Sunday, July 3, 2011

We've Moved!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homeschool End of Year Review (Finally)

I wanted to do this and then I didn't.  I wanted it to be detailed and now maybe just a summary.  And in a way very similar to our first year of homeschooling, I have no idea where this post is going to go, but here goes...

Homeschooling was better and harder than I thought it would be.  All in all, we had a great year.  We loved the flexibility, the togetherness, and the learning together.  And yes, we are going to do it again next year.  To me, it's one of those things that once you buy into, it's very hard to consider going back.  We all lived through it without killing each other, so really that counts as success, doesn't it?

My favorite thing that we have done is the time spent reading, discussing, and learning about the Gospel.  Both boys have grown significantly in their understanding and love for God's Word.  I think Briggs is at a point where he is struggling to understand and submit to Christ.  Trusting in Christ is a simple thing really and while I am expounding on the intricacies of the gospel to make certain Briggs understands every aspect(driven by my own doubts and fears), 4 year old Max is praying every night that "Jesus would take away all of my sins and change my heart."  I think he gets it more than we do...

We have also enjoyed reading classic books together.  The Narnia series was awesome, Alice in Wonderland was fun, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was just a boy book:)  In some of the homeschool books I have, reading classic literature is deemed the most important aspect of homeschooling (esp. A Thomas Jefferson Education, which I love).  Last year, it seemed like when we were pressed for time, this was one of the first things to go.  I hope to make it even more of a priority next year.

Of all the curriculum I chose- quite blindly and somewhat ignorantly- I liked everything except our spelling.  I am not a teacher and don't know a whole lot about anything to do with educating, but I didn't think that Spelling Wisdom was sufficient to teach spelling.  No real rhyme or reason, no rules, just memorize these words in these interesting quotes and in 3 years you'll be able to spell over 6,000 words.  He did fine, I just need a little more structure.

The jury's still out on math.  Not only do I not know whether or not I liked Singapore math, I'm not sure that I would even be able to know if I liked or disliked something else.  Math makes me nervous.  In some ways I think if we just stick to one thing, we will be okay in the end.

*I can hear Rod cringing as he reads this.  Math and science are very important to him.  He is also baffled by the fact that I am struggling.  I have a minor in Math from UAB (which I like to tell myself was harder than math programs at other schools:)) and was two classes away from a minor in Chemistry.  Math was my very favorite subject in school.  In high school I was all about math and science and being crowned smarter than everyone else by being valedictorian.  Whether or not it was actually true, absolutely did not matter one lick.  Deep down, I knew it was completely not true, I just knew how to make good grades.  The truth is that Satan used that to give me an identity, rather than finding my identity in Christ.  In college, I struggled to find a major and finally realized that I wanted Christ to use me to help people.  So I went in the opposite direction- social work!  I write for a living.  I talk to people about their feelings.  I analyze everything to death.  I am not who I was.*

But thank goodness I'm not!!  On the other hand,  I guess none of that helps much when I call Rod at work to remind me how to subtract with borrowing from numbers with a lot of zeros in them...hmm........ 
My complaint with Singapore Math is not enough practice with one concept before moving on to another.  To combat that, we try to do all of the problems in the textbooks, workbooks, and extra practice books.  I am not sure how much is enough.  The things I like about Singapore are that it introduces a lot of concepts early, contains word problems right from the start, and encourages doing many calculations mentally. 

The Lowdown on Next Year's Curriculum

Math: despite all I just said, we are sticking with Singapore.  For now... I think... I already bought it.

HistoryTapestry of Grace.  Love it.  We didn't quite finish the whole first year.  Actually, we only made it through half.  Trying to be relaxed about that.  It really is wonderful and I think I will really treasure it by the time middle and high school roll around.  We may or may not catch up to where we are "supposed" to be.  I am not going to stress about it...deep breath... repeat three times......

ScienceApologia "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day."  Recently an older homeschool mom said, "don't try this one at home, without a co-op."  I asked her why and she just said "don't."  Not really sure about that.  Briggs enjoyed "Astronomy" and learned a lot, so I hope that we can make it through this one without being eaten by the flying creatures of the fifth day.

Language Arts:  I loved Rod and Staff Grammar.  It was quite tedious but we are sticking with it.  The Well Trained Mind says that you may not need a writing program if you are comfortable with writing, so I did not have one for last year.  Well, we need one, so I picked Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease.  Last year, handwriting was from Classically Cursive.  It was fine, but after some research, I chose Memoria Press New American Cursive.  He started this spring and I like it way better.  Wish we had just started with this one.  Spelling will be The Grammar of Spelling by Matt Whitling of Logos School Publications.  It's not one of the more prominent spelling programs, but I liked it.  It comes in a three ring binder.  Nothing fancy.  The big spelling programs intimidate me with all the tiles and flashcards and secret codes that come with them.  Briggs is a good speller and I just need something simple.  We are actually going to continue to do Spelling Wisdom, but we are going to call it "Dictation."  He will still have to memorize the words and do everything we were doing before, but it will be in addition to this other spelling program. 

Bible:  Finish Big Truths for Little Kids and Briggs will start on Who is God? from Apologia.  I can't say how much we have loved Big Truths!  The boys are memorizing the answers to the small catechism questions and it is amazing how much it teaches them!  Just ask Max how sinful he is and he will tell you without hesitation that he is sinful in his inmost being!

Memory Work:  We will continue memorizing select verses from our church's weekly suggestion, and in addition we plan to memorize:
The Books of the Bible
Psalm 100
Deut. 6:1-9
Psalm 23
the Ten Commandments
Luke 12 :22-34
Isaiah 53
Psalm 104
The Lord's Prayer

Rain in Summer
My Shadow
October's Party
All That is Gold Does not Glitter
The Tyger
The Lamb
Hope is the Thing with Feathers
All Ye Joyful

This looks like a lot!  It is about one a month.  Memory work was one of our favorites parts of the day and it was amazing how easily they memorize things.


Independent Reading for Briggs:

White Fang
Swiss Family Robinson
The Wonder Book for Boys and Girls
Robinson Crusoe
Story of Dr. Doolittle
Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Read Alouds:

The Jungle Book
Water ship Down
Tales from the Story Tellers House
Last Narnia book
Through the Looking Glass
Two Little Savages

and lastly:

Latin!  I bought Latin for Children and we are going to try it.  It's DVD based and for parents who don't already know Latin.  It may be too hard to do on my own, we'll see.

I guess none of this was a nutshell summary really.  Overall, I still feel compelled to teach my children.  We had a good year and all of us learned a lot.  We have all changed dramatically this past year.  I love the time it allows (and forces) me to spend with the boys.  I think I am a better mother for it.

The biggest struggle this year has been with myself.  In fact, anything that has not gone smoothly has been because of me.  Every time I have gotten frustrated or overwhelmed with anything it has been because my heart has not been in the right place.  When my flesh says, "you can't do this and work too" I start comparing myself to other moms and think "I can't do this!  It's too much!  I need to stay at home!  I could be a better mom if I didn't have to work!"  It is so easy to compare myself to the other moms in our homeschool group and feel so second class to them.  I don't have lots of kids, I don't stay at home all the time, I don't have perfectly behaved children, I haven't been preparing to homeschool since my first child was born.  There is a lot I don't know.  I am older than everyone who has the same age children as me.  But in reality, these things are all in my head.  No one has caused me to feel this way other than ME.  I know God has called me to serve Him through homeschooling and through foster care and adoption.  He has opened some amazing doors and when I think of all the children who are living with families who love them and share the Gospel with them, I know what I am doing has worth and that I am supposed to be doing both right now.  In fact, I hope that by working outside of our home a few hours a week, I am showing my children by example that God loves and care for the fatherless, the abandoned, the abused, and the rejected.  I know that they are making a sacrifice too, but I think it is a worthy one.  Maybe they will just learn that life it not all about them.  There is certainly worth in that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

That Max!

Before I do a year end "homeschool" post, I have to write one more about our sweet boy, Max.  We think he is pretty funny and are compelled to document some recent doozies.

Last Friday, I went to the dermatologist to have a couple of moles removed.  Just as the doctor was nearing my face with a razor blade, Max stated very matter of factly, "We have a dead cow at our house....cut into little pieces...."  Thankfully, the doctor stopped to laugh because I would be in trouble if she hadn't.  Of course, I had to explain that we had just bought a half of a cow for our freezer.  Why Max thought the doctor needed to know, I can't say.

Speaking of the cow, he was exceptionally confused the whole way to pick up said cow.  He thought he might have to milk it at some point on the trip.  Once we got there and he saw the um.. state of the cow... he decided that he did not like to eat cows.  We also visited the farm so we could see the place. We also thought it would be good for the boys to see where our meat actually comes from (not just magically shrink wrapped from the grocery store.)  For a while, I was worried we ruined his ability to eat beef, because when we grilled hamburgers the next day, Max asked if he was eating the cow.  When we responded yes, he replied, "cool.  I do like cows!"  Whew...

On the spiritual front, he never ceases to surprise.  A few weeks ago, the Bible story in his class at church was about Jesus turning water into wine.  His current favorite song is Chris Thomlin's "Our God is Greater" which begins with the lyric, "Water, you turned into wine."  He was quite fascinated with wine for a little while, but thankfully that has passed.  The next week's Bible study was about Jesus and the money changers in the temple.  His description was, "Jesus almost killed those guys.  It was so cool."  Totally fit in with his superhero kills the bad guys paradigm.  We had a little discussion about righteous anger and got that one worked out, more or less.

This last Sunday, he told me that during large group time, the teacher asked the class of about 50 4 & 5 year olds, who wrote the Bible.  Max told me, "Everyone yelled GOD!  But I yelled, "CHOSEN MEN!"  As in chosen men by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, one of the answers in the catechism book we are reading, "Big Truths for Little Kids."  We were so proud!

Every Monday I write our memory verse for the week on the board in the school room.  Max had decided he did not want to do school that day, so he was in his room playing Bob the Builder.  As Briggs and I began the read the verse, "An excellent.."  Max shouted from his room "who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  Proverbs 31:10."  We had no idea that he knew it.  Apparently, they went over it at church the day before.  He had completely memorized it in one day.  He really does have some awesome memorizing skills.

Speaking of homeschooling, one day I was trying to encourage him to do a worksheet.  He looked at me dead seriously and said, "My name is not Max.  My name is Ninja Boy and ninjas.don'"

He also has informed me that "pockets are way better than purses."  I guess that was just FYI for us girls.

While looking for his sippy cup, I told him that I found it and he replied, "No, that's not it.  That one is from tomorrow."

Once as I was cleaning off his muddy feet, I asked him if he had been playing outside barefoot.  He asked, "bear feet?  I have bear feet?"  After I explained what barefoot meant, he said, " Oh, yeah, I have a bear foot.  A bear came out of the woods and gave me a bear foot."  I decided to forgo further explanation and just said, "You are so cute."  Of course he replied, "No I'm not!"

A few months ago, Max learned about a tiny country in the middle east.  Since then, at random times he tells us that we need to pray for that counrty.  One day, he came to me and said that people who live there dress like this:

Earlier this week, we were riding in the car and all of a sudden Max said, "Mom, we need to trust God.  We just have to trust Him.  We really do, mom.  I trust Him, Mom."  Seems he's on the right track...or maybe we still have a ways to go:

Yesterday, while waiting for Rod to meet us for lunch, Max was playing with a toy and Briggs asked if he could see it.  Max said no and I asked him if he would like to share just for a few minutes.  He replied, "no" so I told him that I would pray for him, that God would change his heart and make him want to share.  I quietly prayed and a few seconds later he said," Well Mom, He didn't."  Oh boy:)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Mother's Day Means to Me...

Having a boy who gets up at 5 a.m. because he is so excited that it's Mother's Day he just can't sleep.another.minute.

Getting up a little while later, looking into the freezer for something to cook for breakfast and finding a pencil frozen in a sippy cup of water...and not even needing to ask why.

Counting SIX pairs of shoes in the living room and resisting the urge to bother cleaning them up as I step on cheerios scattered and crunching underneath my feet.  Go put on bedroom shoes chanting "embrace the mess, it won't last forever."

Getting sleepy hugs and "Happy Mother Days!" from my little one.

(Always) A treasure hunt to find my cards.

Reading my "musical" card while boys dance.  Briggs, a spastic Elaine-on-Seinfeld type dance and Max, a hilarious free-for-all.

Finding Briggs' change-filled wallet inside one of the envelopes with a note "take all you want" in it.

Going to church with my corsage on (just kidding- Is it just a deep south thing that you always get your mama a corsage to wear to church on Mother's Day? Maybe that has gone out of style.  Although I love all things old fashioned, I don't miss that one.  Makes me think of blue haired ladies with funny colored pantyhose.)

Getting to choose where we go to eat and honestly not having a thought in my head. 

Late afternoon asking husband if it is really a good idea to put dish washing soap on the slip-n-slide?  I guess I was the lone voice of reason on that one.

Realizing all of the sacrifices my mother made for us that almost always went unrecognized. 

Heart-overflowing thankfulness for the precious gift of being a mom.  Praying I don't squander these fleeting days because they do not last forever.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Deep Theological Questions of a Four Year Old

Did God kill the dinosaurs?

Does Jesus have lips?

Is God here with us right now?

Did God build our house?

What does crucified mean?

Does Jesus still have our sin with Him?  Yes?  All right!!  That's awesome!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Good Day of Fishing, Baseball, and Battle

I love taking pictures, of the boys, Leslie, flowers, and just stuff in general.  But, there are days like today that overflow the brim to the point that there is not enough time to capture it all on film (or what counts as film these days).  The day was to start with a family fishing day at the lake behind my office.  It's a very nice location, but only open for fishing a few days a year.  This was the first year that Max actually tried to fish on his own.  So first we had to buy him his very own Star Wars fishing pole that was about half as tall as he is and a dozen night crawlers to go along with it.  The pole he loved, the worms not so much.  Between buying a pole and getting it wet however, we stopped for a quick breakfast at our favorite donut shop...Daylight Donuts, yum.  Max has found that he loves a glazed chocolate cake donut and Briggs is a constant consumer of the glazed twist.  This is a treat that we take in once or twice a month. 

In fishing trips past, Briggs has always been bored with cork fishing so this year I let him use a lure.  He didn't catch anything, but he sure had a blast casting and reeling in from all around the lake.  We spent a couple of hours fishing.  Max did well for the first 30 minutes but soon grew tired of his new toy and instead found an awesomely cool fire sword (a free broken stick from the woods) to play with.  I caught one small mouth bass, but that was the extent of our fishing luck for the day.

That night Briggs had a baseball game.  At the time we were 0-6 in wins/losses.  Fortunate for us we were facing another 0-6 team, so someone was going to leave a winner finally.  Thanks to a great team effort the boys walked away with their first win of the season and Briggs came home with the game ball.  He finally got to move from the outfield to third base, where he played great, and he got a hit every time except once where the catcher caught a foul tip.  During all of this however, Max got into a little altercation with some hooligan five year old that was picking on a pair of three year old twin girls.  According to Leslie she glanced around to find Max doing his best kung-fu moves, a flurry of tiny punches followed by some blur of a spinning kick, in the direction of our young bully.  None of the glances landed, I'm not sure he knew they even needed to, supposing perhaps his opponent would be so overly impressed with his sheer mastery of martial arts skill that he would not dare to proceed any further and would most likely turn tail and run.  When Max finished his display however the other boy merely kicked Max (with contact), causing him to cry for a moment.  In Max's recollection however, it was an epic battle between good and evil.  When asked what happened he says he saw the other boy being mean and said to him "It's Time... to Battle." at which point he commenced with his best impression of what he imagines his lego Ninjago toys must do when he's asleep at night.  He doesn't remember any of that being kicked and crying nonsense, only that on this our Lord's day, good triumphed in the face of mortal danger, and damsels in distress were freed to return once more to their loving homes.  To leave the post on a graceful note, we did practice a possible response the next time a "battle" is brewing.  I think we convinced him that inviting the other kid to play and be friends was a better solution than doing air kung fu on him, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Nevertheless, the boys had no problem going to sleep tonight.  Briggs I'm sure is dreaming sweet dreams of playing third and Max will most likely kick the covers across the room reliving his glory day of being a Ninja Knight in shining armor...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You're My Best Friend

90% of the time the boys these days (8 and 4 years old) do GREAT together, really, it's a beautiful thing.  The other 10% is filled with the likes of "AAAUUGGH Max just kicked me in my ear! (how does that happen?  he's not a ninja, yet) ---- Well Bwiggs just took away my blue Lego piece!!! (of which we have like a MILLION)"

I'll not dwell on the 10%, I just chalk it up to boys being boys and them learning some of the necessary stuff siblings must work through as time goes by.  The 90% though, is really really neat to observe as a parent.  Briggs likes to teach Max, and usually Max listens.  Max wants to do and play whatever Briggs does, I can already tell though how Max really is starting to show that he wants to do those things in his own way, which is fine.  They do everything together and are usually so complimentary of each other.  From time to time Max has taken to telling Briggs "You're a GENIUS!" for what seems like a trivial thing to me and mom.  But to Max, big brother Briggs is like some sort of Lego-building, super-spy-ninja, homeschooling, scripture and Jabberwocky memorizing Einstein.  And Briggs' affection for his little brother is just as strong.  As we were getting out of the car the other night, Briggs asked Max to carry something and Max said "sure Briggs!" and Briggs said "You know Max, I sure do love you...", "Yeah" says Max.  "And you know what Max?  You're my BEST friend too!", "I knoo-ow" comes a mild mannered reply...


At night they sleep together in Briggs' bed.  Briggs has taken to wanting to read to Max, it's a treat to hear them read "There is a Bird on Your Head!".  Briggs reads the bulk of the book, while Max reads the responses.  They get such a pure and hearty laugh reading it together.  After prayers, their newest tradition is telling each other "Good night Big Bro, I love you..." and comes the reply "Good night Little Bro, I love you too..."  What a blessing.  Thank you Lord for such sweet children...