Thursday, February 26

School on the Road

The thought of driving across America in an RV is probably the most romanticized homeschooling dream ever invented. While we have never even come close to trying it, we have attempted on various occasions to do school on short trips in the car. You might think, "Aren't we lucky? Public school kids never get to do THIS!" (Check that rationale --- homeschool kids are actually taking their work with them on vacation. How is that a good deal?) So, it's understandable that J has a fairly large aversion to school in the car. And I think these are the reasons why:

1. School work is not any easier on a road trip than it is at home. It's more difficult to write, reading might actually make a child queasy, and thinking mathematically is impossible when there are snowy hillsides to gaze at mile after mile.

2. School work in the car is typically busywork. They can't fully engage in a project in the car so I tend to resort to bringing along more workbook oriented activities. Truthfully, I don't know if they necessarily learn anything from them; they just complete them. If they don't like them at home, why would work pages be more appealing on a road trip?

3. I can't learn alongside them. In fact my body begins to hurt from turning around to offer help so many times. This frustrates them as much as it frustrates me. If I'm not helping, then I'm sitting in the front seat reading my own book while my son sits behind me figuring out how President Harrison helped the country to thrive. It doesn't seem like a great deal to a kid.

What do you see as the cons of school on the road?

Thursday, February 19

Steps of a God Story

I'm a bit of a researcher, a ponderer... I like to see all the steps that make up the big picture. Homeschooling can be frustrating to me because I feel like I keep taking step after step after step and I never get to see the big picture. I may never see it. My children will grow and develop and I'll never know for sure if this was the exact way they needed to be raised. So, I continue taking the daily steps and hoping that one day the big picture will reveal itself if only a little bit. It's a stretch for me to live with this tension.

I'm going to go completely off script here because the last five years of our life as a family has not so much been about homeschooling as it has been about journeying... step by step... with no clue of the bigger picture.

Step 1 -- Quit a perfectly good ministry position and do something radical in order to follow an internal passion.

Step 2 -- Put it all aside when it simply doesn't work. Begin to wander and grope.

Step 3 -- Wait (Which really means grow, stretch, cry, learn, try, serve, listen, release and tell).

Step 4 -- Stick with Step 3 for a while.

Step 5 -- Take matters into your own hands. Fail. Go ahead. Keep trying.

Step 6 -- Come to the end of yourself. This is important.

Step 7 -- Be amazed as the Big Picture unfolds.

We accomplished Step 1 and 2 pretty well, thank you very much. Step 3 drove us nearly insane. I'm not kidding you. Of course, this means that Step 4 sucked as well.

Step 5 is where it started getting interesting. We found the perfect path to finally seeing the big picture. And as the door slammed on our perfect path, the door was opening for Step 7 (though it wouldn't happen for another two years). At the same time we were hearing "no" for a ministry job that we thought was in the bag at a local university one woman stepped off the plane in Mozambique and knew she'd be going back.

Still in Step 5 we tried connecting with a brand new ministry plant on the east coast. That was exciting. But we could not get to a point of peace about it. We had to say "no." Then we tried to really stretch and pursue a local church ministry that made us hedge a bit and after that round of interviews they also said, "no." This answer was getting really old. But while we were failing at these attempts, the woman and her husband were resigning their perfectly good ministry position to do something radical -- move their family to Mozambique.

Meanwhile, we were smack in the middle of Step 6 when September hit and several things converged. First, a community I was intimately involved in building (admittedly as a part of my Step 5) came to a mysterious and abrupt impasse. And God asked, "What kind of leader do you want to be? You won't become that here. Move on." Secondly, we hit a personal milestone. It was now five years since we first took Step 1. We wondered if it was just the first five years in a journey that may take another 35 more. Turns out it was just 5 more months. Thirdly, we answered some questions for a community who happened to be looking for a new co-leader because their current one was moving to... Mozambique. To me it seemed they wanted all the skills and passions of my husband. The more we looked at them the more we felt drawn. It was, indeed, going to sting when they got around to telling us "no."

But they didn't. Last week they said, "Yes. Come."

Enter Step 7.

Next week I get to meet them. I couldn't be more excited to hear more of their story and thank them for connecting to mine. It feels good to know that the big picture is much, much bigger than me.

Friday, February 13

Single Parent Homeschooling -- Day 5

In spite of two sick boys (I'm currently working a Cold-eze) we've had a pretty good week. Yesterday, my parents came over and brought a Valentine's celebration with them -- cupcakes, heart-shaped pizza and presents (we now have a web cam for some upcoming long-distance conversations).
We didn't suffocate under a mound of laundry (though I'm still folding it) or attract any flies from dirty dishes too long in the sink. The kids did a great job doing the right things this week and I really don't feel exhausted. I love stepping up to the plate when faced with a challenge that no one can help me with. But we do miss Chip and can't wait to have him back.

On Our Agenda Today:
  • Finish up our Tall Tale, read aloud from the Great Brain, move through more of the passion week narrative. -- doing catch up.
  • Let go of math and penmanship for the day. Yesterday was a lot. Now it just feels like busywork.
  • It's Project Day. We have a presentation on U.S. Grant to finish (if technology allows us to), train cars to build out of Legos, and an electricity project that needs to be completed.
  • Taekwon Do this afternoon.
  • Finish the laundry.
On His Agenda Today:
  • Finish up the conference.
  • Wistfully wave good-bye to the hot tub.
  • Hang out in San Diego until his flight leaves.
  • Kiss his wife.
Coping Mechanism:
  • The last day of anything can be exhausting. I'm mindful of the fact that I'm more likely to be short on patience today than on any other day. But since Chip gets in late tonight and then heads to work early in the a.m. I'm going to pretend this isn't the last day, because it isn't. Sometimes playing mind tricks with myself works pretty well.

Looking Forward To:
  • Taking the boys out to dinner.

Thanks for reading this week!

Thursday, February 12

Single Parent Homeschooling -- Day 4

With all the things we needed to accomplish today...

I never expected that we'd park on math.

(Notice how S is already so advanced in math... not. He has a math workbook that is all his to scribble in. Once he saw the other boys had their books out he went in search of his so he could do the same thing. So cute.)

On Our Agenda Today:
  • Declutter ... if I was brave I'd take before and after pictures of the condition of our house. But I'm not feeling like I want to be that vulnerable today. Man, when the cat's away...
  • Cut Some Things... We have a long way to go and it's already lunchtime.
  • Read Aloud (do)
  • Bible (push to tomorrow)
  • Electricity Project (do)
  • Tall Tale (push off)
  • Railroad project (try again next week)
  • New State Study (do)
  • Math (done)
  • Penmanship (done)
  • Latin (push off)
  • Reading (done)
  • Timeline (done)

On His Agenda Today

  • Soak in the National Pastor's Conference as a pastor.

Coping Mechanism:
  • My parents are coming with dinner and entertainment for the boys this afternoon. A break in the structure makes it easier to move through the necessities.

Looking Forward To:
  • Time out on my own. Maybe meeting a friend... shopping for a trip...reading a book.

I'm off to feed the squirrels.

Wednesday, February 11

A Poem to Mark a Moment

I'll explain it soon enough, but for now I just had to gratefully say this...

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

-- May Sarton

A Couple Photos

S is now running at about 90%. The fever broke last night and he woke up with a renewed sense of purpose. :-)

A quick blurry shot of the current activity.

The electricity project that we'll continue tomorrow. That plastic bottle is supposed to "fly" when the battery circuit gets stuffed inside and the propeller is finished. At the very least the propeller is supposed to spin. (Whoopee!) B is digging it.

The photo I missed: J tried roller skating today. He pulled himself around the rink three times and then turned in his skates. Good for him!

Now we're off to buy three kinds of Root Beer and taste test them (because today we learned that it was invented in 1877). Root Beer floats will be great while watching another movie tonight.

Single Parent Homeschooling -- Day 3

On Our Agenda Today:
  • We are reinforcing many of the same ideas from yesterday. We're going to try some experiments with electricity and the boys have embarked on their own projects involving the railroad to the west.
  • Take S to the Dr.?
  • Hear from our tax guy?
  • Find a babysitter for Saturday night.
  • Wash the dishes. Between all the cereal and ice cream we're out of bowls.
High: 45 °F
Low: 30 °F

On His Agenda Today:
  • Gordon Fee
  • Rob Bell
  • Wil Willimon
High: 62 °F
Low: 51 °F

Coping Mechanism:
  • Stay off the computer. We have plans today so we need to get to it. If we're going to get anywhere I need to stay focused on them.

Looking Forward To:
  • Playing with Zach this afternoon (if S continues to perk up).

Canceling Today:
  • Hopefully nothing!

Tuesday, February 10

Not Much Better

Day three of fever. We're hanging in there.

Here's the healthier ones playing "IJ".

We did finish our activities for the day. We're headed out (briefly) to get a movie.
I'm going to have to be way more creative tomorrow.

Single Parent Homeschooling -- Day 2

I hear you can't leave comments. I made an adjustment in the settings so try again and see if it works now.

Day Two

Woke up last night at 11:15, 1:00: 1:30, 2:00, 4:20, 6:15 and 7:30 with S. That's not too bad since he was crying out every 20 minutes for the two nights prior.

Woke Up Today To:

Proceeded To:

Still Dealing With:

On Our Agenda Today:

  • Electricity: How it works and choose projects for the week.
  • Read Aloud-- The Great Brain.
  • The Passion Week of Jesus.
  • Math: Fractions for J and Adding and Subtracting to the hundreds for B.
  • Write a tall tale.
  • Penmanship.
  • Latin.
  • The Railroad to the West Projects

On His Agenda Today:

  • Learning from Christopher Wright
  • Lunch with John Ortburg

Coping Mechanism:

  • Chuck the schedule. When S is sick and nothing else is pressing in on us, we can take all day to do learning activities and take big breaks. Being done by 1:00 is not on our agenda today.

Canceling today:

  • Two Buck Tuesday at the Zoo

Looking Forward to:
  • Movie night with the boys. I hear WALL-E is good.

Monday, February 9

Single Parent Homeschooling -- Day 1

Tally Count:
  • 1 healthy mom.
  • 1 healthy son.
  • One son on the mend.
  • One son so drippy he can't keep his eyes open.

This was S yesterday. He crawled up on J's bed and simply fell asleep. You all know that only happens when they're feeling sick. I've heard stories about Chip putting himself to bed when he was a kid, but that delightful trick didn't get passed on to his sons.

This changes up our week a bit.

On our agenda today:

  • Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Math
  • Art and Sports Classes for the boys
  • Reading and Writing activities
  • Give the boys haircuts
  • Wipe noses
  • Flexibility
On his agenda today:
  • Rub shoulders with Edgar Winter on the plane to San Diego. (Note to self: Google Edgar Winter)
  • Spend time with his mother and brother who are taking the day to drive to San Diego to see him.
  • Hot tub.
Canceling today:
  • Dinner with friends whose husbands are with Chip at the conference.
  • Any other outside contact.

Coping Technique:

  • Two hours of classes for the bigs + one nap for a sick baby boy = Mom's quiet time.

Looking forward to:
  • Comments! (Did I mention that it's Blog Comment Week and I have sick kids?)
Thoughts on The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life.
This has been an interesting read so far. It's spiritual, but not overtly Christian, so if you define yourself as the latter and decide to pick it up yourself just be prepared for some very broad strokes and definitions.

Here's an interesting thought. The author mentioned two different camps of educators: the scholars who insist" that the subject is primary and must never be compromised for the sake of the student's lives," and the student-centered educators who insist "that the lives of students must always come first even if it means that the subject gets short-changed." In the first place, homeschoolers often proport that public schools are exclusively made up of the scholars. Not true. Secondly, if these two camps are so hotly divided then it is obvious that curriculum design and implementation is just as laborious in the classroom setting as it is in the home setting.

This is the thrust of our greatest struggle is it not? We want to take our kids "out"and do a better job with the subject, but we also want to teach to the heart and mold their character. If we focus on the subject too much, we lose the love of learning that we're seeking. If we focus on the core needs of the student we eventually feel like we need to play catch-up with the curriculum. There's no easy way to bridge the two because both are important. It's nice to know the paid teachers deal with this too.

The pulse of homeschooling in general, however, is to teach to the heart of the child. Since the majority of homeschoolers were educated in a classroom the techniques of our pulse don't come least they don't for me. I may not be gifted enough or unselfish enough to always utilize those teachable moments so I fall back on instruction strategy and schedules. This seems to favor the subject over the student. So, I'm working on this balance just like everyone else. And I'm hoping that we'll see some great results in the lives of our kids...someday.

Sunday, February 8

Blog Comment Week 2009

It's that time again. Chip is off to the National Pastor's Convention/Book Marketing Event in San Diego tomorrow. I'm stuffing the calendar full of things to do with the boys. In addition to entertaining, educating and giving them sustenance for life, I'll be posting pictures (mostly so their dad can see what they're up to) and sharing ideas from the book I'm reading: The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer.

So, I'm inviting new readers, long time friends, whether I've met you or not, to leave me comments. Adult interaction = a good thing.

Friday, February 6

Thoughts From an Unexpected Place

I had the chance to go hear Shane Claiborne tonight. I happened to have my homeschool filter on at the time and so what I heard I heard most loudly as a mother and a home educator. My other roles were vying for attention as well, but I kind of needed to make peace with the filter tonight. I don't think he expected to address a homeschooling mother's dilemmas, but he did because I chose to listen in that way and it's pretty cool what came out of it for me.

Here are some thoughts that everyone there heard tonight:
  • Jesus doesn't command anyone to worship but he invites them to follow and as they begin to follow they begin to worship.
  • Christianity is not spread by force, but by fascination.
  • Jesus didn't come to make bad people good but to bring dead people to life.
  • As a peculiar people we have the opportunity to live with creativity.
  • We do this (not to become somebody or create something) but so that people can taste and see that the Lord is good.
  • The person who is in love with their vision for community will destroy it. But the person who is in love with the people around them will create community wherever they go. -- Boenhoeffer
Regardless of how others will take these ideas and run with them, I'm personally praying that these thoughts will revolutionize my homeschooling and my parenting as I continue to dwell on them. More invitations, less commands; more fascination, less force; more life, less behavior modification; more tasting; more loving; less destroying.

Hard things for a mom to hear. Good things for a mom to do. And a better teacher/inviter I'll be.

Wednesday, February 4

Note to Self: Don't Move to this Town Without HSLDA Membership

I'm not an alarmist... far from it. But the very thought of having the school superintendent going door-to-door to collect the truant children makes me cringe a little bit. Here are my problems with this story:
  • He interviewed (searched) a minor without the parent's consent (mom was out shopping).
  • His words: "We're not going to stop fighting for them until we get every single kid." Do they belong to him?
  • "Personal Touch." Is that what we're calling Big Brother these days?
Nevermind the fact that I'd like to have a word with that family who "is going" to homeschool that child. (It's kind of like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren't.)

I feel things both ways here and none of it's good.

Tuesday, February 3

Sometimes I Try to be Too Fun

Today we've got plans.

#1 Take Chip to the airport. His flight left at 6:10 which meant that we had to be up at 4:30 -- so early that the kids weren't quite sure who I was when I shook them awake.

#2 Take the boys to breakfast. I figured, since we had to be up we might as well do this because one low-quality restaurant is giving everyone in America a free breakfast today. I thought, "A fun mom would take them."

#3 Get an early start on school -- and finish early. Being up before the sun with a full belly is a great start to the day. Right?

#4 Work in a field trip. We've done OMSI again and again, but today is a special Teacher Sneak Peak at the new DaVinci exhibit. I can bring the kids, they can explore and I can get them home in time for bed.

#5 Take the kids to dinner. Going out to eat twice in one month is rare for us. Going out to eat twice in one day is kind of a millennial event. But the first one is free remember. Besides, we can't be at OMSI until 3:00 so we'll pretty much play through dinner.

#6 Put my sleepy little people to bed. On time. Read a book. Avoid staying up too late.

We'll see which of these doesn't work out.

#2 isn't faring too well since two of the three squirrels went back to sleep already.

Which probably means #3 won't work out either.


Updated for our results: Aside from #1 we accomplished the spirit of #3 and the whole of #4, #5 and #6... except for the staying up late part. Was it fun? Yep. They actually thanked me for the day today and I got a hug and easy bedtime. Score one for the team.