Can I confess something? Until 2012, I had not been to a homeschooling conference that required me to put on something other than pajamas in years. In a homeschooling community that thrives on conferences and gatherings in general, I had reached—or so I thought—that point in my homeschooling journey where conferences had little to offer. I felt that I had passed the “how to homeschool” phase and I am definitely past the point where I need other parents around me to convince me that we are doing the right thing. I have to say, however, that this “more seasoned” dog, shall we say, was blessed by others’ new tricks. You can find more about my experience here in my contribution to Heart of the Matter Online. Also, be sure an check out the AHEAD Conference at http://americanhomeeducation.org/. Enjoy!
Where does a mom’s mind travel to after her oldest graduates and, along with litle brother and sister, finishes her final dance recital? Toward plans for the fall. After all, as many “last moments” as we have all cried through in these last few weeks, we still have two kids here who need an education!
Our summer trips revolve primarily around getting our oldest to college, although there may be an opportunity to take one or more smaller trips on one or more of the kids’ behalf. There’s also summer camp. But eventually, I have some decisions to make about our fall dilemma.
What’s the problem? Well, for several reasons, both of our younger children are between grades. Though I am totally comfortable with explaining this within a homeschooling environment, when I am asked by someone else outside of that community what grades the kids are in, it just doesn’t go over so well.
Part of the between-grades scenario is due to where we stopped at the end of this year, although there are other reasons. As a related digression, one bit of wisdom I heard–though I did not immediately accept–in the earlier days of homeschooling was that a parent cannot focus on every child every year; as I said, initially I thought it foul play that one kid might receive more attention at the expense of others. I have come to realize, though, that this does not mean that any child is left unattended; it has more to do with setting goals and estabilishing priorities. As my mother would say to me when she had to do something for my sister, “It’s not always your turn.” Later in life I recognized that this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t get a turn; it just means my turn wasn’t right now. This is the mentality I have chosen to adopt in our home. Having said that, I will readily confess that this was our year to ensure that the oldest finished her senior year positioned as much as possible to step into higher education, so there are other items that took a back seat in educating the younger two, whether deservedly or not. That season is over. Time for a change.
The whole idea of fitting in betwen two grades is not as much of a big deal for our younger daughter, but our son will complete high school in 2 years–or maybe 3. Our plan right now, of which he is well aware, is to allow him an additional year at home to attend college courses, volunteer and/or work, etc. during that third year. This would also allow our summer baby an additional year to mature into 18 years (if we sent him away in 2 years, he would be a very young 17) and get ready for the pace of college. BUT, at that age, there are many additional factors that come into play; one of those is a combination of his feelings about moving on combined with public perception. Let me share an example.
Yesterday was the annual dance recital. The kids performed marvelously, but the overall mood was bittersweet for us. This was our oldest’s last recital, and between the teacher’s tearing up while acknowledging her and the final video shots which featured her and wished her well, we were, at best, melancholy. I could not help but think of our son in 2 years. Will he consider himself a graduating senior? Should we give everyone the elaborate answer about his grade and the gap year plan when asked? Should we just start telling people now that he’s in 10th grade, and if so, how derailing will that be to his motivation and self-esteem (given that he thinks of himself as having completed this same grade)? If he wants to dance at the same studio, how do we explain why he is still there? What will the other dancers think? Am I crazy to have spent so much time wondering through all of that?
The scripture that continues to come to mind is to ‘occupy ’til I come’ (Luke 19:13); I have been given no other instructions, so I will worry about names, grades, tags, and what all of it means for us later. The priority, as far as I am concerned, is to continue to challenge our son and to speak into him as a young African-American male about who he is and whose he is. So, if the Lord says the same, our son will embark on a similar program as the oldest, entering college this fall under dual enrollment. At 15, I am sure that his eye- and ear-gate will be exposed to something(s) new, but at least we can continue to minister as needed with him still under much protection from home. He will become the newest Honors Program participant, taking an English/ Humanities course. This in and of itself is interesting given that he’s just finishing the 8th grade Rod and Staff English text–part of that between grades thing again. But his writing is such that I think he can prosper in this course, and besides, he often felft that Rod and Staff was ridiculously repetitive , and that he was ready for more. Well, son, time to put money where your mouth is.
Outside of that one college course, we will continue with Geometry using Teaching Textbooks, and we will wrap up Biology using the text my MIL gave us. We will continue our reading time together, wrapping up Medieval History and moving into early American classics. We will continue Latin (I think), but I am also flirting with adding Spanish or French to his curriculum. Spanish might be more beneficial to him long-term, but given his intentions to study dance even at the college level (as a minor), he might enjoy French more. We will probably drop current events studies and apologetics as requirements, just as we did with the oldest. I think that at this point the kids have a solid appreciation for global news and why it is important in their world. I will stay with our commonplace book narrations as a complement to our historical reading. In summary, his courseload would look like this:
- Geometry: Teaching Textbooks
- History/ Literature: Great Books Curriculum–Medieval History/ Reformation History (second semester)
- World Geography: (I modified Globalmania’s curriculum)
- Latin: Henle by Memoria Press
- Science: Biology of Life from Glencoe Science / Chemistry (second semester–no idea what text yet)
- Read-Aloud/ Reading List: (titles to be added over the summer)
- Canterbury Tales
- How the Irish Saved Civilization (excerpts)
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpurgo
- The Once and Future King by T. S. White
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream–No fear Shakespeare version
Our other summer baby, born in July, is somewhere between 4th and 5th grade, and she will be my focal point on next year. 5th grade should be a time to transition into far more independence than this busy bee is ready for; right now, her sole interest is in finishing quickly–right or wrong, school is in the way of the things that truly interest her. And her spirit is so very different than our older two. SO, I will take a step back and figure out how to adapt what I would normally do to her much more kinesthetic and generally active style. In the meantime, one
decision I have made, especially with only two kids in the house as of August, is to fully utilize her planner. I buy her one each year, but the planner winds up being more of a tool to help her feel as if she’s just like big sister and big brother; by the end of the first semester, it has dust upon it. Having a completed listing of school assignments and a better idea of what she’s doing before I sit down to the table with her will keep us both in better working condition. Right now, there are a number of assignments that have been skipped because Mom got busy, daughter got distracted, and by the time I got back to the table, she was unfocused and I was exhausted. I can do better, and I believe with some discipline on my part, she will step into what is expected of her in terms of excellence. We will spend the summer working on multiplication and long division, and then get back to the books in fall. This would normally be the year that I add in a more formal logic study, but I think I will simply continue with Critical Thinking puzzles. We will continue with a core curriculum that firmly establishes the basics for her.
- Math: Horizons
- Science: Apologia elementary series by Jeannie Fulbright
- English: Rod and Staff
- Latina Christina: Memoria Press
- Current Events
- History: American History (Blessed Heritage)/ Eastern Hemisphere (Sonlight)
The one thing I will do with her is add in composer studies as we once did with the older two, as well as art studies. Not sure how I want to cover the latter as this has always been a source of angst for me.
Those are my preliminary thoughts. I’m also trying to figure out how to keep family read-alouds going as the remaining family splits apart for classes (heavy sigh). Pray for me, dear friends.
Well, what can I say? The event came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, but oh, the flurry of activities that occurred in-between. Our area is big enough such that we actually have three larger, more formal graduation ceremonies dedicated to homeschoolers in the area. Can you imagine what that says about how far homeschooling has become??!! In the last few weeks the oldest has posed with and without cap and gown, and we have all worked very hard to create lasting memories for the graduation event. Personally, I was just happy to be able to blow dust from my scrapbooking tools, even if my time ran out on me toward the day of the event. How do you compile 18 years of memories onto a science fair board? Here was my honest attempt; unfortunately, you cannot see the books of pictures underneath the cover photos (courtesy of Dinah Zike’s Books of Books, LOL).
Our whole family became consumed with putting everything together so that this would be the celebration for us all that it truly is. The kids did a marvelous job, though I do not think any of us gained a new-found interest in the detailing that accompanies true culinary skill. Nevertheless, we did our best to work Henry Ford’s assembly line…
into these (in her new school colors, even!).
Then of course came the event that we waited for. With tens of friends and family who thought enough of our daughter to dedicate a Saturday to her, we all watched as this high schooler became an “official” graduate (see the chocolate drop, 2nd row, toward the middle right of the photo).
Following the graduation ceremony came an awesome reception. As I think about it now, I can recall Dawn writing to me, saying, “Make someone take pictures for you.” Sadly, that’s the ONE thing that did not happen, especially at the reception. I absolutely hate that, but maybe it was a lesson in pride for me. I was SO excited about the way all the food turned out–the Asian chicken wings, the cheescake bites with the special decorative toothpicks, the chocolate caps (shown above), etc. I was so ready to show off all of our hard work. After writing about being the non-party planner (see here), I was thrilled at the idea of displaying my results. But, therein lies the problem; had it all gone the way I wanted, I would have presented Belinda’s show, and that would not have accurately captured the spirit that was in the room. God showed up, and it was unlike any graduation ceremony I have had the pleasure of attending, even though our daughter’s celebration was the catalyst for gathering everyone together. I loved how the Lord really spoke through people about the power of His hand on a child’s life and about who He has been in our family’s life. It was ministry, and the overwhelming emotion of the moments was tears–tears of relief, tears of gratitude, tears of joy.
Oh, well, at least we got a shot of her with her cake. AND, many people thought all the food was catered!! I suppose that’s compliment enough. We will do this again in a couple of years, and I repent right now for bragging on my new-found talent and skill. Blessings, dear friends.
Soon, I will write a post about our plans for next year’s school/ curriculum plans; it’s about that time, and for a variety of reasons, I’ve already had to think about what changes will occur in our school, and what will stay the same. For now, however, I am simply enjoying our few remaining weeks, and surviving—not thriving—in the number of interruptions that continue to attempt to overtake our day.
One of my greatest joys right now is the time spent in the Word with our younger two. I’ve been somewhere between curious and apprehensive about the book of Leviticus.
God is so faithful. From the first chapter, I knew where we were going: God set a standard. Before He gave the details on what to bring, how to bring it, etc., He simply states that He wants our best. Verse 3 of Chapter 1 states, ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.’ Reading this passage gave us an excellent opportunity to talk about how flawed our standards are in light of what He expects.
Often the children will gauge themselves according to how someone else is doing. Their behavior is good relative to someone else’s actions. Their performance was good because someone else did not do as well. While the outside world helps us with an understanding of the norm, there are several problems with this type of comparison.
1) It sets us up for less than our best if the standard is lower.
2) We use external measures for correction rather than internal reflection; the latter often reveals uncomfortable truths that, if we surrender them to the Father, can accelerate our growth.
3) Being satisfied with earthly means and measures of success can often mean that we are out of sync with the will of God (1 Peter 2:9, John 15: 18-21)
As an adult, I find myself making similar comparisons. And for all the same reasons, the world’s standard is a set-up. The kids and I even talked about this from a corporate perspective. I’ve shared in previous posts about some of the programs at our church, and many churches, who have become increasingly seeker-friendly (you can read more about the seeker-friendly church movement here or in tons of other places). Though we still use common church vernacular (words like ‘sin,’ ‘repentance,’ ‘salvation,’ etc.), we still stand with many congregations that, in reaching out to the un-churched, are losing a generation of young adults and kids who are hungry for Truth. In short, the world is increasingly loving the church, but is our behavior acceptable to the Lord?
So, as I ask the children when we read the Word together, what does the Lord want us to do? Well, personally, I thought about an experience I had with the oldest and a substandard midterm. We went 15 rounds about what I wanted but didn’t explicitly state, and how she performs for others versus her performance for me. I see now where the Word in Leviticus 1 would have worked–if I’d worked it. It’s really not about me; ultimately, it’s about remembering who you are and to whose standard you are subject (Colossians 3:23). My standard should not be the standard for our school; all of our work should be our best, for this is acceptable to God.
How’s the rest of Leviticus going? The youngest says, “All these sacrifices sound alike.” Our vegetarian son summarizes each chapter as “more Old Testament killing.” This kid and his growing sensitivity to meat and meat products scares me. I can’t even cook dinner without him saying, “Do you realize how many ______(name your land or sea creature) had to die for you to enjoy those?” We may not get much more than a new level of expectation out of this one, but that will be enough.
That’s the day of our city-wide homeschool graduation ceremony. As I put together these last 9-10 weeks of lesson plans, I am constantly reminded of how close that date really is relative to today. Even more staggering, for lack of a better word, is the fact that our oldest has even less time in actual school days. Her days at His Way Home School will actually come to a close by the end of April. (I am anticipating the revolt from my younger two when she is finished versus the 3 or so weeks that they’ll have left). With that being a fact, I sense time as an increasingly looming presence that constantly tugs at me, reminding me of the many items that I basically have, at this point, about one month to complete.
One of those many items–with several subsets of tasks underneath–is to put together a graduation party. Can I be honest? That is sssssssssoooooooo not me. I’d be happy to invite the family and a few close friends over to pots and paper plates, eat and greet, and call it a day. In fact, this whole listing of tasks before the “big day” brought back distant memories of my own high school graduation events. I graduated during the same weekend in which a dear cousin of mine got married. Translation: a whole lot of family with a whole lot to do. And true to the nature of a big, Southern family, we fellowshipped and ate together every night, celebrating each event in its turn. I don’t recall having any regrets about that time. I’m sure I won’t regret this time, either, but I’m not looking forward to the numbers of people and the general hustle and bustle of sitting through a graduation ceremony–or at least some of it–then running off to prepare for a reception. The introvert in me just can’t get ready for all the activity, and I feel only one semi-emotion when I think about the day: anxious. BUT, the oldest asked for a party for her graduation; she’s not asked for a party in almost 10 years, and everyone around us–immediate family and friends–has that gentle, electric buzz about her big day to come, and all the plans of her young adulthood that will take new shape and form as she leaves our home. So, here we go.
Enter Pinterest. My dear friend Kerimae blogged recently about the impact of computers, and how the digital age has taken as much–if not more–than it has given us in our quest for effectiveness and efficiency. At least, that’s what I got out of her post. As I shared with her, the computer has cost me a lot. Work requires that I spend hours on it; home education requires that I engage with computers, and technology in general. Building a business demands that I use social media networks, i.e., free advertising, to my advantage. My sacrifice is that I don’t get to do some other fun and necessary items, like spending time out-of-doors weeding, walking, and generally taking in the fresh air. BUT, one thing a computer has done for me is to expand my knowledge base and comfort level very quickly in areas with which I’m totally unfamiliar and/or hopelessly inadequate.
I will confess that I didn’t really see the point of Pinterest for a long time; I joined because it seemed to be the flow of traffic in terms of social media, and I thought it’d be another way to keep up with friends. I have an Evernote account that allows me to store and access my favorites from any computer, so what is the point, right? Yet, with Pinterest being such a visual medium, I thought it might be the perfect place to find party ideas and foods that are simple enough to prepare, and pretty enough to make a visually striking party. A basic search of ‘graduation party ideas’ did not disappoint. I spent hours “pinning” pictures to my own boards after finding tons of simple food ideas that I could combine with minimal catering and look as if I actually have some skill in this area. These pictures are just a few of the ideas I found, but probably won’t incorporate. Are you as amazed as I am at the creativity of people??!!
There are still other party-related items that must happen. Interestingly enough, while I drafted this post, Office Depot sent a discount code for graduation invitations–talk about God’s hand. Another dear friend who dabbles in professional photography offered to take the oldest’s graduation pictures gratis–another blessing. I even found party items for her intended college of choice, thanks to Party City. Also, my Pinterest party idea board has several links to printables and other simple food ideas. Perhaps the most telling–or embarrassing, dependent upon how you look at it–part of this whole digital revelation is that actually, I was inspired by the youngest, who began searching for themes for her upcoming sleepover–a party that I’ve not “officially” gotten on board with, by the way. True to her nature, she already has a list of invitees, a schedule, a budget based upon what she found at Party City, and yes, she, too, has perused blogs and Pinterest for party ideas–far before I thought to do so. Gotta love these grown-ups in miniature bodies.
Now if I can pare our list of invitees down to a realistic number of what the room will hold, and if I can learn to not be so heavy-handed with my food glue, i.e., corn syrup, someone just might think that I had a good time with this whole thing. 😉
I have been deliberate about making sure our children read the entire Bible after returning home from a children’s workshop in which the following statement was made: the average American who considers him/ herself a Christian has never read the entire Bible. Not even once. This statement put into perspective for me so much about why people who are raised in church can operate so differently on Monday-Saturday. It also was a stark and painful reminder of my own earliest adult years, when it became obvious through my own life that while church attendance is important, it would not, in and of itself, sustain me as a Christian. Yet, ironically enough, when I began our original study of the entire Bible with the older two, I made very conscious decisions to skip certain portions. Moses as an author? Too boring once the Ten Commandments were handed down. One prophet sounded similar to another, so why cover them all? Same premise with the Gospels: as an adult I know that the four authors had different perspectives in what they shared and why, but I wanted to press onward. I say all of this tongue-in-cheek, but my real “eye” for what we covered was, what would keep it interesting/ engaging for the children? Bear in mind also that the kids were much younger when we began this first journey. I’ve since realized the arrogance of that decision. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2nd Timothy 3:16). So, this trip around, with the oldest on her own and the youngest in tow, we are reading each and every Word.
We are in the last chapters of Exodus right now, studying the making of the tabernacle—down to the cubit. After we read, I ask the children, “What is God saying to us today?” The youngest says some version of this answer: “Well, like we talked about before, the Lord is into details and wants order.” Her tone says it all: ‘I’m tired of reading about cubits and acacia wood, and if I see one more piece of purple/red/blue cloth…’ I feel her. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I chose to skip this portion of scripture entirely. But, as the Shepherd so often does, He leads His sheep to great places in our studies—if we hang in there with Him. Here are five lessons that I’ve discovered from our reading—repeatedly–about cubits and wood:
1) The Lord uses ordinary people and equips them with what they need. Bezaleel and Aholiab were given positions of tremendous responsibility, but, as the Word says, God filled them with the Spirit (first!), and skills, abilities, knowledge, and all manners of workmanship. Did they come empty-handed? No. Aholiab was a craftsman from the tribe of Dan. But their ordinary gifts in the extraordinary hands of the Master produced an awesome work. In fact, Bezaleel’s name is still mentioned in modern-day culture regarding design firms and architecture of all sizes.
2) The importance of operating in mercy toward one another. Once the frame for the tabernacle was built, the first piece of furniture to follow was the mercy seat. I personally think this is significant. God thought it was most important; we should see it as important, too, and use this lesson as a model for how we treat others. Mercy requires that we believe the best in people, that we give them the benefit of the doubt, and that we truly embrace James 1:19–slow to speak, slow to anger (please, Lord Jesus), and quick to listen (again, please, Lord Jesus).
3) There is unprecedented favor and anointing when you operate in your assignment. These two men, Bezaleel and Aholiab, were the lead construction engineers, in modern-day terms. We never hear from them again. They might have been called upon as leaders to give direction or expertise, but they didn’t use their influence and sphere of control to try and replace Moses; they weren’t looking to become priests. They operated in what was their assignment, with marvelous results. Recently, I have had the opportunity to do some freelance writing that I would have enjoyed, and I thought that because the information was presented to me—indirectly—it must have been for me. But God gave me a Word through our pastor about the danger of stepping out from under the covering of Christ, even when it appears to be a good thing. I knew almost immediately that I needed to reconsider.
4) In all things, God wants our best. When you read the word gold, there is an imagery that strikes the mind, or at least, that strikes my mind: fancy, elegant, eye-catching, and expensive. This was a portable tent, for goodness’ sake! Linen can be fancy, too, but what’s with the purple, blue, and red? Well, our history studies tell us that purple was a very expensive dye color to prepare. To make it, you had to crack open a shellfish called a trumpet shell. Because of the expense of this process, purple (and its derivatives, I imagine) was only available to royalty. Remember that Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) was a dealer of purple cloth, from which you could infer that she had a certain amount of influence in the city. I believe in part that that’s why her baptism was significant—she was a person that others noticed.
5) Be obedient to what God places in your heart. I am often amazed when a person says, “God spoke to me and said…,” or after praying for me, the person will say, “The Lord says…” I can’t help but wonder how they know it was God who spoke to them. I have this image of burning bushes or doves or some other miraculous show of God’s presence. Yet, my own experience with God “speaking” to me is the same as Watchman Nee described in his The Spiritual Man: God speaks through our conscious and our intuition, and even in our subconscious dreams,
confirming it through His Word (which is why it’s sooooo important to actually read the Bible and know what it says). Too many times, we dismiss what goes through these psychological venues, and it’s how we can easily miss a God move. In these final chapters, the Lord gave Bezaleel and Aholiab wisdom to construct the temple, but He also gave the people a heart to give, providing for the construction. That person that we always think about is an opportunity to intercede for them in prayer; that idea that keeps us up at night can be the beginning of a thriving and successful business. Don’t discount the gentle tugging at your heart to do something; it could be the key to unlocking a blessing.
I know that there are great books out there for children that cover the Bible and have fun activities to help children with learning. But I struggle with these in the same way that I struggle with many of the bells and whistles that are increasingly becoming a part of our youth and children’s ministry, as well as ministries across the country. I talk more about that in article I wrote here. I don’t think God’s Word needs ostentation, and at some point, all the videos, games and toys can be a distraction from the meat of the Word. In our home, we read, we discuss, and I believe God to grow those planted seeds. Our closing prayer over our Bible study has been the same for years now, as originally stated by a pastor of ours: ‘May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of His Holy Word, and may it instruct and inspire us in both our public and private lives.’ I trust Him to do just that. And while the kids will prayerfully have many years to read the Word again and again on their own, I do want to model 2nd Timothy 3:16 in our home as training for what they should do in homes of their own.
Can’t wait to see what the Lord does for us when we get to Numbers (yikes).
With March even closer than just around the corner, I find myself pondering about…
Spring Break plans. There are a number of work activities that are way past due, but I look forward to writing letters to a couple of friends, pruning the flower beds, and welcoming spring. I want to sleep in on the cool morning and drink a cup of tea. Though I know this area is prone to one last cold spell right before Easter, I think that, given the amount of rain we had this winter, we might begin a spring/ summer garden this year. Our vegetables were SO tasty years ago, so unlike the store-bought varieties, until I thought this a worthwhile investment in time and money. My husband is even thinking about fruit trees.
Next school year. Our oldest will move far away to college, and if the Lord says the same, our son will begin his dual enrollment season at the local community college. He will still continue some of his studies here. My larger concern, however, is that he is entering college a year younger than the oldest did, but the Honors Director who interviewed her will retire after this spring semester. We wanted to continue to operate in the favor that has been ours for the last year or more, and so we decided to have him interview under the same director. I’m as excited for him for him as he is for himself, but I’m also not ready to lose two babies in one school year. Call me melodramatic on that one, but my nest is emptying way too fast.
Similarly, with just the youngest and I at home, all of those “when it’s just the two of us, we’ll…” plans no longer have an excuse not to happen. She’s my outdoorsy one, and before we actually began school, I always dreamed of spending outdoor time on a blanket with books. I guess I’ll have to get a blanket and a lap desk and get after it.
The next 6-8 weeks. For the graduate, the list is long. Our area actually has two homeschool graduations! I left it up to the oldest if she wanted to “graduate” publicly, and even let her decide on the school name! After all, His Way Home School has far more to do with focusing me on a direction than it does anything or anyone else. However, His Way Home was fine for her, and yes, she wants the Cadillac with all four wheels. That means that within the next month or so, we’ll need to…
- secure invitations, graduation robe and honors tassels
- compile an invitation list and mail all the notices to family and friends
- plan a celebration for the after-graduation ceremony
- take senior pictures
- get a class ring
- secure all final records for her college of choice
- pull together memory boards and pictures for her table at graduation
- put together a science project for her final competition
- prepare for the final dance recital (and get the others ready in turn for an extra-special recital year)
- help her with making her dress for the science competition
Those are just the highlights that swoosh through my mind today!
I just want to be a good steward of my time, and to take in God’s peace that passes human understanding in the midst of these exciting, yet fretful times. To stay close to the Lord through it all, to walk with Him each day–this is my heart’s desire.
As a deer thirsts for streams of water, so I thirst for you, God–Psalms 42:1
In whatever He has anointed your hands to do, stay thirsty, my friends.