Thursday, August 1, 2013

A new school year means new adventures in learning!

It's been awhile and I meant to blog about and reflect on our first year of homeschooling at the end of the year.  Well, we've been busy this summer and I never got around to it.  I can say that it was a year full of challenges, new things, new experiences, new friends, discovering gifts, uncovering weaknesses, and learning each other's strengths.  We learned what works and what doesn't.  We decided what we like and certainly what we don't like.  We laughed and we cried.  It was fun and it was difficult.  I think we learned a lot and we definitely grew!  Of all these accomplishments, the one that I am most proud of is that we saw it through. I will admit, it was very tempting to give up on several occasions when that yellow bus passed by the house in the afternoon and we were still sitting at our school table in tears over math.  I had to pray my way through more than a few days, but I know the One who brought us through it.  He called us to this life of living and learning together as a family.

As we move forward into our second year of home-centered education, I am encouraged, excited, and full of anticipation.  I know God has many adventures in store.  We are adding one more to our daily school routine.  This year we have a brand new kindergartner.  I think Aiden is the most excited of us all.  I'm praying that God will remind me to focus more on the joy of learning and all the fun stuff that comes with that with Aiden this year.  I have never homeschooled a kindergartner.  My homeschoolers came to me already reading, so I am a little intimidated by the task of teaching a little one to read.  I know he will do well.  He has had a wonderful preschool foundation and is an eager learner.

Over the course of last school year, we did discover that the curriculum we where using was not working for us.  I guess you could say that we had not discovered our "homeschool style" yet.  Throughout the year, we changed up a few things until we were virtually not using much of anything we started with.

In the early stages of our discussions about homeschooling the kids, we met a family that was using Classical Conversations.  We looked into it and liked what we saw, but we did not start with it for a variety of reasons.  In January of this year, I felt that God was prompting us to take another look.  We decided to be obedient, even though we knew it would mean a homeschool group change.  The kids and I were loving GRACE Co-op and had made a lot of new friends, but I just knew that we had to explore this option one more time.  We reached out to the director in Murphy, NC.  As it turned out, the drive to weekly CC meetings would not be any further than to it was to co-op.  We decided to go and observe a typical CC day. With in a matter of an hour, I was sold.  It completely exceeded all of my expectations.  The icing on the cake was how open, warm, and helpful every single mom and child was there. The kids jumped right in there to welcome Ashlyn and Aaron.  They connected instantly.  The moms were a wealth of information and encouragement.

One of the things that I discovered about myself was that I really had no desire to recreate "school" at home. I thought for sure that I would be a "school at home" homeschool mom.  I was quite surprised when that just did not work for us.  The classical education model is a bit different that the traditional model. It is way too complex for me to explain on this blog and I am sure that I would totally botch it, but I will try to give you some basics. I am using the Classical Conversations catalog as a reference.

The classical model can also be referred to as "Teaching the Trivium."  We know that there are three stages of learning that we all go through in order to learn something new.  The three stages are the grammar stage (memorizing the facts), the dialectic stage (discovering how the facts relate), and the rhetoric stage (applying the facts).  The Bible even refers to these stages in Proverbs 24:3-4 as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  How cool its that? God intentionally designed us to learn this way.

We have already made some new CC friends and now there are 3 families from Hiawassee, including us, who will be using this curriculum this school year.  Sam and I hope to become very involved in CC at large. We attended a parent practicum in May and are very encouraged by all the support offered to CC parents and students.  This movement is growing rapidly within the homeschooling community as parents begin to discover that the method works and that in the process of educating their children, they are also redeeming their own education. The best thing about Classical Conversations is their mission statement which happens to be our family's passion.  "To know God and to make Him known."  What a blessing!

Anna will be attending preschool at the Baptist church again this year.  She will be in the 3 day 3's class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  It is a great fit for her and she loves it there.  It keeps her busy while we work at home.  I am excited that she will be able to attend CC with us on Tuesdays. My plan is to bring her into Aiden's class for as long as her attention span can take it.  Once she has had enough, I will just take her out to play in the nursery.  I do believe that she will pick up a lot by just being around when we are working. CC is fun with all kinds of songs to help the kids engage and memorize the information.  I have a feeling that she will have a hard time staying away when we are singing our history timeline songs.

Avery has become more mobile since we started homeschooling last year.  He sometimes presents a challenge on our school days.  I guess I will have to be a little more creative this year with ways to keep him busy.  Thankfully he is becoming more interested in things like coloring and story time. I will continue to rely on the veteran homeschool moms in my life for tips on homeschooling with a toddler under foot.

While many are already returning to school, we still have a little bit of summer left.  Our CC group starts on September 10th, but I plan on pulling the math and reading books out and dusting off the cobwebs in a week or two.  It will probably take us at least a week of "practice" to get going.  We did not accomplish as much as I would have liked this summer, but I am learning to not be so tough on my students and myself.

I've decided that each year I need to focus on a few areas for growth.  Last school year, it was patience with my children, confidence in my abilities, and to just make it through the year.  This year I want to learn to be more flexible, to be more free-spirited, and to reach out to moms just beginning the homeschooling journey.

I am very proud of my kids, my husband, and myself!

One year down and 17 more to go!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Defeated Mom Syndrome

It's only Tuesday and I can tell it is going to be one of those weeks. I don't intend for this to be a whiny post, but to encourage other moms.  Even the most veteran, experienced, and patient mom can suffer from defeated mom syndrome from time to time.

I woke up late again this morning.  It's a viscous cycle in our home. Our days are full of the busy routine of preschool drop off and pick up, school work, laundry, meal times, kitchen clean up, toy pick up, and bedtime rituals.  Usually by the time the last little head hits the pillow, we both collapse on to the couch for the next several hours.  It's our only down time.  Before we know it, it's 11:00 or 12:00 and we should have been in bed hours ago.  This is usually what leads to our late start mornings.  We always have good intentions of going to bed early and getting up early.  It just doesn't seem to happen as often as we would like it to.  

Today has been an exceptionally frustrating day for me.  My mind is flooded with all of the things I am failing at.  I yelled at Ashlyn for not understanding a math problem quickly enough.  This causes me to doubt my abilities to teach my children.  Avery would not stop crying while I was trying to explain the lesson to Ashlyn, so I put him on the couch with a Preschool Prep DVD.  This causes me to doubt my ability to balance the babies and the older kid's schooling.  Aaron would not focus on his Language Arts lesson.  I felt like I was nagging him all morning.  This causes me to doubt my patience.  When the kids finished lunch, all of them but Ashlyn, got up and left all their dishes on the table and headed downstairs to play.  This causes me to doubt the effectiveness of all the training I have invested in them to be considerate helpers to others in all situations even at home.   This afternoon, we opened up our history timeline to discover that it has been closed up before the glue dried. The last 10 figures we made had bled all over and had to be scraped off and redone.  That caused me to want to cry!

The children are not my only insecurity at the moment.  Sam and I have had some misunderstandings and disagreements this week that have lead to frustration for us both.  That causes me to doubt how I am fulfilling my role as a supportive and loving wife.  I'm also not meeting some expectations at church.  This is always a tough one for me because it causes me to doubt my role in my husband's   ministry.  It often involves someone's interpretation of my character based on their understand of the situation only.  

The point of telling you all this is not to complain, but to be real and to encourage!  I admit, my wick is very short today.  It seems like everything is getting under my skin.  The slightest infraction from the kids causes me to come down hard on them.  The problem is that they are not the problem at all.  They are acting like normal active children.  The problem is me and the expectations I have for myself and maybe even the little lies being whispered into my ear by the evil one.  

So this causes me to think about what God's expectations of me are.  After all, His expectations are the ones that I should be the most concerned with.  Not necessarily my children's, my husbands, or even my own, and certainly not parishioner's.  So, what does God expect from me?  I believe it is actually a lot less complicated than I make it.  I'm pretty sure that He does not expect every page in the Language Arts workbook to be completed, or every math lesson to be understood on the first try.  Through His grace, He has introduced me to more seasoned homeschooling "moms to many" that can help me with ideas to occupy the baby and my preschooler during lessons and even advice on running my household.  I'm also pretty sure that He is not frowning on my decision to pop in a video from time to time.   He also reminds me that with perseverance and consistency, they will learn their manners. Of course, God is concerned with my children's education.  I believe He wants me to do the very best I can in teaching them.  To work and plan hard, but ultimately even that is not my most important mothering responsibility.  

Our greatest command is to "love God with all our heart, all our soul and, all our strength."  (Deut. 6:5)   I think the same could be said about how we are to love our children.  That may seem like a no brainer and it should be easy right? Most of the time it is, but then there are those days like today.  Those days where the doubt, the lies, and maybe even the selfishness that we all possess starts to creep in. What do we do then?  I think we have to lean on God.  The one that loves our children more than even we can imagine.  I think we have to look to Him to understand what this kind of love looks like.  When I think about love, I am always reminded of the verse that has been the theme for our family from the very beginning.  Even before Sam and I were engaged, this verse brought us together during a time when we were on the brink of parting ways.  I believe because I truly believed it and it penetrated his heart, that it sealed our future together.  

1 Corinthians 13 says........

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This chapter says so much, but what always sticks out to me are the parts that say "Love never fails." and "But the greatest of these is Love."  If we love our kids, we won't fail them and loving them is the most important thing of all.  My own personal challenge is to remember to love them in the midst of the chaos. It's easy to snap or to blow up.  The challenge is to learn to put that childish reasoning and those childish actions behind us.  It's tough, but we can lean on our Lord to help us.  It's really the only way since we can not do it under our own strength.  At least I know I can't!!!!

We also have to remember that we must let go of the expectations we have of ourselves and those that others have of us.  We will never be able to meet either of them every time. I also know from experience that children are quick to forgive.  Adults often have a hard time forgiving and letting go.  Whenever I have had to say I'm sorry to the kids for my behavior, they usually not only forgive, but totally forget within minutes that I was ever ugly or hateful to them.  

So it's simple!  Love God! Make sure your kids know that you love them.  When you mess up, be quick to ask for forgiveness.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  Remember, they totally forgot what you did when you said, "I'm sorry."  Be confident in who God says you are.  You are His beloved!  Listen to His voice and not the voice of others.  Press on mamas!!!! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Making it home

Christmas has come and gone and it is a new year.  We just got all of the Christmas decorations put away.  They were so beautiful and I truly enjoyed them this year.  It has been nice for the house to return to normal though.  I suspect that I will be vacuuming up glitter for the next 3 months.

Our family has experienced many ups and downs and certainly many major life adjustments.  This June we moved into a new home!  We quickly unpacked and set everything up.  Now that we have been here for six months, it is time to start adding those personal little touches that make it home.

I have been on pintrest for the last several weeks trying to come up with ideas on how to get more organized and make our space work better for us, while at the same time making it look good too.  My first project came this morning.  Our coat closet was a mess and the hooks for the back packs were in a terrible location and not working for us at all.  So I attacked that first.  I forgot to take a before picture, but the closet was a wreck and the entry way was empty after we took the tree out.

I hope I can keep it like this, but I doubt it.  I hung the coats in order from shortest person to tallest person.  The shoe shelf was already in there.  I just straightened them.  I also took a ton of stuff out for basement storage.  The brown basket at the top is for hats, gloves, and mittens.  Sam installed a hook on the left side for my diaper bag.  This project cost me nothing.  

The entry way.  I was hesitant to put the book bags here, but this is where we come into the house from the basement/garage.  This project so far has also cost me nothing.  I dug an old night stand/cabinet that we are not using out of the basement, moved the hooks for the book bags, took a basket that was not being used out of the boys' bathroom, and hung a wreath.   I usually hang that wreath on the outside of the front door, but I figured since no one will be out there this winter, it would be nice for us to be able to enjoy it from the inside.  This is still a work in progress.  I am going to be looking for a small lamp for the night stand/cabinet and I'm also still brainstorming about what to hang on the wall over it.

My next project is this drab empty wall and pantry door. The pantry door will be receiving a few coats of chalk board paint and the wall will serve as our family command and chore chart center.

This will be the before picture.

Kitchen Command Center

Chore charts

These are the pins that have inspired my ideas for this area.

I have also been busy in the school room.  I cleaned out some toys and freed up a bin, so I moved it into the school room to house the preschool toys, puzzles, lacing beads, and other activities.  We ordered some preschool curriculum and I have started researching "tot trays" to keep Anna busy on the mornings that she is home with us. Screen time is a little out of control right now.

Sam really wanted the kids to have some sort of cubies for their workbooks and such.  For now we are using these plastic drawers.  I am going to dress them up with some pretty paper and my Aunt Dean is making name labels for them.


I have a big dream for the school room that would include several of the Trofast storage combinations from Ikea.  This is an expensive project so it will have to wait.

TROFAST Storage combination IKEA Several grooves allow you to place boxes/shelves where you want them. Fits in TROFAST frames.

For the kids with January birthdays, we are planning to work on a few projects instead of gifts.  Here is one of the ideas we plan to create in our home soon.

These are the 3.99 spice racks at Ikea

And another one.

AWESOME idea for Lego storage and table.

These are all little and very inexpensive projects that I know will make this house a little more of a home for our family.