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...

Friday, April 1, 2011

69 years ago today...

The other day while searching for something, I came across a copy of a letter that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother.  The day was April 1, 1942.  They were newly married and he had just left home for Wendover, Utah after enlisting in the Air Force for WWII.

My Dearest Darling:

I've just read your letters and I was certainly glad to get them.  I haven't had very much time lately to write.  For the last few days we have been building barracks, etc.  Darling, I just don't think that we will be able to stay together (when you come).  I don't know how long I will be here.  I have been assigned to the 306th bombardment group and the rest of it is in LA.  They are coming here or we are going down there and leave about the middle of July for Australia or Libya.  Darling, I hate to tell you that because I couldn't swear that it is true but it came from our commanding officer.  The officer said that we would finish our training in the next few months and if the British didn't move into Libya that we would go there, but you can hear most anything.  I hope that we can go to LA so you can stay with me that long, it would be a great help.  Margaret, I don't mind the fighting, it's the being away from you.  That's what I don't like.  But let's just keep our heads up and it won't be long before we can be back together and live in peace, I hope.  Darling, whether I have to go to another country or not, I'll always be true.  Darling, remember that if I am gone a year or three years, it will always be the same.  Margaret, I feel better about being here since I've found out what I'm supposed to do.  I don't think that the war will last so long, let's hope and pray that it won't anyway....  Things are so uncertain, I wish that we could go ahead and fight and get this thing over with, at least it wouldn't be the same thing over and over everyday.  Darling, I don't want you to be worried about me because I'm coming back and I mean that the work I'll be in won't be so dangerous.  There's 2000 men in my group and all we have to do is keep 35 bombers flying.  Sometimes they open our mail and censor it, so they may tear this one up because I'm not supposed to tell anything.  I think maybe I can get a furlough before July; I'm going to try anyway.  Lots of the boys have already deserted, but I don't think I could do that. 
I think I will get paid by the 15th and if I do I'm going to call you.  If I stay out here this summer, you couldn't stay with me because there is no place for you to stay.  There is only a filling station or two and a railroad yard.  I hope I can be transferred out of here.    Some of the boys down at Kessler were sent to Montgomery.  I wish I could have gone there.  I would give most anything to be at home with you- where I belong.  Sweet, when I do get home I will know how to appreciate you and everything else....I just hope the war will be over soon and I think it will 'cause when we get there we're going to beat the heck out of 'em. 
Sweet, if I could just be with you, like I was that Saturday, it seems like a year ago.  It was just like a dream... A new shipment of men just came in and they are sick of this place (already)- mostly because there's no place to go...but I've got a wife and a real sweet wife too, so I don't have to worry about going anywhere because I had rather sit and think of her (that's you)!  Darling, I mean that too!
Sweet, I feel like everything will be okay after while, so let's don't worry about it, just remember that we love each other and always will.
Sweet, if I find out anything I will let you know.  Maybe I will be stationed where we can live together yet.  Write and tell me the things that you have to tell and don't forget that I love you and I couldn't live without you, never.  And I will always be true to you as long as I live and when I fight, I'll do my best because I'll be fighting for you.  I love you darling forever and ever.

Your loving husband,

He never had to fight in that war.  He was eventually sent home because of concerns about his blood pressure.  Almost all of the men in his group never came home. 

My grandfather died when I was five and my grandmother died in 2000.  I wish I could have known them when they were young.  I have only a few memories of my grandfather,  but my grandmother could light up a room with her presence and never remembered to take the ambrosia out of the refrigerator for Sunday dinner.  She always let me spin in her bar stools and gave me my first taste of coffee.  She let me play dress-up in her shoes and jewelry and some of the best memories I have are of my sister and me playing in her yard with our cousins nearly every Sunday afternoon.  She also snored like a freight train and decorated her Christmas tree only in red silk balls and had the best sense of humor of anyone I know.  I think of her every time I use her white tea set that she gave me as a wedding present.  And even though today, I sit and drink a little tea with just her memories for company, I know that one day I will see her again and just maybe we can have a little tea party in heaven.   And that ambrosia is going to be divine.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Love and Books

Books, books, and more books!  I ordered curriculum for next year and am so excited to continue homeschooling!  I feel like I am learning so much and God is growing me in so many ways.  And the boys are learning a little in the process too:)  Even Max, who despite mysteriously turning into Ninja-boy- whose motto is: Ninjas.Don't.Do.Worksheets-anytime I ask him to participate- is, in fact learning. 

The most unexpected aspect of this homeschooling journey is the profound impact that it is having on my mothering.  I feel like I am changing in some fundamental ways, and clearly I needed to change.  It is amazing to watch God lead me to other moms, blogs, books, etc, who are all pointing me in the same direction, each having a specific impact on my life.  I am so hopeful about our family, our future.  Not that everything will always be easy, but that it is all pointing me to Christ and His sufficiency.  I am purposing in my heart to cherish every.single.moment.
Of course there are days when I feel discouraged and I have yelled and snapped hurtful words and bruise little feelings.  I apologize and beat myself up and cry and plead that God will forgive me and change me.  Some days I am so overwhelmed that I just want to lay in bed and cry, paralyzed by balancing work, teaching, housework, all of it.  But, God is good and He puts me back together and gives me hope for a new day.  He is my hope.  And He is enough.

Now for a few notes about the boys:
Briggs has been freaking people out by the appropriateness of his social skills, what with him being homeschooled and all.  On two occasions he has introduced himself to a new friend, shook their hand and asked them their name and how old they were.  One of the moms literally laughed in our face, she was so shocked. 

The other morning Max told me that he had a dream.  When I asked him what his dream was about, he told me that I had to guess.  When I informed him that I had no idea, he said that I should pray and ask God to tell me about his dream, just like he told Joseph the Pharaoh's dream.

Rod took the boys to the park during lunch one day last week while I had a work luncheon.  Briggs met a boy at the park who was also homeschooled.  I was asking him about it and I asked if Briggs knew if the boy went to church.  Briggs said that he did not talk about "that kind of stuff" with the boy.  Concerned by what he meant, I questioned him a little.  Finally, he said that he was afraid to ask him if he went to church because it makes him so sad to think that some parents don't take their kids to church.  So tender-hearted.

A while back a very friendly lady at the allergy doctor was admiring Max's Star Wars Lego watch that he had gotten for Christmas.  She asked him if he could tell time on it, to which he replied, "Yes, but the hands keep moving!"

Lastly, as I was reading the Tapestry of Grace blog yesterday, I came across this quote that reminded me of the most important thing about teaching my children: love.  It's a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13, applied to homeschooling mothers:

1 If I tell my children all day long to love God and each other (in even the most eloquent terms), to study hard, to be diligent, and to love learning but do not let them see a living, breathing example of love as I walk through the process of homeschooling them, then my words are so much noise in their ears. They can never bring about the results that I desire. 2 If I am the wisest of parents, having insight into my children’s hearts at all times, and flawlessly delivering to them all instruction, faithfully, day after day, but do so without love, I am nothing. 3 If, by dint of great effort and sacrifice, I find and manage to purchase an amazing curriculum that is the most expensive and lavish one available, and I work diligently to deliver all the lessons from it as directed, but do not do so in a loving way, I gain nothing.

The greatest of these is love, indeed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pinewood Derby 2011

Ahhh Spring, on to baseball, warm outdoor activities, and getting more involved in scouting.  We went to our first Cub Scout meeting a month or so ago and received a block of pine for something called a Pinewood Derby.  I didn't grow up in Cub Scouts but did Boy Scouts until I received my First Class rank and then a buddy talked me into switching over into a Search and Rescue outfit.  Part of me wishes I had stayed in until I had reached Eagle Scout, but S&R was pretty cool in and of itself.  Hopefully though the boys will continue on all the way through.  Anyway, I'm a newbie to the world of Pinewood Derby and wow, it's pretty impressive how into it some people can get.  There are apparently whole websites dedicated to the various forms of derby racing, modifying, customizing, and what not.  Our little den however lives by some pretty basic rules so the cars don't get too far gone.

Briggs' dream car involved something that he would drive (he and Max have Lego versions of themselves), R2-D2 (his favorite Star Wars character) would manage the computer systems, and that Lego Max could ride in the back and blast "bad guys".  Briggs' schematic diagram on how to actually accomplish this feat of futuristic funkatude didn't exactly give me a lot to work with.  Especially considering that all we had to work with was a block of wood, a BLOCK-of-WOOD.  But, we worked together and came out with a product that we were proud of.  Briggs learned to use a coping saw, hack saw, vice, drill press, router, and Dremel tool.   Which, besides spending quality time with Dad, was pretty much the objective of this assignment.  He did most of the work himself with my direction, besides the dangerous stuff.  He helped cut it, route it, he sanded it,  painted it, and decorated it.  Max has already put in that when he gets into the scouts he wants his car to be one that just he would be in, has a lot of blasters, and a canopy (at least that's what I think he was describing).

Cpt. Briggs
Gunner Max


We didn't win our division (the Wolves) but for all of his effort his car was voted as having the "Best Details"!  This was one of the few categories voted on by all those in attendance.  He was SO proud, as were we all.  Great job son!  I had an awesome time building, teaching, and just spending time with you...

The Competition


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lego Models and the Zillio

Homeschool Update:

Last week in our history curriculum, we were studying the Indus River Civilization.  Okay, I have never even heard of* the Indus River Valley, but apparently it is modern day Pakistan.One of the arts and craft activities was to build a Lego structure to resemble a building  from this time period.  I thought that Briggs would really love this opportunity to build something with Lego's and count it as school.  It took a while for him to get past no instructions/ I've never built a city or building like this before/ I just don't know where to start, Mom.  He finally got past his apprehension and here is what he came up with:  (He suggested I put this on the blog)

For Christmas, we got the boys a Zillio.  It is a really awesome contraption that helps secretly teach math skills thinly veiled as games with names like "Mountain Goat Scramble" and "Homing Pigeon II."  The thing I really love is that it can be adapted for a very wide age range, from preschoolers to 6th graders.  It teaches 10 essential math skills:
number lines

Basically, when Max plays, he just practices counting.  When Briggs plays, he multiples and divides.  They can even play the same game at the same time, using different skills.  In mom world, it just doesn't get any better than that!

*Confession:  I NEVER got history.  I just never really understood it.  It wasn't taught chronologically and I just memorized the facts hoping I could ace the test that way.  I remember taking Western Civilization as an AP class as a senior in high school.  The whole time I was thinking, when did this happen?  Where are we talking about?  Was this BC or AD? How does this fit in with anything that I have a frame of reference for? Calgon take me away!  So my ulterior plan with this whole homeschool thing is to re-learn some history and hopefully understand it this time:)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter 2011

Wow, where has the time gone?  There certainly hasn't been a ton of down time lately.  Since I last opined on the intricacies of coaching a 3 and 4 year old basketball team, I have somehow found myself coaching Briggs' 7-8 year old team as well.  So, until now, every week has been busy with multiple practices, planning, and two games on Saturdays.  Something tells me it's going to be this way for many years to come, God willing.  Max finished up his last game this past Saturday.  They only lost one game, that being the first game where I was somewhat rattled by the chaos of it all.  Since then, I've just gone along with the flow and the boys have "played" great.  Max scored in all of the games and committed his fair share of what would have been atrocious penalties in any other league.  But, he had fun, learned a little, I was able to pray with the team every week, and God allowed me to minister to my assistant coach who lost a young grandson during the course of the season.  Time well spent.
The Wildcats!
Briggs' team on the other hand hasn't really gelled just yet.  The league is clearly split into the "good" teams and well, teams like ours.  The boys certainly give it their all and I couldn't be more proud of them but we've only won one of our first six games thus far.  Mercifully there are a few other teams in the league with similar records.  God, through His grace, has allowed me to share with a divorced dad and encourage him in small ways, conversations I most likely would not have had if I were not coaching. 

Baseball evaluations were today and I was surprised at how much we enjoyed getting ready, hitting, throwing and catching, Spring temperatures, there's just something about it.  Should be a fun season.  While Briggs waited for his turn, Max decided to collect every rock he could find at the ball fields, which happen to have gravel rocks for the parking areas.  He has a rock collection he's started for school and wants to "collect" everything he sees now.  At one point he had placed them down on a bench, spun around several times, and then did some sort of pre-martial arts battle bow movement towards them; when he saw Leslie and me trying not to laugh at his routine, he became embarrassed and quickly went on to other games.  He's become quite the character these days.

Despite the busyness, I must admit that I greatly enjoy being so involved in the boys' lives.  Along with basketball, we've still had time for the boys to be in "Mission Friends" and "Passport to the World"  while I sit in on a New Testament class on Wednesdays and Briggs has started Cub Scouts.  He was SOOO excited after his first den meeting.  There's a pinewood derby race coming up and he has been very excited to work on the car, every day he's begging me to work on it with him.  I'll have to make a separate post about going through that process, good times though.  The only thing we seem to miss out on these days is sitting around watching television, which really isn't missing out on anything at all.

Some notes about church.  Briggs is growing up so much, it's amazing how focused he is sitting through a sermon that lasts for around a solid hour, not counting music and prayers.  He diligently fills out his sermon notes and asks very insightful questions.  Nearly every week that we're in town he has his scripture memory verse well rehearsed.  We have a routine where he confirms it to me just before he leaves for his class; he's so proud when he does it, and rightly so.  And his prayers are so sincere and well balanced.  Oh that he'll come to be a true child of God soon.  Max, well Max is pretty funny.  After every class we'll ask him what he's learned and invariably he says he can't remember.  And then at some random time of his choosing he'll surprise us.  Tonight at some completely random moment he broke into telling us all he was learning about Shadrach, Me-Shadrach and Never-kin-ezzer and then broke into some King David stuff.  During prayers he asked me what I learned today.  I told him we were studying Acts and how God is in control, he acted stunned and said "wow, why didn't my teachers tell us that!?"  A few nights ago during prayer time, he prayed for "Jesus to have a good day", I had to catch myself before correcting him to consider whether that was cool or not. I couldn't think of any good reason for not praying for Jesus to have a good day so we're just going to roll with that.

Alright, enough rambling for one night.  I don't have too many pictures that just fit ,so I'll just throw in some from a recent a snow day.  I'm sure posts on scouting, baseball, and tee ball are forthcoming, if I can find the time to actually to get on the computer...   


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Macaron Obsession (not the coconut kind)

edited to add *Seriously?  I had obsession spelled wrong for like a week and never noticed?  And how am I qualified to teach my children at home??

I don't remember how it all began, but over the last year, Briggs and I have had a love affair with macarons.  Quite of an obsession really.  He has been obsessed with convincing  me to make them as often as possible and I have been obsessed with getting them right.  These delicate little French cookies are difficult to make at best, but I plugged along, undaunted by a year's worth of failure.

Besides having a sweet tooth that won't wait, once I happened upon images of rows of pastel hued macarons in French Patisseries on the Internet, I knew that the only way I would probably ever taste them (at least in the near future) would be to make them myself.  Spelled both macaroon and macaron, they are delicious and beautiful in any language!

So many failures, I wondered if I would ever get them to turn out!  The process of folding the beaten egg whites into the ground almond/confectioners sugar mixture or 'macaronage' as it is called, has to be perfectly folded- one turn too few or too many and ruin!  I should have documented more of the flops, but there have been many like this and worse:

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, they turned out perfectly!  I was so excited I had to take pictures.  I made three kinds: chocolate, strawberry, and lemon.  The shells are all the same (basically egg whites, sugar, and almonds), just colored and filled with different ganaches, buttercream, and preserves.  Briggs and Rod love the chocolate ones, I love the fruity ones, and despite his smile, Max won't touch them. 

Je crie, tu cries, nous crions tous pour macarons!

Monday, January 17, 2011


The first post of 2011!  It's taken a while because my fingers have been frozen.  It has been so cold so far this year and I can never really seem to get warm.  The boys have been out jumping on the trampoline some, but I have tried to stay inside as much as possible.  The only time I'm warm is when I am in the bed snuggled under the goose down comforter, which makes it very hard to get up in the mornings!  It doesn't seem to matter how high I crank up the thermostat (which my electricity-producing but not too-keen-on-using husband frowns upon), I am still cold!

The cold weather has been a good excuse to make soup!  Lots and lots of soup!  Ham and potato chowder, roasted red pepper, baked potato, and French Onion soup have frequently been on the menu.  I devised my very own, from scratch recipe for the roasted red pepper and it is really yummy!  I have attempted French onion several times, never getting it quite right, but I think I finally got it right tonight! I found the recipe here and except for the homemade veal stock - I used regular store bought chicken stock- I followed the directions exactly and it was wonderful!

We will definitely have this one again soon!  Warm, cozy, comfort in a bowl!