Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Why We Homeschool

The how we homeschool has been written about here but the why is a a story all by itself.

When we returned from living overseas Grace was 5 years old. We put her into our local public school while I got a job teaching preschool at a church preschool. Sophia, then 3 years old, was in my class and Luke, one and a half years old, was in a class for teacher's babies.

It was a good situation for us at first. We were in a new state with no family or friends and having school and work meant that we were plugged in right away. Grace started kindergarten reading at a second grade level which we knew could be an issue, but decided that the benefits out weighed the risks.

Several months in we had a parent teacher conference. When we inquired about additional work for Grace in lieu of the year long sight word program the school did (which Grace had passed in the first few weeks,) the teacher told us that they wouldn't ask her to do any work. The teacher told us that we would just need to "wait until her classmates caught up with her."

It bothered us but Grace's behavior was good, she loved school, and I could supplement with things at home enough to keep her moving forward.

When she started first grade we went to the open house night and were handed a multi page packet with the sight words for the year. I handed it to Grace on the drive home from school, and in less than ten minutes, she had read with accuracy the entire packet.

Again I asked what could be done to keep her challenged in the classroom and I received the same answer- there were no strategies to teach any child who was testing above the average mark.

Grace started crying about reading books. She wanted to read "easy" readers like everyone else in her class but hated how easy and boring they were for her. 

At this point we knew homeschooling was next in line for us. We wanted our kids to be excited about learning. We knew that they could achieve more and at a faster pace than our local public schools could offer. Plus, we wanted Christ at the center of their education.

Then, near the end of the year, Grace had brought home a novel study packet from her reading group. It was practically empty and when asked, she told me she never finished her work. When I looked into it, I found out that Grace would get bored with her work and the teacher wouldn't ask her to finish work OR contact me to let me know that this behavior had been going on since the beginning of the year. Somehow the papers never came home either (I had no idea this reading group had been even happening.) 

I was done! We had put up with "the system" for two years but I felt like we had failed Grace. She was showing many of the signs of being a gifted learner, or, at the very least, advanced. She was bored with school but she loved the social side of things.

To top it all off, Sophia, who was months away from starting kindergarten at that very same school, was already reading at a first to second grade level. We were bracing ourselves for another two years of waiting until all of her peers caught up.

I was expecting our fourth child, Ben, and we finally made the call. I let the director of the preschool know that I wouldn't be returning and we began our research into styles and curriculum.

It may not have been the most classic start to our homeschooling journey but it did make us feel the most confident in our decision. We know that what we are giving all of them is most tailored to their needs, styles, interests, and abilities.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

What I’m Reading

 Alternatively title: What I HAVE been reading, as right now I’m not making much headway. 

I discovered a new to me author, Connilyn Cossette, and plunged even deeper into a Robin Jones Gunn rabbit hole. My mom passed on a whole stack of Irene Hannon books and I went through a WWII stint. I did some professional development books and now really want to read something cozy and familiar. 

Connilyn Cossette

A Light On the Hill

Shelter of the Most High

Until the Mountains Fall

Like Flames in the Night

Counted With the Stars

Robin Jones Gunn

Home of Our Hearts

One More Wish

Sunset Lullabies

Secrets

Lullabies

Irene Hannon

Hidden Peril

Dangerous Illusions

Hope Harbor

Against All Odds

An Eye For An Eye

In Harm’s Way

WWII

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Lost Girls of Paris- Pam Jenoff

The Nightengale- Kristin Hannah

Professional Development

The Core- Leigh Bortis

Homeschooling Gifted Kids- Cindy West

The 5 Love Languages of Children- Gary Chapman

Obviously this is from several months but it’s a pretty decent start!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Ready and Willing Need Not Apply

In our twelve years of marriage, Ian and I have had several experiences where our training, experience, and willingness to perform a job or task was there but we were denied the chance to do so. 

I’ve not been able to develop some semblance of an answer for why these situations have happened- I’ve just tried to accept the fact that it was a door being closed on us for unknown reasons. Typically, a different path would be opened to us soon after, but not always (ever?) a preferred one. 

Soon after graduating college and getting married I found myself unable to be hired into the only profession I’ve ever wanted to be in- education. I was top of my class with gleaming recommendations from my advising teachers but that didn’t matter. It was 2008, at the height of the market crash, and I was newly relocated to a town with its own education graduates from a nearby university. 

Nearly eight years later, the path that we had taken suddenly became a dead end. We were already living in the Middle East doing something most people would be unwilling to do and living so far from friends, family, and our home culture, but the Lord made it abundantly clear that it was time to return to the US. Even though we were willing to stay. Even though we were happy in a place many wouldn’t be. 

I really struggled after this one. I asked myself constantly “What was it for? What was the next path going to look like?” Every time I saw a glimpse of the “why” we were made to return home I would cling to it even if it was just the tiniest shred of a reason. 

Most recently we had another gut punch. We were ready and willing to start fostering only to find out our bedrooms were too small. Discouraged, we felt like if a family who has a stable income and a loving home and well thought out reasons and intentions are not able to participate in foster care, then who can?

It doesn’t sit well with me. It goes beyond my logical capabilities. 

I do know this: I’m going to keep being ready and willing. I’m going to be looking for needs, thinking how I can help fill them, and keep being ready to step up. Even for the hard things. Even for the messy things. Even for the not so glamorous things. 

If I’m never “chosen,” for a task again I can feel peace about it because I know my children will have seen parents who were ready and willing to serve. 

Even more beautiful will be the moment when the Lord chooses me for a task that I never saw coming, that I wasn’t quite prepared for, but that He provided for ways for His glory to be shown. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Sparkle in the Storm

Almost any person could make a list about how COVID-19 has changed their life and wrecked their plans for the year. 

Loss of income

Cancelled travel

Lack of social interactions

Difficulty of juggling all of the roles from home

Divided friends and family over correct responses

These are just a tip of the iceberg of what you would expect to hear but today I thought I would share the blessings that have occurred during this time for me!

1.) Ian’s company (in the airline industry and hit very hard,) had to cut everyone’s pay. I know, that doesn’t sound like a blessing, but, as compensation, they cut the hours they had to work. This meant that Ian worked a four day work week for sixteen weeks. Y’all. Sixteen weeks of three day weekends!

It was amazing family time  it was a chance to be together and do things in our home (because it’s not like we could go anywhere or be busy with much!)

2.) It really taught us to slow down and not to be on the run all of the time. Now, I think, compared to many Americans, we were already doing a good job with this, but there is always room for improvement. Errands don’t need to happen constantly, the kids don’t need to be entertained with weekend outings, and the necessity to do “house” projects was weighed thoroughly.

3.) It made some friendships even deeper and sweeter. Friends called to check in, drove by to have a conversation from the car, and volunteered to bring us toilet paper.

And grace abounded! When someone wasn’t handling changes well, we stepped in. When differences in opinion on social distancing and mask wearing surfaced, it was dealt with in love. 

There are many more little gems, but these are a few that stood out to me. What have you seen as a blessing in these tough times?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Write 31

 It’s been a doozy of a year, hasn’t it?

Considering the last time I wrote was February 1st, there seems to be a lot of ground to cover to catch up. 

That’s a bit of an understatement, right?

After all, a pandemic shut down our the world for months on end with no end in sight, racial injustices have ripped apart our country, natural disasters pummeled every corner of the nation, and a disastrous election season is currently looming over top of us. 

Ian’s been working from home since mid March, the kids have had everything cancelled on them, and I’ve tried to keep everyone’s spirits up despite my own flagging emotions.

In the midst of all of that I have struggled to find the words in even normal conversations with friends and family but knew that I needed to keep the words flowing in whatever way I could. 

A friend and I have been exchanging long, hand written letters that span several days, covers any topic, and is often laid aside until it is remembered, picked up, and added to. Oh, the joy when reading them! Reminiscent of Austen’s characters, where they converse and update via letters, then tack on post scripts and updates, these letters have reminded me of the power of the written word in a time when words are so carelessly thrown out into the universe for everyone (or no one?) to see.

When Callie reminded me of a blogging tradition to write every day in the month of October I decided to revisit my old love- writing. In the spirit of tradition, I should choose a topic and try to focus my writings on that topic. Alas, I’m throwing tradition out the window mainly because I am so rusty at writing to begin with. No theme here but hopefully a return to regular writing with updates, thoughts, and pictures!

I hope you will check in regularly to see what’s happening here during this Write 31 challenge! I’d love to hear from you.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

January

We survived it.

And I know I’m being tricked by the unseasonably warm weather here in Maryland, but I’m hoping that the worst of winter is over. I also realize there could be an additional seven weeks left but I will cling to the hope that we are at least on the downhill side of winter forwards spring.

I’ll be logical and say I know February will still be freezing and have chances for snow, but since we haven’t had any snow yet this year I will hold my breath and pray it just passes us by.

January just beat us down, and I’m not really sure if it was anything but the cold, dreary gray skies or what!

We homeschooled and made it to soccer, gymnastics, Awanas, and co-op.

We had our small group over a couple of times.

Everyone was relatively well and slept good.

See? Nothing that stands out too much, right?

So I will take a minute and focus on some of the things that did make it an interesting month...

I did meet my goal for the month of January of getting the kids down to the ice rink! It was so much fun and they all had great reactions. Grace was ready to go and got up and moving pretty quickly on her own. Sophia was hesitant and wanted a walker at first, but eventually she shed that and would make pretty good time around the rink, albeit with a lot of falling. Luke had to have his walker for the entire time but eventually would let me move it a few paces in front of him so he’d have to catch it. He also loved when I raced with him by pretending we were on Mario Kart!






Ian and I got to go on a date and saw 1917. It was excellent and I would recommend it to anyone who likes history!

I did get to read a lot this month! I went through a spurt of fiction and then a dry week or so where I would pick things up and read a page or two and decide it wasn’t the right time for that book and I would put it back.

What I read this month:
One More Wish- Robin Jones Gunn
Sandy Toes- Robin Jones Gunn
Salty Kisses- Robin Jones Gunn
Crispin- Avi
Forever Hidden- Tracie Peterson
The Book of Secrets- A.L. Tait
The Book of Answers- A. L. Tait
If I Live- Terri Blackstock
Holly and Ivy- Fern Michaels

I have four other non fictions that I’ve made progress on but are of the slow and steady variety. They will “count” when I have finished them!

I got to get out for a morning on my own! Due to my Fear Of Missing Out I have a hard time skipping out for a morning or a whole day so when Ian had an unexpected day off I took him up on it and used gift cards to go get a massage, facial, and a haircut. I was so embarrassed when the stylist asked me when the last time I got a hair cut was.

“By me? A year ago. By someone else..... 3 years?!” Her face was priceless.

For February my goals are to:
1) Read 8-10 books
2) Get our taxes done (fun, right?)
3) Try decorating sugar cookies with royal icing! It’s so daunting to me but something I want to at least try.

February has dawned on a sunny and warm day. The kids will jump on the trampoline for a large chunk of the daylight hours and Ian and I will work together on a few household projects while keeping Ben from destroying things altogether. Not a bad way to start the month!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020

The ball drops, the fireworks dazzle, and the champagne glasses clink together.

Hugs, kisses, and shuffling off towards bed, we as weary party goers feel accomplished for simply staying up too late.

Silence settles over the house and, in my endless state of insomnia, I make lists.

Grocery lists
To Do Lists
Communication Catch up Lists

Budgets
Things I wanted to say but forgot
Books To Read

It’s truly never ending.

I settle into thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions for 2020. I had been mulling them over for some weeks but the edges are still fuzzy. Ideas not fully formed but still existing in seed form.

Not one to fear un met goals and their repercussions, I am here to share my goals with you. I recently told my girls about resolutions. How they should be specific, measurable, and attainable. (No, “catch a unicorn,” can’t go on my list.)

Then we had a good chat about how failing to meet personal goals does not mean a person is a failure. How it might mean that life’s circumstances got in the way. Or how our good intentions did not take into account the need to sleep. Or eat.

The mark of a good resolution though should be in how we think through them, before, during, and after, and how we change it along the way (or don’t change it!)

Here are the seed ideas of my resolutions.

Reading- my sister is endeavoring to ready 100 books this year and, as much as I’d like to join her, I worry that two books a week is a steep expectation when taking into account my four kiddos and busy life. I will keep it at 100 for now but I’m happy to drop it down to 75 or even a measly 50 if that becomes a more reasonable expectation.

I’m counting books I read, audio books I listen to, and including some juvenile (middle grade,) fiction I will be reading with Grace or previewing for her.

Monthly goals- I thought that it would be fun to set small, attainable goals for each month, setting the, as I go throughout the year.

January’s goal is to take the big kids to our local outdoor ice skating rink- something we’ve been wanting to do for three years but never got around to it!

February’s goal is to work my way through some cookie decorating tutorials and try my hand at royal icing, piping, and flooding.

I like that these goals should be a fun, easy way to check something off of one of my lists. Not usually something that stretches on but is more of a one and done scenario.

Exercise- This will probably be worked into a few monthly goals but I would really like to run some 5k’s this year. I really hate running but it’s just something I’d like to say I’ve done/can do. 3-5 during this summer is my rough goal.

Travel- We haven’t taken many family vacations in the last ten years so we both want to make that happen this year. A beach trip is at the top of our list closely followed by a possible international trip. We may not have technically vacationed a lot but we have done a lot of traveling and we miss doing that with our kids.

That’s it for the year! I am a list and goal maker so I am sure more will come and go but I’m curious to see how I fair in these goals!

Happy New Year!