The busiest summer–(until next year)

Unless the Lord says differently, this has been/ will be our summer:

Weeks 1 and 2: preparation for this year’s dance recital

Week 3:  oldest in class for PSAT review

Week 4 (this week): oldest away at camp

Week 5:  oldest in class for PSAT review, part II

 Week 6: son at National Dance competition

Week 7: VBS

Week 8:         (can you believe it?—nothing to do!!)

Week 9:  begin school(?)

There are at least two aspects of this schedule that have become my latest musings.   The first is pondering how, every summer, I make a declaration that we are just going to rest, and every summer, we are busier than the summer before.   I wonder if I stated, “This summer, we’re going to be busier than ever!” would we actually have nothing to do?    I might try that next spring.   Right now, however, what this schedule means is that we will potentially have only one “do nothing” week, which also happens to contain my husband’s birthday, before school would start.   I intentionally wanted to start earlier this year because my goal is to finish school early enough to get outside in late April/ early May before it gets too hot.   The older two weren’t totally in agreement with this, but then again, they’re not the ones that do the lion’s share of weeding, mulching, and watering during the blazing heat.   Now I’m not sure if my plan will work.    Rest is important to academics, too, and we’ve not had much of it as far as I can tell.    

The other realization I’ve had, as we left the oldest waaaaaayyy out west yesterday, is that this is the first time we’ve been apart from any of the children for an extended period of time.    On the bittersweet ride back home yesterday, past endless windmills and mesquite trees, I thought about a family favorite of ours, Disney’s “College Road Trip” (Martin Lawrence, Raven Symone.)   

At the end of the movie, as Raven’s character waves goodbye from behind the opened door of her dormitory, her parents fight back tears, and memories of childhood past flash through their minds as they return a final wave—for a while.   Were we experiencing a glimpse of what we’ll go through in a couple more years?    I think so.     And though she politely ushered us out of the door so that she could begin her week as a semi-grown up, she missed us, too.    During our 10-hour drive back, she texted twice, then called twice, saying the latter time, “Would you like me to talk you until you get home?”   (We were 5 hours away from our driveway at the time).     I couldn’t help but laugh at how irritated she gets when little brother and sister make an unannounced visit into her room, and yet, what does she do with her first opportunity to be alone?   She calls home, and talks with little sister.   Priceless.

When I’m not playing taxi cab/ head cheerleader for all these efforts, I have had a little time to think about next school year, and to even make a decision or two (smile).    The oldest had asked about learning home management skills—how to cook, complete the laundry cycle, etc.     I began to try and formalize this into a Home Economics course on last year, but it never materialized.    It probably won’t happen this year, either, at least not in a formal sense.   We will pull in some Dave Ramsey and/or Larry Burkett materials on personal finances, but I think that, for the most part, we’ll learn to manage a home by managing our home.   The biggest dilemma I’m having in this area is how to teach cooking to someone who doesn’t eat.      So much of good cooking is about intuition and instinct regarding taste, flavor, and pleasurable textures on the tongue.  Based on my own childhood experiences, I’ve had to fight the demons that cause food to be so much more than food—it was comfort, it was companionship, and it was love.  For our oldest, food is what food should be—sustenance to allow her to get on with the priorities of her day.    For that and a couple of other reasons, her diet is fairly restrictive; how do I turn her into a cook?    What I’ve thought about doing so far is to work with the things she likes and make sure she can prepare those;  artistry will come with time.

Otherwise, I’ve been gathering books and book ideas, and pulling projects into the kids’ studies for next school year.   It’s shaping into another fun learning time (at least, I think so.)    I’m also in thought/ prayer about joining a homeschool group again—not for the sake of the group, but for the sake of our youngest daughter, who needs to get out, and to do something different than what she currently does.    Of course, this could happen in a myriad of ways, and that’s the part that I’m prayerful about;  a homeschool group is not a homeschool group is not a homeschool group, and I am definitely not decided that we need some of the more negative aspects of a group in the effort to have more play days and field trips.   Somewhere in the midst of all this busy-ness I will have to carve out some thinking/ praying/ meditating time.   So much needs to be more carefully thought through than I have time to do right now, but I plow along.

I suppose frustration would be an easy space to crawl into right now, but I make the conscious effort to be thankful.    So, in the midst of all of this, I’m thankful that…

1)      We had resources to do all the items listed above

2)      Where resources looked limited, God provided abundantly (I’m still speaking that)

3)      Dad has been able to travel with us, and has worked from home on several days this summer

4)      We spent a safe and fun Father’s Day on the road, and returned safely on yesterday (also speaking that trip #2 will be the same or better)

5)      Today I will sleep as much as I want to (Hallelujah!)

6)      I saw the one corner of Texas that I’d not seen before

7)      I was asked to take on some additional work that won’t require too much time

8)      Our okra is growing like crazy

9)      With dance season over (for the most part), we can attend mid-week service

10)   Next dance season, class times were adjusted such that we can continue to attend mid-week services

11)   Whatever happens over this summer, busy or not, we serve a great God.

That’s a very small, non-exhaustive list.   Hope you feel the same way when you jot yours down.

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Discovery, Discipline, and Discussion

I will take a summer’s break from the Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up meme as we abruptly ended our homeschool year on last week.    I use the word ‘abruptly’ because my non-spontaneous nature had planned last week to test, with this week as our last school week.   When the other parent in charge of testing materials didn’t receive her materials on time, we had to quickly adjust ourselves to have a “normal” school week on last week and to test on this week.   I feel bad for the kids as we usually try to do something, even if it’s just lunch out, for them when the school year ends.    Because we have to wake up two hours earlier than they’re accustomed to, this week has been in some ways grueling for them—and for me.    Friday is our areas minority homeschooler year-end picnic, and we’re having the in-laws over on Saturday for an early Memorial Day celebration, so it will be Sunday before we spend time with just the five of us.   I’ll have to think of something special just to say, “nice work, guys.”

 

My thoughts haven’t changed regarding standardized testing from this post of over two years ago.    I still see semi-anxious students and seriously anxious parents.   Yet, my thoughts as I prayed over the community of students and parents gathered this morning were that we spend all year long for excellence—in their spirit, in their character, in their academics, and otherwise.    The tests will say something about them.   Yet, here’s what God says about them:

They are the head and not the tail.   They are above and never beneath.   They are lenders and not borrowers.   They are blessed in their going in and blessed in their coming out.    (Deuteronomy 28: 6, 12-13)

They will do greater works than Jesus Christ.   (John 14:12)

God’s work in them is marvelous.  (Psalm 139: 14)

Furthermore, eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them because they love Him.   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Our task is to trust.    God has already walked their steps, and He knows them down to the hairs on their heads.   We simply have to help them to position themselves for usefulness.

At any rate, I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of parents about the nature of the tests.   It occurs to me that these tests are a source of angst and frustration in many communities.   Some think that they are culturally biased.   You know what?   I agree with them.   But it’s not a racial/ ethnic bias.   There are a number of biases, expressed in the following examples:

1)    A grammar test in which the student must read the following and then determine the incorrect portion:

I wanted to read a book

tonight, but these here stars

are simply beautiful.

 

Most of us could immediately pick up that ‘these here stars’ is the line with the incorrect grammar, but where I come from, I’ve heard many say this and more as if it was standard English.

2)    A science question asking a student which temperature (with a choice of three numbers) indicated that a child has a fever.  

 For a child like my small one, who has never been sick enough to run a serious temperature, praise God, she struggled with the right answer.

3)    Questions that ask a student to distinguish a certain leaf, or the root of a plant (like a carrot) versus the plant itself, or how to identify an insect versus a spider.

You must spend time with nature to learn some things in a way that promotes retention.

 

What is this bias, then?    It’s a bias against children who aren’t exposed to rich language and eloquent speech.    It’s a bias against children who don’t get out much, and so may not understand a map or gather a sense of direction from just hanging around the neighborhood.    It’s a bias against children who’ve never felt dirt in their hands, or who’ve not allowed a ladybug or “roly poly” to crawl over their fingers.      It’s a bias against a child who’s never looked up at night and wondered about heavenly bodies and the miracle of the sun and the alignment of the planets.

 

Amidst all the odds stacked against you (or maybe a lack thereof if you’re fortunate), there are constants that ensure success; how you accomplish them is a matter of personal choice and learning preferences.    However, nothing replaces discovery, which is the essence of science.   Nothing replaces discipline, though a child may hate the logic and analytical skills taught via math drills.  Finally, nothing replaces discussion, which allows us to utilize language.    And the beauty of language is that we can use it to tell our children about a great God who lovingly crafted a world that’s worth their curiosity.    The test then becomes just another opportunity to capture a particular level of curiosity.   God bless you.