Summer Reading

Do you “school” all year around?    We do.   We never cover all of the classes, but the kids are required to complete math on 3 days/ week, and to read for 1 hour each day.   In the summer, that reading time looks totally different than during our regular school year.   I had taken shots of the kids during and after the hour’s reading period, and thought these were worth sharing.

Even the dog thought this one was different.

Six weeks left until we get off to a more formal start.   I wonder if they like this way better?!   🙂

The Do-Nothing Summer

This post could have just as easily have been entitled “Second Week of Summer,” but my heart is not to document how we spend each week of what I anticipate to be a 10-week break from our school routine.   But this was a week of “ah-has,” as we called them in my corporate days–the point at which I had to heed to the teachable moment.

It happened quickly, as teachable moments often do, and I was left to marinate what the moment meant to me for days afterward.    After picking up the oldest from her volunteer work, I had to run inside a grocery store.   I had all three children with me when we ran into a friend from church.   She immediately recognized the oldest’s volunteer jacket, and they had a brief dialogue about how much the oldest was enjoying her opportunity.    Then our friend asked our son, “And what are you doing this summer?”    With all the honesty and candor of a child, he replied, “Nothing.”    She played it off well, saying that “nothing can be good sometimes, too,” and I smiled in agreement, but inside I was crushed.   (Gasp!!)   My child saying that he was doing nothing this summer?!!

 Of course, he is not actually doing nothing.    We’re completing a minimal amount of school.   He and his dad are set for a record to see every superhero movie out this summer, and he’ll attend a dance workshop later in the summer.   However, given that I normally have camps planned and at least one trip in the works, hearing him tell someone that he’s doing nothing was awkward.   It’s like when someone asked your homeschooled kid, who might have a 7th grade science book, a 6th grade math text, a 5th grade English workbook, and read on a 10th grade level, what grade he/ she is in.    When the kid replies, “I don’t know,” it’s just not a good look.

While this short scene marinated in my mind, it occurred to me that I’d been so psychologically preoccupied with getting the oldest’s plans and activities in order until I let everything else go.   Moreover, her daily activities are taking over our summer such that I have a hard time sitting to think  and accomplish other tasks.   To begin with, during our more formalized school time, I normally wake up when my husband awakens, but I don’t get up until around 7:30.   This gives me–in theory–at least an hour by myself before I awaken the kids to meditate on the Lord, have my own worship time, get a headstart on breakfast, or catch up on some last-minute project from the night before.   Summer was supposed to be more-laid back and relaxed.  Instead, I now have to get up every morning by 7 a.m. at the latest so that the oldest can get to school on time.    Even on Fridays when she has no class, she’s taken on extra volunteer opportunities, and so I’m still up early to have her in place.   And almost all the flexibility that homeschooling allows into our schedule is gone as we adjust ourselves to having to meet others’ time and deadlines.   

 

So our younger two are left to their own devices this summer–at least, so far, and I’m having to learn re-learn a few things, too.   1st lesson: it’s okay at times to have nothing to do, aka Miss Mason’s “masterly inactivity.”    I love seeing the kids turn off the television on their own.   Our son, a huge fan of author Rick Riordan (of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” fame), has taken on the task of an avid reader–to read what his favorite authors read, and thereby to gain more insight into their perspective.   So, there are long periods of the day when we don’t see him, but I pass by to be sure that he’s still breathing.    I often find him on his futon with his head in a book.

 

The youngest could come up with a brand new project, complete with its brand new mess, about once per hour, if I let her.   But, with her time, she created a family restaurant out of all the chairs and tv trays in the house (and she accidentally deleted my picture of it), where we decided to eat and have dinner once per month.   She’s learned basic sewing stitches well enough to make purses for her and her dolls.     Today, she made a tent of quilts and chairs where she and the dogs could nap, in case she actually takes a nap, which would be enough reason to take a picture.

 

 

 

I can be taught, too.   I can learn that I don’t have full control of my schedule as I accustomed to having, and that’s okay.   I can sew.  I can read.   I can plan.    I can work.    I can even take a mid-day nap.   Wow, this do-nothing summer might just work out after all.

 

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.

And Puppy makes Seven

Well, to say that I’m making adjustments in the last week-and-a-half  would be an understatement.   We began school on last week, and I’ve already blogged about my lack of preparedness (from my perspective) as we start the new school year 3 weeks before I was ready.     Blog?    Tweet?   Who has time?

I had to make another adjustment as well.     It occurs to me that we had become totally adjusted to our 11-year-old beagle, whose biggest activity is to go out and use the bathroom, or bark at the UPS and FedEx trucks.      After a summer of mild refusal, then a “we’ll see” type of consideration, we succumbed to the pressure of the children and brought this little lady home.

 

This is Ginger, the newest addition of our family.     Currently, she is ten weeks old, not house-broken, and very active.     Right now, our beginning school has been overshadowed with running to the backyard to avoid accidents, trying to toddler-proof our home from the many things that Ginger likes to put in her mouth, and just managing the chaos of this busy little Golden retriever in our home.    She plays so very hard until, every now and then, she also does this.

 

 

When she is asleep, the household has its usual level of activity.     Our younger two, as one example of many, decided that they would practice a few dips and turns as dance partners.

 

 

 Oh, well.     At least, amidst all of her busy-ness, Ginger can also slow down and be a great comforter.

 

 

Yes, we did get a puppy 1-2 days before beginning our new school year.     Yes, I am the craziest mom on this little rock we call Earth.  

What I did this summer

Given that we’re starting school on next week, I suppose this is an appropriate title.   During the week that I wrote my last post, there was also Vacation Bible School (VBS).   

 

This picture doesn’t fully capture the work that was put into transforming our church gymnasium into a high seas adventure—ocean-like wallpaper and all.   The backdrop to the kids’ final performance is a pirate’s ship.    This was a tremendous effort on all parts; this year, we had 60+ volunteers and approximately 200 kids!

The day after VBS ended was our littlest one’s 7th birthday.   It was a quiet, intimate celebration with our immediate family as I had work-related meetings that day, and I think the kids were happy to relax for a change.  We’ve had so many events this summer until I’ve intentionally tried to pare down the daily running around.   With that in mind, going somewhere, even to church, every day, can be draining for the kids, and especially for me.   

 

We’ve also cooked up a storm, or at least, I’ve taken more photos of my cooking.    Here’s my seafood kabobs (shrimp, scallops, peppers, red onion, and mushrooms),

 

 

my four-bean enchiladas,

 

 

and my vegetarian chili with tofu and beans.

 

 

 

I am trying to consider our growing son’s dietary needs as a forethought and not an afterthought, so I’m deliberately incorporating more vegetarian dishes into our regular diet.    He shot up 6 inches and counting in the last 10 months.   Yesterday, I cooked a 13-bean soup, and I’ll experiment for the first time with grilled tofu later this week.   Uh, oh!

What I’ve done this week is finalize the plans for the school year beginning next week, and come to the revelation that there will never be enough hours to fit in every book and make use of all the neat tools that are now available to us.    In fact, Internet Café Devotions contained a wonderful devotion entitled “MommIdentity” on yesterday, and I could readily identify with who I am.   I also recognized the tendency to always look at who others are and what they do well rather than realizing that each of us has places of brilliance amidst an otherwise perhaps hum-drum home education model.    This was the crux of my conversation with Karen on last night—the darker side of homeschooling, where comparisons between children can leave us feeling defeated, inadequate, and insecure.    I appreciated the chance to pray with her as she makes decisions about home education in the midst of a fight with breast cancer; it is amazing how the Lord can speak into you when you think you are speaking into others.

In all this activity, I have yet to do something that is totally self-indulgent, and for right or wrong, I want that time.   My plan is to blow the dust off my scrapbooking tools, and to finally put together the kids’ dance photos of more than 1 year ago.   I might have a window this weekend while our youngest spends the night with her grandparents and 5-yr old cousin.    The house should be quieter 🙂 and I’ll have a day to get pages completed.   That is, unless we have to drive to pick up a new hound dog.    I’ll pick up on that story the next time.   God bless.

Lessons from the garden

Our area has been on the wet side of a tropical storm/ hurricane, so we’ve spent several days inside, reading, cleaning, and watching the streets flood.   With the storm dissipating after three days, I thought this would be the perfect morning to weed before it got too hot.   I thought I might just “hang out” with the Lord and marvel at His creation; unfortunately, the mosquitoes and the ants had a similar plan, making new homes and laying fresh eggs.

My mother was a gardener, as well as an amateur ornithologist.    I, however, always thought of myself as having a brown thumb, pun intended.   My first experience, and in truth, my first interest, with caring for plants came after people blessed us with plants in her memory.   I guess I thought that if I kept them alive, in some way, I was keeping a part of her alive.    (Interestingly enough, for a totally separate reason, I am also enjoying learning more about birds, too.)    That was 18 years ago.   Now I value the time in the garden—it’s time alone, you can readily see the results of hard work, and the spiritual insights are invaluable.   As I toiled, I began to process these truths:

  1. Weeds will sometimes grow faster, taller and deeper than plants.   Sin in our lives takes root and spreads quickly.    It needs no fertilization; simply having soil that allows it to germinate is enough.

 

garden;weeds;flowers;plants

 

  1.  Weeds are often as attractive, if not more attractive, than the surrounding plants.   I thought so much about our children in thinking through this.   It is amazing how the flesh is satisfied with doing things that go contrary to what we’ve been taught.    Each week when I’m in the grocery store, I ponder why people feed the billion-dollar industry that has been birthed from the hurts and suffering of today’s celebrities.    Gossip and slander, for some, has triumphed over truth.

 

  1. Weeds are thickest in untouched areas.   I can always tell where the weeds are thickest—where the ants are, or near the nest of a mud dauber.   “Heart issues,” as Mary (@Canadagirl) describes them, are no different.   There are sensitive areas that have lain dormant, allowing weeds and would-be predators to all but snuff them out.    These areas need the touch of Christ to emerge and blossom as He desires.

 

  1. Weeds fight to remain planted.    I intentionally chose a day following three days of almost constant rain to get out and pull weeds.   Yet, even then, some were stubborn.   The more we allow foreign objects—foreign to the Word and will of God, that is—to take root, the harder the weed becomes to pull.    The flesh wants to rationalize, compromise and to bargain with sin, but we can only experience true victory when we flee from it.

 

  1. Pruning is necessary for growth.   I once posted about this years ago here.     The lesson from that post, though, is timeless:

 

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit—John 15:2

 

The devotional was entitled “divine pruning,” and focused on how God will not only cut off unfruitful branches, but even the fruitful branches must be cut so that they bear even more fruit.  Wow.   I continued to trim, and the imagery was so powerful.   I had to cut off much of the tree—the Lord will build your faith by almost destroying it—but what remained was rich, green, and beautiful, like the tree planted by the water, which yields its fruit in season.

 

garden;weeds;flowers;plants

 

Well, friends, enough said.    After those hours of weeding and at least one more in writing, it’s time to move on to other things, like grades and fried shrimp (smile).   May God bless you.