Tuesday, May 30, 2006

American History

We're down to three weeks in SL Core 2. Two years of world history is finally (blessedly) coming to an end. I say finally not because it was bad or overlong or awful but because, well...two years of anything is a lot.

The kids are ready to move on, as well. American History is looking pretty good after such a stretch of studying areas we'll likely never see. (Even a missions-based family can only cover so much area, ya know?) As I sit down to plot out the year ahead I find myself mourning the fact that we live on the West Coast. Most likely it's only because I am ignorant of the history that surrounds me in WA, but I still find myself longing for that long car ride up to the Smithsonian, or to Colonial Williamsburg, or to Plimouth. My kids are going to miss out on experiencing Kitty Hawk and the Old South and seeing the Liberty Bell unless God provides with some pretty major funding ... or the airlines start giving seats away.

I know there's stuff here. There has to be. It's been a part of our nation for a good, long time. I just don't know the history, so it seems lifeless to me. So maybe it's time to do American History ... so mom can learn something.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Statistically speaking

Each of my children has a 50% chance of being mathematically challenged.

Thankfully, it's a nice, round 50% ... otherwise, I'd have no way of calculating it. Yes-- I am the reason the odds are so iffy. I'm no good with numbers.

My husband actually studied engineering in college before veering off into the Liberal Arts sector and becoming a writer. People are usually amazed that he can do better than the average creative guy when it comes to more advanced operations. Personally, I'm thankful that he has the skill. How else would I be able to take a recipe and not actually double it, but just add an additional half. (And you know, there's probably a name for that ... but I, of course, do not know it.) Dh stands at the ready, just in case those 1/3 tsp. need to be halved. Because you don't even want to know the decidedly unscientific method I'd use to do it.

As it turns out, 2 out of our 3 children are pretty good when it comes to math. Both boys seems predisposed to it in some decidedly un-me like way. Ds5 can already perform mental addition into the tens place, and ds3 isn't too shabby either, being able to read numbers into the hundreds quite easily.

Dd8, however ... ((sigh)) ... she inherited not only my grey eyes and long feet, but also my lack of understanding when it comes to anything relating to numbers.

We've tried just about every math program under the sun, it feels like. Calvert, Miquon, MCP. And Math-U-See? Don't even get me started there. It sounded good enough in all the reviews (some of which came from very trusted first-hand sources). You get your hands on all those little blocks and the concepts just click! Problem is ... they didn't. Dd was so frustrated that I think she had nightmares about units and choco-EIGHT and the big castle for the hundreds.

Currently, we're using Horizons. I have to say it's working pretty well. We moved dd back one level. Did I just say that?!? Yes, ma'am, I did. With no regard whatsoever for her self-esteem we started our third grader on Horizons 2 this past fall. Praise the Lord, it seems to be working! Dd is only a little more than half-way through the year's worth of work, as we have been taking it nice and s-l-o-o-o-w.

Dd is thrilled. The whole "2nd grade math" thing hasn't bugged her at all. O.k., it did a little when she first got the book and saw the big bunch of balloons and the giant "2" on the front. But within a few weeks, she was relishing the approach and the gradual acquisition of skills. She finally seems to be grasping concepts that she herself was pretty sure she'd never get. And that, she has decided, is much better than having a "3" on the book and being lost all year.

We realize that we're fighting nature with nurture here. Some people were just never designed to be human calculators. But maybe, just maybe, we can turn the tide in her favor. Beat the odds as it were. Not that I'd know how to figure them.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Learning Process

I bet you you read the title of this entry and assumed it was about my children learning something. Wrong. This one's all about me, and the curious way that we homeschooling parents are educated while educating.

I've been at this about five years now--a little more if you count the hours I pored into hovering over my firstborn when she was a preschooler and insisting that she cut on lines and color in A is for Apples. Five years is plenty long enough to learn almost any job thoroughly. Take a look at most careers and I think you'll be safe to say that if you haven't come upon the situation in the first few years, you'll never really need that skill. I even feel confident saying this about most institutional school teachers. While the odd unique behavior issue or family situation may arise, you can feel fairly confident in knowing that year in and year out, the choices you made two years ago --be it in topics covered, field trips taken or math books used--are going to be remarkably close to the choices you'll make next year.

But homeschooling doesn't fit that mold. While you may be a far more comfortable homeschooler by the time you hit the four year mark than you were back at year one, as long as your kids are moving forward (and trust me, they are always going to be moving forward) your situation is going to be morphing. It's your job to keep pace with the changing needs, take the pulse of your family homeschool and jog on ahead, forging the way.

Sound like hard work? It is.

I'm still trying to master the art of getting just far enough ahead to take a good look back at my three little ones and gauge what needs to be done in the upcoming school year. You know what I'm talking about--looking at their interests, weighing their capabilities and defining what goals their Heavenly Father, their earthly father and I have for them. The trick is getting far enough in front of them to be able to see where they're headed without overshooting altogether and setting the bar to high. Oh, yeah--you also have to stay close enough that you can keep their unique learning styles in mind.

A few months ago I ordered WinterPromise's Animal Worlds for my preschooler. Initially, my older two dug into it with a fervor I hadn't planned for. They ate up the potato print painting and carving up cardboard boxes. They dove into the habitat creation. I took a step back and wondered aloud: "Huh ... maybe they're hungry for more of this stuff? Maybe the Sonlight isn't the perfect match I thought it was?"

Second guessing. Raise your hand if you've been there.O.k.--I can mix WinterPromise with Sonlight, doing Core 3 and WP AS I, then I can add this, take away that, throw in a unit study on ... You should have seen the schedule I worked up on this contingency plan. The problem was, even though I was never a math qhiz, I'm fairly certain that there are not actually 28 hours in a day.

As it turns out, my older two have tired of the scheduled arts and crafts. They've reverted entirely to the process they've used with SL since dd was 5: they read (or hear) something, they create props, they reenact it ... then they start all over again.

Thankfully, I hadn't hit "PURCHASE" anywhere yet.

So, I still have two children learning quite happily with Sonlight, inventing their own crafts and creating their own art. And I have one contentedly loading up a paintbrush with WinterPromise. Two auditory/visual learners and one kinesthetic/visual learner.

Until the next hiccup in the learning journey ...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Thanks to InsectLover I now have to reveal 6 random things about myself. ;-) Actually, I don't mind one bit. Randomness suits me quite well. Ask anyone who knows me, and I bet their summation of me would probably be pretty close to the definition of "random"!

Random thing #1: I don't like to touch the cotton balls that come in the top of tylenol bottles.This is completely true. I bet you didn't even know anyone cared about such things, but I, for one, do.

Random thing #2: I am terrified of winding mountain roads. I added this one because I recently admitted to my best friend that I walk up part of a mountain rather than ride with my family because I can't handle the crush of my own fear. She found this so hilarious that I realized I must be a total freak. ;-) Anyhow, too many years of riding through hollers in the bed of a pickup while trying to keep the stick of my fudgsicle from poking through the roof of my mouth have cemented this terror for me, and there's no going back!

Random thing #3: I like old houses. The older the better, actually. You know how Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a mansion for us? Well, since He knows my heart, I'm expecting an American Folk Victorian from about 1900. And a clawfoot bathtub.

Random thing #4: I am contemplating using an inverted Burger King crown as a template for a stencil on my downstairs walls. I saw it in a library book on decorating. It looked really nice, actually. The problem here is that the idea of going into a Burger King makes me slightly queasy, so I'm not sure how I'll collect the crowns. Or how I'll get my husband to go for the idea.

Random thing #5: My daughter's middle name is not my maiden name, as most people assume. It's the surname of a poet dh and I adored in college. The problem? I now find her work decidedly yuck, thanks to the lenses Christ has given me in discerning things of that nature. But, alas, we are stuck with it.

Random thing #6: In high school and college, I wore an ankle bracelet of bells at all times. For no other reason than the fact that I liked the sound.

O.k., now for my tags: karlyle, AmoScribo, Mama Mary, grace4gayle, zeph317 & teena6. I have no idea how to link to them, so you'll have to hit the "Friends" bar to the left!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006


We had the chance to put to rest a few misconceptions about homeschooling recently. Not sure we won any converts, but at least we were able to explode some of the myths that a few acquaintances have somehow absorbed through their limited--or nonexistent--exposure to homeschoolers.

1. All families who homeschool do so because they are religious "overachievers." We actually started homeschooling before dh was Christian, and before I was fully surrendered to Him. We now feel that an education based on honoring the Lord is our central goal, but we didn't start out that way. The truth is, anyone can homeschool. (And I personally have seen Him use homeschooling to bring many families closer to His Son!)

2. The only people who homeschool are those whose children are really, really smart. My kids happen to be pretty bright. I honestly hesitate to talk about that fact with non-homeschooling moms sometimes for the fear of reinforcing this myth. Honestly, if you believe that God gave you your children because He knew what He was doing, then why wouldn't you believe that He will equip you to deal with their minds, be they brilliant, average or what the school system would label as "Special Needs"?

3. Homeschoolers have big families. I have three kids. To some people, that's a big family. I know a family with 8 children who do not homeschool. I know families of onlies who do. In this case, size most assuredly does not matter.

4. You can only teach subjects you yourself are an expert in. Oh, my. If this were the case, the public school system would be at even more of a loss for teachers than it already is. Thanks to the blessing of almost too many curriculum choices, homeschoolers can teach and learn right alongside their children. Add to this the option of friends tutoring in their own areas of expertise, the variety of co-op and museum classes available, and books (!!!) and I think anyone will see the folly in this argument.

5. You can't be a mom and a teacher at the same time. Really? How do you explain that to the new mother carefully sounding out words for her toddler? Don't let her know how much she's confusing her child by teaching and mothering at the same time!

6. Children who are homeschooled just don't fit in. Praise God for this one! The assumption here is that it's good for kids to fit in with their peers. Personally, I hold to a different standard.

7. If you homeschool your older children, their younger siblings sit in a room by themselves all day. O.k., the person who told me this one doesn't have children, so she can be forgiven for assuming that it's possible to consign a toddler to a defined space and expect him to respect the banishment. I think we all know that this is a joke!

8. You can homeschool because you have a college education. Yes, I do. But I know others who don't, and I can't say my kids are any better off than theirs. What they have in common is a set of parents who are committed to their education. They don't teach any courses on that in universities, as far as I know.

9. Homeschooling takes up a lot of time. It can, no doubt. I have days where I am "on" from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. But I also have days where we are relaxed and just loving a lifestyle of learning. Both are o.k. Both are normal.

I haven't even touched on the "s" word or any of its subcategories here! I am amazed that in this day and age, all of these misconceptions still surround homeschooling. I'm sure my list is far from complete. Anyone care to share the things they've come up against?

"I love you"

I was completely and utterly blessed by this moment today and had to share.

My boys were sitting in front of the computer doing a lesson on (a recommended phonics resource, by the way). The lesson involved the special sound "ack." Ds5 had to say the word that appeared on the screen, click on it and then find it again in a sentence.

It just so happens that little brother (ds3) is named "_ack." And it also just so happens that his name popped up as a word continually in the story they were working on.

Here's where the blessing comes in.

As I was wiping down the bathroom sink, I kept hearing ds5 saying, "I love you." I thought it was part of the story and paid little attention. Then I realized he was saying it an awful lot for a little story exercise. I mean, I know those things are repetitive, but come on!

I peeked around the corner and got the real story. The name "_ack" kept coming up to be read aloud and clicked on. And every single time he saw it, ds5 would say, "_ack, I love you" and click. Ds3 would then peck his big brother's cheek in a kiss.

Can I admit to tearing up? O.k.. ... can I admit to slinking back into the bathroom, crying softly and praising God for my kids, my life and two boys who adore each other enough to spontaneously revel in their love?

I love these moments, these priceless tidbits of time showered upon us by our Maker. And I am SO glad I took two seconds to drop that sponge and take a closer look at the scene in front of the computer this morning.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Firsts and Lasts

I really don't like talking with people who don't enjoy their children. I find the constant focus on how and when to get rid of the "little dears" aggravating, to say the least. I'm an optimist at heart--I make every effort to turn those conversations around, giving the mother the chance to make the inevitable retraction that usually sounds like this: "Oh, I love my kids, but I just could never spend so much time with them ...."

Please don't think I'm talking about the occasional conversation that happens on a bad day. You know--when you happen to catch someone on the day their two year-old flushed a Matchbox car down the toilet as they were trying to convince a seven year-old that they really did have to learn to read at some point. Those days happen--to all of us! But the difference is that for some people, those days without joy in our position as caretakers of children are few and far between, while for others, it is a constant state.

The truth is, I can't imagine not spending so much time with my children. I'm keenly aware at all times that God has measured this time that I have with them. In his infinite wisdom, He has divided my life into seasons. Right now, I am thankful to be in the season of having beautiful children growing around me, soaking in knowledge and relishing their relatively carefree days. I am blessed to be watching my children's springtime and, in effect, it has been springtime for me as well.

I've been painfully aware lately that for all I know, the season of physical fruitfulness has, for me, ended. While I have many, many more years of mothering ahead of me, I have no guarantee that my desire for more children will ever be answered in the form of a little one in my arms. As my youngest turns four this month, I'm aware that I'm slipping into summer ... whether I am prepared to leave behind spring's blossoms, or not.

I have personally witnessed each of my children accomplish most of the "firsts" of early childhood. First words, first steps, first haircut, first drawing, losing that first tooth, writing their name for the first time. These moments will always, for me, be the epitome of this springtime: the hours I have been able to spend with each child, relishing their small strides in becoming the little person God has created them to be. I will never forget the blessing of the joys and the heartbreaks of these times. The bitterness at discovering my daughter's vision problems. The delight in my first son's bright red hair at birth. The concerns over my youngest's speech. The whoops of sheer joy as my daughter learned to ride her bike. The tears as I shaved my oldest son's head after a bout with play-doh scissors. The smiles I have had to hide from my "baby" as he crinkles his brow in seriousness. These are the gifts of spring.

And now ... now I'm leaving it. I have no idea what summer holds, only that it, too was designed by God, so it, too must be good.

Today, as I sat down with my youngest when he insisted on "my school time, Mom!" I was slightly sad, as I always am, to watch him piece and patch letters into sounds, sounds into words. Believe it or not, this has felt for me more the "the last first time" for months. His reading has felt inevitable, something I have been resigned to more than enthralled by. Why? Because this may very well be the last time I see that light come one in a child's eyes as the world opens up around them. And, over the years, I have come to love this small act of teaching more than anything else in parenting. To watch it unfold for possibly the last time ... I can't describe how my heart has cried.

Maybe it was the sunshine, which woke me this morning and has lit up my house all day. Maybe it was the fact that ds5 had just tackled his first "big kid" book ("The Boxcar Children") on his own. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the scripture I read this morning, which reminded me that all good and perfect things come from above. ;-) Whatever the case was, as I watched my little boy carefully sound out "hit" and "hot" and show me the picture that matched each word, my heart leaped. I was suddenly--finally--back in that moment, thinking not about the long years that stretched ahead of me and the empty arms I'd have, but of the beautiful gift of a moment I had right there on the couch with my son.

God's plan may very well be for these to be my final days in actively mothering three little ones. But I know He has plans for me. More "firsts" are surely around the corner, even as I celebrate the "lasts." And as I spend my days in ALL of these seasons, I will continue to choose joy.