Sunday, October 17, 2010

Revelation Deja Vu

Wow... I would laugh, if it weren't so sad... Why, oh why, must the Lord convict me of the same things over and over (and, unfortunately, over again)? It seems that whenever God has used my life experiences to teach me powerful lessons, somehow I end up right back in the same place?

Take Wednesday's somewhat maudlin post... "I'm so busy", "I'm so tired", "I'm so confused about why I feel this way." Seriously?!?! It was only a year and a half ago, that I was singing the very same tune.

Stressed and at the end of my rope, confused and adrift, I was totally burned out. And when you're totally burned out, guess what? There's an incredible opportunity to start over. With nothing certain, I figured the only thing I could do was look after my health, which had been neglected for so long. I was the busy mom who had time for every activity, club, and committee, but couldn't find a single hour in my day to get a work out in. I'm sure you've never met anyone like that, right? :)

So, I found an incredible (and I mean INCREDIBLE) fitness facility. My children were so thrilled. Each of them were so happy there, that I spent every day of last summer taking a little time for me. I checked those kids in, programmed the iPod, slipped the SkullCandy over my ears, and hit the elliptical trainer hard (well, as hard as you can while you're ogling Food Network!). A couple of times a week I would do Zumba (oh yeah!), but when I was done I would always shower, put on something cute, fix the hair and pick up my babes (who were always sorry to leave).

I'm sure you can imagine what happened... I lost forty pounds and I felt fantastic! I never wanted to go back to that sluggish place. I learned the same lesson so many other women have: taking time for yourself does not take time away from your kids. It actually ADDS to the enjoyment of the hours you have together.

So last Wednesday, I was down. Thursday came around and it was time for the kids to go to one of their sporting lessons. That morning, determined to get a work out in, I dressed in my gym clothes and when I dropped the kiddos off, I hit the machines. With a little tobymac thumping in my ears, I had a revelation...

I hadn't worked out regularly since July and my eating patterns haven't been great, either.

Hmmmm, I wonder why I haven't been thinking clearly or finding the joy in homeschooling? I was frustrated that I hadn't paid attention to that important lesson I thought I had learned. I thought I had that one crossed off my list forever. Evidently, I needed a revelation deja vu.

Are you feeling stressed about something right now? Just know that's not God's will for your life. He repeatedly tells us over and over (and, over again) not to worry about anything. If you're concerned with the direction your life is going, just go ahead and put your name on a list about a billion people long, right below mine... and then do something about it. Pray that the Lord would reveal to you (even if it's for the fortieth time) that which you cannot see clearly on your own... and then do something about that.

The phoenix is probably my favorite mythological creature. I love the idea of it bursting into flame and rising from the ashes, a new (and I'd like to think, better) version of it's former self. Wouldn't you love to start over with the knowledge that you have today? Would you like to take the lessons you've learned and rise, a better version of yourself? Maybe you're like me, and your current struggle can be easily remedied. Maybe you're like I was, burned out and at rock bottom. Either way, know this, you can have a do-over on life. You can be better tomorrow than you are today, but not by your own power and it's not a myth. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Cor. 5:17 Don't be afraid to relearn old lessons. Grow from them and rise.

Blessings, Lins

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Defining Moments

Oh, it is so sweet to sneak away from all of the busyness inside my home right now. I've missed my blog. It's so sweet to be able to write about whatever I want and not worry about it being perfect...

For some reason, and I still can't figure it out, this year just feels SO much crazier than last year. I feel like the kids are involved in the same activities, but we never seem to stop. It's actually making me a touch frustrated. If only I could put my finger on what it was, I would fix it in a heartbeat, but for now I'm left wondering.

Can I just share a HUGE bright spot, though? I was absolutely floored when Carrie at Live, Learn, and Love Together linked to my last post! Seriously, I think she is just about the coolest person I've never met! :P If you have never visited Carrie's blog, you must! Everything about it makes me happy: the colors, the fonts, her writing, her beautiful family. She's amazing. Thanks, Carrie!

Last week I went to a meeting for our homeschool group. We always begin with chapel, but I tell you all the kids want to do is worship. When our director starts her short message, my kids get a little antsy and I am almost always unable to connect. This week however, she spoke about homeschooling as a calling. The core of the message centered around the fact that many of us have chosen to do what we do because we were called by the Lord. If you have read any of my other posts, you may remember that homeschooling was truly not my idea and I actually chickened out at one point. The Lord, in His goodness, called again and this time I answered.

But I'm tired, friends...

It seems like all the things I loved most about homeschooling; the flexibility, the random field trips, the peaceful coming alongside my children, the worship, the joy has been replaced with schedules, scheduled field trips, finishing on time so we can get to our activities, tasks... it's overwhelming.

I need space. I need quiet. I need the Lord. I need time to reflect on His calling.

What has He called me to?

He called me to this time. I am who I am because of my generation and the parents he gave me (praise and thanksgiving to the Most High for mom and dad... they are the two most incredible people ever). The work I have ahead of me fulfills His purpose at this moment in history. If that thought doesn't just amaze you, I don't know what will.

He called me to be united forever with my best friend. Where there were two, fearless kids on the cusp of possibility, He created a family. Never would I have imagined marrying as young as we did (I was going to be a Supreme Court justice, you know). Praise God for the history we already have together.

He called me to parenthood through His perfect miracle of adoption. That fearless kid on her wedding day was so confident that pregnancy was a heartbeat away. Now I praise Him daily for the blessing of infertility.

As I reflect on these callings, I realize that these are the defining moments of my life. Coaching soccer teams, folding laundry, teaching classes, emptying the dishwasher, shuttling kids to and fro; those are things I do. They do not define who I am. God has defined my time and my family according to His plan, not mine.

Now, He has called our family to homeschool. He has made a way for us to be with our children and educate them morning, noon, and night. He has changed my boundaries and defined me once again, while also allowing me to define who my children will be. My three precious gifts will be who they were called to be and think differently about their lives in the future because of what's happening now.

And what's happening now?

Busy is happening. Movement is happening. Stress is happening. Tasks are happening (or not). :) I want this to be the defining moment for my family. I don't want the moments to define us. There is no glory to be found in busy. There is no joy to be found in rushing. The whole of life will demand deadlines and schedules. Do I want to teach my children that perfect attendance at gymnastics supersedes kind words or that showing up to every single homeschool activity trumps peacefulness in the home? It sounds silly even typing it, so I can only imagine how it must sound to read it. The answers are obvious, but what's less obvious is how we make needed changes.

For now, I must remember that I am living in one of my defining moments. When a sharp word is on my tongue, I will be mindful of the effects those words have in defining future generations. Peace be with you, friends.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How We Get The Party Started

Routines, routines, routines... If there's one thing I learned from teaching in a school, it's the importance of having routines and procedures in place. So much of the way my day goes is dictated by the way our morning begins. I've found that the easiest way to ensure success in our homeschool day is just having a game plan. I'm not talking about a minute-by-minute accounting of our day (though I'm sure that's very helpful for many). For our family, school starts off with "Morning Circle" (which is a complete misnomer as we do not sit in a circle and we occasionally do it in the afternoon). I'm gonna work on a new title, but here's what works for us...

Each of our kids has a binder of their own.
The binders have different tabs. Everybody has "Worship", "Scripture", "Presidents", and "States". The almost five year old also has a tab for "Sight Words" and the older two have "Spelling" and "Homework".
Every school day begins with worship. We try to learn two new songs a week and they follow along with the lyrics in their binders and on the overhead.
This year I have written a "Fruit of the Spirit" curriculum for our scripture study together. It's hardly a new idea, but every month of the school year we take a different "fruit" and memorize scripture that ties to it. The kids also have a "Fruit of the Spirit" Journal that they write in nightly.
The month of September is "Kindness". I tried to tie each fruit to the season, wherever possible, and I tell you it took a certain amount of self-control on my part not to make "Self-Control" the very first one we studied! :) I didn't really think I should start the year off harping on them. The journal questions for this month are: "What did I do to show someone else kindness today?" and "How was someone else kind to me?".
Of course the notebooks look better when they're more colorful and hey, if it keeps the little one in his chair, I'm ecstatic!
Each week I am introducing one or two of the Presidents to the kids. I made the master worksheet, but used portraits I found on I also got the facts from Homeschool Share. The kids have to cut and glue the portrait, color the frame, and fill in the information. I write the four year-old's info in gray and he traces it (sometimes). Here's an example of one of his pages.
Here's another example, this time from my fourth grader.
Since I am as yet unable to sell everything and hit the road in an RV, we are traveling the U.S.A. state by state. First we color the state in on our U.S. map...
Then we do map work on the state. This is what my second grader did. She is required to trace the rivers, label the capital, and major cities. Fourth grader has to label rivers and landforms, also. I love these maps. I got them from YWAM.
I made this corresponding worksheet because I thought the one in the YWAM book was too advanced for my second grader. The kids fill this in while viewing a PowerPoint presentation of the state... definitely a cheap vacation! :)
At the beginning I mentioned the older two have a "Homework" tab. It could just as easily be called "Skills Reinforcement". My daughter usually completes a phonics activity and my son does a reading comprehension passage. They both do a math follow-up page. Whatever we need extra practice with is considered fair game for homework!
Can't believe we've already been in school for over a month now! There is so much work going on and my beautiful school room is atrocious... mostly because a day without art for my kids is like a day without food! Cracks me up since "artsy" is the last word I'd use to describe myself! Love and blessings to all of you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Very Jonas Field Trip

I have been SUCH a bad blogger lately! I have soooo many things to blog about, too. I finally borrowed my grandma's camera charger (since mine has yet to reappear) and snapped some awesome shots. I will definitely be updating my blog this weekend, but I just wanted to share a funny photo we took when we were out and about last week.

A group of our kids were all looking in the candy shop window on Main Street at Disneyland, when one of the moms whispered, "Isn't that one of the Jonas Brothers next to the kids?" I tried to take a stealthy pic of my little girl and get him in the background, but he just looked like a white dot. My awesome friend made like the stalkerazzi and with sneaky moves of her own, shot this cute pic from far away...

They are a super cute couple and we really didn't want to ruin their date, so we tried to play it off like we see celebrities everyday! :) After we got our picture, I asked my baby, "Did you see that Jonas Brother?" (since he REALLY wouldn't know that it was Kevin and not Joe or Nick). His eyes got really big and he said, "You mean they're real?!?!" Gotta love it!

Blessings, Lins

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Oh, don't you just love plans? Somehow they never quite work out the way I arrange them in my head, but that doesn't stop me from making more. Take today, for example. One of the best parts of homeschooling for me is the celebration found in something as simple as a rainy day. I had this vision in my head of what the first rainy day would look like at my home. Here's the gist of it...

All summer long I dreamed of the first rainy day... piling my pajama-clad kiddos into the minivan and grabbing something warm from the Starbucks drive-thru, spending the better portion of our day reading books in the coziness of our living room, and not once venturing outside (you know, after the Starbucks, of course).

Well, that's just about the exact opposite of how my day went! My delighted kids dressed as quickly as possible so they could grab their umbrellas (only recently found in the "Great Labor Day Weekend Clean-Out") and head outside to play in the puddles. "Not so fast kids! Back inside!" Wednesday morning means tennis lessons twenty minutes away. Since the rain only really amounted to a drizzle, I called over to the club to confirm their cancellation. "None of the coaches have cancelled yet," the receptionist informed me. UGH!!! Everybody gets changed, we drive all the way out, get the WORST spot in the parking lot, slosh all the way to the courts, only to find them completely flooded and deserted. Surly 9 year-old son: "Wow, mom! That was a waste of our time." Darling daughter: "And gas..." Wise Mother: "But if we didn't show without cancelling in advance, we would have had to pay for the lesson." (Look who just covered Economics!!!)

So, we change plans and go visit my cousin and her brand-new DARLING baby boy. He is an absolute slice of heaven. Transition quickly out of baby heaven mode after receiving an urgent message from the banner company...there was a problem with the email submission of the order form for my baby's soccer team banner. Go home. Nearly pull my hair out trying to resubmit it. Finally end up getting back in the car to drive it down to their office. No time to get back home for lunch before the first park play day of the year for our homeschool group.

Fast food lunch, chase a four year-old around the park, hurry home to "do math", off to gymnastics, off to soccer practice (where I attempt to wrangle 10 four and five year-olds into some semblance of a scrimmage that doesn't involve running off the field crying when the other team scores or dog piling an unfortunate friend who fell while dribbling), back to gymnastics, drop off some paperwork, fill up with gas, dish out the crock-pot dinner, kiss the world's handsomest dishwasher, finish language arts and social studies around the dinner table, showers, pajamas, and finally... bedtime.

What happened to my plan?

Can I get a do-over on today please?

What was supposed to be one of my most favorite homeschooling days, turned out to be one of my least favorite... the day where nothing goes according to plan and I feel as though I've done a great number of tasks, but very few of them significant or meaningful. Not to say that wrangling tiny soccer players is insignificant... :) I'm quite confident that tomorrow will be back to 105 degrees since the only thing on the agenda is school, but I was so very thankful for a change in the weather. Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference. Even though the day didn't go according to my plan, I felt so optimistic about the coming fall and a real change in the weather. Which leads me to the last item on my agenda for today... plan for tomorrow. Oh yeah, and hide the vuvuzelas my husband brought home from work until AFTER school tomorrow! Pray for me, friends. :)

What do you have planned for tomorrow?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

For Whom The Car Honks

It happens every morning. Monday through Friday, it's more regular than my mail delivery. See, those of you who live in the peaceful, bucolic serenity of the country will have no way of identifying with me. Well... maybe you will. Maybe there's some cow who moos too loudly or some chipper little bird who won't stop tapping on your window pane. Over here in suburbia, we have car horns...and impatient soccer moms...and schedules...schedules that have to be kept with military precision, lest one of those balls we've been precariously juggling should fall to the ground and disrupt the flow of the entire day. Impatience at 8:12...every...single...morning. I haven't even had my coffee yet (or my first Diet Pepsi) and here she swerves around the corner, in her raised up 4X4, blaring on the car horn for all it's worth.

"Hey there sister! I've felt your pain. I know exactly where you're coming from. You were late before you even woke up and your tween is in the back seat anxious to get the carpool picked up and make it to school on time. Is there any chance, though, that your child might take the opportunity to stretch his legs and employ the door bell once in awhile?"

When I used to keep that same schedule, I was never home to hear that horn. I was busy being She-Ra, Princess of Power. No hair uncombed. No shoe untied. No homework left behind. Watch out! Here I come... Supermom!! It was only when we started homeschooling that I realized what I would have considered efficiency in the past, was now a huge annoyance. Every morning, without fail, the Jeep would honk. And honk. And occasionally, honk again. I would forget it was coming, and be startled when it did. I would remember it was coming, and would wonder if the kid in the car had an allergy to doorbells. Then one day, as the horn blared a third time and I watched my lanky neighbor trudge to the car, I borrowed a line from John Donne and thought, "Ask not for whom the car honks, John Kelley. It honks for thee."

Do you ever have "AHA!" moments? I do, on occasion. I'll hear something, or see something, and suddenly it's as if a light bulb has illuminated the dark. Suddenly, I see what I saw before, but somehow, it's all different. Well, that day at my kitchen sink, I had a revelation. What if, instead of being irritated by the reminder of someone else's hectic schedule, I took that moment to remind myself to be thankful? Not thankful that it's her and not me. Just plainly, thankful.

Some days it's still blissfully quiet at my home. My three sweet babes are still tucked under those covers and the car honks. On those days, I'm free to spend uninterrupted quiet time, thanking the Lord for His divine blessings in my life. Some days we're up and at 'em, finishing our breakfast, getting ready for school, and the car honks. On those days, I remember to be thankful for these moments of togetherness. They're fleeting and so precious. Some days I'm slogging through an inch of water on the bathroom floor because my son decided to "make an ocean" during his shower and, oh by the way. "MOMMY, THERE'S SOMEONE AT THE DOOR!" (and WHY IS THAT CAR HONKING?!?!). On those days, I'm thankful for the drive-thru Starbuck's, the gift card my mom gave me for "emergencies", and the fact that I have three children when I wondered for years if I would have any at all.

Is there something in your life that's been annoying you? I guess I could have just asked, "Are you a human?" :) What if, right in this moment, you purposed to turn that irritation into a moment for celebration? It may seem cliche, but the things that drive you crazy, may be the things that others desire so much for their own lives. Maybe John Kelley's mom doesn't want to push him out the door when the car honks. Maybe she wishes she didn't have to carpool and could spend uninterrupted quality time, driving him to school, and talking about the things that make him anxious, or proud, or sincerely happy. Then again, maybe she just wants a shower and a child who can get out the door on time! Ha! I've been there, too! :)

This is real life... busy, full, overflowing life. Whether it bubbles effervescently or floods tragically, the choice is really in the way you see it. I pray that my "AHA!" moment leads you to one of your own. Tomorrow, when the car honks, I'll be thankful for the people who may read this and the powerful ways their days may be changed by something as simple as positive thinking.

Blessings, Lins

Monday, August 30, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Well, after a super fun weekend, I finally got down to the business of drawing winners for my two giveaways.

Thank you all for your fun comments in the Charlotte's Web giveaway. I really enjoyed reading each and every one of them. I think the winner for this giveaway is absolutely perfect. Thank you for choosing kahlanne at Long Ramblings who wrote, "I know this will be a shock but I have never actually read Charlotte's Web. I watched it years ago when I was a kid. I would love to have this for my homeschool."

Congratulations also go out to the winner of the Native Americans History Pockets, Leann @ Montessori Tidbits! I could not figure out how to email either of you, so if you see this before I get in touch with you, please leave me a comment here. I will send them out as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone who visited for these giveaways!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seriously? You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Had to quickly share a bright spot from my Wednesday...

We were studying the Mayflower and learning about what life was like on the journey to the New World. Seasickness, cramped quarters, hardtack, chamber pots, and rats were just a few of the delightful terms that came up during the reading. The kids each created a "trunk" that they were to fill with items that they wanted to bring with them on the Mayflower. When I saw a drawing in my daughter's trunk that looked just like a Bath and Body Works dispenser, I had to know. "Honey, what is that bottle that you're bringing to the New World?" Her reply... "Hand sanitizer."

Totally made my day. Hope your day gives you lots to laugh about!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Curriculum Clean-Out: Evan Moor History Pockets Native Americans

I'm so thrilled to send this History Pockets book along to someone who might love it as much as we did! I did this unit last year with my then first and third graders. The result were two beautiful portfolios full of crafts and learning. This is a great intro to Native Americans and has been gently, but lovingly used by our family. Seriously, these History Pockets were the highlight of our Open House.

I should make a note here that I can only ship domestically to the US for all of my giveaways and all entries must be received by 6:00 pm PST on August 28. (Gosh, I feel so legal!).

If you want to have a blast while studying Native American culture with your kids in the near future, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll choose the winner at random! Wish I could send one to everyone!

Who, Moi?!?!?

Wow, let's just say I'm new to this blogging thing. I really do not check the comments on my old posts frequently enough because sweet Kris at gave me a blog award. SAY WHAT?!?! Well, obviously I was floored and totally humbled. That was so nice of you Kris. I really enjoy reading your posts, too. In the spirit of playing along, here are seven things about me...

1. I love candles. It's going to be near 100 degrees where I live today, but I have a Hocus Pocus from PartyLite burning right now. Somehow, just smelling it makes me hopeful for fall. I also have issues with floral candles. Fruity, sure. Floral, no.
2. Diet Pepsi, not Diet Coke.
3. Travel is my luxury. My dream is to travel to every state in the US with my family.
4. I do NOT eat lettuce...EVER (was that emphatic enough?). Something about the crunchy, cool texture freaks me out. Not on hamburgers and no to salad, thank you!
5. Movies!!!! Love them! My favorites are all the Jane Austen remakes (1. Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson 2. Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightly) and Anne of Green Gables. I am definitely the kind to sit out all night for a midnight showing, too!
6. My dream car is an Econoline van. I sigh wistfully every time one drives by and think, "someday...".
7. I would LOVE to live in the country and have chickens and a goat. Bear in mind I've never raised an animal (outside of one dog and one cat), never been in 4-H, and the closest I've ever come to a barnyard uproar was a Target on Black Friday. Hey, a girl can dream!

Well, if you're not snoring by now out of sheer and utter boredom, I will let you know that I'm going to post my next curriculum give away later today. If you ARE snoring, you can thank me later for the extra sleep. I'm always here to help a girl out! :)

Blessings, Lins

Monday, August 23, 2010

Curriculum Clean-Out Charlotte's Web Literature Guide

I'm soooo excited to join the Bi-Annual Curriculum Clean-Out over at Homeschool Creations! I'll have something new to give away every day or two, so be sure to check back!

Today I am pleased to bless someone with a brand-new copy of the "Charlotte's Web" Literature Guide from Total Language Plus! TLP is a very popular curriculum and we really enjoyed using it when we read "Shiloh" last year. If this sounds like something you might be interested in adding to your homeschool, please just leave me a comment at the end of this post.

If you're in the mood, tell me which barnyard character from "Charlotte's Web" you most identify with. Mine is too easy... I definitely feel like I'm the goose, since I'll inevitably-evitably-evitably repeat myself one million-million-million times today! I'll use a random generator to select the winner and then get it to you as soon as possible.

Blessings, Lins

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Peek At Our Week(s)

Well, it's official... if you can't find the chargers for your camera batteries after returning from vacation, your camera will eventually stop functioning. Such is the case over at our house. We had such a wonderful start to the school year last week and I had hoped to share some of the photos of what our lessons actually looked like, but I suppose it's not to be. I found a few fun pics from my computer that I think are pretty representative of what we're all about, so here's to the last week of the "Not Back to School Blog Hop"!
Our youngest LOVES starting our day off with worship. Tried to catch him "conducting", but the good camera was out at this point.
He has actually surprised me with how mature he is getting. Can't believe he is actually engaged in pencil and paper work in this shot. I kind of put it out there and see what comes of it, and he has really been making an effort this week. I guess that's probably why he's been sound asleep within three minutes of bedtime every night this week! :)
Here our oldest is completing the first of our Presidents study pages. I downloaded the color photos from and created my own fact sheet for them to fill in. I fill the youngest's in with grey marker and he traces what I've written (or doesn't depending on the mood!).
Love this shot! I made my first muffin tin lunch this week. The kids loved it. So much fun!
Well, here's where we get to the part where you see what we're really about! Our family is um, just slightly active. ;) My FAVORITE part of homeschooling is the field trips. The kids' educations have been so enriched by the going and the doing. We have such a blast!
Awww, here's our sweet girl. Dad made her a garden for her birthday present. She has a gift for gardening and we've enjoyed eating her tomatoes all summer long!
There are just the neatest museums near us. Most of them are SO interactive for the kids. Loved this exhibit about what the invention of electricity has done for us.
After studying Native Americans last year, we were blessed to be able to visit a wonderful western museum that had an amazing basket exhibit. The kids had a blast using the touch screens and seeing the familiar names of the different tribes.
These kids have no fear, I tell you! The docents at some of these wonderful places are just the neatest people you'll meet.
My city kids adored their day at the farm. Ohhhhh....someday....
My cousin wondered if the kids were saying "hey" to our Lord... :)
Tide pools have got to be my favorite places to explore. Some of these little hermit crabs just walked all over my kids.
Whale watching was wonderful, even if it did turn out to be dolphin and seal watching!
Can't believe the baby is finally big enough to go "rock climbing". He was so proud!
You know, most of the things we do are educational, but some are purely for the fun of it! If you haven't done it yet, click over to Heart of the Matter and check out what others are doing with the wonderful time they have at home. Truly, each day for us is a gift for which we are eternally thankful!

Blessings, Lins

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Takes All Kinds...

I have totally neglected this week's blog hop post (yes, school has started!). We are so, so busy and have been putting our school room to good use. I love seeing their work going up on the bulletins and the completed work in the trays. Ah, back to our routine. Well... for the most part. If you can't take a field trip on the fourth day of school, what's the point in homeschooling? Just kidding, but we are off to the beach today as soon as we get a few of the academics out of the way. Just popped in to introduce my amazing students!

Awww, they really are the best of friends. They love pretending to be pirates and exploring. I love watching them do it!
This is the fourth grader. If he could just explore tide pools from dawn til dusk and go frog catching after dark, he would be the happiest guy on the planet! I absolutely love watching the way his curious mind works!
This darling girl is our second grader. I am contemplating changing her name to The Huntress, or Xena, or something along those lines. She has this amazing ability to find sea creatures...giant crabs, fish, shrimp. Of course after she catches them, she is usually horrified, but she is amazing!
And finally... the baby. He is technically in PreK, but since he begged to "go to kindergarten", I caved. Guess, we'll be doing two years of kinder over here! Basically, this child does whatever he wants (and usually gets away with it because he's hilarious!).

So far, we are off to an excellent start! Loved seeing all of the beautiful student photos over at Heart of the Matter. Hope your year shows lots of promise, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"You Can Homeschool Because You Were A Teacher", "You Have Way More Patience Than I Do", And Other Lies People Mistake For Truth.

When we first started to tell people that we were homeschooling our children MANY responded with, “Well, that’s okay. You can do it because you were a teacher.” At first it seemed like such a benign thing to say (because when someone stands in front of you and says something positively CRA-ZY, you smile and say something nice, or try to justify it. “What’s that? You’re going to sculpt Michelangelo’s ‘David’ using only mashed potatoes? Well, that’ll be just fine. I’ve tasted those potatoes and they’re fantastic!”). It took a few months before I realized just how many people believed it and even worse, how many moms don’t believe they can teach their kids because of it.

I can tell you, absolutely unequivocally, that ANYONE can teach their child at home. Notice I didn’t say EVERYONE SHOULD teach their child at home. (For further clarification, please see Disney’s Ratatouille and pay special attention to the “anyone can cook” message.) Many people believe that teacher’s receive some magic key to the universe upon graduation that unlocks the mysteries of the human mind and how to shape it. We DO learn much about educational theories and practices, which is essential because it drives home the incredibly important fact that not all children learn the same way and what works for one, will not work for all. You see teaching is about reaching. You try one thing and it doesn’t work, but you don’t give up because something will, you just have to discover what it is.

Everything I learned about teaching, I learned on the job. It was a trial by fire. You have to do it and do it and do it again, until you find a measure of success. I’ll tell you another thing, it’s a good thing those new teachers are under contract because some days, you just don’t want to come back for the next one. It’s HARD work! Yet, with all things, practice makes perfect… or as close as you’re gonna get in this lifetime! The sense of accomplishment you feel when the year is over is second to none. You rose to the challenge and you’re fired up to do it again (well, after a massage and a vacation). I should have a Master’s Degree in Parenting for all the books I’ve read on the subject, but no book can substitute for the daily practice of actually doing it. It’s like muscle memory. You do something so habitually that what was once unnatural is now just like breathing.

Let me say it right here and now: ANY parent who feels called to homeschool their child, is already qualified to do it. I tell you I LOVED the students in my public school classroom and I wanted the very best for each and every one of them. That love is in no way the same as the fierce, “I would do anything and everything for this child of mine” love that a parent has. A teacher may throw up their hands in exasperation and say, “I just can’t reach this child today,” but a parent never would. A parent is compelled to keep trying because that’s what love does (even if we have to strap the kids in their car seats and drive around town so the Starbucks has a chance to flow freely through our veins before we go back into the fray).

Here’s another secret, teachers are not human sponges. I remember distinctly re-teaching myself the differences between mode, median, and mean before I taught a lesson on it. That doesn’t mean I was unqualified to teach it. It meant I needed to hold myself to a certain standard and plan far enough in advance that I did have mastery before the lesson came around. I love listening to homeschooling parents encourage each other by saying, “You only have to stay one day ahead of the students.” It’s true! Don’t overburden yourself by believing you have to have memorized every single second grade standard on the first day. Guess what? Your child might have mastered those standards in first grade, or they might not get it until third. You’re teaching a person, not a “norm”.

PLEASE don’t misunderstand me!!! Teachers have special training. They are qualified. Many of them know much more about “teaching” than I could ever hope to. I am NOT implying that ANYONE can go into a classroom and effectively instruct a differentiated group of 30-150 kids a day, in the same way I would not “gas” someone and do dental work in my home. Professionals are professionals because of their knowledge and training. They are the experts in the instruction of children within the scope of their training, just like you are the expert in teaching your own child. You are welcome to share my opinion with others, but just remember that not everyone agrees. J

Oh, and as for my patience… I am not some sort of superhuman! Are you kidding me?!? If someone said, “Would you rather stay at home all day, worn down by the bickering of your children and covered in baby spit or would you rather spend the day getting a mani-pedi and lunching al fresco with your dearest friends?” Hello?!? I’m going with the mani-pedi every time, but neither of those are realistic pictures of homeschooling or schooling moms. We ALL have our challenges. For us, life became more PEACEFUL when we brought our children home (see: Why We Do What We Do All Day Pt.1).

As for those other lies, “You’re incredible. I could never do that.” “Staying at home all day would drive me crazy. I could never do that.” “I could never do that. I don’t have that kind of patience.” Friends, hear each other’s hearts. Homeschooling mommies: Your friend or family member may really believe those things. They may also feel like you’re making a judgment about their choices. ALL parents want the best for their child. EVERY family needs to weigh the scales and decide what’s right for their family, and our knowledge is limited to our own. Where family members are concerned, remember they’ve got an interest in your children, too. If they want to justify what you’re doing, that’s probably okay, right? (“Well Myrtle, my daughter-in-law, Susie, has decided to homeschool her children, but she watches a lot of “19 Kids and Counting” and those Duggars sure seem to know what they’re doing. I’m sure it will be fine.”) YOU get to make the ultimate decision and only YOU have to answer for it. Friends and family members: You have NO idea what you’re capable of. You can do anything you’ve been called to do, but not by your own power. If we relied on our own strength, we would all fail. Your homeschooling friend is probably super-enthusiastic right now, too. They’re bubbling over and filled with the joy of finding the confidence to do something they didn’t think they could do. They are most likely not thinking a thing about what you did or are doing with your kids. Now… everybody hug it out. J

I love the phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” The greatest triumphs of all time were not recorded by those who did everything right and made no mistakes along the way. It’s the brokenness that makes the story special. It’s the meager beginning. It’s the courage it takes to do what you know you should, but might not believe you can. Give it to God and He will qualify you by His authority.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why We Do What We Do All Day- Part 2

So, we decided to homeschool and we all lived happily ever after, right? Um, not so much! J I shifted into an all-consuming, “I’ve-got-a-new-mission-in-life mode and don’t anybody stand in my way.” We bought “The Well Trained Mind.” We informed the school that we would not be returning next year. We bought “Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.” We took the quizzes. We became the parents of a Wiggly Willy/Competent Carl, a Perfect Paula, and a Sociable Sue (who is actually a Sociable Sam). We went to the conference. I got overwhelmed (and a little nauseated) in the vendor hall after discovering that my World’s-Greatest-One-Stop-Works-For-All-Of-Your-Children-At-One-Time-While-Washing-Your-Dishes-And-Folding-Your-Laundry curriculum was not actually going to work for MY family (insert paper bag hyperventilation and mass quantities of Diet Pepsi, here). We dry walled the garage. I finally decided on the curriculum. We set up the desks. We joined a homeschooling group. I bored my friends to death with my endless ramblings (God bless you girls. I love you.). Finally, we opened our doors for the first day of school (two weeks before our public school friends).

Or we would have opened our doors, if the garage had been finished. We sweated through our first days in the August heat, going back and forth between garage and kitchen table. The kids were fighting. The baby was always too loud and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our family had also had a rough summer. I was hot. I was scared. I didn’t have anyone to reach out to (because, um, hello?? I’ve totally got this! I WAS a teacher for Pete’s sake). Deep down, I started to doubt that I COULD do it. I was less worried about becoming the flighty-looking mom and more worried about not meeting my kids’ needs.

I was worried ALL THE TIME. I was nervous ALL THE TIME. I doubted my abilities CONSTANTLY (cause it was about me, right? Not what God wanted to accomplish through me). And then came the day that all public school families wait for… the posting of the class lists. Guess what? My kids were on the lists. Guess what? Their closest friends were in their classes. Guess what happened next? I had an out…

Ah, and then I started rationalizing. “It’s probably better to let them start the year with their classmates, than to decide in two or three months that I made the wrong call and try to enroll them later.” I think my darling husband could sense the mania taking hold. He was so encouraging and supportive. He couldn’t be here during the day, so he didn’t fully know and he would support me whatever we decided… but he did continue to encourage me, “I know you can do this,” he said. “I will support you through this.” “We can do this together.” But I wasn’t listening. The confusion made it impossible.

And then the worst part… Whenever I have gotten to a tough spot, I have always said to the Lord, “If you could just go old-school for a minute, Father, and send that hand to write on the wall and tell me what to do, I promise not to be freaked out. I will do whatever you say.” But as I was praying (and crying) the night before school started, I did hear the voice of the Lord and He said to me, “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it. I will give you everything you need to complete the job I have set before you.” Wow…….

Here, the Lord had given me the very thing I asked for, and I was still scared. Call it what you will, I call it spiritual warfare. We were under attack and in the end, I caved. I walked my kids to school and it didn’t grieve me as I thought it would because all along the way we saw the happy faces of the people we loved. I was so relieved that I mistakenly believed I made the right choice. Their wonderful teachers were so happy to see them. The school secretary was pleased when she told me, “I kept them on the list, just in case.” It was early October, when I understood the mistake I had made. The problems we had were bigger than ever. I repented… big time. And I praise God that He is the God of second chances. His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. We pulled the kids from school, this time officially.

I can tell you, without hesitation, that for every reason you have for homeschooling, there are a hundred you will discover, over time. I hadn’t noticed, but even at their young ages, they were growing up way too fast. I’ll never forget the day my kindergarten-age daughter came home innocently singing every word to a certain Katy Perry song. They were growing up and I was missing out on so much of it. THEY were missing out, too.

My son, who is pretty bright academically, was invited to join a special math group. Basically, they were second graders doing third grade work. The problem was that now he had second AND third grade math homework. When I asked if he could just do the third grade work, (since, he’s clearly mastered the second grade skills) I was told, no. That was fine, it was her call. One night, he was SO upset about his homework and it was getting very late. I said, “Son, do you really enjoy being in that math group?” If it was really important to him, I didn’t want to take it away from him. “I will support you, if you want to continue,” I said, “but I think this is a little much for our family and if you don’t want to stay in it, you don’t have to.” I silently cheered his decision the next day when I came to volunteer and his teacher told me, “Your little guy politely informed me that he wouldn’t be participating in the math group anymore.” We both chuckled, but I started to feel bad because I knew he wouldn’t progress at the rate he was capable of.

One day, after we pulled the kids for good, my mom went out to lunch with my their former kindergarten teacher and she was asking about how homeschooling was going for us. She said to my mom, “You know what? She really just needed to believe she could do it.” I am not trying to say that ANYONE is being disobedient in not homeschooling their children (though I was initially). If you’re considering homeschooling, what you need is courage. The Lord will give you every measure that you will need for this job, you just have to ask.

People always say, “Well, you can do it because you were a teacher.” This is ABSOLUTELY untrue and I will write about this tomorrow, but there is one advantage that former teachers have and that is perspective. My first year of teaching was difficult, at best. I questioned my college education and my choice to pursue teaching. I was taught nothing in my teacher prep classes about the most important part of teaching: classroom management. Yet, the summer between my first and second years, I researched, I plotted, I planned, and you know what? The second year was incredible! Homeschooling is filled with highs and lows, but I would always encourage moms not to give up after the first year. You learned a lot during your first year and the second year is where it shows.

If you are considering homeschooling, I have to say DO IT NOW! You will NOT be disappointed. You might become discouraged and disillusioned, but you will not be disappointed. The friends I know who pulled their kids from school to homeschool, have only one regret… that they didn’t do it sooner. I will pray that if it’s courage you need, that you receive it; if it’s encouragement, that you find it; if it’s a drive-thru Starbucks, that there is one around the corner. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:5-7 NAS

Blessings, Lins

p.s. One of the very best articles on this topic that I have ever read is by Gregg Harris called, “Priceless Treasures”. You can Google it, since I don’t know how to link yet. J

Why We Do What We Do All Day- Part 1

This blog hop idea is pure genius. I’m overwhelmed by how homeschoolers reach out and lift one another up. I sure could have used y’all at this time last year. My insides are pretty much churning remembering the turmoil we went through trying to make our decision about whether to pull our kids from public school or not. I know many of you are in a similar position as I was last year, playing mental ping pong, and basically wearing yourself out. I received a comment on my first post from Brandy, whose little one goes back to school tomorrow, and my heart was just so touched at the memory of how draining it is on us moms trying to make the right decision for our most precious treasures. I’ve decided it would be important for me to tell it all, so here it goes…

Brandy is a former public school employee (teacher), as I was once upon a time, and my husband still is. My first thought about homeschooling occurred when I was taking a post-graduate class. The professor challenged us to make a list of our students, in random order, just as their names occurred to us. We teachers get pretty good at memorizing our class lists in alphabetical order, or by table groups. J So here I was, 31 names into a list of 32 and I sat agonizing in my chair, grieving for the one who I could not remember. How could I spend six hours a day with this child and draw a blank? The teacher then challenged us to look at those last few names, as they were probably the ones receiving the least amount of our attention. Each child was so precious to me, but as I looked my list over, I realized that numbers 1-3 dominated about thirty percent of my time, while the rest divided up what was left over. However, my dream of being a PTA super mom, was very much still alive. You better believe sweet, undemanding, do-my-work-not-cause-any-trouble “Katie” was my first thought daily after that. It was at that time that I began to wonder, “Is my future child worth two percent of somebody’s time?”. You see each child was incredibly priceless to me, but it is just an unchangeable fact that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.

Flash forward a few years and God has issued me the greatest, sweetest challenge of all, the raising of my three incredible children. You see, my specialty in the classroom was dealing with active boys (they are NOT, in any way, the same as every other student, and cannot be handled the same…more on the revolutionary “every child is unique and has unique needs” principle at a later Now, I had the caring of three children with unique needs, and ALL of them are incredibly active!

So one fine August day, my husband and I arrived at the door of the kindergarten classroom with our little world-changer in tow. He was enrolled in the same school I had attended as a child and his teacher was one of my mom’s best friends from high school. We saw nothing but blue skies smiling at us…until we picked him up. He did not love his first day. I was sure it was kinder anxiety and as the year went on, we were assured that he was doing great in school. “Great?” we questioned. “What about his high activity level?” She saw only typical kinder energy. We were shocked. This was not the kid who went from swing, to bike, to swing, to trampoline and got himself ready for bed by doing laps around the kitchen island.

Over time, we began to notice a huge difference in our family life. The little boy who held all his energy in all day, was coming home exhausted and dissolving into tears at the mention of soccer or homework. And, OH the homework! Every mom I talked to had the same reply, “You think this is bad? Wait until first grade!” “You think this is bad? Second is worse!” “I wish my child were back in second grade. Third grade homework is an absolute turning point in the amount of homework they receive.” I could hear the little voice in my head wondering, “But when does he get to be a little kid?”

You see our family life was VERY different now. I was an absolute drill sergeant, issuing orders from dawn til dusk. “Hurry up, out of bed. Get dressed. Finish your cereal, FAST! Don’t forget your backpack, or your socks for silly sock day. Give me a kiss. I love you! Jump out of the car. I’m holding up the line. How was your day? Here, eat this snack. Get your baseball stuff on. Hurry, into the car. Be nice to your brother. Don't talk to your sister that way. We’re gonna be late for practice. Do your silent reading now. Let’s all sit down for dinner. Let’s finish your homework. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Say your prayers. Goodnight. I love you.” The memory of that breaks my heart. We were so busy and task-oriented and I… Was… So… Tired… I’m sure my family was, too, but we were all so depleted from the pace we had set that I would drop into bed at the end of the day, barely communicating with my husband. There were too many fast food dinners. Too many nights of ice cream in front of the tv (so I could just be quiet for a that too much to ask?). Too many snippy comments to the ones I loved the most. I was filled with anxiety, and as I looked around I saw, the family was, too. We knew something had to change. We decided to look into homeschooling.

Oh, how I wish that were the end of the story. I wish I were about to write, “And it was the best decision we ever made and we never looked back.” But, that’s not how it happened and it wasn't my finest moment, friends. I’ll post the rest in just a little bit. I have a feeling the children will require food this morning. J

On another note… Wow! I cannot tell you how overwhelmed and encouraged I’ve been by all the comments you’ve left me. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for the longest time, mostly to have a record of this incredible season in our lives. Never, did I realize, it would lift me up so much to connect with the homeschooling community. You guys rock!