Our First Graduation Party

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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).

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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…

transforming this…

into these (in her new school colors, even!).

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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).

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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.

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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.

As the World Turns…(an early progress report)

The fact that I’ve not written in over a week is probably a hint of how school began with a bang.   Yet, I suppose that, given my trepidation over the year in my last post, it would be appropriate to post a progress report, albeit an early one.

I’ve written in previous posts about reminding myself to be thankful even with hazy starts, when I found out first-hand what happens to the best-laid plans of mice of men.    But this year, this start, is what I love to see in the kids.   Everyone Is energized and excited about what they are learning, everyone comes to the table prepared, and we finish early, with plenty of time for that all-important masterly inactivity that Miss Mason speaks of so fondly.

I never got the infamous list from the youngest.   Maybe it was just a fleeting burst of energy, as many of her projects are.   (Yesterday she decided to experiment with which type of water freezes best in the backyard; she was preparing for plans to install her own personal ice skating rink.   Did I mention that we live in coastal Texas?)     Maybe she has resigned herself to the idea that school is one of many “have-to’s” of life, so she might as well get with the program.   In any case, she is at the table, working hard and not whining.    I’ll take it.   One thing I know she’s loving is a read-aloud I’m sharing with she and her brother, T.A. Barron’s The Lost Years of Merlin.   This story has everything–a multitude of children, a lovable hero, and plenty of fighting.   I’d forgotten from our Nellie Olsen/ Laura Ingalls days how much this pugnacious child relishes the retelling of a good brawl.

Our son is performing well in the midst of perhaps the heaviest load of all three children.   It is not that way intentionally, but the workload of high school years, at least as it is here, is such that the first two years are significantly busier than the latter two.    I’m so enjoying studying the book of Exodus with him and his sister.   Each day there are fresh revelations, and it is timely for me as I look for God to bring me into a different place.    Today, we covered the 1st 12 verses of chapter 4:

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

6 Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous[a]—it had become as white as snow.

7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

8 Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. 9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”

10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor
since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

What a sweet reminder from the Lord.   He didn’t expect Moses to do anything great; He simply asked Moses to trust Him.   Powerful.

The oldest’s one request of me of was that I not schedule her high school courses on the same day as her college courses.   What that has meant for these past two weeks is that she has two days of the week with nothing on her planner.   Being who I am, though, I couldn’t help but list a few “suggestions” as to how she might spend her time    🙂   .   I will say, however, that she is now—just in time—fully bought into the plan for this year and for her the next season of her life, setting her own alarm (rather than waiting for me to wake her up), and getting downstairs in a timely manner to accomplish quite a bit each day.   As college acceptances and scholarships roll in, I feel the Holy Spirit’s “Yes!” to what is happening here, and I’m grateful.

I am often cautiously optimistic, in the effort to not fall too far from Cloud 9 and hurt myself.   However, if we can travel through the rest of the year somewhere near where we are now, I will have done well.

How’s your school year starting out?

With 2 Days to Go…(Our school in 2012-2013)

 

 

2 days to go.

We are exactly that far away from the beginning of our school year.  Where, oh, where did our summer break go? 

I have most of our plans in order, but I’m definitely behind where I like to be by this time in the summer.    The biggest deterrent to finalizing anything is that there are a few life/school changes that will impact us at home.   I won’t know the full impact for a couple of weeks.   

I reluctantly have to release the oldest more and more into the hands of others as her college load dictates.   I felt it most when I handed her a women’s devotional that was given to me years ago.   You see, normally we have Bible study/ devotion as a family, even including Dad when he’s here.    Because of the various schedules and speeds of getting started in the morning, Bible study was, more often than not, our finish to the school day rather than our beginning.   To add to that, sadly in this past school year Bible study was sometimes rushed or missed altogether in order to get the kids to dance, or deliver me to an evening of working with my “big kids,” (i.e., college students), or transport hubby to the airport.   I stand determined not to position us in that way again, so I moved Bible study back to the 1st thing in the morning.    However, there are days when the oldest won’t join us until later in the day, and then for only a brief moment before she leaves to help build the coordination of budding 3-4 ballerinas.   So, we will move forward without her at our table on several days.  Oh, Lord give me strength.

Our son’s routine is perhaps the least subject to change.   At his request, we will add Swahili to his studies, and he will study medieval history.   I’m very excited about his reading list (still in development, so don’t hang your proverbial hat on the “Curriculum” page just yet!)    I think he’s going to thoroughly enjoy The Once and Future King and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.    I’m anxious to dialogue with him about the differences of the way Homer depicts his epic heroes versus Virgil.   He has such great insights on his books, often shared in the evenings while dishes are being washed (which tells me he’s thinking about what he read–YAY!!) and I love to hear them.    Prayerfully, our change of science texts and a return–at least in part–to living books and nature study will give him a better experience with Biology than the oldest had.

Our youngest, a 4th grader, will return to her studies, with a few tweaks of mine as well as a number of changes that are largely of her own design.   As I’ve shared before, she has some valid reasons as to why she is not having the same kind of fun experience that the older two had during their elementary years.   However, when she began to discuss how “we” could make school more fun, the conversation I wanted to have was about attitudes and unrealistic expectations.   But I was able to bite my tongue halfway through my speech and then say in the spirit of partnership and buy-in, “Will you write down for me a list of what changes you’d like to see, and maybe we can add some items to what I had planned?”    (I’ll pat myself on the back for that one!!)     Well, a week later, I’ve still not gotten the list, which I fully intend to use as a teachable moment when the opportunity comes again to discuss what’s missing.   I know she’s working on it, but also hesitant to write down any plans that might solicit a “no” response; I’ll have to process that when my brain is not as fuzzy.   In the meantime, what she did get a lot of energy around was giving us school colors and a mascot.  

We are now the Bullard BEARS, with a silver, lavender, and navy flag.

She has now at least begun to have her comparative discussion using the term ‘traditional’ school versus our school.    That ‘what regular schools do’ drove me nuts.

I still need to round out reading lists.

I still need to check planners and be sure that the kids actually have something on their schedules for the 1st day.

 

Lord, please smile down on the BEARS.

Losing Control

We have two weeks of school left.

Usually by this time, I would already have summer reading lists compiled and printed off for the children.   In my defense, I have at least talked to my son about what I want to do.  

I plan to simply keep school going with our youngest daughter.  When I reflect upon her school year, there is too much low-hanging fruit for me to feel comfortable about a clear, seamless transition into third grade.   As one example, I still think she needs to “seal in” the concept of borrowing when subtraction.   Once she completes the first problem, she fine.   Yet, almost every day, I have to remnd her that, if the larger number is below the smaller number, you cannot simply reverse the numbers, i.e., 7 – 9 is not the same as 9 – 7.   I have to remind her all too often that since you are borrowing 10, it is as easy as placing a 1 in front of the number that you are adding to (as I write it, I realize that I sound equally confused!)  With the text having introduced borrowing from the tens’ columns and the hundreds’ column, she also sometimes forgets which column to borrow from.   Finally, there are also days when she’s very distracted and starts adding some numbers and subtracting others.   GEEEESH!   So the summer will give us an opportunity to slow down and gain confidence in this area.

We’ll also continue handwriting.   This week, she accomplished the difficult cursive “S,” and so she can now write her full name in cursive.  I intentionally delayed teaching cursive to give her more of a chance to gain confidence with a pencil and to work on the right direction for the “ball” of the letter “b” or “d,” or which way to turn a “j”–challenging lessons that all little ones must tackle.

What’s stopping me from bringing my “A” game?  Three things.

1) the heat. Spring is my absolute favorite time of year.  It’s when I crave the outdoors, the cool morning breeze that begs you to be out and about in the garden.  However, this year, we had no spring.  We went from winter to summer, and at a time when many in this country are experiencing flooding, we have not seen rain in weeks.   All our flowers and grass popped up, and just as quickly, it dried out and died.   Now I find myself in a bit of a funk after not seeing a hibiscus bloom after a fresh rain, or seeing my mimosa blossoms shrivel almost immediately after blooming.

2) the busy schedule.  In four weekends, I have had to prepare, as a parent prepares (given that I’m not the one actually performing), for a science competition, two dance competitions, and a prom.    Most Sunday nights I have crawled into bed, and most Monday mornings I wake up behind.   Hence, nothing that is outside of the norm do I accomplish without Herculean effort.    Searching book lists, reviews, descriptions, etc., has simply been more than I can do right now, especially with my laptop dying a slow death ( and consequently, the kids standing over me in line while I attempt to check off a few to-dos  on the family desktop).

3) the life-changing decision to allow our oldest to enter college early–at least as a part-time student.   The state of Texas has a wonderful partnership between community colleges and high schools, including high school homeschools.   With the dual credit initiative, a high schooler can complete college courses at a greatly reduced rate (like less than $200), receiving college credit and high school credit.    Most Texas 4-year colleges and universities readily accept these credits, saving parents bundles in higher education costs.   Many homeschooling parents actually enroll their children at junior college as Associates degree candidates, and then send them off to 4-year universities as degreed students for their final two years.   We went to all the meetings and thought well in advance about what a wonderful benefit this would be to both the oldest, and to us.   It all sounded great–that is, until now, when it is all about 3 weeks from happening.   Now I’m feeling as I felt when we packed her up at 3 years old and sent her off to private school, only worse.   Back then, I was convinced that we were giving her an early start on the best education money could buy; now I know that we’ve got the best education love can afford right here at home.   I’m struggling with her possibly learning history from another perspective rather than it being His story.   I’m struggling with the people with whom she might come in contact.   I’m struggling with all the plans I had that will probably not happen with her before she goes farther away to school in a couple of years.   How did this moment get here so fast?  

Having said all of that, I am also rejoicing.   In spite of my angst, I know this is a great opportunity for her, and I’m proud of her for stepping up to this challenge.   I’m proud of me and the realization that I had a little something to do with getting her here (not to take away from my husband or the Lord).   Most of all, I’m thankful that the Lord loves this mother hen (as my husband describes me) enough to allow me to gradually, lovingly, lose control.   Not that I’m misled into thinking that I had control anyway, but now, as these four walls become increasingly inadequate to  protect her from what she’ll encounter, I’m glad she is His.

P.S.   We finally got a bit of rain today.   Guess I’d better get busy.

The Eye Opener: Our Partnership (?) with the Public School

 October is winding down, and we’ve finally gotten our first taste of fall here.    There’ve been a number of firsts in the last few months, and perhaps as memorable as any has been our first interaction with the public school system.     

The oldest is now beginning the season of college preparatory exams before entering that phase of life where she’ll have to decide what she wants to be and then pick a place to begin closing that gap between that decision and who she is today.    I can remember well that season in my own life.   I also now realize as a parent how ridiculous it is that at such a young age and lack of experience that she must choose a life’s work.    But I digress.

After taking two exams amongst her peers in a more traditional environment, the three of us–my husband, my daughter, and I–agreed that this was, as my husband so aptly put it, “eye-opening.”   My daughter was much more blunt after this last visit: “I never want to go there again,” she declared.

When she visited the high school the first time, it was to take a practice PSAT.   I use the word practice because, for us, it was indeed a trial run.   We sent scores to no one except ourselves.     Even so, the PSAT, by design, woos a different element, so to speak.    Those students know why they’re there, and, for the most part, they want to be there.    The oldest came home elated about seeing a few friends, interacting with the counselors, and testing in the almost brand-new facilities.   As much as I was excited and relieved that she had a positive experience there, a part of me was nervous: is she going to ask me about attending public school next year?    Of course, having to rise before the sun killed any inclination in that direction, I’m sure.

The second exam, the PLAN, was given to the entire 10th grade population, from the college-bound, to the Armed Services-bound, to the Lord-only-knows-where-I’m-bound.   There’s a brief article here regarding the increased accessibility of college preparatory exams in the state of Texas, and the potential benefit of such access, but I can’t help but be suspicious of the real intent.    But that’s a post for another time; in the meantime, we stepped into the opportunity that availed itself to us.

My daughter talked about what I interpreted as a level of disrespect and a lack of self-respect–kids who challenged the teacher’s every instruction and level of authority, kids who sat with arms folded and texting while the exam was happening.   She spoke of teachers who had little control.   Though her report wasn’t all bad news, I think being amongst the entire student body changed that utopian view that she had after taking the first test.

For our parts, what immediately stood out was the level of security.  Funny thing, the school sits in the middle of what was once a rice field–what are you expecting to happen?   In all seriousness, I’m sure this is done with the kids’ best interest in mind, but in this era of identity theft, we both questioned why we had to surrender our driver’s licenses at the front door, even if asked nicely.     Nothing of our parental experience felt warm; only the smiles that left us, carting our daughter away, gave us the least bit of comfort about this whole process.    I couldn’t help but wonder, how does a parent overcome the almost punitive  treatment to try and help make a difference?

Of course, I still had a bad taste in my mouth from challenging the school as to why our daughter couldn’t say that she was enrolled in a high school.     She is a high school student, I argued.     She’s just not in a public school.    Then I was spoken to in a fairly condescending tone about how homeschooling parents are understandably assertive about certain things, but I needn’t worry…Maybe it’s just my baby-of-the-family issues surfacing, but afterward, I felt like a child who’d been told to calm down and go sit in a corner.

Sounds like a condemnation of the public school system, right?  It’s not, or at least, that’s not my intent.   I’m writing more because of my observation, mixed in, perhaps, with some sadness and frustration, of the realities of a college-bound homeschooler: our plan has to somehow transform and then conform into something that is recognizable by traditional schools.    For the last seven years, I’ve taken great pride and joy in our ability to tailor our home to what we need to educate our children with no outside influences.    Now, even if it’s only for a day here or there, we must interact with what is normal for most; we all have to adapt, and face the “real world” for more eye-opening experiences.

All things being equal, we’ll have one more “eye-opening” opportunity on next school year when our daughter takes the PSAT again–this time, to market herself (does that sound horrible?) to potential colleges and would-be financial partners.     For the other college prep exams, she can attend a designated testing center where she’ll be sheltered once again from the masses.    At this point, there are no television-inspired fantasies about what her life–or our lives, for that matter–would be like with her in  public school; we all saw first-hand how much our lives, our training, and our resolve would have to change in order to be a part of this environment every day.    What I hope at this point is that we all realize even more the gift we have in each other, and in what we’re able to do here each day.    There truly is no place like home.