Saturday, October 03, 2015

Week 6: Six Reps of Anything...

It might have been mentioned here before that the kids, my husband and I all do CrossFit together. In any warmup, workout, or set of any kind, six reps is manageable. Six pushups are fine, six pull-ups, six kettle bell swings, six cleans...after that is where the struggle begins.

I'm pretty proud to say that I did 100 burpees today. Ten sets of 10. Every single set that number 7 rep felt pretty old. But I did it, and I am still walking. In fact I was a little winded, but I walked away from that workout feeling good. Good? After burpees?

We are on week six of school. Everything has felt good up to this. We now have weeks 7, 8 and 9 to go before we get a bit of a break, at which point we will go to Williamsburg to see what we see there.

I will look forward to the break and push through as though these weeks are the next few reps of a set of 10.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 5: Thinking About Art

This week has blown by, and now it's Sunday and I realize that I haven't written anything! I know that I'm hitting a groove when I find that I have little to say about the school week and begin thinking about non-school things like watching Downton Abbey (again), and art, and playing the guitar, all of which are in the forefront of my mind at the moment.

On Friday the 18th Molly and I went into the city to see the Gustave Caillebotte exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. It was incredible. Add him to the list of my favorite artists. I had the opportunity to really observe how my daughter interacts with great works of art. She appreciated Rembrandt and the Dutch Masters and the big, showy works of the Neo-Classical era. We walked through those galleries without much emotion. Then we came to the galleries that housed religious art and icons from the middle ages. We found that section to be a tad creepy. I suppose I always have, and Molly was not at ease with them, either. Right after that we walked into the gallery that houses the major impressionists, and Molly's mouth dropped open and she just stared. She walked over to this painting and stood looking for a bit. I walked up beside her and she said, "Now THAT'S art!"

Girl With a Watering Can
Pierre-Augste Renior
I'm not entirely sure why this was the painting that caught her eye, but after that we looked at all the Impressionist paintings carefully, and she was awed by them. Then we went to the Caillebotte exhibit and the first thing I saw walking in was this painting:

Something in me jumped, then felt as if I had just arrived home from being gone for a long time, and I knew I had seen that painting somewhere before. Walking up to it, I realized that its home is the Chicago Art Institute, and of course--I had been there quite a few times when I was in my last months of single life--a poor grad student wishing that I could live a care-free life as an artist and writer. I love this painting. 

But then we turned our attention to this one, and this was the one I really had wanted to see:

We stared at it long and hard when we first went into the exhibit, then toured the whole gallery, then came back and observed some more. Cumulatively we stared at this painting for about 30 minutes, is my guess. If it wasn't that long, it sure felt like it. We were both captivated by it and fascinated by the play of light and the colors and the delicate attention to detail. Molly asked to return to the exhibit after exiting several times, just for one last look. I obliged, of course.

We both agreed that this one was not our favorite. 

Yuck! I'm not entirely sure why he felt compelled to paint that, but apparently it has enough of that je ne sais quoi to hang in the museums of the world. Okay, moving on. I love art, don't get me wrong. I don't like raw meat. Fine art and raw meat cancel each other out. This should not exist based on that little corollary.

Now I am informed that the last edition of the Apostle's edition of the St. John's Bible has just gone exhibit at the Library of Congress. This is a trip we need to take, and will do, ASAP. I have waited to see this for years. I cannot wait!

The Seven Days of Creation Illumination, St. John's Bible

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Week 4: Day in the Life of a High-School Homeschool

7:30  - Woke up this morning and it hurts to breathe. Don't worry--it's only the 90 bar-hanging knee raises I did yesterday. Next week I will have abs of titanium and then it'll be fine. Showered. Dressed. Made the bed. Considered all the clothes I need to put away. Didn't do it.

The Packers beat the Bears this weekend so I'm not overly depressed or concerned about the week, though the upcoming games cause me some real worry--we HAVE to stop the run, men, or Seattle will...I can't think about it. Oh yes, I'm a Packers fan. An owner, even. I never blog about it because it is not directly related to homeschooling, but if you consider the number of times I threaten my kids with disinheriting them of the owner's share if they don't do what they should, then maybe it is.

7:50 - Woke the kids with the promise of coffee when they come down.

8:24 - Sitting here blogging, listening to them talk in the other room. I'm about to shatter their happy lives with the call to get started on their school work. We'll start with Bible and hopefully that will set the tone for the day.

9:20 - Breakfast is done, and Bible is discussed. Matt is working on algebra, Molly is getting ready to start reading her science chapter. I'm trying to get a check written and in the mail before our mailman comes. We have the earliest mail delivery of the whole town, I think.

10:00 - M is stuck on an algebra problem involving time, distance and average speed. ugh. Other M is taking beautiful notes in her Apologia science notebook. I love the time and attention to detail she gives to her notebook pages.

11:15 - Have emerged from algebra melt-down. Stubbornness prevailed here, and now I have a headache. Finally he has moved on to grammar and thankfully he is finding it a quick and easy task as opposed to the algebra ordeal. Molly is reading Dangerous Journey (an illustrated kid's version of Pilgrim's Progress) in preparation for tomorrow's co-op. I need to prepare for co-op, too.

This is one of those moments that I feel I am undertaking the impossible.

3:25 - Broke for lunch somewhere around noon. The kids made lunch today, which gave me a little time to read and gather my thoughts for co-op tomorrow, though I'm nowhere near finished. I would like to try to get to the gym and work out but I am not sure if I can get everything done in time if I go. It seems simple enough--go, work out for an hour, come home. It is a 90 minute venture at least, not counting the socializing, post WOD stretch, potential rush-hour traffic, the rubbing of the muscles, complaining to the husband, showering, etc. Molly and I did math together while Matt finished his assignments for Tapestry of Grace co-op for tomorrow. Leaving in a minute to pick up my farm order from one of the local organic farmers. Matt is about to start his online Latin class at 4:00 and Molly is practicing her violin.

It's 6:50. We are about to eat. I didn't work out, but I think it's okay, seeing as how the two-day soreness from yesterday's lifting is really starting to settle in my quads. I'll get moving tomorrow. This evening I'll finish up the plan for tomorrow's discussion and get to bed at a decent hour. I hope.

It was a day. I am having a glass of wine to un-wine, I mean unwind. ;-) If you ever were wondering how these things go, it ain't pretty, but somehow it all seems to work out in the end.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Week 3: In Which I Exhale

We have successfully sustained three full weeks of school work. I find that I place high standards upon myself, especially when we first get started. I have the habit of over-planning, and then having to pare back a little from my original plan--kind of like grocery shopping when you're hungry. You get home and ask yourself, "Why on earth did I buy all this food?"

Anyway, yesterday Molly and I allowed ourselves a girl's day out. We went and got our hair and nails done, went out to dinner with girlfriends, and did a little shopping at the new organic market that just opened up.

We came upon this in the store, and found ourselves very amused.

Ew. I'm not against recycling. They just might want to re-word the packaging.

Overall it was a good week.  The Biology class collected pond water from a local pond to grow specimens of various organisms. I didn't get to go because I was teaching the girls how to draw lemons in a bowl, but it looks like they had fun. 

Somewhere down the line this week I started to relax. I think the kids are working hard, finding a routine, and managing their time well. Now I can take the days as they come and feel more at ease. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Week 2: Law of Inertia

We had another great week--busy, tired at the end, but very productive. It appears to be a season of hard work for our family, and we are okay with that. Work hard, play hard--I know we will be grateful for the breaks when they come.

Over the last year since losing my mom, life has gradually taken on its regular pace. I am very glad that I allowed myself the time to grieve and to take school and commitments lightly. I believe it is why we are able to attack this term's objectives with purpose. We have enjoyed a long season of rest. Now it is time to get back to work.

We accomplished a lot this week! Here's a look:


Biology: Finished chapter 1 text, labs, notebook and test
Tapestry of Grace: Finished week 20 (Year 2) assignments and started week 21 after meeting for co-op
(this includes significant amounts of reading, a written response question, timeline and map work)
Algebra: Worked on reviewing skills that got a little rusty over the summer.
Grammar: Continued work in season 3 of Analytical Grammar
Latin: Completed the week's assignments given by his online instructor
Bible: Started week two of his study of John


Zoology 1: chapter 1 and notebook pages
Math: still working out the summer kinks. I expect to add some new material later this week.
Grammar: Jr. Analytical Grammar, Lesson 2
Spelling: Phonetic Zoo
Writing With Ease: Week 4
Tapestry of Grace: week 20 completed, started week 21

Matt got in five workouts, I got in four, Molly and Dad got in three each, so it was also a great CrossFit week!

I have been amazed at how hard the kids have worked, their growth as students (while I wasn't looking) and their great attitudes. I realize that they are hungry for routine as much as I am.

I went snooping on an old hard drive today and found a video I made when the kids were small and Molly couldn't talk yet. We used to say she spoke "Mollish" I can hardly believe she was ever that little, and yet it seems like yesterday. This evening we took them out for a rare and overdue dinner out at a nice restaurant and we reminisced about how we used to think we would never be able to go out to dinner without them creating a scene. Tonight we four sat and had a very civilized and pleasant meal together and enjoyed each others' company. There is no one on earth I'd rather be with than my peeps...I know the time is flying.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Week 2: Starting Back to Co-op

It's Wednesday. That means co-op for us. It's a great day for the kids to look forward to a break from the regular grind and gives them accountability and an opportunity for them to interact with other students and the material they've been studying.

Today was our first week of 27 that are planned for the whole school year.

It looked something like this:

From 9:30-10:45 the younger (upper grammar age) girls did art using Artistic Pursuits as their base curriculum.

Learning to find the outside edge of an object in drawing.

The rhetoric level students reviewed their first chapter in Apologia Biology and did their lab.

The pros and cons of home get to stay home, but the cat helps.

Identifying the parts of a cell

At 11:00 the younger girls started their science discussion and lab from Apologia's Flying Creatures book. 

Test flying gliders of different wing-lengths

Then we took a nice break, ate lunch together and headed over to our friends' house for Tapestry co-op. This is the first major location shift we've had in a while as we've always had it at our house, but we've decided to move this year so babies and toddlers and little siblings can nap and play and not be disturbed. It worked out great!

History discussion
I was a little nervous coming into today. We had not had co-op for most of last school year, and when we did decide that it would be better to have some kind of group work three students of our regular group was missing, and it was only for writing and lower-grammar stuff. We had not really tackled the main Tapestry of Grace topics for over a year together, and there have been changes in all the kids over the last year. We went from a group of early middle-schoolers to high-schoolers, and we're now working with the material on a higher level. When we sat down to discussion, however, I was gratified to see how hard everyone had worked on the assignments that they had been given, how well they understood the material, and how well they could discuss it and synthesize the information. My job was very easy. We covered everything from the founding of Jamestown, the 30 Years' War, to Don Quixote and literary terminology pertaining to it. 

I'm so proud of the kids and all their hard work, and can't wait until next week to do it all over again!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Analytical Grammar - A Review

In my circle of friends I am pretty well-known to be a grammar-nazi. I grew up with a grammar-nazi-English-French-Latin teacher. That would have been my mother. I have distinct memories of sitting around the dinner table which is now in my own dining room, listening to my mom and sister (10 years older than I am) debate nuances of sentence structure over the evening meal.

Today over lunch a few of these friends were laughing about my insistence on using this particular grammar program for the kids and one of them said, "You know, Hitler's speech writer was a grammar-nazi." That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. A true grammar-Nazi!

The weird thing is I hate studying grammar--I don't understand it and I can't always explain it, but you'd better believe I know when something is wrong, and I know how to correct it, edit it, reword it, and make you feel stupid in the process (my bad).

One of my mother's truisms was, "Good manners never go out of style." I have used that so much with my kids, but in this world of texting, internet butchering, and basic linguistic idiocy, I have edited it to add,
"Good manners and good grammar never go out of style."

When I went to school diagramming sentences was falling out of fashion, so I missed out on it until I was studying for my M.A. in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and my friend Kendra basically dragged me through a course in Intensive English Grammar. It wasn't my favorite thing, but I determined then if I had been exposed to diagramming when I was much younger, I would have much better fluency with grammar and would be able to break things down better for my students.

When it came time to see that my son was well-versed in the grammar and usage of his own language, I came upon Analytical Grammar, and decided that it made sense to me. I liked the author's explanation that grammar is a finite subject. It need not be studied indefinitely--only practiced once the body of knowledge has been learned. 

It starts out simply enough, but do not be deceived--Analytical Grammar is not easy. By the end of the second season there were a few sentences to be parsed and diagrammed where my son, who has made consistent A's on the tests, would look at me and say, "Who says that?" We may have skipped a few sentences in the exercises because I'm not into hard for hard's sake, but 98% of the exercises have been relevant, thorough and challenging.

Today Matt said to me, "That is one of the most practical programs we've ever done. I really find myself thinking about where to place my commas and how things go together." This is from the 14 year old who started the program at the end of 6th grade and has been working very, very slowly through it. It is set up to be done quite easily in three "seasons" if you are a fast worker and do little else like eating or sleeping. We found that we had to break it up into very small chunks. If he worked for more than 30-40 minutes a day on grammar, frustration would build and tempers would flare. Once we figured out just how much of it he could take in a sitting, however, it moved along much better.

I will admit that I wondered at times if I was killing his love of language, writing, or learning in general by having him tackle such a program as this. On the contrary, he is proving to be an excellent writer, an articulate communicator, and capable of tackling advanced texts. It has boosted his confidence as a student, and the skills he has gained in studying English grammar is helping him to rock the very dead, but not so easy Latin. It is proving to me that rigor is not always the enemy of education, as so many of our modern educators seem to think. Learning is not always fun--sometimes it's just old-fashioned hard work, and this curriculum falls into that category at times.

My daughter (10) has worked through book three of First Language Lessons for The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. It has been a solid program as well, but I don't enjoy teaching the scripted lessons as well, so we are starting Jr. Analytical Grammar this year, and so far she loves it. Unlike her brother, she more than tolerates grammar study--she loves it. Perhaps she will be able to take AG in bigger chunks when the time comes!

Here's the other weird thing about this curriculum and that is, in spite of my background and my credentials, I have learned more grammar working through this with my son than in any other course of study I have taken. If and when I go back to teaching ESL when the kiddos are done with their educations, I will be a better instructor for having used Analytical Grammar to teach my kids.

BTW - apparently the term "Grammar Nazi" offends someone.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Week 1: Tired. Delusional. It's Fine...

I went out to lunch today with three of my favorite homeschooling friends to celebrate one of our birthdays--not mine. All but one of us had households who started back to school routines this week, and the fourth is easing in.

We three who had started back into it sang the praises of our kids--how hard they worked, how they proved themselves, how they checked off all the assignments we gave them and kept a good attitude all the while. It was stellar--delusional, even. Then Candace said, "Wait a minute--can we just stop here and remember this moment for a few months down the road when we AREN'T having a week like this?"


We did have a great week if you count success in terms of things done, but life is not always about that, and I will have to remind myself of that again and again, I'm quite sure. I mean, we are not exactly novices at this, but every year we seem to go through through the same ceremony of planning, reworking, setting the bar, making the schedule. It always ends up sort of the same in the end--never exactly according to our original plan, but somehow, we always manage to get it done.

We had to make a couple of major lifestyle adjustments with this new-fangled plan due to the fact that we have not had a school routine for quite some time. Both kids (who are night-owls) wanted to get their work done earlier in the day and have more afternoon time free, so I made sure that they were up by 7:30 every day and working by 8:30. This Friday evening as I write, we are all completely knackered, but the productivity that resulted was very rewarding. They both completed all of their assigned work, finished early today and had the whole afternoon free to play and cut grass or do whatever else life called upon them (and me) to do. In my case it was to go out to lunch at a fantastic restaurant and have some laughs with friends. I realized once I was out I really did need some time out and away.

All her practice paid off and she had a great lesson this week!
reading for Tapestry of Grace
Biology...classification of stuff... 
Got their C-cards! It's official!
Let's see if we can keep this pace next week. I'm looking forward to tackling some of the new challenges with the older kids at our first co-op--Discussing Don Quixote, digging into the history of the world, Old and New, unraveling some government documents, and having fun doing it.

But let me keep in mind that we are off to an amazing start and things don't always stay this way--I've been doing this long enough to know that one virus or too many phone calls in a day can really throw us of a game-plan. Hopefully...after 15 years of this...I won't sweat it too much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Week 1: Settling into Routine

Last night I was so tired I went to bed before 9:30. Getting my head around this routine without feeling overwhelmed has been tiring. To help work it out, I went to the gym yesterday afternoon and PR'ed a lift and worked out really hard. I felt much better after that. I actually felt just a little bad-a**.

Note to self--Never skip your workouts. Never, ever. Unless you are at death's door or in traction. 

So I woke this morning and made muffins with my daughter and cooked bacon in a cast-iron skillet, boiled eggs and made everyone feel like they had a mother that cared about them. I felt like I was in the kitchen way too much today so tonight we're ordering Chipotle. So domestic.

In case you're wondering what it is that we are diving into this week,

Here are the curricula choices that we have settled on for this year:

Matt, age 14 grade 9

Tapestry of Grace, Beginning Rhetoric level
      This includes history, literature, writing, government and worldview studies
Apologia Biology
Analytical Grammar (finishing the last season)
Think Outside the Border Lingua Latina 1
Math U See Algebra 1 (finishing) and Geometry
Music - Mandolin

Molly, age 10 grade 5

Tapestry of Grace, Upper Grammar level
     includes: history, literature, and worldview
Apologia Flying Creatures
Jr. Analytical Grammar
Phonetic Zoo level A spelling
Writing With Ease Level 3
Beautiful Feet Geography using Paddle to the SeaSeabird and Minn of the Mississippi
Music - Violin

On Wednesdays we will have co-op. In the morning we cover science and art (for the younger kids) and Biology lab for the older kids. In the afternoon we cover the writing, history, literature and government portions of TOG.

When I look this over it seems like a lot, however, we are trying something new this year, and that is a trimester system. We will cover three units (27 weeks) of Tapestry of Grace this year instead of four full units (36 weeks), and will have longer breaks in winter and spring. We are hoping that by building in rigor balanced with extended rest periods that even include travel and adventures for our family (read SCUBA diving!), we will maximize the time we spend on academics.

Wait for it. You can watch along with me and see if this little experiment unravels or not. Anyway, the plan is made. I can't unmake it. Well, yes I can but I don't want to have to.

Week 1: Getting Back to Routine, Starting High School!!!

Wow...I'm pooped! It was a good, but full day! I'm so proud of how both kids jumped right in and got to work on their academics.

Today marks the beginning of my son's high school journey, my daughter is starting 5th grade (whatever that means) and my hubby is attending his first graduate class for his MBA! It's going to be a busy year!

Looking ahead at the year, I am feeling slightly daunted, knowing that my son has chosen to pursue a fairly rigorous course of study, which includes Tapestry of Grace's rhetoric level work. My daughter constantly challenges me with her unconventional learning style which is both the greatest delight to me and a source of frustration at times.

It has been a while since we have been in our "normal" (haha) routine. When my mom passed away last fall it was difficult for me to keep up with things at the same level that I had done in the past, and the kids did a great job of keeping up with things that they could do on their own. I was much less present than usual. Now, however, I feel both ready and eager to help steer them through this year, and rediscover the joy that has been our experience up to this point.

I am hoping to "live-blog high school" so to speak. Looking back, I've had this blog since 2006, and while it doesn't reach many people, I do find that some seek me out and express that it has in fact encouraged them. Hopefully, our high school journey will be a way to continue encouraging parents who truly want to see this thing through.

So, it's a journey of firsts for all of us--and I begin a new blogging adventure, as well!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

They Did It!

Ready to swim...

That's my BABY!!

Getting ready for Dive #2

Awesome instructors!

He looks like a superhero.


Now our whole family is SCUBA certified! Adventures await!

I was not really prepared for how tough this was going to be. I thought since the kids were to be "Jr." certified that the information would be presented on a "junior" level, but it was not. Rather, it was presented just as it would be for adults. If I were not feeling motivation to cover science this year, I could conceivably skip science for my 10-year old because the class covered some chemistry, physics, physiology, biology, and environmental science! There were even some pretty complex word problems involving tables and time conversion. Except for the reading, which I did with her to be sure that she understood, she HAD to complete all the work herself. No one else can dive for her--she has to understand how to be responsible for herself underwater, how to keep her head in an emergency, and how to help someone else if they have a problem. It is a huge responsibility, and I won't lie--I wasn't entirely sure if she was fully ready for it or not.

There were approximately 6 hours of online instruction, 8 hours of classroom instruction, 8 hours of pool instruction (normally there is six but we needed a little more), and two days of open water diving, logging over three hours of bottom time. It was challenging and strenuous. It is not for a kid who is in any way timid in the water. I'm pretty impressed with SSI as an organization and especially with our lovely dive shop, Woodbridge Scuba, and its instructors who went above and beyond the call of duty to instruct our kids and help them be the best divers they can be. 

My son excelled at every point along the way, which didn't surprise me. I can't wait to dive with him, because it is fun to dive with a confident, competent diver. What thrills me, however, is that I can dive with my little girl with the same assurance that she has not only passed, but mastered these skills. The instructors are not giving away these certs. They are primarily concerned with the safety of their divers, and I was fully prepared to have to do more than the required time in order to have Molly completely ready. Turns out, she didn't need more than an extra pool session. 

On Monday we begin our school year with our "regularly scheduled programming." I feel lighter and more excited than ever now that this is finished. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

SCUBA, Baby!

When my husband and I first embarked on this journey 17.5 years ago, it should have been apparent from the git-go that we would do things a little differently than most.

My husband's job had him stationed in Puerto Rico and when we tied the knot he had six months remaining at that post. We talked about honeymoon options. We were in the Caribbean, after all, and so the typical cruise / resort / beach honeymoon seemed the logical option, but that is not what we did. Instead of a traditional vacation honeymoon, we opted to learn  how to SCUBA dive, and on every weekend that he did not have to be on call, we dove. 

Life. Water. Creation. Beauty. The sensation of flying. It is all magical to me. 

So basically since I gave birth I have been waiting to introduce my kids to the amazing world beneath the surface of the water, and now that my dear little daughter is 10, the time has come. 

Oh, this parenting thing--it's getting fun. Real fun. The kiddos have nearly completed their Jr. open water certification, and Dad and Mom are in fits of delight planning the next time we can log water time. What did we do on our summer vacation???

SCUBA, baby! 

(insert happy dance here)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Sum, Sum, Summertime...but Ready for Fall...

It's been a pretty lazy summer for us in some ways--busy, but also lazy. Is that even possible? I am most definitely ready to move forward into the next season, which happens to be my favorite, as well as get started on this new adventure of homeschooling a high school student.

The summer has looked something like this:

Another Amazing Vacation in the Outer Banks, NC

Visiting the wild horses on the beach...

Ready to Roll...somewhere at the beach in the truck.


My Girl!

Super hot days

Thieving Groundhog

Rehoming the Thieving Groundhog

The Great Kombucha Experiment

NOOOO! Not quite tall enough for the Volcano!

Braces! (and a growth spurt and a mission many changes!

Junior SCUBA Certification Class

Pool Sessions

Learning how to use Dive Tables
After the young man's birthday celebration and the final clean-up of the house and summer schedule (playdates, final pool trips, etc) we hope to get started with the academic year on August 17. I think I'm ready! From there I hope to resume weekly updates and something of "live-blogging" the high school experience from my perspective. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Revisiting Our Vision: To High School or Home?

When I first would tell folks that I was choosing to homeschool my kids when they were 5 or 6, two inevitable questions arose: What are you going to do for socialization? (My somewhat sarcastic answer) "Teach them manners?" And, "What are you going to do for high school?"(Again, feeling sarcastic) "He / she is 6 (or 7, 8, 9, 10). It's a little soon to tell...but I'll see what happens."

The truth is, we have always had the vision to educate our kids through high school. We didn't want to start something that we would not finish. Somewhere down the line we became open to the idea of putting my son in school when he reached 9th grade, and became even more so as I saw friends whom I truly respected and had worked side-by-side with make that choice for their families. For some, that is the right path to take. On the other hand, I have always approached the education of my kids as spiritual assignment, a calling, not just for them, but also for me. Where I am called to do a job, I have to have the faith that God will equip me to complete the work according to the grace he provides for me.

We prayed about it, especially when my son began voicing the desire to go to school. I had to question sincerely if this was God's way of redirecting us. He had joined youth group, and being with a group of kids who mostly went to public school, he felt a strong curiosity about their experience. I did not want to minimize his desires and we considered them carefully. His dad and I prayed about what to do. It became very clear to me in my heart, however, as though the Lord was speaking again to me, "It is not what I called you to." Glen and I had a choice to make. I knew I was taking a risk--a growing young man who has the attitude that he wants something different than what we are providing has the potential to be a tinderbox. I was not certain that he would accept our decision. There have been many long conversations, but after a man-to-man talk with his dad, he came to the conclusion that he could obey us on this matter, and his heart has been at peace since. I don't know exactly what was said in that conversation, but I am glad for a husband who can speak to his son's heart with the result of obedience with understanding and peace.

So here we are on the threshold. My son, according to conventional school schedules, is a rising 9th grader. I think of him more as entering the rhetoric stage of learning. He is a young man, changing quickly in all of his thoughts and attitudes. His understanding of life and people is maturing and I see not a child, but man emerging. I love his sense of humor, the way he thinks, his work ethic. Truthfully, I'm so glad that we will be keeping him at home because I would hate to miss out on this wonderful stage of life! Keeping him at home for his education also gives us the opportunity to foster these positive qualities in him on a deeper level. He has found ways to earn money by cutting grass, running a small car detailing business, and doing odd jobs for people as they need. He is committed to physical training through CrossFit and olympic weightlifting, and he enjoys participating in church activities, and serves willingly. Yes, I'm biased, but what mom wouldn't want to see these things in a son? I'm humbled--I know that it is not because of what I have done, but what the Lord is doing in my son. I am honored to be a part of that, and it causes me to seek Him for guidance all the more in my parenting.

I go back periodically and look at the vision and mission statements that my husband and I composed when we first started using Tapestry of Grace as a curriculum. Through the years there have been subtle changes in curricula and intensity, co-ops and independence. The vision and mission, however have never changed. Our vision statement reads:

To raise and educate whole-hearted individuals who are life-long learners, who understand and carry out our purpose and obligation to the Almighty, from worship to the spread of the gospel, to the establishment of Godly generations until the return of Christ. (Psalm 145:1-8)

Our mission statement is:

Learn from the Past, Educate for the Future

It has been our desire to raise children who are emotionally healthy. I have always believed in sheltering them (which is not the same as overprotecting), and instructing them from the Word of God first and foremost. The study of history and literature and the development of scientific thought is also highly valued in our instruction. The preparation of the mind for the future by studying the victories and failures of the past will equip my children to understand the world as they navigate life in the future. It is also my hope that the decision to keep my son at home through high school will have the effect of keeping him emotionally and spiritually centered. It is my hope to provide him with ample opportunities for learning with others, socializing with his peers, competition, travel, and even proper rest and relaxation. I want him to have a balanced experience of life--one that is free and unencumbered by institutional instruction. That has always been my hope, and it has not changed.

The higher learning journey begins now. As I say in my sidebar, I write this for myself--If you have read to here, thank you, but this is a post in which I have taken the time to remind myself of our calling and purposes that we set out to fulfill when we began this journey. It is certainly not normal in our day and age. I do believe however that it is right. We will carry on. I feel excited. I have a fresh dose of inspiration after enduring a fairly long and dry season, and I cannot wait to see what happens!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Discipline in Our House (Or, Raising Men and Women, not Fools)

I had a rather stiff argument with my son the other day. His sister had made an inappropriate joke in a text to a friend using my phone, and I saw it. No one was offended except for me. Even the receiver of the joke found it funny. I was still very disappointed in my daughter's choice of words (and before your mind goes too far with this it was nothing serious--just base 10-year old humor) and I reprimanded her for them. I also had a conversation with her about using gracious words. I issued what I felt was an appropriate disciplinary action (she chose and copied a scripture verse several times about gracious words.) Forgiven, behind us. No worries.

The case that he put forth was that it wasn't serious, and she hadn't really said anything too bad, and kids think that kind of thing is funny, etc, and that we should let it go, but he agreed with me that she should have never used my phone to make that joke! (It's okay to make a crass joke, but not via Mom's phone...what?)

My argument in response was that it is not my job to condone childish, foolish behavior. What happens among the kids when I am not around is (blessedly) their domain. I encourage them to work out issues among themselves without adults, but if they can't we are happy to mediate--though they are seldom happy with the solutions we provide! (Funny, that!) However, when their speech, actions and behaviors come to my attention and they do not measure up to the standards we have set in our home, then I call them to account. 

My swift and firm reply to him was,

"I am not raising you to be children. I am raising you to be a man and a woman." 

I am a pretty lenient mother, I think. I'm somewhat of a pushover when the kids want to do things. I have trouble enforcing bedtimes and rigid procedures and rules, mainly because I don't like them myself. Nevertheless, there are a few immoveable lines that in my mind cannot be crossed, and when they are, that is when discipline results. It is these standards which I believe will make my children into strong people--a man and woman of character, integrity, and gentility.

Good manners and good grammar never go out of style. 

One cannot go wrong with genuine good manners. They are a standard which gets us through even the most detestable situations with the most offensive of company. One who observes good manners can always go home with a clean conscience and say, "That was awful, but at least I was kind." Good grammar is just...good grammar. Of course we must learn when to speak and when not to, but when one must speak, to be well spoken and articulate is akin to having good manners. It will take you far in life.

The older serves the younger and the younger respects the older.

This adage solves nearly every disagreement. I can come into any situation with my children and ask them if they have served and / or respected each other in the way they know is right. That means that the Godly standard of self-sacrifice is modeled by the older. He is to treat her gently and with kindness, even if she seems unreasonable. In turn, I can ask her if she has respected him. Has she been selfish, ignored his wishes, listened to his reason for wanting something or for acting in a certain way? It nearly always dispels the unreasonable or irrational thinking. A hang of the head from both of them and a genuine "sorry" is always the result. I don't need to pick through the details. I only need to remind them of the Godly standard that we have set, and ask them if they think they have met it.

If it makes you ugly, it's time to quit.

Computer, video games, board games, make-believe games with nebulous rules, projects or school work that is exceedingly frustrating, conversations or arguments that go nowhere--It doesn't matter what it is, but when the "ugly" starts showing, it's time to back down and retreat. Go to your room, change activities, take a shower, part company...but listening or watching the ugly will not be tolerated.

(Borrowed from a friend) When we're tired and hungry, we're apt to sin

I heard my dear friend and mentor say this to her daughter once years ago. Her daughter rolled her eyes and dutifully repeated the phrase as whatever correction was needed settled in and a situation was calmed. I thought, "Oh. That's good. I'm using that!" And I have! (Thanks, Sue!) It is SO true, and my baby girl has always been a hangry monster. When she is hungry she becomes so unreasonable that you can't always even convince her to eat. We finally had to teach her, when she wasn't hungry, that when we tell her to eat, she'd better eat or things would get bad. Okay, since I'm throwing my WHOLE family under the bus in this post, I'll just say--she gets this from her father.

Once when I had to remind my daughter of this wise adage, I had her repeat the phrase, just as my wise friend once did. She said in a lilting tone, "When we're tired and hungry we ought to sin."

Um, no, Baby Girl. something.

I read the book of Proverbs constantly. It is part of my daily reading, and every time I get to Proverbs 31 I cycle back and start at the beginning again. I cannot say how many times I have read this book, but believe me...It's ALL there. All the parenting wisdom anyone would ever need is in that book. It discusses the effects of discipline, the lack of it, and delineates the differences between wise folk and fools. Here's a hint--the fools are typically not the ones who are well-disciplined. Read it. Raise men and women--not fools.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Clean-up, Body and Soul

I haven't posted here in a couple of weeks because I've been hanging out at my other blog, The Accidental Crossfitter. I have been on a month-long journey of reclaiming my healthiest eating habits using the Whole30 method. It seems that whenever I seek to discipline myself in one area, other things seem to come into focus as well. I wrote this post recently to express some of my thoughts about overall fitness, and realized that in fact exercise is only one part of the equation.

I have read two books this month that have impacted me tremendously. The first was the one I needed to read to understand the Whole30 process:

If you've never tried a clean eating challenge or are searching for a way to reclaim your physical health, I cannot recommend this book and website enough. It is clear, to the point, and infused with tough love to get you and your health on a path to having a better relationship with food. Don't think me strange, but I had a hard time putting this book down. I had read Rob Wolf's The Paleo Solution before, so this information was not new to me, but the presentation of the information was fantastic. It was a great reminder of why we chose this way of eating a couple of years ago. As time has passed and we've allowed ourselves to become a little slack, it was a great kick in the pants for us to get back on board.

The second book that I read that had an unexpected but very welcome impact on me was The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I think I and every other person in the US may have read this book this month, and if they haven't yet, they will soon, so it's not a big, original thing. It did, however have the effect of punctuating a conversation my husband and I have been having for several years, and that is the desire to de-own, de-clutter, live lighter. I have been interested in minimalism for a long time.

I used to live a very minimalist lifestyle--everything I cared about needed to fit in a backpack and once I arrived at my destination, a small, very tidy bedroom. It was a nice life, but did not include my husband and kids. Just me, my blue jeans and boots and a few favorite books. I loved the life, but I would never trade what I have now for the life I had then. I do feel, however, that as a family, we are very tied down to a rather large house and a whole lot of stuff--the trappings of a middle-class American lifestyle that seems nearly inevitable. But this is not what I value, and it never really has been. I recall a conversation with my roommate, sitting on the balcony of our tiny apartment, filled with 20-something vim and vigor. I stated that I found the idea of a house, mini-van and 2.5 kids appalling, and I would never, ever live that life. Well, I should have known then what saying "never" gets you, because here I am--and I really like my minivan. That said, I would happily downsize.

So this happened this week...

Every. single. item. came out of our closet and was placed on the bedroom floor. We evaluated everything. The kids did the same. When all was said and done we filled 9 contractor sized bags and three kitchen trash bags of clothing, and discarded at least 4 four more bags of stuff and took it to the dump. What remained was what we actually wear and really like. There is space in our closets and space in our drawers. Everything is off of the floor, and there are clean surfaces. I cannot believe how much lighter and better I feel. 

Suddenly I find myself on the Pinterest boards pinning every quote to do with minimalism and living simply. I find myself plotting the next purge, the next reform. I mean to get back to that lighter life, with time for travel, time for people, and money in my pocket to spend on experiences, not stuff. I mean to lighten the load and not look back.