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.

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What’s New? From Our Point of View…

It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside.   Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals.   (You can stop laughing now).   The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities.   I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table.   So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans.   I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.”     I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard.   That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot.    After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.

One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular.   Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year.   She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club.    I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event.   Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club.   The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!!      I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books.  They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor.   The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her.   Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments.   As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters.   Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s  responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince).    While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible.   She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).

While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick.  Can you say $6??!!   This looks awesome!!  A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!!  Can’t beat it with a stick!!

After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything!   I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn.   The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!!  Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.

Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us.   Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week.   My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard.    Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography.    Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!

During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography.     There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive.   I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work.  No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!!  There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region.    What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe.    Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course.   I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest.   I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.

 

 

I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies.    She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything.    This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together.   The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter.  Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.”    We even resisted the urge to watch the movie.  (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading?   Hmmm….)   After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.   If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…

 

What’s new with your studies?   I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool  studies.

 

Thankful

Plan A was to write this post on last week before we began our fall semester, but the days have been busy, friends.   With what looked like an open window of time and opportunity, I decided to take advantage of an offer to complete a certification for work over the next four weeks.   I’ve also spent a significant amount of away-from-the-computer time completing last-minute preparations for school.   Those preparations included modifying my original syllabus for the 2nd high schooler in our home, detailing economics lesson plans for our budding junior (11th grade) and taking advantage of the recent tax-free weekend to purchase a few last resources for our growing littlest girl, now in 3rd grade.  College ended a couple of weeks back, and for seven days we rested.   Then we were at it again.   Dance began the day after school started for our youngest, at least.

Before any flurry of activity began, though, I had an opportunity to attend the Heart of the Matter online conference.   I make a point of listening in when I can each year.   Usually, our school has been in session for about 3 weeks by then, so my immediate take-aways are few, and I have to wait for the mp3s to be available for longer-term inspiration.   This year, because of the oldest’s college schedule, I had whole mornings to sit while the younger two slept.  I absorbed so much richness, and, almost as if by divine intervention, the schedule of my days at that point afforded me ample time for sweet reflection before our school days kicked off.

We are now entering our 8th year of homeschooling, and though anxiety will, on occasion, rear its unattractive head, on most days, I’m truly thankful.

I’m thankful for my earliest homeschool education in the importance of setting the environment for learning to occur.   I sometimes look over my pre-homeschooling wish lists and plans to make our home friendlier for all day.   Little of that has actually happened.   Our learning centers are still not full of all the many educational games and toys that I intended to buy.   I never purchased the piano I wanted (and placing one in the space I’d planned for it would now severely limit the kids from moving freely in their self-created dance space).   Thank God I couldn’t afford all that pricey curriculum that I took the time to extract from the catalogs; I don’t know that the kids would have been more knowledgeable, but we would have been a lot more broke.

I’m thankful for the couple who introduced us to the Charlotte Mason approach years before we actually began to homeschool.   We don’t get out of doors nearly as much as Miss Mason prescribes, and there are semesters/ years when my lack of expertise in poetry and music history is glaringly obvious.   But, the kids have learned to stop and take notice of a bird at the feeder, and to be curious enough to find the field guide and discover a name for this visitor.   They have learned to stop and look at clouds and take note, not just of their imaginary figures, but also to notice what type of cloud has captured their attention and what its existence might mean to our weather.   They can enjoy Tchaikovsky and identify Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

I’m thankful for a routine that works for us.   I know that some schools thrive in spontaneity, but in our home, little changes in terms of class days and times.   I want us to spend as little mental energy as possible on “what are we going to do today?” and instead delve the work that is before us.   Yet, as much as I am thankful for a routine, I’m also thankful that there is enough new-ness, enough rest in the schedule, and just enough change in plans to keep everyone energized, including me.   I loved sitting down with each of them on the 1st day and talking about what was new, what was the same, and what our expectations were of each of them at this step in their educational process.   Our son read through his “syllabus,” asking questions as if he was signing away his birthright.   The oldest was a step ahead, asking the day before school started, “Is there an assignment that I need to start reading now for later this week?”   It may not sound like much, but my long-term readers will perhaps remember that this is the same child who convinced me that she’d be less distracted, and therefore more productive, if I let her work upstairs in her room; math, consequently, started taking 5 hrs. to complete, science took 4, etc.   So much for less distracted.   It’s difficult, looking at her now, to believe those types of days and months actually were a part of our school day, but God did a mighty work—in her and in me.

I wrote this because, for many homeschoolers, this month is the beginning of that next school year.  And for many brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-box homeschoolers, this might be your first week.  Hopefully things went well, but maybe the time happened very differently than you would have planned it.   Maybe you’re questioning your decision, whether that decision was to begin homeschooling, or to homeschool this year.   Though we’ve had fabulous starts (and finishes) in the last few years , I shudder as I vividly remember years when I toyed with the thought of public school for the sake of peace.    There is always something to be thankful for, and the Lord is always at work in our lives, if we trust Him.   If you didn’t have the week you planned, make your “I’m thankful” list.  If you don’t blog, grab a friend and tell him or her about it.   You’d be amazed at how uplifting a different perspective can be.   I’m looking forward to Monday already.

Must Haves for High School

Shopping for back-to-school supplies?    The sales ads will attempt to sell you everything except the kitchen sink as a back-to-school necessity.   Here are my thoughts on some intangibles for parents of homeschooled high schoolers, published at Heart of the Matter Online.   Be blessed.