Friday, May 28

Summer Reading for Me

Sometimes my summer reading has a theme to it.  One year I only read "Short Classics" -- novels all less than 200 pages.  One year I read selections from The Inklings.  This year my theme is "Books I Should Have Read by Now but Haven't."  I can't believe I haven't read some of these but I'm looking forward to all of them.

Here is my list for summer reading:
The Cost of Discipleship
Mere Christianity
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
One Hundred Years of Solitude
The Secret Life of Bees
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
Things Fall Apart
Vanity Fair 
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully

The other half of my goal is to make this "should have" list reach even into my to-do list.  There are a lot of things I should have already done by now that I haven't. As far as summer goals go, here's a portion of my embarrassing list of things to do:

1.  Make out a living trust.  (I've had children for how long now??)
2.  Call my brother.
3.  Teach the boys the science of doing chores.
4.  Make some art for our bare walls.
5.  Correct the misspelling on one son's social security card.
6.  Practice once-a-week cooking.
7.  Teach my boys how to "save the world," one little project at a time.
8.  Catch up their vaccinations.
9.  Finish the "December Daily" photo album I began... in December.
10.  Organize and file away their school work from this year... and last.

What are you going to get to this summer that you probably should have done before now?

Thursday, May 27

Summer Reading to the Boys

Reading aloud is not an academic pursuit in our house; it's the way that we parent.  The teachable moments and shared experiences through story-telling are priceless.

We always begin our school days with me reading aloud from a chapter book; we are finishing the The Elephant Man tomorrow as we finish up our study of the Human Body.  (This particular edition is wonderfully written by the way).  This summer, we'll continue our bedtime reading aloud (I am reading through the Lord of the Rings to J and DH is reading through Chronicles of Narnia with B).  But, I also want to do a morning read-aloud with all of our boys.

I think I'm a bit wistful about seeing J off to school in the fall.  Continuing the daily read-aloud seems even more important now than ever.  I want to read a few coming-of-age stories that we can discuss together.  I also want to read a few stories that are pure fun.  Here are the options I've come up with:
The Borrowers
Danny: The Champion of the World
The Penderwicks
Tiltawhirl John
Tuck Everlasting
The Phantom Tollbooth

What are you favorite summer read-alouds?

Friday, May 21

Teaching Friendship

Today was the boys' field day for their once-a-week class.  J had to say good-bye to friends because he won't be in that program next year.  He had his yearbook in hand and I know he hoped to fill it with signatures.  But, rather than say, "See ya later," when all the planned activities were over, he chose to just leave.  I don't blame him.  Saying, "Good-bye" stinks. 

To him, though, this is just how it is; you get to know kids for a short while and then you have to leave them.  He's had to say good-bye to friends just about every year since he was five and it pulls on me everytime.  His dad met his best friend when he was in second grade.  They have a long history and I think it's an amazingly rare kind of relationship.  I made two big moves in my own young life and so I know what it means to break ties again and again.  But I still keep in touch with some friends from middle school and I just recently found my "best friend in fifth grade" on Facebook.  However, J has never even had the opportunity to really dig in and know a person long-term. 

Teaching your kids the art of true friend-making is difficult, particularly since we've moved five times in the past six years.  We've been extremely active in all kinds of groups, classes, sports, and activities.  In one location, ours was the house in the neighborhood that was the most fun to play at.  Inviting friends into our lives has never been an issue.  Its the keeping that we want to do now. 

Friendships take a long time to build, especially when you're young and your personality and values are still embryonic. My hope is that he is now in the right geographical and emotional place to do this in a deeper way.  I hope that he finds new friends at his new school that he can know forever. I hope that he can begin to let down the guard of "I'm always the new kid" and give this next experience a good, solid shot. I hope that he continues to pursue the relationships that he's already begun and takes the time to recognize the value of letting your life story mix in with others.   Because if it's up to me (and I know it isn't) I'm not going to move him anywhere, ever again.  

But if he's going to do this, he needs to see me doing it first.  I left the field day today feeling like that group of people wasn't my community and today I remain as un-invested in it as I was on the first day last September. There are other places and people where I choose to invest my time and he sees that, but I had a chance for my community and my son's community to intersect and I didn't take advantage of it.  That was foolish.

So, you can bet, that next year I'll be the best room-mom I can possibly be. I'll be more intentional about creating circles that intersect with his.  And the relationships that we pursue, thrive or fail, will be formative and enriching if we're both open to the possibility that lies ahead of us.

Monday, May 17

How to Stop Homeschooling

What?! You mean there are people who actually do that? Yes. There are.

In fact, globally, homeschoolers are not a homogeneous group. There are families that homeschool one child while sending another elsewhere for their education. Some school them at home all the way through high school and some choose to encourage their children’s education through outside mentors, teachers and classes. There are benefits to every way depending on your family make-up, tenacity, personalities, health, locations, hardships, goals, freedoms, worldview, needs, and support. But when a family comes to a point of wanting or needing to stop their homeschooling efforts there is little support out there for them.
Families who choose to desist schooling at home are not failures. They have not “given up.” They count the cost of stopping just as sincerely as they counted the cost of beginning in the first place.
I know this, because we are one of those families. In the fall, my oldest son whom I’ve homeschooled “from the beginning” will be going to a small charter school that, I believe, will challenge and enrich him in fabulous ways. Our younger two boys will continue to learn at home. There is a peace about how our family is developing and the opportunities God is giving us. But I feel a bit of the sting from the homeschooling world for our choice. Even so, I’m proceeding in the way I believe my family should go.

If you plan to stop homeschooling, I am here to support you as you find your new legs. Here are a few tips to think through as you process all of your thoughts and emotions.

1. Give attention to your hesitations; explore them. God speaks to us in all different kinds of ways. If you honestly can’t say you love homeschooling anymore, if you’re consistently frustrated, if you’ve tried changing curriculums, plugging into a support group, exploring your family’s learning styles, taking care of yourself, and if you’ve held onto homeschooling loosely so that God can do with it what he will, then keep listening. If the thought of doing this for one more year inwardly gives you pause, those hesitations are telling you something.

2. Find a new solution that meets all of your family’s needs. Will the new structure cater to your child’s learning style and personality? How will the schedule disrupt your family’s day-to-day routine? What adjustments and preparations will need to be made if you’re making a change? Consider everyone’s needs (including your own). If you feel like you’re sacrificing someone’s needs for the needs of another, keep considering other alternatives. This is a whole-family shift. Don’t force it, but welcome the change when it reveals itself.
3. Let go of the voices in your head that said you were “supposed” to do this forever. The only mandate we really have is to love. Only you can know what God specifically wants for your family. God will often move us in different directions and take us through hard experiences. But if we stay in an ideology out of fear of the unknown then we remain slaves to that ideology. We should be constantly re-evaluating every year whether we do so with the intent of stopping or not. If stopping is where you peacefully land, then bravely let it be.

4. Make a choice you can justify. Not only will you have to live with your choice but you’ll also find yourself answering the new voices that will ask, “Why?” Let your rationale for stopping be as sound as your reasons were for starting. Include your kids in this so that you understand each other’s needs. Homeschooling served its purpose for a time. Don’t be ashamed of that. Starting in a new direction should be done so with a resolute foundation.

5. Consider who you are outside of being a homeschool mom. If you are not going to continue at all, you will encounter a mammoth identity shift. Be comfortable, even excited, about who you will become. No one is encouraging you to abandon your children. Even as we daily walk beside them we are always living out our God-given identities, both as their mother and as His daughter or son. Continue confidently in your own journey of “becoming.” Your children will continue to take notice.

6. Stay involved. Stay really, really involved in your child’s education. Continue to be supportive, cheer your child on, help, pray and serve. Studies are clear that children whose parents are highly engaged in their education will have greater success.
Remember, you are not giving up; you are just changing paths.
It is my prayer that these thoughts would be well received by those who are desperately looking for grace in their decision. I pray that it spurs all of us on to encourage one another toward love and good deeds. I wish you peace in your next steps.

*originally published here.