Thursday, October 15, 2015

Emily Grace - Forever Loved, Missed for a Short While

Emily Grace
Forever Loved

Her name is Emily Grace and she lived. She was a tiny little human. Emily was growing tiny fingernails and the blondest eyebrows. She was hearing her world through her mother’s womb for the first time. She probably jumped in surprise when her sisters screeched with delight when they played. She was gaining weight, length, and fingerprints. She was mastering the fantastic skills of moving her eyes back and forth under her still sealed eyelids and using her mouth to practice sucking. She moved and played and snuggled into her mom. 

 And then something happened and Emily left the confines of her mother’s body and her soul entered into a glorious place. A place where she will know peace and contentment. A place of hope and beauty. A place to wait for that day when she gets her new body and her parents, siblings and family will join her. For her mother, father and all the rest of her family, this was a tragedy. For her, it was a homecoming. 

When my sister handed her to me for the first time, I could not believe how teeny tiny she was. A whopping 5 ¾ inches long and 4.3 ounces and carefully wrapped in a receiving blanket. I loved her the moment I heard my sister was pregnant with her, and I loved her even more after I laid eyes on her. Her tiny baby hands and sweet little baby toes, her little blond eyebrows and broad shoulders are etched into my memory. As her Aunt Amy said, “She had ears that were made for earrings.” She was so small and so light, I was afraid I would drop her. 

 I remember trying not to be a hysterical mess and thinking I needed to stop crying. I wanted to be strong for her mom, my precious sister. But the more I thought of how I would miss her, miss seeing her grow up, miss seeing if she got my sister’s sweet spirit and her father’s conscientiousness, the more I wept. 

I thought of how her brothers and sisters would never on earth be able to play with her, to sing to her, or to tell her she was getting on their last nerve and I cried some more. I nearly cried that horrible ugly cry when I thought of her parents and their deep, wounding grief. We, Emily’s family, will miss her and think about her and look forward to meeting her again in Heaven. 

Emily was more than a “late miscarriage”. Emily Grace, even though small, was her mother’s baby. She lived and is cherished and loved. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day As you go about your day, remember those precious lives that were gone too soon and the families that desperately wanted and loved them. 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

This World is Not Our Home

This is a guest post from my friend, Tami Minor.

I don't expect nonChristians to base their lives on Christian principles. Why would they seek to honor a God they don't know, don't understand, or have outright rejected? So, it doesn't surprise me at all if a nonChristian's behavior is in contradiction to the Bible. I am always disappointed though when a Christian's behavior contradicts Biblical principles, especially when that Christian is me.

Many times over the years, my children would witness or hear of different behaviors and ask me why the people involved behaved that way. "Why do they dress so immodestly, or speak so unbecomingly? Why do they do drugs or get drunk? Why do they commit adultery, or have abortions, or murder, or steal?" I always say ,"Because they don't know the Lord. Because they aren't walking with God... or because they aren't Christians." 

NonChristians have their own morality based on what they think or feel or based on another religion altogether. A Christian's morality is based on the Bible. As Christians, we believe that disobedience to God is sin. The truth is, my worst sins occurred after I became a Christian. So daily, I go to the cross of my Lord and seek forgiveness. I desire to live rightly, and in obedience to the Bible.... one hymn refers to this concept as "absolute sway." I strive to do this. 

Do I wish the world didn't perceive Christians as backward, misinformed, or foolish? Sure, I do, but the Bible says to expect that. Do I wish that Christians weren't beheaded or otherwise persecuted for their faith? Of course, I do, but Jesus taught us not to be caught off guard by the hatred of this world. Do I wish, really truly wish, that the community in which I live, even the state, the country, the world was predominantly Christian and that my children could grow up that way, with predominantly Christian influences on tv, on the internet, at the movies, on billboards, on the news, in schools, everywhere? Of course I do, but I do not expect it. Christian behavior is about Christ. I admit I like the idea of the security of living inside a Christian bubble. 

But Jesus tells us to take Him outside. I am not an effective witness. But He is an effective God. If the world behaves in a worldly way, it is completely in line with its nature. I am supposed to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. Frequently, because of my beliefs, people I love will be on one side of an issue and I am on the opposite side. And strangely enough, it wasn't about sides at all for me. But if an earthquake splits your home, your neighborhood, or your country down the middle, people are going to fall on one side or the other. I am just attempting to live rightly and to honor God with that attempt. 

Can we honor God and love others? I don't think we can honor God unless we love others. Can we honor God without obedience. No, we can't. So sometimes, my children, ask me why Christians behave badly. "Why do they dress so immodestly, or speak unbecomingly, etc etc." I tell them that sadly, Christians aren't always obedient, but that God has made provision for that...that if we will turn from our disobedience, He will forgive us...that being Christians doesn't make us perfect, but that it daily perfects us. Christians are peculiar. Not because they seek to look different, but because following a scriptural mandate for behavior makes them look different. 

If you are a nonChristian, this is your world. I am just passing through.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Day in the Mind of an Extrovert

7am- wake up thinking "wow, I am sure glad I have no where to go today after being so busy the last few days"

7:03am- I AM SO BORED AND LONELY! I wonder what we can do today to get out of the house?
7:04am- update Facebook status
7:06am- Check status to see if anyone has replied. Decide that I should give it a few more minutes
7:08am- Still no replies. Did I make everyone angry? Maybe it just wasn't funny enough. Change status to something funny.
7:10am- Check status for replies. 1 like but no replies. What is wrong with me today?! Message friend 1 with my entire plan for the day.
7:15- friend still hasn't replied so message friend 2 with the same information and head off to get ready.
7:15-9:00am- Homeschooling requires me to spend some time not waiting on FB replies, but I spend the entire time wondering how many likes and responses I will find when I get back on.
9:30am and friend 1 still hasn't replied. Why is she mad at me? Think, think, think, what have I done or said? Ohh my goodness. The other night when we were out I said I didn't like onions. Maybe she thinks that because I don't like onions and she does that I don't like her. STUPID. How could I not have thought of that before I said it?!
9:31am Text friend 1 a veiled joke about onions to see if she is mad at me. Friend replies with LOL and tells me she is at the doctors office. Pretty sure she is lying and is really just hiding from me.
10:00am-as long as friend 2 will tolerate it, I "drive by Facebook" with her. At least I still have 1 friend in this lonely cruel world.
10:30am- See pictures of friend at doctors office with her sick child and realize she may have been telling the truth. Text soon after inviting us to a play date confirms she is not angry. Feeling stupid that I thought my friend was actually angry with me over onions.
11:00am- I have got to get out of this house! I am going to go crazy with this isolation. I would give a pound of flesh just to be near someone, anyone. I would even consider a trip to Walmart! Unfortunately, homeschooling is still calling so I spend the next 3 hours "drive by Facebooking". At least a few people have finally responded on my status. I reply within seconds. They make fun of me for Facebook stalking.
1:00pm- I am literally drained from being alone. I love my kids, but they don't fill my socialization cup. I am mentally and physically exhausted.
3:00pm- Finally, it is time to leave the house. All I am about to do for the next 5 hours is sit, but as long as I am near someone I don't care.
5:00pm- We are at my daughter's gymnastics practice. I sit and where it isn't too impolite, I interject or strike up conversations with strangers around me.
9:30pm- Come home and regret having talked a perfect strangers ear off. Pretty sure she didn't need to know the details of how my first child entered the world. Assume that they will purposely avoid me from now on.

I am pretty sure anyone not an extrovert is reading this as if I was speaking a foreign language. I cannot explain what happens in my brain during the day. I cannot explain why when I do not get an instant response I assume that someone is angry with me. That is almost never the case and the reasons I come up with for the pretend anger are almost always ridiculous to the point of being stupid. I cannot explain how being alone tires me so much, and even depresses me. All I know is that I am not trying to be annoying. I am not trying to be nosy or rude. I am not trying to not give you a chance to talk. When I sit at home by myself it is boiling inside of me and when I finally get somewhere I can speak it explodes. We extroverts have to work hard to be sure we are practicing some self-control, but we definitely appreciate the grace our introverted friends give us when we go a bit over the top!

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Homeschooling Confession

I am probably getting kicked out of the homeschool club for this one.

Confession: I hate reading out loud. I hate the way my voice grows weak and feels tired. I hate the work behind it only to have to work to keep the kids' attention.
I am an excellent read to myselfer.

But I am a homeschool mom. I am pretty sure I am supposed to love to read out loud. I have skated by with audio books (Story of the World on audio - For The Win!) and audio books from the library.  If Apologia put their science books on audio, I would probably be farther than lesson four after working on it for two years. And no,  I am not kidding.  We just wrapped up chapter four.  I even got the audio for First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind.

Unfortunately,  my 6 year will not cooperate in my read aloud avoidance. She is an excellent reader but she wants to sit on my lap and give me things to read to her. Because she is the baby and really cute, she can normally talk me in to it.

She has done it enough that recently the children got done listening before I got done reading. I found myself liking it.

Now, I am not promising to like it again, and I am not promising to actually finish "The Wind in the Willows" but it does at least seem possible!

It just goes to back up what I tell the kids,  with enough practice, you can do pretty much anything.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When Adoption isn't Wonderful

Growing up, I wanted to be a mother. I did not desire to do anything else but be a wife and mom. I got married at age 21 and one year later my husband and I were told children would not be a part of our future unless we tried some expensive things, and even then it was not a guarantee. I grieved that. I grieved the loss of my fertility, the loss of my childhood dream, the loss of all the children I wanted and would not have. People asked us, "Why don't you just adopt?" Don't say that, by the way, to someone who is infertile. It is rude, unkind, and only demonstrates a lack of knowledge and empathy for their heartache.

Why did we not "just adopt". It sounded so simple, find a kid who needs a home, fill out a few forms, and voila! Instant family. There are so many children available and waiting for a family. Sure they may have some issues, but all kids have issues. With enough love and stability and consistency, everything will work out and be fine. You will all be grateful for one another.

After my husband and I were married 7 years, we decided to pursue foster parenting. We were placed with over 23 children in the 4 years we were foster parents. It was an amazing time that really taught me a lot. Two of those children we would eventually adopt. They were 5 and 10 months when we got them. You would think, well I thought, that if you got a child young like they were, then everything would be okay and eventually adjustments would be made and everything would be awesome.

You know that lady in the news that sent her kid back to Russia with a note pinned to him? I am not saying that was the right thing to do, but I know how she got to that point.

I know how it is to raise a child that refuses to do a thing that she is told, unless she can clearly see how it will benefit her, and even then it is questionable.

I know how it is to have a child yell at you because you expect them to do something as silly as their homework or clean up after themselves.

I know how it is to be slightly afraid to go to sleep at night because you really don't know what is going to happen when you are sleeping.

I know how it is to wake up mad before the day even starts. It is an anger that pervades your entire being and you can't talk yourself out of it and it doesn't wear off and fade away with time.

I know how it is to be tired. I am not talking about physical tiredness, although that is a part of it, I am talking about a mental and emotional tiredness that rivals the tiredness of someone who hasn't slept in three days. There is an exhaustion that can not be contained and it bleeds into every part of your life.

I know how it is to live with someone who makes you question your sanity.

I know how it is to live with a child that doesn't just lie, but is incapable of telling the truth.

I know how it is question and wonder at motives behind every good deed because you know you are being manipulated in some way or are being set up to be manipulated.

I know how it is to have more therapy appointments than you know how to juggle and then be told that those therapy appointments are going to happen *daily*.

I know how it is to question how you can give another dollar, another second of your time, another ounce of energy and more of your heart towards a cause that seems to be lost.

I know how it is to know that no matter how desperately you want to fix someone, that there is nothing you can do, because that child doesn't see the problem in themselves, only their circumstances, and therefore they only choose to try to control their circumstances rather than themselves.

I know how it is to have guilt nearly eat you up because, somehow or another, this has got to be your fault. I am the mom, the fixer of dinner, boo boos and life in general. I should be able to fix this. Why can I not fix this?

I wish I knew what to say to those parents that are engaged in this same struggle. I only know to say that I am praying for myself, my family and my fellow adoptive parents. I am regularly crying out to God on our behalfs for mercy and for peace.

I am praying for healing for my child, who has been hurt with severe hurts by the birth family that was supposed to love her and protect her.

When adoption is good, it is very good. When it is hard, it is very hard. For some people, it is always hard and everyday is a trial. It is hard to be reminded *everyday* that you are not enough. For some people it is a reminder that no matter how much you want to love and help and show God's mercy and grace, that you are not God.

Thankfully, I know who God is. I know that He is capable of healing my broken, hurting child. I know that He is the restorer of relationships and righteousness and the healer of all hurts. I know that He authors forgiveness and He alone digs up roots of bitterness. Even though I want Him to do all this now, I know He will do this in His time for willing souls. I pray for that willingness for me and my child.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Homeschool Myth - Homeschooled Kids are Weird and Can't Relate to Others

I recently had a discussion about homeschooling and the children it produces. It seems that everyone knows someone who was homeschooled and they are the weirdest person they ever met and having a terrible time communicating with others.

No one ever talks about the people they meet that have the same issues yet were public schooled. I dare say there are more of these people out there than the entire population of homeschoolers.

There are weird people everywhere. There are terrible communicators everywhere - who are not weird by the way, they just have a hard time communicating. Perhaps if they are sitting in the neighbor's yard wearing a swim cap and pretending to grill out in the middle of January that would be weird, but I recently threatened to do this and I am a product of the public school system. Ahem.

The great thing about homeschooling is that kids are not forced to be around kids their age, all day, everyday, with limited interaction with those other than their peers.  I have a daughter in public school and she is *obsessed* with fitting in. My homeschoolers, not so much. They are free from the bondage that a large group of their peers will place them in. They don't have to please a bunch of other 9 and 10 year olds to not get made fun of and to fit in. They don't have to change the way the dress, eat, or talk. They are not compelled to fit into a man made mold and instead are free to fit into the mold God gave them. They are free to be them.

They can also relate to kids older and younger than they are. They can have conversations with adults. My 6 year old was at swim class waiting for her older siblings to be done with their practices. I watched her approach an adult woman and carry on quite the conversation. She came to me about 10 minutes later and happily exclaimed, "Mommy! I met a grown up and she is nice." She was thrilled to have made a new friend. I spoke very briefly with the woman afterwards and she complimented Rebekah's manner and cuteness. (She is stinking adorable, if I do say so myself.)
Rebekah was not intimidated or frightened by this adult. She approached her. She learned about life and people in this short conversation. She was not constrained by needing to look "cool" or by the need to please the kids that were there at swim with her.

My kids don't know a ton about pop culture, and maybe that's weird to some, but I am glad. I am glad I don't have to explain certain song lyrics, for a while I did not have to explain twerking - until my public schooler forced me to.  I don't have to explain BDSM to them like I had to with my public schooler (Thank you for nothing 50 Shades of Grey). I am glad I don't have to explain a lot of things and my kids can stay kids for just a while longer.

If any of that is weird and makes them unable to relate to others, then frankly, I will take it.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Free Water Cycle Unit - Short and Simple!

We are getting ready to start a week long event on the water cycle! Each lesson will be super short and use things that I have at home. The kids don't do super well with worksheets and my printer is broken so I made this up to do with them next week. It will be free and easy to teach and yet still get across to them the water cycle and what it is.

Water Cycle Unit
Appropriate for K - 5

Monday -  This is an excellent resource to explain the water cycle.
Hands on activity: Fill 3 cups with 1 cup of water. Put one in a sunny window, one in a room away from a window, and another one in the window with a piece of plastic wrap covering it. Have the child(ren) discuss what may happen to the water in the cups.  Ignore the cups until Friday.

Tuesday - Make it rain!

Wednesday - Solids, Liquids, Gases - Get several ice cubes, let the kids handle them. Ask "What is happening to the ice cube?" (it is melting) Why? (their hands are warming the water up) Explain the ice cube is a solid and the water that is dripping off of it is a liquid. Ask them "How can water be a gas or a vapor?" Have them put all their ice cubes in a pan or a skillet on the stove. Turn the burner on. Observe the heat melt the ice. When the water begins to sizzle off the skillet, point out that the water is now a vapor.

Thursday - Get some books on the water cycle, aquifers, different bodies of water and/or drought from the library and read them. Have the kids write and illustrate their own story on something related to the water cycle. This should be fun, so don't stress over spelling and the like.

Friday - Create a project that demonstrates the water cycle. Pinterest has a lot of great ideas. We are going to do one similar to this one here -
There are a lot of cute ones on paper plates if you have them!
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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Freedom to Learn - A Homeschool Benefit

When I was in elementary school, I was always ahead of my peers. I was always the first one finished with all my work - to the point that one time I got in trouble and the teacher accused me of lying in front of the whole class. I learned to slow down, to make mistakes on purpose, and to try not to be noticed. I always scored very high on standardized tests and my mother and teachers had a hard time reconciling my A/B average classwork with my high test scores. I got a lot of talks about not applying myself, but the problem was I was bored and I did not want to be humiliated ever again.

 Somewhere along the line, I learned to play the game. I did just well enough to not get lectured, and just poorly enough that I did not get singled out. I could have learned so much more than I did had teachers believed in me just a bit more.

 Quin, and Micah are all slower learners. Finally, the reading light clicked on in Quin's brain last year (she was 8 and in the 3rd grade). But, she is still struggling somewhat.  However, she is really smart! When she reads, however, this is lost. If I do everything orally with her, it is AMAZING what she can learn and apply but that will not translate into a test right now (another big issue I have with standardized testing). Quin knows what a hypothesis is, can form and test one, and can analyze her results. If I asked her to write it all down, she would not be able to do it.

 With homeschooling, I can be really flexible about this. Even though I sometimes get stressed over her lack of fluency in reading, I know that she will get there if given enough space and time. But in the interim, I can do everything else with her orally. We can listen to books on tape and watch documentaries and talk about all her questions that she tends to ask (mostly in the van!).

 Micah needs everything just so. He needs to be challenged but not to much at once or else he gets frustrated. I am able to give him things in small bites because we have the time to do it that way.

Then there is my youngest child, Rebekah. She learns easily and has fun doing it! My biggest issue with her is that when I am not challenging her enough and she gets really bored. So, we skip through lessons that bore her and don't stop skipping until we reach the lessons she doesn't know yet. Homeschooling gives us this option.

Hopefully, my kids will never experience the issues I did in school. I hope they learn to maximize their potential and then feel the freedom to really own what they are capable of by putting their knowledge to good use. I hope they are never made to feel less than worthy because of what they know or don't know.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Finding a Hobby for the Kids

Sometimes, finding ways to wind down and relax can be difficult. After all, we tend to be slaves to our duties and our schedules and looking at things that are not furthering our progress in those states can seem foolish to us. But, we know that downtime is necessary.  Our kids are no different than us; their needs are the same. Kids will show their frustration and their level of how overwhelmed they are by acting out. They act out as a cry for help to organize their feelings and to get out some of their pent up energy and stress. Sometimes we can just send them outside to run around and play. But what do you do when the weather is bad or when going outside is just not an option for whatever reason? They need a hobby!

Hobbies help us to relax in ways that are productive to an extent. They also can help our kids organize their emotions and feelings.  Some kids will naturally develop hobbies - mostly as an extension from something they learned in their school work or what they see their parents engaged in. My goal as a mom in helping my kids find a hobby is to help them find something that is relatively inexpensive and quiet (HA!) No selfish motive there....  **whistles innocently**

My youngest has picked up reading. She loves reading more and more each day. I make an effort to buy her books she likes and desires to read, not just books that I want her to love or read.  See the difference?

My 14 year old loves art and drawing. She can really calm herself if she has access to a sketchpad and some pencils.  She also likes making jewelry and can stay occupied for hours with that.

My 9 year old boy can chill with some legos and coloring books. He also has discovered a love of cooking. I signed him up for some Craftsy classes and he can watch those and follow along very well. Other than a mishap with putting some flour into the bag of sugar, it has been relatively unstressful for me.

That leaves my 10 year old daughter. She would play on a computer 24 hours a day if I let her. This is not okay with me. I want her to develop an interest outside of National Geographic's Animal Jam game. She is a little screen addict.  I want to find her a hobby that she can engage in outside of this game she loves so much. How does one help a child find a hobby? The same way an adult finds a hobby. You look for one!

This means you expose your child to lots of different activities.  I have introduced to her all sorts of needlecrafts, embroidery, crochet, sewing - etc. This means she had free access to everything she needed, including a sewing machine. She was mildly interested in sewing, she made a quilt and then decided she "beat sewing" and her interest waned. So we tried embroidery. She was bored with it. Crochet proved too difficult for her fine motor skills that she possessed at that time. She loved the fish tank for a while and I thought we may be guppy breeders. Thankfully, her interest in that has declined as well. She also has an avid interest in bird watching, but not many birds are landing in our yard right now. She is currently all about everything horses as well but I don't have horses in my back yard.  Cooking is difficult for her as her ADHD and dyslexia really make it hard for her to follow a list of instructions.

It was becoming an arduous task trying to find her something she can use to settle herself. I introduced to her many things that were home based and she was having none of it.

Then, finally a breakthrough. She likes creating stories. She would bring me comics she created about our dog. In her schoolwork she started begging me to give her free writing assignments online where she could type her stories.  She uses all kinds of different fonts and text colors in her writing. Even though it is on a screen, she is able to really express herself in a way that helps her feel successful. She is currently writing a fan fiction story about the My Little Pony, Rainbow Dash. I am going to help her clean it up a bit (i.e. add punctuation like periods) and publish it for her on a fan fiction site. She is thrilled with the idea and is adding to her story pretty much daily. It still involves her looking at a screen but she loves it and it is a good compromise. I am also going to get her a coding game since she is so interested in the computer itself.

The kids having hobbies they can fall back on when mom needs a moment of peace has really helped me and them feel more settled when times are crazy or stressful.

If your kids need a hobby and you don't know where to start, here is a link to a list that can give you some ideas!

Hobbies List

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Homeschooling Through Crisis

At first, we thought it was funny.  My husband and I would watch our son start to nod off during car rides. He would seem almost infantile in his struggle to be awake and it was funny to see him nod off and jerk back up.  Then he started doing it at meal time. It was funny then too.  I caught it on video several times with the intent to use it as leverage when he got that first girlfriend.

Then he started napping right after breakfast. Then lunch. Then I could not keep him awake. Initially, I thought he was coming down with something. Then I thought it was a growth spurt. Then I realized that something was wrong. One day I simply could not wake him up. I thought he was unconscious. I very nearly called 911 until I pinched him and the pain stimulation woke him up.

It wasn't funny anymore.  Something else was wrong.  We were back in crisis mode.

I once heard a preacher say that you are either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or getting ready for a crisis. I don't know that is overly encouraging but I find it has a lot of truth.

When a homeschooling family is in crisis, they not only have to figure out how to continue their lives but they also have to figure out how to fit school in.  If one child is affected but not the other kids, what do you do about their activities, their schoolwork, etc.  If a parent is affected then how do you deal with a spouse in crisis and take care of the kids' schooling?

Homeschooling during a crisis is about as much fun as peeling your fingernail off.  But, it can be done.

1. Be prepared for crisis (as much as one can be).  I have a chronically ill child. For us, being prepared means having age/grade appropriate worksheet books to turn to when I can not teach a lesson or be "hands on mom"  and for taking in a backpack to doctor's offices. It also means knowing where insurance cards are, always.

2. Have a small cooler washed and ready to use.  When I have a lot of errands or doctor's visits in a day, I pack a cooler with ice, water bottles and some cut up sandwiches for snacks. It helps a lot to be able to feed the kids on the road if necessary.

3. Rethink your extracurriculars - but only temporarily!  When you sign up for things, know how to extricate your child from them and the consequences for doing so. If you must pull your child out, then ask if they can return when things are better.

4. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible.  Your family benefits from routine when everything else seems messy and troubled.  Even now, we all get up at the same time, we do school in the mornings (barring appointments and anything happening that I must be there for), we have lunch, they play and so on.

5. If you have a sick child and he can do something, then make him do something. It keeps them feeling more normal and keeps them from falling farther and farther behind. Don't let them slack unnecessarily on their school work or their chores.

6. Take excellent care of yourself. This is my biggest hurdle. Take time out when possible for you to recharge and regroup. Make sure you give your spouse time out as well. Take time out with each other.

7. When people offer to help, accept it. If they say let me know if there is anything they can do, ask them if they mean that then find something for them to do. Maybe it is helping you catch up on your laundry, making you a couple of freezer meals, picking up a prescription for you, taking your car in for an oil change, etc.

8. Don't be afraid to say no. No is a magical word. It helps you to keep your time free. Don't feel guilty about saying no.

9. Take time off. You can just sit and breathe. Maybe this time is when you all spend days with each other and do nothing but comfort each other. Sometimes, that is just what we need. No pressure of life, just family togetherness.

10. Seek help. If you need help, get it. If you think you need help, get it.  No man is an island and we should not live like one.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Hearing Through the Noise

I get up every morning at 5. My hope is to get my oldest ready for school and onto the school bus and then have some quiet time with my Bible and a cup of coffee.
It rarely works that way. When 6 rolls around my other children start waking up. My 6 year old insists on snuggle time in my lap and my 9 and 10 year old want to be close as well.  We start our homeschool at 9 am. The hours between that are used on getting everyone ready and some light housekeeping and taking my intellectually disabled brother to work.
We do school and have lunch. Then there are chores and I have to finish school with any stragglers. Then my daughter,  my brother, and my husband begin arriving home and it is time to start dinner.
It is hard to find quiet time. I felt I needed quiet time, without distraction not only to be in the Word but to have some time of reflection. I have considered getting up at 4:30. I also need sleep so I haven't done that.
After dinner I try to spend some time with husband or speak with friends on the phone or in person.  There is also another clean up time thrown in and by 8:30, it is bed time. I have tried to go to bed at 8 and snag some quiet time there but often time my dh will decide to go to bed early as well or a child will come to get some mom time.
The days are full and exhausting. How does one recharge and read their Bible,  how does one stay close to God? 
I decided to search Google and Pinterest to see how others handled this.
I found a lot of blogs with pictures of nice journals arranged with equally nice Bibles,  pens and cups of coffee.   But there were no real answers to my dilemma.  I am unwilling to get up earlier,  I am unwilling to send the children away when they come to me for attention,  and I have household duties that I am as obligated to meet as I am to read the Bible. 
Then the answer came to me. My issue is not one of quiet but it is an issue of hearing through the noise.  So here is my plan:
1. Keep an attitude of prayer and open communication with God. Just knowing that He is always available to listen helps me to pray, even when loading the dishwasher.
2. Make the time I do have in the Word count. So often we pick up our Bibles with no real plan and waste time trying to find a passage that "speaks to us". The entire thing was written for us so it all speaks to us.  I have decided to reread the book of Proverbs and John. 
3.  Don't wait for silence and look for opportunity. My house is busy. There are a lot of people who live in it. It is never really quiet. This means that I may never have pretty pictures of bibles and coffee but there are worse things than spending time in the word with a child on my lap.
4. Understand this time is short and know God knows my heart.  In no time at all, the children will be grown and I will have more quiet than I can stand.
We serve a God of grace.  He is the one who gave me these guys along with the intense desire and dedication to meet their needs. He gave them to me knowing my life would be full and busy and loud.  I trust the One who gave them to me to also take care of me and to reveal himself to me in ways and times that are good for me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Time for Reading

When new parents think about homeschooling, most of the time our minds go immediately to “Can I teach someone how to read?” We don’t typically think, how do I teach my child to add or how do I teach my child about how to tie their shoes?

Teaching a child to read is for sure an overwhelming thought. The process seems a bit strange and abstract. So we start by teaching our child the alphabet, generally around the age of three. We sing songs and play games and buy videos and apps for our kids to watch and play to encourage reading.

When the child officially starts kindergarten, we jump right into whatever book we have chosen to help propel our child into literacy. Then it happens. The child only offers a blank stare at the proposition that letters are more than songs and things on a fun app. A stands for more than apple.

They don’t get it.

So we search the internet about teaching a child to read, ask all our homeschooling friends, and all the teachers we know about the process of teaching a child to read. Then we gather those suggestions, our own research and we form our own theory about how it should work and why it isn’t.  The next step is finding a curriculum that closely resembles the theory we have come up with and the method that addresses whatever we believe the problem is.

We eagerly, with new hope and a bright shiny attitude, offer the proposed curriculum to the child. The child sees more of what confuses him in the first place. A stands for more than Apple. All the letters look different from each other. They all make sounds and are not consistent in their sounds. The instructions have a lot of words that look like a foreign language. The child is being called upon to deal with more than just one letter, one sound at a time and is now being told those sounds go together to form words. The problem is there are so many sounds and they all have to be memorized and then sounded out in a particular order and his parent is looking at him with a wistful longingness that is shadowed by a hint of desperation. He is confused and his self esteem takes a hit.

The parent sees that the child is struggling and apparently not comprehending. The parent’s self esteem takes a hit. Maybe they are not cut out for homeschooling. Maybe they were silly to think they could homeschool to begin with. Maybe someone else could do it better.  Maybe it is the curriculum.  So, they buy another curriculum (maybe there is something different about this one) or hire a tutor or put the child in a brick and mortar school. Maybe the parent will have the child tested.

The real problem?  A always stands for more than Apple, folks. The process of blending is essentially the same and there will always be sight words. The real issue is typically the child and their readiness to read.

The Common Core State Standards are not the only things that have decided a child should read by first grade. So have a lot of parents.  

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that children can truly learn at their own pace. If they are not ready to read or are really struggling, we can set it aside or back up to a place where the child is mostly comfortable. Instead I find we as parents tend to judge our ability to homeschool and sometimes our ability to parent based on our child’s ability to read. And then the parent continues to push the child towards something they are not ready to do. This is not okay. Your child’s value and success as a student is not based on his or her reading ability. Your capability as a parent is not measured by your child’s reading ability.

I encourage you to take a breather. If your child is struggling, take a break. Skip reading lessons for a while. Read with your child or listen to audio books together. Skip school and play. Give your child time to mature a bit.

I have taught four children to read. My three older children all struggled. Their lack of ability made me question my own worth as a mother. But we persisted and worked in spurts. If they struggled and if there were tears and/attitude, we simply stopped. Eventually, there was enough starting and stopping that one day we started again and we did not have to stop. They were all around 9 when this happened for them. My youngest learned to read at lightening speed. She was reading at age 4! I am not even sure I taught her, it seemed to have just happened!  

So, parents, give yourselves and your kids time. Remember childhood is about learning and play and figuring out the world and how it works.

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