Tuesday, July 26

Maturing Happens

My oldest is 12 years old.  He has always been adverse to work.  From Day One this baby boy thought it was too much work to suck.  He'd continually fall asleep while I tried to feed him.  We'd strip him down to his diaper, tickle him, get him wet... but he'd just sleep.  Then when I laid him down he'd wake up, hungry.  It was amazing.

Over the years we naturally assigned chores.  He put up such a fight.  Even so, we'd still require things of him, but it has led to a less than peaceful homelife.  I've blogged about our struggles before.  Just know that it has been a constant in our family's life.

But early this year, my son said, "I think I'd like to volunteer this summer."


My heart jumped.  Was it our random family service projects?  Our lifestyle of living for more than just ourselves?  Our faith?  The values inherent in homeschooling? What was it that sunk to the middle of my son's heart and inspired him to 1. want to work and 2. work for the benefit of someone else?  I wish I could say there was a formula that produced this result.  But God is more mysterious than that.

This is a picture of him in his volunteer shirt, nametag and men's 28" waist shorts.  He's so... mature.  It looks nice on him.  And it feels nice in our family.  More often than not he now helps me carry in groceries, care for his littlest brother, and even holds the door... sometimes.  He has often been the voice of reason when his younger brothers are bickering and there have even been moments when he has been calm during my frustration.  He's not always successful at his attempts to be more adult, but he's trying and I applaud his attempts to move along more in this direction.

This summer he has had some great maturing moments:  riding a dirtbike for a weekend, buying an electric guitar and teaching himself, hiking without complaint through a national park, staying home alone for the first time by himself, running the batting order for his brother's team, and riding his bike to the library on his own.  And then there's the job with Park and Rec: washing and driving golf carts, folding gym towels, helping at an art camp, playing with babies in the day care.  Amazing.  

This summer he's experienced a growth spurt in his integrity and character. I had been hoping for this day to come, but honestly, I wasn't really sure that it would.  It has.  It's beautiful to see your child move away from childhood and step out to see what it is that he might be designed to do.  It's amazingly touching to see him move toward me at a time in life when I thought he would want to move away.  And, at the core, it's grace that God would work in his life in this way at this very moment.

I still say what I've always said, "My son is amazing."  And he is.

Sunday, July 10


My youngest son will be 5 in about six weeks.  He's on the borderline of the cutoff when parents investigating Kindergarten are actually encouraged to  "hold back" their boys from starting school.  However, Kindergarten readiness has nebulous benchmarks and they're mostly social.  Academically, can he count to 20? Does he already recognize at least 18 letters?  If so, he's going to spend his year re-learning it all over again anyway.  Is he ready to write?  Is he able to rhyme?  If he's not that doesn't mean he's not ready for higher thinking.  It could mean, like my children, that there are other things going on... such as ADHD or dyslexia.  If he's not ready in one skill set should that determine he's not ready for any skill set?  Obviously, my answer is, "no."

I'm not holding him back (and I hate that term).  So, I'm currently considering what to do this year for my final Kindergarten student. I've already taught Kindergarten-aged students twice so you'd think that I could just pull out the old ideas and go with them.  But, no.  Each child is different and I have a natural propensity for reinventing the wheel.

My first little Kindergartener was a quick student.  We were doing preschool activities at home and by the end of the year when my 4 year old was reading I discovered we had actually far surpassed the Kindergarten benchmarks.  So, we moved straight into first grade.  Was it my curriculum?  Was it my advanced child?  Was it the way I made learning fun?  Who knows.  But that child didn't actually have a kindergarten year.

My second little man spent his kindergarten year tagging along with his brother's learning activities.  We did some Sing, Spell, Read and Write without the singing and some Math for the Hundredth Day (now out of print) activities and I read aloud to him.  But as our months went on, his reading wasn't progressing (as it turns out, he's my dyslexic son) and I actually relabeled his Kindergarten year as Pre-Kindergarten.  The next year he started  in K and then mid-year, at his birthday, he had finished the entire Kindergarten Horizons Math and was thinking and reasoning at higher levels because he was present for his fourth grade brother's education.  So I bumped him into first grade everything.  His reading didn't develop until a couple years later, but he was ready to think more and Kindergarten seemed babyish to him.

It turns out, neither of my older sons ever actually did a formal year of Kindergarten.  So, I'm contemplating what my "Final Four" should experience this year curriculum wise.  A focus on nature?  Literature extensions?  A simple ride-along with HIS fourth grade brother's education?   As I read the Kindergarten benchmarks found all over the web he is already halfway to meeting them.  The most important thing is that he daily has some of my focused time and energy and he'll easily meet the rest.

What are you doing with your Kindergartener this year?

Friday, July 1

Summer's Second Act

On this first day of July we said good-bye to my parents who had been visiting for well over a week, finished S's last day of soccer camp, played at the lakeshore beach and took a long afternoon siesta.
This was our moment of rest.  

This past month we've been busy getting summer under way:  the vacation that wasn't quite what we'd planned, the beginning of a beautiful summer mom's park group, getting J fitted to his volunteer job, the start of B's baseball, camping with extended family.  Juggling, swaying, finding a balance.  The children didn't understand how necessary today's rest really was, but looking ahead I know that summer will have its tumults to come and today, if only for a few hours, was the day for stillness.

In many respects, this is the beginning of Summer Part II.  Part I introduced the routine. Part II is where we live into it and settle resolutely into summer's palm.  This is the part, the core if it, where those memorable quiet moments and discoveries will surprise us. Tomorrow my husband and I will entrust the children with  friends and escape to the mountains for a night. It will mark the next act of summer, in which I create and ponder and reflect and grow. In these next days my plans and philosophies for what comes next will become present and I will listen to what God is speaking into my world. These are the days I've been moving toward for months.   They are my only preparation for what is to come next.

I know that Summer's Third Act will come blowing in with a lesser grace and greater urgency.  The endings will come one after another. And we'll launch into the unknowable future of leading and learning. For now,  I am exactly where I want to be.