First Week of Summer

If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken last week off completely from school and then begin on tomorrow after the holiday.    I can always tell when my mind is spinning, and the product of that level of angst and confusion usually isn’t good.    Yet, I was so determined to not waste our summer by sleeping late and staying plugged in all day until I had the kids in books the next day after our official school year “ended.”    The result was that neither the kids nor I felt as if we’d truly ended anything, and the youngest, with all the boldness of a child’s unbridled tongue, let me know it.   “When do we get a break??!!”   

This is sooooo not the way that I want to school during our summer downtime.     So I began explaining that school wouldn’t look exactly as it did during the year, but the true proof in the proverbial pudding was when I began to relax and not pressure them with getting up at a certain time, getting this and that done, and taking away from the fun of life (like time with Dad) in order to complete said page.    Lesson learned.    Moreover, once I did relax, I was able to think through what I wanted the kids to accomplish during the summer–more on that later.

When we weren’t around the table, we were unusually busy for almost the whole week.   It went by in such a blur until I almost can’t remember it.    I spent 2-3 days washing and pressing hair in preparation for team pictures on this past Friday.   I’m hoping against all hope to make the flat-ironing last until time for the dance recital on next weekend.    That process of straightening the girls’ hair is so labor-intensive for me until I almost dread doing it.    I think the ill feelings were compounded once I began to embrace our natural hair; I now fully realize what I’m doing to their tresses by applying that much heat.

I found out Thursday that a dear friend went home to be with the Lord after an extended battle with breast cancer that eventually spread throughout her body.   She was a mentor to our oldest daughter and to me, truth be told; we “adopted” the grandsons she parented as the brothers our son never had.    I know she’s in a better place, and cancer-free with the Lord, but I sure do miss her. 

Saturday we spent at a wedding during the day.   A dear friend married a 2nd time after a long and prayerful season of waiting on a Godly man.    The season was more stressful due to a teenage daughter that, at least from the natural eye, seemed to turn away from everything she was destined by God to be.   It’d been a tough road for this woman of God, and my heart rejoiced to see her happy and radiantly in love.

Saturday evening we were blessed with a rich Word from Bishop T.D. Jakes while he was in town.     Luke 15: 1-8 leaped off the page for me as the Bishop delivered a life-changing message about recession, resurgence, and remaining.   Wow.

My husband loved me enough to give me a much-needed break on Sunday morning, and he taught our Sunday School class by himself, bless his heart.   I felt bad about leaving him with a class that is still establishing its personality with us (ha ha), partly because I wanted to see the lesson!     He performed a couple of magic tricks as a lead-in to the story of Simon the magician, and how we, like Simon, can crave the power of the Holy Spirit (or just church presence) for all the wrong reasons.   The class was small, but well engaged in the lesson, from what I’m told.     This group of kids is markedly different from previous classes we’ve had because of their candor.   There’s one thing I can say about them: right or wrong, you never have to guess what they’re thinking. 

Somewhat well rested, I hussled to get everyone ready for an evening event put on by the local chapter of the NAACP.    During April, the oldest competed in their academic olympic event (ACT-SO) in Earth Science, and Sunday evening was the presentation of awards.     She had returned from April’s competition with a message of doom and gloom about how she fared with the judges, so I had no reason to believe that she would place.     That said, man!    Was I overjoyed when she was announced as the silver (2nd place) award winner!     We couldn’t have been more proud.

Incidentally, it’s odd to see myself with my “poofy” braid-out–a combination of hair that needed washing and the Texas humidity.   Who is that woman with my daughter?!   (But, let’s not make this about me–smile).    Here she is with Dad, and then with friends who also participated in this year’s competition. 

Today, Memorial Day, was a day of semi-rest once again after having a well-traveled, eventful weekend.   Whew!    My in-laws joined us for Cajun fare–crawfish boudin and blackened tilapia.    Good times with family and great food.

Believe it or not, I actually did, somewhere in the midst of all this activity, get to settle my mind and think about what I want to do with the kids this summer.   In short:

  • We will work on 3 days/ week.
  • The youngest: read together and work  on math and handwriting all 3 days, with grammar added on one day and science on another.
  • Our son: read together, make sure he continues with “free” reading times, and complete math on all 3 days.
  • The oldest: help her adjust to college English, read together, and complete math on 3 days.

I will not get in the way of informal studies masterly inactivity, as Miss Mason would say, with my own agenda.

I will not plan the fun out of summer for the sake of completing academic work.

I will get some things done (like scrapbooking and sewing) that I’ve wanted to complete for forever.   That means I will relax.

Pray for me, saints.   God bless.

Exactly what my Family Needs

 

O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.  I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.

 

Psalms 34:3-4

 

I am so excited this morning to tell you that Angela, formally of Fruitfulfamily, now (hopefully soon) blogging at 7PeasinaPod  is celebrating her new home!  

YYYEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!

 

After over a year of homelessness (her mother’s 1 bedroom was a blessing for their family of 9, but for a husband and wife, there is nothing like your own home), she inherited a home specifically remodeled with her in mind (Her deceased aunt added three bedrooms, a bathroom, and bought a new washing machine and refrigerator before going home to be with the Lord)!!  It only cost her $5 (to change the deed)!!   I was already excited enough as we have lifted her family up to the Lord over the past year or more, but when she walked me through her entire testimony, all I kept saying was “amazing.”    There simply were no words to fully express the privilege of watching God be God.

As our son said, if you only heard the end of the story, you’d be jealous, and I would never be so presumptuous as to tell her testimony, but the story’s so wonderful that I just have to, have to, share some highlights.   Let me be very upfront in saying that words will fail me miserably in trying to capture eloquently what I heard on yesterday.   Again, sometimes life events just cause you to stare at God, mouth agape, totally dumbfounded.

1)    She endured Egyptian-like plagues in her original home

2)    A neighbor with a bi-polar disorder once threatened her husband with a gun, then caused a neighborhood scare that triggered a SWAT response and the temporary commandeering of her home

3)    They (finally) sold the home out from under themselves, forcing them to move to a hotel, and then into the rental property of a slumlord

4)    Because the slumlord never properly replaced a broken refrigerator, they received two that were filled with maggots, then went without refrigeration for a number of months

5)    Even though they paid their rent in a timely manner, they were evicted while Angela was pregnant with their 7th child (and the oldest was only 9 or 10 years old at the time)

6)    While Angela’s family moved in with her mother, Angela’s aunt, whose health was failing, offered her the home when she went to be with Jesus (no one knew at the time that the journey would take place in one year)

Oh, and did I mention that the Lord gave her a dream 9 years ago about the house, including her neighbors Teresa and Angel?    The Lord also showed her the school room, but since her oldest was only 2 then, she thought that it was a sign of an in-home daycare business.

Okay, are you dancing before the Lord, too?

 

Why is her story on my blog, and what does any of this have to do with me?   Well, first, the Lord tells us to rejoice with others who rejoice.   Second, it’s wonderful to see God answer prayer, and I love seeing Him be God, wherever He is blessing.   And even though Angela is a person that I met through blogging, I consider her a friend.   On an even more personal note, I am often reminded of the trial of Job, and how he began to see his own breakthrough when he took the focus off of himself and began to pray for his friends.   The “MommIdentity” devotional, the conversations I’ve had in the last week or so (certainly this testimony being one of those), and even the comments of dear blog readers and customers like AJ, have really resonated with me over the last few days.  It is almost like a special word from the Lord in the midst of all my preparation.   As I told our son on yesterday, I’m not physically ready to begin school next week—our relaxing summer just began!   Although I know why I chose that start, and by the time we finish early next spring, I’ll be glad I did.  What I didn’t say to him was that I don’t feel totally prepared as a teacher, either.   There are a couple of places where I still don’t have the “right” resources, and I still need each child to go through last year’s notebooks and see where we need to buy folders, new notebooks, print notebooking pages, etc.    My mock syllabi aren’t fully fleshed out.  Math plans need to go into the planners, but I intentionally waited to see what work would be completed this week.   Overall I just feel rushed.   So, in reading the line in the devotional that I am exactly the Mom that this family needs, I felt peace wash over me like a refreshing spring.

If I’m totally honest, I, too, struggle at times with comparisons.   I didn’t post the thoughts about fitting into your homeschooling skin by accident—it’s been the abundance of my heart lately.   As I listened to Angela, I couldn’t help but think, how could you continue to homeschool through all of that?    I thought the same of Phyllis during her encounter with homelessness.    We’ve been through a tough time as well, though nowhere near to that extent.   In fact, relative to the goings and comings of others around us, our woes have been few.    Still, we began reading the book of Psalms in the midst of our trial because I wanted the kids to read the words of David as he encouraged himself at the peak of his persecution.   Maybe I was the one who needed to read it.   However it worked out, when I later wanted to abandon the reading, thinking that the kids weren’t benefitting, they asked to keep going.   Perhaps we all learned a lesson in how to handle life’s adversities.

I applaud Karen for hesitating on putting the kids back in school while she braces for continued chemotherapy; I don’t know that I’d be that strong.   Yet, her family needs a mom with tremendous courage.

I wish that I were as creative as Dawn, as bold and determined as Amy, or as “together” as KeriMae, but I know that God gave them a special grace to give some special kids a wonderful life and school experience.

If only I was the student of home education that Kysha is.   If only my Charlotte-Mason inspired homeschool looked like Linda Fay’s.  If only my older two spent their summer reading like Solid Rocks’.   If only, if only…

Then I bear in mind that it is totally impossible for any of our blogs to reflect our total experience; we blog about the parts of life that we deem worth sharing, that are not too embarrassing to share, and places that we can (sometimes feebly) get words and pictures around.   Also, like professional teachers, we all tend to teach toward our strengths.   The fact that I choose to bore the children with tackle Homer and Dante’ doesn’t make me any less of an effective homeschooling parent than someone else who can craft each of the Seven Wonders of the World with paper Mache and popsicle sticks.    Finally, our kids live near a large metropolitan area, with many distractions and disruptions available to them at any point in the year.   Though I complain that we all are too plugged in, I’ll admit that, for the most part, their choices of what to watch are sound with our family’s values.   Comparing them, therefore, to children who live in rural places with fewer recreational outlets and/or no television is highly unfair to them.

Each of us, whatever is our state of being, is exactly what our families need.   I am exactly what my family needs.  May the Lord get glory in the midst of my feeling unprepared.  He is prepared, and He is sufficient for all my needs.    May He bless you today.

P.S.  Did I mention that the house is completely paid for?   Okay, you can get back to shouting now.    🙂

A Rose by any other name…

Would it smell as sweet?   I was reminded of this famous Shakespearean line when I read through a fairly recent discussion that, after polling the names of group members’ homeschools, suggested that names might indeed make a difference.    More specifically, the concern was that Christian homeschool names might be suspect at non-Christian colleges.  

The discussion started with a question from a group member whose daughter wanted to study a specific area of biology.    The concern was that a Christian-named homeschool, implying creationist values, might raise eyebrows from those die-hard evolutionists and cause admissions problems.   Admittedly I skimmed over the responding posts, which can quickly become voluminous on any topic.   My own college experience would say that this was a non-issue, but then this fairly specific question gave way to a more generalized discussion that peaked my curiosity.   Once I became curious, I grew pensive regarding this whole issue of names and perceptions.   Some questions that grew out of the initial discussion were as follows:

  • Where do you use the name—on transcripts? For admin purposes? For retail purposes?
  • What words do you include on the transcript?   (as an example, does the word “official,” as in xxxx Official Homeschool Transcript, make your homeschool sound more official)?    Should you include the word ‘homeschool’?    This latter question becomes more relevant in a state like Texas where homeschools are considered private, unaccredited schools.
  • Does a name for my homeschool help or hinder?  (as one example, one parent shared that he/she ‘talked to several college admission officers about the homeschool transcript. Most were in an agreement that a school name, especially one that is more main stream, gives more weight to your transcript… the more my son’s transcript looked like “public” school kids the better for him. Most big colleges want to compare apples to apples…’)

I had a chance to revisit my own naming process this weekend.    We enjoyed the company of another homeschooling family after the kids’ dance recital.    The wife/ mother was sharing that their homeschool “went full out,” in her words: she paid to have a logo crafted, and to create a school name.    I smiled as it occurred to me that I honestly never gave much more than a fleeting thought to the initial naming of our homeschool.  

Our homeschool does have a name.    I use it primarily for administrative purposes—registrations, sign-ups and sign-ins, etc.     It was the name of a retailer who was going out of business and sending wide distributions of e-mails in the hopes of drumming up some last-minute business.    At that time, I thought no further than that it was “catchy;”   I liked the play on words between ‘His way home’ and ‘homeschool.’   Hence, our school became His Way Homeschool.    Funny, I’m not even sure if my husband or children know that.

One of the reasons that I don’t spend much time with the name of our school is because I work very hard to free myself from the propensity to recreate the public school system at home.    I have to constantly remind myself at each turn of what our ultimate goals are here.    I want the kids to have a rich experience.    School is a part of it, but it’s more about relationships—relationships with the Lord, relationships within the family, relationships with books and with learning.   My very nature would make this an unschooling-free zone, but I’m coming into more and more of an understanding that I’m not interested in producing what I see come out of traditional school systems—public or private.    My cousin articulated this so much better than I could in this link on changing the culture.

As strange as it might sound, I will allow our children to decide upon the name on their high school diploma—an idea that I heard at a conference.    If they want to graduate from His Way Homeschool, great.   If they prefer Bullard Preparatory Academy or something more mainstream, so be it.    That is a part of their contribution to what has transpired in these years since we’ve begun, and they should feel good about saying that they finished from xxxx high school, just as the traditionally-schooled kids here take great pride in saying that they went to one of the three high schools in our little town.   Come to think of it, what is in a name?   Two of our local high schools are named after people, and the third is named ‘Memorial’—a memorial to what, I have no idea.   But His Way Homeschool, though selected very casually, means something to me after all these years.   It keeps me focused on our ultimate goal for our children.    It is a reminder to strive for excellence when I would otherwise let fatigue and frustration give way to mediocrity.   Finally, it centralizes for me—in three short words—that whole premise of relationship that I spoke of earlier.   And yes, His Way Homeschool (or whatever the kids choose) will grace our high school transcript, as much of an in-Jesus’-name-I-dare-the-devil-to-stop-me move as anything else.    Ultimately, that’s where our faith has to be.   A college administrator might find it too holy or self-righteous.   It may not be academic enough.   In the natural, it doesn’t say much about our philosophy or learning approach.    But, ooooooh, in the spiritual, it says everything.   God bless you, my friends.    By the way, I’m still curious: what are your homeschool names?

First year of high school: it's a wrap!

I’ve been skimming a new favorite on the homeschool circuit, Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris.   I’m trying to determine whether it would be the right selection for a living book on character next school year.    This book, written by homeschooled teen twins, prompts teenagers to rise above the low expectations that society sets for them.  While I’m still undecided about the book, its content left me thinking.   In fact, I thought so much about it until it prompted me to have the discussion with our Sunday school class about the gap between what God thinks of them and what they think of themselves.

 

One of the realizations the book expresses, and our class expressed as well, is that, for the most part, when you see something about teenagers, it’s generally negative.   Whether it’s teenage pregnancies, teens and drugs, teens and peer pressure (almost always negative peer pressure, not positive), the news is just not good.    I can remember surfing in Blogland and finding a meme on raising and homeschooling teenagers.   I found it intriguing that the authors actually had to articulate the need to be nice when speaking of your own children.  

 

There are changes that occur in children at this age, without doubt.   On one hand, the homeschooling environment gives us the opportunity to be more sensitive, hopefully reducing everyone’s stress level during this accelerated growth phase.   On the other hand, the homeschooling environment gives us more of an opportunity to pray because we don’t get a break when the stress levels are high.   As I’m no child expert or medical doctor, I won’t presume to offer any advice on teen development; this is simply my observation based upon conversations with friends in similar situations.

So, where do all the studies, the research, the articles, and the countless “how to” studies leave a parent of a homeschooled teen?    With tons of information on home educating a high schooler; why not add my two cents? (smile)

After a looming sense of dread during my daughter’s 8th grade year, I would say at this point that high school is not the big, hairy monster that I thought it would be.   I am convinced that most of the changes existed in my mind rather than in the way that we adjusted our homeschool.    For us, the core course requirements stayed the same.   Our oldest still needs a steady diet of grammar and composition, math, science, and history.    Yet, I would tell another parent that the age-old wisdom of knowing your child becomes tantamount here: knowing strengths, areas that need development, life/ career interests, learning styles, and how to marry all of this with the opportunities around you can make all the difference in the high school experience.  

What else would I tell a parent who is considering a homeschool that includes high school?

Include the Bible in your studies.   It amazes me how many Christian parents decide to forego Bible studies as children grow.  Several parents that I know will say something along the line of “we just don’t have time,” or in some way insinuate that since it’s not important to a college administrator, its value is somehow diminished.    I shared with such a parent recently that it is possible to do both as a part of your studies–integrate God’s Word and prepare your children academically for college.  (Her comment was, “I want my children to know who god is but I want them to get the information that will get them into a great college first.”)   I talked about the historical significance of the Bible, and how even non-believers recognize the significance of the Bible, if nothing more than as a history text; it is included in almost every study of ancient World history.   But that’s really not reason enough to include Biblical studies.    The real reason in my mind is what I alluded to earlier: what teenagers are challenged with today makes me realize how very sheltered my world was 25-30 years ago.    As our pastor shared this morning, a walk with our Lord shouldn’t be a Sunday morning event, but should permeate the remaining hours in our week as well.   Simply put, a Christian parent can no longer afford to limit opening a Bible to Sunday morning.    The enemy is too cunning, and the price—our children’s souls—is too high.

Don’t slack off because your child’s academic goals don’t include college.   I’ve shared previously that my father had to quit school at an early age in order to sharecrop with his family.    My mother had more education, and fought to become a registered nurse when the highest position most black women held was generally a teacher.   Because they understood the value of higher education, we were never given a choice about college; we simply got to choose where we wanted to go.    My husband and I have raised our children the same way, and we’ve geared our homeschool toward that end.    However, I also recognize that college is not everyone’s goal.    I do believe, however, that regardless of the path, this is the last opportunity for you to pour into your child those habits, that knowledge, and those values that will define her as she leaves home.   Lee Binz of the Home Scholar does a marvelous job of discussing why an academically rigorous education is important, especially to a child who is not pursuing higher education.

Having said that, what should you add to a high schooler’s curriculum to give it uniqueness?   Electives, which can take many forms.    A high schooler can also take advantage of art studies, music studies, and whatever electives are of interest.   Composition can take a number of forms: blogging, editing a family newsletter, or volunteering for an organization that needs a public relations person (free press releases), as examples.   The oldest has a friend who writes plays and short films, and will see his first manuscript brought to life this summer at a local library.   For that math enthusiast who likes to play video games, how about a course in applied mathematics such that he can design his own interactive fun?

 

An unschooler would give better advice than I would on designing electives.   There are also books and resources on the subject.   In our home, given our daughter’s interest in fashion, I put together a reading/ writing project for her using the Biblical character of Esther (since we studied Ancient World History).   She drug her feet in completing the project, but when she asked me, “So, who are we going to study next year?” I knew I was on to something.

Pick your battles; win the war (the dragging of feet prompted that one).    Our high school doesn’t start when I want; it ends later than I want.   I make a choice each morning to not start my day fussing.   I don’t always remember the choice when the beauty regimen takes closer to an hour, but I make it (smile).    Toward the end of the year, I began to follow up on our pastor’s worship series regarding “The Worshipping Life,” and I walked around in the mornings with my MP4 player listening to worship music.    This changed my whole outlook on the day and its troubles.   It probably made me more relaxed than I should have been, but at least I wasn’t screaming at anyone to hurry.   Well, not too much.

Early is never early enough.   Again,  I am writing from the perspective of a parent whose child, unless the Lord sends a burning bush to say otherwise, will leave here and attend college in a few short years.   Yet, I’m sure that whatever your children’s plans are, there is one constant: you must prepare them to increasingly live a life of self-sufficiency (minus human interventions, I mean).  This has meant, in addition to day-to-day lessons of managing time, money, and a stack of dirty clothes and/or dirty dishes, the following tasks:

Coordinating with the public school system for standardized test taking

Researching college alternatives

Researching scholarship and grant possibilities

Transcript preparation

Understanding what a given college wants and needs and how that pertains to what we do in high school

In short, all of those activities that the public school system handled for me, complete with the expertise and the power to delegate, now fall flat in the laps of my husband and I to get done.   I have at least two examples of making a few calls in a half-embarrassed state, thinking that someone would consider me a slave driver of a parent for starting so early.   In each case, I had narrowly missed some critical deadline to position the oldest to accomplish some major milestone in her college preparation.    My advice to any parent who is walking a similar road would be to start early enough that others will laughingly say to you, “You’re already doing that?”    As others have wisely said to me, you will laugh last.    

Pray.    Though prayer is nothing new for a Christian, I believe the Lord gives a special grace for those with teens.    Here are some specific needs that I know I’ve become acutely more aware of in raising my teen:

1)    We have to pray for them to stay with Christ, whether they leave us or not.  

2)    We have to pray to grow in trusting them as young adults whose plans don’t always align with our own.    

3)    Because there is no other teacher to point to regarding the gap in your child’s knowledge (whether going to college, to the military, or straight to work), we must do our best, but we also have to know God as a gap-filler.   

4)    We must pray to grow in grace as we come to the revelation that everything we think is wrong with them ain’t them (pardon the vernacular).    In praying, realize that the Lord will change you as much—or maybe even more–as He’ll change your child.

 

We are given a wonderful opportunity during these years, and with the right resources, it can be a tremendous time in our lives.   I have other thoughts, but this post has gotten long enough.   I’ll share other musings in posts to come.   God bless you.