Friday, September 15, 2017

All that Fuss and Worry!

I spent a lot of this past summer fretting about this upcoming school year. The things we are doing look so different than things in the past, that I just wasn't sure I was going to have enough space on the proverbial "plate" for it all.

Turns out it really didn't matter. As it is, I got hit with some viral bronchitis that laid me out for about  18 days. We haven't had a day of school yet in which I have felt well. All the plans, all the schedules and imagined deadlines for this and that all have been pushed aside and we have done what we could do each day. Interestingly it has all managed to get done.

What has been most surprising is the success we have had, especially working on Tapestry of Grace history assignments, just the two of us. Molly is beginning her four-year timeline project, the same one that Matt did, the one that she always kind of envied him doing, and she has thrown herself into it. Together, we have found a fascination with archeology, conventional dating systems, and apologetics as it applies to the discovery of all things Biblical within these disciplines. What a joy to see my daughter get really psyched about these these things!

Meanwhile Molly has also begun her French 1 and Creative Writing classes with Well-Trained Mind Academy, and she loves them. Matt has begun Spanish 1 and College Composition at the local community college, and is enjoying them as well. Together he and I have been working through the Iliad and he has confessed to being really surprised at how much he is enjoying it! Both are attending online math classes with Mr. D math.

This bronchitis that has taken me down means one thing--I've been sick A LOT this year. I'm like the rest of people--an occasional cold or flu will get me down here or there, but I am not the type to hunker down with blankets and tea and a heating pad and stay there for days. But in May I was laid out with acute Lyme or something very, very close to it. I don't know if I've ever been so sick, and ended up missing most of the month. And now with bronchitis I have hardly left the house in weeks, and my yoga pants and pajamas are getting the workout of their lives. So is my heating pad (which strangely seems to bring some relief for my poor chest). In it all, though, my kids have fared well. Their school work is getting done, they are remembering to follow through.

So today, after weeks of not feeling great, I "went back to work" and got all the usual things done. I'm so proud of Molly and the hard work she put in. Matt took his first college test. All the fuss and stress and worry that I spent time on this summer was for naught. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fun Family Acquisitions!

We have a new family member! My daughter finally took possession of her birthday present on August 7, since I had been sick with Lyme and basically missed her birthday in May. Even so, she had requested a hedgehog for a pet, and after many years of wanting one, we finally took the plunge, but gently--she's prickly! We all love her to bits and she is the cutest thing I've ever seen!

Meet Holly the Hedgehog
Don't worry, she's cat-proof! The cats are scared of her.
Molly's new friend.

We acquired a car for my son who will soon have his license. We got him a 2005 Honda Civic with manual transmission, and he is back in the parking lots learning how to drive all over again. Great thing about manuals--you can't text and drive, and friends tend not to want to borrow your car. He needs a car to get back and forth to the community college where classes have started for him. It will be a great to not have to be the mom-taxi.

It is a fun new season we are in, full of teenagers, social lives, and new parenting skills. The time seems to be flying. I am trying my best to be present in the moments, taking them all in, and enjoying the closeness that we share.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Training for the Heavy Lifts

Yesterday was Matt's 16th birthday. He decided to close the day by lifting weights. Cleans. NBD. Every lift seemed to lead to another one, and after a while we had all gathered in the garage with him to watch as they got heavier and heavier. He decided to stop at 200 lbs.

Matt has trained as an olympic weightlifter for several years. He went to Youth Nationals in Austin, TX in 2016. It was a heady moment for his dad and me to see him step out on the big platform and push himself to the absolute limit, crushing and surpassing the goals he had and his coach had set. He laid it all out on the platform and it paid off with big PRs.

Last year he took a break from training for nationals for various reasons--a wrist injury, a very demanding school schedule, lifting burn-out, but he still enjoys lifting for personal gain.

To look at him, you would never guess that this young man could move 200 lbs from the ground to his shoulders, but to watch him here, it appears almost effortless. He has the mental focus, the form, and the core strength to pull the weight up. He has the speed and agility to drop below it and catch it on his shoulders, then the leg, core, and back strength to stand it up. It's not only the strength--it's the perfection of form and execution that moves the weight. You might also notice that he seems a little dizzy at the end. To support his back and core he used a weightlifting belt and tightened it pretty tight. Weightlifting isn't always safe, and it certainly isn't easy.

Nothing worthwhile usually is.

This morning I was reading Francis Chan's book Crazy Love for the second time. I read it at about this time last year as well, and it is challenging me all over again. In chapter 7 he challenges readers to be uncomfortable--to do things that actually require faith.
Walking in genuine intimacy and full surrender to God requires great faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
He goes on to describe feeling very challenged when a Bible professor asked "What are you doing right now that requires faith?" and goes on to say,
But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through.
I had to ask myself what I am doing that requires faith. What has me down on my knees pleading with God for direction and answers. The truth is that I have a very comfortable life, and it is very tempting to let the core get "squishy" and neglect the discipline of devotion, prayer, and worship.

It is tempting to neglect prayer for people I committed to pray for--does it really matter? It is tempting to dismiss God from the pedantic tasks of every day--He's needed so much more in other places. The fact is that if I don't trust him for every single thing, I am in trouble. My comfort is fleeting. It could be gone tomorrow. Can I face it if it vanishes? Have I prepared mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to be joyful in affliction? Can I move the heavy weight because I've been training for it?

Homeschooling is very daily. It is a big calling with lots, and lots, and lots of hours, days, and humdrum in-betweens. It is tempting to forget that it is God's and without my love for him as the central core of my efforts, I might as well quit. It is the dailiness of training the mind the heart and spirit that will enable us all to follow through when the going gets tough, unsafe, and heavy.

As we embark on the new school term in just over a week, I pray that we allow our faith to be challenged, that we look for the path that isn't safe, easy, or comfortable. As Sarah Mckenzie says in Teaching from Rest,  I pray that our little basket of bread and fish can be multiplied into a feast for the masses, because we had the faith to bring it. Right now, I'm pretty sure that is all I have.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Going, Going...

It's strange to have my little boy--the one that I remember as a tike, full of fists and thumping, Buzz Lightyear and Transformers, then later, Legos and nerf guns, suddenly not be a little boy any more. I wish someone could have told me which day it was going to happen because I would have prepared for it. On the other hand, would it even be possible to prepare for it? It seems as though he has passed through a vaporous wall too thin to see and he now stands on the other side of it--this boy turned man, and I'm supposed to be totally okay with that.

Actually I am okay with that. What is worse than having a child grow up is a child who does NOT grow up. I would not wish to hold him back, to keep him under my wing, my thumb, or the rock that some people think we homeschoolers use to keep our kids hidden away. That doesn't mean I was ready for this year.

People often would ask me along the way, "Are you going to homeschool them all the way through?" Usually this would be uttered with a tone of derision, of disbelief, since what they were really saying was, "You don't think you can do high school too, do you?" I would always say that we were taking it year by year and we would see what happened. They would sigh with relief and say, "Of course, of course." The truth is, I always intended to homeschool both kids through high school because I felt called by God to, and I still do. I just didn't feel like explaining myself.

There was a day this spring when I took my son to the local community college for placement testing. He was nervous, sure he was going to bomb it and not get into credit-level classes. I was sure he would be fine. Then he got his results and was stunned to see that he had done more than fine. I was pretty sure that was going to be the result, after all, he had been my student. I was pretty sure what he was capable of. Then there was the day we sat across from the advisor and he enrolled him in two college classes, all the while talking to him and addressing him like a regular college student (my high school sophomore!) I was just the driver and I happened to be sitting in the room. I felt kind of superfluous, at least until he informed my son of the date tuition payments were due.

Sometimes I wonder how we got him to this point, the one in which he burst through the back door and said, "Mom, can I graduate next year? Because you know, bragging rights FOR LIFE!" 

I know there were so many more days that I felt I had dropped the ball, sold myself short, not set effective goals, or lost my cool than there were days that I felt "successful." So I decided to look back into the thicker parts of this blog. I wanted to find some evidence that the things we have cultivated in him really did help bring him to this point, and I found this post from October 2012. You might like to go back and read the whole thing because it is all about teaching from a place of rest, but this stood out to me.
So, we accomplished a fair amount in lessons this week--science and writing and geography and grammar, etc, but what stands out to me more this week is that we made it to the pet store for some new fish. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends and a hilarious time on the new patio, enjoying a fire and roasting marshmallows. We did not strive. We worked, but we played, too. We ate all our meals at home in fellowship with each other. We prayed. We marveled at God's ways in the life of Amy Carmichael and those she touched. We pondered the uselessness of war. We butted heads, overcame challenges, tried again. It was a good week. A very good week.
After reading Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest I found myself longing again for these simple times and praying earnestly for more restful, constructive teaching with the remaining time I have to teach my kids. I have to admit, it was a little easier when they were smaller and mostly did what I said and didn't have so many interests, thoughts, opinions and distractions as they do now. Perhaps what is exhausting to me at this juncture is my own attempts to control (ahem), manage what they do. It is this feeling that maybe I didn't do enough to make them strong, or responsible or appreciative of reading great books. Maybe I didn't disciple them well enough. As they grow, they will slip from my grasp, and I have two choices: I can cling tighter and cause injury to us all, or I can loosen my grip and gradually fall away, onto the Grace that is promised when I am obedient. He promises that it IS sufficient. Maybe it wasn't my job to do all that. Maybe it was my job to just buy the fish and provide a place to light a fire.

I know--a man must leave his father and mother. It's right there in Scripture. My children are not my life, they are given as a joyful calling, and when they are mature, my life will have a new calling. My life is hidden with Christ in God, not in my children, and how sad and wretched I will be if I cling to them and expect them to be more to me than they are able or are meant to be. I have one more year to be an official part of my son's education. I have four to six more years with my daughter, and I feel the weight of her entry into the world of adolescence. My prayer is that I will once again enter into the joy of restful and intentional teaching, even when I feel I have so little to give. That I will land in moments and take them in, enjoying them for the gifts that they are. That I might once again find companions along the way to share thoughts and encouragement with. That my children would find companions who sharpen and strengthen them. That we all cling to the Lord.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

School Year 2016-17: The Wild Ride

How has it happened that we are here in this place? I'm posting a photo of my family with my son who is taller, done with braces, shaving often, driving with a permit, and about to My daughter is interested in everything, rides horses, is about to try out for a play, wants to take French and creative writing and will soon have her very own pet hedgehog. Between trips to drop them off at  youth group activities, sending them on mission trips and to camp, play days with friends, and friends coming here, I am full with all the life that they are living.

But within this year was a unique set of challenges. It was a season of change and growth and weathering storms. At the start of summer 2016 our closest friends who had been very much a part of our life as a family both socially and scholastically ended their marriage. Sadly, it caused us to go our separate ways. School year 2017 felt a little lonelier. My husband was in the thick of earning his MBA, so his stress levels were high. Matt, who had previously only had me as his teacher, suddenly took on a full course load of classes taught by others. His classes were rigorous and, while he handled it all very well, it was a new kind of stress. Wintertime came and both he and Glen caught the flu. Then the three of them caught colds in the spring. Really decent colds--no messing around. Somehow I avoided it all until one day the week before Molly's 12th birthday, I started feeling run down, then developed a fever. It was unlike any fever I'd ever had, peaking at 104 F on the fifth day. That night the fever broke and the following day I had a circle rash on my arm where I had previously had a bite of some kind. I was immediately seen by my doctor and treated for Lyme disease. Basically, I missed the month of May. It was a slow recovery and I had concerns that we would not even be able go on the dive trip we had planned for June. Thankfully, that was not the case.

That dive trip was like a wall of separation for me from the stresses of the past school year. I had been so sad from the estrangement of our friends, tired from holding more than the usual share of the work, stressed, and even ill. I was aching for the getaway to Honduras, and it was all I could have hoped for; blue skies, blue water, the silence and stillness that diving brings is therapy to me that nothing else can match. There are these moments that I just don't have on land, and I can revisit them time and time again in my mind. Here are a couple of examples:


Sharks! (No, I wasn't afraid at all.)

Dive trips also give me the chance to take all the pictures I want of my family--my photo-resistant teenager agrees to a truce while on vacation. 

Now it is time to consider the upcoming school year. We are not participating in any co-op this year for the first time in six years. Molly will be busy with horses and play practice and hedgehog care. Matt will be busy with his first college classes and his final homeschool courses, with the goal of completing high school this year, which would be his Junior year, and I will post more on this very soon. I have just read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and as much as I tend to resist books written expressly for homeschooling mothers, I needed this book so much. I didn't even realize that I was in the middle of the desert dying of thirst until someone came along and offered my heart a clear, cold drink. I will share my thoughts and reflections on this in upcoming posts.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Assessment

I'm still here...It occurs to me that the first blog post ever published on this site was in December, 2005. It is now 2017. More than eleven years later, and I have had seasons of real consistency, and seasons when I had much less to say. This has been one of those seasons. Looking back it seems like 2010-13 were my most prolific blogging years, and then things got tough for my mom in her journey with Alzheimer's and she passed away in 2014. Her death changed me. The way I think about my family changed, I became more quiet and private than I had been previously, and my son, who was growing more self-conscious in his teenage years became more private about what I posted. Then another blow struck that caused me to really pull in. My closest friend and I parted ways, and I was left with another lump of grief to deal with. This situation turned our homeschool in a very different direction. We no longer had the core group of friends to do co-op with, and so our Tapestry of Grace group disbanded. I have tried continue to use Tapestry with my dialectic / logic stage daughter, but I confess it has been a bit of a flop--a homeschool mom failure. We have done fine in some areas, but in history and TOG-related things, we have not begun to cover what I had hoped we would cover this year.

Here is what has worked well for us:

1. Math U See: This has always worked well for us and math generally just gets done because I'm afraid not to get math done. We will continue through zeta and then use Mr. D Math for pre-algebra.
2. Jr. Analytical Grammar: Gets done because we're grammar geeks and we don't mind doing it.
2. Apologia Anatomy and Physiology: This works great for us because we have partnered with a friend and have a weekly co-op to get this done. That weekly point of accountability is so helpful.
3. US Geography: Again, we are co-opping with this.
4. The Fallacy Detective:
5. Art: because I teach it
6. Violin lessons via face-time with our beloved teacher who moved away. Who knew this could be a thing? It is working out very well.

first landscape paintings

And for the high-schooler in my life:
7. Well-Trained Mind Academy: Son is taking Chemistry, History, Rhetoric and Literature through this online school. It gets done because I'm not his teacher. He has straight A's. It is rigorous and demanding, but the teachers are excellent, and having the pressure of having to meet someone else's expectations has been a very good thing.
8. Mr. D Math: Wow! I cannot say enough good about Mr. D Math. Why? Because he is a great teacher. It has been A's in math for my son and he doesn't hate it. That is huge progress from a kid who despised math until this year.

We have done some history and literature, just not as much as I typically cover. We have covered primarily the period from Napoleon through Queen Victoria, and are currently working on a lap book that will contain mini-books and reports about various aspects of that era.

So the year has not been a flop--far from it in fact. We have learned a lot about what we need to motivate us (extrinsic deadlines are extremely helpful!) and we have three months left to finish well. Upon finishing well, we are looking forward to our third Carribean diving trip! We will return to Roatan, Honduras to dive. We could not be more excited.

Below are some of our adventures from this school year so far.

testing the effectiveness of "cerebrospinal fluid"

giving Thomas Jefferson the thumbs-up

deep in conversation at the National Gallery of Art

NGA: what's not to love?

learning the process of mixing colors

cold and windy day in Colonial Williamsburg

dressed for the occasion...

happy golden years...

getting outfitted for Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Whole 30 2017: Day 1 - Cooking Extravaganza

We started our planning and preparation for Whole 30 a few days ago, and mentally over a month ago. That is the first thing anyone taking this on should be advised of--this is not just a "okay I'm going to eat healthy for a month" schtick. Taking on Whole 30, or any kind of dietary change such as a switch to more paleo style eating, vegetarianism, or even just eliminating sugar, takes a lot of attention to detail and some planning for success. If you fail to plan, plan on failing--especially in this case. To get us started and make sure we didn't go hungry the first couple of days, I made a huge pot of hearty beef vegetable soup to have for lunches or fill-in meals. Glen made clarified butter / ghee since we can't use regular butter according to Whole 30 rules. 

Today I cooked. A lot.
Planning for us means stockpiling a few key ingredients that will help make meal preparations easier, and today was the day. I hard-cooked eggs to have for quick dinners or snacks, marinated lamb chops to have for dinner tomorrow night, cooked a whole chicken for meat to throw into salads, stir fry or whatever quick recipe might call for it, and I will use the bones to make bone broth. I made Kalua Pig and cabbage (from Nom Nom Paleo) to have over sweet potatoes tonight. Tomorrow morning I will prep a giant bowl of salad greens and make a nice dressing so that we can have salads for lunches or sides at dinner.

Greek-style lamb chops

Kalua Pig

I am remembering now...this takes a lot of work on the front side. Meal preparation is something that we are so often tempted to phone in, shortcut or whatever with food that is quick easy, half done for you already, or even eat out. To make food that is whole, complete and full of nutrients takes time and energy. It will be a challenge to make this work this month and balance it with school and all the things that must be done along the way. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Whole 30 for 2017

I'm doing it again

I've done something called the Whole Life Challenge once before, and Whole 30 before once, and loved it. Let me rephrase that. I didn't "love" it. I thoroughly, deeply appreciated it. I lost weight, felt awesome, slept like a big, hairy bear in deep hibernation every night, and cooked every single day. That was the part I didn't love, come to think about it. The cooking.

But that was almost two years ago, and now I am ready to do it again. The things I learned from Whole Life and Whole 30 helped me to improve my lifestyle and diet by leaps and bounds both times. Since I feel I have slipped back quite a bit in the latter half of this year, I am going to take it on again, recenter myself, and reclaim those healthy habits.

This time my whole family, including the kids, are doing it with me. We each have our own reasons for doing it. Glen's and my reasons have much to do with weight loss and self-discipline when it comes to eating, as well as the reduction of inflammation which causes me in particular joint pain and fatigue. Molly is 11 and facing the normal physical and hormonal changes that every kid goes through, and she is hoping to start developing good eating habits and figure out what her ideal body composition should look like. Matt is hoping to eat healthy and get "cut" and strong. My sister and BFF are also jumping in with their families this time! I'm excited, because we have a group of families that have big reasons for wanting to do this and can support each other in the process.

Today is January 1, 2017, and I'm using this as a transition day. We have eaten up most of the off-plan foods and done some preparatory cooking. I have cleaned the pantry (hallelujah!) and gone through my arsenal of hip cookbooks in order to plan menus for the month. Tomorrow I will start on plan. While I like the new Whole 30 cookbook, I really think that Danielle Walker of Against All Grain is the queen of grain-free cooking, and I can find so many appealing recipes for meals that will be Whole 30 compliant that I hardly feel that this is going to be a sacrifice!

So far I have made a huge pot of vegetable soup that includes no grains, or legumes (I usually have beans, corn and peas in the soup, but these are not part of the Whole 30 protocol). Glen has made a couple of jars of clarified butter, or ghee, and I have a stockpile of hard boiled eggs, almonds, apples, and cooked chicken for quick meals, salads, and snacks.

While on Whole 30 I hope to also reset my fitness goals and get back into the gym. I have been out for a while as my shoulder is rehabbing from an injury, but I am excited to get moving again. I feel a bit like a slug.

Please follow along! I plan to post what meals I am preparing, how the journey is going, and offer some encouragement and help to anyone else who thinks they are ready to take the Whole 30 plunge!

Happy New Year, 2017!

Happy New Year 2017!

I'm ready for this new year. 
Many are saying 2016 was the "worst year ever" It wasn't. It was a tad stressful, mainly because of the election, but the drama-babies that feed on social media and media in general are way overblowing things. I had some personal challenges, indeed. One of the biggest I've ever faced, to be honest, but it's past and time to move on.

Our family had some beautiful, unforgettable moments in 2016. Taking the kids on two different SCUBA diving trips to Roatan and Bonaire were some of the best times we have ever had together. 

Molly started horse-back riding and found a new happy place this year. It has been so good to see her in an activity that is all her own. It has grown her confidence, and she loves demonstrating her skills and teaching us about the things she is learning.

School has been a brand-new challenge so far. For the first time I am not Matt's primary teacher, but have taken more of a role of "coach." This is a very good step for him. The time had come for me to let him stretch his wings and see what it's like to not have Mom or a friend of Mom teaching him. He is doing very well and maintaining all As, but his classes are quite tough. Well Trained Mind Academy is not for sissies! The teachers are very qualified, their teaching is thorough, and their grading is fair. At the same time that Matt has been taking on this new challenge, Glen has been attending graduate school to earn his MBA. The timing could not be more perfect, as Matt has had the opportunity to see how to study effectively, see what a heavy course load actually demands of a student, and also to learn how to manage his time and resources effectively. 

Molly's co-op with her friend continues, and is a highlight of our weeks. We do science, geography, art, logic and ASL together every Wednesday.

We enjoyed some lovely time with family in Florida for Thanksgiving, which has become an annual tradition, complete with gambling lessons.

And Christmas, just the four of us was quiet and delightful. Through the course of the month we all managed to spend one week with a cold, starting with Matt, then Molly, then myself, then Glen. Par for the course. We all managed to be well for Christmas eve service and day, though!