hold the name cards for her guests.


6. Sewing Projects. It's kind of a crack up but my boys actually love to sew. We had four new white placemats that I knew would never survive our family meals (let alone the fact that there are five of us). So we re-used them for Grandma #2. The boys cut Christmas shapes out of felt, I brought my DMC floss out to the light of day and they each stitched two placemats. Simple and cute.



The day after Thanksgiving, Make Something Day, I enjoyed the company of my friend who was creating her own bath salts while I finished up an Exploding Box. Take the time for conversation and creation this year. Here are some sites for your inspiration:

http://www.makesomethingday.org/
http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/christmas-workshop-week-1
http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/green/
http://www.eco-artware.com/crafts/archive.php
http://makeitdo.wordpress.com/
http://www.make-stuff.com/hollidays/christmasindex.html
http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/index.html
http://www.adventconspiracy.org

Wednesday, November 11

Trying a Schedule, Part 2

We are in week 12 of our school year and we were all growing weary of 7-hour learning days. If school work takes until 4:00 in the afternoon then J and I are wasted, B is bored (because his work doesn't take as long) and S turns into a pest because he needs some attention.

I could resort to empty threats ("If you don't finish by such-and-such a time, then we can't go to Tae Kwon Do/swimming/insert other calender event here today.") But I'm not going to ever follow through with them because the calendar events are part of their education too.

So, I tried to lighten the load.

Two weeks ago, because of other forseen interruptions to our schedule (see this post), I took out two subjects. Bye-bye spelling and Topic #2. We don't have time for you right now.

That should do it.

Nope. School was STILL taking until 4:00. Part of it was my fault...I was distracted by my own stuff and tended to give them longer breaks, which means we went longer in the afternoon. Not good. They, in turn, were wiggly and disrespectful... yadda, yadda. I needed to help prod J along because he was dragging miserably. Both boys were goofing off, blaming S for distracting them, stopping their thought process when I left the room to answer the phone and so on and so on.

Then I remembered: A few weeks ago, we had an afternoon field trip planned so I tried a time schedule so we could get there on time and still finish some work at home. It worked really well and I rewarded them accordingly.

Today I tried the time schedule again (see previous post). It worked but J really felt pushed. I don't mind pushing him a little bit. I haven't asked him to do anything that's too difficult for him. If he maintains focus he can get through everything and I built in time at the end so he could finish up what was left undone.

B was done right on schedule (2nd grade is such a piece of cake).
J was encouraged to keep to the schedule and I made note of what he couldn't finish in time so he could wrap it up at the end. We made some negotiations when we did two days of work in one subject. As long as he was focused and moving forward I made concessions and let him succeed. In the end he was only 9 minutes over time. So, I asked him to spend 9 minutes on cleaning his room and we would be square.

B likes the time schedule. I think it keeps me accountable. S liked knowing when his brothers would get a break. J saw that it really IS possible to do everything that's expected of him before 3:00 and we are now headed out to Tae Kwon Do... on time.

Trying a Schedule

We're trying a time schedule today.
9:00 Read Aloud
9:40 Science
10:15 Independent studies
10:40 Math
11:00 Break
11:30 Colorado History
B is done
11:50 J's reading questions
12:30 Lunch
1:30 J's Cause and Effect Article
Then finish what you didn't get done
3:00 Done

We're done with break. I need to go stick to the schedule. I'll be back to give you my thoughts at the end of the day.

Saturday, November 7

Parent Teacher Conferences

You can buy a t-shirt at homeschool conferences that says, "If you see me talking to myself I'm having a Parent Teacher Conference." It cracks me up because it dually draws attention to our moments of insanity and reminds us that we have less things to attend while we tend to our kids.

While I'm not concerned about them missing Prom, freshman hazing, Sweetest Day flower sales, or Pep Rallies, the one thing that I am...was... curious about was Parent Teacher Conferences. I wanted to have that opportunity to hear insights about my kids from someone else. Comparing notes has the potential to really help steer them in a direction that's right for them.

Their Friday Class program had Conferences yesterday. I stayed to talk to all (but one) of their teachers and this is what I heard:

Regarding J:
"He's one of my best students. This comes easy to him." -- Pre-Algebra Teacher
"He zooms through projects and is easily frustrated." -- Art Teacher
"He's got great energy and he's so animated." -- Theater Teacher
"He participates a lot and he has missing assignments." -- Journalism Teacher

Regarding B:
"He's one of the most mature kids in the class. He's a leader." -- Science/Karate Teacher
"He genuinely seems to enjoy the class and he's very respectful." -- Computer Teacher
"He pushes through the hard stuff and he appears excited when he 'gets' things." -- Language Arts Teacher
"He seems to enjoy the process of creating." -- Art Teacher

Funny thing is. I KNOW all these things about my kids. It's just affirming to hear it from someone else.

(Yes, we'll get the missing assignments caught up (on OUR timetable). And we'll make sure he knows it's okay to not like the process of making art, but you still have to be respectful.)

Wednesday, November 4

Flexibility and Balance

There are families who can drop everything in order to do something completely different for a day. We are typically not one of those families. But, sometimes, God gives me a schedule that lets me at least appear flexible. It's pretty cool when that happens.

Last week I took two subjects out of our school days because I knew that we had dentist appointments and company on the calendar. In addition to that we had a major snowstorm, an impromptu babysitting opportunity, and a playdate that we've been needing to do.

We've had a fabulous week and I don't think they missed spelling at all.

Wednesday, October 28

A Snow Day Book


From the kitchen: Mulled apple cider and peanut butter paisley brownies.

From the learning time: Our Read Aloud, Math, Colorado History, Poetry, Reading.

From the children: "Can we go out again?"

From the calendar: We had to put the axe to Tae Kwon Do, Swimming, Tae Bo and Chess.

From the bookshelf: Finn by John Clinch, Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski, and Star Wars graphic novels.

From the weatherman: 12 inches currently with more to come.

Tuesday, October 27

Winner

1. At home we are studying Colorado History (now that we are in a state that we think we'll stay in for a while. Fourth try is a charm).

2. B has been playing Colorado Trivia Jeopardy at his Friday Classes the past two weeks.

3. Guess who won?

Thursday, October 22

A Glimpse into our Space

Our school space is predominantly in the basement. It's our family room (the side of the room you don't see are the bookshelves and television). There is a bathroom nearby so they don't have to go upstairs and get lost on their way to it. The laundry room is down there too so if it's safe to do so, I can leave them to think on their own a few minutes while I put in another load. Additionally the basement contains the master bedroom (a nice alternative work space for someone who needs quiet) and the 3 year old's bedroom. I had hoped that he'd be more likely to play in his room when we were working on our studies, but that rarely happens.


This is how we transform it when we're working on learning activities. The curtain reveals our whiteboard (and one of these days, our cork board). The other curtain is actually a window. The table unfolds to give us more workspace. The drawers in the table contain our whiteboard markers, our pencils/colored pencils/markers, and there is a drawer of things for S to do as well. If we have to move locations we can pull the drawers completely out and take the stuff with us. Having two couches is also a great plus. These kids have no idea what sitting at a desk all day feels like.

The downside is that this space is also our company space (one couch is a hide-a-bed) so we have to move our study space around when we have guests. No problem. With the exception of the whiteboard we are portable.

We store three containers in our laundry room and bring them out when we get started. First, our supply box. Stuff that we usually go looking for, glue, tape, hole punch, stapler, index cards, timer, etc.

Second, our books. This magazine rack contains their notebooks and any library or reference books we're currently using.

Third, our station box. This is where they find their assignments. All workbooks, instruction sheets, read alouds, spelling words, etc. are in here as well as blank paper and a space for my stuff.

When we're done for the day we close up shop, put the containers back in the laundry room, fold down the table and close the curtain. I don't want to live in a school room. But I do want to have everything close by (there is a ton of storage for everything else in the laundry room). This does the job nicely.

Saturday, October 10

Readus Interruptus


I posted my fall reading list in August and intentionally left some space for new things to pop up. Well, look what popped up.

1. Overcoming Dyslexia. I was pretty curious to see if B was dyslexic. Now, after reading about 2/3rd of this book, I'm fairly certain that he is. I've contacted an "educational psychologist" in the area and will consult with her next week about the next steps to help B along in his journey toward reading.

2. Scouting the Divine. The only book that dh brought home from the Catalyst conference -- and he gave it to me! Margaret came to TNL several weeks ago and gave us a taste of what she wrote about. Can't wait to see what's inside.

From my original list I've finished Catcher in the Rye (which is even more gritty than I remember, but I still understand why it was an influential book in my high school years), and Outliers. After all the hype and the wait I had to endure to read Outliers it wasn't the mindblowing experience that everyone made it out to be. Maybe I personalized it too much because I don't see J spending 10,000 hours doing ANY one thing and although Gladwell claims that B is born at the right time of year to play professional hockey, it doesn't seem to be on his radar of aspirations. It was interesting though.

Off to enjoy learning about dyslexia.

(Those of you who've wondered, "What's wrong with my child?" and then had that question answered will understand that learning more about how to REALLY help them IS enjoyment).

Friday, October 9

4 on Our Own -- Day 2 & 3

We had a late start to the day yesterday but we managed to accomplish all the learning activities, rebuild the fort, clean up a little, fold some laundry, prepare their backpacks for their day of classes tomorrow, watch Monsters v. Aliens again and venture out in the snow flurries to get another movie.
We rented Soccer Dog this time and none of us recommends it.

S remained the same yesterday... hard coughing (he's noticeably skinnier today), feverish, lethargic and not hungry.

Last night he started off rocky: coughing, crying out, disoriented, peeing in his bed again, and just needing something from me every 20 minutes or so. He was miserable. And then around midnight he settled and we slept through until 5 a.m. I settled him again and he slept until I had to wake him at 8 to take the boys to class. So, it was a much better night last night. I don't know if it's because I added the humidifier to his room (moisture + white noise helps) or if his body is winning the war on the virus. At least his body had a respite from the coughing.

Today J&B are at their classes all day and S is parked on the couch in front of PBS. I think he'll be fine to just stay there all day. Poor guy.

Thursday, October 8

Review: The Little Pilgrim's Progress

We just finished a unit that was infused with the character of God. The read aloud I chose was The Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. It's my understanding that she took the original work by John Bunyan and wrote it for children. I can't compare it to the original because I've never read it, but this book is beautifully written, has extremely short chapters, and is filled with line drawings to give the kids a visual. It's really a nice piece of work.

But I ditched it.

We got through Christian's story and stopped before Christiana's story due to allegorical issues -- ideas that are quite adverse to the faith I'm instilling in my boys:

1. Vanity Fair. Christian leaves this horrible experience with NO sign of grief, no visible show of change as a result of what he experienced. If it were me, my very next chapter would have been about how Christian threw himself upon the ground at the outskirts of the city and mourned for Vanity Fair, eating the grass and pouring dirt over his head. Does one really witness martyrdom and then brush it off?

2. Ignorance. As is true for practically everyone met along the way, Ignorance is greeted coldly by Christian and his companion, held at arms length and essentially written off because his journey looks differently than theirs does. They engage in a debate and decide that he is not worth waiting for. I find myself actually holding Christian responsible for the wicked end that Ignorance meets. If he had invested in him, shown him some compassion, asked more probing questions, walked beside him... If little Christian were taking seriously his call to be salt and light to the world wouldn't Ignorance be one of his most interesting and fulfilling relationships? Oh, that's right -- he never is called to be salt and light. It is evident that his only calling is to the Celestial City. Selfish tunnel vision fills this book and compassion for others is non-existent.

3. The Shining One. [The Christ Figure] And I quote, "But although the King had sent His servant to seek for the lost children and to bring them back into the right path, He was not pleased with them, and He had commanded the Shining One to punish them for their foolishness." Oh, there's more..."I shall be obliged to punish you, because you have now been pilgrims for a long time, and you would not have lost your way if you had done as the Shepherds told you." And then he beats them with a whip. No joke. Jesus comes down and beats his servants with a whip. What Bible is this from? [Now you could say that the Shining One is an angel, but there's too many similarities to The Angel of the Lord for me to agree.]

4. The Journey. The point of the journey is to get to the Celestial City [Heaven]. And that's IT. There is no desire to transform the lives of people around them. The only people they seem to be interested in influencing are those whom they chose to leave behind at home. There is no care for any other person's pain or sense of loss regarding their direction in life. No counseling, no healing of any kind. It's all about their own, individual journey. Anyone who seems to be a hindrance is left behind and truly forgotten. Please, don't let me teach my boys to be this kind of Christian.

5. The Celestial City. To Christian, Heaven is the end, the point, the goal of life. It seems that getting to the place of Heaven is even more important than being in the presence of the King who loves him. Oh, for many years, I thought this too. But God is at work to rescue and redeem all of creation on our behalf through the work of Jesus Christ. This whole journey is NOT just about Heaven. It's about life now, transforming, redeeming, communing, blessing and leading. It's also about a new heaven and a new earth later. Heaven is not the end-all of life after death. There is much more to come after that.

So, while this old classic has a place, it won't be in the hearts of my guys.

4 on Our Own -- Night 1

My poor little S had a horrible time last night. I think, I took five little 35 minute naps all night long between listening to him cough (and cough, and cough), getting him more Gatorade, more water, more medicine (alternating cough medicine and ibuprophin every few hours), changing his clothes because he'd peed out all that water, changing his bedsheets and pillow because he threw up from coughing, taking his temperature (highest was 102.6) holding him tight and rubbing his back. Oi.

And then around 5 a.m. he stopped coughing and is now sleeping soundly. I hope he sleeps all morning. Why do we only cough through the heart of the night?

Since I was awake, I did my own hour of Tae Bo this morning to get my adrenaline pumping because that's probably the only thing that will get me through today. That and caffeinated tea. O.K. That and caffeinated tea and the promise that we can do another Red Box movie again because Monsters v. Aliens was pretty good!

Other than school work (and that laundry) we have nothing else we have to do today. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 7

4 on Our Own -- Day 1

When Chip goes away it's my habit to blog every day so that he can see what we're up to. You all just get to eavesdrop and comment so I don't go stir crazy. So here is where we stand so far:

S was diagnosed yesterday with the flu and an ear infection. The ear pain is what drove us to the dr. yesterday afternoon -- the flu will probably take care of itself. However, the rest of the world around me is sick and if they are not sick, they don't want to get sick. So, we are staying home and we're not inviting anyone over to play. He'll miss his last day of swim lessons as a result.

J&B finished school today in a pretty timely manner. We did light/shadow experiments, exponents, fractions, multiplication through sixes, created a newspaper cartoon feature, read about Kit Carson and the Cheyenne Indians in Colorado, learned more about the life of Albert Einstein, wrote problem statements and hypothesis statements for their science fair projects, looked up verses about shadows, read a few more pages in Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, studied different kinds of sentences, and studied the Sumerians.

Here is a shadow project B did using light sensitive paper, leaves and a pinecone:

Here is what they are doing right now using the living room furniture and blankets. B is eating the candy they earned for getting their work done yesterday and he's installed a "mailbox" in the front of the fort so that I can send him messages:


Here is the scariest picture of all. This is my oldest DS leaving on his bike to to get the Red Box movie for tonight. He has to ride across a large parking lot, cross one not-very-busy-street and go into McDonalds WITH MY CREDIT CARD. Fortunately, he made it home with Monsters vs. Aliens AND my card:
We're off to drop off J for Taekwon Do and return a host of overdue library books before we go back and get him. After dinner I'll bathe the troops, we'll watch the movie and they're off to snoozeland. Me too. Hopefully I'll be tired tonight.

Tuesday, October 6

KWL

The KWL introduction/summation exercise has been floating around teaching circles for a looong time. A few years ago I picked up on it and thought, though it seems a bit canned and programmish, I'd give it a try. It's been one of the kids' favorite ways to start a unit. (It's amazing how they chime in when they know their answer will matter).

KWL stands for "What do you Know about [the topic]?" "What do you Want to know about [the topic]?" "What did you Learn about [the topic]?" Obviously, you do K and W when you begin the topic and L when you're done. I never do L, because if I'm teaching the way I think I should I'm not going to ignore their W and teach my own agenda to them. If they want to know some stuff then, of course, by the end of our study that's what they're going to know. Plus, I forget to do L. Just keeping it real for ya.

We began a unit study on Light yesterday. Here is what they Want to know. I have a second grader and a sixth grader and these are their actual responses.
  • How fast does light travel?
  • Can you measure the brightness of light?
  • What is the size and shape of light?
  • How do we measure heat from light?
  • What did Einstein learn about light?
  • When was the light bulb invented?
  • Why does light from the sun burn your eyes?
I should be a specialist in Optics by the end of next week.

Friday, September 25

A Day of Classes

...can take over your life.

Tho it's not my first reason for homeschooling, I do this thing because I want to be in control of my kids' education. I want to customize it. I want to build up their weaknesses by using their strengths. I want to be able to say, "That's enough" when I can tell they're are mentally checked out. I want to cross out rows of math problems when they "get it" and just do enough to keep them fit.

Under the guise of "enrichment" I enrolled my kids in a one day a week program for homeschoolers. And the homework from just that one day a week took over our life this week. I don't know if my kids felt pressure, but I sure did. All those overachiever, people-pleasing feelings came rushing back to me this week as I tried to not only implement the lessons I had planned for our family but to also incorporate the lessons these other teachers imparted to us.

It drove me nuts.

You can be sure I'm doing some deep thinking about this.

Tuesday, September 15

My Toddler Toolbox

It's a big question...."What do you do with your youngest while you school the other children?"

Here's what I have available for S who is now 3.
  • Play-dough and lots of things to cut and shape it with.
  • Sticker books.
  • Scissors and scrap paper he can cut up...and a glue stick so he can make a collage with it.
  • Color Wonder books, paper and markers.
  • Colorful straws cut into 1 inch "beads" to string onto shoelaces.
  • White paper and random stickers.
  • His own "math book" to scribble in.
  • Paintbrushes, construction paper and water to paint with.
  • Legos.
  • Crayons and coloring pages.
  • Felt shapes to arrange on a flannelboard.
  • Markers to use on the whiteboard.
  • Laundry piles to jump in.
  • A sandbox in the secure backyard.
What tools do you use to entertain your smallest people?

Monday, September 14

A Quote to Remind Me...

"Circumstance does not make me,

it reveals me."

{ william james }

Friday, September 11

Lessons After Two Weeks

1. Flex. When you have company (as we did early in the week) move "school" around so that the company can maintain some sense of having their own space. Oh, and if you let the company play with the toddler then everyone wins.

2. Hand it over. Let others speak into your kids' learning. We had a co-op on Tuesday where Liese got my kids thinking about homophones, alliteration and other linguistic ideas. Then I followed up for the next two days with corresponding activities. Cool.

3. Plug in. If you can involve a computer then do it. J is doing two full subjects using a computer curriculum this year, we are learning some HTML, we looked up Colorado scenery for our notebooks and we did some online searching for information. Everyone likes school better when we crowd around the monitor.

4. Change. We finally heard back from a one-day-a-week public program for homeschoolers and we quickly got all the info in order to take them to their first day today. J is taking Pre-Algebra, P.E. Art, Yearbook/Journalism and possibly Theater Arts. B is taking Computers, Science, Art, Language Arts, P.E. and Karate. (Let me say that with B's emphasis... KARATE!!!!) And they also get to eat PIZZA for lunch (with equal emphasis). I hope they're having a good time because I'm feeling a little lost today with just S at home.

And now we're off to the mountains for the weekend! It's been an up-and-down kind of a week for our fam. It will be good to chill.

Friday, September 4

Lessons after a Week

1. I cannot leave the room while they are working. Because if I do anything else in any other room, it's like their focus leaves the room with me.

2. Our 3 year old will NOT take an interest in playing alone in his room unless he has to go in there to poop in his pants.

3. I cannot have ANY computer time until our work is done. Or else we won't get started again for a long time.

4. I will give them extra time to explore something if they are showing an interest. We are studying computer science and so they are learning some HTML. This requires some trial and error at the computers. I'm not pushing them through and everyone is happy...and learning.

6. I cannot say, "Let's do our last activity after lunch." It will not happen. My to-do list will simply take over my day. I just give them a snack and push through until the work is done.

What lessons are you learning or being reminded of this school year?

Wednesday, September 2

"You Are Accepted Here Just as You Are"

We say this phrase at our church every week, but I've never felt the benefits of this phrase more than I felt today. However, it didn't come from my church community. It came from my all-walks-of-life-and-we-like-it-that-way homeschool group.

We went to Park Day with our group this afternoon. It was a huge turn out today with maybe 15 families. My Bigs like to go and play Nerf gun wars* with the other boys. In fact they were completely motivated to get all school work done by 11:30 so they could go.

*I've given up on trying to keep them away from play guns. While I don't buy them for the boys or let them have them at home, I realize that boys will turn everything into a gun and I'm just going to have to be okay with that.

J has some difficulty with separating reality from fiction. He can also be impulsive, explosive and commandeering. So, when he pushed another boy down I knew it was play in his mind but I also knew that the other boy did not consider it to be playful.

Then he ran and jumped on J and wrestled him to the ground and before my eyes they were going at it like two jocks in a schoolyard. Dang. That was my kid.

I broke it up and the other mom came running and we had the conversations that needed to be had with our sons. Apologies were made. No one was hurt and I don't think the boys have hard feelings for one another. But the embarrassment kind of sticks with everyone, you know?

So, I walked back to the circle-of-moms who inquired about the scene. I gave them the short version -- feeling foolish, feeling inadequate, feeling completely embarrassed and stupid. And although they didn't say the phrase word for word they did say:
  • "That's okay."
  • "That's what park day is for... to learn these lessons."
  • "Are they okay?"
  • "Are YOU okay?"
  • "I have problems with anger outbursts too."
I have been a part of co-ops and Christian groups that have "discipline covenants." My son has been asked to leave two of these Christian groups because he broke the discipline covenant. I'm pretty sure that in any other place a fist-fight would have been grounds for removal.

But for us it was the grounds by which we received more acceptance and grace. Moms journeying together: It's a good thing.

Thank you, Park Group. You totally blessed me today.

Friday, August 28

Fall Reading


It seems as if I have more time to read in the summer than in any other season, but I'm going to try to challenge that and see if it's true. Here's my plan: get off Facebook.
That should do it.

This is what my docket is like for the fall. I'm giving myself until Christmas to finish them. That way, if I run across something else that I want to add, then I can do it all.

Because, you know, doing it all is what I'm all about. *



*(note sarcasm)

Thursday, August 27

First Day Cool / Not Cool


Cool: The Backpack fairy struck again last night and even though everyone knows it's me they like to play along.
Not Cool: S woke up with a pretty painful stiff neck. So, I had to make a decision to school or not to school today. Nothing like a potential health crisis on the first day.

Cool: S is tickled with his little drawer of activities-that-distract-the-toddler.
Not Cool: He did everything in the drawer so I hope it doesn't get real old real quick.

Cool: Mom says, "Let's get started." Kids simply say, "OK."
Not Cool: Kids were probably so amicable because one of them was not feeling 100% healthy.

Cool: We went to the park with a dozen other families to make Solar Ovens out of pizza boxes.
Not Cool: We had to leave before the sun baked our cookies because J is feeling bad again.

Cool: Everyone is content, school is done, the house is quiet and I'm rocking my to-do list.
Not Cool: There's nothin' not cool about that.

Wednesday, August 26

The Night Before 6th + 2nd Grade

  • Set up the station box with the assignments for the unit.
  • Forgo the incentive program this year. We ditched it early on last year.
  • Stuff backpacks with some new clothes, books and colored pencils (the backpack fairy comes to our house tonight).
  • Hang the bulletin board up.
  • Fill a drawer with "school" things for our little guy to do.
  • Make a to-do list and plan meals for next week.
  • Figure out where to go for dinner for our "first day of school celebration outing."
  • Register the younger boys for a swim class.
  • Fold the laundry.
  • Read the end of a book I was supposed to have finished a week ago.
  • Cover today's birthday cake and clean up the wrapping paper (S is 3 today!)
  • Pray. Again, on my knees.
God, I am thankful for this gift of teaching and the freedom to exercise it for the best interest of my sons. Where there is confusion, clarify. Where there is emptiness, fill. Where there is knowledge, humble. Where there is openness, teach. This year is yours. Keep reminding me of that. Amen

Tuesday, August 25

The Last Day of Two

When B was turning 3 I began mourn the end of 2. He was so fun and I hoped that I would still like him even when he was 3. Of course I ended up loving 3 too, but at the time I didn't know it would be so cool.

The same is true for S. Two is my favorite age (it ties with 6 months). He's just bursting with new vocabulary ("Holy Moley" is pretty recent). He can tell us what hurts. He can give his brothers a real workout. He can get a popsicle out of the freezer by himself... o.k. that's one that we're not super fond of. But still. He's learning at light speed. I love it.

So today is his last day of two. I took photos of things that we did today. I hugged him a little more and listened a little more closely. I wiped his nose -- because he's a little sick -- and asked him questions just to see what he'd say. I love two. I will miss two. This is my last two.

Happy Birthday, little man. You have rounded out our family well.

Tuesday, August 18

Summer Reading Check-up

My kids did two library summer reading programs this summer. They completed them and ended up with more coupons than we can use for area restaurants and attractions. It's a good incentive to keep them reading during the summer. However, this was J's first year in the "teen" club and it turned out to be a great deal LESS exciting than the children's club. Sometimes his prize was just to put his name in a drawing. He's my avid reader so it didn't deter him a great deal, but I was a little disappointed for him.

I did considerably better this summer than I did last year. My list was, indeed, ambitious (considering everything else we had going on) and I made it through 6 of the 8 books I listed. Here are my thoughts:

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. I haven't gotten to this one yet. But it's first on my list for my fall reading (stay tuned for that list soon).

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. This is a very easy, fast read. But it's kind of like trying to mix cornstarch and water in your hands: it just runs through your fingers until you grab hold of it and then you have something solid and worth chewing on. I actually want to read it again to catch some of the runoff that I missed.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton. We are just about finished with our park group for the summer using this book. I think it was a good experience for everyone who stuck with it. The book demystifies these spiritual disciplines and it has short, approachable chapters. A good pick for busy moms.

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I took John to Great Britain with me to read on the plane/train. I'm sad to say that I'm disappointed that I'm disappointed with Steinbeck, because I LOVE him. But this one didn't have nearly the number of Americana vignettes I was hoping for. Steinbeck is so good at capturing people where they are, but this one was really more like reading a disjointed blog than seeing America through his (or Charley's) eyes.

The Religious Potential of the Child ages 6-12 by Sofia Cavaletti. Didn't get to it. Tried. Got distracted.

Faith Matters: Faith Mentoring in the Faith Community by Sondra Higgins Matthaei. Got some good reminders of what mentoring is all about and the different role mentors (or I) play in the lives of others. I don't think I'll need to read it for a third time though. As far as reading dissertations go, this one repeats a bit too much in what feels like an attempt to make a minimum page requirement.

Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons. I practically carry this around with me. I keep flipping through it again and again, reading snippets here and there. Not only is it informative but it's encouraging, empowering and freeing. If you have an ADHD child (or a child labeled in some other learning disabled way) you need to read it. I'm not joking.

Eat, Pray, Love: one woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. Forgive me for calling this memoir a biography. It's funny that my aunt and I had the same response to it: We loved the Eat, pushed through the Pray and were disappointed in the Love. So, I read it. Moving on.

How'd you do this summer with your reading?

Monday, August 17

Highlights from Last Week


I loved this little outing with my kids to the Littleton Historical Museum while dh was catching up on work from our trip. The blacksmith spent some time showing the boys his forming tools (we call them hammers), S learned not to put his fingers in the chicken coop fence, and we walked through an 1860's farm and an 1890's farmhouse.

The boys have LOVED S's new sandbox. His grandpa built it while dh and I were in Great Britain. It's given everyone lots of hours of peace and creativity.

Our garage was built from start to finish. Dug it out on Monday... built on Friday. We're just awaiting final inspection and then I can write the big fat check for it. The boys have already adopted it as good scooter-ing territory.


My Aunt Cyn came for a quick visit. S helped her make coffee just like he did when my dad was here. We went to the Tattered Cover, the playground, and Mr. Biggs. It was a good time.


My neighbor, who is a bit of a recluse, showed up at my front door and said he had an abundance in his garden and he wanted to share it. And share he did! We have carrots, green onions, basil, thyme, sage and flat leaf parsley. I am just as jazzed about the home grown food and spices as I am about the relationship contact we finally made with him.

Coming up:
  • This is our last full week of summer.
  • I have some ...er... a LOT of school planning to do.
  • J wants to try out a teen writing group at the library (I can't believe I said "teen" either).
  • You should see my post at Heart of the Matter on Wednesday.
  • We are going on a three day retreat with the other families on staff at TNL.
  • and Donald Miller tickets go on sale for Englewood, CO on Friday.

Friday, August 14

The Newest Homeschool Study.

The summary is worth looking at whether you homeschool or not. You can read the whole article here.

Here are some highlights:

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.
  • $34,999 or less—85th percentile
  • $35,000–$49,999—86th percentile
  • $50,000–$69,999—86th percentile
  • $70,000 or more—89th percentile

The education level of the parents makes a bit of difference but those with no degree still have children who test well above the national average.
  • Neither parent has a college degree—83rd percentile
  • One parent has a college degree—86th percentile
  • Both parents have a college degree—90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.
  • Certified (i.e., either parent ever certified)—87th percentile
  • Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)—88th percentile


Parental spending on home education made little difference.
  • Spent $600 or more on the student—89th percentile
  • Spent under $600 on the student—86th percentile

The extent of government regulation on homeschoolers did not affect the results.
  • Low state regulation—87th percentile
  • Medium state regulation—88th percentile
  • High state regulation—87th percentile

HSLDA commissioned Dr. Brian Ray, an internationally recognized scholar and president of the non-profit National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), to collect data for the 2007–08 academic year for a new study which would build upon 25 years of homeschool academic scholarship conducted by Ray himself, Rudner, and many others.

Drawing from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics included 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test for the 2007–08 academic year. The Progress Report is the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed.

Wednesday, August 12

Re-Entry



























This time last week I was enjoying the British Museum in London... or maybe we had moved on to the Tate Modern by now. I had no thoughts of what I would be doing in a week. I didn't daydream about curriculum. I didn't have to think about how to incorporate nap time into the structure of the day. I ate when I was hungry. I didn't pick up toys off the floor. I appreciated things that were interesting to me and not just entertaining to my kids.

Ahhhh.



























By the end of our 8 days in Great Britain I was ready to see my kids again. But I knew that because I'd had a completely separate, relaxing, cultural experience that I might feel uneasy in my mom shoes again. Uneasy isn't quite the word.

Once arriving home I was amazed at how many times a day they say my name. Amazed at how they choose to live at odds with one another. Amazed at how they ignore the beauty of life with a huff because some detail doesn't seem fair to them. The daily squawks and words of displeasure and crying fits were a bit of a shock to my system.

It took me a couple days to get back into the swing of this: Every beck and call for something to drink, jumping up to find out what the big thump was, bringing the ketchup and the syrup and the spoon and the napkin to the table in four separate trips, answering, "What?" to the 122nd call of "Mom!"

It's no wonder to me (now) that London, in fact, seemed so silent. I think this is because none of its sound was pointed at me. No one was wanting or needing my attention. In fact the only two sounds I really remember were the sound of bagpipes playing as we walked out of the train station in Edinburgh, and the incessant "mind the gap" in the Tube stations (picking up on repetition is natural for a mom's ears). Funny that I don't specifically remember hearing anything else. It was a feast for my eyes, my skin, my mouth. But my ears found the inner solitude they are always seeking.



































I'm not sure what that says about me. Maybe it's just my introverted, melancholy essence coming out. But what I think I need to learn from it is to listen well to my children when they are happy and satisfied and playing well and asking good questions -- because they do all these things too. I just let the unlovely sounds drown them out in my heart. And therein I, too, miss the beauty of life.

Thursday, July 23

We're in This Together

My post is up at Heart of the Matter today: How NOT To Talk to a Teacher. It seemed important after I began to evaluate all the conversations I've had with folks who are classroom teachers. Of my friends who are/were classroom teachers:

  • One has completely lambasted homeschooling.
  • A couple have accepted that I teach them at home, but have reservations.
  • Some recognize what I do as a legitimate option but believe strongly in the institution too.
  • A few looked at me in awe when they found out I homeschooled and said, "Wow. I could never do that."
  • Most have strongly encouraged me in my endeavor and regularly ask me, "So how it is going?"
  • One is no longer a classroom teacher because she pulled her kids out so she could teach them at home.

I'm okay with all of these responses. The relationships are more valuable to me than the differences in educational philosophy. Sometimes, however, homeschoolers can be a bit insulting toward classroom teachers -- though I've seen it go both ways. (Most of the ugliness I have seen happens in the blogging world.) It will not serve us well to build walls up. Assuming the worst in one another will not get us anywhere. This is just a gentle reminder.

Read more here.

Monday, July 20

A Summer Geography Lesson

My husband surprised me with a trip for two to Great Britain to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We leave soon and I'm so excited.

One of the neat things about this trip is that the boys and I studied Great Britain last year and so we are familiar with some of the sights and history of it.
  • We studied the life of George Mueller and all that was happening during the Victorian era.
  • We searched online for some of the more mysterious places in GB (and there are quite a few!).
  • We learned that England gave us the magnifying glass, the Christmas card, the stapler, the piggy bank, the postage stamp and the television.
  • We read "Daffodils" and wrote our own poetry.
  • We colored maps of the area and even learned how far reaching the Victorian Empire was.
  • We learned that twice as many of its people claim to be of no religion than those who claim to be Christian.
  • We learned the difference between the British Isles, Great Britain and England/Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland.
  • We put ourselves in the shoes of a Victorian servant and a 19th century coal miner.
  • We learned about the life of Queen Victoria.
Homeschooling has been so beneficial for the boys for so many reasons. And now I'm reaping a personal benefit having been prepared a bit to experience a culture firsthand. I wish I could take the boys so they could see it all firsthand as well. But that's not the purpose of this trip.

If I can figure out HOW, I'll try to post pictures.

Wednesday, July 8

Heart of the Matter Summer Edition

The Heart of the Matter Magazine Summer Edition is out today. I'm on page 26, but there are a lot of other great things in there! If you're a home educator go check it out and leave your comments on the articles you read. The writers dig that kind of thing. :-)

Monday, July 6

Giveaway from The Crafty Crow

Here's a giveaway at Crafty Crow that might inspire your homeschooling in new directions. You can get a free issue of Around: the Homeschooling Lifestyle Zine. I'm always on the lookout for homeschooling sources that aren't the same ol', same ol' if you know what I mean.

To be entered in this giveaway click the link above and leave a comment there by midnight P.S.T. on Saturday, July 11th. The five winners will be announced on Monday, July 13th. This giveaway is available worldwide.

Sunday, July 5

Intentional To-Do

I have a definite love for making lists. My to-do list, specifically, has bounced over and over again from a spiral notebook, to my Outlook task folder, to full-page organizers, to little pieces of scratch paper. Once that list wants out of my head, I get it down in whatever medium I have available.

One summer my satisfyingly extensive to-do list wasn't even enough. As I was recording daily what my baby was learning and doing (see, another list!) I began to also journal three or four things that the entire family had done each day, thus underscoring all the things I had been able to cross off said to-do list.

After nostalgically re-reading some of that journaling this weekend I noticed one thing. It was all about what we did and nothing about how we did it or who we became in the process.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a workshop by Keith Dorscht of Live Fully Engaged. Among all the really useful things he said, one thing that stuck with me was the idea of how to approach my to-do list. What it boiled down to was to ask myself this question, "At the end of the day what will "well done" look like?"

In the past few weeks, that phrase has been priceless to me.

We so often push "well done" into the heavenly scenario that will take place at the end of our lives. But this mentality seems to only give us space to blow-it daily and fall back on idly trying again tomorrow. But what if we only continue to screw up our teaching, our marriage, our parenting, our priorities? What tragedies befall us if we keep putting off the changes we need to make? What if there isn't a tomorrow?

Asking, "What will 'well done' look like?" daily opens up my to-do list to the true priorities: making my voice respectful, looking my kids in the eye when they ask for my attention, responding with patience to the irritating things of life, doing the hard things in relationships, thinking outside the box, tackling the tasks that will bless others, show love in ways that are meaningful to the recipient, [insert your own personal growth issue here]...

This summer my to-do list seems much shorter than in years past. Truthfully, I have plenty of things to do, but I'm not nearly as focused on what I have to do as I am on who I aim to be at the end of the day. It's amazing what at little mental shift will do for you.

So, at the end of your day today what will "well done" look like in your life?

Tuesday, June 30

Intentional Choice

Before we even moved to Denver I did some serious re-evaluation of the value of a Christian homeschool co-op. I completely understand the reason for their existence and I even helped start one up in our city. But in terms of living missionally, I had difficulty lining up my family's vision with that of the Christian co-op.

You see, I do not homeschool my children in order to shelter them from the world. Therein lies one of the major differences between me and others on this journey. I understand that rationale I just, respectfully, don't share it. I do exercise my freedom to expose my kids to the less idyllic things of the world when it's appropriate to do so (on our family's timetable and not someone else's) and when we can have a decent two-way discussion about it.

In addition to this, I want to instill in my kids that its okay to feel comfortable with people who are different from them be it in philosophy, lifestyle, worldview or anything. In my experience with Christian co-ops, there tended to be a moral agenda that was assumed to be bottom-line biblical. There was also a political agenda that was actually based on fear. While there were many in the co-op who truly loved others, there was a general feeling that we needed to be intently concerned about ourselves and minimally concerned about the world around us. I struggled with this because I understood (and still understand) it, I just couldn't set my priorities that way knowing that the gospel is the good news that God has come to rescue and redeem all of creation through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

In my attempt to do what Jesus said... to be "salt and light" in the world... I needed to step out of the Christian bubble, to engage the culture around me so that in knowing it more fully I could bless it. To, first of all, love it. Plain and simple. I have difficulty intentionally doing that in a homogeneous group that portends to exist outside of and boldly against culture.

The homeschooling group I've found here in Denver is a wonderful mix of all kinds of families. I suspect a good many have a Christian belief system, but that's not the main assumption we make about each other. The things that bind us together are the basic daily tasks of schooling, loving and training our children well, exposing them to a myriad of transformative encounters, and encouraging one another through the less idyllic experiences of our own lives. It's stretching me as I learn a deeper way to love and listen. There is much to be learned here, but if I can't love learning (or love people) then I can't teach my kids to do the same.

Tough stuff to think about.

Saturday, June 27

Intentional Rest

This summer isn't quite the relaxing time I had hoped for so far. These first few weeks have been filled with great, meaningful stuff. I mean how can you go wrong with a Park and Rec party...summer reading kickoffs...a week-long online ministry conference...co-op park day...Tae Kwon Do...Baseball...soccer...mentoring sessions...worship...a killer book sale...a day at the lake...a home educator conference...date night...a wildlife tour...a visit from my folks...a spraypark...a surprise visit from Portland friends...Junior Police Academy...dinner for friends who had a hard week...

I supposed it's possible to overdo it even though it was all wonderful. This introvert needs serious recharge time.

Today made up for all of the busy-ness and even without a nap I was able to rest. I had breakfast with a friend that lasted until lunchtime. Then, DH decided to institute Quiet Reading time for the older boys while the youngest napped (genius!), I worked on photo albums, began reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle aloud to B and J, had an early & easy spaghetti dinner, took a family walk that was just shy of five miles (!), and there's still time to read a book.

Today had all the elements I love about summer: long conversations, time with my kids, exercise, the outdoors, my happy husband, cooperation... and right now the pink sunlight is bouncing off the clouds over the Rockies.

I need to have more days like this.

Because on Monday there's soccer, Taekwon Do, team pictures, a baseball game...

Sunday, June 21

Intentional Slam

I was at a homeschool conference this weekend. One presenter passionately noted that home schooled students' average standardized test scores are in the 85th percentile, that the scores for homeschooled students whose parents were certified teachers had zero difference from those whose parents were not and on and on and on about how homeschooled children are actually taught how to think. Then he said, "Yet 95% of the professional educators say that homeschooling is the very worst form of education. What's wrong with these people?!?!?" [Outstretched arms, condescending tone of voice... the whole ball of wax]

One dad's sarcastic response was
"They were public schooled."

I wanted to hang my head in shame. Not just for the "us vs. them" mentality. Not just for the arrogance that was displayed. But because somehow these people have forgotten that
they
were
public
schooled
TOO.

And they learned how to think. In fact they think that they think very well, thank you very much.

In another presentation the audience snickered at the movie trailer for An Inconvenient Truth, bemoaned the passing of the days when Saturday morning t.v. actually showed "good cartoons" (huh?) and actually guffawed at the phrase, "Can't we all just get along?"

Sigh. It seems like a legitimate question to me.

Just for the record, I think the Bible is true: "Knowledge puffs up."

Thursday, June 11

Intentional Toileting

This is the big summer for S. He is now potty training.

I'm taking a different approach this time. I'm beginning by reading him books about going potty on the toilet, talking about body parts when he's in the bath (he already realizes that girls don't "have one") and mentioning when changing his diaper that it's cleaner to go in the toilet. I'm just trying to make it part of his vocabulary, to infuse it into our life before he's expected to give it a shot. His interest is slowly growing. His potty chair is in the bathroom but he says "it's broken" because the batteries need to be replaced before it will play music. All in good time. Just building the anticipation for him.

For the record, I am horrible at this. J wasn't deemed trained until he was almost 5 and B didn't stop having accidents until his fourth summer. I am nervous to say the least. (What if he doesn't get it before we start school again in August?)

I do this in the summer for a few reasons: Because during the school year I just can't take the time to stop every 20 minutes to take him. Because if it's necessary to go without pants for a while then doing this at colder times of year won't really work. Because this year we don't have any (more) big road trips planned. Because I am more relaxed.

In addition to this, I want to spend some intentional time with him in some learning activities. Letters, numbers, colors, shapes. Stuff he can develop in his head while his other end is developing its own... stuff. That's holistic education at its finest right there.